Medical Marijuana

Berkeley Turns Medical Marijuana From a Treatment to an Obligation


"So what you call insanity, we call solidarity!"
Credit: Dank Depot / photo on flickr

Dammit, Berkeley! America is getting more and more comfortable with legalizing marijuana, and then you had to turn around and Britta the whole thing! Via KCBS in San Francisco:

The city of Berkeley will require medical marijuana dispensaries to give away two percent of the amount of cannabis they sell each year free to low-income patients.

The City Council voted unanimously at Tuesday's meeting to amend the city's medical pot rules, which would also allow for a fourth dispensary in Berkeley.

"Basically, the city council wants to make sure that low-income, homeless, indigent folks have access to their medical marijuana, their medicine," said Berkeley City Councilmember Darryl Moore.

Under the proposal, at least two percent of all medical weed dispensed at a club would have to be provided at no cost to very low-income members — and it must be the same quality that's dispensed to regular paying customers.

Not only is it intrusive regulation, it's probably also unnecessary. KCBS points out that one local dispensary, the Berkeley Patients Group, has been giving away free marijuana to the poor and has been for 15 years, but they'll actually have to increase the amount in order to comply with this rule.

In the interview Moore notes that medical marijuana is not as cheap as non-users might think it is. True, but this City Council vote is likely to end up driving those prices up further.

Critics of medical marijuana like to try to delegitimize its use by arguing the ease by which somebody can land a prescription, particularly in California, where they've got pot shops next door to funnel cake vendors on Venice Beach. The libertarian response is not that the argument is wrong but that it's irrelevant. People should be able to consume what they want anyway.

Ordering pot dispensaries to provide their goods for free to one select group changes the dynamic. Now one group of marijuana users is subsidizing another. Now, suddenly, whether the prescription is legitimate means something. And the fact that the subsidy has a limit also means something. What if it turns out there is enough of a demand for medical marijuana among the poor to actually consume five percent of a dispensary's merchandise? Will those with medical marijuana prescriptions for actual ailments lose out to those who just said the right words to a friendly doctor? Leave it to Berkeley to make a libertarian worry about fake medical marijuana prescriptions.

On the other hand, Berkeley is Berkeley, and the residents there all know as much. The KCBS reporter went looking around for residents opposed to this plan and could find only one woman whose sole concern was marijuana falling into the "wrong hands." She was fine with it as long as they had a prescription. Being Berkeley, it's entirely possible that paying medical marijuana users there don't mind subsidizing the poor. But if that's the case, doing so doesn't require city action.

(Hat tip to Tom Palmer)