What does adult use legalization of weed really mean?

One of the main obstacles facing cannabis reform and society is defining what exactly adult use legalization is and looks like in modern society. There are many theories, ideas, and philosophies on what adult use legalization will and/or should look like; but the reality is that this situation is an entirely modifiable mystery.

There are all sorts of weird extremes in this issue. Some think weed should be treated like tomatoes. Grow all you want, whenever you want, wherever you want. Others think just decriminalization, while still keeping fines and penalties for weed, is the answer to avoiding the big corporate takeover. There are also those who believe firmly in the tax, regulate, and control mantra. Some think that weed should be less strict than booze; some believe more. Many think it should be the exact same as booze.

The answer lies somewhere in the middle of all of those positions.

What is clear is that our society is awakening to the fact that we can no longer keep going down the road of forced prohibition and mass incarceration of our own people. It is not working, and it is far too costly to continue on this path with zero results to show for it.

Weed is everywhere. I am pretty sure anyone in America who wants weed right now can easily get it, if they put their mind to it. That includes most teens and young adults because the current “illegal” distribution system has no regulations in place, or limits on age. It is a free for all.

We left weed all over the place, called it illegal, and have locked up millions of people for using it, growing it, and selling it. This campaign to destroy poor and minority communities has resulted in overwhelming disaster.

So now that we are seeing our society demand social change where weed is concerned, how do we square that with the current landscape? Where does weed fit in our culture and norms?

Weed is an inebriant. It can cause a change in consciousness and emotion. For most people this is a positive change that relaxes, soothes, and enhances their life experiences. The substance is also known to make people giggly, hungry, and more interested (and maybe even interesting). Unlike booze, which is known to cause violence and loss of control, weed is a thought to be a more mellow and cerebral experience.

Weed is not great for everyone. There are those who it makes paranoid and/or uncomfortable. Many people experience a more euphoric experience than is good for them. Just like with anything, it does not work for some people and excess amounts can be harmful to an extent.

Unlike with moth substances though, weed cannot kill you if you take too much. It can make you wish you were dead though if you get a hold of a brownie that is way too strong.

Some will argue that the intoxicating effects of cannabis are minimal, and for some people they actually are more “normal” when using cannabis than when not, often because of a medical condition or being overly-anxious. Weed can help some feel less socially awkward, and helps them to expand their horizons. While it may not physically impair many people, weed can still be a powerful substance that can interfere with a person’s ability to function. For that reason, it has to be treated as an inebriant, and like booze, prescription drugs, and tobacco, there will likely be some level of regulation that will be stricter than a tomato.

The coffee model is a possible option. While there is no age limit on coffee, it is generally frowned upon to buy you 5-year-old kid a latte. But people do do it. There are not limitations on growing coffee beans, technically, but it only grows in certain climates and not many in the US outside of Hawaii. There will always be regulations on commercially produced and distributed products meant for human consumption. The FDA is very active in the regulation of coffee beans, actually. Caffeine is curious because it is a stimulant that is generally associated with more awareness and being alert.; although I have had some Americanos that have sent me into a frenzy of anxiety and panic before, for sure. The reality is that because of the effects associated with weed it will likely be more strictly regulated than coffee; but the industry model is an interesting one to think about.

Because of the long lie of cannabis prohibition, we have a lot of myths and bullshit to overcome to create a better understanding of cannabis and its effects on people. The good news is that most of the younger generations have either tried weed, or have a friend or family member who is a weedhead that they still adore. The myths are dying as generations pass, but we must do a better job of vocalizing our message and educating folks, if we hope to have a somewhat level playing field for weed in society.

Otherwise, we should not be surprised when the regulations we see for weed are overly-burdensome and taxing. There will be a very strong effort to say, “Well, you can have legal weed, but you have to jump through these one million hoops to get it.”

We see some of this coming from within our own community too, as folks roll out plans and ideas that seem like prohibitionists wrote it themselves. Usually it is an attempt to gain support from sectors of the community that will likely never support cannabis. In the meantime, we undermine our own message that cannabis is safe, enjoyable and helpful by agreeing to regulatory terms that make it seem unsafe and dangerous.

The reality is that cannabis is not entirely benign by any means, but there is no reason it needs to be kept in a locked vault with armed guards and only people who know the secret password should be able to get to it.

Some of the major factors that go into regulating a substance like cannabis are: quality assurance (production, processing, packaging, and handling); age limitations; driving limits; consumer access; and licensing parameters. It is a complex web of possibilities, which are endless really.

It is our job, as weedheads who will certainly be the most affected by any new changes in the law and regulations for the industry, to create an acceptance for cannabis in this transition period based on real life experiences and communicating our desire to be treated equally to every one else in society. People who smoke pot have been ostracized and made to feel like criminals for too long. We must make the case that we are good people and upstanding citizens that deserve to be treated fairly and respectfully.

We should be weary of too much compromise with those who have created the myth of the drug war, and who have profited from the destruction of communities in the name of these failed policies. A willingness to agree that cannabis is dangerous and must be heavily regulated in a trade for the allowance of it in our society is absurd.

While we will certainly not get the free-for-all tomato model that seems to be the most freedom filled idea, we should also not give up our right to cultivate our own cannabis; and should not agree to be limited in choice and free market enterprise. We should be ready to demand that we AT LEAST be treated just like booze, where people can access a variety of options very regularly in many different ways (bars, stores, events, etc.). There must be an entertainment and social component allowed too, like bars and nightclubs who sell booze by the bucket. Should cannabis be sold at any store like booze, or should specialty stores be required? Who knows?

Will we see regulations more lax than booze? Not likely. At least not initially. Why? Because our opposition has done a great job in selling us a bag of crap that weed is dangerous and that it will ruin our lives. So chances are a knee-jerk response will include some over-regulation.

The best thing we can do to combat that is to share our stories. Making real connections with people about why weed is NOT dangerous, and is actually very helpful, can change the game. The same way gay people being willing to stand up and demand that their love be respected changed the way our society views LGBT issues, we too should stand up and be accounted for.

“I am a weedhead, and I am a good person.” That is a powerful statement.

The most interesting parallel I have heard was from a friend who I was philosophizing about the future of with in Colorado in December. He compared cannabis flowers to beer, water hash and solventless extracts to wine, and your BHO and super-critical extraction products to liquor.

It was enlightening to envision, as it makes perfect sense.

Anyone can brew their own beer and make some wine for their personal consumption. If you want to sell that commercially you need licensing and you pay taxes on your business income. But people cannot distill their own spirits at home without licensing and use permits. Why? Not because anyone gives a shit if you make whiskey, but they do not want you to blow up your neighborhood. That is a lot like BHO production. There are certain dangers that must be taken into consideration for public safety reasons.

I can tell you one thing real adult use legalization DOES mean. It means the cops will quit searching your house, car, and/or person because they smell weed. Think about that for a minute. Then think about people not losing their job, or their kids, or their standing in the community. Then really think about people not going to jail for 5-10-20 years for some weed. THAT IS WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT! Freedom…..

As we speak, the cannabis elite and their Daddy Warbucks donors are plotting their victory laps. Some are plotting their alliances with big business and titans of industry. Others are writing their memoirs already. But not many are solely focused on what is best for the average weedhead on the street. I can assure you that they do not have your personal struggle in mind, as they play the game of reform like it was Uno- Skip. Draw Four for you. Reverse. Skip again. Draw two. Blue 3. etc.

That is all fine and dandy, but like any slimy politico, even the cannabis reform politicos are beholden to the court of public opinion. Pressure from the masses will always trump bullshit.

It is yet to be seen if enough people whose lives will be affected by these laws will stand up in time to ensure our voice is heard. Be an active and vocal part of the process. The end result could be something we are all forced to live with for a very long time. Do not leave that up to the idiots….

Politics, Reality, and Political Realities

“Politics is the art of controlling your environment.” -Hunter S. Thompson

Weed is coming to the forefront of the political spectrum, and it is being seen more regularly as a topic for legitimate discussion. The intersection between politics and cannabis is an interesting issue to see unfold in real time, as elected officials, law enforcement, intellectuals  and activists struggle to define the process on their own terms. There are the obvious politics of the situation, including the “tough on drugs” position, the medical positions, and the economics of drug enforcement, and its role in our society. Those are all potential hot potatoes that, while once taboo to speak of, are being brought to the front of the social and political dialogue more regularly.

The reality is that the world is changing. I may even go as far as saying it has changed.

Does anyone remember the moment when our society went from looking down on gay marriage, to it being widely accepted? Neither do I. It just happened. While there is still a definite struggle in the gay community to bridge the gap to total acceptance, what we are seeing is the reality that our society is MUCH more understanding of this struggle; and no longer views gay marriage and equality as third rail issues. Why? Because the gay community has done an incredible job of messaging and activism that has resulted in people being forced to face their own reality and humanism. They used their opportunity and resources to hammer home the message that it was no longer okay to discriminate against an entire population based on who they love. People cannot argue with that. Those that do are now being marginalized and looked at as the extremist that is on the wrong side of history.

In the other extreme, you can look at what is being done to shut down a woman’s right to choose across the nation, and see how politics can be the enemy, more times than not. In Mississippi, we are seeing the closing of the ONLY abortion and women’s health clinic in the state. How did they do it? REGULATIONS. They regulated them out of business. I bring this up because this is a very harsh reality that we need to face, as cannabis begins to re-enter mainstream culture. If we trade our values and ethics, and concede too much to gain political support, we could end up with a similar situation.

Look at medical cannabis in New Jersey. The program there has been incredibly burdensome and costly, and several years later, only one clinic has been able to open just months ago; and they are already struggling to make ends meet because of the regulatory costs and incredible red tape of the program. It is more cost prohibitive than it needed to be, and the result will likely be people continuing to seek their cannabis from illicit sources. Just like in Mississippi…what will result is poor women getting abortions from illicit resources. It is a dangerous and slippery slope.

Clear evidence of this is Washington state’s passage of I-502. In December, LEAP advisory board member Norm Stamper was quoted as saying. “”I now question whether Washington state’s initiative needed to be as restrictive as it is.” Of course it didn’t. But there was no telling Stamper and the campaign crew that this was the case, as they touted its rigid standards as necessary for victory, only to be proven wrong on the same night by voters in Colorado. I-502 passed by 10 points. Even if it only passed by 5 points with no DUI per se provision and allowing people to grow their own, it still would have passed big.

But this is often the political reality for cannabis reformers. After decades of being treated like derelicts and deadbeats, any little glimpse of legitimate recognition or interest and reformers are ready to bend over backwards and give up the farm to be taken seriously. The organizations and big money donors that have the funding to put reform efforts forward (I am looking at you Peter Lewis and George Soros) play cannabis reform like a game of poker. While there is no questioning the desire to end prohibition, eventually, the political calculus that goes into our effort are far to humble to reflect actual reality in our society.

In other words, our tendency is to play to the politics, and forget about the social and cultural realities that are driving the conversation. It is easy to be cavalier with your efforts and energy when it is not you waking up every day in prison, or the fear of going to prison. Too often the person making major policy reform decisions has little idea of what things are like here on the ground. They lose focus on the real pain and suffering brought on by our failure to end prohibition, as a society.

They do not see the mothers raising their kids alone because we have taken their fathers away to jail for weed for decades. They do not have to look these folks in the eye or try to answer questions there really are no answers for. Their car is not being searched on the side of the road.

Those who choose to play political Rochambeau do not live in a world of reality. They live in a world of contrived reality and borderline chaos. They live in an environment that amounts to a never-ending bad relationship. They see reform efforts and victories as notches in their belt, and not as an urgent a pressing matter that is destroying the lives of millions of people as we speak. More folks are shoveled into the system every day, as we sit back and talk poll numbers.

But the reality reality is that people are continuing to suffer for no reason. Our world has changed. If the resounding victories for cannabis in Colorado and Washington were not clear enough, just look around you. Weed is being accepted and understood by more people every day. It is an incredible awakening that we are experiencing and the time is now to take the kill shot. We can not conform to political norms to appease the opposition and play it safe. People are looking for action and answers. Our answers cannot be “Just wait a little longer.” Our action can not be measured and weak.

We must be bold and aggressive  We must kill this thing now. We cannot afford to experience the same nightmare that has seen acceptance for medical cannabis grow at a snails pace for the last two decades. We must frame the argument as an urgent matter that needs immediate resolution. Our friends and neighbors are on our side. We have the support of more people than we need to effectively end this thing; but we must begin to demand our freedom, and quit trying to negotiate with terrorists.

The political reality is that we will likely continue to negotiate with terrorists. We have been conditioned to believe we are criminal scum who smoke dope, and our actions show that we have bought into that. The fact that we continue to beg for shreds of freedom, and consider what should be common sense resolutions as huge victories, and throw parties and hand out awards shows our political and societal immaturity. The political reality is that many in our own movement do not believe…really believe…that this CAN happen.

There is a cautious optimism and a lot of patting each other on the back for the ground we have gained; but there is not a lot of willingness to put our foot on the neck of the drug warriors and use the power of our collective voice to kill the evils of prohibition.

The argument is on our side. The support is there for the taking. Whether we begin to create real political pressure through massive awareness campaigns, continue to pressure law makers, or take our issue directly to the voters, what is clear is that there is no better time than the present to execute a more forward approach to cannabis reform. It does not bode well for us to rest on our laurels and hope that change will come to us eventually. We will leave the wolves to run the hen house if we do not take control of our destiny.

Politics will always take time to catch up to reality. We should not be lulled into playing the game of politics. The reality is that MOST people in our society are more than willing to end this thing and end it now. We need to give them the opportunity and platform to express that willingness.

The unfortunate political reality is that a few deep pocket billionaires and organizations control the current narrative, and the failure to organize a cooperative and cohesive effort that is solely aimed at ending prohibition NOW will likely end up coming back to bight us in the ass.

But if we can organize and come together, the sheer number of weedheads that live on planet earth should be able to create enough of a ruckus, and could possibly begin to really consolidate our resources enough to maybe move a mountain or two in the meantime.

What is certain is that the pages of history are being written today on the end of cannabis prohibition and we all must decide where we want to be on those pages. Do we want to be remembered as cannabis prohibition being ended because of us, or in spite of us? As a movement, as an industry, and as a community, we all have a lot of soul searching to do.