Pubdate: Tue, 05 Feb 2008
Source: Sentinel Review (CN ON)
Copyright: 2008 Annex Publishing & Printing Inc.
Author: Clifford A. Schaffer


Re: Marijuana vending machines - unbelievable (Jan. 31 editorial, 

I live in the Los Angeles area and I have taken the time to actually 
survey the operations of the marijuana clubs, so let me offer a 
little perspective on the issue.

California legalized medical marijuana in 1996 by popular vote. Under 
the law, marijuana is legal for treatment of any illness for which it 
provides relief. Furthermore, the decision of whether it is useful is 
solely up to the doctor, in consultation with the patient. In actual 
practice, marijuana is legally available to any adult wants it. All 
they have to do is pay the $100 "tax" to the doctor. Except for the 
fact the "tax" goes to the medical profession, rather than the 
government, this is just the way it should be.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law for any purpose, even 
though the federal government itself distributes medical marijuana to 
a number of patients. The reason they do this is because some of 
those patients went to court and proved to a legal certainty that 
marijuana is the only medicine suitable for their needs.

The law did not provide a legal means of supplying marijuana. It only 
provided that "caregivers" - a new, undefined term - could grow and 
provide marijuana to patients. Because the law was unclear, and 
because of some sympathetic local governments, marijuana sellers 
rushed to take advantage of the new public market. They quickly 
discovered the market for marijuana in California is huge - probably 
rivalling beer.

In response, hundreds of marijuana stores sprang up around the state, 
with the biggest concentration in Los Angeles. So many, in fact, the 
U.S. federal government has now openly admitted it could never shut 
them down. Some of the stores have had tens of millions in sales from 
a single location. Marijuana is de facto legal in California.

The biggest news is the system in California - crazy as it may be - 
actually works. There are problems here and there but, overall, the 
owners of these businesses are keenly aware of their own 
self-interest just like any other business owners and run their 
businesses accordingly. There really isn't much "abuse" of the system 
- - assuming anyone could accurately define "abuse". If you want to buy 
marijuana from one of the clubs in California - or one of their 
vending machines, you will have to follow the rules (obtain a doctor's note).

The vending machines are the latest sign marijuana has achieved full 
legalization in California. They are really no different than vending 
machines that sell aspirin - which, by the way, kills more people 
every year than marijuana does. The people who spent their money to 
set them up are aware of the issues of security and all the rest. 
They have taken adequate steps to make sure their investment is not 
lost to the first person who comes along with a crowbar. If they 
haven't, they will be out of business before too long and the 
machines will be a non-issue again.

The bigger news for Canada is the war on marijuana in the U.S. has 
officially collapsed. Even the top drug warriors now openly admit it. 
It will only be a matter of time before the events in California 
spread to other states and ultimately to Canada. If you don't like 
the idea of vending machines, the only solution is to implement 
sensible regulations for production and distribution of marijuana 
similar to those for alcohol.

Failure to do so will simply result in chaos.

However, if you fail to implement sensible regulations - and you 
probably will - rest assured even this crazy system in California is 
1,000 times better than prohibition. That is true, even with the 
vending machines.

Clifford A. Schaffer

Editor, Marijuana Business News Agua Dulce, Calif.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom