When the Levee Breaks on Cannabis Reform


If it keeps on raining, the levee’s gonna break…..

I have been incredibly impressed with the change our country has taken in its position on gay marriage. It was only a few years ago that I was demoralized when CA voted to ban same-sex marriage passing Proposition 8 (HATE) by 52% of the vote. I wondered how it could be that in a liberal stronghold like CA on the exact same day that we overwhelmingly elected the first black President to office we could have passed a law taking away the rights of same-sex couples to enjoy the privileges of being married? It seemed so mean-spirited and senseless at the time that I seriously questioned the direction our society was moving. It scared me to think that so many in our community still had no idea what it felt like to be discriminated against, and would vote to discriminate against others just because of who they love.

Fast forward less than 5 years, and the world has changed….and I mean CHANGED. Our society’s position on gay marriage has done a complete 180, and we now see even the most staunch conservatives jumping on the same-sex marriage bandwagon. I talk to my gay friends who literally are dumbfounded that this watershed moment is unfolding before their eyes. The oppression of their right to love, and hold an equal position for that love in our society, is fading. There is a new day dawning on the LGBT community and it is about time. What kind of asshole can look a person in the eye and tell them their love for another human being is meaningless and sinful? Keep that noise.

The reason the gay community has been incredibly effective in making their case is because they succeeded in putting real people and real emotion to their cause. They made us understand that gay people were our family and friends. These folks are our neighbors and it is not okay to keep shitting on their lifestyle. This stark reality and the gay community’s embracing of itself has led to the levee breaking for LGBT rights. It is inspiring to watch happen.

What is unfolding in America and the world is a seriously progressive shift on many issues, including gay marriage, immigration, and yes….weed.

So what will we do when our levee of prohibition breaks? Are we ready for the quick shift in public opinion and the legal reconfiguring of how we treat weed in our society? What happens if we wake up tomorrow and the U.S. Justice Department declares that cannabis is now strictly a state issue and that they will be ending all enforcement? What if the Bureau of Prisons releases all people convicted of weed, and the feds takes a clear hands off position? What if, like gay marriage, the issue has shifted so far that it becomes possible to pass federal legislation on this issue finally? Would we even know what to do?

The area where our issue differs greatly is in the regulation and control of an industry. This will be a major point of contention and one we should be considering sooner than later. Often within cannabis reform circles there is a feeling that we should just be happy with not being hauled off to jail any more, and that even strict and overbearing regulation is better than the current situation. Okay…I can give you that; but why should we settle for crazy strict weed, instead of demanding complete and equal treatment under the law as booze or tobacco, or maybe even coffee?

We see this playing out in real time, as Colorado and Washington scramble to develop this industry out of virtual thin air. In Colorado they assembled a task force that has made recommendations to the legislature and governor on how they see the industry being regulated. There are all sorts of nutty ideas in the hundreds of pages of suggestions. The State of Washington has hired a former advisor to the office of National Drug Control Policy to develop their program, which will likely be an overbearing regulatory scheme, just because of the way the stupid law was written. It is like people, even many of our own, refuse to acknowledge that marijuana is safer. In many areas the suggestions seem to keep in place the drug war mentality that cannabis is somehow very dangerous and must be limited extremely to prevent some perceived harm.

This perception comes from years of lies and deception, mostly from big business and law enforcement lobbying groups masquerading as some Debby Do-Gooder organization, like the Partnership for a Drug Free America and the like. They have sold us on this bag of shit and have been incredibly effective at misleading the world on the “dangers” of weed. Jack Herer may have summed it up best saying:

Well, as I understand it, the main supporters are beer companies and the pharmaceutical companies. I’d like them to show me the dead bodies from marijuana. But they can’t because there aren’t any. -Jack Herer

But I think even Jack would be taken back by the growing support we see happening for our cause at this moment in history; or maybe he wouldn’t. Jack, like myself, always wondered why people had not pulled their head out of their ass decades earlier. So as we see the head emerging from the ass of the American culture and our beloved cannabis plant becomes reacquainted with our society, how will we react? Will we be just so happy to have any sort of acceptance that we will accept overly burdensome weed industry regulation and control? Or will we demand that weed not be demonized and be made readily available for all who want to use it? Are we even ready for that fight?

Are we ready for the world to change tomorrow?

I am not sure we are. I am not even sure we can begin to wrap our heads around what a global and free weed market will look like. I think a lot of people in the weed community are stuck in the turkey bag mentality. They often do not see the forest for the trees. But the world is changing, and it is changing fast. It would bode well for us to get out in front of this wave of support and begin making our case for equality now. We do not want the civil union equivalent of weed legalization. We want absolute freedom and equal treatment. We should expect no less and always demand more. Weed is awesome.

Which is why when I hear the California activist scene giving up on 2014 and looking to 2016 for change, I feel like we are not getting it. It just seems like we have no idea what is coming and will certainly have no idea what to do when it arrives. The time to play for keeps is now, and we must begin developing sound strategies for not “if” weed will be legal; but when weed is legal….like tomorrow.

We can continue to fumble dick over our glorification of yesterday and desire to keep what is special about weed special. There is not shit special about being in prison, having your stuff searched, and constantly fearing for your freedom because you like weed. In order to change what we hate about weed being illegal we will have to face the reality that there will be things we hate about weed being legal too; but that the good far outweigh the bad.

When the levee breaks we should have a plan…or at least a nice boat.