On a hippie trail, head full of zombie

Nimbin rules, Nimbin, Australia
This travel blog photo’s source is TravelPod page: Nimbin rules, Nimbin, Australia

I wish I knew all the little pockets of freedom around the world, the places where tradition, culture, geographic isolation and/or chance have turned a small corner of the globe into a place where people aren’t ashamed to be who they are. Nimbin, New South Wales, Australia sounds like one of those spots:

IT’S 10 o’clock in the morning and I’m on the balcony of a B&B, overlooking a valley, when the manager appears and asks me if I’d like to share a joint. For a moment I think she’s joking until she flops into a fluorescent beanbag and lights one up.

I’m spending a few days in Australia’s marijuana capital, Nimbin, in northeastern NSW, not necessarily because I want access to cannabis, but because most of my family live here. My nephews, eight and 10, have fairly common names like Jack and Charlie, but their closest friends are called-no kidding-Tao, Zameal and Lotus. They ride horses to school and are taught by bare-footed parents in a two-roomed building in the hills. At lunchtime they swim in the adjacent creek.

Sounds so nice, I almost have a craving for vegemite. Almost.

Via 420 Magazine.

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How many old people will have to die before marijuana is legal in California?

This article about the role of demographics and voter turnout on California’s Tax & Regulate Cannabis Initiative argues that according to polling data, the younger you are, the more likely you are to support the initiative, but the less likely you are to actually vote. However, because the threshold for support is getting older every year, the longer we wait to legalize marijuana, the more likely we are to succeed. We may just not be at the tipping point yet. Also, mid-term elections are better for the party that’s not occupying the White House; since Republicans are less likely to vote for legalization than Democrats, expect the vote to be skewed to the “nays.”

Which is not to say that the initiative is destined for defeat, it’ll just be harder to pass it this year than will likely be in two years, when the President who mobilized more young voters than any other in history runs for re-election.

You can’t put too much stock in stories like this, because these close races are difficult to call this far out. A lot can happen between now and November, and this is a very odd time in American history.

On an unrelated note, it’s morbidly amusing how quickly a relatively dry piece of analysis can turn grisly in its implications:

Older voters are also, of course, more likely to die before the next election. Death rates are nearly three times as high for people 75 to 84 than they are for those 65-74 — and death rates for those 85 and older are about three times higher than that. In other words, the groups most likely to oppose the marijuana effort are also a lot more likely to die in the next two years, and therefore not to take part in the next election. Nearly 9 percent of people 75 to 84 will die over a two-year period; almost a quarter of people 85 and older will die over that same period.

Even given that older, sicker people are less likely to vote — or to respond to telephone surveys — a two-year delay would mean that many of the voters who are most likely to oppose the initiative will die or become medically unable to vote. Overlaying death rate tables over the Times survey data suggest that the no side would lose approximately 130,000 net votes over two years.

It’s sad but true: grandma may have die before you can be free to smoke weed. Well, probably not this grandma:

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It’s Friday Night!

Update: Sorry about the technical glitch. On one of my favorite non-marijuana blogs, they have an acronym for moments like this: FYWP.

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Hemp Press Xmarks the spots

Hemp Press Links

My very first blog post is my list of hemp happy links. Notice it  updates, as I add more links to my bookmarks. Save this page to see my favorites pages as they are added. Fun and easy way to share tons of favorite pages via HTML. Have fun finding some of my hidden gems.

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Why is medicine more expensive in the dispensaries than it is on the street?

It’s logical to assume that when a product goes from illegal to legal, its street price drops. But not with medical marijuana. Colorado medical marijuana patients are discovering what California patients have known for years: legal pot is more expensive. From NPR:

“We found that if you go to a dispensary, it’s more expensive,” he says. “You go through a buddy, least expensive. Speaks for itself.”

There’s no consumer price index for pot in Denver, but police commander Jerry Peters has a pretty good idea of the cost. He heads a drug task force in the metro area.

“An ounce of marijuana goes anywhere between $270, $280 to about $400 an ounce… that we’re seeing in the different dispensaries,” Peters says. “In the black market, though, when … we buy an ounce of marijuana, it’s about 150 bucks.”

The biggest thing that communities fear when a dispensary comes to their town is not the spectre of stoned citizens giggling hysterically as they wolf down a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, it’s the possibility that the medicine sold at the dispensary will end up being re-sold on the streets. Every California dispensary I have been to makes a point of telling new members that re-distribution is strictly prohibited; usually I’ve had to initial that paragraph, but it’s been in a prominent place on just about every collective Membership Agreement I’ve seen (and I’ve seen dozens).

This fear of re-distribution exerts an upward pressure on prices in a number of ways. First, the dispensary has to compete with the black market for product, so they have to offer attractive prices to growers. Next, the dispensary has to price the product near or above the local street price in order to discourage resale by unscrupulous patients. Then, the dispensary has a host of other costs to cover: rent, utilities, taxes, payroll, etc.

Put it all together and you can see why a dispensary will never be able to compete with a street dealer on price. It’s ironic that while full legalization would drive prices downward, semi-legalization has had the exact opposite effect.

UPDATE: Joe at the 420 Times makes this point, which I should have remembered to include in my post:

“The marijuana you can buy at a dispensary is generally of much better quality than marijuana on the street. You can get carefully grown strains that target specific symptoms, and since the medicine is so much better, you can consume less of it. Also as she points out, it’s safer; if you’ve ever been to a bad neighborhood trying to score some weed, you know what she’s talking about.”

Indeed. The selection and quality at the dispensaries is quite good, and the shopping experience is generally fun, comfortable and safe. Those are all worth paying a bit more for, but the prices are still artificially propped up by the coexistence of a licit and illicit market.

UPDATE II: I also forgot to include in my post that, adding insult to injury, the relaxation of drug laws has also had the effect of driving street prices down relative to the dispensaries. The risks associated with selling marijuana on the street in California and Colorado are not as high as they are in states like Indiana or Oklahoma. This means that pot dealers can bring their prices down even further relative to the dispensaries, which still have all of the above to pay for, while street dealers have almost no overhead to worry about.

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Patients need to behave themselves

One of the frustrating things about being a medical marijuana patient and activist is having to deal with those on my side who seem to be doing everything they can to strip my medicine of its dignity. The patients at the dispensary in Sandy Banks’ L.A. Times opinion piece are a case in point:

When Brent Poer moved into his quaint Los Feliz home a year ago, he knew the boxy green building at the corner of his cul-de-sac was a marijuana dispensary.

He figured coexisting with Hyperion Healing would be easy. “I honestly thought that potheads would be really cool and laid-back,” said Poer, a 42-year-old advertising executive.

Instead, he said, he wound up confronting strangers who blocked his driveway, left trash on the street, parked outside his neighbors’ homes blasting music and smoking weed. He ticks off a list of crimes —garages burglarized, car windows broken, thefts from homes — that neighbors blame on dispensary visitors.

While I’m sure all of those crimes weren’t committed by “dispensary visitors,” it disturbs me that medical patients can’t be bothered to pick up their trash or park legally. It would also help if the patients at this dispensary acted like medical patients:

“I get the compassionate thing,” said Poer. “But when you see people park on your street, carrying McDonald’s bags and an X-box 360, walking down to the dispensary to hang out … that’s a clubhouse, not a pharmacy.”

The responsibility for this lies with the dispensary. Most of the dispensaries I have seen have their members sign a “good neighbor clause,” stating the member at the very least won’t loiter around the premises, make lots of noise or medicate in the surrounding neighborhood. These clauses are in place because many communities fear the criminal element that they associate, rightly or wrongly, with marijuana. (I’ll be the first to admit that, thanks to the co-existence of a black and a white market in marijuana, there are unfortunately still criminal elements on the medical side.) I’ve never had any problem with these clauses, because I can put myself in the position of someone who lives in that neighborhood; and I wouldn’t want the customers of any business blocking my driveway or trashing my street.

Hyperion Healing deserves to be fined for allowing such behavior by its members. More importantly, all of us in the medical marijuana community and the broader anti-prohibition movement need to remember that the rest of society is judging us more by what we do and how we act than by what we say. All the logical arguments in the world won’t sway someone who sees medical marijuana patients trash his neighborhood every day. Medical marijuana patients have fought long and hard for legitimacy and acceptance by society, and we still have a long way to go. Acting like the stoner criminals many of our critics believe us to be only sets us back.

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Look Out California Growers, the Weed Walmart is Coming

There’s a lot of information to digest in this excellent piece on the ups and downs of the California Medical Marijuana trade, but I wanted to draw your attention to this: We now know one of the people who will benefit from Oakland’s licensed grow warehouse proposal:

The Council will consider the new plan in July, and if it passes, the AgraMed company will be poised to apply. The company proposes to build a 100,000-square-foot medical marijuana megafarm beside Interstate 880 near Oakland International Airport that, according to projections, could generate 58 pounds of pot a day and $59 million a year in revenue.

As we learn in the article, AgraMed’s President is Jeff Wilcox. He is also a member of the steering committee for the initiative to legalize marijuana. Some of us want to legalize marijuana because it’s the right thing to do. Jeff Wilcox wants it legalized because he stands to make almost $60 million per year.

Now we know why this proposal was written this way. It benefits a few well-connected political players while leaving all the small producers, grower’s collectives and other medical marijuana entrepreneurs to twist in the wind.

People like Chris Smith, for instance:

“To me, it’s a money movement now,” said Chris Smith, who is part of 40 Acres Medical Marijuana Collective, an underground medical marijuana group in Berkeley. “Most of them probably got a little political pull or a little political networking; they got lawyers; they got money for lawyers; they jump right in to position.”

The 40 Acres Collective consists of about 100 growers and users who gather to share pot, money and plants.

Smith said the collective would like to be able to get a city permit and become a licensed dispensary. But the city has capped the number of pot clubs at three, and all the spots are taken. Smith said he worried that 40 Acres Collective might ultimately be shut out.

What happens when Smith’s collective is “shut out”? He’ll be forced to pay a premium price to get his medicine from the same mega-business that ruined his livelihood.

This proposal is a slap in the face to the thousands of small growers in California, the very people who created and improved some of the strains that have proven so effective for medicinal use. The more I read about it, the more I’m opposed to it. I’ll take no law over entrenching big business any day.

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