Changing the Narrative on Marijuana Dispensaries

By Lauren Payne  |  April 25, 2013

The DEA conducts a raid on a marijuana dispensary in San Diego with the help of local law enforcement.

Often, when I speak with operators of Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives (MCDs), I’m often struck by how many of them believe the rumors they hear about other collectives operating in their areas.

They’ve heard that other collectives “aren’t in it for the patients; they sell other drugs; they don’t check recommendations; they have gang ties” and other similar divisive rumors.

My advice is to take these rumors with a grain of salt.

One of the oldest tricks law enforcement plays on underground communities is turning the members against one another. A community divided is much easier to dismantle.

Consider this: even media falls for these rumors. Articles about federal and state raids often focus on language released by police, the District Attorney, or the US Attorney that say “We’ve heard reports of gang activity, and of the presence of other drugs on the premises; they weren’t trying to serve sick people, they were out to make money.”

Take a closer look–the warrants and resulting charges rarely include gang activity or other substances.

Media, in order to preserve their relationships with Public Affairs officers of law enforcement, rarely question the information they are given. They print police talking points in their entirety and don’t draw a line between the accusations of bad behavior and the lack of accompanying documentation.

Diane Goldstein, retired Lieutenant Commander of Redondo Beach Police Department, reminds us that often times “Law enforcement creates “moral panics” by providing information to the public that the medical marijuana industry is tied to the Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations (MDTO). Yet there has been unclassified intelligence information that clearly states “that there is no credible information” that there is any link between dispensaries and MDTO that has been circulated in 2012 by California Law Enforcement.”

When you hear that a local MCD is “bad,” ask questions.

Ask where they got the information from. Was it something the person witnessed? Or heard about second- or third-hand? When you see a media outlet doing the same, ask the same questions. Look at the supporting documentation.

Finally, talk to patients and operators in your community about these issues. If we refuse to turn on one another, we can more effectively work together to end interference.

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