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July 17, 2008

A Thriving Business

In December 2007, I was still receiving forty or fifty e-mails a day from various drug policy discussion groups when one of the senior participants, a Southern Californian who’d helped the movement become web-savvy in the early Nineties (and also persuaded me to become involved in 1995), called attention to dramatic developments in medical pot distribution in Southern California. A majority of list respondents were frankly unimpressed; they thought his emphasis on the commercial aspects of medical pot was both unseemly and misplaced.

My reaction was different; I was pleased that at least one member of a group I was starting to see as seriously out of touch was paying attention: I’d also noticed the same phenomenon in Northern California; especially since the Raich fiasco. Pot retail outlets were doing well; even though the feds and their willing state and local stooges were busy arresting, prosecuting, and generally harassing medical users to the extent possible. My friend’s novel suggestion was that they might eventually become overwhelmed by the booming gray market Proposition 215 had created. The “movement’s” cool reception to his idea was the last straw for me; I decided to cut myself loose from the e-mail lists I’d been reading so compulsively for a dozen years.

I now see that as a long overdue decision.

It’s been just over six months; anyone paying even minimal attention can see the American economy is facing unprecedented uncertainty; but a little-noticed bright spot continues to be the still-thriving gray market for medical pot. To prepare for this entry, I’ve been studying two issues of a glossy 45 page magazine called West Coast Cannabis. The cover of the first identifies it as number 3 (May-June) of Volume One; the second is simply issue 4, July, implying that it may have gone from bi-monthly to monthly since its debut in January. Both covers state ”always free,” suggesting it’s paid for by its advertisers. The latter are both numerous and predictable: retail medical marijuana outlets, medical groups and individual physicians providing the required medical evaluations, and lawyers specializing in legal defense for the unlucky. There are also ads for growing equipment, etc. What’s unusual is how openly the ads are written.

In addition, some are considerably less conventional; Oaksterdam University, in the same neighborhood as the OCBC and the original “third Floor” is portraying itself as a high tech trade school intended to prepare students for lucrative careers in a growth industry.

It’s more than just ads; several well written articles report the travails of those unlucky enough to have become ensnared (clearly the most applicable word) in the ham-fisted, always-incompetent and increasingly dishonest police efforts to punish medical use. The more one knows of the details, the more contemptuous one can be of both American “justice” and the bureaucracies implementing it; especially when one realizes, as I do, that the cases reported are simply the carefully selected tip of a much larger and even less fortunate iceberg.

Also, just as the injustices and legal issues breathlessly reported on our evening news are but a pale reflection of our brutal federal and state prison systems, the land of the free has unwittingly become the world’s leading jailer by becoming desensitized to reality: a flawed, but relatively humane state hospital system that evolved to care for the “mentally ill” in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries has, somehow, been almost completely replaced by a brutal, unjust, and far more expensive prison industrial complex since the mid Sixties.

I’m now reasonably confident I now understand the key steps of that transformation and plan to outline them ASAP.

Doctor Tom

Posted by tjeffo at July 17, 2008 12:07 AM