Part 1: Dynamic MMJ laws force businesses onto the street

Gigantic stainless steel ball and chain looking the whole earth

Medical marijuana [MMJ] is great assuming you live in a state which approved it, you have a disease more chronic than cottonmouth, and you’re fortunate enough to be in a life situation where carrying a state card doesn’t jeopardize your job status or ruin your reputation.

That sort of good news comes with a whole heaping helping of bad news — which explains the ball and chain’s appearance in the title and the picture above. It’s going to take all my power and skill to limit the bad news categories to ten.

That means I won’t be wasting a precious part on an introduction. So, let’s dive right in.

“Winning” [the iron medal] limited medical marijuana initiatives invites legislators into a vicious cycle of creating, editing, and deleting whatever proposition or referendum you voted for after the fact. Voting for MMJ — as opposed to repealing MJ prohibition — insures endless regulatory skirmishes will waste taxpayers’ time and money until the end of days.

The casualties from said skirmishes are often fully compliant, legitimate MMJ businesspersons forced onto the street by dynamic laws.

What do I mean by “dynamic” laws? In this case we’re talking about dynamic as in “characterized by continuous change,” as opposed to static, as in “having no motion, being at rest.” Static laws are in place for every other commodity known to man, such as raddichio, molybdenum, and beef jerky. Dynamic is reserved for … you guessed it, the devil’s weed that our benevolent nanny state protects us from.

Dynamic also means “objects in motion.” But we’re not talking about objects moving through space like the Crab Nebula. In this series, the objects in motion are people, people like you and me who jumped through every hoop lawmakers threw at them because they were determined to make a go at cannabis commerce.

Too many of these MMJ business owners have found themselves on the street and out of the game altogether not long afterwards — often hundreds of thousands of unrecoupable startup costs later — after lawmakers approved capricious changes to MMJ laws. Instituing a 1,000-feet-away-from-a-school regulation isntantly takes down a few dozen dispensaries in a big city. The first thing the former ownersand their former employees will do is file for unemployment, further depleting government coffers instead of helping to replenish them like they were doing perfectly well before the rule changes.

As things stand in this formerly great country of ours, we’re not talking about one set of lawmakers empowered to lob gobs of legal grenades at legitimate MMJ business owners. We’re talking about three: city, county, and state lawmakers can all throw haymakers at existing pot businesses any time they choose. There doesn’t have to be any rhyme or reason for it. But wait, the number is actually four. I forgot the leviathan with a history of swallowing MMJ businesses like so much plankton — the federal government.

I suppose we should consider ourselves fortunate that community groups participating in “adopt-a-median” programs don’t have a say about MMJ laws for each mile that they police.

If you don’t live in a MMJ state, perhaps you didn’t realize this is the way things work in MMJ states like Colorado and California. You probably thought it was legal to open dispensaries all over those states. After all, they passed referendums, amendments or propositions to become MMJ states, right?

Correction: that’s how you’d like to think things work. Reality is a lot less logical. Cities or counties can vote MMJ businesses out anytime, at their discretion — and do so all the time. Is that dynamic enough for you?

Rusty ball and chain with key

MMJ: Be careful what you ask for. Dynamic MMJ laws contribute weight and links to the insufferable ball and chain cannabis commerce is lugging around.

Contrast these dynamic laws with the static laws for sin twins alcohol and tobacco. Oh, lawmakers may change the labeling on cigarette packaging every decade or so. But the day isn’t coming when a “You can no longer sell cigarettes within 1,000 feet of a daycare center” edict forces your local Piggly Wiggly mart to pull Marlboro cartons from the shelves. And imagine the outcry if a rural drive-through liquor store had to shutter the windows because it couldn’t cough up $15,000 for a creative new fee — like a separate license to sell microbrews — above and beyond what the store already pays for a state liquor license.

Am I writing this to convince you that lawmakers are giving MMJ business owners a raw deal? No. I’m writing this to point out that you gave lawmakers carte blanche to give MMJ businesses a raw deal — over and over again — by approving MMJ initiatives in the first place. I’m here to tell you that voting for MMJ initiatives instead of repealing prohibition is the equivalent of  wearing a “Kick Me” sign.

Dynamic MMJ laws contribute weight and links to the insufferable ball and chain cannabis commerce is lugging around. You may be sensing that this author feels this state of affairs should concern you. Why? Because you’ll be footing the bill for this legislative ingenuity if your state becomes another copycat MMJ state.

Want some specific examples of the endless legislative wheel spinning occuring in every MMJ state? Try these:

[From Sensible Colorado] On Monday, June 6th 2011 the Town Council of Crested Butte will consider shutting down the only MMC [medical marijuana center] in Gunnison County, population 15,000. Just last year, Crested Butte joined other responsible Colorado municipalities in allowing patients to obtain medicine from city-approved dispensaries. Now, they are backtracking — citing highly questionable claims that town employees may face prosecution for issuing dispensary licenses. For the record, no government employee in history has been prosecuted for issuing dispensary licenses.

Read between the lines: Funny, there’s no mention of reimbursing the symbolically razed MMC for its startup costs, it’s operating costs, or it’s future losses. There’s precedence for that. Victims’ families in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 weren’t reimbursed either.

Painting of the Salem Witch Trials

“So, how long have you been in the snare of the devil?” Today’s MMJ regulators are no better or worse than their Salem, MA predecessors.

[Also from Sensible Colorado] Once again [June 2011], the Colorado Health Department [CDPHE] has launched an attack on medical marijuana caregivers [taxpayers who were making an honest living growing herb for “patients”]. Hiding behind the Attorney General’s questionable legal interpretation, the CDPHE is now attempting to require caregivers to regularly assist patients with “activities of daily living” including transportation, housekeeping, meal preparation, and more. This ruling will limit patient choice and force patients to find caregivers who will not just provide quality medicine, but also provide additional, and often unnecessary, services.

Read between the lines: “And more” implies that caregivers must now wipe patients’ bums and service their sexual desires — or report for immediate reassignment to Jack-In-The-Box.

Well, this is off to a rousing start. Let’s try a few more:

[From Drug War Chronicle] The Los Angeles City Council voted 9-3 Tuesday [January 2010] to approve a medical marijuana dispensary ordinance that, if enforced, will shut down more than 80% of the city’s estimated nearly one thousand dispensaries. The ordinance also bars dispensaries from operating within a thousand feet of schools, parks, day care centers, religious institutions, drug treatment centers, or other dispensaries. The ordinance allows for only 70 dispensaries to operate in the city, but grandfathers in 137 dispensaries that were licensed before the council imposed the moratorium and are still in business. The number of allowed dispensaries could shrink even further if suitable locations that do not violate the 1,000-foot rule cannot be found.

Read between the lines: That was sayonara for 700 dispensaries [the DVD, How Weed Won The West, depicts the carnage in gruesome detail]. When can the former owners pick up their reimbursement checks? In the year 3016, when The Messiah rectifies every atrocity committed by mankind.

[From the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association] Michigan’s medical marijuana law needs to be tweaked to make it easier to regulate and enforce, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper told county commissioners Thursday.

Cooper said she has met with the county’s state legislators and urged commission members to work together to help enact changes to the law that was passed by voters in 2008 by an overwhelming 63%-37% margin. Any changes would have to be passed by a two-thirds majority in the state House and Senate.

The law was aimed at helping those suffering chronic pain caused by severe illness like cancer and multiple sclerosis. But Cooper said some people are using frivolous reasons for getting certificates that allow them to grow medical marijuana or to buy it from certified caregivers.

“Now we’re seeing young people with hammertoes or dislocated shoulders getting certificates,” she said. “And children under the age of 18 may obtain a medical marijuana card.”

Prosecutor Jessica Cooper

Provocative prosecutor Jessica Cooper from Beverly Hills, Oakland. I’m not making this up.

Read between the lines: This is too easy. Reaction #1, to “dislocated shoulders:” What if you put a little extra mustard on your tennis serve, your shoulder rips out of its socket during a deciding tiebreaker, and you’re left writhing on blue concrete until an ambulance arrives to ferry you to an ER room where a doc with $200,000 in student loans reattaches your humerus to your scapula? You should turn to 100% addictive Dilaudid [heroin in a pill] when all you want is a little happy leaf?

I see.

So much for compassionate care.

Reaction #2, to “hammertoes:” I’ve probably deceived you into thinking an intellect like mine can tap into a massive mind-bank of medical terminology whence the definition for “hammertoe” can be easily retrieved. Er … I’m afraid not. I have to look it up like every other slob.

Prosecutor Cooper somehow feels this arcane podiatric malady falls into the realm of “common knowledge.” She obviously has some familiarity with the rather vivid term, “hammertoe.”

Hold that thought.

Let’s see what we can find from the “trusted health information” over at medline.com.

Hammertoe usually affects the second toe [counting from which side?]. However, it may also affect the other toes. The toe moves into a claw-like position. The most common cause of hammertoe is wearing short, narrow shoes that are too tight [aha — like those 6” stiletto heels Prosecutor Cooper wears to sway jurors? Just thinking aloud, here]. The toe is forced into a bent position. Muscles and tendons in the toe tighten and become shorter.

“The toe moves into a claw-like position” suggests that essentially the affliction transforms its traumatized victim into a wolf. Or a she-wolf. If there are any prosecutors or fellow citizens running around with this malady — as best they can, with tendons tightened and toes shortened — hopefully they’re sedated with something along the lines of a rich indica when my loved ones are out jogging in the foothills.

Head shop of prosecutor Jessica Cooper

The salesman remained unruffled when the most notorious shoe stasher since Imelda Marcos asked, “Do you have that stiletto heel in a half size too small?”

Here’s a case where a modicum amount of medical marijuana might mitigate the ever-present hammertoe menace. It might even eliminate the need for a brutal corrective operation. Maybe I’m a little slow . . . but Ms. Cooper is bothered by citizens of Oakland County, Michigan managing clawfoot, I mean hammertoe, with marijuana because???

Reaction #3, to “Children under the age of 18 may obtain a medical marijuana card.” Oh, dear. Let me see if I’m interpreting this correctly. Imagine a child of 17 is in the advanced stages of a “frivolous” disease. Take chronic lymphocytic leukemia, for example. God forbid the “child” obtains a state MMJ card and substitutes a few pacifying tokes of White Widow for a nauseating pharmaceutical cocktail.

That’s all wrong.

However, two months later, when the child turns 18, then it’s all right and it makes perfect sense.

Now I see Prosecutor Cooper’s point.

Her point is she’s insane.

Thanks for keeping us in the loop.

Unfortunately, everyone in Michigan who voted for MMJ initiatives instead of working to defeat MJ prohibition gave Prosecutor Cooper and every other wolverine state legislator the right to exercise perpetual insanity.

The great state of Michigan — welcome to the exclusive, sixteen-state MMJ club. Glad to have you. Keep the set-ups coming.

Ohio — are you next? Step right up. Sign here.

I could keep the mirth flowing, but it would take the next ten years of your life to read all the kooky MMJ moratoriums, modifications, and rule changes those sixteen MMJ states enacted in the last year alone.

All kidding aside, get ready for the following legislative brainstorms to become law in MMJ states near you:

  • Raising the bar on qualifying diseases to Mayo Clinic levels. Future applicants will be forced to undergo prohibitively expensive batteries of tests, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that their claims of being sufficiently ravaged by illness to qualify for MMJ purchases aren’t “fraudulent.”
  • Tracking every single state MMJ purchase in a federal DEA database. Colorado dispensaries must input all sales into a state database starting July 1st. Thank you, Big Brother [cue music: David Bowie, "1984"].
  • DUI deaths are an acceptable casualty, just boys being boys; the first high-profile “medibles” death could collapse that state’s MIP [Marijuana Infused Products] industry. Other “concerned” states will quickly follow suit — to shield us from the deadly peril.

Dynamic laws which force businesses that jumped through every hoop and then some onto the streets is just one disturbing reason medical marijuana has become cannabis commerce’s ball and chain. Alas, we’re just warming up. Nine more reasons await. They come in varying shades of mischievous, wasteful, and ruinous.

Update 7/2/2011: Dynamic laws just hit close to home. Five blocks away, to be precise. I’d strolled over to Evergreen Apothecary to pick up a cone-shaped pre-roll, only to find shockwaves reverberating around the squeaky-clean establishment. Evergreen, like every other dispensary, has been waiting around since last summer for their license to be approved via the Department of Revenue’s invasive review process. They’ve also been bracing themselves, awaiting the final tally for their annual fees — which, by their best guess, shaped by their size and previous fees, should have come in at around $24,000.

Well, the staff had just received the news that the DOR wanted $70,000 blood money.

Hence the sense a hungry beaurocratic bear was swatting at their beehive.

No jokes about this one, folks. I really feel for them.