Saturday, July 19, 2014

The End of Prohibition in the Marijuana Era

First off I want to dedicate this article to the memory of my father A. Kent Bussell. For better or worse, for right or for wrong my father gave me my taste for marijuana and a sense of being a weed aficionado.
Now my father did not smoke me out my first time. The name of that person shall sit with me in secret as that person really should have not been smoking out a 7 year old. But it is what it is.
At about 10 or 11 years of age my dad gave up on fighting with me over the weed I was swiping from him and he gave me some rules of use and we slowly over the years became stoner buddies. See dad was a weed dealer and the stuff was always around. Weed put me through school, put clothes on my back and food on the table pretty much the entire time I lived with my father as a kid. For years I was his protégé, his mini me partner in crime; we would scale up more pot in a month than most people will see in a life time. Early on I developed a delicate palate for marijuana and I would grade the weed for dad. I probably shouldn’t go into to many details of these felonies my father committed, but he has long passed on and I am pretty sure the D.E.A. already has a much larger file on my father than I do, it is no big deal. Everyone who knew Kent, knew he was a drug dealer. This is no big revelation.

Dad was of two minds on the entire idea of marijuana prohibition repeal. On the one hand he wanted to be able to go into a store and be able to buy it without any worries about getting busted. Before being a weed dealer Kent was a weed smoker. He might sell you all the pot in the world, but he would never sell his last bag. On the other hand he knew that weed prohibition repeal would put guys like him out of work and it would take away the single best tool in his tool box for selling coke. (Yeah, dad sold coke, and some other heavy drugs.)
See the best way to build a coke or meth empire is to already have access to the local black market. You can show up 'Johnny Come Lately' in just about any town or city and start selling weed in one day and very few eyebrows are raised. But if you are new to a town and you try to start selling coke or meth you raise eyebrows, you step on toes and it gets a person busted fast or in a grave.
But with a weed empire in place it is much easier to ferret out whom is into the harder stuff.
I won’t go into the details of how to do it as I don’t want to give ideas to people, just trust me on this. You NEED marijuana to safely set up a hard drug empire. Weed is the key.

Daddy also used to say many times “the day someone figures out how to get the government to accept tax money on a weed sale, is the day weed becomes legal and I am out of a job.”

Personally I never thought I would see the day. I am not the only one who knows the dirty ins and outs of the drug trade. I am not the only one who knows the prominence and importance of marijuana to the black market. Big players, scary people who would kill for profit, who have pull and power know this stuff and make money from weed and from the black market that was created on the back of weed.
So I was rather surprised that Washington and Colorado have turned a new leaf in this department and they are now allowing the sale of marijuana in proper stores.

This morning Sevan and I were driving in Spokane to see a friend and on the way we spotted a marijuana store. I noticed there was an open sign and people were going in and out.
Well we did a u-turn after talking about it for a few seconds and we scrounged together our dollars. As I walked into the store and saw the meager over priced offerings I remembered my father and how we would talk about this day and if it would ever come or not.
I remembered the stress of so many back alleys and in the park weed deals over the years. Memories of going to the bad part of town and entering a building I knew for a fact was a front for a well known gang with international name recognition just to get some weed ran through my mind. The worry if I may get robbed, sold bunk weed, or laced weed was ever present when making a new connection. But there were none of those elements of danger. As it dawned on me just how momentous this moment really was I started to feel wonder and awe. The emotions started to whelm up in me. Until the last election when we legalized I never thought I would see this day. Even though we had passed the referendum part of me still doubted I would ever see this day.
Eventually it came up to my turn. The young man asked me what I wanted in the friendly manner one is accustomed to in other stores. It took a monumental effort to not burst into tears as I stood ready to make my request. I made my selection and paid my money then made my way out of the store quickly because I could feel the tears coming.
By the time I got to my car I was a blubbery, snotty, tear stained mess. Years and years of waiting for this day culminated in a small purchase of only a gram of mid grade marijuana that I paid more for than it was worth. Honestly I really didn’t even need the marijuana as I have a little bit of my medical grade crispy treats left over from last year’s harvest. But that gram of weed wasn’t about need; it was solely so I could do it. I bought that marijuana wishing my father was standing next to me, imagining how he would be joyful to be in that store. I bought it because this day has been so long overdue. I bought it because I want desperately to see the end of black market marijuana. No one knows better than me the price the drug wars have exacted on this society. I grew up at the knee of a drug lord seeing first hand how brutal it got over the years. I want the illegal trade to end.

As we drove off and I was composing myself I found myself wondering if back when alcohol prohibition was repealed if some woman had a tearful moment as she bought her first legal bottle of gin or whiskey. The feeling that a long hard righteous battle had been won is a feeling of anti-climax in a way. Since the day I bought my first bag of pot I have been part of the drug wars. Many times in the past I got involved in the marijuana trade simply out of a sense of duty and honor. The idea that the government was trying to eradicate this plant set wrong with me. That people were going to prison for a substance with so much potential while holding so few side effects was an injustice. I knew prohibition was wrong and I did my part to make sure that when prohibition was repealed we would have marijuana available.

What didn’t happen as I bought my marijuana is the most important part and the message society really needs to hear:
As I walked into the store I didn’t need to worry the marijuana dealer might have a gun, it didn’t even cross my mind. As I said hello to the store tenders I was greeted with a smile and in a professional manner and I was not intimidated. No body guard of questionable repute was guarding the dealer and weed. As I handed over my money for my package I was not offered a line of coke, a puff of meth or a dose of acid. There was no chance of that as no reasonable business would risk such idiocy. I was not pressured into buying more marijuana than I could afford. I was not invited to participate in any form of felonious activities. And that is the most important thing! No crime was involved, and no one conspired to commit a crime. It was a simple government sanctioned and TAXED transaction. It was just like going to any other store selling a specialty product.

Now at the exorbitant price of $25 a gram there is no way you can put a dent in the black market. The price is too high. If the local businesses can get the price down to $12.50 then the black market will start to slowly diminish. The reason why I say $12.50 is the magic number is because the average street price of a gram of high quality marijuana is $10.00. At $12.50 that is only two and a half bucks higher than the street price. This is two and a half bucks spent to not get busted buying black market weed. I am pretty sure the majority of pot smokers would gladly pay a $2.50 fee to not get busted. As it stands at $25.00 a gram for moderate grade weed it is a no brainer for the pot head already accustomed to breaking the law. It is a no brainer, the stoner is going to go to the black market dealer who will sell the pot head 2 grams for $20.00 and the criminal marijuana buyer has 5 bucks left over for Cheetos, Pepsi and Funyuns. The legal sellers are not going to be able to compete with the criminal sellers at these prices. Now sure you will see legal store sales to plenty of novelty buyers, marijuana tourists and people who do not smoke regularly as they do not have a dealer, but the heavy marijuana user is not going to be your customer. The person who is used to paying $10.00 is not going to be willing to pay $25.00; it is just simple economics here.
My advice to the powers that be in Washington State and the providers is if you are serious about putting an end to black market marijuana is to lower the price and open a bunch more stores. For the first 5 years completely undercut the black market. Drop the local price and you will squeeze out the black market dealer. As it stands, with folks having legal right to smoke, the black market will only get larger. I can tell you that a grower can make a enough money to make it worthwhile by selling as low as $5 a gram, at $10 a gram they are comfortable. Now that the prices are so high in the legal stores the black market dealer can safely push his product price up to $15.00 a gram and cut out the legal store from the loop and live very well.

But let us not bury the lead with negativity.

Today I walked into a professional marijuana store and bought marijuana. It has finally happened daddy. I wish you were here to see this day.
So as I spark this next doobie I dedicate it to the memory of my father who would have been just tickled pink to smoke a joint that has been taxed.