Jaws hung open with her epic mic drop. Alaska reporter Charlo Greene set the news world, blogosphere and Twitterverse on fire last week with her headline-making signoff on Anchorage’s KTVA news: “Fuck it — I quit.” Greene, frustrated by the politics surrounding Alaska’s upcoming ballot measurement to legalize marijuana, decided that her role as the head of the Alaska Cannabis Club was more important to her than her work as a journalist. She wanted to draw attention to the legalization cause, and she succeeded. When we congratulated her on generating so much buzz, Greene laughed and said, “I’m just living my truth.” Read on for High Times’ exclusive interview with the fiery marijuana activist and enthusiast.
How did you get involved in the cannabis movement?
I have a long history with smoking. I first tried smoking marijuana when I was 16 years old, and I didn’t really like it. So I just stuck with drinking like a lot of Alaskans do; we start drinking at an early age. My drinking habit became too much for me to handle any of my business, and it got to the point where I was binge drinking on a daily basis while I was in college. I failed out of every one of my classes, except for gym class in one semester. I was put on attendance probation and I realized, “I have the opportunity to make whatever I want of myself, and I’m poisoning myself with alcohol, and it’s just not sustainable.” I needed a different outlet. Most of my friends smoked pot, so I tried it again, and from failing out of every single class I ended up on the dean’s list every semester after that. I graduated summa cum laude, and I’ve been working, until last Sunday, as a journalist reporting the news: a respectable career, doing the most I can, giving back to the community, and it’s all because I smoke weed. I credit marijuana with saving my life — with saving my future.
What is the Alaska Cannabis Club?
The Alaska Cannabis Club is Alaska’s only legal marijuana resource. We are a network of medical marijuana cardholders. That’s about as far as our attorneys have said is appropriate for us to get into right now, with the spotlight that’s been shone on us. It’s not just supporters that are watching.
What do you think it’s going to take to legalize marijuana in Alaska this November?
Ballot Measure 2 is the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol; it would legalize recreational marijuana in Alaska for anyone 21 years and older. Right now we have medical marijuana on the books, but it’s just kind of a shell of a program. Voters chose to legalize marijuana in 1998, and 16 years later we don’t have a single dispensary. The state hasn’t come up with any sort of framework; they kind of said alright, the voters want medical marijuana, we’re going to allow them to get cards, but we’re not going to give them an actual place to get their medicine. The vote on Ballot Measure 2 this November 4th is a way to make medical marijuana real in Alaska. It’s a way to end the prohibition that has led to 669 arrests this year alone in Alaska, and almost 3000 arrests over the past three years. And the numbers keep piling up. Every year people keep getting arrested for simple possession of a plant that is less harmful than cigarettes, less harmful than alcohol, less harmful than sugar. Marijuana doesn’t cause diabetes; diabetes kills people. Yet sugar is everywhere.
What are some of the “dirty tricks and lies” you’ve come across, as you mention on your Indiegogo page?
Well, the fact that they say no one is being arrested for marijuana in Alaska. People are getting arrested. People are losing their opportunity to go to college, to get help when they’re struggling, public assistance, because they have this sort of thing on their record. Whether or not you spent time in prison for marijuana doesn’t mean you aren’t going to be harmed by having that charge on your record. So trying to say that no one is getting arrested for marijuana use in Alaska? Yeah, [people saying that] don’t know that, because [they] are rich. I grew up poor. I know the people that these laws target. These laws get them into the jail system, and ensure that people who are just trying to make it can’t come up.
They’re also saying that Alaskan communities that have the option to ban alcohol, aren’t going to have that option [to ban marijuana]. That’s also a lie. It’s written into the bill. Local option, by voter approval: Can ban the sale of and any business related to marijuana.
That’s been the case in Colorado and Washington.
It totally is. But the thing is, once you say something, people are going to take what you say as fact. People don’t really do the research themselves or look into it, or look into what exactly concentrates are. And no, people aren’t blowing up their houses left and right, that was something that happened, but you can’t find those instances any more. Now people are educated. That’s what ending marijuana prohibition does. It gives people the opportunity to learn without the fear of going to jail, or being stigmatized. And we can talk about medical benefits, and research on marijuana, but that’s not what the No on 2 people want you to hear. They’re saying that more teens are using it than ever. That’s a lie. The state of Colorado itself says that isn’t happening. They’re just cherry picking random bits of information to craft their fearmongering message. And it’s working. At least it was, up until “Eff it.”
What is your Indiegogo campaign?
We launched the Indiegogo campaign after my departure from KTVA. Within 48 hours we met and more than doubled our goal of more than $5,000. And that’s just to allow us to be in places like Bethel, AK, which is where I am today. Flying around Alaska isn’t cheap, it’s a huge state, but we have to reach all of these communities, educate them, give them the information they need to make their decision themselves. When they have that information, I know that common sense will prevail. That’s what the Alaska Cannabis Club’s Freedom and Fairness Fight on Indiegogo is all about: To get the funds to get out to these communities, get them talking to each other, and educating one another. Pulling back the curtain on marijuana, and finding that behind that curtain is not this big scary monster. It’s a plant!
This past weekend we had a voter registration drive and free community BBQ, and we got 100 people registered to vote — people who said they had had no intention of registering. They came out because they heard our story, and it resonates with them. There’s no way that you can’t find something with voting Yes on 2 that doesn’t hit close to home. Whether it’s the medical reasons, the legal system, your rights, your liberties as an American, there’s no losing part about this measure. We know it’s going to pass. We’re doing the work to make sure that it does. Anyone that can support our campaign is doing their part to make sure we make this happen in Alaska on November 4th. This story is being heard around the world; we’re just trying to make sure we honor the position we’ve been put in.
Have you faced any negative response?
For the most part the response has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been humbling to read all the emails, and the Facebook comments, and see the fan pages. The largest one, which we didn’t even know existed, has 10 more times likes than the Alaska Cannabis Club page. I would be doing a disservice to anyone who has supported me by paying any attention to the naysayers.
Lastly, what’s your favorite strain?
My favorite strain is a classic: Jack Herer. It always goes back to him. I hope to make just the smallest, smallest fraction of impact that he has left, and his legacy. So smoke it, toke up that Jack Herer: This is what we’re fighting for.