Medical Pot Returning to Underground
A stocky onetime mortgage broker is speeding through Costa Mesa in an old pickup with two pounds of weed in a paper bag. He wears gray cargo shorts and flip-flops and a faded cap with the image of a marijuana leaf stitched on the front. He just smoked a joint thick as a knuckle.
Cypress Hill thumps through the cab.
I’ll hit that bong and break ya off somethin’ soon
I got ta get my props,
Cops, come and try to snatch my crops
These pigs wanna blow my house down
For a man whose apartment was raided recently and now faces felony drug possession and cultivation charges, he doesn’t seem particularly worried about the mission at hand. 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. (Except then, he was a dealer. Now he is a “mobile dispensary.”)
“It’s too late!” he bellows. “The genie is out of the bottle. A huge demand has been created. It’s back to the underground. Anyone who is smart is just going to take it back to the streets.”
He says he knows lots of people scurrying to the shadows as the state has struggled and failed to regulate the medical cannabis industry and local law enforcement agencies and the federal government have tried to curtail it.
It’s an easy journey to the underground, as 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.