The Game Needs Me and I Need the Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Airing of the Grievances

A Fesitvus for the rest of us….one of my favorite traditions. Please review and take in my airing of the grievances for 2013. Feel free to add your own in the comment section….

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THE AIRING OF THE GRIEVANCES:

1. Weed is still not totally legal. (Though two states, a country, several cities and a federal stand down was a hell of a year)

2. People are still going to jail for weed at alarming rates in many areas. This must stop. However we get there, I just want to get there.

3. People are still losing their kids for weed. This is pure madness by any civilized standard. We must put an end to cannabis abductions.

4. Parents are still having to worry about treating their sick children with safe and effective cannabis medicines. What kind of evil people would put parents of sick children through this?

5. Folks are still losing their job for weed. If it were not for weed most companies would not even piss test people. We should end prohibition and at the same time end having to give body fluid to people for employment.

6. People are still looking down their noses at cannabis users. We must continue to shift the paradigm through admitting we are good people that like weed. For too long it has just been the fringe willing to step up. You garage weed smokers need to be accounted for. We all know you get high, dummy.

7. Why the fuck are people still hungry?

8. Too many losers running around claiming to be experts in this fucking industry who do not know shit except how to steal other people’s work and talk suckers out of their money.

9. Meth torches…..

10. Weed is still not totally legal…..

Reinventing The Wheel

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The wheel was a great invention. Maybe one of man’s best. But let’s be honest…the wheel has been reinvented and improved upon a million times. The tire itself has come along way, not to mention the insane amount of rim choices we have these days. Big wheels and little wheels for big jobs and little jobs. While all wheels generally perform the same function, the wheel itself is reinvented almost daily to serve a new purposes.

The weed game is a wheel that is at a point of desperately needing some reinvention. It will require a new way of looking at things to make a successful transition from the underworld to the mainstream. It is a new terrain and it would serve us well to examine our wheels to make sure they are the best option for the road ahead. We have a great opportunity to change the entire landscape of weed culture as we emerge from Outlaw City. If we do not want to reinvent the weed wheel entirely, we should damn well consider some serious upgrades.

There are all sorts of areas where we can change the way weed is understood and accepted. What we see is a growing willingness to consider weed as a part of the everyday lives of our community. The great experiment of medical cannabis has allowed for people to see that there are few dangers associated with weed shops, and that the mere presence of weed in the community does not decrease anyone’s quality of life. If anything, even if just a few boozers lightened up on the liquid poison and smoked a little weed instead of getting blitzed chances are quality of life greatly improves.

We have an opportunity to shed the lazy derelict stoner image and offer cannabis as a sophisticated and responsible alternative to other common intoxicants in our society. Without the legal stigma of weed being a criminal activity we will actually look like the grown-ups at the table. “Yeah. I just smoke weed. I don’t drink booze or anything.”

We can reinvent the way major corporations do business by demanding a conscious corporate model that is considerate of our cultural norms and expectations. We do not have to support companies or individuals who do not have the best interest of weedheads and the planet in mind.

We are coming in at a position of great power…we have already devised the black market for over 40 years and we can go back there if weed companies decide to become corporate asshole scumbags. We have a great network and as time goes on the hucksters and charlatans will be exposed. Free-market capitalism goes both ways….what it really means is the gloves are off.

A lot of assholes fly under the radar now because no one wants to call them on their shit in public and risk possibly putting their ass in prison for decades…but we all know some unscrupulous people are lurking in this industry trying to position themselves and embed their creepiness amongst the tribes. But that wheel will be reinvented as the gloves come off. There will be no pulled punches or cooperative competition. It will be game on Coke and Pepsi style. I for one cannot wait.

The cannabis market will be reinvented, as well. Right now there is a large emphasis focused on the retail aspect of the industry, but the natural shift to branded products and more traditional distribution channels will change the game. While there will certainly be small specialty markets of cannabis, there will be a need for a larger production and distribution module to feed global demand. There will be a need for new packaging schemes and labeling requirements. Why do we still sell 1/8ths anyways? What a stupid measurement that is for inventory control. Why not 5, 10, 0r 20 gram options? It just seems much easier for us all to track and do the math on. Regardless, there will be huge room for improvement in packaging, and the production and marketing of weed products will be a wheel that will be reinvented many times as the game goes on.

Consumption patterns will be reinvented too. We already see the dab craze evolving into its own beast, and separate but equally cool community of enthusiasts complete with their own holiday…7.10. Dabs will continue to grow in popularity, and will likely become the hard booze option of the cannabis market. Vape pens are huge, as more low cost options come onto the market and people become familiar with their ease of use. Edibles will be an interesting market to watch grow, simply because the possibilities are endless. But as weed continues to travel the road to legitimacy, the way people consume and enjoy their weed will certainly be a wheel that is reinvented.

We should not shy away from our responsibility to bring cannabis back into the every day routine of our society. We should embrace the opportunity and ensure that it is done with style and class. We should own that shit and demand that weed be respected and cherished. We will admonish the drug warriors and create a space for weed to thrive. Think about how you want cannabis to be understood and dealt with in our society, and then begin talking as if it already is just like that.

#legalbysummer

FourTwenty-TwentyThirteen: The Day the Prohibitionist Cried

Deserted city on Shabbat. Tel Aviv 2005.

I heard the prohibitionist cry today. Not like a whimper, or a small tear running down the cheek; but a bawling cry. A heartfelt cry. A cry so deep and meaningful that they looked to their God to stop their sadness.

As I got off of the plane in Denver I could tell the world had changed here. The driver who picked us up was all too aware of the cannabis related activity happening in his state. Here was a middle-eastern man who moved to Denver from Charlotte, NC three years ago talking openly about cannabis, not as an issue, but as a great opportunity for his city. He spoke of how much busier he was this week because of the festivities and acknowledged that the industry had been very good for the local economy. He understood that weed was an extreme positive on the community he lived and worked in….and he could not be happier. Cyrus did not smoke weed, but he knew that weed was making his world a better place regardless of if he participated or not.

It seems the entire State of Colorado has decided that they are going to embrace the vote for weed that happened in November, and weed leaves have become a normal part of the local environment; and not just in the areas where the events were being held but everywhere. I took a walk down the 16th Street mall to the bank shortly after getting to my hotel. I expected for there to be a high contingency of weedheads wandering the mall, and I was not disappointed. People from all walks of life had gathered in Denver and were expressing their freedom to smoke weed in very public ways. Joint after joint walked past me.

But what surprised me more was that it was bigger than just the weedheads. The businesses on this extremely gentrified tourist trap had also jumped in. T-shirt shops were filled with weed shirts right near the front door for everyone to see. Restaurants and cafes offered 4-20 specials and used common weed puns to peddle their wares. Weed was not only present on the mall….it was dominating the conversation. And no one could give a shit. As far as I could see, weed was already legal by all accounts.

I then took a cab to the area where the High Times Cannabis Cup, Club 64 and Cannaval were all being held. As the cab pulled into the storm, I was taken back by the sheer amount of weed related activity happening all in one place. Weedheads were as far as the eye could see, colorfully dressed and openly enjoying their new found freedom. It was surreal for anyone who had grown up shoving weed down their pants in hopes of avoiding detection. Streets were lined with banners and decorations paying homage to the beloved cannabis plant. Weed was everywhere. Weed has won. Weed has arrived.

I exited the cab after driving past a line to enter the HT event that stretched a quarter mile. While the lines were long and the event was packed wall to wall with stoners, no one seemed to really mind. After all, they were standing in line for an event celebrating the legalization of weed and enjoying their herb as they waited. I have never seen such a long line with everyone smiling and enjoying themselves. It was great.

For several square blocks there were weed related things to do and be a part of. No one looked lonely or bored anywhere that I could see. It was fucking weed Mardi Gras.

Denver was just one of many celebrations happening across the globe. Weed had won the day. I did not see one cop in the weed festivities area yesterday. Not one. I was there all day. Weed was there all day and in a big way. and law enforcement could give a shit. No one went to jail for weed in Denver yesterday. No one.

One jackass did shoot two people at an open event at the local Civic Center Park in an altercation unrelated to weed, but everyone else everywhere else was super cool. There was no drunken drama. There were no petty fights over the dumb shit. It was a mellow cloud of weed smoke hanging over the event that seemed to keep everyone happy and healthy.

While the Cannabis Cup event itself was a little disorganized (as usual), it was an amazing sociology experience. There was not an overbearing security presence, nor was there a real need for one. The only real issue was the occasional lost stoner blocking the way trying to figure out where he was on the map, or the Cheeba Chew dress up candy that decided to post up in the bottleneck area to do pictures with everyone, that brought traffic to a halt. But even then, in the chaos and confusion, I just took my time and rolled a joint and enjoyed the scenery. There was no shortage of interesting people to check out and get to know.

There was a harmony in the air that was inspiring. It was a moment of triumph for anyone who has been watching legalization unfold over the last decades….it was here. It was real. It was legit.

As the clock struck 4:20 I was honored to spark up a few fatties with the ladies of the NORML Women’s Alliance. I looked around at the group of folks who had gathered to celebrate this moment on this day. A group of self-dubbed cannabis reformers who had dedicated imeasurable man hours to ending prohibition, and as we sparked the doobies inside the event in defiance when the clock struck 4:20, we all seemed to have an overwhelming calm that indeed we were winning and that the end was near.

That is when I heard it. The unmistakable cry of the prohibitionist. The pain of seeing their cause literally go down in flames was too much to bear. They could not stop the sobbing. The weeping was too much to overcome. There was just no denying that their days were numbered.

The prohibitionist will continue to cry. Their world will continue to crumble. The fear and lies they have been a part of for decades are now exposed and they understood that they will be held accountable for their war crimes against humanity. They know that they will not be locking people up for weed much longer and that their meal ticket is fading. So long suckers.

They cried and cried while I laughed and laughed……

#legalbysummer

J. Tony Serra- Legal Legend. Cannabis Consumer.

This is an article I did for West Coast Cannabis in 2009. It was one of the greatest interviews I have ever had the pleasure of doing. Tony is not just my attorney, but also one of my heroes….

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I sat down with the great Tony Serra for a “privileged” interview in the conference room of his eclectic offices on the infamous strip joint lined street of Broadway in San Francisco. The interview is privileged because technically Tony is one of my attorneys. I met Tony in 2002 at his famed Halloween party that his law offices throw every year at The Great American Music hall on O’Farrell Street; But I got to know him much better after the 2007 raid on my business, Tainted Inc./Compassion Medicinal Edibles, by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. I chose Tony to be one of my attorneys because he is a well-known political activist and long-time supporter of cannabis and, of course, because he represented Brownie Mary, a volunteer that made brownies for patients in the AIDS ward of SF General Hospital, when she was prosecuted for her actions. It was obvious he was more than qualified to represent our cannabis foods case in a federal courtroom.

Tony and my other attorney, Sara Zalkin, escorted me to the front of the federal courtroom when I surrendered myself after the raid. The Judge looked up with a smile and said, “Well. Hello, Mr. Serra. How have you been?” You see, everyone in the legal world knows Tony Serra. He has been fighting some of the most highly politicized cases of the last 40 years and at 75-years-young he looks as if he is nowhere near finished. He is still full of fight and spirit at every level. His clients include the likes of Huey Newton, Dennis Peron, Ellie Nesler, members of The Symbionese Liberation Army, The Hells Angels, The White Panthers, and Earth First!, and, well, me. He says he will never retire. “I want to die defending someone in jury trial and have the Judge say ‘Well, his client is guilty as hell but give it to him because he tried so damn hard.’”

Tony’s passion is jury trials. He likens it to a fix that he needs to get to feel alive. He is a “jury trial junkie.” It is his drug of choice. The courtroom is his stage and he is a loud and buoyant player in the masterpiece that is the law. He does federal in-state trials, he does state medical cannabis trials, and he does federal cases nationwide. He has come to specialize in medical cannabis cases at both the federal and state levels, as he has a vested interest in these cases because Tony Serra is also a medical cannabis patient. “I am the experiment,” Serra says. “I began smoking grass in ‘65 or ‘66. I suppose I was always a patient, but the term medical never occurred to me. In retrospect I can see how this sacrament expanded my transcendental view and helped to medicate the stress. It adds to my life.”

I asked Tony if he was optimistic that medical cannabis would be legalized under the Obama administration. He said he was still pessimistic. “We haven’t seen anything dramatic happen, yet,” he says. “The administration could easily move (cannabis) from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 3, which is where it should be. A trial lawyer lives to hear two words: Not Guilty. I have yet to hear that. I see (Brian) Epis getting 10 years. Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer get five years each. Rosenthal is still a convicted felon. All Guilty. It is a downer.”

He believes that the overzealous law enforcement community may be jealous of those who choose cannabis. “Marijuana people are more free,” declares Serra. “It is simple. It is a form of treason and they know they must crush it. Because they know it opens up a realization for people. (Cannabis) will make you empathize with mans’ brutality against man, and people will refuse to participate. I won’t be your marine. I won’t be your bomber. I won’t kill people in the Middle East for you. Some cops have just bought this shit about marijuana and gateway drugs and being lazy. There is no one real reason for their actions.”

I asked him what he thought about the legalization efforts that were on the horizon with Tom Ammiano’s bill and the Tax and Regulate Cannabis effort for a 2010 proposition. “I haven’t completely studied them, but I don’t believe the government should be in it,” he said. “Once it is legalized the greedy corporations will get their hands in it and it creates this corporate moral disability. Some large dispensaries already practice acts of corporate moral disability. I want it to stay with the mammas and the pappas. The small and unique places. I want the government out of my closet. It should be free, man. I am never for more taxes. I am a tax resister.”

Tony is a tax resister from way back. He says he is a libertarian in that respect. In 2005, Tony was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for “willful failure to pay taxes”. He refused to pay them in an act of protest. He saw the country heading in the wrong direction and did not want to help fund the corrupt politics our country was engaged in. He served most of a 10-month sentence in Lompc Federal Prison for his beliefs and protest. He is a man of conviction.

Tony lives a very humble life. He is known for driving and old beater of a car, wearing second hand clothes, and pays himself just enough to cover his minimal expenses. I can attest to the clothing, as he wore a dress shirt with a small rip across the chest right underneath his suit jacket to my preliminary hearing. Tony is a no frills kind of guy. His reward is not in accumulating wealth and possessions. He is rewarded with a magnificent and exciting life where he makes a difference in the world of real people.

He has always had an “intrapersonal relationship” with cannabis. Tony states, “I started smoking back in the black jazz clubs in the 60’s. People would have kilos from Mexico with stems and seeds all in it, and everyone thought it was fine. I have used cannabis regularly since then and have stopped for many periods of time when I traveled or when I was in jail and I can live with or without it. I just choose to live with it. The ‘pot addict’ theory is bullshit.”

Tony admits that he has tended some small gardens in his time and that he loves to watch the cannabis plant develop into a resinous and sticky beautiful healing plant. He enjoys smoking cannabis from his pipe and does not consider himself a connoisseur in any respect as he enjoys smoking whatever he has available at the time.

Tony loves marijuana. He will undoubtedly continue to fight for the rights of cannabis patients and providers until either this war on cannabis is over or he is long gone, and he has some words of wisdom for those of us on the front lines of the cannabis movement:

“We CANNOT be complacent. We are still martyrs. The growers. The dispensaries. The patients.” He explains, “It is like the second half of a football game and we are still not ahead. We cannot say that government is coming around, because they are not. We cannot afford to sit on our hands. People must put forth a full effort. We must put in every intellectual, psychological and every kind of group effort. This happens in a myriad of ways, like protests, letter writing, and attending all types of cannabis related events. We cannot rest until we put this thing to a finale.”

Let those words marinate for a second. From a man who spent the last four plus decades inside of a courtroom watching this movement become what it is today, we can learn that this fight is far from over. Tony Serra has seen cannabis prohibition grow since LSD was still legal and they sold fresh peyote openly in Golden Gate Park, and he has fought the system on it every step of the way. We owe it to him to “put this thing to a finale.”

Remembering Jack Herer

I wrote this article for West Coast Cannabis after Jack passed away in 2010. Jack was a true voice of freedom and a pioneer we will all never forget. Please enjoy this piece about the GREATEST weed activist ever to walk the planet….

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I love the look on both of these heroes faces in this pic…

Thank You, Jack Herer

Hemperor passes on but leaves behind the legacy of cannabis freedom

By Mickey Martin

On April 15, 2010 at 11:17 a.m. the cannabis movement lost a great leader and friend, as Jack Herer was pronounced dead in Eugene, Oregon. Cannabis has never has a more staunch advocate or dedicated soul to carry the torch of freedom. Everywhere you look in this great movement Jack is present. His influence has surpassed generations and he is a legend that will live forever. It is amazing to think of the many roads Jack traveled for the past decades educating people about hemp and cannabis. His book Emperor Wears No Clothes has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and has motivated activists around the globe to be active voices in the fight for cannabis freedom. In his last public speaking event at 2009 Portland Hempstalk he declared, “There is nothing better for the human fucking race than to have marijuana morning, noon, and night.” That was the message he had hammered home time and time again, year after year, event after event, fiery speech after fiery speech. The Hemperor will live on in the hearts and voices of cannabis activists forever.

Jack virtually created the cannabis movement as we know it today. His infamous bus tours of the 80’s and 90’s spawned activists from across the nation to take up the cause. His book inspired people to not think of themselves as criminals, but crusaders in a fight for truth and justice. His welcoming presence created opportunities for people to learn about this incredible plant and Jack was always ready to teach. Jack’s passion for hemp and marijuana transcended generations, and he dedicated his life to freeing the plant from the clutches of tyranny. He organized ballot initiatives like no other and inspired an army of cannabis activists to join him on his quest to make cannabis legal. Jack understood that the cannabis plant had unique powers. It was a renewable resource to produce food, fuel, fiber, and medicine. “Hemp can save the planet!,” Jack would scream to tens of thousands of supporters every summer at Seattle Hempfest. His passion for the plant was contagious. His words and his actions motivated the masses to stand up for their belief and to never be ashamed of their love for cannabis.

The great warrior spent over 200 days a year traveling to speak about hemp. The miles he logged for the cause are an incredible feat of courage and strength. His words touched so many of us and gave us a voice of our own to speak out about the injustices of cannabis prohibition. As we see the battles being won at city council meetings, legislative forums, and ballot boxes cross the nation and the world, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the man that gave a plant a voice; a man who defended cannabis day in and day out for decades, and gave his life to educating the world about its powers. Jack is the Moses of cannabis. He has lead us to the gates of the Promised Land and talked to burning hemp bushes most of his days. We must take the final steps of this journey without the leadership of this great man, but we will always remember who made this all possible. The incredible journey is what we cherish about this great leader of the movement. Thank you, Jack.

It is said that Jack believed when he started this quest that he would present the overwhelming evidence about the benefits of cannabis and that the plant would be re-legalized a short time later. That was the belief and conviction that Jack showed us all. He believed it was a simple argument. Cannabis was safe. Cannabis and hemp had innumerable benefits to society in the form of renewable resources. Hemp could save the planet. As the drug warriors tried to paint cannabis as an evil, addictive, dangerous substance Jack would yell, “Show me the bodies!” He knew there were none. It was simple.

Jack had a way of inspiring individuals to join the good fight. He was an instrumental part of getting dozens of initiatives on the ballot. He was sure that people, if given a rational argument and choice, would vote to save the planet. Jack did not grow up smoking marijuana. In fact he did not even try the plant that he would dedicate his life to until he was over thirty-years-old. “I was 30 and this girl I knew found out I had never gotten high. Nobody had ever told me about marijuana,” Jack recalled in an interview. “This girl wanted me to experience something I’d never experienced. She tried three times to get me high. Finally it worked, and I had the most incredible sex I’d ever had.” Jack may have been a late bloomer as far as cannabis was concerned, but he fell in love with the plant and never looked back. His passion would drive him until the day he passed away at 70, and he made sure that everyone he met knew about the benefits of marijuana. Thank you, Jack for your words of wisdom.

When Jack wrote Emperor in 1985 he most likely never thought that a quarter of a century later we would still be debating the subject. Although he began his advocacy in the midst of the “Just Say No” era, he refused to let the drug warriors demonize his beloved plant without a fight. Jack once offered $100,000 to anyone who could prove his book wrong. None ever took him up on the challenge, as while some of the factoids in the book may be hazy (no pun intended), the overall premise was right on target. His findings and writings changed the debate on the subject, and at the very least led people to question cannabis prohibition more deeply. His exposing of the core roots of prohibition, including greed and racism, lead his readers to think critically about why these laws were created and who they were really meant to protect. Jack wanted to expose the government and the big corporations and leaders that influenced them for the lies and deceit that they used to outlaw this most helpful plant. In his final speech at Hempstalk he stated, “I don’t want to give the fucking United States government one fucking dollar of taxes. I thought they should go to fucking jail for getting you and me and 20 million people arrested for pot; the safest thing you can do in the universe.” Jack believed not just that cannabis should be legalized, but that we were all owed a big fucking apology.

Jack was a master of the spoken word. Even after a stroke in the year 2000 that affected his ability to speak clearly, he was always one of the most passionate and moving speakers at every event. His call for people to “vote the scumbags out of office” always riled a passionate response from the on looking crowd. His voice was filled with conviction that pierced the soul of those listening. He could make you understand that you were not an innocent bystander in this war on cannabis. That because you were there listening to him speak, that you had already taken your first step as a foot soldier in Jack’s army of cannabis enthusiasts. I remember after my raid Jack was one of the first to approach me at the 2007 NORML Conference and tell me he was sorry for what “the lousy bastards” did to my family and me. He looked me in the eye and said, “You’re not a fucking criminal. They are the fucking criminals.” He let me know that some day I would be a hero for my actions. Then he showed me how his cool double barrel pipe worked. Jack was always on. For those kind words that helped me to know I was not alone in my fight I thank him.

What can you say about a man who spent almost 40 years in the trenches fighting for my right, your right, all of our rights, to smoke cannabis. Jack will live on in all of us. We owe him a debt of gratitude for his tireless work and his inspiration to the nation. Jack was a one-of-a-kind. There will never be another Jack. When you smoke a joint of Jack Herer (Skunk #1, Northern Lights #5, and Haze) know that you owe that man big thanks for the work he did to make it possible that you could even take a toke of greatness. Take a moment and thank Jack for the work he did for us all. Lord knows where we would be without this legendary warrior. I promise you, Jack that I will not stop fighting for cannabis freedoms until the job is done or we are in heaven together smoking a fat one laughing at all of this silly shit here on earth. May you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows your dead. Thanks again for the inspiration, the knowledge, and the example of how to be a great leader. Thank you, Jack.

The Dab Debate Heats Up

It was only a matter of time before the sky began to fall on the dab scene. The dab debate is beginning to hit the mainstream, as news organizations begin to run stories about this “new dangerous form of marijuana.” Very spooky, right?

Check out this local news report on “earwax, the shatter….dabbing.” Notice the old tried and true fear mongering that happens. First, they give you the innocent young teen girl telling you about how her friends are “dabbing” and how it is “easier to give to people and cheaper.” Add in the very straight reporter talking about overdose and toxic chemicals. They add the recovering drug addict who did a stretch in the joint to scare you even more. The cops warn it is “hard to identify” and that they “want to let parents know what they are looking for,” then tie that to the legalization measure passed this fall. What I really like is the drug addict telling you that “if you want $100k Mercedes go find a person who has one and ask them how they got it and go work for it.” Yes, person who let weed ruin his life….it is just that easy. Check out the sensationalism for yourself:

Now I expect this type of sensationalist rhetoric from the media and the prohibitionists. What I did not expect was to hear such overblown rhetoric coming from those within the cannabis movement. In a piece done by the great Chris Roberts of the SF Weekly blog entitled, Thanks to “Dabbing,” It Is Possible to Overdose on Marijuana the normally cannabis friendly Roberts takes a strange turn in his writing, putting forth a very lopsided piece that raises more questions than it answers. My biggest question is “why was there no attempt to cover the story from both sides?” I mean, I get that this is a hot button topic that people are interested in, but when doing a piece that attempts to demean the safety of cannabis by suggesting that people could indeed overdose and die from dabbing, doesn’t it make sense to possibly explore the millions of people not dying for whom dabbing provides a rapid and less carcinogenic form of ingesting their cannabis?

I am a bit disappointed by Roberts reporting, as he usually does a much better job of getting the entire story. But who I am most disappointed in in the Director of CANORML, Dale Gieringer, who is quoted in the piece from a prior communication as saying this:

It also may be dangerous, as California NORML’s Dale Gieringer writes in a recent letter to O’Shaughnessy’s, the marijuana medical journal published by veteran journalist Fred Gardner.

“In the past couple of years, there have been repeated occasions in which 911 teams have had to be called in due to cannabis overdoses,” Gieringer writes, going on to describe people passing out from high-concentrates at High Times Cannabis Cups in LA. The most authenticated record of someone dying from marijuana use, by the way? A man who became so incredibly high on hashish he passed out — and then died after hitting his head on a hard floor.

“Things like this never happened until the popularization of hash oil in recent years,” he adds. “The dangers are dire enough to merit a special warning.”

THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!

Geiringer also said on an email communication regarding this matter:

I’m aware of three such incidents at a recent gathering in LA and several more at a cannabis cup in SF.   A lady my age who has been smoking since the 70s fell down and broke her front teeth after dabbing.  Someone else passed out and nearly cracked his skull on the sidewalk.   When  911 crews need to be called in, there arise serious questions about a drug’s safety. Cannabis advocates need to take the dangers of dabbing seriously.

Now granted….people doing the fish and hurting themselves is a big deal and should be a concern. But let’s not try to pin this on just dabbing, or try to suggest that this was never an issue before dabbing. That is just very disingenuous and more so, untrue. I have been standing around the weed water cooler long enough to have seen the evolution of concentrates happen; and as concentrates have gotten stronger (whether water processed or solvent processed) people have had to learn to adjust their intake and dosage levels to avoid getting to high, or God forbid, busting their teeth out from falling over. I have taken a good hit off of a joint and have gotten up too quickly, and have found myself lightheaded and woozy.

But because some folks are either unaware of their limitations, or choose to overindulge at an event where they may be less hydrated and overheated and have an accident, does not mean that we need to circle the wagons and reign in dabbing as a result. That is just stupid. It is like telling us to close down a bar because one asshole decided to get too drunk and wrecked his car.

People who dab do so at their own leisure and discretion. If a person is taking a hit from a dabbing device without being aware of the strength and power of the concentrate they are smoking, whose fault is that? Does personal responsibility come into play? Or are we going to take the same position as most drug warriors do and blow up isolated incidents of bad and irresponsible behavior to be some sort of an epidemic worthy of “special warning” because it is so “dangerous and dire?”

But that is what we get from our leadership these days. Any time the media or a public official asks a tough question, you can always count on the leaders of the cannabis movement to immediately throw the entire movement under the bus in an effort to distance themselves from whatever it is that the public is outraged about now. Super.

I remember when we had this conversation about edibles a few years back. There was a growing concern over the dangers of cannabis edibles, and the potency of them. There were the same overblown stories about the kids, and how teens were eating weed brownies. Here is an example of some of that rhetoric from an early 2011 story in Denver:

“You can’t tell the difference between Rice Krispies treats you buy at Target and some of these other ones. They look just alike. And we’re seeing suckers packaged in a way that they could easily end up in the hands of children on school grounds. And patients who are drinking these sodas and eating these products have no way of knowing how much THC is in there. That’s not safe, either. If it’s a medicinal product, it needs to not only be marketed as a medicinal product, but be clearly identified as a medicinal product.”

You will not be surprised to hear that our “fearless” leaders also threw us under the bus during the big “edibles are dangerous” debate too. Check out this statement from NORML’s Executive Director, Allen St. Pierre in response to a question about the “Saving Kids from Dangerous Drugs Act”:

The bill has garnered support from unexpected quarters. Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), says that “those who say marijuana is medicine had better be prepared to market it as such – and not as candy.”

Further, says St. Pierre, those who sell pot-infused brownies, cookies and other “medical edibles,” or “medibles,” have reason to be worried, because, in his opinion, the bill is written broadly enough to include them. […]

Medical edibles are a very significant part of the multi-billion dollar medical marijuana industry, says St.Pierre.

And some people cross the line, especially in advertising, he says.

Some alternative papers run ads for pot in four different ice-cream flavors. “It has a child-like appeal,” he says of one such ad. “I don’t think that was the notion of people who put out this ad, but that’s what it looks like.”

We can always count on good old Allen to come out swinging…it is just usually for the other side.

But you can see how this is nothing new. Just the latest hysteria from the prohibitionists that is now being supported and further legitimized by those within our ranks who apparently need to grow a pair and figure out how to defend our honor and represent people’s right to use weed however they want. I am so tired of some drug warrior cop saying “this type of weed is dangerous” and our own leadership running right up and saying “Yeah it is!” Shut the fuck up, already.

I look at dabbing like the hard alcohol of the weed industry and it should and hopefully will be, regulated as such. I know that if I drink whiskey that chances are I will get extremely intoxicated much quicker and with a smaller volume than if I were drinking beer. So I moderate that. I do not drink a pint of whiskey; and if I did, i could anticipate probably falling over and maybe even dying from my fall. But that is because I am an asshole that drank too much whiskey, and not because whiskey is more dangerous when used correctly, right?

Just like liquor, dabs are more dangerous to manufacture so chances are there will be special requirements for manufacturing them, just like there is for operating a booze still. But this does not mean that people who enjoy whiskey and who use it responsibly should not be allowed to do so, or that in needs to be a “dire” matter.

Dabs can be a lot. Do not get me wrong. They are an extremely potent and powerful way to consume the active ingredients of cannabis. But they also provide a method of ingesting cannabinoids into the system that allow the end user to consume much less carcinogenic vegetive matter, and to use a very small amount to achieve the desired level of effect. What is wrong with something being more efficient?

It kind of reminds me of the scare tactics used by the feds that “today’s marijuana is 5 times as strong as marijuana in the 60’s.” Yeah…so? Good for me. I have to smoke less to get where I need to be. I have to smoke less weed to get baked. Yay! I am just not seeing the problem.

Now if people want to get into the chemical aspects of the process and whether or not the actual butane being used to extract the oils are dangerous to be consumed, then that may be a scientific discussion worthy of having. I personally usually only dab concentrates I know were made in a safe and clean environment by folks who know how to remove any toxins properly. This is also an issue that can be worked out by proper guidelines and regulations. For the record, butane and other solvents are used in super critical extraction of a lot of non-cannabis essential oils and edible extracts. It can be done safely and properly….and it should. Most people who make BHO or other oil extracts want there to be standards in place. They know that poor quality and possibly dangerous BHO harms their craft more than anyone.

So while the dab debate heats up and it become very popular to want to distance yourself from the dab situation because of its perceived dangers and drug culture, just know that we do ourselves no favors by throwing our fellow weedheads under the bus because they like dabbing. Instead, we should embrace the culture and promote the positives that these essential oils can bring to the cannabis environment. We should be cautious to condemn a growing sector of the industry based on loose theory and hyperbolic bullshit. If you have direct evidence of butane extracts damaging a person physically then by all means bring that to the table, but let’s not go around telling people it “could contain neurotoxins” with no evidence of it actually doing so. Believe if there was direct evidence of this the drug warriors would be out in force trumpeting that as the reason weed should be kept illegal forever.

Let’s not do the prohibitionists work for them with no verifiable dangers other than people being personally irresponsible and falling over because they chose to ingest something in a dangerous situation without being prepared for it. Thanks.

If you see the dab debate heating up, the best thing to do is to cool it off with reality…..when used responsibly, dabs can bring the effects of cannabis to a person rapidly and efficiently with very little ingestion of plant based carcinogens.

The issue with lab testing cannabis…

Lab testing for cannabis has been developing over the past few years, and has been somewhat successful in helping to better understand potency, cannabinoid levels, and certain safety aspects of the industry and products. Labs have sprung up all over the cannabis landscape to provide testing services to dispensaries, growers, and cannabis product makers. It has been a most interesting phenomena to watch, and even for all of the questions the testing industry raises, it has been successful in helping to legitimize the effort of providing cannabis in a more informed and regulated environment. This has helped to ease the mind of some local governments and has given some authenticity to an otherwise loosely regulated market for production and distribution.

But there are some major issues facing the testing aspect of the industry.

The big one is ethics. A laboratory that is testing products should have no vested stake in those results. The unfortunate situation we face is that since the labs were mostly funded by people in the industry, are run by people with direct ties to organization and providers in the industry, and test the products of both those they have affection for, as well as those their associates are competing with, there is a questionable authority there.

We are all human. There is no getting around that. People will like some people and not like others. That is a fact of life. So if two products come in for testing, and one you recognize as being a friend or associate’s and the other is a person they are competing with for income and success, it is easy to see where scruples may come into play.

Now this is all fine and dandy until this “power” is abused, and the possibly skewered results end up in people losing their place in the market, or not being able to do business. I know a dispensary in Oakland that has to test 110% of the product they plan to sell because the lab they work with kicks about 90% of the product back as “dirty.” Now I am no expert, but I do know a lot of pot growers and I would not say that 90% of them produce shitty weed.

But to further complicate the matter, the lab they use is directly funded by another local dispensary group, and is operated by folks who have clear and well-known associations with a number of vendors. They also have direct relationships with several product makers who do testing with them on the regular independent from the dispensary itself. One can see how it would be more beneficial to clear this product that is produced by an associate or client, while rejecting a product that competes directly with your associate or client. This is a no brainer. A third party verification resource that results in whether or not a person or product can operate in a certain market has got to be unaffiliated with other people competing in that market.

But let’s just step back from assuming that people may not be on the up and up in providing their results. Let’s just assume that everyone testing cannabis is an upstanding person who would never rig the game to help advance their own cause financially. Let’s just say that the dozen or so labs in operation are all operated by people with no vested interest in providing this certain person, or that certain group with favorable results to give them a competitive advantage.

Let’s just look at the standards, methods, and result factors.

So if I owned a dispensary and were looking for a lab to do my testing and I sent products out to three or four different labs, if one lab is consistently returning my products with higher potency levels and less contamination than the others, who am I going to do my business with? Say there is no personal relationship between me, my organization and any of the labs in play…..if this lab gives me results that are 2-3% higher than the others on the regular, wouldn’t it bode well for me to use them so that I could advertise medicines with a higher potency level? That is easy to figure out, right? If people like weed with more THC and this lab gives me results with consistently higher levels of THC, then they are where I am gonna do my testing? Duh…

So it is invariably more beneficial for a lab to provide those higher results to be more attractive to their client, no? And therein lies the problem.

There is no set standards for chain of custody, methodology, or calibration in cannabis labs. I recently had a friend take the exact same hash, from the exact same container, stored- handled- and sampled in the exact same manner to four different labs. Needless to say we got four VERY different results. So what gives?

This issue is coming to light in Colorado, where the Amendment 64 task force has recommended that all edibles be limited to 10 mg of THC per serving and 200 mg of THC per package. That is all fine and dandy, but who gets to do the testing? I mean, I assume that there will be oversight of this standard for potency, and who gets to make the call on whose products meet the requirement, and whose do not? Are they going to let an existing cannabis lab, likely with ties and relationships to many folks in the industry, do the testing? If this is a barrier to entry to the marketplace then shouldn’t this testing be done by a truly independent and arbitrary third party lab? Will there be a state run cannabis lab? Should there be?

But lab testing ethics, morals and legitimacy are not unique to cannabis. Just how the labs have developed from within the cannabis bubble are; but all labs where their results hinge on a person’s business success, or even freedom,  face certain challenges. Look at the woman who was caught screwing with results and stealing drugs from the criminal drug testing lab in San Francisco. When it was discovered that her behaviors had breached the authority and integrity of the lab the District Attorney was forced to throw out upwards of 1,400 criminal cases. Why? Because when a lab and its results are used as the basis for authority there has to be faith that those results are unbiased and real. I mean, if you are going to put a person in prison for the results, they have to be legitimate.

The same goes for lab results that enhance a product or organization’s success and income level, or that decide whether or not a vendor’s products can even go on the shelf. If these results are the defining factor as to whether a product is legit or not, then we have to be able to trust that the results are from people who do not have a vested interest in promoting them, or in making sure they never make it to market.

As long as many, and most, lab s have ties to certain dispensaries, growers, and vendors there will always be questions in the continuum. For now, the loose and unexamined results coming out of labs will have to do, but there is no way that this will last as the industry comes more into focus, and there is more scrutiny placed on these results. We are already seeing it somewhat in areas like Richmond that mandate testing. If that result is the defining factor as to whether or not a product can be sold in that City, then it better damn well be an accurate result that is not influenced by the lab’s associations.

But the clear reality is that weed is generally safe. While their are certainly some matters where contaminated cannabis can affect people, especially those with compromised immune systems, it is extremely rare that people fall ill or die from smoking bad weed. So before we do ourselves in with the “sky is falling and all weed is contaminated and must be rigidly inspected” shtick, step back and ask yourself how much of this is contrived to promote the need for lab testing, and how much is based in the actual threat of harm to the average weed smoker? Show me the bodies….

Favorite Kinds of Weed

It is funny watching the weed game turn in to a connoisseur market, with people who will only smoke this kind of weed, or this type of hash. I remember the days when I was just glad to have any weed, and could give a shit if it was purple or not.

You know what my favorite kind of weed is? GOOD WEED.

I am not that picky. I like all kinds of weed as long as they are tasty, effective, and grown with care. I do not even mind bad weed sometimes. I just came up on some mexican brick not too long ago, and while I would not burn it everyday, a cool old-school brown weed joint was a nice break from the norm. It was a whole different effect, and took me back to my youth.

But as the industry grows and becomes more legitimized there will be a growing market for high-end, exotic, and rare strains of cannabis. It will be necessary to dive deeper into the gene pool and the race for exclusivity of strains will intensify. Could a legalized market bring patents on genetics, and legal battles over who did invent purple weed? Maybe. More likely, it will look a lot like the wine market, with different types of grapes being grown and bottled by many different vintners. But regardless, a lot more focus is, and will be, put on the varietals, their cultivation methods, and the quality of the finished products. There will come a time when you just cannot sell bad weed anywhere….at least I hope.

I still will be happy to smoke weed, regardless of what kind it is, who produced it, or whether it is my favorite kind or not. I just cannot imagine passing on a joint because it is not my flavor. My favorite kind of weed will always be the one that does not put me in jail, so whatever we got to do to get that kind of weed, let us do that….

For now, my favorite kind of weed will be the kind I have.