Tag Archives: california

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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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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LA Takes Out Its Incompetence on Dispensaries, Patients

It looks like L.A.’s dispensary limit will go into effect on Monday, forcing hundreds of dispensaries to close or pay exhorbitant fines.  If you’re looking for a clue as to why L.A. is in this situation, you could do worse than this line:

Last-minute legal challenges from pot shop owners and patients seeking temporary restraining orders were denied Friday by Superior Court Judge James Chalfant, paving the way for officials to enforce the long-awaited law that will slash the number of dispensaries to somewhere between 70 and 130.

The range is between “70 and 130”? Are you kidding? How is it possible that a city with a large bureaucracy, including tax collectors, fire inspectors, and a host of other agencies, not to mention beat cops who should, between them, know the entire city backwards and forwards, they can’t get an accurate count of all the dispensaries that abide by the law? What the hell are Los Angelinos paying these people for, if not to keep track of things?

I’m sure a lot of these “rogue” dispensaries haven’t made it easy for the city to keep track of them, but that range refers specifically to the ones that are legal. We learn later in the article what constitutes a legal dispensary:

Dispensaries that registered before a 2007 moratorium can stay open if they adhere to the new guidelines, which include being 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other public gathering sites. The dispensaries also must pay more than $1,000 in administrative fees.

So the city has had more than two years to look at dispensaries that already existed, make sure they pay their fees, and draw lines on maps to check if they are too close to schools and parks. This does not sound like a tall order to me.

The city clearly has failed to do its job. All they have ever had to do was task every beat cop in the city to write the address of every dispensary in his area, then collect that data, plot it on a map, check to see if their paperwork is in order, and identify the dispensaries that are out of compliance. That’s what a competent government would do.

Instead, they have spent years failing to do their jobs, while complaining publicly about the “Wild West” atmosphere among dispensaries in L.A. Now that they have finally managed to get their act together (to what degree, we’ll see…) the people who pay for their years of mismanagement are the dispensary owners who opened their businesses legally and the sick people who patronize those dispensaries, only to have the city pull the rug out from under them.

Hat tip to THE Weed Blog.

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Oakland considers sanctioning large-scale grows

The City of Oakland, one of the most marijuana-friendly in the country, is tired of indoor growers starting fires, so the City Council is planning introduce legislation to sanction a few large-scale commercial grow operations. At this point,they are envisioning three to four commercial grows, located in an industrial section of the city.

While I applaud the ongoing efforts of Oakland city authorities to legitimize marijuana and bring it into the mainstream, I have many problems with this proposal.

First, it won’t work. Small growers don’t grow because the cops let them, they grow because it is profitable. All this proposal would do is flood the market, making it marginally less profitable to grow at home, but not likely to drive out small indoor growers altogether.  Mostly, it will reduce the growers’ profits, making them less likely to spend money on, say, properly hooking up their electricity.

Second, this would establish a “big business” model, in which the entire medical marijuana industry would be dominated by a few well-connected megagrowers. These few growers would reap huge profits (as Harborside, Oakland’s biggest dispensary and one of the most likely recipients of a grow permit, is already doing), while the small-time growers would be forced to either accept lower prices or be forced into an already bleak job market.

The concentration of power over the supply of medicine in the hands of a few big businesses flies directly in the face of California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s Guidelines for the Security and Non-Diversion of Marijuana for Medical Use, which mandate that all dispensaries operate as non-profit collectives or co-operatives, and that primary caregivers may only have multiple patients “in the same city or county.”

My recommendation would be to empower a local organization to certify, anonymously, the safety of a grow. Dispensaries could demand proof of inspection from each vendor. This would address the fire hazard problem while keeping the supply side populated with actively-employed collective members.

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Life Really is Better in California

In the middle of a good primer on evaluating bud, I saw this little gem:

Chances are if you are on the West Coast or in Colorado, you have a great sense of what’s good and what’s bad.  If you live somewhere else in the US, I hate to break it to you, but the weed just isn’t that good where you are.  Now I’m not saying good weed doesn’t exist anywhere else in the US, but I am saying that it is hard as hell to find, costs an arm and a leg, and doesn’t come in large supplies.  There are always home cultivators in any part of the nation that are producing top quality nugs, but that doesn’t always mean that they share!  On the West Coast and in Colorado, due to SO MANY GROWERS, top quality marijuana flows like water, and therefore, the consumers in those areas are exposed to many more top quality strains.  As a result, they are much more educated on the topic of cannabis quality.

I don’t mean to toot my West Coast horn or anything, but this is undeniably true. In most of the country, you simply smoke what’s available, because obtaining it is so difficult. In California, on the other hand, there is so much superior weed going around that Humboldt outdoor isn’t even up to snuff anymore for many California medical marijuana dispensaries!

Just a reminder that despite the many problems in the world of medical marijuana, those of us lucky enough to live where cannabis can be obtained safely and legally are blessed with an abundance of high-quality medicine.

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