Recently, Health Canada met with med pot industry representatives and individual dispensary spokespeople, of which a certain Marc Boris St. Maurice was one. According to St. Maurice, this exchange occurred:
Health Canada: “What are the minimum requirements, in your opinion, for the person in charge of quality?”
Marc Boris St. Maurice: “I think you would need someone with both microbiology experience and someone who has experience cultivating.”
Now I assume that the reason Mr. St. Maurice brought up “microbiology” was that, sometimes, there are mold problems with cannabis growing. An activist who was concerned with making sure that the cannabis economy wouldn’t become some sort of super-stratified market that only those who could afford thousands of dollars of tuition to get a degree in microbiology in order to participate in might have suggested that standards could be set up that would allow med pot dispensary owners to take their cannabis in for testing to a laboratory.
To his credit, St. Maurice did say, “I’m of the opinion it would be wrong to exclude people who have a record of marijuana production, because they have the experience. It’d be like having a gay rights club and only letting straight people in.”
St. Maurice is right about that. Nobody should be prevented from selling pot just because they have had legal problems from selling pot in the past. In fact, the only reason I can think of for excluding someone from selling pot is that they were convicted of either 1) committing fraud, or 2) poisoning someone. It actually makes sense to allow the previously-criminal and previously-violent people to quit their life of crime and turn over a new pot-leaf – call it the “swords into plowshares” transformation of the black market economy. It will allow us to transform the majority of the black market into a legit, respectable market, and give the dangerous people amongst us a real incentive to be of good behaviour.
But just as it makes no sense to exclude the legally-compromised folks from the economy, it makes no sense to prevent someone without a microbiology degree from selling cannabis, or other dried herbs, or food produce, or anything else that could mould. It makes no sense to prevent people without microbiology degrees from participating in the cannabis economy … unless, perhaps, you’re trying to make points with those who favor hierarchical, economically-stratified, tuition-limiting, power-tripping control freaks by telling them what you think they want to hear.
The rest of the non-pot economy operates on a “those with money enough for tuition should be the only ones allowed to make lots of money”, so why not take the one economy that doesn’t work that way – cannabis – and make it more in line with the way the rest of the world works? It sure would prevent those without money from getting too uppity or out of control. I am 100% certain that the people in control would love to hear that from all the pot activists, just as I am 100% certain there will be opportunists who wish to become – and understand what they must say to become – the people in control.
I see the same sort of “pot economy exclusivizing” attempts happening in the USA. There have been some concerns about how little regulations there are in the California med pot market. Most of the articulated concerns there center around dispensaries using “sexy nurses” to sell pot. Here are a few links:
One of these, the “Medical Marijuana Regulation and Control Act” (MMRCA) is similar to Americans for Safe Access’s “Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act” (MMRCTA).
They both make the same fundamental errors: they both
- require everyone in the med pot industry – including drivers – to register, thus making it easy and cost effective for the Feds to – with a single subpoena – find out who everyone is and charge everyone,
- make it very easy to set a limit of one dispensary per 50,000 people, thus creating a monopoly or cartel. In comparison, there is a limit of one wine retail outlet per 1,250 residents in big cities and one wine retail outlet per 2,500 residents in smaller towns.
- create a med pot bureaucracy that is open to corruption instead of setting up transparent standards that make it easy for everyone to comply without having to know or kiss up to anyone, making corruption nearly impossible.
- allow the licensing board to drag it’s heels for six months deciding whether or not to allow you to sell pot while you must pay rent on the location you’ve chosen to sell pot from – ensuring only the rich will be able to open up a retail outlet.
I spoke over the phone with Valerie Corral, the co-founder/director of the longest running medical marijuana distribution operation in the world – the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM – founded in 1993).
She pointed out that over-regulating the med pot industry in Colorado has not stopped the Feds from raiding – and local governments from banning – med pot dispensaries there. She’s right:
The Colorado Medical Marijuana Registry, which is already in effect, stipulates that;
ii) “Primary care-giver” means a person other than the patient and the patient’s physician, who is eighteen years of age or older and has significant responsibility for managing the wellbeing of a patient who has a debilitating medical condition. A person shall be listed as a primary care-giver for no more than five patients in the medical marijuana program registry at any given time unless a waiver has been granted for exceptional circumstances, as per Regulation Ten below.
But when one goes on to read “Regulation Ten”, it is unclear what “circumstances” allows one to qualify for such a waiver.
Valerie Corral pointed out:
The Colorado initiative would prevent WAMM from serving the sick, dying, and financially marginalized patients. In Colorado there is no part of the law that encourages service to the poor in the form of the true collective. In fact, their regulations encourage an entrepreneurial model, with service to the patient at the bottom.
It’s the same story of rich protecting their interests. As multinational pharmaceutical mogul GW Pharmaceuticals, and others in the competitive corporate market prepare to assume control of the medical marijuana industry and its potential mult-billion dollar industry, the question arises; could we as the fundamental force behind this movement do something besides join in the struggle to become corporate idealist?
Did we completely miss our opportunity to create a unified force and not succumb to becoming the pharmaceutical industry?
Ordinary people, growers, collective participants, old school activists with honest standards can’t afford to be a part of this mega-dollar industry. But mostly it is the marginalized patient who suffers. In Colorado, they have extremely rigid standards – 24 hour surveillance – and no mechanism to serve the poor. When they created a regulatory system in Santa Cruz county, they also wrote in a exemption that allows for pre-existing collectives. There are no such exemptions in any of the present California State-wide medical marijuana regulations. In fact one threatens to eliminate WAMM. How could they be so ignorant as to betray history?
I don’t think it is as intentional as it is a fundamental flaw in the way they see their future roles. Some of these activist lawmakers actually think that they will become the new corporation. I just don’t believe that the corporate power wielders perceive a potential $12.5 million industry as something that they care to share.
She sent me the link to the Colorado MM Registry on her work computer, a twelve-year-old beast. Corral has, virtually, taken an oath of poverty and hardly takes enough in donations to meet her basic necessities. I believe that people should have the right to choose to live that way, but that any med pot regulations that do not allow people to choose to make enough money for dentistry or computers or vacations or raising children (including providing tuition for them) was unjust.
In the process of fact-checking the story, Corral corrected me a little:
I haven’t taken an oath of poverty. On the contrary I am extremely fortunate and through the strangest set of circumstances, I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. For how much longer I cannot say. But that is for many reasons. I just prefer to work with people than I do with pot (as you call it). I am now writing you from my MacBook Pro.
Shouldn’t you ask who you serve what they want before you give it to them? Long ago Ross Perot flew frozen turkeys to Indonesia for relief after a Hurricane … problem was that Indonesians don’t eat frozen turkeys – they sat rotting on the runway. People should consult with us before regulating us. They didn’t.
Had we – the Californian cannabis community – coalesced into a unified force, devoted to the mission we convinced Californians that we were committed to, to service, transparency, and accountability, we would have created an infallible model. Instead of taking us out one by one, we could have become a union of service, an invincible force. But we didn’t, and now we are suffering from the problems we have engendered; presuming that the mega-corporations want us at the table. Not likely.
I asked her about Dennis Peron, and how he was allowed to make enough money to be politically-active, and whether or not she thought he should have been able to do so:
The whole origin of medical marijuana activists came out of gay men who were tired of being beaten and slammed. When it came to medical marijuana – they just put it down on the list of all the shit they already had to deal with. Dennis is a revolutionary. But it’s not about revolution, it’s about evolution, John Trudell so aptly told me… we don’t need to revolve back to where we were, he said … we need to evolve beyond.
I agree with Corral that had nobody attempted to create a cannabis cartel with Prop 19 and everyone had focused on putting the patient first, to being accountable and transparent, the movement would have been much harder to attack than it has been.
I feel that people who wish to earn a living from selling cannabis should be able to do so – or continue to do so. I just don’t believe that one person should be making all of – or most of – the money.
What we should be united around is the right to be equal with the wine grape growers and wine merchants – and eventually the coffee bean growers and coffee merchants. These growers and merchants don’t have to pay tuition for a degree in microbiology (or anything else) in order to be legitimate, they don’t have to close down if they’re 1000 feet from a school, they don’t have to wait six months for a license, and they are not limited to one retail outlet per 50,000 residents.
If these merchants choose to run a not-for-profit operation they have that freedom, but they can also make a decent living for themselves. No one person or group is allowed to monopolize the sales of all the wine or all the coffee.
If we all unite together and demand equality with these other substance providers, everyone will have enough for our needs – without all the greed.