America’s Weed Rush

“America’s Weed Rush,” an investigation of marijuana legalization in America, is the 2015 project of the Carnegie-Knight News21 program, a national multimedia investigative reporting project produced by the nation’s top journalism students and graduates.

This year, 27 journalism students from 19 universities traveled through half the country to report on the politics, regulation and science behind the nation’s marijuana movement. From Nevada to Maine, California to Connecticut, reporters interviewed politicians, parents, patients, dispensary owners, farmers, police and advocacy groups on all sides of the debate…

Phoenix Police Department Commander Brent Vermeer said via email that he didn’t have empirical data to show the impact of medical marijuana on law enforcement, but “it unequivocally has not impacted the cartels’ sales practices for marijuana.”

He wrote in an email that the department has investigated homicides related to marijuana, and burglars recently stole $500,000 worth of marijuana from one dispensary. “Within two days, their front office was robbed at gunpoint of several thousands of dollars,” he wrote.

“Violence follows drugs, regardless of whether they are legal or not,” he added…

Come now, that’s not true, or else it wouldn’t be safe to walk into a Walgreens or CVS. Most dispensaries are forced by federal laws to operate cash businesses, which increases the possibility of a robbery.

State medical boards have filed multiple complaints against naturopathic physicians since medical marijuana became legalized. Runbeck said several naturopathic doctors originally reprimanded by the Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board did not understand how to correctly use the state’s controlled substances database, which allows physicians to see if patients have prescriptions to other controlled substances. Doctors must access the system before writing certifications for medical marijuana…

Phoenix medical marijuana dispensaries Encanto Green Cross and Nature’s AZ Medicines list their cheapest ounces of marijuana at $280, while medium-quality black market marijuana goes for under $210 per ounce in Arizona, according to Price of Weed, a crowdsourced marijuana price index…

Saving $70 or more a month is a lot of money — it’s the cost of my electric bill this month, although I’m sure many patients pay a lot more for their electricity. And $280 an ounce is a fairly good price — but $210 is a lot more fair and affordable. Now compare $280 to the current price per ounce at Sacred Garden in New Mexico, at $364. And in Washington state: “Medical growers estimated the cheapest medical marijuana is selling for between $125 and $140 an ounce, while the cheapest ounces available at Uncle Ike’s and Ocean Greens — two of Seattle’s most popular retail stores — are around $190.”

The Marijuana Policy Project initiative allows city governments to forbid retail marijuana stores from opening within their borders, but cities could not bar stores opened by prior dispensary owners. It also creates a marijuana board to regulate both medical and recreational licensing, with three of the board’s seven members coming from members of the marijuana industry.

“They’re protecting their industry, the medical marijuana dispensaries, from newcomers entering the business,” Leibsohn said. “(Marijuana lawyer Tom Dean and I) don’t agree on much, but he put it well: If the MPP’s initiative passes, a handful of people will get very, very wealthy.”

This investigative report covers a number of states, including Montana. I haven’t read very much about Montana’s medical cannabis program, but this report covers the issues pretty well. And I have to say, it’s a very sad state of affairs in Montana…

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