If It’s Legal To Smoke, and There’s a Legal Market, Then It’s Legalization

I recently attended the 2015 Seattle Hempfest, and it was again this year a lovely celebration of all things marijuana. The first day was a rainout, a rarity for this event, but the final two days brought good weather, large crowds, and a good time for all.

If Marijuana Is Legal, Why Do We Need Hempfest?

As someone asked me when I first arrived at my Seattle hotel, “why are they still holding the Hempfest now that marijuana is legal in Washington state?” It is true that the Seattle Hempfest began as a protest against marijuana prohibition – in fact the sponsors frequently use the term “protestival” to describe this annual festival.

Washington state became one of the first two states, along with Colorado, to legalize marijuana in 2012, breaking the chains of marijuana prohibition and forever reshaping the legalization debate both nationally and internationally. But much work remains to be done in Washington (and the few other jurisdictions that have voted for legalization to date).

Personal Cultivation Needed in Washington

Specifically, in Washington state we need to amend the law to permit personal cultivation; the right to grow one’s own marijuana should be respected in all states, both as a basic consumer right and as a guarantee that the legal market will remain responsive to the needs of consumers. Consumers want marijuana that is good quality, safe, convenient and affordable.

Important Improvements Needed in All Legalization Jurisdictions

And in all of the legalization states we need to legalize and license marijuana lounges or coffee shops, where adult smokers can socialize outside the home. Marijuana smoking is a social activity and smokers should certainly be permitted to gather with others in designated venues to socialize. But to date, no state has allowed that.

And we need to continue to improve these early legalization laws, so we treat responsible marijuana smokers fairly in all respects. That is, we need to end job discrimination against legal smokers, absent a showing of impairment on the job; to stop presuming legal smokers are unfit parents, without a showing of abuse or neglect; and to require a showing of actual impairment before someone is charged with a marijuana-based DUID offense.

So marijuana smokers still have lots of policies to protest, even as we are ending prohibition one state at a time. But it is also true that some of these public events, such as the Seattle Hempfest, have now become more celebration than protest – in this instance, celebrations of personal freedom. Following 75-years plus of prohibition, and tens of millions of marijuana arrests, it is understandable that marijuana smokers want to celebrate their hard-won victories.

What Is Legalization?

But I did hear a couple of speakers at the Hempfest make the rather strange claim that marijuana “is not legal” in Washington state, as a way to show their displeasure with some of the limitations and regulations in place in their state. Instead of celebrating with pride the key role Washington state has played in jump-starting the marijuana legalization movement, they were attempting to twist the common meaning of “legalization”, apparently believing that to refer to the current law as “legalization” would somehow undermine their desire for improvements in the law.

So perhaps we need to spend a couple of minutes to see if we can agree on a common meaning of legalization, so we don’t fall into the trap of allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good. In my dictionary “legalize” is the antonym of “criminalize.” If marijuana is no longer criminal, it is legal.

There are a few vocal protagonists who insist that it is not “legalization” if it is regulated; if there are limits on the quantity one can possess or cultivate; if it is taxed; or even if there are age controls. But under those definitions of legalization, automobiles and automobile driving, for example, would not be “legal”. Nor would alcohol and alcohol drinking, or many other activities that are regulated and taxed, and include age limitations.

I feel comfortable saying that the vast majority of Americans would say if it is legal for adults to smoke marijuana, and if they can buy it from a legal market, that is “legalization”. It may not be a perfect system, but it is nonetheless legalization.

Whether you approve of all the provisions of the Washington marijuana law or not, private marijuana use is now legal and adults can buy their marijuana from retail stores. It is, without question, a version of legalization, and smokers in 46 states would love to have the Washington marijuana law in effect in their states.

The Critics

Those who advocate for systems which include fewer regulations and controls, or none at all (some are demanding that marijuana be considered a commodity, like tomatoes or sweet corn) surely have the right to try to convince a majority of their state’s voters, or state legislators, to adopt such a system. But it is silly, and to some degree self-defeating, to claim that other versions of a legal system are not “legalization.” These new laws, although none are perfect, should be a subject of great pride, evidence of the incredible progress we have made reforming marijuana policies in this country over the last few years.

In Washington state there were, before prohibition was ended, about 7,000 individuals arrested on minor marijuana charges annually. This year there have been less than 150 marijuana arrests. I’m sure most smokers in Washington state would view that dramatic change as evidence that the legalization law approved by the voters in 2012 was an important step forward, even as they realize it is far from perfect.

So instead of making the bizarre claim that marijuana is not legal in Washington state, those who support improvements to that law should celebrate and take pride in the fact that they were one of the first two states to challenge the federal government and bring an end to marijuana prohibition, and get to work tweaking their legalization law so it is even better.

Otherwise, they are just sore losers who remain committed to undermining the new law.

—————————————————————————————–

This column was first published on Marijuana.com.

http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2015/08/if-it-is-legal-to-smoke-and-theres-a-legal-market-then-its-legalization/

 

21 thoughts

  1. If Good Ol’ Boy Joe Biden was to become our next president, you can all kiss your weed goodbye. He is one of worst offenders regarding locking people up by the thousands for using marijuana. Take a look at this link I’ve provided to learn more.

    http://marijuanapolitics.com/joe-biden-drug-war-president-2016-marijuana-reform-could-take-a-step-back/

    Just say “HELL NO” to anything Biden!!!

    Seriously, considering his record, I’d choose even Trump over that human POS!

  2. I’d be one of the happier people on the planet if my state had laws like those in CO or WA!!!

    For now, I live in Nazi Virginia – the land of big tobacco and private prisons. My family is planning to move from here as soon as we can sell our house; not an easy thing to do here without taking a huge loss…

  3. Keith, very well stated! I would give my eye-tooth to have Wash’s form of legalization in my state. Instead, the black market is the only alternative here (unless you qualify for MMJ).

    I wasn’t able to afford a vacation to Colorado this year, and I can tell you, after testing and tasting that CO pot, I was sorely disappointed by the stuff I returned to. It wasn’t my contact’s fault–that’s all he had.

  4. I have nothing but admiration and respect for Keith Stroup. Everything he said in this article is correct, including the last sentence. But he should have left the last sentence out nonetheless.

  5. Good points by Keith, but again I counted 11 uses of “$moke”. “$mokers” etc. and that old photo showing Keith with a monoxide joint and wasted $moke flying away etc. (if we only had that much money heh heh). Please don’t let kids seeing Dad reading your column think you are endorsing $igarettes…

    Might be a good place to clarify that, yes, a flexdrawtube one-hitter has been considered a $moking device, but there is an easy-learn Heat-not-Burn method for using it as a vaporizer!

    With thanks to Julian for originating the genre, here is an edu-lyric:

    “Suck slow,
    don’t glow
    till after 19
    seconds or so.”

    Afterwards breathe 30 warm wet W’s in and out of a breathbonnet (Lunchspielhaus) in honour of the Dawgwagner.

    Don’t hesitate to make an EL CHEAPO one-hitter with two (2) foot-long quarter-inch diameter drawtubes, which converts any closet, passageway or furnace room into a lounge where cannabists can SOCIALIZE– but I think that once $moking has entirely given way to vaporization no one will oppose any public library being a legal cannabization studio!

    PS: boycott Bic lyters, they are designed to burn an inch high every time to quickly light (MOF) monoxide overdose fags– buy and use the cheapo Chinese with a flame height lever and set the flame at one half inch so you can keep it burning 19 seconds an inch BELOW the mini-crater of your utensil (air entry temperature 385F/197C).

  6. With all due respect Keith, it seems like you are equating permission based legalization with something akin to freedom.

    If another entity can punish you for growing, possessing or trading “too much” of something, there is still a very clear and pervasive stink of Prohibition in the room.

    Free people self regulate THEMSELVES, Prohibitionists regulate others.

    We all own ourselves, but none of us individually or collectively own others. If you think you do, you are promoting “prohibition lite” and disrespecting others right to self determination.

    I own me, you own you. The government owns nobody and cannot at once prohibit freedom and protect it.

  7. People need and deserve real cannabis freedom not fake freedom monopolies.

    Vote for initiatives that provide the most freedom like the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2016.

    http://cchi2016.org/index.html

    Grow 99 Plants, No permit, license, or tax shall be required for non-commercial cultivation with CCHI 2016.

  8. “Those who advocate for systems which include fewer regulations and controls, or none at all (some are demanding that marijuana be considered a commodity, like tomatoes or sweet corn) surely have the right to try to convince a majority of their state’s voters, or state legislators, to adopt such a system. But it is silly, and to some degree self-defeating, to claim that other versions of a legal system are not “legalization.” -Well stated Keith!

    LEGALIZATION=REGULATION WITH FAIR REPRESENTATION WITHOUT INCARCERATION

    PROHIBITION=BLACK MARKET ORGANIZED CRIME WITH UNJUST INCARCERATION

    Nothing amazes me more than the two greatest mis-interpretations of the word “legalization,”;
    The first, and most familiar, is the scared yet too proud to lose prohibitionist that believes that ” legalization” means absolutely NO regulation and that we weed activists are out to provide legal heroin to their children. I’m serious, I actually had an older brother tell me that in response to me saying I support legalization. I had to explain to him how a black market is created by outlawing a commodity, making said commodity unregulated and potentially toxic. But what are you going to do when someone’s ego is tied to Fox-aganda? Facing the scary prospect that your definitions might be misplaced is hard enough without calling propaganda “news.”

    The second bull$#!+ misinterpretation I always face for legalization is right along the lines of what Keith is saying here; “My legalization is pure and perfect, so I’d rather see people continue to get incarcerated than accept anything less than tax-free, no government regulation marijuana cultivation.” These people want NO government regulation, NO taxation (which means NO representation), and ignore how turning subsidies for prisons into revenue for public education positively moves our movement peacefully forward. And to these people I say, “Bull$#!+!” Denying a legalized method of reducing socioeconomic inequality, disproportionate incarceration, Federally sanctioned violence and by denying re prioritization of mental health budgets, providing medicine to the sick and freedom to the poor… Just because some quasi-prohibitionist is happy with their medical card or doesn’t want to pay taxes in a state that accepts voter initiatives? We’re not falling for it this time.
    California was fooled once, shame on you “perfect-or-nothing-prohibitionists.” If California gets fooled twice, it’s shame on the voters. Get the vote organized; If one American is being incarcerated and her son taken away for him speaking up in a DARE program and for her growing weed to treat her Chrone ‘s Disease in Kansas, we ALL lose our Freedom! Let’s get organized and VOTE yes OHIO! Vote YES California! Vote YES to legalize marijuana for ALL our American Freedom!

  9. Correction, “What Keith is explaining” (about others advocating so-called “perfect” no regulation legalization) … NOT “saying” as if HE were advocating those beliefs. (Sorry Keith, I’m no reporter, but I try 🙂 )

  10. I agree with Don M. about Biden. I’ve seen him deal too many blows to the cannabis community. So far, he hasn’t even stuck his finger in his mouth then in the air to determine the wind is now blowing in the legalization direction. He hasn’t evolved, yet. If Bernie Sanders can show that he can be a hawk, you know, a war monger if he has to, he can trump Hillary and Biden. I don’t want to have to be a Reagan Democrat and cross party lines IF, and that’s a big IF a republican comes out in favor of legalization. At best, any candidate is going to tiptoe around legalization and only hint that they won’t stand in its way. So far, it’s a choice of the lesser of two evils, and if I go Libertarian or Green I fear their candidate won’t have a prayer and I’ll have wasted my vote.

    Why is it a crime to save your life or improve your quality of life? Why is it a crime to want to save the life of a loved one or improve the quality of life of your loved one? Just because it’s cannabis? How can be that the law (The law is an ass. Dickens) has stooped so low as to make it a crime to relax with cannabis, a substance that is far less harmful than tobacco or alcohol?

    It’s a do-nothing Congress when it comes to cannabis, except for a few.

    When is the medical establishment going to assign medical codes/procedure codes/billing codes for cannabis related treatments?

    Cannabis crimes are non-crimes. It is NOT a crime to save your life or kid’s life or life of some other loved one. It’s not a crime to treat yourself with cannabis. It’s not a crime to make the safer (not completely harmless) choice over tobacco and alcohol.

    Only tyrannical laws make such things a crime.

  11. To all those who aren’t happy with their current version of legalization in WA, I say cry me a river. I live in NJ, and there is nothing on the horizon back here that’s even close to what you people have. So really just shut up already.

  12. It’s obvious there is a process for standardization within the cannabis communites, probably for 30 years. I think the most pressing issue we face (humanity) is machinne intelligence, which is also why the endocannabinoid system may prove to be a vital component for future growth and coexsience, if that’s even possible!

    Look at this ::

    Schedule I substance, the most restrictive Ob physics of full physics accommodate
    and allow state marijuana presiders :: THE ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM :: why does
    it exist :: for A commercially viable CANNAB ADAB :: who wants a system that is bad for the
    people :: that’s what it’s about :: The arc line is the nexus between the immaterial and the material
    :: the rainbow is an arc line with special propertines :: the edge of
    inclination is equal with. . .

    Doc: Down to the Earth’s Core [HD] – National Geographic [Full Episode]

    We are unable to post your comment because you have been blocked by The Weed Blog.

    http://www.theweedblog.com/voters-swing-states-want-president-respect-state-marijuana-laws/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheWeedBlogcom+%28The+Weed+Blog%29

    We are unable to post your comment because you have been blocked by The Weed Blog. Find out more.

    Why do you think I was blocked for posting my ideas and thoughts?

  13. http://blog.norml.org/2015/08/24/if-its-legal-to-smoke-and-theres-a-legal-market-then-its-legalization/comment-page-1/#comment-3569805

    It’s obvious there is a process for standardization within the cannabis communites, probably for 30 years. I think the most pressing issue we face (humanity) is machinne intelligence, which is also why the endocannabinoid system may prove to be a vital component for future growth and coexsience, if that’s even possible!

  14. “If It’s Legal To Smoke, and There’s a Legal Market, Then It’s Legalization”

    Wrong, wrong, wrong!

    We had that in CA, until shop owners were arrested and convicted. The law tweakers as it turns out, are the elected officials enacting prohibition. Law enforcement is paid by elected officials. 215 and 420 have been convoluted into unrecognizable shadows of their authors intended work.

    WA has made a tiny step towards appeasing the regulation of the money stream.

    Cultivation by ordinary people is the rock-solid foundation that cannabis legalization requires to be genuine.

    There is NO legalization without cultivation for civilization.

    [Editor’s note: AK, CO, OR and DC allow home cultivation; OH’s initiative has it too. However, ending prohibition is far, far more important to consumers than the ability to cultivate cannabis at home.

    To insist that a state like WA, where an adult can walk into a store and readily buy hundreds of different varieties of cannabis, hash, concentrates, edibles and balms–and where arrest rates for cannabis-related offenses has plummeted from over 10,000 annually to a few hundred–has NOT legalized cannabis is without merit.

    It’s untrue.

    Beer, wine and tobacco consumers can make their own home product. What percentage of these consumers take advantage of their ability to home produce?

    <2%

    Consumers want products when they want them, in the increments they want, in the flavors/varieties they want...the vast majority don't have the patience, physical space or desire to watch plants grow over months and properly process them.

    Consumers that engage in 'self sufficiency' (aka home production) often do so for two basic reasons: They're aficionados or frugal.

    Home cultivation is a component of legalization, albeit a minor one in the context of ending the mass arrests and rigorous police enforcement during cannabis prohibition. If home cultivation is a genuinely important public policy for the citizens of WA to have on the books, most especially cannabis consumers in the state, then they're in a strong position politically post-prohibition to focus narrowly on passing such reforms, which the NORML chapters in the state are now focused on (along with other improvements in the law to bring some parity with alcohol consumers, like allowing for cannabis cafes/clubs, reform workplace drug testing rules, etc...)]

  15. I wish I could move to Oregon or Colorado or Washington then I would not have to worry about the law coming after me.

  16. Isn’t a frugal aficionado exactly what describes a true medical cannabis patient?

    You failed to recognize the tampering of the money stream and the prohibitionists attempt to limit and control supply(cultivation).

    “To insist that a state like WA, where an adult can walk into a store and readily buy hundreds of different varieties of cannabis, hash, concentrates, edibles and balms–and where arrest rates for cannabis-related offenses has plummeted from over 10,000 annually to a few hundred–has NOT legalized cannabis is without merit.

    Wrong again!

    WA is controlling supply(cultivation) and is growing government involvement to the level of becoming a bonafide tax and spend agency. The burden of shouldering the heavy load of excess taxation in WA is creating a new low in start-up businesses. People are joyfully agreeing to any terms so long as they get to open their doors.

    Cannabis can’t live without it’s roots. Cultivators need protection or WA will become a net importer.

    [Editor’s note: ‘True Medical Cannabis’ patients (which make up <10% of the cannabis consuming market) prefer to purchase cannabis over waiting for and trying to cultivate it. Many 'true' medical cannabis patients don't reside in places where they can grow cannabis indoors (or outdoors), i.e., nursing homes, hospice; apartment buildings, etc...)

    Again, medical cannabis patients, being a subset of the consuming market, do not grow cannabis or want to grow anymore than beer, wine and tobacco consumers want to provide their own product.

    Money stream? Prohibitionists in WA? Cultivators need protection? WA as an import state for cannabis?

    OK....sure.

    Not!

    Arrests have basically ceased in WA for cannabis-related offenses. Thousands of licenses in WA to cultivate, infuse and sell cannabis have been applied for, hundreds granted...and now both ganjapreneurs and the govt are financially benefitting from the end of cannabis prohibition...prices are dropping for consumers (and patients).

    Maybe after all the political and legal heavy lifting performed in WA over the decades by traditional cannabis law reform groups like NORML, DPA, ACLU, MPP, etc…stakeholders who purport to strongly care about home cultivation in WA should amend the current laws to THEIR likings…because the national groups by necessity have moved on to the other 46 states who need to end cannabis prohibition…because, self-evidently, cannabis is a legally produced, consumed and taxed product in the state of Washington.]

  17. My mistake, I have held the incorrect idea that cultivation was included in the definition of legalization.

    “NORML supports the adoption of a legally controlled market for marijuana, where consumers can buy marijuana for personal use from a safe legal source. This policy, generally known as legalization, exists on various levels in a handful of European countries….”

    Or maybe, NORML abandoned the cultivators and Medical patients because the commercial recreational market generates income for adjudication. With more then 90% of consumers being recreational, why not?

    When we pushed so hard to pass CA 215, cultivation was important and Medcann patients were relevant. I’m amazed with how much the objectives have evolved.

    [Editor’s note: “Or maybe, NORML abandoned the cultivators and Medical patients because the commercial recreational market generates income for adjudication. With more then 90% of consumers being recreational, why not?”

    That’d be terrible on both fronts if either were true…but neither is as 1) NORML’s webpage, chapter activities and lobbying efforts aptly demonstrate NORML remains a champion of medical access to cannabis products. 2) NORML is a non-profit advocacy organization, not a law firm. NORML does not take money from defendants to represent them in court. Instead, like the ACLU, NORML often provides gratis legal work at the appellate–not trial–level.

    “When we pushed so hard to pass CA 215, cultivation was important and Medcann patients were relevant. I’m amazed with how much the objectives have evolved.”

    It is hardly NORML’s fault that the proprietors of over 1,500 medical cannabis dispensaries in CA chose to conduct themselves like businesses rather then benevolent collectives, replacing what NORML had advocated for–‘compassionate use’ where personal amounts of cannabis could be grown or possessed–instead clearly opting for a capitalism model (this is why cannabis sold as medicine in the state still costs $150-$200 ounce…).

    Ironically, WAMM, one of the only genuine cannabis patient organizations in CA where patients actually grow their own cannabis in a collective effort, is currently engaged in an organization-saving fundraising effort to keep their non-cannabis capitalism model in existence because cannabis consumers claiming a medical need in CA overwhelmingly prefer to buy cannabis at retail level like alcohol/tobacco/caffeine products, rather then become home cultivators (this is another contributing factor why there are hundreds of medical cannabis dispensaries that are effectively businesses, not non-profit collectives like WAMM).

    NORML has always publicly advocated for home cannabis cultivation for consumers, be them adults who enjoy cannabis products or patients that need them, and it always will.]

  18. Drug testing will cut into the market, and sales will decline. That’s in the legal market, in legal states, or the black market in non-legal states. Marijuana retailers business stands to fail if people are afraid to buy the legal product on the store shelves over fears of job loss. This is it people, the front lines are in the work place, and drug testing is the common enemy we need to defeat.

  19. I moved from NC where a friend of mine had the Sheriffs Dept Helicopter set down in her front yard last year. She was growing 20 plants and they spotted them from the air. I live in Ca.temporarily and it is nice to have that medical card. We don’t have dispensaries in Santa Maria but they do have people who come to your house for home delivery. Just knowing that I am not going to be arrested for smoking or growing plants at my sister’s house is a great load off my mind. I’m 61 and to old to do time for pot possession in NC. Next year I go to Oregon and check out their system and after that on to Seattle. I think it’s absolutely wonderful to be able to obtain pot legally and I will never live in another state where I cannot access it when I want it. Thank you Norml and MPP for everything you have done for the cause. You’ve made this person a very happy lady and their is no reason to split hairs in getting the law exactly perfect for everyone. There is always going to be someone who is not satisfied. So lobby and get the parts you don’t like changed. Like Obama said, “if you don’t like a law, run for office.”

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