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.
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.”
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.