Report to the Free and Brave 092811
Your Fringe Editor is sick of the cannabis issue, but it’s that season and so The Prospect found itself looking at cannabis again this week. The Drug War wages in our hills.
By “drug war” we refer to the on-going manipulation of the poor by organized crime and organized criminal justice. The war is not, as some would have you imagine, cops against criminals; cops and criminals continue to do very well on the drug war, it’s a source of reliable wealth for both. The soldiers that fall are the poor.
Take for example the big bust on the East Side of the pass recently. Shall we imagine powerful drug lords camped out in our mountains growing pot and eating canned and dried food? No, it’s the poor, most often Mexican or Mexican American poor, but anyone desperate enough for money might be involved.
Why wouldn’t we see Mexican and Mexican Americans growing weed jungle style? We recall a photo opportunity a while back where a pasty White politician in fatigues angled for re-election by stirring fear in the populace of Mexican Drug Lords. In the photo with the blowhard are some workers who were cutting and stacking pot; several are clearly of Hispanic, probably Mexican descent. Does that mean Mexican Drug Lords are running the marijuana eradication effort? No, it means people are poor and will take what work they can, and that includes Mexican and Mexican American workers who are legendary for their ability and willingness for do hard work for peanuts. They staff our hospitals, restaurants, factories and fields, growing and eradicating pot is just more hard, dirty, occasionally dangerous work.
The Prospect took heat for the Prospect Poll, too, both in comments, and on the street. We recall that “fringe” is another word for “leading edge”. Societies change from the margins.
Astute readers will note that the Poll question regarded not selling seized ganja, but simply having our elected officials direct staff to look in to selling ganja. This is America, for crying out loud, the feds aren’t going to let local government actually do anything. Simply looking into doing something would have caused nasty letters to be written to the sheriff, DA, and anyone else who seems susceptible to bullying. Even so, the poll was useful, because it highlighted the turmoil over the issue.
Were the results valid? Are Prospect readers more enlightened and likely to support new ideas? We hope so. Only a small percentage of readers, about 4%, voted.
It was not only two thirds of our respondents who favored that move, there are three elected county officials who have expressed an interest in selling seized ganja. One of them has a cool plan which would net the County and county people the maximum profit possible. We’ll point out that the state has determined that the medical marijuana trade is legitimate enough to pay taxes, and made over $100 million in taxes on medical dispensaries, and claim they are due more, maybe much more. Sierra County could have their share if the county set up a medical dispensary process, to permit and tax them. We’re well behind the curve on that, and the idea of selling captured ganja is pretty revolutionary.
A recent Rand Corporation study found that crime increased when L.A. closed over 400 medical marijuana dispensaries.
The Sheriff is seen as the weak link in the plan. He won’t give up the ganja; how could he? First of all, it isn’t clear how he can treat the ganja; is it something that belongs to the state, or can he auction it off. Because the Board of Supervisors hasn’t instructed staff to research the matter, we don’t know.
But the sheriff’s problem goes deeper than that. He has to work with other cops, locally and in big shot cop meetings down south. Cops are not patriots in that sense, they do not go about fighting for liberty, their job is to maintain status quo, and to tell us who the bad guys are, and who the good guys are. It would take a courageous and far-sighted sheriff on the verge of retirement to walk in the face of so much copdom to offer captured weed for sale. John Evans is an old school cop, and your Fringe Editor doesn’t recommend replacing him over an issue like this. The next sheriff might easily be less favorably inclined toward medical marijuana and personal liberty than Evans, who essentially isn’t very interested in dogma, and simply wants the county to be peaceable and safe. It’s hard for someone in his position to see armed thugs in the woods as anything but bad, and their weed unreliable and dangerous. Many in the medical marijuana industry would agree that weed from an unknown source is not medical cannabis.
Indeed, your Fringe Editor agrees with that, and he agrees it’s bad to have armed thugs in the woods. Unfortunately, they’re there for the money, and keeping cannabis illegal keeps the supply small and the price high. Eradicating this giant load of cannabis, as Don Russell, editor of the Mountain Messenger and local whisky czar points out, will only keep the price higher, and keep the profit motive going both for criminals and for cops. It’s simple capitalist supply-and-demand stuff, who knows why it has escaped the understanding of our national leaders for so long.
It escapes our local constables, too, because that’s the long view, and their job and responsibility is the short view. It’s their responsibility to keep the armed thugs out of the woods in our county, the long term and aggregated consequences are not on their horizon, nor on the horizon of the growers.
Pot growers across California are slow to understand the consequences of every third house being a grow. Personally, I was astonished to hear anyone was bothering to organize a massive grow in the Eastern Sierra, where the season is short and the country is rough, considering the price is so low. It’s true, medical dispensaries cycle millions and perhaps a billion, dollars in ganja every year, and they package and add value to the product to do so. A few grams of some ultra boutique pot goes for as much as a good bottle of wine. But, at the wholesale level, those who know the medical ganja market say it’s glutted, and some producers are doing what the cops used to do: limit supply. Some growers have last year’s weed on ice, we’re told, and didn’t grow this year because they refused to sell organic outdoor weed for $150 an ounce. This is at a time when gold remains over $1,700 an ounce.
Pick a Pot Spot. Photo is link.
The pot bust highlighted another problem we have in the county: the Forest Service. This gargantuan federal agency had a problem: thugs were growing weed on their land. They’re a huge, multimillion dollar agency that can afford cops to bust people for riding OHVs on public land, but they have to dump responsibility for this problem on the county? To be sure, there were feds involved, and they put up some bucks, But, Free and Brave, they simply didn’t do enough. If we can’t sell the marijuana to make money, we should get more money from our masters. We are Sierracans, poor enough to do your labor, but even we want a decent price. Cannabis prohibition is essentially a federal problem. It’s a federal law, and it’s federal land where the grow happened. The feds should completely take care of it, or pay Sierra County a percent of the value of the haul to handle and destroy the crop. If it was a multi-million dollar crop, we should get at least 10% of that value for handling it.
Instead, this agency, which strong arms us off our traditional public lands, dumps the bulk of the work on our county. A reliable source visited the site and reported that, at that time, there were still car batteries, fuel, and chemicals on the site. We assume that’s being cleaned up, but an inquiry to the Forest Service didn’t reveal any cleanup plans on their part. Likewise, that eye witness report, and the report of a captured gleaner who thought it was a great idea to collect the pot the cops missed, indicates there are still pounds and pounds of weed at the site. The Forest Service could spend a fortune to tear down a miner’s cabin, but they couldn’t take responsibility for the security and clean up of the site? When they closed down the “Nixon” mine the FS put up a nice big, scary sign to keep people out. Had they put up a sign like that the unfortunate and allegedly witless gleaner might not have burdened Sierra County’s hoosgow. The fact that no one, not the FS nor Sierra County Sheriff’s Office warned the public from the grow site seems like negligence.
Problems will continue. We are going through social change, and like any birth, that’s always painful. There are still a lot of people who are emotionally invested in cannabis being outlawed. They interpret the issue not in terms of law, or of social change and consequence, but of morality. They are the anchor in the mud. Others have moved on; for many Californians, the medical cannabis market is a given, it’s how they make their living; they are pulling the issue in their direction. Still others remember that the essential question is one of prohibition. Medical marijuana doesn’t cover everyone, some people are still buying on the criminal market, and so are still criminals themselves. They want legalization, which actually conflicts with both the other factions.
Because we’re going through this change, and because society typically leads, and government slowly follows, the law is now stuck in the worst of both worlds. The medical sales and the growers who supply them are almost completely self regulating. There is no clear legal way for growers to supply dispensaries, so it’s left to suppliers and clubs to work the deal. Cops aren’t sure of the law and often interpret the law as rigidly as possible. DAs traditionally build a case from what cops provide. The growers and suppliers, being the poor in this scenario, are the most at risk.
Fact: There are 1600 dispensaries and unknown thousands of mobile dispensaries doing at least $1.3 billion.
It isn’t that there is no guidance from the government. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law recognizing the validity of medical marijuana dispensaries. See it here. This is the legislation which allows local government to regulate and tax medical cannabis, which Sierra County could do, if our supervisors didn’t widdle every time the door slammed or a car backfired.
11362.83. Nothing in this article shall prevent a city or other
local governing body from adopting and enforcing any of the
(a) Adopting local ordinances that regulate the location,
operation, or establishment of a medical marijuana cooperative or
(b) The civil and criminal enforcement of local ordinances
described in subdivision (a).
(c) Enacting other laws consistent with this article.
Can medical marijuana patients sell to dispensaries? They absolutely can, how else does California get its $105 million in taxes? It would be an unlucky District Attorney who tried to set a precedent that it was illegal to sell to a dispensary. Not only are there patient rights groups with money for lawyers, it would severely cut into the state’s $105 million.
After all, the problem was never the ganja, which is a simply and very useful plant. The problem is MONEY!