The Loss of Innocence: Follow the Money

I wrote about the effect of big money on the legalization movement a few weeks ago, but feel the topic deserves additional discussion.

The basic problem we are dealing with is the need to raise significant amounts of money to gather the required number of signatures to qualify a legalization proposal for the ballot, and then to run a professional campaign. At one time, those states that provide voters the opportunity to bypass the state legislature and enact new laws by a vote of the people, intended this to be something ordinary citizens could accomplish with a dedicated team of volunteers. It was an outgrowth of the progressive movement. But those days are gone forever.

State legislators, who understandably dislike the voter initiative process and prefer to maintain their control over the process of adopting new laws, have raised the bar for qualifying an initiative for the ballot, requiring more and more signatures; and sometimes requiring that a minimum percentage of those signatures be gathered from voters in every county in the state, making it impossible to qualify by simply focusing on the major population centers.

The result is that voter initiatives have become unrealistic as a vehicle to change public policy unless the sponsoring group has the ability to raise substantial sums of money. Political commitment and hard work are no longer sufficient.

We have had a handful of big donors supporting legalization initiatives going back to the successful Prop. 215 campaign in CA in 1996, and continuing through the two successful legalization initiatives approved in 2014. But those funders were motivated by their desire to end marijuana prohibition, and were not attempting to directly profit from those changes. Their motivation was high-minded.

And the need to earn the support of this group of philanthropic funders tended to assure that the language contained in those initiatives was similarly high-minded, seeking to establish legalization systems that were open to all entrepreneurs, both big and small. Until now, none of the successful initiatives attempted to establish “cash cows” to benefit the funders.

We have seen some ill-advised regulations adopted by the implementing state agencies in a few states that clearly favored those with big bucks, such as the medical marijuana regs in Massachusetts that required those seeking to apply for a license to commercially cultivate marijuana to put $500,000 in escrow before their application would be considered.

And in Florida, the medical marijuana bill that was passed by the legislature last year, permitting only low-THC, high-CBD marijuana, established only five licenses to cultivate for the entire state, and only applicants who could post a $5 million performance bond and pay a $100,000 application fee, and who had been in the nursery business in Florida continuously for a minimum of 30-years, could apply. A cynic might suspect the legislative leadership must be receiving some sizable contributions from the nursery industry.

New Investor Driven Voter Initiatives

But we are now dealing with a different, and potentially more significant, problem in which those who put up the funding to qualify a legalization initiative for the ballot seek to include specific language in the proposal put before the voters that assures them of a favored position in the soon-to-be legal market, and that essentially assures them of a huge “return on their investment.” For these individuals, who have not previously been involved in the legalization movement, this exercise is only incidentally about ending prohibition and stopping the arrest of smokers; it is really about getting rich in a newly legal industry.

On a purely political level, we should welcome these new developments, as these moneyed interests obviously have valuable political connections that could be helpful in ending prohibition more quickly than we could accomplish, at least in some states, without their help. And ending prohibition means stopping the barbaric practice of arresting responsible marijuana smokers, which must remain our highest priority. We have paid far too high a price for prohibition, in wrecked lives and careers.

But the arrival of these new potentially powerful interest groups, primarily motivated by greed instead of policy goals, causes most of us some concern, and some discomfort. Or as Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelmann recently told a journalist, when asked about this latest phenomenon, “This thing sticks in my craw.”

But whether we like it or not — and most of us do not — as a movement, we will shortly have to decide whether we can embrace proposals to end prohibition and implement legalization in states in which it appears likely those changes will directly enrich a small group of investors, and may erect market barriers for the small and mid-size entrepreneur.

The Loss of Innocence

As a movement, we have lost our innocence. For most of us, legalizing marijuana has been only incidentally about marijuana; it has really been about personal freedom. We are entering a new phase of the legalization movement in which some of the most powerful interests will be profit driven.

Last week, a group called Responsible Ohio announced it had raised $36 million to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November to legalize marijuana in the state. They reportedly required investors to pony-up a minimum of $4 million each, for which these investors would be assured one of a handful of commercial cultivation licenses, authorized to grow medical marijuana in the state. The initiative language would establish an oligopoly who would largely control and profit from legal marijuana.

According to an article published in the Columbus Dispatch, one of their principal investors was recently recorded at an investment seminar as saying the business opportunities presented by their proposal are “beyond your imagination. … Let’s hop on this tsunami of money and ride the top of that wave to some enrichment for us.”

Talk about unabashed greed! These are not high-minded individuals. It turns out one of the investors reportedly made his fortune dealing with off-shore asset protection, and another likely investor is a federal felon who was convicted of 19 counts of insider trading in 2005. Legalizing marijuana is simply another get-rich-quick scheme for these scammers.

And rumors continue that a group of venture capitalists has formed in Michigan with the intent of qualifying an initiative for their ballot that sounds awfully similar to the Ohio approach. Investors put-up the money to pass an initiative, and they directly profit from that investment by being assured of licenses under the new system.

Different people will come to different conclusions. I continue to feel we should keep our eye on the prize of legalization, and not get sidetracked fighting over who will profit from legalization. After all, we live in a free enterprise system and we should not expect legal marijuana will be different.

But we may have our limits tested in the months ahead. Are we willing to be complicit in the establishment of oligopolies, which would likely lead to fewer choices and higher prices for consumers; or should we insist on the opportunity for small and mid-sized entrepreneurs to participate in this newly legal market?

The bottom line for me is to stop arresting marijuana smokers as soon as possible, in every state. And each year we defer ending prohibition, for whatever reason, we permit thousands of marijuana smokers to continue to be arrested; nearly 20,000 marijuana arrests annually in Ohio and in Michigan. That’s an enormous price to pay if we have the ability to end prohibition now, even if we do not like all the terms of the system to be established.

Big money has entered the picture, and we will have to deal with that. I prefer to keep the focus on personal freedom and stopping the arrests, but in some states we may have to swallow hard and accept legalization that is profit driven.

This column was originally posted to


41 thoughts

  1. Good point. The vultures are circling. That means are is meat some where. I’m worried about to controls they can install to assure they’re profits. How this will limit me “the smoker”.

  2. I have to agree with Keith and Nathan. It sticks in my craw that the get-rich-quick crowd with the big bucks are elbowing the little people out, but the goal is, as Keith stated, keeping cannabis consumers out of the criminal justice system.

    I guess I have to say I’ll take legalization whatever way I can get it, BUT once it’s here I definitely want it streamlined so that viable seeds are legally for sale for individuals to cultivate for personnel use. I want to see cannabis seeds in my Burpee catalog and other gardening catalogs.

    These greedy people can do the heavy lifting, and I guess they have to in order to appeal to even greedier politicians in their states to get them to vote YES on legalization.

  3. Norml sad

    Arizona’s Legalization effort is a prime example of this problem right now. It not only undermines the compassionate intent of the movement but also of the healing potential it could have on this country and the world. We mustn’t allow it to change our resolve to stay focused. Many groups in Arizona should find better ways to aire a thought than ultimatum style banter. All this does is feed the trolls. Any piece of legislation or initiative that is carved out under this kind of “cooperation” is doomed to produced nothing but a nightmare for everyone involved and contempt for those who paid to shape the law for profit. Momentum of the kind we have right now is hard to beat. What needs to happen is to change the balance of donations made by individuals compared to donations made by those seeking to control the market. In Arizona if passed the cultivation rights will only be allowed by state authorized facilities and would be illegal for citizens. Arizona’s MMJ program was also crippled by the inclusion of a “25 mile rule” which has pushed most of the patient population to a dispensary monopoly for their medicine. Without doubt this issue will haunt the Arizonan Government until it is allowed.
    Within my activism, this is where I make sure that myself and anyone who’ll listen remembers where the money came from and find way to turn it around.

  4. If this creates just another feed back loop where we pay for more punishment, then no, count me out.

    Because these “greedy people” do not stop, they will take our consumer money and bribe the politicians to reduce our rights with our fucking money. Once entrenched, only a court order will fix this kind of problem.

    No Cartels, legal or otherwise please!

  5. If it doesn’t include home growing, then it’s all about a select few holding power and getting rich off of stupid, lazy, stoners too weak to reach for higher fruit.

    Vote for good laws, not bad ones.

  6. I constanly laugh at the so called “ideals” of the early legalization movement in which there is clearly some dishonesty. Originally the early hippie moveent was anarchist and supported a dcecentralized formof libertarian communism. Now that kind of communism was nevger achieved in the early days since state power and capitalism were not abolished. So they took a revisionist approach and decided to work within the capitalist system. This approach was the utopian socialist approach. Thus instead of anarchist socialism with small collectives and an abolishment of the wage system what we got instead was a petty-bourgeois ideology that represented an unwittying decay of the original anarcho-socialist ideal. It became all about promoting small ma and pa bussinesses. But I’ve got news for you. Petty capitalism is still capitalism and has nothing to do with the original socialist ideal. Since all of it is capitalism it makes little difference to me whether the model of legalization is small capitalist or large capitalist. Indeed it is large scale capitalism which has the money to achieve the goal. The big question is whether the initiative allows for small scale growing by consumers which should be supported not whether the utopian petty capitalist ma and pa model is followed. It is time that the movemnt see that marijuana legalization and socialism, both of which I supportare different iswsues and must be pursued independently. I say that first we should support marijuana legalization and work with those forces that have the money to achieve the goal. Once we achieve the goal or while we acheive the goal, state by state, we should separately work to achieve socialism. When socialisn is achieved we can then first nationalize all of the marijuana bussinesses while replacing the wage system with either a labor time voucher or rationing according to use value (in kind calculation)system and participatory planning system. Then we can hand over control to the workers who can collectively run their own marijuana enterprise. This will achieve the original ideal of the hippie movement in which we can have both marijuana legalization and anarchist communism. What we need to do is put the utopian deviation of the petty capitalist ma and pa model of marijuana legalization into the dustbin of history. We know how to achieve marijuana legaliztion thru initiatives and legislative acion in non-initiative states. We must leave to another discussion on how to achieve the anarchist communst revolution.

    [Editor’s note: NORML has never been specifically affiliated with hippies, socialism, communism, anarchy or social revolution. It is an anti-prohibition organization comprised of a broad range of citizens–from hippies to conservatives.]

  7. If Responsible Ohio passes you will be allowed to grow your own.

    Ohio wont pass legalization anytime soon without this bill, sad but true.

    Even if they do get a bunch of control over the market if this bill passes, the regular everyday guy wont go to jail for smoking and will be able to grow more than enough for personal use.

    So i guess people in Ohio need to choose legalize in 2015 and live free now or wait many more years (mid/southern states have lowest legalize approval ratings).

  8. To Keith,

    This was an inevitable position the movement was always going to be in, if in fact legalization became viable.

    I think we’ll find though that the “craft” marijuana movement will create infinite possibilities. Concerning prices, anyone can grow ample quality supplies of Marijuana, at very, very reasonable costs (as compared with home brewing which is very expensive).

  9. Even an oligopoly is progress. The trajectory is what matters most, in my opinion. As long as we’re heading in the right direction, taking it one step at a time will get us there.

    Something to remember is that these companies will still have to compete with the black market. At worst, we’re back to business as usual on the distribution side but people in personal possession will be in the clear.

    And there’s always room to improve later. Just getting any form of legalized sale and possession is a huge step, and from there opening up the market is relatively easy.

  10. “Nobody told me there’d be days like these.

    Strange days, indeed.”

    –John Lennon

  11. It bothers me that greedy people who, until now, have been anti-marijuana prohibitionists, are suddenly onboard with legalization if they can profit from it.

    However, I am okay with it since in the bigger picture it is clear to me that more good (less bad) will come from these people getting richer. I’m talking about fewer good lives ruined by prohibition and the restoration of freedoms that should never have been taken away.

    It is better for the rich to get richer this way than other activities; like private prisons or rehabilitation clinics for example…

  12. I reside down here at the near bottom of the socio-economic strata. It’s so terrible and miserable down here most of you can’t even imagine. A significant number of my neighbors and friends are FORCED to sell marijuana out of sheer necessity just to pay rent and have a little food!! Then I watch in dismay as the EVIL politicians let slip the dogs of war (police) and ruin the lives of these innocent people! Whole families destroyed!! No food,no help, no jobs, no housing,poor schools, etc etc! they even want to take away healthcare! Then they vilify and berate these pitiful people when they do ask for help! Marijuana is a major source of income for many down here but alas the corporate scum will take it away too! I apologize to you all, I’m poorly educated and I know I digress but if you had to witness this you would understand. Thank you NORML for allowing me to vent!

  13. Wow!

    What punks we are if we let cannabis become another venue for Corporate Profit.

    If we can’t simply grow our own cannabis, Prohibition remains in effect…and every one knows I’m right.

    One, Two, Three…everyone get up off of your knees?…and quit licking Corporate boot?

    Cannabis is legal.

    Cannabis is free…unless you agree it isn’t?

  14. Agree with @Miles about what to do with the Rich: Forgive, Convert, Redeploy.

    How to immunize society against oligopolistic abuse (Koffeetablewisdom):

    a. Substitute non-addictive (non-en$laving) cannabis, alfalfa, basil, borage, catnip, chamomile, damiana, dandelion, OREGANO etc. for addictive (en$laving) tobacckgo.

    b. Even if tobacco is retained, substitute VAPORIZING for $moking (and talk about vape for ob$olete talk about ob$olete $moking, $mokers etc. Learn “heat, not burn” lingo). Yes, you can vape with a $1.29 flexdrawtube one-hitter.

    c. Dosage Control: substitute 25-mg-serving-size single-toke utensil for 700-mg commercial $ig, 500-mg Joint, spliff, blunt, beedi, kretek etc. Study how to make calumet, kiseru, midwakh, sebsi (with 22-inch DRAWTUBE attached).

    Conversion: in India 3,000,000 cottage-bound sedentary workers, mostly women, are employed hand-wrolling 450-mg beedis, at eke-out wages, who ought henceforth be CONVERTED to assembling gorgeous choomette-style one-hitters and other health and education woodwork. Maybe rich donors can sponsor women setting up a more creative workshop in their neighborhood?

    I am reassured that at $1 a gram, 2.5 cents a toke, no hucksters will make much money off “$moking”. Socialism with a hands-on impact: govt. regulators can require dispensaries to sell weed only to customers who already have or buy a 25-mg utensil.

    As for herb, millions of families everywhere will raise their own “compost cheap”.
    Only best flower will be toked, the leaves will be ingested day by day in diversified veggie blender smoothies, stalks will be made into walksticks for 500 million centenarians who will be living at midcentury, or into croquet mallets, tool handles, toys, trellises etc., and all unworkable scraps composted. Happy gardening!

  15. grow your own!

    [Editor’s note: Not a realistic solution to accessing cannabis in a country of well over 300 million. For example, renters, students living in dorms, section eight housing residents, VA Housing, assisted living centers, etc…will largely be prohibited to cultivate cannabis by covenant. Many of them will not be able to afford the high cost of grow lights, solutions and electricity.

    Growing cannabis (which can take any where from 60-120 days indoor, and longer outdoors) is work and the results are never guaranteed.

    Do alcohol and caffeine consumers have to grow their own to enjoy the products?]

  16. I agree with most of the sentiments above. It bothers me terribly to see some rich fat cats getting even richer on a “product” that most of them undoubtedly heretofore opposed.

    But, like Keith, I’ll hold my nose and go along with it, as long as we can keep people out of the prison system.

    In a way, I suppose, it will be like the beer and hard liquor industries; Budweiser surely isn’t produced by Ma and Pa Kettle.

  17. Well said, Dave Evans, “No cartels, legal or otherwise.” And when it comes to big investors, your analogy may be more direct than we fear. The mob got into the liquor business big time after prohibition. If guys like the Ohio crowd can get in, why would he cartels not invest their money with the new turn of the tide?

  18. Frack the Exploiters & their apologists! We MUST be smarter, more subtle, more persevering than this! To get this close and roll over for the GreedPigs?! Responsible Ohio must be defeated or their kind will scoop up all of what is left. For Shame, Keith!

    [Editor’s note: What must and should be defeated in OH is cannabis prohibition, not better funded political organizers seeking to reform the laws that the activists in the state have historically failed to advance.

    Rather then disparage the work of others in the absence of one’s own success, work with them to positively influence their decision-making and processes. If that fails, then work to amend the laws after prohibition ends…which is a lot easier and less expensive than trying to end prohibition itself.

    Opposing legalization efforts because you don’t like the organizers is short-sighted and needlessly keeps cannabis prohibition in place in OH.]

  19. We need a presidential candidate that will move to remove Cannabis from the 1# Narcotics list, allow fed funded studies for medical use and allow doctors to prescribe it.

  20. I have been in this biz since the beginning of indoor cultivation. Ducking and dodging the law, criminal organization and the Feds. I have sacrificed so much of my life and have some form of ptsd from my actions. I am a soldier of this business. I and a handful of others have truly paved a way for so many others. Nobody owes me anything nor do I expect anything. Yet I do demand respect for my and other who have sacrificed more than any knows. I am tired of suits walking on the backs of soldiers to reap the reward and nothing for the fallen. This need to end and a voice shall be heard in California in 2016. My voice is loud and strong to so many. If I see this ballot shutting the door on the faces of us I can garantee that it will not pass.

  21. deschedule cannabis entirely. grouping cannabis with other recreational drugs like heroin or lsd is a result of ignorance and intolerance.

  22. Yeah, I hear you Norml
    Marijuana is about being an individual, not just another clone on the assembly line. It’s about standing up to authority, Stupid rules are meant to be broken. Thank you Ghost, and others here for telling it true. You fight, and work hard for everything you have, then they vilify you as a bad guy doper. You are my voice, and my voice is as always irreverently yours

  23. Greed is good. It conquers all obstacles. You new it was not about the smoker who just wanted to get away from alcohol an those demons but the money grubbers who see a buck to be made.

  24. As sickening as it is, As long as these hat-switching, insider- trading white-collar criminals are investing in legalization of SOME kind, ironically, they are helping our cause. Rich people don ‘t like getting arrested, even when it ‘s remotely possible, which kicks prohibition in the @$$. It will be easier to let them legalize than sue them for conflict of interest when the electronic paper trail reveals their inside connections to campaign contributions while the status of legalization is still open and pending.
    And exclusive licensing and permits? I know, the DEA has been getting away with it for 45 years, but I still see lawsuits all over Ohio on this one. Hey, speaking of the DEA, maybe we’ll finally see some slick-haired Wall Street investors get stopped and frisked for once instead of another young black male with a hoodie and a soda? Can’t underestimate that GREED!

  25. …as a movement, we will shortly have to decide whether we can embrace proposals to end prohibition and implement legalization in states in which it appears likely those changes will directly enrich a small group of investors, and may erect market barriers for the small and mid-size entrepreneur. – Keith Stroup

    Money trumps high mindedness every time.

    Once again, the Rich Class will profit and the Poor Class will pay…through the nose for a plant anyone can grow with a seed, dirt, water and sunshine for free…It’s The Capitalist Cartel Way?

    Don’t they help themselves….I mean the 1%ers who will own the right to grow and sell cannabis legally.. while (in most States) simultaneously mandating you and I may not.

    Illinois denies former cannabis felons medical treatment with medicinal cannabis.

    I thought the purpose of enacting medical marijuana laws was to ensure that patients in need of medical marijuana therapy were not deemed “criminals”?

    I was wrong…the (now apparent) actual goal was control over a “new” commodity worth billions of dollars…that(rightfully) should have been available to Mom & Pop/small business…Again, Don’t they help themselves$?…Again?

  26. We should insist on the opportunity for small and mid-sized entrepreneurs to participate in this newly legal market.

  27. @Julian, the key to GREED is AGREED, i.e. Person A has aGREED to pay Person B x bucks by such time and NEEDS money urgently.

    Prolonged or chronic, it turns to Debt $lavery which could mean doing “work” you don’t believe in because it’s the only “job” you could get for the billpay money.

    Depression (#1 psycho illness worldwide) has two forms:

    Deep Prison– the person has developed a million thought- and emotion-blocks, profoundly barricaded in a sort of defensive personal cocoon empire (“The Empty Fortress” as Bruno Bettelheim said of autism),

    Debtor prison– trapped in a paid but boring routine, just slogging along in Crapaholism like the other suckers. Or need coffee drug to stay awake (Coffeetablewisdom).

    Yes, Depression has its occasional, sudden-outburst “mania” partner after which the “manic-depressive (personality disorder) was named– I think misnamed, Depression is the problem, and Mania (often over money, hmmm) its most attention-getting Effect.

    One very numerous group of Depressives have never and, even defiantly, never will try cannabis and find out if it can help them cure their depression (which also they may not admit to). To these I wish to say, there is a 25-mg single-vapetoke technique which gives you mind-energizing herb vitamin without a carbon monoxide overdose, learn to make your own flexdrawtube one-hitter at free wiki article “12 Ways to Make Pipes from Everyday Objects” or
    “calumet”, “kiseru”, “midwakh”, “sebsi”. Then if you’re still afraid to try cannabis, tray non-nicotinic alfalfa, basil, coriander, damiana, eucalyptus, fir needle, ginseng leaf, hops flower, OREGANO etc.

    A second subgroup of Depressive is the “stoner” exhibiting “amotivational” symptoms caused by heat shock, monoxide and 4221 combustion toxins but blamed on cannabis but caused by the 500-mg hot-burning Joint format (all harm of $igarette, but without stay-awake nicotine to hide the dumming-down effect.

    Once they learn 25-mg serving size Vape Toke Tech, Depressives may begin noticing interesting, positive ideas of good things to do or invent– LEAP (Long-term Episodic Associative Performance)-memories “pop up” out of a deeply repressed vault somewhere in your psyche, and you can reinterpret, rearrange, reassemble them to form new inventions or projects (frequently involving inventing new uses for things and persons and talents previously written off as unreusable).

  28. The Ganja Nation is becoming increasing aware of ourselves and our potential to contribute to the health and prosperity of the land. We are the largest Affinity Group in the country, we cross all lines, groups, creeds and colors. We will determine the next wave of elections and if united could carry any candidate to victory who supports our righteous cause. The Dream Lives ….

  29. why don’t hey go ahead and minority whip it and get it legal through out the country just wondering why is it so slow now adays?

  30. I understand giving in to big investors may be distressful but its a capitalist game.Its their money and they are playing by the rules.I have no problem with them getting a return on the their investment. I do have a problem if it becomes another .gov nightmare or a elitist game that few can play.

  31. Poor people aren’t going to get any of this good new industry money anyway. Middle class people aren’t going to get any. Upper middle class people aren’t going to get any.

    Even without the initiative saying that only certain people will profit, that’s how it works out. There is a lot of pressure to shake out the weaker investors.

    You might as well forget about ever letting the little guy become an entrepreneur. So, legalize it first of all and sort out the details later.

  32. This sort of thing is called regulatory capture in other contexts and it happens every time government is used to “protect” us.

    Government has become in many ways no different than the Mafia. Only they make the laws so it is legal.

    “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” — Thomas Jefferson

  33. The bottom line for me is to stop arresting marijuana smokers as soon as possible, in every state.

    But that will not happen if you don’t buy from the government established cartel. The DEA and the rest of the enforces have to love these guys. “May I see your receipt please?”

    [Editor’s note: Unless one equates local and state government licensing with ‘govt established cartels’…otherwise, in CO and WA for example, producers and sellers readily get licenses and sell previously illegal and untaxed cannabis products…consumers choose which stores to go based on the basic premises most shoppers employ when deciding on where to spend their money: location, quality of product, value, service and convenience.

    No different than alcohol and of no concern currently to the DEA. In fact, the presence of receipt of purchase is indication of legal possession and a deterrence to law enforcement harassment.

    And for those that need medical access to cannabis, like the purchase of other medicines that cause impairment, receipt of purchase is proof of legal possession and use.

    As compared to prohibition, a receipt of purchase and proof of paid taxes on cannabis is in effect a ‘get out of jail card’.

    If the conditions of licensing are too onerous and expensive–like it currently is in some states with medical cannabis laws such as IL, MA and DC–then consumers and advocates in those states have a narrow cast focus on what amendments to make post-prohibition, such as to pass laws, initiatives or initiate litigation that lower the threshold for producer/seller licenses.

    Such has been the case with alcohol products for the last 85 years, where more, not less licenses for production and sale are issued by the govt. because consumers wanted more choice and convenience (i.e., consumer and producers have recently sued govt to allow the sale of wine over the Internet). In time, same too with cannabis. If govt regulations are too onerous, business and consumers will push back in organized fashion.]

  34. It’s big steel and oil who dont want it legal,
    what will happen to them when we grow a car like Henry Ford wanted over 70 years ago.

  35. A fair discussion. And a principled position.

    Money is at the center of it all. That big dollars are pouring in from all sorts of places, and for all sorts of potential outcomes, reflects the tsunami of change all are willing to contemplate in this nation.

    I have no problem whatever with people getting rich with legal cannabis, but it must be in an open market for all. Adam Smith’s invisible hand guides the illicit cartels, and is guiding the money flows coming to all corners of the issue. Ignoring this in favor of ANY legalization being good legalization is short-sighted, in my view. Exchanging one cartel for another – but one constitutionally guaranteed – is anticompetitve by definition. The black market is certain to continue and flourish, because Adam Smith’s hand guides all, not just a few. The end result will very likely be a continuation of the racially biased arrests.

    Sure, those fortunate enough to be white will benefit. Others? The likeliest outcome will be more oppression by police who will still be earning grant dollars for every arrest. There is actual, real potential for the racially biased arrest gap to EXPAND.

    Everythig evolves, over time. New predators have arrived in the trade and they wear suits and ties, are educated and articulate, and are masterful manipulators of the ignorant – the average citizen. It is time for activists to evolve, and to start distinguishing between reasonable proposals that cannot be perfect, and ones that are nothing more than a money grab by cynically greedy people who are actively working to cover up Smith’s hand.

    This new development reflects the movement’s legitimacy and it’s Achilles Heel at the same time. It’s time to not only ensure Prohibition ends, but that it ends with free market principles preserved and with an open market for all. Especially in decrim states, we can and should advocate for these principles. Failing to do so will ensure all the horrific outcomes we see today continue on, with the predatory (by any name, dress code or educated status) and those most affected by Prohibition will continuing to be oppressed. After all, black market cannabis in Colorado remains a significant market, being less expensive than legal and creating an arbitrage that has offended OK and KS at minimum. Smith’s hand is always there.

    I personally will never get behind such proposals. Your point has sound ideals behind it, but for me they don’t offset a very bad set of laws. The distinction is clear: no cartels, whether illicit or legitimate. That’s my stand.

    One unintended consequence that may help is these horrible proposals may end the thumb-sucking of polititicans, and we are seeing this with legislatures taking it up in states where this is not even a threat. This may be the death knell for these carpetbaggers and robber barons, even as activists claim any legalization is good legalization.

    Ohio is now the epicenter of the issue, coming into presidential primary campaigning. Interesting times. All the best to you and NORML – sincerely – but on this issue I personally will advocate for free markets, along with legal markets. That’s my evolution on this issue. I hope someday NORML will view this the same. You do good work out there. Thanks – I mean it.

    [Editor’s note: In states where cannabis is legal, are there cartels? Have arrest rates not dropped 90% in less than two years? Where is the feared racial disparity in cannabis law enforcement post-prohibition? Why specifically would you assume minorities are 1) not already major investors in cannabis industry and 2) what specifically prohibits ANYONE from being involved in the nascent industry? Surely not the color of one’s skin. More accurately, those in the cannabis industry, pre and post prohibition, are all inherent risk takers.

    For those who live in states like OH, and if the only legalization ballot initiative comes from people who both oppose cannabis prohibition and have the resources to hasten reforms in hopes of profiting off the very political changes they put into effect (as compared to cannabis activists and consumers in OH who’ve had over 40 years to organize legalization ballot initiatives/lobby for legalization–but have failed to advance any reforms beyond those that were lobbied for in 1978 by former NORML board member Richard Wolfe, a member of a politically prominent family who owns publishing and broadcast concerns in the state), and a cannabis cultivator, seller or consumer (including patients) vote to continue cannabis prohibition are politically foolish and short-sighted beyond belief.

    In states where activists have historically failed to sufficiently politically organize and raise the needed resources to overturn decades of cannabis prohibition laws, to treat fellow reformers who do have the capital and energy to effect change as the ‘enemy’ (i.e., cartels, blah-blah-blah) are entirely missing the most salient objective of cannabis law reform, which is ending cannabis prohibition. What comes after is almost entirely dependent on the will and motivations of private citizens and/or corporations to shape the future of the cannabis industry, because the government itself is not going to change cannabis laws without continued and aggressive agitation from stakeholders in the wanted changes in law and custom.

    Alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and pharmaceutical consumers in America have a remarkable scope of consumer choice.
    Post cannabis prohibition, notably in the years after the initial prohibition laws end/are replaced with tax-n-regulate, same too with cannabis.


    Because America is a consumer driven economy and if consumers post prohibition want a wide variety of cannabis products, there will be eager companies large and small competing to provide them services and product. If the government creates laws that are too onerous (or, create monopolies or cartels, though, this is rather unlikely as govt agencies regularly do not allow monopolistic practices by, for example, denying companies the ability to merge; and they prosecute ‘cartels’), then companies, organizations representing diverse interests concerning cannabis and consumers will push back politically and create more tolerant, consumer-friendly policies.

    Ending cannabis prohibition has to be the first and most important goal for reform organizations, cultivators, sellers and consumers. Who sells and makes/loses money in the cannabis industry is a secondary concern as, in the end, in America, the consumer is in the driver’s seat, and with ending the overall prohibition, a genuine free market-based cannabis industry can finally become established (as most Americans still buy cannabis that is in effect ‘cartel cannabis’, derived from international markets or by domestic criminal syndicates).]

  36. Ending cannabis prohibition has to be the first and most important goal for reform organizations, cultivators, sellers and consumers. – Editor

    I totally agree…but wonder if your concept or even definition of “prohibition” and mine are even remotely similar?

    In similar fashion I wonder if we share the same definition of the word “ending”?

    I (increasingly) wonder if we are even speaking the same language?

    I use plain English?

    Is your version/vision of “The ending of Prohibition” necessarily reliant on a “Cannabis Industry”?…if it is, it ain’t…the end of prohibition…and you know I’m right.

    Home grow or Prohibition…until we can grow a beneficial herb without penalty, Cannabis Prohibition remains in effect.

    How about conducting a poll asking this simple question?…or asking a Federal Court?

    “Whether denying free adult Citizens of The United States of America their natural right to cultivate cannabis violates the 4th, 5th,8th and 10th amendments as well as violating our essential Constitutional founding principle…that principle being our fundamental right to Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness”

  37. Narcotics police are an enormous, corrupt international bureaucracy … and now fund a coterie of researchers who provide them with ‘scientific support’ … fanatics who distort the legitimate research of others. … The anti-marijuana campaign is a cancerous tissue of lies, undermining law enforcement, aggravating the drug problem, depriving the sick of needed help, and suckering well-intentioned conservatives and countless frightened parents.”
    — William F. Buckley,
    Commentary in The National Review, April 29, 1983, p. 495

  38. Why aren’t marijuana profits funding this?

    There is supposed to be at least a few billion out there…oh, thats right, because black market producers loose profits in a legal market (and probably wont produce in many cases after legalization).

    I’ve yet to meet a cannabis producer/distributor that wanted lower profits, higher standards, and higher costs (which is what legalization does).

  39. It seems that the money is attracting a different kind of corruption. However, the US is a capitalist state, so it is only logical that the politicians and businessmen who expect to deprive criminal organizations of the income from marijuana would want the same money and even more for their own investments.
    The situation is certainly currently SNAFU and there will be still no effort to stop employment drug tests even when it may be legally sold. It may be best to let our corrupt politicians to be the first to reap the profits from any sale of marijuana, because then they would be more inspired to change the other laws which persecute users of marijuana so as to increase profit margin from legal sales.
    We must bear in mind that our opponents will always be too proud to admit they were ever wrong concerning our persecution.
    It also seems we might still trust our current salespersons who are our friends more than the future legal ones who are not.
    Admittedly they will not legalize it if there is not enough profit by doing so. Oddly enough, it is easy for either political party to find fault with the other concerning partisan politics with regard to granting license to grow and sell.
    In Illinois it has been and will be needed to bow to Republican money in order to finally legally buy marijuana and/or get approval for PTSD as a qualifying condition.
    It is quite true that the public sees the need to change the law, and it is also sadly true that US power is not in the hands of the voters but is in the hands of big money.

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