Now that marijuana can be legally used to ease patients’ pain, dispensaries are opening in Spokane to provide it.
And regardless of whether such stores are what Washington voters and legislators envisioned when they allowed medical marijuana, it may only be a matter of time before the businesses are commonplace: Medical marijuana has been approved in more than a dozen states.
She buys her supply from a shop called Change. It opened two months ago and is run by Christopher Stevens, Noah Zarate and Scott Shupe.
[A question to the Washington Department of Health]: “How do I get medical marijuana? Can I buy it?”
The DOH answer: “The law allows a qualifying patient or designated provider to grow medical marijuana. It is not legal to buy or sell it.”
The owners of Change interpret the state law differently. They contend they have the right to buy marijuana and resell it to people who have written authorization from their doctors. Stevens said he obtains a wholesale supply of marijuana from local farmers with surplus crops and sells it – sales tax included – at retail prices.
A sale to Judy on Tuesday resembled a typical retail transaction. Stevens described the product, answered questions and made a recommendation based on Judy’s questions.
When she settled on what she wanted, Judy pulled $80 from her billfold and handed it to Stevens. He unscrewed a jar lid, fetched 5 grams of a variety called “Snow Cap,” weighed it, put it in a baggie and affixed a label urging users to keep the drug out of the reach of children. and cautions that it may cause drowsiness.
Stevens said the next move for medical marijuana will be a push to force insurers – including the government’s Medicare and Medicaid programs – to pay much like they do for prescription drug coverage.
In case you’re wondering, $80 for 5 grams of marijuana works out to $16/gram, or about $450/ounce. In this political climate surrounding health care reform, we can’t even get our politicians to support a public health care option like the entire civilized world enjoys, even when 70% of us are for it, because those politicians are strong-armed by health care lobbyists defending outrageous insurance company profits and denial of coverage. I’m interested in how we’re going to get them to force insurance companies to cover paying $450/ounce for a weed that could be produced for $2/ounce if it were legal.
By the way, according to the latest High Times Trans-High Market Quotations, the average price for OG Kush on the street in Washington State is $400/ounce. These dispensaries can’t beat black market prices! How does it feel to be giving a worse deal to a sick person than a street corner pot dealer? Until marijuana is legal for all of us, dispensaries have to pay black market prices for the bulk marijuana they purchase, lest the grower just sell it on the black market, and they have to sell it at black market retail markup, lest the patients purchase it at low dispensary prices and make a profit selling it back to the black market.
For comparison’s sake, saffron, the world’s most expensive legal plant material, a spice that is primarily grown in Spain and Iran, requires far more tending and processing than any marijuana plant:
A labor intensive endeavor, when the saffron blooms (usually for 3 weeks) all the family’s attention goes to harvesting and processing, working up to 19 hours a day. Open flowers are picked and then carefully dissected to extract the stigmas. They are dried over heat and then sealed in packages for sale to international brokers. How much saffron can be obtained from the flowers? The numbers are staggering. With 3 stigmas per flower it takes 75,000 flowers (225,000 stigmas) to make one pound of saffron. It is easy to see why it is so expensive.
Saffron is currently available in the US at $119/ounce, even after 19 hours a day of hand picking three stamens apiece from 4,687 flowers and then shipping it overseas.