Connecticut: Medical marijuana’s future: corporate takeover?
They say green is the new gold. And everyone and his hemp-happy cousin is scheming to open a medical Marijuana "dispensary" (wink-wink) to serve "patients" (nudge-nudge). But if you think doing so is your path to wealth and sweet-scented contentment, you are high. It's already over.
The entrepreneurial frenzy is particularly strong in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado, a would-be Dopetopia filled with wanna-be weed-wielders. Several medical Marijuana outlets have already opened, and in nearly every social situation I've been in over the last two months, I've run across at least one person who can reach into his (yes, it's exclusively male so far) wallet and pull out a patient registry identification card.
This can be obtained through a simple application process that involves a $50 fee and a visit to a friendly certifying physician to will take five minutes of your time and $75 per appointment (a friend who underwent the process described it as like being put through a speedy assembly line).
Meanwhile, other friends chat enthusiastically about starting their own outlets. But there are problems.
First, I believe that the legislative confusion (furthered today in Colorado by a judge overturning the definition of medical-marijuana "caregiver" by the state's Board of Health) around this issue has only begun. Although the federal government has stepped back from initiating raids on dispensaries, nervous municipalities and counties are holding meetings and crafting new laws that could limit, freeze or eliminate dispensaries altogether.
It will take sweeping court decisions and legislative action to settle these matters. In the meantime, countless mom-and pop operations could find themselves screwed out of their capital investments due to changing sentiments, restrictive regulations and ideological/legal battles.
This possibility is balanced, of course, by the enormous amount of sales taxes these civic entities are receiving as a result of the boom -- especially valuable in this depression (and no, it's not a recession). This leads to a cogent observation by a friend of mine and fellow writer, Casey Freeman. He wrote, "The only people who made money during the Gold Rush were the guys selling picks and shovels."
I decided to check his assertion, and it opened my eyes to the vision of dope's commercial future in America.
Basic capitalist theory states that a free market delivers goods and services to the consumer at the best price and with maximum efficiency through fair competition. However, it's become evident that the U.S. economy has and does function as de facto corporate socialism. This is why the health reform bill will pass only in a severely castrated form. (As another friend said, "If it was called health INSURANCE reform, it would have already passed.")
The freewheeling, happy-go-lucky image of the swarming prospectors of America's various Gold Rushes, from California in 1849 to Colorado a decade later, to Alaska in 1898, could hardly be more misleading. Historian Paula Marks states in her 1994 text "Precious Dust" that "ninety-nine out of hundred men in the California placer diggings were lucky to make expenses." As much as 30 percent of them died of disease, starvation and violence.
Stewart Udall, in his remarkably wise 2002 book "The Forgotten Founders" states "A few merchant princes were big winners in the California gold rush . . . Take, for example, Collis P. Huntington, a one-time Connecticut traveling salesman who parlayed profits from a monopoly featuring $50 shovels and very expensive blasting powder to amass the capital that enabled him to become one of the nation's foremost railroad magnates."
The typical pattern in any new boom, reflected in our time in the machinations of the technology and new-media industries, is as follows: 1) individual pioneers strive to innovate and "strike it rich." 2) Savvy entrepreneurs corner the markets on product and means of production and profit, building capital resources. 3) Dominant financial interests force out or buy out competitors large and small, consolidating effort, creating efficiencies, capturing overwhelming market share.
This is how capitalism works, for better and worse. Yet the government has traditionally backed the interests of those who can best lobby it for favors, can grant it convincing chunks of revenues and power. Those are NOT the small businesspeople, but those whose livelihood is to dominate and triumph over a given industry. In the non-mythical U.S.A., the individual gets squashed and the bad guys rule.
Very few times historically have fraternal movements affected national economic policy, the Grange movement of the 19th century and the union struggles of the mid-20th century being rare examples. Unless individuals band together for mutual protection, the future of medical Marijuana will be this:
Large medical/agricultural concerns, citing regulatory problems, dodging of tax revenues, quality-control issues and the like, will shut down unaffiliated dispensaries "for the good of the consumer." These corporations will set up their own full-service chain stores, Dope Depots, if you will. They will undercut and buy out the little fish, and soon a rigid monopoly of smock-clad, clean-cut, smiling minimum-wagers will be handing you your overpriced weed. Wait and see.
The movement may indeed finally decriminalize marijuana. It would be nice to create a world of funky little shops where happy potheads convene. But it's a pipe dream.
Cities in Connecticut :
Conning Towers-Nautilus Park
Deep River Center
Old Saybrook Center
North Grosvenor Dale
New Hartford Center
Groton Long Point