West Coast medical marijuana blamed for supplying Eastern demand

Looks like police all around America are becoming aware of two solid, irrefutable, unimpeachable, constant truths:

1) The Law of Supply and Demand.

2) Americans everywhere like to smoke pot.

(Huffington Post) The price of marijuana in California has taken a dip over recent years, and that has motivated some to sell their cash crop out of state. As with most goods and services, pot prices are determined by supply, demand and quality.

A pound of the highest-quality marijuana could bring a grower $2,500 if sold to a dealer in Fresno, but as much as $5,500 to a dealer in Greensboro, N.C., according to the National Drug Intelligence Center, which looked at prices in mid-2010. Interviews with pot growers and others in the industry suggest the California wholesale price is closer to about $1,500 a pound if sold here.

Simone said the farther east you go, the more people are willing to pay. James Benno, director of Nor-Cal NORML, which advocates for marijuana users, doesn’t disagree.

“I’m not going to deny that kind of stuff goes on,” he said. “A lot of people are in this for the money. If you can get $4,000 for a pound in New York and $1,500 here in California, it stands to reason that people who are in this for the money are going to take it where the money’s at.”

The prohibitionists are pointing to the medical marijuana laws in California, Oregon, and Washington as fueling a flood of West Coast Weed that’s washing over their Midwestern, Southern, and Eastern states.  However, as California NORML points out, most of the dispensaries in his state are operating in a “closed loop” of supply and distribution:

“Medical marijuana is a small percentage of the California market,” he said. “The medical marijuana that’s being grown for the dispensaries is generally being done by patients in a fairly closed loop. I’m not going to say there’s no leakage there, but it’s insignificant compared to the enormous amount that’s being produced in non-medical markets.”

He’s right, in a sense, but that can’t be proven or even tested.  Marijuana is fungible.  A person isn’t a “medical marijuana grower” producing “medical marijuana” or a “drug dealer” producing “pot” – cannabis is cannabis.  Dispensary A may indeed only get its medicine from legit medical Grower B, but Grower B may be selling half to Dispensary A and letting half get trucked to Ohio to Dealer X.  Grower B may have acquired some product from illegal Grower Y and added that to his sale to Dispensary A.  There is really no possible way to know how much marijuana in a dispensary or on the street is “medical”.

Morgan Fox of MPP responds to the smuggling claims by pointing out how states need to have “dispensary systems … set up along strict guidelines“, like Maine, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.  New Jersey, Morgan?!?  Where there are six dispensaries in a state of nine million limited to producing three strains of less-than-10% THC?  Where patients aren’t allowed to grow their own plants?  With more systems like that there will be more demand among patients for that real medical-potency marijuana smuggled in from the West Coast.

I think it is foolish to try to pretend that medical marijuana on the West Coast hasn’t both depressed the retail price (“medical” and “recreational”) and contributed to interstate trafficking.  To do so is to ask the public to ignore their own common sense – they understand supply and demand.  If something’s cheap and plentiful here and not so plentiful elsewhere, someone from here will supply that demand there.

Instead, this is the opportunity we must take to pivot the discussion from medical marijuana to marijuana prohibition.  How does a pound cost $4,000 in New York and $1,500 in California?  Prohibition!  The only way to eliminate the smuggling is to make a California pound cost $4,000 or make a New York pound cost $1,500.  Since New York can’t change California’s laws, maybe it should enact its own medical marijuana law.  Nobody’s smuggling New York weed to California, after all.

We must get the public to see that marijuana use is inevitable.  They can think non-medical use is a dirty habit, a poor health choice, a moral failing, but what it is not is a crime.  Marijuana use is inextricably woven into our culture and prohibition merely criminalizes an otherwise peaceful and productive subculture and creates profit motive for smugglers.  Legalize it – nobody’s smuggling California Budweiser to New York, after all.  (They are, however, smuggling Virginia and North Carolina cigarettes to New York, thanks to extreme taxation… a lesson for post-prohibition when we begin taxing cannabis…)

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