The New York skyline reflecting on the Hudson river

I’ve seen all the movie stars in their fancy cars and their limousines
Been high in the Rockies under the evergreens
I know what I’m needin’, and I don’t want to waste more time
I’m in a New York state of mind —Billy Joel

It’s unlikely piano man Billy Joel was singing about reversing a floundering state’s fortunes when he dismissed being high in the Rockies under the evergreens as a waste of time. Speaking of evergreens, “Ever Green” may as well be Colorado’s state slogan; the state is sitting pretty thanks to a bold decision to embrace cannabis commerce.

That’s one state of weed. Surely New York can’t wait to follow suit?

Unfortunately for the Empire State’s stoners and potentrepreneurs, their state, like the flip-flopping state of Michigan which just nixed all its dispensaries before paint was dry on the walls, sits in the Eastern Time Zone — a black hole where “Never Green” is a more apt slogan.

So, is New York destined to become another “me-too” MMJ state where only a handful of folks on death’s doorstep can buy government grown bunk weed one month then the next month they’re SOL? And, oh by the way, next to no cannajobs will be created, minimal cannatax will be collected, and cannabis the commodity will continued to be scorned on Wall Street?

That’s an entirely different state of weed, one that looks a lot more like “grovelization” than legalization.

Which of these polar opposite policies provides the basis for a uniquely New York state of weed?

Let’s train our sights eastward and find out.

A tale of two MMJ city-states

Welcoming an invigorating infusion of cannabucks with open arms, Denver, Colorado has quickly become The Nation’s Most Prosperous City. Conversely, Detroit, Michigan’s mondo metropolis, has earned its distinction as America’s Fastest Shrinking City. With unemployment running at a staggering 50%, Detroit has nonetheless rejected a rejuvenating, forward-thinking solution: converting deteriorating factories into industrial grow facilities.

“Not in our town!” scoffed braindead Michigan officials.

World's largest abandoned auto factory in Deetroit at night

“Not in our town! No way we’re converting this decrepit facility into a model cannabis cultivation center — we love it the way it is!”

The same politicos are simpatico with scores of former auto workers roaming the streets, scavenging copper pipes from abandoned buildings, then selling the “precious” metal to scrap yards. In Detroit’s apocalyptic landscape, copper scavenger is a good job — much like gas siphoner was a prestigious position in The Road Warrior.

D’ya think any of these once-gainfully-employed zombies currently plying “the copper trade” would leap at the chance to earn a regular paycheck again — especially if the work was cultivating The World’s Most Useful Substance?

Don’t think too hard. You know they would. They’ll never get the chance; that’s not how Michigan’s legislators roll. In their minds, cutting the living dead unemployment checks is substantially more socially responsible.

New Detroit?

New York City, home to 8 million New Yorkers, is neither booming like Denver nor spectacularly rotting like Detroit as it’s grimly depicted in Detropia, a documentary nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

auto parts sign in Detroit changed to "Utopia."

Detroit + “Utopia” = Detropia. Photo by Tony Hardman. Detroit + Dystopia works, too.

Nonetheless, the natives are restless. They want some marijuana policy that’s better than what they have now.  Well, what they really want is some weed, like yesterday. And better yet if any flavor of Kush, lemon, lime or kumquat, could be obtained in a civilized fashion, from a local shop — like those general stores Colorado cowboys get their weed from out west.

So, with these contrasts to choose from, would New York go for Colorado, with its vibrant poteconomy, or Michigan, overwhelmed by the decaying vestiges of its once-invincible automotive industry yet too pot-phobic to try anything out-of-the-box?

Needless to say, “activists” in the Empire State have signed off on Michigan’s dystopian script.

You might very well find New York’s decision to emulate Michigan incomprehensible in light of the fact New York City in particular has experienced its share of catastrophes in the new milenium. Hurricane Sandy and 911 require mega-billions to dig out from. Mega-billions don’t generally rain down from the clouds.

Surely enlightened officials somewhere between Niagara Falls and Nyack must have thought about unleashing The Little Weed That Could and seeing what happened?

We can cover that angle in one word: fuggedaboutit.

Apparently New York legislators would rather watch New York City turn into New Detroit. They’ve obviously whitewashed the lessons of history: Detroit was once America’s fastest growing city. Las Vegas thought the Liberace schtick would never stop. Phoenix once seemed like a desert jewel. “It can’t happen here?” Think again. Those cannabucks can sure come in handy on a rainy day.

And in this corner, representing the 23rd district …

If the senator from New York’s 23rd District has her way, the Staten Island Ferry, which normally traverses the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan to its namesake, will be taking a little detour down the River Styx to medical marijuana hell.

This no-pleasure cruise is led by Senator Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) — who undoubtedly feels she’s doing voters a big favor by pestering reluctant legislators to pass MMJ legislation which may help the sick and dying providing they successfully leverage whatever ails them into a qualifying disease; the same legislation, like all MMJ initiatives, is guaranteed to put the kibosh on healthy New Yorkers getting their hands on any “legal” weed or making any appreciable cannabucks from trading it.

NY State Senator from Staten Island Diane Savino in a blue cocktail dress on the streets of New York

NY State Senator Diane Savino out and about and looking, uh, persuasive in a skimpy royal blue taffeta cocktail dress.

Although I’m diametrically opposed to her position, I understand where Senator Savino is coming from.

If you live in a place where the magical weed has been symbolically crucified, figuratively lynched, and literally eradicated, at first blush MMJ looks like a step up.

When you’re starving, crumbs look tasty. The problem is, people and economies need a lot more than crumbs to thrive.

If passed, New York’s MMJ initiative would be the 19th out of 19 MMJ iniatives which fails to:

  1. Free one marijuana prisoner
  2. Open the door to conducting meaningful research into THC’s holistic possibilities
  3. Keep US Attorneys from looking for career-making cases and the DEA at bay
  4. Light the fuse under the powder keg that is cannabis commerce
  5. Call for reparations in the event a city or county opts out taking an established MMJ business with it
  6. Provide one benefit for healthy voters, the same voters asked to approve an initiative which excludes them

Why does Denver-based Cannabis Commerce, a site known from The Bronx to Borneo for coming down hard on state-by-state legislation, care what happens in one eastern state?

Well, the Empire State state just happens to have 20 million residents; it’s the most populated state left that  hasn’t sold a quasi-legal gram. Well, tell a lie, there’s Texas, which has even more Texans — 30 million to be exact.

We can’t take Texas seriously because Neptune will be announced as the 51st state before the descendants of The Alamo get around to quasi-legalizing the devil’s weed.

20 million reasons make us curious whether New York, New York’s fabled mantra, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere,” becomes genetically modified to, “If you can grow it here, you can grow it anywhere.”

NY senator Diane Savino at Coney Island

Latest polls indicate that 95% of her constituents would gladly go “Under The Boardwalk” with the impassioned State Senator from Staten Island. But not everyone wants to hippity-hop down her MMJ rabbit hole.

Then again, it’s hard to work up much enthusiasm for growing “it” in the Catskills. At the present rate of progress, by the time politicians and the public hash out their differences and figure out how to sell marijuana on Main Street, it won’t matter. New York City will be submerged underwater just like those cartoony animations in An Inconvenient Truth.

At this point, irregular readers may be wondering why we’re not lauding the state of New York’s dementia intention to become the nation’s 19th MMJ state. Aren’t pro-pot sites supposed to crow each time another MMJ state joins the fold? Sorry, we didn’t get that memo. To us, becoming the nation’s 19th MMJ state is more like becoming the nation’s “19th Nervous Breakdown” — and yeah, we’ve heard that song before.

Governor Cuomo enters the fray

Fortunately, a powerful personage refuses to bless New York’s metamorphosis into an MMJ state: its Governor, Andrew Cuomo an intense and well-connected figure reviled by patient rights fanatics. Those are the same folks who want us to believe that the magical herb was put on earth as a reward for the sick and dying alone.

Governor Cuomo apparently has the same aversion we have for initiatives that promote inequality and emasculate marijuana markets, condemning cannabis the commodity to financial irrelevancy.

governor cuomo shaking hands with a Cardinal

New York governor Andrew Cuomo doesn’t see marijuana possession as a cardinal offense.

Like us, the governor believes in the quaint constitutional premise of equality for all.

People who believe in equality for all reckon everyone should be able to buy all the pot they want or no one should be able to buy any of it.

That means the sick and dying don’t get a free pass. Why not? Because marijuana’s value isn’t restricted to medicinal value alone … so explain to me why are the rest of us supposed to be OK with restricting it to the sick and dying alone. You can’t. Among other things, the cannabis plant has economic value, as in massive economic value. It has economic firepower. It has quick-strike capability to rescue governments tottering on the brink of bankruptcy, although that capability has rarely been deployed.

But what about the poor pathetic “patients” who need weed today? What about their pain and suffering? Have we no feelings? As it develops, we have lots of them. Here are our feelings about shortsightedly falling for the plight of the poor pathetic patients today instead of repealing marijuana prohibition for perpetuity which just happens to work out way better for patients, too.

Suffice it to say that Governor Cuomo isn’t swallowing a patient pill, either. He’s the rare high-level elected official who recognizes that:

  • Medical marijuana laws are basically unenforceable.
  • Medical marijuana laws are dynamic; they never stand still. They invite legislators to endlessly meddle by creating, editing, and deleting bizarre refinements anytime and as many times as the mood strikes them.
  • Medical marijuana is a masquerade where Hooters chicks making $10 an hour working as budtenders pretend they’re somehow qualified to treat deadly diseases and dispense an under-researched although promising substance as if they’re MDs and Pharmacists.

The privileged few and the unprivileged many

The governor of New York asks, “How do you construct a system that really is that tightly controlled that you don’t have dissemination beyond the directed population?” Well, you can’t. Nothing can prevent an MMJ cardholder from selling or giving away some or all of his purchase to friends and relatives short of 24-hour surveillance. From an enforcement point of view, the governor recognizes that the only way to control things is full legalization or no legalization … not quasi-legalization for a privileged few.

Regarding the unprivileged many, Governor Cuomo is revolted by the fact that his state leads the nation in targeting minorities for marijuana possession arrests — with over 100,000 shakedowns a year. He prioritizes keeping people out of jail over elevating the sick and dying into an elite caste. Toward that end, he’s been speaking out against his state’s disgraceful arrest record for years and pushing for legislation to decriminalize marijuana for everyone.

That’s why Governor Cuomo intrigues Cannabis Commerce.

In his own words:

There have been roughly 50,000 arrests in New York City for marijuana possession, more than any other possession. Of those 50,000 arrests, 82% are black and Hispanic. Of the 82% that are black and Hispanic, 69% are under the age of 30 years old. These are young, predominately black and Hispanic males. These arrests stigmatize, they criminalize, they create a permanent record. It’s not fair. It’s not right. It must end. And it must end now. —New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in his 2013 State of the State Address

Governor Cuomo is all for legalizing possession up to 15 grams. Of course, in this half-hatched plan, the weed possessed must be born from “immaculate cultivation” — as in immaculate conception — for the governor’s plan fails to provide a means for enterprising New Yorkers to legally grow or sell weed. In other words, you can possess 15 grams of a substance that no one can grow and no one can buy.

It’s a New York state of weed.

ny central park idyllic lawn