A New Era of Activism and Resolve

It has been nearly a year and a half since I wrote a piece for this site. Why? Because the movement for cannabis freedom began to evolve more into an industry for commercial cannabis; and it became exhausting to try to focus weed activism on so many moving targets, as the hucksters and charlatans came from far an wide for their piece of the action. It is not that there was not a need for activism… It was just a little different.

I spent the last year plus writing more election focused pieces at the site ReformCa.org. It was a brutal year for politics, both in the aspects of who will govern our future in America and where the cannabis reform movement was moving. What we ended up with were several “victories” for adult use and medical cannabis across the nation, while electing a man for President that has made and appointment for Attorney General that could send us back to the days of severe prohibition of cannabis… and quickly.

I feel that it is time to fire back up the Weed Activist site to once again become a resource for activism and understanding to protect the gains we have made as a movement and industry, while continuing to fight for more progress. We cannot afford to allow the appointment of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to head the Justice Department to push us back into the dark ages of cannabis. It is unclear what his plans will be, but it is ominous to say the least. We must be vigilant and prepare for the fight of our lives.

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Just earlier this year in April, AG nominee Jeff Sessions said the following during a senate hearing on cannabis:

“Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” Sessions said during a Senate hearing in April. “We need grown ups in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it is in fact a very real danger.”

This is the man that we now have calling the shots at the USDOJ. All signs point to a fairly easy confirmation for him, despite his racist and off-color remarks over the years. Those of us who work and play in the cannabis landscape must wake up and understand that this is a really big deal. If you do not understand, I can make it real simple for you. The only thing that has allowed for States to develop and regulate cannabis programs in lieu of Federal laws making it illegal are two MEMOS from the US Department of Justice stating that enforcement resources should not be used to interfere with cannabis programs in States with clear regulatory models in place. That is it… a couple of stupid memos.

As the head of the Justice Department, Sessions can walk in and simply tear up those memos on day one and launch a new war on cannabis providers, if he so chooses. Those who believe that he would not based on Donald Trump’s loosely framed statements while on the campaign trail that it should be left to the States simply do not understand the role of the Attorney General in the United States. The AG is not there to be a “Yes Man” for the President. They are an extremely independent agency that is there to enforce laws. Now the President can make suggestions and hope that the AG respects those wishes, but in no way is the Attorney General bound to do anything the President says. If Sessions wants to make our lives hell again he can do so with or without the blessing of Trump. That is your reality. So wish in one hand and shit in the other… but Sessions has made it clear that he despises marijuana and it is hard to see him running a Justice Department that simply looks the other way.

Many of the folks who jumped into the weed game after the dust settled and it was clear that enforcement was severely limited may be in for a rude awakening. All of those cultivation and sales records that you have diligently kept and submitted to the State or local government in the name of compliance are enough to get most an easy 10 year mandatory minimum sentence in a Federal Penitentiary. That is real talk. Look it up. It is not all fun and games anymore, is it?

Most of the new era of cannabis entrepreneurs and wannabe moguls have no idea what it is like to wake up every morning being sure that the DEA was going to kick your door in and drag you into jail to face a court system where you have no legal defense for cannabis… medical or not. The movement for cannabis freedom has pretty much died off in years past, and what we have seen more recently are complacent and over-confident stakeholders acting as if cannabis were completely legal because their state told them it was. Many have not even considered that a change in Administrations in Washington could severely change the industry that has evolved. They do not get the severity of the crimes they are committing and the real and present dangers that they face.

I have not forgotten. I will never forget. It is ingrained into who I am… Into who I will always be. I am an activist. I am here for the fight. I am here to defend the honor of cannabis, and nothing else. It is still just about a plant and some freedom for me.

I know what it is like to have the power of the Federal government unleashed on me, and to see my name in every major media news outlet across the world as a criminal wanted for cannabis. I remember what it was like to have DEA Special Agents follow me for two years, go through my entire life, and storm my home and businesses with armed federal agents looking to take away my freedom for a decade. That is the reality we all face as an extremely conservative and weed-hating Administration takes shape in our Nation’s Capitol. You can rest on your laurels and hope that it will be all good. I know better. I have seen this show before. Spoiler Alert…. A lot of people go to prison.

So it is time to revive WeedActivist.com and to keep the community informed and educated on what it is going to take to continue to win this fight… and just know that it IS going to be a fight. I am recommitting to my work as an activist and a freedom fighter. I plan on being proactive and not waiting for things to get worse before I get to work. Nope. The time is now and the fight is already upon us.

For those of you working in the cannabis industry who do not consider themselves to be OUTLAWS, here is a dose of reality for you. You are an outlaw and in the eyes of the Feds, you are a criminal that deserves to spend a decade behind bars for your weed business. Let that sit with you for a minute.

As you look across your garden of thousands of “state legal” plants, or you “state licensed dispensary” with documented sales of over 1,000 kg or more of cannabis, just know that you are a 10 year mandatory minimum waiting to happen. There is no way around that. If the USDOJ decides to begin prosecuting cannabis businesses again you have no defense. You are guilty and you are doing 10 years.

Mandatory means mandatory… There is no middle ground there. Google “Matthew Davies” if you don’t believe me. Text book case of a wannabe business mogul caught up in the game who thought that there was no way he could get a mandatory minimum for operating licensed cannabis businesses. No… You really can; and if Jeff Sessions has his way, you certainly will.

Try not to get it twisted. You can try to put lipstick on the pig if you want, but the reality is that we likely to have a real and meaningful fight on our hands. So I am gearing up for it. I am putting fresh batteries in the megaphone and sharpening my poster making skills. I am preparing for the worst, even if I want to hope for the best. You should too.

We all have a lot to lose. We have come too far to turn back now, and I for one am not going down without a fight. Weed Activist is back and we will be more active than ever, so stay tuned and I will see you on the front lines for the next battle for cannabis freedom. You can be sure of it.

Selah.

 

Wolves in Wook Clothing. Why ASA continues to want YOUR cake and wants to eat it too. The SB 1262 DEBACLE.

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I have been here since nearly the beginning. I unfortunately know the story all too well. I have seen the California cannabis landscape evolve at every step and have been knee deep in politics and activism across the state for many years. Which gives me a unique perspective on the proposed regulatory bill making its way through the CA Legislature known as SB-1262.

I wrote a piece detailing my issues with SB 1262 entitled “You are all criminals. Welcome to the new California. SB 1262 must die.” In this article I went over many points of major issue in the proposal that will make more criminals out of CA patients and providers, and create a liability for physicians that will ensure many less people qualify as patients. Since then most reform groups have pulled their support for this effort, but not Americans for Safe Access. They continue to cheer lead for the end of the CA cannabis community and the making criminals out of thousands of people. It is bizarre to say the least.

In May, Americans for Safe Access put out a piece encouraging its supporters to blindly follow this Bill that would make it more difficult to get their medicine and would likely make most of them out to be criminals. The article was entitled “Support SB 1262 in California.” In this article they state the following:

ASA recognized the potential in SB 1262 early in the process. We worked with the Sen. Correa and other sponsors to significantly improve the bill, and ASA was the first in the medical cannabis field to endorse it. SB 1262 is a milestone in the medical cannabis debate in the state legislature. This is the first time that the California Police Chiefs Association and the League of California Cities have not opposed medical cannabis regulations. Having these two powerful lobby organizations standing beside patients and behind a regulatory bill is unprecedented. ASA regards this broad and influential coalition as a key strength of SB 1262, and we call on advocates and lawmakers to join us in supporting SB 1262.

NOTE: This endorsement has since been removed from their article. What remains is the following:

Contact your California State Senator and ask him or her to vote yes on SB 1262 this week. SB 1262 is a bill by Senator Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) that would regulate commercial medical cannabis activity in the state. In its newly amended form, the bill places state regulatory control and licensing in the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) and sets common-sense standards for cultivation and distribution. ASA supports SB 1262 because our research and experience show that sensible regulations preserve safe and dignified access to medical cannabis for patients, while reducing crime and complaints in neighborhoods.

It is funny when cowards run from themselves, but the bottom line is that Americans for Safe Access is still supporting this effort as detailed in David Downs’ article entitled “Do or Die for Mystery Pot Law.” In this article Down’s details how all other group’s of notable mention have pulled their support, while ASA remains steadfast in their undying love for this debacle:

“It’s a little unsettling given how important this is and how little time we have,” said Don Duncan, California coordinator for the 30,000-strong advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.

But ASA is staying on-board with SB 1262, which is sponsored by state Senator Lou Correa, a Democrat from Southern California. The bill is scheduled to be taken up by the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee in August, and has to be approved by the entire Assembly by the end of the August, or it’s over for this legislative session.

Now to hear Don Duncan say it is unsettling because of how little time we have is simply disingenuous. Americans for Safe Access have worked fr years to block the work of Tom Ammiano’s efforts to provide a regulatory framework that makes sense because they did not like the licensing agency, which was the Alcoholic Beverage Control,” as this would erode their position of “medical only access.” They understand like we all do that cannabis will be legal for adult use very soon and decided to retard that move by ensuring ABC could not regulate cannabis and easily make the transition to adult use.

Down’s article goes on to state:

As of press time, the most recent version of the bill is still supported by the police chiefs, the league, and ASA. But California NORML, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition oppose it unless it’s amended.

The DPA argues that the current version of the bill would make things worse for Californians. For one, anybody with a past drug felony would be disqualified from getting an industry license. That provision would place additional burdens upon many Californians — particularly African-American and Latino residents — who’ve already paid their debt to society.

In addition, many of the industry’s biggest and best actors wouldn’t qualify for a license, for technical reasons, such as an outstanding federal case (Harborside Health Center in Oakland) or the lack of official city permission to grow (which is pretty much every urban farmer in California). The bill also provides statewide approval of controversial new city bans on medical pot dispensaries.

“The issues are extremely glaring, and, frankly, I’m not sure they can be resolved,” said Amanda Reiman, DPA’s California policy manager. “The police chiefs think medical marijuana is a sham and look at this as an opportunity to stifle the progression of medical marijuana policy. The rules are worse than what we have now and would completely disable the program.”

It is good to see that at least some reform organizations have the courage to make statements that tell the truth.  Amanda is 100% right in stating, “The rules are worse than what we have now and would completely disable the program.” Furthermore it would make criminals out of thousands of law abiding citizens, create mass confusion at the local level of government, and ensure less people were able to access their medicine. Why the fuck any organization who was supposedly on the side of patients and providers would support this debacle is beyond me, but then I have long suspected Americans for Safe Access was indeed the Wolves in Wook clothing.

For a little historical perspective on my position on Americans for Safe Access, just know at one time I was their biggest supporter.

In 2007, our company donated tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise and literature to the organization when they were in the midst of their rebranding. I worked closely with the organization, even housing and distributing their merchandise in our own company offices in Oakland. I traveled throughout the state on their behalf soliciting dispensaries for donations to support their mission. I still respect Steph Sherer and Don Duncan for what I learned about activism and organizing while we worked together. I also appreciate the work Americans for Safe Access did when we were raided by Federal agents in 2007, and I owe them a debt of gratitude for helping me organize a response to the charges and allegations that were made against me and my company during that most difficult time. Their timely and organized response likely resulted in my not going to prison, and I will always be grateful for that.

But 2007 was  long long time ago, and Americans for Safe Access was a much much different organization. Besides the powerhouse figureheads of the organization, Sherer and Duncan, there is little remaining of what was at that time. In those days ASA got the lion’s share of their donations from medical cannabis providers like myself and many dispensaries throughout CA. They had just established their Washington D.C. office and were working to expand their political horizons to serve the folks who paid their bills. As they rebranded the organization and began to work towards doing more political lobbying and fundraising work over grassroots on the ground activism, they began to solicit money from more of the big name donors who were known to fund major projects in the cannabis reform movement. It was obvious they were shifting focus to encourage more large money donors, as it was difficult depending on dispensaries and medical providers who were under constant attack and being forced to shut their doors.

The initial shift was subtle, as a lot of the same names and faces were still in their roles with the organization. But over time their was an obvious sea change in who the organization was serving and what they wanted their image to look like.

Fast forward to late 2011, when I began to notice the most drastic of the change that I now clearly see as impeding cannabis freedom. When the Federal government announced their “crackdown” on the medical cannabis and began targeting high profile providers who donated to them regularly, the sky literally fell over there. Panic ensued and there was a call to circle the wagons to avoid losing everything. You could see it in Steph Sherer’s eyes, as she was on the ground in California a lot working to organize one response or another to what they viewed as an assault on not only patients and providers, but also their revenue. Purse strings were pulled quick by every organization in the state, as no one knew if that day may be their last. DEA raids were happening, including the high profile raid of Oaksterdam University and their dispensary. Letters were being sent to the biggest names in the game, including Harborside, BPG, Vapor Room, and many more, forcing them to close their doors and/or fight Federal charges. The IRS began a systematic crackdown charging incredible tax rates based on decades old drug kingpin tax laws. It was a highly volatile time for sure.

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As the calendar of 2012 began to pass, there were several efforts to put an initiative on the CA ballot to legalize cannabis for adult use on the heels of a narrow loss in a non-Presidential election year by Proposition 19. Three campaigns were working to secure funding for language that would have made cannabis legal for adults over 21. Money was being thrown at campaigns in Colorado and Washington to do just that, and it was obvious CA would have had a chance at also making history if funding groups came to the table.

Enter Americans for Safe Access with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) in tow stating that they had the funding to put a medical cannabis regulatory initiative on the ballot and intended to do so. The  California Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act was filed by Don Duncan of ASA and Ron Lind of UFCW in January 2012 that would have created erroneous regulations for the industry and cemented UFCW’s place at the table as the only union allowed for the industry. It would have drastically reduced who could afford to pay to play in the industry and would have made a nightmare web of bullshit that probably wouldn’t have even passed if it did make the ballot. It literally LIMITED ACCESS across the state.

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But I do not believe there ever was funding for the initiative and the entire thing was a smoke screen to run out the clock on the other efforts towards legalization for adult use.  For the price of a shitty website and a few lofty press releases, they created enough doubt in potential donors to definitely not back any of the adult use efforts, thus ensuring cannabis would only be medical in CA for the foreseeable political future. California has 1/10th of the population of the nation and by far produces the most cannabis. When a lot of the interests you serve make their money on the status quo, it is easy to see how this could influence organizational decision making.

Mysteriously during this time Don Duncan also gave up his controlling interest in his West Hollywood dispensary to a well-funded group fronted at one time by TV star Montel Williams and funded by people with deep deep pockets who had also bought the controlling interests to dispensaries in Sacramento and Berkeley, and were applying for a dispensary in Oakland for which Duncan sat on the Board and even took their required regulations test for them. So is it a coincidence that this happens and ASA begins serving the interests of the few more prominently? I think not. There is collusion happening behind these closed doors at a level any honest person simply cannot comprehend.

Here is communication from Abatin’s attorney stating so:

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Don’t believe me about their initiative efforts? That is fine…. Let’s talk Los Angeles and Measure D. Here is what weed journalist David Downs said about Measure D the day after it passed:

Los Angeles voters chose to drastically reduce the number of storefronts selling medical marijuana yesterday, passing Measure D…. Measure D supporters – including the City Council, advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, and a dispensary union the UFCW Local 770 — celebrated the win for regulations in the biggest medical marijuana city on the planet.

So here we have ASA nd UFCW celebrating “drastically reducing” the number of places for people to get their cannabis. They put an effort on the ballot behind closed doors that was aimed at shutting down the majority of dispensaries besides a select few who were operating before an arbitrary and illegal deadline was placed by the LA City Council. These groups worked in conjunction with hostile lawmakers and the chosen few dispensing groups to put their competition out of business and again LIMIT ACCESS.

I wrote a piece about this seemingly bullshit move in 2013 called “More IS Better.” In it I detail my opposition the the ASA/UFCW’s coalition to LIMIT ACCESS in LA. I wrote:

The first is Measure D. This is the MOST restrictive and MOST expensive measure. It limits the number of collectives to an arbitrary 135 that were listed in 2007 on the City’s illegal moratorium and Interim Control Ordinance (ICO) and raises the tax rate for weed by 20%.

It was crafted by the ultra-corrupt City Council who has recently voted to ban dispensaries altogether and was written by cannabis enemy LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich. The LA Times has suggested that instead of opposing all three, that Measure D is the closest thing to accomplishing NO medical marijuana. Here is their quote on that:

It would be easy enough to urge a no vote on all three, and to call on the city to impose a full-scale ban instead. After all, The Times opposed Proposition 215 from the outset, partly because it was sloppily written and partly because it set up an inevitable conflict with the federal government, which continues to classify marijuana as illegal and dangerous….

Measure D will come the closest to accomplishing that goal, or at least will put us on the right road.

Most important, it would impose limits on the number of marijuana businesses in the city, allowing about 135 dispensaries to remain open — those that were operating and registered under city laws in 2007 and that sought to re-register in 2011.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/endorsements/la-ed-end-marijuana-measure-d-e-f-20130510,0,448078.story

So get that…the super conservative LA Times who thinks dispensaries should be outright BANNED, and the City Council, who also thinks dispensaries should be BANNED, agree that the closest thing to an outright ban they can get passed is Measure D, and they are supporting this effort to severely limit and cripple the local market.

This is and was a glaring reason to assume that the goals of expanding access for patients was no longer the focus of Americans for Safe Access, and instead a shift to focus on providing a competitive advantage for a select few who can compete is their new objective. What they did in LA was unnecessary and counter productive to cannabis freedom. Did I mention that the current version of CA SB 1262 mentions several times Measure D directly, ensuring it’s ability to limit access? Yeah. It is like that.

But let’s get back to where we are now with CA SB 1262.

Tomorrow ASA is organizing a lobbying day at the CA State Capitol. They are calling on medical cannabis supporters to come out and let lawmakers know how they feel about the proposed regulations. They have walked back their full-throated support for the bill, now even calling it “controversial.” As noted earlier they are still publicly supporting the bill and encouraging lawmakers to do so.

Here is their statement on their Lobbying Day scheduled for tomorrow (Monday Aug. 4):

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It is clear that they have gotten a lot of feedback, as they make sure to state “It does not matter if you support or oppose, or are undecided….” They are hedging their bets wherever possible, while continuing to support an effort that will literally shut most every aspect of the current cannabis system in CA down and turn it over to only a very few who can afford to play the game and meet the slim requirements of the bill.

They continue to call for their legion of blind supporters to make their voice heard, while literally selling us out to the interests of the few, the connected, and the opposition. It is an amazingly underhanded effort at the core, and one I can only relate to absolute treason. There is no reason any person who supports cannabis freedom should ever give a dime of their money, any resources, or energy to supporting. It is clear that the new name of the organization should be Americans for Limited Medical Only Access (ALMOA).

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I strongly encourage anyone who cares about cannabis freedom to come out and voice their opposition to this crap. If you can make the ASA Citizen Lobby Day event super. If you cannot, contact your state legislators by phone and email immediately. Let’s organize direct action responses to this Bill while we still have time. Things will move rapidly. It is up to us to ensure we do not have to live under a homogenized rich person’s vision of what the industry should look like.

We must ensure any regulations being put forth take into consideration the current network of small batch producers and friendly patient services that exist everywhere in the state. 

We cannot let the only voice being heard is those who are in bed with the CA Police Chief’s Association and the CA League of Cities, who have openly opposed any sensibility in the CA legal process year after year. ASA should be treated with the same disdain and opposition with these groups as long as they are supporting this effort to LIMIT ACCESS and MAKE CRIMINALS out of thousands of people for doing what they do this very minute. The time to act is NOW, or do not be surprised when this piece of shit is your reality in a few days.

I hate to say it, but our biggest enemies these days are within. The people we need to worry about are right here, pretending to be your friend while selling you down the fucking river for thirty lousy pieces of silver. I just do not get it. But regardless, BEWARE OF THE WOLVES IN WOOK’S CLOTHING. They are everywhere.

The Game Needs Me and I Need the Game

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A couple of months ago I was not sure I would ever write this blog again. It has been a difficult journey for me lately and I was exhausted. My words did not seem to come as easily as they once had, and I was unsure about if what I wrote actually even mattered any more. I was frustrated, tired, and experiencing massive changes on all fronts in my life. I needed to take some time to gather my thoughts and reassess what it was I was doing here in the weed game any more.

While it was a nice break, it was also very difficult. For me, writing is an outlet where I can express my ideas and put down in words the many thoughts that run through my head constantly. This blog is a place where I write for me… not for any of you.  I dig that people enjoy my work and I can appreciate that my words can touch people. It is awesome to feel like you have helped educate so many by taking the time to share your inner-most thoughts and intimate details with the world. But it really is about me.

Weed Activist, and Cannabis Warrior before it, and Free Tainted before that have all been cathartic exercises in getting out a lot of the chaos in my own head, and putting it onto a page so that it can make sense. It helps me to examine and look more closely at the industry and movement I am so much a part of. The words I write give me guidance and help me to understand myself and my surroundings much more clearly.

So while it has been fun taking the time I spend here and focusing it in other directions, the reality is that the game needs me and I need the game.

I look forward to bringing new and interesting content back to the scene; and making people ask questions they never might have thought to ask. The truth is that there is A LOT happening in cannabis right now, and it is going to take A LOT of work to ensure that at the end of the day it is still just about a plant and some freedom.

There is no shortage of new and exciting developments to look at with a critical eye. From CBD only bullshit laws to new invasive regulatory models being supported by people we once trusted that will likely destroy everything we have built, I certainly have plenty to write about. It seems every day there is a new sellout and huckster to expose, or “next big thing” that is really just another fraud. There are also some great and very exciting things happening that deserve some love and attention.

So I am proud to say my retirement from the weed writing game was short and fruitful and that I am back with a vengeance. Not for you or anyone else, but solely for me… I do hope you will enjoy the show. It is about to get live up in this bitch.

Look for some extremely hard in the paint pieces in the coming months that will blow your mind and make you question reality. It is gonna be that kind of party… I have missed sitting down and letting the world know exactly what is on my mind.

I hope the snakes enjoyed my leave of absence because it is coming and there is not shit they can do about it. I invented the game.

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Ken Estes spells it out in video. Right on or too much?

On one hand I think this video is amazing. Ken Estes does the work and is not afraid to put himself out there. The beginning of this video is an incredible journey. Not sure about the hip hop video to tie it together at the end, as visions of the Scarmazzo case linger in my brain. Whatever you may think- feature or fail- this video is an evolution of the Ken Estes and the GDP crews’ story, and for that we thank them…