Turning Criminals into Customers on the Long Road to Ending Cannabis Prohibition
We rolled into Missoula on Friday after a two week road trip vacation to Colorado. It was nice to get back, though I wasn’t quite prepared for the quick disappearance of summer weather and the return of 13,000 students.
We spent most of our time in Colorado Springs, but I did carve out some time to take a quick trip to Denver to legally purchase some high-grade cannabis. Each municipality in Colorado gets to decide if they want to allow recreational cannabis. Colorado Springs has banned recreational retail stores. I talked to one guy at a tattoo/head-shop who said there is interest among city council, but they are waiting to see how Denver’s experiment goes. He also said there is a lot of pressure from the military to keep the ban in place. The military brings a lot of money to the area, so their argument carries a lot of weight.
When I got to Denver I found a store and walked in, a bit nervous. A young woman behind heavy glass took my ID, then buzzed me in. The space was small. The staff wore laniards with name tags and stood almost at attention, attentive and watchful as wide-eyed first timers like myself gaped at large glass jars filled with fragrant buds of Chernobyl Kush and Glass Slipper. The limit for out of state buyers is 7 grams. I ordered a few grams of a sativa strain and a few grams of an indica (for a description of the difference between sativa and indica strains, this High Times article is informative).
The guy helping me went to one of the available touch screen devices used to put in orders and quickly punched in my purchases. A woman at the back of the store, in a room separated from the main display room, filled the orders. I paid her in cash.
The money being generated right now with this new recreational cannabis industry is both an incentive and a barrier. In January, the banks said nope to dope, as reported by the always accurate New York Times, the paper of record that finally, at the end of July, made the editorial decision to publicly advocate for repealing prohibition.
Some banks, it should be noted, have no problem with profiting from illegal drugs, and why should they when the risk of being caught is just fines? And remember, we’re talking blood-drenched cartel money, not entrepreneurial Colorado start-up money.
Colorado is trying a temporary fix with legislation allowing co-ops:
The Colorado legislature on Wednesday voted to create the nation’s first state-run financial cooperative for marijuana sellers, with the aim of giving newly legalized cannabis retail outlets access to key banking services through the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The approval of the so-called “cannabis credit co-ops” came on the final day of the legislative session, as lawmakers seek to address problems marijuana retailers face in having to operate on a cash-only basis, such as burglary threats.
The proposal’s chief sponsor, Representative Jonathan Singer, said the cooperatives are needed because traditional banks and credit unions have been hesitant to serve the burgeoning marijuana industry as long as the drug remains outlawed by the U.S. government.
There is also an investment fund being put together from what started decades ago as a magazine:
When a pot smuggler named Tom Forcade approached Michael Kennedy in 1974 with his plan for a magazine devoted to helping Americans grow weed, Kennedy asked, what’s the point? “He said, ‘The point is, if the government cannot control the means of production of a commodity, then their prohibition is bound to fail,’ ” Kennedy recalls. “Well, 40 years later, we have ’em trembling, don’t we?”
The magazine, High Times, has survived as an icon of dope culture, and Kennedy, a criminal defense lawyer, has improbably ended up as its controlling owner. Now, with marijuana legal in some form in 22 states, the counterculture institution is aiming to raise $300 million for the High Times Growth Fund, which will make private equity investments in the marijuana business.
In Montana, lives are still being destroyed because of prohibition. But that won’t stop the Missoulian from having a little fun with a headline—2 Stoners Face Marijuana Charges After Corvallis Bust:
Two members of the Stoner family were charged with growing marijuana at their family home in Corvallis this week.
Rodney Ray Stoner, 57 and his son, Adam Lee Stoner, 24, appeared this week before Ravalli County Justice of the Peace Robin Clute on felony drug charges after Ravalli County sheriff’s deputies allegedly discovered a grow operation at the elder Stoner’s home.
The charging affidavit in the case said a former Baltimore law enforcement officer and a relative of the Stoners tipped off law enforcement to the alleged grow operation at 877 McWilliams Drive.
Stoner, ha fucking ha ha. Too bad this family will now be financially decimated fighting felony charges. Facing serious time in prison, a plea bargain is likely. Maybe the Missoulian could do some work putting some numbers together regarding what it costs our state to prosecute, incarcerate and/or supervise (probation) people involved in non-violent marijuana production, sales and use (not to mention lost productivity of the people who have their lives destroyed). Just a thought.
Instead of being a criminal, in Colorado I was a customer who paid just over $120 dollars for 6 grams of cannabis. The taxes are steep, but that’s going to be the main incentive for municipalities still on the fence about whether or not to join the Colorado experiment. One of the staff members in the store I talked to said sales in just the month of June was around 24 million dollars (I believe he meant state-wide, not just one store). That’s impressive.
The tide has shifted. It never made sense to enforce cannabis prohibition, but now the economic landscape makes it almost unfeasible to continue paying for enforcement. Instead, we should be focusing more on the dangers of drugs like prescription pain pills and alcohol.
I doubt sanity will penetrate our state legislature any time soon, but maybe our newspapers can stop facilitating shady groups like Safe Community, Safe Kids. That link is to a great post from Montanafesto because apparently it takes unpaid bloggers to do the work reporters should be doing, but can’t when it doesn’t fall in line with the agenda of their corporate paymasters.