Monday, November 9, 2009

Let's Bail Out the Pot Dealers!

Joel Stein in Time magazine. Links, related stories and videos.

Some dude outside my supermarket just asked me to sign a petition to legalize marijuana. Apparently he was so high that he forgot he's in California, where pot is already more legal than budget-balancing. Last year I was granted a medical-marijuana license, even though I'm healthy and I don't smoke weed. I went to a doctor's office that consisted of a desk, a TV, two cans of air freshener and a man wearing a Hawaiian T-shirt. I told Dr. Magnum P.I. about my constant anxiety, insomnia and headaches — two more conditions than any previous patient had bothered to mention. He freaked out and gave me a pot license for only six months until I saw a psychologist. My lovely wife Cassandra, however, got a full year's prescription by claiming she was afflicted with a condition called "menstruation." Looking back, I'm pretty sure I could have used that too.

[...] So when Attorney General Eric Holder declared that the Federal Government would quit busting dispensaries, removing even the hint of consequences for medical-marijuana use, my heart ached for small-time American pot dealers. They can't compete on price, selection, customer service, quality control or not-getting-arrestedness, and they have no skills that translate into another industry. They're almost as bad off as journalists.

Of all the potheads I know — did I mention I live in Los Angeles? — only one still uses a dealer. He hasn't made the logical switch from purchasing illegal drugs to committing medical fraud partly because he doesn't want his name on a dispensary list for professional reasons, partly out of loyalty to his dealer and partly because to motivate a stoner, the invisible hand of capitalism first has to endure a long, boring conversation about how cool it would be to have an invisible hand.

The drug warriors were right that medical marijuana would lead to pro forma legalization. But they were wrong about every other consequence, like the coming wave of donations from pot dealers to the next presidential candidate willing to criminalize medical marijuana. Also, legitimizing pot hasn't created more users; it has just produced more annoying ones, who now apply Whole Foods-ian levels of snobbiness to the differences between Hawaiian Sativa and Humboldt Indica.

As always, federal decisions have lots of unintended consequences, and many of them are good. As dispensaries wipe out pot dealers, teen drug use will fall dramatically. Instead of buying pot from a dealer, teenagers will have to struggle with the same imperfect methods they use to get alcohol: begging older siblings, stealing from their parents and waiting outside a dispensary until they find a guy creepy enough to accept a $20 bribe.

The bad part is that without any business to do, the last remaining pot dealers will now have absolutely no reason to stop talking and leave your apartment.

If this kinda stuff is making it into am international news magazine, can legalization be far behind?

Just as an aside regarding teenagers and the imperfect methods they use to get alcohol, our local cops set up stings around here from time to time wherein they set youngsters to hang around outside local liquor and convenience stores and the grocery stores to try and get adults to buy them beer. Then the cops bust anyone stupid enough to do it.

I tell these kids I ain't about to commit a felony so they can get a buzz and to say hi to Officer Friendly for me.

I wonder what would happen if I agreed to buy them some beer and then just swung with their money? I'm not brave enough to try it.

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