One of the first things FDR did when he became president in 1932 was to end the failed prohibition of alcohol. This single act freed up resources for needed public works programs and added lots of new tax revenue. That also dramatically improved public mood as promised by his 1932 campaign song “Happy Days are Here Again.” Another benefit was the dramatic drop in crime and fewer prisoners. We will see these and other major benefits once the wasteful weed war ends.
President Obama has the same chance to restore a sense of freedom and happiness in our country. One easy thing to do is end the unethical and ineffective war on medical marijuana. This will also improve how the rest of the world views the United States. Read all about what we all can do to persuade and pressure our new president to “Do the Right Thing” for millions of medical patients and recreational users across the country and around the world. The US is the only country standing in the way of global ganjah legalization.
On February 3, 2008 I predicted that Barack would end the ineffective and unethical war on marijuana. I kept trying to share that article with the Obama campaign headquarters. Then in early August, the Obama Campaign sent me the following short, specific, and sweet response to my continued e-mail questioning (via MySpace):
Thanks for getting in touch about the Senator’s position on allowing severely ill patients to use marijuana for medical purposes. Many states have laws that condone medical marijuana, but the Bush Administration is using federal drug enforcement agents to raid these facilities and arrest seriously ill people. Focusing scarce law enforcement resources on these patients who pose no threat while many violent and highly dangerous drug traffickers are at large makes no sense. Senator Obama will not continue the Bush policy when he is president.
This supports his earlier statements:
“The war on drugs has been an utter failure. (W)e need to rethink and decriminalize our (nation’s) marijuana laws.”-Barack Obama, January 2004
“I inhaled frequently, that was the point.” -Barack Obama, November 2006
Read on to learn what is going on at the national and state level. Pay particular attention to blatant hypocrisy of promoting booze and prescription drugs while denying natural and safe medicine to the masses. Also check out me earlier writings to learn more about how and why we all should be growing and using marijuana as matter of Civil Disobedience (reminding us of the Boston Tea Party and Gandhi’s Salt March to the Sea.)
UPDATED Story from February 5:
DEA continues pot raids Obama opposes
Stephen Dinan and Ben Conery, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Drug Enforcement Administration agents this week raided four medical marijuana shops in California, contrary to President Obama’s campaign promises to stop the raids.
The White House said it expects those kinds of raids to end once Mr. Obama nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush administration holdovers.
“The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind,” White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said.
Medical use of marijuana is legal under the law in California and a dozen other states, but the federal government under President Bush, bolstered by a 2005 Supreme Court ruling, argued that federal interests trumped state law.
Dogged by marijuana advocates throughout the campaign, Mr. Obama repeatedly said he was opposed to using the federal government to raid medical marijuana shops, particularly because it was an infringement on states’ decisions.
“I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” Mr. Obama told the Mail Tribune newspaper in Oregon in March, during the Democratic primary campaign.
He told the newspaper the “basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that’s entirely appropriate.”
Mr. Obama is still filling key law enforcement posts. For now, DEA is run by acting Administrator Michele Leonhart, a Bush appointee.
Special Agent Sarah Pullen of the DEA’s Los Angeles office said agents raided four marijuana dispensaries about noon Tuesday. Two were in Venice and one each was in Marina Del Rey and Playa Del Ray — all in the Los Angeles area.
A man who answered the phone at Marina Caregivers in Marina Del Rey said his shop was the target of a raid but declined to elaborate, saying the shop was just trying to get back to operating.
Agent Pullen said the four raids seized $10,000 in cash and 224 kilograms of marijuana and marijuana-laced food, such as cookies. No one was arrested, she said, but the raid is part of an ongoing investigation seeking to trace the marijuana back to its suppliers or source.
She said agents have conducted 30 or 40 similar raids in the past several years, many of which resulted in prosecutions.
“It’s clear that the DEA is showing no respect for President Obama’s campaign promises,” said Dan Bernath, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, which advocates for medical marijuana and for decriminalizing the drug.
California allows patients whose doctors prescribe marijuana to use the drug. The state has set up a registry to allow patients to obtain cards allowing them to possess, grow, transport and use marijuana.
Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group in California, called the raids an attempt to undermine state law and said they were apparently conducted without the knowledge of Los Angeles city or police officials.
He said the DEA has raided five medical marijuana dispensaries in the state since Mr. Obama was inaugurated and that the first took place on Jan. 22 in South Lake Tahoe.
“President Obama needs to keep a promise he made, not just in one campaign stop, but in multiple speeches that he would not be spending Justice Department funds on these kinds of raids,” Mr. Hermes said. “We do want to give him a little bit of leeway, but at the same time we’re expecting him to stop this egregious enforcement policy that is continuing into his presidency.”
He said he is aware that Mr. Obama has not installed his own DEA chief but that new Attorney General “Eric Holder can still suspend these types of operations.” The Justice Department referred questions to the White House.
One of the many things that made Barack Obama such a refreshing candidate was his frank and unapologetic admission of drug use. True, Anderson Cooper extracted curt “yeses” from some 2004 Democratic candidates when he asked them point-blank if they had ever smoked pot. But Obama has written openly and without prompting about his experiences, not only with marijuana, but cocaine, a “hard” drug. On the campaign trail he even joked about inhaling deeply — “that was the point,” he said more than once. Unlike George W. Bush, Obama didn’t hide behind evasive murmurs about “irresponsible behavior,” or turn his drug experiences into a setup for some maudlin born-again conversion story.
As recounted in his memoir, Dreams From My Father, Obama was a normal American kid. Which is to say he used drugs, had fun and survived. The book doesn’t romanticize the president-elect’s days of smoking pot and snorting “a little blow when [he] could afford it,” but it’s easy to take what details he provides and imagine him with his basketball buddies on some Oahu beach blazing bowls of Maui Wowie, alternately laughing until his guts hurt and sitting in quiet wonder before a magnificent pink-and-yellow Pacific sunset. …
Partly because Obama was so reasonable and matter-of-fact about his own All-American experiences getting high, drug-policy reformers were among those most excited by his candidacy. If any aspect of America needs change, it is the country’s prohibitionist and punitive approach to drugs and drug use. Obama, it seemed, was the right politician to take an executive hammer to the cracked marble pillars of America’s disastrous war on drugs. Throughout the primaries and general election, Obama gently encouraged these hopes by advocating commonsense drug-policy reforms. He criticized federal paramilitary raids on state-sanctioned greenhouses and called for ending racist discrepancies in cocaine sentencing laws. (As a little-mentioned footnote to the first of these positions, Obama’s mother died from cancer five years before the Hawaii legislature legalized medical marijuana.) …
Regardless of where Obama’s appointees stand and how much, if any, political capital he is willing to spend on drug-policy reform, the need to turn his campaign slogan into reality has never been greater. Last week, the Justice Department released numbers showing that 1 in every 100 Americans is now in prison, and 1 in every 31 is either behind bars, on parole or on probation. For this grotesquerie we can thank the war on drugs. More than half of federal prisoners (95,000 people) are behind bars for drug-law violations — a record. Nationally, around half a million people are in prison on nonviolent drug charges. The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that this is a tenfold increase since 1980, totaling more than the entire prison population of Western Europe. …
“One in four Americans now lives in a medical marijuana state,” Aaron Houston, director of government relations at the Marijuana Policy Project, explained to Reason magazine. “And medical marijuana outpolled Obama in Michigan by six points. Medical marijuana states, including Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, were essential to Obama’s victory, and continuing a federal war against a quarter of the country would make no sense.” NORML, America’s pot-reform spearhead, will push for the establishment of a National Marijuana Commission, modeled on congressional commissions formed in 1970 and 1972 to study pot prohibition. Both prior commissions concluded in favor of decriminalization, and activists think it is high time to throw another national spotlight on the law that last year resulted in 870,000 marijuana arrests. “Any serious commission today would come to same conclusion [in favor of decriminalization]. We’re willing to sit tight for a couple of years as Congress studies it,” says NORML’s Keith Stroup. “But we want high-profile hearings in the judiciary committees. We want to get our experts up there.”
Meanwhile, NORML will push Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to reintroduce his decriminalization bill, HR5843, also known as the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act. Co-sponsored by former presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, the bill would in effect decriminalize possession of up to an ounce. When introduced last year, it became the first bill to take aim at prohibition since 1982.
Advocates may have their best ally not in the White House or in Congress, but in the economy. As state budgets shrink across the country, legislatures are often forced to choose between education and prison budgets. This phenomenon is most stark in California, where a budget shortfall and massive overcrowding has Gov.Arnold Schwarzenegger talking about letting people go and the legislature discussing sentencing reform. “During the last recession, we saw an enormous number of states enact reform,” says DPA’s Piper. “This is the silver lining of an economic downturn. After the recession recedes, the reforms tend to stick, when the states realize they are saving money.”
If the economy ends up being the prime mover behind drug reform under Obama and the incoming Congress, it will be better than nothing, but still a sad commentary on the Democratic Party and American democracy in general. Polls and state ballot initiatives continue to show the public widening its lead ahead of their elected leaders on drug policy, who more often than not remain stuck in the 1980s, if not the 1920s. While changing the law ultimately falls upon Congress, Obama could help take his party and the country into the new century by using the bully pulpit to question the premises and effects of the drug war. If he chooses to do so, he is certainly surrounded by enough veteran drug warriors to provide political cover. Who knows? If President Richard Nixon could go to China, maybe Joe Biden & Co. can help Obama make the shorter but equally historic trip down Main Street to the local head shop.
The legalization of marijuana for medical and other purposes would provide unknown billions of dollars in government revenue and even more in private sector profits. As I wrote here recently,
Read the following to learn why the versatile and virtuous Bill Richardson should be contacted and encouraged to become a champion for getting our country back on the ganjah track!!
President-elect Barack Obama nominated New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson to his Cabinet as secretary of commerce. Given that Obama had already confessed to inhaling — “that was the point,” he classically cracked — and once declared the hyperbolically named War on Drugs “an utter failure,” adding that America needed to “rethink and decriminalize” American cannabis laws, Richardson’s nomination to Commerce was cause for celebration. After all, Richardson signed a bill in 2007 making New Mexico the 12th state to legalize medical marijuana. “So what if it’s risky? It’s the right thing to do,” he said of his decision. “My God, let’s be reasonable.” ?
A mostly Democratic Congress and Richardson offer the best chance in years to right this conundrum. With Richardson at Commerce, and Congress on the hunt for new sources of green, environmental and financial, during a time of deep economic recession, the launch window for legalization has never been wider? “Richardson was a strong champion for legal access to medical marijuana,” explains Reena Szczepanski, director of New Mexico’s chapter of the Drug Policy Alliance. “In his role at the Commerce Department, he may be well-positioned to examine the economic contributions of the medical cannabis sector to the economy in states that have medical cannabis laws.” …
“The main obstacle to legalization of medical marijuana is that many politicians haven’t yet figured out that it is a popular, politically safe issue,” argues Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. “The fact that it keeps rolling up wins surely helps with that, and the continuing stream of positive scientific studies does as well. But clearly the public is more divided on marijuana policy outside of medical situations, and we need to do a better job of understanding the public’s concerns and addressing them.” In order for that to happen, a public dialogue needs to take place on legalization, and that is almost sure to happen under Obama’s watch, as well of that of his friendly Democratic Congress. Indeed, the balls have already begun to roll.
“Legislation will be reintroduced in the House of Representatives during Obama’s first term to reform America’s antiquated and overly punitive federal marijuana laws,” explains Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “One bill seeks to allow state governments the ability to legalize and dispense medical cannabis without running afoul of federal law. Another seeks to remove federal anti-drug penalties on the possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana, roughly 3 ounces, by adults. One would hope that the new Congress will hold hearings on these proposals and begin a long-overdue, objective political discussion on Capitol Hill regarding the need to amend America’s marijuana policies.”
“That we spend billions every year in futile efforts to eradicate America’s No. 1 cash crop, a drug markedly less harmful than alcohol, is insane,” says Mirken. “And with the federal deficit approaching a trillion dollars, it is time to bring marijuana out of the underground economy, regulate it appropriately, and generate billions of dollars in tax revenues. Instead of guaranteeing all the profits to criminals, which is what prohibition does.”
And if money isn’t the point, let’s move instead to morality. Even on that diaphanous front, the numbers have spoken. “Since 1965, America has arrested over 20 million Americans for violating marijuana laws,” explains Armentano. “Penalties include probation and mandatory drug testing; loss of employment; loss of child custody; removal from subsidized housing; asset forfeiture; loss of student aid; loss of voting privileges; loss of adoption rights; and loss of certain federal welfare benefits, such as food stamps. In human terms, some 34,000 state inmates and an estimated 11,000 federal inmates are serving time behind bars for violating marijuana laws. In fiscal terms, this means U.S. taxpayers are spending more than $1 billion annually to imprison pot offenders.”
President Obama has promised that he will be open and accessible to the needs and wishes of the American people. This important issue of state’s rights and personal liberty represents an important test that millions of Americans watch to see how he responds to the overwhelming public support for legalizing medical marijuana and ending the drug war. Time to get busy and tell him and his administration to do our well and protect our “Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Be careful what you wish for. Last week, the website Change.gov – the official website of the Obama Transition Team – asked the public to provide them with a list of the top public policy questions facing America. Visitors to the site were then asked to vote on which questions should take priority for the incoming administration.
According to the website, “participation outpaced our expectations. ” Since its launch the Open for Questions tool has processed over 600,000 votes from more than 10,000 people on more than 7,300 questions.? Ironically but perhaps not surprisingly the top question for the new administration – as chosen on and voted by the general public – was one most politicians seem utterly unwilling to talk about.
“Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?”
To anyone thinking the #1 question was some kind of fluke, consider this: More than a dozen of the top 50 vote-getting questions pertained to amending America?s drug policies. Other examples:
- Question #7: Thirteen states have compassionate use programs for medial Marijuana, yet the federal government continues to prosecute sick and dying people. Isn’t it time for the federal government to step out of the way and let doctors and families decide what is appropriate?
- Question #13: How will you fix the current war on drugs in America and will there be any chance of decriminalizing marijuana?
- Question #15: What kind of progress can be expected on the decriminalization and legalization for medicinal purposes of marijuana and will you re-prioritize the War On Drugs to reflect the need for drug treatment instead of incarceration?
It was just over a month ago when statewide marijuana law reform initiatives in Massachusetts and Michigan prevailed with more votes than America’s soon-to-be 44th President – once again reaffirming the widespread popular support for changing our nation’s antiquated and punitive pot laws. It wasn’t clear that either the national media or the incoming administration were listening then. Are they listening now?
In November, editors at the website Alternet.org asked me to draft “a progressive agenda for Obama” regarding marijuana policy. At that time, I listed several realistic, practical actions Obama could take to substantially reform America’s antiquated and punitive pot laws. Note, legalizing marijuana by Executive Order was not on my wish list. These actions include:
- As President, Obama must uphold his campaign promise to “not use Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws” that legalize the medical use of cannabis. (Watch the video here.)
- Obama can appoint leaders to the US Department of Justice, DEA, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy who possess professional backgrounds in public health, addiction and treatment rather than in law enforcement.
- Obama can support the autonomy and health of Washington D.C. voters by encouraging Congress to lift the so-called “Barr amendment” (passed by Congress in 1998 and reinstated every year since then), which prohibits the District of Columbia from implementing a 1998 voter-approved ballot initiative legalizing the use of marijuana by authorized patients.
- Obama can call for the creation of a bipartisan Presidential commission to review the budgetary, social and health costs associated with federal marijuana prohibition, and to make progressive recommendations for future policy changes.
Ultimately, of course, it’s Congress, not the president, who is responsible for crafting America’s oppressive federal anti-drug strategies. Moreover, it is clear that in the coming years this battle will continue to primarily be fought — and won — on the state level, not in Washington D.C.
That’s not to say that we should not continue to keep the pressure on Obama by continuing to post questions to websites like Change.gov. (My suggestion for the next round of voting How about: “On Election Day, over 3 million voters decided to legalize the medical use of cannabis in Michigan, making it the 13th state to enact laws allowing the legal medical use of marijuana.
While campaigning, you pledged: ‘What I’m not going to be doing is spend Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws on this issue.’ As President, will you and your Attorney General uphold this promise not to target and prosecute patients and providers who are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws?”)
However, we must always remember that it will be the actions of tens of thousands — not the actions of just one man — that will ultimately bring an end to America’s vindictive and senseless war on cannabis consumers. Now let’s get back to work!
Happy Days Are Here Again
Legalize it Mr. President
So long sad times, Go long bad times
We are rid of you at last
Howdy gay times, Cloudy gray times
You are now a thing of the past
Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So let’s sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again
Altogether shout it now
There’s no one who can doubt it now
So let’s tell the world about it now
Happy days are here again
Your cares and troubles are gone
There’ll be no more from now on
Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
So, Let’s sing a song of cheer again
The following is a wonderful, detailed article that I have abstracted to show how different the world of medical marijuana is in California. We all know that Arnold and many other famous people get high and think it should be legal. We also need to pressure Nancy Pelosi to stop subsidizing the billions of dollars that her constituents earn from growing and exporting black market marijuana. All Americans are guaranteed to equal protection.
California now has more than two hundred thousand physician-sanctioned pot users and hundreds of dispensaries. Since 1996, when a referendum known as Proposition 215 was approved by California voters, it has been legal, under California state law, for authorized patients to possess or cultivate the drug. The proposition also allowed a grower to cultivate marijuana for a patient, as long as he had been designated a ?primary caregiver? by that patient. Although much of the public discussion centered on the needs of patients with cancer, AIDS, and other diseases that are synonymous with extraordinary suffering, the language of the proposition was intentionally broad, covering any medical condition for which a licensed physician might judge marijuana to be an appropriate remedy?insomnia, say, or attention-deficit disorder. …
Proposition 215 presented an opportunity to participate in a legally sanctioned experiment in altered living. The people I met in the high-end ganja business had an affinity for higher modes of thinking and being, including vegetarianism and eating organic food, practicing yoga, avoiding prescription drugs in favor of holistic healing methods, travelling to Indonesia and Thailand, fasting, and experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs. Many were also financially savvy, working long hours and making six-figure incomes. …
In 2003, the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 420. The law was intended to clear up some of the confusion caused by Proposition 215, which had failed to specify how patients who could not grow their own pot were expected to obtain the drug, and how much pot could be cultivated for medical purposes. The law permitted any Californian with a doctor?s note to own up to six mature marijuana plants, or to possess up to half a pound of processed weed, which could be obtained from a patients’ collective or cooperative – terms that were not precisely defined in the statute. It also permitted a primary caregiver to be paid “reasonable compensation for services provided to a qualified patient to enable that person to use marijuana.” …
The counties of California were allowed to amend the state guidelines, and the result was a patchwork of rules and regulations. Upstate in Humboldt County, the heartland of high-grade marijuana farming in California, the district attorney, Paul Gallegos, decided that a resident could grow up to ninety-nine plants at a time, in a space of a hundred square feet or less, on behalf of a qualified patient. The limited legal protections afforded to pot growers and dispensary owners have turned marijuana cultivation and distribution in California into a classic gray area business, like gambling or strip clubs, which are tolerated or not, to varying degrees, depending on where you live and on how aggressive your local sheriff is feeling that afternoon. This summer, Jerry Brown, the state?s attorney general, plans to release a more consistent set of regulations on medical marijuana, but it is not clear that California’s judges will uphold his effort. In May, the state Court of Appeal, in Los Angeles, ruled that Senate Bill 420?s cap on the amount of marijuana a patient could possess was unconstitutional, because voters had not approved the limits.
Most researchers agree that the value of the U.S. marijuana crop has increased sharply since the mid-nineties, as California and twelve other states have passed medical-marijuana laws. A drug-policy analyst named Jon Gettman recently estimated that in 2006 Californians grew more than twenty million pot plants. He reckoned that between 1981 and 2006 domestic marijuana production increased tenfold, making pot the leading cash crop in America, displacing corn. A 2005 State Department report put the country’s marijuana crop at twenty-two million pounds. The street value of California’s crop alone may be as high as fourteen billion dollars.
According to Americans for Safe Access, which lobbies for medical marijuana, there are now more than two hundred thousand physician-sanctioned pot users in California. They acquire their medication from hundreds of dispensaries, collectives that are kept alive by the financial contributions of their patients, who pay cash for each quarter or eighth of an ounce of pot. The dispensaries also buy marijuana from their members, and sometimes directly from growers, whose crops can also be considered legal, depending on the size of the crop, the town where the plants are grown, and the disposition of the judge who hears the case.
California’s encouragement of a licit market for pot has set off a low-level civil war with the federal government. Growing, selling, and smoking marijuana remain strictly illegal under federal law. The Drug Enforcement Administration, which maintains that marijuana poses a danger to users on a par with heroin and PCP, has kept up an energetic presence in the state, busting pot growers and dispensary owners with the coöperation of some local police departments.
In the past five years, an unwritten set of rules has emerged to govern Californians participating in the medical-marijuana trade. Federal authorities do not generally bother arresting patients or doctors who write prescriptions. Instead, the D.E.A. pressures landlords to evict dispensaries and stages periodic raids on them, either shutting them down or seizing their money and marijuana. Dispensary owners are rarely arrested, and patient records are usually left alone. Through trial and error, dispensary owners have learned how to avoid trouble:
- Don’t advertise in newspapers, on billboards, or on flyers distributed door to door.
- Don’t sell to minors or cops.
- Don’t open more than two stores.
Any Californian who is reasonably prudent can live a life centered on the cultivation, sale, and consumption of marijuana with little fear of being fined or going to jail. …
Stronger, better-tasting varieties of pot can sell for more than five thousand dollars per pound, more than double the price of average weed. The premium paid for designer pot creates a big incentive for growers and dealers to name their product for whatever strains happen to be fashionable that year. The variety of buds being sold as Kush has proliferated to the point where even the most catholic-minded botanist would be hard pressed to identify a common plant ancestor.
Only a small percentage of consumer marijuana sales in California occur within the medical-marijuana market. Even so, the dispensaries, by serving as a gold standard for producers and consumers, have fueled the popularity of high-end strains in much the same way that the popularity of the Whole Foods grocery chain has brought heirloom lettuce to ordinary supermarkets. To serve these sophisticated new consumers, growers in California and elsewhere are producing hundreds of exotic new strains, whose effects are more varied, subtle, and powerful than the street-level pot available to tokers in the nineteen-seventies and eighties. …
The quasi-legal status of smaller growing arrangements, combined with consumers’ preference for potent, high-maintenance weed, has shifted the balance of the pot business away from large-scale farms. “There’s a lot more people doing little scenes,” he said. The welter of laws pertaining to medical marijuana in California has offered careful operators like Guthrie the best of both worlds: prosecution for growing and selling has become much less likely, while federal busts and seizures keep prices high. Guthrie sells about ten per cent of his product to dispensaries and collectives. Starting up a sophisticated indoor farming operation costs about three hundred thousand dollars, he said, including the cost of making a building airtight – to lock in the humidity, and to keep passersby from smelling the pot and calling the cops – and fitting it with thousand-watt grow lights. …
Sitting beneath a willow tree on a breezy day in Sonoma County, you can see why the idea of leaving the city behind and growing your own weed exerts such a pull on the holistic health nuts, masseurs, d.j.s, art-school dropouts, and New Age types who populate the medical-marijuana scene in Los Angeles. Farming a crop of twenty-five or thirty plants of killer weed is an updated (and highly profitable) version of the age-old California dream of an orange tree in every back yard. For those who can’t afford to pay for a prime plot of land in Humboldt, there is the possibility of renting a small split-level house in Sonoma or Mendocino and converting the master bedroom into a grow room, where you can turn around an indoor crop every sixty days.
Up North, the marijuana harvest is known as “trimming season.” In Humboldt and Mendocino, she said, October is a month-long sleepover, with all the free ganja, beer, and organic food you want. A really good trimmer can trim two pounds of pot a day, at a rate of two hundred and fifty dollars per pound, while sitting around a table with three or four friends. Kids from San Francisco or even Australia hear about the harvest from friends of friends and show up for the pot and the cash. The D.E.A. routinely busts a few big scenes each year, and the local police have been known to stop cars and check the passengers for telltale scratches on their arms or sticky resin under their fingernails. …
Humboldt’s economy is so heavily dependent on cannabis cultivation that you can drive for miles on well-kept highways and back roads without discovering a single legitimate source of income, aside from honey stands. Heading north, we eventually entered a maze of logging roads on a private reserve. A bunch of hippies grew pot in the forest, and the local cops stayed away.
Our destination was a house occupied by a woman who identified herself as Emily. A wiry marijuana sharecropper who also works as an environmental activist, she was busy watering her plants. There were twenty-five plants in all, surrounded by a fence on which hung a laminated patient’s letter, signed by Ken Miller, M.D., stating that the marijuana was intended for medical purposes. Because marijuana is a fungible commodity, like soybeans or rice, there is no way to tell the difference between marijuana that winds up going to patients and marijuana that winds up on the street. The doctor’s letter was, therefore, halfway between a legal document and a good-luck charm. …
Before the legalization of medical marijuana, she said, the wholesale price of good weed was forty-eight hundred dollars a pound. Now it was between twenty-two and twenty-six hundred. That was still profitable, though, and there were fewer stories in the newspapers about people being bound and gagged by cash-hungry gangsters. … Providing that the weather and the authorities cooperated, Emily expected to end up with approximately twenty pounds of pot. She would dispose of it in whatever manner brought her the most money; she thought it could fetch as much as fifty thousand dollars.
Being around plants made her happy, she said. She?d be even more excited to grow something else, if it paid decently. Growing pot required a careful rhythm between periods of benign neglect and periods of close, loving attention. She noted that all her marijuana plants were females. “They’re ladies, right,” she joked. “So how do ladies like to be treated? They like to be given lots of attention and then left the fuck alone for a few days to revel in it. If you hang on to them all the time, they’re not going to do anything for you. …
That morning, Emily said, she had spent four hours on eight plants, plucking the thickest leaves in order to channel more energy to the buds. She had fertilized the soil with a mixture of bat and seabird guano. (Humboldt supermarkets sell the blend for nineteen dollars a gallon.) Her arms had become dark and sinewy from her labor.
Back at Emily’s borrowed house, we got high on her private stash and settled in for the night. The living room was decorated with save-the-rain-forest posters and a fake-leather gray couch. On the table was a boom box, a Mason jar of marijuana, and a Mac PowerBook. There was no television set; the radio was tuned to NPR. Emily was reading William Morris and working on a half-finished jigsaw puzzle of a Brazil nut, which she had bought at the thrift store for a dollar. Puzzles were popular during growing season, she said. That?s what being a grower in Humboldt County is like, she said. You do jigsaw puzzles at night, get high, and shit in the woods. …
By going into the pot business, Emily had made the kind of compromise with reality that idealistic people often make when they get older and lose faith in their ability to effect wholesale change, and when they need the money. Growing ganja lets you feel that you’re still living on the edge, especially when you’ve become a little complacent politically. Emily nodded, and took another puff. “The forest is still getting cut down or whatever,” she said, watching the fragrant smoke swirl in the breeze. “But you’re still working out here. You’re still subverting the Man. And you’re getting people high.”
BOSTON – Last month, voters approved a statewide measure decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Now, wary authorities say, comes the hard part. They are scrambling to set up a new system of civil penalties before Jan. 2, when the change becomes law. From then on, anyone caught with an ounce or less of marijuana will owe a $100 civil fine instead of ending up with an arrest record and possibly facing jail time. …
About 65 percent of state voters supported the decriminalization measure, which was promoted by a group that spent more than $1.5 million on the effort. The group, the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, said that in addition to ensuring that people caught with marijuana no longer have a criminal record, the change would save about $29.5 million a year that it estimates law enforcement currently spends to enforce existing drug laws.
A spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, which supports the drug?s legalization and created the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy to get the ballot question passed here, said that judging from the experience of other states with civil penalties for marijuana possession, Massachusetts officials were exaggerating the challenges.
Eleven states have decriminalized first-time possession of marijuana, though in most it is technically a misdemeanor instead of a civil offense.
In Nebraska, where possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is punishable by a $300 civil fine, the process has worked smoothly for three decades, said Michael Behm, executive director of the Nebraska Crime Commission.
In New York, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is a noncriminal violation but is still processed through the criminal system, said Robert M. Carney, the district attorney in Schenectady County. “They are brought down to the police station so their identity is established,” Mr. Carney said of violators, “but they are not fingerprinted because it’s not an arrest.”