About the Author
Michael is a journalist and filmmaker. His award-winning documentary, Sleeping with Siri is playing film festivals across the country. Stusser runs TechTimeout campaigns in high schools across the country, asking teenagers to give up their digital devices (for a little while) in order to find balance, and perhaps even make eye-contact with their parents.

We’re Going to Have a Weed Party

Washington legislators are doing everything they can to keep marijuana users from smoking together. It’s time that stopped.

It’s time for us to come together and smoke marijuana.

Over and over, legislators at all levels in Washington state have prevented us from doing just that by hampering public marijuana use—in fact, a recent law makes providing a place for public use a Class C felony. Lawmakers are making it impossible to promote and celebrate cannabis. Thus it’s time for some civil disobedience.

As an example of how cannabis can be used to elevate our civic engagement, let’s look at a state that’s getting certain things right: Colorado. Not only is the state working with its medical-marijuana dispensaries to expand patient care, many jurisdictions have licensed, members-only marijuana clubs where adults can safely use and learn about cannabis in a social, alcohol-free environment. In Seattle? Not allowed!

Colorado is also considering various social pot-use initiatives that would allow vape lounges and cannabis cafes. Another proposal would allow adults to bring marijuana into bars, theaters and restaurants. These establishments would all have dedicated smoking areas for adults, and smoking would never be visible from within 25 feet of any public space.

Colorado’s also leap years ahead on public events involving ganja. The best one I’ve seen so far was a collaboration between Edible Events, a cannabis company, and the Colorado Symphony. Called “Classically Cannabis” in the symphony’s High Note Series, it was a Bring Your Own Bud evening, including swag tables full of lighters and rolling papers, a designated smoking patio, and a parking lot full of food trucks for when the munchies kicked in. (Don’t get mustard on your tux, man!)

We legalized weed here in Washington. That’s a fact. (So is the $70 million in tax revenue we collected in our first year, which the legislature had no problem spending.) It’s also a fact that legislative pinheads are getting in the way of the public actually using it. “Once people have the right to acquire cannabis, the next logical step forward is figuring out what do they do with it,” says Hilary Bricken, head attorney at Seattle’s Canna Law Group. “People are saying, ‘So I can have it, but where can I use it and not feel like a criminal?’ ”

A voter-approved initiative banned cigar lounges (and all indoor smoking in public places) in 2005, and the mayor is attempting to shutter all private hookah lounges as well. We’ve already discussed the city’s no-smoking ban in parks. And now, with the passage of this summer’s draconian Bill 2136, marijuana clubs can’t exist either: “ ‘Marijuana club’ means a club, association, or other business, for profit or otherwise, that conducts or maintains a premises for the primary or incidental purpose of providing a location where members or other persons may keep or consume marijuana on the premises.” While designed to kill cannabis clubs, the law is (most likely) illegal, as it makes it impossible for medical patients to provide marijuana to other patients.

Even the Seattle City Attorney’s office thinks this is overkill. “We’ve supported creating adult-only areas where people can legally consume marijuana in order to avoid the problems caused by people using marijuana in public spaces, like streets and parks,” said Deputy City Attorney John Schochet. “Unfortunately, the blanket felony ban on ‘marijuana clubs’ in HB 2136 makes that impossible under current law. We hope to get that fixed during the next legislative session.” In the meantime, you’d be a fool to risk being arrested with a felony conviction on the line.

The Evergreen State needs to get some basic elements about legalization in place so as not become a laughingstock, and because the voters demand it! We need to be able to grow marijuana for personal use. (All the other legal states have this in place.) We need to decriminalize marijuana and expunge all records of those who were arrested and imprisoned for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses. And we need to allow and accommodate the actual smoking and vaping and ingesting of cannabis in adult spaces such as vape lounges, stoned cinemas, culinary tastings, art events, and Bud & Breakfasts.

The fact is, not only do people use marijuana, but they support the legalization and taxation of the plant for recreational purposes. It’s fun! It’s social! It’s no longer taboo! You’ve seen beer gardens and cocktail classes and wine-tastings galore, right? Oktoberfest, anyone? Walla Walla wine tours? Craft-beer workshops!? Hell, Smirnoff Vodka just signed as the official sponsor of LiveNation at 25 music festivals, and Blu, an e-cigarette (owned by Imperial Tobacco) sponsors IndyCar, handing out samples of their toxic-sticks at auto races! Marijuana may be safer than alcohol, but it’s still being shunned and shamed and banned throughout the state.

Well, guess what? In order to get it right (and rolling), I’ve decided to host a series of Higher Ground Cannabis Cultural Events. It’s not a club. I won’t sell tickets, and I won’t sell weed. We also won’t pass joints around—as, shockingly, this is a felony offense (considered “possession and distribution,” with potentially five years in the slammer and a $10,000 fine!) The gig will be BYOBong—and we’ll all get along. It will be educational, instructive, and a way to exercise our rights. I’ve lined up one of Seattle’s best bands, and we’ll have a few surprise guests to elevate the dialogue. We’ll proudly and safely use cannabis in an adult-only environment, and have a damn fine time!


The CannaQuiz

Will you be Queen Sativa—or a few grams short?

Marijuana has been legal in Washington for more than two years now, but, surprisingly, people know very little about the law. Take the Higher Ground CannaQuiz and see how you rate!


1. Each adult can grow up to four plants in their backyard.

2. I can walk around with an ounce of weed in my pocket and not get busted.

3. Because marijuana is legal in both Washington and Oregon, I can take Washington weed to a Portland pot party.

4. My employer can no longer fire me for testing positive for marijuana.

5. Drinking and driving is worse than smoking and driving.

6. On average, 16,000 people die every year from marijuana.

7. If I get pulled over, the cops can’t search my vehicle, even if it reeks of ganja.

8. Smoking and eating weed give you the same high.

9. Since legalization, more kids are using pot.

10. I can fire up in public, right?


1. False. Unless you have a medical-marijuana card, it is illegal for you to grow marijuana. While all the other legal states (OR, CO, AK) allow home grows, Washington does not. #lame

2. True. So long as you’re 21 or older, you can indeed!

3. False. It is illegal to drive or fly (or walk) across any state lines with cannabis. You can, however, blow smoke across the Columbia if ya wish . . .

4. False. Not only can employers drug test you in legal states, but they can fire your ass for failing one. National companies especially are enforcing this principle, as many are legally required to comply with federal laws.

5. True. A comprehensive National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study shows that driving after smoking marijuana does not make you more likely to get into a car crash. Nonetheless, there is a limit of 5 nanograms of THC in the bloodstream for drivers and a zerotolerance limit for anyone under 21. (As THC stays in a person’s system for several days, it may show up from use occurring long before a test, even though the effects have long since dissipated.) We suggest you do not drive after either smoking or drinking. Tests also show that booze and pot simultaneously hamper skills far more than either one alone.

6. False. That’s the number of prescription-painkiller overdoses per year (16,600). Tobacco kills 480,000 a year, and alcohol-attributable deaths number 86,000 per year. Cannabis has not killed anyone. Ever.

7. True. In fact, not only is the smell of pot not a reason to search a vehicle, but the Supreme Court just ruled you can’t be delayed even one second for a drug-sniffing dog to show up.

8. False . . . big-time! There’s a delayed effect when you’ve eaten edibles (see Maureen Dowd) that can take 30 minutes or longer. Eating weed can also last much longer than smoking, sometimes peaking two or three hours after ingesting the product. The main thing folks should be aware of is that with a delayed onset, it may seem like you aren’t going to get high, and so you may be tempted to take another cookie or brownie. Go slow. Once you’ve figured out your dose, you can repeat as necessary on future trips.

9. False. The latest study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse showed a slight drop in pot use of adolescents and teenagers. One statistic did remain the same: Over 80 percent of high-school seniors said it was easy to get their hands on marijuana. The challenge continues to be educating them on the legal and physical risks involved in using it.

10. False. Similar to alcohol open-container laws, weed can’t be smoked in public places, including restaurant patios, parking lots, or concerts. (Total buzz-kill.) The good news is that if you do get caught with a doobie in Washington, ya won’t be hauled to jail, but given a $27 ticket.

How’d you do?!

1–4 correct You’re a burger short of a combo meal, a few grams short of a pound, and not the sharpest tool in the shed. Just be careful smoking herb and walking at the same time.

5 correct You’re Half-Baked, and need to brush up on the law before leaving the house. Or, better yet, remain couch-locked!

6–9 correct You’re a Budding Star, and only a few hits short of the cycle. Treat yourself to a brownie and a Seth Rogen movie!

10 correct You’re in elite company, and high on knowledge! Bong hits galore! We pronounce you Canna King or Queen Sativa!


The Weed Wire

A pot ad ran on TV—almost.


The first-ever recreational-marijuana ad for television was supposed to air last month duringJimmy Kimmel Live on a Denver-based ABC affiliate. At the last minute, KMGH (Channel 7) got cold feet, pulling the plug after the station’s lawyers freaked out.

The ad, for Neos, a vaporizer and cannabis-oil company, was hardly Cheech and Chong—in fact, it didn’t show marijuana at all. Instead, the spot featured young people hiking up mountain trails and enjoying themselves—weed-free. “You lead an adventurous life, always finding new ways to relax,” boomed the REI-looking advert. “Now enjoy the best effects and control with Neos portable vape pen and recreate discreetly this summer.” Blasphemous!

The station is owned by E.W. Scripps Company, which yanked the spot due to concerns the feds might revoke their broadcasting license for showcasing a substance on federal airwaves that’s illegal at the national level. “Scripps has decided not to accept marijuana advertising at this time,” said Scripps mouthpiece Valerie Miller. “We are proud to be a company of free speech and open expression, but we have concerns about the lack of clarity around federal regulations that govern broadcast involving such ads.”

The same last-minute ditch happened last week in Portland, when ABC affiliate network KATU pulled a marijuana-related commercial that was supposed to run during the six o’clock hour. Again, the ad didn’t feature fat nugs or hipsters firing up—it was for September’s Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference. And we’d hate for anyone to attend that, right!?

Ya can’t blame the stations, really; they’re terrified about the possibility of losing their FCC licenses. The Controlled Substances Act is serious and specific about not allowing advertising that promotes Schedule I drugs. In fact, a violation of Section 843 is a felony, kids, with prison time and a roommate who’s probably not nearly as friendly as those featured on ABC shows, includingRevenge, Scandal, American Crime, Castle, Rookie Blue, How to Get Away With Murder, et al…

Those marijuana ads may have gone up in smoke, but they’re the beginning of a move toward the mainstream. As noted, local and state laws are well and good, but issues like banking, medical coverage, insurance, and taxes—and now advertisements—are eventually going to need to be approved by Uncle Sam. (The FCC has no problem, of course, with the alcohol industry spending $2 billion a year on advertising and over $500 million on TV ads alone, much less Viagra ads galore.) Before you know it, a canna-company could be advertising alongside Bud Light in the Super Bowl. (Emphasis on the Bowl.)

The next governor of California, Gavin Newsom, spearheaded a report on legalization in his state, intended to influence the half-dozen groups crafting pro-marijuana ballot proposals for 2016. Before we get to the details, let’s note one important factor: Newsom’s an incredibly handsome bastard! Guy makes Gary Hart look downright hideous! (Sorry, Gary.)

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy’s report emphasizes child safety, tight regulations on sales, safeguarding access for medical-marijuana users, and preventing the next “Big Tobacco.” God, he’s got great hair! (Sorry.) The 24-member panel, convened by the Brill Boy and American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, lays out 58 recommendations addressing, among other things, training standards, stoned driving, age limits, and taxes for public health programs. “We’re not arguing for a free market,” noted the beautiful Lt. Governor. “We’re arguing for a very regulated market that has real oversight, that is flexible.” (I bet he’sflexible.)

The report recommends a flexible tax structure that’s not too high (which would encourage black-market exchanges) or too low (which would encourage teenagers), and that is also union-friendly. (When you’re in Cali, ya gotta kiss up to the unions, even the ones growing ganja.) It also suggests tax revenue go toward drug education, treatment programs, and policing illegal growers who are sucking up water from streams and public parks.

One small problem with the group’s report: Though there are a shitload of pot smokers in California (almost 15 percent of all pot smokers in the U.S.), overall it’s an export state! It’s estimated that California grows almost 40 percent of the nation’s marijuana—and exports over 70 percent of that! Makes me wonder if these powerful and rich growers really are interested in a seed-to-sale tracking system that taxes, inspects, licenses, and regulates marijuana.

Gov. Jay Inslee just signed a new open-container law, making it illegal for unwrapped cannabis edibles and other weed products to be visible in the cockpit of a car. House Bill 1276 is an attempt to get marijuana laws in line with those pertaining to drinking and driving. Just as open alcohol containers are illegal inside vehicles (including the glovebox!), now weed is too. So keep your bong, joints, nugs, brownies, and baggies of Blueberry Kush in the trunk. And if you happen to be driving a VW bus that has no trunk (or minivan, Mom), the law states that marijuana items must be stored behind the seat furthest from the steering wheel. Which is probably where the pot smokers are hangin’ out anyway. What a long, strange road trip this has been . . .

Doo-bie or Not Doo-bie . . . What Was the Question?

Evidence, textual and physical, about the Bard’s indulgence.

Wanna know how William Shakespeare was so far ahead of his time in regard to wondrous wordplay and wildly imaginative scenes and sonnets? Well, it could be that the loquacious Bard was hitting the bong! According to a recent report in The Independent, forensic analysis of 400-year-old fragments found cannabis residue on pipes and stems scattered on Shakespeare’s property.

A team from the Institute of Evolutionary Studies in South Africa conducted a chemical analysis of the 17th-century artifacts, excavated in 2001, from Stratford-on-Avon, and found marijuana on eight of 24 clay samples on the grounds, including four pot-positive pipes from his own garden.

Lead researcher Professor Francis Thackeray (University of Witwatersrand) thinks weed may have helped inspire history’s greatest playwright, pointing out a line from Sonnet 76.

“In Sonnet 76 he writes about ‘invention in a noted weed.’ This can be interpreted to mean that Shakespeare was willing to use ‘weed’ (cannabis) for creative writing (‘invention’),” Thackeray went out on a limb to explain. “In the same sonnet it appears that he would prefer not to be associated with ‘compounds strange,’ which can be interpreted, at least potentially, to mean ‘strange drugs’ (possibly cocaine). Sonnet 76 may relate to complex wordplay relating in part to drugs, and in part to a style of writing associated with clothing (‘weeds’) or literary compounds.”

Two additional pipes from the excavation area did indeed test positive for cocaine—or coca leaves—said to have been brought back from Peru in the late 1500s by Sir Francis “Vacuum-Cleaner” Drake. While these coca-contraptions were near Shakespeare’s domicile, they weren’t actually on his property, so it’s doubtful Bill was hitting the crack pipe.

Plenty of stuffy scholars are scoffing at the notion Shakespeare used cannabis (while probably themselves scraping dusty ancient snuffboxes for residue). “I suppose it’s remotely possible that Shakespeare and his family were getting a buzz from what they were smoking,” harrumphed Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt, “but I very much doubt that it played any meaningful role in his life.” Not willing to give up his own afternoon hot toddys, the English prof continued, saying, “Alcohol is a much more likely stimulant for Shakespeare’s imagination, and even that is probably unimportant.” Uh, FYI, Prof, #MarijuanaIsSafer.

Given his place and time, you couldn’t really blame the brilliant Bard for craving a little pick-me-up during his famous 18-hour writing binges. Tea, coffee, espresso, and RedBull were unavailable then, and everyone, including the Sweet Swan of Avon, has a vice. In fact, Brits had been hitting the pipe for centuries, as well as using hemp for paper. (Pope Innocent VIII put a damper on open use when he singled out cannabis as an unholy sacrament of the Satanic mass. #ReeferMadness) In fact, in 1563 Queen Elizabeth I issued a formal decree forcing land owners of 60 acres or more to grow cannabis or be smacked with her cane (and a £5 fine).

It is of course possible that this is much ado about nothing, and that someone else was smoking ganja out of the Bard’s bud-pipes. Nevertheless, I have decided to throw some scientific evidence of my own (read cockamamy hearsay) into the marijuana mix, proving once and for all that Shakes was a sacred stoner: It’s said that Shakespeare coined over 2,000 words in his lifetime, including eyeball, gossip, gnarled (gnarly, dude!), unreal (Bro!), dwindle, puking, laughable, rant, hobnob, buzzer, besmirch, beached, bedazzled, cold-blooded, zany, addiction, arch-villain, new-fangled, swagger, and drugged! Heigh-ho and Great Tilly-Valley, that’s buzzed brainstorming at its best!

And more obvious evidence—his inspired insults! No poet could come up with linguistic gymnastics such as beslubbering, clapper-clawed, beef-witted, loggerheaded, flap-mouthed, bum-bailey, unmuzzled, onion-eyed, and miscreant without being high as a pox-marked pignut!

To inhale or not inhale, that is the question. A report from Psychology Today notes that cannabis can evoke psychotomimetic symptoms, or what’s known as “peak consciousness,” allowing users to break free from pedestrian associations and connect seemingly unrelated concepts—a key element in creative thinking. Whether or not Shakespeare smoked salvia or imbibed indica, I bid you adieu with wondrous and trippy words from The Tempest, Act III, Scene 2—evidence he’s high on life, or weed, or the wings of angels.

At thy request, monster, I will do reason, any reason.—

Come on, Trinculo, let us sing.

(sings) Flout ’em and scout ’em,

And scout ’em and flout ’em.

Thought is free.

Hempfest Still Matters, Dude

After 24 years, and several locations, it’s still going strong.

“Not so sure about hitting Hempfest this year, bro,” said my biggest stoner pal TJ, loading yet another fat bowl of black market Blue Dream. “I mean, we legalized it. What’s the point?”

“I’ll tell you why,” I replied, sucking down the tube. “As soon as I can remember what the question was!”

Amazingly, Hempfest is celebrating its 24th year this weekend. In addition to being the world’s largest cannabis rally, Hempfest has always advertised itself as a “protestival,” commemorating the advances of cannabis, and protesting the ongoing War on Drugs—and the fact marijuana is still very much illegal at the federal level.

“Dude,” I began, using a term I reserve only for our stoned sessions. “First, we’re fucking celebrating. Couple years ago you had to worry about going to jail if ya got caught with a bag o’ weed. Today, a $27 ticket….Dude!”

“No, I get it, bro,” TJ replied, no doubt recalling the numerous times he was busted for growing weed in his basement, giving him a permanent black mark on his record and winnowing the field of employers he could work for over the years.

“For me, a big part of the marijuana movement is being around a like-minded group of progressive, liberal, groovy….well potheads,” I noted, trying to sound better than the long-haired hippies—read “cannabis connoisseurs”—I resemble and represent. “Not everyday. But at least once a year. And I’ll admit it: I like patchouli.”

Started by peace-activist Vivian McPeak and cannabis crusader Gary Cook, Hempfest began at Volunteer Park in 1991. (It was originally called the Washington Hemp Expo.) The festival outgrew Volunteer Park as well as Gas Works Park, eventually finding its current home along Elliott Bay at Myrtle Edwards Park, the Olympic Sculpture Garden, and Centennial Park.

“We have been to a few good ones,” TJ mused. “Was it two years ago we bought those Space Cakes from that rasta chick?” (The sale or use of cannabis is not permitted at Hempfest.) “I think I asked her to marry me in the Ganja Gardens…”

“Dude [again, I can’t help using that word when I’m around this guy]! Hempfest is also free! How many festivals with kick-ass music in a mind-blowing setting are flippin’ free?!” In my effort to have TJ attend, I was appealing to his, let’s call it, “financially prudent” side. (Hempfest costs over $1 million dollars a year to produce. Please donate at the event and through annual memberships.)

“We have seen Heart blow the doors off that place a bunch of times,” he admitted. “And damn, Ann was sexy as hell last year; those ladies are still rockin’ babes…”

Over the years, Hempfest has featured hundreds of musical acts, including the Super Sonic Soul Pimps, DXD, Rockin’ Teenage Combo, Herbivores, 7 Year Bitch, Nu Sol Tribe, Vicci Martinez, and Artis the Spoonman.

“I’m still tripping about that Timothy Leary sighting we had,” TJ mumbled, rolling his fourth fatty. “Pretty sure he was there.” (Professor Timothy Leary attended the Peaceworks Park Peace Vigil in 1990.)

In fact, Hempfest isn’t all bands and buds and Butterfingers; there’s an educational element, including Hemposium panels featuring the nation’s leading voices on hemp, medicinal uses of cannabis, and ongoing advocacy, including the No Prison for Pot campaign. Over the years, Hempfest has featured the likes of Jack Herer (activist author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes), Keith Stroup (NORML), Randi Rhodes (Air America), former Seattle Chief of Police Norm Stamper, travel guru Rick Steves, Rick Cusick (High Times), Jack Cole (LEAP), master grower Ed Rosenthal, Dennis Kucinich, and yes, Woody Harrelson.

“Fucking starving, dude,” TJ yelled while peering into his empty fridge.

“That reminds me of when I knew the pendulum had swung, man,” I tangentially countered. “Remember when the cops handed out bags of Doritos at Hempfest?”

“I do not.” (In 2013, Seattle Police conduced Operation Orange Fingers, handing out bags of Doritos with Dos and Don’ts about the new marijuana laws, including, “DON’T drive while high,” and “DO listen to Dark Side of the Moon at a reasonable volume.”)

Hempfest is a grassroots community gathering—and one of the few that has a peaceful vibe through-and-through. Thanks to the thousands of well-trained Hempfest volunteers, as well as a mellow SPD, the event has had hundreds of thousands of attendees without a single major health incident, fight or overdose. (It helps the rally isn’t AlcoholFest.)

“The real reason to go, Bro-ham?” I began, standing on the couch for emphasis and attempting a Pot-Power salute. “The work’s not done, man! Sure you and I can buy outrageously expensive herb at stores here in town, but the Feds think it’s a felony and a hard-core narcotic! Six-hundred and eighty-thousand Americans were arrested last year for marijuana-related offenses! Our war veterans don’t have access to it to help with their PTSD, and parents are having their kids taken away for using it as medicine all over the country!”

“Dude,” TJ replied, looking at my shoeless feet on his couch. “I think you crushed the remote, man.”

“The Revolution will not be televised!” After our laughter died down, I asked a serious question. “Is there a remote possibility you’ll go to Hempfest with me, man?”

“I do need a grinder…” TJ noted, stoned to the bejesus. “Allll right. What day are we goin’?”

Seattle Hempfest runs Friday, August 14-Sunday, August 16, from noon to 8 p.m., at Myrtle Edwards and Centennial Parks. See Thanks to Vivian McPeak’s book, Protestival: Seattle Hempfest, for clearing up many of our foggy memories.


Patient Protection Act, My Ass

How recreational-marijuana legalization is screwing medical-marijuana access.

Washington continues to take one step forward and seven steps back in our legalization experiment. With new laws rapidly eroding the voter-approved Medical Use of Marijuana Act of 1998, the cannabis community is deeply divided between the “haves” (recreational retailers, growers, and processors) and the “have-nots” (medical-marijuana patients and dispensaries). What does this grave new world look like?

No-Man’s Land
Dispensaries and collective gardens are being shut down across Washington, leaving the state’s estimated 175,000 medical patients to wonder how in the hell they’re going to get their medicine. They aren’t likely to find it at recreational stores, which have little incentive to sell medicinal items such as low-THC edibles, transdermal patches, topicals, or cannabis suppositories.

King County and the Seattle City Council have voted to begin shutting down “unlicensed” dispensaries, and are sending Cease and Desist orders to collectives. Dispensaries also have been notified that if they continue to operate as unlicensed retail outlets, they’ll face civil and criminal ramifications. Problem is, there are nomedical-dispensary licenses under 502, and currently no guidelines for them to apply. The official application period for 502 stores ended in December 2013, and no new applications for medicinal stores will be taken until next July. And until the (Liquor and) Cannabis Board approves these new applications, patients are stuck in the middle of a cannabis clusterfuck. In addition, dozens of counties and towns are banning legal marijuana stores in their jurisdictions, not only ignoring the will of the voters but denying access for those using medical cannabis.

Patient “Protection”
As noted previously in this column (“Marijuana Is Medicine,” April 29), Senate Bill 5052, signed into law by Governor Inslee in April, is a draconian piece of crap that will overhaul (aka eliminate) a medical system that was up and running long before recreational marijuana was even a seedling. Last week, part of the bill—which in an Orwellian twist has been deemed the Cannabis Patient Protection Act—went into effect with a slew of regressive rules, tailor-made to force longtime medical users into either taxable retail stores or back underground. The new law drastically cuts the number of plants a patient can have. No more than 15 plants can now be grown in a single housing unit, regardless of the number of patients or designated providers who reside there. This directly impacts thousands of patients who are unable to grow (or afford) marijuana themselves and belong to collective gardens, which previously allowed up to 45 plants for 10 individuals. Many of these collectives also prepare edibles for patients who cannot smoke, as well as cannabis oils, balms, and tinctures for a wide variety of maladies.

No House Calls
Practitioners can no longer go to a patient’s home or set up a location outside of their permanent office to evaluate, assess, or examine for a qualifying condition; this eliminates satellite clinics, which doctors often set up in rural areas where few health professionals were available to write authorizations for medial marijuana. (We’d hate for Grandma to get too comfortable and be evaluated for her Parkinson’s or Crohn’s disease anywhere near her home in Black Diamond.)

Feeding the Paranoia
Health-care practitioners can no longer run an office with the sole purpose of authorizing medical recommendations. (I mean, why have anyone specialize in the ailments that may be alleviated by cannabis?) If a health-care practitioner writes more than 30 authorizations for medical marijuana in a single month, he or she must now report the number to the Washington Department of Health.

You don’t have to be paranoid to be nervous about doctors handing over charts and records to various state boards and commissions which point out that their patients are committing felonies at the federal level. And the paranoia won’t stop there. This particularly nerve-wracking requirement will be eliminated a year from now . . . when the new “voluntary” registry takes effect. You don’t sign up—you get no tax break for medical weed.

The Budtender Is Not In
A final absurd nail: Medical patients, who will now need to get their cannabis from recreational outlets, will not be able to discuss medical solutions to their various ailments and illnesses with store budtenders. It’s strictly against Liquor and Cannabis rules.

A Positive for Veterans
There was one positive outcome from Washington’s legislative changes: Post-traumatic stress disorder is now one of the conditions that a medical provider can cite to authorize the use of marijuana.

Even this seeming no-brainer wasn’t a shoo-in: Colorado’s Board of Health recently rejected PTSD as a qualifying condition, saying they wanted further research, despite their own Colorado Scientific Advisory Council’s recommendation that it be added.

Veterans have testified at the state and federal level in their efforts to allow cannabis to treat a variety of conditions ex-military personnel face, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, traumatic brain injuries, and pain relief. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, an average of 22 veterans kill themselves every day. While the feds do not allow military personnel to use cannabis during their service or as part of post-service treatment plans through the Veterans Administration, if there are any ways to alleviate their suffering, we should obviously explore them. #SupportOurTroops

More regulations that will eliminate safe medical-marijuana access points take effect next July, including rules on licensing and product testing, collective garden requirements, and shutting down all current medical dispensaries and potentially licensing them as retail stores. Lawsuits and Initiatives to overturn both Initiative 502 and portions of 5052 and stop the closure of medical dispensaries have been filed by the Association of Safe Access Points (, Real Legalization (, and others. The Legalization Experiment clumsily continues.

The Kids Hate the Weed!

Both use and approval are down.

Houston, we have a problem (with marijuana). No, it’s not that youngsters are getting stoned on the wacky weed and crashing cars or dropping out of school. It’s that they’re starting to dislike the stuff.

A report released last week in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse shows that not only has cannabis use decreased among teens, but disapproval of marijuana is up. (They could have said that approval was down, but the media is so opposed to putting a positive spin on drug use, even academic news is twisted.) Taking data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the survey is stunning for both its duration, from 2002 to 2013, and breadth, with 500,000 kids across the nation polled. Responses were aggregated from 105,903 younger adolescents (ages 12–14); 110,949 older adolescents (15–17); and 221,976 young adults (18–25).

“The proportion of adolescents aged 12–14 reporting ‘strong disapproval’ of marijuana use initiation increased significantly from 74.4–78.9%,” the report states. “Concurrently, a significant decrease in past 12-month marijuana use . . . was observed among younger adolescents.” Not only did the percentage of kids 12–14 who smoked pot go down (from 6 percent in 2002 to 4.5 percent in 2013), but the 15- to 17-year-olds who in my day were out behind the boiler room getting baked between classes also dropped significantly, from 26 percent in 2002 to 22 percent in 2013.

“With decriminalization, medicalization, and in some places recreational use, and adults no longer viewing marijuana use as an immoral act, we were concerned how it would affect teen use and attitudes,” noted one of the report’s authors, professor Christopher Salas-Wright from the University of Texas at Austin (figures). “But, especially at the middle-school age, youth became more disapproving, not more permissive. And certainly this data tells us we don’t see a dramatic spike at the national level in terms of marijuana use.”

The stats from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health looked at teen use and opinions all across the country. But what about specifically in the states where weed is legal? Surely there, kids love the ganja and use more of it! In fact, no. A study published last month in The Lancet Psychiatry (great centerfold, by the way) tells the same tale. Researchers looked at data from over a million teens in the 23 states that have had medical-marijuana laws on the books from 1991 to 2014, and once again the teenyboppers were nonplussed: “Our findings provide the strongest evidence to date that marijuana use by teenagers does not increase after a state legalizes medical marijuana,“ stated the study’s author, Deborah Hasin, a professor at Columbia University Medical Center.

Now clearly I have no interest in youngsters using marijuana. It’s not great for the developing brain and, like booze, should probably be delayed until at least 21. (Come to think of it, so should cell-phone use and driving!) But given my desire to see cannabis legalized federally, we’re eventually going to need these young people to vote for initiative measures when they arise in new states. Luckily, as teen rates have gone down, adult usage has increased: The number of grown-up cannabis users rose from 26 million in 2003 to 33 million in 2013—a whopping 37 percent. (High five?)

As for kids, decreasing interest in weed is probably one of those deals where what’s cool one day is uncool the next. Facebook was once the rage, and before you can say SnapChat, it’s for parents and Grandma. Same could be true with ganja: “We know American adults are starting to view this as a non-moral issue. We’ve seen the country’s adults changing, and we’re trying to get at what young people think and do,” said Salas-Wright. While states like Washington and Colorado have legalized weed, he noted, these laws “have not resulted in more use or greater approval of marijuana use among younger adolescents.”

The pendulum will swing back and forth, and hopefully smart measures will be put in place along the way to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adult use across the land. It is kind of funny, though: Turns out it’s not Reefer Madness and anti-drug campaigns that are turning kids off to cannabis—it’s legalization.


Washington State Update: Cannabis Public Media

July 8th, 2016 marked the one-year anniversary of retail cannabis sales in the state of Washington, and while the implementation of I 502 has been a success on many levels, a recent change in cannabis laws regarding medical marijuana enacted during the last legislative session have mandated many radical and unpopular changes to the nation’s second oldest medical marijuana program … for an update on cannabis in Washington state CPM’s Brian Bahouth spoke with Michael Stusser, Seattle Weekly columnist and host of Higher Ground TV … listen to this mix of words and music

Washington’s Pot Experiment, Year One

Generating tax revenue and saving money on prosecutions—what’s not to love?

The numbers for the first year of legal cannabis sales in Washington are in, and it’s a bong-half-full situation. Headlines about the tax revenue from weed have ranged from “Rakes in Millions” to “predicted bonanza not materializing.” The fact is, sales brought $70 million dollars to the state’s coffers (off $260 million in sales, through June), which, while perhaps not what analysts had hoped for, isn’t a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, either.

Fact is, legalization in the Evergreen State is a ground-breaking experiment, with absolutely no prior information on what the hell retail marijuana looks like. “Forecasters” (including campaigners originally hyping Initiative 502) made predictions because lawmakers and the public wanted some idea of what we were getting into. Estimates ranged from $75 to $500 million in sales, and the state’s original cannabis tax revenue forecast was $35 million for the first year—which we doubled. If ya had your allowance or salary doubled, you’d be jumping for joy. Here’s what we do know:

It took the Liquor Control Board a helluva long time to begin licensing stores, and even longer to get its own name right (now the Liquor and Cannabis Board). While 161 recreational stores are now open, that’s less than half the number that should be operational by now.

The licensed retailers that are open also had competition from medical dispensaries—though the legislature recently wiped out that competition with the ignorant and oppressive Bill 5052. First-year sales also weren’t helped by hundreds of right-wing local jurisdictions that put moratoriums and overly restrictive zoning rules on our legally approved pot businesses.

What has been proven is that, once we know where to buy our legal herb, we head there in droves and buy the place out. The first month of legal pot, July 2014, saw $3.3 million in sales and $840,000 in taxes; by June 2015, we had $43 million ringing into the cash registers (average $1.5 million a day), and $10.8 mil in taxes. In the end, Washington collected $20 million more in taxes from our rec weed than Colorado did in its first year. Green. Rush.

The price of (legal) marijuana has also jumped all over the board. At first, there was barely any supply (go figure, the weed needed to grow before we could smoke it), so prices were sky high, hitting $30 a gram. As expected, as more retailers got the green light and more ganja hit the shelves, prices dropped significantly, to about $13 a gram. Businesses sold more than 22,000 pounds of cannabis in the first 12 months, as well as 700,000 marijuana-infused cookies and elixirs and suckers and taffy. The harvest was six million square feet of plant canopy, producing almost 60,000 pounds. And that’s just the legal stuff—which experts estimate is only 10 to 15 percent of what’s actually grown. (Damn black market . . . we just can’t quit you.)

Another factor has been the tax structure—previously a brutal three-tiered excise-tax sandwich that hit farmers, processors, and retailers with a 25 percent tax for each transaction, making it hard for any of them to make a profit (especially after Uncle Sam takes his cut at the federal level, while still claiming that drug money is a felony). The legislature just changed the law to a still-high-but-not-deadly 37 percent tax upon purchase, which takes effect this month. With the customer paying the entire tax, stores get a break by not having to claim revenue as income on federal filings.

The true tale of legalization, though, isn’t illustrated by dollars and cents, but by the public’s well-being. According to a survey of more than 25,000 students, teen drug use did not rise in 2014, nor did the number of teens killed in car crashes. Violent crime is down (at a 40-year low). Arrests in pot cases are plummeting (down 98 percent!), because it’s legal (duh) and—more important—possession bookings aren’t taking cops off the beat or their eyes off more serious crimes. We’re also saving a boatload that used to go toward weed prosecutions. Oh, and we like the new law: While the same percentage that voted for legalization support it after a year (56 percent), only 37 percent now oppose the idea—a decrease of seven points since the election. Seventy-seven percent of us think marijuana’s legalization has had no impact or a positive one. In other words: It’s all good (man).

The Federal government did not crash the party. The sky did not fall—it revealed a green rainbow which grew into the fastest-growing industry in the entire country. Our citizens weren’t running around “hopped up on dope,” and legalization didn’t ruin lives or the economy, which may be part of the reason Oregon, Alaska, and D.C. have since followed our lead and legalized ganja themselves.

Given 100 years of reefer madness and fear-mongering on the subject, the headlines should have read “First Year of Legal Devil’s Weed Leads to Zero Deaths and Minimal Mayhem or Drug-Crazed Abandon.” Maybe we’ll get to all that in Year Two.

The Cusp

“It’s either understanding one another, or destruction!”

Ricardo, it turns out, is Honduran, but he looks black to me. We’ve known each other for several years in passing; he plays percussion in Faith Beattie’s jazz trio at the Queen City Grill, where I frequently drink heavily. We’ve exchanged smiles and nods, and I’ve thrown a few quid into the tip jar on nights I feel flush.

Last week we sat outside at adjacent tables to beat the heat and smoke, Ricardo sucking on a cigar and me with my Firefly vaporizer (both illegal, as we were too close to the entrance). I noted Ricardo’s swank Panama hat, and we started in on small talk. Eventually we got around to the issues of the day in a week that had some doozies: The Confederate battle flag had come down and same-sex marriage had been approved by a venomously divided Supreme Court, along with key rulings supporting national health care and fair housing. Marijuana, too, had had a major victory thanks to the White House, which lifted a longstanding restriction on research on medical marijuana by eliminating the Public Health Service review imposed in 1999 and allowing scientists to legally investigate the health benefits of cannabis.

“It’s funny, man,” Ricardo told me while chewing on his Cuban, “I feel a real change coming on. We’re at the cusp of something. It can go either way, you know?” I did. “It’s either understanding one another, or destruction! I’m just holdin’ on, hoping things tip toward the positive.”

Despite the victories, Ricardo and I had something heavy on our minds: the recent murders of nine members of a bible-study group, gunned down at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) Church in Charleston. We had both been inspired by the President’s eulogy (featuring a chilling rendition of “Amazing Grace”), but more so by the families of those who had been massacred.

“I don’t think I could have shown that much grace, man,” I said, referring to the relatives who showed up at the killer’s bond hearing, each of whom forgave the shooter. “Hell, I could barely forgive my ex-wife—and she didn’t kill anyone.” (That I know of.)

“Oh, I hear you. But hate is a lie,” Ricardo said, with his own preacher’s cadence. “You may not be able to change those who hate, but through forgiveness you can lose the cynicism and anger in your own heart. For lost souls like that murderer, it’s possible to bring light to the darkness. Through love, we can truly create heaven on earth. With my thoughts and actions, I can change myself. It’s truly profound.”

Gay-pride revelers, tourists, and drunken partiers passed by, making the Belltown street scene even more festive than usual. Maybe it was the buzz from our vices of choice, but Ricardo and I realized our discussion—-from men truly worlds apart—was invigorating and important. Though we clearly shared liberal values (starving artists and all), in a way it felt as if we were practicing—emphasizing our similarities rather than our divisions and differences. “Lately, I’ve been having great discussions with people who may not have even talked to me a decade ago,” he said. “How can we advance love and not fall into complacency? I think it?s by engaging with one another. Listening.”

While the Trio played an enchanted set of samba-inspired grooves (he’s Honduran, man!), I thought about something our President had said during his eloquent eulogy for Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney: “To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change—that’s how we lose our way again.”

The victories for equality, cannabis, and individual liberties haven’t arrived out of the clear blue sky. They’re the culmination of grassroots efforts, honing the message, and civic (and hopefully civil) discourse over complex, meaningful, and often hot-button issues. State by state these issues have been fought over, voted on, thrown out, and often, in the end, adjudicated. The key is not only dialogue, but vigilance in the democratic process. It’s never a full Kumbaya moment, because the second there’s a victory, there’s a setback and a need to reorganize and carry on. Yes, the tragic shootings in Charleston were followed by a rallying cry to lower the Confederate battle flag, but that cry was followed by more violence, as seven African-American churches in the South have since been set ablaze.

For some reason they make you stop drinking at 2 a.m. in this godforsaken town, so I gathered my things to head inside and settle my tab. I’d grabbed my keys and phone and vaporizer (and cocktail), but was missing my wallet. Any number of folks could have nabbed it from my coat on the patio: a thousand passersby, other diners, one of the dozen or so street people who’d asked for change—or maybe I’d dropped the damn thing on my way to the john. A waiter helped me half-heartedly search under tables with a flashlight. I was drunk and it was time to Uber home; as a regular they’d let me pay later, and I’d make some calls in the morning to cancel my credit cards.

As I took a last look under the table I’d been sitting at, Ricardo approached with a wide smile and wallet in hand; he’d found it under a booth earlier and was looking for me.

We stared at one another, and in our minds 500 years of oppression and lies, pain and misconceptions, stereotypes and generalizations flashed between our eyes.

“You stole it from me, man,” I said, brow arched.

We laughed and embraced simultaneously. It may be a slow roller, but this momentous wave shall not be stopped.