Oct 312011

Local medical marijuana advocates have dropped plans for a ballot initiative aimed at loosening Fresno County’s new marijuana law, Kurtis Alexander reports in the Fresno Bee news blog.

Organizers of the drive, who are largely owners of pot dispensaries, said they couldn’t afford to shell out the more than $100,000 it would cost — especially with the federal government threatening to crack down on California’s quasi-legal marijuana trade.

“Why invest the time and money in doing an initiative if the feds are going to shut them down anyway?” said attorney Brenda Linder, who was involved in writing the unsuccessful ballot measure.

The measure would have allowed dispensaries to remain open in certain areas and permitted people to grow the plant under certain conditions. County law bans dispensaries and limits cultivation to a handful of industrial areas. (Dispensaries in operation when the ordinance took effect last month have until March to close.)

But instead of fighting the ordinance, dispensaries are now cowering under the threat of a federal crackdown.

Owners of several dispensary sites and marijuana farms received letters this month from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, ordering them to close. The dispensary Garden Ablaze, on North Clovis Avenue, has since shut down. A handful of others, which don’t want their name in the paper until they speak with their customers, have said they will do the same.

While the trade appears to be in collapse, there is still some hope.

A working group commissioned by the county Board of Supervisors to evaluate the new marijuana ordinance is planning to bring its recommendations back to the board. The recommendations call for easing the current law, including allowing marijuana patients to grow their own.

Also, in San Francisco this week, a group of marijuana supporters said it would pursue a statewide initiative to affirm the legality of medical marijuana use in California. The initiative, while still being worked out, is expected to detail how the drug can be lawfully grown, exchanged and used — so the feds will be less tempted to come in and crack down.

The current quandary in California is a result of state and federal government having different opinions about the drug. According to the feds, any marijuana use is illegal while medical use is permitted under California law.

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