Since California voters approved a measure in 1996 permitting sick people to use marijuana, scores of pot dispensaries have opened across the state. From six cannabis clubs in 1999, San Francisco is now home to at least 43, reports the Washington Post. The rapid growth has become troubling even to advocates of the movement. Police complain that medical marijuana is slipping out of the clubs and into the hands of recreational users or drug dealers. After the U.S. Supreme Court last month upheld the power of federal prosecutors to charge medical-marijuana users even in the 11 states that allow it — agents raided three San Francisco clubs, alleging they operated as fronts for larger drug-trafficking and money-laundering operations.
As city leaders push for stricter regulation — imposing a six-month moratorium on new clubs while they draw up rules — they have found some of their strongest support comes from club operators themselves. “We have to assume some responsibility,” said Wayne Justmann, a pioneer in the pot-club scene. More government oversight would “pave the way to legitimacy” for medical marijuana, he said. “It would be like Good Housekeeping was here and we got their seal of approval.”