Legal Weed: The Grey Market of the Green Rush
By Mark M. Ward
In regards to the legal cannabis industry in much of the country, there is still a seedy market; no pun intended. Initially the affluent protected their markets from being made obsolete by cannabis. The lesser percent have taken the upper hand from the cartels and they now form the laws and create regulations. Consequently, they are the only individuals and “corporations” that are able to comply with legal cannabis regulations. Hence the wealthy control the effects of supply and demand, and thus the market. Aspiring canna-businessmen and canna-businesswomen are finding that they are forced to jump through preposterous hoops (regulations, codes, taxes, $$$$), so the average person cannot take part in dispensing, cultivating or any other facets of the industry.
Most banks will not lend to a cannabis business so the use of “private investing” and older money is prevalent, “It is ridiculous how impossible it is trying to get bank funding of a canna-business.” -says Scott Bettano, CEO and Cofounder of Social High, the cannabis social network and app, “Hell we couldn’t even get a bank account on the east coast.” This can be comparable to how the Mafia, or so called “corporations”, cornered the market with gambling and casinos in Las Vegas. This is why states such as Rhode Island have lawmakers trying to tax patients on each plant they grow, to further isolate the market as they disguise it as reform. This will drive this market solely into the hands of major corporations or major crime. “When Medical marijuana is over regulated to the point where the average patient is priced out, we are forcing those who seek it back into the underground market where it is sold exclusively by those who are willing to break the law. Some of these individuals will also have other products available, including drugs that are far worse than marijuana.” -Tony Jones, Libertarian Party of RI.
But, how is this currently possible? How is this still happening? It’s been about 80 years since American newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst built the nation’s largest newspaper chain and paper mills run on timber, which were threatened by the hemp industry. It’s been the same amount of time since Hearst used his papers and position as a platform to scare the nation by slandering cannabis with racist propaganda and by calling it by the scary Mexican and misleading title “marijuana”. Does the Mexican scare sound familiar to modern politics? Why is this known travesty of American history still comparable to the corporate smokescreens backed by the federal government today?
The correlation is that we are still allowing corporations to take or give us the allowance of this natural right of a plant, and our opinions are still affected or spoken over by the loud whims of the more well-off lower percent. With these barrages of laws and regulation we are taking gardens from the gardeners and giving them to the governors. Mom and pop could save the farm and help some people feel good in the process, but they can’t afford to re-vamp, or they are too close to a school zone. Apparently one doesn’t do much farming in a silk suit do they?
Patriot Care is a Massachusetts based company that has licensing for cannabis facilities in Boston and Greenfield, and now have both a dispensary and cultivation facility in Lowell. The company is directed by CEO Bob Mayerson, who would know much about big business, as former president and chief officer at Eastern Mountain Sports and tending financial roles in Pepsi and Staples. Patriot Care’s Lowell facility joins Ayer, Brocton, North Hampton and Salem as the only cities in Massachusetts with facilities supplying medicinal cannabis to patients. Patriot Care will be opening a Boston facility as early as late spring and one in Greenfield will be finalized over the summer. They have also made an agreement with the city of Lowell including such stipulations that it will pay $25,000 for every dispensary that uses their cultivation centers products. It would make sense that legal recreational cannabis would dismantle and negate such large investments these companies put into medical cannabis.
Activist and model Brianna Morrel elucidates as to why Patriot Care has lobbyists that work hard to prevent this. “Patriot Care has associations with the anti-legalization campaign in Massachusetts.” According to Morrel, “Patriot Care has vowed to never become a recreational dispensary even after legalization. Their board has also voiced support for Michael Flaherty’s zoning bill which would restrict how closely dispensaries can open to one another. Patriot Care’s lobbyist, Daniel Delaney, has filed an anti-legalization effort (supposedly on his own accord) dubbed “Safe Cannabis Massachusetts”. Delaney also has a second connection to Safe Cannabis Massachusetts through Greg Czarnowski, an outsourced contractor, who is the owner of the domain registered to the anti-legalization group.” Once more, the very same markets that risk losing capital are the one’s creating and disseminating false information. Big business is fueling and maintaining wrongful prohibition, laws and enforcement with their power and pull of big pockets.
However, there are two sides to be played and big taxes to be paid, so the government allows states the illusion that they make their own choice. At the same time, we allow federal cannabis laws to stand by principles created after a model which suggests that cannabis has no medicinal value. A model created by individuals who incidentally hold a patent for medicinal cannabis. We are told that we are given the right to medical cannabis in some areas, but we are not given cannabis healthcare. Furthermore, a patient’s license to use medical marijuana from one state is not always recognized by other states, even if the state also legally recognizes medical cannabis. These divide and conquer techniques still pad the biggest pockets. Phillip Morris USA’s CEO Clifford Fleet owns the cigarette companies as well as all of the medications and tools to quit using tobacco, so even if you quit he still he doing ok. As a result, those big pockets that are not getting totally side winded by cannabis and who don’t gain on both sides of the legalization coin are getting smarter, and they realize prohibition just isn’t doing it for them.
Many cannabis businesses halts and pitfalls are due to extremely inappropriate and disproportionate taxes, intended to keep the industry in the hands of big business and politicians and not free to the public market. I asked cannabis entrepreneur and medical grower Aleena Harney to reflect on this topic, “I was from New Hampshire, where the top 1% controls the government and makes it difficult for the everyday person to make money with cannabis legally or illegally. It’s a corrupt system. They tax it, pass ridiculous laws and constrict who can produce weed and sell it, especially if you want to do it legally. When I was in Washington, it was a disaster trying to get my license as a commercial medical grower. You have to do so much paper work, have back ground checks and they had unbelievable restrictions on how I had to grow, which limited the amount I was allowed to sell. The taxes were not worth doing it legally because you can’t profit when you’re limited on how much you could produce and sell because regulations on plant to product ratio do not make any sense. If you grow one plant and it’s more than the limited weight when ready to harvest, they consider that illegal, so you can’t even harvests fully grown plants without it being illegal even with a card. The system lets the rich produce all the money because they can afford the high prices of the tax and the card set up, so only commercial growing of big business works. I ended up stopping because it’s just not worth it. And people wonder why everyone does it illegally? I had over 100 plants because I had employees, but I stopped after the first year because I didn’t make any money. My limit was about 150 plants, and I had to pay more if I wanted to raise the limit. I ended up losing money in the end because I couldn’t keep up with the taxes.”
Kevin Cintorino of Elevated Vapor Lounge in Providence states “It wasn’t taxes or regulations that did us in, it was due to Elevated, or any lounge for that matter, being the final step that a patient would have to pay for after obtaining a medicinal marijuana card and paying for medication since Elevated was b.y.o.m. (bring your own medicine). When you take all things considered, by the time real non-recreational using patients had received their cards and paid for pricey medication they did not have the funds to pay for an inexpensive membership in order to socially utilize this medication in a non-hidden setting. Also, there was a difficulty because patients with medicine weighing even a small amount over what they are legally allowed to have were afraid to come in due to being investigated. All of the members that I had dealt with were accountable and within their legal limits at all times, but either way this is predominantly an older and responsible crowd we are dealing with who are typically patients 40 years old and up.”
When asked questions about his feelings on patients legal plant count vs. allowed end medicinal product ratio in Rhode Island Cintorino states, “This also a bit messed up, that’s why Massachusetts allows 10 oz. on hand. You do not merely get 2.5 oz. from 24 plants. If a patient is properly growing healthy plants, they will receive more than 2.5 oz. of usable medicine, beside the fact that they have to be very precise while taking down these plants due to the fact that a plant can easily yield over 3-5 ounces wet weight, unusable product, which then needs to dry and be cured but can easily be confused by law enforcement as usable medicine which makes the patient worry over their legal limit during their harvest.”
During a little pow-wow with Phil Hardy of The Hardy Consultants, Hardy and I got to talking about actual patient help and our ideas about true activism, “Like you, I have assisted patients with needs ranging from help making automated gardens and with garden care, to individuals who are just initially trying the medicine and learning how to roll a joint. But you don’t see the dispensaries doing that. Do you see representatives of Patriot Care in Massachusetts or from the Rhode Island’s Thomas C. Slater Compaction Center at any NECC events (New England Cannabis Convention)? If they do show up they are just checking it out. They are not at a booth as part of the community and making it known, you don’t see the people that run these dispensaries on the DPH stairs rallying and fighting for patient rights. Would it make more sense as an activist to take money and pump it into lobbyists with anti-pot campaigns, or to donate that money to organizations like Parents 4 Pot? Now what would it make sense for big business to do?”
The Journal of the American Medical Association in Internal Medicine published research in 2014 following 13 medical cannabis states over 11 years showing that cannabis could not only help the pharmaceutical dependency epidemic by treating withdrawal symptoms of opioid dependency, but also by lowering overdose related deaths in states with medical cannabis by 25%. A plant that could cure and treat cancers, mental and emotional ailments, alleviate nerve pain disorders, and help individuals ranging from hospice patients to children with seizures is being withheld and manipulated. This is the same plant Holland has found that over 40 years of adult use has not raised consumption among adolescents, and in fact, Holland boasts half the underage cannabis use rate reported in the US. The current situation is that we are taking away the medicine from healers, and putting it in the hands of kings where it has no right to be.
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