The New Yorker has a fascinating in-depth piece about the effect that the legalization of medicinal marijuana usage is having on the now semi-legal pot economy in California, which is centered around proliferating cannabis dispensaries, and is stimulating a thriving subculture of growers and buyers infused with organic food and Tibetan prayer flags:
Since 1996, when a referendum known as Proposition 215 was approved by California voters, it has been legal, under California state law, for authorized patients to possess or cultivate the drug. The proposition also allowed a grower to cultivate marijuana for a patient, as long as he had been designated a “primary caregiver” by that patient. …The language of the proposition was intentionally broad, covering any medical condition for which a licensed physician might judge marijuana to be an appropriate remedy—insomnia, say, or attention-deficit disorder.
…The [Tibetan prayer] flags identify their owners with serenity and the conscious path, rather than with the sinister world of urban dope dealers, who flaunt muscles and guns, and charge exorbitant prices for mediocre product. …The people I met in the high-end ganja business had an affinity for higher modes of thinking and being, including vegetarianism and eating organic food, practicing yoga, avoiding prescription drugs in favor of holistic healing methods, travelling to Indonesia and Thailand, fasting, and experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs. Many were also financially savvy, working long hours and making six-figure incomes.
…The limited legal protections afforded to pot growers and dispensary owners have turned marijuana cultivation and distribution in California into a classic “gray area” business, like gambling or strip clubs, which are tolerated or not, to varying degrees, depending on where you live and on how aggressive your local sheriff is feeling that afternoon.
…Only a small percentage of consumer marijuana sales in California occur within the medical-marijuana market. Even so, the dispensaries, by serving as a gold standard for producers and consumers, have fuelled the popularity of high-end strains in much the same way that the popularity of the Whole Foods grocery chain has brought heirloom lettuce to ordinary supermarkets. To serve these sophisticated new consumers, growers in California and elsewhere are producing hundreds of exotic new strains, whose effects are more varied, subtle, and powerful than the street-level pot available to tokers in the nineteen-seventies and eighties.
…Medical marijuana has made it easy for people like Emily, the Kid, and Captain Blue to see growing pot as a casual life-style choice. By going into the pot business, Emily had made the kind of compromise with reality that idealistic people often make when they get older and lose faith in their ability to effect wholesale change, and when they need the money.
Growing ganja lets you feel that you’re still living on the edge, especially when you’ve become a little complacent politically. Emily nodded, and took another puff. “The forest is still getting cut down or whatever,” she said, watching the fragrant smoke swirl in the breeze. “But you’re still working out here. You’re still subverting the Man. And you’re getting people high.”
This just might be the future of cannabis in the rest of America. Anyway, the article’s a lot more informative/reality-based than the various plot machinations of Weeds, which until now has been my main source of knowledge about the American shadow marijuana economy.
The New Yorker: Dr. Kush: How Medical Marijuana is Transforming the Pot Industry