Earlier this week, the New York Times published a story on the ongoing prosecution of Matthew R. Davies, California medical marijuana proprietor. Six months ago, two of his dispensaries and one of his warehouses were raided by the federal government, who found over 2,000 marijuana plants. It appears as though his operations were compliant with local regulations. Per the NYT story:
He brought graduate-level business skills to a world decidedly operating in the shadows. He hired accountants, compliance lawyers, managers, a staff of 75 and a payroll firm. He paid California sales tax and filed for state and local business permits.
Among Mr. Davies's advocates here in California are Paul I. Bonell, who was the president of the Premier Credit Union for 21 years before Mr. Davies hired him in early 2011 to oversee his businesses' fiscal controls. After the businesses were raided in October that year, Mr. Bonell took a position as the head of the Lodi Boys and Girls Club.
"I had some reservations going in," he said of Mr. Davies's enterprise. "But the industry was exploding. Matt wanted to have internal controls in place. And we thought: This was a legitimate business. If the State of California deems it legitimate, we want to be the best at it."
Mr. Davies's accountant, David M. Silva, said he set up spreadsheets to keep track of inventories, revenues and expenses. "I've been a C.P.A. for 30 years," Mr. Silva said. "What I saw was a guy who was trying to run an operation in an up-and-up way."
So why are we here? Why is Davies -- a non-violent, 34-year-old father of two with no prior criminal record -- potentially facing 15 years in prison?
This is an outrage. We should be at a point where these business owners can operate within the parlance of local authorities. It shouldn't be possible for the federal government to destroy their lives and livelihoods purely for the sake of dope on the table.
President Obama would seemingly agree. "We've got bigger fish to fry," Obama, a former marijuana smoker himself told ABC News. "It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal."
The federal government should similarly lay off compliant sellers of both medical and recreational varieties.
"What has my husband done that would justify the federal government forcing my young daughters to grow up without a father?" Davies' wife Molly wrote to President Obama in a letter obtained exclusively by the Huffington Post. "How can your Administration ignore the will of the California people and prosecute this good, law-abiding man for doing exactly what state law permits?"
Prosecutions like that of Davies are an unjust and ineffective use of taxpayer resources. On the The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf reasoned that this witch hunt could "easily" cost over $1 million. "Could you spend it in a way that saved more lives or created more happiness or resulted in more justice?" he asked.
Yes. We. Can.
Here are five better ways to spend that money:
1) Rehab as opposed to incarceration
2) Prosecution of HSBC for egregious foreign money laundering
3) Improving our education
4) Prescription drug awareness
5) Cancer research