October 2, 2010
Marijuana has traditionally been referred to as the “gateway drug,” reputed to introduce one to harder more dangerous substances. If Colorado lawmakers have their way, a new system of policing to oversee Medical Marijuana sales frequency, quantity, buyer activity, and final point of use, will be introduced soon. Pot may once again become known as the gateway drug, however this time it will be to introduce Big Brother style tracking technology to the general market place.
The Colorado State legislature is looking at passing laws to keep track of medical marijuana purchases from seed to point of usage. These are designed to stop purchases of large quantities from various locations in short time periods, that could then be sold on the black market. State officials say that these laws and the surveillance system they will create, are necessary as protections against medical marijuana system abuses by unlawful drug dealers.
Patients and marijuana advocates see this as an unwarranted intrusion, an invasion of individual medical practices by the state using Orwellian methods. Drivers license swipes and video cameras, to track buyers. State officials are considering fingerprinting patients to eventually implement thumb scanning technology. Also, product tracking by use of passive micro Radio Frequency Identification devices (RFID), in or on all marijuana products will track every gram sold.
Medical marijuana became legal in Colorado in 2000, and has been largely self regulating. However, the explosion in the number of marijuana dispensaries is the impetus behind the state’s move this session to pass new regulations. This now has the medical marijuana community up in arms at the development. Many of us who were against the medical marijuana initiatives from the get-go cited this very possibility as reason to vote against it. Many who were against medical marijuana were actually no compromise proponents of a complete decriminalization of the herb, placing it under similar general laws as alcohol when abused, or used in the commission of a crime.
A possible fraud scenario used by proponents of this high tech tracking goes like this; a patient’s card is used to buy marijuana several times in the same day from dispensaries at different locations. Utilizing the tracking system, the state would be alerted and notify all dispensaries not to sell to that card because of suspected fraud. The state would then verify if it’s the same person through video surveillance required in dispensaries under the new law. Thumb readers and RFID would be the next step, yet patients are leery as to how the RFID tracking would be accomplished.
This will be at issue this election season with at least 14 states allowing medical marijuana as November ballot measures. Montana’s legislature is expected to consider medical marijuana tracking when it opens for legislation next year.
Actually, medical marijuana isn’t really the debate here, since as I stated before the marijuana issue could be easily remedied by decriminalization under a program similar to the way alcohol is regulated and controlled to adults. The real issue here is tracking and surveillance. This ground-breaking program has many people watching closely, even folks who know little if anything about marijuana, yet can see the larger implications regarding buying and selling of goods and services under this type of highly regulated and controlled system, monitored by Orwellian surveillance techniques.
What I find interesting is, folks who saw Medical Marijuana as a win for personal freedom against Big Brother, may well have inadvertently initiated the opposite effect, they may have been led into lifting the flap, letting the camel’s nose under the tent, this very thing may bring high tech Big Brother to fruition.