Medical Marijuana Apartheid: Different Rules Apply
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Medical Marijuana Apartheid: Different Rules Apply
Posted by CN Staff on December 14, 2009 at 10:32:48 PT
By Joshua Holland, AlterNet
Source: AlterNet
USA -- About 80 percent of Americans approve of medical marijuana laws, but some conservatives are incensed that state legislatures keep passing them. In a recent column, George F. Will, the Washington Post's bow-tied curmudgeon, decried the reefer madness he sees taking over California, sweeping across Colorado and perhaps even coming to a normal state near you.
The pundit seemed especially incensed that states like Colorado and California had effectively legalized the drug through a "back-door" process, writing that medical dispensaries "serve the fiction that most transactions in the store -- which is what it really is -- involve medicine." He lamented that "fifty-six percent of Californians support legalization," and concluded: "They essentially have this."But Will is only half right. Pot in California is only legal for those of a certain class, or those who live in certain areas. It is effectively illegal in most communities of color. It's not legal for pot smokers in many conservative counties and municipalities. And it's effectively out of reach for California's poor.It's not hard to imagine George F. Will overlooking the poor and disenfranchised from his lofty perch at the Washington Post, but they're right there, basking in the California sunshine. And every day they get busted for marijuana, and every day they enter the criminal justice system as a result.It must be one of the great ironies of pot-politics. By using the "back-door" of medicinal use rather than legalizing marijuana sales outright -- treating it like alcohol or tobacco -- progressives in California have helped create a system of pot apartheid in the Golden State.That's obviously not spelled out in the law. But marijuana is only legal for those who have $100-$300 to fork over for a medical marijuana card (you don't get any pot in return), who live in an area where there are medical marijuana dispensaries (generally liberal-minded, gentrified areas), who have proof of residence, and who don't fit the stereotypical image of a drug dealer.If all that's the case, then it's true that you can go to a doctor and tell him or her that you have insomnia, headaches or bad menstrual cramps, and you're good to go. You can walk into a store like a civilized, non-criminal person, and choose from a variety of grades of marijuana.But if you don't have a couple of hundred bucks to invest up front for what is essentially a (partial) get-out-of-jail-free card, or you don't have access to a willing physician and a dispensary, you're out of luck. There's still a healthy black market for marijuana, however. And police still arrest people who patronize it, and the courts still mete out punishments for doing so.Just the $100-$300 barrier alone means that pot's still illegal for anyone who lives paycheck to paycheck. Add to that the fees cash-strapped California counties can charge to issue the card (in Sonoma it'll run you another $160 on top of the doctor's visit). If you earn a living wage, yes, you can use marijuana without fear of arrest. Work a minimum wage job, and pot's as illegal as it ever was.Access to legal pot is limited geographically, according to both class and race, and the ideological orientation of local government.Even if, for example, you really are a terminal cancer patient who smokes weed to curb the worst side-effects of chemotherapy, you're screwed if you live in one of California's right-leaning communities. As the Wikipedia entry for California's medical marijuana law notes, "Conservative areas such as San Bernardino and Riverside counties saw little change when local officials declared the law null and void due to conflicts with federal law, and continued to arrest, prosecute, and in some cases convict legal patients."There is also something akin to "red-lining" in poorer neighborhoods. Consider this map of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles. If you're unfamiliar with the city, they're all clustered in yuppified, high-rent areas -- Culver City, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, Silver Lake, etc. There are no medical marijuana clubs in Inglewood, none in Compton, none in East L.A.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.Geography and class aren't the only barriers to legal pot-smoking. If the 56 percent of California voters who favor outright legalization of marijuana had their way, anyone who appeared to be of age could buy marijuana legally, as with alcohol today. But California's medical cannabis law requires "a valid government-issued photo ID."A number of studies looking at similar ID requirements for voting have shown that some are more likely to have those papers than others (PDF). URL: Georgia, blacks were 83 percent more likely than whites to be without a state-issued ID. In Indiana, the elderly and the poor, young adults and minorities were less likely than the population as a whole to have valid state-issued documents. And 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.Of course, disparate punishments for getting high is nothing new in the U.S. The history of American drug laws is fairly consistent: with the exception of a brief and disastrous flirtation with alcohol prohibition, we have always come down harder on whatever the poor, foreigners or people of color use to get stupid. Opium became illegal when Chinese railroad workers used it to stave off the pain, but white ladies of the time could get their opiates easily enough from their favorite medicine-show huckster anytime they came down with a case of "the vapors."The ultimate irony is that because of its "back-door" legalization, progressive California is continuing that tradition today. Conservatives may decry the state's supposedly freakish leftward tilt, but it's still the case that a San Francisco yuppie can hit the vaporizer without fear of jail, while a poor black youth smoking a blunt in downtown Oakland isn't so lucky.Complete Title: Medical Marijuana Apartheid: Different Rules Apply for Rich and Poor Pot SmokersJoshua Holland is an editor and senior writer at AlterNet.Source: AlterNet (US)Author:   Joshua Holland, AlterNetPublished: December 13, 2009Copyright: 2009 Independent Media InstituteContact: letters Website: Medical Marijuana Archives
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Comment #29 posted by BGreen on December 17, 2009 at 04:51:44 PT
Storm Crow
I don't know if this is a good or bad thing but when you're cranky you sound just like me. LOLIt's not easy being BGreen.The Reverend Bud Green
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Comment #28 posted by Storm Crow on December 16, 2009 at 19:01:51 PT
Oh, I wouldn't be happy about it.....
but I can accept a yearly fee for growing- just like I'd pay to have my dog licensed (if I had a dog). Personally, I feel I should be able to grow cannabis just like if I were growing St. John's Wort or Skullcap or tomatoes- no limits on the number of plants, no taxes unless I sell it. But I'm just being realistic about how things are, the government always wants their cut, so I'd put up with it. (Ever notice how much like a "protection racket" the government is? You pay them off and "bad things" don't happen.)Sorry about being so cranky this morning. I really shouldn't post before medicating! lolAnd you might want to take a look at my "Granny Storm Crow's list- July 2009"- it clearly explains why cannabis MUST be legalized! Just run a search and read it. 
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Comment #27 posted by mrbingbang on December 16, 2009 at 08:25:52 PT:
Granny Storm Crow
I guess I could say that I'm up to my eyes in it, too. And I get that people get beaten down. But does that make it good? If we just give up, what can we hope for?You'll get no argument from me about the value of hemp, hemp seed, and MMJ.Nor would I argue with you about our Government's confused agenda. Out here we are still in prohibition. It must be a tease to be so close to what is good and right, only to have it denied by some local power. What saddens me is the degree of corruption. It's not just Politicians, prisons, and Law Enforcement. There are a lot of powerful interests who stand to lose if the herb is legalized.I can't believe the talk of relegating the herb to pharmacies and State (private?) prison farms. Don't get me started!Today's earth walk is truly bittersweet. Granny Storm Crow - I'm most definitely not trying to fight with you or anyone else in this posting - I was taking issue with the content and tone of the article. I'm a great believer in what I call "Accountable Thinking". I see your point about tax dollars (and fees and fines). It still looks to me like the State revenue will be a lot less than people like to say. I'm curious why you wouldn't also object to State fees/permits for home growing. Does CA they charge for tomatoes, too?! What's fair about that? See you in the trenches!
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Comment #26 posted by FoM on December 16, 2009 at 07:08:14 PT
If finally the price has dropped to $130 and ounce that is a good beginning. That just proves that the taxable amount wouldn't be what was being hyped. The price will go lower too in time. That's how supply and demand works.
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Comment #25 posted by FoM on December 15, 2009 at 20:20:22 PT
Happy Holidays to you too.
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Comment #24 posted by gloovins on December 15, 2009 at 19:52:26 PT
this article is weak & full of inaccuracies imo
The author says that recommendations from a doctor are "$100-300". This is untrue in that my yearly renewal was just $50 (they are $40 now) this past summer and I just read that evaluations are now down to $50. Also, there indeed IS a Compton dispensiary as well as many many scattered throughout the city -- in everyplace industrial or otherwise. The proliferation of cannabis clubs has been great in that it has really flooded the market with good, plentiful & now more affordable meds for patients. This is good. Finally, no more "oh well we just charge $60 an 8th because we dont want you to be able to turn around and sell it..." What BS. That's what some of these dispensiaries were saying in the beggining. Now, they are forced to bring down their prices and we get fair, true competitive prices. ($130 / oz now! :)) I think this author should do some fact checking first and maybe interview some patients in California before drawing the conclusions he does here. Lazy journalism -- def something here to stay, oh well.
Happy Holidays FoM & all c-news readers....
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Comment #23 posted by FoM on December 15, 2009 at 11:56:46 PT
Storm Crow
I would never do that. We don't have any income. They just said my husband won't be getting disability from his heart attack. Life sure has gotten hard for so many people.
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Comment #22 posted by Storm Crow on December 15, 2009 at 11:51:36 PT
From someone on the wrong side of the poverty line
Mr- You may live near poverty, but I'm up to my eyeballs in it. I lost my job and get $33 per day unemployment. My husband is on SSI/SSA (totals less than $400 a month). One of my sons has a part time job (3 hours a day), the other is unemployed- both live with us. Unemployment in our county is OFFICIALLY at 18.7%, but the reality is that it is well over 20%. I haven't medicated yet today, so I am not quite in a "sunshiney mood". Now let me reply to your comments- "While you are whining about poor folks not being able to afford marijuana, why don't you tackle health care, decent housing, and truly nutritious foods?!" Health care? What the fark do you think medical cannabis is? Instead of plopping down cash for my hubby's anti-depressants, pain pills and more (many of his pills are not covered any more)- I grow much of his medication. We replace about $100 worth of pills every month for him and I am migraine free because I grow. That $100 helps pay our rent! And may I suggest that you read up on the nutritional value of hemp seed? When we no longer import 100% of our hemp seed, this very nutritious food will be more available. I feel we, the cannabis community, ARE doing something about "health care, decent housing, and truly nutritious foods". "What can you say when someone places so little value on their right to vote?" That they have been beaten down so long and so hard that they have given up! For many people this is reality. They no longer believe in the system that has betrayed them at every turn. The MMJ laws in California are a good example- we voted FOR MMJ and now the local governments are doing their dangedest to prevent us from getting it! One little town (Montague, Ca) has not only banned dispensaries, but all growing- indoors or out. How can people have any faith in voting, when the will of the people is thwarted by local politicians pushing their own agendas?"where the heck are the tax dollars coming from?" There are "pot snobs" who will want a specific variety- just as some folks will pay hundreds of bucks for a single bottle of a certain wine. And then there are people who are unable or unwilling to grow their own. Dispensaries will continue to survive to supply those patients and charge large prices for their products- the dispensaries will pay their taxes. I expect that there will be a cannabis license for home growers- with penalties for not having one. The tax income from cannabis sales will be high at first, but gradually fall and be replaced by taxes from other hemp products. Plus there will be respectable savings of tax dollars in law enforcement, prisons and such. "And is it too much to ask that you regular posters actually make references to the article - instead of what appears to be an un-related and more personal exchange?" To use an old saying-"If you don't like our peaches, don't shake our tree!"(FoM- if I am being too harsh today- you may delete this.)
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Comment #21 posted by FoM on December 15, 2009 at 10:27:59 PT
You are new here so I will tell you how it works on CNews. I have URL's added in the Copyright info on each article so anyone that wants to comment on the article can click on the link and get involved. CNews is really a private forum and we talk about many different topics and most people have been here for many years. That's why we talk the way we do. We don't fight with each other but try to support each other. 
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Comment #20 posted by mrbingbang on December 15, 2009 at 09:19:39 PT:
Trying too hard...
I'm still not sure what it is about this article that makes me un-comfortable. But as convincing as the author attempts to be, it seems a bit forced.To the best of my knowledge, it is true that inner city blacks get locked up way faster than suburban whites. Yet another injustice in a string of many.Poverty always affects people in un-desireable ways. While you are whining about poor folks not being able to afford marijuana, why don't you tackle health care, decent housing, and truly nutritious foods?! I live close enough to it to know that poverty sucks!What?! People can't come up with $20 for an ID and The Right To Vote?! I know it can be hard. Opportunities may be few. Ailments can interfere... But that sounds pretty un-motivated. What can you say when someone places so little value on their right to vote?If legalizing Cannabis would result in ounces for a few dollars, where the heck are the tax dollars coming from? Who is going to cough up bucks for the plants they grow on the patio? Basically, nobody.And is it too much to ask that you regular posters actually make references to the article - instead of what appears to be an un-related and more personal exchange?
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Comment #19 posted by HempWorld on December 14, 2009 at 20:25:54 PT
John Tyler vs. EAH
This is going to be an interesting decade!Except it is going to be cut short ... bringing me to: Uhh does anybody wonder why NASA put up a new (and highly advanced) telescope in space today?(there must be a reason right? NASA is a pet project but this must be VERY important to spend money on in a time like this)I think they are looking for planet X, coming soon near us!Stay tuned ...
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Comment #18 posted by EAH on December 14, 2009 at 19:30:06 PT:
John Tyler
I wish I was as hopeful as you. Politicians are very fearful. They worry about 
pleasing large contributors, powerful cronies, and getting re-elected. When 
it comes time to cut Law Enforcement agency budgets and take money and jobs away from them, politicians are going to be VERY hard to convince. 
Look how hard it is for Obama to end the wars, or for Congress to fix health care or to get people to address global warming by making big but ESSENTIAL changes to the status quo. Even when doing the thing should be easy, they struggle to do it. I'm very worried we are going to stuck in this half legal purgatory much longer than we think.
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Comment #17 posted by Hope on December 14, 2009 at 19:11:13 PT
Get to meet Mason Tvert's Mom 
in this video.Moms say marijuana is SAFER than alcohol
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Comment #16 posted by Hope on December 14, 2009 at 18:44:42 PT
This article
This is a very good article.I'm sure it's an eye opener for some people that hadn't thought this deeply about it.Thank you, Mr. Holland... for telling the truth.
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Comment #15 posted by John Tyler on December 14, 2009 at 18:38:36 PT
Future thoughts
I think one state after another will go legal. First a few like California or Colorado, then a few more and the rest will follow along rather quickly once they realize the money being generated. The cannabis industry will become a highly valued part of the community. Once we enter this new golden green era things will have to be done to try to repair the damage done the unfortunate victims of the Drug War. Of course, they should all be release from all forms of incarceration and have their record cleared. I also think that they should also be eligible for compensation for their time served unjustly. They can never fully be paid back for all of their suffering, but a goodly amount to get them back on their feet again would be a decent way to try to make amends. It would be tragic to have them suffer while the rest of us go on our way.   
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Comment #14 posted by Hope on December 14, 2009 at 18:35:46 PT
Hot Chocolate... Hot Cocoa
Good stuff.
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Comment #13 posted by Hope on December 14, 2009 at 18:23:39 PT
Although a good piece, the one mentioned in my last comment is from late October of this year.I knew it as soon as I was through posting it.
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Comment #12 posted by Hope on December 14, 2009 at 18:20:38 PT
Medical marijuana policy...
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Comment #11 posted by The GCW on December 14, 2009 at 16:01:07 PT
US CO: Ft. Lewis students want pot penalty same as booze
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Comment #10 posted by Hope on December 14, 2009 at 15:46:43 PT
Interesting video... CNN interview
over at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
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Comment #9 posted by kaptinemo on December 14, 2009 at 13:55:17 PT:
Rube Goldberg must be laughing his arse off
in the Afterlife. Because the drug laws are his machines made real.For those too young, here's a definition of a Rube Goldberg machine: MMJ laws have done just what their promulgators hoped they would: bring the whole pointless, stupid and incredibly wasteful issue of drug prohibition itself into full view. Which is why articles like this are complaining of how overly convoluted the laws have become, when the simplest solution is to cut the Gordian Knot of drug prohibition and institute legalization and regulation.THIS is why the prohibs screamed so loudly when the laws passed, because sooner or later the media would be making the same observations that this author has. The prohibs knew that when the public makes this realization that straight legalization removes the unnecessarily complex mechanism of MMJ (and thus, saves the taxpayer a boatload of money in the process, and actually generates revenue) that the public will (unlike a famous horse) not only be led to the clean and pure legalization 'water' but will drink it, rather than swallow any more manure-tainted swill the prohibs offer.The jig is up, and people are asking the same question as to why we should continue with the MMJ laws when legalization is much more rational. More of that, and the inevitable debate (which will become a rhetorical slaughter for the prohibs) will take place. It's only a matter of time...
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Comment #8 posted by The GCW on December 14, 2009 at 13:07:34 PT
Tips from the Fire Marshal 
US CO: Explosion injures 2 near BreckenridgeWebpage: 14 Dec 2009Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
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Comment #7 posted by FoM on December 14, 2009 at 12:59:20 PT
I will keep my eyes open for that program on the History Channel. I would enjoy watching it.
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Comment #6 posted by Sam Adams on December 14, 2009 at 12:40:25 PT
temporary state
one thing to remember is that we are in transition - the situation in CA and CO really took off only about a year ago. As soon as next November we could see full legalization in CA with plenty of outdoor growing.Once the taxes start to flow, the other states will come around. Remember for many decades, black people were free in the northern states while still slaves in the southern ones ("conservative areas"). And of course the feds were eager to oblige by allowing them to be hunted down like animals with the Dred Scott decision.Don't have any illusions about the US of A! We are what we are. We are probably the most vindictive and least compassionate of all the Western powers. The federal government is the meanest and will be the absolute last to stop the cannabis witch-hunt. Remember, they only ended slavery when they had to in order to end the Civil War with a victory. There is a great show running on History channel right now, it's done by Howard Zinn (People's History of the US), it's got all sorts of great stories about past freedom-fighters with the US.The show pointed out that both JFK and LBJ could have enforced right-to-vote laws for black people in the south and both declined to do so. Only when thousands of them marched on the streets did the feds finally give in and start to enforce the laws.highly recommend this show!!!
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Comment #5 posted by EAH on December 14, 2009 at 12:29:42 PT:
Still Very Much Illegal
This story points toward something I have posted before. The current situation is 
terrible for many reasons. What has been accomplished has not been the virtual legalization of cannabis but the carving out of an above ground niche to sell cannabis at Black Market prices. Legal cannabis would CHEAP. It grows like a weed and producesprolifically. Full sun, outdoor, organic, legal cannabis could be just dollars per oz. Anybody could afford it then. Because restrictions on growing remain so onerous, indoor production remains the primary source, it's very expensive, and it has a huge carbon footprint. Indoor growing contributes to global warming. Outdoor does the opposite. Why must so much that has to do with this herb be so dysfunctional?
Imagine, if rather than ending prohibition of alcohol they had allowed only medical use. It would have been a mess, we have that mess now with cannabis.
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Comment #4 posted by herbdoc215 on December 14, 2009 at 11:48:17 PT
This has been my point all along!
All pigs are equal, it's just that some are more equal than others it seems. This has been my problem with the situation here in Washington even more than California, med cannabis here is only for the rich connected white few! I think the other states are even worse in my opinion, especially those back east with bs laws...4oz or 3 plants or crap like that is just a class/race tax to keep people in their place! This is much deeper than the usual stories about cannabis and more is needed for the real truth to come out and not agenda's. The anti's little drug war is falling to pieces as fast as US retirement funds! peace, steve
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Comment #3 posted by Sam Adams on December 14, 2009 at 11:44:08 PT
great perspective and great article! We all know this is what's happening.Until the Prohibition beast is killed dead, completely, this sort of thing will still go on. Right now the Prohibition beast is running around with a bunch of arrows sticking out of its neck and bleeding profusely, but like any wounded animal it's still fierce and lashing out whenever it can.The drug war has always preyed on the most weak and vulnerable in society. The poor, without money to game the legal system, the minorities, the addicts, the sick and dying among us. The current situation is no surprise.  The drug was has always been apartheid, it doesn't matter if the laws change, the right-wing will keep marching right ahead with the oppression and cruelty.
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Comment #2 posted by runruff on December 14, 2009 at 10:52:36 PT
Some hippies are incensed...
...with patchouli!
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Comment #1 posted by HempWorld on December 14, 2009 at 10:42:16 PT
"some conservatives are incensed that state
legislatures keep passing them."Yes, it is the very nasty thing called "representative democracy!"
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