What the hell is going on in LA?

Talk about strange. Medical cannabis in Los Angeles has been a controversial issue…well…since forever. But the current situation has taken on a life of its own, as the “every man for themselves” mentality has taken over, and individuals, organizations, legal teams, unions, groups of organizations, and of course, the City, have decided to enter Thunderdome.

I read this article today in the LA Times entitled Proponents of LA Medical Marijuana Ballot Measure Shift Support. In the article it explains how there will now be no less that THREE medical cannabis regulatory initiatives going before the voters in May. Does that sound confusing enough? Well, add in that now the Americans for Safe Access/GLACA/UFCW group has pulled support for THEIR OWN proposal in favor of a similar proposal with a HIGHER tax rate that is being put on the ballot by the City, and what you have is virtual chaos.

Let me see if I can provide a little background. Medical cannabis began to really flourish in Los Angeles in 2006-2007 after the Raich decision. In August of 2007, the City passed an Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) that established a moratorium on new dispensaries. This ICO contained a hardship clause that allowed for collectives that were affected by Federal interference letters to move to a different location. Well, the devil is in the details, and the way the hardship clause was written it actually allowed for any collective, regardless of if they filed as a Pre-ICO collective, to register under this clause. By the end of 2008, it was estimated there were between 500-1000 dispensaries in Los Angeles, and the majority had registered with the City under this hardship clause.

Are you still with me? To make a long story short, the ICO was ruled illegal and has since had its sunset clause go into effect, meaning it is in no way law, and was illegal to begin with. So now there is this imaginary line in the sand and a list of these 183 collectives that registered under the ICO that have been supposedly operating since pre-August 2007. Many of these collectives are either not open any longer, or have changed ownership several times over the past few years. Very few are operated by the folks who registered them. There are also several hundred other dispensing collectives who opened either in the hardship period, or while the legal status of collectives remained in flux. Many of these groups have been open for several years and do a good job of providing medicine to their patients. They employ people and also contribute greatly to the communities they serve. The reality is that they are not any more, or less, “legal” than the pre-ICO collectives.

Fast forward to now, and what seems like a million legal twists and turns later. Earlier in the year a coalition of the Greater Los Angeles Caregivers Alliance, Americans for Safe Access, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union gathered signatures to put an initiative on the ballot in May that would only allow for pre-ICO collectives to exist, and would restrict their locations in addition to adding a supplemental tax. It would essentially close all dispensaries that were not open before August of 2007, and who did not register with the City under their illegal ordinance. While I do not agree with the premise of the proposal, it is clear that the group is working to appease local officials and put forth an effort that protects the interests of these organizations. It is not what I would do, but I understand the strategy behind it.

Meanwhile, the group of dispensaries that were not registered under the ICO, but who have been operating for some time, gathered the necessary signatures to put their own initiative on the ballot. This initiative is more of what I would look to as an activist and patient who desired a more competitive and robust local industry. It limits the dispensaries based on location and certain requirements, but also allowed for new dispensaries to apply and for ALL dispensaries to have the right to exist if they met the requirements. From a person who supports more access to less expensive medicine in a more competitive environment, I see this proposal as a good option. It also does not give credence to what was an Interim Control Ordinance that was ill-conceived and which caused ultimate chaos in LA, in California, and for medical cannabis across the nation. Why we would reward that bad behavior is beyond me.

So there are the TWO measures that were set to compete for the LA vote in May. Which would have made for an interesting battle in itself….BUT enter the defunct and corrupt City government to also throw their hat in the ring and propose an initiative of their own. Yes. You heard that right….THREE initiatives to regulate medical cannabis. How does the City plan on making their initiative palatable to the Union supporting the first initiative who has a lot of pull at City Hall, and get more votes than the other two initiatives? They regulate down to the pre-ICO group but add a HIGHER TAX RATE to get the voters to buy in. Everyone wants to tax the weedhead, ya’ know?

But now, in a move I can only describe as “unbelievable” the UFCW/ASA/GLACA coalition has decided to drop support for their own proposal and support the proposal being put forth by the City. which is the MOST RESTRICTIVE and MOST EXPENSIVE option on the table. Did I miss something?

When I began this journey as a weed activist, I certainly believed the goal was to get cannabis to the most people who needed it at the best value in a clean and safe environment. To me, I just do not get this move and do not understand the logic behind this decision. Maybe I do not have all of the facts, but from an outsider looking in it would seem that more access points for more people would create better value and better service options for patients.

Here is Americans for Safe Access’ own Talking Points on Medical Cannabis Dispensary Regulations regarding this:

Limiting Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives is a Bad Idea:

  • It is not necessary for policymakers to set arbitrary limitations on the number of dispensing collectives allowed to operate. Obviously, collectives who provide quality care and patient services to their membership will flourish whereas those that provide little or no service will fail.
  • Capping the number of medical dispensaries limits consumer choice, which results in both decreasing quality of care and affordability issues.
  • Limiting the number of dispensing collectives allowed to operate may place additional burdens on patients with limited mobility. It is crucial that collectives be readily accessible to patients throughout and across the county.

So by their own admission, on their own website, the effort they are putting forth is a BAD IDEA. Super.

Regardless of where you fall on either side of this debate, LET THE GAMES BEGIN! It is going to be a hotly contested issue come April and May in LA, and it would bode well for people to do their homework and figure out what is happening. Do not be pushed into group think. Look deep in your heart, examine the options, facts, and motivations of all of the positions; and make a more informed decision on which effort and who you support in what is sure to be an epic weed war in LA this spring.

I am literally dumbfounded, myself, and cannot for the life of me figure out which way is up in this movement anymore. What is for sure is that it is entertaining regardless and will likely be one for the ages. I love you LA, but damn….

Not sure this is gonna play out so well at the next “unity conference.”

UPDATE: GLACA Director, Yamileth Bolanos, wanted to be sure that everyone understood that their coalition put up the signatures to stop the LA ban on dispensaries that the city enacted in July, and that they did it with the help of no other local stakeholders.

(So I guess that is what makes it okay to support the initiative with the least access and the most financial burden on patients….?)

Inspirational. Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

A great quote from an old apple commercial, as well as a commencement speech that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford in 2005. While no one ever accused Jobs of being cute and cuddly, the man is a genius and changed the way we look at the world, listen to music, talk to our friends, and understand ourselves. Let the words run over you like a fountain of truth…

“Here’s To The Crazy Ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world – are the ones who DO !”

 

Thanks, Steve….

FYI, Steve liked weed too…..

What is another decade or two between friends?

Where is this movement’s sense of urgency? Whatever are we waiting for? Has there ever been a time in history where marijuana was such a hot button topic, and where the wind was at our backs, like it is right now?

Look at the latest Quinnipiac polling data. Marijuana legalization is up by 7 points- 51% favoring and 44% opposed. That is even way ahead of gay marriage, which has seen incredible victories in equality and freedom over the last couple of years. To put it in perspective, the gay population is about 3.8% of the total population, while it is estimated that 10-13% of Americans smoke weed.

So if we are polling better than gay marriage; and seem to have a more robust acceptance level among our society; and we are estimated a 3-4 times lager segment of the population, why are we not seeing the support and social change that the gay community is? Why is there not a more concentrated and vocal demand for equal cannabis rights? Have we been conditioned to believe that we are not as deserving of freedom as  other social change movements?

There are a number of factors at play here in the weed debate. First and foremost is JAIL. Nobody goes to jail for being gay, at least not overtly. But people do go to jail for weed at alarming rates every day. So that makes it difficult to “rally the troops” when everyone is worried about being charged with crimes, or losing their standing in the community for participating and supporting this “illegal” activity. It is hard to get people to “come out of the cannabis closet” when there are real and scary consequences for their actions.

Another major issue we face is that our coalition is severely fractured, and incapable of making sound strategic decisions in a cohesive manner. Instead of having a powerful singular message and the ability to put all of our resources towards meaningful efforts, we have a patchwork of inconsistency and competition fighting for the spotlight. We fail to find traction because we do not demand more out of our movement. It is like everyone is stoned or something.

But seriously, we lack a real sense of urgency.

Maybe it is just me who wakes up truly sick to their stomach because we continue to lock up people for weed, and ruin life after life in the name of a failed war on a safe, enjoyable, and helpful plant. Maybe I am the only one who cannot stand to live in a society where our law enforcement, there to “protect and serve,” are tasked with participating in the most evil and cruel plot against other human beings since slavery. It must just be me that cannot stand feeling like any moment my world will come crashing down and armed gunmen will storm my house (again) because I love weed. Am I alone over here in being sick and tired of cringing every time a cop pulls up behind me in traffic because I smell like weed and do not want to have all my shit searched…again?

I got a call yesterday evening from Daisy Bram, who has AGAIN lost her kids to Child protective Services for a legal medical cannabis garden and vindictive prosecution. My heart broke as this loving mother and dedicated cannabis activist went over the details of Tehama County sheriffs ripping her newborn from her arms, and the pain of having her three young children in foster care, while their father sits in jail and she looks to rebuild her life. She cried to me about the injustice, and the anger she felt because our movement was not doing enough to stop this madness. Her frustration with a system gone bad was real, and it brought tears to my eyes, as I felt completely powerless.

I did not try to say I knew what she was going through. I do not. I could not imagine. It is an incredibly painful situation to try to envision. I hung up the phone with her and went and hugged my kids tight.

But Daisy’s story is just one of a million stories where the drug war has destroyed families and created unnecessary hardship for families and people who are already struggling. These laws continue to plague our society in ways that we cannot even begin to understand. When we make criminals out of a large portion of our community for “crimes” that have no victims, and in the case of cannabis, that actually helps a number of folks, we create a society based on fear and distrust. We have attempted to incarcerate our way out of a drug problem that we created, and in doing so, we continue to demolish people’s existence…and their futures.

So forgive me if I am not okay sitting idly by and waiting for time to take its course. Understand that I scream and yell because I care. Just know that I wake up every day working to end this nightmare and restore sanity to planet earth. We all should be putting every effort into ending cannabis prohibition forever, and not playing into the narrative that “we must take our time,” or that “we must see what the Feds will do first.” I call bullshit.

The time is NOW and we must begin to demand an end to the war on weed and a release of our brothers and sisters in jail. We must demand a paradigm shift in the way our culture views and treat people who smoke weed. It is no longer okay to act as if we are being granted some privilege, or that we must “play the game” to change the laws. It is not an A+B=C equation. It is bigger than that.

We are at the apex of social change where marijuana is concerned and it is high time we began to act like it. There is no reason that we should be discussing 4 or 5 year plans for adult use legalization in this state or that state. That is absurd. If we fail to strike while the iron is hot and parlay our victories, and command of the national dialogue, into real and meaningful reform at the state and federal level, then we will pay a huge opportunity cost.

Or, chances are that reform could happen in spite of our calculated and cautious efforts.

If our movement fails to seize the moment, and continues to play the long game, in hopes of appeasing our opposition for another decade or two, then we should not be surprised to keep seeing our friends and neighbors lose their freedom, and their lives, over some weed plants. We are allowing this to happen. Our lack of direction and passion are evident. Our willingness to endure the status quo for even a moment longer is just disturbing. As long as we are seeing people put in jail for decades, families losing their kids, our homes and vehicles being searched, and losing our jobs and livelihood because of weed, none of us should be sleeping well. I have not slept well in over a decade.

The message is clear….STOP MASS INCARCERATION. END THE DRUG WAR NOW. QUIT TAKING PEOPLE TO JAIL FOR WEED.

So if we do not get our shit together and begin to develop real solutions that are not based on strategies aimed YEARS down the road, I am just taking my 20 ft. tall inflatable gorilla on the road and setting him up at places where I can at least feel like the message is getting out…and YES…I do own a 20 ft. tall inflatable gorilla…..

All of the Answers…Or maybe some.

It is easy to be critical and point out problem areas. Too often we focus deeply on the problem, and make little effort to find a solution. Finding the delicate balance of addressing the problems, and offering solutions is an art form. So in the wake of some pointed criticisms, I would like to offer up ALL OF THE ANSWERS…..okay, well maybe some of them, at least.

PROBLEM 1: Weed is illegal. People go to jail, lose their standing in the community, lose their children, are heavily fined, have their property searched for the smell of weed, and are treated as lesser citizens due to the stigma of illegality.

THE ANSWER: Legalize weed for all adults to use for any purpose they see fit. Settling for limited immunity, medical only, or decriminalization falls short of solving most of the problems listed above. The only real way to ensure the madness stops is nothing less than full adult use legalization of weed….period. Once we can all agree that is what we are working to do, it is easier to design strategies and actions to meet that objective.

PROBLEM 2: After decades of misinformation, and outright lies, about weed, we are at a severe disadvantage in perception and understanding.

THE ANSWER: Education and Outreach. One must wonder how much of the annual budget dedicated to reforming drug laws is actually spent on educating and outreaching to people outside of the internal community? 10%? 20%? Whatever it is, it is not enough. It is rare to see an advertisement or educational resource in the mainstream networks about weed. There seems to be a lot of time, energy, and resources dedicated to preaching to the choir and fundraising; but very little effort to present our case to the people. I am astonished at how little the common man actually knows about marijuana, why it is illegal, and how many people we have in prison because of our outrageous drug policies. I find that when I can just reach people for one minute, whether it is in line at the grocery store, or at my kid’s little league game, I can usually give them enough information to make a better decision. When we lay out what a disaster it is to continue to lock up mostly poor and minority people for weed at alarming rates, and can show that we waste billions a year fighting a problem that really does not exist, people get it. They understand that this is a travesty that must end now. Those people share the information we give them with other people, and the walls begin to collapse. While the “weed movement” does a lot of ceremonial educational efforts, if there were a more coordinated effort to get our message out on a much larger scale in a more targeted and committed fashion, we could make a lot more progress than just throwing another weed industry party, and handing out awards to people for their lifetime of work in failing to make weed legal yet. It just does not make sense to me that a larger portion of the overall reform budget does not go directly towards massive educational campaigns.

PROBLEM 3: Infighting and a lack of unity have made it difficult to find consensus.

THE ANSWER: Leadership. The most glaring deficit in the cannabis reform movement is leadership. It is important for any social movement to find a figurehead, or a group of figureheads, to believe in, and to follow into battle. While there are some very nice folks at the top of the reform food chain right now, I do not see- or hear- any real position of authority or leadership from inside these circles. There will be no “Coming to Jesus” moment under the current structure, and unfortunately, as long as we continue to travel down the road of mediocrity, and settle for whoever is standing around to represent us on the biggest stages, then chances are we will never find the leadership this movement so obviously needs. Where is Marijuana Luther King Jr. when you need him? Is it possible to find a leader, or group of leaders, to trust and believe in? Maybe…but maybe not. There is a lot of “good old boy” bullshit in the cannabis reform game, just like any other game. It is more of the “who you know” vs. “what you know or what the fuck you can do” that keeps us looking to the same idiots for direction after years of ineffective leadership, and annoying pageantry. It is no longer okay for us to instill these boring and drab “leaders” just because of their length of service, or historical position. Either lead, or get out of the way for someone who will.

PROBLEM 4: MONEY…..need I say more?

THE ANSWER: Consolidation. The love of money has long hampered the human experience. The Holy Bible states “”For the love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10), and while there are some questionable facts in the Bible, this assessment seems to be very true. Ever since mankind has begun keeping score in the form of money and treasure, there has been a non-stop barrage of evil fuckers trying to get way more than their fair share of the pie. The cannabis reform game is not different. Imagine you dropped $5 million dollars in a room and allowed 10 groups of people to fight for it. Before you know it, this group would attack that group, and this other group would work to destroy another…and so forth. Sound familiar? Ever since I can remember, this is exactly what we have seen happen in cannabis reform circles. Sometimes right out in the open, but more often behind closed doors with this donor, or that resource. It is sad and pathetic; and it undermines this movement’s ability to progress. I have never been able to figure out how one cause can have so many different warring factions supposedly working on the same goals? And please do not insult my intelligence by claiming that this ceremonial effort in “working together” is evidence that this problem has been solved. It certainly has not. As a person who knows many of the “who’s who” of weed, I can assure you that the hatred of one another, and undermining of one another’s efforts, is still very strong. Why? Because of money….and the perception of money to come. Let us not fool ourselves…..there will be money to be made in weed, as it re-enters the mainstream; and it is okay to want to make a living in the weed industry. What is not okay is when your desire for money outweighs your love for freedom, social change, and of course….weed. When your first call after a historic election is to the heads of Big Tobacco, chances are your first priority is not the love of weed. It is money. And until many in our “movement” begin to understand who is chasing money, and who is chasing real freedom for all, we will continue to see half-hearted and ineffective efforts that are more  formal rituals that repeat like clockwork to give the impression of work being done, rather than a real passionate and spirited effort. The answer is to consolidate the money, and set clear boundaries on where it is to be used and for what. Dedicate at least 50% of the overall cannabis reform budget to education and outreach. Ensure another 25% goes to lobbying lawmakers and legal efforts. If an organization cannot survive by paying 25% of its “non-profit” budgets to staff and administration then there is something severely wrong IMO. Add to this that we are taking the overall reform budget and then paying 5 or 10 “Executive Directors” and their staff, instead of one streamlined organization with an all-star team of staff, and you can see where the budget dwindles….Establishing a consolidated effort would enable us to focus resources much easier, and it would limit the background noise of so many groups and their spokespeople…and their inconsistent messaging. Think the NRA…but for weed.

PROBLEM 5: Some people SUCK…and always will suck.

THE ANSWER: Purification. Too often in this movement, we give a voice to the crazy and the evil. I understand that it takes a lot of people to make a world, and technically, everyone has a right to exist. Fair enough. But we do not have to embrace every batshit crazy asshole just because they like weed too. A lot of this comes from a failure of leadership, and the fact that so many of our “leaders” are too busy hitting up this person, or that group, for funding that they could care less if the person is ethical, moral, or even a good person. Many times it is the chaos of an unfocused movement that allows the crazy to slip in and make broad statements on our behalf that do not actually reflect the feelings of most of us out here in weed land. There is an unspoken rule to “never speak ill of another cannabis activist in fear of upsetting the opposition” that has neutered this movement’s ability to clean house and purify itself. We continue to see the most bizarre and extreme individuals distract from our goals, and limit the ability of our movement to accomplish even simple tasks. We must begin to silence and ostracize people who bring down our average, and undermine our power. We can no longer afford to stand politely by while “Billy the Whackjob Activist” shits all over our effort. If we cannot begin to stand up and call bullshit among our own, then we should not be surprised when our opposition calls bullshit for us. Once we begin to marginalize these distractions and limit their impact on the dialogue, we can begin to have a more meaningful conversation on real strategy and ending this thing once and for all.

So maybe those are not all of the answers, but they are some thoughts and ideas I have on ways we can improve our effort to realize cannabis freedom. While many will certainly point to the progress that has been made as “evidence” that we are “winning the battle,” one must wonder if we are winning because of our efforts, or in spite of them. We all know that the Reefer madness generation is passing, and that the younger generations are much more tolerant of weed than their elders. One has to wonder if we had done absolutely nothing for the past 40 plus years, if we would not be in a similar place.

Let’s not go patting ourselves on the back just yet. From where I am sitting, we still have a LARGE portion of our nation that is still strongly opposed to legalizing weed. While it is great that most polling shows that we are cresting above 50% for the first time since NORML was created in 1970, the reality is that there are still almost half of the nation that are still opposed. This is direct evidence of our failure to educate and outreach our core message…that taking our neighbors to jail for weed is evil. When we can show clearly that the war on weed has failed miserably, cost us a trillion dollars, and has resulted in creating a culture of criminals in our society, and we cannot get more than just half of people to agree with us, chances are we are either not having the right conversation, or just not having the conversation at all. More times than not, it is the latter.

Until this movement can define itself more clearly and agree on a cohesive message calling for an end to prohibition and the drug war, we will continue to see change come at a snail’s pace. Until we can become a trim and fit well-oiled machine of cannabis reform, and not a wild mosaic of colorful half-efforts aimed at a similar target, we will continue to wonder why this is taking so long. We have the resources  We have the power. And somewhere in here we have the leadership. It is up to us to decide how we move forward and if we will continue to just have problems, or if we will begin to work on finding the answers.

Only time will tell, and the good news is that if we wait long enough we are sure to win because most people who hate weed will eventually die. So we have that going for us, which is nice…..I would rather not wait another few decades if possible. Thanks.

Helpless: Lacking confidence in the weed movement.

I am beyond frustrated.

I have dedicated a large portion of my life to weed activism and advancing the cause of cannabis freedom. Admittedly, I am a nobody in the context of cannabis reform circles. I am but a voice in a sea of voices. At times, I can be a loud and influential voice; but just a voice nonetheless.

I have no position or power. I do not have the resources or organization to impact the national dialogue about marijuana in the way I believe needs to happen to end prohibition once and for all. I am helpless in my approach. I often feel like the crazy person on the street corner with the “THE END IS NEAR” sign.

I cannot understand the motives and direction of the cannabis reform circles these days. There is no passion and very little sense of urgency. While we are seeing society change the way it views marijuana in a major way, our industry/movement continues to travel down the same ineffective and sleepy pathways that have seen us endure the longest and most insane prohibition, and imprisonment of our neighbors, that this country has ever seen.

We continue to see this group throw another party and hand out big awards to their pet activists and big mouth donors, while very little resources are directed to actions that reach those outside of the reform circle. A few big money donors and the people who have brown-nosed them enough to gain position, continue to take weak and noneffective steps towards cannabis freedom.

When was the last “WEED FREEDOM” rally thrown by any of these groups? There are like 70 “medical marijuana” expos/conferences/Cypress Hill shows a year, all sponsored by this group or that group; but where is the call for direct action? Where is the message that the real evils of prohibition are not that a few very sick people cannot get weed, but it is that we take HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of non-violent weedheads to jail and lock up mostly poor and minority people at alarming rates? Did I miss that press conference?

Now I have been seeing a lot of press this week about a medical cannabis provider named Matt Davies from Stockton, who is facing several years in prison for operating dispensaries in Sacramento and Stockton. I have seen quotes from this reform group and that influential person about what a travesty of justice this is. There is no questioning that. It is bullshit.

But the last time I sat in a Federal court room waiting for a friend’s case to be called I saw three young black men sentenced to 5 and 10 year mandatory sentences for low level drug offenses, and no one even batted an eye. There was no press conference. Just a weeping single mother in the back of the room that I felt I needed to apologize for how fucked up my country was for taking her son to jail for a decade for driving a couple of lousy pounds of weed from Cali to Texas.

But you will not see Allen St. Pierre at this guy’s sentencing hearing. You will not see MPP coming to his rescue. There will be no Americans for Safe Access speech about how messed up it is that this kid is losing his freedom for a decade. Nope….not a word.

It is clear that our own organized efforts to fight the corruption of the drug war have become hampered by the same powers that created the drug war….the evils of needing to pander to big money donors, and do the bidding of the few, instead of the many. In a lot of ways the reform game has become as big of a racket as those who profit off of mass incarceration. Do you know the biggest excuse for not shutting down the prison infrastructure and releasing the millions of non-violent drug offenders? It is that these facilities provide job security to tens of thousands of people who get paid to participate in the mass incarceration of our citizens. The drug war has created an income stream for so many, that it is nearly impossible to stop.

The drug reform circles operate on the same principle. Their resources and income come from the political and social chaos of the drug war. If marijuana laws actually are “reformed” is there a need for the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws? If marijuana policy is no longer and issue, is there a need for a Marijuana Policy Project? If we quit hiding behind the “we are all very sick, and weed is the cure” mantra, and actually legalize weed for any adult to use for whatever they please, does Americans for Safe Access cease to exist?

Am I directly accusing these organizations of sabotaging reform efforts in an effort to keep the reform money flowing? No. Of course not. That would be jumping to broad conclusions. What I do know is that I am often dumbfounded by the positions and strategies taken by many in this industry/movement, and  cannot help but think that maybe subconsciously, it is hard for people to actually work their way out of a job.

It is almost as if people can retard social change just enough to keep the price of weed high, the legality of it questionable, and the need for reform at a steady pace, that the status quo is not so bad. Sure…we lose a few folks to prison for decades every once in a while; but the rest of us are doing great.

I have begun to distance myself from people and groups who I cannot seem to agree with. That may end up being everybody before it is all said and done; but if that is necessary to feel like I am doing the right thing, then so be it. I am not scared of being alienated.

What I am scared of is knowingly participating in this “holocaust in slow motion” without giving everything I had to ending it once and for all. I cannot sit by and wonder why this is happening and that is not. I can’t find a way to justify my existence in this movement any longer. I am helpless and somewhat lost.

At some point you begin to wonder if anyone is listening at all; or if the time, energy, and heart you put into ending the madness is all for naught. It is painful to think that your output is a failure, and that the machine will ensure that the bullshit marches on, regardless of how much you kick, and scream, and yell.

I have begged for new directions. I have made clear the short-comings of those we have chosen to “lead” us to the promise land. What is clear is that there is a set agenda, and that I am not the person setting it. So be it.

I do set my own agenda. Do not count on me showing up for this meeting or that “reform” event any more. Until I see real and meaningful strategies to truly end prohibition being implemented, I have no desire to continue with the charades. I will continue to make the case for our society to “quit taking people to jail for weed.” Anything less falls short of reality and justice.

Just look for the crazy guy with the bullhorn and this sign…..

 

Perpetrating a Weed Fraud

Let me begin by saying how disappointed I am in a select few people in this industry who have chosen to disregard their moral compass in hopes of a little fame and fortune. You disgust me, and by the end of this piece you will likely know who you are. First…let’s set some ground rules. Here is the definition of “fraud” for a refresher:

fraud  /frôd/

Noun

  1. Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.
  2. A person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.

Synonyms: cheat – deceit – deception – swindle – humbug – fake

So we are clear…a fraud is a deceptive act meant to sucker people out of their money, or to create gain for one’s self by screwing over someone else, usually by lying, or playing on their emotions. People who commit fraud on other good people are the lowest scum of the earth, really…

Now let us look at the current cannabis landscape, an environment ripe for fraudulent activity. The cannabis industry is still illegal, so what you have is an environment where any huckster can wander in, make grandiose claims, and no one is going to really call bullshit because of the quasi-legal landscape. Add to this that the major hook for marijuana is “medical” these days, and what you get is a scene reminiscent of the 1800’s and the infamous Snake Oil Salesmen.

There is no shortage of losers who claim to have the cure for any and all afflictions inside of their weed product. Whether it is this miracle oil, or that incredible tincture, or this other amazing salve, this particular weed medicine is a miracle that can shrink any tumor and can heal any wound….and you should buy it. You should also invest your life savings into the company because this “next big thing” is too big to fail.

If one more asshole company buys some defunct company’s stock pink sheets, changes the name to something with “cannabis” or “marijuana” in it, and does absurd press releases to try and pump up these stocks to make money off people’s desire to believe that they have a miracle opportunity that is going to make them rich, I am gonna start kicking people in the nuts. This is called “affinity fraud.”

Affinity fraud includes investment frauds that prey upon members of identifiable groups, such as religious or ethnic communities, language minorities, the elderly, or professional groups. The fraudsters who promote affinity scams frequently are – or pretend to be – members of the group. They often enlist respected community or religious leaders from within the group to spread the word about the scheme, by convincing those people that a fraudulent investment is legitimate and worthwhile. Many times, those leaders become unwitting victims of the fraudster’s ruse.

Does this sound familiar? Have you witnessed this supposed “cannabis expert” trolling around trying to get you to believe in this great new company and awesome opportunity? Have you seen them use touching stories of ill people, and claims of healing the sick and dying, to sell their stocks and their products? Are we all really stupid enough to fall for this bullshit ruse? Or have we just become willing to sell out our morals for our desire to be accepted, and hope that the Snake oil Salesmen are actually legit?

In your gut, you know they are not. We all do. Do not get me twisted either. WEED IS GREAT MEDICINE. There are many valid therapeutic uses of cannabis, and there are certainly some conditions where cannabis, and certain cannabinoids, excel in healing and therapeutic use. Nobody is debating that. What is suspect are the many ill-referenced definitive claims of “curing cancer” and “cannabis miracles.”

This desire to provide false hope based on very few anecdotal cases, and more often coincidences, is disingenuous and makes us all look bad. When these claims move from the desire to create an unshakable acceptance for weed in society to the desire to create income and/or notoriety for a person or company, that is called fraud. It is clear that we have A LOT of people who are willing to sell out their values to try and make a buck off the weed game. Good for them. Karma is a bitch, and always catches up to people. But not before they have come between you and your hard earned money. So here are some tips on spotting fraudsters from a mile away.

CHARACTERISTICS OF A FRAUDSTER:

  1. Way too friendly: You know the type. They go out of their way to convince you what a nice person they are and how interested they are in you and your life.
  2. Selling something: A good fraudster always has a gimmick to present. They want you to know about this great product, or business opportunity. They will usually not get to this until after they have established that you are a sucker for their “way too friendly” set up.
  3. Oozing with fakeness: Does your conversation seem plastic? Rehearsed? Pointed and pushy in a certain direction? Yup.
  4. Every communication is a commercial: A good fraudster will invade your communication network, either by email, social media, or other means and will barrage you with message after message about their great opportunity and awesome ideas. Even a casual conversation will point back to their ruse, if done right. Most are not capable of a casual conversation because they know they have to always be selling, selling selling, if they are to pull off the fraud successfully.
  5. The old heartstrings tug: Fraudster prey on people’s emotions, and will generally have a “feel good” story to support their fraud. It is a basic distraction, and is used to provide protection. It goes like this…”We are associated with this very sad and touching story. If you say anything bad about us then you must also hate this very sad and touching story.”
  6. Shameless plugs in weird places: Like I said… a fraudster is always selling, and will continue to plug their fraud at the most odd and out of place times. They are programmed to interject their mission into any and every situation, even if it is just plain weird.
  7. If it is too good to be true: Never let your common sense be ignored. If something seems like it is too good to be true, it is. Don’t believe the hype. Go with your instinct and do your homework before you blindly follow a fraudster off of the cliff.

Those are some general things you can do to protect yourself in this unethical and creepy environment. It is natural that this type of behavior will exist in any industry. In this industry, it is even easier, as there are so many unanswered questions and a long history of social and political forces driving the conversation. There will always be some asshole to part you from your money if you let them, and in cannabis there are very little checks and balances in place to help understand what is a good opportunity, and what is simply fraud.

You are the best judge of character you know. Do not let your love for weed be used against you and do not let some predatory fraudster convince you to invest in bad business, or become a tool for them to deliver their deceitful message. Weed will be legal, and there will be good investment opportunities as that develops. Most of what we see now is not that opportunity, but a bunch of wannabe business moguls throwing around weak ideas in fancy packaging to set up a mirage of professionalism that is just not there. Be aware of those who claim to have answers to a test that has not been written yet. Do not be a victim of bullshit….

Weed will Be legal. Get over it.

As weed becomes a more and more accepted reality every day, it is almost comical to watch people squirm and wiggle trying to figure out what this all means for them and their previously held beliefs about weed.

NEWSFLASH: Weed will be legal. It IS coming. You should just accept it now and make this transition as smooth as possible.

The most visible squirmers are obviously the drug warriors. Here is a group who has sold a pack of lies to a society that is now waking up to the fact that these assholes have sold them a pack of lies. Talk about uncomfortable.

Those who have demonized and criminalized weedheads for private gain and position have got a lot of fucking questions to answer. This “war” has cost our society greatly in blood and treasure. We have spent over a trillion dollars fighting the drug war with NOTHING to show for it. It is hard to justify I am sure.

The conversation goes like this….”So you guys spent a trillion dollars over the past four decades fighting drugs. Are there less drugs? Less crime? Lower addiction rates? More public safety?” The answer to all of those is an obvious “NO.” So then the follow up is “Well what the fuck did you do with all of our money?”

The answer is simple…they have lined the pockets of private corporations who profit off of the drug war, including prison companies, drug testers, and the weapons and tactical industry who have sold military industrial equipment to every police force in America to help them “fight drug crimes.”

It has all been a lie. Drugs have never been the problem. The laws prohibiting and criminalizing drug use, manufacturing, and sales have been the problem all along. People are beginning to wake up to that and wondering how we have managed to lock up 25% of the world’s prison population, while only having 5% of the actual population. Go back to sleep, America. There is nothing to see here.

But we will not go back to sleep. People want their weed and they want it now. people want to stop taking their neighbors to jail for weed. People know this is not working. The jig is up.

Even conservative evil assholes like Rush Limbaugh know the jig is up:

Hell, yes, they should do that.  Now, would liberals end up loving Big Tobacco if Big Tobacco was allowed to put marijuana in cigarettes?  Because it’s coming.  Marijuana will be legal.  Just like gay marriage, never thought that would happen.  It’s going to happen, folks.  And it could save the tobacco business.

-Rush Limbaugh (November 28,2012)

So it is super funny watching these evil bastards try to come to terms with the reality that weed will indeed be legal. What is more funny is watching the weedheads deal with this reality.

Check out this recent exchange I had with a person who supposedly supports cannabis, who will remain unnamed:

You probably don’t care that the commercialization will affect those who grow for themselves and others.  If large corporations come in, as they are already planning to do, then the medical folks will be affected the most.  Commercial operations simply will not do business in a market that could be affected by those presently growing.  That is one effect.  You’ll see astronomical permit fees and increased taxes for establishing sites to sell cannabis.  This and restrictions on growing will increase the price once they have a stranglehold on the plant.  The deep pocketed 1%ers will be thwarted from having their exclusive domination of the market too.  I’m proposing a decriminalization such as applied to prostitution where there are fines only.  I’m proposing we have fines only for cannabis offenses and NO jail time.  This is a proposal to keep local governments at bay and the fines are a way of placating those ass-kissing moralists and patrick kennedy-type hypocrites.

-Unnamed Weedhead

Here was my “delicate” response:

Why should I be fined for weed? That is silly. You have no idea what a truly legalized market will bring and your cynical speculation is no better than the prohibitionists who want to keep fining us, and drug testing us, and taking people who grow and sell weed to jail, and let the cops search our homes, person, and vehicles because we smell like weed, and keep us as lesser citizens who need to hide their weed to avoid your fine….all so you can keep what you have now? Which on most days you shitbag on saying Prop 215 offers no protection? I do not get you, bro….weed will be legal. You should probably man up and figure out how to deal with that fact before the world passes you by like it seems to have so many others…..

And that is the truth. Everyone…drug warriors and weedheads alike, need to pull their head out of their ass and understand that this IS gonna happen. And YES….there will be large companies selling weed products one day…likely soon.

There will also probably be a lot of small companies selling weed too, just like most free markets. Look at wine, or beer, or even food….sure, there are behemoths in every industry; but there are also good, small, local, niche providers that do quite well and offer awesome products. And if these small businesses are lucky, one day they become big businesses. It is the American dream of entrepreneurship.

The fact that any weedhead would want to keep weed semi-illegal, decriminalized, or not absolutely 100% legal and available for any adult to use as they please is beyond me. I am not sure whether I hate these folks, or feel sorry for them.

There is no denying that we are moving towards that day and until we can come to terms with that and accept it for what it is, and not what we color unicorn we dream it to be, we will limit progress and likely lose our position as the current experts of this outlaw commodity.

If we get ahead of the game and envision what this legal market will look like, and begin to tool our plans and strategies to evolve into that market, then we may not get left behind. The choice is up to each of us individually. I am not shying away from the reality that it is only a matter of time before this thing breaks wide open; and I am planning for what that will look like.

I am excited for a competitive, commercial, and legal weed market where the marketplace is filled with high-quality and affordable cannabis. The folks that grow bad weed will have to get another job, but hey…thems are the breaks. Good weed will always have a place on the shelf, and I for one am still looking forward to weed Disneyland.

Join me in the serenity weed prayer.

Big Magnet in the Sky….Grant me the serenity to accept that weed will soon be legal. The courage to believe in myself that my weed will be good enough. And the wisdom to know that anything less that 100% legal adult use is crazy talk.

Talking to folks who don't like weed about why weed is awesome

I was eating dinner last night at a decent restaurant with my family. In the booth right next to us two older couples began discussing “medical marijuana.” One of the elder gentleman began complaining about how “It is being grown in the national forests. You cannot even go into them anymore because they are full of booby traps.”

This is a common news story to strike fear in the public, and to be honest, there is an issue with the pollution and environmental degradation by some large weed grows on public lands. But the problem is that this argument is always framed in the context of it being the weed’s fault; that somehow this plant was responsible for all of this bad behavior. The reality is that this is just plain wrong.

After I was finished eating and getting ready to leave they were still having this discussion. I stopped at the end of their table and politely said, “You know. If they just taxed and regulated this marijuana stuff, no one would grow it in the national forests. I mean, nobody brews beer or grows wine grapes on public lands.”

Now here is where things always get interesting. I have put myself out there in basic agreement with their problem, but I gave them a different perspective on a solution to that problem. Instead of it being the problem of weed, it is a problem with the law. See how that worked? “If weed was not illegal, we would not have that problem.”

These were definitely folks that did not “like weed.” But like with most people who do not necessarily like weed, they do not necessarily hate it either. What they hate are the problems created by prohibition. The criminal black market decreases their public safety. Illegal guerrilla growing creates nuisance and property damage issues. Teenagers having easy access makes them frustrated. Everyone using “medical cannabis” are not seriously ill, like they voted for. And the list goes on….

But these are all byproducts of prohibition. Weed is lucrative on the black market because of prohibition, which brings in criminal elements. Illegal and clandestine grows that decrease quality of life are products of prohibition. If grows were 100% legal, no one would do them in national forests, or spare bedroom. Kids have easier access because weed dealers do not ask for ID; it is much harder for kids to get booze. In the current “medical only” limited prohibition environment, it is natural that people may fudge their illness with a doc to avoid prison…duh.

After my discussion with these folks they were nodding in agreement, and at the very least had a much different view on things when I was done interrupting their meal.

These are all points that are easy to bring up with people who do no really like weed. It is easy to redirect their misplaced anger back at the real issue, which is the evils of prohibition and the failures of a system out of control. Too often, we shy away from these conversations, as not to rock the boat or make a big deal of things. We have been conditioned to think of ourselves as lesser people because we love weed, and until WE take the time and energy to hold our ground and defend our honor, WE will continue to be treated as lesser people. WE are not. WE are awesome.

Take control of the situation. The next time a person gets a lippy about how “marijuana users are ruining society” or how “marijuana being legal is a bad idea,” STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND SCHOOL THEM. There is no other way. You cannot walk away and let those poor uneducated and misguided people continue to poison the well and lie about our beloved weed. You have to take a minute to refute them on every point and make them feel bad about being such a jerk.

If we can continue to beat down these bullshit positions by talking to people who do not like weed about why weed is awesome, and why prohibition is the problem, this thing will be over in no time. If we continue to be silent and passive when others attack cannabis, then we should not be surprised if this stupid prohibition continues for another decade.

I am not having that….

So join me in continuing to get the word out. Make a commitment to never walk away from a conversation (even if like me you are not actually in the conversation) where people are speaking ill about weed. NEVER let a disparaging statement go unchallenged. Never let some idiot prohibitionists get the last word. Make your points and make them well.

Spread the word that taking people to jail for weed is not working. If we all speak up and say it loud enough and proud enough, eventually we will change the narrative and change the world.

A Very Strange Reality

“Where am I and what government agency do you work for?”

It is a strange reality for weedheads these days. I often feel overwhelmed by the current cannabis reality. It is a vortex of confusion that is overwhelming and chaotic.

On one hand, cannabis legalization is happening. Colorado and Washington passed historic measures that made cannabis legal for all adults over 21 to use. 19 jurisdictions have passed some sort of medical cannabis legalization. Dozens of states have decriminalized the use of marijuana. Dozens more have legislation pending to legalize cannabis and/or decriminalize its use.

The reality is that the world, where weed is concerned, is definitely changing.

On the other hand, there is still a large portion of our population who have drank the prohibition Kool-Aid and believe that we should continue to take people to jail for weed. I know…crazy, right? But they exist.

And the do not only exist in red states, or conservative areas. They are everywhere, and unfortunately these squeaky wheels are also very vocal and pointed in their false beliefs about cannabis. These folks bring the “what about the kids” noise, and promote the lies of yesterday at every chance they get. These dirty prohibitionists will stop at nothing to keep locking up mostly poor kids for weed. It is disgusting. I am looking at you Bishop Ron Allen and company. Quit telling your lies and fear mongering to keep getting that anti-weed funding. You are gross.

So what we have is likely the most confusing time in history to be a weed activist. Everyone is on pins and needles waiting to see where this thing goes next. Will the Feds finally give up the fight and let the states do their thing? Will the Feds, even in the face of majority acceptance, still continue their harmful and destructive war on its own people, regardless of the will of the people? Will we continue to see a barrage of wishy-washy meaningless statements that seem to support tolerance, while unjust and immoral prosecution of people happens at alarming rates? Or will Congress see the writing on the wall and pass comprehensive legislation removing cannabis from the list of banned controlled substances? Will states that have legalized weed be able to follow through with their regulatory models for retail cannabis sales? Will the Feds sue to overturn the laws? Will we continue to go down the path where questions are asked, but seldom answered; and our elected officials continue to talk in circles about the situation?

Your guess is as good as mine; but it is easy to see how the current strange reality and ambiguity of the situation is nerve-wracking.

It is confusing enough for a weedhead that just wants to smoke weed. Those of us in the weed “industry” have a far more nerve wracking situation to think about. For folks who have heavily invested in creating a world-class cannabis organization, and who are looking to evolve their model into the future, it is difficult. Planning and business development require some sense of real direction, and the current cannabis landscape makes that nearly impossible.

Medical organizations that focus on patient care are wondering where their place will be in a new legalized cannabis market. Organizations that make cannabis products for the current medical market are wondering where their product fits into a legalized scenario. Growers are wondering if there is place for them in the coming cannabis economy. The thought of licensing and regulating activities still deemed worthy of a ten-year mandatory minimum is scary for those of us who have been outlaws for so many moons.

Even lawmakers and public officials are not sure of what is next, or how to make sense of it all. With no clear direction from a do nothing Congress, a President with no desire to waste political capital on this issue, or Justice Department law enforcers as to how they will react to adult use legalization, it is just a quagmire of possibility and limitation.

And really it is bullshit.

Everyone knows weed will be legal soon. But we will do this dance for god knows how long, and confusion will rule the day. It would be easy to have an adult conversation and formulate a solution, but that is just not how our society works these days. It is a barrage of misinformation and deception. The doublespeak regarding cannabis is annoying an disappointing.

The only hope we have to end this strange reality is to educate, educate, educate. People’s positions against legalization fail miserably when put up against real logic and reason. There is no good answer as to why people oppose legalizing weed. Mostly it comes from long held beliefs based in lies and oppression. When you can spell out the facts their position crumbles. There is NO GOOD REASON left for continuing the prohibition of cannabis. Sorry.

So wander through the strange reality looking for the exit. We have come too far now to be deterred by some chaos and confusion. the end is near….