MJ NEWS NETWORK EXCLUSIVE. WASHINGTON: Black Diamond, a former coal mining town 45 minutes south of Seattle, held a great debate on the future of medical marijuana yesterday. The event was organized by MMJ Universe and it’s owner Deidre Finley, who have been on the forefront of Washington’s medical marijuana movement by providing a safe access point for medicine and educational seminars for patients. It was a festive mood in the former mining town, the air filled with the sounds of musicians softly playing while patients milled about, sampling hits of green, dabs, and medibles. But despite the relaxed summertime vibe, the people here have come out for a serious purpose: to debate the future of Washington State’s medical marijuana industry.
In a grassy yard on the opposite side of the market, patients, activities, dispensary owners, nervously gather around in lawn chairs and pulled-up patches of lawn. A sweet young man passes me a joint and, after lighting it, I hand it to a woman who I discovered was recovering from a severe car accident. Her doctors had prescribed so many narcotics that it left her actually feeling worse. She was led to believe that her only option left was surgery. Rejecting that advice, and going against her doctors, she quit the hard drugs and started using cannabis to manage her pain.Today, she tells me she feels much better. She is healthier, and no longer requires surgery for her back pain. This is a common tale told at the event. One woman I spoke to had discovered a cancerous spot on her lung. She began taking Rick Simpson Oil, and miraculously after only three months he tumor disappeared. This sentiment is echoed at a t-shirt vendors booth where one popular design proclaims: “Marijuana is Safer than Chemo.” These two women, and many more like them, came out to be heard: they strongly believe that marijuana is medicine, and as such should not be taxed.
Steve Sarich from the Cannabis Action Coalition began the debate by asking what the MMJ patients, growers, and dispensaries in attendance would be will to give up in order save medical marijuana. Steve’s opinion is that patients and caregivers have already sacrificed too much with the passage of I-502. He emphatically believes medical marijuana should remain untaxed, unless, of course, all pharmaceutical drugs are taxed as well. “Like Viagra”, coming from a woman in the crowd, which seemed to ease the tension, if only for a moment. On the other sided of the debate, grandma Cat Jeter from the Pacific Northwest Hemp Co. and Green Steam Radio, who informed the audiences that taxes are coming, and that the best course of action the mmj industry could take is to work with legislatures to stay in the game. The current course of action is not working, Jeter said, and we must be willing to negotiate subjects as age limits, patient registration, authorizations, collective gardens and possession amounts. Cat suggested compromise in order to move the agenda forward, and then use the court systems to adjust regulations accordingly. She urged everyone several times to call their representatives to humanize the effects of medical marijuana. Cat believes it will require education, and many baby steps for the movement to progress.
Also debated at Black Diamond was the Washington State Liquor Control Board’s involvement in crafting MMJ legislation. As one audience member suggested, “they are a bunch of alcoholics trying to regulate pot”, referring to the state accepting money from privatized liquor sales. Another woman was concerned she would no longer be able to provide concentrated medicine to a child-patient who suffers from epilepsy. There was a lot of fear of that the LCB would use patient information to go after growers.
As the hot summer day wore on, John Davis from the Northwest Patient Resources Center , an advocate and local grower , was invited on by debate moderator Wes Abney from NW Leaf Magazine to take the stage. Defying stereotype, John was dressed a slick suit and designer sunglasses, a stark contrast to the majority of flip-flop and shorts-wearing attendees and participants. John stated that he is working closely with the LCB through his other venture, the Coalition for Cannabis Safety and Ethics, and as a partner in the newly-formed Diego Pellicer brand.
This remark prompted the one grower to insinuate that John was working behind closed doors with the LBC and not sharing information with the medical community. John emphatically denied this charge, and took offense to questions about his personal motivation in working with the agency. noting that “fear and hysteria” are making medical marijuana the problem child of Washington State marijuana legalization. The debate continues.