Marijuana in California
What is Prop 19?
Proposition 19 states that medical marijuana is legal at the state level, despite being illegal at the Federal level. The state can gain funds through taxing the drug and local officials can't incriminate anyone for growing 6 plants or carrying under an ounce on their person.
- District of Columbia (DC)
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
Marijuana is totted as helping many disorders, something like an umbrella drug, there are few disorders doctors can deny a prescription for. For example, marijuana is commonly prescribed for sleep issues, yet no one can prove their inability to get shut eye- making it nearly impossible for doctors to discern real patients from sneaky stoners.
Some argue that by making the drug more accessible, more people will begin smoking it. Of course others don't see anything wrong with that. A police officer once told me he never had issues from a marijuana smoker but he dealt with violent drunks every night. Yet which one is legal in all states?
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In California, and many other US States, weed is now legal. It was reported that Los Angeles County had more medical marijuana dispensaries than it did McDonald
“It sucked buying it on the streets,” twenty-two year old Jonathon* takes a break from his busy work day to share with me, “ it’s much better now that I can buy weed at a clinic.”
Jonathon isn’t alone with over 200,000 California residents registered medical marijuana card holders, meaning they can carry up to an ounce of weed, grow 6 plants, and stroll into a store to purchase all their cannabis needs.
Medical Marijuana Card
“Anyone who smokes weed should invest in a card,” Jonathon advises, "mostly for legal reasons."
Jonathon knew that a medical marijuana card existed long before he got his hands on one. “I got one sometime after I turned 21.” He tells me, 21 being the buzz-age to legally apply for a card or a “recommendation,” as Jonathon refers to it as. Some doctors will make an exception for those over 18 who bring in their parents and a legitimate reason.
To get a prescription for any drug, you must get a doctor’s recommendation before purchasing it at the pharmacy. A few years ago a nervous Jonathon went to his scheduled appointment at what he thought to be a reputable company called CalMeds420. He refers to the family run business as "packed and unprofessional." After checking in at the front desk, he was forced to wait standing, all of the chairs occupied. Waiting for his name to be called by the only doctor on duty, he held in his hands all of the scans and notes from his regular physician, assuming that serious proof would be necessary to get a recommendation. "I was in the room for no more than five minutes." He tells me, still a little shocked about how relaxed and uncaring Dr. Sidransky was.
Every year recommendations expire and individuals are expected to get theirs renewed. Jonathon’s renewal was a breeze, he only had to pay a fee and speak with a nurse at the front counter. Five months later, when stomach pains drove him to a nearby clinic, he learned that his pricey recommendation was invalid seven months short of its expiration date.
As any businessman would, Jonathon immediately gave CalMeds420 a call, only to be told that the doctor he had seen- Dr. Rodney Sidransky- was “sketchy” and had not paid his dues, leaving all of his patients invalid. They told him to come back in and have the new doctor rewrite a valid recommendation. When he asked if they’d discount the price, considering they made money from his transaction and should be liable for their in-house doctors, he was told that he would have to pay the full price. Somehow it wasn’t their fault that the doctor they hired was “sketchy.”
Medical Marijuana Dispensary
Just as Jonathon was nervous getting his card, going to a clinic for the first time wasn’t any easier. He admits, “I had no idea what to expect…” What he found was an overabundance of locations, each run by younger and rather laid-back individuals. The actual store owners almost always work in their clinics, even the successful ones don’t make enough (especially after taxes) to hire much staff.
The clients are a much more varied group that would likely surprise many. Jonathan tells me they are typically older and oftentimes even he is put-off to see a professional older woman standing in line behind him- “it just completely blows apart all stereotypes people have about ‘stoners’.” He lightheartedly says with a chuckle.
Clinic operators might be laid back but they are strict on policy. Without your complete papers in hand, no clinic will let you into the “bud room,” or back behind the waiting room doors. Some clinics even hire burley security guards to man the doors, making sure no sneaky thieves or unlicensed patients can crash the party.
Despite the fact clinics are legal at the State level, marijuana is still illegal at the Federal level. This discretion has created a lot of issues for clinics, as the federal government uses their unbridled power to continue the pointless war on drugs.
Because of this, clinics are strict, and the ones that remain open are only getting stricter. When the Federal clinic raids began in January of 2012, many storefronts were forced to close their doors for good. The few that remain open are overly cautious, knowing one minor misstep and they could lose it all.
It all started when the Federal Drug Enforcement warned landlords to evict any tenants running marijuana dispensaries. Faced with persecution or even seizure of their land, landlords had their hands tied, bullied into evicting the businesses paying rent each month. Threats weren't enough, the FDE wanted to make a point. In one day they raided through three clinics; all ending in arrests and confiscated property. Just as they threatened, this was only the beginning. In handfuls clinics started shutting down, “I hate going to clinics now because there’s always that fear of a raid.” Jonathon shares, although he’s never seen a raid first hand. As far he’s heard, there haven’t been many raids in San Diego lately. He guesses because most shops were put out of business earlier this year.
Regardless of ones position on the matter, these raids have hurt the local economy by leaving land owners without tenants and decreasing the amount of taxes debt-ridden California can collect.
*Name has been changed