Three Questions for the Reform Conference

by Dominic Corva, Executive Director

This year, the International Drug Policy Reform Conference (Reform) will be taking place next week in Atlanta, Georgia. This post lets our readers know about CASP’s presence at the Conference and what I will be doing there, as a participant in a panel titled “How has the Drug War Reshaped Space, Place, and Relationships?”

There are three kinds of public events CASP gets invited to speak at. Industry events provide a platform for addressing cannabis policy and markets in a way that reflects our commitment to optimizing cannabis legalization as a strategy for ending the drug war. Academic events provide a platform for reflecting on and improving the models of the world I work with and encounter. And Policy events provide me with a platform for direct intervention into ongoing discussions of policy formation.

The Reform conference is a bit of a hybrid between Academic and Policy events. It’s an international NGO (nongovernmental organization) production, hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU, which often partners with the DPA on domestic efforts. You can see from the title of the panel how academic the conversation is to be on my panel, which could be the title of a panel at the annual Association of American Geographers (AAG) Conference I presented at for most of my academic life.

As a result, it’s probably the sort of panel that I feel most comfortable in. I’m not industry, and in Policy conferences where bureaucrats and policymakers dominate I’m usually the most radical voice in the room, since my central concern is ending the drug war rather than doing politics. Or bureaucracy.

This panel is especially cool because it’s a conversation, rather than a group of individual presentations. The moderator for the panel recently reached out to prepare for the conversation by posing three or four questions with which we would like to engage. I offer the questions I sent back, and the reasons for doing so, here:

What is the relationship between legalizing cannabis in certain places and ending the drug war — in those places but more broadly?
This question places CASP’s mission into the context of an international drug policy framework. Cannabis legalization to this point has until recently been “sold” –and funded — on the assumption that cannabis legalization is an important step towards ending the drug war. These days, it seems that it’s now being sold as an engine for economic growth and associated tax revenue. As a result, the policies being called for, designed and implemented don’t seem to be all that interested in removing criminal penalties altogether for cannabis-related activity. On the other hand, there is no doubt that significant room for exception to criminal penalties is opening up, especially from the perspective of say, the Philippines, where drug war crimes and outright genocidal State policy continue with the support and funding of the U.S. government. There also doesn’t seem to be much carry-over from ending the war on cannabis to ending the war on drugs, full stop. Is cannabis being carved out as a militant particularism, an exception that allows the drug war to continue unopposed? If it is, and key voices and actors in the U.S. are “co-opted” by letting them have theirs, does cannabis legalization mean the continuation of the drug war? These are difficult questions, but they must be considered given the evidence so far.
What is the relationship between (neo)liberalizing space and demobilizing the drug war?
This is a question that has to do with the relationship between economic governance and prohibition. My interest in the relationship between the drug war and economic liberalization was sparked by trying to puzzle through the tension between the promotion of liberty, via “free market” governance, and the promotion of authoritarian control on certain populations, during the latest period of pretty intense economic globalization (since the 1970s). Whose liberty matters, politically, under conditions of intense economic inequality that is supposedly being remediated by neoliberal market governance? The hollowing out of State (this term refers approximately to governments at large, not just to Federal States) revenues under conditions of privatization absolutely blew up during the financial crisis of the last decade. U.S. federal States like Washington want and need cannabis tax revenue to replace budget shortfalls that used to be covered by income taxes and Federal transfers. As a result, policy discourse about cannabis legalization explicitly condone the punishment of informal sector markets and actors to protect State-designated monopolies. That’s how we lost medical cannabis in Washington State.
How are processes of creative destruction associated with drug war zones?

“Creative destruction” is a political economy term I learned about from studying Karl Polanyi, the Austro-Hungarian economic historian. It means that there’s a cost to market formation — that previous market and social orders are destroyed to make way for new engines of growth. It’s usually associated with urban gentrification or crisis profiteering. Under conditions of prohibition, the whole world is a drug war zone, as anthropologist Howard Campbell observes, but some spots are hotter than others: borders, inner cities and so forth. This is a broader question for which cannabis legalization provides some insight, particularly with respect to who can own the means of cannabis production in highly controlled markets with high barriers to entry. Headlines splash how many jobs are created by such markets, but what goes unsaid is to whom the gains accrue. The democratic aspect of informal cannabis markets was that everyone could be an owner or take a much better margin of the flows than they could as a $15/hour waged laborer. This spread the economic benefits of market development much wider than under conditions where you need half a million or a regulatory job to make much of a living. At the same time, however, there is a lot of truth to the claim that legal cannabis displaces the ability of highly organized crime to make much off of cannabis, any more. Cartel profits don’t accrue to the little people so much, and while I insist that cartel profits have been dwindling under conditions of medical cannabis (with a far more democratic and widely shared economy), I can’t ignore the truth that in general, we want to destroy the ability of those who use violence to manage risk to make anything.

So, that’s it. Those are my questions for the panel, and my preliminary thoughts about them. It will take place next week, Thursday, in Atlanta, Georgia. I am grateful to the Drug Policy Alliance for covering my flight and hotel room, for full disclosure.

How has the Drug War Reshaped Space, Place, and Relationships?

Thursday, October 12th4:30-6:00pm | Dogwood B Room, Floor M1

From prison towns to million dollar blocks (where more than a million dollars is spent to incarcerate men from one city block), drug policy is shaping what our communities and relationships look like. This session will explore: How has the drug war reshaped geography in the U.S.? What impact do these changes have on individuals and families? How does spatial shifts over time affect communities most impacted by the war on drugs? What are some current projects and solutions underway to address these shifts in geography?

LCB Home Grow Study: Option 3 the Status Quo

by Dominic Corva, Social Science Research Director

After further review, it’s very clear how to respond to the WSLCB regulated home grow options. I choose, if it matters, Option 3, the status quo. This post is about why, and to ask my readers to shape their feedback accordingly.

The WSLCB has delivered a perfectly reasonable set of options to the legislature’s mandate that they carry out a study on the feasibility of regulated home grow. They have been asked only to deliver options for a kind of home grow that is unlike any of the other 8 states and the nation’s capital, in that it would not apply to all adult citizens residing in the State. It would apply only to those who apply for it, as a privilege that could be taken away or prevented by the entity that manages those permits, whether it be local law enforcement or the WSLCB.

By contrast, all other State home grow laws allow for home grow as a right. For them, being an adult citizen means having the liberty to grow a few plants without having to ask for permission or be tracked or be subject to anything that would infringe on the right to privacy. Home grow in all the other states is a civil liberty.

The WSLCB is not an arm of the State concerned with the expansion or protection of civil liberties. It is an entity charged with creating, regulating, and policing legal cannabis businesses. Thus, the stakeholders they consult about home grow are businesses, not civil liberties watchdogs like the ACLU, which funded our State legalization initiative. I 502 was, and should always be, a civil liberties law that SECONDARILY creates a market from which the State can tap revenue.

The WSLCB is institutionally incapable of prioritizing the civil liberties of adult citizens assumed responsible. As a private police force, it can and does assume adult citizens are potential vectors of illegality, not stakeholders in a civil liberties experiment.

As a business regulator, it has no expertise or mandate to govern adult civil liberties. Its Board contains no representatives of any group that has either. Thus, the proper entity for considering and designing adult home grow as a civil liberty in the State of Washington is the Legislature.

The Legislature must consider more than just options for regulated home grow. They must carefully study the Cole Memo and understand how its parameters allow for adult home grow as a civil liberty.

The Cole Memo is a set of guidelines, not a blueprint for making law or policy. It is exclusively about the legal markets regulated by entities such as the WSLCB. The concern for diversion is exclusively about making sure each State’s regulated cannabis markets do not become mixed up with black market activity — diversion into, and out of, the regulated market, with clear emphasis on diversion to other states.

An adult homegrow provision in this State carves out a space that is simply out of the jurisdiction of the WSLCB. Adult home grow, as a civil liberty, would be unregulated, because adult home grow would not be part of the regulated system. No need to worry about policing diversion, because no one would be diverting from a regulated system. That’s how it works in 8 other States and the District of Columbia. It would literally be none of the WSLCB’s business.

We need our Legislature to listen to civil liberties experts, particularly those associated with the success of I 502 like the ACLU, Alison Holcomb, and even Rick Steves. Ask them what the spirit of I 502 is, whether adult use home grow like adult use possession, sharing, and consumption should be decriminalized.

The reason why the ACLU will respond quite differently from the WSLCB, or the industry stakeholders to whom they might listen, is because the ACLU has experts in the history and practice of illicit drug prohibition, and must include that expertise in any consideration of the matter at hand.

It would be much more helpful if the Legislature could consult a standing body of drug policy experts that have published on and studied racial disparities and punishment in the U.S. This is perhaps the fundamental thing missing from Washington State’s approach to legalizing cannabis: the ACLU is never consulted. By default, only the legal cannabis police are consulted, and they interpret their mandate broadly enough to consider the risk of adult home grow as an exceptional threat to Cole Memo compliance on the one hand; and the legal cannabis industry on the other.

There are many more arguments that can and will be made. But these are the fundamental ones.

I 502, and cannabis legalization at large, are about promoting civil liberties and reducing the scope of the punitive State, which in all cases increases racial disparity because of structural racism. Every other State subject to the Cole memo guidelines has created adult home grow as a civil liberty, and it is highly unlikely that following this path would invite Federal intervention. Finally, the expressed concerns about diversion in the Cole Memo are about policing the integration of organized crime into State-legal markets, and are not concerned at all with what happens on a vanishingly small scale in the privacy of adult homes.

So I urge all of my readers who are interested in providing feedback to the WSLCB on its home grow options to choose option 3, the status quo, because adult use home grow should be a civil liberties issue, not a regulated business issue. We thank them for doing what they were asked by the Legislature to do, and choose to focus instead on working for Legislative change, including the two existing civil liberties home grow bills still in process that will be taken up again in January.



WSLCB Home Grow Study Options Under Review

by Dr. Dominic Corva, Executive Director

Yesterday, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (“LCB”) announced the parameters of its legislatively-mandated study on the feasibility of home grow in Washington State. Although they will be taking public comment on the document, the LCB has defined two distinct options, neither of which may be acceptable to citizens who want what 8 other states and Washington D.C. have, the right to grow a limited number of plants in the privacy of their own home without having to register in some way. Let’s be clear — although they list three options, the third is “status quo” so really there are only two options on the table at the moment.

It comes down to LCB control over personal home grows, in which the LCB issues permits to applicants and tracks everything they do in the State traceability system; or local jurisdictional control over personal home grows, in which citizens register with and are regulated by local jurisdictions (cities and counties, presumably).

The first option would require that the LCB spend a great deal of money attempting to police who knows how many tiny operations across the state. This is something the underfunded agency definitely does not want to have to do, although if the legislature told them to they would probably try. It’s unlikely that the legislature will tell them to do something they are clearly not funded well enough to do.

The other option is more pragmatic — leave it to local jurisdictions to opt in our out; and local police to enforce or not. High upon the list of reasons the LCB lists not to do it is their impression that allowing home grow would run counter to the Cole Memo’s guidelines to prevent diversion and access by children. However, such a system would make home grow a privilege for citizens living in jurisdictions that would allow it. We could expect much of the State’s local municipalities to react in the same way they have for legal cannabis, banning or zoning home grows out of much of the State. In a sense we would be legislating State-local experiments within the Federal-State experiment.

Without going into too much detail, let’s identify the assumptions — the model of the world — underpinning the options the LCB is willing to consider.

  1. They are expanding the Cole Memo guidelines into policymaking guidelines, by defining the “diversion” injunction far more broadly that its original interpretation. In the original interpretation, the concern for diversion was read as strictly applying to the regulated markets in question. That is, States were charged with policing diversion out of regulated cannabis markets, not policing Federal prohibition writ large ie the segment of the black market that has nothing to do with the legal market. In so doing, the LCB is greatly expanding the scope of its policing mandate, effectively taking on the task of prohibition itself.
  2. I would point out that the legal market IS supposed to mitigate the black market, as they are clearly aware, but it is supposed to be doing so through civil rather than criminal governance. They are supposed to be creating a safe, highly accessible regulated market that consumers can choose over the black market. In my model of the world, I 502’s architect Alison Holcomb-advertised purpose was to help end the “failed” war on drugs and market creation was a nice collateral benefit, per City Attorney Pete Holmes’s words when Cannabis City inaugurated legal retail availability June 2015.
  3. This is a serious, serious tension between how the LCB understands its mandate and what the voters of Washington and anyone interested in ending the war on drugs want out of cannabis legalization. It is the assumption that makes reality-based policy impossible. If the LCB understands its mandate as prohibition-to-prop-up-legalization, then it will repeat all the mistakes of prohibition — namely, the impossible pursuit of perfect control that has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars and countless lives, in the name of protecting society from something it never needed to be protected from. Anyone who understands the history of drug control understands this. If the LCB does not understand the history of drug control, they have no business governing cannabis legalization.
  4. The necessity of a permit from the State not only creates a patchwork of local opt-ins and leave-outs. It also raises serious Federal constitutional questions around the right to privacy; and opens up the State to having to overturn Leary v. United States (1969), which successfully overturned the 1937 Marijuana Tax Stamp Act on the grounds of self-incrimination. That Supreme Court decision is why we are governed by a 1971 Public Health law, the Controlled Substances Act, instead of the original 1937 Prohibition law. If it’s not about medicine, it becomes about privacy. At that point I don’t see why a class action lawsuit on the grounds of that Supreme Court decision couldn’t overturn Washington’s legalization framework altogether, putting the LCB out of a job (again).
  5. The argument that home grow may increase access by children is an argument that requires the State to police parenting. Adult citizens with children should be assumed to be responsible, not irresponsible, and trusted to act in their children’s best interest. It’s way past high time to let parents raise their own children, in the privacy of their own homes, without assuming that poor parenting decisions should be regulated by a set of Federal guidelines that are interpreted so completely differently by every other State doing legalization.
  6. Washington State has been in open rebellion against unreasonable Federal policy for far more than just cannabis. Our Governor and our Attorney General have made hay out of resisting the Trump administration’s efforts to police immigration — one could say we are one of the leading States in that regard. Why should we be so cowardly in the face of Federal threats, especially when our legal cannabis system is more tightly controlled (and controllable) than every other State that has done it? This State insists on protecting its citizens and non-citizens from what it perceives as Federal overreach. We have room to rebel when it comes to legal cannabis, because we have the most tightly controlled system already (thanks to this LCB, already).
  7. Why is there a disconnect between the governor and AG’s general political attitude towards Federal overreach and its approach to cannabis policy? Unless some unprecedented flurry of citizen organization emerges, there’s no political capital to be gained by resisting Federal overreach with respect to cannabis policy. Governor Inslee and LCB chief Rick Garza are high school buddies. Inslee calls Garza “Ricky.” They are super-close, and it’s highly likely that Inslee basically doesn’t have any interest in contradicting his buddy over something that really doesn’t affect his political prospects.
  8. I want to stress that Rick Garza and the LCB aren’t acting out of evil intentions or even the desire for power, necessarily. The LCB was created to control post-prohibition alcohol markets. If it’s in their mandate, of course they see the need to fulfill that mandate. Rick Garza is also clearly on the other side of the culture wars — his attitudes towards cannabis are far more likely to reflect the American public at large’s assumptions about the dangers of cannabis, which didn’t change with legalization. Those dangers, as any rigorous student of drug policy history, reflected the politics of social control rather than any scientific or rational basis. In the 1930s it was about policing minorities and migrants. In the 1970s it was about policing minorities and the antiwar movement. Those laws are a monument to racism, not concern for the rights of free citizens, especially in the privacy of their own homes.

In the coming months there will be lots of reaction, and if history is any indication an utterly ineffective effort to steer us back towards reality-based policy. Prohibition fails to do anything but fund more policing and prop up black market prices, stimulating incentives to produce and putting production in the hands of elements that include, on the extreme spectrum, elements willing to use violence to manage risk. This is a historical fact.

Washington State has less to fear in terms of Federal intervention than any other State. This is a contemporary fact. Capitulating to the politics of fear is craven, not courageous, and certainly not progressive, which really is a Washington State brand of politics. That is a fact. We don’t deny climate change, we stand up for immigrant communities, we have same-sex marriage. Those are facts. It’s true that we we have a regressive State tax policy as well, so there are ways in which that brand isn’t terribly consistent.

The question is, how can the politics of home grow be granted the kind of consideration that climate change, immigration, and LGBTQ politics get. Why should the LCB buy into that frame? There are, at the moment, no effective organizing strategies that would allow them to do so. Let’s see what happens in the next three months. I really hope that we don’t repeat the track record of cannabis organizing in this state, which one of division and utter impotence.



Barriers to Understanding, Barriers to Change (Spanish translation)

Many thanks to our Colombian reader, Ramiro Borja, for providing this translation to us! The original article in English can be found here.

Translated by Ramiro E. Borja / Colectivo Nueva de Abril

Dominic Corva, Director de Investigación en Ciencia Social Center for Study of Cannabis and Social Policy

En la presentación de ayer conté cómo empecé a explorar los mercados de cannabis y la política pública, y cómo se configuran entre sí. Mis amigos académicos reconocerán esto como un “marco teórico” -una técnica consistente en construir un modelo de mundo para que podamos entenderlo e intervenir.

Es un modelo de “economía política”, lo que significa que el usuario de esta técnica -el analista- necesita considerar cómo es que nuestra manera de ganarnos la vida y gestionar recursos conforma y está conformada por el poder que circula dentro de la sociedad. Eso es muy distinto de los modelos de la ciencia económica que suponen que todo ocurre por eleccion racional y utilidad marginal, modelos que aprendí cuando recibí mi grado como profesional en Economía.

También son distintos de los modelos de mundo que tiene la ciencia política, los que suponen que el Estado tiene en mente los intereses de cada quién cuando hace leyes y políticas públicas, y que distingue con claridad la seguridad de sus ciudadanos de la de los enemigos de éstos.

Mi audiencia ya no es pesadamente académica. Pero es importante que usted entienda cómo es que mi modelo de mundo es la base de mi modelo de la cannabis en el mundo. Como la mayoría de las aproximaciones académicas, debo equilibrar qué tan significativas quiero que sean mis explicaciones con el rigor analítico, para que tengan un efecto en la manera en que la gente piensa y actúa en el mundo. Quiero escoger batallas que pueda ganar, en vez de simplemente tener la razón y sentirme bien por eso.

Esto es especialmente difícil cuando se trata de responder a las preocupaciones que tienen las personas que hacen las leyes y las políticas públicas. Sus modelos de mundo simplemente no reflejan las realidades de los mercados y las políticas del cannabis, que sí entiendo mediante mi modelo. Ontologías inconmensurables, de verdad. Ellos no entienden qué tanto ha durado esto, no entienden de dónde sale la compulsión de prohibir, o quién está siendo prohibido; lo más importante es que no aceptan un modelo que dice que nuestra sociedad ha estado en guerra contra sí misma, una guerra real en la que se han perdido millones de vidas ante el complejo industrial de la seguridad, que es claramente peligroso y anti-paz, lo que mi modelo del mundo muestra.

El problema no es lo que ellos saben, sino cómo lo saben. Su modelo de mundo mira a la guerra contra las drogas como una metáfora, no como una realidad. Su modelo de mundo piensa que la peligrosidad de las drogas prohibidas está dada históricamente, y proviene de decisiones racionales hechas de buena fe por los representantes de la voluntad pública. Su modelo de mundo piensa que solo necesitamos reducir el daño de las drogas, más que considerar la guerra de la sociedad contra sí misma, la que causa no solo los daños de las drogas (que sí existen, parte de un problema social más amplio llamado sobreconsumo), también causa de Cosas Malas que no tienen nada que ver con los daños de las drogas, como hacer de la guerra perpetua una condición de bienestar económico.

¿Será que el problema aquí es una falta total de consenso entre nuestros modelos del mundo? Piénselo: para que la guerra contra las drogas termine de verdad, por razones que reflejen la realidad más que la política, nuestros políticos y formadores de política pública tendrían que admitir que nuestras leyes prohibicionistas y nuestro sistema de justicia penal no corresponden a un modelo de mundo en que suponemos que vamos mejorando en todo -que la Modernidad está venciendo la Barbarie, siempre mejorando nuestra seguridad en vez de presentar a cada paso nuevos modos de destruirnos. Que somos herederos de la tradición de la Ilustración. Que nuestro instinto es apoyar a los que son vulnerables entre nosotros y que las personas que actúan de buena fe pueden apropiarse de éste. Que se conoce el Bien y el Mal y que nuestras instituciones son diseñadas y operadas para hacer que las cosas sean mejores y no peores.

La situación contemporánea de la legalización de la cannabis ilustra este concepto a su modo, y puesto que afecta un segmento tan pequeño de la población que sufre de muchas otras maneras el hecho de que la modernidad resulta una fábula, y no una historia, de progreso e Ilustración, parece que tenemos que dar un paso atrás para seguir avanzando. Los políticos y los intereses económicos, quienes no tienen compromiso alguno con evaluar seriamente qué es lo que ha salido mal y cómo arreglarlo, son los que se están apropiando de las propuestas de legalización de la cannabis que han tenido éxito y de su radicalidad.

En cada Estado esto se da distinto, pero hasta ahora la promesa de legalizar la marihuana como estrategia para acabar la guerra contra las drogas está siendo reemplazada por intereses políticos que todavía están obsesionados -sin fundamento científico- con supuestos daños de la cannabis. Intereses que piden reformar nuestras leyes y políticas públicas pretendiendo que la guerra contra las plantas -y contra las personas cuyas vidas han sido un largo acto de desobediencia civil y de autonomía frente a los destrozos de la guerra racial y clasista- sea más suave y amable.

Las propuestas de legalización estatal son absolutamente revolucionarias frente al orden político de este país, donde la Ley de Sustancias Controladas centraliza en la autoridad Federal la decisión de dónde y cuándo ejercer violentamente sus prerrogativas contra la población, pasando por encima de la autoridad del Estado y la libertad Local.

En cada caso, sin embargo, las legislaturas Estatales están reconfigurando la legitimidad de la prohibición más que haciendo la paz con una planta que ha sido, a lo largo de toda la historia humana, una de las sustancias terapéuticas más seguras para el hombre. Ya es claro que luego de una era de marihuana médica caracterizada por la desmovilización política, la era de la marihuana legal estará caracterizada por un creciente pánico moral frente a la producción y el consumo de cannabis que se colorean por fuera de las barreras tan restrictivas puestas por los marcos legales. Pregúntele qué sentido tiene esto a las comunidades Hmong del norte de California.

¿Qué hacer? ¿Qué batallas escoger? Depende de su modelo de mundo, no solamente de su modelo de lo grandiosa que es la cannabis para el recaudo público y las arcas empresariales. Esto último puede ser una estrategia productiva al momento de apelar a los políticos y las poblaciones dedicadas a mantener el orden económico y político vigente -la gente que piensa: ‘sí, hay cosas malas que están pasando pero no hay que cuestionar hasta el fondo nuestras suposiciones, sino mejorarlas y reformarlas’.

En mi modelo de mundo, esta aproximación alimenta un complejo industrial de la seguridad que está destruyendo a la mayoría de nosotros, para beneficio de unos pocos y de las carreras políticas de muchos. Y lo hace no porque haya gente Mala haciendo cosas Malas (aunque la hay), sino porque hay gente completamente normal que trata de ayudar. Pero como su modelo de mundo no puede acomodar la realidad histórica o presente -o solo una parte- entre más quieren ayudar, más van siendo reemplazados los guerreros culturales como motor de la prohibición por el capital.

Lo que estamos viendo acá, compañeras, es la continuidad de la prohibición más que su fin. El apremio por castigar y estigmatizar ciertas poblaciones se renueva y reempaca para reproducir el orden de cosas vigente. Un modelo de economía política honesto cuestiona este Problema Social.”

Barriers to Understanding, Barriers to Change

by Dominic Corva, Social Science Research Director

Yesterday I introduced a trailhead to exploring how cannabis markets and policy help shape each other. My academic friends should recognize this as a “theoretical framework” — a technique for building a model of the world so we can understand and intervene in it.

It’s a “political economy” model, which is to say that it requires the technique user — the analyst — to consider how power in society shapes and is shaped by how we mobilize resources and make livelihoods. It’s distinct especially from economic science models of the world that assume everything is happening because of rational choice and marginal utility, models I learned to get my undergraduate degree in Economics.

It’s also distinct from political science models of the world that assume that the State has everyone’s best interests in mind when they make law and policy, and that there is a clear distinction between the security of its citizens and the security of its citizen’s enemies.

My audience is not terribly academic, anymore. But it is important for you to understand how my model of the world informs my model of cannabis and the world. Like most academic approaches, I have to balance analytical rigor with just how much I want my explanations to mean something, to have an effect on how people think and act in the world. I want to pick battles I can win, rather than just be right and feel good about it.

This is especially difficult when it comes to addressing the concerns of people who make laws, who make policy. Their models of the world simply do not reflect the realities of cannabis markets and policy that I understand from mine. Incommensurable ontologies, really. They do not understand how long this has been going on, they do not understand where the compulsion to prohibit comes from, or who is being prohibited; most importantly they do not accept a model of society that says ours has been at war with itself, a real war with millions of lives lost to what is clearly a dangerous and anti-peace security-industrial complex, in my model of the world.

The problem is not with what they know, it’s how they know it. Their model of the world looks at the drug war as a metaphor, not a reality. Their model of the world thinks that the dangerousness of prohibited drugs is historically given, and comes from rational choices made by in good faith by representatives of the public will. Their model of the world thinks we only need to reduce the harm of drugs, rather than considering the harm of intrasocietal warfare as the cause not only of drug harms (which do exist, part of a larger social problem called overconsumption) but of Bad Things that have nothing to do with drug harms, like making perpetual war a condition for economic health.

Is it too much to say the problem here is a total lack of common ground in our models of the world? Think about it: to truly end the war on drugs, for the reasons that reflect reality rather than politics, our politicians and policymakers would have to admit that our prohibition laws and criminal justice policy don’t belong in a model of the world that assumes we are getting better all the time at everything — that Modernity is stamping out Barbarism, always making us safer rather than introducing new ways to destroy ourselves at every turn. That we are heirs to an Enlightenment tradition. That our instinct to help the vulnerable among us can be appropriated by good people acting in good faith. That Good and Evil have been worked out and that our institutions are designed an operated to make things better instead of worse.

The contemporary situation of cannabis legalization illustrates this concept in its own very specific way, and because it affects such a tiny segment of a population that is suffering from so many other ways in which the Modernity is a fable, rather than a story, of progress and Enlightenment, that it appears we must go backwards to go forward. The radical nature of successful cannabis legalization initiatives is being appropriated by politicians and economic interests who have no compulsion to seriously assess what has gone wrong and how to fix it.

It varies from state to state, but so far the promise of cannabis legalization as a strategy for ending the drug war is quickly replaced by political interests still obsessed with the scientifically baseless assumed harm of cannabis itself, that requires reforming our laws and policy to reflect a kinder, gentler war on plants and the people whose livelihoods have been one long act of civil disobedience, on the one hand; and autonomous from the ravages of the racial and class warfare on the other.

State legalization initiatives are absolutely revolutionary with respect this country’s political order, where the Controlled Substances Act centralizes Federal authority over State and Local freedom to decide when and where to exercise its prerogative on violence against its population.

In every case, though, State legislatures are reconfiguring the the legitimacy of prohibition rather than making peace with a plant that has been, in human history, one of the safest therapeutic substances known to man. It’s clear at this point that after a medical marijuana era defined by policy demobilization, the legal marijuana era will be defined by increased moral panic about cannabis production and consumption that colors outside the incredibly restrictive barriers to access put up by legal frameworks. Ask the Hmong communities of Northern California how this makes sense.

What to do, and what battles to pick? It depends on your model of the world, not just your model of how great cannabis is for public revenue and corporate coffers. The latter can be productive strategies for appealing to a politicians and populations invested in maintaining the current political and economic order — people who think yeah, some bad things are happening, but the assumptions we have don’t need to be fundamentally challenged, merely improved and reformed.

In my model of the world, this approach nurtures a security-industrial complex that is destroying most of us, for the profit of a few and the political careers of many. And it does so not because of Evil people doing Evil things (though there is that), but because of totally normal people trying to help. But because their model of the world can’t accommodate historical or present reality — or only partially accommodates reality — the more they help, the more money capital takes over from the culture warriors as what props up prohibition.

What we are looking at here, folks, is the continuity of prohibition instead of its end. The urge to punish and stigmatize certain populations gets rewired, retrofitted into the reproduction of the present order of things. An honest political economy model presents some challenge to this Social Problem.



Field Guide to Cannabis Markets and Policy: A Starting Point

by Dr. Dominic Corva, Social Science Research Director

How are cannabis markets and policy experiments changing society? The first thing to understand is that cannabis markets, like all markets, exist in relation to State policy. We understand State policy through the lens of prohibition: the total ban on some drugs and drug plants. Clearly, there’s a radical transformation going on that means we really need to understand how prohibition is being transformed — radically — by State “experiments in democracy” associated with the paradox of States choosing to opt out of Federal law without leaving the Union itself.

This assertion, or axiom, or assumption, depending on one’s point of view, contradicts a lot of what you read in the headlines. Isn’t legalization changing cannabis markets by creating regulations and licensing schemes at a rapid rate? The answer is yes, but not as fast as media advertisers would have you believe. There are three up-and-running State-supervised legal cannabis markets right now — Washington and Colorado, who were first; and Oregon, which chose to fast-track its market development by taxing first and regulating later.

In the grand scheme of things none of these states are particularly significant relative to California consumption and production, for example –or, I would argue, New York City, where cannabis delivery services have been effectively decriminalized for decades.

The first question to ask for this introduction is, what are cannabis markets and how have they changed over time? Let’s narrow down our field of inquiry by time and place, focusing narrowly on the United States and the last 40 years or so. But let’s also start with the present.

At the present, there exists three discretely identifiable categories of cannabis market: black markets, medical markets, and taxed adult-use markets. Let’s simplify by using a color spectrum: black, gray, and white. Please note this is a spectrum, with both with and black bleeding into gray and vice versa. Later on perhaps we will try to think three dimensionally by looking at how white and black markets are more integrated than you might think.

It’s important to note that these colors, as I deploy them here, reflect a stigma-free taxonomy. None of these are assumed to be morally superior to the other, in my analysis here or at any time. This is a sharp difference from the way most people talk about them. I’m not trying to convince anyone to desire or not desire one over each other — in fact I insist that given their interdependency, it is not useful to do so.

I also reject arguments that using a color spectrum for taxonomy is inherently racist, since to accept that argument would mean applying it to all sorts absurdity, like the meaning of “black boxes” or “black operations.” We can argue about that later if readers insist.

The next thing to understand is that state policy is also a (possibly circular) continuum, from extremely punitive to bureaucratically regulated. This way to think about it is indebted to sociologists Harry Levine and Craig Reinarman, who insist that we think about prohibition as a continuum that reflects State interests that generally have to do with controlling undesirable populations; or geopolitical arrangements; or many other things that have nothing to do with drugs.

Levine’s framework accomplishes two things especially useful for figuring out current dynamics in landscapes of cannabis policy reform and market transformation.

The first has to do with understanding State Policy as an outcome of complex politics, rather than rational review or reformist attempts to improve the governance of free societies. This insight, drawn from the history of prohibition, helps us understand how cannabis legalization remains subject to highly political dynamics, to the exclusion of rational policy consideration.

The second has to do with understanding punitive prohibition, usually in the form of authoritarian policing, carceral fundamentalism, and sentencing policies, as a form of regulation. That is, prohibition doesn’t succeed in prohibiting. Instead it creates landscapes of risk of exposure to enforcement that are capitalized on by illicit (and now licit) market actors. Plenty of people do get caught! But those that get caught simply territorialize, or make real in the landscape, the value of avoiding getting caught. At times of high intensity, where lots of people or product get caught, the resulting market scarcity raises prices which make not getting caught far more profitable. Punitive policing creates more high risk, high reward markets, reflected in the trajectory of commodity prices at different parts of the value chain.

This insight helps us understand how current efforts to govern cannabis legalization are being pulled in many different directions, because they drastically shift the landscape of policing by introducing a much more robust and extended “other side” of punitive prohibition, that is marked by State efforts to regulate a market that was already being regulated (through policing); and remains in a sort of schizophrenic, bipolar relationship with different scales of government trying to do different things, from local municipalities that ban or zone out legal policy to an overarching Federal framework for which legal cannabis remains eligible for punitive prohibition, even if it isn’t being acted on right now.

This gets us to the highly volatile and dynamic contemporary phenomenon of cannabis legalization and market evolution. Or phenomena, since the policy geography of policy change is highly decentralized, while the new market processes are also highly decentralizing, as a tendency, because they create new spaces for cannabis production, processing, and distribution that are highly circumscribed by state borders.

We have two “axes” of analysis, State Policy and markets, that shape each other dialectically rather than being independent variables. And we have several dimensions of each to grapple with, since State Policy combines regulation and punishment even in the context of legalization; and since black-gray-white markets co-exist in the same territories of policy formation. Now we can begin to unpack the material realities to answer the question “how are cannabis markets and policy changing society.”

Saying Goodbye to Dr. Michelle Sexton


Dr. Sexton and Dr. Corva at 2013 Seattle Hempfest , Seattle Washington

by Dominic Corva, Executive Director

I first met Dr. Michelle Sexton when my friend from graduate school, Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, pulled us into an application for a team job. The three of us and California attorney SaraLynn Mandel, who was the catalyzing force for the effort, teamed up to apply for the State of Washington’s cannabis consulting team for creating an architecture for I 502, the legalization initiative that passed in November 2012. We finished fifth out of 200 applicants, grouped with about seven other application teams that were all scored within formal interviewing distance from each other, but BOTEC’s massive application (which exceeded the application material guideline considerably) was scored significantly higher than our competitive group. So, the then-Liquor Control Board brought in BOTEC for a sniff test and hired them on the spot.

That didn’t end our interest in helping shape legal cannabis policy in Washington State. I am a political geographer, and rarely has such a discrete, unique, and utterly undeveloped research field opened up so invitingly. So I finished the spring semester and registered the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy at the end of May 2013. Sunil was on board, but it took only a couple of months getting to further develop our intellectual rapport in person before we asked Michelle to join us.

That first year was exploratory, and it was the most fun I’ve had in my life. A huge part of that was teaming with Michelle to meet and talk to so many people in the middle of being so creative and so optimistic about the way things could go. Once a month, we met for our Board meeting, a three-way video conference at which we could put our minds to play together with the possibilities. We brainstormed and explored a landscape of opportunity that ranged from low hanging, realistic fruit to fantastical ideas about community gardens, cooperative research, and even a cannabis-friendly adult playground.

Things began to settle into place a year later, when Sunil left to do his one year fellowship at the National Institutes of Health. We collected a Board, completed the process of registering as a 501(c)(3), and Dr. Sexton started an analytics lab here in Seattle. The I 502 industry itself, labs included, began to find itself on a roller coaster ride of regulatory volatility, real estate quagmires, unworkable business partnerships, and with the passage of SB 5052 two years in, a sudden and unexpected amputation of medical cannabis, the revenues of which bootstrapped smaller, established businesses and people into the sinkhole of I 502 startup. When her lab closed down, Michelle moved back to San Diego to be with her partner Dr. Daryl Bornhop, who continues to successfully battle cancer.

One of the great things that came out of Dr. Sexton’s time with Phytalab was our popular education event, the Annual Terpestival. The first year we did it, it was a huge success as a fundraiser for our organization. The medical cannabis community embraced it as the first event of its kind, expanding popular education about whole plant cannabis by focusing on the importance of terpenes. The name “Terpestival” itself came from Michelle’s daughter, Naomi Woodruff.

The following year, in the shadow of SB 5052 and coinciding with Michelle’s move back to San Diego, we chose to host the event in Hopland California, with the help of our friend Martin Lee. That event was a lot more difficult to organize, and lost money, but was again an immense success in terms of content provided, attendance, speakers, and the incredible ambiance of the Real Goods Solar Living Center. Our third event was held in July, and although once again a success as an event, we barely broke even.

In the meantime, Dr. Sexton developed a great relationship with the University of San Diego, and began to collaborate with them in her private practice as a naturopath. Understandably, she began to feel like her desire to focus on patients, her partner, and her quality of life was really rooted in where she was now. At the same time, CASP benefitted mightily from the professional regard in which she is held as a medical cannabis naturopath and expert. Her contract reviewing applications for the State of Maryland injected a year’s worth of salary for both of us. And her contract earlier this year with the Puyallup tribe to help develop an opioid substitution study contributed further. She has represented CASP at numerous national and international conferences, and published her research with the CASP byline. In short, she has produced tremendous value to our nonprofit research organization in every capacity she has held: Board Member, Executive Medical Research Director, Clinician, Researcher, and all-around cannabis person at large.

So it is with oceans of gratitude, respect and love that we accept her decision to move on from CASP. More than a professional collaboration, Dr. Michelle Sexton has been my best intellectual playmate, influence, and caregiver for more than four years. I started this as a social scientist without much knowledge of whole plant science, culture and values — now, I’m not who I am without them. And neither is CASP. But she’s created us that way, and we will continue to be that way in her wake. It is a fundamental part of our organizational identity. I look forward to being close friends and intellectual playmates the rest of our lives.

This goodbye is a celebration of my dear friend and confident hope for her path forward to be clear and beautiful. Thank you, Michelle.



The Chemovar and the Cultivar

by Dominic Corva, Social Science Research Director and Terpestival Producer

Our popular education panels and keynote talk by Dr. Ethan Russo at the Third Annual Original Terpestival represented an advanced seminar in whole plant education. I am incredibly grateful to and proud of our audience, who came to listen, learn and participate as well as any university seminar I have taught. I want to reflect on the complex whole after the fashion of a reaction paper, which in the formal educational setting is a method for making a short conversation about a substantive and often intense volume of readings or material on a particular topic that is rich with avenues for further exploration and engagement. It’s a way to dip one’s toe in one part of the pool, not to summarize the whole but to represent a recurring theme that has sparked the curiosity of the student.

As the organizer of the popular education content (the seminar leader, if you will), I was especially interested in listening to what people “got,” given the complex information presented, that they can apply to their industry and cultural practices around the whole plant. I have the advantage of having been present and paying attention not only to all of the speaker content for the day, but also our event’s “prologue” — Kevin Jodrey’s Thursday evening talk at the Vashon Grange organized by Shango Los and VIMEA. Seen this way, Kevin and Ethan provided “bookend” lectures for shorter and more collective conversations in the panels. It’s pretty clear that there are two ways of thinking about the plant around which industry evolution will happen: the cultivar and the chemovar.

Before explaining, I want to amplify the response of panelist Rick Pfrommer to a terrific question from the audience, on how to map new terms and better information into a consumer landscape that is already confused by older, less accurate information. In particular, I’m going to allow myself to use the term “strain” in this reaction piece, even though so much of our information throws the viability of the term into question. In his years as the lead wholesale buyer for Harborside Wellness Center in San Francisco, Rick is especially tuned in to the need to be understood, and he emphasized the importance of retaining familiar words in conversation with patients and other kinds of consumers.

The cultivar is the plant, the reality behind the branding that up till now has been problematically assumed to equal “strain.” It’s more than the phenotype, or physical expression of a plant’s genes from seed or clone to processed product. Kevin’s themes were about propagating and growing for terpenes, but perhaps the most eye-opening element for even the most advanced folks who heard him was the assertion that the the cannabinoid and terpene content of a plant is shaped especially by the environment in which it’s grown. This has tremendous implications not only for research on genetics and “strains,” but on the production, branding and marketing of terpene configurations. Your nutrient line matters. Your lighting matters. Your physical geography, if your plants are grown in the sun, matters considerably. A Banana OG “strain” grown in one environment can differ considerably if grown in another. It can even differ considerably if it’s fed a different nutrient line.

The cultivar is the domain of the grower. What we know about it today is what growers communicate about it. In the informal market historical context, that knowledge was highly classified and shared in secret, for obvious reasons. It was limited by the imperative to NOT record, because doing so could catch you a much bigger case, as Kevin found out in the early 2000s. As a result, it’s mostly a matter of oral history, found and lost in the memories of the growers over decades, with few exceptions. Kevin’s decades of expertise are unique in his drive to network together knowledge about cultivation of the plant especially through “strain” hunting, propagation, and crucially, functioning as a nursery from which the identification of cultivars could be matched to market opportunities across the globe.

The chemovar is the molecular composition of given cultivar. It’s the terpene profile plus the cannabinoid profile plus every element of the whole plant that is not inert, like lipids and waxes that give form but do not interact with human physiology when ingested. It’s what Dr. Russo talks about when he talks about the whole plant and how research on it evolves. The research scientist looks into the plant, literally, to engage with the consistency and variability of how people are affected by it. He needs a laboratory and lab equipment — in fact, the chemotype is the snapshot of the chemovar that analytics laboratories produce, with raw material created by the producer and processor. The chemovar is an ensemble of numbers about which considerable possibilities for branding emerge, especially in the Washington legal context where the consumer is not permitted to experience the product’s smell or effect before buying it.

The chemovar is the domain of the scientist. What we know about it today comes from an extremely small number of licensed researchers on the one hand and the databases of cannabis analytics labs, which are absolutely exploding under conditions of legalization but remain really small in comparison of what’s to come. Pioneering researchers like Dr. Russo were able to produce this knowledge under very specific and limited historical conditions.

In Ethan’s case, it was his position as Senior Medical Advisor for GW Pharmaceuticals. GW itself was created out of a perfectly legal arrangement between UK entrepreneurs, outlaw botanists with a legal cannabis genetics bank in the Netherlands, and philanthropic seed money from the late Peter Lewis, arranged by his nephew Don E. Wirtschafter, the moderator of our panels last Saturday.

The basic concepts here are not new, and this way to think about the Terpestival’s popular education elements was not planned, but the cultivar and the chemovar frame a conversation about the cannabis plant that will shape the branding evolution of the craft cannabis economy represented at the Third Annual Terpestival.

The question itself is important not just for scientific knowledge and better education, but to reconcile the marketing of cannabis with its botanical reality. The marketing of cannabis to this point has predominantly mobilized the discourse of “strains,” usually typologized as indica, sativa, and hybrid. You can see this most prominently in the ubiquitous Leafly posters hung up in most dispensaries and retail outlets in existence.

These two plant identities reflect advancement in the understanding of cannabis as a plant and as a delivery mechanism for entourage effects loosely grouped under the notion of “high” — more properly understood as a highly variable consumer experience than includes therapeutic effects rather than simply recreational drug consumption.

The frames here — from the scientist and from the grower — aren’t contradictory, but they can be confusing for an industry that is already reeling from the reconstruction of knowledge about the plant under conditions of lab testing, a vast and growing array of nutrient lines, and methods for producing cannabis. Under conditions of legalization, knowledge about the cultivar can at last be recorded and advanced considerably with knowledge about the chemovar, outside the barrier to entry posed by global cannabis prohibition. That information is going to be incredibly useful for consumers of all stripes — patients who need to know which chemotype is likely to come from which cultivar so they can get consistent and effective medicine; and adult-use consumers who need to know which chemotype is likely to come from which cultivar so they can choose what kind of experience works for them; and so on.

But it will take an industry that is paying attention to these advancements to deliver the plant itself to the people. The Third Annual Terpestival made a space for that to happen, one which I hope will grow leaps and bounds in the coming years. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who made it possible — the popular educators, the budtenders, the sponsors, the Terpene Tournament entrants, the volunteers, the paid staff, my incredible friends and Board members, and the City that worked with us to make it possible.


Terpestival Winners with Confident Cannabis and Medicine Creek Analytics

by Tony Lewis, President and Co-founder, Confident Cannabis

Confident Cannabis are excited to partner with the Cannabis and Social Policy Center, Cannabis Alliance and Medicine Creek testing lab to present the winners of Terpestival 2017! With our Terpestival website you can see the winners and understand terpene data by comparing the competitors to different strains and classifications in the Confident Cannabis Universe. The Terpestival Site linked is HERE.

The Terpestival website opens with a gallery of all the competitors. From this page you can click to see more detail for each entrant including a full cannabinoid and terpene profile from testing laboratory Medicine Creek.

How to Use the Terpestival Website

On the Flower Winners page you can select any competition category using the first dropdown menu. This shows green dots for all the competition entrants. The winner in that category is highlighted in gold, for the Myrcene category the winner was North Coast Grower’s Fruity Pebbles with 1.49% Myrcene of dry weight, congratulations! You can also select a comparison universe to learn more about how common myrcene is in different classifications and strains. In the Comparison Universe dropdown you can select different universes, different classifications or different strains. You can look at the terpene profile for strains like Blue Dream, OG Kush, Sour Diesel and others. The universe shows on the chart as a green boxplot which represents the full range of terpene levels for whatever you have selected.

By changing the chart scale you can also see the data on the chart as a % of dry weight or as a % of total terpenes so that you can see how much myrcene there is in the flower compared to other terpenes in the same flower product. To see even more about the mix of terpenes you can go to “Explore Flower Samples”. On this page you will see a radar chart showing all the terpenes for a competitor and compare them to the same universe. Below you can see North Coast Growers Gorilla Glue which won four awards, congratulations! This competitor has very high caryophyllene and humulene which tend to occur together in cannabis flower. In the chart below we can compare this to Trainwreck which is a very different strain. Trainwreck usually has more Terpinolene and more Myrcene but lower Caryophyllene and Humulene. You can explore yourself to see more!

About Confident Cannabis

Confident Cannabis is the leading software platform for cannabis testing labs and their clients to track and share their products’ quality. When your lab uses Confident Cannabis, so can you! You can then get access to many of these tools and more including embeddable product gallery, labels, shareable test results and fraud-prevention tools. Check to find labs in your region.


Introducing the Terpestival Popular Education Panels

by Dominic Corva,  Event Producer and Social Science Research Director

This year’s posts about The Original Terpestival (TM) follow the rhythm of the event’s production. First, we told you about the event. Second, we made our call for entries, explaining the political economy of the entry process — how the entry economy has a politics to it, specifically a politics of wellness. Along the way we described the value we are creating for entrants, who are provided with a vehicle for branding and marketing I 502 cannabis beyond THC and low price. We have also referred to the value created by our keynote and popular education panels, which serve to educate budtenders, consumers, retailers, policymakers and the public (in roughly that order of priority) on the science and economy of the whole plant. We also target producers and processors of course, but that demographic is significantly already educated and acting on whole plant knowledge.

Today begins a short series on the theory and practice of our keynote and education panels. I thought to write just one, but really there’s quite a bit to talk about and I want to keep these missives digestible.

I first wrote about the education work that can be done in cannabis events in August, 2014, for The Ganjier. This was barely a year after founding CASP, and inspired by the network of highly conscious cannabis events I had been pulled into over the previous few years doing research on policing and cannabis agriculture. I had been speaking at Seattle Hempfest since teaching a course on Cannabis and Society for the University of Washington’s Law, Societies and Justice Center in 2009, but once my cannabis research began in earnest I found myself participating in some key Southern Humboldt/Emerald Triangle events that combined popular education with industry evolution. These included the the last Emerald Cup before it moved to Santa Rosa and got huge, produced by Tim Blake; The Golden Tarp Awards produced by Kevin Jodrey; and also Kevin’s Spring Planting event.

What struck me was how these events successfully created spaces of intense interest from industry, to listen and learn, even with all the fun and games going on. The intent of the producers to create knowledge that was Useful coincided with the industry’s organic compulsion to seek out Necessary Knowledge, because things were changing fast. Humboldt’s watersheds were drying up, prices were crashing, and new industry players were colonizing a real estate landscape that was developed earlier by much more ecologically conscious “back to the land” and eco-anarchist groups. The Redwood Curtain was being ripped away in a process of creative destruction that could not be ignored. And it was all being catalyzed by a tectonic shift in public policy, away from punishment and eradication and towards especially environmental regulation and later, tax revenue collection.

What I learned from my journey was that if cannabis culture was to survive the policy shift to “tax and regulate,” it would require a lot of work by cannabis culture to make itself Useful and Necessary for the legal industry future. It had to create ways for new players, market participants, and consumers to do cannabis capitalism differently than commodity capitalism, which would otherwise simply destroy and replace the anti-authoritarian, ecologically conscious social movement that made it possible.

But the Washington context was, and remains, quite different from the California context, which focused on best growing and extraction processes, environmental issues, and regulatory genesis. Before I 502, our sun grown cannabis agriculture was dwarfed by its urban counterpart along the I 5 corridor. Our regulatory genesis was driven first by the politics of rights, and then later by the alcohol regulators tasked with literally replacing our decentralized, largely indoor economy, on the one hand; and imports from British Colombia (which largely ended in 2006), Oregon, and California on the other. Most significantly, our state made the choice to regulate cannabis like alcohol, rather than like cannabis.

The “like alcohol” crowd created new barriers to entry and participation that meant the new industry couldn’t take up the Whole Plant and conscious consumer politics associated with traditional cannabis culture in Washington. They took the cannabis out of the jars and sealed them into little packages with THC content on the labels, the only information besides how pretty the package was for consumers to go on; and disenfranchised medical products by alienating medical consumers through a mandatory registry and by closing down the broadly accessible system that had developed under medical cannabis. I don’t mean to reproduce moral outrage for something that has happened and isn’t going to be restored. The facts presented here explain how our industry got evolutionarily “stuck” and how our keynote and popular education efforts create Useful and Necessary Knowledge for stymied industry growth through evolution.

This meant that producers and processors didn’t have much to differentiate their product on the marketplace, on the one hand, especially through smells, samples, and sharing; and that efforts to produce medical products, including but not limited to CBD-rich products, could not be profitable enough to pursue. The game was THC monoculture, low prices, pretty packaging, and high volume.

The problem with THC monoculture isn’t simply a moral one. It severely limits the ability of producers and processors to compete in the marketplace, since they are all chasing the same market variables. And it severely limits the ability of retailers to reach a significant existing market, medical consumers; as well as to create a strong new consumer base more interested in the “wellness” aspects of cannabis consumption than how high they can get (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that). These include but are not limited to: retirees, veterans, athletes, children with epilepsy, and people who want to explore ways of dealing with pain beyond pharmaceutical medicine with often horrific side effects including addiction. The future of the legal cannabis market is much broader and highly differentiated than the I 502 present.

But it won’t be if our most knowledgable and innovative producers and processors go out of business because they can’t win the race to the bottom. Thanks in large part to the pioneering lifework our keynote speaker, Dr. Ethan Russo, they don’t have to. Producers and processors can compete in a diverse marketplace especially by highlighting the incredibly diverse ways that terpenes and terpene profiles deliver cannabinoids to many, many different endocannabinoid systems — many of which are not made well by THC. While the Terpene Tournament (TM) showcases industry evolution, our keynote and panel speakers provide the scientific, technical, and expert information necessary to stimulate market growth and consumer preference for diversity.

There are three panels, two of which are annual in the sense that they address ongoing topics associated with a popular education focus: branding cannabis with the politics of wellness, by populating and popularizing the value of terpenes in the production of the “entourage effect” coined by our keynote speaker, Dr. Ethan Russo. This stands in contrast to a monocultural focus on the cash value of lab-reported THC, which we see as the cultural foundation of the current regulated market.

Let’s take a look at the panels and then follow up in the coming days with a post that more thoroughly introduces our speakers and their specific topics.

Our Industry Evolution panel addresses constituent parts of industry so that they may prosper by valuing wellness. The purpose of this panel is to catalyze the evolution of Washington’s legal cannabis industry by featuring the Subject Matter Experts with deep historical and ongoing perspectives not readily available in Washington State. Our speakers are Kevin Jodrey of Wonderland Nursery and the Ganjier; Rick Pfrommer of Pfrommer Consulting, former lead buyer for Harborside Health Center; Aaron Stancyk of our lab sponsor Medicine Creek Analytics; and our Terpene Tournament (TM) Judges’ Coordinator, Alison Draisin of Ettalew’s Medibles.

Our Current Topics” panel will change each year. This year’s addresses an emergent industry phenomenon, the market for Cannabis-derived and other TerpenesThe purpose of this panel is to educate industry and the public on different perspectives and techniques emerging as industry “takes on” terpenes to create and market products. Our speakers are Ben Cassiday of True Terpenes, Kate Quackenbush of I 502 processor Fractal, , Pam Haley of Aromatherapy Consulting and I 502 producer/processor Pam’s Plants; and Jeremy Plumb of Farma, The Cultivation Classic, and the Open Cannabis Project.

And of course, our Terpenes and Wellness panel addresses the science and practice of cannabis-facilitated wellness. The purpose of this panel is to hear from medical experts how terpenes are used in the clinical setting.  Retention of the terpene fraction may influence the overall effect of the product used. Examples from patient will be presented. The speakers on this panel are: Dr. Michelle Sexton, co-founder and Medical Science Research Director for the Center for the Study of Cannabis and Social Policy; Seattle pediatric physician Dr. Hatha Gbedawo, and keynote speaker Dr. Ethan Russo.

The information provided by our subject matter experts create strong roots for another foundation to be possible: wellness. We understand wellness in terms of an ecology in balance, a condition of physical well-being that is reproduced by the health of the social system in which our bodies are embedded. Stay tuned for a more in-depth introduction to our speakers in the coming days!