On October 11, 2013, 46 year-old Angela Kirking was awakened by DEA agents raiding her Illinois home looking for marijuana. The reason Kirking landed on the DEA’s radar? Because three weeks earlier she purchased a bottle of organic fertilizer at a local hydroponics store. Kirking wasn’t the only victim of overzealous surveillance by the Drug Enforcement Administration that day, as 10 other search warrants were executed on area residents based simply on the fact that they were seen exiting one hydroponics store with something in their hands.
Such has been the risk of being a medical marijuana patient in states where citizens are not trusted to grow or consume cannabis in order to treat themselves. Traditionally, patients who wanted to grow their own medicine would visit a local hydro store to gain information and buy what they needed to setup a small, discreet medical grow. Even patients who don’t grow their own medicine take a chance of becoming the subject of a law enforcement investigation simply by visiting a smoke shop in areas where marijuana laws are heavily enforced.
Cannabis and E-Commerce
Enter the internet, which has made online smoke stores, seed banks and grow shops nearly as common as tech or clothing e-tailers, and the relative anonymity offered by most online retailers has created a new class of medical marijuana patients that have taken control of their health by consuming only what they grow. No longer afraid of getting caught, patients are now able to order everything they need to germinate, grow, extract, infuse, smoke and otherwise consume their medical marijuana from behind a computer screen, and have it delivered in nondescript packaging to their doorstep. But it wasn’t always this easy.
Many people new to the idea of medical marijuana probably don’t realize that it was barely 12 years ago that actor Tommy Chong, of Cheech and Chong fame, was sentenced to nine months in a federal prison and subjected to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and forfeitures for the crime of selling glass bongs on the internet. In other words, the same year we collectively decided to rename french fries “freedom fries” because we all thought France was full of wussies we were putting head shop owners in prison for selling pipes to adults. Oh how times have changed in such a short period of time.
Marijuana in the court of public opinion
To say that public opinion about marijuana has changed drastically in the last few years would be an understatement. In 2003, the year Tommy Chong reported to federal prison, 31% of the American public believed that marijuana should be legalized for medical purposes. That number is now 63% and rising, meaning that the message that marijuana is medicine is finally being taken seriously by scientists, the general public and even some politicians.
It is this shift in public perception about medical marijuana – something that was also made possible by the free sharing of information via the internet – that has made it possible for retailers to confidently sell online. Now that 23 states have legalized medical marijuana and four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes it is impossible to get the toothpaste back in the tube. Politicians who remain opposed to reform preach to a quickly-dying generation of prohibitionists, and universal access to marijuana medicine in some form is all but guaranteed at this point.
If you live in the south and grow your own medicine know that you are not alone. There are now thousands and thousands of patients all across the south converting closets, garages and spare bedrooms into medicine factories, and they are treating themselves and family members for everything from seizures to cancer.
63% and growing. If a U.S. President had an approval number that high his or her face would be chiseled into a mountain.