Safely obtaining a supply of Cannabis

Although federal law bans possession and use of Cannabis its cultivation and sale is a multi-billion dollar business in the United States—another example in the long list of Drug War failures. In this difficult context sick people all over America struggle to meet their medical needs as they face the dual obstacles of dealing with the dynamics of illegal supply and federal prohibition.

Searching for and procuring illegal Cannabis forces many patients (and their families) into illegal drug markets. This is undesirable for several reasons: First, the quality of "black-market" Cannabis varies tremendously. Supplies are economically rather than medically driven. And, as with corporate dominance of American pharmaceutical and monetary systems, black-market systems have no particular regard for disease or suffering. Potency may vary significantly, from the nearly zero cannabinoid levels of Midwestern hemp, to the common low-to-medium quality Mexican Cannabis that gets bricked for shipping with little quality control. (It is worth noting that in areas of the country with large Cannabis industries, like Oregon, the quality of Cannabis is often superior. The demand for, and availability of high-potency Cannabis, unfortunately, also escalates the price.) Since there is no quality assurance, or cannabinoid assay, the patient has no idea of what s/he is paying outrageous prices to obtain. Black-market Cannabis may also be contaminated with dirt, debris, bugs, seeds, other plants, or microorganisms. It may also be adulterated with harmful chemical residues like pesticides. Imported Cannabis is often poorly cured, if at all. It continues drying after packaging and this can result in decomposition and bacterial infection.

Second, patients are searching for medicine among profiteers. Medical Cannabis patients are sometimes victimized. They are forced to pay extreme prices in much the same way as they now do for pharmaceuticals. The "market" price for medium-quality Cannabis ranges from $40- $100 for an eighth of an ounce. An ounce of high-potency Cannabis like "B.C. Bud" may cost $400, higher than the price of gold! The price of Cannabis is a direct reflection of the supply and demand dynamics of illegal drug networks. The actual price to grow an ounce of high-potency "sinsemilla" ranges from $10 to $15 using metal halide lights. (Much less outdoors.)

Recreational users dominate the illegal Cannabis market. They have money and can afford to pay incredible prices. Patients can't. This undercuts the ability of patients to find and buy their medicine. 5

Third, patients who associate with illegal drug networks are far more likely to be arrested and prosecuted because of this association.

For these reasons, patients are advised to avoid black-market Cannabis if possible. If an adequate safe supply is available from "the guy down the street" a patient will have to decide if the risks justify the benefits. Patients should deal with growers who they know and trust if at all possible.

The price of Cannabis is a direct reflection of the supply and demand dynamics of illegal drug networks. The actual price to grow an ounce of high-potency "sinsemilla" ranges from $10 to $15 using metal halide lights.

In order to minimize or eliminate black-market safety issues, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act was written to include provision for cultivation and possession of plants.

The organization perhaps most responsible for assisting Oregon's patients is Voter Power which supports patients by providing information and assistance.

Ordering seeds by mail is another option that some patients are using. Cannabis seeds are widely available in many countries, especially in Europe.

Possession of viable Cannabis seeds is a federal crime in the United States. Patients who are apprehended attempting to smuggle seeds back into the United States face extreme legal consequences including forfeiture of assets and jail.

The belligerent attitude of the "feds" towards medical Cannabis will likely not cease until the laws surrounding Cannabis are changed in many individual states.

In order to minimize or eliminate black-market safety issues, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act was written to include provision for cultivation and possession of plants. At this time, the only "legal" method for patients to obtain and possess Cannabis is to do it themselves under an umbrella of safety provided by the Oregon Health Division. The Oregon Medical Marijuana Act "allows" the transfer of plants between registered patients, aiding patients to provide their own supply. In Oregon, patient-to-patient supply networks are slowly establishing a network of safe communications allowing patients to grow their own supply. The overriding illegality of the herb, however, makes this process extremely difficult, and sometimes dangerous, since there are always people who are willing to exploit the law, as well as vulnerable patients, for profit.

With the continual threat of federal intervention hanging over the OMMA, patient-centered advocacy organizations that provide seeds and clones to registered patients have "sprouted" up. The organization perhaps most responsible for assisting Oregon's patients is Voter Power which supports patients by providing information, assistance, and leadership. Other organizations like Medi-juana, and the Stormy Ray Foundation also work to support patients. (The "Oregon Resources" section provides contact information for most of the organizations in Oregon that assist patients.)

As statewide advocacy organizations develop, so too will patient networks. Many registrants know other registrants. They often provide clones or Cannabis to each other. This is smart, since networks of patients growing the same variety create "insurance" against any one patient's crop loss. This arrangement also allows larger numbers of patients to compare the same strain.

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