Monday, June 28, 2010

Wal Weed

Who would have thought that funky Boulder which is nothing if not an outpost of old hippies, artists, musicians, alternative healers, psychics, colorful characters, street performers, greenies added to the mix of interesting elements that a university town usually has, would be the home of businesses who tell the New York Times reporter that they want to get away from the hippie aura that is connected with weed and become the biggest chain of stores.

A little while back when I wrote about this subject at the time Colorado just passed the new law regulating dispensaries, I predicted this outcome. And here it is in today's NYT, people from California with deep pockets who are happy with the new laws and want to turn medical marijuana into a chain store product. Heck, one of the chain store owners quoted doesn't even smoke weed. She just wants to sell the stuff. And she doesn't want to have any kind of hippie influence around her business.

That's what's odd about the whole thing. All these years, the grower's art was developed by people who just loved the stuff and took all the risks to refine the process and were constantly in search of additional knowledge about their favorite plants. And as a result, they became expert horticulturists.

Lots of those kinds of folks were the ones who helped get out the vote and change the law. At the beginning, less than 10 years ago, there were no stores, just caregivers and patients, growers and customers.

Then through the magic of the marketplace, retail stores, called dispensaries, came into being. Lots of them. Big ones and little ones. And then somebody got busy influencing legislators to create a new law that would make it hard for local Colorado people who invested all their money into creating small dispensaries to be able to stay in business while making it easy for someone from out of town with deep pockets to swoop in and start chains. The legislator who was the prime mover behind the law was often heard to say that he expected the new law to put at least half of the dispensaries out of business.

What is not public knowledge at this point is whether the people who want to create chain stores for marijuana are connected to the politicians who made the law. It would not be at all surprising if some investigative reporter were to make such a discovery, because it is rather common in our system that laws are written to please big campaign donors and good friends.

What is surprising is that Boulder, a town that doesn't want a Walmart and is well known for all the funky, creative businesses it has spawned or hosts, would be the launching pad for a chain of marijuana stores that would like to pretend that this whole movement did not have very earthy roots.

This is my prediction of what is yet to come. One of these days we will vote to just flat out legalize it for every one, not just medical patients, and when that day comes, chain stores will definitely be the major players. When it becomes legal, weed will be sold in all the kinds of places where you can buy cigarettes. Walgreens, 7-11, grocery stores, Walmart and all the rest will want a piece of the action, and all those people who dedicated their lives to the art of the grow will merely be suppliers. It will be a shift in consciousness for many people.

Sort of an Alice in Wonderland moment, isn't it?

No comments: