This week the Congress Hotel was the site of the Canna Business Money Show. There is no doubt about it marijuana cultivating, dispensing and infusing in all manner of products is no hippie, long hair, bead wearing, beat up blue jeans and old Sargent Pepper reminiscent clothing industry. These were serious business people in attendance. The group of 150 people included doctors, lawyers, patients, government workers, bankers, investors and one press person, me.
I’m curious about this subject. Not only did I hit young adulthood in the 60”s I also went to medical school and did a year of internship. I have friends and associates who have unremitting medical condition misery that cannabis might help. Let me quote a woman I met at the conference. I asked her why she was attending. She told me that she has broken every bone in her body at some time and has constant pain. Her medication list was longer than I care to mention. The prescriptions she was taking to handle her pain were causing havoc on her liver. Her answer was smoking pot. She’s off the liver killing drugs and pretty much pain free. Is she addicted to pot? I asked this question. Her answer was absolutely, yes but she is no longer afraid of liver failure.
It’s also unquestionable that other forms of pain relief are addictive and the side effects are onerous. A friend in a mid-west state without medical marijuana legislation is battling drug addiction from pain killers that nearly caused the loss of her family. I hope she will soon have access to marijuana and that it will help her to reduce or eliminate her pain.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta did an about face on his stand against marijuana use. In his documentary “Weeds” he introduces his audience to Charlotte. Her parents were at wits end dealing with their child’s sometimes 300 seizures a week. The five year old had a dismal future before her very conservative parents decided to try pot as an answer. There is now a strain developed to battle Charlotte’s condition. “Charlotte’s Web” now brings relief to other children as well. It isn’t smoked. It’s administered orally.
Clearly there are medicinal benefits. As I reported earlier, this is not new information. So what is behind the reluctance of the Federal government and some states to legalize? N.Y. Times article by Adam Nagourney, (April 5, 2014, Despite Support in Party, Democratic Governors Resist Legalizing Marijuana) points to democratic governors who want to take a wait and see attitude. Mind you, this is not totally about medical use. It’s about legalization period. Even Jerry Brown of California, where there is medical marijuana use, is leery of legalization for adults in spite of polls that show 51% of adults support legalization. 60% of those are democrats, 54% independents and 44% are Tea Party members. Our national leaders are suffering from “tough on crime” hangover.
We all know the tough on crime stance didn’t work to diminish drug use. It did assist in putting millions of Americans in jail for cannabis use. In this week’s edition of The Week In Review Cook County Board President, Toni Preckwinkle responds to the Newsweek March 4, 2014 article “How Obama Care May Lower the Prison Population More Than Any Reform in a Generation”. She wrote, “I commend Newsweek for recognizing the vital connection between Obamacare and safe communities.” If you think this is a stretch from marijuana use to Affordable Care Act to community safety you need not stretch too far. The war on drugs scalped funds from mental health clinics. We closed mental health services. We locked up more people for marijuana use. We lost drug treatment funds. The Affordable Care Act will allow us to break some of this strangle hold by getting people, including prisoners much needed treatment. Bureau of Justice statistics found that 64% of inmates in state and federal prisons met the criteria for mental illness at the time of their booking or during the twelve months leading up to their arrest (www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/mhppjipr). The article also indicated that many of these individuals self-medicate with drug use. Needless to say many end up back in the system because they seek illegal drugs or sell to get necessities. The necessities don’t usually include medical care.
So our leaders are afraid to look like they are soft on crime but seemingly on board with slashing mental healthcare. Go figure.
The craziness has only fueled my interest in following the topic. When you look at the tax revenue being generated in Colorado in part due the legalization of marijuana for adult use, you have to wonder if any elected official of a state drowning in debt not willing to jump on the legalization band wagon is smoking something much stronger than pot. You hear things like they don't want to send a message to young people that drug use is acceptable. What about all those beer and liquor advertisements on television? I can’t remember when I’ve seen Scandal heroine, Olivia without a glass of wine or the Pres. without a shot of something stronger. We are a nation of hypocrites it seems.
Jerry Brown actually stated his concern that we, the American people would become a nation of stoned pot heads. I’m not really afraid that legalizing marijuana will be a slippery slope to massive drug use. Most of us wouldn't walk to the local Walgreens to buy heroin if we could.
What worries me is the tobacco industry getting in the business. Let’s not forget their record of making tobacco more and more addictive to keep people hooked. Where were our government leaders when that was going on? What about agribusiness involvement? They have a great track record of pumping our food with harmful chemicals, plumping our chickens to have breasts the size of some pre-historic bird creature and advertising themselves as “healthy” options. Yep these big businesses have their eyes on the prize of marijuana cultivation, dispensing and sales of infused products. Fortunately they didn’t rear their ugly heads at the conference this week but they were certainly mentioned. One Boston attorney admitted that he had been contacted by an unnamed tobacco company. The comment was followed by a murmur of obvious disgust. When I asked several attendees how they felt about selling out to big tobacco interest the unanimous decision was hell no. There is a passion in this group of entrepreneurs that speaks of family businesses for generations.
Personally I hope the American public will insist that local operations and socially responsible companies will have the lion’s share of this industry. There is no doubt that marijuana is coming. There’s too much money to be made. Let us insist that some of those funds go into improved mental health care, drug treatment and ancillary support for farmers of food crops that are safe to eat. Gov. Jerry, maybe a pot head can keep us out of more unnecessary wars. Peace out!
Next installment: Risky Business: The Problems of the Cash Only Marijuana Business