July 2014

Why Are Some Nor-Cal Growers Against Legalization?

I’m sure we’ve all begun to notice that many of the folks who used to chant “legalize it, legalize it” now chant the opposite, despite making the entirety of their living in the cannabis industry.  As marijuana legalization or regulation looms over California, I often hear a disconnect between those who want the cannabis laws to move forward, and those who, despite being in the cannabis industry for most of their adult lives, do not want change.  In fact, one prominent cannabis guru I spoke to actually defined the divide as the “activists vs. the growers.”  Although many identify as both, I notice that a lot of Nor Cal growers (and distributors everywhere) do not consider themselves to also be activists per se.  This isn’t a new distinction, but there is a growing partition between the groups that warrants attention because of the critical time our state is entering.  Its do or die time, kids.

Let me tell you a story.  Today I was out with a friend who asked me how long I thought it would be until marijuana was legalized federally.  I first gave them an estimate based on how long it could take if Congress had to do it, which as we all know could take forever (if ever), so I guesstimated 10 years.  But then they asked how long if we get legalization or regulation through a channel other than Congress, i.e. by the judiciary or by executive order.  And, being the optimist I am, I sincerely think we’ve got a couple years left before some branch of the federal government finally says, “okay, enough is enough!”  When I brought the time estimate down from 10 years to 2, they smiled and flipped me off.  They were kidding, of course, but the point is the same as if they were serious: they don’t want marijuana to be legalized because it will take away from their income.  While that’s a humorous example, I have heard numerous growers lately say they hope marijuana does not become legal.  Ever.  Like, never.  Sadly, most admitted without hesitation that they didn’t want to become legal because they would lose money.

Sometimes I think, “are these really the same people who used to run around with chillems saying that ‘herb is the healing of the nation?’”  However, when I hear this, I usually smile and say nothing, but we should all be cognizant that much of it is based on personal financial interests and, in some cases, greed.  Not always, but come on, lets get real.

I’m not sure I have anything very lofty to say about the distinction (I’ll leave that to the commenters), except to recognize it.  And to recognize that sometimes it hurts, man. I developed my  entire career towards cannabis criminal defense and cannabis policy because many of these same friends needed legal help due to to the grossly unjust state and federal marijuana laws.  So sometimes this position feels personal (particularly when the person saying that is someone who I’ve gotten out of legal trouble on more than one occasion).

I mean, money isnt always a bad concern in a capitalist nation, so I can’t fully condemn their position. But there has to be a better way.  The conspiracy theories about Phillip Morris and other shady corporations buying up the marijuana industry and turning it GMO and “chemie” could eventually come true: but only if we, the People, let them.

If we are pissed because our income may be compromised when marijuana is legalized or regulated, it might be a good idea to start the conversation by calling some of the thousands of humans who are still serving lengthy prison sentences for marijuana violations, and ask them if they’d go back and legalize marijuana so they could have skipped their prison sentences. I’m betting they would say yes.

Another point that comes to mind for me is that, if someone produces crappy or chemical-laden cannabis that is not fit for human consumption, then they should get another job.  Though if someone cultivates or distributes quality cannabis, whether for medicinal or adult use, then the market will support them.  People will always pay for quality.  However, if we bury our collective heads in the sand because of fear of how you’ll perform in the marketplace, then not only you will fail in your endeavors, but we will all fail.

We’ve been talking the talk about marijuana’s healing properties for so long and its time to walk the walk.  Herb is the healing of the nation, know this!



Btdubbs, my colleague, Omar Figueroa, and I are currently working with the Legislative Counsel in Sacramento to draft a law that all parties to this industry can get on board with.  Keep a lookout for that and, in the meantime, go register to vote.  Bad laws exist because of good people who don’t vote, so don’t let that happen to the industry we have all dedicated our lives to.

PS, more on the newest Ammiano/ Police Chiefs bill, and also on Zenia Gilg’s and my upcoming evidentiary hearing in the Eastern District of California on the constitutionality of the federal scheduling of cannabis in the coming posts!

Musical meditation: Horace Andy, “Money, money, money, is the root of all evil.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q908-K6FxVY