Cannabis goes Corporate

By: Grainne Rhuad

I’ve forgotten my book so this week while I’m waiting at one of the many places that require me to wait, I am thumbing through the local free weekly.

I really haven’t gone cover to cover through this thing in a while.  It’s because the last editor they had was a dick.  Seriously.  Not only was he a dick but he was a dick with a hard-on for himself.  A selfish dick is nothing to be proud of no matter what your persuasion.

But this is not about him, or even about our sometimes stellar free weekly.  This is about four pages of advertisement in the back.  Four pages of fancy, expensive advertisement.  All of it promoting Pot.

I’m talking Marijuana people, Mary Jane, Ganja, Pakalolo.  Pot sales gone corporate.  It’s disgusting.

Before everyone gets pissy about me not being super-subversive in a super-hero pot smoking way, the way you always dreamed your local subversive would be, let me fill you in on how I feel about Pot, really.

I couldn’t give a shit.  It never did anything for me and although I smoked it as a teen as did everyone who isn’t lying, I had no problem putting it down.  It was expensive and made people behave stupidly.  The people around me at least, ceased to be able to do anything beyond devour tacos and watch “Headbanger’s Ball.

I have never begrudged anyone else their sticky green communion though, I have always seen it as largely harmless, certainly better than someone who downs a liquid lunch and drives to work.  Although I will admit pot smokers in general come across as slightly misinformed.  There are always heath risks to inhaling smoke into your lungs, whether it’s pot or frankincense, it’s probably not a good idea to inhale it all the live long day, you’re lungs are gonna be affected.

I well understand the health benefits particularly for those with cancer and HIV related problems.  THC helps with appetite and calms pain receptors.

On the several occasions it came up for a vote on my state’s ballot I voted in favour of legalizing it.  However most of the bills were shortsighted in my opinion.  Making something legal is not the same as making something legal with medical restrictions.  It was the medical restrictions that I thought were the problem, and it seems to be playing out that way.

In the state of California in order to legally purchase and use marijuana you must have a prescription from a medical doctor.  When this law originally passed in 1996, it was a little bit more difficult.  Doctors were skeptical and not just about the usefulness of marijuana and THC but the effect of their licensure if they began handing out prescriptions for the herb.  As a result, it was slow going at first; one had to find a doctor willing to put their license on the line sometimes travelling several hours to cities and towns to find these Doctors.

In addition law enforcement did not relish having to discern whether or not someone actually had a medical issue.  Most pot smokers queued up a ready list of things wrong with them to recite but it was difficult to tell if the operation in the back garden was for medical use or if unscrupulous pot-heads were padding their wallet with the excuse of glaucoma.

Some counties made it simpler for themselves passing laws and ordinances effectively making the state law null and void in their county or township.

All of this worked for a while but what law enforcement and raging anti-drug activists forget is pot smokers like to hang out together.  They know a lot of people, not many people like getting stoned alone so it wasn’t a huge surprise when marijuana clubs and collectives began to pop up and organize, advocating for a law that was already in place that allowed them to use the herbal remedy for certain maladies.

This was effective in a huge and quick way.  Even die-hard sheriffs could see where having a good relationship with a collective would make their job easier.  They would know where folks were getting their weed from and have easy access to who was supposed to be getting weed and why and even how much.

With law enforcement backing off doctors began to breathe a little.  For those who believed in the curative powers of pot they could rest a little easier at night writing prescriptions okaying its use.  But this is where things begin to get dicey too.  Some medical practitioners very quickly recognized a way to build an excellent practice, bringing in a lot of cash payments.  Cash payment is much to be desired by medical practitioners as everyone knows, insurance companies are giant pits of doom and despair.  Nobody gets paid from them.  So some medical practitioners began to open clinics only to work with the patients looking for weed.

My biggest concern and the thing I didn’t anticipate in this number is the amount of ailments that all of a sudden necessitate smoking the herb.  From tinnitus all the way to anxiety, all have and continue to qualify a person for medical marijuana.  I have known nobody whose ear ringing has disappeared due to sparking a spliff and it is a scientific fact that chemical compounds in marijuana work in your brain to produce more anxiety firing brain storms, not reduce them.  And yet here we are with people walking around with their marijuana green cards for anxiety.

This also brings me back to my local free weekly.  I remember in the late 90’s when the community got bent out of shape when the then management decided to sell ad space to beer companies.  The revenue generated was too big a draw for the struggling paper to pass up, but the community was pissed.  Letters to the editor poured in decrying the decision, promising to never read the paper again, “don’t you know our kids read this stuff?”

The paper did actually lose some readers over it and quite a few writers started their own weekly in response.  However as the back pages of the paper fill up with Cannabis clubs advertising free trials of your choice of “Purple Haze” or “Lowryder” nobody is saying a word.  This seems odd to me particularly since these ads are so expensive.

The price of a quarter page illustrated add in the weekly begins at $500.00 a week which tells me people are making money off of these clubs.  They have left the realm of compassionate kindness and backyard growing and become consumer driven ventures.

Add to thatthe free trials, the swank and ambiance of some of the clubs which vary from Turkish styled smoke lounges to pharmacy style counters, depending on how you want to feel about your medicine, it begins to become clear that our medical business culture is moving forward in its capitalistic greed to suck up what it can from the smoke trade.

Which somehow seems plain wrong to my sensibilities.  If I were a pot smoker I would much rather hide my pot plants in the tomato patch and be able to raise my fist at the man with pride.  Not charge my weed to my visa card and settle in next to the anesthesiologist who is smoking pot for his Tourette’s syndrome.  But that’s just me.

I’m thinking I’m not alone in my feelings, a lot of people never intended it to look cool to have social and physical maladies in order to smoke pot at the local hookah shop.  Personally, I had only intended to make an unreasonably illegal herb available for those who needed it.  Maybe make the earth an overall better place by encouraging people to garden.  But then, I should have known, Americans, even humans in general are greedy and if they see a way to addict more people to something and make money off it they will.

There is a growing contingent of folks that want to tax cannabis and it will most likely end up on our ballot in California in November 2010.  While I am all for generating revenue, the behavior around this sometimes helpful, sometimes harmful herb has me really thinking about whether or not to back the taxation of something that grows, well…like a weed.

http://www.canorml.org/

http://ballotpedia.org/wiki/index.php/California_Marijuana_Legalization_Initiative_(2010)

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127477038

14 Comments on “Cannabis goes Corporate”

  1. Grainne, there were a few things that came to my mind while reading your editorial. Your experiences in your teen years reminds me of that time period when marijuana was considered a recreational drug, and the observation was that it generally harmless, causing little more than the giggles and a strong appetite. It was compared with alcohol, although for the hip, with less destructive consequences. That was before the day when the terminally ill, such as cancer patients and people with AIDS said, “i don’t care how illegal it is. It makes me feel better.”

    Apparently this “feel better” has been enough to cause thousands of people to risk imprisonment, whether they had a medical reason for feeling better or not. Marijuana reduces pain. As a society, we are in a great deal of pain, both physical and mental. The pharmaceutical companies capitalize on pain with anti-depressants and opium derivatives. In a corporate driven society, it’s only natural that with a legal avenue into pain reducing herb, they would wish to capitalize on it.

    Marijuana is the only drug that does not enter your brain through the cerebellum. You have THC cell receptors all over your body that are activated when exposed to marijuana. Medical science has not been able to determine why they exist, yet the fact that they are there would indicate nature has its own purposes. Perhaps marijuana serves as a tonic to people in much the same way as catnip does for cats. Notice i said “maybe”, which would just make this a hypothesis.

    Marijuana used to be called a gateway drug, although over the years, this objection had to be scrapped. There are many marijuana users who have no interest in other drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. Usually, if a person uses hard drugs, such as amphetamines or alcohol, the hard drug is the primary drug of choice. Marijuana amplifies the effects of whatever other drugs are in the system, which is the primary reason hard drug users smoke it.

    Why are marijuana smokers so gregarious? The answer is simple. The reduction of pain, mental or physical, causes the mind to limber up and communicate some of the issues it has on its back burners. A person who you generally can’t pry more than half a dozen words from in the course of a day, will deliver the entire history of his late girlfriend’s mother in a course of twenty-five minutes. Gregarious people mean a greater exchange of issues, ideas and solutions; something control freaks; especially those in authoritative positions, never want to see happen in society. It’s inconvenient.

    However, now we are a bankrupt society, which is even more inconvenient. Marijuana will generate funds, and that’s the bottom line for any corporate mongol. We should probably just knock off the whole hypocrisy or whether or not it’s right or wrong to be a pothead and admit it’s as much with us to stay as drinking coffee or having an after dinner drink.

  2. I’ve noticed this proliferation of co-ops and 215 Docs issueing “recommondations” over the past few years myself. And I agree. Greed and exploitation have taken over once again. I also see how those who just want to get high without getting busted are compromising this budding industry for those who truely and honestly benefit from using the herb. Another potential benefit from legalizing marijuana is the potential reduction in large pot plantations being grown in our National Forests by enslaved Mexicans. These operations have been dangerous for hikers and hunters. Not to mention for those trying to pay there way into this country to make a better life for themselves and their family. This issue is rather controversial and divisive in our communities. And thanks for the heads up on the Anastesiologist. I’m going to ask if they are carrying a 215 card the next time I have a scheduled procedure.

  3. never tried it and I am not lying … there has to be an exception to every rule, as you know … but there is something just wrong about all this … and the involvement of government, and in your case a bankrupt government, this even more troubling …. considering all the pain remedies available .. I don’t see how making this weed legal will not, in the end, become an avenue for it just being legalized. Prescription abuses are rampant in this country .. the sale by doctors and pharmacists and patients of oxicotin, for example, is an established business all over the country … this will be true of pot too … can using medical pot be an excuse in the courts of law for any behavior ?? Government using this to get needed revenues … maybe even promoting it .. at some point controlling it … interesting situation … still not sure about all this, but, at my age, what would you expect ???

  4. Disclosure: I have never done pot or any other drug (I like being sober as I am less likely to do something I will later regret), but I’ve never had a problem with people that do take them – sure they make themselves stupid and may potentially sut their own lives short (via direct or indirect effects of their drug of choice), but that’s their problem not mine.

    That said, I knew that one day it would boil down to this – that sooner or later some one with the proper amount of cash and connections would push for drugs (right now it’s cannibis, but who knows what’s coming down the pipe) to be considered “legal” soley for the purposes of creating a monopoly on drugs formerly banned: if the small-time producers and dealers won’t be pushed out of business by market forces controlled by the monopolists, the force of the “law” will shut them down – giving the users the “choice” of buying from the monopolists or not buying their drug of choice at all…

  5. Good job, Grainne. How subversive of you to make a case against pot legalization. lol I figure anything “illegal” just costs the government money and hence its demonization. Whatever is legalized is making a huge profit. What they really should do is start figuring out a way to profit from murderers and violence, then they’d really have something going. Maybe a revival of gladiatorial games, with serial killers vs. rapists vs. first time drug offenders.

  6. The criminalization of pot costs the tax payers’ money, but not the government. The government feeds well its law enforcement agencies, its courts, its legislators, who hum and haw around inhaling (or not) but who are very anxious to keep the status quo of necessary government officials. When the government starts whittling away funds, are the first cuts made to judges, prosecutors? Do they consider closing down prisons as quickly as they consider closing schools and libraries? You bet your sweet booties, they don’t. The “unlawful” industry is the government’s bread and butter. They only way they will legalize something is to make sure it makes plenty of money for their coffers.

  7. Interesting article. As for legalizing it, I am for it, though the drug sellers certainly aren’t. For why would anyone want to give up a 200k yearly salary only to watch it go to big corporations? Ha. Coca-cola green! The next big thing. No matter what, someone has always been making money off the green plant. With it being illegal it’s just pot growers, jail systems, and now medical doctors able to prescribe.

    As far as “scientific fact” for it causing chemical compounds producing more anxiety… I’d love to see the study showing that… that didn’t come from the 50’s. For any study showing negative effects there is another showing positive. There is no big money backing up research for there to be much by way of conclusive evidence. Do you think Prozac is any better? It’s all a band-aid. But at least pot is a naturally growing substance, which I trust far above and beyond and concoction of chemicals man comes up with.

    As tinnitus is concerned, it may not stop the ringing, but as a sufferer of sever vertigo myself, it isn’t really the spinning the makes these conditions bad, it is the nausea and vomiting that come with it. I don’t know if you’ve ever suffered from a dizzy condition, but I know short of making a pact with the devil himself (or zombie Jesus) I’d do pretty much anything to get it to stop. Pot has been shown to reduce nausea down to a manageable level, if not stopping it completely. That would be my guess as to why they use it and prescribe it for that condition. Once again, I’d trust a natural plant to make the room stop spinning before I trusted a pill made from who knows what.

    I suggest viewing both sides before casting a vote. Excellent argument FOR pot legalization I believe is made in the movie – The Union: The Business Behind Getting High

    As for me, I’d much rather charge pot to my visa and lower my fist, then be in jail for years for mother nature made illegal.

    Ps- Smoking perhaps can be harmful, but you said nothing about eating it! ha

  8. @DevilDoll-Excellent and thoughtful points. I cannot disagree. I would rather not go to jail too and yes, eating it, the butters are an excellent answer.

    I have two really big problems with the way legalization is going at least in my state of CA.

    1.The fact that a 215 card can be handed out for exactly ANYTHING with no thought as to whether or not it is a good idea. What this ends up meaning is people are developing phantom symptoms to get weed. Fine. Except they can’t be let go from work either. They can drive fork lifts that drop shit on people at Costco and Delivery trucks and reeky, creepy Ice Cream trucks. Thankfully you cannot fly or operate yet.

    2. If taxed bigger buisiness is going to take this opereration over. Home growers will not be able to afford it. Therefore they will be persecuted for not paying taxes instead of growing pot-think post prohibition, how many bathtub gin operations do you know of? The big companies want their slice. Either way it’s a lose for those who need it becuase cannabis club prices will increase to cover the tax.

    To answer the scientifics of cannibinoids, they work with Dopamine which helps you feel less pain and a general “good vibe” however they seem to block seratonin which is a real problem for people prone to depression and anxiety especially over an extended time as the body will stop making it. It also blocks the uptake of seratonin based anti depressants and some anti-psychotics.

  9. @Karla, I fear the “legalization” and the resulting taxation will almost certainly guarantee more bodies for prison eventually. As people will not be able to afford homegrown taxes and in California our 3 strikes law is stupid.

  10. 1. Well I don’t see why cannabis can’t be used for ANYTHING. Who doesn’t have a beer to unwind? A glass of wine with dinner? A mixed drink out with friends? I don’t see those responsible people being let go from work for their recreational activities. Pot is LESS addictive than alcohol, and much much less than the ever legal cigarette. Source: http://drugwarfacts.org/cms/?q=node/28 . In 2001, there were 331 alcohol overdose deaths and 0 marijuana overdose deaths. Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5337a2.htm .

    http://drugwarfacts.org/cms/?q=node/30 – best link. Annual causes of death caused by tobacco = 435,000. That is more than alcohol, car crashes, suicide, gun incidents, and murder… COMBINED. Death count for pot: 0. ZERO! ZEEERRRROOOOOO!!! It blows my mind. I find it hypocritical for the government with a cancer stick hanging from its lips to be stamping illegal all over cannabis. As far as pot on the job… I still say I’d feel better letting the pot smoker drive the forklift over the Prozac user, but that is just me.

    2. I agree about the taxing, but that is the only way that it will ever be made legal is if they can start taxing the hell out of it. There are still moon-shiners about, but not nearly as many. That is usually not due to taxes but due to competition in my opinion. Who wants to buy green plants grown and sprayed with god-knows-what and handled by who knows what… when you can buy it packaged and guaranteed from a big company? It sucks, but is the truth. Don’t want to tax it? Then don’t legalize but decriminalize like a lot of places are doing now…but then you’d still have to pay the fees if you get caught with it. Better than jail time, but still making the fat cats fatter. You can make beer and wine at home… why not weaker strains of cannabis? lol.

    As far as the science I still have seen NOTHING conclusive from any source. The most I am seeing are opinions and small studies, usually with a disclaimer of: “Conceivable long-term ill effects of THC on humans are disputed, yet its status as an illegal drug in most countries makes research difficult.” All I see is a drug warning in the future not to mix alcohol and prescription drugs… opps I mean cannabis 😉

    Ps- Something to think about before you cast your vote: it is easier today for a young person to get pot then it is for them to get liquor or cigarettes. Do you know why? Because booze and cancer sticks are legal, regulated and controlled… thus picture ID and proof of age are required. Illegal pot dealer? Whoever has the money gets the bag. Be it a 50 year old or a 5 year old.

  11. Good comments, all. I’d suggest that everyone’s missing the issue here. I think practically everything should be legalized from all hard drugs to prescription drugs to prostitution. Obviously, when something is legalized it’s easier to control. I think the fact that we allow cigarettes, guns, infidelity and abortions just proves that we as a society don’t care about morality or about the rights of others.

    These things will never be legalized though. Without “vice” there would be no more people to arrest, and jail cells would be underpopulated. Not good for business. The government makes tons of money off arresting people for no good reason. The government is considering legalizing MJ because they foresee the profits of selling it comparable to the profit of jailing criminals. But it will never happen because it would expose the government as hypocritical and thus risk losing all those ring-wing puppets who sing its praises.

    -The Late Mitchell Warren

  12. Exceptional study, I just passed this onto a colleague who was performing a little study on that. And he really bought me lunch since I discovered it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

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