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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

#FUCKMICKEY AWARDS 2017- EVERYBODY GETS A TROPHY

The #FUCKMICKEY Awards are a place where I give awards to: THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY of the cannabis movement and industry. Some call it mean-spirited; and others appreciate the willingness to keep it real and have the tough conversations about the mosaic of weirdos, freaks, and chumps that are a part of the community. It has become a fun tradition that, at the very least, gives people something to talk about heading into the New Year. Whether you love or hate the #FUCKMICKEY Awards there is no denying the real and meaningful impact they have had.

The whole awards show started out as a big joke to poke fun at the dozens of unnecessary and stupid awards shows that some weak-ass organizations put on to pat each other on the back; and award the undeserving for menial efforts that are more of a circle jerk than any sort of real award. But I do not have to tell you that. There are nearly 800 yearly cannabis cups and competitions that have watered down the meaning of awards to the point that by now everyone has gotten a stupid trophy for one thing or another… but I digress. In addition to the “I won a cup at blah-blah-blah event” deal, there are also another couple hundred “awards shows” where some nameless committee of losers give out the old reach-around awards to their buddies to give “recognition” to some asshole for doing their fucking job, and usually not even doing it well. Super. Yawn.

So, three years ago, I decided that I would do my own awards based on 3 categories- THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY. The individual awards were bizarre by design to illicit humor and to make people think. There was everything from “Best Stupid Selfies” to “Neediest Attention Whore” to “Person Who Should Most Likely Just Die.” You can see how these hard-hitting realities caused a lot of drama and made hundreds of people butthurt. It is funny because it is literally just me sitting at a computer posting meme-based awards regarding my opinion of the many public figures and hucksters that create the cannabis landscape. I spent 137 days in Facebook jail this year, and 97 of those were directly related to last year’s #FUCKMICKEY Awards. Good times.

It is also a hell of a lot of work to pull off. Developing the categories and researching who is the worthiest for each one is exhausting. Then having to write lengthy descriptions for each of the awards and posting them for everyone to read and share takes a lot of time and energy. Add to that the fallout from the barrage of emails, messages, texts, and comments I receive, and it gets to be a lot to manage…. Remember. it is just me. A giant asshole sitting here throwing bombs and watching the chickenheads scatter. It has become quite the undertaking.

So, after the long and trying year that was 2016 it became more difficult to single people out for their fucking problems. We all failed this year when you look at it. There is not a person in this movement and industry that deserves a real pat on the back, or award for anything.

Sure. I could put a bunch of assholes on blast for their crimes against humanity and greed, but why? What purpose would that serve when the reality is that we are all guilty. Guilty of not doing enough. Guilty of being selfish. Guilty of not putting forth the effort needed to change the world. Who the fuck am I to tell this person that they sucked more than me this year? I just do not see the point anymore. I too failed as a human, an activist, and as a protector of cannabis. 

It is funny to listen to people bitch and moan because I did not drop the normal #FUCKMICKEY Awards this year. You blood-thirsty bitches should be ashamed of yourselves. Maybe if you grew a sack of nuts and spoke up every once in a while, there wouldn’t even be a need for me to have these stupid awards. But most of you are cowards. Most of the people who expect me to do the work for them wouldn’t know courage if it bit them in the ass. Fuck you guys the most. 

But moving on… I am not going to waste my time and energy this year calling out all of these individual fuckheads for their atrocities. I will leave that chore to those who really give a fuck. If 2016 taught me one thing it is that I give a fuck too much. That I let my emotions get the better of me, and I waste valuable time and energy focusing on what is wrong with the world instead of what is right.

I have decided to try and change that. I am trying to figure out how to move forward and to quit looking back so much. No one said that would be an easy task, but it is necessary if I am to grow as a person.

So, the big winner of the #FUCKMICKEY Awards this year is YOU. That is right. Each and every one of you have sucked this year. There is nothing for you to be proud of. We are watching our society fall off a cliff, and instead of trying to save it everyone just wants to film it to put on their Instagram feed. It is pathetic and I am ashamed to call myself a part of humanity. We all need to do a lot of soul searching and figure out what kind of world we want to live in; and then we need to figure out what we are going to do to get there.

I am not willing to accept that what will be will be. We are all better than this and none of us deserve any fucking award. If you can’t see the writing on the wall then you must be blind. This year was one tiny  step forward and three gigantic steps back for all of us.

So excuse me if I did not take the time and energy to entertain you with my witty banter and absolutely fabulous awards shit-show this year. I just didn’t see the point of it all when it is not any one person or group of people who are good, bad, or ugly… It is all of us. You, me, and the whole fucking world. We are all fucked up people with a lot of work to do. There is no getting around that.

My reality is that this year EVERYONE GETS A TROPHY. Congratulations. You earned it, you miserable fuck. Maybe next year will be different, but as for this year I do not have a lot to celebrate and I am disappointed with everyone. Take it for what it is, and shove it up your ass if you think I owe you something more. I don’t.

You are the fucking problem; and until you figure that out we are all fucking doomed. Selah.

 

 

 

Not Dead Yet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selah. Wooooooooooooosh!

A New Era of Activism and Resolve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selah.

 

Reform CA vs. ReformCA.org: Let the Shit Show Begin

reformca.logo.44 VS.  Reform.Square

Sometimes things start out as a joke, and then become more serious as things unfold; but there is nothing funny about losing another election for cannabis freedom in California. Or even more so, getting stuck with a law that sucks because we let those who do not have the best interest of cannabis users and providers run amok with the process with zero checks and balances.

So let’s start by figuring out who and what “ReformCA” is… Late last year I began to hear about a group forming called Reform CA that was going to be organizing the effort for a 2016 initiative in the State of California. Being that I have spent the better part of my life fighting for cannabis freedom in California, I was somewhat surprised that I had no idea who the fuck these people were. So I went and checked out their fancy new website where, at the time, was listed a whole host of individuals and organizations that were supposedly involved. Literally damn near everyone was included, like there was some huge inclusive effort being put forth; but reality was anything but that really.

After further investigation, I found out that Reform California was a basic rebranding of the group called the “Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform“… the group that developed after the Prop. 19 loss who vowed to make a comeback after their poorly run campaign effort failed in 2010. If you go to their site and look at the “About” page their list of supporters has dwindled and they recently added a link to their Coalition page; but they do not list directly on their page who the fuck they are and why we should give a shit. If you read down to the bottom of the page you get this:

ReformCA is an initiative of the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform (CCPR), a registered 501(C)(4) non-profit organization based in Oakland. More information about CCPR is available at CannabisPolicyReform.org.

It always fascinates me when a group does not have the courage to directly list who they are on their page, but at least now they have this handy link to the CCPR page, which has listed a Board of Directors…. So here is the list of folks on the Board who are supposedly behind the ReformCA effort:

  • Dale Sky Jones- Oaksterdam/Prop 19
  • Alice Huffman- NAACP
  • Dale Gieringer- CANORML
  • Dan Rush- UFCW
  • Jeff Jones- Patient ID Center/Prop 19
  • David Bronner- Dr. Bronner’s
  • Antonio Gonzales- William C. Velasquez Institute
  • Richard Lee- Oaksterdam/Prop. 19
  • Jim O’Neil- Peter Thiel Consultant
  • Aaron Houston- Weedmaps
  • Stacia Costner- SSDP
  • Neil Franken- LEAP
  • Debby Goldsberry- UFCW?
  • Kristen Nevedal- Emerald Growers Association
  • Don Duncan- Americans for Safe Access
  • Joe Rogoway- Attorney
  • Graham Boyd- ACLU/Peter Lewis (Honorary Board Member)
  • Stephen Gutwillig- Drug Policy Alliance (Honorary Board Member

Sounds like an amazing effort, no? Well don’t let the smoke and mirrors fool you. I don’t think half of the people listed a Board Members even know they are on the Board, or at least do not seem to take active roles with the group. Have you heard about Reform CA, but kept wondering who the fuck was behind it really like the rest of us? Well… I am not even sure they know at this point. I am not even sure they know what their mission and objectives are. They just know that they feel if legalization efforts are going to happen in California that they deserve to lead the effort because apparently they have been standing around the longest or some shit.

Let’s be completely honest though… The list of people above is not really the group of folks who are putting forth the ReformCA effort. It is a handful of them that are really working on the project. The majority have not publicly announced their involvement or support for the Reform effort. But back to my story….

So after realizing that this group was developing and coronating themselves the legalization prom queen, I began to try and figure out who was what, and why I had not been invited to take part in the effort. Was it me? Probably. I can admit that my harsh criticism and forward thinking have rubbed many people the wrong way. Swing a dead cat around and you will likely hit a person who I have been critical of, or God forbid, made a funny meme about. Sue me. But I figured that even with my controversial reputation that I would at least get a courtesy heads up that this group was planning on leading the charge for legalization in CA, and wanted to be the point people for an effort that will certainly change my life forever. I can admit I was a little offended at first, as I believe I have paid my dues in this community and have certainly given a lot of myself to inspiring cannabis freedom.

So after a little digging it was brought to my attention that this group was primarily being put forth by CCPR, and being lead by Dale Sky Jones, Jeff Jones, and Richard Lee… the faces of Prop. 19. This sort of pissed me off, as I spent a lot of time, energy, and political capital fighting for Prop. 19 when EVERYONE else hated it and the folks who ran the campaign could not be bothered to fight their own fight. I was one of the most vocal advocates for the law, which I still believe for all of its issues would be better than where we are today; but I digress. I just found it funny, and mildly offensive, that a group headed up by folks whose honor I spent a hell of a lot of time defending could not be bothered to reach out to me about their plans. But that is cool… Like whatever, man.

RichardLee.1

After understanding that this ReformCA group was just a regurgitation of the CCPR group and others who I thought lost their fucking minds for deciding to pass on 2014 and who chose to ignore the momentum of 2012, which I wrote about in a piece entitled, “You gotta be shitting me….. 2016? Excuses Suck” I knew there was a problem. Further review of the situation enlightened me that this group was also being spearheaded by the likes of Dale Gieringer of CANORML, Don Duncan of ASA, and Dan Rush of UFCW, which explained why I was likely shunned in the deal. I have not been short on criticisms of these figureheads whose failed leadership has been disastrous in the cannabis community. Dale Gieringer continues to play political football in the community, and has been one of the least effective leaders I have ever met. This is a guy who refused to co-author my book Medical Marijuana 101 because I was “too big of a cheerleader for cannabis” in my writing. LOL.

Then you add in Don Duncan’s issues with ASA and their coalition of restriction partnered by Dan Rush of UFCW, and you understand that I have had a lot to say about the failures of these groups’ efforts. ASA and UFCW have continued to advocate for a more restrictive cannabis industry since partnering up in 2012 to try and push a medical initiative that they fabricated support for, which took the wind out of the sails of adult use legalization efforts across the State. Then they conspired to pass Measure D in LA, which put hundreds of dispensaries out of business, and was the most restrictive effort on the ballot. Don Duncan used his power with ASA to save his own dispensary, which he sold to a group once headed up by Montel Williams. UFCW twisted the arms of most GLACA members to become union shops, and in turn used their political muscle to give them a competitive advantage with Measure D. Americans for Safe Access and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union continue to use their political influences to support legislation in Sacramento that would only allow a select few to compete in the market, including language that cements the union’s place in the market. No one in their right mind or who has been paying attention for the last few years, believes that CANORML, ASA, or UFCW have their best interests in mind. It is obvious that they have all been bought or paid for by someone at this point.

Yes…. I have been, and will continue to be, a thorn in the side of anyone whose efforts support restrictions and compromise based on interests that have to do with money and nothing to do with cannabis freedom. I used to be a huge supporter of Americans for Safe Access, but their culture and mission obviously changed in recent years and I can not support a lot of what they are doing. I also like UFCW’s efforts in a lot of ways, but understand that they are a union and that at the end of the day they cannot really be trusted. They have an agenda, and that agenda is UFCW. While their political influence is certainly welcome, when it is influenced by the few and used to limit the industry more than it need be, I take issue. Sorry. Just trying to keep it real.

So here is where the story gets a little more amusing……

In November, for shits and giggles, I checked to see if this ReformCA effort had secured all of their domains. Low and behold, I found out that ReformCa.org and ReformCA.info were still available. So I bought them because I am a funny guy. I figured if a group was not sophisticated enough to secure their own domains then they certainly were not capable of running a campaign for cannabis legalization in a state the size of California. I parked the domains for a while, knowing soon enough someone would come looking for them.

Sure enough, three days before Christmas I get the following email, as well as a couple of panicked voice mails:

Howdy Mickey!

Hope this finds you well!  I understand you were kind enough to take ReformCA.org off the market in November, and I am circling around to find out what I need to do to get it into our wheelhouse.  CC’ing Brian, who helps with such things…
Are you living out east permanently now?  Trying to catch up, you are a busy guy!
Dale Sky Jones
Oaksterdam University
Executive Chancellor
Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform
Chairwoman

At this point I am giggling, because I am childish. Obviously someone realized what a huge fuck up this was, and then they realized it was an asshole like me who had control of their domains. Welcome to the show. All of the sudden they wanted to talk now. Still a little butthurt from the overt exclusion, I did not return the calls or email. Instead I began to think about ways to use their incompetence to learn a valuable lesson. I decided that instead of negotiate with folks who I had zero confidence in, that I would instead build my own informative website that was open an information portal to promote the discussion of the many aspects of what an initiative will need to be, as well as what initiatives are being proposed by the many different groups.

I then created the site ate ReformCA.org. It was modeled after MoveOn.org as an effort to set an example for how we should be approaching the issue of cannabis reform in California. The site was meant to promote an open dialogue among the community and have a safe space to share ideas on what we all want as a community for the industry to look like; as well as what we thought about the efforts being put forth. It also served the purpose of driving people crazy too; but that is just a bonus. I truly believe that before we get too far down the yellow brick road and hand over the industry to the highest bidder, we should really figure out what the fuck we want and what the fuck we need in a cannabis reform law. So the site was really more of a lead by example effort.

Reform.FB.cover.1

Currently I have a breakdown of the different aspects of cannabis legalization laws with an easy to register discussion section under each topic on our Discussion page. I also have four of the filed initiatives up with discussion portals for folks to review and discuss on our Initiatives page. While I am doing my best to put the site together, it is a side project so it is a work in progress. But it is a cool site that I hope will become the home for a lot of this discussion as the race for 2016 heats up.

So needless to say, my development of this page made the folks at ReformCA a little upset. I was contacted by one of their Board members who I am friends with, and asked to come speak to the group to discuss possible resolution. I agreed to come present to them at their Board meeting in May to discuss the website and their efforts.

So I shit you not….. I walk into Oaksterdam for the meeting and sitting around the table are Dale Sky Jones, Dale Gieringer, Richard Lee, Jeff Jones, Debby Goldsberry, and Jim Gonzales, who was noticeably absent from their Board listing on their site. On the phone was Don Duncan and Kristen Nevedal. Upon my entering Dale G. gets up and walks out. Don and Kristen immediately announce that they are hanging up the call. It is always nice to start a negotiation with almost half of the Board turning their back on the issue. I knew it was going to be my kind of meeting.

I began by presenting the Board with my 2016 Cannabis Adult Use Legalization Guide, a 15 page document spelling out my positions on what legalization efforts should look like in CA. The remaining members of the Board were very cordial, including Jim Gonzales who I had never met before. We had a robust discussion that went far over the 5 minute presentation I had planned. Dale and Debby engaged me in conversation about my opinions and experiences in the industry. We discussed the current madness that is shaping up for election season, and made nice for most of our discussion.

Then I stated the obvious…. “No one knows who the fuck you are.”

It seemed a little shocking I guess at first, but it was true. Everyone I had spoke with was confused as to who was putting the ReformCA efforts forward. Many in the cannabis movement/industry are highly skeptical of ReformCA and much of that hostility comes from having the same people being the spokespersons for their efforts who had previously failed. As discussed, the failure of Prop. 19 divided this community severely, and I still have arguments about it to this day. As I looked around the room, and got a clearer picture of what the group was up to, I began to feel uneasy. None of us can afford another failure in CA. None of us. But here we were trying to do the same thing and expecting different results. It seemed like insanity to me. Political and social suicide really. I would almost agree with Bill Zimmerman in his “shut the fuck up and let DPA do it” assertion rather than have these folks lead the charge again. I love Richard, Dale, and Jeff in their own rights for their work, but I think they need to pass the torch to people who are not so representative of days past and our failures as a community. Add to that the mistrust put forth by Dale G., Dan Rush, and Don Duncan and the whole deal seemed like a recipe for disaster.

I also asked them, “What exactly are you trying to do here?” This is where it got a little weird. They did not seem to have consensus really. I asked if they were developing their own language to file with the State, and got two different answers that were basically rectified with a “we can’t exactly say” sort of response. From the best I could figure out, they were hoping to work with DPA on drafting their language, and wanted to be the campaign committee for the effort. But admitedly, it was not super clear, even after asking a couple of times point blank,

The website discussion was humorous. I was honest and told them that it initially started out as a prank, but had evolved. I also told them I invested in developing the site because I believed it was a good model for the community moving forward. Jim looks right at me and asks, “So what do you want? Money?” I sort of laughed and told him that it was not about money. Dale Sky Jones told me how I was causing too much confusion and how they were holding some promotions until it was figured out. I told them to email me more about their efforts and that we could possibly find a workable solution to get them their domain back.

So a few days later I got this email with a subject line of “Thank you”:

Hi Mickey,

I wanted to thank you for coming to chat with us on Friday. Debby has forwarded your presentation to the entire board. We kept the official meeting going so we could also provide minutes of your presentation, and our chat to any board members not present or unable to stay (we often have folks drop off before the end of the 1.5 hour call as it occurs in the business day). We just completed the notes and will be sending those around as well.

I must say the presentation you provided was very helpful. I know we only agreed to a five min board presentation, but I personally wanted to dive deeper with you, and I appreciate you doing so as it gave us valuable insight and ideas.

I updated the Trippi team on Sat and asked to them to look into options. I have a meeting today about the website to discuss implementing the suggestions and improvements to outgoing communication you inspired. We are contemplating several different ways to do it, and also clarifying what roles we can play in making it happen.

As you can imagine it is always tricky getting this many groups to agree on what gets posted, as we are still traveling the state, learning more and gaining consensus, however the next two months will prove enlightening as we narrow the focus and get drafting.

In the meantime, we can certainly improve communication about who we are and what we are doing as we find ways to open it up for those who have not attended a meeting.

I hope to chat soon about the .org now that you’ve had time to think about what you feel is a fair price. We are a non-profit and struggle for donations like most do, however the board feels you should be compensated for your investment if you will simply turn it over. With that said, I thought I heard you (someone?) say $2,000. I do not want to haggle or start negotiating below $1,000 and cheapen the conversation. If 2k will convince you to turn the site over, I will approve it immediately so we can all move on and focus on what is at hand.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Dale Sky Jones
Executive Chancellor
Oaksterdam University
Chairwoman
Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform

I left the meeting that day feeling terrible, after giving Dale an insincere hug and shaking Richard Lee’s hand. I began to think more and more about the whole deal, and realized that we were doomed if this is what we were going with. It was a recipe for disaster. It made me sick to my stomach to think about, and I could not muster the strength to go through the bullshit we went through last time all over again because of pride and self-righteousness. There was just too much at stake to risk making the same mistake twice.

So I responded with this email:

Hey Dale et. al,

Thanks for letting me come in and discuss my ideas for 2016 with the group. I have spent the last week plus thinking about the experience and working to reconcile the many things we discussed. I have also spent more time on your other site reviewing your Board and its mission.

Yes. I was taken aback, but not surprised, that Dale Geiringer walked out, and Don and Kristen hung up the call before I could have a chance to speak; but I will take your word that it was more of a coincidence than hurt feelings based on past criticisms of mine. Such is life. It is tough being the messenger sometimes.

All that being said, I will be completely honest with you. I think the way your group is structured right now is an absolute recipe for disaster within the cannabis community, and likely even more so outside of the cannabis community. The figureheads and stakeholders you have lined up to lead the charge, in my opinion, are severely problematic.

For starters, you, Jeff, and Richard being the faces of the organization will be your downfall. You guys know that I defended the Prop 19 effort vigorously and often by my damn self. Most of your team could not be bothered to rise up and meet the many criticisms you and the initiative faced for whatever reason, leaving folks like me and Chris Conrad to take the heat and try to make people understand that for all of its flaws, Prop 19 would have been far better than what we had. I have been a vocal advocate for Richard and his willingness to put himself in the line of fire for the 19 effort. I have taken a lot of shit for that position over the years and still have many arguments to this day based on those positions. I do not regret that for a minute.

But the campaign was an absolute failure in the eyes of many, and sending out the same team to try and push a new initiative would be one of the most strategically bizarre moves ever conceived in politics. There is a reason the Republicans begged Mitt Romney not to run again. Because he is the face of losing and mistrust… and for better or worse, right or wrong, you, Richard, and Jeff are also the face of losing in the cannabis world. Your inability to combat the lies and misinformation in that campaign have festered for many years and have left A LOT of the community thinking you do not have their best interests in mind. That is no position to start a new campaign effort from.

Add in the likes of Dan Rush, Don Duncan, and Dale Geiringer, and what you have is a shit show. No one is going to follow those Generals into battle. It just isn’t going to happen. Sorry. They have spent too much time and energy lobbying for restrictions and working to undermine the movement for anyone to feel comfortable that they have our back on this effort. I will point you to the LA debacle with Proposition D as an example where UFCW and ASA worked together to restrict permitting and create an environment that made several hundred operating businesses and their clients criminals again. Dale G. also represents a lot of bad decision making by people who the community thought were supposed to have their backs. Having these elements on your team does nothing but elicit mistrust within the community.

You are also missing a lot of the new cannabis industry players in your mix, either by design, or because they simply want nothing to do with your old guard approach. I am not sure whose idea it was to comprise a group of people, who while they are supposed leaders due to their title and pedigree, are simply not. There are a lot of viable people working hard to make a difference in cannabis reform, and the most dynamic are nowhere to be found in your circle at this time.

I was going to solicit a bunch of questions in hopes that you could enlighten me as to why this was a good idea, but after doing some soul searching I will just say that I do not have confidence at all in the team you have assembled, and cannot support the effort as it stands. I can only hope that whoever decides to fund this thing moves in a different direction and forms a more solid coalition of people that I, and the rest of the community, can believe in. It is not personal by any means, but we also cannot rewrite history. We have all staked out our positions in the madness that is the California cannabis landscape. Unfortunately, many on your team have taken positions that directly contradict the principles of cannabis freedom; and more so some flat out lack ethics and morality and have already proven they will sell us out for a bag of silver.

So now that we have gotten past the niceties and concerns, let’s talk business…. As I stated in the meeting, I have no interest in money. I know how to make money if I need it. But at this point it is principle. I invested over $2k into getting the site reformca.org up and running, and have put a great deal of time and effort into the project. Why? To be a thorn in your side of course. No one called me or invited me to any meetings to discuss the effort, and that is fine. Who the fuck am I anyway? But what I saw happening is a group of entitled people coming together to coronate themselves prom queen in this effort, and I simply was not feeling it. I built reformca.org as an information portal where the community could come together to discuss the efforts being put forth and have an open and honest dialogue on the merits of these efforts. Your input the other day lets me know you do not really have those same interests, and are looking for more of a tunnel vision approach. Much to my surprise, I have faced more hurdles because people think I am you than you probably have by people thinking you were me. LOL. Just so you know, people have very real and meaningful concerns about your effort and many are not feeling it. At least that is what my initial feedback has produced. It is also very worrisome to me to think that a group who cannot even secure their own web domains would be in charge of any campaign for adult use cannabis legalization in California. Don’t you agree? I mean, if you cannot handle the small stuff, how can anyone trust you with the big stuff? You want me to put my future in the hands of people who are obviously incompetent and who admit they do not have the time, energy, or resources to roll this thing out right? No thanks.

But if you want the domain back, I will tell you what…. I will do it for $5k and then donate anything over the costs I have incurred back to whatever campaign effort forms down the road after it makes the ballot. This offer is good until June 1, and then the price will be $10k. If that sounds good let me know and I will forward you my bank account information and you can deposit it directly. I have been adimately clear in all of my communications that I have no issue taking hostages if need be to push the agenda of cannabis freedom. I hope this makes it clear that this is 100% true. I may not have a fancy group or title to stand behind, but I am more than willing to use whatever influence I have to make sure that this thing is done right and that the law we are left with represents the many, not the few. Your team does not impress me as having those same goals given their track records.

Thanks for your time and energy on this. I look forward to discussing mutual goals.

Regards,

Mickey Martin

Self-Appointed Leader of the Weed Movement

So here we are at an old fashioned Mexican standoff. June 1st has come and gone, so if they want their site back they can cough up $10k. Otherwise, fuck it. We can continue the charade and they can keep selling wolf tickets to their coronation dance. I will keep developing the information on my site in hopes of at least reaching some folks, and having a discussion on the legalization efforts we see going forward. I have nothing to lose. I am already an outcast from these circles of yes men and sellouts, as noted by half of them walking out before my presentation. So let’s not bullshit each other and pretend their s going to be some huge kumbaya moment, and the years of deception and failed politics will somehow just dissipate.

The coming months will be telling, and it is up to us as a community to decide if we want to continue down the path of failed leadership because of a warped sense of ownership of this industry by folks who have a great deal of baggage. Or do we want to demand new leadership and direction from people we can trust to represent the needs of the many, and not just the few? I think it is long time for change in the industry, and while I am not necessarily qualified to decide who and what are appropriate leadership and directions for everyone, I do know that continuing down the same path that has left us vulnerable for nearly two decades is not a viable option.

So there you have the tale of ReformCA vs. ReformCA.org. Funny not funny really; but we all knew it was going to be a fight, so is anyone really surprised? I didn’t think so. Selah.

2016 Cannabis Adult Use Legalization Guide

hemp_field_foto_vast_from_hempglobalsolutionscom

Cannabis Landscape Overview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extraordinary Challenges

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

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

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

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

Realistic Objectives

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

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

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

The Purpose of Adult Use Legalization Laws

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

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

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

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

A Level Playing Field for All

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

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

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

Defining the Entire Cannabis Continuum

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

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

Cannabis Rights and Freedoms

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

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

Repealing Prohibition Laws

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

The Need for Clear Regulatory Framework

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

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

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

Personal Possession, Cultivation, and Production

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

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

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

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

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

Commercial Cultivation and Production

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

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

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

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

Retailers

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

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

Edibles

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

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

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

Concentrates

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

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

Medical Use vs. Adult Use

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

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

Taxes and Revenue

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

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

What about the kids?

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

Anticipating Opposition

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

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

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

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

Wants vs. Needs

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

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

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

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

Why You Should Listen To Me…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MICKEY.NATURAL.1

Enjoy 4/20… Then Get To Work

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You kids are adorable.

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

It is easy to enjoy the good times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do the work and the rest will come.

But… But I thought we were all good?

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Complacency and arrogance will be the death of us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

or this tidbit here….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS REFORMCA.ORG?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fuck Your Weed Store

Steve DeAngelo, Harborside Health Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In all reality, fuck your weed store.

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

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

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

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

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

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