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Radical Rant: If You Want Unity, Stop Voting For My Criminality

Russ Belville

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I just finished up my tenth Seattle Hempfest (nice seeing you, Mr. Cusick!). In addition to the rain-out we experienced on Friday, there was a dark cloud of emotion hanging over the event in the wake of drastic amendments to the Washington medical marijuana laws.

Before, the Evergreen State boasted hundreds of dispensaries, no record-keeping and 15 cannabis plants and 24 ounces of marijuana for every medical marijuana patient. Now, in the wake of Senate Bill 5052 and other laws, dispensaries are being shuttered, patients are being registered, and medical limits have been reduced to six cannabis plants and three ounces of marijuana.

The dark cloud is a feeling among many in the medical marijuana community that legalization did this to them. Without the passage of I-502 in 2012, they believe, medical marijuana would have kept humming along in an unregulated, Wild West fashion with no meddling from the legislature (and if you believe that, I have a Space Needle to sell you). From the stages of Hempfest and the panels at Hemposium, there was a call for unity.

I just wonder who that call is directed toward?

In the beginning, there was unity. In the 1970s, there was just HIGH TIMES and NORML, fighting for all marijuana consumers to be free from arrest and interference. Nobody cared why you were smoking pot. The patient, the Rasta and the stoner were all equals. By 1978, 11 states had decriminalized personal possession for all three of those consumers. Why they were toking didn’t matter.

After stalling out in the 1980s, the 1990s ushered in the first division of marijuana consumers. Wise political minds realized that fighting for the patient would tug on the heartstrings of the electorate. Sure, the public hated potheads, but the public had greater dislike toward allowing cancer patients to suffer. Thus, the division of our ranks began for political expediency.

The 1996 Compassionate Use Act in California didn’t protect the stoner, unless he or she was willing to lie or exaggerate to a doctor. But the stoners never rose up to oppose it; nay, they voted for it by likely the greatest rate of any demographic. As the stoners have voted for every medical marijuana law since, even as those laws became more restrictive and put the stoners further away from that protection.

But when Proposition 19 arose in 2010 in California, an initiative to finally protect the stoners, it was some patients, goaded on by some in the medical marijuana industry, who were rising up against it, lending their support to Dianne Feinstein and the cops working so hard to keep me and the rest of the stoners criminals.

The division repeated with Initiative 502 in 2012 in Washington. The patients and their medical marijuana industry supporters even formed the only official opposition group to protecting the stoners, as the local cops were actually in favor of I-502.

The No on I-502 campaign predicted prices would be $600 an ounce (they’re $225 today), the feds would shut down all the shops (there are 115 open), people caught with non-store weed would be busted (never happened), 10,000 possession arrests would all become DUIDs (there were about 700 >5ng THC DUIDs last year), the next legal states would have Washington’s per se DUID and no home grow (they don’t), passing a joint would earn you a felony (never happened), and the law would never be improved (they just legalized concentrates).

It is not the stoners who have created any disunion. We’ve been voting for every law that protects any stoner. We even acceded to the patients when they demanded that our legalization initiatives not affect their existing medical marijuana laws in any fashion. Indeed, there is not one word in I-502 that changes one iota of the medical marijuana law. In Oregon, we even got explicit and wrote that the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act shall not be affected by our Measure 91.

Both of those initiatives could’ve been written to meld recreational and medical production, processing and retailing. Explicit protections for medical use, therefore, could have been included, and we could have all backed one unifying initiative. But the patients were adamant: don’t do anything to unify medical with recreational, they warned, because the feds might then come in and shut it all down.

In other words, we patients got our protection, don’t you stoners mess it up trying to get your protection.

So we didn’t provide any statutory language about medical use at all. And now, when legislatures are able to gut the existing medical marijuana laws, mostly in response to what they perceive as abuse of the system, the patients want to point the finger not at the legislature but at the stoners for achieving their own protection.

If you’re out there complaining about the divisions between medical and recreational use, don’t look at the stoners. Look in the mirror.

(Photo Courtesy of the Daily Chronic)

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