Rough Riders: 6 Positive Takeaways from Legalization

As f’d up as this industry is, it’s important to remind ourselves that it could be worse.
Rough Riders

I’d like to start with the acknowledgement of everything good that’s happened during this decade-long royal ball sideshow. Whether we want to acknowledge the degree of foolishness and the feeling of lost years due to spinning, what we can’t forget is what went right. 

Number 1: We can mostly talk about weed anywhere now. 

The exclusivity of acting as a dark agent to the status quo has definitely been reduced. That was fun and is missed. More so with weed, because it has some benefits and a nonexistent direct body count. Anyone that has danced with the sale of substances that fully enslave people by effect, have inevitably, at least once or twice acted as a precursor to the hooded spirit with a scythe. There’s a cost when your game currency consists of drugs that make the soul easy to slaughter. This is a rare situation with cannabis users. Most cannabis mortalities seemed to be ‘wrong place, wrong time’ incidents. Some cannabis user low moments can be attributed to mental illness. This should be expected, look at the atomic cocktail the human race has become and the strange layers of past eras we have built a world upon. 

Even with the full reality in scope, I think it’s safe to say, sugar has enslaved and destroyed more lives than cannabis, at least in this country.

Number 2: The start of the industry brought in a lot of action.

One of the results of the war on drugs is that beneficial or medical psychoactive plants were traded adjacent and within the economy of all things not allowed. A tenuous and stressed economic system but one that provided a way for a few to level up out of poverty or a lifeless middle class. An economic system with a high body count. That economy has enticed the lower echelon of first round investors for the state legalization efforts. Those who were willing to risk a lot. Most used the chaos to fleece millions from family offices, shareholders, or private money. Some wanted to be that guy in that movie they watched while hoovering through an eight ball and some just thought it was cool to be a part of bringing cannabis lawfully into the market. I’ve worked with a few of the latter. Good to see them but also sad to see them lose ambition as the layers of scummy rules and people wore on their net worth. Some are still here, stuck with too much in, grimace riding their way through it, sometimes with the help of the mortal drugs available on the market of all things not allowed. Regardless, a solid few made off with a few lifetimes of cash and a lot of us made a living.

Number 3: Plant breeding and new strains have steered the market.

This is largely due to a few brands that understood how aromatic associations with foods and candies and a terpy weed analogue could be packaged in a way that psychologically related cannabis with items in the pantry. Innocuous cartoon baked goods and candy boxes on shorts, hoodies, and backpacks splattered their way around the common city square. It worked so well even backpacks with cartoon images of backpacks that would theoretically hold the pastry comic art flowered filled mylars became a thing. This pantry trend did bottleneck a lot of the wide genetic expressions available for consumption but that is starting to shift as more markets with different smoker cultures continue to pop up from legal states coming online. The value of unique varieties is established and has become a path for growers, breeders, or selectors to create a place in the market no matter their footprint. It’s a lottery with popping seeds but there are more winners with cannabis than any other gamble if you can read the current room and predict the coming trends.

Number 4: Good smoke is available to all more than ever.

There is still a lot of bad flower and products, but it’s easier now than ever to find amazing flower and hash. The cannabis economy does prefer cost still over quality. People have less money, so getting passable flower for a low cost has now become the preference for most. This has also led to more people growing their own and learning the plant craft. Oregon, the barren wasteland for the small and medium sized business who were decimated with oversupply and a hemp rush that was mostly cloaked real weed farms is now left with numerous small growers, seed makers and plant selectors doing their thing carving out small customer bases while working other jobs. Not ideal if you want cannabis to be your only source of bacon, but it is something. A lot of us in California look north to Oregon, praying that this isn’t our fate but witnessing a lot of the same signs. Maybe the only hold out is that California has been a nucleus for good weed and novel genetics. It still is, but that will only hold up as long as California holds up as a myth machine for new trends. At the moment, the allure of the west coast seems to be fading even if most of the world still perceive it as the “home of the best weed”. Still amazing cultivators and plant makers still live here and as long as they keep participating and bringing new things to the market, us Californians, have a chance to ride another wave.

Number 5: Even law enforcement is lobbying for federally legal weed.

And they are growing and selling it as well. Which is where it gets a little sticky. If you weren’t growing during the medical era of proposition 215 in California, you might not be aware that law enforcement’s position on both sides of the fence was strong prior to recreational licensing. So this is nothing new. What is new is that we can talk about it. Prior if you were raided, caught a charge and won the case only to find that a portion or none at all of your confiscated cannabis products were returned to you would raise an eyebrow but you wouldn’t ask where it went. It should be no surprise that during this time many law enforcement officials allegedly would have side hustles with medical dispensaries moving confiscated products into the market under protected shops receiving a profit from the sales. It is a strange rub seeing former law enforcement on culturally relevant weed podcasts touting themselves as leaders in the legalization movement appropriating advocacy movements and tokenizing a few supposed victims of the war on drugs while leveraging a publicly traded company into the largest seat at the table. It feels like a Black Mirror episode. It accurately feels like modern America. A cascading of past, present and future narratives cased into a feel good virtue soapbox with a massive profit potential but the box is empty. There isn’t enough bleach, soap or cleanser that can wash away the long standing impact of doublespeak propaganda that has petrified like diseased mind particles from the era of prohibition and its beneficiary, law enforcement and big business. If former law enforcement wants to stick it to the war on drugs, it would feel virtuous only if there wasn’t a carrot hanging on their stick, but I am not sure that those from that culture have ever known a carrot without a stick. Clearly, the virtuous path here is to fight for change around cannabis without a profit motive. Fight for it to change, because it is the right thing to do. Fighting for it to change because you know at some point you’ll be able to sell your weed company to big pharma for a billion dollars is not virtuous, it’s more of the same. 

Number 6: Cannabis legalization began during the golden age of social media, creating a platform for normalizing its use to the world.

Social media has without a doubt made and broken many in the cannabis space. Mid 2010s it was a virtual Mecca for trends, genetics and determining market value for specific growers and strains. If you were able to launch a brand and sell it prior to 2019, there is little doubt that you have won some sort of success in this space. Post-pandemic, social media’s use has been weaponized more as businesses, partnerships and markets have faltered. As the algorithms elevate the more contentious content and more contentious scenarios played out with the bubble beginning to implode, social media around the cannabis industry is feeling more like a carbon fiber plated tube thousands of feet below its operating depth on a mission to view the sunken ship of a industry that could have been, only to implode before viewing the wreckage. Instead, many with some harboring resentments towards the current state get high by hiding behind anonymous accounts and picking apart with perverse humor the failed state still dressed up like a lipstick smattered pig. It wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that my participation in this trend has been less than superfluous. I understand fully the small wins of highlighting the skullduggery with a post that warrants a painful laugh. I also know that posting a weed pic just gets you in trouble and as much as I would prefer to post cannabis pics, the drama always brings more conversation and engagement. It becomes a hard pinning role and leaves little room for mobility out of that position and the cost of cashing in for the engagement by low key trauma posting through targeting memes can limit how and who you will work with in the future. People just trucking through the noise with a ten year plan have little time to even look at the drama, but we cannot argue that social media is an effective weapon. I am just not sure that any of us have really earned the power to wield it and are free enough from our own bullshit to be the moral adjudicator of the cannabis space. This includes myself. Most here will just hustle that engagement for a profit, and in the end aren’t too far from the true intentions of law enforcement carrying on with a publicly traded weed company spouting cheap virtue aphorisms on justice. It’s really just a lot of spin encased in a virtual drug. Meanwhile the rappers and duffle bag boys keep grifting away to consumers who just want cheap or hype weed, never to be accepted by their peers who know and have felt their unscrupulous behavior, but without a doubt are still catching the bag for how much longer, I do not know. In any event, troll trauma posting is getting old and it’s time to start developing a new form of market creation and competition. These social low points are always the womb for new waves of creativity. Just make sure that you vet your corporate sponsors.

This last point I know is a hard ask. There is much that is not functioning and when the losses keep stacking up an easy win is there with some online character assassination. My argument is that this trend will also lose its relationship with reality, where drama will be engineered to drive engagement. Trolling for some sort of change or awareness will just end up as a marketing strategy solely. Losing its power, like most things do, into the void of short term profitability. The muddy banks of an emerging industry held like a social experiment by the federal government, measuring whether they open up the market through descheduling or limiting its legal expansion by rescheduling within the world of big tobacco and pharmaceuticals, will use what we have created as a reference point for that decision. We still live under a master and they continue to act as one as long as we continue to buy what they sell. Right now, biotech companies and private equity are investing heavily in low THC genetically modified cannabis plants as a substitute for tobacco. I’m not sure how that will work, since nicotine is a far different stimulant and its legal yet regulated proliferation has almost fully negated the awareness and intentional use of its neurotrophic medical benefits that could be used in substitution of antidepressants and SSRIs. Like tobacco, will we lose the purposeful use of cannabis and its medical benefits while these Optimus Prime level industry actors descend into the chaos of the current state? I think it’s likely as more and more of reality continues to play out like the Twilight Zone. We can still resist this by continuing to organize into small thoughtful online groups, perhaps trolling more the meta than the individuals, unless of course the meta becomes an individual. A larger than life icon with the power to determine the industry trajectory as a whole, conspicuously breaking all the rules and continuing to get a pass from the powers that be. Those entities, icons, or organizations, should continue to be tested.

As any power should be that could shape the future of our collective and individual dreams.

They determine who or who doesn’t sit at the table, and that is also a power that is too great for one or a few, because in the end that power rules over them more than they rule over anything else, bringing forth a primal state of behavior. Behaviors that bury its passengers leagues under a weighted sea, shoddily wrapped in a glossy material that screams hubris.

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