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Only the rich can safely get high
December 17, 2009 3:09 PM   Subscribe

Medical Marijuana Apartheid -- as the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy misrepresents (PDF source) the new policy of the American Medical Association (PDF source) in regard to medical marijuana, and the U.S. Congress lifts the ban on Washington D.C.'s Initiative 59 ("the first time Congress has given its assent to a state or local law that permits medical use of marijuana") -- one writer questions whether the "back-door" decriminalization of cannabis has institutionalized class- and race-based discrimination.
posted by mrgrimm (36 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ah yes, Leah Vukmir, well-known for her subtle appreciation of intersectionality and institutionalized discrimination.
posted by nasreddin at 3:14 PM on December 17, 2009


Vukmir said there was no medical reasons to use marijuana and that other pain relief measures should be pursued that "do not require individuals to light a joint."

Oooo...."light a joint"...that sounds so EVIL.

For Repuglinutz edification, cannabis can be eaten or vaporized and individuals can be spared the depravity of lighting a joint.
posted by telstar at 3:15 PM on December 17, 2009


A few of these observations don't really make sense to me as arguments. Medical marijuana laws discriminate those who don't have valid, state-issued ID?
"ID, like the medical marijuana card itself, costs money. The New York Times, citing the $20 cost of a state-issued ID (in California, it'll run you $21), called Georgia's voter-ID law, 'a new poll tax,' disproportionately affecting the 'poor, black and elderly.'

So it is with medical pot in California. Or perhaps a better analogy would be the papal dispensations that once allowed those who could afford to grease the Catholic church to buy forgiveness for their sins."

This is pretty fanciful reasoning, IMO. If someone doesn't have $20 for an ID, how were they planning on paying for their medical marijuana? How are they paying for the marijuana they're buying illegally on the street?
posted by hermitosis at 3:20 PM on December 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


OK... Medical Marijuana == Apartheid, Abortion == Holocaust, and Health Care Reform == Communism right?

Because, you know, I don't want to get the hyperboles wrong and go comparing Medical Marijuana to the Holocaust... that would be awkward.
posted by qvantamon at 3:21 PM on December 17, 2009 [15 favorites]


Oh, yeah... damn medical marijuana making the police target black people for drug-related offenses. Which doesn't happen at all in states without medical marijuana statutes.
posted by qvantamon at 3:31 PM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


While we're at it: Doritos = Armenian Genocide.

WAKE UP SHEEPLE
posted by Avenger at 3:40 PM on December 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


In the Bay Area, where medical marijuana dispensaries flourish in some communities, "Oaksterdam" has become the best-known destination for medical cannabis. But while people from elsewhere in the country may see Oakland as a poor, minority-dominated city, a map of Oaksterdam pot clubs shows they're clustered exclusively around the tony Lake Merritt area. There are none in the poorer parts of the city.

Actually, there are very few businesses of any kind in the poorer parts of Oakland, except for liquor stores on every corner and some fast food outlets around the edges. True too, the inhabitants of those areas have access to only the poorest grades of cannabis. But that's true of many commodities...the functional apartheid that this author decries extends to many goods and services, particularly in the area of expensive medications. One step in the right direction would probably be full legalization, which Oakland voted for overwhelmingly in 2004 (measure Z) which was promptly ignored by the chickenshit city council. The effort behind measure Z morphed into the statewide "Tax Cannabis" initiative of 2010, which looks to have a good chance of passing.
posted by telstar at 3:44 PM on December 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Someone's thinking way too hard.
posted by msalt at 3:51 PM on December 17, 2009


You know, TFA actually makes a pretty good argument as to why "backdoor" legalization is much worse than actual legalization (but still better than criminalization), because plenty of people are still being charged criminally for posesssion, who are largely poor. A medical marijuana card costs hundreds of dollars and medical marijuana is only available in rich/gentrified areas. If you live in the ghetto you have to buy it from a dealer.
posted by mek at 3:55 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]




Doritos = Armenian Genocide Difference of Opinion

Revised Turkish Version
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:53 PM on December 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


The rich can already safely get high. At least in the vast majority of cases.
posted by delmoi at 5:05 PM on December 17, 2009 [5 favorites]




My deceased friend Aaron Wilson (pioneer in the world of student drug policy initiatives) felt that the medical marijuana route did exactly this. And... as much as I laud the advances of medical marijuana in my state of California, it should be noted that the process of seeing a doctor (which is now down to $60 - $70) is cost prohibitive for some. I know of a dispensary in LA where I've gotten some and then resold a part of it to a nice young black woman who just didn't have a prescription... it's common practice in some poorer areas like where I live. (hear I am confessing to minor crimes on the internet again)

For the record I didn't read the article, I just see a discrepancy between who has and doesn't have a prescription among people I know who smoke... and I'd say informally that more whites have a prescription than other minorities...

Oh and finally here's a link to a memorial scholarship fund in memory of Aaron.
posted by nutate at 5:31 PM on December 17, 2009


Okay, so we should start a non-profit network that raises money to provide "palliative care" for disadvantaged people with genuine health problems, effectively giving them money for the doctor's visit and fees required to get a card.

Alternately, if you are a poor person who wants to "legally" buy marijuana for mostly recreational purposes, save the money you'd normally be spending on street shit until you can afford the cost yourself -- shouldn't take long, gauging by current street prices. I don't really see what the hang-up is, in this case.
posted by hermitosis at 5:46 PM on December 17, 2009


Actually, there are very few businesses of any kind in the poorer parts of Oakland, except for liquor stores on every corner and some fast food outlets around the edges.

That stuck out to me too. Oaksterdam is in one of the most accessible places in Oakland transit wise - it's literally right on top of the 19th St BART station and like 2 blocks from the major bus transfer point. The article also ignored that Oakland has capped the number of dispensaries at 4, so it's not like they are everywhere except poor neighborhoods.

If they were all in Rockridge or something I could see his point, but the handful of ones that exist are pretty centrally located in downtown.
posted by bradbane at 6:14 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the guy in the article sounds like a clueless dickhead. But the text in this FPP seems to have little to do with the article. "Apartheid"? is this the new Godwin's law?
posted by mattholomew at 6:26 PM on December 17, 2009


It's definitely not done with the intent of institutionalizing racism, I think it really comes down to society being very nervous about recreational use of marijuana, contrasted to the reality that marijuana can be used to treat a variety of conditions, some very serious (chemo and pain management) and some less empirical (ie anxiety). The fact that marijuana is as versatile and mild on the body as an OTC drug like ibuprofen means that it will be widely prescribed to those who want it, whether or not they really need it (not to discount those who do).

The racism argument falls appart if you point out that it's really a socioeconomic issue. Poorer people have less access to health care, and thus are less likely to get a medicinal marijuana license. In an ideal world, we'd have a single payer system so that it'd be as simple as getting a note from your oncologist or GP for free, or with a token fee. Hopefully healthcare reform produces something that will be close to that.

Further, if we're going to treat pot as medicinal, I don't think we should consider the recreational aspect of the gap between rich and poor pot distribution systems. You could also argue that older people have more access to painkillers, and thus are given better access to recreationally use them, meaning that the current institution is agist.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:32 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there a good phrase for institutional racism/discrimination that just happens because of a tangential series of events? It's not de jure, and de facto always struck me as meaning intentional, social racism (like intimidation).
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:36 PM on December 17, 2009


No, marijuana prohibition is what has institutionalized class- and race-based discrimination.

I could buy 'prohibition of marijuana is an example of said discrimination' but it has 'institutionalized class and race-based discrimination'? That was 'institutionalized' pretty well without the help of the chronic.
posted by mattholomew at 6:37 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


The racism argument falls appart if you point out that it's really a socioeconomic issue

Yeah, megadittoes to that. I'm for complete decriminalization, but all of this seems very much like concern for a particular tree when the forest is burning down. Why does everything I write sound like a euphemism for weed now??
posted by mattholomew at 6:40 PM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


OK, here's the problem in Colorado.

Colorado voters approved medical marijuana a couple years ago. Denver has listed Marijuana possession as a lowest priority. Breckenridge just approved less than an ounce as legal for recreational use, as well as legal paraphernalia.
The industry has ballooned. There are more "medical marijuana" dispensary shops than tattoo shops or hookah bars combined in my military town.
They're everywhere. Two full page ads in the local papers.
The state says that we will probably have to start taxing these sales.
The providers say they should probably start taxing these sales, and would be all for it. To make them more a part of the community... to give back.


But...

There is a federal ban on taxing pharmaceuticals. If marijuana is really a medical pharmaceutical, than it CAN"T be taxed under federal law. If it's taxed, then it has to be de-regulated and be able to be bought by any Joe Schmoe that walks up to the counter, without prescription or whatever for medical use or private use.

What's better? To let these medical dispensaries continue without taxation or really much other oversight, or tax the sales, but then you would have to tax Viagra, Vioxx, and every other medical prescription that comes over the counter.

What's better?
posted by Balisong at 7:29 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


How about tax exemption when it's being used to treat a medical condition? I'm not entirely certain how you'd implement it, because I don't know much about how these systems work, but surely it'd be possible to sell taxed marijuana over the counter while simultaneously providing it untaxed from pharmacies for people who need it to function?
posted by emperor.seamus at 7:49 PM on December 17, 2009


for people who need it to function?

Or, well, for people who would be using it non-recreationally. My bad phrasing there.
posted by emperor.seamus at 7:50 PM on December 17, 2009


Oh, if only I were sick enough to not have to pay these taxes...
posted by Balisong at 8:19 PM on December 17, 2009


Out of curiosity, how does medical marijuana compare to street marijuana, price-wise? (And by "street marijuana", I really mean friend-of-a-friend marijuana, not stuff literally bought off the street.)

In San Francisco, medical marijuana seems to be more expensive.
posted by ryanrs at 8:55 PM on December 17, 2009


Balisong - in California, the state Board of Equalization, the state tax authority, found that medical cannabis was not a pharmaceutical product, and therefore could be taxed (and is- dispensaries pay sales tax, along with payroll taxes and all the usual business taxes). In California, cannabis is not prescribed, under state law, but recommended by a physician, which does not qualify it as a prescription medication. That's not optimal, for a number of reasons, insurance coverage being an obvious one.

In other words, there's still plenty of room to both acknowledge the medical benefits and need for a medical access system, and create tax revenue. You've set up a bit of a false dichotomy there.

Also, pharmacies are very highly regulated and controlled, in the absence of sales taxes on prescription medications. There's nothing about not collecting sales taxes that implies no oversight.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:10 PM on December 17, 2009


Out of curiosity, how does medical marijuana compare to street marijuana, price-wise? (And by "street marijuana", I really mean friend-of-a-friend marijuana, not stuff literally bought off the street.)

Prices are a joke here at the Humboldt County, CA dispensaries - $40/eighth (same as in town street prices.) If this stuff is medicinal, why am I paying street prices with no chance of using health insurance to fund it? This dichotomy made me give up pot several months ago when my yearly "doctor's" recommendation expired.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:29 PM on December 17, 2009


In a world where the media gnashes teeth over every pretty girl thought to be abducted, and every celebrity thought diddling, it's likely that 24/7 coverage over the disabled who need medical marijuana just to get by (there's more than enough) would turn some heads.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:19 PM on December 17, 2009


The price is very comparable. 40-60/eighth, 80-120/quarter. Unless you are looking for "ditchweed" which you can almost never find anymore, and that's 40-60/ounce.
posted by Balisong at 5:46 AM on December 18, 2009


Poor people don't have access to goods and services; rich people do. Film at 11.
posted by jckll at 7:47 AM on December 18, 2009


Balisong, if you ever want to find ditchweed just drive to the east coast, I have trouble finding anything else that isn't starting at 60 for an eighth round these parts.

Stories are told about the quality and price in California, but I can only dream that DC will one day catch up...
posted by BobbyDigital at 8:43 AM on December 18, 2009


Out of curiosity, how does medical marijuana compare to street marijuana, price-wise?

Invariably, from state to state, the prices seem to converge. I'm not sure what that means, but it seems to indicate that the dispensary and black-market economies are intertwined. I don't know if that's good or not...

But the text in this FPP seems to have little to do with the article. "Apartheid"? is this the new Godwin's law?

I would agree it's not the most coherent post, but the title of the first article is "Medical Marijuana Apartheid." I left that text as is. (I would also agree the surfeit of current-event links likely detract from the main link.)

Anyway, a more interesting post might be the schism within the medical-marijuana community between those opposed and in favor of full legalization. Or whether the medical-marijuana movement is hindering or helping the full-legalization movement.

(I do love the responses to Gil Kerlilowske's post about legalization as a "non-starter" issue for the Obama Administration.)

Stories are told about the quality and price in California...

I had a guy who lived above my sister-in-law who sold me quarters for $50. It wasn't top-shelf, but it wasn't bad at all. It was much better than whatever I would get in KY. Other than that, I've found prices to be fairly standard, $50-60/$350-400. (However, inflation hasn't seemed to affect prices for a decade or more.)

The best bet is to make friends with a grower ... or make your friends become growers. ;) Once you get a system down, it seems pretty cheap to produce. (Perhaps one of the bigger impediments for legalization.)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:53 AM on December 18, 2009


I'm not sure how cultivation is an impediment to legalization. Every legalization proposal that I'm aware of includes cultivation for personal use.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:31 AM on December 18, 2009


Prices are a joke here at the Humboldt County, CA dispensaries - $40/eighth (same as in town street prices.) If this stuff is medicinal, why am I paying street prices with no chance of using health insurance to fund it?

Because the dispensary has higher overhead (and generally better weed) than the hippy on the corner.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:20 PM on December 18, 2009


Because the dispensary has higher overhead (and generally better weed) than the hippy on the corner.

In my experience, the guy/gal selling product illegally is not generally going to be dressed in tie-dye overalls, hanging out on a street corner, waiting for customers. (That said, a quick walk down Upper Haight St. will unearth plenty of dreadlocked white teens muttering "nuggets, nuggets" or "green bud" under their breath as you pass by.)

I think most dealers are pretty sophisticated by now. There's too much money to be made.

Anecdatally, from someone who's tried plenty of both, the quality of dispensaries vs. private entrepreneurs has been indistinguishable. In many cases, they seem to be sharing the same sources/strains. I've seen virtually identical mendocino purp from both a non-dispensary dealer and a grower who supplies dispensaries. (It does taste and smell like lemon Fruit Loops.)

Then again, I do live in California... it seems logical to assume dispensaries in Wisconsin would have better product than illegal dealers. ... but I still wouldn't assume it.

the dispensary has higher overhead

But the illegal dealer takes a much, much bigger risk. I too am surprised at the expensive price of marijuana from dispensaries.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:05 PM on December 18, 2009


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