Operation Medical Access Transition

by Dominic Corva, Executive Director

The passage of I-502 meant that its Legal Landscape would operate in conjunction with current Washington State Medical Marijuana legislation, until or unless the legislature acted to clarify the situation.  This is quite significant, since current Medical Marijuana statutes are much more liberal than I-502, despite offering less formal protection as affirmative defense.  Many current Medical Marijuana patients are justifiably concerned that if the Medical regime is subsumed under the Legal, more restrictive regulations regarding production, distribution, and retail will translate into lack of access to the medical care.  For instance, under I-502 no home grows will be legally permitted and consumers may only buy one ounce at a time at retail stores, if they can get to retail locations given restrictive zoning rules.

No matter what one thinks about the broad set of conditions for which one may become a medical marijuana patient in Washington State, a significant percentage of these are seriously ill and debilitated patients — patients that no reasonable person could accuse of “hiding” behind medical to get high.  Further, these patients often get free cannabis from their access points or from their caretakers, in the existing black- and grey-market industry.  For them, I-502 may take away their de facto (socially conferred) and de jure (legally conferred) right to affordable and accessible medicine.

This Project asks how Initiative 502’s relationship with current Medical Marijuana Policy in Washington State affects catastrophic patient access to medicine.  We will partner with existing medical dispensaries to select and track a sample population over time.

 

Cannabis is a particularly diverse economy

by Dominic Corva

Briceland, Sohum, Casa de Jakubal

I had the pleasure of visiting Kevin Jodrey at his propagation business, Garberville Grass, which is technically in Redway.  Propagation means breeding and cloning strains that are sold to 215-carded growers in Southern Humboldt, so all the plants there were strictly in vegetative state, from tiny clones barely removed from clipping to worn-out mothers brought into the sun as sort of botanical hospice care.

Kevin’s business is the only approved one of its kind in Sohum, a condition for which his regional credibility with municipal authorities and grower customer base played some part.  It was fascinating to learn about various ways in which Garberville Grass produces a social surplus above and beyond economic surplus — profits, and distributes that surplus among the population.  For instance, he recently learned how to produce organic inoculant tea (see photo), which multiplies like yeast from some samples.  These are given away from house barrels to customers that bring containers.  He also explains how to use it — something to do with local bamboo material and rice, apologies for the imperfect recollection.

How does this relate to our title’s “diverse economy”?  A diverse economy is characterized by lots of different capitalist and non-capitalist relations of production (think formal and informal markets, and hence black, gray and white markets for the purpose of our consideration).  It produces community resilience because lots of different values flow in lots of different ways, so a crisis in one kind of exchange can be absorbed by the heterogeneity of social resources.  It’s an ecological conceptualization of socioeconomic value, so if you understand the argument for genetic diversity, you understand the argument for economic diversity.  Diverse economies can flourish when they are not totally dependent on larger-scale mono-economic forces (think Finance, for example).  Diverse economies are therefore democratic economies, which means we aren’t just talking about distributing inoculant tea.  We are also talking about decentralized informal economies that play a part in cushioning forces of creative destruction unleashed by mono-economic forces.  How many distressed mortgages were saved by turning a McMansion into a grow-op?  How many parents in the recent financial crash paid their bills by growing or distributing Cannabis?  Is that number significant?  We know it could be because we remember the role the Bolivian coca economy played in absorbing surplus labor and generating foreign exchange in the 1980s.

Ray Raphael, a lifelong scholar and teacher of U.S.-American history, noted in his 1985 book Cash Crop that eradication efforts like CAMP made Jeffersonian small-scale rural agriculture possible by preventing the consolidation of the cannabis industry.  His argument about cannabis agriculture as a cash crop in a decentralized, democratic economy also holds for non-rural contexts. Domestic cannabis is produced by small-scale growers everywhere, and there are more of these than ever before all throughout the U.S, even as larger-scale cannabis agriculture also proliferates.  This is a situation shaped in no small part by policies of prohibition and practices of policing, and as these weaken against waves of state-level medical and legal Cannabis initiatives the obverse can be expected.  Right now, the consolidation of the cannabis industry into the hands of the Few, the Corporate, the Financed is far from fait accompli, but the un-diversification of diverse economies in which the Cannabis economy plays a part is a distinct possibility.

This is one of the lessons that will be learned from Washington and Colorado, though undoubtedly it will play out differently in both states.  Will the cannabis industry centralize?  If so, what are the effects of that?  Unemployment?  Decreased economic opportunity?  Will it affect women or ethnic communities?

There is some reason to be optimistic about what will be learned from Washington.  For totally different reasons, policymakers and consultants have consistently expressed an interest in preventing such consolidation.  One common reason given is so that industry profits won’t eventually soften attitudes towards allowing marketing, especially to children.  Corporate greed will work against the interests of public health — the risk of addiction — and the safety of children.  I share their latter concern, and note ironically that such a stance implicitly critiques the existing power of unregulated Capitalism and finds it wanting.  On the other hand, I think it’s possible that the more the population consumes cannabis, the less addiction problems it will have, especially to prescription drugs.

So the question may be, what kind of economy do we have? but the answer is, especially for newly Legal Cannabis, what kind of economy do we want?  Both of these are excellent research questions.

 

 

 

Cannabis is Food

by Will Duffield

This weekend at the Pennsylvania Libertarian Party convention, I had the pleasure of meeting Shawn House, owner of Lancaster Trading House, and creator of the Hempzel. The Hempzel is a classic sourdough pretzel created with both wheat, and hemp seed. After purchasing the Lancaster Trading House from its former owner in 1997, Shawn began contracting with several Pennsylvania bakeries to produce the Hempzel. The dietary benefits offered by hemp seed have attracted the patronage of both individual internet customers through his webstore, and many natural foods retailers. Hemp seed contains proteins and a balanced mixture of several essential oils as well as potassium and vitamin E. Hemp seed also contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, delivering many benefits in a small package. For those who seek all these properties in a plant based product, hemp is an essential food.

Since the introduction of the Hempzel, the Lancaster Trading house has started selling several other hemp based products including hemp mustards and gluten free hemp pretzels. While the Hempzels are baked locally, the hemp seed must be sourced internationally because of the current federal prohibition of all cannabis growing. Even though the hemp seed used in the Hempzels does not contain THC in psychoactive quantities, and is Test Pledge certified to ensure that consumers are not ensnared by drug screenings. Shawn must purchase his hemp internationally, a problem which often increases the cost of hemp based products. Despite these costs, the benefits of hemp add tremendous value to consumer products that incorporate the seed.

Shawn believes that hemp ought to be regulated not by the Drug Enforcement Agency, but by the Department of Agriculture. This sensible decision would help to revive the historical understanding of cannabis as a useful crop. Shawn warns against legislation that establishes minimum acreages for hemp growers. Current minimums in Canada prevent farmers from growing less than 20 acres of hemp, pushing hemp cultivation away from the realm of the individual farmer, and incentivizing corporate agriculture by shutting many small growers out of the marketplace. Historically, early Pennsylvania farmers would often grown an acre or two of hemp to supplement their main crop, often growing more when tobacco prices were low. Hemp historically added value to the crops of Pennsylvania farmers, and could do so again, were it not for current federal regulations barring the domestic growing of Hemp. Products like the Hempzel can help to revive domestic consumer demand for hemp in everyday foods.hempzelssd4_09_300h

Cannabis is Common Ground

A nice little facebook exchange with Nora Callahan, executive director of the November Coalition, led to two more aphoristic observations from which research questions can be derived.  And by research here folks, right now I mean send me responses that can help shape how the research is designed and processed — democratically, not technocratically.

This exchange was inspired by the excellent analysis by “W.W.” from Houston Texas, writing in the Economist Blog.  W.W., if you are out there, the Center is very interested in meeting you!

http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2013/06/marijuana-legalisation

So, here you go:

As we go along, I also want to incorporate a bit of scientific method, which is to say that we must clearly define our null hypothesis, and then try to disprove it by gathering data.

Null hypothesis:  Cannabis is never common ground.

Process: search for evidence that disproves the null hypothesis in a robust fashion.

Cannabis is common ground. Cannabis consumption has allowed otherwise disinterested, structurally more privileged citizens to learn about structural racism, structural problems with our medical system and so forth.

 

Have you experienced this?  Please comment below.

 

On a related note, Cannabis is a gateway to knowledge about one’s place in society at large.  Not for everyone, but for how many.  Null hypothesis:  Cannabis is never a gateway to knowledge about one’s place in society at large.  Evidence to the contrary disproves the null hypothesis …

Cannabis is Culture

"Southern Humboldt County California, August, 1978. A volunteer sativa plant out in the meadow. For decades, families and children have lived in multiple contexts which include cannabis culture."  -- Ursi Reynolds.
“Southern Humboldt County California, August, 1978. A volunteer sativa plant out in the meadow. For decades, families and children have lived in multiple contexts which include cannabis culture.” — Ursi Reynolds.

Cannabis is Culture.  How is it Culture?  Culture is shared system of meanings that help groups of people understand the world they live in.  It is dynamic and always evolving, rather than a thing people possess.  Cannabis consumption means different things in different cultural contexts, none of them inevitable.  Cannabis consumption was made to mean “a threat to society,” beginning in the early 20th century, by associating it with socially threatening populations: Mexican migrant workers during and just after the Mexican Revolution and Black Jazz musicians.  The construction of Cannabis as a social threat galvanized popular opposition to cannabis consumption as an acceptable cultural practice, setting the stage for Cannabis prohibition.

Part I

In the 1960s, Cannabis use was associated with political, economic, and cultural rebellion.  This was especially the case on college campuses where many white children of the middle class became involved in the Civil Rights movement, in many cases from direct participation as 1961 “Freedom Riders” challenging de facto segregation in the American South.  In the wake of this particular mobilization, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, the youth wing of the Black Civil Rights movement), challenged their white allies to work in their own communities to end racism.  For increasingly disaffected white youth in higher education, this ended up meaning that they sited struggles from college campuses — perhaps most famously, at the University of California Berkeley.  Students led the Free Speech movement in the early 1960s, but as the Vietnam War expanded student movements de-localized, and created solidarity with global anti-imperialist struggles that constituted the invisible Heat of the Cold War.

At the same time, radical countercultural spaces like the Haight Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco exerted gravitational pull for a wide range of disaffected youth with varying degrees of political consciousness but a determination to find a place to which they belonged.  An offshoot of the San Francisco Mime Troop, the Diggers, created a model for sustaining such a place and constituting such a community, by organizing “Free” spaces in which social needs could be addressed:  the Free Store, the Free Clinic, Free crash-pads, and Free Music.  Not all counterculture was “left,” even as the term itself evolved from a predominantly class meaning to one that incorporated diverse identity politics, and not all “left” was countercultural.  We can, however, provisionally identify “countercultural left” as a tendency that was oriented to both external and internal revolution, with that word “revolution” meaning lots of different things to lots of different people.  Perhaps the most common meaning was that many people found their political paths by changing their consciousness as they consumed particular criminalized biota and molecules — plants and synthetics.  Cannabis and LSD were the archetypal food for doing so.

As the “law and order” politician became an increasingly viable career path, U.S.-American voters began to understand cannabis as a social threat that was embodied by the countercultural left, which in truth did hate “Amerika” as a symbol of capitalist greed, imperialist impunity, patriarchal dominance, and racist structures.  Many were intensly patriotic or nationalistic and didn’t conflate “Amerika” with the United States of America, a place where people could be free to live how they wanted to.  The Weather Underground, in their 1971 first Communique [link goes here], asserted that “Guns and grass are united in the youth underground.”  Cannabis became a symbol of social upheaval and revolutionary consciousness, perhaps even the culprit for so many white middle class youth adopting a subjectivity of the oppressed.  It was an easy target for rallying increasingly political evangelical voters engaged in the reactionary “culture wars.”

Next in “Culture”:  Back to the Land and “Beyond Counterculture.”