The Unintentional Economic Stimulus Plan: Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana has been legalized in 13 states…or is it 14 now? 

Of course, this is ostensibly a program of compassion for sick people, which is a good thing. I believe cannabis should be legal for all purposes, but taking the heat off the sick people is a good first step.

Opponents of medical marijuana are afraid that some people will get prescriptions by faking an illness, and that marijuana use will become widespread.

There is something to this. In a medical marijuana state, it can be really easy to obtain a prescription. There are often certain doctors, whose names are passed around by word of mouth, who will write a cannabis prescription for anyone smart enough to come in to an appointment and use the word “pain”. You often don’t even need to have any medical records of your condition, you just tell the doc that your back has hurt for years and years, pay your money, and in a couple of weeks, you get your official card.

There are restrictions, of course. You can only have so many plants. The numbers are different in different states. You’re not allowed to buy or sell the pot, or to consume it in a public place.

That’s what the rules say. What people really do is another matter.

Telling people not to sell their extra pot may be a good rule, but does anyone really expect it to be followed? If you had a harvest from your seven plants, and you have an extra ounce on you, and your car insurance is coming due and you know someone who will buy your pot, you’re going to sell it to them. Hopefully you’ll be very careful not to get caught doing this.

The rules is some states makes me wonder if some lawmaker didn’t pull aside a drug dealer and say, “Hey there, how can we write a medical marijuana law that won’t hurt your business any?”….because if some of your little seedlings die or turn out male, you may have to buy clones or plants from some outlaw grower, who can grow plenty of plants to keep their strains going; and if you’re only allowed to have 3 ounces and you accidentally grow more, you’re in danger of being busted.

All that extra pot that “ends up” in the market will cause a glut in the market and depress the price. This really screws up commercial growers who are hoping to make money at it. They would certainly prefer that all the medical growers keep their pot to themselves.

Not everyone who grows or smokes pot wants to have a prescription, even if the prescription is ridiculously easy to obtain.

“I don’t want my name on some government list,” is one complaint, and I have to say it does have some validity. Medical marijuana is only legal on a state level in some certain states, and there’s always the possibility that a federal administration bent on oppression could start prosecuting people on the medical marijuana list.

“I don’t want them knowing where my plants are,” is a similar complaint. Yes, when you get a prescription, you have to tell them who you are and where your plants are going to be. That tends to make people nervous, especially when the helicopters are flying right over your plants, and you wonder how well they can count from up there.

A person who wishes to grow pot commercially on a large scale will not want a “prescription”, because they won’t want anyone knowing their name and address if they plan on growing dozens or hundreds of plants. These types refuse to get prescriptions no matter how easy they are to get.

A person who just wants to be able to smoke pot will get a prescription–and then maybe they’ll have more than they need…and then maybe they’ll give it to a friend who needs it…who might helpfully give them some money to help them out, just as a friend…not a commercial transaction, you see…ok, it is a commercial transaction–but the seller in this case is not really a commercial grower.

Someone with a couple extra ounces or a couple extra pounds from their personal stash is not a commercial grower. A commercial grower is one who is motivated primarily by the money, not a desire to have stash, and they are the ones who fill greenhouses and grow rooms with hundreds of plants, as many as they can get away with; and these are the ones who will behave more like genuine criminals, collecting guns and forming shady associations with thugs or even cops to keep their cash cows going.

Having a medical marijuana program in a state is a good thing because it rewards those growers who are willing to work with the government. The state gives its legal protection to those who are willing to pay a yearly fee and stick to a certain number of plants.

Ok, paying a fee to the government for protection isn’t much different than paying off a gang or a crooked cop for protection, but would you rather look for safety to the state government…or the Mexican mafia? or a bunch of bikers?

Whether they realize it or not, a state that’s smart enough to turn a blind eye to the dealing of small time medical growers has just created a unique and useful economic stimulus program.

Just think…if a few cancer patients and people with bad backs are making a few bucks here and there off their extra stash, they get a little bit of extra spending money and it pisses off the criminal growers by causing a glut in the pot market and depressing prices. (Even if they don’t sell any extra stash, but simply are able to refrain from buying from criminal growers, this brings the price down as well.)

The extra money the medical growers earn (or simply save) helps them out, and the government doesn’t have to hand out anyone a dime. On the contrary, the government makes money off the yearly fees that the patients pay for their state medical cards.

The money made from the sales of extra medical pot will come from users who are too dumb or too paranoid to go get a prescription, so in effect, medical marijuana rewards those who are willing to work with the government and punishes those who refuse to.

Some of the money made from those sales will be from cannabis users from other states. This is illegal as all hell, of course, as crossing state lines with pot becomes a federal matter, and your pot prescription won’t help you in that case. But it would be naive to think that none of the pot from a medical marijuana state won’t end up in the hands of people from neighboring states with harsher laws. The customers will readily cross state lines to get it, since in their home state they’d get in trouble either way. The medical growers need not even commit the crime of transport themselves. Grow it, and they will come.

Let’s imagine that Texas passes a medical marijuana law. (Quit laughing, it could happen.) In our fictitious scenario, the officials wisely ignore any small time commercial dealings done by people with prescriptions. The supply of cannabis increases, and the price decreases. Commercial criminal types find it harder to make the kind of money they expect from their enterprises, making it more likely that they will move on to other areas, or other activities.

In neighboring Oklahoma, where a single plant will still get you life, it would still be much harder to obtain pot. The price is much higher. Okies who know a patient/grower on the Texas side would be motivated to cross the border and buy at the cheaper Texas prices, and if they are motivated to make money off of it, they might even parcel it out to customers in Oklahoma at a profit.

Thus Texas, in this scenario, would make money off Oklahoma. If/when medical marijuana becomes widespread, or when cannabis is finally legalized outright, the price will depress everywhere. So, for a limited time, while cannabis is still illegal, people in states who pass medical marijuana laws have a chance to make money off their more unfortunate neighbors, without the government having to hand out a penny or lift a finger.

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