Oregon US Attorney and 33 of 34 District Attorneys vow crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries

Well, when you open a medical marijuana patient lounge in the most conservative, pot-hating county in the state, call it “Wake N Bake”, and get your picture in the paper brandishing a six-foot bong, there will probably be repercussions…

(Oregonian) Federal and state law enforcement officials put the owners of medical marijuana dispensaries on notice today, warning them that selling marijuana for any purpose, including medical use, was against both federal and state law.

“Are we supposed to believe that people go to places like “Wake N Bake” to get medicine?” said U.S. Attorney, Dwight C. Holton. “Oregonians, who adopted a medical marijuana law in good faith, deserve an answer—are these places where people go to get medicine, or are these just drug dealers hiding behind the medical marijuana law?”

Holton issued a joint statement today along with 33 Oregon district attorneys, Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin, president of the Oregon State Sheriff’s Association; and Newport Police Chief Mark Miranda, president of the Oregon Association of Chiefs of Police.

The officials also warned people who knowingly financed a marijuana dispensary or allowed one “to operate on your property also violates federal law and could subject financiers and landlords to civil and criminal penalties–including forfeiture of any assets used in support of the criminal enterprise.”

One law that seems to always escape the notice of D.A.’s and Sheriffs on the marijuana issue is one that isn’t written down in any Oregon Revised Statutes:

The law of supply and demand.

This is the most expensive non-cannabis plant ounce I could find – $130 for a one ounce tin of Spanish saffron. To produce a pound of this, families work 20-hours picking three stamens out of 75,000 flowers once per year. One good outdoor cannabis plant produces a pound of bud, but an ounce costs $280?

There are close to 40,000 legal consumers (registered medical marijuana patients) of a product (cannabis). There will be someone to supply them that product. Econ 101 tells you when there is an inelastic demand for a product and an artificial restriction of supply, you get ridiculously high prices. Can you name another dried vegetable matter that retails for $280 an ounce?

Oregon crafted a medical marijuana law where the only legal means of supply are to (a) manufacture your own or (b) hire someone to manufacture it for you at a salary of $0.00. Option (a) does not work for the majority of the consumers because they’re busy or infirm or unskilled and manufacturing takes skill. How many aspirin would you consume a year if you had to skin the bark off your willow tree to make it?

Option (b) is the only choice for most. Say you’re a middle-aged person who just returned from the doctor with a diagnosis of cancer and your chemo begins Friday. Maybe you smoked a joint in college, otherwise your knowledge of cannabis plants and people who grow them is limited to Cheech & Chong movies. You don’t have the time to grow your own, even if you did, you don’t know how, and where do you get that seed or clone plant?

Maybe you’re one of the majority who are pain patients and you do have some time to establish your supply of medicine. Where do you find this kindly grower with expertise at producing medicine-grade cannabis who’s going to donate fifteen hours a week of his time tending to the manufacture of your product for the salary of $0.00? A posting on the bulletin board at work seems unlikely. Craigslist, sure that should be safe and easy, no way anybody would prey on someone in pain to make a buck.

"I'm sorry that you need milk to treat your condition, but I can't just sell you a glass of milk! I can give you one of my calves and in a few months you can milk her. Tell you what, you sign me up to be your dairy farmer and reimburse the cost of all my equipment, utilities, supplies, and feed. Then I'll give you a gallon of milk every month."

Take a minute, if you’re not a medical marijuana patient and don’t know one, and imagine if you’d put up with this system to get a gallon of milk, much less a medicine you need to live a decent life. Imagine raising and milking your own cow or telling the dairy farmer you’ll pay for the cow’s feed, water, and care if he gives you a free gallon of milk every month. Oh, and the dairy farmer is only allowed to give (not sell) that milk to four customers, he can only raise six cows and have at most eighteen calves (which become cows the minute they grow taller than three feet) and any extra must be immediately slaughtered.

Meanwhile, there are another 360,000 illegal consumers of the product and an entire illegal infrastructure of manufacture, delivery, and retail supporting it, largely thanks to the artificially high prohibition profits. Call it Option (c). Remember the law of supply and demand – those 40,000 legal consumers will be supplied. As options (a) and (b) are largely unworkable, option (c) has filled the void and tried to dress itself up in (b)’s ill-fitting clothing.  Yes, patients are getting their medicine at places like “Wake N Bake” because they can’t get it at places like “Walgreen’s”.

The crime wave sweeping Oregon that keeps 33 of 34 District Attorneys awake at nights

There are “cannabis clubs” where legal consumers pay money to get in and are given a freely given a small amount of cannabis that is donated by legal producers — but nobody is selling. There are “patient lounges” where legal producers are (out of the goodness of their hearts) freely donating carefully measured amounts of product to legal consumers, who are, in turn, freely donating cash at weight-based amounts to the legal producers — but nobody is selling. There are “farmer’s markets” where legal consumers are reimbursing legal producers to cover expenses; it just so happens that every different grower growing different strains with different yields in different mediums in different counties with different water and electricity rates discovers their expenses coincidentally and consistently match the prices offered by the illegal suppliers.– but nobody is selling.

Law enforcement’s reaction in the legislature was to fight to reduce the number of legal consumers and tightly restrict the producers. This is a colossal misunderstanding of the law of supply and demand. The legal consumers won’t stop now that they’ve discovered the one medicine that works for them; they will just be even more at the mercy of those who’d exploit them. The legal producers won’t stop supplying the medicine if they suffer a crackdown; they will abandon the well-lit relatively-safe clubs and return to alleys and parking lots and raise prices.

Oregon and America will simply have to come to the realization that cannabis is a popular consumer good and it will be bought and sold. We can allow it to continue as is, with patients struggling to get it and spending too much when they do, with police resources spent in futile attempts to stop healthy people from getting it, with state and local governments exercising no control over it and receiving no tax revenue from it, and with artificially high profits and lack of civil recourse leading to crime and violence. Or we can try something new (dare I say trail blazing?), and create reasonably regulated systems of production, distribution, and use that serve patients and recreational users while creating jobs, tax revenue, and improving public safety.

Russ Belville
NORML Outreach Coordinator

P.S. The clearance rate for sex crime in Oregon is 35% and for property crime it’s 20%. There’s also some kid tagging up my neighborhood with “SHIMR”. I’m much more concerned about those situations than whether one adult is selling pot to another adult in a place that checks IDs and valid medical marijuana cards, even if it is called “Wake N Bake”.  Can’t we end this silly charade of determining which pot smokers are healthy enough to put in a prison cell and work on catching real criminals?

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