How California's Crack-Down on Marijuana Harms Everyone


Recently, LA city voters passed a proposition that will shut down roughly one thousand law-abiding, tax-paying businesses in its greater metro area. Business which contributed roughly 2.5 Million dollars to the local economy in taxes ALONE over the past year, not to mention the contributions made via payroll, mortgage/rents, suppliers, and the like. As you may know, Los Angeles is grossly in debt and has one of the worst school systems in the country. So why would they spit in the face of much needed tax dollars and entry-level jobs in a tough market? Because those one thousand stores are amongst the city's legal medical marijuana dispensaries, and if L.A.'s total and complete failure to effectively manage or capitalize on this booming seventeen-year-old industry is any indication, stigma always wins.

If you're following the tale of SoCal's epic Weed Wars it would be easy to believe that the City of Angels exists under a looming cloud of pot smoke. Media images covering the story show large signs and colorful banners touting free bong rips and hazy happy hours luring unsuspecting innocents into dark dens of unsavory cannibis culture.

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Like with most tall tales the Weed Wars narrative is woven from threads of truth in to tapestries of embellishment.

I live steps from Ventura Blvd, a highly populated thoroughfare which essentially serves as the jugular vein of L.A.'s San Fernando Valley. I can see five separate tell tale green medi-crosses from the end of my street. Five horrible, seedy dispensaries are operating within a mile of my front door. But I can't smell them. Certainly not over the stink of McDonald's french fries and gourmet chinese food that permeates the neighborhood. My neighborhood is rife with pot dealers but weirdly, I'm not afraid to walk my daughter down the street. I've actually developed quite the rapport with a few of the large, darkly-clad security guards that hover out front of the various establishments. I can see five marijuana dispensaries from the end of my street - but LA is home to 9.9 million people - I can also see five frozen yogurt shops and five Puppy Couture stores from that same corner.

Let's take a step back and look at the numbers. Los Angeles is a massive city in a state where the use of cannibis for medical purposes is legal. There are 7.5 million adults in the greater LA area, and the reported number of collectives or dispensaries (better known as pot shops) within county limits is roughly 1135, meaning that there is one shop per 6662 potential patients. For purposes of comparison, a google business search for L.A. area pharmacies brings up 9383 results, or one per every 1061 potential patients (I included children in this number, as they utilize the services of traditional pharmacies). Running the same quick math on Liquor Stores turns up roughly one store for every 1113 of L.A.'s over-21 inhabitants.

A city overrun with pot shops? The numbers hardly support that, and yet the stigmas against marijuana have had large chunks of the L.A. legal system tied up in expensive law suits, spending the valuable tax dollars contributed by the various dispensaries on resources designed to put them out of business.

Meanwhile last month students from the private Crossroads School in Brentwood teamed up with inner-city beneficiaries of The Harmony Project for TEENS UNITED LIVE, a show at the Roxy in Hollywood which set out to raise the money necessary to bring back the music programs that our state no longer funds in its public schools.

Cutting tax revenue and jobs by closing businesses that contribute heavily to the local economy while teachers are handed pink slips by the thousands and our children are left to step up and take their arts education into their own hands? Seriously, L.A.? I just don't get how it could be anything but closed minded stigma. So to that end, I thought I would share some marijuana science facts that you may not know (I sure didn't, and found them fascinating). And if you're so inclined, I'd love it if you'd share this post and this information with your communities. Because prohibiting an eco-friendly, easily renewable cash crop with absolutely no proven effect on mortality when our country is struggling to make ends meet just simply doesn't make economic sense. Here are 4 quick reasons why America's perception of marijuana is completely skewed:

1. Marijuana Was Misclassified By The DEA As A Schedule I Drug

Last year Steven C. Webster broke down the Government funded study which shattered the DEA's Schedule 1 classification of marijuana in a piece for The Raw Story:

"While numerous prior studies have shown marijuana's usefulness for a host of medical conditions, none have ever gone directly at the DEA's placement of marijuana atop the schedule of controlled substances. This study, sponsored by the State of California and conducted at the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, does precisely that, driving a stake into the heart of America's continued war on marijuana users by calling the Schedule I placement simply "not accurate" and "not tenable."

2. Marijuana Use Will Absolutely Not Kill You

In September of 2002, the National Institute of Drug Abuse funded a study which found that marijuana use did not significantly increase mortality even in heavy users. (Sidney, S et al. Marijuana Use and Mortality. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 87 No. 4, April 1997. p. 585-590. Sept. 2002.)

3. The 'Gateway' Is Prohibition

In another study partially funded by the NIDA, US and Dutch researchers studied the frequency of use, age at onset, and other parameters in a range of marijuana users. Data from the two cities was virtually identical except for one thing: In San Francisco where recreational use of the substance remains illegal, lifetime use of hard drugs such as crack-cocaine were as much as 4.5% higher than rates of abuse in Amsterdam where recreational use and purchase of marijuana has been legal for some time. (Reinarman, C, Cohen, PDA, and Kaal, HL. The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and San Francisco. American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 94, No. 5. May 2004. p. 836-842.)

4. Marijuana Does Actually Have Unique Medical Value

This past President's Day, The Liberty Crier ran a great piece called "Top 10 Cannibis Studies The Government Wished It Had Never Funded". Their number one finding?

MARIJUANA DOES HAVE MEDICAL VALUE: In response to passage of California's medical marijuana law, the White House had the Institute of Medicine (IOM) review the data on marijuana's medical benefits and risks. The IOM concluded, "Nausea, appetite loss, pain and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting, and all can be mitigated by marijuana." While noting potential risks of smoking, the report acknowledged there is no clear alternative for people suffering from chronic conditions that might be relieved by smoking marijuana, such as pain or AIDS wasting. The government's refusal to acknowledge this finding caused co-author John A. Benson to tell the New York Times that the government loves to ignore our report; they would rather it never happened. (Joy, JE, Watson, SJ, and Benson, JA. Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base. National Academy Press. 1999. p. 159. See also, Harris, G. FDA Dismisses Medical Benefit From Marijuana. New York Times. Apr. 21, 2006) (source on web)

-By Morgan Shanahan

For 10 ways selling Girl Scout cookies is like pushing drugs, visit Babble!

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