Excitement in Santa Monica

If one word could possibly describe what happened at the State of Marijuana Conference last weekend in Santa Monica, it would be excitement. Meeting old friends, meeting persons who up to that point were only names in the news, meeting people new to the movement: it was exhilarating, to say the least.

There was a sense of gathering at an historic moment with Assemblymembers Wood, Cooley and Smith, some of the authors of the recently passed legislation. Yet at the same time there was an uncertain expectancy because the Governor has, at this writing, still not signed the bills. We couldn’t quite pat ourselves on the back for the things we got, nor really complain about some obvious short comings of the new laws.

After their presentation, I managed to get in a word or two with the Assemblymembers. It was very good to encounter these men face to face and see their personalities. One of the things they emphasized was that as freshmen Assemblymen they were able to work together and mobilize their staffs to put in the hard work. It is clear that they listened to input from numerous stakeholders. While noting the difficulty of writing defining legislation for and entire industry all at once, I remarked that there were nonetheless parts of the bill that need modification to protect the small farmer.

Assemblymember Wood seemed to be most passionate about protecting the waterways, and seemed to think cannabis growers are a major threat. I am sure that Cal Fish and Game have shown him the worst offenders. In the question period, I reminded everyone that without the growers you don’t have anything and that they need to be protected. I stated that I am a grower, am certified Clean Green and use spring water. I pointed out that many growers are doing it the right way and that the Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council (of which I am founding member) advocated environmentally responsible farming practices. I asked the lawmakers if cannabis farmers would in the future be able to form agricultural co-ops and make a profit, to which they nodded.

Speaking with Assemblymember Smith, referring to his concern with recidivism in his South LA primarily African- American constituency, I said that the restriction in the legislation seemed like double jeopardy. He said that was an interesting way to look at it.

Tony Oliviera gave a talk on the dangers of excessive taxation, which could harm the small farmer by cutting into an already narrow profit margin. He pointed out that other farmers do not pay tax on their harvested crops, but rather pay land tax since the value of the land is based on its agricultural use and its water allotment. I raised my hand to point out that we are calling it medicine, it is medicine and medicine can’t be taxed. Mr. Oliviera’s point was that county governments shouldn’t consider this an opportunity to impose a punitive tax on cannabis in order to make up for shortfalls in the local budget.

The panel I was part of discussed various aspects of growing for beginners well as advanced farmers, focussing on harvesting and drying techniques, building living soil, the merits of Sungrown over indoor. Several SoCal growers said that so little NorCal cannabis is available in LA that they have to grow indoors to supply the market. My response was that if they can reduce their carbon footprint by installing solar panels it would help the environment.

What stood out on the whole was both the excitement and the diversity of the attendees. It was a cross section of California:, Women, Men, Asians, Latinos, African Americans, Caucasians, Young, Old and In Between, Nor-Cal, So-Cal, Doctors, Lawyers, Business People, Legislators, Indoor Growers, Sun Growers, Marketing Experts, Branding Consultants, (who did I leave out?). Just to look at how everyone was dressed and comported themselves, one would never have known that the subject matter was cannabis in all its myriad aspects.

That in itself marks how far we have progressed in How Many Years (?). Nineteen years since Medical Marijuana was authorized in 1996. Seventy years since Cannabis was demonized and its users persecuted. As little as 3 years ago when growers in Mendocino and Humboldt would not speak a word about pot in public, even between grower friends in the local health food store. Now, we have meetings at the local Grange for Medical Marijuana growers and meetings of political action groups organizing to make our concerns known to county and state government. But this is just the beginning.

We need to keep talking and raising consciousness about cannabis as an integral part of social gatherings as well as a fully accepted and utilized medicine. We need to keep meeting with those outside of the cannabis community to demonstrate our pride in what we do and our love for this magical plant. Hopefully, the Honorable Assemblymember Jim Wood, who represents the Emerald Triangle and Sonoma County, will soon stand up and say that he is proud to represent the cannabis farmers of the world’s best cannabis producing region, rather than mumble a throw away line that there are a few pot growers in his district.

All and all a very stimulating conference. Kudos and thank-yous to Susan Soares, who put the whole day’s events together, and to all the staff and volunteers who made it such a success.

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