Two Views Of Personal Cultivation Of Cannabis: NORML Vs. LCB

By Bailey Hirschburg

The following is one section of a report presented by Washington NORML to the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) regarding their study of regulatory options for home growing. WA NORML’s full report, “Personal Cultivation of Cannabis: A look at policy alternatives” can be found here: (MJNN link to .pdf file “WA NORML Home Grow Report1”)

As written, none of the LCB options were practical or addressed the issue. Option 1, which requires a permit and plants to be in a state traceability system, with greater authority shared between the LCB and local authorities, and option 3, status quo home grow prohibition, are discussed further in the report.

This excerpt focuses on the questions the LCB encourages the public to address, option 2 “State Framework, local authority” and WA NORML’s revised “Civil Liberties Option, with State Framework & Local Authority.”

The LCB is taking public comment on three regulatory options, found here. Email your comments to rules@lcb.wa.govby October 11th to see they’re included in the study’s public response.

EXCERPT:

What cultivation policy is best for our state? On Sept. 13th, the LCB released a request for stakeholder input on three draft options for personal cultivation along with specific questions on a “Stakeholder Outreach Questionnaire.” Those questions were:

1. Which of the above options best protects the state under the Cole Memo from intervention by the federal government?

2. What resource impacts (work hours, costs, etc.), positive or negative, do you foresee for the regulatory options listed above?

3. What are the challenges or benefits (or both) associated with each of the regulatory options listed above?

4. Please provide any additional feedback you believe would be helpful to consider as part of this study.

This paper itself broadly addresses question #4. “Constitutional Concerns & The Cole Memo” addressed Question #1 specifically.  What follows are the three LCB options with answers to stakeholder questions #2 and #3, a revised Option 2, and evaluation of recent legislative bills on the issue.

2. State Framework, Local Authority

• Allow recreational home grows under a regulatory framework based on statewide standards set in statute, but authorized, controlled, and enforced by local jurisdictions (counties, cities).

• Include statutory requirements for security, preventing youth access, preventing diversion, etc. (Cole Memo).

• Require a permit to possess plants. Absent a permit, growing marijuana for any purpose is illegal.

• Limit of no more than 4 plants per household.

• Include a statutory provision to allow recreational growers to acquire plants from licensed producers so long as the person possesses a valid permit.

• Include a statutory provision that allows law enforcement to seize and destroy all plants possessed by a person if the person has more plants than the law allows.

• Include the same restrictions that apply to medical marijuana patients on processing marijuana in recreational home grows (no extraction with combustible materials. See WAC 314-55-430).

• The Legislature may choose to allow local jurisdictions to “opt-in” for or “opt-out” of allowing recreational home grows, similar to the approach the Legislature took with marijuana licenses and registered medical marijuana patient cooperative grows.

2. What resource impacts (work hours, costs, etc.), positive or negative, do you foresee for the regulatory options listed above? By losing individual plant tracking and deferring to local authorities while giving them a clear “opt in/out” option the state shifts some costs (except for permitting) from option 1 somewhat or largely over to local authorities.

3. What are the challenges or benefits (or both) associated with each of the regulatory options listed above? This gives local governments too much control over residents’ private affairs. Similar to the challenges to option 1: fair enforcement, securing citizen information, legal challenges against a commercial regulator doing residential policing or civil suits on biased, aggressive, or improper enforcement. Like Option 1, this regulates recreational grows more strictly than medical grows. This option is also susceptible to claims that it unjustly limits civil liberties by allowing jurisdictions to opt in or out of honoring them.

Revised Option 2. Civil Liberties Option, with State Framework & Local Authority

• Allow recreational home grows with restrictions based on statewide standards set in statute, but controlled and enforced by local jurisdictions (counties, cities).

• Limit of no more than 15 plants per household.

• Maintain existing statutory requirements and penalties for public use, youth access, unlicensed sales, preventing diversion, etc.

• Include a statutory provision to allow recreational growers to acquire plants from licensed producers, and allowing accredited testing laboratories to contract with adults over 21 directly to have recreational home grow samples tested.

• Include a statutory provision that allows law enforcement to seize and destroy any plants possessed by a person beyond established limits.

• Include the same restrictions that apply to medical marijuana patients on processing marijuana in recreational home grows (no extraction with combustible materials. See WAC 314-55-430). Clearly establish that authorized and registered medical marijuana patient grows and registered cooperative medical marijuana grows are separate from any recreational home grow limits.

• The Legislature may choose to allow local jurisdictions to “opt-in” for or “opt-out” of allowing outdoor home grows plainly visible from public or federal properties.

2. What resource impacts (work hours, costs, etc.), positive or negative, do you foresee for the regulatory options listed above? Significantly less costs than any LCB option. Minor retraining for producers or retailers selling seeds/clones. Updated rules for law enforcement, traceability system requirements, and regular zoning issues for local jurisdictions. Eventual savings or revenue from seed/clone sales, ancillary products/services, and increasing effectiveness of eradication efforts.

3. What are the challenges or benefits (or both) associated with each of the regulatory options listed above? Increased tracking of sales and distribution to estimate home grow markets. Distinguishing between medical and recreational gardens. Outdoor zoning may impact property values based on preferred outdoor growing options. More testing of home grown samples, and judicious use of enforcement by not expecting a single extra plant to warrant removal of a person’s entire garden. This regulates recreational growing on a similar scale to medical growing.

Personal Cultivation Of Cannabis: Constitutional Concerns And The Cole Memo

By Bailey Hirschburg

The following is one section of a report presented by Washington NORML to the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) regarding their study of regulatory options for home growing. WA NORML’s full report, “Personal Cultivation of Cannabis: A look at policy alternatives” can be found here:

The study was mandated by recently by law (SB5131), and directs a “study of regulatory options for the legalization of marijuana plant possession and cultivation” by the LCB, directing the use of guidelines from a 2013 Department of Justice memorandum outlining federal expectations of state-legal marijuana policies as a guide. Written by then-deputy Attorney General James Cole, this document is widely referred to as the “Cole Memo.”

The LCB is taking public comment on their regulatory options, found here . Email your comments to rules@lcb.wa.govby October 11th to see they’re included in the study’s public response.

EXCERPT:

When Washington legalized adult possession in 2012 through I-502, only the state of Alaska had any decriminalization of personal cultivation. Today, seven states have as well as the District of Columbia have legalized not just possession and use, but some form of cultivation. All are been treated as complying with the Cole Memo, meaning a compliant policy is not only feasible, but common.

Many of the Cole Memo’s priorities are sensible and existed in the intent and language of Washington’s legalization initiative before the memo was issued, including prohibiting access to minors, stringently regulating impaired driving, and studying legalization’s social impacts. However, basing state law on this document over other arguments is untenable. It clearly reads: “This memorandum is not intended, does not, and may not be relied upon to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law by any party in any matter civil or criminal.” The Washington State Senate Committee Services’ published guide to legislators fails to directly address this statement in it’s summary of the Cole Memo. Combined with the abnormal size of SB5131, this means some lawmakers may not have been clear on the risks inherent in basing a study about rights on a non-binding opinion of commercial markets.

Furthermore, the memo offers a relevant example of where state enforcement typically supersedes federal action. “the Department of Justice has not historically devoted resources to prosecuting individuals whose conduct is limited to possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use on private property. Instead, the Department has left such lower-level or localized activity to state and local authorities and has stepped in to enforce the CSA only when the use, possession, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana has threatened to cause one of the harms identified above.”

The Cole Memo aside, a simple argument for allowing home growing is found in Washington’s Constitution “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” Washington Supreme Court Associate Chief Justice Charles W. Johnson noted “The broad language in article I, section 7 will always require that official interferences with the private affairs of residents are governed by precise and predetermined legal principles. But by allowing for disturbances made with the authority of law, the framers also allowed future generations to play a role in shaping their privacy rights, provided the relevant constitutional limitations are respected.”

This right to privacy is woven into our civic fabric, and fairly extends to a plant adults can and do possess in homes across the state. The scent or appearance of marijuana is no longer a crime, and the state lacks a compelling interest in policing small gardens. The cultivation and use of cannabis doesn’t damage or block another’s rights. The state can only continue this practice with a clear explanation of why constitutional law allows this authority.

The Cole Memo guidelines are largely sensible, and based on the priorities of I-502. Some sections discuss specific issues in depth, but most would not be impacted by legal home growing. As of September 2017, those guidelines are:

1. Preventing distribution to minors. (Included in I-502, see “Impact on Youth”)

2. Preventing the revenue from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels. (Included in I-502, see “Intent of I-502”)

3. Preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to other states. (Not addressed in I-502. (Home growing poses minimal threat due to the costs in transporting and risks for arrest in distributing. Though law enforcement typically calculates seized marijuana value on final street price per individual sale, growers not distributing themselves often sell in less-profitable wholesale price. See “Academic Findings on Personal Cultivation”)

4. Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity. (Not addressed in I-502. Because the sight and smell of marijuana is no longer a crime, nor are cooperative or medical marijuana grows, this will be an issue of concern regardless of legalization of home grows. However, clear guidelines for police and the public assists in focusing investigatory resources on active threats to the guidelines. See “Marijuana Legalization and Nosy Neighbor States”)

5. Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana. (Not addressed in I-502. If all adults can grow cannabis in private it will reduce the likelihood of violent crime in/around marijuana licensees or currently illegal personal cultivation sites.)

6. Preventing drugged driving and other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use. (Included in I-502 in the form of revenue directed to public education and research. Home grows offer a source of safe cannabis that doesn’t require driving after purchase of a seed/plant clone. Rates of impaired driving have never been examined based on a consumer’s sourcing of cannabis.)

7. Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands. (Included in I-502, Washington state continues to receive marijuana eradication funding from the DEA. By licensing production and processing Washington continues to focus on larger-scale, criminally organized public grows. Cultivating fewer than 20 plants on public lands is not common, but risk of arrest means those growing for themselves are motivated to do so away from their own property. See “Impact on Law Enforcement” & “Impact on Other Issues”)

8. Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property. (Included in I-502, as the initiative highlighted the difference between federal and state laws and created appropriate areas of possession and use it made the risk of possession or use on federal property less appealing. Home growing continues that trend.)

Finally, even with the best of intentions, legal challenges to a law based on a memorandum is potentially fatal to an entire law. It’s unclear if the state could even show the memo as evidential in court.

WA NORML 2017 State Of The Session Report (Part 2)

What we lobbied for, What we got, and Will we be able to do it again?

By Bailey Hirschburg

WASHINGTON: For the first time Washington NORML had a regular lobbyist in Olympia this year. The truth is NORML has almost always been staffed by volunteer activists. That’s what I was, at a NORML chapter in Missouri, interning for NORML’s national office in Washington DC, and later as head of NORML’s Thurston County chapter. The reward I got from it was doing the right thing, great stories, and lifelong friends. (Oh, as an intern NORML reimbursed subway fare.)

I was shocked when Kevin Oliver, the head of Washington NORML, said he’d raised some money to hire a lobbyist. But the professional he had in mind wanted it all, and didn’t believe the legislature would pass home growing of cannabis by adults, so wasn’t going to try. I promised to do it for much less, and give a damn about the things recreational consumers care about because I was one. I’ve lobbied as a citizen, but doing this as a job was another level.

Lobbying part time along with a second job I got up close and personal with a lot of bills. What did I do, and what changed? My focus this session broke down into five areas:

  • Securing fair permitting for on-site cannabis use by for adults 21 and older. A draft bill to allow special permits for marijuana consumption events was drafted and shopped around to various members. Despite bipartisan interest failed to find a primary sponsor in time. However, a previous bill to allow cigar bars may be adapted to include marijuana on-site consumption. This leaves two avenues for social use, at a time that the policy is expanding among legal cannabis states.
  • Securing cannabis homegrow protections and establishing a system of seed/clone sale for adults 21 and older. Two bills were heard this session to legalize personal cultivation, HB 1092 & 1212. HB 1212 passed unanimously out of Commerce & Gaming, and through the Rules review to the Finance committee, the farthest any such bill has progressed in the state. I searched for a sponsor for a draft bill to allow seed/clone sales to adults, making the law continent on personal cultivation being enacted this year. Apathy in the state senate slowed progress along with lingering questions about enforcement needs and federal intervention. In SB5131, the LCB has been mandated to produce a report on personal cultivation for the legislature by December. Beyond submitting information and rallying stakeholders, WA NORML will be looking for the best ways to raise consumer influence in this report, without which, it’s recommendations may not be trustworthy.
  • Promote taxation/regulatory reforms that will benefit adult cannabis consumers. With the passage of an organic-like certification for cannabis products, legalized sharing/gifting of cannabis, expanded hemp access and use in consumer products, and regulation of infused edible production that is closer to other food industries, there are several ways in which the legal consumer will be better off with the changes in this session. Particularly the sharing/gifting of cannabis, while not a source of many arrests, remained a blindspot and common complaint against our legal framework.
  • Promote reforms that will increase access and security in the sale of medically affordable compliant cannabis to patients/caregivers.  Patient access to legal clones/seeds will be larger due to laws passed this year. Involving a rules process takes time, new laws will bring greater availability and stability to patients and caregivers producing their own medicine. Similarly to regular consumers, patients will also benefit from the organic-like certification, as recreational plant testing is often deemed inadequate for patient needs. Maddie’s Law, which would assist patient-students medicating on school property passed the house with broad support, and initially had senate momentum, but senate leadership halted progress and kept the bill from a floor vote. However, it’s simple change and broad popularity leave it well positioned to be addressed in the future, particularly as the U.S. Congress has maintained a ban on DEA interference in state-legal medical programs.
  • Working to improve legislation where possible and oppose when necessary. An unfortunate reality is that some of the biggest victories this year were stopping damaging bills or amendments. In other cases objections were ignored. Nonetheless, opposition to billboard bans, increased public consumption penalties, increased packaging/concentrate penalties, banning of bitcoin, and retail bans in Alcohol Impact Areas helped keep these issues from advancing. Other areas like out-of-state financial stake, or increased licensee fees were opposed but amended into other legislation. While not perfect, success in stopping bad legislation is crucial to stemming any prohibition resurgence.

IMG_0291

Most of my efforts were on HB1212, HB1060, ESSB5131, and searching for sponsors for two draft bills on seed sale and social use permitting. I also testified, signed in with a position available to answer questions at legislative hearings, submitted written materials, or spoke with lawmakers about the following bills:

Medical Cannabis Bills- 

Pro: HB1098, HB1094, HB1060/SB5290, HB2021 Con: SB5933

Recreational Cannabis Bill-

Pro: HB1092, HB1099, HB1212, HB1124, HB1461/SB5323, HB1462 (enacted)/SB5324 Con: HB1416, HB1065, HB1151, SB5282 Other: HB1250 (enacted)

Hemp Bills-

Pro: HB1692 Other: HB2064 (enacted)

Research/Misc. Bills-

Pro: HB1895 Other: SB5131 (enacted)

Changes from Enacted bills- 

HB2064- Removing industrial hemp from the scope of the uniform controlled substances act.

Removing hemp from Washington’s CSA is positive in that it makes an ecologically and industrially beneficial plant available. However it’s lack of rules damage long term viability of the industry and outdoor cannabis grows with the risk of cross-pollination, absence of certified seed programs, and absent research component as required by Sec. 7606 of the federal Farm Bill. Amendments in SB5131, and recent rules proposed by the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture, should establish some hemp licensing, research parameters, and use in marijuana products but a seed certification program still depends on some federal cooperation.

HB1250- Authorizing retail marijuana outlets to give a free lockable drug box to adults age twenty-one years and over and to qualifying patients age eighteen years and over subject to restrictions.

By updating RCW 69.50.357, this bill allows retailers to “donate the lockable boxes and provide the related literature to any person eligible to purchase marijuana products” that they receive from a third party entity. Nothing in the law requires person eligible to buy anything in order to receive a lockbox and literature, and retailers are allowed to sell lockboxes (assuming they weren’t donated to the retailer) as well as distribute lockboxes that have been donated. I lobbied for the term “upon request” to be added so that consumers who actively want to store cannabis in lockboxes will get them versus the first customer offered a free item.

HB1462- Adding authority to the department of agriculture to regulate sanitary processing of marijuana-infused edibles.

This bill creates an edible endorsement for processors and greater authority for the Dept. of Agriculture to regulate infused edibles similar to that agencies other food handling regulation. While edible production was within the scope of licensed processors with approved facilities, those licensees will now need this endorsement with a separate application/renewal process all edible sales. This will involve Dept. of Agriculture adopting rules specifically for marijuana edibles, with an understanding “Such rules must be written and interpreted to be consistent with rules adopted by the board [LCB] and the department of health.” By April 1st, 2018 rules will regulate edibles similar to other food handling licenses with some exceptions including:

  • issuance of the endorsement in lieu of a food processing license through the Dept. of Ag. business licensing system;
  • separate penalty schedule to operate in addition to the penalty schedule of the LCB;
  • must be obtained by any licensee that “processes, packages, or makes marijuana-infused edibles;”
  • endorsement renewal will coincide with marijuana processors license renewal, but must already hold processors license before initial issuance.
  • The licensee needs a separate endorsement for each location, and no facility can be used to process non-marijuana infused foods except “solely for tasting samples or internal product testing.”

SB5131- Addressing provisions concerning marijuana with respect to research licenses, local authority notifications, the retail licensing application process, processor wholesale events, and jurisdictional requirements.

Just signed into law by Gov. Inslee. I’ve written extensively on this bill for MJNewsNetwork, and have described it as “omnicannabis” because it is multiple bills addressing a wide variety of issues. Here’s a brief overview of what it does:

-Medical Garden Access: Allows licensed marijuana producers to sell immature cannabis plants, clones, and seeds to qualifying patients who enter the state’s medical marijuana database. A close reading of Sec. 11 suggests authorized but unregistered patients may be able to buy seeds, this may be allowed or banned by LCB rules process.

   -Homegrow Report: The LCB must examine the viability of allowing recreational users to grow their own marijuana, with the enforcement priorities outlined in the Cole Memo as the central guidelines for their recommendation.

-Retail License Limit: A retailer or individual “with a financial or other ownership interest in” a retail license can own up to five retail licenses.

-Forfeiting Licenses: Require the LCB forfeit retail licenses which have been issued but are not operational and open to the public unless the delay is due to circumstances beyond the licensee’s control, for example if the licensee has been unable to open because of a local moratorium, ban, or because zoning, licensing or other regulatory measures prevent it from opening.

-Gifting Marijuana: Adults can deliver marijuana each other in half the legal possession amounts so long as the pot is offered as a gift without financial remuneration so long as the marijuana shared is either in it’s original packaging, or not in public view.

-Tribal Oversight: The LCB must get approval from a federally recognized Indian Tribe prior to granting a license on tribal land.

-Licensing Contracts & Disclosure: Allow a licensees to enter into agreements or consulting contracts “with any individual, partnership, employee cooperative, association, nonprofit corporation, or corporation” for goods or services, trademarks, trade secrets or proprietary information. The agreement must be disclosed to the LCB, but various information and financial considerations are exempt from the state’s Public Disclosure Act.

-Organic-Equivalent Pot: The LCB is instructed to adopt regulations for marijuana similar to products federally certified as organic. The LCB will implement regulations for marijuana to be grown similar to organic products. These products will have a uniform title and labeling.

-Processing Hemp: The LCB must study the viability of letting licensed processors process industrial hemp. This may lead to legislation to allow processors to purchase plant material from farmers licensed to grow hemp.

-Advertising: Significant changes focused on advertising to kids. Prohibits licensees from taking “any action directly or indirectly to target youth in the advertising, promotion, or marketing of marijuana and marijuana products, or take any action the primary purpose of which is to initiate, maintain, or increase the incidence of youth use of marijuana or marijuana products.” This includes prohibiting toys, movie/cartoon characters, or images that would pique underage interest in pot. It also bans using commercial mascots, as defined to mean “a live human being, animal, or mechanical device used for attracting the attention of motorists and passersby so as to make them aware of marijuana products or the presence of a marijuana business.” This covers staff in costume, inflatable tube displays, or sign spinners. Cities and counties can further restrict advertising, but must enforce extra limits themselves.

  -Billboards: A marijuana retailer may now only use a billboard to identify the name or nature of the business and directions to its location. Outdoor signs could not contain depictions of marijuana plants, products, or images that appeal to children. Outdoor advertising would be prohibited in “arenas, stadiums, shopping malls, fairs that receive state allocations, farmers markets, and video game arcades.” An exception allows outdoor advertising at adult-only events.

As you see, I got a lot done, and I had help and support, but faced off with a lot of professional lobbyists whose careers or relationships in Olympia go a long way. There are bad lobbyists and corrupt special interests. But typically, with them comes big money and disproportionate influence. I talked with a woman earlier this year who said she wouldn’t trust any marijuana activist that got paid to lobby. I told her I understood, then shook her hand and told her I hoped she had just met one she could trust. I hope being open and clear about what I did, didn’t do, or hoped to do offers a small gesture that I mean well, even if I’m not the slickest salesman ever. Cannabis consumers care about fair influence after generations of laws being made ABOUT them but not WITH them.

Are there other lobbyists publicize the oversight of themselves? Maybe, but I’ve never met any who did. In my first article about my lobbying here at MJNewsNetwork, I explained that you can find my lobbyist reporting to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission here: 

I’m honored and humbled that any group would pay me to lobby for better pot laws. I dream of doing that more often than gaining online fame. But between my wife and me, we have a full time job, three part time jobs, and one car to get us to them. My payment from Washington NORML is a matter of record, and has been very generous, but it’s not making me rich.

That’s fine, my getting rich is not the point. Our fight is far from over, but the battlefield is different, and organizing protests or petitions is costlier and won’t engage a voting public that largely finds pot accessible and available. Traditional lobbying carries risks, no doubt, and it’s not the same as flipping off the status quo for it’s many oppressive practices. But supporting consumer lobbying is going to get more wins in legal states than future statewide ballot efforts. The point is that the marijuana community should work together and support traditional lobbying in places with legal pot. It’s not as exciting or visible, but it’s crucial.

The problem with gains is they have to be maintained. I’ll be speaking up for home grow, or any other legislation that makes sense next year, no matter what. I don’t know if WA NORML will have support to pay me, or anyone, to lobby. I’ll do what I can, but don’t know what time I’ll have left to do it. This has always been the struggle of volunteer activists, but these are gains worth maintaining, hopefully cannabis consumers will support WA NORML the way WA NORML has supported them (and me).

WA NORML 2017 State Of The Session Report

By Bailey Hirschburg

While the special session called by Gov. Jay Inslee wrapped up on July 20th, the majority of Washington NORML’s lobby work was completed in early May. The best summary of our WA NORML’s legislative impact and agenda process is that it was appropriately ambitious. While several goals, personal cultivation for adults and social use, remain unaddressed, valuable progress towards consumer safety, patient access, industrial hemp, and marijuana research was achieved. Changes for licensees have varied from useful to burdensome, but overall the state legislature is invested in maintaining legal access and possession for adults.

As an advocacy group, WA NORML is gaining greater standing and familiarity, with legislators who have begun recommending us to constituents with questions about cannabis issues, to legislators speaking frankly about their own cannabis use or impressions of their districts, or with our position on the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB)’s Cannabis Advisory Council. Today, other groups have represented the medical patient or licensee community longer, but WA NORML has grown to be the most experienced recreational consumer lobby in the state.

Beyond the direct lobbying of the state legislature on nearly two dozen bills, throughout the session I represented WA NORML at events, organized a lobby day and reception, engaged with media coverage, wrote editorial articles and legislative updates to Exec. Director Kevin Oliver and board members, developed familiarity/relationships with specific lawmakers, staff, fellow lobbying groups, and engaged with LCB enforcement, legislative, and rules staff on current practices and active legislation. There are also clear ways to improve PAC effectiveness with a set meeting schedule or issue-focused workgroups.

The future of legal cannabis in Washington is secure. State agencies and key officials are committed to state legal access and economic footprint. The voices for prohibition or criminalization of personal use in Olympia are few and isolated. There is lawmakers receptiveness to every key issue we’ve addressed. Some, like legal sharing/gifting of cannabis had enough support to move this year. Other issues, like access for student-patients, and personal cultivation moved some distance, while social use legislation didn’t find a sponsor in time.

However, sharing/gifting and removal of industrial hemp from the controlled substances act are positive changes that represent “low hanging buds” of positive reforms. Personal cultivation and social use face stronger opposition. Both are divisive within law enforcement and even the legal marijuana industry. Our developing mission to include small, local marijuana business is gradually being incorporated as we develop a portfolio of relevant lobby issues.

Nonetheless, WA NORML is well positioned to speak more forcefully for consumers going forward. Through a seat on the Cannabis Advisory Council organized by the LCB, and through rallying stakeholder testimony and shaping a public narrative as the LCB’s personal cultivation report progresses. Finally, we’re identifying lawmakers to fundraise for or make direct contributions to in the upcoming election cycle. In short, we’re growing in all the ways a successful lobbying operation should.

There is always ways to learn and improve. The two significant ones are to get an earlier start scheduling our events and anticipating legislation’s trajectory.

As I was hired the first day of this year’s session and spent some time identifying who to meet with, only to find their calendar full, or significant legislation already introduced. Scheduling also impacted our lobbying day, which drew a large crowd and allowed us to press for action on a variety of issues, but was past a cutoff for new bills to be introduced, and had lawmakers working late and largely unable to attend our evening reception.

A better posture towards initial scheduling will further our influence on bills. And such a schedule should take into account not only legislation’s current position but who or what bodies it will need to clear in the following days and weeks. Because next year’s legislative session is short, the schedule for progress is similarly shortened. While the lobby proposal budgeted for 18 hours a week, the future may necessitate more hours each week for a shorter session.

These changes allow direct lobbying efforts to focus on priority issues. Some board members have already contributed in the ways described, but this will have greater impact as it becomes routine.

On a personal note, I’d like to thank you all for your support and trust in this project. I’m not a big cannabis social media personality. I don’t think we need more of them as badly as we need more regular lobbyists, in more statehouses, speaking up for more consumers. The word revolution is thrown around a lot in politics. That said, WA NORML’s lobby efforts are a revolution that blooms from NORML’s tradition of citizen activism to include regular consumer lobby efforts.

The cannabis consumer has lots of reasons not to speak up. I work a second job, and overheard one coworker recently tell another “Sure, I smoke pot, but I’m not going to, like, talk about it.” I know exactly why they were hesitating, because I have too. There are many reasons not to speak up. But we deserve to be heard in government, even if speaking entails risk. Thanks to WA NORML, you have given all consumers, and me, a louder voice than ever in the pot politics of Evergreen State. I’m humbled, and simultaneously certain better changes can be achieved.

From Threat To Joke: How Are Your Cops Treating Weed?

By Bailey Hirschburg

My old spectrum for judging cops on pot ranged from “Officer I’m still cool” to “Sheriff Buzzkill.” But I’m wondering if it’s out of date.

“Officer I’m still cool” was typically a local cop at protests or public events. He would always remind you he didn’t MAKE pot laws, he was just ENFORCING them. ‘I’m still cool’ knows it’s a drag, but he’s only trying to bust big, dangerous dealers. He just wants you to be safe, and think he’s relatable and cool.

“Sheriff Buzzkill” is a sheriff because he’s typically a law enforcement commander whose years of experience tells him that pot prohibition is either

a.) a grave moral imperative he must solemnly and strictly enforce, or

b.) a tool giving him discretion to bust hardened criminals that would otherwise slip away.

Buzzkill cops show up in their dress uniforms to government meetings across the country and explain that prohibition is the last, best hope their jurisdiction has to control weed.

Generalizations? Absolutely! But I’m reminded because of some of the recent generalizations cops had about marijuana give the impression mine are out of date.:

Former Minnesota Officer Jeronimo Yanez told investigators after shooting Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year “I thought, I was gonna die and I thought if he’s, if he has the, the guts and the audacity to smoke marijuana in front of the five-year-old girl and risk her lungs and risk her life by giving her secondhand smoke and the front seat passenger doing the same thing then what, what care does he give about me,” 

But when you see the graphic dash cam footage of the brief stop, and hear the complete lack of discussion about any odors, its shocking the man would argue that afterwards, let alone be justified to kill. Nor was there anything done to determine if Castile was the suspect in another crime. (A different excuse Yanez offered for the shooting.)

We have a pattern (with or without pot) of trained officers being allowed to perpetually assume the worst case scenario as they blunder into lethal force, with civilians expected to anticipate exactly the cop’s feared reactions, and, obviously, not be allowed to carry weapons.

People are rightfully outraged because Castile’s race and legal gun possession contributed to his being shot. I am too, but I’m also furious that Castile’s “high crimes” of a scent and traces of pot that were the driver’s, not his, makes homicide excusable. Yanez’s story sounds like crocodile tears as he rationalizes the killing. I’m less stunned that Yanez did that, so much as I am that investigators, prosecutors, and a jury, decided that a $200 misdemeanor under Minnesota law authorizes lethal force.

Yanez is the updated “Sheriff Buzzkill” (emphasis on kill).  Suspecting Castile was a criminal because of his race, the smell of pot was all that was needed to identify him as a dangerous menace, and the presence of a gun justified his immediate, jittery discharge of seven rounds into a car with a woman and child.

Pot, when added to race or firearms, provides the new “Sheriff Audacious Rationalization” — where it’s not about the presence of marijuana per se, as much as the “totality of the circumstances.”   This leans away from the “moral imperative” of past buzzkills and stops being a tool used to identify hardened criminals. Neither moral, nor practical, enforcement of pot prohibition is at the complete discretion of the officer involved.

The 2.0 version of “Officer I’m still cool” also comes from Minnesota, by way of the Wyoming, MN, police department’s twitter account. Posted last April 20th, cops shared a photo of a uniformed cop waiting with a net lurking by some junk food and video games. “Undercover #420 operations are in place. Discreet traps have been set up throughout the city today. #Happy420” the tweet read. It was widely liked and shared.

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And stoners, including yours truly, had a momentary laugh as we remembered that cops like these cover up for their trigger happy buddies. The meme got large support, despite how messed up it was. The department would later tweet “All jokes aside, substance abuse is a real issue. We use tongue in cheek humor to bring attention to those issues.”

No, you employ the audacious rationalization used to defend killing people when called out by the public for discriminatory and failed laws. And that’s the new “Officer 420lolz.” They do nothing to different than “I’m still cool” except from using pot cliches to prove they’re not part of a policy enriching criminals and endanger the public. And feigning a concern for addiction when called on it Sure, “420lolz” wouldn’t mind catching some kingpins, but community relations points scored from pothead memes are enough.

No, not every cop you meet is a “Sheriff Audacious Rationalization” or “Officer 420lolz.” There are current and former police committed to ending prohibition, namely the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) which has lobbied for years against discriminatory policies that get innocent people killed. But sadly, these officers are a minority in most every agency in which they serve.

I don’t know if updated generalizations about police and pot make them easier to deal with in a benign encounter. The training and tradition of cops treatment of cannabis consumers won’t be undone overnight. Nor will their knee-jerk reactions to race. Cops should be taken seriously only so far as their judgements/policies merit it. Neither officers or the public are served by coddling outdated policies.

So long as the law enforcement community treat simple cannabis use as either an imminent threat or total joke they should expect the public to treat their opinions on pot laws similarly.

Legalization In Vermont, 6 questions For MPP’s Matt Simon

by Bailey Hirschburg 

Vermont is poised to become the first state to legalize cannabis through its legislature, rather than the ballot box. House Bill 170 narrowly passed the house early last month, the bill would all legalize possession of up to an ounce of cannabis and growing up six plants (2 mature, 4 immature) by people 21 and older.

Matt Simon is the New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and on the staff of the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana (VCRM). The coalition represents individuals and organizations around the state favoring reform.

I met Mr. Simon in 2007, while he was the executive director for the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy. Since working with MPP, he’s made progress in both states. He was significantly involved in the successful 2013 campaign for Vermont’s decriminalization law and that same year led the efforts to allow medical marijuana in New Hampshire.

Last month, Republican Governor Phil Scott vetoed HB 170, and sent recommendations back to the legislature. I talked with Simon about what comes next.

Bailey Hirschburg: You’ve had some experience helping Vermont to decriminalize marijuana in 2013, and lobbying for reform in neighboring New Hampshire. How did those efforts impact your group’s ability to make progress on legalization this year?

Matt Simon: MPP has been involved in Vermont since roughly 2002. We campaigned for the medical marijuana law, which passed in 2004, and then for the bill that added dispensaries in 2007. We pushed for the decriminalization bill that passed in 2013, and this year we were pleased to see the legislature finally include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying medical condition. The reforms we championed have worked well and haven’t led to the problems that critics warned about, which is why I think most legislators now take us very seriously. At this point, the only complaints he hear about Vermont’s marijuana policy reforms are that they haven’t yet gone far enough.

[Following this interview, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed Senate Bill 16 into law. As well as PTSD, the bill adds Parkinson’s and Crohn’s disease, allows expanded dispensary locations, personal cultivation rights for patients, among other changes.]

BH: States that have legalized marijuana so far have done it at the ballot box. What were the main differences in how you lobby a legislature versus the general public?

MS: It’s completely different. By nature it’s a slow and deliberate process. One reason is that lawmakers hear from a loud minority of the public who are eager to call or complain, while supporters of reform are sometimes reluctant to speak their minds. Another reason is that elected officials tend to be an older demographic than the general voting public, and many have close relationships with law enforcement leaders and other opponents of reform. We know that legalization enjoys majority support from the public, but getting a majority of legislators on board with a specific bill is a very different and much more difficult task.

BH: On cannabis, your biggest allies or opponents are often well known. How did you identify and influence politicians on the fence about legalized pot? 

MS: Our success this year hinged on being able to get a bill through the House Judiciary Committee, which had rejected legalization in the previous year. We had more success in that committee framing the issue as bi-partisan criminal justice reform than as a commercial opportunity. But we still had members to convince, and we were able to do so by organizing effective testimony and working to address each legislator’s concerns. Some legislators who voted in favor still had concerns, but they understood that prohibition is a failed policy, and many felt a sense of inevitability, knowing that marijuana has already been legalized in Massachusetts and Maine.

[Massachusetts and Maine legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, and Connecticut is discussing legalization in its legislature.]

BH: Governor Scott’s veto of this came with specific recommendations for penalties to using cannabis while driving, around children, and giving Vermont longer to study a taxation and regulation. How likely is the legislature to address those concerns during the veto session?

MS: Well, none of it is a deal breaker. Will the legislature be able to agree on policy changes in advance of the June 21st veto session? I think so. The bigger question is whether, procedurally, it will be possible to pass a new bill through both chambers of the legislature during a veto session that is only supposed to last two days. If that turns out to not be possible, the bill could pass in a special session later this year (if one is called) or when the legislature reconvenes in January.

BH: If they do, do you trust Gov. Scott will keep his word and sign it into law?

MS: I think [the legislature] will make the changes Scott wants, and I think he will sign the bill when it comes to his desk. He has a chance to be a hero to a lot of people by signing it.

BH: Has there been any involvement or response from the U.S. Justice Department?

MS: (Chuckling) No. If they can’t stop Washington D.C. from allowing marijuana possession and cultivation, what are they gonna do in Vermont?

OmniCannabis II: The amending

by Bailey Hirschburg

This is a follow up to an earlier story reported by MJNewsNetwork: OMNICANNABIS: The WA State Senate Made Behemoth Pot Legislation, And It May Be Too Big To Fail

In the end, my observation in the first omnicannabis article was omniscient, “in rushing to remove the band-aid from this wound, Washington Senators sacrificed transparency and quality for quantity and speed. ” And this is just what happened.

Don’t get me wrong, SB 5131, the omnicannabis bill currently awaiting the signature of Governor Jay Inslee, has some good, bad, and ugly in it. If he doesn’t sign or veto it by May 16th it becomes law.

Gov. Jay Inslee can also veto specific sections, but there’s been no word on what, if any, parts he opposes. In a bill containing consulting contracts & financial disclosures, seed/clone sales to patients by producers, tribal and port notification, Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) staff immunity, an organic-equivalent certification for products, gifting/sharing of cannabis, hemp and recreational regulations, required personal cultivation study, and advertising restrictions, there is a lot Inslee could put on the chopping block. But the bill is too big to fail; a veto will create more problems for the already extended legislative session.

With dramatic amendments on the floor of the state house banning marijuana retailer billboards in 2018, expanding a grace period for inactive licenses, and adding language for licensing and rules for industrial hemp use in marijuana products or for consumption, 5131 was more divisive than its unanimous adoption in the state senate. The billboard amendment, sponsored by Rep. Joyce McDonald, passed narrowly. The senate then decided to take the bill to a conference committee where three senators and three representatives created a final compromise amendment for their chambers to vote on.

The compromise removed McDonald’s billboard ban amendment, and added a report on personal cannabis cultivation by the LCB to the legislature by the end of the year, focusing on the policies compliance with the federal Cole memo on marijuana legalization.

Back to my, “sacrificed transparency and quality for quantity and speed” comment. Between house amendments and the conference committee, a loophole emerged in cannabis seed/clone sale language. One sentence saying patients registered in the state database could buy both seeds/clones, and the following sentence saying qualifying (but unregistered) patients could buy seeds.

Cannabis patient/VIPER PAC lobbyist John Novak brought the discrepancy to Sen. Ann Rivers’ staffs attention, who promptly submitted a bill in the special session, SB 5933, making sure authorized patients cannot buy seeds. The bill says it’s “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions,” how this topic meets any definition of that is unclear.

LCB staffer James Paribello testified that the board could likely set rules with or without 5933’s passage. Does this mean banning unregistered patients buying seeds through a rules process, or adapting those rules to allow both registered and unregister to buy seeds?

In my first article I pointed to River’s description of 5131 being like the senate removing a band aide all at once. SB 5933 is essentially picking at the scab. I told the Senate Healthcare committee (and Sen. Rivers) just that during 5933’s public hearing, urging them not to pass this restrictive effort to coerce participation in a database patients aren’t interested in, and empower black market for seed sale.

The committee moved promptly on 5933 from public hearing to executive session (usually they’re separate to collect further testimony or address questions) and voted to pass it, but not without a strong dissent from Senate Majority Whip Maureen Walsh, who openly questioned the necessity of the bill. Walsh, and Sen. Steve O’Ban voted against it, with Sen. Barbara Bailey voting without recommendation, a type of abstention.

Whatever Gov. Inslee’s decision, SB 5131 represents a turning point in Washington marijuana laws. It has a broad scope, compromises from most players, and defies a simple characterization as being a good or bad bill. Its just like any other issues in that way. But aside from 5131’s components, it’s size is a cautionary tale for those who hope to make good laws on the fly or en masse.

They say laws are like sausages because the public doesn’t want to watch them made. That may be, but also like sausages, bite off too much and you’ll likely to choke.

You can read the bill as delivered to Gov. Inslee here:

Trump, Lamestream Media & Cannabis

Donald Trump really hasn’t said much about marijuana as president-elect/president. His administration meanders from strong to modest opposition, depending on who’s talking. This is because cable news is in a nebulous area where media personalities, the president’s staff, channel advertisers, and occasionally everyday people brief Trump from the comfort of his TV. Cannabis, like everything else, is hostage to the news cycle.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer first said the administration was looking at “greater enforcement.” Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and top Justice Dept. advisor, Steven Cook, have a dim view of all criminal justice reforms from the Obama years. They’ve had recent harsh words for legal pot, yet Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently described a meeting with Sessions where the AG stressed the administration’s other priorities over enforcement against legal pot.  “Well you haven’t seen us cracking down, have you?” Sessions reportedly told the governor.

Still, a Justice Dept. review of the non-legally-binding Cole memo, which outlined expectations of state legalization in 2013, is said to be underway. Trump’s early executive order on crime was mostly a call to review and enforce laws against drug trafficking and criminal organizations, with no new authority or money to fight pot.

As a candidate Trump said he was 100% supportive of medical cannabis, as president that support has shown itself to barely be barely 50% in maintaining a status quo with HHS Secretary Tom Price, formerly a not-totally-anti-medical-cannabis congressman from Georgia and the continuation of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer budget amendment which blocks DEA spending on state-compliant medical cannabis laws until September. And Trump’s Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agency has expanded Form 4473 for gun sales to make clear that no legal marijuana consumers, medical or otherwise, has 2nd amendment rights.

Then, Trump’s White House proposed to gut the ONDCP, or drug czar’s office, budget by over 90% while establishing an special commission to examine the opioid epidemic headed by New Jersey’s “smoke ‘em while you got ‘em” Gov. Chris Christie, perhaps the most specifically anti-pot member of the Trump team, yet also the farthest from controlling that federal weed policy. What does all of this mean?

President Trump listens to these men, and others, on marijuana policy. However, their views on weed played little role in their ascendence in his government as opposed to their outright loyalty and deference to Trump himself. He doesn’t keep them around because he agrees with their extremist views on pot. But he listens to one advisor above all else: Cable news. As much as he may say he hates it, mainstream media is the central issue brief for America’s president, academics and political research filling in the rest (probably). Evidence abounds…

“As president, Trump has quite patently gathered his cues from cable shows, and the evidence surfaces in his Twitter account. Analysts have taken to tracing the substance of his tweets to programming moments on CNN or Fox News.”

“Some White House officials — who early on would appear on TV to emphasize points to their boss, who was likely to be watching just steps away in his residence — have started tuning into Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” because they know the president habitually clicks it on after waking near dawn.” – Erik Wemple/Ashley Parker The Washington Post

“White House staff have learned to cater to the president’s image obsession by presenting decisions in terms of how they’ll play in the press.” -Josh Dawsey, Politico

“MSNBC and Fox News are cashing in on Trump’s viewing habits, reportedly hiking up ad rates in February “as companies and outside groups try to influence Trump and his top lieutenants” through ads on his favorite networks.” -Elaine Godfrey, The Atlantic

Trump wants all his weed policies to be broadly popular and perceived as the strongest and best. That’s not news. What is news is that press briefings, media surrogates, and high ranking government officials used to be reliable attempts to describe an administration’s decided drug policy. Now, they’re active arguments to the president regarding an undecided one.

Used to be, federal pot statements were carefully orchestrated and approved soundbytes. Now, they’re often jockeying for future validation for putting on a popular show. It’s depressing, but cannabis is no third rail in getting this treatment, healthcare, taxes, immigration, civil rights, foreign affairs and been treated similarly.

So media around cannabis laws is more crucial than ever both for influencing the commander-n-chief, feeling out his staff’s arguments, and judging individual players overall influence. This ranges from dramatic reports of arrests and injury, to human interest pieces on patients in need or entrepreneurial green businesses. Cannabis law reformers talking to the press better behave, the president might be watching. For the public, this results in a type of “read between the lines” comprehension of news that reformers have long engaged in when judging media veracity, but is becoming a mainstream lenses for the public.

In last month’s budget debate, the White House did little to stop the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment protecting state medical marijuana programs, with Trump later asserting his ability to enforce constitutional duties even with that amendment on the books in the law’s signing statement. Some news outlets immediately interpreted this as a warning shot to medical patients. In all likelihood, the president wants flexibility and firmness simultaneously, and his discretion on this and many other parts of the budget strongly keep his options and opinions amorphous. Its disappointing because he had the opportunity to lead a conversation on individual rights, safety, and economic instead of perpetually reacting to it.

A lot of people know not to trust everything they hear on TV, and as an internet commentator, I’m not saying otherwise. But, knowing what and how pot is being talking about on MSNBC, CNN, and Fox is not a sign of being duped by “lamestream news” so much as trying to understand pot’s portrayal to the president at any given moment. During the campaign, Trump promised to keep the country in suspense on whether or not he’d accept election results. On cannabis at least, that promise has been kept.

If President Trump was going to war with legal pot, he won’t hesitate to tweet it. You don’t have to like every CNN commentator or Fox & Friends to contact them and share your support for legal weed. Until then, follow cannabis in the news without obsessing over it. Our president has that covered.

 

OMNICANNABIS: The WA State Senate Made Behemoth Pot Legislation, And It May Be Too Big To Fail

by Bailey Hirschburg

WASHINGTON: In lawmaking jargon, omnibus legislation is a single bill that has lots of topics or issues with a loose theme. Anything can be, but until recently marijuana was usually part of a omnibus drug/crime bills, not the centerpiece. The common attitude at the Capital in Olympia is that bills shouldn’t be so large that individual changes avoid debate or examination. Omnibus is a great way to sneak in changes or spending that might not withstand public scrutiny.

And so we have Engrossed Second Substitute Bill 5131, (ESSB 5131 for short, and the bill begs for shortness.) what House Majority Whip Jessyn Farrell’s called the state Senate’s “one stop shop” for marijuana legislation.

5131 started as an 11 page senate bill. It amended four sections of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and created a new one. This revised some notifications, changed some jurisdictional requirements for court cases, and most controversially, removed the merit-based part of the application for marijuana licensees that was intended to prioritize experienced and professional staff from former medical dispensaries into the combined medical/recreational marijuana system. The application process faced lawsuits and complaints that the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) had unfair expectations and was the wrong agency to secure adequate patient access.

ESSB 5131 is now a 32 page bill amending 10 sections of the RCW, adds new sections to three other chapters, reenacts and amends two chapters, and creates multiple new sections. This covered everything in the original bill, as well as immunity for LCB staff enforcing the state’s controlled substances act, limits on marijuana advertising, seed sales to patients directly from licensed producers, hemp research, allowing marijuana consulting and branding contracts, and even more. During last week’s public hearing in the House Commerce & Gaming committee, 5131’s original sponsor, Sen. Ann Rivers inspired confidence by saying “the reality is it’s always good for me to listen to what’s in this bill because it has grown, and grown, and grown,”

5131 grew by taking parts from other bills that hadn’t been introduced or acted on in the Senate. It passed the Senate unanimously because, as Rivers described says, it was a “one vote wonder” that allowed every senator to hold their nose and vote for some part of it. “Rip the band-aid off and let the wound air out.” she explained. A graphic and telling metaphor for the Senate’s views on weed almost four and a half years after voters legalized it. “I wish there were a better way for me to say it but that’s just the most appropriate way I could think of.”

As an interested lobbyist on this issue, I wish there was a better way of imagining the citizens, patients, businesses, and communities impacted by legal marijuana than a scab. When I asked a Commerce & Gaming committee member if senators crammed everything into 5131 to avoid being on record on its individual components, he suggested that because every bill needs to be discussed in caucuses, the republican majority caucus in the senate simply didn’t want to thoroughly discuss each issue.

But most disappointing is after four years, our senators will gladly take sin-tax money from legal pot while still looking down on those paying up. Marijuana consumers will pay for 1.76% of Washington’s budget from 2017-2019 while struggling to get 1% of their senator’s consideration. It’s an immature attitude from what should be a high-minded institution.

The truth is there is good and bad in ESSB 5131. I testified on behalf of WA NORML PAC as “other” urging them to change language relating to seed/clone access for authorized patients, billboard advertising, and what information is exempted from public disclosure. A subsequent striker amendment (one which largely removes language from a bill) increased seed/clone access to patients, maintained billboard use for directions, and removes problematic language that would have removed financial considerations from being publicly disclosed. These changes will have to be passed by the house and voted on again by the senate. 

In the end, I’m left feeling much like our nose-holding senate, there’s enough that I like in ESSB 5131 to make it worth passing. But in rushing to remove the band-aid from this wound, Washington Senators sacrificed transparency and quality for quantity and speed. This one vote wonder has grown, but is it too big to fail?

Read over the bill, watch the hearings, and contact lawmakers with your reactions to ESSB 5131 by going here: http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5131&Year=2017

 

Recognizing 21 Years Of Responsible Cannabis Use

By Bailey Hirschburg

WASHINGTON: Sometimes, the big anniversaries sneak up, or pass you by without you noticing it. It was March before I noticed NORML’s groundbreaking Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use turned 21 I’m February. If these principles were a person, they’d be able to buy cannabis in Alaska, Oregon, Colorado, or Washington.

Like gravity, responsible cannabis use existed before it was defined, but it got easier to see and explain once it was. A popular tactic for deflecting from legalization is opposing adult use because of the problems of underage use.

“Most of you probably know I don’t think America is going to be a better place when more people of all ages and particularly young people start smoking pot,” This recent claim by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ is a typical example of deflection. Adults can’t be trusted with weed because a child couldn’t handle it. If true, firearms, cars, and a stiff drink would quickly come next as too risky to legalize. Which is why after over a decade studying and articulating the need for cannabis legalization I haven’t met anyone advocating for legal youth access. In fact, the Justice Dept’s Cole memo, outlining federal expectations for legal state marijuana regulations includes some version of several principles.

I represent cannabis consumers in Olympia as Legislative Associate for Washington NORML PAC in part by applying these principles to the development and enforcement of public policies around pot. This traditional vision of cannabis os made of five principles.

I. Adults Only

Cannabis consumption is for adults only. It is irresponsible to provide cannabis to children.

Most American states that have legalized have set the age at 21, similar to alcohol. In the Netherlands the age is 18. Canada is also exploring age 18, similar to tobacco, voting, or military service. While the ideal age of adulthood has flexibility based on the individual, maturity needs to be established before recreational cannabis consumption is acceptable. 

II. No Driving

The responsible cannabis consumer does not operate a motor vehicle or other dangerous machinery while impaired by cannabis, nor (like other responsible citizens) while impaired by any other substance or condition, including some medicines and fatigue.

Cannabis use can lead to inebriation impacting motor skills, timing, and judgement. Combined with other drugs these effects are even stronger. Avoiding operating machinery whenever you’re impaired by drugs or fatigue is a key principle of responsible use. It’s also important to remember that cannabis impacts infrequent user longer. As a regular consumer, I’m typically over inebriation within an hour of smoking. Edibles or infused beverages last longer, so I wouldn’t drive for the remainder of the day after eating them. However, an infrequent consumer may find the high persists so they should wait several more hours before driving.

III. Set and Setting

The responsible cannabis user will carefully consider his/her set and setting, regulating use accordingly.

When cannabis is illegal everywhere, it can seem like splitting hairs to worry about set. the people with or around you, or the setting, which is the type of location. Smoking with a friend on their balcony is different than smoking during a county fair. Subjecting others to your smoke or vape without permission or consideration helps portray consumers as rude and irresponsible. It doesn’t take many lapses in judgement to make a bad impression for all consumers. This is just as true with tobacco smoke, or public intoxication which can be civil offenses without criminalizing cigarettes or beer.

IV. Resist Abuse

Use of cannabis, to the extent that it impairs health, personal development or achievement, is abuse, to be resisted by responsible cannabis users.

Recently actor Woody Harrelson, a member of NORML’s national advisory board discussed giving up cannabis after 30 years of regular use. Harrelson enjoyed awards and accolades throughout that time for his work as a performer, activist, and playwright, “[It was] 30 solid years of partying too f—ing hard,” he said. “I feel like it was keeping me from being emotionally available.” When discussing the dangers of cannabis, I describe it as “Not harmless, just less harmful.” and Harrelson’s attitude bears that out. His decades of experience with weed haven’t hindered Woody’s career, and the choice to forgo it for the immediate future is just another example of consumers recognizing and avoiding the patterns of abuse.

V. Respect Rights of Others

The responsible cannabis user does not violate the rights of others, observes accepted standards of courtesy and public propriety, and respects the preferences of those who wish to avoid cannabis entirely.

The rights of cannabis consumers have not always been respected. One could possibly develop an air of entitlement believing “You used to ignored my rights, now I can ignore yours.” But reasonable adults know this is false. Retribution is not responsible. Much like “Set and Setting”, prohibition has taught us what happens when rights aren’t respected. While our laws about public consumption need to be changed to allow for acceptable social use, but having and enforcing those laws is consistent with a responsible marijuana legalization.

By treating all use as illegal we leave less attention/resources for combating use that’s actually dangerous. Attorney General Sessions needs to understand how legal marijuana is implemented before he lumps responsible use in with youth use, abuse, and risky behavior.