New Yorker reports on medical marijuana dispensaries

The July 28 issue of the New Yorker has a fascinating, lengthy article by David Samuels about the medical marijuana industry in California. (Illustration by bOING bOING contributor Adrian Tomine)
200807281025.jpg [Captain] Blue's business consists mainly of selling a few pounds a week to various dispensaries; occasionally, though, a single outlet will buy five or more pounds at a time. In the course of a month, Blue is typically in debt to half a dozen people, and in turn holds markers for twenty to thirty thousand dollars that he is owed by distributors around town. Because Blue works only with people he trusts, he usually gets his money back, although it can take as long as two or three years for some debtors to make good. Understanding the abstractions of ganja credit and debt is important in the pot business, where financial success is determined largely by the velocity of your cash transactions. A practiced flipper like Blue can make twenty to thirty dollars on an eighth of an ounce of high-grade pot, which retails for anywhere between fifty and seventy-five dollars. Last year, Blue made roughly a hundred thousand dollars, and paid some ten thousand in taxes.

Later in the afternoon, a friend of Blue's, who calls herself Lily, showed up with a duffelbag. She unzipped the bag and placed on Blue's kitchen table three black trash bags filled with ganja. Lily is a courier; she transports pot to Los Angeles from the growing regions upstate. A witchy Japanese-American girl with a dolphin tattoo on her right shoulder, she wore large gold hoop earrings, a Lucite cross necklace, and sunglasses perched on top of her hair. She said that she got into the business because she suffers from chronic back and neck pain from a spinal injury, and found that smoking weed helped her with symptoms such as nausea and a loss of appetite.

(Here's an audio interview with author David Samuels about the article)

Dr. Kush, How medical marijuana is transforming the pot industry (The New Yorker)


  1. It is heartwarming to see the inherent drive of people to be free and trade, survive even the most inane fascism (drug war). Like a rose that grows through concrete (apologies to Tupac).

  2. I sure am glad that honest law abiding citizens are being protected from these dangerous criminals by DEA raids and harassment. I shudder to imagine what would happen if we weren’t keeping this menace in check.


  3. interesting article, but too bad that the all-too-specific description of that courier might just be the end of her career…

  4. It would be nice of you to cite the illustrators name when posting their work like this…I am sure Adrian Tomine would appreciate it.

  5. Agreed, jazminecat. Not just the courier is overexposed, but many of the people in the story. It’s the details that really make this a great read. I’ve been thinking a lot about it since I read it on Saturday, and I have to wonder how many people might be targeted by law enforcement as a result, unless many of the details were altered to protect identities without telling the reader.

    That said, it’s a description that rings fairly true to me, having recently lived in SoCal and near Humboldt, where there seems to be a hydroponic supply store on every block. The economy would be in shock up there without pot agriculture. Rivers and oceans have been overfished; logging is shut down. Making pot a gray market allows everyone except the feds to look the other way. Illegal grows in state or federal land are seized, but not private landowners that know how to keep a low profile.

    This story seems like a bad way to keep a low profile.

  6. And Ganesha , blessed be his wee trunky self,ain’t gonna matter a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut when the man comes to yer door..

  7. Boing Boing seems a little different lately. Maybe it’s just me, huh? People just seem so intense and sarcastic about everything. But again, maybe it’s just me.

    Anyway. I don’t smoke weed or do any drugs, really. But I also think it would be great if pot was decriminalized. The plants themselves have a million and one uses, and the THC really is good for pain management, nausea and so on.

    Maybe some day. :\ Until then, I suppose I’ll just have to keep rotting my liver with government-approved hooch, if I want to get high.

  8. “The plants themselves have a million and one uses, and the THC really is good for pain management, nausea and so on.”

    Ain’t that the truth.
    * Much more environmentally friendly paper
    * Stronger clothes
    * Much more sensible bio-fuels!

    Good article found here

  9. JazmineCat: I don’t know what the formal journalistic ethics are, but if I were writing that story, I’d have altered some of the details in the description of the courier.

    TheMage, they don’t say whether that income is net or gross, or how much Captain Blue’s business-related expenses come to. The way I see it, if a drug dealer is going to pay taxes on the income, it doesn’t make any sense to cheat.

    Hassan-i-Sabbah, I know Ganesha gets around, but how does he come into this conversation?


    Smoking pot harms nobody! The government has freedom a crime. The only victims in prohibition are the people who choose to use Cannabis.

    Should the government be allowed to tell you what you can or cannot do with your own time in your own home with your own body!?

    Stand up for what is right. Stand up for TRUE JUSTICE! Stop being silent about the abuse of power!

    Call your congressmen & congresswomen! Tell them to repeal the Controlled Substances Act and the Drug Schedules, tell them to amend or withdraw our support from the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs!

    Authoritarianism shall have no place in the United States of America!

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