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Interview With Rolling Stone Writer


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Sometimes you're in the right place at the right time. Rolling Stone contributing editor Vanessa Grigoriadis just happened to be finishing up an indepth, behind-the-scenes look at the medical marijuana craze here in LA when 11 dispensaries were raided. Needless to say a good story suddenly got a lot better and even more timely.

Taking the reader pretty much everywhere medical marijuana dispensary owner "Daniel" goes throughout his day, Grigoriadis describes a world that's wild and shady and cutting edge and profitable and totally fascinating.

With over 100 dispensaries up and running in LA, the ones described in last week's RS feature "The Great California Weed Rush", have problems trusting their employees, fear highway cops who might bust them when they transport large quantities, fear feds that might raid them, try to protect themselves against common thieves, and then have to hear about new gangs that have learned how to pick the most complicated new safes.

Ms. Grigoriadis, who also writes for New York, was nice enough to answer some of our questions about her story via email.

LAist: You wrote "He looks at his cell phone. 'Should I call the store?' he worries. 'If I call them, they're going to try to hide something before I get there. Maybe they've been buying on the side...' What would they be buying on the side? Aren't they in a store filled with pot and hash? What is there to buy on the side?

Vanessa Grigoriadis: Dispensary owners generally sell managers of each store pounds of weed, then wait for a profit when the sales are completed. If the manager buys their own weed and sells it "on the side" instead of the weed the dispensary owner sold them, there's no profit for the owner.

If all these shops are getting robbed at night, and if their safes filled with money and pot are being picked, why don't they hire 24 hour security or watch dogs? Or why aren't they using armored cars to pick up their cash each day?

Too expensive? Too risky? I think most owners feel that they don't want anyone around product or cash other than themselves -- if they get conned by a security guard, they can't count on the cops to help them.

Could you tell that something big was going to go down right before the big bust?

Everyone told me that "something big" was going to go down in January. I thought they were stoned and paranoid.

Do you have any idea why the feds would go after, mainly, the West Hollywood clubs who, one would imagine, provide the most care for more HIV patients (per capita) than any other clubs?

The DEA's official response is that these dispensaries had a lot of traffic, and they are most interested in successful dispensaries. The pro-pot advocates say -- and I'm inclined to believe them -- that the raids were a shot across the bow to show that even the usual MM no-fire zones are now open to federal investigation.

You said in your story that not one LA club owner had been prosecuted by the feds in the last two years. Of the 11 clubs that were raided near the end of your report, how many do you expect will be prosecuted?

I think there will be at least one prosecution.

When you went into Daniel's house and he has all these types of marijuana and hash inside... can you smell the aroma of weed from outside of the house? Do his neighbors have any idea what he's up to?

Nope, and nope.

You describe how they name a certain type of pot. "Skunk Fruit" they agree to call it. Does that mean that "Grape Ape" found at one location wont be the same "Grape Ape" at a different dispensary? And if so, what good are the names?

I think everyone's agreed that the names are largely BS beyond basic designations like indica, sativa, Purp, Kush. They're either made up somewhere along the line, or they're the grower's fair approximation of his seeds and babies. My understanding is that every batch of seeds is different anyway, so the names can be meaningless from the get-go.

In your piece you said that eighths of medical marijuana are priced "from $35 an eighth to $100 for OG Kush". Not that we're experts, but that seems to be the same prices as one would get on the street. With so many dispensaries in LA and a quasi-legal way to sell it legally, why aren't the price cheaper in the dispensaries?

As one dispensary owner told me, 'you don't need to sell cannabis -- cannabis sells itself.' There's more than enough customers to go around for dealers and dispensaries.

We were surprised that your piece had no mention of Rev. CraigX, the minister of Hollywood's Temple 420 who was busted late last year for providing medicine. Had you not heard of him?

Yup, I knew about him - but there's not much more to say than most people believe he got busted partially because of his high-profile cameo on Weeds. The DEA has been clear that they're not out to bust every last dispensary in town, but if you bring media attention upon yourself, you will be punished.

You paint Daniel as being someone who can't trust anyone. Why did he choose to trust you to do the story and follow him around?

He wanted to communicate to readers that dispensary owners aren't lowlifes -- they're regular businessmen forced to operate in a retarded business environment.

You mentioned that one of the providers had a Ferrari that was seized in the raids. Don't you think a guy who is selling pot, even as medicine, really is asking to get the cops all up in his business if he's driving a Ferrari?

He's allowed to own a Ferrari, and by state law he's allowed to run a dispensary. The cops aren't up in his business - it's the feds. And whether you think the feds should be in his business is a matter of whether you think the feds should be in anyone's business.

What is it about LA that there are so many dispensaries here?

I think people who live in the Valley and work in Hollywood smoke more pot than anyone on earth.

Source: LAist.com
Author: Tony Pierce
Copyright: 2003-2007 Gothamist LLC
Website: LAist
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