The 800 Pound Gorilla in the Medical Cannabis Room

I guess there is no easy way to say this, so it is best to get it right out there…..People think medical cannabis is a sham.

Well, it is not that they think cannabis being medicine is a sham; they think the fact that all of the sudden everyone is very sick and there are a million docs willing to authorize you to use medical cannabis for a lousy $50 fee is a sham.

Now, before you go flying off the handle about how, “All use is medical. My anxiety level is reduced and I sleep better. If cannabis makes me feel better than it is a medicine,” just know I could give a shit. I am not looking down my nose at you, or accusing you of anything.

I am just saying that people are no going for it; and the longer we continue to play the game of medical charades, the less impressed people are becoming and the more difficult it becomes to sell actual cannabis therapies to actual doctors who have practices that are not focused solely on cannabis.

I will be the grown-ass person in the room who decides to acknowledge that maybe we have overplayed that hand; and maybe new strategies are necessary for us to achieve our goal of ending prohibition.

Now, I know that is not everyone’s goal. There are plenty among us who deep-down have no desire to see cannabis truly legal ever. In our own reform circles, the amount of people who claim to be activists, but whose actions really represent those more of a prohibitionist, is striking. I used to think I was just tripping, and there is no way that this guy from NORML, or that dude who runs this big ass dispensary, would ever really be for extending, or delaying, prohibition.

But then you start seeing the patterns. The rhetoric spewed by one becomes the talking point of the next; and before you know it, there is a circular firing squad of half-hearted reform, and large groups of people who refuse to acknowledge reality. You can hear the hyperbolic bullshit intertwine itself into the lexicon of followers, and sooner than later, everyone is speaking in tongues and washed in the bullshit responses of those who could go for just another couple of years of the status quo.

There is no major internal acknowledgement that things are not working. None of these folks who make their money from the semi-legal market of medicalization are standing up and speaking the truth. They absolutely deny that there is a perception issue, or that the 19-year-old with the insomnia may be bullshitting his doctor. It is amazing to me that EVERY media story out these days questions the validity of this entire movement, yet from those supposedly leading the charge for medical cannabis remain utterly silent. Why? Because they know that their existence is dependent on things staying as they are. There is no effort to self-regulate the industry, or encourage some of the more flamboyant operators to slow their roll. You will not see the folks at ASA tell a doctor to quit writing questionable recommendations. When have you ever heard that? NEVER. Why?

Because of the 800 lb. gorilla called MONEY.

The doctors are making money hand over fist. Those patients then go to dispensaries, who make money hand over fist in a market that is inflated due to the semi-black market and risk. Those doctors and dispensaries donate to the reform groups, who in turn, do their bidding. So there in lies the reality…..It is hard to fight for cannabis freedom when it is in direct conflict with your paycheck…which is why the effort towards legalization is usually downplayed and discouraged by many “medical professionals” and organizations.

The next time a person says “Well, we need to get medical right before we can do adult use legalization” know that is code for “I could just use a few more years of making this money.” The absurd notion that we would waste our time and energy to pass more laws that regulate a medical market ,which will likely disappear after adult use passes, is tiring. Get a grip.

Medical cannabis is very real and powerful. It is a disservice to continue to stifle its research and integration into real medical circles because of selfish reasons to keep it bogged down by allowing doctors and less than seriously ill folks make a mockery of the term “medical.” Your big ass blunt is not a medicine…it does not matter how many times you say that it is out loud.

Until we begin to be honest with ourselves, we should not be surprised that others do not take us seriously. Because we fail to take a good hard look around and attempt to have an open and honest dialogue about the current state of affairs and were we stand as a community, we are doomed to mediocrity. We will continue to see half-hearted efforts towards reform, that are really efforts to maintain the current (and sad) state of affairs.

The 800 pound gorilla is definitely in the room, and he is getting pretty hungry.

DECADES in prison for medical weed

Home Sweet Home

It has been a long and sobering couple of weeks for the medical cannabis community, Justice has again failed and we see our brothers and sisters being put in prison for decades for providing safe and effective cannabis medicines to people authorized to use it from their physicians.

Let that sit with you. We are putting people in prison for DECADES for providing weed to sick people. Should I say it again? We have taken a human being and put him in a small cage with other dangerous criminals for ten plus years because he provided sick people with plant material that made them feel better. I do not know about you, but it makes my stomach turn really. It makes me sad to be an American, really.

This week Aaron Sandusky was convicted on two conspiracy charges and remanded to custody for a 10-year to life sentence for his role in operating a group of medical cannabis dispensing collectives in Southern California. In Michigan this week we say Gerald Duval Jr. and his son Jeremy Duval sentenced to ten years in prison for two medical cannabis greenhouse facilities that were being cultivated for patient use in accordance with state law there. In Montana late last month, Chris Williams was convicted of 8 felony counts for his role in Montana Cannabis, a legal provider of medical cannabis there. He also faces decades in prison for his “crimes.” And this is just in the past two weeks.

We have been quietly, and sometimes not so quietly, been sending medical cannabis cultivators, providers, and patients to prison for DECADES and ruining people’s lives for not just weed, but doctor authorized weed. It is an incredible injustice and we should be outraged. Often our community tries to read the tea leaves and say, “Well, this person was busted for this reason, and it will never happen to me.” That is bullshit, and you should know better. We are all in the same boat and face the same risks.

If I made my living providing medical cannabis I would begin to seriously looking at donating my resources towards ending cannabis prohibition, and fast. You could be the next person to face the injustice of doing the right thing and facing a jury that is not even allowed to take into consideration the medical aspects of your defense. In Federal court you have no defense. Did you grow weed? Yes. Go to prison for a decade. WTF? But that is where we are at. This is happening all over. What are you going to do about it?

The list is long of good people who are sitting in prison on mandatory minimum sentences and decades of time for providing weed to sick people. We are allowing our government to run rampant and take the lives of good people for weed. Bryan Epis (10 years), Eddy Lepp (10 years), Luke Scarmazzo (22 years), Richard Montes (20 years), Dustin DC Costa (16 years), Timothy Dellas (10 years), Doctor Mollie Fry and her husband attorney Dale Schafer (5 year mandatory for very few plants over years), and there are dozens of others doing 3, 5, 6, 7 years sentences also. It is alarming.

These are not the “bad operators.” These are not bad guys who just got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. These are all people who believed, like many of us, that if we do the right thing then justice would protect us. We are all very vulnerable to Federal enforcement. None of us are better than the others in the eyes of the US Justice Department. We are all a bunch of criminal weedheads to them. It is a sad reality that we all must take a hard look at.

Times are changing and there is a louder and more robust call for cannabis freedom every day. This is great; but it is not very comforting for the folks waking up away from their loved ones with nothing but time staring them in the face.

We have got to make a better effort. We have got to make more clear and focused campaigns aimed directly at the evils of imprisoning people for a safe, enjoyable, and helpful plant. We have got to begin to move mountains and free our brothers and sisters from the clutches of tyranny. We must get our shit together and take this fight to the heart of the beast, which is combatting the mass incarceration of our neighbors and citizens for weed. It has got to end and it has got to end now. It is no longer okay to sit idly by while good people lose their freedom and standing in the community because of weed.

This is not working…

Oakland Sues Feds. What happens now?

In a move to stop the Feds from shutting down Harborside Health Center, the City of Oakland filed a lawsuit against the Feds in an effort to get them to “restrain and declare unlawful” a forfeiture case put forth by the Feds against Harborside’s landlord.

Here is an excerpt from the New York Times piece that ran today:

“This lawsuit is about protecting the rights of legitimate medical patients,” City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement on Wednesday, when the suit was filed. “I am deeply dismayed that the federal government would seek to deny these rights and deprive thousands of seriously ill Californians of access to safe, affordable and effective medicine.”

The civil lawsuit, which the City Council approved, seeks to “restrain and declare unlawful” the forfeiture proceedings against the landlords of the dispensary, Harborside Health Center, stating that Oakland will “suffer irreparable harm if the dispensaries are shuttered.”

“It is heartening to see the city stand up and support us,” said Steve DeAngelo, Harborside’s executive director. At its Oakland location, the nonprofit dispensary employs 100 people and serves some 112,000 more, seeing 600 to 800 customers a day. Last year, the group paid $3.5 million in taxes, including $1.1 million to the city.

It is great to see the City stand up for the rights of the medical cannabis community. It is not clear where they believe their legal standing will overcome the usual “If a City makes embezzlement legal that does not mean the Feds cannot enforce embezzlement laws” argument that is normally put forth, but it will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

One of the issues that may arise though is that the Feds decide to use their power in retaliation to the lawsuit. Recall, in Montana, on the same day the Senate Committee was to vote on repealing the state’s medical marijuana regulations the Feds raided a dozen facilities there in a show of force; so it is not unheard of for these folks to conveniently use their rights to enforce Federal law in an effort to make a statement.

Where does this agressive action by the City leave the other three dispensaries that operate in the City, as well as the four other applicants who are in the process of trying to open facilities there? Could this lawsuit pose risk to the existing folks and hamper the efforts of the folks coming on?

Here is a quote from City Attorney Barbara J. Parker from an LA Times piece:

If federal prosecutors succeed in shuttering Harborside, she said, “public safety could be worsened because those patients would be out in the black market purchasing this medicine from criminals.”

Now that is not an entirely true statement. As mentioned, there are other access points in the City; but she is right in asserting that a very large and professional organization that serves tens of thousands of patients a month would be lost, and those patients would be displaced. That would be terrible for the community. But what if this action resulted in a more sweeping action to flex their muscles to the City and all of the dispensaries in Oakland are shut down as a result? Then you will see patients even more so displaced.

I am not sure what the answer is, and only time will really tell. I have long called for cities and counties to step up and defend their medical cannabis business and patient communities. My ideas were more resolution and political alliance based efforts, but a lawsuit is a much bolder and striking move. It is also more risky.

Do not forget that El Camino Wellness in Sacramento, who sued the Feds was raided, and Marin Alliance who sued the Feds in the Northern District also remains closed, so the Feds do have a history of seemingly vindictive enforcement practices. Since this is an action taken by an entire City, could the City of Oakland then become the target of enforcement? It is possible.

But it is also possible that they make a great case and blow the doors off of this thing. I know Oakland’s legal department has had their fair share of issues, including Occupy protest issues and with their plans to license four industrial size cultivation facilities; but if their case holds water it could be the first step in backing the Feds up. It seems like a longshot on the surface, but I would hope that they have a better legal argument than those who have come and failed before them.

The reality is that cannabis prohibition is evil, so regardless of what happens I am still proud of Oakland for stepping up and putting their name on the line. I was reminded that this is somewhat similar to the WAMM lawsuit where the City and/or County joined on as co-plaintiffs. While that lawsuit ended in a sort of stalemate, there were no agressive actions brought against the City or County. I hope that bodes well for Oakland. that was a different time, with different folks, and a much less focused media blitz.

I am pulling for Oakland and Harborside. I am praying Uncle Sam keeps his wits about him and does not decide to do something stupid to show us all who is the boss. I hate it when they do that.