The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Medical Cannabis Room

I guess there is no easy way to say this, so it is best to get it right out there…..People think medical cannabis is a sham.

Well, it is not that they think cannabis being medicine is a sham; they think the fact that all of the sudden everyone is very sick and there are a million docs willing to authorize you to use medical cannabis for a lousy $50 fee is a sham.

Now, before you go flying off the handle about how, “All use is medical. My anxiety level is reduced and I sleep better. If cannabis makes me feel better than it is a medicine,” just know I could give a shit. I am not looking down my nose at you, or accusing you of anything.

I am just saying that people are no going for it; and the longer we continue to play the game of medical charades, the less impressed people are becoming and the more difficult it becomes to sell actual cannabis therapies to actual doctors who have practices that are not focused solely on cannabis.

I will be the grown-ass person in the room who decides to acknowledge that maybe we have overplayed that hand; and maybe new strategies are necessary for us to achieve our goal of ending prohibition.

Now, I know that is not everyone’s goal. There are plenty among us who deep-down have no desire to see cannabis truly legal ever. In our own reform circles, the amount of people who claim to be activists, but whose actions really represent those more of a prohibitionist, is striking. I used to think I was just tripping, and there is no way that this guy from NORML, or that dude who runs this big ass dispensary, would ever really be for extending, or delaying, prohibition.

But then you start seeing the patterns. The rhetoric spewed by one becomes the talking point of the next; and before you know it, there is a circular firing squad of half-hearted reform, and large groups of people who refuse to acknowledge reality. You can hear the hyperbolic bullshit intertwine itself into the lexicon of followers, and sooner than later, everyone is speaking in tongues and washed in the bullshit responses of those who could go for just another couple of years of the status quo.

There is no major internal acknowledgement that things are not working. None of these folks who make their money from the semi-legal market of medicalization are standing up and speaking the truth. They absolutely deny that there is a perception issue, or that the 19-year-old with the insomnia may be bullshitting his doctor. It is amazing to me that EVERY media story out these days questions the validity of this entire movement, yet from those supposedly leading the charge for medical cannabis remain utterly silent. Why? Because they know that their existence is dependent on things staying as they are. There is no effort to self-regulate the industry, or encourage some of the more flamboyant operators to slow their roll. You will not see the folks at ASA tell a doctor to quit writing questionable recommendations. When have you ever heard that? NEVER. Why?

Because of the 800 lb. gorilla called MONEY.

The doctors are making money hand over fist. Those patients then go to dispensaries, who make money hand over fist in a market that is inflated due to the semi-black market and risk. Those doctors and dispensaries donate to the reform groups, who in turn, do their bidding. So there in lies the reality…..It is hard to fight for cannabis freedom when it is in direct conflict with your paycheck…which is why the effort towards legalization is usually downplayed and discouraged by many “medical professionals” and organizations.

The next time a person says “Well, we need to get medical right before we can do adult use legalization” know that is code for “I could just use a few more years of making this money.” The absurd notion that we would waste our time and energy to pass more laws that regulate a medical market ,which will likely disappear after adult use passes, is tiring. Get a grip.

Medical cannabis is very real and powerful. It is a disservice to continue to stifle its research and integration into real medical circles because of selfish reasons to keep it bogged down by allowing doctors and less than seriously ill folks make a mockery of the term “medical.” Your big ass blunt is not a medicine…it does not matter how many times you say that it is out loud.

Until we begin to be honest with ourselves, we should not be surprised that others do not take us seriously. Because we fail to take a good hard look around and attempt to have an open and honest dialogue about the current state of affairs and were we stand as a community, we are doomed to mediocrity. We will continue to see half-hearted efforts towards reform, that are really efforts to maintain the current (and sad) state of affairs.

The 800 pound gorilla is definitely in the room, and he is getting pretty hungry.

Powerful: Breaking the Taboo

Take the time to watch this powerful documentary on the failings of our drug policies. Share it far and wide and help break the taboo. We continue to see more mainstream efforts like this shattering the walls of prohibition. We are winning. keep the pressure on. Use this video as a resource to educate your fellow man!

Cannabis Warrior: You gotta be shitting me…..2016? Excuses Suck.

By Mickey Martin

I was invited to attend a meeting last night in California regarding an effort to put forth a “California Super Initiative,” in the future. It was a meeting of many prominent California reformers and reform group representatives. It was also an interesting group of mostly familiar faces who have decided to form a coalition to move forward on legalization efforts in California. It all sounds groovy so far, right?

What was puzzling is not always who is on the guest list, but also who is not. I am aware of many people that are working on this issue who were, for one reason or another, not included in this process.

As I sat down for the meeting, I understood the challenges. I have been a rather prominent fixture in cannabis reform circles for a minute now, and I know firsthand the personalities and stark differences that challenge the cannabis community. There is the old guard and the new guard. There are the radical and the cautious. There are the arrogant and the humble. The haves and the have nots. And then there is me….

I have often searched for my place in this movement, and have struggled to come to terms with the fact that maybe there is no “place” for me. I do not belong to any of the cannabis tribes, and have taken many positions that have put me at odds with those who are also my allies. I am no stranger to conflict in the cannabis industry. I have always been fine with standing alone in opposition and speaking my mind.

Mahatma Ghandi said:

Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.

A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.

The room was abuzz with excitement of cannabis and the hopes that California can become the next Colorado, and to a lesser extent Washington State. Everyone sees the writing on the wall and knows it is not a matter of if, but a matter of when weed will be legal for adult use in California and the Nation.

Libertarian Party Vice Presidential Candidate, Judge James Gray, lead the conversation with a call for commitment from the group. His effort to rally the troops was noble and Judge Gray is a very likable person. Enthusiastically people began to express their support and commitment to “unity.” Judge Gray committed to following through with whatever the group brought forth, and asked for a show of hands from everyone who would also make that commitment. Most in the room were on board. Super…

But then came a more detailed and robust discussion about the specifics of the effort. The debate over 2014 or 2016 ensued, as folks tried to figure out when the best time might be to put a “super initiative” on the ballot. There was a discussion at first about how 2014 could work; but that discussion faded into a chorus of excuses about how it would be impossible.

“The funders will not go for it. We cannot afford to lose again. We could not get the language together by next August. We need to do a medical initiative first.” And on and on it went…..as one person after another came up with a reason why we could NOT legalize cannabis in California in 2014.

I cannot remember feeling more defeated and disturbed in a long time. The thought of waiting another 4 years to put forth an initiative in California makes me literally want to cry. I came to terms with the debacle of 2012, and have moved on. I am inspired by the effort in Colorado, and was more hopeful that our community could pull it together in California by 2014.

Maybe they still can, but for all accounts, it seemed the majority of the reformers were leaning towards 2016. For me….I cannot even begin to think about weed being illegal still in another four years. That is just nuts to me.

It is a position that lacks courage, but more so, it lacks integrity. The thought that we have given up on legalization in California for the 2014 election in 2012 is insanity.

Admittedly I had to excuse myself from the meeting early from a mild panic attack, and missed the last hour of the festivities. Maybe they came around and have decided to pursue sound strategies for an initiative in 2014; but upon my exit there was still a lot of head shaking and choreographed disbelief when anyone mentioned the thought of a 2014 voter initiative.  I could not wrap my head around it.

Here we are with more momentum than we have ever had in our collective lives; and the plan is to wait 4 years? HUH? Did I miss something? Colorado won with 55% of the vote. That is not just because of the Presidential Election year. That is because in 2010 Richard Lee had the courage to put Prop. 19 on the ballot, and CHANGED THE DEBATE on adult use legalization.

The past two and a half years have been a barrage of media coverage and positive sentiment towards legalizing weed. There has been no shortage of people standing up and calling for an end to these disastrous policies. We have seen a sea change in the way people discuss marijuana in our society. The walls of prohibition are crumbling around us…..but sure, let’s wait until 2016 to make any real efforts towards change. Weird.

Some have called me an idealist. I am okay with that.

As the world passes our movement by, and I see people who I respect parroting the wishes of the cannabis rich and famous, I cannot help but feel like I am on a different planet. An alternate reality, where people refuse to recognize the obvious and acknowledge the truth. Where people have shrouded themselves in what they want to hear, and what they believe, so much that they have become blind and deaf to the world around them. It is frustrating.

As I walked out of the room, I began to wonder if I would ever be back; or if I ever could be a part of a coalition. Maybe I was doomed to an independent existence that would not be deterred by group think.

I understood that I would likely not be a part of this coalition, at least…..and I was okay with that.

I can tell you for sure there will NOT be a 2016 initiative. I just do not see it.

If you have no idea how long 4 years is, look at it in terms of Facebook. In 2008, Facebook only had 100 million users- today it has well over a billion and has a presence on nearly every website in the world. In 2008, MySpace was the most popular social media site. You were probably rocking an iPhone 3G or had no idea what a smart phone even was.

In 2008, even Richard Lee did not know prop. 19 was a possibility.

So forgive me if I am a little weary of committing to an initiative four years from now. I will commit to 2016 no sooner than November 15, 2014. For now, I am still holding out hope for 2014; or better yet….an entire collapse of the laws against weed and a real restructuring of how we do policing in this country in regards to drugs.

I do not see our society allowing this charade to go on for another four years. The drums of freedom are beating too loud to ignore. We are at a great moment in history and a zeitgeist for weed.

So to those who want to continue to promote continuing down the medical path for another few years while we patiently wait for the presidential election, all I can say is “Good Luck With All That.”  You wanna talk “writing on the wall” for a while?….when will people ever get serious?

I am going to say this once, and once only…..after adult use passes 95% of cannabis users will suddenly get better. I just do not see everyone going to the doctor unless their is an incentive in the form of extra plant numbers allowed, or less taxes paid. Someone even said last night, the 18-20 year-old kids will still be medical…..great. Glad to know that is your target audience.

You can be mad at me for saying it if you want. But the fact that when a lot of folks fail to recognize certain realities that we face, it is hard to have serious discussions about plans and strategies in that context. If we are going to continue to play the “there is nothing to see here” game, I do not have a lot of time and energy for that.

The best phrase I heard last night was from an great activist who said “There will always be an excuse to wait.” Well, from where I was sitting, it seemed like there was a million of them.

I cannot thrive in an environment that I do not understand. I apologize to the group for wasting their time. I wish them well in their collective and unified efforts. To me….Excuses suck.

First Day of Legalization Passes. Sky DOES NOT Fall.

So the day came and went yesterday in Washington State. it was an exciting day for weedheads in the state, who realized cannabis freedom and could legally possess up to an ounce of cannabis as an adult over 21–years-old. it was a historic first step for our nation towards more rational cannabis laws.

People gathered at the iconic Space needle just before midnight to enjoy a celebratory open-air puff under the landmark. The moment was embraced by a small crowd of a couple of hundred of the faithful, and bowls of the kind were passed among some who have spent decades fighting for this cause. It was a great moment.

What did not happen was that the sky did not fall, society did not collapse, and people were not deranged by the freedom of the cannabis plant. The day came and went with little fanfare. One thing different was that no police officer wasted the citizens time, energy, and resources taking someone to jail for possession of weed. That is a huge positive.

Some in the reform community questioned the responsibility of activists and enthusiast lighting up in a public celebration; they called these celebrators “unsavvy” in their approach. Lighten up a little. As they worried so much about the perception of the “undecided voter” they missed that the Associated Press ran this piece explaining the moment:

SEATTLE — The crowds of happy people lighting joints under Seattle’s Space Needle early Thursday morning with nary a police officer in sight bespoke the new reality: Marijuana is legal under Washington state law.

Hundreds gathered at Seattle Center for a New Year’s Eve-style countdown to 12 a.m., when the legalization measure passed by voters last month took effect. When the clock struck, they cheered and sparked up in unison.

A few dozen people gathered on a sidewalk outside the north Seattle headquarters of the annual Hempfest celebration and did the same, offering joints to reporters and blowing smoke into television news cameras.

“I feel like a kid in a candy store!” shouted Hempfest volunteer Darby Hageman. “It’s all becoming real now!”

Source: Associated Press

Yes. It sounds like a real bunch of derelicts.

The reality is that the press was very good, and chances are that the “spectacle” of public smoking did more to create awareness than it did to detract some undecided voter out there. I think many people who have not put much thought into the subject saw the people celebrating their freedom and said, “Good for them. Those are just normal folks. maybe weed is not so bad after all.”

I think, as a community, we have a lot of soul searching to do about how this will all play out. The “counter-culture” of cannabis is now mainstream, and there are many elements swirling around the cannabis reform table these days. We must mature and grow from being criminals and outlaws into being normal, everyday weed smokers and business people. That does not mean we need to lose our identity, or what makes cannabis special. It does not mean we forget everything we loved about cannabis in an effort to conform. It just means we do not have to hide our love for weed, and that we will be able to register for a business license soon for our efforts.

As the first day came and went in Washington State, it was awesome to see pictures and hear stories of the day. It is a historic moment worthy of celebration. While the fight is far from over, the passing of adult use legalization in Colorado and Washington have put a dent in prohibition that will never likely be repaired. The house of cards is tumbling quickly, and not a moment too soon.

Try not to get too caught up in the little moments, and look to the big picture. Soon, none of us will have to worry about going to jail for weed. Thank goodness……

SAVE MONEY- End Prohibition

With all of the discussion being had about our bloated national debt and the need for drastic spending cuts, I am extremely surprised there is not more discussion happening about the costs of the drug war and the price of incarcerating five times as many folks as the rest of the world.

Where have we gone so wrong as a nation that the discussion of rational policy where drugs and imprisonment are concerned has become so taboo, that even when we are discussing MASSIVE cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and education at the peril of allowing the most vulnerable to slip through the cracks in the name of the almighty dollar, it is somehow not even on the table for discussion to maybe take some money away form the disastrous policies that have bankrupted our nation; not just fiscally but morally?

The Drug Enforcement Agency alone sucks up $2.4 billion dollars a year. Now I am not a math genius, but from where I am sitting, a $2.4 billion dollar expenditure that yields ZERO positive results for our country is a HUGE waste of resources. Since the DEA was established in July of 1973 there has been NO real change in the amount of people who abuse drugs, nor the availability of those drugs in our communities. If anything, the sensationalist and militarized forces used to combat drugs has increased the stakes so much that it has made drug dealing more lucrative than ever; and in turn, more of a real problem than ever. So, forgive me if I do not see the point of continuing to throw good money after bad and fund a division of the Justice Department that by all measures is terrible at their mission of stopping drug use and keeping drugs off of our streets. Over ten years (which is how all these budget dudes talk) we could save $24 billion dollars just be eliminating the DEA. All those “Libertarian- Return the powers to the states” conservatives should be thrilled about ending another Federal overreach like this, and saving our country money to boot.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Here is how the real money is spent on prohibition. After the DEA wastes your money flying around in helicopters making themselves feel important by chasing some weedhead growers around the hills and “investigating” known weedheads for years on end, only to execute some weakly evidenced search warrant on some unsuspecting pot growers, the real fun begins. Then this person is put into custody of the US Marshall service and their “case” begins. This case involves a Pre-Trial Services officer who is assigned to the case to basically put the person on probation before ever being convicted of anything. These folks get to invade your privacy, expense gas money for driving to your house every week, and waste TONS of money drug testing anyone and everyone who states they have ever used weed in their life, regardless of if they are even charged with a drug crime.

So get that. We have already spent the resources of an investigation and execution of a raid. We add the salary of an officer that is assigned to watch people out on bail to make sure they are living a good life until trial. That person spends massive resources making sure he is doing his job, which includes stacks of unnecessary paperwork that is seldom even reviewed, and incredible amounts of drug testing at $80 a pop. But then there are the attorneys.

Since most of the people we arrest for selling drugs are poor people, not a lot of them have fancy big name attorneys. Most are forced to use court appointed counsel, in the form of a public defender. Now Federal public defenders are good attorneys, and most are handsomely compensated , including a robust benefits package. They do not make crazy money; but it is not chump change by any means. We pay thousands of these defenders to defend people against our drug laws, and we pay even more for folks to prosecute them. Mind you, there is still no real progress EVER made in curbing drug abuse or availability.

 

Then there is imprisonment costs. Did you know that just the US Bureau of Prisons costs us a whopping $6.8 billion dollars a year to house roughly 220,000 inmates- or 1 in every 1500 people. That is an astronomical number. AND…that is just Federal prison. Add in state and local prison populations and the rate is almost 10 times that- over 2 million people, or about 1 in ever 150 folks in the country. It dwarfs the rate of any other nation on the planet by a longshot. We lock up 25% of the world’s prison population, but only have 5% of the actual population. But nobody wants to talk about the HUGE waste of resources that go to solving no problem?

The New York Time recently did a piece called Too Many Prisoners where they said this:

Last fall, the United States Sentencing Commission issued a comprehensive report that said mandatory minimum sentences are often “excessively severe,” especially for people convicted of drug-trafficking offenses, who make up more than 75 percent of those given such sentences. Mandatory minimums have contributed in the last 20 years to the near tripling of federal prisoners, with more than half the prisoners now in for drug crimes.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/05/opinion/sunday/too-many-prisoners.html?_r=0

That is an incredible explosion of costs that have taken place over the last 20 years. Think about that. TRIPLING of Federal prisoners in two decades. WOW! Are there that many more criminals, or have we stacked the deck against poor and desperate people? These policies prey on the poor and less fortunate who are often lured into the lucrative black market of drug dealing to compensate for the lack of opportunity in their poverty stricken areas. We have left people hungry and cold, and then wonder why they may resort to selling some weed to make ends meet. Then we snatch them off the streets at will, sentence them to draconian mandatory sentences, often for decades, to perform slave labor fo .30 cens an hour.

Then add in the cost of parole and probation to watch people for another few years, in which many are violated and sent back to prison, and you have a GINORMOUS problem.

Yeah…that is your reality, America. You have been duped into back door slavery by the “save the children from drugs” lies that have resulted in terrible policies and the alarming imprisonment of many of our neighbors for drugs. It must end.

To add insult to injury, we turn this slave labor over to private corporations for a minimal fee, and essentially we are paying to feed and house their workers, so they can pay them crap to build hummers and lawn furniture. Here is an excerpt from an article entitled Prison Labor Cheats Society:

Many corporations, whose products we consume on a daily basis, have learned that prison labor can be as profitable as using sweatshop labor in developing nations. You might have had a first-hand experience with a prison laborer if you have ever booked a flight on Trans World Airlines, since many of the workers making the phone reservations are prisoners. Other companies that use prison labor are Chevron, IBM, Motorola, Compaq, Texas Instruments, Honeywell, Microsoft, Victoria’s Secret and Boeing. Federal prisons operate under the trade name Unicor and use their prisoners to make everything from lawn furniture to congressional desks. Their Web site proudly displays “where the government shops first.”

Federal safety and health standards do not protect prison labor, nor do the National Labor Relations Board policies. The corporations do not even have to pay minimum wage. In California, inmates who work for the Prison Industrial Authority earn wages between 30 and 95 cents per hour before required deductions for restitutions and fines.

Yup…read it and weep. The fancy negligee you bought the Misses for Christmas at Victoria’s Secret was made by some kid who was busted for weed in Louisiana. Wear it proudly because slave labor supplemented by US tax dollars paid for it…and they still charge you $50 a bra? Unbelievable.

And none of those are the REAL costs associated with prohibition. The REAL costs come from the toll this takes on our society. We have created an entire class of criminal where there was none, for what should be a health matter on most occasions. We are not busting drug lords. We are busting poor people with drug habits and taking many years of their lives away for their addiction, or poor judgement. These folks are scarred for life, both mentally and emotionally. They lose their standing in the community and any chance of upward mobility. We remove their right to better themselves through educational funding, and we remove them from society for long periods of times.

These folks also have families. Their children and loved ones suffer greatly from their absence. This puts strains on the family, and often results in parents growing up with one parent in the house. Studies show that this also results in more crime, and the cycle continues. The REAL cost comes in human existence and the right to survive. We have used our drug laws as a way to oppress many, and we have created a society where violence and crime is the norm- not the exception it should be.

We are all engaged in these evil policies, and should be ashamed. But this is also very expensive. So forgive me if I do not take you “fiscal cliff” discussion on face value, when you do not even have the courage to address the costs of prohibition and mass incarceration. If these folks would rather take health coverage and support from the elderly and disabled, than face our real problem with prohibition head on, then I cannot take any of them seriously as being committed to real deficit reduction, or revenue increases.

You wanna talk saving money? Let me know when a serious discussion about the bazillion dollars we spend on this crap is being had, so I can begin to pay attention. Any discussion of fiscal responsibility that does not include the drug war is an absolute disservice to this nation and its citizens.

Staying Motivated

It is easy to get overcome with stress as an activist. Often things do not make sense to a person who is fighting for cannabis freedom. We ask ourselves, “Why do people not get it? How can anyone think weed being illegal and people going to jail is a good idea?” It is nonsensical to a rational minded human. It is frustrating.

So how can one stay motivated, even in the face of ignorance an oppression?

Good question. The answer is self-discipline and hope.

We, as humans, are capable of overcoming many things when we focus on where we want to be, and do not dwell on where we are, or where we have been.

When we can envision a world where weed is legal and people are no longer going to prison for a plant, then we can share that vision with our fellow man more clearly. If we allow ourselves to be mired down by what has not happened, or the fact that things often do not happen fast enough in this world, we lose that focus of a better world.

I am not saying to ignore completely the present, and the past, and focus solely on the future. But learn from the past, be aware of the present, but keep what motivates you focused on the future.

It is great that we are seeing massive progress in the area of cannabis reform after two huge victories in Colorado and Washington; but for me, that can sometimes complex my anxieties. When we get a little taste of the final victory, it is hard to walk back. It can be difficult to continue to wait for the laws to catch up with public sentiment. It is difficult for me to not see our movement making a harder full-court press in the wake of these victories. Why are we not organizing more and making more noise to demand these laws be done away with completely? Why are we still trying to convince everyone that we are all sick still?

I could go on; but the reality is that many things are simply out of our control. What we must do as activists is to keep staying active. Do the work, and do not get let down by things you have no control of. Find areas where you can make a difference, and do that. Do it well, and do not look back.

Staying motivated takes a lot of self-discipline. The human psyche seems to always want to keep score, and even amongst definitive victories it is easy to be let down by the ongoing real-time losses, like our friends being in prison, doors still being kicked in for plants, and cannabis businesses being treated like lesser organizations in our society.

While these are the things we must put an end to, chances are it will not happen tomorrow. While that enrages me to my core, I will not let it slow down my motivation. I will continue to press, and work hard towards ending prohibition. I will work hard to keep my mind focused on what is right, and let what is wrong fall where it may. I will meditate, breathe, and find things I can do to make a difference.

Staying motivated is not easy, but the alternative is far worse. Take time to take care of yourself, and find your motivation within you.