Legal By Summer

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Over the past few months I have been stating that I believe “weed will be legal by summer.” Some have laughed and some have cheered. Others have marginalized this statement as an unproductive “rumor.” So here we are about 75 days from summer and I still believe that things will be very different for weedheads in the near future.

Now when I say “legal by summer” I am not expecting the do-nothing Congress to actually change federal law over the next 75 days. Shit…I cannot expect them to figure out how to fund the government or do the most basic legislative tasks with the unprecedented gridlock we see happening these days. I do not expect for 7-Eleven to be selling weed over the summer, or that weed will be 100% “legal.” That would be terribly naive.

What I do expect to see is a very real and meaningful policy shift from the US Department of Justice, and a definitive statement that effectively ends the unnecessary and overzealous federal enforcement policies in states that have allowed for weed.

I understand the skepticisms that I hear from those who have been “duped” by supposed changes in federal policy before. I know that the Ogden memo gave many false hope, including the entire Colorado legislature that passed their regulations as a result of that policy. But the Ogden memo, as flawed and politically calculated as it was, opened a lot of doors for cannabis laws too. The issue is that when the door opened a crack, we did a poor job of self-policing our industry and the policy was used by many as a free-for-all anything goes opportunity that resulted in some bad behaviors and poor decisions from many in the cannabis community. So it was not surprising when the Cole memo rescinded any statement made in the Ogden memo, and the crackdown began to happen.

But I do not believe that type of wishy-washy policy shift is what we are about to see. Why? Because there is less to lose for the administration right now, Eric Holder is on his way out, and the poll numbers of people who support legalization, and an end to federal interference in state law, are steadily increasing and in some cases are staggering. The Pew Research Center just released a poll that showed that 60% of voters think the Feds should not interfere in states that allow for it and 72% believe enforcement costs more than it is worth; 52% believe it should be outright legalized for adults.

Politicians are creatures of habit and their habit is to go with the flow. The flow is undoubtedly going our way and we see political, social, and legal support for weed growing at astounding rates.

The big and obvious shift were the passage of two adult use legalization bills in Colorado and Washington. The incredible victories were a product of good campaigns, but more so, they are indicative of a major evolution of public opinion since the highly-publicized and discussed 2010 Prop. 19 campaign. I think that campaign began an unstoppable dialogue that has resonated in our society. When 46% of Californians came out to support adult use legalization it was a shot across the bow of prohibition. It showed that we were way closer than anyone had imagined and gave us that light at the end of our long and dark tunnel.

This effort resulted in the Colorado and Washington’s successes, which took the conversation to a whole new level. We were no longer talking about how close we were, but that we had actually arrived. In Colorado, weed got more votes than Obama. That is a hard one to overlook for any politician.

But I think the silence by the administration to this point is telling. In December, Eric Holder was questioned by NPR’s Nina Totenberg about their response to the laws in Colorado and Washington State and after he chuckled about when they might have that response he stated this:

ERIC HOLDER: There are a number of ways in which we have to look at this. The United States, the federal government can’t force a state to criminalize something. So decriminalization has to be viewed with one set of eyes. The structure that might be put in place to take advantage of the sale of marijuana has to be viewed, I think, with another set of eyes. I think we’re going to have to try to determine, with the sets of eyes that we have, what the policy pronouncement we’re going to make with regard to those two components of these new laws.

So it is clear they are considering a policy shift and are recognizing their limitations to enforce state laws. That is an obvious sign to me that they are working on a carefully crafted policy shift to allow states to set their own policy on this issue. If the answer was going to be “Fuck you. We will vigorously enforce the Controlled Substances Act” then that would have been stated early and often, as it has in the past.

But the world has changed…and they know it. The question now is how do they acknowledged that we stepped in shit by prosecuting and jailing people over the years, and walk it back without looking like the gigantic assholes they are for putting people in jail for weed? How can they step back from the wave of changing public opinion and not have to apologize for years of evil policy enforcement? That is the trick. How can they craft a policy that gives freedom to weedheads, growers and distributors with0ut admitting that they have erroneously imprisoned hundreds of thousands of people for weed? It is a conundrum. On top of that, will they need to release prisoners who are in jail for weed crimes? Maybe just the ones from states where their actions are now legal?

Who knows? There are a lot of factors to consider, so it does not surprise me that here we are five months after election day and they have not made any clear statement to date besides Obama saying “We have bigger fish to fry.” Yeah..no shit.

But the reality is that they are considering them…and that will lead to change. What degree of change is hard to predict, but I firmly believe we will see a paradigm shift in federal policy and an opening of the floodgates for states to do as they please on this issue. It does not make sense to continue to throw good money after bad when you are losing support at such a drastic rate. If anything, they will need to give ground if they want to keep any of their silly drug war infrastructure an militarization in place. Things are changing that quick.

We have seen an incredible amount of prominent members of our society come out for legalization lately, and the walls of prohibition continue to crumble. It seems every day there is another figurehead willing to come out in favor of removing criminal laws on marijuana. Look at these recent statements by two ex-presidents:

We could have fighting and killing over cigarettes if we made it a felony to sell a cigarette or smoke one, so we legalize them. If all you do is try to find a police or a military solution to the problem, a lot of people die and it doesn’t solve the problem.

-Bill Clinton- Breaking the Taboo

Or this from former president jimmy Carter:

“Putting everybody in prison because they have marijuana is a very major step backward, and it ought to be reversed not only in America but around the world,” he said.

Indeed the world is changing…and changing very fast.

The administration seems to have its hands full these days with a million very hot-button topics. Form chained CPI for Social Security, to drones, to sequestration, to immigration…and the list goes on; there are a lot of issues that the administration may want to distract from. What is a better distraction than legalizing weed? So I would not be surprised to see an extremely calculated policy change that is timed to change the conversation as these other battles heat up. It is how political capital. works.

So when I say LEGAL BY SUMMER, I do believe that over the next 2.5 months this policy will come down the pipe and that it will favor a reduction in weed enforcement. How drastic that may be is anyone’s guess, but I believe it will empower the states to take a more forward role in the issue and allow for decisions to be made by the states in regards to cannabis enforcement or legalization. I think they will still be actively involved in the trafficking of marijuana from state to state, as that is where they can certainly justify their enforcement. But I think the days of raiding state and locally licensed providers of weed are numbered; and in turn, I think we will see a number of states pass laws allowing for weed without the fear of federal enforcement looming.

This will not be a painless transition. Nothing is in this Country. Even the evolution of booze after prohibition was a slow and gradual process. In fact, today is the 75 year anniversary of the day beer resumed flowing after prohibition, as described in this informative article on NPR. 

April 7 marks the 75th anniversary of the official beginning of the end for Prohibition. On the date in 1933, legal beer production resumed in the United States, sparking celebration among brewers and imbibers alike. Historian William Rorabaugh, author of Alcoholic Republic, puts the event into historical context….

In 1917, the 18th Amendment established Prohibition, banning “intoxicating liquor,” which it left undefined. Franklin Roosevelt vowed to end Prohibition, but first, he did something easier – he got Congress to declare that beer with 3.2 percent alcoholic content was not an intoxicating liquor. It would take until December 1933 for the 21st Amendment to repeal the 18th. But for eight months, 3.2 beer was the only adult beverage allowed.

So I do expect the process to be a tough and likely timely one…especially in today’s modern political climate. But it is one that will happen none-the-less; and I think it will begin by summer.

This does not mean to abandon all activism and take my word for it. In fact, it means the opposite. It means that the time is here and now. The fight we have been working to get is happening, and we better damned well be ready for it. Sitting on our laurels believing that we have another few years to prepare is a stupid and will result in catastrophe. We must be ready to take destiny into our own hands as soon as the battle begins.

Are you ready for summer?

Remembering Jack Herer

I wrote this article for West Coast Cannabis after Jack passed away in 2010. Jack was a true voice of freedom and a pioneer we will all never forget. Please enjoy this piece about the GREATEST weed activist ever to walk the planet….

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I love the look on both of these heroes faces in this pic…

Thank You, Jack Herer

Hemperor passes on but leaves behind the legacy of cannabis freedom

By Mickey Martin

On April 15, 2010 at 11:17 a.m. the cannabis movement lost a great leader and friend, as Jack Herer was pronounced dead in Eugene, Oregon. Cannabis has never has a more staunch advocate or dedicated soul to carry the torch of freedom. Everywhere you look in this great movement Jack is present. His influence has surpassed generations and he is a legend that will live forever. It is amazing to think of the many roads Jack traveled for the past decades educating people about hemp and cannabis. His book Emperor Wears No Clothes has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and has motivated activists around the globe to be active voices in the fight for cannabis freedom. In his last public speaking event at 2009 Portland Hempstalk he declared, “There is nothing better for the human fucking race than to have marijuana morning, noon, and night.” That was the message he had hammered home time and time again, year after year, event after event, fiery speech after fiery speech. The Hemperor will live on in the hearts and voices of cannabis activists forever.

Jack virtually created the cannabis movement as we know it today. His infamous bus tours of the 80’s and 90’s spawned activists from across the nation to take up the cause. His book inspired people to not think of themselves as criminals, but crusaders in a fight for truth and justice. His welcoming presence created opportunities for people to learn about this incredible plant and Jack was always ready to teach. Jack’s passion for hemp and marijuana transcended generations, and he dedicated his life to freeing the plant from the clutches of tyranny. He organized ballot initiatives like no other and inspired an army of cannabis activists to join him on his quest to make cannabis legal. Jack understood that the cannabis plant had unique powers. It was a renewable resource to produce food, fuel, fiber, and medicine. “Hemp can save the planet!,” Jack would scream to tens of thousands of supporters every summer at Seattle Hempfest. His passion for the plant was contagious. His words and his actions motivated the masses to stand up for their belief and to never be ashamed of their love for cannabis.

The great warrior spent over 200 days a year traveling to speak about hemp. The miles he logged for the cause are an incredible feat of courage and strength. His words touched so many of us and gave us a voice of our own to speak out about the injustices of cannabis prohibition. As we see the battles being won at city council meetings, legislative forums, and ballot boxes cross the nation and the world, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the man that gave a plant a voice; a man who defended cannabis day in and day out for decades, and gave his life to educating the world about its powers. Jack is the Moses of cannabis. He has lead us to the gates of the Promised Land and talked to burning hemp bushes most of his days. We must take the final steps of this journey without the leadership of this great man, but we will always remember who made this all possible. The incredible journey is what we cherish about this great leader of the movement. Thank you, Jack.

It is said that Jack believed when he started this quest that he would present the overwhelming evidence about the benefits of cannabis and that the plant would be re-legalized a short time later. That was the belief and conviction that Jack showed us all. He believed it was a simple argument. Cannabis was safe. Cannabis and hemp had innumerable benefits to society in the form of renewable resources. Hemp could save the planet. As the drug warriors tried to paint cannabis as an evil, addictive, dangerous substance Jack would yell, “Show me the bodies!” He knew there were none. It was simple.

Jack had a way of inspiring individuals to join the good fight. He was an instrumental part of getting dozens of initiatives on the ballot. He was sure that people, if given a rational argument and choice, would vote to save the planet. Jack did not grow up smoking marijuana. In fact he did not even try the plant that he would dedicate his life to until he was over thirty-years-old. “I was 30 and this girl I knew found out I had never gotten high. Nobody had ever told me about marijuana,” Jack recalled in an interview. “This girl wanted me to experience something I’d never experienced. She tried three times to get me high. Finally it worked, and I had the most incredible sex I’d ever had.” Jack may have been a late bloomer as far as cannabis was concerned, but he fell in love with the plant and never looked back. His passion would drive him until the day he passed away at 70, and he made sure that everyone he met knew about the benefits of marijuana. Thank you, Jack for your words of wisdom.

When Jack wrote Emperor in 1985 he most likely never thought that a quarter of a century later we would still be debating the subject. Although he began his advocacy in the midst of the “Just Say No” era, he refused to let the drug warriors demonize his beloved plant without a fight. Jack once offered $100,000 to anyone who could prove his book wrong. None ever took him up on the challenge, as while some of the factoids in the book may be hazy (no pun intended), the overall premise was right on target. His findings and writings changed the debate on the subject, and at the very least led people to question cannabis prohibition more deeply. His exposing of the core roots of prohibition, including greed and racism, lead his readers to think critically about why these laws were created and who they were really meant to protect. Jack wanted to expose the government and the big corporations and leaders that influenced them for the lies and deceit that they used to outlaw this most helpful plant. In his final speech at Hempstalk he stated, “I don’t want to give the fucking United States government one fucking dollar of taxes. I thought they should go to fucking jail for getting you and me and 20 million people arrested for pot; the safest thing you can do in the universe.” Jack believed not just that cannabis should be legalized, but that we were all owed a big fucking apology.

Jack was a master of the spoken word. Even after a stroke in the year 2000 that affected his ability to speak clearly, he was always one of the most passionate and moving speakers at every event. His call for people to “vote the scumbags out of office” always riled a passionate response from the on looking crowd. His voice was filled with conviction that pierced the soul of those listening. He could make you understand that you were not an innocent bystander in this war on cannabis. That because you were there listening to him speak, that you had already taken your first step as a foot soldier in Jack’s army of cannabis enthusiasts. I remember after my raid Jack was one of the first to approach me at the 2007 NORML Conference and tell me he was sorry for what “the lousy bastards” did to my family and me. He looked me in the eye and said, “You’re not a fucking criminal. They are the fucking criminals.” He let me know that some day I would be a hero for my actions. Then he showed me how his cool double barrel pipe worked. Jack was always on. For those kind words that helped me to know I was not alone in my fight I thank him.

What can you say about a man who spent almost 40 years in the trenches fighting for my right, your right, all of our rights, to smoke cannabis. Jack will live on in all of us. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his tireless work and his inspiration to the nation. Jack was a one-of-a-kind. There will never be another Jack. When you smoke a joint of Jack Herer (Skunk #1, Northern Lights #5, and Haze) know that you owe that man big thanks for the work he did to make it possible that you could even take a toke of greatness. Take a moment and thank Jack for the work he did for us all. Lord knows where we would be without this legendary warrior. I promise you, Jack that I will not stop fighting for cannabis freedoms until the job is done or we are in heaven together smoking a fat one laughing at all of this silly shit here on earth. May you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows your dead. Thanks again for the inspiration, the knowledge, and the example of how to be a great leader. Thank you, Jack.

Destroying Our Comfort Zone

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I often struggle with my own human existence. I would like to believe that this life has real meaning and that my place in it is one of importance.

But too often I find myself lulled into complacency, and my drive for a better life and a better world are greatly diminished. It is easy to let the world distract us from our mission. We allow ourselves to be pulled off course by shiny objects and meaningless banter, and before we know it our objectives are out of reach and we are struggling to find our way back.

Our comfort zone is an interesting place. We all have a level of comfort that we desire and a level of comfort we accept. It is the latter that keeps us from the former. As long as we are “comfortable enough” we often lose the motivation to be as comfortable as we really would like to be. As long as we can avoid the pain, we settle for less than what we deserve. Often our motivation is linked directly to this comfort zone, and when our comfort begins to erode we become more motivated to do something about it. When there is enough comfort to avoid the pain it can be more difficult to see the need to do more and be better.

Humans are fairly lazy creatures when there is little to worry about. But humans are also the most resourceful and innovative creatures on the planet when desire, need, and trouble arise. It is an amazing transformation to watch, as a person evolves from a complacent being to one of fierce motivation and competition in order to make ends meet and find their comfort again. We can all remember a time when we were thrust into doing something and/or bettering ourselves because our lives had become too uncomfortable. Whether it is finding a new job when losing one, or looking for ways to overcome tragedies when they arise, every person has to overcome the loss of their comfort zone at some time. The world is a tricky place and we can never take for granted that what is today will be again tomorrow. It just does not work like that.

The human brain can make us quickly forget that we are in a constant battle for what is right and just. It can trick us into believing that things are good enough and that we do not need to work harder or try more to make things better. Satisfaction can be our enemy, and often stand in the way of our full potential.

Personally and as part of this movement, i am guilty of allowing my comfort zone to fool me into believing things are better than they are. I must find ways to remind myself that every moment is an opportunity to do more and to be better. I must not let the illusion of comfort get the better of me. I have to understand that even my most comfortable moment is only temporary and that all I have can be gone in an instant. I must continue to fight even when it seems like I am winning because there is no end game. Evil and greed are not going away. Pain and suffering will always be lurking around the corner.

I try to always remember what it is like to be hungry. I look to my fears for inspiration. It is in these moments when I am scared and worried that I create and move. I find a path to greatness in the darkest corners and I work to be the light in the room. We have choices. It is up to us to decide if we are okay with things as they are, or if we want to strive for a better universe.

My comfort zone is my enemy and the place where I lose the most ground in my personal journey. I must destroy this comfort zone at all costs and never let it fool me into believing it is truth. It is a mirage. There is no real comfort as long as many continue to suffer. There is no comfort in knowing we could have done more or have been better. It is all a lie.

Destroying our comfort zone is necessary if we want to continue to make progress. Do not let the world, or our society, dupe you into believing things are good enough. They are not. That is the lie that your brain has told you. Do more. Be better. Get uncomfortable and then do something about it….