How the CA Medical Marijuana Biz Goes Underground After Federal Actions


The Los Angeles Times tells the story of Ricky, a marijuana dealer whose apartment was raided recently and now faces felony drug possession and cultivation charges. Ricky rants about a federal and local crackdown on medical marijuana that closed various dispensaries that he ran and forced him back to the streets, where he began as a teenager in the 1970s. He says he knows lots of people scurrying to the shadows as California has struggled and failed to regulate the medical cannabis industry and local law enforcement agencies and the federal government have tried to curtail it.

The line between the legal and illegal markets in California has always been sketchy. The medical cannabis trade did not rise from a boardroom meeting when voters passed the medical marijuana initiative Proposition 215 in 1996. It sprouted out of the marijuana networks that already existed, with largely the same growers, middlemen, and customers. Ricky does business with no taxes, no permits and no paperwork. He stashes his cash in safe deposit boxes all over and buries it in the ground. He still sells only to people with medical recommendations, he says, mainly in case he lands in court and needs a defense. At 48, Ricky has been an entrepreneur in legal and illegal ventures since junior high school in Long Beach.

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