Another word on Jack and Prop. 19 from Chris Conrad

July 25, 2010 in Legalization

I love Chris Conrad for his dedication to this cause, his always spot-on insight and his ability to see both sides of an argument and make sense on any number of valid topics. Below is a letter from him regarding Jack Herer and his evolving opinion. God Bless you, jack. Obviously you are missed greatly….

Dear colleagues,

To go by the credo, “What would Jack do?” you must understand that Jack evolved and over time changed his positions on many things. He was against something until he was for it, but somehow he got credit for the very thing he had previously opposed. Here are just a few examples:

Jack told his first wife that if she ever brought marijuana into his house he would leave her and get a divorce. Now he’s characterized as the patron saint of marijuana activists.

Jack didn’t want to revise and publish the Emperor Wears No Clothes in 1990, he wanted to do a book about sex, language and religion. Now, the Emperor is called “the Bible of the hemp movement.”

Jack may have been a tax resistor, but this is the Cannabis movement not the anti-tax movement, and when we (I was co-author) wrote the original California Hemp Initiative in 1990, it provided for an excise tax. Jack insisted in 1990 that pot should be legal for people aged 18, but by 1994 we set it at 21.

Jack vehemently argued against forming the Hemp Industries Association. He likened it to the DEA and called us traitors for passing its bylaws. But he loved getting free hemp products from HIA member businesses and when we sued DEA and saved hemp foods, Jack was quite happy.

Initially Jack deeply hated Prop 215. He literally stumped up and down the state cursing out hemp activists who backed it. He screamed at us, called us traitors for working on medical use, and claimed that Dennnis Peron was secretly against legalization. When 215 was filed, Jack filed the California Hemp Initiative (CHI) on the 1996 ballot to block it. and changed the name to “California Hemp _and Health_ Initiative” so people signing it would think they had signed Prop 215, to mess with the signature count. When I called him on it, he said he was trying to keep Prop 215 off the ballot because, among other things, “people will stop working for legalization and we’ll be stuck with medical forever. No hemp, no legalization; that will be the end.” Later he circulated the CCU petitions for pay, then before the election came to support it completely. Now some people actually credit Jack for ‘passing Prop 215.’
Jack vociferously opposed Senate Bill 420, but he loved the dispensaries it allowed to open.

If the movement had done what Jack first said to do, we would not have made the major political gains of the last 20 years, because he espoused ‘all or nothing.’ Jack knew how to come around, but first he had to cuss everyone out. So of course he railed against TaxCannabis 2010. That was what Jack did.

The pattern is clear, though. Jack would never support the HIA, then he did. He would never support Prop 215, then he did. He opposed SB420, then he loved its results. He said he would never support Prop 19, but were it not for his heart attack, by now Jack would have come around to back it.

Jack would never, ever walk into a voting booth and vote to keep prohibition as it is.

He would see the writing on the wall once the Secretary of State said Prop 19 qualified for the ballot. He would have complained, he would demand that we pass CHI in 2012, but Jack would hold his nose and vote yes. The problem is thatJack Herer died before he came to support Prop 19, otherwise he would tell you so himself. Do we let his death mean the death of legal marijuana? I say no.

So let’s do what Jack really would have ended up doing, and give TaxCannabis unwavering support. We can later improve on Prop 19 — but not unless we pass it first.  Support and vote “Yes on Prop 19.”

– Chris Conrad, editor and designer of the 1990 Emperor Wears No Clothes, friend of Jack Herer

What Would Jack Do? He would vote for Prop. 19!!!

July 24, 2010 in Legalization

There has been so much speculation regarding Jack Herer and whether or not he would vote for Prop. 19. As this question is continually brought up by those who point to his last fiery speech at Hempstalk where he passionately states, “I don’t want to give one fucking dime of taxes….” as a clear referendum on his disapproval of Prop 19. Many of the interest protecting opposition try to lay the burden of a vote to legalize cannabis on the doorstep of a dead man (RIP) to tug at the heart string of a movement. One of Jack’s close friends and ongoing friend of the family, Todd McCormick, wrote this to clarify the point and reiterate what I believed all along…JACK WOULD NEVER CAST A NO VOTE AGAINST CANNABIS REFORM. The family may be issuing an official endorsement statement on his behalf in the near future. Below is what Todd had to say to those who doubt Jack…

Todd McCormick wrote:

As I sit here editing the next edition of ‘The Emperor Wears No Clothes’ and reading this missive from some anonymous person who obviously doesn’t know
jack about Jack I would ask everyone to look at Jack’s OWN INITIATIVE:

http://www.jackherer.com/initiative.html

III. The legislature is authorized upon thorough investigation, to enact legislation using reasonable standards to:

1. License concessionary establishments to distribute cannabis hemp euphoric products in a manner analogous to California’s wine industry model. Sufficient community outlets shall be licensed to provide reasonable commercial access to persons of legal age, so as to discourage and prevent the misuse of, and illicit traffic in, such products. Any license or permit fee required by the State for commercial production, distribution or use shall not exceed $1,000.00.

2. Place an excise tax on commercial sale of cannabis hemp euphoric products, analogous to California’s wine industry model, so long as no excise tax or combination of excise taxes shall exceed $10.00 per ounce.

As someone who not only filed the above verbiage with Jack in 1995, but also as someone who sat with him night after night watching him fuss over every little word and passage in that initiative I can tell you that Jack KNEW EXACTLY what he was writing when he wrote to: “Place an excise tax on commercial sale of cannabis hemp euphoric products, analogous to California’s wine industry model.”

Jack Herer did indeed support taxing Cannabis, as he WROTE IT INTO HIS OWN INITIATIVE!

And I am also working on a letter that will be released by his children clearly stating that Jack would support Prop 19 and that Jack WOULD NEVER walk into a voting booth and vote anything but YES to LEGALIZE CANNABIS!

Wake UP PEOPLE: if you don’t like Richard’s efforts then get off your derriere and go do better! This is hardly the last step in winning back our freedom and releasing all the pot prisoners.

If you people arguing against this initiative actually prevail in causing this to lose on the November ballot then this WHOLE MOVEMENT LOSES and people will be sitting in jails much longer the world over because of your stupidity.

So Sincerely,
Todd McCormick

P.S. I would also like to ask everyone on this list to take a moment and fill in my survey as I work to build a better THC EXPO/SHOW that will be touring to at least 5 states in the next 12 months. I really would treasure the opinions from the people on this list on what can be done better.

Thanks~

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NBMNZKJ

So there you have it. Can we put the “What Would Jack Do” conversation to bed and those who oppose the Prop 19 effort can go back to speaking for Dennis instead of Jack and Dennis. That would be great….

LEAP's Call to End the Drug War Not Welcome at Fed Conference

July 23, 2010 in Miscellaneous

Feds Kick Pro-Legalization Cops Out Of Drug Conference

by Steve Elliot

​Either you support the failed Drug War party line, or your opinion isn’t welcome. That seems to be the policy at a U.S. government-sponsored substance treatment conference in Chicago next week. Innovative solutions like legalization aren’t even allowed at the table.

A group of police officers, judges and prosecutors who support legalizing and regulating drugs is crying foul after a federal agency reneged on a contract that gave the law enforcers a booth to share their anti-prohibition views at the Chicago conference.

After accepting registration payment from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at first told the police group that its booth was being cancelled at the National Conference on Women, Addiction and Recovery “because of overbooking and space concerns.”

​However, Sharon Amatetti of SAMHSA’s Center for Substance Abuse Treatment later informed LEAP that, in a decision going all the way up to SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde’s office, the group was actually being disinvited for its viewpoint.

“It’s alarming that the federal government is trying to silence the voices of front-line police officers who just want to network and collaborate with treatment professionals to achieve our shared goal of preventing substance abuse through effective public policy,” said Neill Franklin, a former narcotics cop who was with the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department, and is now executive director of LEAP.

“Perhaps the administration was most concerned that LEAP’s law enforcers planned to shine a spotlight on the fact that under President Obama, the White House’s drug control budget maintains the same two-to-one funding ratio in favor of harsh enforcement tactics over effective public health approaches,” Franklin said.

​The police group is not welcome at the event because “our policy perspective and our policy objectives are different from you guys,” Pamela Rodriguez, of conference co-hosts TASC Inc., told LEAP in a phone call.

“It is the emphasis on prohibition vs. legalization that, for me at least, is the glaring dissonance with regard to our agenda,” Rodriguez said, evidently forgetting that SAMHSA is supposed to be a drug treatment group, not a law enforcement organization.

SAMHSA has since refunded LEAP’s registration money.

The conference takes place July 26-28 at Chicago’s Downtown Magnificent Mile Marriott Hotel.

Let Them Know What You Think!

SAMHSA Administrator Pam Hyde: Pam.Hyde@samhsa.hhs.gov


Cannabis Taxation: Does it legitimize or patronize?

July 23, 2010 in Local Regulations

It seems as if the taxation of cannabis issue is rising around the State with municipalities contemplating putting multiple tax measures on the ballot to raise revenues. While I support taxation in a sense that it provides a certain amount of legitimacy to the process, it now seems as if when given the inch some cities are trying to get the mile. San Jose, Long Beach, Sacramento, Berkeley, Oakland and other cities are all vying to put forward tax measures that are aimed at bringing more income into the cities. Most measures will probably pass, as a small percentage of the population will be taxed, meaning the majority of folks will probably see it as a good deal. Unfortunately medical cannabis users will pay the brunt of it.

Oakland decided last night to use a tiered system, raising the tax from 1.8% for cannabis dispensaries to at least 2.5%. The big question I have is, “Didn’t Oakland just raise these taxes last fucking year?” They did not have the foresight then to realize a higher percentage or is it now that they see other cities vying for higher rates they want theirs? Measure F was passed in July of 2009 with a special ballot election. Now here we are one year later putting another measure up to raise them again? WTF?

I was a supporter of Measure F (and still am), as I can see how priming the pot a little can open doors for the community, and in all rights it has a little. I think San Jose is only considering medical cannabis in their city for the revenue. Without the money potential, I do not believe they would even be looking at the issue. While this scheme may have enabled more patients to access cannabis, it pisses me off that City Officials across the State are so boldly superficial and shallow as to reverse their positions to make a quick buck. Fuck you.

And furthermore, NONE of these cities are offering the protection or defense to the organizations they so rightfully attack. I can guarantee if the FEDS come knocking these Officials will not be at the raid with a sign and a bullhorn defending their golden gooses. Nope. They may issue some “day late, dollar short” resolution condemning the actions but there will be no interference or ability to stop the madness.

Take Oakland for instance. When I was raided in 2007, long after Measure Z made cannabis enforcement the lowest priority for law enforcement, Oakland PD assisted the DEA in the investigation of Tainted Inc. They did a traffic stop to investigate what my driver was carrying and then the feds used this information to press charges against the driver, and the dishwasher who happened to be in the car that day to get a ride. OPD virtually ruined these guys lives, got them plastered all over the news, and took away 2 plus years of their freedoms. Not only did the city not protect our medical cannabis rights, they assisted in our downfall. The question is, “If they cannot even stop their own police force from assisting in investigations for the feds, then how are they supposed to protect the producers and retailers they license?” I mean you want 5% of my shit, but what do I get. Can you even ensure your own police force will not be involved in my downfall? YOU CANNOT and history shows HAVE NOT.

Taxes are fine and dandy as long as they are reasonable, but more importantly, provide the protections afforded to other tax paying businesses. If I were opening one of the 4 mega farms I would be real fucking worried. 20 years for running a criminal enterprise is a lot to worry about for operating a non-profit organization that is afforded ZERO protections under the law by the City that is raping you for a tax rate that is over 40x the normal rate for a business. That is disturbing to me. Maybe this is the price of doing business and that would be great if you could somehow ensure me I would not spend the next two decades in the joint for my service to the community.

Another issue I am hearing is that services will be cut by collectives if the tax rate is increased, while at the same time I hear patients saying they will have to pay more for their medicine. SO, which is it? Will the collectives bear the burden, thus lowering their own income or will they pass on the extra fees to patients to keep their income levels? It can’t be both. Collectives want to argue that they will be unable to provide their auxiliary services because it will cut into their income levels. My first response is BULLSHIT. But then I rewind and think like a business owner and not a not-for-profit director and I can see that plight. Patients are worried the tax will get passed onto their cost of medicine. Well, the cost of medicine in Oakland couldn’t get much higher, so I also do not see the validity in that argument. Yes, someone will lose income. But should the cuts come directly from patient services? Why?

And why is Oakland proposing to fuck the growers at a rate double that of the retailers? Seems like unfair and unsavory business practices. In fact, this whole new press by Oakland is so filled with greed and so far from compassion, that it makes me sick. I have always revered Oakland as the best medical cannabis city on earth, but now I am a bit disgusted. I still love Oakland, but this full court press to make some money from our industry is disturbing. You just raised taxes last year. Why are we voting on this again? Are we going to put up a vote toraise taxes every year until the market can no longer bear it and providers are moving their operations to less needy and greedy cities? Maybe.

Do not think that just like Oakland drove out all the corporate businesses besides Kaiser and Mother’s Cookies, that these tax laws could come back to bight them in the ass in this industry, as well. As other cities become more cannabis friendly, the novelty of operating in a cannabis friendly city no longer becomes so desirable for Oakland. These tax rates will prove to be detrimental in the long run, because even cannabis producers with an affinity for Oakland, such as myself, will move on.

That is right. You have heard it here first. If and when I reopen my business IT WILL PROBABLY NOT BE IN OAKLAND. Why? Not because I have any less love for the O. But because the City is showing that they have little respect for me without my money- and that sucks. So Oakland may find the money they seek in the short term, but these policies also may be their long term downfall, as the industry grows up and will move to areas with lower tax rates and less invasive policies. It is just the way the world works- and Oakland has driven entire industries away before, so at least they are experienced in the process.

Reasonable taxation…Sure. Constantly raising the rates because they think our industry is an easy target…Go fuck yourself.

Sign the petition demanding SWAT be held accountable

July 22, 2010 in Miscellaneous

I have been watching Ed Rosenthal hammer this situation and demand justice and think it is a great cause. In the raid of Tainted Inc. a co-worker’s dog was shot by DEA agents who should have had animal control at the ready if they did their homework. These shoot first policies on people’s pets and family members is unacceptable. Listen as the dog screams in this video and let your anger turn into action:
Columbia, MO SWAT Raid 2/11/2010
This petition is for people DEMANDING the SWAT team of Columbia, MO be held accountable for a raid conducted on Feb. 11th, 2010, where SWAT team members stormed a house and fired several shots into family pets while a child was present, all over a misdemeanor warrant.News story:

http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2010/may/06/complete-coverage-february-2010-swat-raid/

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Added by: RRC on May 7, 2010, 5:32:14 pm
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This petition is for people DEMANDING the SWAT team of Columbia, MO be held accountable for a raid conducted on Feb. 11th, 2010, where SWAT team members stormed a house and fired several shots into family pets while a child was present, all over a misdemeanor warrant.

Video of the raid can be seen here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbwSwvUaRqc

News story:

http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2010/may/06/complete-coverage-february-2010-swat-raid/

Please repost this on your myspace/facebook/ or twitter. We need to get people involved!!

Thing We Think but Do Not Say

July 22, 2010 in Miscellaneous

Often I am surprised that more people do not keep it real in this movement. That people tread so lightly and fail to express in public what so many say in private. The whispers and silence are deafening. We fail to learn when we fail to express ourselves, for better or for worse. So let us lay it out there.

1. There are a lot of people (and organizations) in this movement that simply suck. As people, as activists, as human beings. Do not get me wrong. This movement is filled with many great people as well. Somehow we have made it over the hump and we have found ways to overcome great odds to create real social change. But lets face it. Those who suck make it bad for everyone else. Those who choose to strap on the old ego cap and act like thy are better than everyone make it difficult to defend their actions. Many people in positions to make a real difference simply do not because it is inconvenient or they have their own self interests in mind. They use any opportunity to forward their own cause, even if it means putting everyone around them down to do so. In the meantime they forget how they got to where they are or the struggles of those that have made it possible for them to even exist.

2. Non-Profit is an evolving term. It seems easy enough and something that should be more defined, but in all reality there are very few organizations that can justify their revenues and many choose to line their pockets rather than contribute to the community. I think that people should be able to make a lot of money. I think the non-profit factor is bullshit. But those are the rules we play by in this day and age and the fact is that many have no intention of contributing anything to anyone ever.Creative accounting at its best.

3. Our biggest downfall is our failure to adapt and change. Sure. There are many things different now than there were 10 years ago. But many of the issues that people have with our movement. The laziness. the unprofessionalism. The inability to work together. The lack of oversight. The unwillingness to confront those that do dumb shit. The lack of seriousness. The failure to hold the “leaders” of this movement accountable. The romancing and fantasizing. The simple lack of reality. The short attention span. And the selfishness. None of these ever change. There are the same dumb arguments, the same dumb behaviors, and the same nonchalant attitudes now as there were when I made my first stupid candy bar. I have often marveled that we have made it this far with so many ill conceived plans and flawed execution at so many levels.

4. Compassion is a buzzword. Not that there have not been some extremely compassionate acts done by this community over the years. There have. But could we be doing more? Yes. My recent experiences living in the Tenderloin have brought a harsh reality just inches away from my doorstep. There are a lot of people in dire need and that are truly suffering in this community. We, as a community have so much, but for one reason or another fail to understand the needs of those that are in such peril and distress. Do we even really take the time to understand the pain of another? Sometimes, I suppose we do, but often compassion is just a word used in the law that allows cannabis businesses to operate.

5. This movement is made up of several smaller movements. There are little tribes of people in this movement that interact and there are followers and leaders of these tribes. Some work against each other. Others just work for themselves. often they do not really work at all. Unity is a far stretch on most days and their are many feelings of resentment and frustration that are harbored and never really addressed. These fractions of a movement are counterproductive and often leave us working twice as hard, as we fight the opposition as well as one another. It is almost like cliques in high school.

Those are just some simple thoughts. A rant of sorts you may say. Obviously none are applicable to any or all situations. None are the end all, nor are they biblical by any means. They are just some simple observations from a person in the movement who is often alienated because of his opinionated and passionate dialogue. Often I do not know where I fit in, or if I fit in at all. Nor do I know if I really want to. I have made it this far I suppose, so why turn back now, eh? I am honored to be a part of this movement. I have worked hard to advance this cause and do not plan on giving up anytime soon. May people have come before me and many will come after. Cannabis is a beautiful thing. It has brought me to worlds and people I would have never otherwise known. But it can also be a source of controversy and division. I sometimes feel like I am talking to myself on this list or elsewhere, and that is okay too I suppose. I think there is a voice of reason in all of us. I think many fail to express that because of fear of backlash or exposure. Maybe I should have more of those fears. Maybe I should just shut up sometimes. Maybe I am nuts. Who knows? Be well out there and find your voice. I would love to hear from you every once in a while.

Why I support Prop. 19 and you should too…

July 22, 2010 in Legalization

There is a lot of talk going on about the upcoming Tax and Regulate vote in November that could legalize cannabis for adults over 21 in the State of California. People are questioning whether or not they should support this initiative for any number of reasons. Is one ounce enough? Will this put me out of business? Do the laws that regulate cannabis like alcohol increase current penalties? Is this real legalization? The critics range from uneasy farmers of cannabis to old school activists that claim to advocate legalization, but only if it is on their terms. There are dispensary operators that wonder what will happen to their organizations if it passes, and patients wondering if this vote will water down their medical need. There seems to be an awful lot of confusion regarding what is at stake, so let me make it clear…what is at stake is the beginning of the end of the war on cannabis. What is at stake is freedom. What is at stake is morality and justice. What is at stake is the future.

The first and most important reason I am asking you to support Tax and Regulate 2010 is because it is the right thing to do. Is the initiative perfect? No. Is it a hell of a lot better than the status quo? Absolutely.

The biggest upside is that this vote breaks the back of drug warriors who have for decades made a living of demonizing cannabis and jailing cannabis users. The world will be put on notice that the people of California no longer want to see their neighbors and loved ones made into criminals for the safe and responsible use of cannabis. That is huge. More than anything, sending a clear message that reason has trumped rhetoric will create a crack in the wall of prohibition that will continue to splinter and eventually lead to total cannabis freedom.

That is what we are fighting for, right? We want to be left alone in our choice to burn a joint or eat a cannabis brownie without looking over our shoulder and being made to feel like a second-class citizen. We want to be treated equally in our choice to alter our mental state with cannabis, like so many wine aficionados and beer lovers do everyday, without being scared to death of going to jail. We want to be able to have an ounce of marijuana in our car and not panic every time a cop pulls behind us in traffic. In fact, this completely nullifies a cops “probable cause” for smelling cannabis in your car. You can look right at them and say, “Why yes officer, that is my cannabis you smell.” As long as you are not under the influence there should be no issue. You can set it next to you on the seat if you want to.

This is the kind of freedom I want, and the Tax and Regulate Initiative gives me that. Peace of mind is invaluable to me. I hate being scared of cops over cannabis. The initiative normalizes the use of cannabis, which for too long has created unnecessary obstacles and hardships in people’s lives.

This initiative preserves the existing medical marijuana laws and is a humongous improvement over the current criminal laws that govern cannabis. It enables the legislature to improve upon the law but removes their power to limit it any further. It empowers municipalities to set up legitimate access points for cannabis and makes it legal for me to grow a 5×5 garden without fear of prosecution. And as a patient, I can continue to grow more if my doctor has approved it. Awesome. It lets me share cannabis with a neighbor without it being a crime and enables me to have an affirmative defense for possessing more than the ounce limit. That changes my world for the better in so many ways.

Tax and Regulate gives a person the right to possess and use cannabis. That in its self should be reason enough to get your vote; but let’s look at some of the arguments being used by people in the movement to belittle the initiative in favor of the status quo.

Some say the ounce limit is too restrictive and are upset that it is legal to buy unlimited quantities of booze and this law limits cannabis to an ounce. Unfortunately after decades of misinformation and lies about cannabis there is a need to ease voters minds about cannabis. Limiting the quantity is a concession that was made with the calculated hope of getting the thing to pass.  Obviously I would like to see less limitation, but in life we often must compromise idealism for the greater good. There are simply not enough cannabis users in the State of California to pass this on our own. We need the support of hundreds of thousands of people who do not use cannabis. Many non-cannabis users are not going to vote for an initiative that creates a virtual free for all. By ensuring the voter that there are reasonable and responsible limits in place we may win the hearts and minds of enough of them to get it passed.

Others complain that the initiative’s 21-year-old age limit is unfair to those 18-20. The big red herring argument is that by making the penalty for furnishing cannabis to a person under 21 the same as alcohol, that this “increases” or “adds” new punishments to cannabis use.  If we really want this initiative to pass (and I do), it is necessary to present the initiative in a light that is understandable to the society we live in. The most common adult use drug on the market is by far alcohol, so naturally the authors of this initiative did their best to model the structure to relate to that industry. In doing that, there are certain realities created that may seem less than reasonable to the average cannabis user who understands the safety of cannabis.

It amazes me that this distraction of an argument would influence a person to continue to make criminals out of the vast majority of cannabis users who ARE 21 and over. Furthermore, it is insulting to dismiss the entire initiative over a statute that is the same as people buying booze for a kid in a parking lot. I guarantee you that our prisons are not filled with people caught fishing for beer. I do know that prisons are filled with people who have used, grown, sold, given or violated their probation by using cannabis.  Know there are parents who have lost custody of their children for their use of cannabis. Is it really worth tearing down the opportunities the initiative affords so that we can give a joint to a 19-year-old? These kids get booze just fine if they want it. The same will go for cannabis. Every day parents let their adult but not 21 kids have a glass of wine in the safety of their own home. Does the ATF kick their doors in and put them in prison or take away their kids? No. So this unfortunate argument is just weak and lacks substance.

The fake outrage over these “added penalties” can only be attributed to nitpicking. Would it be great if the law were written for 18 and over? Sure. I firmly believe that if you can join the army and fly to other countries to kill people that you should be able to smoke a joint or have a beer at the and of your day. Unfortunately, my extremely liberal views are not shared by the vast majority of people and I am willing to concede an increased age limit and an agreement of penalties that parallel alcohol to get the votes needed to actually pass it. My experience in talking to people that do not use cannabis is that people are willing to support the initiative because of its limitations and relation to the legal status of alcohol.

Still others argue that legalization will devalue their crop and essentially put them out of business. I have two words for these people….”YOU SUCK.” I mean, really? Really? You would continue to make criminals out of hundreds of thousands of people to make an extra buck? That is simply the worst logic ever expressed and frankly, it is offensive. What you will find is an increased competition, as outlaws will not be in total control of the production. This type of real market competition scares some. That is understandable, but it is unfathomable to consider not legalizing cannabis because you suck at business and marketing. Look at the wine industry. There are a number of cheap, average, mass-produced wines on the market, but there are also $500 bottles on the market. Why? Do you think the $500 bottle of wine is made with magic grapes? No. It is made with a higher quality, and the producers have done a great job of marketing their product. They have created a desire for their limited high-end product line. Cannabis will be no different. People who create great products will continue to see a demand for their services. Those who cut corners and lack the ability to create desirable products will fail; whereas now they get by because prohibition has created a demand even for mediocre cannabis.

Some have estimated that the price of cannabis would be cut in half. Well grow twice as much then. Lobby your local officials to allow for economic viability through cannabis production. But voting against legalization to protect your own financial interest is despicable. How could you sleep at night if the initiative fails and people continue to lose their jobs, kids, and freedoms so that you could make more money without having to truly compete in a legitimate market? Your income level is an irrelevant conclusion in a much larger argument.

Talented and hard-working people will thrive in a legitimized industry. Those who have dedicated their lives to growing and producing cannabis will be the leaders of this industry. Those who simply use cannabis as a means to an end and would put their pocketbook over reason will have a special place in hell I am sure.

I also believe that the initiative will create a substantial tourism industry that people can tap into. California will always produce the finest cannabis and be the birthplace of the movement in America.  The millions of people who enjoy cannabis around the world will want to come to California to be immersed in the culture of it all. There will be “Bud and Breakfasts” that open to accommodate cannabis enthusiasts and farm tours that will attract folks to spend money. As it is embraced by the culture over time, could we see “Cannaland,” the world’s first cannabis-themed amusement park? Maybe we will; but not if we do not get the vote out.

The time is now and the opportunity has never been greater. It is our responsibility to do our part to get this passed and take a huge step towards ending the war on cannabis. Talk to the people in your lives. Encourage the person at work or in line at the grocery store to vote to legalize cannabis because it is the morally right thing to do. Tell the hesitant soccer mom you know that it is not a matter of whether or not her baby will have access to cannabis- they will. The choice is whether her baby should go to jail for their decision to use cannabis. Talk to your religious relative and explain that cannabis is a plant and that he true sin is to continue to lock a person up for using God’s natural wonder plant. This campaign is all of ours. We will sink or swim in the process.

Already the initiative has accomplished more than could have been expected even a couple of years ago. It has created a national dialogue that continues to make people question prohibition. The opposition will come out in force as the election grows near. It is all of our responsibilities to ensure that we do not allow those forces to get away with continuing the failed policy of making criminals out of cannabis users.

Do what is right. Join me in supporting the Tax and Regulate initiative and make your voice heard on November 2, 2010. United we stand and divided we fall. Put the petty differences aside and let the egos rest. Make the simple choice; if you want to end prohibition, as we know it, vote yes. If you want to continue to allow for tyranny and chaos to rule, vote no. The choice is yours.

Oakland’s plan for mega-grows basically sucks

July 22, 2010 in Local Regulations

Below are my basic issues with the proposed cultivation ordinance and plans for the city of Oakland. As a person who loves Oakland, it is sad to see them moving further from good policy and implementing their desires for progress through ill-conceived legislation. Oakland is a great city, but the officials pressing this issue forward should think about the ramifications of their decision. Their decisions are based on some flawed principles, including assuming that the cannabis industry will conform to the standards of normal big business practice, assuming that their regulation will protect these large scale producers on their own merit, and assuming that they are somehow within the bounds of State law as it applies to collectives. I welcome a healthy discussion on the matter.
The ISSUES:
  • While the intentions of Rebecca Kaplan and the oakland City Council are admirable and face the reality that there must be some regulation and control on the production side of the industry, they essentially fail to protect any of the established producers who are the backbone of the industry. Instead they have planned to allow for four mega-organizations to produce a crop that will lack the integrity and variety that patients currently depend on.
  • As the last person raided by Federal Drug Enforcement Agents in the City of Oakland, I would urge caution to the council, as these organizations purpose and intent are outside of the bounds of the collective or cooperative standards set forth in California State Law. The council seems to believe the directive from the Obama Administration will protect these organizations simply on the merits that they are licensed and regulated, but the key phrase in the US Attorney General’s memo is “clear and unambiguous compliance with State law.” These organizations will, at best be pushing the bounds of legality, and at worse be unlawful organizations that will be targets of the Federal Government. Their extreme and capitalistic nature alone seem to conflict with the spirit of Prop. 215 and SB420. With the massive plant numbers that are being proposed at these locations, the investors/directors would be held accountable as “Organizers/Leaders of a Criminal Enterprise,” a charge that can result in 20 years in prison.
  • When I was raided in September of 2007 in Oakland the Federal Government’s complaint showed that Oakland Police Department participated in the investigation by performing a traffic stop on two of my employees, who were in turn charged by the Federal Government, where they were forced to admit guilt because there is no medical cannabis defense in Federal court. At the time of the traffic stop Oakland voters had passed Measure Z and made cannabis enforcement the lowest priority. The question I hold to the council is, “If they cannot ensure their own police force is not assisting the Feds in their prosecution of medical cannabis providers, how can they be so sure that Federal policy will protect these four mammoth organizations?”
  • For years patient providers in Oakland have risked their freedom and have lived in fear of the Federal government in order to provide high quality medicines. Many have crafted their skills over many years. Now they are being deemed a danger and a nuisance for their actions. Some thanks for the many people who have literally grew the movement to what it is today. Are they supposed to go get one of these “union” jobs now? Really? I do not remember asking for a job…
  • The council persons sponsoring this legislation claim it is aimed at regulating the supply better and avoiding some of the problems that come from cultivators that are forced to play cat and mouse games do to prohibition. Sometimes these situations result in fires, floods, or disturbances due to their lack of proper oversight and clear rules of operation. This legislation does none of that. Instead of providing framework to standardize and legitimize the existing cultivation infrastructure, they have chosen to create 4 new entities with 4 new sets of problems, and will essentially be 4 large targets. The “illegal” cultivators will still be forced to hide their facilities and some will surely lack security, run afoul of electrical code, and create the same issues that currently exist in Oakland; the ones they claim to be trying to solve. If the intention of the legislation is to regulate cultivation and provide a safe means for producing safe and effective cannabis medicines, then it should do that. Not further push legitimate providers further into the dark.
  • The persons or organizations that seem to have the resources to invest in such a mammoth organization, particularly Jeff Wilcox and Dhar Mann, lack the real experience to even comprehend what goes into providing the high quality and versatile supply of medicine that patients have come to demand. Their attempts to buy industry leaders and lobbyist to do their bidding is all fine and dandy, but when the rubber hits the road and cannabis is coming off the vine a t a record and feverish pace, will they have the talent and knowledge necessary to put out a high quality and desirable product? If the product or the organization is deemed inferior, or if the political aspects of these arrangements become barriers to entry in the market, then there will be a breakdown in the organization and market chaos could ensue to attempt to rescue the huge investment risk. The fee to operate is over $200,000 a year just for the license. Heck. It’s $5000 just to apply, I hear. What small business owner has those type of liquid resources around to even apply for these permits.
  • If the City’s large collectives are granted the permit it will lower the competitive quality of the supply and the collectives will hold a larger oligopoly in the market than already exists at this time. Eventually under these circumstances, the industry will be controlled by a few large organizations and the “McDonald’s of Marijuana” moniker will no longer be just a humorous talking point for the press. While vertical integration has normally benefited industry’s, resulting in lower prices for consumers, this phenomenon does not exist in cannabis distribution, as the limited access points allow for organizations to charge $60-65 per eighth ounce of cannabis, even as the wholesale price has continued to fall with abundance of supply.

As for questions regarding legalizing the existing growers and concerns about residential growing; first off the ordinance proposed ALLOWS for residential growing. 32 square feet for a person and up to three people for a total of 96 square feet per residence, or (3) 4×8 grow trays. This does not change, nor does it provide a safety framework for these smaller personal growers to adhere to. What you may see is people renting extra residences to accommodate the restrictions and still meet the needs of their collective of patients or to feed the demand of the current market. In turn, rental property rates will increase and more low income people will be driven out of Oakland as a result.

But most of the supply currently comes from commercial style, medium size cultivation collectives, usually between 20-50 lights, or roughly 10-25 grow trays. These small organizations normally employ a staff of 2-5 regular staffers and a group of trimmers to hand trim the harvest to ensure quality and attention to detail. These organizations grow different strains or types of marijuana. They grow in different mediums, with different feeding regiments, different environmental conditions, and unique plant maintenance technique that create a market place with a WIDE variety of choice, flavor, effect, and lasting properties for patients to choose from. By homogenizing the industry with these massive grow organizations, quality will go down, as hand trimming, properly curing, and care taking of small batches is much less cumbersome than in a mega facility setting.

Most of these modest organizations operate from smaller warehouse/production areas in a commercial environment. Some do skirt the importance of electrical safety and others downright steal power to avoid detection. Instead of bringing these people into the fold by providing an avenue to upgrade their facilities and apply for a production license to continue their work, the City is virtually voting to extend (and ENHANCE) the quasi-legal status quo. That is unacceptable. My solution would be this. Create an application process that allows for persons or collective organizations to submit their organizational plan, facility design, security standards, operational standards, and other relative information, with a fee to cover the application processing/facility inspection services. I am sure up to 1000 or more people would be interested. Charge a $1000 application fee. This is relative to about 4-6 ounces of medicine at wholesale rates, which is doable by even the most meager organization. The income generated could be upward of $1,000,000,000- plenty to pay staff for the process and have plenty left over for the City coffers. Then instead of the $211,000 fee on 4 mega-facilities, a more reasonable and fair license fee of $2500-$5000 per year could be charged and regulations regarding staffing, safe medicines, and responsible community interaction could be agreed to. Even if only 400 of the 1000 that apply are granted licenses, that is still another $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 per year, which is more than the $800,000+ quick money grab they are proposing now to make it a millionaire only event. The City could develop a code enforcement position that was responsible for ongoing oversight, much like most municipalities already do for bars, liquor stores, or even body shops that paint cars. The notion that overseeing a few hundred well run businesses who have an interest in following the rules strictly to ensure their license is renewed is ludicrous, and frankly lazy. This is an accomplishable process. Hundreds of businesses are overseen by the City every year. Why should some cannabis production areas be such an issue?

The City is attempting to model their process after the process they used to regulate dispensaries, but there is a catch. The two dozen or so dispensing collectives that they regulated down to 4 in 2005 were easy to locate and shut down if they did not comply. They were in the phonebook. They were operating in the open. This is trying to regulate a guerilla market by making it more guerilla than before. Odd approach if you ask me. The truth is that the council people putting this forward do not believe they can get the support to pass it unless they severely limit the amount of licenses available. They have called it a starting point. Well their starting point was 4 dispensaries in 2005 also, and here we are 6 years later still with 4 dispensing collectives, some of which serve 30,000 plus members that wait in long lines for medicines and still pay upwards of $60+ per eighth ounce of high grade medicine. That plan has not really worked in a lot of people’s opinions. I mean it has, but it could work a lot better with a more competitive market. Having large communities nearby like Hayward/San Leandro and entire counties in the Bay, like most of Contra Costa and Solano, with little access does not help either. It is time that cities quit pussyfooting around with what is politically viable and begin setting regulations and accepting that this industry is here to stay. These baby-step regulations do not reflect the competition in other industries and the severe limitations in most cities to single or very few collectives creates no place for real competition. The relative similarity in price structures throughout the industry give almost a cartel-like perception. There is no real competition in the pricing arena. At times there have been in areas where we have seen explosions of collectives like LA in 2007 or so, Sacramento in the last year, and San Jose in the recent past. When a market is flooded with qualified organizations with similar products and service, then what you see is places vying for member retention and loyalty with incentive pricing, patient offers, and extended services to make their organization more desirable. When this does not exist what you find are high prices, lack of special offerings, and just enough services to make  create a perception of goodwill for the press and interested parties.

Another issue for these organizations will be attracting and retaining talented cannabis cultivators. Growing good cannabis is an art form, and not for the faint of heart. Most of the trained industry are independent growers and would not choose to work for “Wilcox Megagrdens” or “Dhar Mann’s Marijuana Multiplex.” These organizations will be led by individuals with zero industry credibility and will have an impossible time finding, training, and maintaining the quality staff that it will take to consistently produce a high quality product free from contaminants that plague cannabis agricultural projects. It would be as if Budweiser, Miller, and Coors were the only person’s licensed to make beers. Imagine the beer market before the Microbrew craze came about. Lack of choice, flavor, quality, and craftsmanship. That is a step backwards for everyone. The cannabis industry is still a “who you know” industry, and who you know because you bought their loyalty will not fly very far in the inner circles of this movement. But I could be wrong. Stranger things have happened:).

I have heard the City’s comments on their plan to set forth separate regulations in the fall for small and medium growers. I don’t believe the hype. If that were the case a section could have been added to this legislation to do so. What is the rush on jamming this through? Ahhh, right…MONEY and getting the HUGE TAX BURDEN being proposed on the November ballot. This has nothing to do with cannabis progress and everything to do with selling out our loyal community for a few bucks. This is the epitome of VOO DOO CANNANOMICS  and what Oakland will see is a number of small to medium growers leaving the City for greener and less bullshit filled pastures. With them will go their rent money, their auxiliary incomes, and their good will for the City. I hope it was worth it.

Oakland deserves better. The cannabis producers who have held up a faltering economy for many years deserve better. The cannabis plant deserves better. Oakland must rethink this flawed measure, but if history tells tales they will press on in haste and we will still be arguing about this for years to come. Way to go, Oaktown. Way to go.

The Way of the Cannabis Warrior

July 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

In life, sometimes we come upon situations that bring out the warrior in all of us. This blog is dedicated to my warrior friends on the front lines of the war on cannabis. We are winning the battle and the wind is at our backs. While the battle is FAR FROM OVER, there is major progress being made.

This blog will follow the war closely and provide a dialogue for warriors of all sorts to engage one another on the next steps in the fight for cannabis freedom. There will be informative articles, personal opinions, and current happening that will all be open for discussion. This journey has consumed my life for over a decade and I have given my freedom and privacy to lead the charge and be a part of the solution.

This is a great time to be a cannabis warrior. Please join me in an ongoing discussion about the way of the cannabis warrior. Together we can continue to break down barriers and open the doors of intolerance. The prohibition of cannabis is still very much alive. People lose their freedoms, their livelihoods, their families, and their peace of mind simply because of their safe use of cannabis. This is no longer acceptable. The facts are in. Cannabis is safe and enjoyable. The war on cannabis has been a complete failure. It is time we, as a society, stand up and be accounted for.

I look forward to chronicling the beginning of the end of cannabis prohibition. Join me in my warrior stance and together we can ensure that the future looks much more kind and green.

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