The feds have secured convictions against the two Modesto operators of medical marijuana dispensaries who were arrested some months ago, on charges that carry "mandatory" sentences of 20 years. That distributing marijuana should carry such a sentence is simply mind-boggling. That in federal cases it is forbidden to refer to the California law or to utter the words "medicinal marijuana" is a travesty.
I think this case is largely intended to intimidate other operators of dispensaries and make the DEA thugs feel like they've had a success. The feds simply don't have the resources to prosecute all the dispensaries in the state. From what I've heard from various activists, they were pretty shrewd in those they chose to prosecute. These two guys, according to at least a few other mdical marijuana activists, operated on the edge of ethical practice, and made more profit than most dispensary operators. I have nothing against profit, but this is an area where large profits attract negative attention.
Quite frankly, I've been a little shocked at the prices most dispensaries get for the product -- up to $160 for 1/8 of an ounce. I understand that growing for therapeutic purposes is more expensive than just throwing some seeds somewhere in a national forest or in a back yard. And I know that in many cases up to half of revenues go to lawyers, because the feds have made that advisable with their actions and their threats. But dammit, they don't call it weed for nothing. There are subtleties, but it's not that hard to grow.
If the feds weren't in prosecution/intimidation mode, of course, there would be more dispensaries and more competition, and the prices would decrease significantly. Barack Obama has said when asked that he will call off the feds in states with state medical marijuana laws, although he has hardly been a profile in courage on the issue of decriminalization. (McCain has indicated he might be tougher than Bush.) He should be asked this question at any appearance where activists get a chance to pose questions so that the position is cemented more firmly in the public record and the "public mind" than I believe is the case yet.