Medical, or small business?


Michael Dresden holds high expectations for Washington’s marijuana trade. Dresden’s vision is to use local, sustainable and highly taxed micro-crops of marijuana to eliminate the state’s deficit and fight international terrorism. Despite Dresden’s lofty goals, many may view the twenty-something Vancouver resident as a simple drug dealer with delusions of grandeur.

Dresden, whose name and date of birth varied on each of the six Washington state ID cards he presented during a recent interview, uses a straight forward business model. Dresden collects what he describes as “surplus” marijuana from state licensed medical marijuana growers and distributes it to recreational cannabis users at a sizable mark up. “A person’s medication needs vary from month to month…. there will be times that a grower has excess cannabis. It would be wasteful not to harness the economic potential of a naturally occurring surplus.” Dresden explained matter-of-factly.

Dresden stated he is currently living in East Vancouver and that he is pursuing a Master of Business Administration degree from WSU-Vancouver. Dresden’s interview statements were laced with savvy use of business jargon. “My target market fragment is the large group of responsible adult users that are willing to pay a premium price point for quality, complication free marijuana”, Dresden stated. Due to Dresden’s use of numerous fake identities and near certainty that Dresden is not his real name, it is was not possible to verify Dresden’s stated background.

Despite the obvious illegal nature of Dresden’s business, Dresden believes his work to be in the best interest of the local community. “By allowing licensed [medical marijuana] growers to sell surplus crops, the overhead of a grow operation is paid for, keeping [medical marijuana] prices affordable…” Dresden stated in an interview. “By meeting the local demand for recreational marijuana, foreign drug cartels are blocked from gaining any more control over the US [drug] markets and that erodes the cartels’ basic source of revenue” Dresden explained. “The FBI and CIA keeps telling [the public] that the drug trade fuels international terrorism… so really, it would be unpatriotic to continue to let foreign cartels supply our local marijuana demands when we have so many high quality local growers” Dresden added with a hint of deep rooted Northwest pride. Dresden refused to comment on possible marijuana sales to minors.

A review of FBI and law enforcement publications over the last few years reveals a pattern of government entities linking the illegal drug trade to international terrorists groups. Neither the FBI nor CIA responded to requests for comment. Kim Kapp, spokesperson for the Vancouver Police, referred questions to the Clark County Drug Task Force. The Taskforce did not return emails seeking comment.

Dresden is fully aware of the illegal nature of his actions, but appears more focused on the future. “Laws change and no self-respecting businessman lets a minor detail stop a highly profitable venture, not the Kennedys, not our own hometown Al Angelo’s and surely, not me” Dresden stated with conviction punctuated with narcissistic overturns. “There is no reason why twenty years from now, people cannot look back on the current anti-marijuana laws the same way we view Prohibition—a failed attempt at government enforced morality”, Dresden declared. Prohibition is the historical time period in which the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcohol was banned by the Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution in 1920. The amendment was later repealed by the Twenty-First Amendment in 1933.

Dresden dislikes the title drug dealer, preferring to be described as a businessmen focusing on “Surplus Medical Marijuana Collection and Distribution”. His personal distaste for an unsavory title explains his immaculate appearance in pressed slacks and a polo shirt with a fake Knight Hawk security logo. However, his professional overturns have a practical side, “No one wants some dirty home boy showing up at their place, [But] if I show up at a house in a security uniform with a professional demeanor, no one suspects that I’m there to conduct a marijuana trade”. Additionally, Dresden believes his periodic presence in a security uniform deters neighborhood crime by creating the appearance of security patrols. “My customers appreciate the efforts I make to protect their privacy and to keep their neighborhoods safe” Dresden stated. At least one of Dresden’s clients agrees with his method of operation.

“My health plan does not cover pot, if I couldn’t sell a bit on the side; I wouldn’t be able to pay for the [supplies] that I need to grow my medication.” One of Dresden’s clients in the Rose Village neighborhood stated. The client describes herself as a 58 year old office worker with Fibromyalgia. Her interview was granted on condition of anonymity due to fear of police action. The client firmly believes in the benefits of medical marijuana and the need for what she describes as “polite drug dealers”. “The pills I used to take were either not strong enough or so strong I would wake up nauseous and drugged, but weed works likes a miracle” the client explained regarding her choice to use medical marijuana. “[Dresden] is always so very polite and reliable”, the client stated when asked about Dresden’s service.

Dresden clients may appreciate his thoughtfulness, but Knight Hawk Protection does not approve of Dresden’s actions to impersonate legitimate security officers. “I can assure you that the alleged individuals are in no way affiliated or employed by Knight Hawk Protection,” Mike Darrah, Operations Manager for Knight Hawk Protection, stated in an email. Darrah believes it should be easy for the general public to distinguish legitimate Knight Hawk security officers from impersonators with fake-logo imbedded polo shirts, “All [Knight Hawk] vehicles are tracked and monitored as well as marked… Knight Hawk Protection, LLC does not issue polo shirts, our uniforms are clearly marked and identifiable.”

Mixed Community Response

Maria Campos, a 23 year old Vancouver native and a recreational marijuana user, believes the major adverse aspects of the marijuana trade are due to the criminalization of marijuana. “The people with a sense of decency won’t sale [marijuana] because of the law… that gives creeps and gang bangers the monopoly of [the marijuana trade].” Campos stated in an interview. “If the state wanted to fight gang violence, all lawmakers would have to do is legalize pot and presto, no more gangbangers using pot to pay for gang wars”, Campos stated. Perhaps a bit over simplified, but Campos’ frustration with the current marijuana laws was echoed by several others including Dave Gill, a 67 year retired airline pilot.

“I don’t see how anyone can say banning weed made sense in the first place. How can Washington State own liquor stores and then get offended about some wanting to relax with a joint?” Gill stated in his Hazel Dell home. “Weed is no more harmful than whisky and it should be treated no differently”, Gill declared. Gill stated that he would not use marijuana even if it was legalized, but believes just as non-drinkers should not criminalize his responsible whisky drinking, he should not criminalize another person’s responsible use of marijuana. “I just don’t see the point in using tax dollars to fight what people have been doing for hundreds of years.” Gill concluded. Not everyone shares Gill’s position and a few people are disturbed by the abuse of the medical marijuana system.

“I don’t think people with medical marijuana licenses should be selling their marijuana to anyone and no one should be smoking marijuana illegally,” Shanti Monroe, a 19 year old Clark College student majoring in pre-nursing stated in an interview. “Medical marijuana is for personal medical use, not for someone to use as a cover for drug dealing”, Monroe explained. Although Monroe stated that she “wouldn’t mind if the state legalized marijuana” she would expect the state to heavily tax and regulate any future legal marijuana industry. Monroe doubts she would ever use marijuana recreationally, even if it was legalized. “I won’t cheap cigarettes because of health concerns, and whether people want to admit it or not, pot is still harmful” Monroe stated.

Potential Big Tobacco Take Over

Dresden’s greatest business fear is a tobacco industry take-over of the marijuana trade. “Sooner or later, the tobacco industry will get tired of its dwindling profits and will use its entire army of lobbyists to control the marijuana trade” Dresden stated. Dresden fears tobacco companies will lobby for laws and regulation that give exclusive marijuana grow rights to mega-corporations. “I think what will happen is that congress will place so-called ‘safe-guards’ in a future legalization [of marijuana] bill that really just give large international corporations a monopoly of marijuana.” Dresden’s concerns of a tobacco industry takeover have been around for decades and gained credibility when a 1976 document surfaced during a 1990’s lawsuit against the tobacco industry.

A 1976 confidential tobacco industry forecast prepared by Forecasting International, Ltd for Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation made direct references to national trends in recreational marijuana use and the tobacco industry’s ability to offer marijuana as a retail product. “[Marijuana] also has important implications for the tobacco industry in terms of an alternative product line. [Tobacco industries] have the land to grow it, the machines to roll it and package it [and] the distribution to market it… Estimates indicate that the market in legalized marijuana might be as high as $10 billion annually.” the report stated.

The hidden nature of the marijuana trade and large regional price variations make it difficult to determine the actual value of the marijuana industry in the United States. The Drug Enforcement Agency’s 2008 Marijuana Sourcebook estimates national marijuana sales were $10.5 Billion in 2000. Additional organizations have stated a wide range of estimates for 2008 national marijuana sale ranging from $13 to $25 Billion.

Dresden believes a tobacco industry changeover to marijuana would pose insurmountable competition for Northwest marijuana growers. “When the tobacco industry starts to switch over to marijuana, it will use the same locations, equipment and tactics that is has used for tobacco… Southern states will get the employment and tax benefits and the traditional Northwest trade will be destroyed.” Dresden stated. Dresden’s concerns also include product quality and environmental impact. “Look at what large corporations did to tobacco, the additives, the genetic modification, the use of environmentally harmful fertilizers and pesticides; do we really want them to be in charge of future marijuana farms?” Dresden asked rhetorically.

The idea of switching over tobacco farms to hemp or marijuana has gained momentum in the face of declining tobacco sales and the current economic recession. In a New York Times article, Dorothy Robertson, a farmer in Bethel, Ky., was quoted as stating “Farmers have their backs against the wall” in regards to decreasing tobacco crops and increasing farming costs.

Dresden would like to see Washington State legislators focus on how to develop and regulate a legal marijuana industry that keeps Washington competitive in a changing global marijuana industry. “It is up to the state legislators to seize the moment and ensure the state’s prosperity. The world wide marijuana and hemp markets are changing and either Washington can get ahead of the market or it can be left behind” Dresden stated.

The Washington State Department of Health declined to comment on illegal medical marijuana sales, but referred the public to the Medical Marijuana Frequently Asked Questions webpage.

Marcus Griffith is a local freelance writer and U.S. veteran.
Part Two of The Voice’s look at marijuana in Clark County will report on the possibilities of a medical marijuana cooperative in the area.


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