Commentary: Without enforcement, medical marijuana law is a farce

Tuesday's bust of a Tacoma medical marijuana dispensary raised the usual chorus of protests from decriminalization advocates who accuse law enforcement of having misplaced priorities.

That's absurd. Police, when presented with convincing evidence of illegal activity, have a duty to investigate. Pierce County is merely proving that it takes the restrictions of the state's medical marijuana law seriously. Would that more communities did.

It's for a judge and jury to decide how convincing the evidence is against the suspects arrested in Tuesday's raid of North End Club 420 by the West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team.

But, if true, the allegations against the club and its associates represent a clear departure from anything Washington voters had in mind when they legalized medical marijuana in 1998. Police had no choice but to intervene.

So-called patient "exchanges" themselves operate on the margins of the law, justifying their existence by liberally interpreting a provision that allows eligible patients to appoint a "designated provider."

The law also says that designated providers can provide pot to only one patient at a time. Dispensaries argue "time" is a flexible term.

The claim strains credibility, but in many places, including Pierce County, law enforcement doesn’t pursue nonprofit exchanges that are acting as true co-operatives. What police go after — and should — are dispensaries that operate far outside the law by, for example, selling marijuana for profit and to unauthorized users.

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