Saturday, March 26, 2011

Marijuana in Montana and shark-fin soup in California

Two NY Times stories about repugnant markets caught my eye:

Soup Without Fins? Some Californians Simmer


In Montana, an Economic Boon Faces Repeal Effort

On Montana marijuana:

"Questions about who really benefits from medical marijuana are now gripping Montana. In the Legislature, a resurgent Republican majority elected last fall is leading a drive to repeal the six-year-old voter-approved statute permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes, which opponents argue is promoting recreational use and crime.

"If repeal forces succeed — the House last month voted strongly for repeal, and the Senate is now considering it — Montana would be the first to recant among the 15 states and the District of Columbia that have such laws.
"Bozeman’s mayor, Jeff Krauss, a Republican, said he thought there was an element of economic fairness to be considered in the debate about medical marijuana’s future. “I don’t think anybody passed it thinking we were creating an industry,” he said, referring to the 2004 voter referendum. But like it or not, he said, it has become one, and legal investments in the millions of dollars have been made."
"One owner of a gardening supply company in the Bozeman area estimated that a person could essentially buy a job for $15,000, beginning a small growing operation with 100 plants. Especially for construction trade workers who were used to being self-employed before the recession, the owner said, the rhythms of the new industry feel familiar.

“Forty to 50 percent of customers come from construction,” said the owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because her national suppliers threatened to stop doing business with her if their products were openly associated with marijuana. “Plumbers, electricians, the whole genre of working-class, blue-collar Montana.”

On shark-fin soup, there are environmental and animal-rights issues, as well as cultural ones:
" a move that has infuriated Mrs. Li and others in this community, a bill recently introduced in the California Legislature would ban the sale and possession of shark fins, including the serving of shark’s fin soup. Down the rickety alleyways and produce-laden byways of San Francisco’s Chinatown, some see the proposed law as a cultural assault — a sort of Chinese Exclusion Act in a bowl.

"Similar to a measure passed in Hawaii, the bill seeks to curtail shark finning, a brutal, bloody practice of the global trade in which the fins are typically hacked off a live shark, leaving it to die slowly as it sinks to the bottom of the sea.

"In Hawaii, restaurants have until June 30 to cook or dispose of their fin inventories, and penalties for possession will be severe, with fines of $5,000 to $15,000 for a first offense. Similar bills were introduced in Oregon and Washington State.

"Scientists cite a growing international demand for shark’s fin soup, especially popular with China’s expanding middle class. As the once-ceremonial dish becomes more accessible, up to 73 million sharks are being killed a year.

"The bill is attracting a motley group of supporters, including the state’s sport and commercial fishermen’s associations, aquariums, chefs, scientists and numerous environmental groups.

"But in a city where food and the environment are perhaps equal obsessions, the politics of soup has also highlighted a generational divide between eco-conscious children and their tradition-bound elders. "

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