HCLU’s new movie, Paving the Way, features one of the Californian medical marijuana dispensaries, the Harborside Medical Marijuana Health Center, opened by Stephen DeAngelo in 2006 in Oakland. It is a non-profit organization established by people who use marijuana for various health problems, including cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis and chronic pain. Members of the Harborside collective of patients grow marijuana to supply their own medical needs.
The Harborside recently employs 77 people, has 30,000 registered patients and brings in about $20 million (£12.4 million) annually in revenue. In 1996 Californians voted for Proposition 215 that removed state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess a "written or oral recommendation" from their physician that he or she "would benefit from medical marijuana." Since then, the federal authorities have been trying to interfere with state legislation, raiding dispenasaries and prosecuting doctors. However, last year the Obama administration decided to stop the raids and tolerate medical marijuana use in those 14 states that legalized it so far. According to The Times, “across California there are an estimated 2,100 dispensaries, co-operatives, wellness clinics and taxi delivery services in the sector known as ‘cannabusiness’. That is more than all the Starbucks, McDonald’s and 7-Eleven outlets in the state put together”
The Harborside is a pioneer enterprise that is really paving the way toward a legally regulated cannabis market, where the quality of the product is controlled and the rights of the consumer are protected. Marijuana sold in the Harborside is tested in a high-tech laboratory, so customers can adjust the potency of THC and other psychoactive ingredients (such as CBD, that has proven to relieve convulsion, inflammation, anxiety, and nausea, and to inhibit cancer cell growth) to their special needs. In this sense California is well ahead of The Netherlands, where people have no idea about the potency of weed or hash they purchase in coffee shops. In addition, the Harborside is not only about selling cannabis to people but has a holistic approach that supplements the medicine with other forms of treatment and self-control techniques. William Gibson, the famous sci-fi writer said the future is already here, but it is unevenly distributed. Does the Harborside Health Center represents the future of the cannabis market? Well, we don’t know. In November Californians will vote on a bill (Legalize and Tax Cannabis 2010) that would legalize the recreational use of cannabis for all adults over 21 years. This can lead to a domino effect not only in the US – but all over the world. Legalization is not science fiction any more.