Cannabis Legislation: Taking a Trip on the Good Ship Could Have Been
I woke up at six a.m. intent on pressing and preparing all the gowns for all the Sisters. Instead, I spent the next thirty minutes looking for our iron (found buried under clothes in a laundry basket) and no one in the abbey, or working for the abbey, got by that morning without a lecture on how irons are integral to being a sister. How everything has a place and must be kept in that place. How the iron is essential to our grooming. How we can get away with being wrinkled for farm work, but not acceptable for activist events. I was so annoyed.
Nonetheless, I was smiling as I got in the car because at seven-thirty, on the dot, all road trip personnel were assembled, pressed and crisp, and ready to rock and roll. And we pulled into the Capitol Building parking structure in Sacramento at precisely ten o’clock.Everything runs right on time... years of practice and design.
The night before, I finally studied the sixty-page document that makes up Prop 64, the recreational marijuana legalization bill on the California ballot next month. I knew I would be sitting at the Yes on Prop 64 table. I knew my Sisters would be with the ‘Yes’ side of the audience. It was being held on the Capitol steps, and politicians and media would be there, I was told.
I saw no signs of either group in attendance, actually, but we did have a Citizens’ debate and that is the nourishment that drew me. As activists, we are used to being ignored by both the politicians and the media. That is just, yawn, status quo.
I went to Sacramento believing the debate would be – should we allow recreational marijuana or shouldn’t we? I anticipated the tired old arguments about it getting in the hands of children, or encouraging use of it by all – kids and non-kids. I quickly realized what my fellow panelists already knew. This debate wasn’t about that at all.
I asked for a show of hands from the No to Prop 64 side.
How many of you don’t want to see recreational marijuana legalized? No show of hands. “Now, how many of you are sitting on the ‘No to Prop 64’ side because you think this bill is all wrong, too much power in the hands of the legislators, too much taxes...?” I didn’t have to finish. All the hands went up.
I was thrilled. It appeared that every person there believes recreational marijuana should be legalized. There was no debate from the people who say “NO” to rec.
The debate became: should we legalize now, with this big pharma bill, or should we wait and try to get it right, like Ohio did? (Ohio passed on medical marijuana when the only bill on the ballot formed a four-company State monopoly.) The voters didn’t reject it because they don’t want medical marijuana in their state, they rejected it because it was a corrupt bill and they know they can do better.
I get it. I understand and am empathetic to the No-on-Prop-64-because-we-can-do-better Team. MCLR was better. CCLR was better. All of the initiatives that didn’t make it to the ballot, were better. But guess what? They didn’t make it to the ballot. So our choice is now Recreational or No Recreational.
To get Recreational cannabis, we have to put up with interference and taxation from eight different State agencies named in the proposition:
Board of Equalization
State Water Resources Control Board
Department of Fish and Wildlife
Department of Consumer Affairs
Department of Public Health
Department of Food and Agriculture
Bureau of State Audits
Bureau of Marijuana Control
We have taxation rights in here that will make sure the black market never goes away – which is, by the way, opposite the mission of the proposition. We have a track and trace program that is just new chains, invented solely for keeping the plants and the people of the plants in chains. I get it. I agree, the other bills were better. But the other bills aren’t on the ballot. At this point, sticking with this argument is like taking a ride on the good ship “could’ve been”.
I used the analogy of human slavery. The cannabis plant and her people have been kept in the dark, chained, beaten, starved, maligned, and cursed. Now the slave-owner has extended sunlight and food, and lighter, more comfortable chains. Prop 64 and all those agencies above who plan to feed off the sweat of the slave, they are, by their nature, racist, unfair, and the enemies of the cannabis plant.
But do we, the slaves, deny the sunlight, food and lighter chains? With more than eight thousand felony arrests every year that will go away with Prop 64, can we afford to wait another day?
Here’s what Prop 64 does right:
Anti-corruption clauses restricting the licensing folks from dipping their fingers in the business.
Promotion of small business via a five-year delay before big grow licenses are issued.
Minors who deal or use will stop going to jail. Stop draining their parents’ savings to keep them from going to jail. Replaced with drug counseling and limited fines. The drug counseling is free and the fines are less than what Fresno State charges a college student for j-walking.
It gives the courts authority to re-sentence people who are being penalized that wouldn’t be after Prop 64 goes into effect.
It re-affirms the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and all those rights.
It prohibits liquor stores from selling cannabis (yeah!)
But mostly, it dis-empowers the police. Every home in the state, every property, has the right to six indoor plants and the cities and counties can’t regulate that away. This is a serious step for plant freedom.
If I was on the fence about Prop 64 before going to the debate, sitting up there opposite the anti-Prop 64 people was enough to push me all the way over, firmly, happily, with the Yes folks. It’s because the No folks are angry and frustrated and apparently, desperate to get people to see it their way.
Here is some of the spin worth noting:
- THE BILL DOESN’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT MEDICAL! They proclaimed this as if it is a great secret sin of the Proposition 64. The truth is, Prop 64 is about recreational marijuana. The governor and MMRSA have already got Medical on its path for over-regulation.
- IT ONLY ALLOWS FOR ONE OUNCE OF WEED TO CARRY! They proclaimed the unfairness of this based on MEDICAL needs of patients, they kept saying “This isn’t right for my veterans” (your veterans?) and one panelist claimed to smoke two ounces per day for his medical condition. Those vets and that panelist can still have their two ounces a day, through the medical program. We are talking about REC! They kept mixing medical into the equation to confuse and scare. (But seriously, anyone who has to smoke two ounces a day needs to look into concentrates and better weed.)
- MORE PEOPLE WILL GO TO JAIL THAN EVER BEFORE! This was a claim based on the fact that the old rules for MEDICAL (again, they couldn’t stop mixing issues) disappear at the end of 2018. If a collective hasn’t gotten their license from the licensing board by then, then YES, they have to close and if they don’t, they will go to jail. Does this sound like 8,800 felonies a year from Cannabis? Do you think that there are 8,800 collectives a year that will be denied licenses and so all those folks will be imprisoned? I don’t think so. 8,800 is the number of citizens per year that are being sentenced now, without Prop 64.
- They accused the YES team of working for big money. To the left of me sat a hemp radio program host who spends all his life understanding the changing laws in the various states. To the right of me sat a lawyer who went to prison for five years for growing cannabis for his dying mother. And then there was me.
- In their rebuttals, they would say things like, “Listening to them is like listening to Trump” and “We need a real debate”. Yes, they said ‘this isn’t a real debate’ and now who sounds like Trump?
Their arguments were emotional, but there wasn’t much of an audience to hear them anyway and of the audience we did have, the majority sat on the No side. Not "NO" on rec marijuana, just NO on such heavy handed legislation.
While I was speaking, one man on the No side hollered “What do you know? You don't pay taxes! You work for the Vatican”. That drew laughter from the folks who know us. I replied, “We aren’t Catholic” and he said “Well, then, what the hell are you?” Now that’s a good question.
For the record, we aren't non-profit, we aren't in the psychotropics business; neither the recreational bills nor the medical marijuana legislation really apply to us -- neither of them do, and for the record, we pay all taxes and have no desire to be a tax-exempt organization, like, er, the NFL, for example. No desire whatsoever.
According to every recent survey, Prop 64 is going to pass. That’s not why I sat in the debate on the Pro-Prop 64 side, but the fact perhaps lent an air of confidence and calmness to the Yes side that the No table didn’t have. Except for me. I never do activism calmly. But my debate-mates were calm.
The only legitimate argument for voting No on proposition 64 is because it gives the government too much control. I don’t trust the government either, so we plan to activate against MMRSA (the marijuana control board) and we will make them reform. But in the meantime, we will not refuse the sunlight, nourishment and lighter chains.