Re-Legalize it? Herer’s Legacy Lives on in Hemp Initiative

Jack Herer was likely the figure most responsible for the revolution in cannabis consciousness in the 1990s — especially where the industrial applications of hemp are concerned.

His 1985 book “The Emperor Wears No Clothes,” an encyclopedic take-down of cannabis prohibition, to be expanded over several editions with more documentation of the plant’s multifarious uses, was the proverbial bible for a generation of hemp crusaders.

Now, a decade after his passing, his surviving friends, family and comrades are fighting to get his legacy enshrined in California law though an updated version of a ballot initiative that he authored over a generation ago. 

A Post-Prop 64 Vision

A new plan for changing the scope of legal marijuana in the Golden State is California Cannabis Hemp Initiative (CCHI). Dan Herer  —  Jack’s son, who founded the Jack Herer Foundation to carry on his father’s work —  says that with some “minor changes,” the initiative is the same one that the “Emperor of Hemp” first crafted in 1990.

The initiative failed to win enough signatures that year, and several election years since then. But Dan thinks that widespread disillusionment with how things have unfolded since California’s 2016 legalization initiative, Proposition 64, could mean that the CCHI’s hour has arrived. 

“We’re collecting signatures for a new initiative that we hope will put Prop 64 out of business,” Dan Herer tells Cannabis Now. “The way Prop 64 was written, there was a lot of room for serious f*ckery to go on, and over the past four years a lot of our worst fears have been realized. Things have gone woefully awry for those who hoped for a cannabis economy that lifted communities rather than suppressed them.” 

The CCHI is crafted to support small businesses and encourage hemp production by keeping taxes and licensing fees manageable, and lifting restrictions on cultivation.  

Dan has little patience with the limitations in Prop 64 and its enabling legislation.

“The narratives used in the name cannabis control are same lies and falsehoods that created prohibition and all the pushback over the past 80 years about what cannabis is and what it can do,” he says. “We are being inhibited at every step.” 

Lifting the Tax Burden

Dan is scathing in his indictment of California’s status quo.

“If you grow cannabis in Santa Cruz and sell it in San Jose, there are taxes in both jurisdictions of up to 15% of gross,” he protests. “By the time you’re paying all your taxes, there’s no room for expansion, for lobbying — for educating the community about the truth about cannabis, and countering the lies that are created to control cannabis.” 

The text of the CCHI stipulates that only a point-of-sale excise tax can be imposed on “euphoric” (psychoactive) cannabis products, with the total not to exceed 10%. The state and localities can divvy up the 10% as they wish, but that’s the cap. And at least 50% of the revenues would go toward research, development and promotion of an industrial hemp industry in California.

Current taxes based on gross sale from producers to retailers are to be eliminated. “Now, the tax liability can be up to 80% and it is taxed on gross rather than earnings, and regardless of cost to produce goods,” Dan said of the current system. “The profit margin can be as low as four percent.” 

In a very critical issue for “compassionate care” in California, taxes would be eliminated for medicinal use under the CCHI.

The CCHI would loosen things up quite considerably in other ways too. It would raise the state limit on the number of plants that can be grown for personal “euphoric” use from the current six to a very impressive 99. 

Licensing fees for commercial cultivators are to be capped at $1,000, as opposed to up to $30,000 now. Localities would only be able to impose an ordinary business license. The text also allows temporary licenses for special events. 

These regulations mostly follow the model already in place for wine and beer. And the CCHI, unlike Prop 64, would actually de-schedule cannabis under state law, removing it from the California Uniform Controlled Substances Act.

Limits on quantity for commercial cultivation would also be lifted. This may, for some, raise fears about corporate cannabis exploiting economies of scale. But Buddy Duzy, CCHI initiative coordinator, thinks the market will ultimately favor small growers.

Under CCHI, he says, “big corporations and craft farmers don’t get treated differently. We expect craft farmers to be basically controlling it, because people don’t like to smoke the same thing all the time — they like to switch brands. And most pot smokers don’t like to support big corporations either.” 

The Arc of Hemp History

The CCHI has never made it onto the ballot before, despite tries in 2008, 2012 and 2016, most recently. But Duzy echoes Dan’s optimism. “We’re hoping its gonna pass this time, because Prop 64 made such a mess out of the pot industry in California that people are screaming for change.” 

To get the CCHI on the November ballot, the campaign must line up 625,000 validated signatures by April 20 (which, fortuitously enough, happens to be 420). This may seem a daunting prospect, but Duzy is confident that with enough money to hire signature-collectors, it can be done. The campaign, based in the Los Angeles area, is currently raising money to launch this effort.

“We’re talking to big growers in the Emerald Triangle, and trying to get the environmentalists on board,” says Duzy. “We’re around half way to what we need.”

Duzy has been at this a long time himself. He was involved in California’s first cannabis legalization initiative, the California Marijuana Initiative or Prop 19, which made it on to the ballot way back in 1972. It got about a third of the vote, which was impressive for a first try. The CMI’s second try in 1980 failed to make it onto the ballot due to disqualified signatures. This was an early case in the ongoing controversies over what constitutes a valid signature under California electoral law. The courts have ordered the authorities to loosen their formerly rigid standards since then.

Dan has been something of a torch-bearer since his father Jack’s passing in 2010. He’s been speaking around the country and the world, spreading the gospel of the cannabis plant for medicine, food, fuel and fiber (as well as euphoria). He’s also been marketing the Original Jack Herer line of cannabis products. 

“If my father’s name is gonna be used in connection with cannabis, it should be controlled by his family and people committed to the values he lived and died for,” Dan says of the legacy he is carrying on.  

“He believed cannabis should be taxed like a tomato, like the plant that it is — not as a sin. It is safer than alcohol, safer than tobacco, safer than peanuts. And when you use the plant to its full potential, you are uplifting communities.”

TELL US, would you like to see changes for California’s Prop 64?

The post Re-Legalize it? Herer’s Legacy Lives on in Hemp Initiative appeared first on Cannabis Now.

L.A. County Voids 66,000 Marijuana Convictions

Everybody’s favorite ballot initiative, Prop. 64 legalized cannabis for adults 21 and over in California. In Donald Trump-era years, this happened a very long time ago: Weed became legal one weird night in November 2016, the very same evening our 45th president was elected.

And yet, in many ways, we’re still waiting for legalization to kick in.

In the years since, in some analyses, very little has gone right. The illegal market is eight times larger than the legal market. The small farmers who built the cannabis industry are shut out or outlaws. And instead of $5 eighths or whatever the brilliant economists looking at advanced models promised us, legal cannabis is outrageously expensive — so expensive that, in some cities, sales are shrinking. And in many other cities, cannabis retail sales are still illegal — same as it ever was.

Okay, so the weed market is jacked up, and people still hate weed. But this wasn’t just about dollars, or getting everyone stoned, or even conquering decades of propaganda and bad press. What about social justice? What about “righting the wrongs of the Drug War,” as the slick legalization campaign’s tagline (sometimes) promised (when it wasn’t castigating weed as bad and promising nobody would get any, anyway)?

Yes, about that! There are perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in California with cannabis convictions — people with criminal records for what is now legal conduct — who are still waiting for that promise to become fulfilled, despite a deadline of this summer for prosecutors to make it so. So far, by one analysis, only three percent of the Californians who have an estimated 200,000 cannabis convictions on their records have had their records cleared.

What’s taking so long? Well, for one, the people in charge don’t have elections to win. That may be the cynical analysis of L.A. District Attorney Jackie Lacey’s announcement Thursday that her office is asking a judge to throw out 62,000 felony convictions and another 3,700 misdemeanor cases in a single motion. In all, about 53,000 people will have their records cleared, as NPR reported.

Calling it the single “largest effort in California to wipe out old criminal convictions in a single court motion,” Lacey’s deliverance is powered by Code for America, a civic-minded computing-power nonprofit, which used algorithms to identify almost 66,000 pot busts from dusty Los Angeles County case files dating as far back as 1961.

“The dismissal of tens of thousands of old cannabis-related convictions in Los Angeles county will bring much-needed relief to communities of color that disproportionately suffered the unjust consequences of our nation’s drug laws,” Lacey said in a statement released Feb. 13.

Lacey first welcomed Code for America’s criminal-conviction-clearing effort, called Clear my Record, to L.A. a year and a half ago. The computer program both identifies eligible cases, and then automatically fills out the necessary paperwork to file with a judge — a sort of AI-powered attorney that’s now bearing fruit. But there are two things to keep in mind here.

One is that while Prop. 64 said that legalization would mean cannabis “offenders” could get their records cleared, it also said that all the lifting would be up to the offenders — for them to hire lawyers to file paperwork and attend hearings. This is not something someone whose life’s been upended by a petty drug bust always has the resources to do, as is evidenced by Code for America’s finding that 97% of pot busts Prop. 64 was supposed to clear are still there, and still hindering job and housing opportunities.

The other is that other cities have recognized, years ago, that reliance on “offenders” to clear their own names is a lame half-step, and that the lifting should be done by the very agencies that made the arrests and keep the records. (Government, in other words, should work for the people.)

That was the approach first unveiled in San Francisco a few years back by George Gascon, the former SF chief of police turned then district attorney, the first “top cop” to welcome Code for America geeks into his office to void cannabis convictions — and who, as fate and fortune has it, is currently challenging Lacey for her job.

Both Gascon and Lacey as well as the third challenger for the office, Rachel Rossi, a former public defender, all style themselves as reformers rather than tough-nosed “lock-em-up” prosecutors. In a profile on the race published earlier this month in the Los Angeles Daily News, Lacey said that voiding cannabis convictions would be a thing she’d soon do — and lo, her words rang true with her announcement last week.

That’s great, but what took Lacey so long? Jackie Lacey, the first African-American woman to hold the post, has been DA of Los Angeles County since December 2012. And it wasn’t until she encountered a difficult re-election campaign, with a challenger with perhaps better cannabis-reform bona fides than hers, that she filed the motion to reform her office’s marijuana-related criminal records.

As the Guardian reported, elected DAs in California had until this summer to choose whether to clear the records or fight in court to uphold them. It was highly unlikely that anyone would choose the latter path in Los Angeles, but as Code for America’s sobering statistic reveals, there are still plenty more old pot busts waiting for the right moment to go away forever. And that’s not cool.

TELL US, do you think all cannabis-related charges should be dismissed in “legal” states?

The post L.A. County Voids 66,000 Marijuana Convictions appeared first on Cannabis Now.

5 Busted Myths of Today’s California Cannabis Consumer

For
decades, growers from Northern California’s Emerald Triangle — the area encompassing Mendocino,
Humboldt and Trinity counties — have been the epicenter of America’s cannabis
scene.

The Golden State had the first legal medical marijuana market with the passing of Prop 215 in 1996. Proposition 64, the Adult Use Act, legalized growing, selling and using cannabis recreationally in November 2016.

Thousands of cannabis businesses have emerged since, all trying to establish themselves in an already saturated and highly regulated market. The industry has seen unparalleled innovation and investment across categories like product development and technology, causing a so-called “Green Rush.” It has been predicted that by 2024, the California cannabis market will comprise 25% of the entire market for cannabis in the U.S.

However,
due to the immaturity of the market, little data is available to help support
the industry. In order to help shape product development and strategic
decision-making, companies need to ask fundamental questions, like who buys the
product and what do they use it for?

To
help fill these knowledge gaps, NorCal Cannabis Company undertook a first-of-its-kind
study of California’s cannabis consumers. Using an online panel, the survey
questioned 1529 people and represents of all California cannabis consumers 21
years and older.

The result is Five Myths of Today’s California Cannabis Consumer.

Jeffrey
Graham is the VP of Business Intelligence at NorCal Cannabis Company. He helps
the company make smarter business decisions using data. According to Graham,
they decided to carry out this research because “there were many fundamental
questions about the California cannabis consumer that were unanswered, so we
decided to conduct research on our own.”

According
to Graham, the most surprising thing he discovered during the research process
was that many of the preconceptions about cannabis aren’t true. So they decided
to group their findings into five myths:

Myth
1
: Recreational users
get high for fun, while medical users are focused on their health.

The
reality is, most cannabis consumers use cannabis for both recreational and
medical reasons.

Myth
2
: Women are an
emerging market segment of new cannabis consumers.

In
fact, women already use cannabis as much as men.

Myth
3
: A handful of brands
are dominating the California cannabis market.

The
truth is that no brand has achieved a significant foothold in the market.

Myth
4
: All Californians
have access to legal cannabis.

Unfortunately,
in reality, they don’t.

Myth
5
: Consumers are
migrating from dispensaries to delivery.

In reality, consumers want an omnichannel experience to maximize their experiences.

“What
concerns us is the lack of availability that exists for regulated cannabis for
so many people,” says Graham on the finding. “The research shows how cannabis
gives relief for so many people for things like pain, insomnia and depression.
California voters approved the legalization of cannabis, but people still do
not have legal access throughout most of the state.”

Graham
believes that the study is important because it shows that cannabis helps with
“a variety of fundamental and important ways” and it isn’t a simple case of
‘recreational’ and ‘medicinal’

“I
would like people to understand that many of the assumptions they have about
cannabis consumers, cannabis usage, and cannabis availability may be wrong,”
says Graham.

To read the NorCal Cannabis Company’s report in full, visit norcalcann.com.

TELL
US
, do you smoke Californian
cannabis?

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