Jul 09 2009

Medical marijuana and artist grants

Posted by J. Craig Canada in business, Examiner.com
WeedTracker Employment Poll
Poll:  I -AM- a medical marijuana patient AND …

Red – am working but could not work or run my business unless I could medicate as necessary while working
Blue – am NOT working but could if I could medicate as necessary while working
Yellow – cannot work
Violet – can work and do not need to medicate while working

“People spend more money on medical marijuana than the entirety of the National Endowment for the Arts.”

The above quote is from an ABC news story of 3 Jul 09 about a delivery service in Los Angeles that is evidently attempting to use the promise of grants to “the arts” to legitimize their business and as an advertising ploy.

Their website claims:

This is an ongoing series, our story of how we lived it, worked it, and used the proceeds for true good.

Is one to understand that medical marijuana organizations are not a worthy cause?  That medical marijuana patients and collectives aren’t worth saving?  That would seem to be the message.

The news outlets are all atwitter about their use of Twitter to do business.  That’s a non-starter.  Delivery services have been using the internet and other electronic communications to do business since Sister Jane (Jane Weirick Carlson) started the holy COW (Compassion On Wheels) after the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club was raided in 1996.

Talk about art?  Sister Jane delivered (with or without nun’s habit) a decent $200 ounce.  Now that’s art.

On 23 Aug 2008 I posted a poll on Weedtracker concerning employment and medical marijuana.  Of those who responded, 31% are not working.  Of those, 8% can not work and 23% could work if they could medicate as necessary while working.  While the sample is admittedly small, it is reasonable to assume it is representative and provides good ballpark figures.  Because members of Weedtracker are more likely to be working in the medical marijuana industry and allowed to medicate as necessary while working, and also able to afford a computer and internet access, this 31% of medical marijuana patients that are unemployed and/or unemployable probably represents the floor of this demographic and not the ceiling.

Medical marijuana patients with serious illness (the ones most likely to subsist on Social Security disability) require an ounce or more a month.  Irvin Rosenfeld gets 11 ounces a month from the U.S. government.  Yes, that government stuff grown in Mississippi is crap, but 4 ounces a month of California bud is not at all unreasonable for all sorts of conditions.

The Artists Collective didn’t have prices on their website menu but the word is their compassion runs from $60 to $70 an eighth.  That works out to over $500/month for the typical medical marijuana patient that needs to medicate several times a day.  That is two-thirds or more of what someone on SSI receives per month, and about half of what someone on Social Security Disability receives.

A few days before ABC “broke” the story on Artists Collective (they’ve been after publicity for some time now) there was another story about another delivery service, The Green Cross in San Francisco.  To see their menu click on tab 01 from their homepage.  Notice their price is $310/ounce and they have specials as low as $250/ounce, about half what Artists Collective charges in the name of “charity”.

Except for a handful of rich celebrities, the people at the forefront of the medical marijuana movement are not just sick and tired and in pain, but they are poor.  They have lost pretty much everything to doctors and lawyers and pharmaceutical companies.  And many of them are losing their homes.  Most of those 31% who are not working probably subsist on Social Security disability.

Besides having far more month than medicine, these patients also have to worry about being evicted from their subsidized housing because they are medical marijuana patients.  There were 3 stories about this in the news last week.

NORML reports that pain clinics are subjecting pain patients to random drug tests and denying them prescription pain medications if they test positive for marijuana, even if they’re medical marijuana patients.  And they have to pay for the drug test.

A worthy cause

On the 23rd of this month Martin Victor goes to court.  The last I heard they don’t have the money to pay for a trial.

The Victors moved to Temecula near the Pechanga Resort and Casino in 1990.  LaVonne’s health began to fail in 1992.  By 2000 they were both medical marijuana patients and called the Temecula police to ask how to go about growing marijuana legally on their property.  Martin Victor said Temecula Chief of Police Jim Domenoe told him he could grow 15 plants.

The Victors only grew 12 plants, just to be safe.  They had never grown before and had no idea what the yield should be.  According to the police, when they raided the Victors in October of 2001 those 12 plants yielded 21 pounds.  Actually, it was 7.8 pounds stored in 106 rubber-sealed canning jars.

On Friday, 13 Sep 2002, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Rodney Walker ordered a pre-trial hearing on the pros and cons of marijuana.  In other words, the Victors not only had to defend themselves but also the law.  According to both the prosecution and defense this “trial before the trial” was highly unusual.  District Attorney Quinn Baransky said that in ten years of practice he had never participated in such a hearing before a motion to dismiss.

On 1 Dec 2003 the charges were dismissed after a two-minute hearing.  Martin told the Press-Enterprise, “I spent $30,000 and three years to pay a $100 fine.  I will never own my home. My children will never own my home. Honest to God, I have been an emotional wreck since this happened. When the police raided the house, my life went away.” District Attorney Baransky said it was never their intention to send the Victors to jail, “We wanted some acknowledgment of wrong-doing.”

Lavonne was 47 at the time and suffers multiple sclerosis, compressed vertebrae, emphysema, and panic attacks.  Martin was 51 and suffers from fibromyalgia and cluster headaches resulting from optical nerve damage.

On 22 Dec 2004 the Victors won a court order for the return of their marijuana related items, but not their 8 pounds of medicine or their seeds.

Lanny Swerdlow is the director of the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project in Palm Springs and has been working closely with Lavonne and Martin for a decade now.  In October of 2007 Lanny tried to attend a meeting organized by Paul Chabot, co-founder of the Inland Valley Drug Free Coalition.  Chabot was formerly a San Bernardino sheriff’s reserve deputy assigned to the department’s narcotics division.  Chabot, recognizing Lanny, attempted to block his access.  When Lanny, 62 years old, attempted to step past Chabot into the meeting Chabot accused him of battery and had Lanny arrested.  The trial was scheduled for Wednesday, 24 Sep 08 and Martin was scheduled to testify as an eye-witness on Lanny’s behalf.

On Friday, 19 Sep 2008 at about 5:30pm Martin & Lavonne were raided again.  By now they are running a 10-person collective with 50 to 70 plants and have been high-profile activists in the area for nearly a decade.  Martin was the only one arrested and jailed.  Lanny, miraculously, was able to make the $50,000 bail and get Martin out the next morning.  It is strongly suspected that the raid was to prevent Martin from testifying on Lanny’s behalf, that “they” did not believe Martin could make the exhorbitant bail.

According to Police Lieutenant Scott Collins, this time the Victors crime was that they didn’t have a non-profit business license and weren’t collecting sales tax.  And the neighbors weren’t happy about the 70 marijuana plants in the backyard.  The Victors  had been growing marijuana in their backyard for over 5 years at this point.

Lanny was found not-guilty on 24 Sep 08.  The next day the San Bernardino Sun reported that Lanny intended to file civil suits against Chabot, The Inland Valley Drug Free Community Coalition, San Bernardino County, and the City of Rancho Cucamonga.

Martin, the only one from the collective charged in the raid, was arraigned May 29th and is set for trial 23 July.  His attorney Zenia Gilg told  The Inland Empire Weekly before the arriagnment that she is confident she can prove he was compliant with all medical marijuana guidelines.  Not only did he have security cameras and alarms, but the crop was in a 10 foot high steel cage with a tamper-proof lock on it and his activities were registered as required by law.

Californians spent between $800 million and $2 billion on medical marijuana last year

This is according to Artists Collective.  It was on the home page of their website.  The next sentence reads, “If you care about the arts, we’re the service for you!”

When marijuana is legal and medical marijuana patients don’t have to go without medicine the last week of the month, when patients and co-ops and collectives aren’t fighting charges in court, when patients in subsidized housing aren’t being thrown out in the street; then it will be time for recreational users to save the arts.  Until then, charity begins at home.

Medical marijuana moves mainstream – The Mercury News | 30 Jun 09
Smoke Screen – Inland Empire Weekly | 21 May 09
Riverside Sheriffs Assault on Medical Marijuana Group – Inland Empire Marijuana Blog | 4 May 09
Marijuana activist acquitted in battery trial – The San Bernardino County Sun | 25 Sep 08
Employed, unemployable, and could work if could medicate while working – Weedtracker | 23 Aug 08
Couple hopes to create medical pot dispensary -The Press-Enterprise | 9 Jan 04
Pot case called ‘shift’ – The Press-Enterprise | 2 Dec 03
Judge orders hearing on pot as medicine – The Press-Enterprise | 13 Sep 03

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