All of the Answers…Or maybe some.

January 24, 2013 in End the Drug War, I Like Weed, Mass Incarceration, Messaging, Reform Groups, Weed Activism, Weed Freedom, Weed Politics

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.