Monday, June 28, 2010

New York Times weighs-in on Boulder MMJ

Posted By on Mon, Jun 28, 2010 at 5:06 PM

On Friday, the New York Times published this story on medical marijuana in Boulder. Some highlights:

Lots of Colorado patients:

More than 80,000 people here now have medical marijuana certificates, which are essentially prescriptions, and for months new enrollees have signed up at a rate of roughly 1,000 a day.

Lots of money being spent on MMJ nationally:

Americans spend roughly $25 billion a year on marijuana, according to the Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, which gives some idea of the popularity of this drug. Eventually, we might be talking about a sizable sum of tax revenue from its sales as medicine, not to mention private investment and employment. A spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws says hedge fund investors and an assortment of financial service firms are starting to call around to sniff out opportunities.

Lots of new words:

With a couple of exceptions — Mr. Bellingham among them — interviewing pot sellers is unlike interviewing anyone else in business. Simple yes-or-no questions yield 10-minute soliloquies. Words are coined on the spot, like “refudiate,” and regular words are used in ways that make sense only in context. One guy kept saying “rue” as though it meant “reluctant,” as in “I think the state was rue to act.”

Lots of history:

If there is a historical precedent for what’s now happening in Colorado, it could be the 1920s and the era of Prohibition. During America’s dry age, the federal alcohol ban carved out an exemption for medicinal use, and doctors nationwide suddenly discovered they could bolster their incomes by writing liquor prescriptions.

Pharmacies, which filled those prescriptions, and were one of the few places whiskey could be bought legally, raked it in. Through the 1920s, the number of Walgreens stores soared from 20 to nearly 400.

More money:

The second essential: grow your own. A pound of marijuana can be sold at retail for somewhere between $5,500 and $7,500. To buy that quantity wholesale will cost about $4,000. Grow it yourself and the same pound will cost just $750 to $1,000. ...

Pot sales so far are expected to generate about $2.7 million in license fees, in addition to the more than $681,000 in sales tax collected from July 2009 to February 2010. These figures seem a decent-enough start, but are far less than the $15 million in annual taxes predicted by some of the state’s more optimistic lawmakers.

Lots of rules:

The new rules, many of which will take effect over coming months, treat dispensaries a bit like pharmacies and a bit like casinos. Felons will soon be prohibited from owning dispensaries. Twenty-four-hour webcams will be trained on every growing facility and dispensary in the state. There are restrictions on hours, new rules for licensing, labeling and on and on.

More patients, and even more money:

In one year alone, working just three days a week at Relaxed Clarity, Dr. James Boland has seen 7,000 patients, each paying an average of $150 for a visit. He takes out a calculator and does some quick arithmetic. That’s more than $1 million, grossed in 12 months.

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