Freedom Over Fear

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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.

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#LEGALBYSUMMER

Dear USDOJ…..Stop it. You are embarrassing yourself.

Yes. Another pointed open letter to the United States Department of Justice regarding their insane actions and policies on weed…enjoy.

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Dear US Department of Justice Officials and US Attorneys,

Stop it. You are embarrassing yourself…and our nation.

As I stood on yet another street corner yesterday -this time in Berkeley- to witness another press conference decrying the interference of the feds into state law, I could only think about what a waste of energy the whole experience was; and what an embarrassment it was that in a civilized society we again had to drag public officials, sick people, and stakeholders of a well-run tax paying business onto a street corner to address another ill-conceived attack on a medical cannabis provider.

The US Attorney for the Northern District has filed a forfeiture asset claim against the building where Berkeley Patients Group (BPG) operates….the new one. Last year a highly publicized shut down of the organization’s original facility in which they operated for over a decade with no complaints forced them to move to new digs not too far from the old location. In their moving they were very careful to select a site that met all known requests of the US Attorney’s office, including being 1,000 ft. from schools, parks, and youth facilities.

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Shortly after moving and re-opening their doors they were served another notice to close, and now a forfeiture action to take the building has been filed. The feds want to seize the building at 2366 San Pablo Avenue, much like they are trying to seize the buildings where Harborside operates.

At the end of the press conference the group took questions. I only had one…”did they feel that this forfeiture action was vindictive prosecution based on the organizations high profile nature, and more particularly, in light of an article done last year by Michael Montgomery and David Downs that aired a lot of the organizations dirty laundry.”

After a brief pause BPG’s spokesperson responded with a simple “no.”

Well that answers that, now doesn’t it? No. In fact, it does not.

The reality is that this is clearly selective prosecution aimed at creating fear in the community, and forcing the hands of landlords to not work with cannabis providers any longer. It is an underhanded and slimy way of going about your business and it is an embarrassment to the term “justice.” You guys should be ashamed….again.

I have no idea what motivates the dance of the idiot that is cannabis policy in this country. Our way of dealing with weed is so fucking bankrupt and morally reprehensible that I am amazed every day that people do not grab their pitchforks and torches and demand a real change and a releasing of millions of otherwise innocent people in jail for stupid drug crimes.

The fact that you people over there still have the nerve to roll out another bullshit forfeiture lawsuit, and continue to raid compliant providers of cannabis, is BIZARRO. At what point do you get tired of defending this bullshit in public?

Here is what US Attorney Melinda Haag released in a statement yesterday when asked about the BPG situation:

Haag defended the suit and others like it on the same day Berkeley politicians held a news conference to complain about it.

In a statement Haag said lawsuits against landlords of medical marijuana dispensaries and letters threatening the landlords have been reasonable and are supported by educators, addiction specialists, police officers, clergy, parents and others who are “negatively affected by marijuana.”

“The marijuana industry has caused significant public health and safety problems in rural communities, urban centers and schools in the Northern District of California,” Haag said. “Because some believe marijuana has medicinal value, however, we continue to take a measured approach and have only pursued asset forfeiture actions with respect to marijuana retail sales operations very near schools, parks or playgrounds, at the request of local law enforcement, or in one case, because of the sheer size of its distribution operations.”

Source: Contra Costa Times

I do not know US Attorney Haag personally, but by all measures she seems to be intelligent and very educated. I find it hard to believe that she can make such a statement without taking any responsibility for the current state of affairs due to the US government’s, and more so the USDOJ’s, enforcement policies and actions where cannabis is concerned. How out of touch does one have to be to make the statement that “the marijuana industry has caused significant public health and safety problems in rural communities, urban centers and schools in the Northern District of California” without considering what role cannabis prohibition and the black market plays in those public health and safety matters?

Her reference to a “very measured approach” is a clear admission of selective enforcement based on arbitrary and shifting limitations. While no clear boundaries have been set defining what the exact parameters are from what exact uses, or how big the “sheer size” of an operation is that will be targeted by her office, her admission signifies that there is a line there somewhere. As a matter of public safety and fairness it would be helpful if these guidelines could be more clearly established for people to operate under.

But the fact that we continue to play clandestine cat and mouse bullshit games with medical cannabis like this is simply embarrassing. Just stop it. We are better than this.

Knock off the military SWAT raids, the shifty letters, the forfeiture actions, and the IRS audits. Quit doing everything in your power to destroy our movement without having the political courage to even really say why. To pawn the responsibility of your actions off on nameless and faceless  “educators, addiction specialists, police officers, clergy, parents and others who are negatively affected by marijuana” is cowardly.

If you believed in that bullshit rhetoric your handlers released you would own it, with no need to justify your actions by claiming that these faceless many were your reasons for actions. Either what you are doing is right, or it is not.

But do us all a favor…knock of the charades and bullshit. At this point you are operating as a direct tool for big business and law enforcement/prison lobbies and your actions are destructive and mean. Stop it.

There is no “just doing our job” when your job is destroying the lives, livelihoods, and values of the majority of people in the society we live.

Quit taking people to jail, invading their privacy, and taking their stuff for some weed….That shit is not working and you are just embarrassing us all with your unwillingness to wake up and smell the sour diesel.

Love….Mickey

California Dreaming

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Can California cities and counties ban cannabis dispensaries? Of course they can. Why? Because California law grants no rights to anyone, yet gives an affirmative defense to people who use and provide cannabis under limited circumstances. Here is what the California Supreme Court said said on that in yesterday’s Riverside decision:

We have consistently maintained that the CUA and the MMP are but incremental steps toward freer access to medical marijuana, and the scope of these statutes is limited and circumscribed. They merely declare that the conduct they describe cannot lead to arrest or conviction, or be abated as a nuisance, as violations of enumerated provisions of the Health and Safety Code. Nothing in the CUA or the MMP expressly or impliedly limits the inherent authority of a local jurisdiction, by its own ordinances, to regulate the use of its land, including the authority to provide that facilities for the distribution of medical marijuana will not be permitted to operate within its borders.

The argument being made by our side is that municipalities cannot ban dispensaries because they are in conflict with state law. It always seemed like a long shot to me, as cities and counties have a lot of power to regulate what happens in their borders. Cities CAN ban booze and even tobacco if they want. They ban businesses like card rooms, massage parlors, and strip clubs all the time. It would seem that a medical necessity defense would have been a more solid approach, but then you have to prove that only a dispensary can serve those medical needs, which could be hard in the age of collectives, cultivation, and delivery services.

Their reference to a “friend of the court” briefing was also telling when they mentioned this gem in their decision:

Moreover, these facilities deal in a substance which, except for legitimate medical use by a qualified patient under a physician’s authorization, is illegal under both federal and state law to possess, use, furnish, or cultivate, yet is widely desired, bought, sold, cultivated, and employed as a recreational drug.  Thus, facilities that dispense medical marijuana may pose a danger of increased crime, congestion, blight, and drug abuse, and the extent of this danger may vary widely from community to community.

The Court concluded…

Thus, while some counties and cities might consider themselves well suited to accommodating medical marijuana dispensaries, conditions in other communities might lead to the reasonable decision that such facilities within their borders, even if carefully sited, well managed, and closely monitored, would present unacceptable local risks and burdens…. Under these circumstances, we cannot lightly assume the voters or the Legislature intended to impose a ―one size fits all‖ policy, whereby each and every one of California‘s diverse counties and cities must allow the use of local land for such purposes.

My favorite part of their decision was this the conclusion, in this:

Of course, nothing prevents future efforts by the Legislature, or by the People, to adopt a different approach. In the meantime, however, we must conclude that Riverside‘s ordinances are not preempted by state law.

They might as well have said, “There is nothing preventing the legislature from getting off their lazy asses and doing something about it, or you people can do another initiative if you can come up with a few million bucks; but for now you are fucked.”

The reality is that we have spent innumerable man hours and resources fighting a battle that is not winnable under its current circumstance. We want to be treated differently than other sensitive use issues because our weed is “medical,” but the heavily blurred lines that exist in the medical cannabis landscape make that pretty difficult to justify.

It is as if we are saying “Dispensaries are as necessary as hospitals because they are needed for medical care.” If the industry existed as a strict medical environment, which is the strictest classification next to outright banning something, where only “seriously ill” patients were granted access to their medicine from doctors who did not set up shop at the hip-hop concert and who accessed cannabis that was tightly controlled from limited authorized medical producers with extreme oversight of the administration of the medicine, then maybe we would have a better case.

As for now, we exist in an alternate universe where people want to justify any and all smoking of the weed as a medical breakthrough, and where we somewhat make a mockery of the term “medicine” in our approach. Do not get me wrong….I am not criticizing the current situation. I am simply stating the reality of our industry and movement as viewed from the society we live in.

The question I am posing is, “Had we spent the same time, energy, and resources asking for what we really wanted….the right to use weed for whatever whenever as grown-ass adults…would we be closer to our goal at this time?” At what point is it time to hang up the “Quit picking on us because we are all very sick” mantra, and move right into the “Prohibition is evil and adults have a right to use cannabis without being treated as criminals” mantra?

While those who truly use cannabis as a medicine deserve to be defended and honored, do the folks who may not be as sick but who use cannabis deserve to have their fundamental rights pushed to the back burner because they are not as good of a PR story for the movement? Is it this unwillingness to see the writing on the wall, and our continuing to roll the giant boulder up the hill, retarding our ability to make progress for cannabis freedom? When can we begin to admit that seriously ill people are only a very small portion of the community that uses cannabis, and that our major resources MUST go to adult use legalization, so that the real medical uses of marijuana can quit being discarded as a parlor trick due to the questionable practices of the current medical program?

While ideally I would have loved for the CA Supreme Court to rule that our affirmative defense meant that cities must allow for dispensaries, it is just not a very realistic position given the current attitudes about dispensaries in California. The biggest issues facing dispensaries in California is the assertion that they are a front for simple legalization. People do not mind weed, but they surely do not like being bullshitted.

I am sorry that stupid weed prohibition has created a situation where people may fudge a serious illness to avoid prison. Unfortunately, that is the choice that a lot of people face in this day and age.

But before these people on the outside looking in begin to thumb their nose at California for our “lack of state regulation” and “chaotic environment” remember this….EVERY DAY hundreds of thousands of Californians have access to a LARGE VARIETY of HIGH QUALITY cannabis medicines and applications. California will ALWAYS be the mecca of cannabis and that has NEVER been about what law said what that gave California its cannabis reputation…it was always the weed and the culture.

So before you decide to get on your Facebook machine and talk some shit about California, just remember that we have been serving happy weedheads here for a long long time and that when people think of weed, they think of California….regardless of the law. California pioneered the modern push for cannabis legitimization and continues to further the cause through innovation and competition in the marketplace. Nothing has changed about California and its place on the map where weed is concerned. It is still the number one place for weed hands down. There is a reason people come from all over to buy Cali weed to bring to the masses across the nation….because it is the best and most plentiful cannabis production area on the globe, period.

I love California, for all of its quirks and weirdness. I have long said it was time for the state to step up and regulate the industry better to provide more clear guidance, and to protect from Federal interference…but when you live in a state of over 38 million people it can often be more difficult to get everyone on the same page. It is clear that time has come though, and I am hopeful that we will see sensible regulation and adult use recognition.

It is only a matter of time before adult use legalization happens, and we would be smarter to begin to demand a clear move in that direction, rather than continue to fight battles that even our own Supreme Court find somewhat frivolous. Our best bet is to pass an adult use measure in 2014, which will solve a lot of the issues facing the medical cannabis movement. Or we can continue to fumbledick around for another few years and just hope things work themselves out….for those who are killing it in their semi-prohibition state of affairs, that probably sounds pretty good.

To me, it sounds like torture….

Can California’s legal, political, and social landscape catch up with the reality of weed in the state? For our sake, let’s hope so….

Learning When to Say Yes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

The Price of Weed

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The State of Washington introduced the consulting firm that won the job to help develop their legal weed regulatory model. They chose Botec Analysis Corporation, a think tank led by UCLA professor Mark Kleiman who has advised the Office of National Drug Control Policy and others on drug policy issues. Kleiman is an interesting pick, as he is certainly not “pro-marijuana” by any means, even publicly opposing California’s Prop. 19 initiative in 2010. But he is not “anti-marijuana” either, which gives him a generally objective view from where to view the cannabis marketplace.

The most interesting points I think he touched on in the many interviews he has done since his selection is cannabis pricing and how that will play out in real time. His analysis and thought on how price will affect the legal environment of cannabis are worthy of consideration, and in some respects are playing out in quasi-legal medical cannabis markets right now. Here is one thing Kleiman said in an interview with CNN:

“You don’t want the price to be so high that it generates a black market inside the state,” Kleiman said. “You don’t want the price to be so low that it generates an export black market.”

So right now there are a few different cannabis markets to explore. We have a California market that is really several sub-markets where pricing varies greatly, but the markets are still relatively high priced, and most organizations operate as not-for-profits. There is the highly-regulated Colorado market where forced vertical integration and saturation have made for a more fierce and competitive for profit market resulting in lower pricing, but less selection and quality; but quality continues to improve with time. There is the Washington State model, where in Seattle at least there is a saturation of providers and competition has resulted in reasonable pricing, and production continues to increase rapidly. Oregon’s weed market is more limited, but it is growing and has always had a reputation for value. We see an emerging Arizona market with huge barriers to entry that are resulting in higher prices, but it is still too early to tell much there. Maine has very few state run dispensaries and a robust caregiver program, but are realizing the need for change because of lack of competition and high pricing there. New Jersey opened its first couple of shops in the most restrictive market ever and prices there are brisk, even with totally vertical integration. This mosaic of weed markets gives great insight as to what happens to the price of weed dependent on the rules and restrictions applied by the powers at be.

California is by far the market with the most history to look at. There has been an ebb and flow of market forces here, and because of the massive size of the state and it very regional regulations and guidelines, it has allowed for many different types of markets to flourish. Some have come and gone, and some are coming back again. It is different from city to city and county to county, and the price and quality of weed can differ greatly where you go as a result. The one place where the California market flourishes is product quality and innovation. Because there are no real barriers to entry on the production side there are a lot more small batch high quality producers that can enter the market with very little oversight.

The “collective and cooperative” model has evolved so many times over the last decade that it is really hard to keep track of. California began opening dispensaries in the mid-90’s. With no real guidance from elected officials or lawmakers on how to operate businesses, growing pains have certainly taken place. But California is also a great success story. On any given day, hundreds of thousands of people have access to a variety of high quality cannabis at many convenient and well-lit clean facilities with very little incident. That is a victory by any measure, no matter what industry you are in.

Where the California market has somewhat failed, at least in certain areas, is in competition at the retail level. In many markets a very limited amount of providers makes for higher prices. Also, increasing tax burdens, massive permit fees, regulatory compliance matters, and a bunch of red tape have made it more difficult for dispensing collectives/cooperatives to operate without charging $50 or more an eighth. At last check, the nation’s largest retailer of cannabis on the planet, Harborside Health Center, had several $60 eighths on their menu. Harborside will be the first to tell you that they have A LOT of bills to pay over there; but where this phenomena is playing out is on the backs of the growers.

It is easy math to do….at $60 per eighth and 128 eighths per pound the collective grosses $7,680. But the price of cannabis has come down substantially at the wholesale level, dropping off from nearly $4k per pound or more at one time to roughly $3k at the top end and a lot of good weed moving for $2,500 per pound. But even if we gave the benefit of the doubt that the collective paid $3,500 for a pound, which is virtually unheard of these days, that is still a 55% margin. It is more likely around 60%. Why? Because over-regulation, high tax rates, growing barriers to entry, and running a top notch organization has gotten super expensive in a lot of areas. Couple that with increased pressures from the Federal government in the forms of raids, asset forfeiture, and IRS invasions; and the result is $50-$60 eighths, while the grower who risked his ass continues to see his rate drop.

Before the most recent round of enforcement began in October of 2011 there was a much more competitive market happening. After the Feds released their infamous Ogden memo, opening the floodgates for would-be cannabis providers to set up shop all over the state, there were certain markets that were fiercely competitive where expansion was rapid. There were no shortage of advertisements for great deals promoting $25 eighths and freebies in every weekly in the state. There was a certain glimpse of what a free market might look like….at least in some areas.

In other areas, where competition was limited more by local ordinance there was less competition and prices did not fluctuate nearly as much. In these markets, innovation and professionalism began to be more key trademarks versus a race to the bottom in pricing. Service and quality are what drive success in limited markets, as well as competitive markets.

Some great experiments have resulted from the chaos that have enabled us to see what happens when certain barriers are in place, or when free markets are allowed to evolve. In competitive environments organizations have to perform and offer greater value than their competition, or risk losing their share of the market. This results in greater value for the average weedhead. Simply having good weed is not enough in these markets, as people want to be catered to for their loyalty. If not, they will go somewhere else that does cater to them more. There are a million ways to run a dispensary, but knowing what your competition is up to is necessary to survive in a competitive market…and the price of weed is a huge factor in that.

We see it happening in Denver, Colorado for sure. In a relatively small city there are about 250 retail outlets for weed. The State also forced retailers to produce 70% of their own medicine, resulting in dispensaries being able to offer more wholesale direct pricing for their in house products. Weed is down to $25 an eighth there or maybe $35 for the super duper. Quality can vary and there are less flavors to choose from sometimes, but from what I hear the quality continues to improve. The usually dry climate can cause for some curing issues, so shelf life and freshness also matter in this market. But overall the competition has resulted in a lower price for weed and weed accessories across the board. Also, less interference and forced vertical integration has contributed to people being more comfortable with giving more for less. In California, the cost of rent alone for dispensaries continues to skyrocket, wherein Colorado more property owners are comfortable with the state run program because it has had little issue with asset forfeiture there….at least for now. I am unaware if the IRS has begun to audit dispensaries in CO either, as they have in CA. Denver is also a for-profit market, which means smaller margins are okay when you get to keep most of them.

Seattle, WA is a lot like Denver in the sense of densely saturated markets; but they do not have nearly as many regulations…yet. Apparently, they are working on some; but for now there are just normal business licenses issued for dispensaries and if they pay their taxes and have no complaints, there has been relatively little enforcement by the locals, state, or feds. In less liberal areas of Washington State there has been enforcement and major issues. There is a lower price scale there, generally around $35-40 an eighth, with a few still doing their fire at $50; but for the most part, a competitive environment has resulted in lower priced weed for the end user.

In both Seattle and Denver, and even Oregon, the cost of living is generally substantially lower than California too, so operating costs are much lower overall. At some point, I wonder if Californians just expect to pay more for things, and become cautious if something is priced too low. I am not sure people could wrap their head around a $30 eighth of the super chronic in West Hollywood. It is almost like people feel superior, or better about themselves, if they pay more for something. “It must be better…it costs twice as much.” In some ways this is similar to the wine industry too, where people pay crazy shit for a bottle of old grape juice.

The medical market leaves a lot to be desired for the population it serves. It has become far too burdensome due to the need for clandestine growing and production facilities (indoor lighting is a bitch), and the snowballing regulatory costs and taxing associated with dispensary operation. In California the porridge is too hot. In Colorado and Washington State, the porridge is too cold. In Arizona and New Jersey, they may never get any real porridge; and Maine is likely too limited to really gather meaningful assumptions at this time. In Maine, prices at dispensaries are high, but I hear the caregiver’s there have great numbers.

But there is no truly free market that allows for no restrictions on production or retail, so we have no idea what a retail adult use market will look like. We likely will not really see that even in Colorado and Washington, as their new legalization laws take effect because there will be a knee-jerk reaction to try and limit the programs severely to appease the feds. Maybe this strategy will be successful, or maybe it will be unnecessary. I believe the feds are ready to give on this issue. The dam of public opinion is breaking too quickly and they will get on the right side of history sooner than later. But even if the announced a no enforcement policy tomorrow it would still take time for a nationwide series of laws to develop and begin really affecting the market in a huge way…but it is coming.

One day weed will by $50 per ounce…unless people like Kleiman use the fear of yesterday to convince us that we must continue black market extortion pricing to “prevent diversion.” Once there is no more black market to worry about the product being exported to, we will likely see a boom in production to meet global demand and a number of great weed products being sold for incredible prices. We will also see a robust connoisseur market, just like wine, where specialty grown weed and finished products with reputation will hold superior value in the market for those who can afford it.

But for now the price of weed is too damn high, or too damn low…It is hard to tell. If you are a grower seeing $60 eighths while losing 25-35% of your income then it is probably too damn low. If you are a patient in California paying $60 an eighth it is definitely too damn high. If you are a patient in Colorado or Washington paying $35 an eighth, but having a more homogeneous and limited experience then I do not know what the fuck it is.

When we look at the possibilities of what will be in a legalized adult use global weed market it is clear that the best option is freedom. It will likely take us some time to achieve real and meaningful cannabis freedom, but we will not stop until that goal is achieved and I can get a $10 lid again….

Weed will be legal. What it will eventually cost will be the big mystery. Most people do not brew their own beer because it is cheap enough to buy. But high class liquor and spritis can sell for a mint. But it will take a truly free market to bring weed prices back to earth. I am sure it will get more volatile before it evens out and the larger market develops. At least we hope. Sounds like a lot of work, so we should get started this summer…..

Regulate Cali Medical Weed Like Booze?

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So no less than a dozen people have contacted me in the last 24 hours to express their concern for a new proposal being put forth by CA Assemblyman Tom Ammiano that would appoint the CA Alcoholic Beverage Control to control and regulate the industry. The Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement would be created within ABC to establish and oversee statewide standards for cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, distribution and sales of MMJ and MMJ products;  a scale of fees for the above activities To adopt, amend, and rescind reasonable regulations for the control of cannabis; and a licensing program and fee structure for cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, distribution and sale of MMJ. The program shall include an ID card program that respects the protections of the Confidentiality of Medical Information Act. The division shall work in conjunction with law enforcement for the purpose of implementing and enforcing the rules and regulations.

At first I was taken back and my knee-jerk response was “HELL NO.” But then I thought about it for a minute…..booze are everywhere. If ABC controls and regulates the booze market, and booze are everywhere, then why would I automatically be opposed to them regulating medical cannabis?

Let us be honest with ourselves and get real for a minute. Cannabis WILL be regulated in California and probably that will happen this year. There is just too much pressure from all sides, including the cannabis industry, to establish some clear guidelines of operation. The State Attorney General, District Attorneys from all over, City and County Officials, Law Enforcement, and yes….even weedheads, have been demanding that the state give us a clear set of boundaries to operate within. I have long said that the state has failed to protect cannabis users, businesses, and the communities they serve, by not establishing this framework earlier. It is all part of growing up and becoming a legitimate and serious industry.

While regulations will always suck (who likes rules?), they are often necessary to create a level playing field, to ensure that others in the industry are operating to certain standards, and of course, to make sure the government gets their cut. The question we must ask is what should these regulations entail and who should be in charge of overseeing and enforcing them?

I think the Alcoholic Beverage Control may be a good fit. Why? Because first and foremost they want the money. They are not swayed by the influences of limiting competition and creating advantages for a select group of providers like a board comprised of industry stakeholders, unions, and policy makers might. They issue liquor licenses based on a generous availability and certain administrative requirements; but they do not get into the drama of which bar is better, or which liquor store will be more successful. They issue a license and make sure you are paying the proper taxes and not selling booze to minors. As long as they get their money and you follow the rules, they could give a shit if you run the nicest bar in town, or some shitty dive that serves a bunch of alcoholics.

So that objective approach to licensing may be a good thing. I certainly am more hopeful that ABC will be a better option than what was proposed in AB2312 last year. Even that commission was problematic in make-up and likely would have been influenced heavily by the big money players in the industry to restrict licensing to only the few who would pay to play. I think that would have been a real disaster.

Now I am not saying working with Alcoholic Beverage Control will be a walk in the park by any means. Those guys want money and they want as much as they can get. So I would expect a fairly heavy tax burden to be put in place. But what I came up with is that a more competitive environment of licensed manufacturers, distributors, and retailers would create lower prices for weed across the board. We see this happening in Denver now, where the price of cannabis is about 1/2 of the price of weed in Cali. So my thought is that the extra tax burden would probably balance out by the difference in cost through a more competitive market. Not to mention, most jurisdictions currently have some sort of sin tax on medical cannabis, as much as 10% in some areas.

On top of that, many dispensaries are forced to pay HUGE fees to those cities, as much as $60-$70k a year. That cost is passed on directly to the consumer in the form of higher priced weed. There is a reason the wholesale cost per pound is a lot less than it used to be, while most retail pricing has stayed consistent. The overhead for running a dispensary has become super heavy. So do we really think that a state run program will be a hell of a lot worse than the highway robbery we see happening now in most cities? I do not think so.

So before everyone gets out the pitchforks and torches and begins to burn this idea down to the ground, ask yourself, “If not ABC, then who?”

In an ideal world I would personally get to oversee the entire program and make decisions based on what was best for weed. But even I am not that objective, so I would probably be a lousy choice too. The reality we face is that someone will likely be regulating this industry relatively soon. Could the agency responsible for leaving booze all over the community to the point of irresponsibility be a good choice for us? Maybe. I am not entirely opposed to it given the alternatives. I am going to explore it more.

There will certainly be winners and losers too. It will become difficult, or nearly impossible, for small home growers who do a few lights in a spare room to enter the commercial market like they do now. And while that may suck, the truth is that a lot of this product never sees the dispensary shelf anyways. Many dispensaries are vertical these days and growing their own; or they have large scale producers bringing them products cheaper than the small batch guys can afford to give up. So this is already happening to an extent.

The one concern I might have, as a convicted felon for my role in the infamous weed candy cartel incident of 2007, they could make it so no convicted felon can participate in the commercial market. I certainly hope they make exceptions for folks like myself who were convicted for the same actions they are issuing a license for. That would suck if we were left out based on doing the same thing we were trying to get a license for. If ABC does it like liquor licensing then we should be okay.  The ABC guidelines provide that ABC can grant a license to a felon that has been rehabilitated. However, the ABC will investigate and make a determination and could deny the transfer of the license.

So while I am going to keep a watchful eye on the situation, I feel better about it than I did initially; and much better than I did about the initiative being proposed by ASA and CANORML, as well as Ammiano’s AB2312 from last year. It should be an interesting battle to watch, but overall, I think it can and will pass the legislature. We should be prepared for that. I am already starting my outreach to the ABC. From what I hear, they have some okay people running things over there these days, which is encouraging.

Like I said initially…booze are everywhere. There is no shortage of liquor licenses in California. I want weed to be everywhere too, so maybe ABC is not such a bad option after all. Obviously no option would be best, but that is just not realistic. So we can try to get all idealistic and oppose anything and everything that regulates the industry…or we could seek out the best option for that regulation, and I for one do not think ABC is such a big bad option after quickly reviewing their systems and policies for booze….

Should we regulate medical weed like booze in Cali? I am not against it…..I am open to a discussion as to why I should be, so fire away.

UPDATE: Just got off the phone with the Public Info Officer for CA Alcoholic Beverage Control. Did you know that since 2000-2001 the amount of liquor licenses in the State of CA has increased by almost 20% from 71,000 licenses to 85,000. That is what I am talking about…more access.

RECDICINAL- Where do we draw the line between enjoyment and therapy? Or do we?

I use cannabis as a medicine. It helps me with the pain from two knee surgeries, and the seven screws and a steel plate in my left heel. It also helps me to focus better and get more done, as a Ritalin baby of the 80’s who was hospitalized with severe ADHD at a young age. There is no doubt I use cannabis as a therapy for the many challenges I face with my health.

But I also smoke weed. Sometimes a lot of weed. Like more than a doctor would probably agree was a medical dosage by any means. I am not alone either. A lot of people smoke weed for enjoyment, and to enhance the mundane bullshit of life. There is nothing wrong with that. Weed is fun. It makes food taste better. It makes me giggly. It helps me to think about weird and awesome shit. It can lighten up my bad mood, or mellow out my tense emotions.

Now I hear the “all use is medical” crowd firing up their keyboard to tell me that food, and giggles, and weird and awesome shit are all just part of the medical benefits of cannabis. That because it “lightens me up” and “mellows out my tense moods” this is all clear medical usage. Save it for someone who is still listening to that line of bullshit. All you are doing is digging your hole deeper.

We do not do ourselves any favors by trying to justify that every joint ever smoked has been for a medical application. In fact, we embarrass ourselves more times than not with that flawed logic. I have said it before and i will say it again…”We are not that sick.” We have won the argument that sick people should be allowed to use weed. Where we are losing the argument is by telling the world that everyone who smokes weed any time ever is sick. It just does not hold water…and it lacks courage.

I smoke weed because I like it, and I will be damned if I have to wander around acting like I am in dire pain every time I want to burn a fatty with my friends. I do not have to, and it is embarrassing to think that so many people do. It is like watching rats in a cheese maze. We have found that we do not get electrocuted if we eat the medical cheese, so now all cheese is medical. Super.

The reality is that the maze is fucked up and evil…period.

We are entering a even stranger reality where Colorado, Washington, and hopefully more states soon have, or will pass adult use legalization measures. There is a delicate dance happening where “medical use” norms and regulations will be intertwined with adult use norms and regulations, and an awkward posturing by many will certainly happen.

Those who have built their empires on a strict “medical only” market and who have used their “higher ground” medical rhetoric to demean adult use legalization efforts will be faced with tough choices. The doctors who have built up huge practices of patient authorizations for weedheads will be challenged between money and ethics in many ways. The evolution will be interesting to watch, no doubt.

But make no mistake about it…after weed is legal for any adult to use as they please, very little of the current medical cannabis infrastructure will continue to exist. Very few of the current folks who are incredibly ill will ever go to a doctor for weed again. Nobody is going to pay $50-$100 for a recommendation when you can use your ID to get in the weed store. Sorry. It is just not going to happen. But when all you need is an ID to get in the weed store, 10 times as many folks will come…which is nice.

But what will be an incredible evolution in the medical sector will be not just the majority of patients who will suddenly get well, but the majority of non cannabis doctors who will begin to open up to cannabis therapy in an environment where “medical” is not a term used so loosely on the end of every blunt. When the stigma of the current system and its perceived abuse disappear, and real clinical testing can be done to uncover more of the mysteries of the cannabis plant, we will see AMAZING growth in real medical applications of cannabinoid therapies. The problem is that this will not ever happen in the current environment.

But the good news is that recreational adult cannabis use is coming. We can soon put down our medical defensiveness and light up in peace.

Sometimes we just want to smoke a fucking joint because we are grown ass people and because weed is awesome. I shouldn’t need a doctor to tell me that weed is awesome. In fact, I do not…

As weed emerges from the darkness into just another boring thing that people use to make the world more fun, exciting, and bearable, just watch the medical onion get peeled back. The once very rigid folks who declared on national television that the “do not support recreational cannabis use” will be the first ones on the recreational bandwagon. They will likely also take credit for the whole thing and tell us how they invented purple weed. I cannot wait.

It has always been a no brainer to me. Quit taking people to jail for weed. I do not give a shit if they are a patient, or a spiritual user, or just a weedhead like me. For us to continue to use medical patients as our justification for ending prohibition is silly. Medical classification of any product is the second strictest classification next to outright banning something. If we continue to ask for highly regulated medical only cannabis, we should not be surprised when we are stuck with a lot of highly regulated medical only cannabis. Pull your head out of your ass for a minute and realize that is bad strategy on many levels.

A recent California poll showed a majority (54%) support legalization for adult use. What was the one area where cannabis support had dropped in the poll since it was last taken? Support for the current medical law. It dropped 5% points since the survey was last done in 2010. Why? Because people think we are full of shit. That is not speculation. That is just fact. We are LOSING support for medical cannabis because some folks do not think that the doctor at the rap concert is legit. I know it seems crazy, but it is true.

In my humble opinion we MUST begin to embrace wholeheartedly adult use recreational whatever you want to use it for weed use. We must not try to blur the lines any more than we have and we should begin to act like freedom loving adults who demand to be treated as equal citizens who happen to smoke weed. It is our duty to change the conversation and the way our society views marijuana.

There are still a lot of uneducated and misinformed people out there who hate weed, and believe it is evil. Those people suck, but we do not help ourselves by giving them the ammunition of saying “See. This is not what we all voted for. We voted for seriously ill people to use cannabis in a very restrictive environment.” We must move past that argument and challenge the prohibitionists on their rationale. No one in their right mind thinks that people should go to jail for weed when presented with the facts. We have to begin to demand that these policies prohibiting and criminalizing weed end once and for all for anyone and everyone who likes weed….for medicinal use, recreational use, or even for recdicinal use.

Anything less is a compromise I am not willing to make. You should not either. You are just embarrassing yourself for tomorrow. Weed will be legal. May as well get with the program now before the world passes you by….again.

Could weed be legal or not enforced by summer?

A DISCUSSION WITH ERIC HOLDER DECEMBER 11, 2012

NINA TOTENBERG: I am a reporter, so I have to ask you a question in a way that I hope you’ll engage with me a little bit, and that is the question of the two states that have now legalized pot. What are the options for how to handle this, from the federal perspective, since possession of marijuana, trafficking in marijuana, even in the smallest amounts, is still a felony under federal law? So what are the options for the way to treat this?

ERIC HOLDER: Well, I think we have to look at the statutes and we have to decide what it is we want to do with them, and that is currently under review. I had a meeting today in my conference room as we looked at the two statutes. Yes, there’s a tension there between federal law and these state laws. But that’s also true with regard to the way in which we have allowed states that have passed medical marijuana statutes to allow that to occur. We have limited resources in the federal government, and we have to decide how we’re going to use those limited
criminal resources. I think we’ll come up with a policy that will be respective of federal law, but also make sure that we are effective in our fight against crime that truly has an impact on the American people. I would expect that the policy pronouncement that we’re going to make will be done relatively soon.

NINA TOTENBERG: How soon? [laughter]

ERIC HOLDER: She is a reporter. Relatively soon. [laughter]

NINA TOTENBERG: In your vocabulary, does relative mean a month or less?

ERIC HOLDER: I’d say a month or less, taking into account the holidays. [laughter]

NINA TOTENBERG: He is an official. The difference though with medical marijuana is the states haven’t tried to tax purchases of medical marijuana or sale of medical marijuana. They’re dying to tax recreational use of marijuana, buying marijuana for recreational use. The states that have now made it legal see this as – every pun intended – a pot of gold in the sky. That’s one of the primary things they want to do. So it’s a little different isn’t it?

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.

Dear Feds…There is no shame in surrendering

So talk about “awkward.”

It is ultimately clear that the end of cannabis prohibition is near. There was a very clear mandate set forth in two key elections in Colorado and Washington State, where cannabis legalization measures won by ten points, even besting President Obama’s vote totals in Colorado. Every recent national polling done on the subject shows a majority of American support legalizing cannabis for adult use. Every day there is a new story or new prominent figure coming out in opposition to taking people to jail for weed. One documentary after another is being released showing the evils of the drug war.

It is actually quite embarrassing to be a drug warrior these days, as your lies and deceptive policies aimed at oppressing poor and minority citizens is being exposed for all to see.

So what is a good DEA agent to do? How do these US Attorney reconcile the fact that their job currently requires them to stifle the will of the people and enforce laws created by, of all people, Richard Nixon….the nation’s least ethical President ever? How do they continue to blissfully ignore the reality that almost everyone thinks the job they are doing is bullshit? How can they continue to respect the job they do when the entire world thinks it is a terrible fraud? Why does our government continue to put these likely otherwise decent folks in the difficult position of enforcing terrible laws that are based in lies, and which are simply evil? They deserve better.

Remember this?:

How embarrassing is it for the head of the US Drug enforcement Administration to have to go in front of a Congressional committee on National television and make the claim that marijuana is just as dangerous as heroin to justify the wasted enforcement resources and ballooned budget of an agency, that by all account,  is an absolute failure? Let’s be real. Drugs are cheaper, more readily available, more dangerous, and in the hands of more violent criminals than ever before in our history. Here is the DEA’s Mission:

…to enforce the controlled substances laws and regulations of the United States and bring to the criminal and civil justice system of the United States, or any other competent jurisdiction, those organizations and principal members of organizations, involved in the growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States; and to recommend and support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets.

-DEA Mission Statement

So let me get this right….their mission is to enforce the Controlled Substances Act. I think by any measure it is evident that, while they are “enforcing the CSA” and locking up mostly poor people at alarming rates, they have done little to stop the “growing, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances appearing in or destined for illicit traffic in the United States.” FAIL. They also have done very little to “recommend and support non-enforcement programs aimed at reducing the availability of illicit controlled substances on the domestic and international markets.” In fact, some may say that their activity has directly created a MUCH larger market due to their sporadic and selective enforcement making for a very lucrative black market which more people want a piece of. Their idea of “non-enforcement programs” are drug testing and some questionable counseling for “drug offenders” that are already in the system. In other words, their main idea of treatment programs is to make parolees pee in a cup and talk to some not so qualified counselor trying to work their way through school. It is kind of a bad joke.

But let’s not pick on just the DEA. The US bureau of Prisons has an incredibly bloated budget to house all of these prisoners created by these failed policies. The US DOJ spends crazy money on prosecuting people for drugs, when you look at judges, lawyers, court fees, etc. It is all pretty nuts really, when you think that very little, if any, progress has been made at curbing drug use in this country. Look at this chart:

While we have spared no expense on enforcement, drug addiction rates have stayed relatively constant. We have essentially lost the Drug War by a pretty staggering margin. The drugs have obviously won.

So what is the solution? ABSOLUTE SURRENDER is the solution if you want to save any face and restore respect and dignity back to law enforcement circles. I tell my kids this all the time…”There is no shame in admitting you were wrong.”

There is no more defending these tyrannical drug laws and continuing to throw good money after bad. The facts are in. The drug war has failed. We have ruined innumerable people’s lives and wasted crazy resources to accomplish nothing. That may be a tough pill to swallow, but it gets even harder to swallow with every passing day of this bullshit.

It is time to give up the fight, reorganize the troops, and find a more reasonable and winnable strategy to curb drug abuse. Free our prisoners from your jails and begin to find smarter enforcement and treatment strategies that focus on issues that can make a difference. Look how successful the educational campaign against tobacco has been? Check out these reduction numbers over the last decade:

After lawsuits against the tobacco industry forced it to fund anti-smoking campaigns and put stricter regulations on the marketing of these products, there has been a 30% reduction in people who use tobacco. Now that sounds like a success story. And guess what? They used no guns and put no people in prison to do it. That sounds good to me.

But in order to move in this direction we must surrender the current strategies and find a new direction. The Feds have got to see the writing on the wall, and stop putting their employees in the awkward position of enforcing laws that they, themselves, think are flawed. It is embarrassing for these folks to have to be questioned for their actions and to have no real response to why they keep taking people to jail for weed. You cannot send some poor woman out to be questioned by Congress armed only with the statement that she “believes all illegal drugs are bad.”

When Jared Polis asked Michele Leonhart, “Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?”; and as she stumbled over her “all drugs are bad…mkay” statement, only to be hit with “Yes, no, or I don’t know? If you don’t know, you can look this up. You should know this as the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency. I’m asking a very straightforward question: Is heroin worse for someone’s health than marijuana?”, I actually felt a little sorry for her. Her only stupid response was “”All illegal drugs are bad.”

If that is your main talking point then the time for surrender was a long, long time ago. That is just pathetic.

I have no idea what the Feds, or the USDOJ will do in coming months regarding weed. I do not see how they can continue this madness and simply ignore the changing landscape of our society on this issue….but then again, I have seen the Feds do some dumb shit in my time, so I would not put it past them to continue their “All illegal drugs are bad” mantra. Our government is so far out of touch with the will of its constituents these days that is sadly seems routine.

I am calling on the Feds to just give it up. Be the bigger person, admit you were wrong, and begin working to make the world a better place through more realistic and effective strategies. That is not too much to ask. You have fucked off the last 40 years chasing weedheads around and paying to lock them up. Can we begin to change course and make the next 40 years a success story about how we saw the errors of our way and changed paths to be rewarded with less violence, less criminals, and a cannabis economy that is thriving? I do not think that is too much to ask. Nor is it too difficult to accomplish. What it will take is a surrendering of these stupid laws and their stupid enforcement. The American people will be waiting…