Dec. 13 2013 12:00 AM

The practicality and politics of buying and sell pot

There have been two main responses to my recent article about Child Welfare Services taking the children of medical cannabis patients. One is a visceral gut wrenching at the plight of the family profiled in the story. The other is shock at the amount of cannabis found during the raid that led to the child's removal-10 pounds! ---

One commenter on the CityBeat website wrote, "Ten pounds of marijuana = dealer." He wasn't alone in his estimation of the facts. Over recent days, I've had more than one conversation about the implications of the amount of medical cannabis in question.

As someone who's reported on the industry for several years all over the state-and make no mistake, it's an industry-I'm always surprised by how quick people are to condemn anyone involved in an exchange of money for medical cannabis.

It's not unlikely the 10 pounds of cannabis confiscated, with a street value of roughly $30,000 and found bagged by the pound, was intended for distribution.

However, the importance of this for readers-when considering whether Child Welfare Services was right to have removed the child from the home-is something I may have underestimated.

In many parts of the state, the idea that someone can legitimately grow medical cannabis and sell it to a dispensary is taken for granted. (What's frowned upon is distribution outside of this supply chain.)

In San Diego, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis has taken a different stance, maintaining that any exchange of money for medical cannabis will be treated as illegal. If this is inaccurate, I wholeheartedly encourage her to clarify her position.

What does this mean for San Diegans?

Imagine you woke up tomorrow to find out that it's illegal to buy or sell coffee. However, local law enforcement would allow you to grow and process your own beans, as long as you didn't grow so much as to raise suspicion that you might be selling dark roast to your neighbors. People with fulltime jobs, grandmothers with limited manual dexterity, anyone without a green thumb would be out of luck.

If the DA had her way, it would be the same with medical cannabis in San Diego. Of course, that's not how it works in reality. Not everyone can or wants to grow and process it. So other people do it. Then within the parameters of a collective-whether it's a bunch of patients pitching in for supplies or the local dispensary taking money to pay for overhead and employee salaries-an individual can buy a few grams.

Our whole economy is based on specialization, the idea that we all do what we do best to maximize efficiency. Many counties around the state allow this financial arrangement to function with respect to medical cannabis very smoothly.

However, such an arrangement-whether you agree with it-means that at some point along the supply chain, people who may have children are going to have several pounds of cannabis in their possession.

Whether this means these people are unfit parents is not my place to say, but under the current state of the medical cannabis supply chain in California, it's a reality.


  • Visit one of the 70 participating restaurants, bars, coffeehouses and nightclubs in town on this night and 25 to 50 percent of sales will go to local HIV/AIDS services and prevention programs. 
  • Anthony Bernal and Chris Ward, who are vying to replace Todd Gloria on the San Diego City Council, will discuss urban issues, such as parking, homelessness and new developments
  • The new exhibition designed by Dave Ghilarducci is made from hundreds of rolls of packing tape and bound together by layers of plastic shrink-wrap. Visitors can navigate their way through cocoon-like passageways...
  • The renowned Mexican black and white photographer presents an exhibition exploring the principal themes within three groups: "Bestiarium"," Fantastic Women" and "Silent Natures."
  • Presented by Pacific Arts Movement, the sixth annual mini film fest features 14 film programs from 10 countries that includes everything from docs to romantic tearjerkers. See website for full lineup and...
  • The San Diego County Bike Coalition hosts this monthly bike-in happy hour event to get biking residents involved in their communities and discuss bike projects planned for that specific community
  • Debunk some of the stereotypes surrounding cannibalism at this new exhibition that takes a hands-on approach to the subject. Includes video games and interactive activities where patrons will have to decide...
  • So Say We All's monthly storytelling night features stories about those jobs we took because we had to take a job. Featured readers include Allison Gauss, Annmarie Houghtailing, Cecile Estelle, and more
  • Artists from the all-abstracts group show will talk about their work and techniques. Artists include Edwin Nutting, Danielle Nelisse, Leah Pantea, Lenore Simon, and more
See all events on Thursday, Apr 28