Losers Never Win… Legalization Is No Loser

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Election Day 2014 has come and gone. The people have spoken, and despite a somewhat frightening wave of Republican victories that speak more to the cowardly strategies of the Democrats than the strength of right wing positions, the weed vote went incredibly well…. again. Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia all voted to legalize cannabis for adult use rather handily. There was not even a very close result. Alaska won by 4 points- Oregon won by almost 9 points- AND DC WON BY ALMOST 39 POINTS. None of those are nail biters. Any politician in America would take those results in a heartbeat.

The funny-not-funny vote of the night was in Florida where Amendment 2 on MEDICAL marijuana failed to meet the 60% threshold needed to pass. To be fair 57.6% of the people did vote Yes, but in Florida it requires 60% to pass an Amendment, so the effort failed there by a lousy 2.4%. But I think there is a valuable lesson here…. medical cannabis is not necessarily the overwhelmingly popular issue it once was. Initial polling had support for medical marijuana in the state of Florida at nearly 90%… so what happened?

What happened was billionaire Sheldon Adelson put $5.5 million dollars into an effective campaign that told people they were being bullshitted. The narrative was that the law was not truthful and was littered with “loopholes.” The opposition campaign seized on the reality that even though there are still a lot of people who hate weed, there are even more who hate being lied to. They successfully portrayed the Amendment as a front for adult use and effectively demonized the thought of cannabis caregivers actually being drug dealers who would somehow be protected by this ruse. The message was certainly effective enough to stifle enough of the vote that it resulted in failure. Check out the ad below to see how the opposition chose to spin it:

Do you see what they did there? The argument was never against medical cannabis, or cannabis at all. It was to inform people they were being supposedly lied to. They framed the argument so that the average voter would take pause, and they banked that they could create enough doubt to keep the Amendment from passing with that strategy…. and they were right. “It isn’t what is seems.” That is where the political strategists who designed the No on 2 campaign hung their hat. On making voters feel like they were being duped. I do not believe that 42.4% of Florida believes that sick people should not have access to cannabis. I do think that many were willing to believe that the whole medical deal is a sham and that they should vote no to avoid being bullshitted.

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The irony of passing three adult use legalization initiatives, but failing to pass a medical marijuana amendment is too much to ignore. I have long said that it is time for us to move past the medical only debate and to shift our time, energy, and resources towards adult use, which would encompass medical cannabis and take away the never ending questions of “Who is sick enough to smoke pot?” and “Is this really medical, or am I being bullshitted?”

I have done a great deal of outreach in communities all over the United States, and even the most staunch supporters of cannabis have looked at me point blank and said, “But the whole medical deal is kind of bullshit, right?” I then go into my whole speech about preventive medicine and forcing people to maybe fudge an illness to avoid prison for growing plants; but I shouldn’t have to. The reality is that on some levels they are right. A lot of the activity the cannabis community dubs “medical’ just does not meet that standard in our society, and creates more questions than answers for a lot of people. I think this is what moved the needle in Florida, and what will continue to undermine medical only efforts going forward.

In states where we see new medical programs coming into place, what we see are super burdensome regulations and laws being put forth meant to “ensure this is only accessed by the truly sick and dying.” Limiting patients rights to cultivate, to have caregivers, and to have a free and competitive markets are all hallmarks of people wanting to make sure that they are not being bullshitted by these potheads. If they want medical they will get medical. How is that working out New Jersey? Exactly.

The reality is that people do not hate weed like they used to. What they hate is feeling like they are not having an honest conversation. I believe that our community continues to stretch the medical conversation too far. The results are twofold… 1) It creates a lot of doubt for people who have no skin in the game. Your average voter and citizen is not necessarily opposed to weed, but they do know they have never gone to the doctor at a Cypress Hill concert.; and 2) It does a huge disservice to those patients who do have serious illnesses for which cannabis can be beneficial, as they are lumped in with the perception that what the cannabis community is pushing as medical does not always meet that standard of medicine as defined by our  collective culture.

The lesson learned from last night’s election are simple… People are ready for legal weed.

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I believe that we could have put the nail in the coffin last night had the reform community and their financial sugar daddys had the courage to run an adult use legalization initiative here in California. The state has 10% of the nation’s population and is the leading producer of our nation’s agriculture crops. It is also the American stronghold for the wine industry, as its ideal growing climates are good for both grapes and weed. But the big money and local players decided to let it ride and wait for the sure thing in 2016. I have told them all they were fools, and the good people of Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia also called them fools last night. They will still try to sell you a bag of goods about “youth turnout” and “questionable support,” but I think our neighbors to the north in Oregon proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are just plain wrong. We could be celebrating today California, but instead we sit here being threatened by the USDOJ for not having a statewide regulatory model and watch as our own supposed supporters and their “lobbying efforts” work to shut down most of the industry as we know it. But don’t worry… it is only two more years until 2016.

Those could end up being a very long two years.

As marijuana continues to gain mainstream popularity and more focus is put on the industry, know that the lack of definition in California’s law will continue to haunt us. Empowered by a wave of conservative victories in the midterm, it would not be surprising to see the current administration make knee jerk concessions in an effort to negotiate with the Republican congress.

But who knows? Maybe even the conservatives are getting it now that the people want their weed… and at least the conservatives will have the balls to actually do something about it. How long is it before the right wing looks around and says, “Shit… Everyone seems to want their weed. Maybe we should just give it to them and champion that issue before 2016. Where is all that money going anyway?”

I would not be surprised at all to see another California crackdown in the near future. I think we shot ourselves in the foot by not seizing the moment and capitalizing of the momentum from our victories in CO and WA in 2012. We have left a lot to chance, and it would not be surprising to see the CA Legislature pass a much more restrictive adult use and medical regulatory model before the election in 2016 ever happens. In fact, I almost can guarantee it. It will be a “good enough” model that ensures very few can meet the burden of the barriers to entry, and it will be the death of the current cannabis landscape, as well as the hopes for anything of substance in 2016. Maybe I am wrong… Lord, I hope I am wrong. But I have seen these stars align before.

Who knows what the future holds? I do know that today I raise my bubbler to the great citizens of Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia for standing up for cannabis freedom and moving us that much closer to ending this thing. As a person who has worked a long and hard time on cannabis reform efforts it is inspiring to see us changing the hearts and minds of a Nation… one cannabis-loving state at a time if we have to. While I will never be able to wrap my head around what people who oppose cannabis are thinking, it is comforting to know that more and more of my neighbors and fellow citizens are getting it, and that we are that much closer to winning.

I celebrate the victories and I am sorry for the tens of thousands of people in Florida who are still criminals for their right to use cannabis. We mourn for those who desperately need access to cannabis as a medicine there who were counting Amendment 2 to pass. I do believe that the 57.6% of people voting yes is a powerful message, and it is hopeful that your lawmakers might listen.

Hopefully lawmakers everywhere will listen, and get on the right side of history sooner than later. Cannabis is a safe, enjoyable, and helpful plant. There is no more boogie man here. People want their weed. Legalization is winning… Prohibition must end soon.

As a community we need to begin to ask ourselves what we really want and begin to ask for that. It makes no sense to limit ourselves any longer. What we want is weed… and we want you to quit taking us to fucking jail for it. Or taking our kids. Or making us lose our jobs. Or losing student loans. Or our standing in our community. We want a fair and level playing field for the industry where quality, innovation, and value rule the market… not politics. The sooner we get there, the sooner we can end this awkward dance with what is cannabis freedom and who qualifies for it.

Losers never win…. and only a real loser would look at the writing on the wall and not change strategy. Adult use legalization is no loser. Victory or Valhalla.

What the hell is a medical cannabis collective anyways?

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The term collective has been basically used to describe any and every cannabis business and group of growers here in California .

Grow a bunch of weed? You are a collective. Have a dispensary with 100,000 patients? You are a collective. Make edibles for 50 dispensaries? Yup…collective. Grow 20 plants in your backyard for you and your friends? You guessed it….it is a collective. Run a lab that tests samples from dispensing collectives? You might also be a collective. Cannabis farmer’s market? Still a collective. Growing 500 plants under ten 1000w lights in a gutted townhouse? You guessed it….a collective.

The term collective has become synonymous with cannabis business. There are a few groups who file their business as a “cooperative,” but because of paperwork requirements that come with the definition of cooperative, most cannabis businesses in California have dubbed themselves a collective.

So how the hell did we get here?

Simple…..bad law written in a time of fear and intolerance. Flashback to 2003 when the medical cannabis industry was still very new and there were very few dispensaries that made up the California landscape. Lawmakers were pressured to pass SB 420 in California to more clearly define the medical marijuana program here.

In enacting the bill it was the intent of the legislature to:

  • “clarify the scope of the application of the act and facilitate the prompt identification of qualified patients and their designated primary caregivers in order to avoid unnecessary arrest and prosecution of these individuals and provide needed guidance to law enforcement officers”
  • “promote uniform and consistent application of the act among the counties within the state”
  • “enhance the access of patients and caregivers to medical marijuana through collective, cooperative cultivation projects”
  • “address additional issues that were not included within the act, and that must be resolved in order to promote the fair and orderly implementation of the act”

The final guidelines were decided in a last-minute legislative deal by Attorney General Lockyer and Sen. John Vasconcellos in order to get the bill passed.

The reality is that the term “collective” was inserted in as a compromise to supposedly allow for bigger garden projects, and to allow patients to work together to produce their medicine. Because the term “collective” has no defined meaning in California state law, our industry has been able to use the loosely worded terminology to build a robust program out of the gray areas. It is now being used to question the validity of the entire industry.

In 2008, then Attorney General for the State, Jerry Brown, released the Attorney General Guidelines for the Security and Non-Diversion of Cannabis grown for Medical Use. These guidelines were meant to further clarify the program, but were non-binding and largely ignored in real life. But even the Attorney General had a tough time with the term “collective. Here is what he wrote in the guidelines:

Collectives: California law does not define collectives, but the dictionary  defines them as “a business, farm, etc., jointly owned and operated by the members  of a group.” (Random House Unabridged Dictionary; Random House, Inc. © 2006.) Applying this definition, a collective should be an organization that merely facilitates the collaborative efforts of patient and caregiver members – including the allocation of costs and revenues. As such, a collective is not a statutory entity, but as a practical matter it might have to organize as some form of business to carry out its activities. The collective should not purchase marijuana from, or sell to, non-members; instead, it should only provide a means for facilitating or coordinating transactions between members.

That is right….The AG went to a Random House Dictionary to define collective. Sounds legit?

But the same gray area that we have used to build an industry out of thin air is now coming back to bite us in the ass. Law enforcement and opposing public officials continue to question the legitimacy of cannabis-based businesses definition of “collective.” One court case after another attempts to clarify the meaning of collective, but what has resulted is a series of overlapping and often conflicting case laws that do not protect the collective, or support law enforcement positions. It seems to become more vague with every ruling.

Which brings us to our current conundrum.

California is proposing a regulatory model in the State legislature (AB 604) that will likely remove the term “collective” from the books, and replace it with a system of licensed business models for producers and dispensers of medical cannabis. I will admit, I was a little taken back at first because the term “collective” has been a part of the California lexicon for a long time, and virtually everyone hides behind this moniker.

Here is what the bill does to remove it:

Section 11362.775 will be repealed 90 days after the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control posts a notice on its Internet Web site… this is the section:

11362.775.

(a)  Qualified patients, persons with valid identification cards, and the designated primary caregivers of qualified patients and persons with identification cards, who associate within the State of California in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes, shall not solely on the basis of that fact be subject to state criminal sanctions under Section 11357, 11358, 11359, 11360, 11366, 11366.5, or 11570.

(b) This section shall remain in effect only until 90 days after the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control posts a notice on its Internet Web site that it began accepting applications for mandatory commercial registration pursuant to Article 3 (commencing with Section 26040) of Chapter 18 of Division 9 of the Business and Professions Code, and as of that date is repealed.

A kneejerk reaction will make you think “My God. They are taking something away from us! No. Stop. Please don’t.”

But then I started to think about it and my thought is that the term “collectives,” as it is used now, needs to die an honorable death.

I hear the screams from the nutjobs now. “But Mickey…..patients need the right to cultivate collectively as a group to produce low cost medicine.”

Okay. So who ever said they couldn’t?

Proposition 215 grants immunity from prosecution for patients who cultivate. It says:

   (d) Section 11357, relating to the possession of marijuana, and Section 11358, relating to the cultivation of marijuana, shall not apply to a patient, or to a patient’s primary caregiver, who possesses or cultivates marijuana for the personal medical purposes of the patient upon the written or oral recommendation or approval of a physician. 

Nowhere in the law does it say that you must cultivate by yourself. So if a true patient oriented collective is in operation…say 5 patients have come together to grow a garden, what in the law says that they cannot do that if the “collective” language was removed from SB 420? Where does the California law not allow for more than one qualified patient or caregiver to garden together?

It doesn’t.

The screams you will hear are from people who currently operate a business disguised as a collective and who turn a decent profit for producing cannabis in a non-regulated market. Folks who abhor the idea of a regulated system with clear boundaries and rules are those who are getting by making their money in the gray area of the law. I feel their  pain…..not.

As a person who has invested a lot into above board business practices and self-regulation, I welcome a more clearly defined system for production and distribution of cannabis. I want to know what the rules are and how to play by them, so that I do not invest a lot into a model that is deemed illegal because there is no clarification of what my “collective” is supposed to do. Is an edible company a collective? Who the fuck knows any more? But I know I would like to know where I stand, and more so, that those competing with me in the market are held to the same standards for quality and professionalism as I am.

I am more than happy, as a commercial producer, to pay a yearly licensing fee and meet regulatory requirements for my cannabis business. I am tired of dancing around the collective issue and trying to fit my organization into the loose definition of a collective to make myself feel better. I would be MUCH more comfortable knowing the work I was doing was under a protected license from the State of California, and that just maybe the Feds would back up off of their random prosecutions.

I do not see the removal of “collectives” as a threat to cooperative patient cultivation in any way. There is nothing in the law that outlaws multiple patients cultivating their gardens at the same location. It is a myth that the term “collective” protects this scenario.

What it does attempt to protect is the current system of unlicensed and unregulated producers, which I believe will be better served by a real system of regulation and licensing. If you want to run a business that sells cannabis to patients then get a professional facility and a license to do your work that does not leave so much up to interpretation of the law.

Otherwise, just be an outlaw and do your thing on the black market. Those of us looking to legitimize the industry and return cannabis to its rightful place in society understand the need for regulations and boundaries in our work. We do not fear it. We welcome it. The state can come inspect my facility today if they want. We are ready for them. We have already regulated ourselves far more than the state will ever do.

But it is easy to see how those operating outside of the norms of proper regulation, but just enough within the loose definition of “collective” to feel legal, will have a problem with the future should California pass AB 604. Yeah…it is gonna be tough to steal power and grow a ton of herb in your garage with dangerous pesticides and no standards of production. Sorry.

I suggest you take the money from your next crop and invest in your business for once instead of new rims for your giant pick-up truck this year. Begin preparing for the future because it is coming. Maybe not in AB 604 if the CA Legislature punts again, but it will come. No better time to realize that than now and begin evolving.

Or you can scream and yell about how awesome “collectives” are without really having a clue what the fuck that means.

I am happy to trade the vague definition of collective in for a license registered with the State. You should be too.

What the hell is a medical cannabis collective? It is confusing is what it is; and we should all welcome the end of the collective dance and the beginning of real business acknowledgement. Do not let the wingnuts convince you that we must keep the term collective to save some romantic understanding of yesterday. We do not.

Tomorrow is here and it is time for California to take the next step in defining and regulating the many different cannabis businesses that make up the industry for what they are….businesses. Anything less is unacceptable.

Paranoia Don't Kill My Vibe

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What is wrong with the cannabis movement?

We are literally watching cannabis prohibition die before our very eyes; but if you looked around you one would think that Richard Nixon just got re-elected. It is one of the strangest sights I have ever seen.

Last week the US Department of Justice and US Attorney General Eric Holder dropped THE most groundbreaking policy changes in the history of cannabis. They decided to stand down on challenging laws for adult use legalization measures in Colorado and Washington State, and handed down directives that spell out clearly the allowance for state run cannabis programs. I spell out these changes in a piece called “The world has changed. Act like it already” here.

This should be a time for celebration. It is a HUGE victory for cannabis freedom.

But the rhetoric we are hearing coming from prominent activists, reform organizations, and so-called leaders is anything but. For some reason, many in our community have decided to take the “Fuck this. We are screwed. They are setting us up,” position. It is the wildest thing I have ever seen.

First we have David Downs writing these terribly evidenced pieces in the East Bay Express and Smell the Truth blogs where he is trying to claim that US Attorney for the Northern District, Melinda Haag will “continue her crackdown despite the feds.”

What a load of shit. Downs usually does better work, but one can tell that there is a desperation for any story that can shed light on what this will really mean for our community. BUT LOOK AND READ WHAT WAS ACTUALLY STATED:

Lili Arauzhaase, speaking for the US Attorneys Office in the Northern District told us:

“At this time the US Attorney is not releasing any public statements. The office is evaluating the new guidelines and for the most part it appears that the cases that have been brought in this district are already in compliance with the guidelines. Therefore, we do not expect a significant change.”

So big D-Downs calls Haag’s office the day the memo comes out and gets this Lili person on the phone. Awesome. When he questions her about Haag’s response to the memo, she says “we are not releasing any public statements.” What that means is that there IS NO OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM HAAG. That is pretty clear from the beginning there, right?

But the person goes on to defend her boss’ work, stating “…for the most part it appears that the cases that have been brought in this district are already in compliance with the guidelines. Therefore, we do not expect a significant change.”

Downs takes this and runs with it. “THE SKY IS FALLING! HAAG SAID SHE DID NOTHING WRONG AND THERE WILL BE NO CHANGES! THE SKY IS FALLING.” What a delightful story to splash across the blogosphere to get people to read your stuff.

The problem? It is not exactly what was said, nor is it anywhere near an official statement. It is a low level staffer trying to save face from a reporter looking for an angle.

And even what was said shows no backbone of confidence….last time I checked “for the most part” meant we have been wrong on some accounts and “no significant changes” meant that some changes were apparent. And remember, this is backpedaling minutes after the memo dropped in a non-official statement from the person answering the phones. Even this knee-jerk “we did nothing wrong unofficial statement” shows clues of change. In fact, it states there will be change, just not “significant,” whatever that means.

But I expect this type of hyperbole from David Downs. I love the guy, but at the end of the day he is a reporter and his job is to sell interest in his story. The more sensationalist one can make a piece the more hits it gets, and interest it draws, and more ads are sold. Pretty easy equation there.

He also fails to mention that each district will have to develop specific guidelines for their district and submit them to the USDOJ in Washington for review. Holder mentioned it in his historic statement on sentencing reform just two weeks before the cannabis memo stating:

This means that federal prosecutors cannot – and should not – bring every case or charge every defendant who stands accused of violating federal law.  Some issues are best handled at the state or local level.  And that’s why I have today directed the United States Attorney community to develop specific, locally-tailored guidelines – consistent with our national priorities – for determining when federal charges should be filed, and when they should not.

Maybe we should let Melinda Haag do her homework on this and develop specific guidelines before we rush to judgement based on some loose phone conversation with a peon, no?

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But the disappointing part is that Americans for Safe Access, the nation’s largest medical cannabis advocacy organization decided to jump in on THE SKY IS FALLING party and gin up some good old fashioned paranoia for their followers. Here is what ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes added to Downs piece to really send the community into a tailspin:

Kris Hermes, spokesperson for advocacy group Americans for Safe Access called the Haag office’s statement: “unsettling.”

There’s huge disconnect between national Justice Department policy and local U.S. Attorney practices, Hermes said. For example, Attorney General Eric Holder has told Congress that federal prosecutors were only going after medical marijuana operators who were also breaking state law.

“Of the hundreds of dispensaries that the Justice Dept. has shut down by way of threats to their landlords, in almost all of those cases, there was no violation of state law,” he said.

The cities of Berkeley and Oakland are suing to stop Ms. Haag from closing their permitted dispensaries. More than 50 California jurisdictions have regulated medical pot distribution.

“In San Francisco, if you look at the number of facilities that have been forced to close over the last year, none of them fit the criteria of the guidelines that have just been issued by the Justice Department. None of them,” Hermes said.

“I think we’re being sold a bill of goods and Haag is turning around and doing whatever she wants. The free rein the Justice Dept. has given its U.S. Attorneys has to be pulled in and Haag has to be forced to answer for her actions,” Hermes said.

So Kris Hermes, based on this loosely worded statement from a phone answering schlep given on the day of a new policy change, uses this as the basis to come out publicly and state “WE ARE BEING SOLD A BILL OF GOODS?” Really? This is how our leading advocacy organizations choose to respond to non-official statements from US Attorney staffers?

Seems a bit overblown and unnecessary from where I am sitting. Why rush to judgement? What does one gain by casting doubt on the policy shift on cannabis? Whatever could an organization gain by working to pump the breaks on the most groundbreaking reform ever to hit the cannabis community?

“We are being sold a bill of goods. You should donate more money for us to continue fighting this travesty” is what I hear.

But ASA is not alone. I have heard a number of prominent activists use terms like “cautious optimism.” Let me get right at that….

CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM IS STILL OPTIMISM. WHAT IS HAPPENING IN MANY REFORM CIRCLES IS NOT OPTIMISM AT ALL; BUT AN OVERT ATTEMPT TO UNDERMINE PROGRESS TO SAVE POSITION AND MAINTAIN SOME SEMBLANCE OF THE STATUS QUO TO PROTECT THEIR VERY EXISTENCE.

People see the writing on the wall, and understand it is just a matter of time before nobody needs to donate money to your weed reform group because the world has indeed changed. That can be a hard pill for many to swallow. Something they have dedicated their lives to is disappearing before their very eyes, and they are struggling to come to terms with that.

I fell for their loss…..not.

This is the game we all signed up for; at least I thought we did. Work our asses off to make weed legal and celebrate when we succeed. WE ARE SUCCEEDING.

Yet, in my life I have never been so depressed from interacting with the cannabis community. Instead of being excited that our justice Department is putting clear cannabis reform on the table and calling for a huge overhaul of the sentencing and prison programs, our community has decided to sound the alarms and call the whole thing a giant trap.

“We are being set up” and “Don’t fall for it” are pretty common catch phrases on Facebook and Twitter these days. It is almost like we have no idea what to do with a victory and choose to parlay any victory into a forgone defeat to appease our need for chaos and confusion. I am sure any enforcement action, even if it is some jackass sending a million pounds to Kansas or some shit, will be clear evidence that proves the paranoid losers point of view.

It is a shame to watch this sense of defeat and fear take over the dialogue in this movement at a time we should all be proud of our work and celebrating a historic victory.

I am not naive enough to think that everything will get better overnight; but things ARE getting better…and quickly too.

No…everyone was not let out of prison in the first week; and all lawsuits happening were not automatically dismissed. The world does not work like that unfortunately. But I am more hopeful now than I ever have been before that the beginning of the end is upon us.

I believe we will begin to see some released from prison near the holidays and I think we will see a significant drop in enforcement across the board. I think California will finally take up regulations for the industry this fall. I think state legislatures and initiative backers are accelerating their timelines and we will see more states come online for adult use cannabis and medical cannabis way before any 2016 BS. I believe we will see some cases dropped and others not prosecuted as vigorously. I think there will be REAL AND MEANINGFUL CHANGE.

“But we have heard it all before. It is just more lies,” says the paranoid weenie loser activist wannabe reformer.

No we haven’t. We have never heard this.

I am not sure what some folks stand to gain by automatically rejecting the olive leaf and publicly admonishing the most historic shift in cannabis policy in history; but I hope it works out for them. I hope that wandering around trying to convince people the sky is falling is good for their bottom line or their soul.

But to me you just look like a bunch of paranoid assholes trying to retard progress by stoking the fire of fear with your dumbass paranoia. Bitch don’t kill my vibe……please. Thanks.

The world has changed. Act like it already.

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Yesterday the world of weed changed dramatically, no matter what the paranoid “sky is falling” stoners want to tell you.

The US Department of Justice and the nation’s top cop, Eric Holder, released a memo yesterday that allows for Colorado and Washington to move forward with their adult use cannabis programs without interference (and states with medical programs); as long as the programs do not cross certain boundaries and are well regulated. The announcement is a watershed moment in cannabis reform, no matter what your tin-foil hat conspiracy buddies want to tell you about it being a trap .

Sometimes the world changes. I cannot fathom how a person could read the memo released and come away feeling more paranoid than before. Here is the beginning of the memo for review, and we will get to the real ground breaking shit in the second half in a minute:

Office of the Deputy Attorney General
August 29, 2013MEMORANDUM FOR ALL UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS

FROM: James M. Cole, Deputy Attorney General

SUBJECT: Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement

In October 2009 and June 2011, the Department issued guidance to federal prosecutors concerning marijuana enforcement under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). This memorandum updates that guidance in light of state ballot initiatives that legalize under state law the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing, and sale.The guidance set forth herein applies to all federal enforcement activity, including civil enforcement and criminal investigations and prosecutions, concerning marijuana in all states.
(TRANSLATION: THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN AND WE HAVE UPDATED OUR MARCHING ORDERS. THE GUIDANCE IN THIS MEMO APPLIES TO ALL FEDERAL ENFORCEMENT ACTIVITY. THIS MEANS YOU!)As the Department noted in its previous guidance, Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large-scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. The Department of Justice is committed to enforcement of the CSA consistent with those determinations. The Department is also committed to using its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent, and rational way. In furtherance of those objectives, as several states enacted laws relating to the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the Department in recent years has focused its efforts on certain enforcement priorities that are particularly important to the federal government:

(Some have pointed to this statement as evidence that there is NO sweeping change happening. I beg to differ. I also beg to remind people that while there has been enforcement, there has also been a lot of weed sales tolerated over the past years too.)
  1. Preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors; (Cool with that)
  2. Preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels; (Cool with that)
  3. Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states; (Extra cool with that. Why? Because defining the difference in diversion from states where it is legal to those where it is not seemingly opens the door for interstate commerce from states where it is legal to other states where it is legal, no? Maybe wishful thinking, but I am an optimist.)
  4. Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity; (Cool with that. stay off the dope)
  5. Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana; (Cool with that, hate violence and guns.)
  6. Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use; (Cool with that. even WA states flawed DUI bill has not resulted in mass arrests…just Seattle PD handing out Doritos at Hempfest)
  7. Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands; and (Cool with that. If I gotta pay rent, so do you)
  8. Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property. (Cool with that. I was in Yosemite the other day burning fat joints and no one seemed to notice or care. The world has changed)

These priorities will continue to guide the Department’s enforcement of the CSA against marijuana-related conduct. Thus, this memorandum serves as guidance to Department attorneys and law enforcement to focus their enforcement resources and efforts, including prosecution, on persons or organizations whose conduct interferes with any one or more of these priorities, regardless of state law.

Now the big paranoid response to this is that “This is just like the Ogden memo and look how many people got fucked on that one.”

I love our movement’s Utopian rewriting of history on this one. If you listened to our side of the argument, everyone behaved like Saints after the first memo, and this completely out of left field attack was made on our peaceful Dudley-Do-Right community of non-profit weed caregivers. OH THE TRAGEDY!!!

But I was there. I remember the day the Ogden memo came out. I also recall that it inspired the Colorado legislature to develop and implement the program there that has been mostly successful and has allowed for more people to get in the game and make some money under a state sanctioned program than ever before.

I also recall that every jackass with a few thousand bucks of weed and a cash register opened a dispensary in areas with no regulation and when the local planning commission questioned them, or decided they did not want that use in their jurisdiction, they all decided to sue the city, tell the sheriff to eat a bowl of dicks, and disregarded public sentiment based on their belief that Attorney General Eric Holder had given them the right to do whatever they pleased.

I also remember every alternative weekly rag in the State of California filling up with ads of half-naked broads hovering over a smoking bong offering weed sacks for $25. I recall jackass dispensaries doing flier drops at high schools. I remember every weed grower doubling their garden size and pushing their weight to the max. I remember dispensaries setting up shop right next door to day cares and telling the day care operators that they just needed to deal with it.

But the enforcement that followed the Ogden memo had nothing to do with our behaviors. Nothing. It was all just a trap to arrest a very small percentage of the industry and to charge them with crimes so that we could pack the jails with unsuspecting dispensary operators who were complete and total angels. (rolls eyes)

Now do not get it twisted…..I am not supporting or defending the enforcement actions of this administration; but I am also not naive enough to think that our overzealous actions following the memo had zero to do with it all.

Shit rolls uphill before it rolls downhill. If we piss off enough local officials, law enforcement, and concerned citizens they are going to demand that something be done. When we take the position of a free-for-all race to the bottom, are we surprised when local and state officials demand the feds take enforcement actions?

Were there some cases brought where the people who were targeted did not deserve it? YES. Absolutely yes. That is the sad and unfortunate part of law enforcement. From reading the discovery in my case, I can tell you for certain that these dudes know a hell of a lot less than we think they do. It does not surprise me when a good dude like Chris Williams is caught up in the nightmare because law enforcement has no idea of who is who, or what is what, in this evolving landscape of limited weed enforcement.

Now we can choose to be skeptics and see this momentous shift in federal enforcement policy as “more of the same,” or as some have dubbed it “Ogden v.2.0.” That would be a huge mistake and here is why….it disregards the entire second half of the memo and the SWEEPING instructions it gives as to how to interact with state licensed programs. Check it out:

Outside of these enforcement priorities, the federal government has traditionally relied on states and local law enforcement agencies to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws. For example, the Department of Justice has not historically devoted resources to prosecuting individuals whose conduct is limited to possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use on private property. Instead, the Department has left such lower-level or localized activity to state and local authorities and has stepped in to enforce the CSA only when the use, possession, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana has threatened to cause one of the harms identified above.
(Here is the set up for the kicker. basic translation: We have already allowed states to enforce, or not enforce, the CSA at their discretion for possession and low level stuff)
(But peep this out. Here is where this memo departs from Ogden in a HUGE way.)
The enactment of state laws that endeavor to authorize marijuana production, distribution, and possession by establishing a regulatory scheme for these purposes affects this traditional joint federal-state approach to narcotics enforcement.(The world has changed) The Department’s guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health, and other law enforcement interests.(Since the world has changed, we are going to have to trust that states with these programs know what they are doing) A system adequate to that task must not only contain robust controls and procedures on paper; it must also be effective in practice.(If the state has an effective program that is really working, we must respect it) Jurisdictions that have implemented systems that provide for regulation of marijuana activity must provide the necessary resources and demonstrate the willingness to enforce their laws and regulations in a manner that ensures they do not undermine federal enforcement priorities. (If the local and state authorities are doing their job and making sure their programs do not violate one of the 8 points above, then we should leave them alone)In jurisdictions that have enacted laws legalizing marijuana in some form and that have also implemented strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale, and possession of marijuana, conduct in compliance with those laws and regulations is less likely to threaten the federal priorities set forth above.(If these states put their best foot forward in regulating these systems, we should leave them alone) Indeed, a robust system may affirmatively address those priorities by, for example, implementing effective measures to prevent diversion of marijuana outside of the regulated system and to other states, prohibiting access to marijuana by minors, and replacing an illicit marijuana trade that funds criminal enterprises with a tightly regulated market in which revenues are tracked and accounted for.(Further clarification….”If the program is working and not crossing our boundaries then we should leave them alone). In those circumstances, consistent with the traditional allocation of federal-state efforts in this area, enforcement of state law by state and local law enforcement and regulatory bodies should remain the primary means of addressing marijuana-related activity. (PAY ATTENTION HERE! STATE LAWS AND THEIR ENFORCEMENT SHOULD TAKE PRECEDENT!!!!) If state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust to protect against the harms set forth above, the federal government may seek to challenge the regulatory structure itself in addition to continuing to bring individual enforcement actions, including criminal prosecutions, focused on those harms. (Just as important….IF YOU FUCK UP AND DO NOT DO A GOOD JOB OF ENFORCING AND REGULATING YOUR SYSTEM WE WILL BE FORCED TO TAKE ACTION. I am guessing they are talking directly to us here my fellow Californians.)

The Department’s previous memoranda specifically addressed the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in states with laws authorizing marijuana cultivation and distribution for medical use. In those contexts, the Department advised that it likely was not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on seriously ill individuals, or on their individual caregivers. In doing so, the previous guidance drew a distinction between the seriously ill and their caregivers, on the one hand, and large-scale, for-profit commercial enterprises, on the other, and advised that the latter continued to be appropriate targets for federal enforcement and prosecution. In drawing this distinction, the Department relied on the common-sense judgment that the size of a marijuana operation was a reasonable proxy for assessing whether marijuana trafficking implicates the federal enforcement priorities set forth above. (BIG ONE HERE! We know we issued you a memo before about medical marijuana that may have given the impression that ONLY small users and sick people were not to be targeted. We sort of told you that if a place was big enough that they might be a good target….now read the NEXT paragraph where they say they were wrong!)

As explained above, however, both the existence of a strong and effective state regulatory system, and an operation’s compliance with such a system, may allay the threat that an operation’s size poses to federal enforcement interests.(This is fucking money right here. “However…we were wrong. If there is a strong regulatory system in place that the organization is in compliance with then the size of their operation should not matter. That is huge.) Accordingly, in exercising prosecutorial discretion, prosecutors should not consider the size or commercial nature of a marijuana operation alone as a proxy for assessing whether marijuana trafficking implicates the Department’s enforcement priorities listed above.(You can no longer send letters and press forfeiture or criminal charges on people just because they are big and popular. The place has to actually violate one of the issues listed above. This is a shot across the bow of Northern District US Attorney Melinda Haag and I am sure Harborside and BPG are extremely thrilled.) Rather, prosecutors should continue to review marijuana cases on a case-by-case basis and weigh all available information and evidence, including, but not limited to, whether the operation is demonstrably in compliance with a strong and effective state regulatory system.(Instead of making some bullshit decision to prosecute based on size you must actually do some work and see if the group is in compliance or not with state law. That is a huge fucking victory.) A marijuana operation’s large scale or for-profit nature may be a relevant consideration for assessing the extent to which it undermines a particular federal enforcement priority. The primary question in all cases – and in all jurisdictions – should be whether the conduct at issue implicates one or more of the enforcement priorities listed above. (Your marching orders are listed above and your cases should only involve issues that violate one of the 8 reasonable principles listed above).

So when I hear the lunatic fringe of cannabis dismiss this memo based on their “once bitten-twice shy” view of the situation, I have to wonder if they are reading the same memo as I am. When I hear the “Don’t fall for it. It is a trap” bullshit floating around, I have to step back and wonder if some people will ever really allow the world to change.

Is there a reason to move forward with caution and to hold the administration’s feet to the fire? Yes. Of course.

Is there also a reason to celebrate this huge victory and be hopeful that the world has indeed changed in our favor? Do we benefit more by automatically rejecting this historic policy shift in hopes of being right that it is some big trap? Does it make sense that the USDOJ would put forth such a robust memorandum and waste the administration’s political capital, only to trap a few more unsuspecting weedheads in the depths of their bloated prison system? Really? I just do not see it like that…..

The infamous Ogden memo was released in Obama’s first year in office. it was watered down and weak, and it was unfortunately misinterpreted heavily by both people in our movement and industry, as well as law enforcement and prosecutors. It was a politically correct and wishy-washy declaration that left a lot to be desired. It was carefully worded to not give too much power to either side of the argument, and it resulted in some bad behavior and terrible enforcement.

But it also allowed for the industry to flourish in many ways too. There is no denying that. The Ogden memo changed the game then, which is why it was so disappointing to see the administration pull back on it and appease law enforcement and NIMBY politicians with bullshit enforcement aimed at limiting Ogden’s impact. But there would be no Colorado or Washington systems in place without the Ogden memo, so remember that too in your “the sky is falling” hyperbole.

Now let me explain the last paragraph of the new memo for those who choose to disregard the entire content of this directive to look for their cynical place in history. Here is the part of the memo that declares that the USDOJ is not allowing a free-for-all and will still support the prosecutors overall decisions:

As with the Department’s previous statements on this subject, this memorandum is intended solely as a guide to the exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion. (This memo does not change the law because we cannot do that. It is meant to provide direction to our US Attorneys) This memorandum does not alter in any way the Department’s authority to enforce federal law, including federal laws relating to marijuana, regardless of state law.(We are not giving up our right to enforce Federal laws if we want to.) Neither the guidance herein nor any state or local law provides a legal defense to a violation of federal law, including any civil or criminal violation of the CSA.(This does not give away pour right to prosecute if we really want to. we can still hang your ass if you get out of line)Even in jurisdictions with strong and effective regulatory systems, evidence that particular conduct threatens federal priorities will subject that person or entity to federal enforcement action, based on the circumstances.(Even if you are in a state with a good program, but threaten our system based on the 8 points above, we will come and bust your ass.) This memorandum is not intended to, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law by any party in any matter civil or criminal.(This is a memo, and not a change in law. We cannot do that, so this memo is not evidence of guilt or innocence should we drag your ass to court.) It applies prospectively to the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in future cases and does not provide defendants or subjects of enforcement action with a basis for reconsideration of any pending civil action or criminal prosecution.(This memo is meant to direct US Attorneys to not prosecute most weed cases that are in compliance with state laws; but if we do, this is not a legally binding document that will get you off the hook. It is a suggestion to our staff.) Finally, nothing herein precludes investigation or prosecution, even in the absence of any one of the factors listed above, in particular circumstances where investigation and prosecution otherwise serves an important federal interest.(If one of our own decides to come after you, this document was not created for you to defend yourself with. If you fly across our radar, we can still come and fuck with you if we want.)

This is the paragraph that has everyone’s panties in a ruffle it would seem.

I do not get it. This is boilerplate “we reserve the right to do our job regardless of what this memo says” stuff. Of course they are going to make this qualification. They are not going to leave their people blowing  in the wind.

All of the flack they caught from the lack of this clarity in the Ogden memo has made them certainly clarify their position. I do not think we could expect them to say “this memo is now the law of the land and if our enforcement divisions or prosecutors charge you with a crime, just show them this memo as evidence that you are free to go.”

I understand that some people will not acknowledge change has happened until there is a 100% stand down and our brothers and sisters are all released from prison. I appreciate that vigilance; but it also fails to recognize the momentous progress we have made and the fact that the world IS CHANGING rapidly.

If we cannot get on board and act like the world is changing then who will? If we cannot understand the huge victory this memo was for our community and continue to move forward and make these changes real and lasting in our community, then who will?

The world has changed. Act like it.

Or run around acting like everyone is out to get us and that this is just some trap to take your weed garden again. I will choose to have my glass be half full on this one. Join me is a toast to cannabis freedom.

I am going to write Eric Holder a thank you card today. Positive reinforcement can only help.

Fear and Loathing in Medical Cannabis

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I often wonder how we got here. I mean…I know how we got here from standing here for so long. But how did we really get down the rabbit hole into this incredibly complex interwoven jumblefuck of laws and policies we call medical cannabis?

….the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry

Medical cannabis is wonderful. For those who use cannabis as a therapeutic agent solely, cannabis is a miracle. I know a lot of these folks…People who use cannabis sparingly to mitigate their symptoms to increase their quality of life. There are real cannabis healing miracles happening all over. Medical cannabis is amazing.

But is it enough?

Of course not. In fact, it can be quite debilitating. Sure….California, Colorado, and Washington have fairly robust and easy to access programs in place. But the programs we see developing in other states is incredibly burdensome, and to many, just not worth the hassle.

Why? Because the categorization of “medical” is the most restrictive category to all out legalization.

So in many states we see the “You want medical? We will give you medical” phenomena.

Look at New Jersey. After several years they finally opened a dispensary only to have it shut back down due to lack of medicine this summer just months after opening. Maine has a very limited program in place. with a very small portion of the population there signing up as patients, and they have had issues with pesticides because of the strict medical organic cultivation standards required there. Washington DC has a rigid program in place that only allows patients on their death bed access. Connecticut requires a licensed pharmacist risk their license to dispense there. Rhode Island finally has its first dispensary open after a four year struggle deciding what was medical enough. Massachusetts has vowed to implement a rigid program. Illinois has vowed to implement an even more rigid one.

Do you see a pattern here?

We are going backwards. Access is becoming more difficult…not easier. There is theoretically more of it, as more states come on line; but it is getting more difficult and less cost effective for people to even participate in. They are adding more and more limitations to programs and making it more difficult for patients in many ways, including making cannabis WAY more expensive. New Jersey’s dispensary was selling medicine for $600 an ounce? YIKES!

We continue to build barriers to entry into the system. Not just for people who need a million bucks just to get started in some states; but also just the average patient. What patient on SSI can afford $600 for an ounce? Or even $300 for that matter. It can be a lot.

Yet we continue to sell the medical angle almost exclusively. It is like our old fall back. It has worked, and we continue to double down.

Instead of saying, “I like weed, and I am a good person,” we are quick to point out how CBD is “not even psychoactive” and is a “miracle for everything that ails you.” It is like we are so scared of being lumped in as a pothead for our love of being high that we have decided that it is easier to say “See…I am not even trying to get high. I just really need my medicine (in huge amounts many times a day).”

Yeah. I need my medicine too…..it happens to be getting high.

Why do I have to be a bad guy because I like weed for more than just medical reasons? I have medical issues, but I certainly do not just use cannabis solely as a medicine. I smoke weed to make life more enjoyable.

I quit drinking over 5 years ago (best thing I ever did). Booze are not a good option for me. Weed is. I am not ashamed of that. I refuse to be.

Yet we still see a large majority of our time, energy, and resources being put towards promoting the restrictive classification of medical marijuana and only promoting its therapeutic uses, when the real argument is that we should end prohibition and stop the madness.

Change the dialogue and change the game….

If we begin to move away from demanding our medical rights, to insisting upon our right to use cannabis safely as an adult for whatever we see fit, we CAN get past this medical cannabis regulatory nightmare. We CAN make it happen. We can end mass incarceration.

Or we can continue to beg for the world’s strictest and most expensive regulatory models, and not be surprised when decent weed still costs $60 an eighth for another couple of decades. The choice is ours and ours alone.

An Industry of Idiots and Egos

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There is no shortage of idiots in this industry; and no shortage of idiotic egos who believe that they are some savior to cannabis because they are more “professional” and “educated” than the stupid potheads who have been ruining everything until they showed up. Excuse me while I barf.

The Independent UK ran a piece on Denver today, which was fine, until I got to the quote by the owner of River Rock Wellness, Norton Arbelaez, stating this:

When he first arrived, he recalls, “I looked around and said, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of bozos in this business’. At that point it was like the Wild West: people from California, Texas, all over the country, were just showing up and saying, ‘I once grew a couple of plants in my basement, I can do this’. But we were professional about it. We wanted to operate to a certain standard that Colorado hadn’t previously experienced.”

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/mile-high-city-inside-denvers-billiondollar-marijuana-industry-8740525.html

Yes. Where on earth would we be without the contribution of Norton Arbalaez? I mean, we were so very lost and everything was so terrible before he arrived on the scene to clean up the industry. God Bless him for coming to save us all.

But Arbalaez is not alone. He has just joined a host of other false prophets who would have an unsuspecting journalist believe that they were something knew and exciting. That it was their model (which they ripped off from others) that changed the game. That everyone else was a “bozo” before them and now…NOW WE WERE GOOD because this asshole showed up to show us how to do it right.

If dude was a real businessperson he would realize that the way he is approaching the market, and his revision of history, is just unappealing. If your model and business are successful enough there is no need for the hyperbole. It speaks for itself. You do not have to try and gain bonus points by trying to shit on everyone before you.

I have seen this story a million times and I hear it a lot coming out of Colorado, unfortunately. In a State that has the population of the West Side of Los Angeles, there is an awful lot of victory lapping and back-patting for what is a relatively new industry there. We are just beginning to see audits showing the severe flaws in the regulatory model, a lot like we saw flaws in California’s system being heavily covered in the press before the crackdown here.

I love Colorado. I am a part-time resident you might say. I was as excited as anyone when Amendment 64 passed, but I do not really get the “We’re #1” attitude that I hear out of the state at times. Let’s get one thing straight. California is, and will always be, the cannabis mecca. People will continue to sing rap songs about Cali weed, and we will continue to have a robust cannabis community here. There are more growers in California than you have patients in Colorado. It is not even the same ball game. So can we get past the who is better than who in cannabis battle? I love your work. Quit shitting on mine.

For all the shit talking done by people outside of California about our system here, let us be clear….every day in California nearly a million people have access to thousands of well-lit and clean dispensaries around the state. The model here promotes evolution, as every patient is allowed to be a part of the market, and not just a few big batch producers. This spurs innovation and competition. It allows for a greater pool of methods and techniques to be used to create products and plants that are amazing. The system here, while not rigidly controlled like CO (which is highly debatable and yet to be seen), is working. People have access to a hell of a lot of killer weed and weed accessories.

Not that I do not like “Flo.”

But California has always been, and will always be, known for its incredible cannabis community and industry. There are a lot of decades of work to put in before anyone else rivals the history and depth of the culture here. So before you do some press piece where you want to beat your chest about how awesome Colorado (or any other state for that matter) is, and how shitty California is, just save it. You are embarassing yourself again.

An attorney and supposed advocate of medical cannabis, John Morgan, had this to say just yesterday when boasting about how different Florida’s program would be:

He drew a distinction between his proposal and California’s widespread program, saying Florida’s is aimed at limited dispensing to medical doctors and linking the use to seriously ill Floridians who are battling cancer, ALS and other debilitating diseases.

“This would be what I would call the opposite of California,” Morgan said. “This is not a wink and a smile and psychologists prescribing marijuana. It’s much more regulated and it’s really for the terminally ill and chronically ill, not for somebody that’s having a bad hair day.”

Source: http://politics.heraldtribune.com/2013/08/01/medical-marijuana-supporter-florida-wont-be-be-another-california/

Yeah, asshole. That is the same thing Colorado said before they passed their big laws and now they are lumped in with California. I had a chance to visit a presentation by Patrick Kennedy’s Project SAM the other day in Massachusetts, and he referred to the abuses in Colorado at least as much, if not more, than he did about California.

But where are the problems in California and/or Colorado? Where is the damage being done? I see the benefits. Building being rented. Jobs being created. Services being used. Money being spent….but where is the damage?

Where the hell are all these kids that are strung out on weed an unable to manage their lives as a result? Where are the dead bodies of people on the roads who have died from smoking their weed and driving? Where are the  torn apart families that everyone promised would happen if weed were available in stores? Where is it?

It is not there….because weed is safe and makes people feel better.

We have allowed prohibitionist zealots to sell us a bag of rocks disguised as regulation and control. We have seen a lot of unnecessary burden placed on the cannabis industry with little or no evidence of any real harm done. We are being taxed at alarming rates, forced to secure everything like banks, encouraged to waste money proving we are non-profit, and racing to the bottom to provide weed cheaper than the next guy. Sure…that is business; but the cannabis business is being unjustly singled out; and a lot of this crap is being put forth and supported by the sheeps in wolves clothing.

There are a lot of money-hungry, don’t-smoke-weed, just-sell-it wannabe business moguls poking their heads around the industry these days. God Bless them. They have a rude awakening coming. They are just the guppies clearing the way for the real big busniesses to crush them down the road.

Their lack of passion and understanding of how we got to where we are will be the death of them. Believe it will get uglier before it gets better, and it is always the asshoe who got into this for money, and not weed, who folds first when things get tough.

I will be here regardless. Will you?

So spare me the ego rhetoric and b-boy stance. I am cool on all that. If a company is out here trying to make it and sell weed in this quasi-legal environment then I support them; I wish them well. I have no interest in making my name off of other people’s mistakes or lack of ability. I will make my name by providing the highest quality products and service for the best value to people who I enjoy doing business with. The rest of it is all academic “he said-she said” bullshit.

But do me a favor…..the next time that journalist calls and wants you to say some bizarre ego shit to make their story more interesting, just shut up and stick to promoting yourself instead of tearing others down….or better yet, try promoting your products and services. That should keep you out of trouble.

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The Education of Cannabis Nation

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Knowledge is king. The biggest barrier standing in the way of weed freedom is that people are simply misinformed.

I am not just talking about folks outside of the cannabis bubble either. There are plenty within this “movement” that are severely misinformed and ignorant. In fact, it is the folks from within’s ignorance that makes this struggle much harder than it need be.

We have a duty to change the dialogue and to correct the decades of misinformation surrounding cannabis. We must have a more open and honest conversation about where we are as a society, how the hell we got here, and what we are going to do to make things better moving forward. But in order to effectively do that there is a lot of humble pie to be served on both sides of the table.

It will be necessary for us to admit some of our short comings as a community, and take corrective actions to make things better. That is hard work; but far from impossible. But it is also hard to take an authoritative educational position when your own house is not in order. People do not listen to those they believe are full of shit.

So where is the cannabis movement and industry full of shit? In a lot of areas unfortunately. We operate in a false reality that is nurtured by our need and desire for acceptance. We are willing to connect loose dots and make some wild claims in an effort to get people to buy into our cause. The community often will take loosely evidenced “facts” and broadcast them as truth, only to have bullshit called on them. This creates mistrust with the public, whose support we are working to gain.

Not a day goes by where we do not have to combat some idiot who claims “medical cannabis is a hoax” (I am looking at you, Gloomberg), or that the system is “a sham” (Looking at you Allen St. Pierre). But we also have not done a great job of proving these types of claims wrong, and thus we see more and more overburdensome regulations because we have failed to take care of our own housekeeping.

The weed industry has taken its course, and by all measures it is lacking in medical bona fides. Not that there is not real healing and medical applications happening; but that they are being overshadowed by a potent cannabis culture that will not be denied. We can continue to say that our dozen or so blunts a day are our medicine, and we have that right. But should we be surprised when people tell us that we might be full of shit?

So is it our education or their education that is lacking? Have we failed to educate our own on the cultural norms of what is considered medical in our society? Or have we failed to educate society that everything they consider to be medical is wrong because we have redefined medical to mean enjoyable and awesome?

The truth is that we have failed in both respects. We have made the medical cannabis system immanently more difficult for patients and providers by not putting a better foot forward, and at least trying to pretend that what we are up to is all medical. Every new state that comes on board makes the rules and barriers to entry more challenging to avoid the mistakes and abuses that are very public regarding medical cannabis. What we see is a lot of, “if you want medical we will give you medical.”

But instead of defending the fact that even the most abused system still provides a great deal of service with very little harm, and admitting that we must encourage adult use legalization to ensure patients are receiving quality care by removing the abuses in the system and allowing more healthcare professionals and researchers to embrace the developing industry, we generally deny there is an issue and demand that the world change their definition of what medical is to meet our needs.

Here is a little newsflash…..That is not gonna happen.

There is a hell of a lot of training that needs to be done both inside and outside of this movement. People must begin to open their minds to understanding and quit trying to fit the square peg in the round hole. We are better than this.

We can win this argument. We will win this argument. But at what cost if we do not educate and strategize more effectively?

From industry training for those who produce and provide cannabis, to public information and education, we must begin to develop a more sound infrastructure for developing and distributing positive and honest information about cannabis. Once people can understand the situation and what cannabis is and does, they generally are open to it being a part of our everyday landscape.

We have a lot to overcome. The prohibitionists and drug warriors have been extremely effective in spreading their lies and bullshit for the past few decades; so we have our work cut out for us.

But I can tell you for certain that if Joe Public thinks you are bullshitting them they will turn on you, and your credibility will cease to exist. This leaves the door open for those who oppose cannabis to continue to mislead.

When we come from a place of truth and honesty in our efforts to educate, we win

The truth is out there. Cannabis is an effective medicine. It is also an awesome and enjoyable experience. Marijuana can also provide spiritual awakening and raise a person’s awareness of themselves and the universe. Weed can enhance a situation or enable a person to have a better social experience. It is a lot of things. It is not one or the other, but all of them.

We have got to provide the education to cannabis nation so that we can realize our objectives of making weed legal for grown-ass people to use and produce as they please when they please.

Until every person understands the importance of cannabis freedom we will have work to do…So get at it already.

Educate yourself and then educate others. It is how the war is won….

Out of the Frying Pan

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Some folks do not really seem to get it.

There is a sector of this movement that chooses to live in a utopian state of denial. They continue to fight for some undefined and bizarre cannabis reality that only exists within the text of their emails. It is fairly comical to watch these folks make statements that border the insane, and it is even better when they take a victory lap for something they a.) had ZERO to do with; and b.) will result in a far worse scenario than the one they just claimed victory over.

It is the classic out of the frying pan and into the fire scenario. Yesterday in California a bill put forth by Assembly member Tom Ammiano that would have regulated the industry through the Alcoholic Beverage Control failed due to a procedural mishap. Here is a statement released by Rep. Ammiano’s office explaining what happened, and declaring that they will work to get the bill passed through several vehicles already moving in the Senate on the issue::

Medical marijuana regulation efforts continue, Ammiano says:

SACRAMENTO – Medical cannabis regulation is alive in the Legislature, despite a procedural mistake that stalled AB 473 on the Assembly floor today.

“This is not an easy bill, but it is a needed bill that has the necessary support,” said Assemblymember Ammiano, author of the groundbreaking bill to regulate medical cannabis under Alcoholic Beverage Control. “Unfortunately, the vote was closed prematurely and in error, preventing all the votes from being registered. I’m going to make sure my legislative colleagues stay focused on getting this to the Governor’s desk for his signature this year.”

The bill would call on ABC to set up a division that would monitor production, transportation and sales of medical marijuana, preventing criminal control and ensuring that marijuana was not easily accessible to those who are unauthorized.

Ammiano and supporting Assemblymembers spoke on the floor to clarify that the bill would not interfere with cities seeking to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
“The issue of local control on this bill has been addressed,” said Assemblymember Susan Bonilla.

I hope cities will allow dispensaries so their residents who need this product can get it safely, instead of illegally,” Ammiano said. “I believe that a Division of Medical Marijuana Regulation and Enforcement will help cities see they can authorize dispensaries. Not only will the division’s oversight ensure there is no increase in crime, more cities will begin to recognize the economic benefits that others have already seen.”

The bill is fully within the spirit and letter of the Compassion Use Act of 1996, approved by voters, and is consistent with public polling on marijuana policy.

Despite today’s incomplete vote, Ammiano is continuing to work on the bill and is already in talks with members of the California Senate.

But here is the big fucking problem…..and I hope I am wrong….but the Senate will likely pass a much more strict version of the bill and I would bet a million bucks that the Senate version not only will contain a similar but more restrictive regulatory model as designed by Ammiano’s bill, but will also include the DUI provision that Senator Correa’s office was pushing for, as well as incorporating the non-profit requirements that Senator Steinberg’s bill is pushing for, which results in higher weed prices.

This is how legislative bodies work….I will give you yours if you give me mine. I will see your amendment and raise you another amendment.

What will result IMO is a far worse bill than AB 473 would ever have been. The tin-foil hatters who would lead you to believe that the ABC overseeing the industry would be the end of access and small providers are simply idiots. They make ignorant statements based on lies and fear and have no more credibility inside, or outside, of this movement than any other crazy person standing on a street corner yelling about the end of the world being near.

What they fail to tell you is that they have no idea what they are talking about. These “conservative activists” (Keep things like they are! Everything is so great! Fight everything!) would have you believe that any regulation is totally unacceptable because it will end up in a “monopoly” and “family farms and mid to small size businesses” would be destroyed. Idiots….

It is apparent that most of these folks have NO IDEA what the CA Alcoholic Beverage Control does. Has anyone seen a huge “monopoly” on bars, or does your town or city have several small, independently owned watering holes for people to choose from? Is there a lack of real choice in the beer aisle, or are the literally A MILLION small label independent micro brewers that are enjoying such a percentage of the market that they have Budweiser scrambling to buy Modello to keep up with market share? Are small independent wineries ALL OVER the state? Are there thousands of small independent farms that grow grapes for these wineries? How about liquor stores? Any shortage of them in your area?

Me neither.

The reality is that we would have been lucky to see AB473 become law. As a person who works on regulations and helps develop businesses in the industry all over the nation, I have read a hell of a lot of regulations. I would call myself an expert. I know exactly how burdensome and unfair regulatory models can be, and AB473 was a walk in the park compared to the regulations put forth in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and even Colorado. I am betting it will look pretty awesome compared to what ends up getting passed through California later this year too. Some folks just do not know when to say “Yes.”

Some days I am embarrassed to be lumped in the same group with these folks. Many are not activists at all, yet are simple obstructionists likened to the Tea Party assholes. They would rather watch the industry crumble than give an inch on anything that might interfere with their current ability to make money in the industry. Most of them make their money, or find their sense of importance, from the chaos. They claim to be activists, but they are really just folks who have an agenda, and to whom defeating their common enemy is far more important than moving the industry forward. I disagree with ASA too on a lot of stuff, but if your only goal is to shit on them at any chance, then cannabis and freedom have very little to do with what you are up to.

They hide behind patients and claim to be do-gooders…but the reality is that most are protecting their interests like everyone else. It is shameful.

I am not bashful to say that I welcome regulations. I have experienced firsthand how loosely worded and defined law can allow for law enforcement to trample people’s rights, and have allowed for irresponsibility and ignorance to thrive in the industry. I think a clearly defined and regulated market would be a huge positive for the California environment. I am so exhausted by the current situation that I have become ultimately depressed.

At some point something has got to give…..and it will. My fear is that continuing to work counterproductively will result in far more restriction than we could ever imagine. Mark my word….AB473 will look awesome compared to what we now end up with. If I am wrong, then I will eat my shoe.

So as the wingnut circus takes their victory lap, and call a true cannabis champion like Tom Ammiano a “turncoat” and “opportunist,” just know that they have jumped right out of the frying pan and into the fire. You have turned your back on the best friend we have in the CA legislature and have left things to chance. The most likely scenario is that SB439, a bill put forth by State Senator Darrel Steinberg, will be amended and passed. How it will be amended is anyones guess, but even Steinberg agrees it will be heavily amended. Here is his comments on it from the Sac Bee:

Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat, has co-sponsored a regulatory bill in the Senate that he says will be heavily rewritten before getting a vote. He said he is troubled by pot stores that sprouted long after Proposition 215 legalized use for people with ailments such as AIDS or cancer or “any other illnesses for which marijuana provides relief.”

“I don’t think there is any secret that, with the dispensary system, there has been a lot of license taken and there is very little distinction between those who suffer from serious illnesses … and those who can easily get a piece of paper to get the marijuana,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg said he wants to regulate pot businesses and protect access by sick people to marijuana. But he said, “I do not support the legalization of marijuana.”

So rather than supporting Ammiano’s effort, which allowed for a regulatory model similar to that of booze which are everywhere, the crazies have decided to back an effort that is put forth by a person opposed to legalization which attempts to codify “guidelines” that contain statements such as, “a properly organized and operated collective or cooperative that dispenses medical marijuana MAY be lawful under California law”…..or it may not?

Here is what US Attorney from the Eastern District of California, who has been actively cracking down on providers of medical cannabis had to say to the Sac News and Review on it:

Sacto-based U.S. attorney Benjamin Wagner told guests at a speaking engagement last week that Colorado andWashington face less federal scrutiny because their weed laws were written better, while it remains a pot “free-for-all in California.”

Hey…so I have a great idea! Let’s just keep the laws that make cannabis a perceived free-for-all!

Sometimes I am ashamed to be a part of this movement…..If these idiots do not quit pulling us all out of the frying pan, I am gonna have to move.

City of Fallen Angels?

GTA.1

So thousands of people in LA lost their jobs today. Super. I find it hard to believe that some in our community are celebrating this loss of access and return to 2007 levels of access in the nation’s second largest City.

Here is where Prop. D in LA gets a little crazy for me now that it has passed…

All existing medical marijuana businesses must immediately cease operation; except that any medical marijuana business that that does not violate any of the medical marijuana business restrictions described in Section 45.19.6.3, Limited Immunity, may continue to operate but only so long as subsections A through D and G through 0 of Section 45.19.6.3 remain valid, effective and operative.

And here is the definition of “medical marijuana business” just so you know who all must cease operations immediately….

(1) Any location where marijuana is cultivated, processed, distributed,
delivered, or given away to a qualified patient, a person with an identification card, or a primary caregiver.

(2) Any vehicle or other mode of transportation, stationary or mobile, which is
used to transport, distribute, deliver, or give away marijuana to a qualified patient, a person with an identification card, or a primary caregiver.

Yup…You got a pot grow that cares for more than 3 people? CLOSE. You got a delivery service? CLOSE. Not on the pre-ICO list? CLOSE. Edible kitchen? CLOSE.

But then peep this further…..

Then it says this:

Every medical marijuana business is prohibited that has one or more Managers who are also Managers at the same time of another medical marijuana business in the City;

So even your dispensary cannot have a pot grow in the City because technically a “medical marijuana business” is defined as a “location” meaning your grow facility is indeed a different business and you are now the manager of two businesses in the City…a NO-NO.

WTF? Chaos, baby…….

Freedom Over Fear

Freedom-not-Fear

Can our desire for freedom overcome our fears of oppression and failure?

Where weed is concerned our society is in the middle of a mid-life crisis. We are beginning to understand that the war on drugs has been a complete waste of time and we are ready to buy a motorcycle and head out on the open road for a little fun and adventure. It is painful to wake up and realize that we have spent so much time, energy, and of course money on taking people to jail for weed. It is difficult to comprehend how we even continue to allow for this bullshit one day longer.

Game over, drug warriors. People want their weed and they want it now. Quit bullshitting us ,and acting like dragging mostly poor people to jail for weed is some sort of moral crusade. Weed is awesome and people know it. Just let it go. It is over. You lost.

Weed legalization is happening, and if you have not noticed, it seems to be happening pretty fast. On Friday, the world’s oldest regional organization, The Organization of American States (OAS), which includes 35 member nations released a report that encouraged the legalization af marijuana. Boom…there you have it. This is not me spouting off about “Quit taking people to jail for weed.” This is a report from world leaders of 35 countries in our region who are fed up with the war on drugs and its over-reach into their societies. It is about time. Here is what the New York Times reported on it:

MEXICO CITY — A comprehensive report on drug policy in the Americas released Friday by a consortium of nations suggests that the legalization of marijuana, but not other illicit drugs, be considered among a range of ideas to reassess how the drug war is carried out.

The report, released by the Organization of American States walked a careful line in not recommending any single approach to the drug problem and encouraging “flexibility.”

Prompted by President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia at the Summit of the Americas last year to answer growing dissatisfaction and calls for new strategies in the drug war, the report’s 400 pages mainly summarize and distill previous research and debate on the subject.

Yet with all of the bold rhetoric we see in the press and in our discussions in our lives about ending the madness of weed prohibition, there is still an inherent fear by most in our community to approach the subject because of the 40 bullshit years of misinformation brainwashing people that weed was evil and only for losers. It is still more difficult than anticipated for people to find their courage when approaching the subject with their friends, family, neighbors, or co-workers who have bought into the drug war propaganda.

This must stop. We are right and they are wrong. No one who uses weed deserves to lose their job, their standing in the community, their kids, or repeatedly have their privacy disregarded because they like weed. That is ultimate hypocrisy and bullshit in a society plastered with drugs, and ads for drugs. Back up off the non-toxic mellow herbs and quit pretending weed is some evil shit. It is not. It is likely one of the greatest resources for humans on the planet.

Fly your weed freak flag loud and proud my friend. Your freedom is greater than your fear.

What has been astonishing though is not the fear from everyday people who casually use weed; but from those who are supposedly actively working to promote cannabis freedom. Some “reformers” and activists seem ready to negotiate away basic freedoms in fear of how society will perceive our love for weed and freedom. We are becoming our own worst enemy, as we see the gates of cannabis freedom opening. It is many of our own who are standing in our own way, holding the gates closed and clinging to their hopes of hanging on to this quasi-legal limited freedom meal ticket for just a while longer.

Just like the drug warriors who have abused their powers to lock up millions of our brothers and sisters for some weed will be held accountable for their actions, we will also hold those in our own court accountable for their treachery. It will all come out in the wash…the back-room deals will become front page news and those responsible for retarding our growth will have to answer for their deceit.

Those who are willing to surrender freedom because of fear are no friends or associates of mine. We are not even playing the same game. Walk tall if you want to walk next to me. I am walking towards freedom.

I understand that there will be limitations and that we will likely see incremental and measured steps towards real global legalization with weed NASCARs and everything; but I will be damned if it will be our own supposed allies who turn their back on us in order to make a buck or two are going to bend us over. We are better than that. Weed is better than that.

So when you hear this figurehead, or that community leader, spouting off about how we should compromise our freedom in fear of retaliation from the feds or public officials, just know that it is bullshit and they have likely cut a deal that sold you and your right to a safe, enjoyable, and helpful plant down the river.

I see real freedom on the horizon, and I am not scared to do what it takes to get there. Blood and treasure are sure to be lost, but the ultimate goal of freedom will always outweigh the fear of oppression. Anyone who says otherwise is a coward and should not be trusted.

fear-freedom

#LEGALBYSUMMER