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December 17, 2007

Components of the Emergent Pot Market 3: distribution (historical)

Previous entries on the subject of a huge (and still growing) gray market for medical marijuana, which suddenly became visible sometime around 2004, pointed out that the initial delay was because very few physicians were willing to risk certifying  customers of the few “buyers clubs” that opened in scattered pot-friendly locales, mostly in the Bay Area, Santa Cruz, and Santa Barbara, as well as in traditional growing areas up North.
In retrospect, the prodigious energy of one physician, recently deceased Tod Mikuriya, was crucial; as was the cooperation of pot-friendly DA Terence Hallinan in San Francisco. The indications are that Mikuriya may have single handedly certified half of the state wide market that existed in late 2001 when I was first broke in as a novice “pot doc.” Also, the refusal of Hallinan to prosecute clubs during the same era allowed the retail outlets thriving within San Francisco to outnumber those in the rest of the state combined.

It should also be noted that Dennis Peron, who was so instrumental in getting 215 on the ballot in the first place, and had created the prototypical buyers’ club on Market Street long before the initiative passed is now almost unknown to younger reformers and disparaged by older ones seeking respectability.

Once the demand for “medical” pot had grown enough to establish a few thriving clubs and a few physicians, including myself, had demonstrated a demand for recommendations, several “scrip doc” clinics began operating around the state on an industrial scale. Their activity soon created enough demand in densely populated parts of the state, Sacramento, LA, and San Diego, to lure a growing numbers of retailers into the “dispensary” business.  The irony is that that roughly equivalent amounts of marijuana were being produced, transported, and sold to users before 215 passed. All that has changed is that a segment of the 1996 black market has become painfully visible to the ignorant, most notably the DEA, local cops, cub reporters, and the self-appointed “experts” now chattering excitedly on drug policy reform e-mail lists. What my data suggest, but can’t confirm, is that the only growth in the overall market has been a result of new initiates (the youngest of whom were under age ten in 1996) becoming chronic users.

Meanwhile, the provisions of 215 are being interpreted within an outrageously unfair and constantly shifting enforcement system that has punished Ed Rosenthal with one day in jail and sentenced Dustin Costa to 15 years in a Texas prison for the same “crimes.”

Even so, chatterers on reform lists contrive to overlook all the absurdity as they agree with the DEA that kids shouldn’t try pot and argue about the wisdom of calling attention to the enormous demand for it that 215 has uncovered. It turns out that a solid majority agrees with the DEA about “kids” and pot, and also has no comment on the obvious: over half of all American “kids” have been trying it since the Sixties.

Go figure. With “friends” like that, plus the DEA and local cops in hot pursuit, the ordinary pot smokers I see every week hardly need any more enemies.

That incremental reform is a delusion is obvious from the few hundred  who have been qualified as “patients” in those states with the tiny and largely invisible medical marijuana markets now totally ignored by the DEA as it struggles to dissuade California landlords from renting to dispensaries.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at December 17, 2007 01:47 PM