Are medical-marijuana stocks a good investment?

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

I keep seeing ads for medical-marijuana stocks. Do you think these are a good investment?

—Uncle Pennybags

What’s the old riddle? How do you make a small fortune in the stock market? Start with a large fortune.

These stocks are bad news. They call it the “pump and dump.” It’s not a booty-call technique: It’s a scam.

This is what happens: Some fly-by-nighter will start a stock on the micro-cap or penny stock market. The stock is cheap, but it doesn’t back a real company. It then sends out a bunch of press releases and Internet ads touting this “incredible opportunity” (the pump). The suckers, er clients, then line up to buy these stocks. The price of the stock goes up, and the person behind the stock then sells all of their shares (the dump), leaving investors with worthless paper.

One would think that stoners would be smart enough to recognize the scam, but it seems that everyone wants to be in on the “green rush.” I have a homey that does investments and such for banks, and he warned me about this. I’m sure you will be able to find another way to make money from weed. Use your imagination.

I read a story about a 15-year-old in Minnesota that beat a drug-paraphernalia charge by claiming his pipe was part of his religion (Rastafarianism). Do you think I could use this defense in court as well?

—Ras Trevor

Um, yeah, good luck with that. Religious-defense arguments are tricky. While the kid did get away with it, I wouldn’t recommend everyone start claiming they’re Rastafarian when they get busted. The young man brought in a slew of experts, and he was only charged with carrying drug paraphernalia, not possession. This sounds more like a sort of Sikh thing. The religion of Sikhism requires members to carry a kirpan, a ceremonial dagger, at all times. The courts have upheld this right. Followers can carry the knife, but they can’t use it. Same with the pipe.

Eddy Lepp, a Rastafarian minister and cannabis activist, tried to use a religious exception in his federal trial. He is still in prison, serving a 10-year sentence. The Rev. Roger Christie has been in a federal detention center for three years (at a cost to the taxpayers of $116 per day) on charges of possessing and selling cannabis. Christie is also claiming a religious right to use cannabis, but the feds aren’t buying it so far.

By the way: The feds are holding Christie without bail, claiming he’s a “danger,” because they think he will go back to selling weed if he is released. Did I mention he lives in Hawaii? Who in Hawaii doesn’t smoke weed? Hawaii is also the state that tried to crack down on all the weed growing and smoking and ended up with a methamphetamine epidemic. Anyone remember ice, the smokeable form of meth? You can thank the Hawaiian officials for that.