In a two-part story in this Sunday's Oregonian, reporter Noelle Crombie paints a picture of how the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program is subject to severe abuses by those who wish to profit from interstate marijuana trafficking.
In the story, she details the crimes of Elizabeth Saul, who was involved in a criminal conspiracy to transport pounds of weed from Oregon to destinations East. The story notes how a pound in Oregon sells for $1000 - $3000, but can fetch over $5000 in the Midwest and East Coast. So why is it Oregon weed costs half the price? Has anybody at the Oregonian taken Economics 101, especially that part about the Law of Supply & Demand? Is there any other Oregon product (hazelnuts? craft beer?) that fetches twice the in-state market value that we don't export like crazy and tax the hell out of?
Then there are all manner of statistics from police, who certainly wouldn't want to paint medical marijuana in a bad light, would they? They claim that 40% of Oregon pot seized has ties to the medical marijuana program. OK, so we've established that criminals will commit crimes, and given opportunities to shield themselves from prosecution will avail themselves of those opportunities, what shall we do about that?
The underlying point of these articles is to buttress the case by law enforcement against a medical marijuana program they've always hated. Try finding in the archives of the Oregonian an article about our medical marijuana patient numbers that doesn't include the word "abuse". They've been pushing this meme since I moved here in 2003. Oh no, 15,000 patients, it's abuse! Look, 25,000 patients, it's abuse! Holy cow, 50,000 patients, it's clear abuse! Never once do they portray growing patient rolls as actually reducing crime by definition, as now there are 50,000 fewer citizens guilty of felony marijuana possession for holding over an ounce of marijuana, and reducing crime in fact, since they can now grow marijuana for themselves and not purchase from the black market. That's not a sexy story that sells ads in a dying print medium and it certainly doesn't help the cops in any way.
Law enforcement's job is much easier when the mere presence of a plant means they can just haul away citizens to prison, and then seize and auction off all the money and property and equipment the pot grower was caught with for police profit. But when they have to determine if someone's healthy enough to put in the cage or sick enough to jump through the hoops needed to get a medical permission slip, police jobs are much harder and their asset forfeiture profits drop. And oooh, how they hate it when the "stoner" they so want to lock up whips out that medical marijuana card.
These articles will be used to support a push by law enforcement to severely restrict and curtail the medical marijuana program in Oregon. We have to stop the abuse of the medical marijuana program by criminals. So we do what, reduce plant limits, possession limits, make it tougher to find a doctor, start inspections, raise fees (whoops, did that one already), require patients to only grow marijuana for themselves only 1000- away from a school, park, day care, church, skate park, roller rink, McDonald's PlayPlace, or any residential dwelling where the occupants think the smell of marijuana is icky? Yeah, that will stop the criminals from trying to double their money on weed.
No, all any restrictions to medical marijuana will do now is a) hurt the truly sick and disabled people the program was intended for by making it even harder for them to get a card and find marijuana, b) return a bunch of other people back to buying their black market weed from "their guy", increasing the profits of criminals, c) push more of those growers back underground, raising the price of marijuana, which will d) increase the profit motivation for criminals to grow weed in clandestine grows that harm the environment.
In other words, criminals were growing fine Oregon marijuana for big profits long before medical marijuana and they will keep doing so no matter what you do to medical marijuana. The problem isn't that we're providing shelter for criminals to abuse the medical marijuana law - they're criminals; they abuse any laws! But the vast majority of Oregon medical marijuana cardholders are doing everything they can to follow the laws. The opposite of criminals, if you will. Whether you think they're sick or not, they go to their doctor, collect medical records, go to a clinic, pay another doctor for a legal recommendation, go to the state and pay annual protection money for a legal card, and then go to great lengths to stay within the limits, keeping their use private, growing fewer plants than allowed, keeping less marijuana on hand than allowed, and frequently dealing with shortages of marijuana by giving away their excess to other cardholders, not selling it, as allowed by law. Those that do walk in the gray areas with our MWIOs still do so in the belief they are following laws and charging prices that are below what the criminals charge on the streets and far less than what they could get selling it out of state.
The problem we have with Oregon Medical Marijuana Laws is the absurdity of trying to determine who's healthy enough to lock up for this plant in the first place. The problem isn't that our medical marijuana law is too generous, it is that it ignores the 90% of Oregon's marijuana consumers who aren't medical. The problem is that the medical marijuana law is in opposition to a stronger law called supply and demand. Oregon and America loves Oregon marijuana. Until we recognize that Oregon will always supply and America will always demand marijuana, criminals will always exploit the prohibition profit whether there are medical marijuana laws or not, and going backwards now can only hurt the truly sick and disabled who need medical marijuana to live.
Let's get real and just legalize marijuana already.
Article originally appeared on radicalruss.com and was republished with special permission