“Nearly 4 tons of weed discovered inside a shipment of jalapeños,” CNN, Aug. 18, 2019

Our feature this week, “Weed and demand,” speaks to the declining acreage, year over year, of illegal marijuana grows in the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County. There is a theory that because it is legal now “recreationally” in California, there is not that great of a need to create an illegal grow supply chain.

In our story, one local politician speaks on the issue:

Ojai City Council member Ryan Blatz believes cannabis consumers don’t mind paying taxes when they know the transactions are legal and the products are tested for contaminants.

The fact is, what Blatz is really saying is that only those who can afford it deserve to consume it. Further in the story:

“Licensed, lawful growers have complained that the black market is still taking a decent portion of their business. That’s because cities are shortsighted and not thinking about the tax revenue and the benefit they can bring. They’re just thinking ‘We don’t want cannabis in our jurisdiction,’ and that’s the end of it,” says [local attorney Jay] Leiderman. “With more permits, and with time, you’re going to see a dissipation of the black market.”

Leiderman is correct, except the whole system, as is, seems set up for failure.

Trivializing marijuana’s impact on those who use it by reducing its significance merely to “recreational” activity, not a legitimate medication akin to other drugs that soothe pain and/or stabilize moods, is the foundation of the black market supply chain. This connotation devalues marijuana in the competitive field of medicine. Thereby, it forces the consumer to pay the price through the nose for a “recreational” activity to fulfill a “tax revenue” goal. But what about the individuals consuming it? If they can’t afford it at high legal prices, does Blatz truly believe all will wait if they don’t have to? It’s all about weed and demand.

Consider this: What about those 20 years that it was purely medicinally legal in California? Sure, it’s sort of a joke, but not really. Maybe it was truly medicine the entire time, while weed consumers (as a whole) were misrepresented in media and by stereotypes, people referred to as “stoners” who do nothing more than get high and become milquetoast on a couch. But there are plenty of functional marijuana users who know better. And, sorry to say, that stoner on the coach was going to be that way with or without weed.

Some people might say that weed paralyzes them in a paranoid state. But that’s not everyone. Anecdotally speaking (and by general observation), many people function normally or even better and are more aware of their surroundings while on weed. But now the police have a breathalyzer to detect pot consumption.

In an Aug. 7 story by USA Today, “Marijuana breathalyzer aims to detect high drivers ‘without unjustly accusing,’ ” it states about this detection device:

“The company claims the device is hypersensitive, allowing it to pick up any THC — the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana — potentially present on drivers’ breath.

“The Hound breathalyzer is 1 billion times more sensitive than today’s alcohol breathalyzers,” the company says on its site.

A 2017 survey by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) found that almost 70 percent of cannabis consumers drove high at least once in the past year.  Twenty-seven percent said they drive high almost every day. 

But nowhere in the story does it describe an increase in accidents caused by those who claimed to be high, and nowhere does a safety expert explain a direct link to any increase in accidents caused by being high.

It seems like this is a direct attempt to stoke paranoia without true justification. But we live in a literal “See Something, Say Something” society (call 805-654-9511 and for those in crisis, 866-998-2243; more info at: www.ventura.org/vcsafe), enabling a truly distrustful society that demands rigid conformity to not arouse suspicion. What kind of life is that?

It’s too bad it’s not say something to the person who made you see something. Maybe there are truths that can connect us instead of divide us. Perhaps there are genuine medicinal and therapeutic reasons people choose to medicate with pot instead of alcohol, cigarettes or prescription drugs. Perhaps there are reasons that the media is focused on criminals associated with weed instead of the strong-willed innovators who use it daily. Perhaps weed in a jalapeño cargo shipment is a spicy headline.

Read the full story, “Weed and demand,” and then consider the resources spent on destroying illegal grows. Consider the well-being of the farmworkers who truly have zero rights. Then read News, In Brief, about the new resource center for farmworkers. And then consider, is weed truly comparable to alcohol or prescription drugs?

Now, with a laugh or with disgust, consider the fact that weed is legal to grow at home (Under California’s new recreational marijuana law, adults age 21 and over may also cultivate up to six (6) marijuana plants for their personal use). One way to circumvent all the drama around illegal grows and black market weed might be to grow some purely to give to those in need, as is legal. Perhaps that’s better suited for a movie script.

In any case, there are too many stories of redemption brought about by using weed to ignore this war of Reefer Madness.