In 2011 I went to visit some friends of mine who had moved to the notorious “Emerald Triangle” of Northern California. I quickly fell in love with its vast natural beauty from the craggy coastal cliffs of Mendocino, to the gargantuan sacred giant Sequoias in Humboldt, to the majestic peaks of the Trinity Alps, Mt Shasta, and Mt. Lassen.
Also being from Kentucky, a once zero tolerance state with respect to cannabis laws, a state where being caught with a marijuana seed or roach was at one time a felony, I was amazed at the freedom Californians had to cultivate, consume and distribute cannabis. I felt like I fit right in to the “Cascadian” culture and after just one trip to the region I decided it was the place for me, and I soon after uprooted and moved there on what could be described as the very tail end of the “green rush”, as many people had done before from all over the country, and the world. It was even a common joke to call out of towner “trimmigrants” and “Joads” relocating to this new promised land of pot in a modern day “Buds of Wrath”
When I moved to California, the state was still operating under Proposition 215, better known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996; a law permitting the use of medical cannabis. It made it easy be easily granted lawful permission to cultivate, consume and sell cannabis to dispensaries. If quality control measures were passed such as testing for contaminants, there was a moderate tax at the point of sale between the farmer and their markets that helped pay for various public works in the communities. It was reasonable for small and medium sized farmers to earn an honest living.
Once the law changed to legalize recreationally, it nearly ruined it for the peasant farmers. The expensive licenses required to legally grow put many of the smaller working class farmers out of business, or drove them back into the black market while allowing for corporations and powerful rich businessmen to dominate and monopolize the industry. Many other states who have followed suite in decriminalization and legalization have made similar mistakes.
And while this non-toxic, therapeutic virtually harmless plant has been legalized in various states, still, in the same country, people are serving draconian sentences forced to into the sadistic and inhumanity of the prison industrial complex. According to the CDC, an estimated 88,0005 die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States, behind tobacco related deaths which is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths annually (including deaths from secondhand smoke). Alcohol is a literal poisonous solvent, and tobacco is highly toxic, both substances are DEADLY. Cannabis has never been reported to have killed anyone, and its said a lethal dose of marijuana is virtually impossible to consume.
I have had the pleasure of working personally with Bill Hilly, who has contributed his seasoned perspective on this issue below. End the drug war once and for all!
Written by Billy Hill:
It was about eighty-five years ago that the United States government first made cannabis illegal. History has shown that the inspirations for such an illogical act were simply greed, fear, and racism. In and of themselves, those facts would be shameful enough, but the irresponsible, hurtful, and ruinous manner in which the government treats this incredible plant and those who love it continues to this day. It is time to turn cannabis policy on its head and right the many wrongs that still exist.
I see many articles written by people who seem to be amazed at the supposed speed at which cannabis laws are changing. While I am happy that so many states are deciding to get on the right side of history, I also see the numerous problems that continue to proliferate. In 1996, California became the first state to grant legal access of cannabis to its residents, so it behooves us to remember that it has taken over a quarter century to get this far. And we still have a long way to go.
The federal government has a moral obligation to right the wrongs that it is overwhelmingly responsible for. We need to reclassify and federally decriminalize cannabis, and we also need to encourage the United Nations to reclassify as well. You see, not only did we get it wrong ourselves, but we also forced the rest of the world to follow our lead. Because those two classifications impose such large barriers to advancement and equality, they are a tremendous hurdle that will only allow for true change once toppled. Until that is accomplished, we really haven’t done a thing.
Next, unfair IRS treatment of cannabis businesses and idiotic banking regulations need to go. Eighty-five years of abuse inflicted on our own citizens is plenty, we don’t need to continue the charade. And that Orwellian inspired gaslighting that our nation has partaken in brings me to one of the biggest issues in getting things on the right track.
Millions of people in this country have known for many decades that they had been lied to and manipulated into accepting the false reality that the government created. But now that the tide has turned, somehow we still have to listen to the same people that got it wrong in the first place? To quote Mr. Spock, that seems “highly illogical.”
I also feel that the movement was far too willing to give in to demands that have sabotaged the economic development of what could be a massive market. On top of that, completely unnecessary barriers and regulations still dominate this industry in a patchwork manner that lacks any rhyme or reason. Look, we’ve all figured out that herb is harmless, so why are we still treating it like it’s plutonium?
Even worse, the same people that were ahead of the curve and brave enough to follow what they knew was right are now being pushed out of the industry by those that have fatter wallets but are late to the party. All too frequently, that latter group are the ones making the rules, which seem to be designed to strangle legacy operators and force them out of the business until it is devoid of the very experts that built it in the first place.
There is a long list of changes that are essential to the fair and equitable growth of this industry. So far, there is a lot lacking. The federal government needs to clarify that, not only will it not stand in the way of interstate commerce in the cannabis industry, it will encourage it. The Small Business Administration should have programs with grants and low interest loans for individuals (or their families) that have been impacted by the immoral war on cannabis. Tax breaks for those that offer righteous employment in this emerging industry should also be considered.
Licensing guidelines should be crafted through the lense of whether they will allow for dominance of deep pockets, or rather the continuing input and support of the same OG’s whose lives have truly been dedicated to this cause.
While I recognize each state’s rights to continue to hold on to the past and ban the growth and sale of a harmless plant and its byproducts, there should be a federal law spelling out that no state should be allowed to ban the transportation of cannabis through or over its state. In addition, the United States Postal Service needs to permit the shipping of cannabis. Likewise, private carriers should not be permitted to ban the shipping of cannabis, unless they also ban the shipping of tobacco, alcohol, and prescription drugs. (I can understand why they might take that stance, as those things are actually dangerous).
States that have already moved to open cannabis business markets should not allow for individual cities and counties to ban said business, often against the wishes of their own citizens. This policy has allowed for those hanging on to old ideas to impose their will on the people. California has many people in power that are doing their best to treat the cannabis industry like they are equivalent to fentanyl manufacturers.
Federal, state, and local governments all had a hand in destroying lives, especially over the last forty years. They should take those hands and put them back in their pockets, instead of holding them out, asking for payouts that seem to be designed to create failure. Taxes should be minimal, and amount to only what is needed to keep things moving. It has become all too common that onerous excise taxes are completely destroying a large portion of this industry.
Overall, this industry needs to be treated like any other. I’m tired of decades of misinformation and fear dictating the framework with which we are working. How about we start working with reality instead? I wrote this article under a pseudonym, because the government has taught me to be fearful. I have been in the cannabis industry for over twenty-five years, and they have shown me that they cannot be trusted. Once they set the rules, we followed them, and then they pulled the rug out from under us. Things are worse now in California than they were fifteen years ago. Similar problems are now cropping up in other states. The only hope is to elect real people that are not only able to see the problems, but also to inspire change.