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You’re Not Against Cannabis Legalization, You’re Against Corporate Weed (And That’s Cool, But…)

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4 Lies Your Budtender Will Tell You

When it comes to the cannabis industry, it’s time for the weed heads to band together to keep out the greed heads. And that starts with how you vote this November.

I’ve been a cannabis journalist for fifteen years, and just published a book called How To Smoke Pot (Properly) that includes a lengthy section titled, “Cannabis Should Transform Capitalism, Not the Other Way Around.” I’ve also had the honor and privilege, as a longtime HIGH TIMES editor, of spending quality time with countless “Mom & Pop” cannabis growers, infused product makers, extract artists and retailers. I love this community, and what we stand for—liberty, reason, resistance, compassion, inclusion and stony solidarity in the face of terrible injustice.

So yeah, I’m staunchly opposed to any kind of corporate take-over of cannabis. And yeah, it’s already happening, and has been happening for years—aided and abetted by the suddenly weed-friendly corporate media.

Ever since Colorado and Washington became the first two US states to legalize marijuana in 2012, the establishment press has consistently framed things to the one-percent’s liking by focusing almost wholly on the “green rush” aspect of this societal sea change. Just think about how many cable news shows you’ve seen breathlessly reporting on the upside potential of the legal cannabis industry (Marijuana Inc, Pot Barons of Colorado, The Cannabis Boom, High Profits), versus those tallying up the social-justice and human-rights gains made since legalization.

Naturally the “marijuana green rush” looks like the big story to the corporate media, because it pleases their overlords and deflects attention from their own culpability in propagating and then propping-up pot prohibition with widespread lies and distortions. But personally, I think the big story is actually something much deeper. And it starts with asking two simple questions:

What has gone wrong in a society that wages a costly, de-humanizing war on a beneficial plant? And what if, as that war winds down, instead of allowing mercenary corporate interests and Wall Street hustlers to come in and take over the cannabis industry, the weed heads band together to keep out the greed heads?

We’re the ones who’ve been right about cannabis all along, of course, but the corrupt powers that be don’t want to admit that they’ve been wrong. Because then someone might hold them accountable for all the millions of people arrested and put in prison for a big lie; all the cancer patents who needlessly suffered through chemo when a few puffs could have helped immensely; all the no knock raids, lying narcs, sleazy informants, warrantless surveillance, racial profiling, ruined lives, and wasted resources.

So now we must fight to make the emerging cannabis industry as progressive as the grass-roots movement that pushed for the herb’s legalization for decades, while suffering the brunt of this most senseless war, and facing fierce opposition from both major political parties, the media, the medical establishment and the prison-industrial-complex.

The first step is ending this incredibly self-destructive prohibition whenever and wherever possible. So if you have an opportunity to vote for cannabis legalization this November, I strongly urge you to do so. Because cannabis prohibition in one way or another still oppresses almost every human being on the planet, and if we can stop it in America, even imperfectly, that will give hope to all people fighting for their own herbal liberation—often in much more hostile territory than our own.

Check out the HIGH TIMES 2016 Voters Guide for more information on this year’s ballot initiative votes in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and other races that will affect cannabis reform.

Now, no doubt, whatever state you live in, if legalization’s on the ballot, you’ve heard someone who sincerely loves cannabis tell you they will be voting “no” in November—especially in California, where Proposition 64 would legalize possession of up to an ounce for all adults 21-and-over and home cultivation of six plants (per residence), while creating regulations for commercial cultivation, distribution, and retail sales. Some “no” voters raise legitimate grievences (possession limit is too low, plant limit for home grow is too small and excludes those living in public housing), but the majority of these pro-cannabis / anti-legalization screeds rely so heavily on hyperbole, fear tactics, and outright fictions that HIGH TIMES has actually published two separate articles debunking their claims.

I’ve also watched a nasty rift develop in a community that was once tightly bound by our mutual persecution, and shared love of a most beneficent plant. Friends and colleagues who’ve worked their entire adults lives for cannabis law reform—tirelessly and often with little to no financial compensation—have been accused of “selling out,” or being stooges for everything from Monsanto to Marlboro. And then there’s those who paint all opposition with a single brush, talking about how those “greedy growers up in Humboldt” are just afraid legalization will put them out of business.

Well, hell yeah they’re worried. After three generations of outlaw growing and DEA helicopter raids, they’re finally seeing that this most senseless of wars will soon end, and wouldn’t it be nice if they could somehow keep making a living sufficient to pay the mortgage and feed their families?

The vast majority of growers up in Humboldt County (and everywhere else, for that matter) ply their trade ethically and responsibly whether they’re regulated by the state or operating wholly underground. And I agree wholeheartedly that society needs to provide them a viable path out of the shadows of the underground and into legal compliance.

But let’s face some uncomfortable truths for a minute. The shadow cast by prohibition also gives cover to dangerously irresponsible behavior. Violence, and the threat of violence, are facts of life in communities largely dependent on illicit cannabis; certain unregulated grows suck the land dry amid a very worrying drought; poison wildlifespoil hillsidescontaminate riversspill diesel, and create serious fire hazards.; and incidents of abuse among unregulated, migratory cannabis workers climbs, even as many cases go unreported.

Meanwhile, California continues to arrest 20,000 citizens every year for marijuana crimes. In most US states, cancer patients still face the threat of arrest for taking a puff to stay strong through chemo. And in some countries, a small amount of cannabis can bring the death penalty.

This must end.

And when it does, we’ll be a big step closer to transforming the cannabis industry, and then capitalism itself. I can’t guarantee that we’ll make it, but we won’t know unless we try. And I do believe that cannabis presents us with a singular point of vulnerability buried deep in the heart of corporate capitalism’s otherwise impregnable Death Star.

For while every other segment of the global economy is already tightly controlled by vast capital and deeply entrenched political interests, cannabis legalization offers a wholly unique opportunity to build a truly progressive industry from the ground up, one that addresses income inequality, labor rights, environmental sustainability, and unchecked corporate power. And once we’ve established a thriving cannabis industry based on those principals, we then use that example to push every other industry on Earth towards such radical practices as paying a living wage, marketing responsibly, and not destroying the planet.

But let’s face it, that’s a pretty lofty goal, and to expect it all to happen overnight, with a single vote, is just not realistic. If we hold the legalization of cannabis hostage to the wholesale transformation of free-market capitalism, we’re going to be waiting a long time.

Also, I happen to believe that Prop 64 in California (where I’ll be voting) is an impressively progressive reform effort. It’s not exactly how I’d regulate cannabis if they made me King, but since that’s fairly unlikely, here’s a few of the ballot initiative’s highlights (see also bullet points below the video):

* All criminal penalties related to cannabis are significantly reduced or eliminated (see chart below), except for sales to minors and home butane extraction, which remain felonies. Anyone 17-years-old or younger can only receive a non-fined infraction for any marijuana violation, and at age 18 their record is sealed.

* Anybody with a California based cannabis conviction on their record will be eligible to have their record either reduced or expunged.  And anybody currently incarcerated for a crime that is affected by Prop 64 can petition to have their sentence reduced or for immediate release.

* A five-year ban on the largest commercial licenses and strict bans on monopolies will allow small-scale growers, processors, distributors and retailers a chance to take root before facing competition from “Big Marijuana.” And that ban on the largest licenses can be extended indefinitely if, after five years of regulated sales, the California Legislature determines that the state’s cannabis supply needs are being adequately met.

* A`prior drug conviction can not be used as a reason to deny someone a license to work in the cannabis industry.

* License fees are scaled based on the size of the business, so they’re not an undue burden on small business.

* Small-scale operators can apply for a special, vertically integrated “micro-license,” which permits the cultivation of a cannabis garden 10,000 square feet in size or smaller, which can then operate like a winery tour, including the ability to process, infuse, sell and consume cannabis on-site.

* With local approval, on-site comsumption cannabis lounges will be permitted to provide safe, social spaces, free from alcohol, where adults can gather to share and enjoy cannabis.

* Tax money collected from cannabis sales will go towards researching medical cannabis; studying impaired driving; youth drug treatment, prevention, and education; environmental restoration of damage caused by illegal grows, and a $50 million per year community re-investment fund to help the communities most adversely affected by the war on drugs.

* Prop 64 does not affect or repeal any aspect of Prop 215 (California’s original medical cannabis law), but it does add child custody protection for patients, caps the fee for ID cards at $100 (with free cards for the indigent), and protects the privacy of medical records.

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