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The End of the Store Boom - How Can We Optimize Retail?

The repression has destroyed most of the stores. The new law is under discussion, but it will be some time before it comes into force (if ever). Nevertheless, we continue to smoke pot. Is there only the underground? Dealer and consumer again, like before? A few suggestions that maybe things could be different.

Overview

First, I would like to present my five starting points. Then I will present a model of which I think this is how I would like to see the trade organized under today's difficult conditions (in principle, I am in favor of a complete legalization of cannabis products analogous to alcohol and tobacco - but just, this is my opinion and not that of the legislator). And finally, I will address a few problems and open questions.

1. stoned anyway

Whether legal or illegal, people smoke pot anyway. Society is under great illusions about the controllability of the drug market. As long as people want to smoke pot (or consume anything else), there will be a market for it. Since there are no victims - the users only harm themselves - there is no one who really has an interest in suppressing this use. Thus, many activities can go on for a long time without the police and investigating authorities even suspecting anything. This is because there is practically no one who could file a complaint (as long as it goes on covertly). And even if the police find out about it, they often do nothing, because they really have more important things to do than chasing after a few stoners and traffickers. If there is no report, if no one notices….

2. the new handling is waiting

The political process will take at least until the beginning of 2005 before a new law is available. But this law will have to be applied and tested first. But we are already smoking pot yesterday, today and tomorrow. At the moment, the whole trade is simply going back into the old channels: in the streets, in private homes, in record stores, clothing stores, and whatever else: Just don't attract attention is the motto. But after years of stores, selection and stress-free shopping, the question already arises: Are we satisfied with this again? Just the old game again: Here the consumers, there the retailers?

3. the negative image of the cannabis trade

The leftists see the dealers/hemp shop owners as money-grubbing types with whom one can hardly be in solidarity: “They're just people who are only in it for the money”, one hears again and again from SP and GP circles. There is no great distinction made between the traders, who are really only out for a quick buck, and those who really want to stand up for quality and clean sales. And even on the right side of the political spectrum, the traders are not welcome. Even though I think there is no difference in principle between making money by selling cars, cannabis products, chocolate or alcohol: For many people from the FDP and CVP it does make a difference. (The SVP is against everything anyway). How could we prevent this - how could we improve the image of selling hash and weed so that larger parts of society can find it ok?

4. the lack of solidarity

Consumers simply buy weed and hash - if the seller then gets into trouble, they are not in solidarity with the seller. They look for a new one. And while the old seller has problems with the police, the consumers just give their money to the new seller. How can we improve the solidarity between the customers and the merchants?

5. the missing money

There is a lack of money for political activities. Be it media work (giving interviews, writing letters to the editor, conducting media meetings, developing and carrying out media-friendly actions), publishing magazines - like the Legalize it! - publish, negotiate with authorities, organize demonstrations, or collect a popular initiative sometime in the future to enforce full legalization (and not just partial decriminalization as is being proposed today): Everything needs money. Especially to pay people who can then protect the interests of the stoners and carry out such actions as described above. The stoners are willing to spend hundreds of millions francs every year to buy hash and weed, but for political work currently barely half a million francs per year comes together. That's about one per mille of cannabis sales, and it's not nearly enough. So “lack of money” doesn't refer to money in general - there is money, but mainly for smoking pot. How could this be improved? How could we get to regions where about one percent of the annual expenditures for smoking pot flow into political work? One percent doesn't sound like much, but it would be ten times more than the current per mill. One per mill corresponds to about 500,000 francs, while one percent would be about 5 million francs. That would be enough to implement a wide range of activities. But how do we get there?

And now: What could a better way of dealing with trade look like?

It seems central to me that hemp trade and hemp consumption and hemp politics move closer together. We need a structure that makes it possible to provide the smokers with their substance, the traffickers with their wages and the activists with the necessary budgets. If we don't achieve this linkage, the very largest part of the turnover will simply remain with the money-against-smoke turnover - and for an improvement of our reputation in politics and society only the extremely limited resources of today remain.

The idea: break up the stoner role and the dealer role

Switzerland is full of associations. I propose associations as the basic form here. They are quickly founded, clear by law and democratically structured (members, board). The assets of an association do not belong to a single person, but to the entirety of the members, i.e. the association. It follows that no one can enrich himself personally. Any increase in assets belongs to the association - and the board or the association meeting decides how it should be used. With this we can already solve one problem: Nobody can enrich himself privately, so both leftists and rightists should not be able to recognize money-grubbing dealers in it. The goal of an association must also not be to make a profit, but an association should take care of political, cultural, social issues. And that's exactly what it's about: it's about influencing politics, it's about promoting the culture of smoking pot, it's about improving the situation of people who smoke pot. Such an association would not run a store - stores are much too obvious and are quickly targeted by neighbors and the police. Stores are public structures. I rather have in mind a clubhouse. This can be an office space, a commercial space. It's important that people can meet each other. So it needs seating, tables, maybe a refrigerator.

Problems of a clubhouse

If too many people come by and the whole thing looks like a canteen or even a restaurant, a variety of problems arise. In order to run such a restaurant, a landlord's license is required, otherwise the serving of drinks or the sale of food is illegal. Such a permit, however, entails massive infrastructure costs. Even more difficult is the fact that obtaining such a permit will of course also draw the attention of other state authorities to the locality. However, the goal of our association is not to organize an easy place for the stoners to hang out. Central for our project are the following elements: It needs a place where you can pass by and buy hash and/or weed (an office room is sufficient for this). It needs to have as many different kinds and qualities in stock as possible (there it is best to have one or more freezers - frozen keeps weed and hash best). It should be possible to hold a club meeting from time to time (for this a few chairs and tables and a Harass mineral are enough).

The problem of smoking

As long as only individual club members come over, the problem of smoking should not be one yet. However, as soon as several people sit down for a longer time and start rolling, the smoke is a problem. Not only for the smokers themselves, who very soon can hardly see each other anymore - also the surrounding (neighborhood, possibly passers-by) can feel more than disturbed. Therefore, ventilation is a central problem that should be given a lot of attention. If necessary, a ventilation system must be installed. This is associated with large costs. An alternative would be to smoke very little and inhale with vaporizers instead: Breaking in does the trick, it would be healthier than smoking, and you can even judge the taste of weed or hash better than if the smoke overpowers the taste. (Vaporizers are devices that can heat hash or weed in such a way that they do not start to burn, but that the psychoactive THC nevertheless changes from a solid state to a gaseous one, so that it can be inhaled).

And how is action taken?

But who does the work? Who buys, prepares, sells? Who runs the club? Well, every club has the possibility of hiring people to do certain jobs, in addition to unpaid free labor, as is common in many clubs. And such a club would certainly need one or more employees. They would have to guarantee certain opening hours, keep the place in good shape, organize the supplies and they would also have to do paid political work. Be it legal advice, media work or actions in public space. But how is this work to be paid for? The members of the association have to pay membership fees. With these the rent of the location is paid, also the telephone, the costs of actions and above all the wages and the ancillary wage costs (AHV&Co., BVG, insurances). In return, the association does not have to charge a surcharge or margin on the hash and weed sold: It can buy, and sell again for the same price. If it succeeds in employing people to produce the necessary cannabis themselves (either indoors or outdoors on balconies and small fields), the association can even provide its members with the smoking material free of charge - the necessary wages and expenses would be deducted from the membership fees. Ideally, the board of the association, or a commission formed from it, would decide what the association buys or from whom it lets produce. This commission would then also check the quality and see to it that any sellers charge a reasonable, not exorbitant price (as long as the entire production is not under its own control).

How big should such an association be?

Smokers are mostly quite individualistic. And it is effectively not the goal to bring all stoners in Switzerland into one club. It is sufficient if a club has about 100 to 200 members (see also provisional budget of such a “standard club for stoners”). The diversity of the smokers could be expressed in the different clubs. Conceivable would be associations for pure hashish users, for pure pot smokers, for cannabis eaters, for pure smokers. A distinction could also be made according to musical taste and scene affiliation. It would be nice if the different associations knew each other and, above all, could carry out political actions together or at least coordinate them.

When the police come...

If, despite the relative smallness and inconspicuousness of such an association, a raid takes place, the police cannot simply pick up and prosecute the vendors. Of course, the employees of such an association are the first target. But then it is important that all members stand together, make appropriate statements (“We consumers have joined together to oppose the absurd ban on our stimulant with a reasonable model of self-organization”). These statements should of course be consciously practiced in the association, statements can also be deposited in written form in the office, so that all members can refer to them. In parallel, the association would then immediately go public, talk to the media and use the whole repressive process to do public relations for legalization, for our stimulant. And this public would then have to come to terms with the fact that it wasn't just a few evil, money-hungry dealers who organized this, but a group of responsible stoners who finally broke out of the black market and created a good solution to the problem. Without personal enrichment… With this, it should be possible to meet with much more understanding than today's hemp shop owners. Because the consumers have clearly more credit in the public than the traffickers.

A possible budget

200 members pay a monthly membership fee of 50 francs, making a total of 10'000 francs income per month. With this, the following activities can be financed: Two jobs at 60% and 3000 francs net per month results in monthly costs (incl. ancillary wage costs) of 7500 francs. For the location one could spend (incl. incidental rental costs) about 1000 francs, which corresponds to about 40 to 60 square meters of space. The rest of the money (1500 francs per month) flows into telephone, Internet, other office expenses and beverages, as well as the expenses for the political work (expenditures for journeys, Flyers, brochures, actions). The paid working time would be spent on organizing (as fine as possible) stoner goods, running the location, and political work. For the purchase of weed and hash a fund must be accumulated at the beginning (with 200 members about 20'000 francs), so that one has money to be able to buy (or produce). Then one can sell this (without profit) again - in such a way the fund should maintain itself (one buys weed and Hasch, sells it at the cost price to the members, thus one has again money, etc.). There also needs to be an initial budget for setting up the clubhouse.

What's the point?

The bottom line is that a member should get the weed or hash cheaper than from the “dealer”, but since they have to pay a membership fee, it should roughly balance out. However, there is a big gain: The association is not an anonymous dealer, but the member can influence the quality, has a social place available and enables political work, which should lead in the longer term to our stimulant becoming legal. (If this should ever happen, such associations can be dissolved). If the new law, including the regulation to stop criminal prosecution in certain cases, comes into force, the association could also adapt to this new possibility - after all, with its non-profit orientation it has the best prerequisites to fulfill the official regulations. The biggest advantage, however, is that such a project could be started today and it would have a good chance of not being bothered by anyone. And if it were, one could also vouch for such a project in public without being portrayed as an evil, money-grubbing dealer.

Summary

The members form the association. The board, elected from the members, controls the activities. The employees organize the smoking (at the beginning on the free black market, later by employed producers), manage the clubhouse and carry out political activities. Hash and weed are sold to the members at cost price. There is no profit in the hemp trade. The expenses are covered by the membership fees. The project takes place (with the exception of the political activities) in the covert. Should a raid happen anyway, everyone, members, employees and board, stand together and make prepared statements and go public. Everyone would also appear in court to document: We are not in it for the money, we are in it to finally eliminate the black market and satisfy our need for pot in the most reasonable way possible.

And what do you think?

So much for the idea. Now we are curious: Where do you see weaknesses or problems? Which questions are still open for you? Are you interested in such a project? Would you like to participate in one? As always, your answers can reach us at li@hanflegal.ch. We are curious.

After note: I still find my five year old text very interesting. Unfortunately, hardly anyone has commented on it in these many years - so we have the old conditions again and the smokers make their fist in the bag. But organize something like that, that then but not…. Too bad. It is interesting that the models that are being built in California today come close to these considerations. Also in Holland and other countries people try to implement similar ideas in the “Cannabis Social Clubs”. sos2010/06/03 19:05

Last modified: 2023/12/22 21:16

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Legal overview

Shit happens 15 (Summer 2023)

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