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.
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
Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform
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.
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”:
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
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.
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.