Weed Activist

An article I did on Valerie Corral last year….

September 28, 2010 in Miscellaneous

Fires, Festivals, and Freedom…Oh My!

How Valerie Corral’s WAMM Project Continues to Beat the Odds

By Mickey Martin

The Women’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana is the nation’s oldest organization focused on providing cannabis to the sick and dying for medical use. Their mission began in 1993 to create a model where patients could find relief in cannabis through a compassionate and caring program. They consider themselves to be a unique organization in that they are a “patient self-help alliance” that bases their membership on need rather than the financial capability of the patient. The organization produces cannabis medicines for over 170 patients currently, but they are looking to expand their outreach to help sustain the organization. The model is based on membership donations and volunteerism; therefore more members make it easier to stay afloat.

In August, all was almost lost as massive fires consumed the region and the garden and homes were nearly destroyed in the carnage. Valerie was preparing for a short break to travel to Seattle Hempfest to speak about her work in the community when flames began to consume 100-foot-tall redwoods surrounding the property. “I was awe struck,” she recalls. “I cannot express deeply enough my gratitude for the Oceanside and Encinitas firefighters that saved our homes and gardens. We were incredibly fortunate.” She is glad she stayed, and she believes the relationships formed with the firefighters motivated them to work hard to spare her home from burning. “They were supposed to be working 24 hour shifts on and then resting for 24 hours, but many of the firefighters came to our house during their allotted rest period and volunteered on their own time. They were extremely generous,” said Valerie.

Out of the 106-acre property about 75% of it burned and the group has a lot of work to do repairing roads and cleaning up, but Valerie is grateful for what the fire did not consume. Not only were the houses and gardens spared, but atop a hill where WAMM members whom have passed away are buried the fire would not touch. “The firefighters called it the island and asked us what was up there,” she says. “We told them it was our graveyard. It was profound.” This surreal situation has left Valerie with a renewed sense of commitment and purpose. The tragedy that this fire could have been leaves one to ponder why this special place in history was spared the wrath of Mother Nature’s most destructive force. We can only reason that it is because there is still a lot of work to be done.

The fire will not interrupt the service to WAMM patients. “Even the DEA raids did not deter our services,” says Corral. “Our dedication to providing medicine to the sick and dying is stronger than ever.” The DEA raid of WAMM on September 5, 2002 was a wake-up call and a rallying cry for the movement, as everyone saw firsthand the destructive and intolerant nature of the Drug Enforcement Agency on the most vulnerable in our community. As agents were raiding the garden and holding Valerie and her partner Mike Corral, patients gathered at the gate of the property blocking the exit and demanding the release of their caregivers. After negotiation with local authorities and a promise the Corrals would be released the patients agreed to peacefully disperse.

On September 17th of that year, less than two weeks after federal agents raided and attempted to shut down the collective’s operations, they organized an effort to distribute medicine to patients on the steps of Santa Cruz city hall in a response to the violent raids. The City of Santa Cruz has been one of the group’s largest and most committed supporters, recognizing WAMM as an integral part of the city’s health care system. The City of Santa Cruz signed on as co-plaintiffs in a lawsuit that WAMM filed against the federal government stemming from the 2002 raids on their garden. Valerie works closely with the city on many projects and was an instrumental part in helping them to implement a medical marijuana I.D. program.

The city also allows the organiation to put on WAMMfest, a yearly gathering of patients and supporters in beautiful San Lorenzo Park. The Festival is in its seventh year, but sixth festival, as one year the funding was simply not available and a small party for patients was held instead. WAMMfest is a free event for the community with music, booths, fun, and dancing for all to enjoy. It is a fun and low-key event that is based on love and caring and not money. The event has traditionally performed marriage ceremonies for those in the community, dubbed “weedings” by Valerie, who normally performs the ceremonies. The festival is held annually on the last Saturday in September and has grown every year since its inception.

Valerie’s work in the community goes far beyond simply providing cannabis. She is working on a project now called “Design for Dying.” The project focuses on keeping terminal patients in their home and a warm environment through their final days. “We focus on helping people approach death how they want, instead of them dying in a hospital or hospice situation,” says Valerie. She tells of a patient who for four months received 24-hour care from the project and was able to pass on their terms. “Ask yourself what does it mean to suffer?” she poses. “People are destined to die the way they lived, so we must reflect more deeply on our time on this planet. We get into life through a 10 cm opening but we are not lucky enough to get out of something that big. Death is an equalizer.”

WAMM was almost forced to close in January, as the economy worsened and funding continued to dry up. Her donation based model found trouble sustaining itself, as many patients that they depended on for donations and funding were now unable to contribute. “When we have less, we need to share more,” enlightens Corral. “Unfortunately our culture is based on consumption and we continue to suck the planet dry. I cannot tell people how important it is to live well and care for one another.” Her philosophies are rooted in her 20 plus years of working with patients and seeing firsthand how caring for one another changes lives.

When she began this project there was the belief that there were going to be WAMM like models for patients all over the state, but instead she has seen the rise of the dispensing collective become the focal point of patient access. “Most dispensaries act more like pharmacies these days than patient care services,” says Valerie. “It is difficult for patients who are already poor from their debilitating illness to have to pay the high prices for medicine that some of these so-called collectives charge. WAMM is a true collective model. We do not just use the word.” The collective has weekly meetings and patients are asked to give what they can to support the efforts. The medicine costs about 5 dollars a gram to produce, which is the suggested donation from patients to keep the organization moving forward.

If you want to become a member of this conscious and caring organization visit www.wamm.org or call (831) 425-0850 for more information. The need for open-minded and inspired individuals has never been higher, so reach out and see what you can do to make the WAMM and Design for Dying projects a reality for years to come. Our community needs more impassioned and storied organizations like this one to advance our cause into the future. Whether it is fire, the feds, or funding, this organization continues to beat the odds and continues to provide a wonderful service for its membership. Donate, join, or be an active part of the WAMM effort. It is one of the true gems of the medical cannabis movement and deserves all of our support to ensure they are successful and can continue to serve the community is so many great ways.

This article was published in 2009 in West Coast Cannabis magazine…

Weed Activist

TAKE ACTION" Tell Arnie to pump it up and sign SB1449

September 24, 2010 in Local Regulations, Miscellaneous

California Action Alert: Schwarzenegger Must Decide Marijuana

Infraction Measure Next Week!
September 23, 2010
By Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director

Outgoing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has until  Thursday, September 30, to decide the fate of Senate Bill 1449 –  which would reduce adult marijuana possession charges from a criminal  misdemeanor to a civil infraction. That gives reformers one final week to lobby for this sensible reform. If you have not yet contacted the Governor in support of this historic legislation, please do so today.

Senate Bill 1449 amends the California Health and Safety Code so that the adult possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana is classified as an infraction, punishable by no more than a $100 fine – no court appearance, no court costs, and no criminal record.

Passage of bill would save the state millions of dollars in court costs by keeping minor marijuana offenders out of court. The number of misdemeanor pot prosecutions has surged in recent years, reaching 61,388 in 2008. Adults who consume marijuana responsibly are not part of the crime problem, and the state should stop treating them like criminals.

Governor Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has vetoed several different marijuana law reform bills in the past. Therefore, if you live in California, it is vital that you please e-mail or call Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office and urge him to sign SB 1449 into law.  For your convenience, a pre-written letter will be e-mailed to the Governor when you visit NORML’s ‘Take Action’ Center here. http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/alert/?alertid=16364941

Arnold’s offices at are http://gov.ca.gov/interact#contact

Governor’s Office:
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-445-2841
Fax: 916-558-3160 ( new number )

District Offices:
Fresno Office
2550 Mariposa Mall #3013
Fresno, CA 93721
Phone: 559-477-1804
Fax: 559-445-5328

Los Angeles Office
300 South Spring Street
Suite 16701
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Phone: 213-897-0322
Fax: 213-897-0319

Riverside Office
3737 Main Street #201
Riverside, CA 92501
Phone: 951-680-6860
Fax: 951-680-6863

San Diego Office
1350 Front Street
Suite 6054
San Diego, CA 92101
Phone: 619-525-4641
Fax: 619-525-4640

San Francisco Office
455 Golden Gate Avenue
Suite 14000
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415-703-2218
Fax: 415-703-2803

Weed Activist

Building a Great Cannabis Organization

September 12, 2010 in Miscellaneous

This is an informative article I wrote for WCC….

There is a great deal of interest in developing cannabis organizations these days as more cities are allowing for safe access in the community, more patients are realizing the benefits of cannabis as a medicine, and demand for high quality and unique cannabis products continues to grow. From senior citizens wanting to cultivate plants in their garage to supplement their incomes to business investors who want to develop chains of dispensing collectives across the country, it is clear that folks realize there is opportunity in cannabis.. No longer is it just people willing to be outlaws who are laying roots in the industry. Soccer moms, medical professionals, and regular everyday 9-to-5ers are taking a look at developing cannabis organizations. The industry has spawned a niche market that has emboldened creativity and created opportunity in an economy in desperate need of opportunity. An industry that has lived underground for the better part of a century is now emerging into a mainstream and accepted reality.

What has began to happen like never before in the cannabis industry is real competition and supply and demand. As more growers dig in and plant increasing numbers of plants every year the supply begins to catch up with the demand. As more collectives begin to open in areas competing for patient loyalty, patients are benefiting by expanded services and increased value. The market factors that affect most industries are beginning to take hold and producer and providers that are willing to evolve are continuing to prosper; while others who may lack the ability to market and sell themselves and their products are getting left behind. An era of professionalism has begun. While there is still a sense of “cooperative competition,” there is a definite competitive environment for resources. Even though cannabis businesses are supposed to be “not-for-profit” entities, there is still a certain level of income that has to be ascertained by an organization to enable it to operate smoothly, pay staffers, and expand. Cannabis organizations are competing for resources with branding, advertising, promotions, and public relations. No matter what the type of organization, there is a competitive market vying for limited resources, and great organizations will thrive where others will fail. This normalization of the market has caused some to long for the good old days, but the fact is that cannabis is becoming a serious business and with that comes success and failures. Learning to develop a great organization can help to avoid common pitfalls and create positive impacts on the community.

Types of Organizations

As the market expands and inventive folks use their ingenuity to fill the needs of the community we see more types of primary and support organizations being developed. Primary organizations would be considered those that directly deal with patients and medicine. These organizations consist of dispensing collectives, cultivation collectives, production collectives, delivery caregiver services, medical professional conglomerates, and personal cultivation ventures. Support organizations include patient activist organizations, legal services, consulting firms, public relations services, cannabis related goods companies, insurance providers, and even cannabis art producers. These organizations continue to evolve and push one another to provide better products and services. The cause and effect of this increased competition is more convenient, higher quality, and greater valued goods and services. Here are some brief descriptions of some cannabis organizations:

Medical Cannabis Dispensing Collectives/Cooperatives or Dispensaries: These are normally storefront organizations that facilitate the transactions between patients that produce cannabis and those who need cannabis. The defining factor that defines this type of organization is retail sales. In California, the State Board of Equalization demands that these collectives pay sales tax on patient transactions. In 200,8 Attorney General Jerry Brown wrote, “It is the opinion of this Office that a properly organized and operated collective or cooperative that dispenses medical marijuana through a storefront may be lawful under California law.” This affirmation has enabled hundreds of thousands in patients to access cannabis safely through well-lit and clean facilities that provide a variety of types of cannabis. Most dispensing collectives are filing as Mutual Benefit Corporations, clearly denoting their not-for-profit missions; but it is possible that any type of corporation or business can be operated as a not-for-profit organization so long as no individual or group of individuals is pocketing the income at the end of the day. The legality and proper operations have been a contentious issue. Patients, providers, and public officials struggle to understand laws and rights that are hazy at best. The dispensing collective creates a closed-loop system of providers and patients. This allows the organization to control the medicine supply and offer quality options to the patients they serve.

Cultivation Collectives/Cooperatives: A group of patients who collectively cultivate medicine in order to share the cost of operation and burden of labor in the cultivation process. Commonly a group of patients will share in the expenses of rent, supplies, equipment, and utilities to make the process more feasible and to produce a higher quality product through shared knowledge and experience. These collectives combine resources and benefit patients by allowing those who may be more talented in cultivation to handle the actual growth process, while others may commit financial resources, help to trim the finished plants, or handle administrative tasks. Whether indoors or outdoors there are many tasks that go into cultivating quality cannabis. Many patients rely on others to assist in cultivating their medicine, as they may not be physically able or have the time to commit to doing it right. At times, these collective members are also all members of a dispensing collective and may provide excess medicine to the larger dispensing collective to help recoup costs, thus lowering the financial burden of the group. Cultivation would seemingly be the most legal organization under State law, as the direct crop-sharing model does not involve retail sales.

Production Cooperative/Collectives: Much like the cultivation collectives, these are organizations of patents that produce medicines for patients to use. These collectives may focus on creating finished products for patients, such as cannabis foods, tinctures, topical medicines, or extractions. They specialize in converting raw materials into unique and desirable finished products. This sector has been traditionally overlooked by legal regulations, but many cities are beginning to figure out how to create a legal environment in which they can work. More than the whole plant medicines on the market, this sector of products is experiencing a marketing revolution. Traditionally these organizations provide their medicine to dispensing collectives that they are members of. These organizations continue to expand methods by which patients can ingest and use their medicines more safely, effectively, or discreetly. Many popular products have found small niches in the industry to create a foundation and have grown into great organizations.

Delivery/In-Home Caregiver Services Organization: These organizations care for patients directly in their homes, bringing medicine to patients in areas that have no dispensaries or to patients who are uncomfortable with, or unable to go to, a dispensing collective. Patients who wish to remain low profile or do not enjoy the traditional dispensary atmosphere often desire these services. Some live in areas where dispensaries have been banned, but delivery services have been tolerated to provide patients with access. These services range from a single caregiver that provides in-home care services or a collective of caregivers that distribute through online menus and customer service centers, and a fleet of delivery drivers. It is unclear whether these services should be classified as primary caregivers, based on the in-home care provided, or collectives that bring medicine to a patient in their home rather than a storefront. Either way the organization should operate in a not-for-profit manner and adhere to reasonable compensation standards.

Medical Professional Conglomerates: These organizations are groups of doctors who specialize in cannabis and help patients understand if cannabis medicines are right for them. While there have been perceived abuses in some of these organizations, many provide an understanding service to patients whose traditional care physicians may not understand the benefits of cannabis for their conditions. Most well run organizations these days provide 24-hour verification for law enforcement and collectives to verify patients’ status. The doctors help to educate patients and help them understand if cannabis can help them.

***With exception to organizations of doctors and medical personnel, all other organizations are considered illegal under federal law and it should be understood that these organizations are taking part in an act of civil disobedience in providing cannabis.***

Developing a Mission and Vision

The mission and vision statements of an organization declare why this organization is important and what its guiding principles are. A great mission statement tells what you do, why you are successful, and what the organization is driven by. It gives those involved a clear picture of what they are a part of and why that is important. Some say the mission of the organization is the single most important factor in success. Failure to clearly define or successfully implement the mission can create confusion and chaos. Efficient organizations will know the mission clearly and have a clear plan of how to make it happen. Think of the mission as the organizations reason for being.

The vision statement paints the bigger picture. It can define where an organization sees itself heading and what the important steps are that will get them there. It can establish morals and ethics for the organization to build upon. A great vision statement will explain what the organization is working to accomplish and how it will best interact with the world around. It provides a baseline introduction to the character of the organization. The company’s vision can give inspiration to the mission and help stakeholders to better understand why this organization is great.

Thorough Planning

The importance of planning is immeasurable. For an organization to successfully navigate the many nuances of the cannabis industry it is imperative that a detailed and informative plan be developed. Business plans and organizational analysis lays out clearly the strategies, structure, marketing, branding, goals, operations, core competencies, and other important details about the organization. This enables clear and open communication to happen and can help to get everyone on the same page. Whether a start-up or a business that has been established for decades, it is never to early or too late to begin planning for the future. A great business plan will inform, educate, and paint a clear picture of who the organization is, how they operate, and why they are successful.

A great organizational plan is an invaluable tool when presenting your business or organization to public officials, landlords, proposed business associates, employees, lenders, and loved ones. It let’s them know everything they need to know about why this is a beneficial organization. Failure to properly plan will always lead to confusion and misunderstanding. A plan can guide the organization smoothly and provide a reference to periodically check in on and measure the organization’s success. It is necessary to adjust the plans where needed and update the goals and mission regularly. No organization gets it completely right the first time around, no matter how hard they plan. A great plan will give insight to the reader about how this organization will be structured, how it will operate, and why it will be a success. It will map out goals and make clear the methods and standards by which the company will carry out its mission and vision. Thorough planning is a must.

Non-Profit and Not-For-Profit Operations

Americans for Safe Access has written at length on what these terms mean in relation to medical cannabis in California. As of now, Colorado dispensaries are not required to be not-for-profit, although they are heading in that direction. Laws vary from state to state, but organizations in California need to adhere to these standards. Below is ASA’s description of what this means for organizations:

California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.765(a) says that nothing in the law authorizes the cultivation of medical cannabis for profit. The Attorney General’s guidelines are very brief on this topic, stating “Nothing in Proposition 215 or [Senate Bill 420] authorizes collectives, cooperatives, or individuals to profit from the sale or distribution of marijuana.” There is no reason to assume that this brief passage from the guidelines mandates the establishment of a statutory nonprofit corporation as described in California Corporations Code Section 5000, et seq. However, operators may chose to organize a medical cannabis collective as a California nonprofit corporation, as discussed in greater detail below.

Regardless of the organizational structure, a medical cannabis collective should operate in a “not-for-profit” manner to comply with the Attorney General’s guidelines. Not-for-profit operation describes the behavior of a business or association that is not operated for a commercial purpose, or to generate profits for its owners. Any business, regardless of its formal structure, can operate in a not-for-profit fashion by reinvesting excess revenue (after salaries and other overhead) in services for members, advocacy for patients’ rights, or other noncommercial activity.

Operating in a not-for-profit manner does not mean that patients and caregivers who own or operate a collective can not be paid a reasonable wage for their services. Patients operating not-for-profit collectives should be aware, however, that the perception of excessive profits is what motivates this provision of the guidelines. Paying reasonable salaries is acceptable, but other indicia of excessive profits should be avoided – bonuses, dividends, conspicuous spending, etc.

Many collective operators choose to incorporate their collectives as California Nonprofit Mutual Benefit Corporations, as described under California Corporations Code 7110, et seq. Doing so gives the collective a bona fide nonprofit identity, something that resonates with elected officials, law enforcement, media, and neighbors. This is a sensible choice for most operators, and increasingly the norm for new facilities. Creating and operating a nonprofit corporation is more difficult than doing so with a commercial business model, and may present special issues around taxation and transfers in ownership. Operators should seek the advice of a qualified business attorney with experience in nonprofit law.

These guidelines will help an organization be in compliance with the law. It is possible that in the future this aspect may be clarified and that cannabis organizations may be able to realize a profit. As for now, excess income must be invested into the organization or community.

Staffing Great People

The people who make up an organization are what can make it great or can make it a complete failure. Creating a staff that is knowledgeable, that provides great service, and has a strong sense of work ethic will make an organization great. The staff is not just the face of the organization; it is the heart and soul as well. Look to hire people that believe in the mission of the organization and understand the importance of the work they do in the cannabis industry. Whether dispensing, cultivating, producing, or care giving, a highly trained and efficient staff will give your organization a competitive advantage. It is important to treat a staff with respect, while at the same time creating clear boundaries and expectations for their performance. Staff morale is the single most important issue, as happy employees perform their duties better and are less likely to be involved in shrinkage issues. Staffers enjoy being told that they are doing a good job and that the organization appreciates their work. People can be trained to be great, but they must have an intellectual curiosity, and be naturally motivated. Look to hire people that seem like they can follow instructions and have the desire to be an asset to the organization.

Morals and Ethics

Any great organization is founded on a sense of morals and ethics that guide the organization. Karma works the same for organizations as it does for people. If an organization does not do its best to be honest and good stewards of their community, they generally fall victim to lack of honesty and unsavory behaviors themselves. Giving patients great value, treating people with respect, helping people in need, operating transparently, and ensuring quality are all moral and ethical responsibilities that cannabis organizations should adhere to. In the cannabis industry there are still serious legal threats to our community, so unethical or immoral actions by competitors can be catastrophic and destroy livelihoods, as well as take away peoples’ freedoms. It is necessary to consider all of the ramifications of actions, as we work to enhance safe access in the community. For those dispensing medicine to patients it is important to consider what is a fair margin of income for the collective and adjust price points where possible. For producers and cultivators, it is important to take the necessary steps and avoid shortcuts in the production process to ensure patient safety. We all have a responsibility in the cannabis industry to provide safe and effective medicines at the best value to patients in need. Anything less is unacceptable.

A Great Industry to Be A Part Of

You have a responsibility to develop a great organization because you are in a great industry. Not many times in our lives do we see an emergent industry that provides opportunity in a new and exciting field. At the same time you get to provide health and wellbeing to patients in need. I love cannabis. I am thrilled to wake up in the morning and know I am in an industry that is revolutionizing the way people think and one that is changing the world. The cannabis industry is about far more than business. It is a social and political responsibility that we all share to present our industry in the best light. By joining this industry we take on a certain responsibility to fight the good fight and do our part to change the perception of this sacred plant. If JFK were a cannabis enthusiast (and he probably was), he would tell us, “Ask not what the cannabis industry can do for you, but what you can do for the cannabis industry.” This outlook will help ensure that an organization you develop, operate, or are a part of is a great organization. Now get to work.

Mickey Martin operates T-Comp Consulting providing “solutions for the emerging industry of cannabis medicines.” For help on making your organization great contact mickey@tcompconsulting.com.

Weed Activist

This is who people trust with their freedoms? Come on. GET REAL!

September 12, 2010 in Feds, Legalization, Miscellaneous


Yes. This is just who I want representing my interests and doing legal commentary on the biggest cannabis vote of the last 40 years…Good luck with that….

Ethan Nadelmann Interview

September 7, 2010 in Legalization, Miscellaneous


Prohibition has failed — again. Drug prohibition has proven remarkably ineffective, costly and counter-productive. 500,000 people are behind bars today for violating a drug law – and hundreds of thousands more are incarcerated for other prohibition-related violations. There is a smarter approach usually called harm reduction. Reducing the number of people who use drugs is not nearly as important as reducing the death, disease, crime, and suffering associated with both drug misuse and failed policies of prohibition.

Ethan Nadelmann is the founder and executive director of the DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE, the leading organizations in the United States promoting alternatives to the war on drugs, grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. He received his BA, JD, and PhD from Harvard, and a Master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics. He authored COPS ACROSS BORDERS and co-authored POLICING THE GLOBE: Criminalization and Crime Control in International Relations.

McNally: How did drug policy reform become your life’s work?

Nadelmann: It had something to do with my growing up in a fairly traditional Jewish family, going off to college, smoking marijuana, enjoying it, and wondering why people were getting arrested for it. I was reading John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty at the time, and I wondered why we were criminalizing something so much less dangerous than alcohol. In graduate school, I ended up writing a dissertation on the internationalization of crime and law enforcement. Then at the peak of drug war hysteria In the late 80′s, I wrote a piece in Foreign Policy magazine, saying that most of what we identified as part and parcel of the drug problem were the results of a failed prohibitionist policy. Shortly thereafter the Mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke, said much the same thing, and we got a lot of media play. One thing led to another, and finally to my running the Drug Policy Alliance, and becoming deeply involved in efforts to change drug laws both in the US and around the world.

McNally: You’ve said that this is a multi-generational campaign. Why do you say that?

Nadelmann: I was one of those weird kids who if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say a history professor. I became a professor of politics, but very interested in the history of social movements. Although sometimes things happen far more rapidly than one could ever believe — the repeal of alcohol prohibition or the fall of the Soviet Union — a lot of the biggest changes take multiple generations.

My role models are the movements for gay rights, civil rights, women’s rights, even the abolition of slavery in the early 19th century. Every one of these has been multi-generational. Every one of them started with people asserting what sounded like quixotic principles — about the fundamental equality of people no matter the color of their skin, the fundamental equality of men and women, the fundamental equality of people regardless of their sexual identification. Our core principle is that people should not be discriminated against or punished solely for what they put into their bodies, absent harm to others. And I believe this principle will ultimately prevail just as other once radical principles of freedom and equality ultimately triumphed.

I’ve been involved for close to a generation now, and I increasingly see myself mentoring and handing off the baton to a new generations of activists. I see this movement morphing and having the same sorts of internal struggles that other movements have had; it’s an inevitable part of the process. But I feel a sense of momentum right now. Those other movements ultimately succeeded far more than they failed. To the extent that I have an optimistic view of historical evolution, I think the same thing is going to be true with the drug policy reform movement.

McNally: The Drug Policy Alliance has recently co-hosted a series of conferences around the country. The one in Los Angeles was entitled New Directions: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy. What are they about?

Nadelmann: We’ve done three of these New Directions conferences. They’re about shifting the paradigm of drug control from one in which criminal justice approaches are dominant to one in which health approaches are dominant. So much of drug policy takes place on the ground, and so much involves both governmental and non-governmental agencies and workers — cops, prosecutors, housing, public welfare, health, you name it. We’re just trying to come up with pragmatic solutions.

We did a conference in New York in early 2009 together with the New York Academy of Medicine. In June we did one in Washington DC with the National Association of Social Workers. Last month we did one in Los Angeles with the California Society of Addiction Medicine. Those were our key partners, and we have a whole host of others from health, civil liberties and sometimes law enforcement co-hosting with us.

These events push in a new direction: To reduce our reliance on a criminal justice and punitive approach in dealing with drugs, and to elevate the role of health in dealing with people who are addicted; To focus criminal justice resources on the harms that people do to one another, rather than simply arresting people for drugs; To move toward decriminalization of drug possession, both for those who are addicted and want help and for those who don’t have a drug problem and should essentially be left alone.

McNally: What are you hoping to achieve?

Nadelmann: First, we want to empower people who deal with drug addiction to become more independent and to be sensitive to all of the risks and dangers of doing drug treatment within the criminal justice system. More and more of the drug treatment industry has become “co-dependent” on the criminal justice system, relying on the courts to send them patients and keep them there, even if the assigned treatment is inappropriate or ineffective. The result is less emphasis on helping people get their lives together and an obsession with abstinence-only approaches in which the key criteria of success or failure in drug treatment is the purity of one’s urine.

Second, we want people of color — African Americans, Latinos — to become more deeply engaged. From the traditional Baptist and Evangelical churches within those communities, you sometimes see a kind of heavy moralism that is very resistant to a pragmatic approach to dealing with drugs. Conversations are now beginning to take place within those communities that are leading things in a new direction.

Third, people who deal with the problems of drug addiction in the cities oftentimes feel very removed from the whole debate around marijuana. We want discussions around how you deal with methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin addiction and how to deal with marijuana — which can be addictive, but for a much smaller number of people and with less serious consequences… to happen in the same rooms.

Finally, when you bring people together like this, law enforcement still holds back. One of our major challenges is to attract law enforcement in greater numbers.

McNally: I was especially interested in officials from Vancouver explaining how things are working since they shifted to more of a public health approach.

Nadelmann: One of my principle objectives when I started this organization, as it is now, is to inform Americans about approaches outside the US that are proving effective with less incarceration and less taxpayer dollars down the drain — and with better results in terms of helping people lead safe and healthy lives. Vancouver is an outpost of European sensibility on drug policy in North America, and leapfrogged San Francisco about a decade ago. Vancouverites and other people in British Columbia moved on things like needle exchange programs more quickly and effectively than in most places in the US. Then they went a step further.

In the 1990s, Europeans had initiated projects where heroin addicts who had tried methadone, tried drug-free, been to jail, tried everything, and they couldn’t quit, could go to a clinic and get pharmaceutical grade heroin up to three times a day. Programs in Europe proved remarkably successful — reducing crime, reducing addiction, helping people get their lives together and saving taxpayers money. Montreal and Vancouver did their own very successful projects, and earlier this year the New England Journal of Medicine published a highly positive review of these things.

Vancouver also provides “safe injection sites”, where people who come to get a clean needle are allowed to bring their illegal drugs with them and use them in a place with a nurse present. These too have proven remarkably successful in enabling people to stabilize their lives by reducing overdose fatalities, injection-related risks, and public nuisance. There continues to be reluctance and resistance to such things in the U.S., especially from the federal government.

McNally: Somehow our oceans isolate us from other folks who are trying new things and succeeding…

Nadelmann: Can’t blame it on the oceans, because places like Australia are being innovative. We’re such a big nation that when we look for alternative approaches, we tend to look only within. People might say, “I heard there’s a really innovative approach to probation in Kansas, let’s look at that” or “Let’s see what Texas did or New York did…” But the notion of looking at what Switzerland or Portugal or Australia or even Canada is doing, that’s less the American mindset.

McNally: You’ve said you’re looking for the next generation on this issue. Do you see one emerging?

Nadelmann: Students for Sensible Drug Policy – SSDP – was created about ten years ago. It organizes college students to advocate as DPA does for alternatives to the war on drugs. They mobilized initially because of the ridiculous Congressional statute that prohibited student loans from being given to anybody who’d ever had a conviction of a drug offense, including marijuana possession. If you’d been convicted of rape or murder or grand larceny, you were still eligible, but not for possession of a joint. They’ve also gotten very involved in trying to change campus policy, for example, to get marijuana and alcohol treated the same. It’s an innovative, dynamic organization that works very closely with us, and is really growing.

I’m beginning to see and hear about more youth organizations elsewhere around the country, some focused on young people of color. In the black community you see more and more mobilization around prison reform and reducing incarceration, and folks putting their toes in the water on broader drug policy reform. The drug issue stands out as one where young people are more mobilized than on most others.

McNally: I’m glad to hear that, because, when you point to other reforms — civil rights, gay rights, even ending the Vietnam War — young people played a big role in those movements, and it seems to me that’s going to be needed here.

Nadelmann: I’ve met with faculty on a few campuses who say they haven’t seen any activism in a very long time to compare with what SSDP is doing.

McNally: If people get involved and experience some success, there’s hope that they transfer that energy to other issues. Talk about Firedog Lake and SSDP uniting on Just Say Now…

Nadelmann: A little take off on Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No”. Huffington Post put it at the top of the front page, and it got tens of thousands of hits. They’re initiating their campaign with support for Prop 19, the ballot initiative in California to allow counties and cities to choose to end the penalties for possession of marijuana, basically a legalization initiative, one of the most exciting things taking place right now. It was prompted by a leading medical marijuana entrepreneur, Richard Lee, the unofficial “mayor of Oaksterdam.” He plowed back the money he was making into getting this initiative on the ballot. Drug Policy Alliance helped a bit on the drafting, and I’m doing everything I can to help raise funds and other support.

McNally: The polls seem to be all over the map, but one released July 28 by Public Policy Polling, has support for Prop 19 at 52%, 36% opposed, 12% undecided.

Nadelmann: You can see another with almost the opposite result some months before, and a Field poll showing 48 for, 44 against. My best guess is that it’s roughly 50/50, and normally it’s hard to win a ballot initiative when the public’s split 50/50 a few months before the election. When you get down to the wire, people get nervous, they may like an idea in principle but they’re worried about the details…

McNally: If they’re soft, they’ll peel off to “No.”

Nadelmann: Exactly. I think it’s going to be tough to win, but it has a shot. If we can raise the funds to take the campaign to the next level, who knows? And maybe young people will surprise everyone by voting in much greater numbers than they usually do, especially in a non-presidential election year.

I’ll tell you this, if it doesn’t win this year, we’re going to win this sometime in the coming years. Right now the momentum is on our side, and I’m inspired. Every time I start to despair, something new happens to give me hope: a new poll; or a new labor union comes out in favor — whoever heard of labor unions endorsing marijuana legalization? Or members of Congress like Barbara Lee in Oakland or George Miller in northern California or Pete Stark saying “I’ll vote for it.”

More people know about this initiative in California than about any other initiative on the ballot. Already by mid-summer something like 70% of all likely voters said they had heard about Prop 19 and knew it’s about legalizing marijuana. It’s generating the types of media conversations and debates which are an essential part of the broader dynamic that’s needed to ultimately end marijuana prohibition in America.

McNally: Can you say a bit about Prop 5 in 2008? It was leading in the polls but fell apart in the last few weeks.

Nadelmann: Prop 5 was a very different kettle of fish. It proposed a major reform of the criminal justice system, the prison system and of drug policy. If it had passed, it would have resulted in a reduction in incarceration in California’s overcrowded prisons of 25 to 30,000 non-violent drug offenders over the next few years. It would have resulted in the transfer of a billion dollars a year from prison and parole to treatment and rehabilitation, and would have reorganized the entire corrections system to hold them accountable to a new set of standards. It would have been the biggest reform of drug policy and sentencing in the US since the repeal of alcohol Prohibition, and the polling initially was in favor by a two to one margin. Even with the additional monies allocated, it would have saved taxpayers money.

The prison industrial complex mobilized against this like I’ve never seen, with Jerry Brown and Dianne Feinstein becoming the face of their ads. At the last moment, the prison guards union put in two million bucks of their own money, and raised another two million to run dishonest ads scaring people. People were freaked out about the economy, and we were not successful in getting out the fact that this was going to save money — in part because Attorney General Jerry Brown mandated that the ballot language obscure the savings to taxpayers.

McNally: He placed the direct costs up front in the ballot language, but the net savings, which were much greater, at the bottom.

Nadelmann: Ten years ago, Prop 36, which mandated treatment instead of incarceration for non-violent drug possession offenders with drug problems, won with 61% of the vote even though virtually the entire political, media and criminal justice establishment came out against it. The last lines of that initiative said that it would allocate $120 million a year for 5 1/2 years, and would produce a net savings of roughly a billion and a half dollars over that time. With Prop 5, Jerry Brown ruled that the direct costs had to placed in the top line of the initiative, and that any net savings would have to go in the bottom line. Our initiative was the only one on the ballot that actually had a net savings, but people don’t tend to read to the bottom line.

McNally: Brown, an Attorney General with aspirations for Governor, put the support of those unions over fully informing the public.

Nadelmann: Meg Whitman spent a quarter million dollars of her own money against Prop 5, so I want to be clear I’m not taking any partisan position for or against either candidate in the current election in California.

McNally: As of mid-August, Prop 19 has out-fundraised the organized opposition. Do we assume that’s going to change as it did in Prop 5?

Nadelmann: If the opposition had not put money in to run those ads against Prop 5, odds are it would have won. But, with the polling at 50/50 on Prop 19, they’re probably figuring it doesn’t have much of a shot. I’m basically saying to major donors — all of whom get no personal benefit from this — if Prop 19 wins, it’s going to be an historical breakthrough; it’s an uphill battle but it does have a shot. When I raised the money back in 1996 for Prop 215, California’s medical marijuana initiative, and then in subsequent years for other medical marijuana initiatives around the country, and for Prop 36 and other treatment initiatives, and for the asset forfeiture reform initiatives in Oregon and Utah, I was always able to say to major donors: we have 60-plus percent of the public in favor right now; if we have the money on our side and there’s no major money on the other side, we win; if the other side comes in, it’s going to be touch and go; and, if they come in big, we’ll probably lose. With Prop 19, I’m encouraging major donors to take a chance on this, but they tend to think if it doesn’t have a better than 50/50 chance of winning, they don’t want to get in. I’m doing everything I can to persuade them. We’ll see.

CW: You gotta love “big donors” that only vote on a sure thing…..Seems cowardice to me.

McNally: I thought it was quite groundbreaking when the NAACP of California came out in favor of Prop 19…

Nadelmann: That was fantastic. Although it was a cutting edge civil rights organization in decades past and they have a dynamic new leader in Ben Jealous from San Francisco, the NAACP had become a more socially conservative organization in recent decades and was often wary of getting involved in criminal justice and especially drug policy reform. But they do have a new direction, and their California director, Alice Huffman, has stepped out boldly on this.

The Drug Policy Alliance released a report authored by a professor in New York, Harry Levine, which says that in every county in California blacks are disproportionately arrested for marijuana — even though they’re no more likely to use or sell marijuana than are white people. People can find that report at the Drug Policy Alliance website. Alice Huffman properly identifies this as a civil rights issue.

McNally: Depending on the county, Blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at typically double, triple or even quadruple the rates of Whites.

Nadelmann: Yes, that’s right. In her book, The New Jim Crow, Michele Alexander writes that, as an African American, ten years ago when she would hear people like me or Ira Glasser, the former head of ACLU, talk about the war on drugs as “the new Jim Crow,” she’d roll her eyes. But the more she’s looked at it, the more she’s come to believe that’s exactly what it is.

By looking at the enormous extension of our criminal justice system; at the fact that in many parts of America 50% of young black men have at least one mark of a criminal record, and that marijuana and other drugs are oftentimes responsible for that; at the ways in which law enforcement resources are disproportionately targeted at young black and brown men in both minority and non-minority communities, and at the consequences in terms of higher levels of arrest and incarceration — this book makes an enormously powerful case that the war on drugs, including the war on marijuana, is the new Jim Crow.

Marijuana accounts for 40% of all drug arrests in the US, and about 50% in the west. Only 10-15% of Americans support legalizing heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine, but over 40% of Americans already think we should take marijuana out of the criminal justice system. If we do so, we could significantly reduce arrests and incarceration especially of young men of color.

McNally: I’m going to read a couple of lines from Alice Huffman and the California NAACP’s endorsement of Prop 19: “Instead of wasting money on marijuana law enforcement Prop 19 will generate tax revenues we can use to improve the education and employment outcomes of our youth, our youth want and deserve a future. Let’s invest in people not prisons, it is time to end the failed war on drugs by decriminalizing and regulating marijuana to save our communities.”

Wire service reports estimate that Mexico’s drug lords employ over 100,000 “soldiers,” and that the cartels’ wealth, intimidation and influence extend to the highest echelons of law enforcement and government. The US office of National Drug Control Policy says that more than 60% of the profits reaped by Mexican drug lords are derived from the exportation and sale of cannabis to the American market, only about 28% from the distribution of cocaine, less than 1% from methamphetamine. Your thoughts?

Nadelmann: What’s happening in significant parts of Mexico right now seems like Chicago during the days of alcohol Prohibition and Al Capone times 50 or 100. They estimate almost 30,000 people have been murdered for reasons involving drug trafficking and the drug war since President Felipe Calderon came to power about three years ago. Most of those killed are in the business, but significant numbers are also passers-by, innocents, people who wouldn’t take a bribe, you name it.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox has been saying we need to put legalization on the agenda, that in the long term it’s the only pragmatic answer. I was very pleasantly surprised to see President Calderon recently acknowledge that it’s time for a serious debate on legalization. And that seemed to prompt President Fox to speak out even more forcefully than before for legalization. But In Mexico support for ending prohibition, even marijuana prohibition, is lower than in the US.

There’s no simple easy way to jump from where we are today to a world in which marijuana is legally regulated and taxed in the US and Mexico and much of the rest of the world. It’s going to be a messy political process, with inconsistencies in laws and enforcement and different forms of decriminalization and people exploiting that, but it’s ultimately the only solution that can really reduce the violence and murder and mayhem. We really have no choice but to head down this road, negotiating the twists and bumps along the way, until both the US and Mexico, and other countries as well, are ready to embrace a more rational and orderly system of marijuana regulation.

McNally: On July 27 the House unanimously passed HR5143, which, if enacted, creates a bipartisan commission to conduct a top to bottom review of the entire criminal justice system, and offer concrete recommendations for reform within 18 months. This is the companion bill to Senator Jim Webb’s S714, already approved by the Senate Judiciary committee. According to Senator Webb, legalization should be on the table for discussion.

Nadelmann: Senator Webb’s bill is now back in the Senate and, apart from the somewhat irrational opposition of Senator Coburn from Oklahoma, a clear majority supports it. It’s just a matter now of getting it to a vote.

Also exciting was the recent reform of the federal crack/powder law that had punished the sale of five grams of crack cocaine with the same harsh penalty as sale of 500 grams of powder cocaine. The vast majority of people arrested and prosecuted for crack offenses are blacks even though they only make up a minority of users and sellers. Obama came in to office saying he wanted to end this disparity, and a lot of Democratic leadership said the same thing along with us, the ACLU, the Sentencing Project, the folks at OSI, the NAACP, Families Against Mandatory Minimums and a whole range of others. We all fought tooth and nail to eliminate the disparity, and I’ve got to give credit to Obama’s Justice Department, who pushed hard with us.

In the end, when Republicans and some conservative Democrats opposed fully eliminating the disparity, a compromise cut the disparity to 18 to one. People held their noses at the compromise, because there’s something offensive about retaining a legal discrimination that has such racially disproportionate consequences. But thousands of people are going to spend less time behind bars and it’s going to save taxpayers lots of money. And it’s quite likely that a better bill would not have gotten through for many years to come.

With the exception of Lamar Smith of Texas, you had more Republicans vocally supporting this than opposing. Prominent conservatives from Grover Norquist in DC to Ward Connerly in California supported the major reform. In an era when almost nothing in Washington happens on a bipartisan basis, this bill — where people were potentially vulnerable to being accused of being soft on crime — went through with a voice vote and a very strong majority.

McNally: And there’s the Vienna Declaration, the official conference statement authored by experts in the International AIDS Society, the National Center for Science and Drug Policy, and the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. You were at that conference, what does that declaration mean?

Nadelmann: It’s probably the most significant global communications effort to mobilize opposition to the war on drugs since 1998, when I and others orchestrated a public letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in New York. The International AIDS Conference happens every two years. The recent gathering in Vienna focused to a much greater extent than ever before on the ways in which the global war on drugs undermines efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS in much of the world.

Heavy reliance on criminalization and resistance to public health approaches means that HIV continues to spread among people who use and inject drugs as well as their lovers, their children and others. Outside southern Africa, injection drug use is often the number one or two cause of the spread of HIV/AIDS. It’s not injection drug use per se because that doesn’t cause AIDS – it’s injection drug use in an environment where you don’t have needle exchange and other pragmatic harm reduction policies, etc. This started as an effort among scientists and physicians, and they lined up a lot of other signatories including former presidents. The list of signatories is going to continue to grow. Google “Vienna Declaration” and you can sign your own name to it.

McNally: Let me read a quote from Dr. Evan Wood, the founder of the International Center for Science and Drug Policy, about the Vienna Declaration: “There is no positive spin you can put on the war on drugs. You have a $320 billion illegal market, the enrichment of organized crime, violence, the spread of infectious disease. This declaration coming from the scientific community is long overdue; the community has not been meeting its ethical obligations in terms of speaking up about the harms of the war on drugs.”

The International Center for Science and Drug Policy did a review of 300 international studies and found that in 87% of the cases dating back 20 years, intensifying drug law enforcement resulted in increased rates of drug market violence. When it was pointed out to Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, that Mexican drug lords make 60% of their profits from marijuana, and he was asked if maybe marijuana legalization would be a good idea, he said, “I don’t know of any reason that legalizing something that essentially is bad for you would make it better from a fiscal standpoint or a public health standpoint or a public safety standpoint.” A quick comment on the Obama administration’s efforts.

Nadelmann: Obama made a number of commitments: that they would stop medical marijuana raids and acknowledge marijuana has a legitimate medical use; that they would allow federal funding of needle exchanges; and that they would do what they could to repeal the crack powder penalties. In all three of those areas the Obama administration more or less made good on its commitments. They announced last fall that they would no longer go after medical marijuana in the states that had made it legal, and they’ve mostly kept to that; although they didn’t push for federal funding of needle exchange, they allowed it to happen; and, as we already discussed, the crack/powder disparities were decreased. They’re also pushing for more of a public health emphasis. Unfortunately, if you look at the allocation of the money, it’s still two to one in favor of law enforcement.

Kerlikowske was the police chief of Seattle, the city that hosts Hempfest, the largest -marijuana-focused gathering in the world where almost nobody gets arrested. He’s a smart, thoughtful, reasonable guy, and he’s moved things in a good new direction. But for some reason he seems to feel compelled to keep talking nonsense about marijuana and marijuana policy; he won’t use the phrase “harm reduction” even as US government representatives increasingly embrace it in international health forums; there’s no willingness to move forward on heroin maintenance, supervised injection facilities and other harm reduction innovations that have proven so successful abroad; and he seems to have not the slightest idea how to respond to the growing calls from Mexico and South America to “break the taboo” on considering all drug policy options, including legalization. It all adds up to incremental reforms in the right direction with no real vision or intellectual coherence regarding the future of drug control policy.-

McNally: — “No fiscal good…” That’s clearly wrong.

Nadelmann: Why don’t they just stick to saying things that are true and accurate? Obama made another commitment when he was running for office – that he would no longer allow science to be trumped by politics. But in the drug area, they continue to let it happen.

McNally: Finally, why do you think the US with its claims to individual liberties has been and continues to be against substances that alter or expand consciousness? What’s going on in American culture that fears altering consciousness in ways that indigenous cultures, for example, have practiced for millennia?

Nadelmann: It’s a funny thing, we look at alcohol prohibition in America now and think that was some historical fluke from 1919 to 1933 when the country went sort of crazy. But, in fact, that was the outcome of a multi-generational effort that began with reasonable calls for temperance in the consumption of alcohol and ultimately evolved into radical calls for prohibition and total abstinence. There’s a deep seated belief in America — I think it’s wrapped up with different strands of Protestant Christianity — that my body is not just my body, it’s God’s vessel, and that I have an obligation to my Lord and Maker to keep this body free of polluting or mind altering substances. So there’s something almost fearful in our consciousness. We’re not totally unique in this regard, but we do seem to take it further than most others.

Source: Alternet

Interviewer Terrence McNally hosts Free Forum on KPFK 90.7FM, Los Angeles and WBA I99.5FM, New York (streaming at kpfk.org and wbai.org). He also advises non-profits and foundations on communications. Visit terrencemcnally.net for podcasts of all interviews and more. Ethan Nadelmann is founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

29% THC…C'mon now. I call bullshit….Some labs are WAY off

September 1, 2010 in Miscellaneous

So I was scanning Weedtracker yesterday to see what was going on in the marketplace and I came across a thread that said “Our Green Ribbon just tested at 29% THC! For those of you who have tried it, what do you think?”

What do I think? I think your testing machine or your standards are off. There is no way that a flower is testing that high. It is virtually impossible unless you have some spaceship growing process that has somehow magically transformed the cannabis plant. I could see 22% but I have never heard of any strain coming up at 29-30% EVER. No where in the history of mankind has this been true, so I beg top wonder….who did this test and how reputable are their findings? There are a lot of labs popping up these days and a lot of inflated numbers running around it would seem. When all of your strains are coming in at high rates of 18% plus, it begs to question…How is this possible?

How it is possible is that it is extremely difficult to develop a sound process for testing cannabis. Most organizations will go through some growing pains and work for months to adjust their process to accurately reflect the true number. For labs that are just beginning the process it is less than truthful to publish numbers before you get a good baseline and are sure your numbers are reflective of the true quantities of active ingredients. It takes hundreds to thousands of tests to get it right, so I am skeptical that many of these new organizations have perfected the process in just a few short weeks or months on a handful of samples. How could this be?

I took the same issue when Harborside began prematurely publishing their results in early 2009. Their lab process was in the development phases and it seemed that its really needed more time to develop before attempting to give patients less than accurate information. Over the past couple of years Steep Hill lab has worked tirelessly with Science professionals to perfect their process, do peer review, and test thousands of samples to make their process right. While there will always be questions of scientific validity until cannabis labs can operate open and freely without Government interference and participate in a wider set of verification with other labs, Steep Hill has done a lot of work to make sure their process is sound. I cannot vouch that their numbers are 100% accurate, as I am no scientist, but I do know the work has been done to ensure accuracy at every level and I have more faith in their process because of the time, energy and expertise that has been afforded to the project.

Other labs that are just beginning to go through this trial and error phase have no business putting out numbers that are foggy at best. And when you come at me with a 29% THC flower I have a tendancy to think that there may be a problem in the testing process and that by all means the numbers that are being given out to patients are just BULLSHIT. You may as well throw a dart at a dartboard full of numbers and select it that way because it is just as accurate. I am not saying that this “Green Ribbon” is not a quality flower with high levels of THC, but 29% is a bit much to swallow. It is disingenuous at best and at worst a blatant deception in order to create hype for a house strain.

As patients, we must decipher what the truth is and when a lab is pumping out strains that are at inflated levels consistently it may be time to go back to the drawing board and get it right before publishing your findings as facts. At best THC levels are a window into the actual levels that your particualr bud or bag of buds may be, and that is great. But when your window is 10 points higher than everyone else’s window, it may be bullshit.

I think it testing cannabis for potency and safety is a great idea, but if your readings are not even remotely accurate then all it becomes is false advertising and deceiving of patients. I understand that there is a bottom line that needs to be met for organizations to be successful, but if meeting that bottom line comes at the expense of morals and validity, then there is a real issue. For those collectives that are using some of the hot new and cheap lab services on the market, you may want to ask yourself…am I getting what I am paying for or would I be better off throwing darts at the board? Or better yet…finding a more reputable service. The choice is yours. But believe if you keep telling me your herb is at 20-30% THC consistently then I am going to put you on front street. When your averages are 16.41%, a cool 4-8% over average, then there may be a real issue….

30% THC would mean 1/8th would have 1 full gram (or 1000mg) of THC in it. Where does the plant matter come in? Chlorophyl? Waxes? Other cannabinoids? To put it in perspective Marinol (synthetic THC) comes in 2.5, 5, and 10 milligram doses…….Just saying.


August 30, 2010 in Miscellaneous

Court Support RIVERSIDE – Ronald Naulls

WHAT: Ronald Bradley Naulls – Healing Nations Collective of Corona
WHEN: 8/30/2010 – 8:30am
WHERE: U.S. District & Bankruptcy Court, Central District of California – Judge Phillips – 3470 Twelfth St -Riverside, CA  92501

Federal War on Medical Marijuana Becomes a War on Children: Three Little Girls, ages 1, 3, and 5, seized in DEA raid A church-going family man who used medical marijuana to ease chronic pain from injuries sustained in a 2001 car accident, Ronald Naulls already had two successful careers – one as an IT consultant and another in real estate – when (in early 2006) he established the Healing Nations Collective in Corona (Riverside County) to save fellow patients the hours-long drive to Los Angeles for medicine.

Healing Nations was a model collective in every way. It served its patient-members well and followed state and local law. It maintained strict dress codes and professional standards for all employees. It paid state taxes – amounting to several hundred thousand dollars a year – even when loose tax regulations allowed other dispensaries to slip through the cracks. Proceeds from the dispensary went to local and national cancer organizations.

Nevertheless, at 5:50 a.m., July 17, 2007, after a year of successful zoning litigation with the city, Naulls’s home and the collective were invaded by DEA agents armed with shotguns, automatic rifles – even helicopters. They seized everything: His property. All of his personal accounts. And all of the collective’s assets. Naulls was arrested and is now facing federal prosecution for distribution of medical cannabis.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. County child protective services came along on the raid and took Naulls’s three little girls, ages 1, 3, and 5, and charged him and his wife with child endangerment. They weren’t even accused of breaking any state laws.

When Naulls spoke to his children in their confidential foster home, the big sister said, “Daddy, we’re ready to come home now, we promise to be good.”

Of course, they were too young to understand that they were victims of the strong-arm tactics of drug warriors whose goal was to make Naulls regret helping fellow patients receive their medicine in a safe, compassionate environment. Who cares if that means ruining a family financially, imprisoning the parents, and traumatizing the children?
If you care, you can help Green-Aid help the Naulls to fight this alarming case. It’s time to stop the war on children and parents. DONATE NOW!

Why Bullshit? You can't have it both ways…

August 13, 2010 in Miscellaneous, Uncategorized

I was following up on the Oakland Mega-Grow situation, reading the discourse between the big money players and the activist and cultivation communities. It would seem that somewhere along the line a big point was missed. In the press, Harborside representatives were quoted seemingly defending the plight of the small grower and the “pioneers” of the movement. But in reading deeper it seems as if the discourse with Jeff Wilcox stems from a proposed partnership gone bad.

The East bay Express reports:

The entrepreneur in him looked at the growing medical cannabis industry and, after consulting with Harborside founder Stephen DeAngelo, concluded a large-scale indoor cannabis farm was an opportunity.

What this means if that before Wilcox brought forth his 59 pound a day plan that threatens the livelihood of the independent growers and the fabric of the current industry, Harborside was working on developing this strategy with Wilcox. Strange that as that relationship deteriorated, Steve Deangelo began to recall the many mom and pop growers and producers that are the backbone of his organization.

Stevie-D is quoted in the LA Times saying:

“Any new system that is created needs to have a role for these pioneers,” he said. “It’s not the role of government to decide the winners and losers in the marketplace.”

But isn’t it the government who decided who the winners and losers have been in Oakland since the initial regulation in 2005? Does the fact that Mr. Wilcox is moving this forward and not Harborside per say, bring a sense of “Being for it before you were against it” and now that there are other quicker dogs in the race that all of the sudden this compassion and nostalgia for the little guy is paramount? Don’t get me wrong. I do not want to seem to hate the player but you can’t have it both ways. I have held back on many criticisms of the flagrant abuse of stature and often downright arrogance that has been purveyed. But do us a favor. Quit insulting our collective intelligence.

The East Bay Express Reports:

As traditional market forces begin to exert themselves on the once-marginalized illicit drug, a spectrum of reformers has emerged, from pragmatic capitalists on one end, to idealistic, longtime radicals on another. This spread is evident in the once-close relationship between Wilcox and DeAngelo, who are now estranged. The two worked together for months devising a plan for large commercial grows in Oakland, but had a falling out over control of the facility and have begun airing their differences in public.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to vertically integrate, produce the products you retail to patients, and increase the margins for your $21 million dollar organization. But you can’t go slumming with the little guys who you want to integrate out when a bigger fish comes into the pond.

I think the entire mega-production deal is bullshit. The current system of independent collective members/growers that work on small batch products and hone their crafts is awesome. It would be great if the city decided they would license the infrastructure that is already in Oakland rather than create 4 new deep pocket organizations to try to out-produce and outcompete with these small farmer. But alas, in favor of creating the “Mcdonald’s of Marijuana” an effort is being made to undermine the current system.

Also reported in the Express:

DeAngelo said he can’t say for sure why the two parted ways late last year. Wilcox has said that DeAngelo wanted too much control over the enterprise, while he wants to allow multitudes to come in and work his space for a fee. “I was, like, ‘No, no, no this is a regional thing,’” Wilcox said.

DeAngelo’s push for control of cultivation at Wilcox’s site came from two assumptions which are now to be issues of debate. The first one was that state law requires grows to be associated with specific patients in collectives or cooperatives.

Sure…Wilcox is a prick. But which is worse- the prick- or the person who gave the prick the idea, lost their seat at the table, and then chose to ridicule the prick in the name of justice an morality? I suppose that is for the community at large to decide. I just do not see how one can have it both ways. Do you want to do a mega-grow to provide your own medicine or do you want the hundreds of small organizations currently competing for your business to continue to have those entrepreneurial dreams come true and have the independence to make this movement what it is…unique…?

I do not think that what people want in this movement is a lack of competition and behemoth organizations that dictate the market. There is enough of that in the world. There is enough of that in the dispensing game already. For the “World’s Largest Marijuana Retailer” to want to also own the “World’s Largest Cannabis Cultivation Site” is a bit over the top IMO. Look…Coca Cola does not own all of the stores it distributes to and Safeway does not own all of the products they produce. I just do not get the goal. Is it to provide medicine to patients or to take over the world, Pinky?

Maybe their people could call my people and straighten me out on this one….

Disingenuous: California Cannabis Association are cowards…

August 8, 2010 in Miscellaneous

This report was sent out yesterday about an event held Friday night.

Generally, older folks in the crowd at HempCon seem in favor of Prop 19; younger ones aren’t, hoping instead things will “stay as they are” long enough for them to cash in. They were largely unaware of who Steve Cooley is, or Meg Whitman, etc. They want stickers, but not newsletters.

Skunk Magazine hosted a “Share the love–NO on 19″ party last night, promo cards had “Mary n Jane” shotgunning each other and the $20 donation going to the California Cannabis Association, apparently housed at www.cannlobby.com.

Ed Rosenthal and I went to the “Mary and Jane” and “Skunk Magazine” booths to inquire why they were opposing 19 and were informed that the California Cannabis Association wrongfully included them in their flyer and they were not in support of the “No on 19″ message. In fact, Sean, the manager of the “Mary n Jane” booth went as far as to say that they put it on their side of the flyer because they did not have the balls to put it on their own side. He also stated that Mary and Jane (who are lovely) had no idea about the discourse and BS purported by the CCA. He also stated the Skunk Magazine was from Canada and did not have much interest in California affairs.

It is a shame that an organization would not have the courage to put their own message out without lumping in other groups, who obviously could care less about their mission to undermine CA legalization efforts. The group has a website that says “coming soon” and has no credible information on who is behind the efforts. Just another group of cowardice haters that want to keep the status quo so they can get paid off of the backs of patients for a while longer I suppose. It is sad. The leader of this effort should grow a sack of nuts and admit that they were involved in deceptive bullshit that attempted to include organizations in their efforts that did not want to be and furthermore did not appreciate the negative exposure.

UPDATES on the raid of Dennis Peron

August 8, 2010 in Miscellaneous

The raid on Dennis’s Cozy Castro Castle was not ENTIRELY about weed.  Among the people he puts up are troubled youths. Many of them are tweakers, some of them are hustlers of one kind or another. Everyone on the premises was arrested ( TWELVE in all), including the apparent landlord.

It’s true that the August 4, 1996 raid on Dennis’s cannabis buyers’ club  by the Bureau of Narcotics was intended to influence the Prop 215 vote (and backfired, thanks to Doonesberry).  But I doubt very much that this one was intended to influence Prop 19.

I doubt with less conviction that the timing of the raid —just as the Castro was celebrating Vaughn Walker’s ruling that a ban on same-sex marriage in unconstitutional— was coincidental. (Not that it had been a night of celebration for Dennis. He has a word for friends who get married:  “SIGS.” It stands for “straight-identified gays.”)

Those who scold Dennis for allowing young hustlers to hang out at his house should bear in mind that many of these kids have experienced  starvation and would otherwise be sleeping in alleyways.

Some will say the episode proves the wisdom of those who usurped the leadership from Dennis in ’96.  I say being driven out of the leadership was profoundly demoralizing and led to his present situation.


The charges, which have been dropped, involved running a house where drugs, including marijuana and methampetamine, were used. Dennis has yet to see the search warrant. He did not have a lawyer. (Terence called the DA’s office.) He has not fully recovered from the stroke he had in LA in February (approx).  Still slurring his words and maybe not thinking clearly…   He did not have a seizure during the raid but says he couldn’t breathe.  He’d been having trouble breathing and had gone to the ER the day before the raid and been given inhalants, etc.  Twelve people were arrested at the house —”including one guy they pulled off the street,” says Dennis… He thinks the timing was SFPD’s way of commemorating the 1996 raid.

Source: Fred Gardner

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