Last week, a 13 year old Girl Scout made national news when she set up shop in front of a San Francisco medical marijuana dispensary and sold 117 boxes in two hours. This past weekend, another Girl Scout in Phoenix found success using the same marketing technique. It’s all about location, but all munchies jokes aside, the fact that Girl Scouts are selling cookies to legal marijuana users in some states, while pot smokers in other states are being criminally prosecuted, epitomizes the growing schism in marijuana policy among the 50 states.
The fact that the Girl Scouts would choose a venue such as a cannabis dispensary not only shows a keen awareness of target customers, but also underscores just how mainstream marijuana has become. This is because the Girl Scouts and their beloved cookies are as wholesome and all-American as Charlie Brown holiday specials, Disney, and football and turkey on Thanksgiving. Certainly, Girl Scouts would not be selling cookies in front of a biker bar, a strip club or porn shop, even though all three of these businesses are legal in all 50 states. (In case you’re wondering, even LDS-controlled Utah has strip clubs.) But a marijuana dispensary? They would be foolish not to.
Yet as Girl Scouts are raking in the cash from West Coast stoners, otherwise law abiding citizens in other parts of the country still fall victim to antiquated prohibition laws. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is one of those states. Penn State students in Centre County routinely serve jail time for something as innocent and innocuous as the time-honored stoner tradition of hooking up a friend with a small amount of marijuana, without making any money from the transaction. Often, parents and clients alike are shocked to learn that you can get any jail time at all for a $40 marijuana transaction, let alone face a two to four year mandatory minimum state prison sentence. When the media reports tales of Girl Scouts selling cookies in front of cannabis collectives as a light-hearted humor story rather than expressing moral outrage, it is easy to see how people living outside the free states can be led to believe that law enforcement no longer cares about weed.
The real question is how long this schism in marijuana policy will last. As Abraham Lincoln said in 1858, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” The tide of history suggests that eventually, Prohibition will be abolished throughout the entire United States. In the mean time, both users and sellers of cannabis are still being criminally prosecuted outside the free states, including Pennsylvania.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense lawyer in State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State University. He will continue to represent people in marijuana cases until Pennsylvania becomes a free state.