Thursday, March 20, 2014

Cannabis vs Nevada

First and foremost, can we please start by calling it by it’s appropriate name, Cannabis? You can even call it pot, weed or grass- but please do not call it “marijuana”.

Cannabis was re-branded as “marijuana” in the 1930’s in a (successful) effort to make the substance sound more menacing than it actually is. Whether one can consider a plant largely meant for smoking (although often taken as an edible), a type of medicine or not, is beside the point. Mainly because so many, so-called “medicines” prescribed in our country by physicians for patients can cause a great deal of harm, yet they are widely permissible in a dramatically hypocritical presentation of “right and wrong” in our society.

“Pot-heads” if you will, seldom if ever speak the word “marijuana” in common speech. Only teachers, police officers, politicians and the like, aka “the square community”, use this term.

In a sad, maybe even desperate, attempt to legitimize the benefits of THC consumption to the square community at large, a group of advocates came up with the term “medicinal marijuana”.

When you have a substance that is clinically proven to be far safer than the recreational use of alcohol or any number of legal prescription drugs that are found to be highly addictive and/or habit-forming, and prohibit it for 70 years, these are the kinds of extremes persons will believe in order to get their “meds” in a safer environment.

More than 10 years ago, Nevadans went to the ballot and overwhelmingly approved the use of Cannabis in their state. Some Nevadans want the tax dollars put to good use in our schools, others don’t want to see non-violent criminals locked up in Nevada penitentiaries, still others believe it to be a mere health concern that should be left up to the individual, while many more remain under-educated on the subject. Any way you slice it, Nevadans want Cannabis.

Except, no person in elected office wants to take any responsibility for the charge given to them by their constituency, perhaps because they are afraid that their constituency will cry foul or maybe these persons put their own personal beliefs over those whom they represent. All we know is that Nevada, could have been the champion of this cause, yet is currently sitting idly while other states are reaping vast rewards from Cannabis decriminalization.

Local and State legislators have no idea how to approach this issue and are clearly terrified to make a move in any direction. This inability to act or make decisions is so embarrassing for Nevada on the national (and international) stage. You can be sure that in a few short years, the worries and concerns about growing and distributing Cannabis will appear so silly in retrospect.

Allow me to elaborate.

Not all that long ago, espresso shops were popping up all over Amsterdam and the sneaky Dutch proprietors of these cafes were distributing Cannabis to their customers, illegally mind you.

In time, the local community along with their governing bodies came to the conclusion that, while smoking Cannabis is not a healthy lifestyle that the government could condone, the only crime being committed was that of an unjust law, one which The People did not support, was being broken.

This revelation led to city leaders and police enforcement agreeing to “turn a blind eye” to the Cannabis operations, allowing the coffeeshops to thrive, pay taxes, etc.,

After 5 years (or so), the rate of violent drug-related crimes recorded in Amsterdam had dropped a whopping 96% and subsequently, the lawful ban on Cannabis was officially lifted in the Netherlands.

Present day, Clark County is befuddled with how and where they can license “medical marijuana dispensaries” and grow operations.

If only Nevada’s elected officials had the clarity of vision and hubris to deal with their colleagues and constituencies, we could harness an amazing opportunity presented to Southern Nevada, that does not come around often (if ever).

You must understand that Cannabis decriminalization in the Netherlands succeeded because 1) the Dutch gave their residents what they were asking for, and 2) they capitalized on an existing infrastructure that worked within their community. They DID NOT try to create a new system that the people would not understand. They simply stopped persecuting the individuals distributing until they could institute regulations that worked.

While Nevada’s elected officials are pretending like they want to keep Nevada safe (from the substance they overwhelmingly demand), by wanting to keep it away from neighborhoods, churches and schools, THEY are the ones who are turning a blind eye to the fact that Cannabis-growing, distribution and retail operations already exist in virtually EVERY SINGLE neighborhood in Southern Nevada.

The system for Cannabis growing and distribution being used in Las Vegas (and beyond) is so perfect that neither Metro, nor the Feds have been able to make a dent in it over past 30+ years that they have been using every resource they can imagine to combat this so-called “problem”.

There are more than 1 billion dollars circulating, completely untaxed, within our community at all times in a truly free market that is based on supply, demand and agriculture.

This multi-billion dollar industry exists with an operation in or near every single community and it exists almost entirely without advertising. That means no glowing green 5 finger leaves in the strip mall next to your grocery store or hanging in anyone’s windows or on delivery vehicles.

The square community are completely surrounded by Cannabis at all times and their children are perfectly safe (so long as they are doing their jobs as parents communicating with their young).

Clark County has a limit of 10 dispensary licenses they are going to permit within their jurisdiction. TEN!?!

Which means that bureaucratic public employees are going to determine, from hundreds of applications, WHO will have permission to serve Nevada’s card-carrying “medical marijuana” patients, the meds in which they seek.

Ten dispensaries? How about you limit it to 10 dispensaries per square mile, which is far more likely to be an accurate number of operations currently servicing Southern Nevada’s cannabis-loving community.

You (might) forget that the Cannabis-lovers are indeed a community of individuals who are, at present, your friends and neighbors (whether you aware of it or not). They are everywhere and if you happen to be one of them, you likely know who your agreeable company are.

On the one hand, you have the police department wasting their resources (i.e., tax dollars) to combat non-violent “crime” that is potentially an incredible source of revenue for the state. That is pretty ridiculous.

However, on the other hand, you have a free market of entrepreneurs without corporate influence, willing to take personal risks for their gains and they are succeeding.

Despite being shrouded in secrecy, the Cannabis market has got to be one of the most honest entrepreneurial pursuits in America today. The competition is stiff and constant with little to zero loyalty in the consumer-provider relationship. If a Cannabis provider presents themselves as providing a better product and/or service, the consumer will immediately gravitate toward “the better deal”. This could mean a better quality product, lower prices, bigger quantity or convenience i.e, delivery and promptness.

Even if our elected officials had vast understanding of the Cannabis business, they are still pretty helpless when it comes to the ability of implementing and maintaining a system for regulation when it comes to Cannabis.

Already, potential landlords to proposed dispensaries are jacking up the rent on the spaces being sought for Cannabis industry-related businesses. Two obvious reasons that cannot be denied are 1) landlords are uncertain and feel justified asking for more compensation due to “the risk” they are taking, and 2) because they know the future tenants are going to make a lot of money and can therefore afford it.

A grade-schooler could inform you that this practice will drive up prices for Cannabis and Cannabis-infused edibles, which will send customers to a more affordable retailer who they likely already have a relationship with.

Rather than taking brave, decisive action (for more than a decade), the state of Nevada is fumbling about at the tax-payer’s expense, trying to implement a regulatory system that they don’t know how to operate, and is meant to replace a system that only fails the public-at-large by it being illegal.

Checks, balances, quality-control, distribution- these departments are all currently fully staffed without public employees ever being necessary.

If our elected officials wish to solve the Cannabis epidemic in Nevada, than they need to start by stopping all police action targeting Cannabis grow operations.That is first and foremost.

Next, create a license to sell. Not a federal background check, Metro scope, initiation fee plus local licensing fees. Allow persons who currently earn their living delivering Cannabis to buyers the ability to purchase a permit, not unlike the "medical marijuana" patient ID cards currently issued to Nevada patients through the DMV. While you're at it, a 30 minute written exam regarding Cannabis and it’s practical applications along with a brief civics lesson would be appropriate.

While government officials may feel that it is their duty to tightly control the market and protect the community, their intentions are short-sighted and misguided. Issuing permits to individuals who you consider criminals because the activity they engage in is unlawful may sound like a bad idea because it sends a message that their behavior is to be condoned. You must realize that the danger you perceive in widespread Cannabis distribution is invalid and incorrect.

There should be no reason to be afraid to "open the flood gates" because you believe that rapid Cannabis proliferation will destroy your community. The existing laws are unjust and not supported by the people. In a self-governing society, this is (supposed to be) how the decisions are made.

When the Berlin Wall finally came down, it came all the way down. It was not made into a doorway for just a few citizens to exercise their freedom at a time.

Create a growhouse license, even for residential neighborhoods. The surplus of abandoned homes in Las Vegas has already provided Cannabis entrepreneurs countless spaces that are presently being utilized for grow operations. Experts insist that once a home has been repurposed into a grow-house that the process is irreversible and cannot or should not be used as a residence ever again.

Remember now that you can grow just about anything you want in these facilities, including food.

Recognizing the potential lemonade from Las Vegas’ lemons is paramount to navigating today’s Cannabis issue with bravery and vision, rather than fear of the unknown and “traditional values” instilled by a lack of understanding.

Instead of raiding and seizing Cannabis operations, issue them a fine and require them to register their business with state and local officials like you would nearly any other business that is discovered to be operating illicitly.

Again, these are intelligent and courageous individuals who have put themselves at stake risking prison in order serve Nevada residents who repeatedly have demanded fair access to Cannabis. Nevadans who have made their own health decisions and have chosen Cannabis to treat their ailments opposed to pharmaceuticals (which despite having their known harmful side effects are allowed to permeate the airwaves with advertisements).

If these grow-house operations are posing a threat to their communities, it is because they have been forced to defend themselves from invasion and robbery, due to the ongoing prohibition of Cannabis.

If growers, retailers and consumers of Cannabis were allowed to operate in the open without fear of social backlash and criminal charges, they would not be forced to go through the measures in which they must in order to operate today. If growers, retailers and consumers could feel confident contacting law enforcement to protect their rights as any other citizen might, you would not see the stockpiles of cash, guns and attack dogs being used to protect their investment (when the police do raid these houses).

These operations should be able to coexist like any other neighbor on the block, as any law enforcement officer will assure you, knowing and talking with your neighbors is the first and best line of defense any neighborhood has against intruders.

This model for an indoor community garden could lead the way for the future of sustainable living in the desert.

Cannabis entrepreneurs have built the business model and infrastructure within the ruins of the great housing bubble collapse. With better guidance and cooperation from local governments, we can improve on the marvelous system that was created in secret without any public financing.

We can start by making existing and former grow-houses energy neutral by installing whichever combination of solar and wind power are necessary to create the type of power one would need to power a sustainable grow operation.

Just as horticulturists who knew to capitalize on Cannabis, seized the opportunities they were presented with at one time, many of these same individuals paired with a growing community of enthusiasts graduating every semester, will want to capitalize on growing tomatoes, corn, kale, etc., because there will be endless new opportunities for selling locally grown vegetables to their neighbors.

Cannabis may be a big cash crop, however the only customer is a Cannabis consumer. On the other hand, EVERYONE HAS TO EAT. Which means there could be equal to if not greater revenue in vegetable grow-houses as their is in Cannabis grow-houses, IF the opportunity were approached in the right manner.

It should be noted here that when Cannabis became readily, legally available in Amsterdam, actual Cannabis consumption decreased across The Netherlands.

Prolonged prohibition of Cannabis leads to grand misinformation regarding it’s use, misuse and abuse. The fact that the vast majority of Cannabis users do not report it to their physicians as well as family members prevents true data from ever being compiled as to inform the public.

This leads to public service announcements, created by substance abuse prevention groups, which use gross scare tactics in order to convey their message to the public. Rarely, if ever, do these advertisements have an effect on the audience these groups intend to reach.

On the contrary, persons who have enjoyed Cannabis recreationaly or medicinally will be fairly certain that the creators of such PSA’s are clearly misguided in their quest to save human beings from themselves.

Furthermore, they will perpetuate their own version of the truth which is likely as much of a heavy, one-sided argument as the position they are refuting, and both parties continue on without reaching any middle ground in the battle for Cannabis.

Based on the hesitation and apprehensive behavior of the Las Vegas city council and Clark County commissioners, I would conclude that these lawmakers want to have all of their T’s crossed and I’s dotted before they allow a single bud to be sold “legally”.

This is precisely the grave misstep our elected public servants are taking.

You are not going to cinch this thing. You have no idea what you are doing.

Decriminalize the plant.

Start accepting licenses.

Issue fines where you find persons operating without a license.

You have zero handle on the existing operation therefore you are not going to get this right the first time (or we would not be having this discussion today).

Be patient. Represent those who elected you.

Over time, you might be able to bring this invisible billion dollar elephant in the desert to light.

As an additional thought for anyone who might be reading this; creating a law preventing importing Cannabis from out-of-state suppliers to Nevada dispensaries is purely ignorant and petty, if not outright insulting to the (Nevadan) patients who need their medicine.

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