Laura Dvorak 5:47 p.m., Dec. 6
Putting Americans to Work
Following the President’s recent speech at Lehigh University, a “bold” student suggested that the President consider some unconventional tactics to help "stimulate" the economy. These suggestions involved the issues surrounding Marijuana, Prostitution, and Gambling. I would like to be bold also, to propose two solutions that not only would put American’s back to work, it would also help solve some social problems that have not been adequately addressed. Also, in a recent article in San Diego City Beat, December 9, 2009, The Front Lines, After-burn, there was a paragraph to the effect that the [U.S. Attorney’s Office] said “there is no such thing as medical marijuana under federal law.” This statement is disingenuous at best. The government has been growing some of the finest weed for about 50 years now. See: http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/05/18/government.marijuana.garden/index.html
Up until around 1992, the government was supplying medical marijuana to those who applied. There may still be a few patients receiving it. A man named Robert Randall, who was suffering from glaucoma, allegedly received enough marijuana through this program to allow him to smoke 10 joints a day for 21 years.
My solutions would also enable the existing framework of our judicial system to have the tools that they need to deal with the criminal side of the issue.
What got me thinking about this was an article in Sunday's San Diego Union-Tribune, December 6, 2009, B1, "Medical marijuana dispensaries on city agenda", and would like to offer my two cents worth on the way this would be done in a perfect world. Probably some of my ideas are fairly idealistic, or otherwise unworkable, but maybe they will "plant a seed" that will bear fruit in these discussions. If I use somewhat colorful words, please excuse me. It helps me think. Please pass these comments/ideas to the President’s job recovery task force, and any staffers that are working on the job recovery issue.
For reference on the technicalities of cultivating marijuana, you can refer to: Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower's Bible. This is an impressive and weighty tome of 500+ pages.
(1) The first thing is, if we are going to prescribe marijuana as a medicine, then treat it like a regulated drug. The controls in place for patients prescribed pain relievers, such as Oxycontin should apply to patients being prescribed Marijuana/THC. Shut down those prescription mills that have been set up solely to issue Medical Marijuana ID cards. I think that a reputable doctor of medicine, seeing a patient during the normal course of their practice, could make the decision, based on medical necessity, and efficacy to write a prescription for Marijuana or THC pills, just as easily as for any other drug. The prescription could then be brought to one of my newly proposed, Government and State regulated, Comfort Care Facilities.
(2) Where would this marijuana come from? I think that it is obscene and a middle finger salute to have these current collectives running around offering Rainbow Blue or whatever else they dream up. It is not a candy store. I live down the street from what I perceive to be a drug den masquerading as a collective. The medical professionals and scientific community can get their heads together and decide what percentage of THC should be considered "adequate" to do whatever it is claimed that marijuana does (I know, increase appetite, etc). Then you genetically engineer a strain of cannabis that grows the same, every time. And you give it a name. Medical Marijuana, XX% potency. Lab certified.
(3) Now, once you have this, you let the government grow it. They already do this already, you know? The National Institutes of Health, through a subsidiary, has been growing marijuana for research purposes for almost 1/2 a century. Until 1992, they were providing "prescription strength" marijuana to patients who applied and were accepted into the program. California is blessed to have Lemoore, CA, a beautiful place, in the middle of nowhere. There are hundreds and thousands of acres of government owned cotton fields surrounding NAS Lemoore. Grow it there. If not, I am sure that there are huge industrial complexes that are empty and looking for tenants. Do it hydroponically. You may not see my ulterior motive here, but everything that I am talking about is also a job stimulus package to put the states and the population back to work.
(4) Now, on to those "Comfort Care Facilities". Regulate them. (Sorry, no more “Free Joint Sundays [with donation]”} Treat them like child molesters. Not near schools. Not near child care centers. Put them in a commercial area. License them. Business Licenses. Non-Profit Status. Department of Health Certifications. Police Permits. Fire Marshall inspections. The facility must be secure, with controlled access, surveillance systems, and silent alarm monitoring. Why should they be any different than any other legal business? The owner and all workers must be background checked and fingerprinted. All of their members/customers must be positively identified and reported on a monthly basis (prescription / issue logs). The works. If they want to use their supply of legally obtained, government tested, Cannabis to make brownies, for those that cannot use the product in any other way, then more power to them. They could be set up like an AIC (Ambulatory Infusion Unit), with Recliners and mood music, and videos).
(5) Now, how do you get the legally produced drug to the legally operated business? The business has to provide a roster of authorized paying members. They get a ration, so many "shares" based on the number of members of the "collective". Secure private transport (armored vehicles). Put them to work, too. I saw this when I visited Abu Dhabi, UAE. If you want liquor, you have to register for a permit. Then you call the local Spinney's market (like 7-11) and order your $3.50 bottle of Tanqueray. Then they have an armored car, with a security guard, deliver it to your residence. Very simple, and once again, put people to work, as well as establish a paper trail.
(6) Now, how do we avoid the temptation of robberies, etc? By reducing the amounts on hand, and the allure of the stock (no more cute nicknames). Also, if we are treating this as medicine, then healthcare insurance or Medi-Cal should pay for it. Do as much of the payments as possible on line or via direct deposit. No, or limited, cash transactions. Issue pre-paid debit cards to be used only at these facilities. If they are lost or stolen, they are not valid anywhere else.
(7) Now, once this is all done, and we have figured out how to do this (I know it sounds difficult, but this is a lot easier than the Healthcare debate going on right now), you close down and prosecute all of these who are doing this illegally. Go after the Drug dealers, Smugglers, and the addicted. Provide a diversion program to treat first time offenders (users). But throw the book at them if they are recidivists Look! More work/jobs for the police, courts, lawyers, and the prison systems. Huge fines mean more fire pits for the rest of us.
(8) Lastly, establish a hotline for the operators of these establishments to report fraud. Make them, and the prescribing physicians, liable for prescription abuse or prescription shoppers, with appropriate penalties for violators.
The real option, if it hasn’t yet dawned on you, dear reader, is that the “medical marijuana” portion of this debate has been refined by me down to…wait for it… put the medical marijuana in a pharmacy, where it belongs. No need for Medical Cannabis Collectives.
What about recreational users? I will spend very little time on this. This could be handled like firearm permits, or wine making permits. Years ago I purchased a home wine making kit. In the kit was a form to register with the government (and pay a tax), and in return receive a permit to make up to 200 gallons of wine in my kitchen. Same thing. Home Marijuana Cultivation Permits. Pay a fee. Get fingerprinted and background checked. Grow up to 12 plants for personal use. No sales. The applications could be done online, or the forms included in the growing kits that will become very popular. More jobs. Yippee!
Now, forgetting any of the moral debates for the moment. Prostitution. The oldest profession. (Senators are the second oldest). Do the same thing for the most part as I outlined above. The differences would be that now the government gets a new tax stream. No brothels. Independent women, sole - proprietor, licensed professionals. Allow them to advertise. Establish a certification program. Massage Therapy as a pre-requisite. This will give our institutions of higher learning a bigger base of students, and once again, more income and jobs. You can get professional business figures, like Heidi Fleiss to instruct on the business aspects of doing this type of work. They would have to follow all of the business permitting requirements that I outlined previously, including law enforcement registration and background checks. This would also include health training, and hygiene. Provide mental health screenings. They would also have to be medically checked and drug-tested on a regular basis. Use of condoms and other protection would be mandatory, like Porn Stars are required to do (I mean Adult Entertainers). Failure to do so could result in suspension/revocation of their license. Then, clean up the streets and all of the pimps, and unlicensed street walkers. Diversion programs, education, and other assistance as required. Jobs for some. Relief for others. Win-Win.
Improving the economy and putting Americans back to work has a social cost. But I believe that it would be worth it. You will probably find that you could implement all or most of these suggestions using currently established institutions. History has shown that prohibition is always a poor solution. Do what is right, put people to work, create new jobs, and collect the additional tax revenue.