Ports and pot

RGK's new "port" (plus "turkey" neck)

RGK’s new “port” (plus “turkey” neck)

I had fun yesterday.

At the local hospital, an interventional radiologist installed my chemo port.  (See above.)  In fact, it is super-duper port–a power injectable port.  The port is placed under the skin in the chest and a delivery line (hose) is snaked under the skin to a vein in the neck.  When access to the port is needed, the medical provider simply palpates the chest, locates the port by feeling prongs just under the skin, and then sticks a small needle between the prongs and into the center of the port.

This is latest in chemo-fashion. No unsightly lines dangling from your aging body.

By the way, there is no pain during the procedure. You feel only tugging and shoving.  Excellent drugs allow you to remain awake while pain-free. If you’re lucky, like me, you have a doc who is both very skilled and very bright.

My doc was from Denver.  He flies into Lincoln every so often to relieve the staff docs. The procedure takes about 30 minutes once you are on the surgical table under a huge camera-like device. That time provides an opportunity to talk to the physician as he does his handiwork. Yesterday, we had a fascinating discussion about legalizing marijuana in Colorado and some of the unintended consequences of Colorado’s idiotic (my view) pot policy

The doc told me that in Colorado the “black” market for weed remains strong.  Pot heads go to the local “dispensary” and buy the legal pot. In turn, they get a receipt that proves the weed is legal.  After that, they buy illegal, but high-grade, dope on the streets at far cheaper prices than can be obtained from the regulated dispensaries.  The stoner carries the receipt from the previous purchase of legal pot to fake out the police regarding the illicit pot purchase.

Rhetorical question for  Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy:

Could it be that the new legal regime in the Rocky Mountains is a “win-win” for both the cartels and the State of Colorado?

RGK

18 responses

  1. Listen to some Steve Wright or Mitch Hedberg. As for your question: take the monetary value out of the dope, totally. Sin taxes are regressive. Sinner’s capitalism foments violence. Pot makes you happy and hungry.

    • The alcohol industry will never allow it. After all, the ability to sell pot at cost would put them out of business.

      The one good thing about this is that it puts downward pressure on the price of the illegal stuff. If you can buy legally, you have a lot less incentive to buy the moonshine.

  2. When you weigh the costs, Colorado’s policy makes intrinsic sense.

    Prohibition is expensive. As a result of it, we have a failed narco-state on our southern border in a de facto state of war. Beirut was safer than Juarez. It costs a small fortune for us to house all of our drug felons, and when they come out, their lives are ruined. They can’t get a law license unless their daddies happen to be judges, in which case, even getting busted for selling coke is not an impediment. http://www.rave.ca/en/news_info/196213/all/

    One would have thought that we would have learned our lesson in the ’20s. As a Coloradan, I am proud of my fellow citizens having the good sense to come face-to-face with reality. Now, if we can just get the Feds to follow suit, and Obama to pardon all non-violent drug felons who have done their time….

  3. We see this sort of things in other areas which have very high taxes. For example, in NYC, which has an incredibly high cigarette tax, there will be guys hawking loose cigarettes. These are sold at $.50-1.00 a piece, under the $12+ cost of a legal pack of 10 cigarettes.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/05/nyregion/05loosie.html

    Now, for this to be a “win” for the cartels, they need to have higher profit than pre-legalization. I doubt very much that they have. Their sales clearly have not gone to zero, but I doubt they’re selling -more- illegal pot than they did pre-legalization. And if CO were to drop its taxes a bit, or more powerfully were to allow commercial scale marijuana farming, it would probably bite into the cartels much further.

    • Peter, a rising tide floats all boats! If the total demand curve is going up, it can’t be a bad thing for the cartels as long as Colorado continues to view pot as a “crack” substitute for ordinary taxes.

      All the best.

      RGK

      • From an economic standpoint, the demand curve analysis is interesting. If you’ll indulge some wild speculation and a bit of economic hand waving, here goes:

        With a black market good, there is a risk to buyers in buying the product that they’ll get arrested/charged. That means the total cost to buyers = sale price + whatever the buyer perceives the risk of legal consequences to be. With legalization and the clever scheme described by your doc, the perceived risk of getting busted drops quite a bit, which all else being equal means the portion of the demand curve in dollars for illegal pot should move outward (more demanded at a higher price), even as the demand curve in dollars + risk stays the same.

        Now, this scheme also relies on buying some legal pot, and presumably our potheads will be smoking the legal stuff too, so that will pull demand in a bit.

        Now, of course, the question that’s interesting is why are the legal shops so much more expensive than the dealers? It doesn’t seem to be the taxes, which I researched and are about 30%. (2.9+10+15 plus some license fees
        that seem to be one time).

        http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite?c=Page&childpagename=Revenue-Main%2FXRMLayout&cid=1251633259746&pagename=XRMWrapper

        All of that said, I suspect there is something other than tax which is making the legal retail weed so expensive, and that this is a supply curve question, not demand curve. I suspect a few things:

        1.) lack of farms is making the legal weed expensive to grow, especially when the cartelistas have no compunctions about ruining a national forest to grow their weed.

        2.) Lack of banking/federal legality is making legal weed businesses have a lot of extra overhead. I know if I were a commercial landlord, I’d want extra rent to compensate for the risk of DOJ seizing my building under federal forfeiture laws.

        3.) The fact of it being a new market with not many entrants and no big brands means shops can just charge through the roof and make huge profits. Competition should reduce this over time, if new entry is not too expensive.

        Phew, that was long. Apologies for the rambling.

        • Peter,

          I agree with much of what you write. Indeed, perhaps you and I should go into the pot growing business in Colorado.

          Out in western Colorado (not too far from where I used to practice law), where land is relatively cheap, where there is ground water for center pivot irrigation and where the supply of undocumented migrants is abundant, there may be an unparalleled growth opportunity. We could raise the capital by forming a limited partnership and offering shares to the sophisticated investors who read this highly sophisticated blog. We could compete easily on cost so long as we really scaled up and used modern farming practices. The possibilities are endless and, better yet, consistent with the American dream.

          All the best.

          RGK

          • Sounds lovely. We can watch the morning sun break over our field of bud as the DEA trucks come up the driveway.

  4. Neat. I kept looking for the line/tube before I read your description. Did you see Sanjay Gupta’s special on medical marijuana on CNN? Lots of interesting facets to think about.

  5. Lots of uncertain market variables in play, RGK, but consider that legal sellers now have a reason to want to rat out the illegal ones and cops have more resources to focus on scofflaws. (Also, if Feds fix banking problems, legal folks can take plastic and not just cash.). Moreover, if Colorado citizens think use/sale of pot should be legal, cartels selling pot there only are just shady businesses avoiding regulation, not evil doers. Finally, as the moonshine comment highlights, legal sellers can and should be able to provide a more consistent and predictable product.

    Why do you think ending pot prohibition is any more idiotic, RGK, than was ending alcohol prohibition? Just curious what drives your disaffinity for free markets and free people.

    • Dear Doug,

      Thanks for being a good sport.

      I have to be in Omaha by 6:00 AM for a procedure. (Don’t you love my play of the cancer card as I stall for time?) Devastating response to follow.

      All the best.

      RGK

  6. Take all the time you need, RGK, and also know I can also use the cancer card if/when needed: e.g., given your on-going medical issues, I hope/expect you will be especially able to explain why you think it wise and just that any/every person dealing with cancer and its traditional treatments who wants to grow/use a plant for personal pleasure/relief ought to be deemed a criminal and punished for trying to deal with cancer’s challenges this way.

  7. Pingback: Is The Rocky Mountain High A Win-Win? | Simple Justice

  8. One interesting feature of Gupta’s medical marijuana report is that (on camera, at least) a woman high up in NIDA appeared to entertain the idea that government restrictions that hinder medical research about marijuana should be loosened. That surprised me, especially if they follow through.

  9. Pingback: On unintended consequences and the odd relationship between a tramatic pneumothorax and making marijuana legal « Hercules and the umpire.

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