In the past week, there have been two robberies of medical marijuana clinics within five miles of each other, each of which resulted in a death (one was a gunshot; the other victim had stab wounds but it hasn’t been determined what the cause of death was). This could not come as worse news to me, for a few reasons:
1. I’ve been naively hoping for some time now that the closure of any dispensary which opened its doors after 2007 would quiet people who are made uneasy by the prospect of dispensaries in their neighborhoods. I thought that while closing some of the clinics so there wasn’t one on every single block (sometimes two or three, sharing walls and occupying spaces above or below other dispensaries — I’m not 100% sure, but I think the second robbery took place at a clinic that’s below another one — two dispensaries in one building seems obviously unwise and impractical, but that’s neither here nor there, really) was regrettable because it would mean more crowded spaces, more money in the register, and more chance of creepy altercations in the waiting room, but that the payoff would be worth it because the dispensaries that remained would earn some kind of legitimacy. They wouldn’t be cropping up everywhere, forcing conservatives out of their condos because they’re so afraid of the creepy glazey stoners creeping around outside. I am angry that these people have been proven right by the fact that there are now shoot-outs in pot stores.
2. Now I don’t want to go to any dispensary, ever again.
3. These are not crack dens. When you enter a crack den, you probably do so expecting to get shot at. When you enter a medical marijuana dispensary, you want to buy a brownie for your migraine headache. Potheads are the most peaceful, God-fearing people in the world. Some of these potheads are not even potheads, but people suffering from AIDS and Multiple Sclerosis and cancer. These murders, it seems clear to me, were about money and not marijuana (though both were raided…I guess if you’re already there…), but there are people who will now think that these murders were about Rice Krispie Treats and the poisonous hallucinogens therein.
4. I feel extremely sad that I am not entirely surprised that these things happened, in retrospect: most people pay for their medicine/recreation in cash. Most dispensaries only accept cash. Now that there are fewer dispensaries (after the first-week-of-June shutdown spree), there is more cash in each dispensary. As far as retail goes, a pot dispensary is probably a big blinking beacon to robbers; imagine if a pharmacy dealt only in cash and nobody had health care (nobody does but we still charge). Did we bring this on ourselves by launching into business without considering the fact that LA is, when it comes down to it, kind of a dangerous place if you’re in an emerging neighborhood and you’re a 10x12 cell that has $90,000 in cash inside? Were we too eager?
5. Oh, God, we were too eager and now two people are dead.
6. This makes me want to wash my hands of everything in the legalize-pot zone. I’m out of arguments. All of my arguments were only good until these stupid idiots invalidated me by shooting people in a pot store. I want to say, “This could have happened anywhere. They could have done this in Whole Foods. That doesn’t mean that Whole Foods is running their business incorrectly, it means they were victimized by non-law-abiding bandits and it’s only the fault of the people who broke the law. That’s why we have laws.” But at the same time, it’s become clear that in order to make marijuana safely available to those who use it for whatever (and no, I don’t think it’s bullshit to use it to go to sleep or to manage anxiety or to alleviate pain or because you have carpal tunnel. As long as a doctor will prescribe you Lunesta, which I believe to be a stronger psychoactive than marijuana, in forty-eight seconds, I will maintain that pot should be a viable and legal alternative), we can’t continue to run things as we currently are.
7. Which means maybe we should re-consider this whole system. Which is a big pain in the ass and potentially a setback. I’m saying “we” like I’m planning to figure this thing out myself, or as though someone influential will call me and be like, “So, what’s our plan?” Sometimes I wear the hat of a Socialist, and when I do I like to think of a perfect world where medicine is covered by some divine insurance, through which you never have to file a claim: you walk into an air-conditioned room with nice lighting. The pharmacist has a fax from your doctor that’s verified through some sort of blacklight-fingerprint technology. He or she passes you a packet and you leave. There is no register, there is no bullshit, there is no shame. When you arrive home via free public railway there’s a picnic basket delivered by the government, filled with figs and ginger and other whimsical and impractical ingredients. Genetically-engineered cat-dogs roam around, fat and happy, not fearing predators; hummingbird-butterflies land on your thriving rainbow hibiscus, etc.
Is this what I hoped legalizing marijuana would do? You guys, it’s almost exactly what!
9. Not really, but I was so optimistic.
10. Marijuana dispensaries masquerade as co-ops. They don’t function as co-ops because most people don’t want to grow their own plants, because this is time consuming, difficult, makes your house look ugly and it’s simply easier not to. If medical marijuana dispensaries were actually cooperative enterprises working at a very low profit and smaller scale, they would probably be safer. I really don’t see how to convince everyone to participate in this kind of system, which leads me to believe that the system was constructed by people who also want there to be cat-dogs and hummingbird-butterflies and rainbow hibiscus and figs waiting for them when they get home.
Realizing this last bit was the hardest for me, because maybe we were delusional idealists to think that we were ready to buy pot in a store. Maybe it’s just as South Park supposed, and we were recklessly antsy to have our fun without working out the tricky details first. I haven’t given up on the idea that marijuana should be legalized, but far more important is that we not go about it stupidly. It’s now clear that we were stupid. It’s okay to be stupid if your heart is in the right place, which ours were, but you have to be able to smack yourself on the head and say “I was really stupid and now I’m going to stop being that way and be clever instead.”