Chicken Little Was Not All Wrong… The Sky Is Indeed Falling, Sort Of

The Trump Administration is fucked up. I cannot think of a more kind way to say that.

Every day I wake up to another news piece about these assholes getting people to trade their freedoms for the perception of “making America safe again.” From demonizing Mexicans and Muslims to justify building barriers and excluding people from certain nations, to declaring every media outlet besides Fox News as the enemy, the reality is that we are pretty fucked. These dudes are willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get what they want and the results will be a disaster for this Country for years to come. It is hard to see how anyone could believe that the sky is not falling at this point. These dudes are dead set on making the Book of Revelations a reality, and seem to welcome Armageddon with open arms.

Ever since Donald Trump announced his pick for Attorney General was Jefferson Beauregard Sessions I have been skeptical about the future of the cannabis industry. Many people who I associate with in this industry have accused me of overreacting, and have chosen to take the extremely optimistic position that the new administration would just leave weed alone.

They have justified this argument by stating that, “there is too much money being made for them to crack down on the industry” to which I responded that there is a hell of a lot of money in prohibition and locking people up for weed. The Drug War rages on not because it is good for society… It rages on because there are a lot of people making a lot of bread. Just look at the stocks of private prisons, as Sessions announced that the Feds would begin using them again in anticipation of the need to lock a bunch of more people up. Law enforcement, drug testing, legal costs, rehabs, and many more industries make A LOT of money from weed prohibition. It is laughable for us to believe that our petty tax revenues would somehow deter the Feds from going back to full blown enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act.

Others have stated that they believe the new administration would be too busy with immigration to focus a lot of time and energy on marijuana enforcement. I reminded them that we have a whole department called the Drug Enforcement Administration dedicated to enforcing bad drug laws and locking people up for weed. The administration is also working on hiring at least 15,000 new border and ICE agents to manage the immigration enforcement, so they are increasing their bandwidth to meet the demands of mass deportation and immigration enforcement. Do not believe for a second that if Mr. Sessions decides he wants a full frontal attack on the weed game that they will find the money and the people to pull it off.

It is hard for me to see how then Senator Jeff Sessions could berate the Obama Justice Department just last April for not enforcing the Nation’s marijuana laws in states where it is legal, and then not do something about it now that he has the job. He stated, “we need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized, it ought not to be minimized, that it’s in fact a very real danger.” That does not sound like a guy who is going to take a hands off approach to the marijuana industry. Listen to him for yourself.

SENATE HEARING APRIL 2016

I have been walking around for the past couple of months feeling like Chicken Little telling fools that the sky is falling when in all honesty it is anyone’s guess what will happen. Unfortunately, my gut feeling is that we are pretty fucked. I anticipate nothing but sleazy underhanded manipulation from these fuckfaces that ar running the show for at least the next four years… not just with weed but with everything. The whole deal just feels super gross. It is hard for me to stomach that this is where we are really at as a nation. Ugh.

Then we got some confirmation of Trumps’s dastardly plans yesterday from Sean “Big Spicey” Spicer, the Press Secretary for the White House. He enlightened us as to what we can expect from the Trump Administration regarding weed laws… sort of. In a press conference, when asked about the Administration’s position on enforcement of marijuana laws in states where it is legal the response was pretty ominous to say the least. Big Spicey seemed to believe that there would be a reckoning coming for the “recreational” weed industry:

“There’s a big difference between [medical marijuana] and recreational marijuana and I think that when you see something like the opioid addiction crisis blossoming in so many states around this country, the last thing we should be encouraging people ― there’s still a federal law that we need to abide by when it comes to recreational marijuana and other drugs of that nature,” Spicer said.

When asked if the federal government will take action around recreational marijuana, Spicer said, “That’s a question for the Department of Justice. I do believe that you’ll see greater enforcement of it. Recreational use … is something the Department of Justice will be looking into.”


Spicer did seem to give a glimmer of hope for medical marijuana, while in the same breath likening recreational marijuana to the opioid crisis that we see straight up killing people right and left around the Nation. Dsfuck? That is pretty spooky to hear. Good to know we are being compared to that epidemic. Another policy apparently based on “alternative facts.”

This abstract policy statement from Sean Spicer is especially troubling for businesses that have heavily invested into the adult use sector of the industry, as well as those who are employed by these businesses. In California, it is a real kick in the nuts given that we just passed an adult use law and have not even begun to license these businesses. The party might be over before it ever began. It is truly scary to think that we could go back to a time where raids happen every week, and people get locked up for draconian prison sentences for operating legal and transparent cannabis businesses doing everything right. And unfortunately it looks like we all will still be going to the doctor for a long time to come.

The real possible issue that the “medical only” position that the Administration is leaning towards poses is that a rescheduling of cannabis to Schedule 2, which the AG can do on their own if they so choose, would effectively shut down the entire current medical industry in favor of FDA approved real deal pharmaceutical cannabis medicines only. We are a couple of bad decisions of: scrapping the Cole memo; rescheduling weed; and cracking down on cannabis businesses, from seeing the entire industry as we know it pretty much vanish.

I understand that there are plenty of folks who are skeptical of my worst case scenario viewpoint; but look around you. There is a lot of worst case scenario shit popping off in America right now. Damn near every cabinet position appointed by Trump was a person whose objective has been to pretty much destroy the very department they are now in charge of. Chief White House Adviser Steve Bannon state at CPAC that the Administration’s objective is “deconstruction of the administrative state.” This shit is definitely not funny anymore and we would be naive as an industry to not begin preparing for the worst.

As a person who consults cannabis businesses for a living it is hard for me to tell my clients that everything is going to be alright, when in all honesty I am not really sure of that. I do know that there has never been a better time to get your compliance documentation in order before getting that knock on the door. Should something happen, God forbid, your best defense is the proof that you are operating as an above board legitimate business. But I am honest with all of my clients and let them know that shit could get real weird real quick. Luckily I have been through the weirdness and made it out alive, and know how to navigate the murky waters ahead. We could be in for quite the wild ride it sounds, so hang on tight.

At the end of the day we are all adults here. Hopefully anyone who has decided to invest in the industry, and be a part of the movement for social change that is cannabis, is clearly aware that they are indeed an outlaw. Like it or not, regardless of how many fancy state and local licenses you have hanging on the wall and how many taxes you have paid to the man, you are a criminal. Plain and simple. You are breaking the law and can go to prison for a long long time for what you are doing. One thing is for certain… as soon as that first door is kicked in by the Session’s USDOJ you can be sure there will be a scattering of folks who are just here for the money. It takes a lot of passion for cannabis and a giant sack of nuts to continue to openly break the law in the face of more aggressive enforcement practices. It will be easy to see who stands where if that threat becomes a reality.

I hope that I am wrong. I hope we can all look back on this and laugh about that time I got all weirded out and paranoid about Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump. I truly do hope everything will be okay. But I would be silly not to be a bit skeptical given the chaotic and aggressive first month of the Trump Administration. To be honest, I am really scared shitless. These cats are serious about fucking shit up and taking names, and I am positive that my name is still floating around the DEA offices somewhere. #ohhelpmelordjesus

I have been an outlaw for decades though so what is a few more years between friends? I am ready for the fight. Bring it. That is what I do. Game on, bitches. Game on. I got your prohibition right here, pal. Go fuck yourselves. One foot in front of the other all motherfucking day. Selah.

SHOW ME THE MONEY!!! Why Weed Revenues Pale in Comparisson to Drug War Revenues

You weedheads are adorable with your darling little tax payments and your modest revenue streams. But don’t get it twisted. Your money is nothing compared to the taxes and economic “benefits” created by industries getting rich off prohibition and the drug war.

As we enter a new era of Federal enforcement with the changing of the guards from an Obama administration that chose to limit their enforcement into the cannabis industry with some vague and legally meaningless “memos” instructing enforcement agencies to chill out if the States say it is cool onward to a Trump administration where all bets are off and conservatives are chomping at the bit to return us all to the golden era of the Reagan “revolution” and Nixon’s “war on drugs.” It is anyone’s guess what will happen… not just with cannabis but literally everything. Good or bad, one thing is certain. Things are going to be very different under a Trump regime. From the way his cabinet is lining up and his thin-skinned responses to every petty argument, it is certain to be a wild ride.

I wish I were more optimistic; but I am not. Frankly, I am a little scared for us all.

The appointment of Jeff Sessions is troubling to say the least, as he has been a vocal critic of Obama’s stand-offish policy on cannabis laws, stating in his confirmation hearing this week, “The U.S. Congress made the possession of marijuana in every state—and the distribution—an illegal act,” Sessions said last week. “If that’s something that’s not desired any longer, Congress should pass a law to change the rule.” The glass half full person might say, “Look. Sessions is calling for legalization.” That is cute. What I hear pretty loud and clear is, “The law is the law and I will enforce it unless someone decides to change it.” Remember… Trump declared himself “the law and order candidate” on the campaign trail and this is the head of the law and order branch of the United States government.

To believe Trump, and even more so Sessions, is going to allow for Obama’s laissez-faire approach to cannabis to continue is naive. It was just last April, less than a year ago, when Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III stood on the floor of the United States Senate and declared, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” and that it was a “very real danger” that is “not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized.” He calls the effort to reform cannabis laws a “tragic mistake.” He has been incredibly critical of both of Obama’s Attorney Generals (Holder and Lynch) for not enforcing federal law where marijuana is concerned. In his tirade on the Senate floor last year he also stated, “You can’t have the President of the United States of America talking about marijuana like it is no different than taking a drink… It is different….It is already causing a disturbance in the states that have made it legal.”

Does that sound like a guy who is going to just look the other way? The AG has no obligation to uphold the random thoughts and ideas of the President. He does not serve at the President’s pleasure. The entire point of the Attorney General is to have an independent legal force to uphold the laws of the United States; and as Sessions clearly stated in his confirmation hearing he intends to do just that. He is a “by the book” motherfucker if there ever was one. So, forgive me if I lack optimism, but I have seen this shitshow before.

The argument I keep hearing from folks is, “NO WAY, MICKEY. THERE IS TOO MUCH MONEY BEING MADE FOR THEM TO SHUT US DOWN NOW.” Have you bumped your fucking head?

Do not fool yourself. It is incredibly profitable to arrest non-violent weedheads and weed farmers and take all their stuff. Drug task force budgets alone are more lucrative than legal weed sales. Do you have any idea how much revenue is created by funding drug enforcement agencies? From buying the latest and greatest tactical gear, surveillance equipment, and weaponry to hiring and paying tens of thousands of agents to enforce these laws, there is a hell of a lot of money just in the investigation and arrest aspects of the war on cannabis. The nation’s failed drug policies have resulted in the militarization we see of our police forces and society has spent over a trillion dollars working to enforce drug laws with zero results. Addiction rates have remained constant and access to drugs is greater now than ever before. It is a racket, and one that ensured a pretty penny for law enforcement agencies to rid our communities of these evil drugs. Yawn. Are we still falling for that tired story? Yup. The drug war rages on at the expense of all of us. But I am sure the taxes from your eighth of Jack Herer will be the straw that broke the financial back of the drug war (rolls eyes).

You see… marijuana has always been an easy target. It is large in comparison to other drugs, and is easy to detect because of its distinct looks, coloring, and of course, smell. Do you know how much money cops are losing just by not being able to search your car and house because it smells like weed? That was free money for them. They search for the weed they say they smell and eventually come up with something illegal that allows them to take all of your stuff. Oh… Did I not mention “asset forfeiture” yet? Yeah. That is a lot of money that drug cops take from people every year. If a cop can prove you used your car or your property to grow, sell, or “conspire” to sell weed or any other drug then they can essentially confiscate that property. It is fucked up really. Sometimes they do not even have to convict you of a crime to strong arm you out of your property. Dafuck?

Then there is the money made after the arrests… The court systems. The lawyers. The jails and then the prisons. The treatment centers. Etc. Etc. Etc. The list goes on of ways that arresting people for weed is a money-making machine. Drug enforcement, and the subsequent fallout from arresting hundreds and thousands of people every year for weed, are no doubt a big business. Fortunes have been made from arresting people for weed, jailing them, and then “treating” them for their weed addiction problems. LOL.

There is a reason that every effort to legalize cannabis at the ballot box has been opposed by most all law enforcement communities. That is real money out of their pockets and budgets. Less drug arrests means less of a need for drug cops, and less need for prisons to house drug criminals. The prison industrial complex is a giant machine that locks up 25% of the world’s prison population… even though we only have 5% of the actual world population. Let that soak in. We love locking people up in America, and the drug war has been good for the economy. Sure… We are trillions in debt and no better off, but fuck it…. Let’s double down.

There is also the X factor…. We allow private companies access to cheap labor of prison inmates. Does it sound a lot like slavery? That is because it essentially is, and prisoners manufacture anything from lingerie to weapons of war. Fun, right? And you were mad about undocumented immigrants taking your job. Nope. Your job was outsourced to a steady stream of cheap prison labor through companies like Unicor. If it sounds crazy that is because it is. There are more black people in prison now than were ever enslaved during slavery. It is no coincidence that prisons are filled with poor and disenfranchised mostly minorities. The drug war and mass incarceration has been good for business. I am not even mentioning hemp alternatives, though many agree that hemp is also a primary driver of prohibition from those invested in timber, textiles fuel and more. That is all big bucks we are talking.

Of course, we can’t forget about the cost of drug detection and monitoring. Drug testing is a big business. Just the industry of selling weird products to mask and hide drug use is a big business. Because weed stays in your system so much longer than other drugs, it has also been an easy target for the drug treatment industry. Just think of every high school kid whose parents have them tested because they come home smelling like weed one day, or the cost of drug testing that employers pay for in the hiring process alone. That is a lot of cheddar. But I am sure the taxes from your edible line are going to save the economy, bro. Funny stuff.

Believe that the taxes realized from legal weed sales would come at a perceived cost of other tax paying industries, as well… particularly big pharma and the booze industry. Theoretically, if people are spending money on weed they might in turn be spending less money on booze. If people can find relief from cannabis without having to see a doctor and get a prescription, then that could severely dent the budget of the pharmaceutical industry. So it is not like the taxes that will come from the weed game just appear out of nowhere. There will be certain trade-offs no doubt. Hell… Even drug cartels are pissed because their market is shrinking rapidly.

The ultimate reality is also that if cannabis were legalized globally today there would be an initial shortage, but over time supply would catch up with demand and prices would continue to fall… meaning your tax revenue would also shrink thus. There will come a day when a good ounce of weed is about $50 and even if they slap a 50% tax on that baby it will still only be $75. We have already begun to see process drop in states where legalization has taken hold. It will likely shape up to look like the wine industry in a lot of ways when it is all said and done… Some Two-Buck-Chuck or some Opus One, and a bunch of specialty items at all price points in between. But there will be some good weed for good prices for sure. The tax revenue projections off of $50 eighths and $300 ounces will be irrelevant one day, so there is that.

So you keep telling yourself that the new regime of ultra-right-wing conservatives who take money by the barrel from these industries have no interest in coming after you because you pay taxes. I wish I could live in that fairytale land of optimism and hope. The cynic in me will not let me be fooled by some meaningless rhetoric about states’ rights and whatnot. I don’t believe you.

It is true that none of us know what is going to happen in coming months and years as Trump and his band of scary pranksters take control of our Nation’s government and start calling the shots on who does and does not go to jail for what. I guess we can hope that they are so busy rounding up Mexicans and Muslims that they forget about us weedheads; but I am not going to hold my breath.

I am committed to staying vigilant and ready for the fight. Regardless of what happens I can assure you one thing… I am not going nowhere. But before you decide to report your weed sales to a government agency of any sort just ask yourself if you may or may not be incriminating yourself and then call me when you need some compliance documentation done to help you sleep better at night.

It will not be the money that keeps weed illegal and drug warriors fat for years to come. Our only real hope is social change. That we have squeezed enough toothpaste out of the tube that it will never go back in. Some may have a hard time imagining their communities going back to a time before medical and/or adult use cannabis were legal, but it can happen. And it can happen pretty quick. Remember that hundreds of cannabis businesses were abruptly closed in California in 2011 and 2012 with nothing more than a form letter and a stamp threatening enforcement. If the new AG decides that the Cole Memo is no longer USDOJ policy, then it would be quite easy for the Feds to ramp up the war on weed again. Can they arrest us all? Probably not, but they can certainly arrest a bunch of us if they want to. That is just a fact. Marinate on that for a while and then let me know if you still want to be so flippant about the coming changes in policy not just for weed, but for everything. Gonna be an interesting few years.

May the Big Magnet in the Sky help us all. Selah.

 

Not Dead Yet

What a fucking year. I would be lying if I did not say that 2016 thus far has kicked my lily-white ass up one side and down the other… but I promise you one thing- I am NOT DEAD YET.

It is going to take more than this to kill a soldier like me off, but there is no doubt that we all have a hell of a lot of work to do, as the world is changing before our eyes; and in the opinion of this bleeding-heart liberal, not for the better. But if there is one thing I can appreciate it is a good fight, so fuck you, Universe. Bring that shit. Let’s dance motherfucker.

It is funny how things can go from order to chaos in what seems like moments. How is it that one day it seems like everything is moving right a long according to plan and then out of nowhere a bus runs right over your hopes, dreams, and what seems like everything you have worked for? It is ugly out here these days, but luckily for this giant asshole I thrive in moments of ugly chaos. So here we go, and I can promise you… NOT DEAD YET.

I have faced several personal struggles this year, as I have worked to figure out who and what I need to be in this ever-changing landscape with the earth moving underneath my feet at a pace I can barely keep up with. A lot of pain I have brought upon myself, and we will talk about that one day soon. But for now, it is the bigger picture that has me panicked. My own struggles are insignificant in the scheme of things. My demons are small in comparison to those that seem to be swirling about these days threatening all of our very existence.

There is no doubting that the election this year was incredibly brutal. Just watching it all unfold made me sad to be a part of this society. How we have chosen to be led by an ass-clown who lies 80% of the time, who beat out yesterday’s news and an unfortunate choice for what probably should have been “the first woman President” is beyond me. Is this the best our Nation has to be considered for the most powerful position on earth? This is who we elected? Really? These were our choices? Fucked of fuckderer; and we chose fuckeder? Unfuckingbelievable.

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But alas, I must digress. The people have spoken; or whatever the fuck you call it when the majority of people say one thing, but the “Electoral College” of people says otherwise. The bottom line is that we are at a very dangerous point in our history as humans… and we have had some pretty fucked up and dangerous histories. The new Dark Ages is upon us. I do not know what to think any more, but I do know one thing. NOT DEAD YET!

As a cannabis activist, advocate, supporter, or provider, you should probably be pretty fucking worried right now. Why? Because you have a brutal prohibitionist prick nominated to lead the United States Justice Department, and the only thing saving your ass right now is a fairly weak worded memo that I assure you will be torn up and burned the day after Jeff Sessions is nominated Attorney General. Welcome to the show, bitches.

We are in the middle of trying to raise fund for the Parents 4 Pot Cannabis Community and POW Holiday Drive, and as I look to those who have helped us to bring a holiday to these families in need it is clear that things have seriously changed in the cannabis community. Over half of the major donors that made the last couple of years happen have either told me they have nothing to contribute this year, or they have contributed about 5% of what they did last year. It has been demoralizing to say the least, and to be honest… It makes me sort of sick to my stomach. Between the threat of a new aggressive enforcement administrator taking over the DEA, and a myriad of new regulatory costs and worries, it seems like a lot of the folks who have been incredibly generous in the past have decided to bury their money under the woodpile this year.

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The really funny part is that now more than ever is the time you should be contributing all you can to those affected by cannabis prohibition because if things play out the way they look like they might then you are going to need all of the good karma you can muster. It might be you and your family on the list next year… if there even is a list. Developing Parents 4 Pot as a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting for cannabis freedom for those with parents or children in prison for weed; those who have had to uproot their families to move where cannabis is for health reasons; and those who have lost their jobs, homes, children, standing in the community, and/or freedom because of cannabis has been an incredibly rewarding experience. It has also been very challenging.

I am lucky enough to have a Board of Directors willing to commit their time, energy, and often resources to making the organization work. For the love of the game we have been able to grow #P4P into something we can all be very proud of. We have been able to educate many, and support a lot of those who have been forgotten, as our “movement” based on this sacred plant has evolved into an “industry” populated by the good, the bad, and the ugly looking to hit it big on the next big thing.

I have fought for cannabis freedom the majority of my life now, and it has become my lifeblood. I have been incredibly lucky to bear witness firsthand to what has become the fastest growing industry in the world and also the most exciting political movement since the Civil Rights movement. But I have also seen the “next big thing” come and go more times than I can really stomach.

But I am still here, fuckers. NOT DEAD YET.

I have two weeks to make a Christmas miracle happen for 40 amazing families who have lost everything due to cannabis prohibition, and I will be damned if I am going to let them down. I will make the Parents 4 Pot Holiday Drive a success if I have to take hostages to get it done. I am not above anything at this point. I could give a fuck. We promised Christmas to 40 families in need, and one way or another we are going to deliver. Even if I have to put all of their gifts on my own credit card and extort everyone in this godforsaken industry that I have a pile of dirt on for every penny they have made from this beloved plant. #FUNNYNOTFUNNY

Yeah. It is like that. Sorry-Not-Sorry.

“Breathe, Mickey. It is going to be okay. I said BREATHE, motherfucker! Step back and realize that you are NOT DEAD YET. The Big Magnet in the Sky will make things right with the world and that things will work out.”

You just gotta believe, and I still do. I will not let the system get me down. I will continue to fight the good fight every day until they either lock the door behind be or cremate my phat-ass. It is what I do. It is who I am. #NOTDEADYET

So as I sit here with the reality that Donald Fucking Trump is going to be our Commander in Chief, and his posse of weed-hating fuckfaces will probably take our entire movement/industry (or whatever the fuck you want to call this deal we have going) back to Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No 1980’s bullshit, I have to wonder what tomorrow will bring. What is next? How can the humans fuck up our society any worse than we already have?

I am not sure; but what I am sure of is that if they can then they will.

Most days it seems like I live in an alternate universe and that this whole deal is a dreamish nightmare that I will awaken from at any moment. Yet every day I wake up and look myself in the mirror and say, “Fuck you. Fuck your hopes and dreams. Let’s go the fuck out here and try to change the world for the better… again.” I have to. I put one foot in front of the other, and regardless of the challenges we face, I move forward. It is all I know. It is who I have become.

That might seem like a dark reality, but have you looked around this motherfucker lately? Is it just me, or is there something very spooky happening out here as of late? Am I crazy?

I guess we all are a little crazy in one way or another; but lately it has seemed more difficult to be comfortable in my own aura. But again… NOT DEAD YET.

The holidays are upon us, and while it is supposed to be a “joyous” and “merry” time of the year, it is also incredibly stressful and draining for a lot of us. The world has always been fucked up, so it is not like this is a new phenomenon… but it is a new era of fucked up that none of us can be sure of what is to come.

Maybe I am over-reacting. Maybe Trump will be the greatest President we have ever had. Maybe cannabis will be truly legalized for everyone on earth. Maybe the rapture will happen and take all of the good people to live in heaven with the good Lord Jesus, or Muhammad, or Jah, or at least Johnny Cash… Or maybe we are entirely fucked in a way that we have even yet to imagine as a society.

Who the fuck knows? Who the fuck cares? When it is all said and done, does any of it really matter? Does our existence make a difference in the grand scheme of a Universe so massive and vast that none of us can even imagine, and a long and storied history that our lives are but a spec of? I am not sure that it does; and frankly, I don’t really give a shit.

I am going to continue to work towards making the world a better place and to be the best person I possibly can. I am going to continue to smoke, grow, and provide weed regardless of what the government says. I can be an outlaw or an entrepreneur, and be just as happy either way. I am pretty good at both. I have lived such a full and meaningful life in my first 42 years on this planet, that anything from here on is gravy. Not much they can do to me that has not been done already. I probably won’t laugh or love harder than I already have and I will likely continue to be a gigantic asshole with a tremendous heart. I will always be #FUCKMICKEY. No one can take that away from me.

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Many have tried and failed, and fuck each and everyone of them. Most of those who I have gone to battle with are miserable people not deserving of the air they breathe… there are plenty of those walking around for certain. Fuck ’em all. I got your “award” right here, pal. No you cocksuckers… Everyone does not get a fucking trophy.

How the fuck we came to this moment in history boggles one’s mind. But regardless, we are here…. we are NOT DEAD YET. Not even close, bitches.

None of us can know what tomorrow will bring, and yesterday is for suckers. All we can do is live for right now and do everything we can in this moment to ensure that what we leave behind for our children, families, friends, and fellow beings is more spectacular than what we found when we crawled out of our mother’s womb. Yup… What a long strange trip it has been, and will continue to be- at least until we die.

But you might have heard this before, but I am going to say it one more time just to make sure you caught it…. I am NOT DEAD YET.

Selah. Wooooooooooooosh!

2016 Cannabis Adult Use Legalization Guide

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Cannabis Landscape Overview

What an interesting and exciting time for cannabis this is. With four states and D.C. legalizing cannabis for adult use and dozens of states working to implement medical cannabis programs, cannabis is becoming more widely accepted in our society. Every day new opportunities arise and new challenges are faced. As cannabis returns to the mainstream of society there are both external and internal forces at work to consider.

Colorado and Washington continue to face issues due to over-regulation and increased barriers in their programs. Challenges are to be expected, as we work out the details to ending prohibition; but many of the challenges we face were avoidable with more thorough and well-thought language written into these laws. We are beginning to see issues take hold in Oregon, as well, as they develop the parameters of the new adult use legalized industry there. These are the laboratories of democracy that face the uncertainty of what cannabis legalization should look like head on. What we have seen in the early stages of development in these states is an industry struggling to find itself, and its voice, in the community. Real life challenges, including the inability to establish banking, has left the cannabis industry frustrated and searching for answers. There has been an influx of capital in these states using their funding and influence to manipulate regulations and laws to suit their business needs. Some of the over-burdensome regulations in these states have made the playing field far from level.

Each of these programs has their own unique matters of concern to consider, as new laws are strategized and developed across the country for 2016. It is important to learn from avoidable missteps and create language that accomplishes the simple overall objective of creating a cannabis landscape where adults can grow, possess, and use cannabis freely without fear of arrest; and an industry that is fair that serves the interest of the consumer by providing high quality cannabis products at the greatest value. The potential global market for cannabis is immense and should not be left to chance. The laws being created now, and the programs that accompany them, will lay the groundwork for how cannabis is understood and accepted in our society. It is a great responsibility to ensure that what is put on the ballot is meaningful and accomplishes this objective. There is no room for error due to political showmanship and lack of camaraderie. It is time for the adults in the room to make the tough decisions for this industry moving forward that take into account the bigger picture, and which defend the rights and freedoms and cannabis users and cannabis providers.

In order to achieve a more perfect cannabis industry there is a need to find a unilateral consensus on major issues facing the reform community. There are no winners and losers in this process of developing laws, but it will require certain sacrifices and understanding from all major stakeholders. No one is going to get everything they want in any law that is written, and certainly there will be objections from both allies and opposition forces. But it is imperative that the laws being developed represent the interests of the many and not the few. It is important to consider the models being put forth currently, and create language that solves common problems and increases cannabis freedom.

What we are seeing both in medical and adult use markets across the country is a knee jerk reaction by prohibitionists fueled by exploitive media reporting working to undermine these programs and the evolving industry. Several medical programs are under attack, and there are many issues facing the programs we see in early development in states like Massachusetts and Illinois. There is a growing effort to limit medical cannabis laws to CBD only legislation in several states. There is a growing divide of interests within the cannabis community, as these issues continue to cloud the landscape. There is a great deal of uncertainty and fear by people who have dedicated their life to cannabis. Many of these people are rightfully concerned by the evolution of cannabis laws and regulations, as the extreme barriers to entry and unnecessary limitations have made it difficult for small operators to compete and thrive. There are also notable limitations on consumer rights that have created a tangled web of inconsistent implementation of cannabis laws.

It is natural for people to resist change. There will always be a certain population of the reform community who will romance the golden age of cannabis and who are resistant to inevitable change. I think we all have certain norms and expectations that are threatened by cannabis becoming another boring good that is bought and sold by people across the globe. Cannabis is a commodity. The industry that will develop around that commodity is only beginning to be seen. We are at a unique point in history that requires us to rise up and meet the incredible challenges that we face in order to create something special and lasting that we can all be proud of.

California is by far the biggest piece of the cannabis landscape to consider in the equation, making up over 10% of the nation’s population and which is a major producer of agricultural based commodities. California is the mecca of cannabis and is responsible for most of the innovations in the industry we have seen over the past decades. It is an amazing testament that Proposition 215 has withstood the test of time and that SB420 has enabled us to create such an incredible mosaic of cannabis producers and providers throughout the state. What makes the California cannabis market great is that there are so many people involved, and there is a level of cooperation and competition that are unmatched anywhere in the world. Because everyone in the State operates under the pretense of a ‘collective or cooperative,” it has opened up for interpretation for many unique and innovative business models to serve the sophisticated needs of today’s cannabis consumer. There are many who have questioned the validity of the California program, but there is no questioning the success of a program that serves over a million cannabis consumers every day with very little incident of harm; and which provides real economic impact to the communities where cannabis is tolerated and allowed. Yet there are still large areas of the state where cannabis is not tolerated and the broad interpretation of the law has posed continuing legal issues for patients and providers. There are virtually no protections anywhere in the state for those who cultivate cannabis or who produce cannabis finished products.

There is a well-established medical cannabis industry here that will need to be interpreted and considered in any initiative effort for the state. We clearly see in Washington State what could happen to a developed medical industry that lacks real definition and protection at the state level, as they work to shut down hundreds of dispensaries there. That is a very real scenario for California, and the issue most likely to affect buy in from the community on initiative language that is being considered. There are several laws also being considered in the State Legislature that could pass before the election in 2016. All of these factors have to be considered in writing adult use language, as the two issues are not separate by any means. That being said, many in the medical community will need to come to terms and reconsider the fact that anyone who grows, processes, transports, or sells cannabis is a “collective” which does not have clear definition, and which is interpreted very loosely across the medical cannabis spectrum. We can no longer look to the 2008 AG Guidelines as a responsible way of doing business. There must be a defined process for medical cannabis patients, caregivers, and providers to continue to have the same freedoms they have now, while also taking into account the norms of the medical and alternative medicines industries.

Add to that the many differing opinions on a variety of topics, from personal cultivation to regulating concentrates, and it is easy to see how difficult the development process might be. It is worth it though. We must rise to the occasion and have the difficult conversations to ensure the laws we see enacted in California, and across the nation and world, are reflective of the ethics and morality that we wish the movement and industries to be. We have an incredible opportunity ahead to create something that achieves cannabis freedom and is a model for ending prohibition around the world.

Extraordinary Challenges

There will be no shortage of battles, as the 2016 election cycle heats up. There will be extraordinary challenges faced both from within the cannabis community and from those who oppose cannabis. Nothing should be taken for granted, and whatever campaign forms to lead the charge should be prepared to fight for every vote. There is severe mistrust within the cannabis community, and many are rightfully skeptical. It is going to take a great deal of outreach and education to sell any effort to the community, and there is sure to be a great deal of criticism to overcome. The easiest way to resolve matters effectively and timely is to commit to 100% transparency in the development process and find a reputable team of ambassadors to educate the community on every aspect of the initiative being written. If there are strategic reasoning and evidence for certain controversial aspects of language being considered it is imperative to be ready to make that case publicly and in real time before the cannabis rumor mill spins out of control. While the industry continues to expand, it is still a relatively tight knit group of people who have vast communication networks. Social media and internet outlets enable for information to travel fast, and it is important to stay ahead of the game.

It would be unwise to take the cannabis vote for granted and to try and pass an initiative without consideration of the industry and movement at large. While cannabis users and supporters make up a fraction of the vote, know that all of those people have family and friends who look to them for their opinion on these matters. While it is impossible to make everyone happy, it would be a mistake to not at least give people the opportunity to express their opinion on matters; and to work to provide relevant information to overcome perceptions and disagreeable terms in the language. It is also important to keep an open mind to suggestion from real people who use and provide cannabis every day. While it is clear that the industry will change over time, it is important to ensure the language developed is as inclusive as possible of those who have dedicated their time, energy, and resources to cannabis.  At the same time it is not realistic to try and serve the direct interests of those who are already in business and who are “licensed.” There is no real licensing for the entire manufacturing and producing of cannabis industry in the state now, so propping up the retail sector would be unwise. The only way to ensure fairness is to create an industry that is fair for anyone to enter should they choose. It should limit the barriers to entry and provide groundwork for how the program is to be implemented, not leaving important details up to regulators and legislators to work out later.

It would also be unwise to underestimate external opposition, especially from law enforcement, public officials, and even Kevin Sabet’s minions. They understand the magnitude of a cannabis victory in California and will wage an aggressive campaign here to undermine the campaign for adult use legalization at any cost. It will take a meaningful public awareness campaign to combat their fear mongering and hyperbole. It is important to consider opposition argument when developing the language, but not to overestimate the power of these arguments in such a way that creates unnecessary burdens for cannabis users and providers. There are areas of the language that will be distorted and twisted regardless, and it is the responsibility of the campaign to overcome opposition with sound argument and education. We must learn from other efforts and also current events where the opposition will most likely make their stand, and be prepared to counteract those efforts accordingly. The opposition has access to media and political contacts that have to be considered in the development of any strategic planning for a successful campaign. This thing is no way in the bag, and we can be sure those who hate cannabis freedom will be out in full force working to scare the bejeezus out of the average voter. They will focus heavily on scaring parents, as that demographic is still difficult for us to overcome. We must be prepared to have the difficult conversation of why making criminals of cannabis users and providers has been a real disaster, and a huge financial burden. It will also be necessary to heavily lobby the conservative right with a message of freedom and personal responsibility.

While the challenges of the 2016 campaign season are just beginning to come into focus, the cannabis community needs to find areas of common ground in which to build consensus. The right hand must talk to the left, and there has to be real leadership that people can be confident in to advance the objectives of any campaign that develops. The campaign will require a high level of sophistication and messaging will be incredibly important. Finding highly qualified and likable people to undertake these difficult roles can be a real determining factor in the success or failure of this effort. The team compiled to speak on behalf of the campaign must be competent and capable of problem solving on their feet. It will be a fast paced atmosphere that requires incredible organization and communication skills to meet the challenges head on.

Realistic Objectives

It is a fine line between treated like tomatoes and secured like Fort Knox. Someone has to make the difficult decisions on language that will affect how cannabis is consumed, cultivated, processed, and distributed for decades to come. While there is varying consensus on any range of issues, from personal consumption matters like social clubs and possession limits to commercial regulatory schemes for the industry, the objective should be able to provide as much cannabis freedom as is reasonable; and create an industry where a level playing field will allow free market principles to decide success. It is a delicate balance, and obviously “realistic” can be a severely objective term. It is a huge responsibility to decide the parameters of ending cannabis prohibition. It would be smart to really consider a global cannabis market and what it would take for the industry to accommodate that market should Federal prohibition end tomorrow. Chances are the end is closer than we think.

Thinking small and leaving to much discretion to state agencies has been a mistake in both Colorado and Washington thus far, and it would seem Oregon is heading down a similar path. It would bode well to define clearly all of the aspects of the industry and to include clear direction as to how the industry is to operate and be governed. There must be a reasonable exchange of ideas on these matters, while maintaining a realistic outlook as to what can first and foremost win an election. Campaigns that lose are worthless. It is important to include sensible limitations that still provide enough freedom for the average cannabis user and home grower. There also has to be a clear path for the commercial industry that gives confidence to voters that the industry will be safe and a contributing part of society.

It would be a critical mistake to allow knee jerk responses to public criticism by opposition forces to influence the language. While we should not give our opponents reason to sound the alarms by including language that could be deemed irresponsible, we should also not cower to assumed politics and have faith that a powerful campaign message can overcome common criticism, as long as the language is reasonable. Figuring out what those reasonable objectives are is an incredible responsibility, and should not be taken lightly. Everyone must understand that there will be uncomfortable compromise, and we must stay focused on the big picture aspects of cannabis legalization. What we want and what we need are two different things, and many of us are going to have to accept aspects of the proposed law that we do not necessarily agree with. But with an open and transparent discussion, we can make the case openly and work to educate people who have an interest in cannabis freedom.

The Purpose of Adult Use Legalization Laws

What are we trying to accomplish? Mostly we want adults to be able to possess and use cannabis for spiritual, enjoyable, medical and any other use they see fit. We are working to end the stigma of cannabis prohibition and return cannabis to its rightful place in our society. We want to make cannabis boring again.

Any law created should create an industry that ultimately benefits the cannabis consumer, and which is open and transparent. We need not further cloud the landscape with overly burdensome restrictions aimed at providing false senses of security to those who oppose our efforts. The purpose of any adult use legalization law should be cannabis freedom. There will be inevitable limitations that will need to be included, but we must not jump the shark with overzealous details that limit fair play in an open and inclusive industry.

We want to remove all criminal penalties for cannabis from the books, and encourage the release of persons incarcerated for cannabis crimes. In doing so, we must consider where civil penalties may still exist for infractions of the law, including sales to children and unsavory business practice. We want to also ensure voters of public safety and responsibility.

It is imperative to consider the current Federal landscape of cannabis tolerance; and also create language that is timeless which can withstand the evolution of Federal laws in coming years. There is also a matter of revenues, which is the carrot on the horse for a lot of voters. It is important to define reasonable limitations on sin taxes for cannabis clearly in the language, and limit the industry’s long term responsibilities. Ultimately the goal for any adult use legalization law is to win the election come November 2016. Finding a path to victory that is fair and equitable for the most people should be the main objective.

A Level Playing Field for All

One of the biggest fears of those in the cannabis community is that they are going to be left out of the new industry because they will not be able to compete with big money interests. They worry that the new law will create a system that is too burdensome for them to be a part of due to heavy licensing fees and cumbersome regulation. There are also those pressing to make an exception of sorts for already established cannabis businesses to ensure some protection from larger interests. The only answer is a truly level playing field for all.

It is important to create a law that is fair and just. That includes creating a competitive industry model that rewards those who provide the highest quality goods and services at the best value for the end user. We must create a space for everyone who wants to be a part of the industry to exist, as long as they meet certain requirements. We must create an industry that is fair for both large and small business owners to compete. This is not an impossible task. We see a lot of small business models thriving in the beer and wine industries. In fact, the licensing set up for alcohol is a pretty good model for adult use cannabis, where licenses are provided for both large and small batch production and growing of raw materials. There is licensing for retail establishments, social establishments and events, as well as different scales of production based on batch size and products. It would not be a bad idea to consider a three tiered system like they do for alcohol as well, with your raw cannabis being treated like beer, solventless concentrates and products being treated like wine, and solvent-based and intensive production products being treated like hard liquor. I think we can all agree there is no shortage of liquor in our society, and that entering the alcoholic beverage industry is relatively easy for most to do, should they so choose. It is also an industry that allows for people to produce beer and wine for personal consumption, so it is easily relatable in that regard.

While I am not a fan of the “Regulate Like Alcohol” tag line for a campaign, I do think that the booze industry has a relatively level playing field, and that alcohol regulations in our society are very liberal. That is what I would like to see for cannabis too. I would like to see cannabis available as commonly as alcohol products, and it will take a level playing field for the industry to accomplish that. One can hope that the evolution of the cannabis industry will be more conscious that the alcohol industry has been over the years, but that will come from consumer demand. We must trust that free market principles will prevail in the industry long term. Quality and value will overcome supply and demand. Those who compete will be successful.

Defining the Entire Cannabis Continuum

One of the biggest mistakes we could make is not clearly defining all aspects of the cannabis continuum. Choosing to willingly leave out certain topics because they are deemed political liabilities is a poor strategy. We MUST include the entire industry into the language to assure that the industry includes all cannabis users and producers’ needs. It does not make sense to simply exclude parts of the industry that are more controversial because it is perceived to be more of a political risk. If we fail to include major sectors of the industry, such as BHO or edible production, we are possibly excluding those types of products from the cannabis marketplace; and simply creating another need for black market distribution to meet the demand for those types of products.

The definitions of the language are important; and their content, and more specifically that actual wording that defines what the many aspects of the cannabis industry are, should be examined closely for accuracy and clarity. These are the definitions that will guide the industry for decades to come, and it does not serve us well to simply cut and paste terms that are outdated or inaccurate from other erroneous legislation. Each term must be carefully considered and worded in a way that will promote cannabis freedom, and not leave room for misinterpretation.

Cannabis Rights and Freedoms

What rights and freedoms will this law grant? This is the million dollar question, and where many folks will stake their allegiance or opposition to the proposed law. What rights and freedoms come with the deal? How much weed can they possess? How much can they grow? These rights/limitations are crucial in the process. There are also the rights and freedoms of commercial entities that must be considered. It is a lot to deal with, but must be clearly spelled out in the language to ensure protections for cannabis users and providers. There are also medical cannabis protections that need to be maintained and protected.

The objective is to create language that promotes personal freedom of cannabis users, as well as creates a fair and inclusive industry to best serve the interests of the community. We should envision a long-term solution to current problems and anticipated issues as cannabis becomes a global market. Keeping people from getting arrested, losing their kids, losing jobs, and being discriminated against in society is the first goal; but we must also consider the long game and what this law will look like five, ten, and twenty years from now. The rights and freedoms granted here will likely be the foundation for cannabis reform for decades to come, so it is important to get it right.

Repealing Prohibition Laws

It is necessary to repeal the current laws that prohibit cannabis laws, and replace any laws that are to remain with civil penalties instead of criminal. We must look deeply at all areas of the law that cannabis prohibition has creeped into, including public housing limitations and use by people on probation and parolees. We must be sure to not miss any aspect of repealing these laws that have terrorized our communities for decades. We must ensure there is zero ability for unfair enforcement because we did not specify the repeal of prohibition laws enough. We must be thorough in this regard.

The Need for Clear Regulatory Framework

There have been many valuable lessons learned from laws both here in California and across the nation where cannabis implementation is concerned. There are understandable growing pains, and then there are matters that could have been easily solved by providing more detail in the law when it was written.

There has been a clear desire to over-regulate many aspects of the industry both by those who oppose cannabis, and often from those within our community. At times, we have been willing to compromise away our rights and best business practices to appease those who will never be convinced that cannabis is safe, enjoyable, and helpful. So when I refer to the “need for clear regulatory framework” I am not calling for a host of burdensome regulation. What I am suggesting is the need to clearly spell out the least burdensome options in the language and not leave the rules of the road for legislators or officials to decide. I believe if we want to model the industry after other industries that are relevant, such as agriculture or alcohol, then we should include those regulatory structures into the actual language to avoid possible confusion or misinterpretation by regulators.

There is no need for cannabis to face unfair regulatory scrutiny because of decades of misinformation of the drug war. We must lay out what the regulations are in the language to avoid an industry that is beholden to forces that oppose cannabis, or those who want to corner the market for personal gain.

Personal Possession, Cultivation, and Production

What is allowed by the average Joe? How much can they carry on them? Possess in their homes? Cultivate at their homes or on private property? What types of finished products can they produce for personal use? This is where you are going to find opposition from within if the law does not provide adequate freedoms to the average cannabis user. As stated previously, while the cannabis user is a small portion of the voting public, most everyone has a stoner friend or family member that they will ask for advice in voting on this law. It is important to grant enough rights for most people to be comfortable that they can grow or produce their own cannabis and products if they choose, while not making it so liberal as to allow opposition forces to frame it as a free for all with no boundaries.

So what are good limitations? With cultivation you are likely looking at plant numbers or canopy size. If I were doing plant numbers I would probably consider 20 plants to be reasonable per person, and if I were considering canopy I would think that 100 square feet may be suitable per individual. Then you have to consider how many individuals per residence or property. Can 5 people all grow at the same residence or facility? Where are the limits drawn?

How about possession? We have seen one ounce be allowed in other states. While an ounce is a good amount of weed, why is it a good metric for what people are allowed to possess? Do we have similar limitations on any other products in our society that we can think of? Why are we attempting to limit exactly how much cannabis a person can possess at any given time? What problem are we trying to solve here? Nobody blinks an eye when some old man goes to Costco and fills a cart with cheap vodka. Does it make sense to limit personal possession amounts for one reason or another? I have yet to hear a very good argument for the one ounce deal. It would seem an unnecessary aspect that for some reason has become a gold standard in adult use legalization. Is it time to shift that paradigm?

What about producing hash, edibles, topical products, and other applications at home or on private property for personal use? Should we limit the use of solvents for hash making at home, much the way people are not supposed to make hard alcohol? If we do, we should also make the penalties for doing so similar to those for illegally making hard liquor at home, and not a major crime. Anything that is disallowed by the language created will certainly still be a part of the illegal market, but it is important to also make the penalties reasonable for violations. Do we limit the amounts of certain products that can be created for personal use? There are limits on beer and wine production for a calendar year, but they are fairly liberal. Can we establish liberal baselines for these areas that allow plenty of freedom for those who cultivate and produce their own cannabis products that afford them protections in the law?

While big business and the perceived industry is sexy and all, it is important to remember that this effort is about making life better for the average cannabis user and affording them the rights and freedom to possess, grow, and create cannabis products for their personal use and consumption. Like most other available commodities, most will likely choose to be a part of the commercial marketplace; but having the right to possess and produce cannabis should be at the forefront of the discussion in creating any law.

Commercial Cultivation and Production

The most incredible part of the California cannabis landscape in its current evolution is that 99.99% of commercial production and cultivation is not licensed or regulated anywhere. It is an unspoken truth that lives in the gray area of the law. Everyone in California is a collective or cooperative, whether you are a retailer, a grower, or a producer of finished products. Even the labs are some weird hybrid of one of these unclear business models. This fact poses several challenges to licensing the industry as we know it.

How do we bring the production sector of the industry into compliance, while understanding that most still operate in mostly clandestine scenarios across the state? How can businesses that have been operating for many years apply for licensing that will not compromise their operations as they reveal themselves publicly? What risks are posed by doing so? Is there a need to rectify existing business models in the language; or do we consider the adult use industry a clean slate from which to build?

Who regulates the commercial production aspects of the industry? Does it make sense for the Department of Agriculture to oversee commercial cultivation? Or does an entity like ABC make more sense? Or do we want to create an entirely new entity to oversee the whole industry? Or does it make more sense to integrate the industry into one, or several, existing entities? We must also be aware of organized labor’s desires to penetrate the production and retail sectors of the industry and influence this aspect of the process. While their political influence can be helpful, we must not trade away commercial producers’ and their employees’ rights to choose to be a part of union activities or not.

Commercial cultivators and producers have been left out in the cold in this industry. They are afforded very little protections in an industry that has been influenced by limited permitting for retail outlets, making the retailers gatekeepers in many respects. What we must consider in the creating of this law is that commercial manufacturing and production will drive this industry in the future, just like it does every other industry on earth. Budweiser can live without your liquor store, but believe your liquor store must have Budweiser. The cannabis market will evolve, and both small and large producers of cannabis and cannabis products must be well represented and protected in the initiative language.

Retailers

Because retailers are really the only ones afforded any clear protections under the current medical cannabis system in California, there is a certain desire to protect those interests and investments. Some have suggested giving currently licensed medical establishments a two year head start, much like we saw in Colorado. That is not a viable solution, as the results there were that many sold their interests in these businesses, and a lot of the market was homogenized and limited. Now that the two years have passed there is an increase in businesses competing, and the result is better quality and lower prices for the consumer. We should not make the same mistake trying to protect the interests of those who have been lucky enough to be in an area of the state where cannabis is allowed and regulated. Those entities will already have an advantage in any local licensing matters if they have been good stewards of their communities.

What we should encourage in the law is an open cannabis market for adult use legalization that encourages cannabis products be dispensed at both specialty retailers and conventional retailers. I would like to see cannabis products integrated into every corner of society, and not place limitations on where it can be bought and sold to meet some idealistic quality we imagine people want to see. Retail outlets compete for customers through providing great service, quality products, and good values for their clients. People who want to be a part of the emerging industry should have to compete for customers just as if they were opening any other business. We should not limit too strictly where cannabis can be obtained and distributed if we truly want to lay the groundwork for a global cannabis market. Retail licensing, including bar type of establishments, would be well-served by the regulations we see for alcohol establishments. Booze is everywhere, and most people can get a license for retail outlets or bars if they choose to really pursue it.

Edibles

Cannabis foods, drinks, and ingestible products are the fastest growing sector of the cannabis industry. They are also one of the most controversial aspects, garnering a lot of unwarranted media attention due to hyperbolic reporting of isolated incidents in states where cannabis is legal for adults. They are one of the areas that those who oppose cannabis have chosen to take up arms against cannabis, playing on fears of accidental ingestion and psychosis. What is clear is that this is an area of the industry that needs clear definition and an area where any campaign better be prepared to do massive public education and awareness on.

When used responsibly there is no healthier method of ingestion for cannabis. Everyone can agree that people not smoking is a positive thing. But there is a lot of irrational fear about cannabis edible products that need to be examined, defined, and accounted for in the language for adult use legalization. How will these products be regulated and brought to market? What limitations regarding food production are required, and where does edible cannabis production differ from normal food production? How do we manage active ingredient levels to ensure public safety, while still allowing for creative and innovative product development?

Edibles are an important part of the discussion and the language included to define and control their use, production, and distribution should be carefully considered by those creating the language. There should not be a knee-jerk reaction to provide solutions to the trumped up problems the media and drug warriors have created. We are looking for sensible solutions to reasonable problems.

Concentrates

Concentrated cannabis products are growing in popularity, and are one of the areas where the industry is seeing massive innovation. From devices used to extract the cannabinoids, to a wide array of products to consume concentrated products, it is clear that the concentrated cannabis industry is the future. It would be an incredible misstep to leave these products and their methods of production out of the language because of feared blowback due to negative stories we have seen in the press related to explosions due to irresponsible production of BHO and other cannabis products. We can embrace that narrative and explain this is the very reason we must allow for and regulate any extraction that requires special equipment and facilities to produce. The home BHO lab is the new bathtub gin still, and where it has compromised public safety is clear testament to the need for properly regulated production. Just like we regulate the production of many products, including distilled liquor, we can create a space for the production of these products to exist.

Concentrated cannabis products are also the basis for many other finished cannabis products, so it is necessary to ensure they are available if we want an industry that includes a wide variety of product types. Ignoring their importance would be a fatal flaw, and would leave a lot of the current cannabis community and industry lacking real representation. The wise thing to do would be to address the matter head on, and create sensible and reasonable standards for their production.

Medical Use vs. Adult Use

It has been eighteen plus years since California passed Proposition 215 allowing for an affirmative defense for patients. It is hard to believe that this same law still governs most of the cannabis industry to this day. There is something to be said about how it has withstood the test of time. There are also a lot of people who rely on Proposition 215 and SB420 to protect their rights as a qualified patient. This is going to be a loud and vocal contingency that must be heard and respected. It is unclear how to protect the medical cannabis industry due to its lack of definition. We are seeing in Washington State now what can happen as a result of a state program lacking teeth as it is being folded into the adult use sector. How do we protect those who want to remain a medical patient and provider through language in the law without having to more clearly define what is and what is not considered a part of the medical industry? This is a very hard part of the riddle that those crafting this language must consider. They must also consider that there are several bills in the State Legislature that are being considered to reign in the medical cannabis industry. How can any initiative filed account for all of these aspects and possible conclusions; or should it?

Is it easy enough to simply state that, “This law shall not impose on any rights granted under Prop 215, SB420, and the California State Medical Cannabis Program?” Maybe… but it best be worded clearly to really protect those rights and avoid the issues we are seeing elsewhere.

Taxes and Revenue

What about the money? The money is what is going to entice a lot of voters who otherwise could care less about weed. The idea of making additional revenue off of potheads is an enticing. It is also an area where the industry can give away the farm for real, if not reeled in. It may also be good to declare what the funds are to be used for, so that the campaign can promote that “weed will help build schools and pave roads in your community.” That is an easy sell.

It would be smart to include caps on how much the industry can be taxed to make sure that we are not being unfairly targeted for funds because of cannabis being formerly illegal. In other words, let’s not be so happy that they are not beating us up and taking us to jail any more that we agree to give them all of our lunch money. Establishing tax rates that will provide a great deal of revenue, while still making cannabis affordable and limiting burdens on cannabis businesses, is an important function to consider when drafting language.

What about the kids?

A lot of the opposition arguments hinge on the threat to children posed by increased cannabis acceptance in or society. People play on the fears of parents who want the best for their children and they do so by making irrational arguments. We must be prepared to take the message that kids are far better protected by a regulated market, and that the real danger is creating massive amounts of criminals out of our youth for cannabis crimes. We must make them understand that cannabis is not as dangerous as they have been led to believe, and that it would benefit them to make cannabis just another boring thing that adults do like drinking or using tobacco. We cannot afford to concede this argument and give into these irrational fears about cannabis being extremely dangerous. Parents should only hope that their child experiments with cannabis in lieu of the many legal alternatives in their house at any given time, such as booze and pills. The kids will be fine. It is the parents we need to worry about and address accordingly.

Anticipating Opposition

The one thing we can be absolutely sure of in any initiative and campaign to legalize cannabis for adult use is strong opposition. We should not underestimate the opposition and we must anticipate their attacks and be ready to respond promptly. It is a fast paced world we live in where information, and too often misinformation, travel very quickly… especially in cannabis circles. A campaign to legalize weed in California (and any other state) must be prepared to take on the opposition and confront misinformation with sound argument and fact. We must not cower to those who would choose to see millions of our friends and neighbors locked up every year for cannabis. There is a portion of society that will never be on board with cannabis legalization, and that is okay. We only need 51% of people who vote in November 2016 to support us, and we will have to fight our asses off for every one of those votes.

Whoever is leading the strategic efforts of the campaign must view the issue from the oppositions’ perspective to understand their anticipated arguments; and have prepared counter arguments and messaging campaigns ready to launch. We know most of the common opposition arguments, and most are sad and pathetic attempts to live in the past. Our best bet is not to shy away from the argument, but make the arguments early and debunk them accordingly. We must embrace the opposition argument as possibly valid in the eyes of the common voter, and then clearly explain why it is invalid. It will take an organized and disciplined response team to navigate the many opposition arguments that will be formed between now and election day. It is imperative to find spokespeople who are respected and capable to deliver the campaign messaging.

The campaign should also consider and accommodate religious opposition. There are many arguments to be made as to why the current system and laws are inhumane by any religious standards; but it would bode well for us to create educational campaigns that target religious communities and make the case for ending cannabis prohibition on those terms.

The opposition from within the cannabis movement is also a major force to be reckoned with. As previously stated, the easiest way to overcome these factors is absolute transparency, and taking the time to explain and inform people about the reasoning of things. We must be prepared to defend our positions in public and make room for people to disagree and find compromise. Nothing is going to make everyone completely happy, but there are certainly things that are livable and then there are areas where people will take hostages.

Wants vs. Needs

There are some in the cannabis community who have a difficult time distinguishing between wants and needs. This will be a challenge to any group putting forth potential language for the ballot. Unfortunately there are people who want it all and cannot see the line between their wants and the community’s need. While it is important to honor the wants of the many, when developing language it is important to decipher what is actually needed to make the law successful and workable, and which points are simply asking too much. Often, when writing initiative language, it is not what is included that matters as much as what is NOT included. While it is important to detail many parts of the industry to ensure the program is inclusive and complete, there are also areas that may be best left out of the language to avoid confusion or unnecessary political discourse.

It is imperative to make wise decisions as to what our actual needs are as a community and as an industry, and to make sure the language put forth includes ALL of those needs. We can then look at the wants and see what aspects of those may, or may not, be reasonable.

We must also be prepared to make the case as to why certain demands from stakeholders ARE wants and not needs. It is not enough to just say “no” and leave it at that. There must be well-thought arguments that counteract the inevitable criticisms of those who do not get what they want. If left to fester, those who feel slighted without explanation can work as a cancer within the community and erode trust in the effort. While that is bound to happen in some areas, the campaign must be prepared to answer these criticisms quickly, effectively, and publicly to limit the damage from such discourse.

The wants vs. needs aspect of the effort will require real and meaningful conversations and education to overcome the challenges posed by those who inevitably want it all, and who are willing to burn the effort to the ground if they do not get their way. While it is important to make smart decisions, it is just as important to back up those decisions with valid argument and strategic fact. It is not impossible to overcome those who want the moon, but ignoring this contingency would be a critical failure of any campaign effort.

Why You Should Listen To Me…..

I believe I have a unique position in the cannabis movement and industry. I have spent many years working to develop sound business models and regulatory framework for many sectors of the industry. My work as a provider of cannabis medicines predates most of the current industry, and I have maintained an active role in working to legitimize and help the world understand how cannabis can be produced and sold in a legal marketplace. I understand the challenges we face clearly, and have been on the front lines of this battle for a long time.

I have faced the wrath of the Federal government head on, as my businesses and home were raided by the DEA in September of 2007. Our battle with the Feds resulted in no jail time for me or my staff, as both law enforcement officials and a federal judge agreed that we were a model non-profit business providing safe cannabis medicines in a conflicted legal state. Through these battles, I developed a voice for activism and have been a vocal advocate for cannabis freedom at every chance.

I have also written thousands of articles on the cannabis reform movement, and have been unapologetic in my criticisms of many who are public figures within the cannabis industry. While my work has often created hard feelings between myself and major stakeholders in the movement, it has also created a respect level among my colleagues as a person willing to have the difficult conversation and tell the truth regardless of consequence. I am certainly not the most liked person in cannabis reform circles, but there are few who can challenge my commitment to cannabis freedom and my willingness to speak up on any number of issues we face as a community. I have never been here to make friends, but I do believe I have the respect of the majority of my peers.

While I have no interest in joining any campaign effort in an official capacity, you can be sure that I will be a vocal ally or opposition to any effort being put forth. Like it or not, I will offer my input and ideas in a public forum where all can understand and digest my position. There are certain sectors of the industry where I do hold influence, and I will use that influence to rally the troops in support and/or opposition to cannabis legalization efforts that arise.

It is important to understand my position. My goals are not personal, or influenced by my business and/or personal contacts. I just want cannabis freedom…plain and simple. I have no interests beyond creating a society where cannabis is a normal everyday boring commodity, and where people do not have to fear arrest or punishment for their choice to use or produce cannabis. The rest of the argument is invalid if freedom is still limited. I am not an idealistic fool who does not see the massive change we are undertaking with these efforts. I have no desire to romance the past or hang on to “the good old days.” I am fully aware that this will be a hard and difficult process. I hope to provide are realistic outlook for those who look to me for guidance.

While I certainly do not have enough power to make or break a campaign, I can definitely make life easier or more difficult. My choice is obviously to get behind an effort I can believe in and support; but I will make no qualms about taking an unfair and ill-thought effort to task if necessary. I offer my advice and input as a partner for social change, and I would hope that my opinion would be considered in the drafting of the language to be put on the ballot. I believe my insight and understanding of this movement and industry can be a valuable resource moving forward. The stakeholders developing initiatives and eventually a campaign would be well-served by my input. It is their choice to consider or not. I am offering my services and critical eye in hopes of being a useful part of the effort to legalize cannabis for adults in California. I have dedicated a lot of my life to this movement, and believe I can be a helpful asset in developing a law that is inclusive and fair for everyone. I can use my voice to help create understanding and to combat misinformation in the process. I am more than happy to be a voice of reason; and am committed to ensuring the effort put forth is one that we can all be proud of, and which creates a model cannabis industry that meets the needs of our society.

The election is ours to win or lose. I appreciate your time, and am available for more detailed explanations of my positions if necessary. I look forward to the development of cannabis laws that achieve the objectives of cannabis freedom.

THIS REPORT WAS PREPARED BY MICKEY MARTIN CONSULTING AS A RESOURCE TO BE PRESENTED TO MAJOR STAKEHOLDERS OF CANNABIS REFORM GROUPS IN CALIFORNIA AND ACROSS THE GLOBE.

This is a subject that we could have developed hundreds of pages on and we are happy to expand in details on any views expressed here. For more information contact mickey@mickeymartinconsulting.com. To join the discussion on cannabis reform in California visit www.reformca.org and let your voice be heard.

A downloadable PDF of the report is available here for distribution: 2016.CannabisLegalizationGuide.MMC.1.0

MICKEY.NATURAL.1

Enjoy 4/20… Then Get To Work

outlaw4life.oldg.fuckmickey.1

You kids are adorable.

It has been quite the adventure watching 4/20 become mainstream and the weed game become cliche. As folks gather at their weed themed galas and events this weekend to celebrate cannabis, I hope they understand that a lot of what they see is a mirage. The sanctioned and tolerated existence of cannabis freedom for these events does not represent the real world we live in where every day people are losing their freedom, their kids, their jobs, and their standing in the community because of their choice to use cannabis. So live it up for the weekend, but do me a favor… when the party is over commit to also doing the work.

It is easy to enjoy the good times.

There is a lack of reality in the current cannabis landscape. Right now there is a lot of easy and unfettered money running around. All of this false bravado and ego is hard to deal with on most days because I can see the writing on the wall. What kills me though are how many folks have bought into to the “we are winning” mantra that has become the current cannabis industry. Yes. On a macro level we are gaining ground and acceptance. But as an industry and/or movement we are getting our nuts squeezed in a vice; and everyone is too busy patting themselves on the back or chasing the money to give a fuck that they are living in a fantasy land propped up by the “quasi-legal prohibition lite” that is cannabis nowadays.

Anybody with half a brain could understand that where we are at right now is nowhere near where we will end up. 99% of businesses we see in today’s falsified marketplace will cease to exist over the next five years. Yeah… that is right. I said 99%; and that is probably generous. The 4/20 holiday is a great time for people to showcase their “next big thing” and where we see people lining up for their shot at the title. It is a circus of assholes who believe they are God’s gift to weed. I love seeing these cats throw their money at the wall promoting the silliest shit. For me 420 is a time to examine closely the players and the game, and for me to understand clearly the ignorance I am up against. So to all the hucksters and wannabe moguls, I thank you.

I am sorry if i do not get more excited for the big events and the camaraderie of the holiday. While I appreciate all of the people who love cannabis on 4/20, I am often left wondering where the fuck all of these folks are on 4/21 when it is back to the struggle?

Where are all of these weedheads at when it is time to do the work? Nowhere to be found usually. Once the weed oasis is gone, so are they. They are not here to be a vocal advocate for cannabis reform, and a fair and level playing field for the emerging industry. I never see any of these assholes at the City Council meetings or protests. Not one letter is written to public officials and there will be no phone calls made. Most will not put one dime towards efforts to reform cannabis laws, or to help those who continue to suffer at the hands of prohibition.

It is easy to show up for the party, but where are you at the rest of the year?

I made the commitment many years ago to dedicate my life to ending this madness. Why? Because I love weed and I am not a fucking criminal. The entire deal makes no sense to me, so I have vowed to fight this shit with every ounce of my existence. I do not expect for everyone to have the same level of commitment as I do, but I do expect for them to stand up and be accounted for… and not just for the parties.

We are at a pivotal junction in cannabis history; and it will be our voices that will, or will not, shape the future of how cannabis is allowed in our society. Are you gonna stand back and let big money interests fuck you over so they can make a bunch more money while you are still a criminal for growing plants? Are you going to let legislators and policy makers decide who are the haves and who are the have nots? Are you going to continue to only look out for you and yours while the game is rigged?

It is easy to be a weed rockstar. What is hard is sacrificing your time, energy, and resources to make the world a better place for people who like weed. So this weekend while you are celebrating with your three gram dabs and ginormous joints, just remember there are a lot of people in prison right now for less weed than you smoked on 4/20. There are parents whose kids are sitting in foster care right now because they got caught with less weed. There are patients all over who do not have access to life changing cannabis medicines. There are a lot of folks who lost their good paying jobs because they pissed dirty. There are a bunch of people being railroaded by a system gone bad, and we still have a hell of a lot of work to do to right these wrongs.

It is not about your party or how awesome you are. It is about social responsibility, and a call for real and meaningful change.

So when you wake up still baked from the 2,000 mg in edibles you ate on Tuesday, make a commitment to get to work. Find a way to make a difference and to fight the good fight for cannabis freedom. We need you to do your part, as the final battle for cannabis freedom is here now. Enjoy the party, but do not forget about the struggle. There is too much at stake to leave it to chance.

Be a cannabis hero every day of the year; and hopefully what we create here will be a world where cannabis is allowed to be used by responsible adults for whatever they please, a world where people do not go to jail for weed, and an industry that is fair and affordable for us all to be a part of.

Do the work and the rest will come.

But… But I thought we were all good?

lett.beebee.1

Complacency and arrogance will be the death of us.

I have been watching the cannabis industry march around high-fiving each other and acting like adult use legalization was inevitable for the last couple of years. I have done my best to sound the alarm that this thing was far from over, and that the wolves were in the hen house. A lot of my pointed and volatile critique of an industry with its cart in front of its horse has fallen on deaf ears; and that is fine.

The blowhards and wannabe moguls have continued to disregard the battle at hand in an effort to lay the groundwork for their “next big thing” approach to cannabis reform. Even long time reform advocates have turned the page before they were done reading, and many once vocal and great activists have hung up their protest signs and bullhorns for some great business opportunities or jobs. Many have completely forgotten that we are long from out of the woods; and that we have really only just begun to fight. Folks have chosen to roll over and take what is given to them, and there is very little housekeeping being done within the cannabis reform movement. Everyone is so busy glad-handing one another about how great things will be that any progress we see is being undermined by politicians and those who see weed as simply a means to an end of great fortune. It is pretty sad.

Across the nation we are beginning to see increased and unnecessary limitations and enforcement of the cannabis industry. While organizations and individuals hosted awards galas and parties to celebrate their pyrrhic victories, those who oppose cannabis, and those who love nothing more than cannabis money, have conspired to throttle the progress we have seen.

Look around you. A lot of the progression has become regression, and many state programs are under attack. You have the passage of SB 5052 in WA State that will completely decimate the medical cannabis program there. Passed by the legislature and awaiting the Governor’s inevitable signature, this bill will close all of the medical cannabis dispensaries in the state and force patients into the highly regulated industry established by I-502. It is a nightmare that many should have seen coming. Why? Because the authors of 502 put no real protections in place, and the medical cannabis program in the state was not clearly defined from the outset. Since there were no meaningful laws on the books that defined medical cannabis dispensaries and the many products that make up the industry, the entire thing was left to chance and not afforded any real legal protections.

ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION CALIFORNIA? We are virtually in the same boat, with the entire industry being one weird “collective or cooperative” with no real protections or definitions.

It is imperative that we ensure that the language put on the ballot for 2016 clearly defines the medical and adult use industries, their functions, the products they encompass, the standard business practices of the industry, and the individual rights of patients and weedheads. This is not a game to be left to chance or interpretation. This is reality. The language we put on the ballot must include clear and concise direction as to what protections we are afforded as a community.

You can also look at what is happening in Colorado for more insight as to areas we need to better define going forward. They are working to further limit the industry there and have begin to impose more and more restrictions on cannabis in the state program. Edible cannabis products have come greatly under attack in recent months, as the state pushed for regulations on the products potency and marketing. There is also the controversy of the newly imposed testing requirements that have proven to be anything but reliable. Do not forget the restrictions on licensed businesses participating in the Cannabis Cup too! And then of course there is the development of limitations for the state’s caregiver program and crack down on doctors that is more intense than what we have seen for pill mills that actually kill a lot of people. Awesome, right? When they said “Regulate Like Alcohol” they did not mean “exactly” like alcohol; or maybe not even sort of.

Rhode Island is also fighting the passage of a bill that would decimate the state’s successful caregiver program and force patients into the homogenous and cost prohibitive dispensary model to access their medicines. While there has been a lot of great success with the program, a couple of would be business moguls hired some lobbyists to highlight some isolated incidents and wrote legislation being proposed that would completely destroy the caregiver programs there. Progress….

Don’t forget Massachusetts, where the law was written so poorly in 2012 that it will be nearly THREE full years before any dispensary opens its doors to provide cannabis medicines to patients. Patients continue to demand access, but the state has largely bungled the process and retarded the program’s progress at every point. There is hope that the new administration of Charlie Baker will do a better job given recent statements, but it is a sad day when a Republican Governor of a largely liberal blue state of Massachusetts is more committed to their medical cannabis program than the former Democratic standard bearer Deval Patrick. Maybe his new job at Bain Capital influenced his willingness to botch the program and leave the good people of the Commonwealth suffering unnecessarily. Maybe Bain Capital will own all of the dispensaries in New England sooner than later. It would not surprise me at this point.

Oregon is having some growing pains in its coming program. Alaska continues to drag its feet and even raided their former TV news personality turned cannabis entrepreneur, Charlo Green. Arizona is trying to make it more difficult to get cannabis medicines. Maine hired Sheriffs to inspect their caregivers. Ohio has a battle on their hands, as groups set to try and make monopolies part of the state constitution and groups battle for funding. All across the country there seems to be solutions to what are hardly real problems which threaten cannabis freedom at its core, and could continue to confuse and confound what is legal and what is not. The dangers lie in the fact that one bad law from one state often becomes another bad law in another state, as lawmakers and regulators are generally lazy. The cannabis reform movement’s own lack of engagement in a lot of the programs and politics has resulted in knee-jerk reactions resulting in less freedom… not more.

To further complicate the mess, look at the big raid of a large cannabis lab in Southern California, The Werc Shop, last week as clear evidence of complacency and arrogance. So here is a third party lab that is supposed to be providing verification for cannabis products for safety and potency. While at the same time the lab is producing and selling its own cannabis products, and is in bed with other producers of cannabis products. So the people doing the testing of your product are directly competing with you in the cannabis marketplace. Add to that the sheer stupidity of operating in the not-so-liberal Pasadena and lurking in a building where your neighbors didn’t really know you, and you get the recipe for disaster that happened there. Realize that third party labs in California are really anything but, and that the labs themselves are operating in a quasi-legal environment also apparently as some strange “collective or cooperative” as required under CA law, and you can see the complexities of developing the legal framework of the industry here moving forward. What can we do to protect businesses deeply invested who believe they are doing the right thing, but really have no legal protections at all? How can we write a law here that encompasses the vast majority of our industry, while realizing the ultimate goal of ending prohibition and allowing adults access to high quality and affordable cannabis for whatever they please?

But there is no real sense of urgency in a lot of the cannabis circles these days. People are so caught up in their own little get rich quick schemes that they have disregarded the fight completely. People are ether so sure of themselves, or so fucking jaded, that they have allowed complacency to overtake their identities. Their false sense of hope and inevitability is dangerous and fails to understand reality. The battle is far from over…. In fact it has really just begun.

In a recent article by Bloomberg entitled “Marijuana Legalization Across U.S. May Hinge on 2016 California Vote”, we are clearly reminded that this thing is anything but in the bag. The words that go into the law we put on the ballot here matter. It will be a delicate balance of what we need and what will pass the voters. We cannot afford to fuck this one up. What is written here will define the industry for decades to come and should not be taken lightly. There are a lot of important issues to consider, including medical access, cannabis production methods, and public safety matters. To help move the conversation along I have developed a discussion page  at reformca.org which highlights a lot of the major points that I believe could use input as people begin to draft and submit their language for initiatives. I would encourage you to use this tool and to be a vocal participant in this process. Too much is at stake to not have our voices heard on this one.

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We have a lot of work to do. Coalitions and organizations are developing to take us on this wild ride through the election in 2016, and marijuana will be a hot button topic all across the United States. We must be prepared to stand up and be accounted for, or we should prepare for defeat and deception. Nothing is a given, and what we have seen is that some of our biggest enemies are within. There are no do-overs. We must find a way to rise up and meet the challenges of tomorrow today.

But don’t take my word for it….Look around:

“A state with so much influence and size is very important,” said Kevin Sabet, co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a San Diego-based nonprofit group that opposes legalization. “We expect a long, drawn-out battle in California — and an expensive one.”

or this tidbit here….

“I don’t think it’s a slam dunk to pass,” said Rob Stutzman, a Republican political consultant who worked for former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “There’s a lot of opposition to it. There will be a lot of concern about unintended consequences.”

Supporters will have the more difficult burden of persuading voters to change the law, while opponents can stir doubt and concern to secure ‘no’ votes, Stutzman said.

The game is ours to lose, but given some of the early fumbling I have seen, coupled with the losses we are experiencing in current programs, I am certainly concerned. Do not think this is over by a longshot. It is the fight of our lives and we need be prepared. While there is certainly momentum in the cannabis reform efforts, there is still the realization that we are one bad election away from losing all of the ground we have gained. Just yesterday NJ Governor and 2016 Presidential hopeful, Chris Christie stated that if elected he would shut down the industry and return pot to the dark ages…

If New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) becomes president of the United States, he said on “The Hugh Hewitt Show” Tuesday, he will “crack down” on those states that have ended prohibitions on marijuana.

When asked by Hewitt if he would enforce federal drug laws in those states that have legalized and regulated cannabis, Christie responded unequivocally.

“Absolutely,” Christie said. “I will crack down and not permit it.”

obama.likefreedomman.fuckmickey.1

So as you sit there planning your next “let’s give each other a reach around for how great we are and celebrate” event, just know that you are still at war. Assholes like Sheldon Adelson, who sunk Florida’s efforts to pass a medical marijuana law last year, are a couple of large donation checks away from sinking your battleship. Are we stupid to think that we have this thing in the bag? We don’t. Not even a little bit.

“But… But I thought we were all good?”

No, asshole. You are pretty fucking far from all good. You are looking down the barrel of a gun and you don’t even know it. You have let the shroud of complacency take over your existence,  and our enemy knows it. We are completely vulnerable.

We have to be ready to fight. Nothing will be perfect, but we must ensure that any efforts we make going forward are focused on cannabis freedom and a level playing field for all. Continuing to appease the opposition is obviously not working, and I for one am tired of being sold out by some of our own for their shot at the title. You can be certain that in the near future the industry and cannabis regulations we see will not be like tomatoes, so you can just stop that romanticism right now. What we need to do is understand WHAT WE NEED, and use our collective voices to ensure that at the minimum that is what we get. We can work on what we want from there.

Wake the fuck up and get off your ass already. Tomorrow is here today, and you are already two steps back. Time to get moving. No better time than the present.

Who CARERS Anyway?

Rand Paul introduces medical marijuana bill

I have heard a lot of excitement and commotion regarding the U.S. Senate’s introduction of the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion, and Respect States (CARERS) Act. From some of the blind support being put forth by the cannabis community and the lobbying efforts by folks to encourage the enactment of this bill you would think that Congress was actually legalizing marijuana or something. But that is far from the fact.

On a macro level, sure… it sounds positive. Congress is going to reschedule cannabis and allow for states to set their own policies. Wooohooo! They are going to allow for banking and provide direct access at the Veterans Administration. Great, right? It is like a dream come true, you might think. But think again. The bill crafted here, while great for headlines, will likely do more harm than good in the long run; and will not really solve any of the problems facing the cannabis industry. The overall effects could range from very little, to actually destroying the fabric of the current cannabis landscape, as well as creating an environment that is much more restrictive and limiting than the programs we see now.

Let’s take a closer look at the CARERS Act and the smoke and mirrors it attempts to put forth.

Supporters of the bill claim that it will “allow states to set their own medical marijuana policies and eliminate federal prosecution of patients, providers, and businesses in states with medical marijuana programs.” The text inserted into the Controlled Substances Act is as follows:

Compliance With State Law.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this title relating to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State law relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, laboratory testing, or delivery of medical marihuana.

The obvious issue is that this change ONLY applies to “medical marihuana.” Being that four states and D.C. have enacted adult use legalization, the limiting reach of changing the CSA to not apply to persons acting in compliance with state law where medical is concerned shines a spotlight on the still very criminal nature of those operating in the non-medical side of the industry. So while this is definitely the highlight of the CARERS Act, it still leaves a lot to be desired as to where the industry and Country are headed in relation to marijuana.

As a person living in California, it is not very comforting either. California is over 10% of the Country and probably over 50% of the current cannabis industry. Yet no one here really knows who is and who is not “acting in compliance with state law.” Everyone is a collective or cooperative, no matter what they do in the industry. They keep attempting to pass bad laws that will further clarify the industry and establish regulations and licensing, but even those are not set to take place until 2017 at the earliest, even if they were to pass today. So to be clear, really the CARERS Act does not protect anyone in California and just the medical only people in Colorado and Washington; and don’t forget that the State of Washington is also trying to severely limit their medical only industry. So the people protected by this provision to the CSA is very limited.

You can even take it one step further and realize that there is no working definition in this Act or in Federal law for what “medical marihuana” actually is. So it gives added protections to people for something that does not exist. As we have seen from state to state, what is and what is not considered “medical” is a pretty wide range of issues. So what this clause is protecting is really anyone’s guess.

But let’s get to the nitty-gritty…. Rescheduling. I have heard cannabis advocates call for rescheduling a million times, and I just don’t get it. The CARERS Act reschedules cannabis from Schedule 1 to the incredibly restrictive Schedule 2. This is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This topic came up at my Federal sentencing for providing cannabis edibles. Here is that exchange between the Honorable Judge Claudia Wilken and my attorney Tony Serra:

The judge’s next matter of inquiry focused on documents the defense had filed regarding efforts to change the scheduling of marijuana. It’s currently in schedule I, a category for drugs with a high potential for addiction and no established medical benefit. However, Serra related a recent experience in U.S. District Court in Fresno that spoke against this categorization – after filing a series of affidavits about marijuana’s medical efficacy, the government had been unable to round up any witnesses to counter the claim. “The U.S. Attorney couldn’t find one doctor who could say there’s no medical efficacy,” he announced with pride.

If marijuana were rescheduled, Serra speculated, it would reduce the federal government’s power to harass medical marijuana providers and subject them to civil and criminal litigation. “Schedule I will be dumped,” he said confidently.

It was a change, he noted, that could also be propelled by a shift in the White House. “We’re hopeful Obama will be elected and there will be real change,” Serra suggested. “This is an area that’s crying out for reform.”

Judge Wilken was smiling and nodding conspicuously by this time. She seemed won over, and appeared to have no concerns about Serra crossing the line of campaigning in the courtroom. She did, however, have one point of confusion: if marijuana was moved from schedule I to schedule II, wouldn’t there still be problems with access? “Schedule II drugs can’t be passed around,” she remarked.

Serra looked up at her, shooting her his most charming smile. “We’re going for schedule III,” he said with buoyancy.

So here is a Federal judge looking at sentencing me for cannabis crimes and even she realizes that Schedule 2 would be problematic for access. Why? Because Schedule 2 is reserved for drugs that “have a high potential for abuse which may lead to severe psychological or physical dependence.” There are intense and cost prohibitive restrictions placed on manufacturing and dispensing these drugs, which include morphine and oxycodone. None of the state programs currently in place come anywhere near what is expected from companies that deal in Schedule 2 drugs. Therefore, when it is reclassified here state programs will need to conform to these restrictions to be validated, thus shutting down most all of the industry as we currently know it.

You will not be able to have it both ways. Right now cannabis is a Schedule 1 drug and the US Department of Justice has decided not to enforce the law in states that have enacted cannabis programs. It is not likely that once placed in the hands of the FDA through the rescheduling process that they will simply ignore that most people are not in compliance with Schedule 2 standards. You can also believe that manufacturers of schedule 2 drugs and the pharmacies that have to conform to rigid Schedule 2 standards will not sit idly by while another Schedule 2 drug, marijuana, is ignored and allowed to be produced and distributed under non Schedule 2 standards. No way. In fact, you can be sure they will want in on the deal and that they have the money and resources to meet Schedule 2 requirements. They will work hand in hand with the FDA and DEA to ensure that cannabis is treated as a Schedule 2 and that the same rules that apply to them apply to the entire industry.

Add to that the prescription requirements for a Schedule 2 drug, being that a patient must have a written prescription for it and the physician can not prescribe more that a 90 day supply. It will be interesting to see how rescheduling affects a doctor’s ability to recommend cannabis, and the current get a recommendation for a whole year for unlimited amounts of cannabis. Schedule 2 would in theory require for doctors to specify the amount used by the patient and not allow for them to access more than a 90 day supply based on that figure. Also, does anyone think that they are going to allow for you to grow your own or smoke a Schedule 2 drug. LOL. That is funny. I detal more of these questions in a former piece entitles “Is Rescheduling the Answer We Are Looking For?

Now rescheduling will allow for some research to be done, but even that research is strictly limited. It will not be like just any researcher will be able to decide to research cannabis for any reason they want to. Researching Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 drugs require special ordering protocols, and can only be accessed through strict DEA registrations. Placing cannabis in Schedule 2 will tie the hands of researchers and what you will likely see is a lot of people researching ways cannabis can harm people, or why it is more ineffective than certain alternatives available.

Rescheduling of any sort without adult use legalization is going to leave the industry very vulnerable. Schedule 2 will be absolute murder. Assigning the definition of a scheduled drug to a quasi-legal and tolerated environment will cause extreme confusion and put defined limitations in place that no one here is ready for. You can all but assume that 90% of what we believe to be medical in today’s market (grow your own, smoking, most edibles, etc.) will not fit into the neat and tidy categories that are expected from the drug schedules. It will create pay to play business structure that will ensure most cannot afford to pay, and those who can will make sure no one else is playing.

The the CARERS Act goes one step further and excludes Cannabidiol (CBD) from the definition of marihuana. Huh? It is obvious that the sponsors of this bill have drank the Stanley Brother’s kool-aid; but differentiating CBD from other cannabinoids will do nothing more than encourage more limiting CBD only legislation in states. Saying that CBD is not even part of the definition of cannabis is dangerous and unnecessary. It puts CBD on a pedestal, while at the same time demonizing THC. There is no evidence that CBD only medicines are effective alternatives for more than a very small sliver of the cannabis population. This bill attempts to make a special place for CBD with ZERO real studies done on its effectiveness or viability as a medicine. It attempts to quantify it with the same standards used for hemp, implying that the arbitrary less that .o3% of THC is somehow a figure of relevance. It is not. It is the evolution of one bad law into another bad law. It is stupid.

Creating a path for CBD hucksters to virtually go unregulated is a recipe for failure. It is a part of a law that is written to appease those who continue to push the CBD dream at the expense of THC and other cannabinoids. We already see a great deal of policy created allowing only for CBD, and differentiating it from THC in an effort to say “CBD is the medical part of marijuana and THC is evil.” It is an extension of the misinformation campaigns against marijuana that have fueled prohibition for decades. It is a bad idea, and this law cements it into Federal law as if it were a valid scientific fact. It stinks, and I am fairly appalled to see it in the CARERS Act at all.

Then there are the banking provisions. As a person who has been denied several bank accounts and had even more closed, I am all for new banking regulations for cannabis businesses. The current situation is absurd. Even a cannabis trade school that sells nothing more than books and classes is unable to get banking. Dispensaries and producers have to transport and store large quantities of cash. It is a safety nightmare, and it is surprising that there have not been more issues.

But the issues I see with how the CARERS Act goes about the banking issue is with the term “marijuana-related legitimate business.” The term “legitimate” already assumes that there are illegitimate businesses. Banks were already given the go ahead to do banking with “legitimate” cannabis businesses that did not violate the USDOJ’s eight enforcement triggers. The banks scoffed at the memo released, as it forced them to decide who is “legitimate” and who is not. That is not a risk they were willing to take in early 2013, and I don’t think they will be much more inclined to jump at this Act’s definition of what is legitimate. Maybe they will, but my guess would be that as long as the lines as to what is and is not legitimate are shifting banks will still choose to not risk their money on a maybe. It is just not worth it to them.

Then it goes into the research aspect…. it states:

Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the Attorney General, acting through the Drug Enforcement Administration, shall issue not less than 3 licenses under section 303 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 823) to manufacture marijuana and marijuana-derivatives for research approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

So those three manufacturers of marijuana are the ones you will have to order from, after your DEA registration for Schedule 2 drugs as discussed above. Then you can get into where these firms will get their seeds to grow their cannabis, and what the requirements will be for researchers to access the cannabis, if it is even worth studying. If the bill passed this year it is still a year from them issuing licenses and the companies have to develop their facilities and actually grow the cannabis. Then the researchers have to go through the application process and if they are awarded the right to research Schedule 2 cannabis then they might get it somewhere in 2018 or 2019. LOL. Even then, as pointed out above, they are most likely to study the harmful effects of cannabis or why other medical options are better. Because it is Schedule 2, it will make researching it difficult and not likely to be available to small research firms focused on its benefits. But maybe I am just cynical about the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Who knows?

The one saving grace may be the allowance of Veterans Affairs doctors to recommend cannabis for those in states that allow for it. But even that will have special forms that doctors have to fill out, and which will likely be tracked to ensure the doctors are not too pot friendly. But it is hopeful that Veterans would have access to cannabis more easily, especially for its benefits where PTSD is concerned. These dudes have killed people for American freedom… can we get them a joint already?

The big reality is that I probably wasted my time and energy writing this entire article because the CARERS Act likely has ZERO chance of passing in our current do-nothing Congress. It is naive to think that lawmakers could come together on something as complex as this, but then again…. stranger things have happened. I just don’t see it. I think outright marijuana legalization would have a better shot at passing than this bill.

I am not a big fan of the Act. I understand people’s willingness to be excited over any legitimization of cannabis at the Federal level; but this bill will likely not help and could certainly hurt our efforts. I am not thrilled to have to oppose it, but nonetheless I do. Take it for what it is, not for what you want it to be.

REFORMCA.org is the place for discussing legalization in CA for 2016

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At this moment there are several groups working on efforts to legalize cannabis for adult use in 2016. The reality is that there is a lot to consider in these efforts as this law will govern cannabis users and the industry for decades to come. It is imperative that we get it right the first time and ensure that the law is fair and just.

What we must consider is that a lot of people charged with this effort do not have any real life experience in the cannabis industry in California. Most are attorneys and reform advocates who have never really bought or sold a pound of weed in their lives. They may not understand how the industry works, so it is up to us to inform them of our wants and needs in the language they are drafting.

To facilitate this conversation REFORMCA.org  has created a discussion page that YOU can be a part of. The site is user friendly, being able to sign in with social media or as a guest. It is currently separated into different categories of discussion that address the many issues facing our community, and the need to develop sound language that support these issues. It is important that we all take part in the conversation and allow those who are creating this law to hear us loud and clear. We need to find areas of broad consensus, and have a robust conversation in areas where there is real concern. Utilizing the www.REFORMCA.org site will help consolidate the conversation and create a positive space for the discussion. Your participation is valued and an important part of this process.

This interactive site is a useful tool, as it enables users to join in the discussion directly, as well as vote on conversations to bring them more prominence in the discussion. The site is a safe place for a vibrant conversation and is moderated regularly to ensure compliance and respect.

Social change efforts like this are difficult. In a state as large as California with so many different viewpoints and opinions, it is important for everyone to have their voice heard. Your input can help others to find their voice, and hopefully we can find a way to create an initiative that is positive for everyone. Together we can help those writing the language to understand the vast cannabis landscape that makes up California and create a law that serves us all well. A fair and level playing field is imperative and it is up to us to lay out our desires and needs clearly and effectively. A lively debate is important to stimulate the marketplace of ideas.

Be the change you want to see and lend your voice to the discussion. YOU do matter and REFORMCA.org is here to help you be a part of the solution.

WHAT IS REFORMCA.ORG?

ReformCA.org is an online resource dedicated to moving forward the conversation for the reform effort to legalize cannabis for adult use in California in 2016. As we speak lawyers and stakeholders are working on language that will define how cannabis is possessed, used, grown, processed, transported, distributed, and sold in our State for decades to come. It is imperative we get it right now to avoid issues in the future. For those of us who have spent years developing the cannabis movement and industry in California the words drafted in this initiative are not just important…they are vital to our future.

We must stand up and be accounted for in the process. Individuals and organizations from all over the State and from different sectors of the cannabis landscape have understandably different views and understandings of what it will take to create a legal cannabis industry that is fair, and which serves the cannabis user well. This site is aimed at creating a safe place for us to come together to express our ideas and opinions in hopes of finding areas of broad consensus. It is true that we will never all agree on everything, and none of us should go into the conversation expecting to be right on every point we make; but we must make a concerted effort to find reasonable solutions to difficult problems, Part of having a fair and open conversation is going in open-minded and not starting from a point where everyone else who disagrees with us is wrong. While the conversation is sure to get heated at times, as this is deeply important to so many of us, we MUST allow for everyone to feel safe in voicing their opinion. Please respect others in this debate.

There are many aspects to ending prohibition for us all to consider. The definition of cannabis freedom can take on many forms to many different people. At the end of the day, what all of us should hope to achieve in reforming cannabis laws in California and the world is an environment where people can use cannabis freely without fear of arrest, punishment, or loss of standing in the community. We should hope for an industry that is a level playing field where producers and retailers of cannabis can openly compete for the cannabis market without impossible barriers to entry that limit choice and innovation. The goal should always be a market that produces ample high quality cannabis at the greatest value to the consumer.

So how do we get there? What can we do to be a part of the solution? What must be in the initiative language to make this all possible? What must NOT be in the language? Where are areas we can find compromise; and what are the deal breakers for us?

My hope for ReformCA.org is that it is a place where we can put it all on the table, and influence those putting forth initiative efforts to consider our voices in the process. From those of us who grow cannabis; to those who process raw cannabis into amazing finished goods; to those who distribute cannabis products; to those who run cannabis stores; to those who operate auxiliary businesses; we all work together in an industry that should ultimately benefit the cannabis consumer and provide high quality cannabis products that are convenient, affordable, and safe.

Please take the time to be a part of this discussion, no matter what your role is with cannabis. Create an account and share with us your ideas, your wants, and your needs. As the language for these laws is developed and discussed we can use the ReformCA.org platform to organize and evolve the conversation. In the end, we hope that whatever language makes the ballot is one that has been vetted by our community and something we can all live with and prosper. Thank you for taking the time ad energy to be a part of the ReformCA.org community. We look forward to an incredible marketplace of ideas where we can share and learn about the efforts to end cannabis prohibition once and for all in California.

Fuck Your Weed Store

Steve DeAngelo, Harborside Health Center

California is a strange deal where medical cannabis is concerned. Proposition 215 is over 18 years old, and was an extraordinary law that spawned the modern cannabis revolution. It was simple and to the point, and allowed for the proliferation of the cannabis market we see today. It laid the foundation for people to not to be treated as criminals for their choice to use cannabis as a medicine.

In 2003 the Californian State Legislature begrudgingly passes SB420, which laid out some basic framework for how the medical cannabis program here works. It set some boundaries in place, some of which have been challenged and overturned in the CA Supreme Court.  This law established the current “collective” and “cooperative” loose framework that currently governs the entire billion dollar cannabis industry in the State. To make a long story short every cannabis business in California is classified as a cooperative or collective, all assumingly operating as not-for-profit businesses. It is nuts. I wrote more in depth about it in a piece entitled, “What the hell is a medical cannabis collective anyway?”

There is NO State licensing for any type of cannabis businesses. The ONLY licensing in the State are for cannabis dispensaries, and those are all licensed by local authority. The evolution of cannabis laws stems from a groundbreaking ordinance passed in the City of Oakland in 2005 that first regulated cannabis dispensaries, as the City was overrun with weed stores and felt the need to bring them under control. It was an interesting time as the industry took a very “every man for themselves” attitude and groups began to position themselves to be one of the lucky four out of dozens to receive the first licensing for a cannabis business in the state. Because dispensaries are retail businesses open to the public they garnered a lot of attention, and were the focal point of regulation by cities and towns looking to control the situation.

Cities and counties watched as Oakland licensed cannabis businesses. Shortly after liberal strongholds of San Francisco and Berkeley followed suit, passing regulatory ordinance for cannabis dispensaries that were operating in their town. At the same time you saw jurisdictions rushing to ban these types of businesses as they began to spring up around the state. In Los Angeles you saw the epitome of a shit show as hundreds of businesses opened up with no regulation; and the city still struggles to this day to find order in the chaos.

Dispensary laws have evolved throughout the state in many different ways, with regulations varying from municipality to municipality. There is no rhyme or reason to the laws and no uniformity of implementation.

But here is the real kicker…. there are NO real laws governing the production of cannabis and cannabis products. People who provide cannabis medicines to dispensaries have ZERO protections through licensing anywhere in the state. It is as if the cannabis is supposed to magically just appear.

Cannabis is a hot button topic, and most places have passed either dispensary regulations or prohibition laws out of necessity. They have not come willingly to the table on most occasions to address the issue. None have really had the courage to confront the issue of cannabis production. Some have tried and failed, like Oakland’s famed four huge grows program that is blamed for the Federal crackdown of 2011; and Mendocino’s attempt at a zip tie program that allowed for 99 plant collective gardens, which was also attacked by the Feds and shut down. But there is no license to grow weed, to make hash, or to produce edibles and other finished products anywhere in the state. Producers of medicine like myself are largely left to fend for ourselves. We are forced to operate under the radar and do our best to remain undetected in our communities. It is very much a don’t ask, don’t tell situation.

What has resulted is a lot of power given to the retail sector of the market….. the weed stores. They have become the gatekeepers in the industry and have gained a lot of political advantage due to their ability to be out in the open under the protection of their licensing. This has given them the ability to play kingmaker and use their power to control vast parts of the industry. They currently have this advantage due to an unlevel playing field that greatly favors their business model; but you can be sure it will not stay this way forever.

Think of your normal marketplace for any commodity. In the normal world retailers are usually just facilitators of goods. Very few dominant retailers control their markets. You have Best Buy in electronics. Staples in the office sector. Macy’s in the fashion sector. Wal-Mart is an obvious powerhouse. But in general, most retailers are regional outfits that serve certain communities and provide an outlet for desired goods. In most markets the companies that produce the goods hold a lot of power.

For instance… take booze. A liquor store cannot exist if it does not have Budweiser and Jack Daniels on the shelf. Sure… major retailers like BevMo can command better pricing through large volume purchasing, but for the most part in that industry producers of beer dominate the landscape. You never see a “Jim’s Liquor Store” Nascar. You see a Budweiser one. The companies who produce high demand products dictate the marketplace. Small batch producers of beer with less demand have to compete more rigorously for their place in the market, but the craft brew and small batch wine industries continues to explode, garnering more and more of the market from traditional behemoths like Anheuser-Busch. The point is that the average booze store does not have a hell of a lot of power.

Or could you imagine an electronics store without Sony products? Impossible. No Playstation? Please.

The development of world class products that consumers want is what drives the market. Innovation creates demand, and demand forces retailers to carry certain products. Every store that has electronics for sale has to offer Playstation, or they sacrifice a large base of potential customers. The larger the store the better the pricing they can get, which is where retailers can control the market. But believe Sony would get by without Best Buy, yet best Buy could never survive without Sony. The demand for their products is too high. People seek them out because they make great products. Have you played a PS4 lately? Holy shit that is a lot of fun.

The cannabis market in California is currently flipped upside down. Due to political necessity the dispensaries have been afforded with licensing and legitimacy. I know a lot of good people who operate dispensaries that understand how lucky they are. They have also risked a lot to get their businesses open and to maintain success in an extremely murky environment. There is no doubt that dispensaries have paved the way for medical cannabis in California through being on the front lines of an often heated debate. They have been the public face of this industry for a long time now, and often under the most scrutiny. But they also are the ONLY groups who have actual licensing to operate their cannabis business under clear regulatory framework.

Producers of medicine are forced to self-regulate and hope for the best. There is no real safety provided through having legal guidelines that govern a business. It is crazy if you actually sit back and think about it. With all the billions of dollars in weed grown, hash made, edibles produced, and don’t forget the lube, it is nuts to think this all happens under the undefined premise that we are all a bunch of collectives. This collective makes the weed. This collective produces finished products from the weed. This other collective distributes it to another collective that sells it. It is mind boggling. On most days I am not sure how we made it this far. It is both beautiful in its lack of definition and mind numbing all at the same time. But the bottom line is that the entire production sector has no licensing to legitimize their efforts.

So here is the rub…. A lot of the conversation being had about the upcoming ballot initiative being developed for 2016 is aimed at protecting the interests of people who have licensed businesses. These groups believe they deserve a two year window after legalization where only they can compete in the marketplace. They want to adopt the same principle that we saw happen in Colorado where only medical licensed businesses could operate for the first two years. You know how that worked out there? Recreational weed prices have stayed relatively inflated and most of these businesses who got the head start have sold out to the highest bidder and no longer even operate the businesses.

The distinctly unlevel playing field has done nothing to help the end user realize higher quality or better value. It has simply enabled a select few to manipulate the market and has given way to unsavory business practices where competitors work to undermine one another. It has been anything but a free market. Now that the two year mark was passed at the end of last year we will see more businesses compete for market share, and an increase supply will result in lower prices and higher quality offerings. It will be good for everyone who smokes weed.

If the influential dispensaries have their way, we will see a repeat of this mistake here in California. But because they are the only one’s who will be licensed, they will also attempt to control the production sector through increased vertical integration, while locking out many growers and manufacturers of cannabis products. It would be a swift kick in the nuts to people who have risked everything to provide high quality medicines through the collective scheme over the years with no real protection. It will give further advantage to the lucky few who happen to open in areas that have decided to allow for their use, while shunning those in less tolerant parts of the state. It will pigeonhole a lot of the industry into a very few pockets, and will create a more defined oligopoly than we see right now. It is unacceptable.

In all reality, fuck your weed store.

If you truly love cannabis and freedom the only obvious answer is a truly level playing field. No one deserves an advantage cemented into a law through barriers for others. Your advantage is that you have been operating in the marketplace for a number of years. You do not deserve special treatment. What you deserve is the right to exist and compete in an open and free market where you provide great products and services at a good value, and customers go to you because you are the best. Not because you are their only option due to restrictive licensing and permitting schemes.

You are not going to use your good fortune to lock us out of the market. Miss me on that shit. If you are so great then consumers will reward you with their business. But the days of the retailers having a stranglehold on this industry are coming to an end. People who produce great weed and desirable products will command their share of the market, and begin to dictate what supply and demand is. Your subpar weed for too much money will no longer even be on the menu. You will either have to step your game up or get trampled by better offerings at greater values. It is free market principles that will decide who succeeds and who fails.

It is funny to see those who have claimed to fight for prohibition for many years now begin to circle the wagons and lobby for prohibitive barriers in the process to protect their interests. What is even sadder is that they do not have the courage and confidence to believe they can be successful in a truly free market. But it is the only answer. We cannot continue to believe that further limitation will somehow protect our romantic views of what the industry should look like. What the industry should look like is yet to be determined, and strangling that process through delays and restrictions is not going to work.

I hope that the individuals crafting any language here in California or other states consider the realities, and do not cater to these well-funded interests from within our industry. Everyone deserves the right to compete for the exploding weed market. No one deserves the right to segment and control certain parts of the market just because they have been standing around the longest and happened to be at the right place at the right time.

What will benefit the cannabis user and create the real legalization principles we have all fought so diligently for is an absolute free market. At some point we must look beyond our small world and understand how large a global cannabis market is, and allow the industry to begin to meet those demands through innovation and competition. Anything less is just uncivilized.

Now is not the time for us to become the prohibitionists. I believe in myself and my products, and know I can compete with anyone. I am not scared of the future. I welcome it with open arms and you should too.

What You Want and What you Need May Be Two Different Things

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The process for legalizing cannabis in many states for the 2016 election has begun, and it is shaping up to be quite the clusterfuck. Don’t get it twisted. This is going to be a long and difficult process. To be clear, I do not envy any of the groups who are throwing their hat in the ring to try and develop and get language on the ballot that we can all agree on. The reality is that will just never happen.

Just looking at the California landscape is enough to make you want to shoot yourself in the face… much less Massachusetts, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, Maine, and maybe even Missouri. But there is no questioning that California is the biggest, and most difficult, piece of the puzzle. Why? Because the toothpaste is already out of the tube here in California and putting it back in anyway whatsoever is going to ruffle some feathers. There are literally hundreds of thousands of people who make their living producing and distributing cannabis here in the Golden State. We are coming up on 20 years of medical cannabis infrastructure that has become an entrenched part of the landscape and political process here. No one is giving up what they have worked to build easily and there is real fear that bad language could topple most of the people working in the industry now, leaving a system in place that is neither fair or a workable solution.

The mistrust and infighting has already begun. It is only going to get louder and more pronounced as time goes on.

There is a group trying to develop a campaign module called Reform CA, comprised of Prop. 19 holdovers and those who believe they have some authority to speak on behalf of the industry in California because they have been standing around the longest. It is anything but an open and transparent process though, as even a well-known asshole like me has been left in the dark about what exactly they are up to. The idea is simple. They believe if they can show they have a coalition of major stakeholders on board they believe the big money funders will run the campaign through them. But this group is already fraught with major issues. They do not trust this other group ,and are aligned with this guy who is talking shit about that guy. It is the same old song and dance.

Add to that the fact that they were not even savvy enough to lock down their own domain names going in, as I personally own www.reformca.org and .info, and you can see how this might turn out to be another half-hearted ill-conceived plan of doing the same old thing and expecting different results. I plan on using the reform.org domain to set up an interactive site where people can come together to and share ideas as to what the language for California should be. Talk about a daunting task, but as painful and difficult as having this conversation is going to be, it is a necessary exercise in order to hopefully find language we can all live with.

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ReformCA.org will be developed into an ongoing dialogue concernng the upcoming legalization efforts in California

The Reform CA group held a conference in Oakland the other day that sort of summed up the whole deal for me. The egos and wannabe cannabis rockstars all gathered in a room to tout their theories on what we needed to do to be successful. They discussed how we were going to use different platforms to get the message out and how we could learn from the efforts in other states. It all seemed fair enough until the Keynote Speaker and former Proposition 215 operative Bill Zimmerman took the stage and basically told the entire crowd of over 100 stakeholders how their input did not really matter because the Drug Policy Alliance was running the show, and they should all just shut the fuck up and fall into place now before they got crushed in the process. Needless to say, that did not sit well with most of the people in the room who had dedicated varying portions of their lives to weed and California.

Now Bill Zimmerman told some people who confronted him that he was there speaking on DPA’s behalf, a claim which Drug Policy Alliance representatives adamantly denied when questioned about Zimmerman’s aggressive and inflammatory remarks. It is unclear whether that fact was a miscommunication on Zimmerman’s part, or an afterthought, given that his speech was widely rejected and seen as a lightning rod of criticism for the DPA effort.

I will be the first to say that I like Drug Policy Alliance, for better or worse. I think of all the groups at the table DPA is a quality organization with good leadership that tries to do the right thing. I dig Ethan Nadelmann, and most of the people who work for DPA. I also understand that, like Zimmerman was trying to convey, DPA has a lot of resources and ability to make the effort a reality and get a good law on the ballot for us to be successful. Where I depart from Bill Z is in the area of input and attempted consensus. After discussing the matter in brief with figureheads at DPA, I was assured that they would be soliciting input from the community that they had worked so closely with for over 20 years.

That being said, there was also real doubt by DPA that any real consensus could be found, as their initial input with respected members of the cannabis community had resulted in a wide array of input and ideas on how to best implement a law that ends prohibition and ensures an industry we all can live with. The fact is that there is never going to be language that meets the needs and desires of everyone involved in the weed game in California. It is too vast and too evolved to give everyone everything they want. It ain’t gonna happen.

The reality we all need to face is that we are not going to get a perfect law that is super-duper for everyone. What we must figure out is not what we WANT, but more so what we NEED. I would love to have a law where every adult in California could grow 100 plants and do whatever they want with their harvest with no taxes or need for a commercial licensing structure. But that is not a political reality, and no one putting up several million dollars for the campaign is going to get behind something that is a gamble at the ballot box. If we want to put a law like that on the ballot we better start putting all of our money in a hat and putting it on the ballot ourselves. I can tell you that is not going to happen. I have been in the industry working on fundraising and whatnot for a long time, and I can tell you that it is not going to work out. There is so much mistrust and deceit in the ranks of the cannabis movement that getting the folks who may collectively have the money to pull off such a feat on the same page is impossible. The last person to put his million dollars where his mouth was was Richard Lee, and everyone damn near crucified the guy for trying to make Prop. 19 law because they feared how it would affect their bottom line. Richard Lee has been noticeably absent from the 2016 process thus far.

People need to come down off of “Mount I am Always Right” and begin to look deeply at the politics and social norms that govern our society where cannabis is concerned. We must put aside our “my way or the highway” points of view and begin to understand that we are not going to get a perfect law. We must begin to decide what we NEED to continue to be successful and build a community of cannabis producers and providers, while realizing that we may have to concede some of what we WANT in an effort to do so.

How do we come up with characteristics of a law that creates a level and fair playing field for all, while still  preserving a lot of the industry that currently serves millions of cannabis users well? What can we live with? What is unacceptable? Where are areas we need to be progressive and forward thinking? And where are areas we might want to take a more conservative approach?

It is a difficult task for anyone to take on alone, and at the end of the day some people will be ultimately butthurt no matter what is decided upon. There are many different policy wonks and outlaws working on ways to fuck the football, and the discourse is sure to get ugly at times. But ugly is part of the process. Long and drawn out difficult discussions may seem tedious and unproductive, but they are actually where we normally make most of our progress. Sometimes it takes a pointed and volatile discussion to ensure everyone is heard. At times it will be contentious. People will get called names and there will be loaded questions to answer. But we must put it all on the table and get it out of our systems so that we may grow.

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I am on the edge of my seat as I watch it all develop. The show has just begun and there are already some interesting fireworks popping off between the reformers. I am preparing for the fight, and finding ways to make my voice be heard in the process. Obviously when you are thought of as the resident industry asshole it is difficult to get a seat at the table; but I know how I can influence the conversation and look forward to my role as a provider of information and direction. Whether anyone will listen to me is yet to be seen, but that has never stopped me from making my voice heard… and I would suggest others do the same. Stand up and be accounted for, or do not be surprised if you are run right over.

I do not subscribe to the type of blind allegiance Bill Zimmerman chose to spout off to the crowd the other day. It was short-sighted and disregarded the hard work and opinions of those who have been on the ground making the cannabis industry and movement a reality. I was pleased to hear that DPA disowned him and his hyperbolic bulshit and were committed to working with the community where that was possible.

The other assholes who think they are holding some power in this deal are just as big of pricks IMO… they just did not have the balls to project their rhetoric over a microphone in a room of advocates and stakeholders. It doesn’t mean they are any less guilty of undermining the process though. Whether it is DPA, MPP, NORML, ASA, or a loose coalition made up of weirdos from all of these groups and then some, there is a definite aura of cloak and dagger bullshit already beginning to happen. It is frustrating to say the least, but not surprising. I have been watching this pissing contest for decades now, and it is only more pronounced now that so much is at stake.

I will say that of all the powers at be at the table I am comfortable with Drug Policy Alliance for the most part, if they are sincere in their willingness to take input and craft language based on the realities on the ground in California. That being said, if they propose language that resembles the piece of shit they submitted to the California Secretary of State for consideration in 2014 that support will erode quickly. But hopefully given the victories in Oregon and Alaska coupled with the issues we have seen in Washington and Colorado, DPA will go back to the drawing board and come up with language that we all can live with. I am somewhat optimistic of that.

We, as a community, need to figure out what it s we NEED though. Not what we WANT or believe in our little self-centered worlds we deserve, but WHAT DO WE NEED? What are the basic rights and freedoms that this language should include to ensure we all have an opportunity to be a part of the future of the cannabis industry? What are possibilities and what are non-starters? What can we live with and what is entirely unacceptable?

Then we have to figure out how to mold that into a cohesive message that can influence those who will be writing the language on our behalf. As much as I appreciate and respect the suits and academics that make up most of the policy organizations, the reality is that not one of them has ever grown or sold an ounce of weed in their lives. They do not drive around with a trunk full of turkey bags making sure the crop gets to the end user. They have never made an edible or blasted a gram of wax. They just do not get what it takes to make up this vibrant community of outlaws an entrepreneurs. So it is up to us to get that message of what we NEED to those who will likely be putting forth the ballot initiative that will govern and define our industry for decades to come.

That is the challenge. So go look yourself in the mirror and have a long heart-to-heart conversation with yourself as to what you NEED, and fuck what you want. That is irrelevant for the most part, and not likely to do anything more than frustrate you in the end. Know going in that we will all be disappointed in one way or another, and hopefully, at the end of the day, we can find some sort of broad consensus for what will eventually become law in California, and the many other states working to make weed legal for adults to use for whatever they please. Know it will be a tough and contentious process, and that is okay. It is okay for us to agree to disagree on some points, as long as we can find some middle ground in areas of great importance.

I am not one to roll over and go quietly; but I also realize that I am one nobody in a sea of somebodies who has an opinion that is just that… an opinion. You can be sure you will hear that opinion repeatedly between now and election day 2016, but even I know that there are certain inevitabilities that I need to come to terms with and get over if this is all going to work out. I would suggest you also climb down off of your high horse and look at the situation through realistic, and not rose-colored, lenses.

The fight is sure to get ugly, and I am okay with that as long as at the end of the day we find a solution we can all live with. Selah.