State of the weed

Cannabis Issue: Medical cannabis industry thrives even as the economy and legalization movement sputter

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steve@sfbg.com

CANNABIS When we did our first Cannabis Issue a year ago, the Bay Area's medical marijuana industry was booming, and there was high anticipation that California would soon legalize weed for everyone.

Proposition 19 divided even those who fully support decriminalizing cannabis — partly because the existing system was working so well in San Francisco and many other cities, so people were wary of an uncertain future — and voters rejected the measure in November.

But only the most dogmatic anti-drug warrior would take that vote as a repudiation of the wonder weed, because California's love affair with its top crop today is stronger than ever. And the burgeoning industry that grows, processes, and delivers marijuana continues to expand rapidly amid a stagnating larger economy.

Three new high-end cannabis dispensaries have opened in San Francisco in the last six months, bringing to 25 the number of licensed clubs, and the selection and quality of indoor and outdoor buds, concentrates, and edibles has never been greater. The industry's many opportunities are starting to attract top talent from unrelated sectors of the economy, such as Mark Williams and Nic duTemps.

Williams recently quit his job at Apple to start CloudNine, which is developing a high-quality portable vaporizer called Firefly that will be assembled here in San Francisco and released this summer. Unlike current vaporizers made of plastic that use butane heaters to release the cannabanoids from the weed without burning it, Firefly is made of metal and glass with customizable wood inlays, uses advanced batteries in its heating element, and will retail for about $300.

"I decided now is the time," Williams, 42, said of his decision to leave the corporate cubicle world after 20 years. "The market is maturing and the users' ability to make a discerning choice about how they're going to take marijuana is maturing."

DuTemps worked in public relations for many years and she also jumped ship to do something she loves a few years ago: landscaping backyard gardens. "But then the bottom fell out of the economy," she said, and people growing marijuana were the only ones who still wanted her expertise.

Yet the supply of cannabis products had grown faster than the number of dispensaries and delivery outlets in recent years. "The clubs were becoming incredibly flooded," duTemps said. "People have found themselves with copious amounts of product and nowhere to sell it."

So she decided to marry her PR expertise with her cannabis connections and last month started Sweeter Made, a medical marijuana cooperative and delivery service that uses an old meter maid vehicle for deliveries. DuTemps said she loves "the secret thrill of delivering medical cannabis, hash, and edibles in something that used to give people parking tickets."

They're just a couple of the countless Bay Area residents involved in the pot business, an expanding and evolving sector of the economy that even cash-strapped government agencies are getting involved in.

Oakland city officials recently stepped back from their ambitious plan to permit large-scale pot farms in industrial warehouses, mostly because of legal concerns, but that city and Berkeley last year moved forward with plans to legitimize and tax the industry at a higher rate. And the big next step — full legalization of weed for even recreational users — is still lingering on the horizon.

Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee, who bankrolled placing Prop. 19 on the ballot, has announced that he'll try again on the November 2012 ballot. He told the Guardian that he's currently developing his battle plan, consulting his allies, and determining what the measure will look like.

Comments

Some comments for Steven T. Jones -

You say:

“Three new high-end cannabis dispensaries have opened in San Francisco in the last six months, bringing to 25 the number of licensed clubs…”

Who knew that so many terrible diseases could be treated only by cannabis?

By the way, isn’t honesty supposed to be part of progressive politics?

You say:

“ ‘I decided now is the time,’ Williams, 42, said of his decision to leave the corporate cubicle world after 20 years. ‘The market is maturing’ …”

Isn’t this what is known as the advance of capitalism?

You say:

“Oaksterdam University founder Richard Lee, who bankrolled placing Prop. 19 on the ballot, has announced that he'll try again on the November 2012 ballot.”

Isn’t he a multi-millionaire drug dealer?

You say:

“it's undeniable that the industry is thriving and here to stay.”

Sounds just like the history of the tobacco industry.

Bottom line:

Cannabis should be legalized like booze and cigarettes. But what’s to stop big corporate cartels from eventually elbowing everybody else out of the picture?

Shouldn’t people who call themselves progressives be thinking about this question?

Or are they too stoned to do so?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jan. 25, 2011 @ 8:55 pm

Mexican Mafia - look it up.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2011 @ 10:51 pm

One is alcohol, one is cannabis.

"One kills, one doesn't. One is a toxin, one is a medicine. One can incite violence, destruction, and abuse, one can incite lots of sleep and hunger. One is legal, one is illegal. One needs to change. "
~origamifolder

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2011 @ 10:30 am

Have you ever watched the Drug War Clock as it ticks away all our hard earned tax dollars? http://www.drugsense.org/wodclock.htm

Or the US Debt Clock http://www.usdebtclock.org/

Alcohol prohibition in the US run from 1919 to 1933 - Now google 'The Great Wall Street Crash' and see when that happened!

During alcohol prohibition, all profits went to enrich thugs and criminals. Young men died every day on inner-city streets while battling over turf. A fortune was wasted on enforcement that could have gone on treatment. On top of the budget-busting prosecution and incarceration costs, billions in taxes were lost. Finally the economy collapsed. Sound familiar?

http://1929crash.com/

If you have liberty then expect prosperity, but there’s most definitely no chance of prosperity without liberty.

If you support prohibition then you are NOT a conservative.
Conservative principles, quite clearly, ARE:

1) Limited, locally controlled government.
2) Individual liberty coupled with personal responsibility.
3) Free enterprise.
4) A strong national defense.
5) Fiscal responsibility.

Prohibition is actually an authoritarian War on the economy, the Constitution and all civic institutions of our great nation.

Posted by malcolm kyle on Jan. 25, 2011 @ 10:29 pm

Seriously. Stop living in the past.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 25, 2011 @ 10:53 pm

Neither prohibition nor control by mega corporations is the right way to go with the marijuana issue.

A nuanced solution is needed. But there's not much nuanced thinking on either side.

On one hand, the prohibitionists are zealots who never learned the lessons of the abortive effort to prohibit alcohol.

On the other hand, SF progressives are in the service of the cannabis capitalists in the same way as politicians in the Deep South are in the service of the tobacco capitalists.

Let's put our thinking caps on. Getting stoned is not the way to do that.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jan. 26, 2011 @ 9:35 am

Not everything is about progressive politics, Arthur, and we don't live in a binary, black-and-white world. The cannabis industry is important to this city's economy, and it isn't run by "mega-corporations" or anyone resembling the old "tobacco capitalists." These are fairly sustainable small businesses run by local residents, none of whom are getting rich.

Posted by steven on Jan. 26, 2011 @ 10:37 am

In a post above, Steven, you say:

"The cannabis industry is important to this city's economy, and it isn't run by 'mega-corporations' or anyone resembling the old 'tobacco capitalists.'"

However, the mega-corporate model is likely to win in the long run.

Look at tobacco. It started out with use by the native American Indians in very limited contexts, often sacramental.

Later, after the Europeans arrived, it started turning into an industry. Small farms emerged exclusively devoted to raising tobacco as a commercial product. These were swallowed by up larger plantations. These were eventually taken over by big corporations.

After the corporations took over, they found a way to make tobacco smoke inhalable (originally, the smoke was too acidic to be inhaled into the lungs). They developed sophisticated hype. The invention of matches made it possible to smoke one cigarette after another in rapid succession, compulsively.

Similar developments are now in the pipeline for the cannabis industry. New technologies will make it possible to consume cannabis as compulsively as possible, to the profit of the corporations.

You also say:

"These are fairly sustainable small businesses run by local residents, none of whom are getting rich."

I challenge each part of this claim. Outside interests are wheedling into local businesses. Some of them are fabulously rich. And most are a scam - claiming to sell cannabis for medical purposes, when in fact it's to satisfy stoners' recreational needs.

Let's develop a strategy dealing with cannabis that's honest, and also capable of dealing with debasement by mega capitalism.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jan. 26, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

Sure, Arthur, let's have an honest debate, starting with you citing a source or some kind of support for your erroneous beliefs about who's running the SF clubs. Believing something strongly doesn't make it true.

Posted by steven on Jan. 27, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

Arthur Evans Claims : "The invention of matches made it possible to smoke one cigarette after another in rapid succession, compulsively."

This sounds suspiciously like a fallacy. Can you provide a citation for this is? Matches have been around a lot longer than cigarettes. Match use dates back to ancient Rome and China so I think that assertion is plainly false. Though I'd love to know what propaganda you read to come by that theory.

Arthur Evans Claims : "Similar developments are now in the pipeline for the cannabis industry. New technologies will make it possible to consume cannabis as compulsively as possible, to the profit of the corporations."

Ever heard of a bong or a vaporiser Arthur? They've been around for decades (technically water pipes have been around for millennia). I don't think you can get much more convenient than that. I'm not sure what you mean by "compulsive consumption" of cannabis though, that sounds like an ignorant statement of someone who's never consumed cannabis.

Lastly please do not refer to the urban legend that tobacco companies own trademarks like 'maui wowee' or 'acupulco gold' etc - you cannot trademark an illegal product. cf. Bayer & HeroinTM

Posted by Frank McGee on Jan. 27, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

I think we need something akin to chemically altered cigarettes - i.e. the "chronic" plus some additional chemical that'll make us "hooked" on it, much like the way the tobacco industry uses ammonia and other chemicals to enhance the reception of nicotine in the brain.

Posted by Ian Waters on Jan. 28, 2011 @ 2:45 am

He never ever responds when called out on his bullshit. Sad.

Posted by Ian Waters on Feb. 01, 2011 @ 11:19 am

In this society of ever-increasing stress levels, how can anyone possibly justify keeping the substance that promotes violence (alcohol) "legal", while insisting that the substance that suppresses violence (Cannabis) should be kept "illegal"! Total absence of logic. Cannabis is not physically addictive as it has no documented physical withdrawal syndrome associated with its use; smoking Cannabis has been shown to have NO connection with increased risk of lung cancer, the so-called "gateway drug" theory is a non-existent entity altogether, and Marinol is a synthetic THC analogue, which is not at all the same thing as Medicinal Cannabis. This is together with the remarkable medicinal properties of the Cannabis plant, the denial of which is not even a "rational" thing to do! It is as pointed out in the prestigious "Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook" that states clearly that "Cannabis use suppresses violent behavior and only the unsophisticated think otherwise". Cannabis prohibition is doing more harm to this society than many people realize, as the (young) people are pushed to "experiment" with alcohol/hard drugs or dangerous, physically addictive prescription drugs, many of which promoting violent behavior instead of suppressing it as Cannabis does. CA Prop. 19 directly challenged the DEA "dogmas", and it was the reason why it infuriated the "powers that be" the way it did! Unfortunately, many lawmakers are still swayed by the DEA disinformation in all these respects, but one thing is clear: just like KGB before it, the DEA will not be able to defend its mindless "dogmas" by repression alone; sooner or later the American people will clearly see this nonsense, and they will not tolerate it indefinitely!

Posted by Leonard Krivitsky, MD on Jan. 27, 2011 @ 4:35 am

it's too early.

Posted by marke on Jan. 27, 2011 @ 8:18 am
wow

The medical pot thing is a bit of an open joke, every stoner has got a card these days, their malady is?

Pot should be legal as people should be allowed to do their own thing as long as it doesn't infringe on other people.

A lot of your arguments up there are stoner dogmas of a different sort. State your case that people should be left alone, all that rambling about all the other drugs is just strange.

I do find it odd that the Guardian spends so much time on this, they have the view that we all need to obey the dictates if the state, unless of course they want to get baked.

Posted by matlock on Jan. 27, 2011 @ 11:36 am

Matlock:

"The medical pot thing is a bit of an open joke, every stoner has got a card these
days, their malady is?

Answer: Not being high.

Posted by Ian Waters on Jan. 28, 2011 @ 2:42 am

god what a bunch of lamers. alcohol, when used in moderation, has vast health benefits. marijuana does not. marijuana is not medicine beyond it being a pain reliever for terminally ill. how many people that go to these drug cartel places that are so called "legal" are terminally ill? probably like 1% out of all of them. a bunch of losers, low lifes, and scum bags go to these places and bring a bad element to nearby the financial district in Oakland. It all needs to be shut down and the Feds should come in and do it since the local law is totally oblivious to the difference between what is right and what is wrong.

smoking pot is cancerous, vaporizing it probably is not. what do most people do? I wouldn't know but I am guessing they light it and smoke it. that causes a lot more harm than having a couple beers. this is not just an opinion it is fact.

people who are pro pot are a bunch of kiddos. time to grow up guys. this is against united states federal law. stay away from the stuff and do other things. there's a lot more to life than this silly plant and getting involved with all this bullshit and the idiots who it attracts and their crummy lifestyle.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 29, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

"alcohol, when used in moderation, has vast health benefits."

No, moderate drinkers have better health than HEAVY drinkers. They are no better, if not in worse health, than people who abstain. The research is skewed as many people who do not drink, do so for medical reasons (although there are some who abstain due to religious/traditional reasons) so of course they will appear to be in worse health than a moderate drinker.

"marijuana does not. marijuana is not medicine beyond it being a pain reliever for terminally ill."

Marijuana has been proven to prevent cancers developing due to the CBD present in it. Stress, which can lead to many problems, is also lost due to the calming effects of THC. Please tell me why there are huge amounts of medical articles supporting marijuana health benefits, written by doctors who have attended university for many years. Do you have a medical diploma?

"how many people that go to these drug cartel places that are so called "legal" are terminally ill? probably like 1% out of all of them. a bunch of losers, low lifes, and scum bags go to these places and bring a bad element to nearby the financial district in Oakland. It all needs to be shut down and the Feds should come in and do it since the local law is totally oblivious to the difference between what is right and what is wrong."

This is very offensive and if we're going to have a civilized argument, I'd appreciate it if you did not refer to me or the 65% of the USA's population who also smoke pot regularly as 'losers'. Please tell me why you view a LEGAL pot dispensary as such a threat? When there has never been a death ever recorded in the entire history of the world down to pot. Have you ever been physically attacked by someone who was high? Doubt it, but I'm sure you've seen an attack committed by a drunk.

"smoking pot is cancerous, vaporizing it probably is not."

Of course smoking pot is cancerous! Smoking any heated carbon matter will be detrimental to your health. Smoking broccoli would be dangerous. No, vaporizing is DEFINITELY not cancerous.

"I wouldn't know but I am guessing they light it and smoke it. that causes a lot more harm than having a couple beers. this is not just an opinion it is fact."

Oh for god sake, have you not heard of throat/oral/stomach cancers or liver disease attributed to alcohol consumption?

"people who are pro pot are a bunch of kiddos. time to grow up guys. this is against united states federal law. stay away from the stuff and do other things. there's a lot more to life than this silly plant and getting involved with all this bullshit and the idiots who it attracts and their crummy lifestyle."

I'm Pro Pot because
1) yes I smoke pot and I don't like the fact that I'm labeled a criminal for doing so 2)I'd rather spend my tax on USEFUL areas of expenditure such as health and education than continuing a failing drug war
3)It's a violation of human rights. What makes you think you have the right to tell me what to take? All drugs should be legal, but at the moment it looks like marijuana is the most likely to become legal.

A lot of people are pro pot not the younger generations. That proposition 19 in California? Voted to pass by 42% of California. Please don't bullsh*t your way into saying that the youth constitute 42% of California's population, when the youth had a spectacularly LOW turn out to the voting polls.
In an ideal world, there is no need for drug use such as alcohol or nicotine, but we don't live in an ideal world. Let me have my spliff, I'll let you keep your beer.
And you said it yourself, it's a plant. Why do you take such offense to a little plant?
And yeah it might be federal law, but there's also laws where women may not drive in a house coat. Laws are made to be changed to best fit society.

Posted by dave on Feb. 01, 2011 @ 12:25 pm

A policy that aids terrorist organizations while depriving cancer sufferers the opportunity to use a substance, which has been proven to work as an effective treatment for the nausea brought about by chemotherapy, which is an excellent pain relief and which increases the appetite of such sufferers - thereby aiding a return to full health - is evil. I am from the UK, Mr. president. Like so many the world over, when you were running for president, I looked upon a man who embodied a heroism, someone who strode the political landscape with an authoritative elegance. Seeing you the other day, however, pander to an idiotic minority, who had the gall to laugh when the question of legalization was raised, made you look very small.

Posted by Guest craig on Feb. 05, 2011 @ 9:12 am

Like we need advice from Brits.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Feb. 28, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

I've helped take care of people who died from AIDS and know from first-hand experience that marijuana has medical value. However, the law that Ross Mirkarimi go the board of supes to pass on medical marijuana is a scam.

Anybody can get a medical card for any reason. All you have to do is put down the money, and you get the card, no questions asked.

There is no schedule of dosages for different diseases, as is the case with legitimate prescription drugs. For example, how much should be used to deal with nausea caused by stomach cancer, as opposed to pain cased by arthritis?

There are no requirements for renewing prescriptions, as is the case with legitimate prescription drugs.

There has been no systematic government testing of the drug for different diseases, as is the case with legitimate prescription drugs.

There is no standardized quality control.

The ads from the outlets make it obvious that they're targeting recreational drug users, not just patients with acute medical conditions.

Nobody can take their claims seriously about how much profit they make because standard business and government procedures do not apply to them.

A year or so ago, the Bay Guardian ran a piece on one of the biggest growers in Norther California, which the Guardian viewed as exemplary. Even so, the Guardian reported that the owners paid their workers in pot, not cash. That's a violation of labor laws. It also encourages secondary dealing, because workers have to sell their stash in order to convert it to cash.

The whole system is a big, stinking scam created and enabled by the faulty legislation that Ross Mirkarimi pushed through the board of supes.

I'm not surprised to see politicians act in a cheesy way. And I'm not surprised to see drug dealers use scams to sell their products.

But what's progressive about any of this?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Feb. 05, 2011 @ 10:45 am

Sorry Arthur that is plainly false.
Arthur Evans Claims : "The invention of matches made it possible to smoke one cigarette after another in rapid succession, compulsively."

This sounds suspiciously like a fallacy. Can you provide a citation for this is? Matches have been around a lot longer than cigarettes. Match use dates back to ancient Rome and China so I think that assertion is plainly false. Though I'd love to know what propaganda you read to come by that theory.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 28, 2011 @ 2:18 pm

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