Black-market earnings

So who’s benefiting from the federal crackdown on medical-marijuana dispensaries? Why, black-market pot growers and dealers, that’s who.

According to a recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting’s California Watch, prices for high-grade, outdoor-grown marijuana, after slumping precipitously in 2010, have risen by 20 to 40 percent since four U.S. attorneys began cracking down on growers and dispensaries and threatening local agencies—like the Chico City Council and city staff—with prosecution.

For growers willing to risk arrest by doing business on the black market—and there are plenty of them—this is welcome news. Prices that were as low as $1,000 a pound have risen as high as $2,500 a pound, making business potentially much more profitable.

That’s good for these growers and dealers, as long as they don’t get caught, but for legitimate medical-marijuana suppliers and their customers, it’s a disaster. For the patients, it’s become harder and more expensive to obtain their medicine. And for the legitimate medical-marijuana growers, it’s a case of misplaced priorities that threaten to put them out of business.

As one Mendocino County medical-marijuana grower put it, “Prices are going up, but the people who will cash in are the men hiding in the mountains. If this continues, the people who are trying to follow medical-marijuana laws won’t get anything because they’ll be out of business, thanks to the feds.”

All the more reason for state lawmakers to get off their duffs and bring sense and consistency to medical-marijuana laws.