Questions surround Oakland pot legalization vote

July 21, 2010 12:23:58 PM PDT
Critics of Oakland's historic vote to permit large-scale marijuana-growing operations say the federal government may take notice, and not like what they see and it's medical pot users who could be hurt.

The idea of huge football field sized marijuana fields has some Bay Area people and governments very excited. But, ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson says the federal government could quickly put an end to the expansion of marijuana growing operations.

"For example, we found a large scale grow in Oakland -- something that exceeded 1,000 plants, that would involve a 10 year mandatory minimum sentence in federal prison and the penalties could go up from their depending upon the facts," said Dean Johnson.

Johnson said local U.S. attorneys have been advised not to spend too much time or money on marijuana prosecution right now, but that could change quickly and painfully.

"If it becomes too egregious, if the violation becomes too large and too blatant, the federal authorities might very well decide to get back into the marijuana prosecution business and some people who thought they were just opening legitimate businesses under state law may find themselves in federal prison," said Johnson.

Until the feds make a move, pot growing has the green light in Oakland; though some wonder if the larger growers will be able to match the quality of the small growers.

"There would be a big problem with the product. It would be the difference between a fine wine from a Napa vineyard and a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20," said Harborside Health Center's Steve DeAngelo.

Some say the 8 to 12 percent pot tax under consideration by Oakland officials would ruin the industry in that city. But supporters say it's an industry that needs not only taxing, but regulating.

"We have a lot of social problems, such as public fires, hostile takeovers, home invasions that stem from this largely unregulated cultivation," said large grower candidate Dhar Mann.


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