Thu, Jul 23, 2009 - Page 14 News List

[TECHNOLOGY] iPhone’s marijuana service a must-have in California

Since California became the first US state to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes, it has become a major economic force, and its use more widely accepted

By Andy Goldberg  /  DPA , SAN FRANCISCO

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The almighty iPhone may still be unable to brew you a cup of coffee or mix a perfect cocktail, but at least it can get you stoned.

Apple has just approved a new application for its must-have mobile device that locates legal marijuana dispensaries in the US for users of medical marijuana. The US$3 download lists the known locations of medical collectives, doctors, clinics and organizations, placing them conveniently on a Google map. When iPhone users are in need of a quick fix, they can activate the app to find the nearest source of legal cannabis.

While the latest iPhone app does not break new ground technologically, it does reflect the growing acceptance of medical marijuana in the US and elsewhere. Medical use of cannabis is accepted in some form in Canada, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain, Israel, Finland and Portugal.

In the US, 13 states have recognized medical marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Medical marijuana remains illegal under US federal law, where it is classed in the same category with hard drugs such as heroin.

Despite this hurdle, hundreds of marijuana dispensaries have opened up in recent years around the Golden State, where officials estimate that the total annual crop is worth a whopping US$17 billion.

That dwarfs any legal crop grown in the largest US state. With California mired in a financial crisis, some policymakers even see a marijuana tax as a way to save essential public services that would otherwise be axed. Just last week, state tax officials estimated that imposing a tax on marijuana sales would yield a US$1.4 billion windfall every year for California’s state budget.

The city of Oakland is not waiting for state bureaucrats to act. The densely populated area east of San Francisco already has so many pot dispensaries that it is called Oaksterdam, and on Tuesday, voters there decided to tax revenue from medicinal marijuana, becoming the first municipality in the US to do so.

“At this point, dude, seriously, let’s just face the fact that everybody is smoking,” said Jaime Galindo, owner of Oaksterdam’s Club Z, a leading pot dispensary. “Bus drivers, cops — your grandma.”

Los Angeles, which is estimated to be home to more than 400 dispensaries, is considering a city pot tax that would bring in hundreds of millions of US dollars a year.

Even if it escapes the seeming inevitability of taxation, there is little doubt that marijuana consumption is an established part of daily life, rather than a furtive underground activity like other drug use. The Farmacy, a popular chain of Los Angeles pot dispensaries, looks more like a fancy cosmetics emporium than a drug den, outfitted as it is with white leather couches and cream colored walls. Along with 25 different strains of marijuana, it also offers a range of organic toiletries, olive oil and incense.

Numerous other operations dispense altogether with marijuana store-fronts, offering more convenient delivery service by credit-card payment. Like every other marijuana dispensary, Kine2b checks patients’ medical marijuana before handing over the goods. The owner says the delivery service is popular with customers, allows him to save rent money and avoids hassles with neighbors who don’t want marijuana clubs next door.

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