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Denis O’Brien and his defamation lawsuit in California


Denis O’Brien and his defamation lawsuit in California

April 2, 2013 by namawinelake

[The originating lawsuit is here, the respondent’s answer is here, and this is what the American’s call a “report” for the court which is supposed to assist the court with managing the case and focuses on the issues involved]

There doesn’t appear to have been much reporting in the old media in Ireland about a defamation case initiated last November 2012 by controversial businessman, Denis O’Brien and his telecoms company Digicel, in a Californian district court. The Sunday Times did cover the case in a report in early December 2012 – not available without subscription – but the general absence of reporting is remarkable given the fascinating detail that has so far emerged in court filings.

The case was initiated last November 2012 in California by Denis and his telecoms company, Digicel.  Denis and his company are claiming that an individual named Donald MacAllister has made a series of falsehoods in written statements and Denis’s lawsuit says “the purpose and effect of this pattern of misconduct is to (a) expose Denis O’Brien to hatred, contempt, ridicule and disgrace, (b) threaten that unless Mr. O’Brien pays Mr. MacAllister millions of dollars, Mr. MacAllister  will continue to attempt to wrongfully connect him to criminal conduct and/or expose him to disgrace or contempt, and ( c) interfere with the prospective economic advantage to be gained by Mr. O’Brien and his company, Digicel”. For his part, Donald is denying the central allegations, and is saying that Denis owes him money from an investment a decade ago of €100,000 in Digicel.

Denis is represented by Neal Potischman of Californian law firm Davis Polk and Wardwell and Donald is presently representing himself.

There are a number of aspects to the case, but one of the main accusations is that Donald has contacted people with allegedly false  information about two matters (1) the Moriarty Tribunal – the tribunal set up by the Irish government in 1997 to investigate the finances of former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey and telecoms minister, Michael Lowry, and which reported its findings in March 2011 – and (2) the decision by the Supreme Court in October 2012 which allows unsuccessful bidders, including Declan Ganley’s Cellstar, for the 1996 mobile phone licence to be allowed present their case to the High Court where they are alleging wrongdoing in the award of the phone licence to Denis. By the way, the latest from justice minister, Alan Shatter, on the Garda investigation following publication of the Moriarty report was included in a response to a parliamentary question on 12thMarch 2013, when Minister Shatter stated “the Report of the Moriarty Tribunal has been examined by the Garda authorities and the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions has now been sought by them, with a view to determining whether or not a full Garda investigation should now be commenced.”

Donald is accused by Denis in the Californian lawsuit of sending emails containing falsehoods to an array of Irish, American, Jamaican and Burmese politicians and media including Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, Fianna Fail senator Diarmuid Wilson, #vinb himself Vincent Browne and Burmese Opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

There was supposed to have been a case management hearing last week in California which would schedule a date for the full hearing, but we are still awaiting confirmation of the order from that. We do know that both sides believe the matter will required a 2-3 day hearing, and that Donald is looking for a jury hearing.

Donald MacAllister

He’s a first cousin of Denis O’Brien, his mother Maureen was the sister of Denis O’Brien’s father, Denis Senior. Donald’s father, from whom his mother was divorced, was an American physician, Dr Niall MacAllister. It is claimed in the lawsuit that Donald is now a resident of Orange County, California. Then Amazon website where his self-published e-book about the death of his mother is available, says of Donald: “Despite the extraordinary challenges Donald MacAllister faced as a orphaned child, foster youth and homeless young adult, he founded and directed the non-profit organization America Works for Kids, which became the United States leading employment-readiness training organization for foster youth. Over the course of 15 years he achieved a record over 10,000 trained foster youth. In addition to his two Congressional recognitions and testimonies, he also received personal commendations from U.S Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Chairman of the U.S Securities Commission Christopher Cox. MacAllister’s goal is to help as many foster youth as possible avoid the plight he faced.”

The 1972 car crash

The 9-year old Donald was travelling by car , a Hillman Hunter owned by Denis O’Brien senior, in Foxrock, south county Dublin on 31st August, 1972 with his mother Maureen driving and brother Niall in the back seat when they collided with a Daimler driven by the then 36-year old Michael Smurfit, now one of Ireland’s richest men. In 2011, Donald wrote an ebook about the crash; the book is available from Amazon here. In his reply to the present lawsuit in California, Donald writes that a report – commissioned by Donald from an outfit called Crash Team Inc, and which apparently had input from a “Mr Finn, the former Head of Ireland’s Forensic Crash Investigation Unit” – said “it is our opinion that Maureen O’Brien (MacAllister) was not speeding, and was not initially on the wrong side of the road. Her motion to the incorrect side was an attempt to avoid the oncoming Daimler which was in her lane when she first detected it. We have concluded this fatal accident occurred as a result of Michael Smurfit speeding, and driving on the incorrect side of center”.  There is no corroboration of the claim made by Donald in his answer, and Michael Smurfit has been exonerated by Gardai of fault in the tragedy, though Donald is now saying that he has been discussing a fresh inquiry with Gardai. Sunday Times reporting in 2011 suggests that Michael Smurfit didn’t know until 2011 that the woman killed in the 1972 car crash was Denis O’Brien’s aunt.

Denis O’Brien and Michael Smurfit (pictured together here)

Donald claims in his reply to the lawsuit, that, in 2009, Denis O’Brien told Donald that Michael Smurfit had financed the first of Denis O’Brien’s forty radio stations.

Denis O’Brien and the Clinton Foundation

Denis’s lawsuit remains silent on a statement by Donald that Denis is the largest contributor to President Bill Clinton’s Foundation; the lawsuit states

“In a 1 November 2012 email, sent to Mr O’Brien and apparently copying, on information and belief an Irish government minister and an Irish Senator, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, a U.S. State Department employee, and members of the Irish and American media, Mr. MacAllister stated: “I will now prepare to send a letter to the US Congress, the US  Senate and the US President informing them the largest contributor to the Clinton Foundation who is now on trial for Criminal Bribery and Corruption before Irelands [sic] Supreme Court has apparently asked US Secretary of State Clinton to NOT report to Myanmar Law Enforcement and Authorities that the largest contributor to her husbands [sic] Foundation is apparently attempting to apply for a Telecom License in Myanmar while on trial for Criminal Bribery and Corruption before Irelands [sic] Supreme Court.” This statement is false.  Mr. O’Brien is not and has never been on trial facing a criminal charge, much less a criminal charge being heard by the Supreme Court of Ireland.”

The Clinton Foundation lists contributors to the Foundation and lists just five contributors who’ve donated more than USD 25m and they are “Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Fred Eychaner, Frank Giustra, Chief Executive Officer, The Radcliffe Foundation, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and UNITAID. There is a “Denis J O’Brien” who contributed between USD1-5m, and Digicel’s Denis’s second name is “John” but that donation, although significant, wouldn’t be enough to qualify Denis as the “largest contributor” to the Clinton Foundation.

Digicel and Burma

The lawsuit states

“Digicel has an existing prospective relationship with the country of Burma. Digicel has presented a technical and commercial assessment for the process of expanding Burma’s existing telecom network to the Burmese government, and is now preparing to engage in a tender process for a mobile telecom license. Digicel has already made substantial investments to further its expected business  relations with the country of Burma, including providing multi-year sponsorships to Burmese sports organizations, and is prepared to make an initial investment of in excess of [US] $1 billion to improve Burma’s telecom infrastructure. These efforts have resulted in brand awareness within Burma. Digicel is well-positioned as a competitive candidate for a telecom license. There is a significant probability of future economic benefit from a business relationship between Digicel and Burma because the potential mobile telecom market in Burma is extremely large. Burma has 60 million residents, less than two percent of whom are reported to currently have access to mobile phone and Internet services. Neighboring countries have usage rates varying from 57 to 100 percent, suggesting that a telecom license in Burma could result in Digicel’s acquiring tens of millions of new customers and potentially doubling the size of its worldwide customer base”

Posted in Irish economy, Politics | 1 Comment »

via NAMA Wine Lake | Click the green link above for latest news and over 2,400 related articles. NAMA – National Asset Management Agency – part of Ireland’s response to its banking crisis and property bubble.

via Denis O’Brien and his defamation lawsuit in California.

World’s largest concentrated solar power station (100 MW) begins operations in Abu Dhabi


More photons, less carbon

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) are best known for oil and gas, but the region is also home to interesting developments in renewable energy. The Shams Power Company has just inaugurated the Shams 1 concentrated solar power (CSP) station, which, with a capacity of 100 MW, is the biggest operating solar power station in the world. It makes sense when you think about it: They have lots of sun, and lots of money…

Shams 1 uses 258,048 parabolic mirrors to collect sunlight and concentrate it onto oil that flows through a tubing at the center of the curved mirrors. This heated oil makes its way into a heat exchanger and is then used to create steam that powers turbines, thus making electricity.

The plant uses Abengoa Solar’s ASTRO (Abengoa Solar Trough) parabolic trough collectors. The ASTRO collector is based on the 150m-long EuroTrough collector, which represents an improvement on the Luz collectors used in the SEGS CSP plants in California. ASTRO benefits from reduced weight and therefore reduced cost, while still delivering proven performance (established through EuroTrough tests conducted since 1998 at Plataforma Solar Almeria).

The ASTRO collector features an improved structural design, with a torque box that increases stiffness and reduces torsion and glass breakage. The EuroTrough collector design is used in most Spanish parabolic trough projects, including the commercial-scale Solnova and Andasol plants.

Of course, any natural gas that isn’t being burned in the UAE to generate electricity is likely to be exported elsewhere, but the UAE isn’t the only one to blame for that. While fossil fuel suppliers have done all kinds of things to stifle cleaner competition and extract subsidies for their industry, the demand side is also to be. Most people use a lot of fossil fuels directly, and indirectly to make and transport the things they buy. To kill demand we need to build alternatives such as this solar power plant.

One way to turbo-charge progress would be a carbon tax (and all money raised by it could be used to cut other taxes, such as income and payroll — let’s tax bad things rather than good ones); it would redirect so much money into renewables that we’d get to a clean power grid much faster. If we can’t do that, we should at the very least eliminate subsidies (direct and indirect) for fossil fuels….

via World’s largest concentrated solar power station (100 MW) begins operations in Abu Dhabi : TreeHugger.

via World’s largest concentrated solar power station (100 MW) begins operations in Abu Dhabi : TreeHugger.

Payback Time: Boycott the Organic and ‘Natural’ Brands that Helped Kill Consumers’ Right to Know


They stomped on our right to know. Now it’s time to get even.

Prop 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) labeling initiative, was narrowly defeated last week thanks to a relentless, deceitful $46 million advertising blitz. Among the largest bankrollers of the NO on 37 campaign were huge multinational food and beverage companies whose subsidiaries make billions selling some of your favorite organic and “natural” brands. Brands like—Kashi, Honest Tea, Naked Juice, Muir Glen, Horizon, Silk and Morningstar Farms.

It’s time to boycott the companies and brands whose dirty money confused and scared millions of California voters into voting No on Prop 37. It’s time to plaster their facebook pages with this message:

We won’t support you until you support us.

It’s time to call their consumer hotlines, complain to the store managers where you buy your organic and natural products. It’s time to tarnish their holy organic and natural images, to expose their hypocrisy and greed.

It’s time to raise a little hell. If we raise enough hell, maybe their parent companies will come to their senses and stop carrying the water for Monsanto and the biotech industry. Maybe they’ll stay neutral in the upcoming labeling battles in Washington state and Vermont.

The OCA is calling on consumers to boycott these organic and “natural” traitor brands:

PepsiCo (Donated $2.5M): Naked Juice, Tostito’s Organic, Tropicana Organic

• Kraft (Donated $2M): Boca Burgers and Back to Nature

• Safeway (Member of Grocery Manufacturers Association, which donated $2M):“O” Organics

• Coca-Cola (Donated $1.7M): Honest Tea, Odwalla

• General Mills (Donated $1.2M):  Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, Larabar

• Con-Agra (Donated $1.2M): Orville Redenbacher’s Organic, Hunt’s Organic, Lightlife, Alexia

• Kellogg’s (Donated $791k): Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms, Gardenburger

• Smucker’s (Donated $555k ): R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic

• Unilever (Donated $467k): Ben & Jerry’s

Dean Foods (Donated $254k): Horizon, Silk, White Wave

Tell these companies that if they want your loyalty—and your grocery dollars±they must do two things:

1. Speak out publicly in favor of the pending GMO Labeling Ballot Initiative (I-522) in Washington State in 2013, as well as the pending GMO labeling bills coming up in Vermont and other states.

2. Contribute as much or more money to the Yes on I-522 Campaign in Washington than their parent corporations spent to defeat Prop 37 in California.

Prop 37 was narrowly defeated, by dirty money and dirty tricks. But it spawned a huge, national consumer movement that is fired up and more determined than ever to fight this battle until we win the right to know if our food has been genetically modified. We’re already collecting signatures in Washington State, talking to legislators in Vermont and Connecticut. A 30-state coalition is formulating a plan to collaborate on GMO-labeling laws and initiatives.

You are a part of this movement, and today we’re calling on you—on the millions of consumers who were outraged by the NO on 37′s dirty campaign—to send a clear message to the traitor brands who helped kill Prop 37, in the only language they understand—lost profits.

via Boycotts | Family Survival Protocol.

via Boycotts | Family Survival Protocol.

California nuclear plant a ‘time bomb’ if restarted


Caldicott: California nuclear plant a ‘time bomb’ if restarted — Chance of nuke disaster in U.S. very high… not if, but when 

Lauren Windsor, executive producer and host: What is the risk of a nuclear disaster to America?

Dr. Helen Caldicott: Very, very, very high.

It’s not if, but when.

And San Onofre, if they start that up again, I tell you you’re sitting on a time bomb.

Watch the video here

Caldicott: California nuclear plant a ‘time bomb’ if restarted — Chance of nuke disaster in U.S. very high… not if, but when (VIDEO).

via Caldicott: California nuclear plant a ‘time bomb’ if restarted — Chance of nuke disaster in U.S. very high… not if, but when (VIDEO).

Edible City: Grow the Revolution | Watch Free Documentary Online


Edible City is a fun, fast-paced journey through the Local Good Food movement that’s taking root in the San Francisco Bay Area, across the nation and around the world.

Introducing a diverse cast of extraordinary and eccentric characters who are challenging the paradigm of our broken food system, Edible City digs into their unique perspectives and transformative work, finding hopeful solutions to monumental problems.

Inspirational, down-to-earth and a little bit quirky, Edible City captures the spirit of a movement that’s making real change and doing something truly revolutionary: growing the model for a healthy, sustainable local food system.

Watch the full documentary now – 71 min

via Edible City: Grow the Revolution | Watch Free Documentary Online.

via Edible City: Grow the Revolution | Watch Free Documentary Online.

Elton John pregnant, expecting a ‘Christmas Baby’


Musical supremo Elton John has revealed that scientists have successfully made him pregnant, using the genetically modified womb from an old bear. Sir Elton, 65, has barely suffered any signs of morning sickness, although he did feel the urge to hibernate in late November.

The pianist and his partner, David Furnish, already have one baby, born by a human surrogate somewhere in California. But the happy couple are expecting the follow up to be ‘even better than the old one’, thanks to the miracle of science, a grizzly’s second-hand lady-pocket and cutting edge techniques which have combined to produce what Elton describes as his best albumen yet.

“There’s no feeling like it, having a little human growing inside you”, explained Elton. “It’s fantastic that these days, age is no barrier to being a mum. And a Christmas baby? Well, that’s the best gift I could have hoped for. Although I’d still like that steam train and a Dubai island shaped like my face.”

Furnish explained that differing gestation periods between the species ‘Homo sapiens’ and ‘Ursa Minorus Keyus’ make it hard to calculate exactly when the baby is due, but a full medical team are on stand-by for Elton’s sell-out Christmas tour. “Obviously, it would be a dream come true for Elton to squeeze it out on stage during an encore”, admitted Furnish. “But failing that, I think we’d both quite like a water birth.”

The singer has denied media claims that he is ‘too posh to push’, and is adamant that he won’t resort to a C-section. But doctors are keeping a sharp knife handy just in case he changes his mind, and have seized the opportunity to warn other elderly men in a similar position of the risk of hernia at least, or even a full rectal prolapse.

Mumsnet have criticised the star for being ‘too old’ to have a baby, but Sir John’s team are unconcerned. “David’s found this wonderful nanny to take care of everything, and Elton will be singing songs from his back catalogue to sooth situations and ease any tension as the child grows,” said his gynaecologist. “But hormones do play an important part at times like this. Obviously we’ll move everyone away to a safe distance if he storms off to his piano starts playing ‘the Bitch is Back’.”

via Elton John pregnant, expecting a ‘Christmas Baby’ | NewsBiscuit.

via Elton John pregnant, expecting a ‘Christmas Baby’ | NewsBiscuit.

A great red Wine bargain for Xmas – Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2010


Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

The Wine Advocate 89 points,Wine Enthusiast 88

Cost in Tesco Ireland 10 Euro with 25% off if you buy six bottles
Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine with richness, depth and structure,It is a full bodied  with classical Cabernet flavours ,   soft but with firm tannins,  berry fruits, chocolate, tobacco and vanilla flavours coupled with a great finish finish.  a superb wine

In my opinion one of the best wine bargains to be found on this planet.

download (8)

via Viewing Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon on Wine Library..

via Viewing Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon on Wine Library..

America’s top two elected atheists


Americans elect a lot of public officials – over half a million, from the President down to school district level. If atheists and other nonbelievers were represented fairly, you would expect about 50 in the US Congress and another 50,000 at State and local level.

In 2007, the Secular Coalition for America tried to find them. They found only five. Three were very local officials: a school board president, a school committee member and a town meeting member. And the two most senior were both in their seventies, much closer to the end than the start of their political careers.

Pete Stark, United States Congressman

The first, Pete Stark, was born in 1931 and served in the Air Force and founded a bank before being elected to Congress in 1973 to represent a liberal district in California. He grew up a Republican, but had switched sides when he opposed the Vietnam War. He is a Unitarian Universalist, a congregation in which members seek their own truth about theological issues. Stark does not believe in a supreme being, saying that he is more interested in people, though he adds that the Stark family does recognize a supreme being – his wife Deborah.

So what horrific future would this openly atheist Congressman inflict on Americans? His shocking priorities are universal health care, ending the war in Iraq and protecting Medicare. He wants higher taxes for the wealthy and on cigarettes. He wants incentives for teachers to work in low-income schools. He wants higher payroll taxes to better fund social security. He wants better job re-training, child care and housing assistance. He supports the UN, the Kyoto protocol, abortion, gay marriage and affirmative action. He opposes the death penalty, and wants to restrict sex and violence on television. May God protect us all from Pete Stark.

Stark is unruffled by religious fanaticism, saying that ‘the leading candidates all agree that they believe in a supreme being, but forget about it as soon as they are elected.’ He believes that religion affects the style, rather than the substance, of the main political debate in America, which he says is between the Democrat view that government makes our lives better and the Republican view that government is dangerous for us. On ‘coming out’, he looked forward to ‘working with the Secular Coalition to stop the promotion of narrow religious beliefs in science, marriage contracts, the military and the provision of social service.’

Ernie Chambers, Nebraska State Senator

Next comes Ernie Chambers, the only openly atheist lawmaker at State level. He was born in 1937 and worked as a barber before he became a local civil rights leader in the 1960s. He was first elected as an independent candidate to the Nebraska Senate in 1971, and is the State’s only black Senator, its longest serving Senator and the only one to wear blue tee-shirts and jeans instead of a suit. His crimes against God include ending corporal punishment in state schools, getting equal state pensions for women, and blocking the legalization of concealed weapons. He strongly opposes the death penalty, and starts every legislative session by proposing its abolition.

Chambers got world attention in 2007 when he took a legal case against God. In a different case, a Nebraska judge had barred a woman from using the words ‘rape’ or ‘victim’ while alleging that she was a rape victim. He insisted that she describe what happened as ‘sex’, which is a bit like calling a mugging a ‘financial transaction’. The woman took a lawsuit against the judge, but her case was dismissed as being frivolous. Chambers took her side, arguing that the Nebraska constitution allows anyone to sue anyone. To make this point in a satirical way, he sued God in the district court of Douglas County, Nebraska.

Chambers wanted an injunction ordering God to cease certain harmful activities including the making of terroristic threats as well as ‘fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornados, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects and the like.’ He argued that the court had jurisdiction because God, being omnipresent, was personally in Douglas County, and that he should not have to serve legal papers because God, being omniscient, already knew about the case.

Three Local Elected Officials

The three local officials who responded to the Secular Coalition were Terry Doran, president of the School Board in Berkeley, California.; Nancy Glista on the School Committee in Franklin, Maine; and Michael Cerone, a Town Meeting Member from Arlington, Massachusetts. And that, in the early twenty-first century, was the extent of openly atheist elected officials in America: Pete Stark married to his supreme being in California, Ernie Chambers suing God in Nebraska, and three local officials scattered across three million square miles of land.

Clearly there are many, many more elected atheists in the American closet. If one in every ten citizens rejects belief in gods, then about fifty members of Congress should do so. The Secular Coalition says there are 21 others who are not yet willing to go public. Even if this is true, it would still be less than half the amount that would be proportional to the overall population. It is time for elected American atheists to stand up for their rational beliefs.

via America’s top two elected atheists.

via America’s top two elected atheists.

If pot were truly legal, high-quality joints would cost the same price as a Splenda packet


 

In July, Salon’s Matthew Yglesias wrote an article about the price of legal marijuana, which is even more interesting now that Colorado and Washington have legalized cannabis for recreational use.

How cheaply could pot be grown with advanced farming techniques? One potential data point is Canada’s industrial hemp industry, where production costs are about $500 per acre. If the kind of mid-grade commercial weed that accounts for about 80 percent of the U.S. market could be grown that cheaply, it implies costs of about 20 cents per pound of smokable material: Enough pot to fill more than 800 modest-sized half-gram joints for less than a quarter!. Those numbers are probably optimistic, since in practice recreational marijuana is grown from more expensive transplanted clones rather than from seeds. Even so, the authors note that “production costs for crops that need to be transplanted, such as cherry tomatoes and asparagus, are generally in the range of $5,000-$20,000 per acre.” That implies costs of less than $20 per pound for high-grade sensimilla and less than $5 a pound for mid-grade stuff. Another way of looking at it, suggested by California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, is that we should expect legal pot to cost about the same amount as “other legal herbs such as tea or tobacco,” something perhaps “100 times lower than the current prevailing price of $300 per ounce—or a few cents per joint.”

This would make pot far and away the cheapest intoxicant on the market, absolutely blowing beer and liquor out of the water. Joints would be about as cheap as things that are often treated as free. Splenda packets, for example, cost 2 or 3 cents each when purchased in bulk.

I wonder how much money the liquor industry is going to contribute in their attempt to get these cannabis laws overturned?

 

Get High for Free!!!!

Marijuana

It continues to be totally off the radar of prominent politicians, but polls indicate that large and growing numbers of Americans are open to the idea of legalizing marijuana. Gallup broke ground last fall with the first-ever poll showing 50 percent of respondents nationwide wanting to legalize, and a more precisely worded poll from Rasmussen in May had 56 percent in favor of “legalizing marijuana and regulating it in a similar manner to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are regulated today.” Thus far those polls are outliers, and most surveys show more voter skepticism than that. But as elderly voters are more pot-phobic than the young, legalization’s support is likely to increase over time and surely it will work its way onto the national agenda sooner or later.

There’s been relatively little analysis of what a legal marijuana industry might look like. One key but little-appreciated fact is that, according to persuasive research by Jonathan Caulkins, Angela Hawken, Beau Kilmer, and Mark Kleiman in their new book Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs To Know, is that legal pot would be amazingly cheap. In fact, midgrade stuff would be so cheap that it might make sense for businesses to give it away like ketchup packets or bar nuts.

Conventional thinking about pot pricing is often dominated by people’s experience buying weed in legal or quasi-legal settings such as a Dutch “coffee shop” or a California medical marijuana dispensary. But this is badly misleading. Neither California nor the Netherlands permit growing or wholesale distribution of marijuana as a legal matter. If pot were fully legal, its growth, distribution, and marketing would work entirely differently.

There are some goods that are sufficiently costly to store—either because they’re alive like lobsters or because they’re giant like RVs—such that either the retail markup is a big deal or else retail purchases can’t be made in convenient locations. But marijuana is a nonperishable bulk commodity like wheat or lentils. For such commodities, the final price to the end user is dominated by the cost of production.

Try to imagine a world in which you’re allowed to have some tomatoes in your house, you’re allowed to cook tomatoes, you’re not punished for having tomatoes in your possession if the cops stop you, and you’re even allowed to buy tomatoes at specialty tomato stores—but where it’s illegal to actually grow tomatoes. The price of tomatoes is going to escalate enormously. The problem isn’t that the tomatoes will suddenly disappear from supermarket shelves (though they will) but that all the farms will have to shut down. Which isn’t to say that nobody will grow tomatoes. People like tomatoes. So tomatoes will be smuggled in from Mexico. Tomatoes will be grown in backyards. People will use lights and hydroponic rigs to grow tomatoes indoors.

These expedients would work, but they’d be horrendously inefficient compared with the modern agricultural, packaging, and transportation methods.

America’s farmlands are some of the most productive in the world, thanks in no small part to technology and the existence of scale sufficient to leverage that technology. Even what Americans think of as a small family farm is quite large compared with an illicit marijuana operation. There are no amber waves of cannabis anywhere in the world today, but under a true legalization regime there would be. And this makes all the difference.

How cheaply could pot be grown with advanced farming techniques? One potential data point is Canada’s industrial hemp industry, where production costs are about $500 per acre. If the kind of mid-grade commercial weed that accounts for about 80 percent of the U.S. market could be grown that cheaply, it implies costs of about 20 cents per pound of smokable material: Enough pot to fill more than 800 modest-sized half-gram joints for less than a quarter!. Those numbers are probably optimistic, since in practice recreational marijuana is grown from more expensive transplanted clones rather than from seeds. Even so, the authors note that “production costs for crops that need to be transplanted, such as cherry tomatoes and asparagus, are generally in the range of $5,000-$20,000 per acre.” That implies costs of less than $20 per pound for high-grade sensimilla and less than $5 a pound for mid-grade stuff. Another way of looking at it, suggested by California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, is that we should expect legal pot to cost about the same amount as “other legal herbs such as tea or tobacco,” something perhaps “100 times lower than the current prevailing price of $300 per ounce—or a few cents per joint.”

This would make pot far and away the cheapest intoxicant on the market, absolutely blowing beer and liquor out of the water. Joints would be about as cheap as things that are often treated as free. Splenda packets, for example, cost 2 or 3 cents each when purchased in bulk.

These data either bolster or undermine the case for legalization, depending on your point of view. On the one hand, despite the apparent widespread availability of pot even under prohibition, it seems likely that radically lowering the price would lead to a much larger increase in consumption than people have in mind. On the other hand, it seems that you could tax the hell out of marijuana and still leave consumers better off than they are today. An extraordinarily high tax, of course, would spark tax evasion. Right now, people smuggle marijuana across the U.S.-Mexico border for profits of about $20 an ounce, so a tax substantially higher than that could be tricky to enforce. Still, a $20/ounce tax would be about triple the per-weight taxation of cigarettes, while still leaving mass-market weed extremely affordable. Unfortunately, marijuana taxation is not a game-changer for fiscal policy terms. Federal cigarette taxes bring in about $10 billion a year. Even heavy pot smokers don’t smoke nearly as much as cigarette addicts, so even at triple taxation we’re talking about low single-digit billions in revenue—not nothing, but hardly transformative to the overall budget.

Still the transformation of the basic economics of the marijuana industry—and knock-on effects for casinos, bars, and other possible complements or substitutes for pot—would be enormous. The superficial ineffectiveness of prohibition masks a huge impact on the supply side that, for better or for worse, is what stands between America and much cheaper highs.

via How much would legal marijuana cost? A new book says it would be nearly free. – Slate Magazine.

via How much would legal marijuana cost? A new book says it would be nearly free. – Slate Magazine.

Mothers Little Helper


Pot-smoking moms tired of being judged by wine drinkers

Mother’s little helper? Moms who use marijuana to take the edge off say they’re tired of being looked down upon by the Mommy Wine Brigade.

By Corey Binns

Every night, Margaret’s two boys fly into the house after sports practice and flip on the TV, while she races to the kitchen to get dinner cooking. “It’s that tedious witching hour when I feel incredibly frazzled,” says the Tennessee singer/songwriter mom of a 6- and an 8-year-old. But instead of pouring herself a glass or two of merlot, she heads to the standalone garage next to their house for a few puffs of Humboldt Kush, one of the four strains of pot she smokes seven days a week.

The drug helps her keep focus on the giant statue of popsicle sticks she’s building with her kids and relaxes her so she can get through the rest of the night without stressing. “It can make folding a pile of laundry fun,” says Margaret, 45, who asked that we not use her last name for fear of getting in trouble with the law. “If I didn’t smoke, that’d be three piles later in the week.”

Still, she doesn’t flaunt her marijuana use. Her sons aren’t allowed to go into the room where she keeps the drugs locked up, and she hides it from other moms who would keep their kids away if they knew she smoked pot.

“Being judged for doing something nontoxic and totally organic, enjoying a god-given plant, by moms who suck back two bottles of Chardonnay like sports drinks feels like s—,” complains Margaret. “Any hypocrisy is hard to swallow. A drunk mother is pathetic and I often leave parties when I experience other mothers tying one on.”

Margaret isn’t the only pot-smoking mom tired of being judged by moms who religiously drink glasses of wine or “mommy juice.” Recently, one mom stirred up some controversy when she admitted to parenting while stoned in an essay on Jezebel.com. Today, the group Moms for Marijuana International has more than 18,000 likes on Facebook.

“No matter what you use, you shouldn’t be judged if it works for you, you’re productive, and you do no harm,” says Diane Fornbacher, co-vice chair of the Women’s Alliance at NORML, the non-profit lobbying organization working to legalize marijuana. “Marijuana parents aren’t perfect, but they’re far less imperfect than parents who use alcohol irresponsibly. Cannabis can influence people to be nicer to one another. You rarely find a story that says two stoners beat each other up outside of a bar.”

Sharon Letts, a California mom who brewed Cannabis tea for her 16-year-old daughter when she was stricken with pain from fibromyalgia, agrees. “Cannabis takes the edge off your day, in the same way wine does. But it’s not addictive, it is habitual. It doesn’t ruin your body like alcohol. I would much rather see parents using cannabis than alcohol — hands down.”

Of course, pot is illegal and alcohol is legal. Letts and her daughter felt paranoid that the tea’s smell would alert their neighbors. The price for getting caught is high. In some states, moms risk getting arrested and incarcerated, as well as having their kids taken away from them.

“If I wanted to, I could sit with a glass of wine in one hand, a cup of coffee in the other, with a cigarette pressed between my lips, under the influence of prescription narcotics — all the while holding my child in my lap,” says Serra Frank, founding director of Moms for Marijuana and mother of two, ages 9 and 12.

via Measure 80 – The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act.

via Measure 80 – The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act.

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