By Mark Cromer
May 6 2010
Maybe somewhere high above L.A., on a big, wispy puff of a
magic-dragon cloud, Daryl Gates found himself with Jack Herer looking
down on his old, literal stomping grounds.
What the heavenly odd couple, who died a day apart in mid-April,
might have thought as they mulled over a gathering tribe downtown in
the City of Angels is anyone's cosmic guess even if the former LAPD
chief made no apologies for shining his shoes on hippie ass, and the
earthy ganja activist's life was dedicated to legalizing the sweet
leaf of cannabis.
But Gates and Herer surely would have shaken their heads as they
watched the second annual THC Expose unfold at the L.A. Convention
Center on April 23-25.
For Gates, the thousands of marijuana lovers who poured into the
venue to inhale all things intoxicatedly green must have been a
nightmarish trip from the Reefer Madness era, when he first joined
the force, in 1949.
For Herer, whose name and visage could be glimpsed everywhere on the
convention floor, it would have to have been the finest shotgun hit
from Earth to divinity: Cheech & Chong Telegraph Jack.
Let's be clear, for all the jargon about "medicine" and "patients,"
the pot convention that rolled into L.A. was dedicated more to
getting stoned than getting better.
Memo to Philip Morris: The Stoner Nation has arrived.
Naturally, L.A. helped it shine, with aisles upon aisles of vendors
hawking all things marijuana. Traditional paraphernalia from Bob
Marley's era vied for dollars with vaporizers, pot tees, pot
adornments and, of course, nubile pot models.
Clazina Rose, a 22-year-old doe-eyed honey from Orange County, who
wore a plastic pot-leaf lei and worked a table for a Long Beach
dispensary, gushed like a pageant hopeful that she wanted peace, love
and a healthy buzz for the people of Earth. "I hope to be Miss High
Times 2011," she said. "I just want to educate everyone. I'm brushing
up on my Dutch in case I get to go to Amsterdam."
Martin "Bucky" Fisher, a veteran of the pot wars and national sales
manager of Medical Marijuana Inc., effused about keeping sales of the
sacrament out of the hands of corporate poachers.
"We want a million people in our network, who are ready to distribute
when it becomes legal," Fisher said. "When we can market the product
itself, we'd like to keep it among the little guys, who have been
doing it for a long time."
For merchants like Denis Buj, some megacorporate competitors may not
seem as far-fetched as they might have even five years ago.
Buj is a Canadian whose company has developed Spinner Hydroponics. He
declared the L.A. cannabis conference a portent far more powerful
than the dispensaries springing up like so many mushrooms. "This THC
Expose has blown the doors off this issue," Buj said. Now we're not
beating around the bush, so to speak."
And that's what concerns L.A. County Sheriff's Department Senior
Narcotics Detective Glenn Walsh. Walsh said the sale of medical
marijuana has likely bumped traditional, nonprescription sales upward.
"We look at the abuse triangle: accessibility, acceptability and
affordability," Walsh said. "You establish that, and use of marijuana
While hard numbers seemed elusive, both Walsh and the conventioneers
said that prices offered by dispensaries are slightly higher than
street dope, but as much for experience and environment as for the
higher-grade product. But Walsh maintained that this dynamic will
evaporate with legalization. "Just as soon as the THC level is
regulated like the alcohol content in beer is, the street dealers
will offer higher grades," he predicted.
While the acolytes at the convention made a powerful case for final
legalization, Walsh offered a full-throated argument against it.
Citing the linear trajectory of legislation like Prop. 215 in 1996
and SB420 in 2003 (yes, that's Senate Bill 420), Walsh cited the
cynical mass gaming of laws ostensibly passed to offer terminal AIDS
and cancer patients some limited legal shelter if they wanted to use
pot in their twilight days.
Walsh said some dealers have storefronts throughout L.A. that sell
dope to tens of thousands of "patients," and the wholesale supply
chain remains shrouded in, at least publicly, smoke. It has been a
rapid erosion abetted by cowardice that courses through City Hall,
the Kenneth Hahn Building and on, to Sacramento and Washington, D.C.,
he said. "The politicians are afraid to take a stand," Walsh said.
That might come as a darkly rich 90-point headline to many of the
potheads cruising the L.A. Convention Center, who spoke of
dispensaries being shut down almost as fast they open, and that the
city is prepared to whack out the vast majority of existing dispensaries.
But Walsh insists that a relentless game of semantic gymnastics and a
tainted if not blind eye to widespread abuse has brought Los Angeles
and the state to the precipice.
Oddly, Walsh's ultimate assessment seemed shared by many at the
convention. Though they insisted the laws are helping people battle
myriad ailments with a long-suppressed remedy, they too seemed to see
the convention as a sign that the societal floodgates are creaking.
There was a giddiness that these gates are about to break wide open.
"This is about culture, not consumption," Buj said.
Perhaps; Gates and Herer, if they were on that cloud looking down,
might at least agree on that.
Mark Cromer can be reached at email@example.com.
Is Marijuana a Hidden Cash Crop for Litchfield County?
May 06, 2010
By Max Wittstein
CORNWALLThe arrest last week of a Goshen man for allegedly
cultivating marijuana on an Everest Hill propertya privately-owned
site but not his propertyraises questions about the degree to which
illegal drugs are being harvested in the wilds of Litchfield County.
Gary Hall, 54, was pursued and arrested by state Department of
Environmental Protection EnCon officers, who found 26 mature
marijuana plants on the site. Mr. Hall later consented to a search of
his home in Goshen, where officers found 241 smaller plants, $5,000
in cash and 17 firearms.
Mr. Hall is scheduled to appear Monday in Litchfield Superior Court.
Cornwall First Selectman Gordon Ridgway declined to comment on the
arrest. A post on the Cornwall Community Network, the town's official
online message board, linked to a Hartford Courant story about the
arrest, with a reader's comment saying, "Oh darn, so much for the
summer local supply."
Further posts were made debating the arrest and Mr. Hall's relation
to area residents with the same surname, but they are no longer on
the Cornwall site.
While the county is still far behind such areas as Humboldt County,
Calif.where hydroponic marijuna farming is such a vital part of the
economy that residents are in an uproar over what legalization would
do to drive prices downmarijuana operations are definitely present
in the area.
Covered in forests and farmland, the region offers the potential for
secretive gardeners to stake out a plot. In fact, the problem is
greater than many residents realize, according to Norfolk Resident
State Trooper Greg Naylor, who says that marijuana farming has been a
consistent problem for law enforcement, even with the high-tech
military equipment that the State Police Narcotics Unit has at its disposal.
"The more rural an area, the more favorable it is for the grower,"
said Trooper Naylor, who has been Norfolk's resident trooper for five
of his 13 years with the State Police. "For towns with no residential
trooper, statistically it'll go in the cultivator's favor. Do we have
enough time to be out of our cars looking for this? Of course not.
The state narcotics unit uses aircraft, and the DEP is obviously
aware of it as well, but it has limited time, manpower, and funding."
An irony of Mr. Hall's arrest on Everest Hill was that the EnCon
police were pursuing him and a fellow suspectwhom police say they
have identified but not yet arrestedbecause they were wearing
camouflage, and therefore were suspected of illegally hunting
turkeys. While the DEP does not actively pursue drug cultivators,
marijuana farms can and do cause substantial environmental harm, with
littering and irresponsible farming practices.
"Any operation like that that's illegal, they're obviously conducting
business without standards or monitoring, so of course they're not
going to conduct business in accordance with the green laws," said
Trooper Naylor. "It's left to the unknown as far as harmful
fertilizers, pesticides, cutting down forests, land erosion and so
forth, especially some of the larger operations. And again, they're
not using proper sediment retainers or irrigation systems."
Litchfield County, despite its affluence and reputation as a
second-home haven, still has enough of the stereotypical 18-to-25
marijuana-smoking demographic to create a market. In 2006, the
Litchfield Superior Court attracted widespread attentionand
indignant condemnation from High Times Magazine, naturallyfor
ordering Winsted resident Christopher Seekins, then 26, to remove
marijuana leaves he had painted on his High Street home as part of a
plea agreement that would avoid jail time for drug possession.
The bust in Cornwall could have been a small windfall for the town in
taxes levied on Mr. Hall, if State Rep. Robert Kane (R-Watertown) had
gotten his way. A bill submitted by Mr. Kane this legislative session
proposed taxing possessors of marijuana $3.50 a gram, with the
revenue going to the town where the bust occurred. The bill died in
committee, but Mr. Kane hopes to add to add it as an amendment on
another bill in the future.
The bill alters a tax that has been in the Connecticut General
Statutes since 1991 but is not enforced, Mr. Kane said, and by
sending the revenue directly to towns where the marijuana is found
rather than the state's general fund, it would both discourage
marijuana cultivation and provide towns with funds that they badly
need in this cash-strapped state, he explained.
"I don't think people understand the bill," he said. "We're not
promoting legalization of marijuana … . We are using this tax to
curtail its use and sale. People don't understand the revenue this
could bring to the towns; the bill has been around for years, and my
change is to give it to the towns directly and bypass the Department
of Revenue Services. The problem is, right now there's no incentive
for the towns to do it or the police or the DRS, so we're not doing it."
Mr. Kane said that the tax would not be dependent on whether a person
was convicted. Being a civil matter it would have nothing to do with
"It's a civil tax," Mr. Kane added. "Just like you're taxed on your
car or home, you'd be taxed on the possession of that narcotic."
With regard to a person arrested for possession but later being found
innocent, however, Mr. Kane said that whether the tax was voided or
refunded would be "a matter for the courts."
Trooper Naylor, who also teaches the State Police drug education
program called DARE, said that he welcomed the tax if it offered a
disincentive to potential drug growers, or pushed them to move their
activities outside of the state.
"Drug dealers' proceeds are certainly profitable in themselves," said
Trooper Naylor. "It's the number one industry in the world, as far as
revenue production, and there's already existing statutes on the
books through federal law with RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt
Organizations Act). If it were to piggyback on existing statutes, and
in a simple system not burdened with a tremendous amount of
bureaucracy, absolutely, it would be effective."
Sgt. Shawn Corey of the Connecticut State Police said, however, that
the potential legislation leaves a lot of unanswered questions.
"You'd be basing this on whether the offenders had the financial
ability to pay," said Sgt. Corey. "What do you when they don't? A lot
of these people may not even have bank accounts."
Ex-'High Times' editor, retired DEA agent debate
May 8, 2010
By Jennifer Abel
NEW BRITAIN In the U.S., marijuana has been illegal since 1937.
Should it be made legal again? That was the question Steven Hager,
former editor of High Times magazine, and Bob Stutman, retired DEA
agent, debated at Central Connecticut State University Thursday
night, at an event sponsored by the campus chapter of National
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Hager kicked off the debate by listing his reasons to legalize it:.
One, "It is good medicine." Hager cited studies showing medicinal
benefits marijuana has for those suffering from AIDS, cancer,
multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and other illnesses. However, he
pointed out, the federal government lists marijuana as a Schedule 1
drug, the status reserved for substances with no medicinal value.
"No medicinal value! That's the equivalent of standing in the middle
of a hurricane and having government tell you 'The wind isn't
blowing,'" he said.
Hager also said pharmaceutical companies oppose legalization. "They
don't have problems with you getting high they've got amphetamines
[and many other intoxicating substances]. They want to get paid." By
contrast, he said, if you grow marijuana "you and your grand-kids
have free medicine for the rest of your lives."
Stutman rebutted that point. "Steve said marijuana will never become
a medicine because pharmaceutical companies won't accept
However, he said, penicillin is most pharmaceutical companies'
best-selling drug, and comes from bread mold a natural substance.
Hager responded by asking the audience how many of them knew people
who whipped up their own batch of penicillin when they got sick (no
hands went up) and then how many knew people who raised their own
marijuana (dozens of hands went up).
Hager's second reason for legalization was, "Hemp is good for the
environment." He discussed hemp's role in American history. George
Washington encouraged farmers to grow it, as it was used to make
rope, cloth and hundreds of other necessities. "It wasn't even called
marijuana until [the 1936 movie] 'Reefer Madness.' They gave it a
Mexican name to confuse people."
Hager also said that hemp was formerly used to make plastics,
cellophane, and hundreds of other items now made from petrochemicals
instead, thus contributing to environmental damage.
Stutman's rebuttal was that hemp products are not very good. As an
example, he said Canada legalized hemp farming in 1999, and the
country had over 270 hemp farms, Today, he said, there are only six
hemp farms in the country. The others all went bankrupt. "If hemp is
so great, why did they go bankrupt?"
Hager's third point was that the U.S. has by far the largest prison
system in the world and criticized the disproportionate sentences
handed out to drug offenders: "Take someone growing marijuana in his
basement, maybe because he has MS, maybe he just wants to get high,
the government doesn't care." The government would prosecute as
though each individual marijuana seed were a full-grown plant,
mandatory minimum sentencing would ensure a very long stint in prison
for the growers, and "There's no mandatory minimum for rapists or
murderers, but we have mandatory minimums for glaucoma patients," he said.
Here there was agreement. "I don't think anyone should be thrown in
prison for the use of any drug. That is a stupid government policy
that gets us nowhere," said Stutman.
Hager's fourth point was, "We've got to stop funding corruption."
Marijuana, essentially a weed, can grow almost anywhere in the world.
"The real price of marijuana isn't $5,000 a pound. It's a dollar a
pound. The other $4,999 goes to criminals." Illegal drugs is a $500
billion a year business, and "$500 billion a year buys a lot of dirty
cops, and it always will."
Stutman said that merely legalizing marijuana would not put the drug
cartels out of business, to do that would require the legalization of
Hager's fifth reason for legalization was "It's part of my culture."
He talked about going to the 1969 Woodstock festival, and among half
a million people "I never saw a fight break out. Despite how the
media portrays us, we are good people. We raised our kids and
grand-kids ... as American as apple pie, rock and roll and baseball."
Arguing against legalization, Stutman said "If we legalize marijuana
we will have far more users" and more car accidents if people drive
after smoking it. NORML's own Web site tells people never to drive
after using cannabis he said. He also said marijuana can cause cancer
by interfering with DNA.
In rebuttal, Hager discussed the marijuana scare stories of the past.
When he was in high school, young men were warned smoking marijuana
would cause them to develop "large breasts like Dolly Parton," which
never happened. Later, he said, the warning was that marijuana would
cause sterility, which also never happened.
However, Hager said, smoking anything is a bad idea, which is why he
said anyone using marijuana should "vaporize it, drink it in tea or
eat it in brownies," so the bad effects of smoking would not be an issue.