Is rescheduling the answer we are looking for?

According to Americans for Safe Access Chief Counsel, Joe Elford, “medical marijuana patients will finally get their day in court.” The group will present to the US Court of Appeal scientific evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt that cannabis does indeed have medical value.

As with any court case and legal decision there is bound to be a winner and a loser. If the government wins (again) then the court will decide that cannabis has no medical value. That seems like a far stretch to make, but we have not made it through decades of disastrous prohibition without lies and misinformation, so I would not be a complete surprise. But the other option, the court deciding to reschedule cannabis as a medicine, could be a more interesting dilema for the weed community.

Here is an article from the Wall Street Journal on the court case:

Appeals Court to Consider Benefits of Medical Marijuana

By Sam Favate

Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2012/10/08/appeals-court-to-consider-theraputic-value-of-medical-marijuana/

For the first time in 20 years, a federal court will review scientific evidence on the therapeutic value of marijuana, as a legal challenge by a group of doctors, medical professionals and patients makes its way to the U.S. court of appeals in Washington, D.C., next week.

Americans for Safe Access is hoping the challenge will change the government’s classification of marijuana from a dangerous drug with no medical benefits, the Guardian reported. Other groups, such as the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the Federation of American Scientists and the American Academy of Family Physicians support either medical access to marijuana or its reclassification to one that has a medical benefit.

“Medical marijuana patients are finally getting their day in court,” Joe Elford, chief counsel for ASA, told the Guardian. “This is a rare opportunity for patients to confront politically motivated decision-making with scientific evidence of marijuana’s medical efficacy.”

Last year, the Drug Enforcement Agency rejected the ASA’s petition to reschedule marijuana, saying there wasn’t substantial evidence the drug should be removed from schedule 1. The DEA cited a five-year-old assessment from the Department of Health and Human Services that said there was no consensus in the medical community on the medical applications of marijuana.

In its reply brief, the ASA says the criteria used by the DEA and HHS to determine scheduling are flawed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will hear arguments in the case on Oct. 16.

So the question I ask now is the same question I have been asking for many moons, “If we win, then what is next?”

Does anyone believe that if cannabis is rescheduled to the equivalent of Vicodin (Schedule 3), or Marinol aka Dronabinol (Schedule 3), or even schedule 4 or 5, that patients will be able to grow a garden of cannabis to use as a medicine? Does anyone believe that the current means of access that we have in limited states would continue with little to no changes in the system? Do we believe that after cannabis is turned over to the “bringing a new drug to market” folks that a.) raw cannabis will be an option; b.) that smoked cannabis will be an option; and/or c.) that anyone but a heavily licensed corporation with the money to jump through the hoops of government regulation will be able to produce and provide cannabis for medical use?

Those are all very fair questions. Of course it is necessary to reschedule cannabis as a medicine, and maybe, if cannabis is rescheduled, taken out of the hands of the people, and the current quasi-legal systems in limited states are shut down in favor of pharmaceutical weed, the cannabis community can begin to focus more on ending the mass incarceration of our neighbors for weed, and focus our fight on ending prohibition for adult use once and for all. Maybe if our hand is forced to quit pretending everyone is sick to grow weed because the only way to get medical weed might be from an approved government overseen resource, people will get back to the basis of this battle for cannabis freedom….freedom.

Medicalization is not real freedom. It is actually the second most strict form of prohibition. Think about it.

So while I see many in the community rejoicing this opportunity to bring cannabis to the scheduled drug table, I just do not see what all of the excitement is about. To me, I think watching the industry that has developed for patients and providers evolve into a shell of itself overrun by big business is very sad. I think rescheduling without adult use legalization leaves us MUCH more vulnerable than we are right now. While it will allow for patients in areas with no access to possibly have access to some form of non-smoked cannabis medicine, likely extracted in some form,  it may also be a sea change for the hundreds of thousands of patients who now do have safe and convenient access to a variety of whole plant and smokeable medicines.

So what is the answer? The answer is adult use legalization. It always has been. We have focused a lot of time, energy and resources pushing for rescheduling to justify the medicalization of cannabis, and somewhere in that battle we have forgot that rescheduling does not really do much to solve the actual problem of taking people to jail for weed. In fact, it could increase substantially the people going to jail for weed, as the companies that invest an average of $1.3 billion to bring a new drug to market will likely demand stricter control on the ground to protect their market share. If any person or group is truly for patients having more access to less expensive cannabis, then legalization is a no brainer. If people who continually preach about the safety and efficacy of cannabis really believe that we need a whole new pharmaceutical system in pace to assure cannabis is safe, then I am not sure we are talking about the same plant.

But maybe I am wrong. Maybe cannabis will be rescheduled and the government will concede that people should be allowed to grow their own, purchase it from a locally run dispensary or collective, and that everyone should blast a fat dab. Who knows? What I do know is that I am no nearly as excited as some who are out taking the usual premature victory lap.

Being better today than we were yesterday…

The epic battle for cannabis freedom was waged many years ago. Over the decades of cannabis prohibition, those charged with defending the honor of the cannabis plant have failed to win the war, and to return cannabis to its rightful place as a safe, enjoyable, and helpful resource. We have failed to stop the militarization of our police forces and the mass incarceration of our fellow man. We have allowed the propaganda of those who profit off of the drug war to overcome the sensibility of a nation and the world. To this point, we have ultimately failed.

That can be a tough pill to swallow. For those of us that have been standing around the cannabis reform water-cooler for many many years, it is difficult to understand that we have FAILED to make a real difference, and that we continue to see record number of arrests and people losing their standing in the community for weed. It is a terrible injustice that we have failed to put an end to before hundreds of thousands of lives have been destroyed.

Let that sit with you a minute. Let that resonate in that big brain of yours. Even the latest tracking polls that show 50% or more of Americans now support cannabis freedom still means we have failed to reach half of the people with a message that is really a no-brainer.

Cannabis prohibition is not working. There is more cannabis available than ever. We lock up 5x more people than the rest of the world, many for weed. We have wasted a trillion dollars. We have ruined the lives of innumerable good people. We have created a very dangerous black market for weed. We have enslaved mostly poor people in prison work camps with draconian mandatory minimum sentencing laws for weed. Cannabis prohibition is EVIL.

That is a pretty easy argument to make that should convince MOST (like 80-90%) sensible-minded people that it is time to take a new direction. But we have failed to deliver that message apparently, as we can barely scrape the 50% mark.

So what has gone wrong? Why can our message get no traction? Where have WE gone wrong in making our case to the masses? Why can’t we figure out how to end this madness by making a clear and concise case for reform? How do we continue to let evil policies undercut the fabric of our society and bankrupt our communities?

If we can begin to understand where we have failed in the past, chances are we can right the ship and make REAL and MEANINGFUL progress in the future. We have the opportunity to make things right. We CAN do this. But it will take a good dose of truth and self-examination for us to understand where we have failed, so that we can not fail in the future. We could use a moment of self-purification in the cannabis movement. We need to take a moment to step back and acknowledge that we have messed some things up, and to develop sound strategies for not making those same mistakes going forward.

We CAN be better today than we were yesterday. It is possible; but if we continue to do the same shit for another few decades we should not wonder why it is not working. It will not work because we did not take the time to make it work. It will be us who are to blame for allowing ego and bravado to overcome justice and morality. It will be us who did not give enough, or dedicate ourselves enough, to make the difference.

We are better than this. The cannabis plant deserves better than the current situation will allow. If we are truly committed to making cannabis legal for adults to use as they please, then we have a lot of hard work to do. The task is far from impossible, but it will take great sacrifice and compromise within the community.

Yesterday is gone and there is no bringing that back. But today is here and we owe it to ourselves to take a closer look at what we MUST do to finally end this thing once and for all. I am open for that discussion, hopefully sooner than later. There is no “I” in freedom…..

Why I am a weed activist…

It is not like I woke up one day and decided I wanted to spend the rest of my life fighting for cannabis freedom (I hope not). My involvement with cannabis goes back decades. It was love at first puff. I remember the overwhelming sensation and the way it put my busy mind at ease. It was like I was finally home.

I was a ripe age of twelve standing by the creek behind my house with my best friend. We scored some weed from an older kid, and rolled our first poorly crafted joint, with two papers for good measure. I remember instantly the change of hemisphere for me. I was a Ritalin baby, and cannabis helped me to slow down and appreciate life a little more. But I knew at that instance that weed was a good thing, and that I would seek it out for the rest of my life.

I also was a terrible drinker. I spent many years trying to find a way to make the devil’s kool-aid work for me, but alas, it was not meant to be. After innumerable issues and arrests for drinking too much, or doing some dumb stuff while I was drinking too much, I decided that booze just was not for me.

Weed has never created those types of issues for me. Weed has always been a positive in my life, and has helped me to become a better person. It has allowed me to explore parts of my imagination and existence that I would likely have not even noticed. Weed can help me find my center, or it can help me to find a separation between myself and the hectic world.

The reality is that I did not choose to be a weed activist….weed chose me to be an activist for justice and morality.

You see, I love weed. I love it as an enjoyable resource. i love it as a medicine. I love it as a spiritual and meditative force. But more than all of that, I hate injustice and immorality. The fact that we continue to take people to jail in an act of mass incarceration is deplorable; It sickens me. We have used one of the greatest plants that the good lord ever created as a reason to arrest, imprison, and enslave mostly poor and minority people who are victims of our nation’s disastrous war on drugs.

Maybe you have never been in a jail. I have. It is depressing. The fact is that there are A LOT of people there for weed and other drugs. We have created a lucrative black market and have created an unprecedented level of income inequality, and then we wonder why poor people turn to selling drugs to get by.

They then become easy prey for the industrial prison complex to suck into their system with draconian mandatory minimum sentences, often for decades…for crimes that have no real victims. We have created an environment that harvests crimes and takes advantage of our society’s most vulnerable people. We should all be ashamed that we allow this to go one right under our noses and do nothing about it.

I am a weed activist because I have been a victim of overzealous enforcement of weed laws. I have had my car searched, been arrested, and have had my home raided because of my love for weed. It is ugly. It is unacceptable It has to stop.

We are better than this. We can no longer allow militarized police forces to imprison our family, friends, neighbors and fellow man for weed. It is not working, and it is insane policy.

So until we can right this terrible injustice in our communities and find a path to a more moral and right solution, I am a weed activist and I will do whatever it takes to make it so not another person has to experience pain, suffering, loss of standing, or shame for their right to use a safe, enjoyable and helpful plant. It is our duty to our fellow man to work hard to ensure cannabis prohibition, and the failed war on drugs, ends sooner than later.