ACTION ALERT: Call to say NO TO SB 289 in California. No DUI for weed.

SB 289 is a terrible measure that automatically convicts a person of DUI for having any drugs, including weed in their system. This means if a person is in an accident and they test them and they smoked weed a week ago, they are automatically at fault in that accident because they would have a DUI.

This measure is aimed at opressing minorities and poor people some more with terrible policies and non-scientific convictions. It is a clear abuse of power and must be stopped. Do your part today.

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SB 289: Zero-Tolerance Drugged-DUI Measure
Hearings on Tuesday 4-30-2013
Call Today & Leave this message: “No to SB289”.
Be polite (we want them to do something for us)
Be Brief ((let them answer more phones for us)
Do this like your driving depends on it, because it does.

Senator Lou Correa 916 651-4034

State Senate Public Safety Committee

Senator Loni Hancock 916 651-4009

Senator Marty Block 916 651-4039

Senator Kevin De León 916 651-4022

Senator Carol Liu 916 651-4025

Senator Darrell Steinberg 916 651-4006

Senator Joel Anderson 916 651-4036

Senator Steve Knight 916 651-4021

Reinventing The Wheel

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The wheel was a great invention. Maybe one of man’s best. But let’s be honest…the wheel has been reinvented and improved upon a million times. The tire itself has come along way, not to mention the insane amount of rim choices we have these days. Big wheels and little wheels for big jobs and little jobs. While all wheels generally perform the same function, the wheel itself is reinvented almost daily to serve a new purposes.

The weed game is a wheel that is at a point of desperately needing some reinvention. It will require a new way of looking at things to make a successful transition from the underworld to the mainstream. It is a new terrain and it would serve us well to examine our wheels to make sure they are the best option for the road ahead. We have a great opportunity to change the entire landscape of weed culture as we emerge from Outlaw City. If we do not want to reinvent the weed wheel entirely, we should damn well consider some serious upgrades.

There are all sorts of areas where we can change the way weed is understood and accepted. What we see is a growing willingness to consider weed as a part of the everyday lives of our community. The great experiment of medical cannabis has allowed for people to see that there are few dangers associated with weed shops, and that the mere presence of weed in the community does not decrease anyone’s quality of life. If anything, even if just a few boozers lightened up on the liquid poison and smoked a little weed instead of getting blitzed chances are quality of life greatly improves.

We have an opportunity to shed the lazy derelict stoner image and offer cannabis as a sophisticated and responsible alternative to other common intoxicants in our society. Without the legal stigma of weed being a criminal activity we will actually look like the grown-ups at the table. “Yeah. I just smoke weed. I don’t drink booze or anything.”

We can reinvent the way major corporations do business by demanding a conscious corporate model that is considerate of our cultural norms and expectations. We do not have to support companies or individuals who do not have the best interest of weedheads and the planet in mind.

We are coming in at a position of great power…we have already devised the black market for over 40 years and we can go back there if weed companies decide to become corporate asshole scumbags. We have a great network and as time goes on the hucksters and charlatans will be exposed. Free-market capitalism goes both ways….what it really means is the gloves are off.

A lot of assholes fly under the radar now because no one wants to call them on their shit in public and risk possibly putting their ass in prison for decades…but we all know some unscrupulous people are lurking in this industry trying to position themselves and embed their creepiness amongst the tribes. But that wheel will be reinvented as the gloves come off. There will be no pulled punches or cooperative competition. It will be game on Coke and Pepsi style. I for one cannot wait.

The cannabis market will be reinvented, as well. Right now there is a large emphasis focused on the retail aspect of the industry, but the natural shift to branded products and more traditional distribution channels will change the game. While there will certainly be small specialty markets of cannabis, there will be a need for a larger production and distribution module to feed global demand. There will be a need for new packaging schemes and labeling requirements. Why do we still sell 1/8ths anyways? What a stupid measurement that is for inventory control. Why not 5, 10, 0r 20 gram options? It just seems much easier for us all to track and do the math on. Regardless, there will be huge room for improvement in packaging, and the production and marketing of weed products will be a wheel that will be reinvented many times as the game goes on.

Consumption patterns will be reinvented too. We already see the dab craze evolving into its own beast, and separate but equally cool community of enthusiasts complete with their own holiday…7.10. Dabs will continue to grow in popularity, and will likely become the hard booze option of the cannabis market. Vape pens are huge, as more low cost options come onto the market and people become familiar with their ease of use. Edibles will be an interesting market to watch grow, simply because the possibilities are endless. But as weed continues to travel the road to legitimacy, the way people consume and enjoy their weed will certainly be a wheel that is reinvented.

We should not shy away from our responsibility to bring cannabis back into the every day routine of our society. We should embrace the opportunity and ensure that it is done with style and class. We should own that shit and demand that weed be respected and cherished. We will admonish the drug warriors and create a space for weed to thrive. Think about how you want cannabis to be understood and dealt with in our society, and then begin talking as if it already is just like that.

#legalbysummer

Saving Ourselves From Ourselves

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I really do not get the world of cannabis reform. I mean, I expect to have to fight the ignorance and lies from drug warriors and prohibitionists. I anticipate having to defend the honor of weed against the skeptical in our society. I understand the challenges we are up against in the ways of big business and lobbying groups aligned against our cause.

What I do not get is why so many within the weed movement are so entrenched in the same lies, ignorance, and skepticism as our opposition. In fact, I may go as far to say that some are more entrenched….

What a sad day it is when you have to remind people in a movement fighting for freedom that it is their duty to provide hope and optimism to their own fucking cause. Wake up, folks. A new day has dawned on cannabis reform and it is up to us to recognize the shift in societal norms and seize the opportunity to create meaningful and lasting change. It is easy to stand on the sideline and toss bombs of negativity in the direction of people who are working to change the conversation; and those who are demanding an end to the evils of prohibition now…not in another decade. There will always be the died in the wool pessimist who wants to rain on any parade that they did not organize by reminding us of the enormous challenges we face.

Super….I have made a lifetime of doing shit people told me I could not.

I am often perplexed by how many folks supposedly working “in the trenches” seem to enjoy it there. They act as if ending this thing, and climbing out of the trenches, is just too big of an obstacle to overcome. The Debby Downers will be the first to point out that your glass is really half empty regardless of if you think it is half full. It is as if success is our enemy, and envisioning a world where people do not go to jail for weed is just too big of a dream for right now. “Maybe in another 5 years, kid…”

It is disheartening to say the least.

It is like we are the geeky nerd in high school who dreams of dating the super hot cheerleader. Only when the cheerleader finally notices us and wants to give us her phone number we piss our pants and begin telling her why we are not good enough for her. We lack confidence…and a sack of nuts.

This is our game to win or lose, at this point. The playing field has been leveled and the momentum is at our back We are good enough. We are smart enough. And doggone it, people like us…

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But we will never accomplish the goal of ending prohibition if we stand in our own way. If we continue to let folks retard our growth with their lack of confidence and diminished motivation we should not be surprised to see prohibition limp along for another few years at least. If we can muster up the courage to take advantage of the social change we see happening in every corner of our society we might just be able to pull this thing off sooner than later. The only thing stopping us is us really.

Not a day goes by where a new story in a major media outlet does not come out in favor of legalizing weed for adults and ending the failed policies of prohibition. It seems a new celebrity, elected official, or prominent member of our society comes out in support of a more rational approach to dealing with weed.

The change we seek is happening, and it is happening fast. Do we have the ability to harness this energy into something great and revolutionary? Or will we squander opportunity and hope in favor of our conditioned deadbeat loser responses as we have for decades now?

As long as we continue to say that this “will never happen” or that “that is impossible” we will continue to fail miserably.

Our opposition preys on our weakness and uses the fear they have spent decades conditioning people to believe to paralyze us. We must decide if we are going to keep playing the losers hand, or if we are ready to take the game back and crush this thing once and for all. We need to stop being the Washington Generals and begin to make some Globetrotter moves if we really want this thing.

It is here for the taking. The time is now. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

My opinion is simple….I think we can have a major change in federal policy and state implementation of cannabis laws BY SUMMER. Anyone who believes I am crazy, or who thinks that I am just “too optimistic” needs to get their heads checked. I get enough of that negativity from those who hate weed. I will be damned if I will suffer the same skepticism and defeatism here as I do in my struggle with the prohibitionist. Wake up, folks. Real change is here. This is happening. Hang on tight because it is sure to be a bumpy ride.

But a ride we must embrace and commit to nonetheless. It is our ride. We must white knuckle grip the wheel and put the pedal to the metal. Get up under the opposition and drive them right into the wall. There is no time for second guessing and dissent. Either get on board or get the fuck out of the way because we are bring this baby in full speed, rubber burning and sideways.

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather a skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, “WOW, what a ride!”

-Hunter S. Thompson

What a ride indeed….if we can get the hell out of our own way this could end up being something great. Or it could be another exercise in futility as we watch the same three monkeys fuck the same football over and over again. I am done with the monkey football porn. I smell victory and I will not hesitate to crush anyone or anything that stands between me and the finish line….even if it is ourselves.

I would rather be optimistic and wrong than pessimistic and right any day….

FourTwenty-TwentyThirteen: The Day the Prohibitionist Cried

Deserted city on Shabbat. Tel Aviv 2005.

I heard the prohibitionist cry today. Not like a whimper, or a small tear running down the cheek; but a bawling cry. A heartfelt cry. A cry so deep and meaningful that they looked to their God to stop their sadness.

As I got off of the plane in Denver I could tell the world had changed here. The driver who picked us up was all too aware of the cannabis related activity happening in his state. Here was a middle-eastern man who moved to Denver from Charlotte, NC three years ago talking openly about cannabis, not as an issue, but as a great opportunity for his city. He spoke of how much busier he was this week because of the festivities and acknowledged that the industry had been very good for the local economy. He understood that weed was an extreme positive on the community he lived and worked in….and he could not be happier. Cyrus did not smoke weed, but he knew that weed was making his world a better place regardless of if he participated or not.

It seems the entire State of Colorado has decided that they are going to embrace the vote for weed that happened in November, and weed leaves have become a normal part of the local environment; and not just in the areas where the events were being held but everywhere. I took a walk down the 16th Street mall to the bank shortly after getting to my hotel. I expected for there to be a high contingency of weedheads wandering the mall, and I was not disappointed. People from all walks of life had gathered in Denver and were expressing their freedom to smoke weed in very public ways. Joint after joint walked past me.

But what surprised me more was that it was bigger than just the weedheads. The businesses on this extremely gentrified tourist trap had also jumped in. T-shirt shops were filled with weed shirts right near the front door for everyone to see. Restaurants and cafes offered 4-20 specials and used common weed puns to peddle their wares. Weed was not only present on the mall….it was dominating the conversation. And no one could give a shit. As far as I could see, weed was already legal by all accounts.

I then took a cab to the area where the High Times Cannabis Cup, Club 64 and Cannaval were all being held. As the cab pulled into the storm, I was taken back by the sheer amount of weed related activity happening all in one place. Weedheads were as far as the eye could see, colorfully dressed and openly enjoying their new found freedom. It was surreal for anyone who had grown up shoving weed down their pants in hopes of avoiding detection. Streets were lined with banners and decorations paying homage to the beloved cannabis plant. Weed was everywhere. Weed has won. Weed has arrived.

I exited the cab after driving past a line to enter the HT event that stretched a quarter mile. While the lines were long and the event was packed wall to wall with stoners, no one seemed to really mind. After all, they were standing in line for an event celebrating the legalization of weed and enjoying their herb as they waited. I have never seen such a long line with everyone smiling and enjoying themselves. It was great.

For several square blocks there were weed related things to do and be a part of. No one looked lonely or bored anywhere that I could see. It was fucking weed Mardi Gras.

Denver was just one of many celebrations happening across the globe. Weed had won the day. I did not see one cop in the weed festivities area yesterday. Not one. I was there all day. Weed was there all day and in a big way. and law enforcement could give a shit. No one went to jail for weed in Denver yesterday. No one.

One jackass did shoot two people at an open event at the local Civic Center Park in an altercation unrelated to weed, but everyone else everywhere else was super cool. There was no drunken drama. There were no petty fights over the dumb shit. It was a mellow cloud of weed smoke hanging over the event that seemed to keep everyone happy and healthy.

While the Cannabis Cup event itself was a little disorganized (as usual), it was an amazing sociology experience. There was not an overbearing security presence, nor was there a real need for one. The only real issue was the occasional lost stoner blocking the way trying to figure out where he was on the map, or the Cheeba Chew dress up candy that decided to post up in the bottleneck area to do pictures with everyone, that brought traffic to a halt. But even then, in the chaos and confusion, I just took my time and rolled a joint and enjoyed the scenery. There was no shortage of interesting people to check out and get to know.

There was a harmony in the air that was inspiring. It was a moment of triumph for anyone who has been watching legalization unfold over the last decades….it was here. It was real. It was legit.

As the clock struck 4:20 I was honored to spark up a few fatties with the ladies of the NORML Women’s Alliance. I looked around at the group of folks who had gathered to celebrate this moment on this day. A group of self-dubbed cannabis reformers who had dedicated imeasurable man hours to ending prohibition, and as we sparked the doobies inside the event in defiance when the clock struck 4:20, we all seemed to have an overwhelming calm that indeed we were winning and that the end was near.

That is when I heard it. The unmistakable cry of the prohibitionist. The pain of seeing their cause literally go down in flames was too much to bear. They could not stop the sobbing. The weeping was too much to overcome. There was just no denying that their days were numbered.

The prohibitionist will continue to cry. Their world will continue to crumble. The fear and lies they have been a part of for decades are now exposed and they understood that they will be held accountable for their war crimes against humanity. They know that they will not be locking people up for weed much longer and that their meal ticket is fading. So long suckers.

They cried and cried while I laughed and laughed……

#legalbysummer

Cannabis and the Kids

This was the first article I wrote for West Coast Cannabis way back in 2009……weedleaf.1

Cannabis and the Kids

How Can Parents Educate Their Children on Cannabis Use?

Cannabis is a plant. An evil, demonic, ambition killing plant that will ruin your life forever, or at least that is what society has been telling us to tell our children for decades. The truth is that there are a great number of parents who use cannabis regularly that are stuck hiding their use of this safe and benign plant for fear of being judged as a bad parent and a failure to their community. Kids are not stupid.  They understand reason and logic, if given the opportunity.

As a parent of two young boys I have a responsibility, as a parent, to raise them to be informed and well thought on all subjects of life, including my appreciation of cannabis. I am lucky, as my children are relatively young, just 5 and 2 years old respectively. By time they become old enough to think about their own cannabis use this may be a much different conversation. But I recently have experienced what it is like for parents to have to confront the reality that they use marijuana and that their kids are not as naïve as they think.

Many parents have a difficult time discussing this topic with their children, as they fear the backlash that can come with admitting to their kids that they have been hiding something for all of these years. My friend has a eleven-year-old son and his partner has three children from a previous marriage ages 13, 17, and 19. In the last couple of years I have had the discussion of when was the right time to have “the talk” with the kids. I am a believer that kids are resilient and can handle most anything if put in the right context. The right context came in the form of mom getting breast cancer. They chose to use that opportunity to educate them on the benefits of cannabis as a medicine and to discuss in depth the safeties and dangers that are associated with cannabis use.

I armed them with the book “It’s Just A Plant” by Ricardo Cortes and a pep talk about understanding that if they did not have this talk with his kids that someone would. Kids are exposed to the culture of marijuana in many forms on television, in songs, and on the Internet. It is silly for a parent to believe that their kid is totally in the dark on the subject. I told them that their kids, especially the older ones, probably knew that something was up, and that hiding in the bedroom and coughing was probably not working like they had hoped. They agreed.

They sat the kids down and let them know that they used cannabis. They explained in depth the benefits of the drug to help mom through her battle with cancer and that as far as drugs went cannabis was very safe. They put into perspective the legal situation surrounding cannabis and instilled into them that it was not good for everyone, but that they chose to use it as adults because they found that the benefits far outweighed the negatives for them personally. The conversation covered the differences between cannabis and other drugs, both legal and illegal, and touched on the fact that it was not okay for them to use until they were adults capable of making a well informed decision on what was best for them.

This conversation was a tough one for these parents to have, as they had the looming issue of split custody, the misinformation that the kids had been taught over the years, and the fear factor to overcome. But in the end, what they found was that having this important dialogue with the kids about their own experiences allowed them to discuss more freely with the kids the experiences of their own life. The older ones became more honest about their confrontations with drugs in their own lives and were open to discussing how they made choices to try or not try drugs that they came in contact with, including alcohol and tobacco. There was a sense of honesty that came about that they now would not trade for the world. They no longer have to hide in shame the fact that they enjoy cannabis and their kids no longer worry why mom and dad feel the need to hide things from them.

When dealing with cannabis and children it should be treated like all other drugs and kept securely locked away where a child does not have access to it. Just like we have learned to keep our prescriptions, our liquor cabinets and our carton of cigarettes out of harm’s way, cannabis should be no different. Kids will be kids and we, as parents, have an obligation to ensure that our child is not experimenting with drug use before their time. We must set that example and ensure that kids understand clearly that it is not okay for them to use cannabis, just because we do. Someday, when they are grown, that is a choice they will have to make for themselves and all we can do is educate them on the facts and hope that they make the choice that is best for them.

My opinion is that as children become older and begin reaching the age where you think they suspect your cannabis use anyway, it is wiser to reach out and discuss honestly the reasons you use cannabis and dispel the fearful and fictional myths that society has created about cannabis. Only a parent can make that choice with their children, but that kid is going to find out one day about cannabis and it is up to you to decide if you want that information to come from you or from a stranger. We must begin to stop the lies by educating our children to be more understanding and informed about cannabis. The children are the future and what we say to them today can and will make a difference for tomorrow.

Learning When to Say Yes

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The weed industry has to learn when to say “Yes” every once in a while.

While there are plenty of real battles to fight on the weed industry horizon as we come out of the darkness that is prohibition, it does not serve us well to simply reject any and every proposal that is put forth to regulate the industry. At some point, we too will have to compromise some of our desires and hopes for reality and regulation. It is a natural progression. We cannot be Tea Party Republicans willing to politically sabotage any and all efforts based on some idealistic notion that weed should be some magical industry regulated by unicorn riding stoners. It is not gonna happen.

Marijuana will be regulated in our society, and one day soon. So we may as well begin to figure out where we really want to draw our lines in the sand. As Colorado and Washington develop and debate the issue of how to regulate an adult use cannabis market, we can see how there is a knee-jerk reaction to over-regulate and create rules and boundaries that are completely unnecessary. Like how Washington State wrote their terrible initiative to only allow state run cannabis providers and not allow for people to grow their own….or the disastrous and unnecessary DUI provision. We see the Colorado committee charged with developing regulatory recommendations making all sorts of weird rules, like child proof edible packaging and limitations on THC content in products. This is all a product of some in our industry, and some in public office, trying to solve problems that do not really exist. There is a lot of imagined issues being addressed that will likely disappear as cannabis becomes a part of our society once again.

But, admittedly, it seems that Colorado’s regulatory model for medical cannabis has faced far less interference from the Feds than California’s unregulated industry….so what is not having your door kicked in or your property forfeited worth to us? I know a lot of producers in Colorado who, while it is a hassle to do the paperwork and play by the rules, seem to be mostly happy with their industry there…even with its overburdensome regulations. Is it perfect? No. But is it at least a working model where cannabis businesses can thrive because they know the boundaries and are afforded certain protections by the state? Yup…

In California right now, there is a proposal being put forth in the Legislature to allow the CA Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to regulate the industry here. I have been ultimately surprised at how many in the community have automatically rejected this proposition and who have accused the ultimately pro-weed super progressive Tom Ammiano of being some turncoat asshole who is out to get us. How did this happen? And what the hell are people so scared of?

The reality is that we will likely see some sort of regulatory model come down in California sooner than later. There is just too much political pressure on both sides of the issue, and an ever growing call for a more defined industry so that we all can know the rules a little better.

The CA Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control are no angels. They are a regulatory agency with a lot of power, and with any power there is certainly going to be some abuse of that power; and some level of corruption. But the thing about ABC is that they have a licensing scheme in place that can transfer pretty easily to this industry, and there is no shortage of booze licenses in California. In fact, the number of licenses issues has grown by almost 20% in the last decade, as there were 70,000 licenses issued in 2001 and over 85,000 issued today. From where I am sitting, the booze industry is pretty loosely regulated and fairly easy to get a license in.

So what are we scared of? Why are many activists and prominent activists rejecting this proposal outright? Is it perfect? No. Could it be a lot worse? For sure.

Developing a new regulatory entity will result in far more burdensome regulations than if ABC transfered their licensing role to this industry IMO. A new model based in the Department of Consumer Affairs, as was proposed in AB2312 last year would have likely resulted in far more restrictive guidelines that ABC would ever put forth. Why? Because when a regulatory agency builds something from scratch they usually go WAY overboard, as we have seen in Colorado, or in a number of local ordinances across the state.  Why we would want to subject ourselves to that is beyond me. At least with ABC we can see how their program plays out in real life…..and to me, the booze model is not such a bad model to be regulated like. In fact, I think it is a good model…like I said, booze are everywhere and very loosely regulated for the most part.

But for reals, I just think there is a constituency of this industry that just has no idea how to say “Yes.” That is very sad to me. At some point, we have to grow up and find our seat at the table. Does it make sense to oppose and fight the ABC model in favor of creating some unknown stacked Board in a department that does not regulate anything in hopes that they will create rules that are more livable? More livable than booze regulations? That is a pipe dream.

I would hope that our industry can wake up and understand that shit will change, and that we should learn to take a decent offer when we see it.

We will not get everything we want in any negotiation going forward, but it does not bode well for us to reject anything and everything put forth. We must know when to cut the mustard and accept something before we reject everything and what comes down is far more harsh than what could have been.  We need to figure out what in the hell we ARE willing to say YES to…

J. Tony Serra- Legal Legend. Cannabis Consumer.

This is an article I did for West Coast Cannabis in 2009. It was one of the greatest interviews I have ever had the pleasure of doing. Tony is not just my attorney, but also one of my heroes….

TonyatTable.smile.great

I sat down with the great Tony Serra for a “privileged” interview in the conference room of his eclectic offices on the infamous strip joint lined street of Broadway in San Francisco. The interview is privileged because technically Tony is one of my attorneys. I met Tony in 2002 at his famed Halloween party that his law offices throw every year at The Great American Music hall on O’Farrell Street; But I got to know him much better after the 2007 raid on my business, Tainted Inc./Compassion Medicinal Edibles, by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. I chose Tony to be one of my attorneys because he is a well-known political activist and long-time supporter of cannabis and, of course, because he represented Brownie Mary, a volunteer that made brownies for patients in the AIDS ward of SF General Hospital, when she was prosecuted for her actions. It was obvious he was more than qualified to represent our cannabis foods case in a federal courtroom.

Tony and my other attorney, Sara Zalkin, escorted me to the front of the federal courtroom when I surrendered myself after the raid. The Judge looked up with a smile and said, “Well. Hello, Mr. Serra. How have you been?” You see, everyone in the legal world knows Tony Serra. He has been fighting some of the most highly politicized cases of the last 40 years and at 75-years-young he looks as if he is nowhere near finished. He is still full of fight and spirit at every level. His clients include the likes of Huey Newton, Dennis Peron, Ellie Nesler, members of The Symbionese Liberation Army, The Hells Angels, The White Panthers, and Earth First!, and, well, me. He says he will never retire. “I want to die defending someone in jury trial and have the Judge say ‘Well, his client is guilty as hell but give it to him because he tried so damn hard.’”

Tony’s passion is jury trials. He likens it to a fix that he needs to get to feel alive. He is a “jury trial junkie.” It is his drug of choice. The courtroom is his stage and he is a loud and buoyant player in the masterpiece that is the law. He does federal in-state trials, he does state medical cannabis trials, and he does federal cases nationwide. He has come to specialize in medical cannabis cases at both the federal and state levels, as he has a vested interest in these cases because Tony Serra is also a medical cannabis patient. “I am the experiment,” Serra says. “I began smoking grass in ‘65 or ‘66. I suppose I was always a patient, but the term medical never occurred to me. In retrospect I can see how this sacrament expanded my transcendental view and helped to medicate the stress. It adds to my life.”

I asked Tony if he was optimistic that medical cannabis would be legalized under the Obama administration. He said he was still pessimistic. “We haven’t seen anything dramatic happen, yet,” he says. “The administration could easily move (cannabis) from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 3, which is where it should be. A trial lawyer lives to hear two words: Not Guilty. I have yet to hear that. I see (Brian) Epis getting 10 years. Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer get five years each. Rosenthal is still a convicted felon. All Guilty. It is a downer.”

He believes that the overzealous law enforcement community may be jealous of those who choose cannabis. “Marijuana people are more free,” declares Serra. “It is simple. It is a form of treason and they know they must crush it. Because they know it opens up a realization for people. (Cannabis) will make you empathize with mans’ brutality against man, and people will refuse to participate. I won’t be your marine. I won’t be your bomber. I won’t kill people in the Middle East for you. Some cops have just bought this shit about marijuana and gateway drugs and being lazy. There is no one real reason for their actions.”

I asked him what he thought about the legalization efforts that were on the horizon with Tom Ammiano’s bill and the Tax and Regulate Cannabis effort for a 2010 proposition. “I haven’t completely studied them, but I don’t believe the government should be in it,” he said. “Once it is legalized the greedy corporations will get their hands in it and it creates this corporate moral disability. Some large dispensaries already practice acts of corporate moral disability. I want it to stay with the mammas and the pappas. The small and unique places. I want the government out of my closet. It should be free, man. I am never for more taxes. I am a tax resister.”

Tony is a tax resister from way back. He says he is a libertarian in that respect. In 2005, Tony was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for “willful failure to pay taxes”. He refused to pay them in an act of protest. He saw the country heading in the wrong direction and did not want to help fund the corrupt politics our country was engaged in. He served most of a 10-month sentence in Lompc Federal Prison for his beliefs and protest. He is a man of conviction.

Tony lives a very humble life. He is known for driving and old beater of a car, wearing second hand clothes, and pays himself just enough to cover his minimal expenses. I can attest to the clothing, as he wore a dress shirt with a small rip across the chest right underneath his suit jacket to my preliminary hearing. Tony is a no frills kind of guy. His reward is not in accumulating wealth and possessions. He is rewarded with a magnificent and exciting life where he makes a difference in the world of real people.

He has always had an “intrapersonal relationship” with cannabis. Tony states, “I started smoking back in the black jazz clubs in the 60’s. People would have kilos from Mexico with stems and seeds all in it, and everyone thought it was fine. I have used cannabis regularly since then and have stopped for many periods of time when I traveled or when I was in jail and I can live with or without it. I just choose to live with it. The ‘pot addict’ theory is bullshit.”

Tony admits that he has tended some small gardens in his time and that he loves to watch the cannabis plant develop into a resinous and sticky beautiful healing plant. He enjoys smoking cannabis from his pipe and does not consider himself a connoisseur in any respect as he enjoys smoking whatever he has available at the time.

Tony loves marijuana. He will undoubtedly continue to fight for the rights of cannabis patients and providers until either this war on cannabis is over or he is long gone, and he has some words of wisdom for those of us on the front lines of the cannabis movement:

“We CANNOT be complacent. We are still martyrs. The growers. The dispensaries. The patients.” He explains, “It is like the second half of a football game and we are still not ahead. We cannot say that government is coming around, because they are not. We cannot afford to sit on our hands. People must put forth a full effort. We must put in every intellectual, psychological and every kind of group effort. This happens in a myriad of ways, like protests, letter writing, and attending all types of cannabis related events. We cannot rest until we put this thing to a finale.”

Let those words marinate for a second. From a man who spent the last four plus decades inside of a courtroom watching this movement become what it is today, we can learn that this fight is far from over. Tony Serra has seen cannabis prohibition grow since LSD was still legal and they sold fresh peyote openly in Golden Gate Park, and he has fought the system on it every step of the way. We owe it to him to “put this thing to a finale.”

Dear President Obama…End The Drug War…Love, Everyone

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I was excited to see that 175 of our Nation’s most influential leaders in the civil rights, entertainment, music, faith-based, sports, fashion, media, and political communities  have come together to challenge President Obama to END THE DRUG WAR AND MASS INCARCERATION.

Orchestrated by the great and progressive Russell Simmons, these leaders have written the President a letter demanding that he put an end to these policies that have devastated our communities and have decreased public safety and quality of life over the past 40 years. The drug war is a failure. We lost. The drugs are winning by a long shot. We have locked up just about everyone we can lock up, and still our streets are filled with drugs and the black market drug trade.

Our law enforcement continue to fight this meaningless crusade against our own people and they are getting their ass kicked. We have charged them with being drug nannies and inspecting everyone’s person and property for these evil drugs. Meanwhile, we waste innumerable man hours that could be spent on fighting and preventing real violent crimes. A recent study showed that NYPD alone spent ove a MILLION man hours on weed in the last decade, and have ZERO to show for it. So besides getting their budgets inflated to fight imaginary and self-imposed crimes that are really more health issues, law enforcement has lost a lot of their position as the “good guys” in our society. In many minority communities the cops are seen as the enemy because of their overzealous drug enforcement, and in turn, when real crimes do happen like a murder, they have a difficult time finding any witnesses who will even talk to them. Their role as drug warriors impedes their ability to investigate real crimes. So it is time to let these guys get back to work, and end this disaster, and to let our brothers and sisters out of jail already.

It is inspiring to see this well-organized effort making the case. Below is the letter that was sent to President Obama and the 175 people who have joined the fight as activists in the fight to end the drug war and mass incarceration policies:

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Your hard work and leadership on issues affecting the unrepresented classes of people in our nation have served as an inspiration to many of us who hope for brighter futures for all Americans. In that spirit, we believe the time is right to further the work you have done around revising our national policies on the criminal justice system and continue moving from a suppression-based model to one that focuses on intervention and rehabilitation. We are proud of your accomplishments around these issues, specifically your leadership on gun control, your investments in “problem solving courts,” your creation of the Federal Interagency Reentry Council, your launching the National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention and your prosecution of a record number of hate crimes in 2011 and 2012. We certainly hope that this type of leadership is appreciated by all members of Congress, regardless of political affiliation, and you are joined by members of all parties in your pursuit of a more perfected union.

Mr. President, it is evident that you have demonstrated a commitment to pursue alternatives to the enforcement-only “War on Drugs” approach and address the increased incarceration rates for non-violent crimes. Your administration has moved in the right direction by committing increased funds to drug prevention and treatment programs and supporting state and local re-entry grants. We encourage you to continue your efforts to revamp the policies of the last 30 years that have seen the prison population skyrocket.

The greatest victims of the prison industrial complex are our nation’s children. Hundreds of thousands of children have lost a parent to long prison sentences for non-violent drug offenses, leaving these children to fend for themselves. Many of these children end up in the criminal justice system, which comes as no surprise as studies have shown the link between incarceration and broken families, juvenile delinquency, violence and poverty.

Mr. President, we are a coalition of concerned advocates that is ready to support you in more innovative criminal justice reform and implementing more alternatives to incarceration. As you set in motion research and policy to combat this societal crisis, this coalition is poised to help you make the transition successful. In 2010, the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act was a tremendous step in the right direction, and we appreciate how hard you worked on getting that done. Some of the initial policies we recommend is, under the Fair Sentencing Act, extend to all inmates who were subject to 100-to-1 crack-to-powder disparity a chance to have their sentences reduced to those that are more consistent with the magnitude of the offense. We ask your support for the principles of the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013, which allows judges to set aside mandatory minimum sentences when they deem appropriate.

We ask that you form a panel to review requests for clemency that come to the Office of the Pardon Attorney. Well-publicized errors and omissions by this office have caused untold misery to thousands of people. Additionally, we want to applaud your staunch commitment to re-entry programs that are necessary to ensure that those who leave the system are able to become productive members of society as well as reliable husbands, fathers, mothers and wives. We certainly would like to help you achieve an increase in the number of these transition programs. Finally, we strongly urge you to support the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education (Youth PROMISE) Act, a bill that brings much needed focus on violence and gang intervention and prevention work.

During your presidency you have made important steps and you now have the opportunity to leave a legacy by transforming our criminal justice system to an intervention and rehabilitation based model. Many of those impacted by the prison industrial complex are among your most loyal constituents. Your struggles as the child of a single mother allow you to identify with millions of children who long to be with their parents. We request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these ideas further and empower our coalition to help you achieve your goals of reducing crime, lowering drug use, preventing juvenile incarceration and lowering recidivism rates. We stand with you, ready to do what is just for America.

sincerelyyours.1

CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS & ADVOCATES

Harry Belafonte
Julian Bond
Dr. Benjamin Chavis
Major Neill Franklin, LEAP
Rev. Jesse Jackson
Benjamin Todd Jealous, NAACP
Avis Jones-Deweever, National Council of Negro Women
Maria Theresa Kumar, VotoLatino
Donna Leiberman, NYCLU
Margaret Moran, LULAC
Marc Morial, National Urban League
Ethan Nadelmann, Drug Policy Alliance
Rev. Al Sharpton, NAN
Rashad Robinson, Colors of Change
Anthony Romero, ACLU
Michael Skolnik
Julie Stewart, Families Against Mandatory Minimums
Susan Taylor
Dr. Boyce Watkins
Brent Wilkes, LULAC
Vanessa Williams, National Conference of Black Mayors
Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Hip-Hop Caucus

ENTERTAINMENT

La La Anthony
Roseanne Barr
Russell Brand
Jim Carrey
Cedric The Entertainer
Margaret Cho
Affion Crockett
Rosario Dawson
Cameron Diaz
Mike Epps
Omar Epps
Jamie Foxx
Tyrese Gibson
Adrian Grenierhere u
Jon Hamm
Hill Harper
Woody Harrelson
Amber Heard
Dule Hill
Ron Howard
J Ivey
Terrence J
Eugene Jarecki
Kris Jenner
Scarlett Johannson
Kim Kardashian
Khloe Kardashian-Odom
Kourtney Kardashian
Sanaa Lathan
LL Cool J
Nia Long
Eva Longoria
AnnaLynne McCord
Demi Moore
Michael Moore
Keya Morgan
Jay Pharaoh
Dominic Purcell
Tim Robbins
Chris Rock
Susan Sarandon
Sarah Silverman
Russell Simmons
Vanessa Simmons
Jada Pinkett Smith
Will Smith
Tika Sumpter
Gabrielle Union
Denise Vasi
Mark Walhberg
Estella Warren
Kerry Washington
Pauletta Washington
Marlon Wayans
Jesse Williams
Jeffrey Wright

FAITH COMMUNITY

Bishop James Clark
Bishop Noel Jones
Bishop Clarence Laney
Bishop Edgar Vann
Dr. Iva Carruthers
Deepak Chopra
Father Michael Pfleger
Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Rabbi Nina Mandel
Rev. Jamal Bryant
Rev. Delman Coates
Rev. Leah D. Daughtry
Rev. Dr. Fredrick Haynes
Rev. Michael McBride
Rev. Dr. W Franklyn Richardson

MUSIC INDUSTRY

David Banner
Eric Benet
Andre “3000” Benjamin
Big Boi of Outkast
Case
Charlamagne tha God
Sean “Diddy” Combs
Chuck D
DJ Envy
DJ Pauly D
Ani Difranco
Jermaine Dupri
Missy Elliot
Estelle
Jason Flom
John Forte
Ghostface Killah
Ginuwine
Keri Hilson
Jennifer Hudson
Ice-T
Luke James
Trinidad James
Lyfe Jennings
Jim Jones
Talib Kweli
John Legend
Ryan Leslie
Joanna “JoJo” Levesque
Kevin Liles
Ludacris
Lil Wayne
Natalie Maines
Angie Martinez
Nicki Minaj
Mya
Q-Tip
Busta Rhymes
Steve Rifkind
Samantha Ronson
Rick Ross
RZA
Timeflies
Katrina “Trina” Taylor
Teyana Taylor
Angela Yee

BUSINESS LEADERS
Sir Richard Branson
Ron Busby, US Black Chamber of Commerce
Daymond John
Minyon Moore
Chip Rosenbloom, Owner St. Louis Rams
Bobby Shriver

ELECTED OFFICIALS

Congressman Tony Cardenas
Congressman Keith Ellison
Congresswoman Marcia Fudge
Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Congressman Bobby Rush
Congressman Bobby Scott

ATHLETES
Brendon Ayanbadejo
Allan Houston
Isareal Idonije
Lamar Odom
Etan Thomas
Isiah Thomas
Mike Tyson

FASHION INDUSTRY

Tyson Beckford
Selita Ebanks
Kenza Fourati
Kimora Lee Simmons
Veronika Verekova

MEDIA

Chris Broussard
Chuck Creekmur, AllHipHop.com
Ed Gordon
TJ Holmes
Cathy Hughes, Radio One
Alfred Liggins, Radio One
Dylan Ratigan
Jim Wallis, Sojourners
Dave Zirin

ACADEMIA & THOUGHT LEADERS

Michelle Alexander
Dr. Carlton Brown, Clark Atlanta Univ.
Prof. Michael Eric Dyson
Dr. Christopher Emdin
Dr. Michael Fauntroy
Dr. Eddie Glaude
Airickca Gordon-Taylor
Dream Hampton
Dr. Marc Lamont Hill
Naomi Klein
Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu
Dr . Wilmer Leon
Dr. Julianne Malveaux
Dr. John E. Maupin, Jr., Morehouse School of Medicine
Kevin Powell
Dr. Stanley Pritchett, Morris Brown College
Ricky “Freeway” Ross
Dr. Tyra Seldon, Co Chair, Education Over Incarceration (EOI)
Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, Spelman College