Let's get one thing out of the way: The majority of people with medical marijuana cards are not dying of cancer.
The relatively lax standards ensure that even if you only suffer from crippling conditions such as impaired night vision, Funyun-phobia, or the inability to laugh at Dane Cook routines, you are eligible to possess, transport, consume, and buy marijuana from one of many state-sanctioned dispensaries, or "clubs."
(Interesting side note, if where you go to procure medicine uses the same handle as where you go on Saturday nights to dance and buy over-priced vodka-Redbulls, legitimacy must come into question.)
Legitimacy must be similarly questioned when able-bodied activists protest the recent crackdowns on California by chanting "give us our medicine!" as was widely heard in the wake of last month's federal raid on Oaksterdam University and its founder, Richard Lee.
Not only do the majority of pro-medical activists display little need for their chosen "medicine," but the substance of subject here is little more than a way to treat symptoms rather than the disease. While medical use of marijuana surely does benefit those suffering who desire a natural alternative to more potent and addictive pharmaceutical alternatives, their case is overshadowed by those who are content to pervert the law for their own recreational use rather than reforming it to reflect their own beliefs.
2012 is lining up to be a watershed year in state's rights. With issues like Prop 8 and the Affordable Care Act coming to the head of the Supreme Court's docket, federal involvement in state affairs is becoming a popular arena for reform. The recent federal crackdowns suggest a possible similar case on behalf of the 16 states in which medical marijuana is legal.
Indeed, the federal government's shuttering of dispensaries suggests direct federal obstruction of business deemed legal by individual states. But regardless of how public polls and state legislation might support it, federal scrutiny of the legalization of medical marijuana would likely be detrimental to the cause, largely due to one additional provision: the right to grow and cultivate a Schedule 1 controlled substance.
Whether marijuana belongs on the same legal black list as heroin and LSD is a whole argument altogether, but the truth remains that California not only allows for every individual to grow up to six mature or twelve immature plants for "personal consumption." You don't need to be a Oaksterdam University graduate to know that this is a lot, or at least enough to make you feel like Peter Tosh on the cover of "Legalize It."
The average yield of a pot plant varies greatly given the individual strain and the conditions under which it's grown, though a conservative bet would be anywhere between a quarter and a half pound. Factor in the fact that most plants are ready for harvest within two months and you have an annual surplus larger than most individuals could consume--provided they didn't wear a bong around their neck like a feedbag.
This burgeoning supply has made the dispensary business a blossoming industry, albeit one inevitably hindered by a dishonest demand. If only card-carrying members can legally buy pot from dispensaries, it is not only in the best interest for these dispensaries to ensure the largest amount of people have cards but also that their clientele can only purchase their product beneath their state sanctioned roofs.
Thus in one of the stranger cases of politics dividing causes, for the 2010 California public referendum on the broad legalization, Prop 19, a faction of dispensary owners rallied against their own cause out of fear they'd lose their monopoly. What's more, retired San Jose Police Chief Joe McNamara along with many other state law enforcement figures came out for the measure.
Now do the math.
With dispensaries looking to distribute cards that permit individuals not just to by but grow en masse and law enforcement less invested in curbing distribution, the street price for pot drops. It's simple supply and demand. The supply is bountiful while the demand is controlled.
Dispensaries have moved quickly to vertically control their business, from seed to seller, so any independent grower finds the best return where the demand is higher: in states where marijuana remains illegal.
"I can't compete with growers who sell directly to dispensaries," says one Bay area grower who wished to remain anonymous. "They already have too much volume. I can make ten times the profit by selling my harvests in the Midwest and in Mexico."
So while much has been made in the press regarding "Obama's War on Pot" (or as an editorial in this week's San Francisco Guardian deemed "Obama's Mistake"), it's hard to fault a president for impeding on states rights when they're being exported across state borders.
Instead, 420 activists should steady their course towards broader state-by-state legalization. Or if you'd rather mince rhetoric, ending pot prohibition. And while the pros to legalization grossly outweigh the cons across issues ranging from taxation, law enforcement, and agriculture, we should not be as concerned with legalization by any means necessary but rather the public discourse around it.
The majority protesting for medical marijuana woefully distorts their ulterior methods: they just wanna get high. Which is fine, as long as you can speak to the greater good of the measure (tax windfall, healthier alternatives to pain medication or alcohol, unburdened police forces, etc.), rather than just playing the false victim. Otherwise, the public conversation becomes just as inflamed as pro-life legislation touting trans-vaginal ultrasounds in the name of women's health.
Activists should stop settling for back-door legislation and speak for the broader argument of legalization. Much like any overhaul of existing law, this will initially need to come from the states. But in doing so state legislation must display a responsibility that does not bear-bait the federal government into the crackdowns we've seen as of late. Here is where the legalization movement can learn from the medical marijuana business of California by keeping supply better checked by demand.
No doubt marijuana does have its medical benefits and should remain implemented and regulated by actual doctors who can speak to its better uses (rather than "prescribed" under the same roof in which it is sold). If a doctor can send a patient to another independent pharmacy to obtain controlled substances such as opioids, surely an organic alternative can be dispensed through the same office. The fact that medical marijuana is not distributed through medical pharmacies speaks directly to how its use has become aberrant against legislative intentions. So rather than championing the causes of the suffering for your own recreational gain, rally behind the greater good.
Or at least stop demanding your medicine. You're making me sick.
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