Arizonans Are Price Gouged on Medical Marijuana

Arizonans always get the short end of the stick. Our Phoenix Suns and Arizona Cardinals continue falling just short of winning, and it seems like everything in Phoenix is secondhand from California.

We’re used to being screwed in this state, but the medical marijuana community has lost their damned minds with their outrageous price gouging of consumers. Not only that, but it looks like there are much more nefarious purposes behind all the cannabis lobbying in the state.

With the huge profits being raked in by Arizona’s existing “clinics” and medical marijuana businesses, it’s no wonder groups like Safer Arizona and Arizonans for Mindful Regulation of Cannabis are willing to kill the recreational bill in order to continue raking in profits.

If I were profiting so much by jacking up prices well beyond where they should be, I wouldn’t want laws to change either. Here’s a quick look at the price gouging in action.

Tax Rates in Arizona, Colorado, and Washington

The laws in Arizona tax medical marijuana just like any other goods sold, which is at the standard rate of 5.6% for the state. County and city sales taxes vary, but the average is around 8%.

Colorado collects a 15% excise tax on the average wholesale market rate, a 10% state tax on retail marijuana sales, and a state sales tax of 2.9%, in addition to the county and city sales tax. This puts it at around a 30% sales tax.

Washington has a 25% tax on producer sales to processors, a 25% tax on processor sales to retailers; a 25% tax on retailer sales to customers, a state Business & Occupation (B&O) gross receipts tax, a state sales tax of 6.5%, and varied local sales taxes. This makes Washington’s effective tax rate around 42%

So, Colorado’s recreational sales tax is approximately 4x Arizona’s, and Washington’s is over 5x Arizona’s taxes. It stands to reason that this would be reflected in the pricing, but it’s not. In fact, Arizona’s cannabis is still more expensive (and for much lower quality and mislabeled product). Here are a few prices from dispensaries around the Phoenix valley:

Harvest of Tempe Menu
Price-gouging from Harvest of Tempe

Harvest of Tempe is selling “Superior” grams for $19, “Premium” for $17, and “Value” for $15…$15 for a gram is their lowest value. What a crock of price-gouging shit. You’ll also notice these frauds only label percentages on certain strains. Labeling has always been an issue in Arizona marijuana.

Also, keep in mind that “top-shelf” vs “bottom-shelf” flower is a 100% objective rating. Blue Haze isn’t somehow more magical than White Widow or Purple Haze. It’s all the same stuff, and I promise these people don’t have anyone truly checking the quality of one shelf vs the other. You can taste the difference between a top-shelf and bottom-shelf vodka or whiskey (bottom shelf is usually more watered down), but the most bomb-daddy-super-premium-best-high-chronic weed costs the same to grow as the bales of dirt weed.

Sunflower Meds Price Gouging
Price gouging from Sunflower Meds. $20 grams to medical patients in a border state…

Sunflower Meds is selling $20 grams. Keep in mind, this is to medical patients, as Arizona only has medical marijuana. Not only that, but neither of these dispensaries has any cannabis that can compete with the quality I’ve seen in Oregon, California, Colorado, Washington, and even Nevada. In fact when working as a bud trimmer in Oregon last year, the people I worked with explained how any product they can’t wholesale in Oregon or California gets sent to Arizona, where standards are much lower.

To give you a better idea of the price gouging, here’s a menu from Main Street Marijuana, a recreational dispensary in Vancouver, WA, which is a suburb of Portland, OR. You’ll notice that even with Washington having a tax rate 5x higher than Arizona, recreational gram prices are half of Arizona’s medical gram prices.

Main Street Marijuana
And this is a recreational dispensary paying huge taxes…

How is it that recreational grams in Washington are selling for half the price of medical grams in Arizona? I thought cannabis businesses cared about compassion. I thought Cannabis was safer than pharm, alcohol, and all that other stuff Safer Arizona says. Clearly AZ cannabis businesses are trying to squeeze profits out of people who are suffering from painful and life-threatening illnesses and need medicine. There’s not much lower you can get on the scale of business ethics.

Here’s Greenman Cannabis selling medical marijuana in Downtown Denver, where the cost of living is much higher than Phoenix and taxes are as well, yet Greenman Cannabis easily gets medical marijuana prices below what’s offered in Phoenix. How can this be, especially when it looks on the surface as though Greenman has less variety. In traditional retail, this would make them more expensive, not cheaper.

Greenman Cannabis
Greenman Cannabis price gouges recreational users less than AZ does medical patients

So when I hear dumb things throughout all the infighting between Arizona cannabis activists, I can’t help but wonder why I would ever care about local in-state cannabis businesses, when they’re clearly not caring enough about Arizona patients. I tried bringing up my concerns to Safer Arizona and instead of owning up to it, they turned a blind eye, denied it, and several members even tried degrading me on their Facebook page before removing me.

Clearly these marijuana professionals don’t want to discuss the shortcuts they take in quality testing and how they just arbitrarily decide to raise prices. Instead they prefer to act as though the math above doesn’t exist. All those links and pictures are from real sites, and this has been going on for years. I have receipts for weed in 5 different states to prove it.

Arizona MMJ cardholders are getting the lowest quality weed I’ve seen on the entire West Coast of the U.S. They’re paying the highest prices for it too. This is despicable, and one of many reasons I’m ashamed to be an Arizonan and will never get an MMJ card in my own home state. I’d rather support the underground pot market than this inflated economy of people willing to rip off their neighbors. I would support a cartel over any of these con artists who seem intent on price-gouging the ill.

Shame on you, Arizona cannabis businesses, for allowing this price gouging to continue. I do not support such actions and will continue supporting out-of-state marijuana operations that are much more trustworthy than the shysters in my backyard. Your inability to self-regulate is why we all want you to have the harshest and strictest regulations – you deserve it. You need to be watched, because when you’re not, you willingly rob consumers blind. I’m so glad we have a government to protect us from thieves like this.

More Sketchiness in AZ’s Cannabis Industry

Even at the SWCC next week, which is Phoenix’s version of the marijuana business conferences that are all the rage these days, I’m disappointed with the lineup. Whereas Los Angeles and Las Vegas drew professionals with deep roots in the industry, two of SWCC’s biggest draws are Cheryl Shuman and Katherine Grimm, two women known throughout the industry to have little to no experience in cannabis.

While heavy hitters are making major moves and drawing investments all over the country in the cannabis industry, there are few stories in Arizona to be proud of. Instead we’re the state that’s price-gouging medical patients and begging people to support the local businesses doing it.

No thanks, scamabis fraudtrepreneurs, I have my own connects and don’t need your overpriced weed.

Brian Penny Whistleblower Weed Police gonzoBrian Penny is a former business analyst and operations manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has appeared on High Times, Cannabis Now, Hardcore Droid, Fast Company, Huffington Post, The Street, Main Street, and BBC.

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Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

30 thoughts on “Arizonans Are Price Gouged on Medical Marijuana

  • October 25 at 1:16 pm
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    Damn!! You cats are getting bent over. Those look like street prices in West Virginia. Gangs throw quite a percentage of “tax” on something that they have to smuggle, pretty much, from coast to coast. We are still only paying $20 a gram for premium medicine. This is what happens when the suits get involved with anything, for fuck’s sake! Legalization was supposed to take out the “assumed risk tax” that dope dealers have to charge.

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    • October 25 at 6:52 pm
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      What’s sad is how many people will defend the price-gouging as though we’re not capable of doing basic math.

      It’s not like gas, where it has to travel via pipeline, boat, and truck, and the regional prices depend on how expensive the transportation cost is. It’s technically illegal to import cannabis from anywhere, and we live in the sunniest state in the nation, but these legal businesspeople are gaming the system for profit and expecting us to support them doing it.

      It’s pathetic.

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  • October 25 at 8:49 pm
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    Try taking a look at desert bloom in tucson prices are insane.

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    • October 25 at 8:58 pm
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      $20 grams as well…and Tucson is supposed to have a lower cost of living than Phoenix…how sad…

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    • June 25 at 7:21 pm
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      I live in Tucson am an mmj card holder and I can tell you first hand how horrible it is the quality of cannabis is poor and the price extreme I paid 420 dollars for an oz of the best they had which was on the level of California’s bottom shelf it is ridiculous I cant do it anymore somethings gotta give I’m looking for collectives or a caregiver or something I am disabled and need my medicine so if anybody knows such a place in Tucson please help….StephenLucasixtoo@gmail.com

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      • June 25 at 7:32 pm
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        A lot of the product that makes its way down here is the outdoor grown from Oregon and Cali that wouldn’t sell up there. On top of that, the lack of humidity in the desert dries it out like crazy. I unfortunately don’t know anyone in Tucson (or Arizona for that matter) with decent product. Sorry. Hopefully someone will contact you with a decent hookup. Good luck.

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        • January 4 at 7:15 am
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          The best stuff Ive had in Az has been the reject bud from OR and CA that the delivery service brung in when they were low (due to 96% no grow rights )

          This is freaking sad. They were always talking them up… It was boring mids… But i could tell what strain by the taste. Something you don’t get from dispensary bud.

          Pisses me off when dispos import bud. They took grow rights to do that. Its obvious usually. Reef bud is grown in Nevada all together. After they took tons of grow rights across the state. To import Vegas mids and schwagg with some rappers name on it. The ignorant people of Az actually think this is what Whiz Khalifa and Snoop Dog and Willy Nelson and Tommy Chong smokes just because they get a royalty check!

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  • October 26 at 12:33 am
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    At White Mountain Health Center in Sun City our most expensive gram is $12 and the lowest is $9 🙂 …..just saying

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    • October 26 at 1:54 am
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      Just looked it up. You do have reasonable gram prices. Way to go! 🙂

      Though your ounce and concentrate prices are still a bit high and the inventory looks a bit dry.

      Will you be at the SWCC this week? I’ll be there learning who’s who and doing a bit of networking.

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  • October 26 at 6:29 pm
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    I have yet to find true compassionate pricing in AZ.
    I have helped patients get $200 ounces of true top quality medicine. Eighths for $30! Shame on the greed mongers. Boycott dispensaries! Put them out of business and patients can grow again.

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  • October 31 at 12:30 am
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    Hi! Katherine Grimm here.

    Are you really that bothered by new people in this industry so as to list it as a fault? This industry, like every industry, is in need of diversity of color, of background, of thought, of experience, of social class, etc. Everyone brings something different to the table and I for one think that we should embrace each others’ unique skillsets.

    If you disagree, feel free to go forth and do things differently. But dismissing me, or anyone, for being new isn’t helping you, the consumer, or the cause.

    In regards to the actual topic of this article, which was well written by the way, as someone who isn’t doing business in Arizona I can’t speak to the expense of running a regulated cultivation and retail dispensary but generally, complying with a state’s rules is more expensive that you’d imagine and the profits aren’t always as high as they seem.

    If price gouging is happening, that’s lame and I hope to see a more open market with your recreational legalization measure so as to help combat that. I actually wrote an article about the danger of license caps and specifically referenced the dispute in Arizona about whether or not to include them in your recreational measure. (You shouldn’t)

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    • October 31 at 1:02 am
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      Hi Katherine,

      Having no experience isn’t a fault, but I do find it awkward when the “industry leaders” being touted in a convention are too new to possibly lead anything. I couldn’t ignore a blind-leading-the-blind situation.

      I have nothing against you personally (I don’t know you), but when I go to a wireless conference, the speakers are from T-Mobile and Verizon. When I go to a video game conference, it’s Nintendo and Microsoft. When I go to a weed conference, I expect to see the equivalent, not more small businesses.

      I’m also aware that the cost of the product is directly related to the size of the grow op, and that while it’s complicated, it basically boils down to watts per square foot. None of that changes that the end consumers are paying more than they should or that federal regulation is the only way to change that.

      As for license caps, there’s nothing we can do about that in Arizona – the MPP’s initiative contains them. While AZFMR’s initiative wisely ignores them, that initiative would never in a million years make it on the books, even if it receives 100% of the vote. AZ’s courts will immediately strike AZFMR’s initiative down for attempting to create an exception for THC in a state where you can get a DUI for being on aspirin.

      Sorry if the reference to you is a bit derogatory, and it most def is a touch of haterade. It was a sign that clearly the conference was more worried about pulling in people with notoriety more than experience. Would you vote for a President that has no experience in global politics?

      If I saw Tripp Keber on the list, I’d understand why – Dixie is a well-known brand. If I saw Ata Gonzalez, I’d understand why – GFarmaLabs is a well-known brand. Even Garyn Angel from Magical Butter (despite me thinking that product is ridiculous) or Jazmin Hupp from Women Grow makes sense. People want to be these brands, and I get why it would behoove a cannabis professional to listen to how they did it (the answer being they had money).

      But I’ve seen Clever Gent nowhere – there’s nothing I can learn from Clever Gent, and practically everyone attending the conference already had brands with more success than Clever Gent. So while you’re not someone I’d avoid emulating, my main point of contention is that the large majority of the audience is already emulating you (or you’re emulating them). It’s like having a 12-year-old teach a 6th grade class and makes me take notice.

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      • October 31 at 1:25 am
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        Thanks for the reply Brian. Tripp Keber and Jazmin Hupp actually both did speak at the conference, on a larger stage than I did… as they should have. And both were informative and inspirational as always.

        My session on Kickstarting Your Cannabis Career was incredibly well received as I am an intelligent individual who is also quite well spoken. It was targeted towards brand new entrants into the industry (90% of the audience based on a ‘raise your hand if’ survey) and the content was drawn from my years as a successful management consultant because, as it turns out, starting a business in this industry is not all that different from starting a business in any industry. So no, I really don’t think that session was a blind leading the blind. At all.

        And while I understand and have no qualms about your skeptism regarding our brand, I wasn’t speaking on behalf of our brand. I was speaking as someone who was gifted a large platform before she was necessarily ready for it but very quickly learned to hold her own. I am simply hoping others realize that it’s okay to do the same.

        Which is why I just couldn’t help but chime in when I saw this comment. Because while the haterade really doesn’t bother me (I knew a bit of it was inevitable when I put myself out there), I don’t want it to discourage others from speaking up. If you have something intelligent and valuable to say, you should say it. Regardless of your years of experience.

        I wish you and your readers all the best my friend.

        And we can chat again in a few months regarding Clever Gent after its launch next month. 🙂

        Reply
        • October 31 at 2:21 am
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          Will you be at the Marijuana Business Conference next month or the Emerald Cup in December? We can meet up sometime to talk. Otherwise, my email is azmikversable@gmail.com and feel free to reach out any time. While I can be a bit of of an ass in my writing, I do understand that you’re someone to keep an eye on. I’m talking to Cannabis Radio about the possibility of starting a podcast with them and your opinion matters because you’re one of the “faces of cannabis” to the general public. I wouldn’t throw stones at someone who isn’t sitting on a throne. 😉

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          • November 2 at 2:51 am
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            I’m a bit of an ass in my writing and in person sometimes. No harm, no foul. I’ll be in Vegas, let’s catch up then.

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  • December 6 at 8:06 am
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    How Sad, and I was thinking of moving to Arizona. I found this article by doing a google search for “overpriced cannabis in AZ” after looking at menus in the Mesa-Gilbert-Chandler Area. Guess I will look into Oregon. Surprised how low the prices are in Oregon, especially for recreational use. Now I know why people refer to low grade weed as “Zona Weed”

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    • October 17 at 9:30 pm
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      Most of Arizona and Nevada’s weed comes from Oregon, Washington, and NorCal. It’s the weed that’s not good enough to sell up there because it’s outdoor grown and wasn’t trimmed right. I worked as a bud trimmer in Oregon for a week and was told to trim it to look like something I would smoke, but I grew up by the border and had no idea how bad the weed was in AZ compared to the Pacific Northwest.

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      • March 16 at 1:49 pm
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        Don’t know why you think businesses from other states can import Marijuana into Arizona, since crossing state lines is a violation of federal law. i think you’re full of it. They grow it here in Arizona,

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        • March 16 at 11:14 pm
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          lmao – it’s all in violation of federal law. Having it anywhere in the U.S. is in violation of federal law. You’re retarded.

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          • June 7 at 5:48 pm
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            No need to be nasty. We are all on the same team.

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  • December 7 at 4:08 pm
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    I stumbled across rhis article while tryin to find a new dispensary lol. Great article I agree on all points. I was a caregiver in CA for a few years before moving to AZ. I have been shocked by the awful Cannabis industry here in AZ. Places around me charge $350 – $400 an ounce for no name/renamed Cannabis from amature growers. From MEDICAL dispensary? GTFO. Even the black market in CA couldn’t charge $400 an ounce, no one would buy it. For that cost it would have to be headstash of a known strain from a known grower or breeder. To make matters worse, the Cannabis I’ve come across in AZ is garbage. Underflushed, low THC, machine trimmed, mids (at best). It seems to me that the industry in AZ is really taking advantage of an uneducated market. The reviews of the dispensaries selling these high priced meds around me are all glowing. Left either by adults who don’t have anything to compare to, or kids who want to be a part of a pop culture of smoking “exotics” without realizing their herb is one step up from the old school Mexican brick weed (I bet you could still sell brick weed in AZ if you called it Cookies). At this point, I am searching for a caregiver for myself. I can’t afford a what is in effect a $400 per month “copay” in AZ for medicine that doesn’t even work and isn’t clean. Remember kids, “If the ash isn’t white, the flush isn’t right.”

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    • January 4 at 6:54 am
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      Az MMJ program is an EXPERIMENT! I am certain every dispensary is sponsored by corporate tobacco. They are trying to see how bad of quality can be sold. Look at the numbers. All this NASTY bud sold. HOW???

      Hay bud, air bud, fake terpenes, no terpenes, mildew, budrot, mold, unflushed nutrients, additives, additives, additives, PESTICIDES I CAN IDENTIFY BY TASTE AND SMELL.

      Fake names, fake tests, fake disclosure, all speed grown speed dehydrated hydroponic lettuce quality with zero flavor, even at $20 a gram from places like TruMid. Good weed can be grown here. I find it randomly, like the dispensaries dont even know dirty mold bud from decent stuff with terps…

      Im not even joking. 99% of AZ DISPENSARY WEED IS USELESS, not medicine. The card tracks your dispensary purchases. It does nothing else. You signed up for an experiment when you submitted your doctor rec to the state. Most caretakers (delivery) have much better product, and just need a doctors recommendation to serve you. No worthless $250 card the cops will take from you and throw in the trash before hauling you to jail for possession.

      I used to rag on CO bud.. Now I live in Az and have went insane trying to find good weed. Started incense therapy. Terpenes are a myth here. So is flushing. So is honesty..

      Greenway Analytical : Best bud at times but inconsistent

      Hawks Nest: Good bud 80% of time, stopped answering texts

      Tempe wellness: Good bud but inconsistent quality and prices.

      Tree of Life: So far so good

      Noticing a pattern? Dispensaries have left my radar completely, and caretakers arent that great because they are swamped and grow rights are a rare commodity. Growers pay thousands to sign up for a collective, if they can even find patients to grow for. The 25 mile rule is rape.

      Bottom line: Big tobacco hooked up with the Az mafia, wants tobacco style production for Cannabis: lowest bid mixed batches of generic crap, distilled, reinfused with a “special blend”. They already do it with “Clear”. Clear is nothing more than reclaim, bad wax and acetone soaked trim, distilled and artificially flavored. And it’s 80 bucks a gram!! Its a recycled waste product! The flavorings are extracted from rinds and pulp, the thc is extracted from cleaned out dab rigs. I AM NOT EVEN KIDDING!!! Big Tobacco owns legal weed.

      Reply
  • May 24 at 11:30 am
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    I never how a plant can cause so much drama. It’s like no one cares that people are suffering and denying this medication is un-christian, inhumane, evil and greedy! Then this is not covered by insurance! I personally suffer with pain and I have to buy vitamins and they are still 10x cheaper than marijuana. I’m not getting a whole lot of relief from opioids Marijuana can keep my body from opioid tolerance. The side effect of marijuana is feeling high and sleepy. I hate drugs and I don’t know how long I can take this. Lately, I am really contemplating suicide and euthanasia.

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      • June 7 at 6:03 pm
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        No, I’m gifted in ways that rival comic books and I still think I’m useless sick as hell. I’m even surrounded by extremely gifted people and no one can help me fix it. Percocet, processed chemicals, kills people by the hour, are cheaper than a weed that grows from the ground and no cures for anything! I am no more important than animals who are butchered senselesly. If I can’t fix the pain not just for me but, for others! Now that America is run by a clown that does not believe in saving the environment, what good am I? Yes, euthanasia is a fantastic idea!!!

        Reply

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