World Wide Wednesday

How I saw the Internet this week

Deep Routes

My piece on medical marijuana industry and policy in Colorado got published on Huffington Post!

Perhaps the greatest reason for the banking issue faced by the medical marijuana industry is that the federal government has been sending mixed signals. While U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s circulation of the Ogden Memo in late-2009 seemed to imply that medical marijuana policy and regulation would be left at the discretion of individual states, the federal government intervened in January when Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh sent letters to 23 MMCs located within 1,000 feet of schools, giving them 45 days to close. In March, 25 more MMCs received letters.

One recipient of the first round of letters was Greenwerkz, the MMC that AIDS patient Damien LaGoy bought his medicine from. “They really believed that they were caregivers,” LaGoy says. “If I didn’t have any money at the time, they’d say, ‘Well, don’t go without. We’ll get you through until you can pay.’ And they did.” While there are two other Greenwerkz locations, its now-closed spot on Colfax was the only one that is reasonably accessible to LaGoy.

Greenwerkz owner Dan Rogers is understandably aggravated at the development, especially since he deliberately complied with the regulations that he was ultimately forced to shut down for violating. “We were sensitive for the 1,000 foot rule three years ago,” Rogers says. “We purposely only looked for dispensaries that we believed were over 1,000 feet. Our dispensary that got shut down was actually 1,300 feet away as the pedestrian distance goes. But as the crow flies–which is what the Department of Justice used to measure–we fell within that measurement.”

“I can say with 100% certainty that our dispensary that got closed never once sold to a kid or to an unlicensed patient,” Rogers says. “The distinguishing characteristic for me is that street level drug dealers don’t make those kind of decisions. I would turn people away because they weren’t licensed. You don’t get that luxury in the black market. A regulated model does work because it’s not worth my risking my business to sell to someone that is not compliant.”

Greenwerkz sent a letter of appeal to the Department of Justice but it was to no avail. Its location that provided 60% of the business’s overall revenue–which cost nearly $100,000 to build while providing social benefits in the forms of jobs, taxes, and community services–was forced to close its doors.

“There are responsible operators and we take this seriously,” Rogers says. “We want to be good neighbors and we want to do the right thing. We just need to be given the ability.” Government resources would have been better allocated in seeking out MMCs that do not comply with vertical integration regulation and/or have lax standards in making sure that they only sell to legitimate patients.

– If you read one thing this week, make it Patrick Radden Keefe’s long story in NY Times Magazine about how a Mexican cartel makes its billions:

Moving cocaine is a capital-intensive business, but the cartel subsidizes these investments with a ready source of easy income: marijuana. Cannabis is often described as the “cash crop” of Mexican cartels because it grows abundantly in the Sierras and requires no processing. But it’s bulkier than cocaine, and smellier, which makes it difficult to conceal. So marijuana tends to cross the border far from official ports of entry. The cartel makes sandbag bridges to ford the Colorado River and sends buggies loaded with weed bouncing over the Imperial Sand Dunes into California. Michael Braun, the former chief of operations for the D.E.A., told me a story about the construction of a high-tech fence along a stretch of border in Arizona. “They erect this fence,” he said, “only to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and they’re flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side.” He paused and looked at me for a second. “A catapult,” he repeated. “We’ve got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology.”

– Ginger Thompson writes about Mexican drug money’s infiltration into American horse racing in the New York Times:

Mr. Treviño, a younger brother of José Treviño, is second in command of Mexico’s Zetas drug trafficking organization. Thin with a furrowed brow, he has become the organization’s lead enforcer — infamous for dismembering his victims while they are still alive.

The race was one of many victories for the Treviño brothers, who managed to establish a prominent horse breeding operation in the United States, Tremor Enterprises, that allowed them to launder millions of dollars in drug money, according to current and former federal law enforcement officials. The operation amounted to a foothold in the United States for one of Mexico’s most dangerous criminal networks, the officials said.

– In Forbes, Deanna Zandt explores whether or not the Internet is a meritocracy:

Let’s break down why the meritocracy myth is both so pervasive and problematic. The Internet is indeed a blank canvas in many ways. The egalitarian nature of the web as platform — for example, technically, no link or traffic is prioritized over another — makes it easier to connect people and ideas that were previously isolated. In the early days of the web, it was stunningly clear to most of us that we could do whatever we wanted, and that freedom was intoxicating.

Quick Reads

A robot that builds burritos!

A Tumblr blog where a writer imagines Jay-Z and Beyonce worrying about Kanye

Pizza vending machines are about to exist in America

– Why didn’t I think of this: a hamburger sandwiched between a Cinnabon.

Food Porn

Steamed Pork belly Buns @ Bones (Denver)

– Pulled Pork Sandwich @ Smoke Daddy (Chicago)


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