Quartzsite 1

It’s quiet here, just the way I like it. For those not yet in the southwest, the sunrises and sunsets have been spectacular this week; I come to the desert to see colors in the sky that are no where else.

The RVs and vendors are dribbling in everyday, and about half of the seasonal businesses have opened. This is my chance to check out the stores before they get busy and eat at restaurants which will be packed in a few weeks.

Gasoline is now $1/gal higher in California than it is Arizona, thanks to their new fuel tax. I mention this as westbound trucks and drivers use Q as a fuel-stop before entering California. Which generates friction on the roads as the temporary population increases. While the rest of town is quiet, the gas stations are busy.

My project here is my solar system and batteries. Go through all the connections and such. Coming soon are very short daylight periods when I usually become constrained by battery power, so now is the time to fix stuff.

Weather is great.

Arizona Pot

In 2016, 8 of 9 states that had citizen initiatives for either medical or recreational marijuana passed them, but the initiative in Arizona to enact fully legal cannabis failed by a small margin. Kevin Sabet of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a professional opponent of all things cannabis, took on the state and won.

He was greatly aided by a $500,000 contribution from John Kapoor, founder of Insys Pharmaceuticals of Chandler, AZ, and noted for their aggressive production of fentanyl, the opioid variant. Kapoor must have felt he had a horse in the race.

Yesterday Kapoor made bail for federal charges of pushing fentanyl at ridiculous levels, money laundering, conspiracy, etc.

When that election was held, Arizona had 115,00 medical marijuana cards issued to registered “patients”. Not even a year later the count is now 149,000 and growing rapidly. The fees collected for state registration have reached 25 million dollars a year, far above the 11 million estimated to cover the costs of the program. New stores are blossoming in the Phoenix area, though there is a state-wide limit on them.

When full-blown legalization is rejected by the voters, the current unregulated, untaxed, yet completely legal black market continues to thrive. Meanwhile, the existing medical program is pushed to it’s limits by loopholes as customers flock to it. Either way, the industry grows fast with or without state oversight.

Arizonans will get another shot a year from now to fully legalize, and it’s assumed it will pass. Kapoor will be in custody, and his money will be locked up in the courts. Sabet will no doubt give it the ol’ college try, but his talking points are wearing out as more states come online and his worst fears are shown to be unfounded. California will be having problems, and he’ll gladly play on those, but most voters will see those as normal.

Quartzsite

Well, here I am again. I did the desert from Vegas to Q, which I think is the least interesting place around. Big solar farms, though.

I’m not sure what my plans are, but I’ll hang out here for a short while anyway.

My slide is fixed

All of a sudden I had twice the living space I had grown accustomed to over the last 7 weeks. Schmidt RV Repair took care of everything while I was sitting here in dry camp. It now works even better than it did when it was new, and I no longer have to fight it every single time like I have been doing for a good 8 years.

I like dropping in on Pahrump, but it gets old real fast. I’ll be happy to get out of here.

I’ll be stopping somewhere around Hoover Dam, then go on to Quartzsite.

Pot legalization in California

Besides the state itself, more than 500 other government entities are now working on local rules that govern the commercial cannabis market with a January 1 2018 implementation date. The state itself has already admitted it won’t be finished, but will be issuing temporary licenses. For those locales that can’t finish, they usually opt to ban the whole market until they can get around to it.

I’d be surprised to hear of another plant species that has so many pages of regulations that have to be read before you can plant a seed. There are far more than any previous state has attempted or needed, and they come with many fees and specialty charges making entry into the “legal” market an extremely expensive endeavor. All licensees will have to hire business professionals and attorneys.

It’s said that California grows 13 million pounds of marijuana, but that might be as high as 20 million this year. The guess is that people in the state consume 3 million pounds a year, about 25% of the production. The remainder is exported to the “illegal” states and provinces in North America.

So pretending that the state achieves 100% success in regulating the market, it will only capture 25% of the product grown there. You can’t get or hold a state license if you export product out of state. Similarly, the state will only capture 25% of the potential tax revenue.

To cover the expenses of creating and administering all these rules, taxes are levied. As befits the scope of this project (and this being California), many new and innovative taxes are being invented. Some are levied and ear-marked for law enforcement to eradicate the 75% of the crop that is not regulated, which, as has been demonstrated for the last few decades, is only about 5% effective. It will not be a surprise to see the total taxation running 50 to 70 percent at the point of sale, making it higher than Washington.

Customers in California buy from the 100% of the producers that do not pay steep start-up fees, they don’t pay onerous taxes, and the cost of product is subsidized by higher wholesale prices out-of-state. That market has been serving the state for 20 years and can be considered quite mature. Prices are low for what is regarded as the highest quality product in the world, yet there is a huge gifting market for those with small means. The agronomic and technical innovations coming out of California right now are breathtaking. On the economic side, dozens of communities have replaced their logging, fishing, and extraction industries with marijuana.

So what we have is a perfectly fine market the state is attempting to replace. It will raise costs, add big taxes, stifle innovation, and charge the consumer too much. Luckily, the state will be unable to touch 75% of the existing industry (even if succeeds totally); the consumers will be able to make their choice.

My slide

I discovered my slide problem the day I left Chimacum, coming up on two months ago. Once I figured out I could travel without using it, I looked for a repair place that met these criteria:

1. A town I liked.

2. The weather will be good while I’m waiting for parts.

3. Somebody actually wants to do the work.

I hit that combination here in Pahrump, so I’m in for the game. One of the techs lives here at the SKP park so he can’t forget me, and it’s cheap to stay here in dry-camp. I took on water today so I’m good here for weeks as long as the weather holds.

Tire problems again

After a day one of my trailer tires was flat. I figured a slow leak from a nail, aired it up and took it into Big O. The problem was a cracked wheel, likely my fault for hitting a curb on a turn. I have a spare wheel that matches the broken one, but had to buy a generic wheel for a spare. No biggie, but I’ve been enjoying a long stretch with no running gear problems.

I have an odd rig parked next to me. It’s a Lance travel trailer about 25 feet, a good weekender for a small family. The top is completely covered with solar panels, and it has 2 wind turbines. The owners bought it on ebay for a bargain, then have been traveling for 10 months. The trailer was built for a TV reality show (Survival?) and was assembled for show, not for practicality. They’ve found 4 inverters in it so far, one to power the sleep number mattress. As I look closer at it, I envy the mounting equipment and electronics, both the definition of “insanely over-engineered” for no reason. But it probably looked very cool on TV.

The owner refers to it as “absurd”.

They stumbled into the trailer as a great bargain and took the opportunity to travel for ten months while in between engagements. Real life for them re-engages on Monday and it’s for sale. Do not buy this rig, unless you want only the energy stuff and can dispose of the trailer.

Pahrump

Six weeks ago my slide-out mechanism failed, such that it wouldn’t come in all the way, nor go out more than a foot. I’ve gotten accustomed to living in a room half the size.

I asked at the desk when I checked into the SKP here, and was referred to an RV repair technician here in the park. Within an hour he had it diagnosed and took off to find the part (the motor and gearbox). I’m prepared to stay here until the part comes in and gets replaced, which could be days or weeks.

I was last here in Spring of 2015, when I checked myself into the local hospital for heart problems, setting off a chain of events ever since. So Pahrump seems to have everything I could possibly need, while avoiding nearby Las Vegas.

A run through Nevada

It’s cold at night around here (Reno), and the weather service is warning of a winter storm coming in later this week. Time to head south.

The goal is Pahrump, NV where I can dry-camp at the SKP park there. I’ve taken this route a few times; long and boring, but a lot of cheap or free places to park along the way. Pretty much the ultimate in Nevada desert driving.

Weather is perfect…

Pot in Nevada

Cannabis grows best when nights are cool (not cold), days are warm (not hot), the air is damp (not dry), and irrigation water is readily available. Technology can compensate for the deficiencies, but at a potentially huge hit on natural resources and money. The Pacific Northwest is the standard for ideal conditions, Nevada has to be the model for the worst.

But cannabis is retail-legal here, though stores are very scarce state-wide. All efforts at setting up a market are directed at the gambling and tourist towns of Reno and Las Vegas, much more on Vegas. And focused on the needs of the typical tourist, not locals.

The stores are “vertical” like Colorado, with each store selling product it grows. Prices are twice what you’d find in any of the other states, though it’s state tax is the lowest. While the other states sell mainly raw flowers, Nevada stores sell mainly extracts in vaporizer cartridges. This because Nevada has some harsh no-smoking laws, the hotels are strict on cleaning charges for their rooms, and the bulk of the customers are tourists. Edibles are popular for the same reasons; raw flower is available, but with very thin variety.

This is a market for the investors with deep pockets, and they need to recoup their costs from those with equally deep pockets. Locals no doubt continue to get their supply on the black market (from Oregon and California) at a fraction of the store prices, at better quality.

As usual Nevada is on it’s own in this particular industry, but it knows it’s market well and knows how to profit from that.