Weed on wheels is sign of acceptance
Dana Hull, McClatchy/Tribune news
July 9, 2009
SAN JOSE, Calif. - -- David Goldman has a chronic headache, but help
is on the way. A driver arrives at his apartment, checks Goldman's ID
card, then hands over a small bag of marijuana.
"It's really nice to have the convenience of delivery," said Goldman,
a retired teacher who orders medicinal marijuana about once a week
from The Green Cross, a medical marijuana delivery service. "I trust
their product, and their prices are competitive."
As Californians consider legalizing marijuana, The Green Cross in San
Francisco is a signal of just how mainstream pot has become. In some
ways, the medical marijuana dispensary is just like any other retail
business: It takes credit cards, it's reviewed on Yelp and it
promises delivery within an hour -- there's even a $10 discount if
the pot is late.
Since 1996, when California voters passed Proposition 215, medical
marijuana has moved steadily toward mainstream acceptance.
Thirteen states, including Maine, Michigan, Montana and New Mexico,
have passed laws allowing seriously ill patients access to it.
The Green Cross operates out of founder Kevin Reed's apartment. Here,
19 employees bake brownies and other "edibles" and assemble orders
from a changing menu of more than 40 strains of marijuana (an ounce is $310).
"Delivery is key because some of our patients literally cannot get
out of their beds," Reed said. "It's like hot pizza to me: Once an
order is in, you've got to get it out the door in 20 minutes."
High times in California for marijuana business
By Marcus Wohlsen and Lisa Leff
Jul. 19, 2009
SAN FRANCISCO A drug deal plays out, California-style: A
conservatively dressed courier drives a company-leased Smart Car to
an apartment on a weekday afternoon. Erick Alvaro hands over a white
paper bag to his 58-year-old customer, who inspects the bag to ensure
everything he ordered over the phone is there.
An eighth-ounce of organic marijuana buds for treating his seasonal
allergies? Check. An eighth of a different pot strain for insomnia?
Check. THC-infused lozenges and tea bags? Check and check, with a
free herb-laced cookie thrown in as a thank-you gift.
It's a $102 credit-card transaction carried out with the practiced
efficiency of a home-delivered pizza and with just about as much
More and more, having premium pot delivered to your door in
California is not a crime. It is a legitimate business.
Marijuana has transformed California. Since the state became the
first to legalize the drug for medicinal use, the weed the federal
government puts in the same category as heroin and cocaine has become
a major economic force.
No longer relegated to the underground, pot in California these days
props up local economies, mints millionaires and feeds a thriving
industry of startups designed to grow, market and distribute the drug.
Based on the quantity of marijuana authorities seized last year, the
crop was worth an estimated $17 billion or more, dwarfing any other
sector of the state's agricultural economy.
Experts say most of that marijuana is still sold as a recreational
drug on the black market. But more recently the plant has put down
deep financial roots in highly visible, taxpaying businesses.
Stores that sell high-tech marijuana growing equipment. Pot clubs
that pay rent and hire workers. Marijuana-themed magazines and food
products. Chains of for-profit clinics with doctors who specialize in
medical marijuana recommendations.
The plant's prominence does not come without costs, some critics say.
Marijuana plantations in remote forests cause severe environmental
damage. Indoor grow houses in some towns put rentals beyond the reach
of students and young families. Rural counties with declining
economies cannot attract new businesses because the available work
force is caught up in the pot industry. Authorities link the drug to
violent crime in otherwise quiet small towns.
"For those of us who are on the front lines, it's not about 'pot is
bad in itself' or 'drugs are bad,'" said Meredith Lintott, district
attorney in Mendocino County, one of the country's top
"It's about the negative consequences on children. It's about the
negative consequences on the environment."
Still, the sheer scale of the overall pot economy has some lawmakers
pushing for broader legalization as a way to shore up the finances of
a state that has teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. The state's top
tax collector estimates that taxing pot like liquor could bring in
more than $1.3 billion a year.
On Tuesday, Oakland will consider a measure to tax the city's four
marijuana dispensaries, which the city auditor projects will ring up
$17.5 million in sales in 2010. The city faces an $83 million budget
shortfall, and expects the marijuana tax to raise $315,000.
Advocates point out that making pot legal would create millions, or
even billions, of dollars more in indirect sales the ingredients
used to make edible pot products, advertising, tourism and smoking
With a recent poll showing more than half of Californians supporting
legalization, pot advocates believe they will prevail. And they say
other states will follow.