The October 1 Buzzkill

Legal pot was supposed to bring Oregon some joy.

October 1 was supposed to be a day of historic joy in Oregon, as legal sales of marijuana were finally allowed, ending decades of Prohibition in one of the states leading the charge on the issue. Instead, the celebration was interrupted by a shooting at Umpqua Community College, where (yet another) mentally disturbed young man went on a mass killing spree with a semi-automatic weapon. Hard to stand in line for an ounce of primo weed, high-fiving budtenders, and fellow stoners at a recreational store when friends and neighbors next door are unsure if their own children are among the dead.

Now, not being able to celebrate legalized cannabis is hardly the point, but the crushing reality of gun violence and the number of dampened dreams it represents surely is. Family members and loved ones are hitting the airwaves, followed by mayors and clergy and those damn pundits, to grieve and vent and pass the blame. Eventually then the experts and advocates and peaceniks will speak clearly and articulately of the fact-based changes that surely should be made, including assault-rifle bans, waiting periods, gun safety training, and closing whatever the hell the fucking gun-show loophole is.

Those propping up Reefer Madness are full of hate and denial and lies which obscure not only the truth, but the will of the people. The four states thus far that have legalized cannabis have overcome odds, clichés, and a massive industry not willing to change—in this case the pharmaceutical companies that make billions off fixing our ailments with addictive, toxic substances that can’t be grown at home, and the prison-industrial complex that thrives on a War on Drugs and the 650,000 (mostly black) Americans who are arrested each year for marijuana-related offenses.

Gun control’s fierce and well-funded minority opponent is well-known: the National Rifle Association. No real reason to go into the litany of strategies and threats and bullying and buying-off of politicans that the organization employs; you’ve heard them all before—I’d be preaching to the masses. And yet . . .

Insanity is said to be doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So. As of today, October 7, in the first 280 days of the year, we’ve had 294 mass shootings (in which four or more people are killed or injured by gunfire) in the United States. In all, 10,000 have been killed and 20,000 injured in almost 40,000 episodes of gun violence so far this year. And counting.

The President, who is, like all of us, to blame for inaction on the issue, got as pissed as you’ll ever see him when, for the 15th time in his presidency, he had to hold a press conference after a mass shooting.

“This is a political choice we make to allow this to happen every few months in America,” he said. “We are collectively answerable to those families, who lose their loved ones, because of our inaction.”

Democracy, related to any issue of concern, requires participation, and not in an “I vote every four years” kinda way. Each of the four states that have legalized recreational marijuana—Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon—had to do so through citizens’ initiatives, as lawmakers saw no political advantage to taking the lead and lobbyists for Captains of Industry paid them handsomely to stay mute on the issue. Even among the 23 states with medical-marijuana laws—which more than 80 percent of the public now supports—all but 10 had to do so via ballot measures. And so it seems that may have to be the path forward on gun regulations, an issue in which a huge majority supports common-sense restrictions.

Until then, I urge joining the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. It also can’t hurt to directly contact your congressperson to demand she or he introduce and support strong gun-control laws. We can change the course of history, overcome corporate opposition, and win on the issue of gun violence—no, terrorism—that’s tearing our country apart. And when we do, then we can really celebrate, without interruption.

Stoned Success, AKA the Eggplant Theory

How weed enhances your imagination. Or mine, at least.

I’m clearly not as bright as Steve Jobs or Carl Sagan or Oprah, all of whom used weed at some point to energize their already wildly firing synapses. (As did President Obama, Stephen Jay Gould, Margaret Mead, Bill Gates, George Washington, Maya Angelou, Martha Stewart, et al.) But marijuana has helped spur my own creative process, or, if nothing else, helped me make connections I might otherwise have missed. I’ll give ya some examples.

In 1989, I went on a brainstorming weekend with my high-school pal Mike Schiller. Our idea was to hole up in the woods and try to come up with the greatest invention ever—something that might actually do some societal good. And, like Steve Jobs, we brought a ton of weed to our imagineering weekend. Between bong hits, we put hundreds of innovative ideas up on a whiteboard: a real-estate company for energy-efficient houses; a volunteer-recruitment and matchmaking firm; The Home-Eco Audit Kit; Organic Meals on Wheels. After running out of ideas (and cannabis), the two of us decided on a board game about ecology called EarthAlert: The Active Environmental Game. A combination of Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary, EarthAlert even had spots on the board where you could earn “oxygen units” by actually doing something then and there to help save the planet, such as turning off lights that didn’t need to be on, eliminating junk mail, or writing a letter to the president about an issue that concerned you. Our slogan: “Saving the Planet Has Never Been So Much Fun!” The game (printed on recycled paper, of course) was a mini-success, and led us to follow-ups including The Doonesbury Game (with cartoonist Garry Trudeau) and Hear Me Out, which was sold at Starbucks. Speaking of Starbucks, Mike and I should have gone with our second choice from that weeded weekend: A chain of sustainable eco-coffee shops. Woulda made us billionaires.

The Dead Guy Interviews
I’ve always loved history, but it’s an intimidating and often boring subject. Back in 2000 or so I got totally baked (see the theme emerging here?) and attended a play called Dirty Blonde at ACT Theatre about the legendary Mae West. It was full of wonderful dialogue and real-life characters, and gave me an idea to “interview” historical figures in a modern-day setting; how fun would it be to talk to Cleopatra about her keys to success (and fling with Caesar!), quiz Dr. Freud about his mommy issues, or ask Beethoven what was on his iPod? The editors of mental_floss magazine agreed to run my indica-induced idea as a regular column, and these oft-stoned sessions were turned into a book, The Dead Guy Interviews: Conversations With 45 of the Most Accomplished, Notorious, and Deceased Personalities in History (Penguin, 2007). As Churchill once said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

Eggplant Theory
My final example is less entrepreneurial—or ganjapreneurial, I should say—but still an important stoned epiphany: Turns out I’m an Eggplantatarian. The concept came to me years ago when I found myself high as a kite in a Thriftway produce aisle; before me was a gleaming colony of Purple Brain Pods, also known as aubergine, garden eggs, or eggplants. As I gazed at the violet enclave of nightshade, I felt the hum of their consciousness; I could see the ages—some older with fine lines in their black skins, others smooth as a baby’s butt. I carefully grasped one of the purple perennials, and could sense its throbbing heart. Solanum melongena! It pulsed and wobbled. I felt like I could communicate with Eggie as it vibrated gently in my palm. “Don’t eat me, Human. I’m meant for greater things . . . ”

So now any time an eggplant (aka Guinea squash!) is present—at the store, in a home, or, God forbid, on a menu (murder via parmigiana di melanzane)—I share my clearly out-there theory about my mindful Eggplant friends. No doubt people think I’m insane on the subject, but they also feel that way about Tom Cruise and Scientology, 9-11 conspiracy theorists, and the UFO crowd, so I’m in good company.

“Sure,” I say with downtrodden eyes, “you can order the baba ghanoush, if you don’t mind beating and charring and eating an intelligent species for dinner. But I’ll have to pass, as I now need to live up to my cosmic awakening.” Luckily, I never did really like the taste of eggplant, anyway. So I got that goin’ for me . . .

I’m stoned now. Perhaps it’s time to come down from my high . . . and return to Earth. Or perhaps I’ll elevate once again, and attempt to come up with a new invention or book or—better yet—a device that allows humans to communicate with eggplants!


Fire Fears and Frankenbud

Answering questions from the mail baggie.

We asked you to send in your canna-questions, and now it’s time to answer some reader mail! (The Higher Ground legal staff has asked me to remind readers that answers provided herein should be taken with a grain of hempseed; I am, after all, a marijuana columnist.)

With wildfires all over the state, I’m worried a nearby marijuana field may catch on fire and get me and my family stoned. Can burning weed farms get people high? Lance, Chelan
Does Smokey the Bear crap in the woods? Yes! Look, if you are standing right next to a giant burning pile of ganja and you inhale the smoke, you will be stoned to the bejesus. A town in Indonesia got seriously baked after police there burned a three-ton mound of confiscated marijuana in March. Dozens of residents of Tangerang (about 20 miles from Jakarta) complained of severe headaches and dizziness after inhaling smoke from the bud barbecue.

In the event, however, you’re not standing right next to giant bales of burning herb, it’s unlikely your family will catch a contact high from wildfires of marijuana plants. According to a study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence (great centerfold last month, btw!), secondhand smoke can get people feeling stoned, but it takes a huge amount of THC for that to happen.

“We evaluated the conditions under which you’d need to be to get intoxicated from secondhand smoke exposure,” noted Ryan Vandrey, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, “and it needs to be very extreme.” In their study, researchers put a dozen students in a small Plexiglas chamber without ventilation and gave three-quarters of them joints to smoke. “Enough smoke from the room filtered out so that the nonsmokers stuck in the ‘hot box’ didn’t experience a buzz,” Vandrey said. “Outside, where there is a constant circulation of air, it’s hard to imagine that a person could breathe in enough marijuana smoke to feel the effects of the drug.” (Bummer—though I am enrolling next semester at John Hopkins!)

Ultimately, if you’re worried about that kind of fire getting the wife and kids high, you’re worrying about the wrong thing: Get the hell outta Dodge, man! Smoke inhalation of any kind is serious in mega-quantities, and fumes from burning gas, plastics, pesticides, household products, and clouds of soot and ash can also do serious damage to your lungs.

I read somewhere that they’re starting to make GMO marijuana! Is that true, and how can I make sure I’m not smoking Frankenbud from Monsanto! Erin, Wallingford
While rumors of genetically modified weed have been around for decades, at least for the moment it’s a paranoid fantasy. “Genetic modification or genetic engineering involves altering a substance’s DNA at the molecular level,” the website PolitiFact explains. “Producers of marijuana on the illicit market don’t have the ability to pull off those kinds of lab-based modifications.”

Modern-day Reefer Madness proponents like Patrick Kennedy are also feeding the Frankenbud fires, claiming that GMO pot is being used to hard-wire megadoses of THC into the plant. While many growers (both legal and black-market) are selecting and breeding the best plants and coming up with high-potency strains of cannabis, thus far Big Ag players like Monsanto and company have yet to get their hands on seeds (one of the very few advantages of marijuana not being legal at the federal level).

Of course, given that cannabis is a cash cow (estimated to be a $15 billion market by 2020), the corporate agro-bastards at Monsanto will jump in at some point. It’s part of the reason the independent-grower model in early-legalization states like Washington, Oregon, and Colorado is so important—local, non-corporate farmers have got a headstart and a fighting chance!

You constantly mention how much in taxes legal pot is bringing in for the state, but obviously it also means there’s a ton more weed out there. So now all our kids are going to be getting their hands on the stuff and smoking up nonstop. Great job, Stoner-Dickwad . Derrick, Des Moines
I’m not sure there’s a question in there, Derrick, but I’d like to refute the statement.

According to data from the Washington Institute for Public Policy, the use of cannabis by youngsters in our state has remained unchanged over the past decade. “Cannabis use and access among students in sixth through 12th grades have changed little from 2002 through the most recent survey in 2014.” The report went on to state that all the groups surveyed—sixth graders, eighth graders, 10th graders, 12th graders—demonstrated static use over time, with the oldest group actually reporting slight declines in lifetime use since 2002.

Of course, Initiative 502 passed in 2012 and retail sales didn’t start until July 2014, so those numbers may change. However, eighth graders who were asked about their use of pot in the past month (as well as lifetime use) reported that they’d not only smoked less since legalization, but that it was harder to get. Unlike black-market dealers (who’ve been around for decades), our new crop of legal recreational cannabis stores actually checks IDs.

Last but not least, Derrick, I can tell you who is getting their hands on more reefer—full-grown adults. Since it became legal here, self-reported use is up 17 percent between 2012 and 2014. So yes, great job stoner-dickwads, indeed!

Weed Weddings, Republicannabis, and Buddie the Mascot

A roundup of pot news.


With legalization comes normalization, innovation, and marijuana bars at weddings. Ya heard that right. This summer, an Oregon couple had a “weed tent” at their nuptials, including a budtender to help answer questions (and moderate intake). The event, in West Linn, just south of Portland, was fully legal (Oregon Measure 91 passed with flying colors), as it was on a tree farm (private property) and did not also include a liquor license. (Heaven forbid we let budtenders and bartenders share a tent.) The CannaBar featured 13 hand-picked varietals and was fully enclosed so as not to offend guests not in the mood to partake. In case you’re wondering, munchies served included french fries and chocolate beignets.

Now I was thinking of mocking this over-the-top potbar until I remembered the giant ice-sculpture vodka luge that I paid for at my own wedding, allowing guests to pour Stoli down a long frozen slide and then directly down yer gullet. (Classy!) If I ever get married again (they say the fourth time’s a charm), we’ll mark the occasion with a towering double-bubbler ice bong.

The fact that marijuana could actually kill cancer cells has always sounded crazy even to a stoner like me. But now I can quote the National Cancer Institute on the matter. Last month the NCI officially revised its FAQ page to reflect that cannabis does indeed kill cancer.

“A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells showed that it caused cancer-cell death while having little effect on normal breast cells,” noted the NCI. “Studies in mouse models of metastatic breast cancer showed that cannabinoids may lessen the growth, number, and spread of tumors.”

Here’s the most amazing part. While many drug cocktails (i.e., chemo) can kill cancer cells, they often also kill everything else nearby—including healthy cells. Not so with ganja. The government-backed institute cited a number of recent studies revealing how cannabinoids “may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow, while at the same time protecting healthy cells from damage.” But ya didn’t hear it from me . . .

Even Republican voters, it turns out, want the feds to stay out of the marijuana-legalization battle. In a recent survey from Public Policy Polling, a majority of voters in early primary states Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina said they believe the federal government should not interfere with states that legalize weed.

In Iowa, 64 percent of GOP voters supported states’ rights on the issue, in New Hampshire it was 67 percent, and 65 percent in South Carolina agreed the government should step off and steer clear. Presidential candidates like Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio may want to take note, as the recycled and renewed Reefer Madness they’ve been spewing is clearly not gaining traction. “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie bellowed recently at a New Hampshire town hall meeting. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.” Ya might want to change yer tune, Gov. A nationwide CBS poll just found 60 percent of voters think states should be able to do what they want on the issue.

While I support legalization efforts in other states, that doesn’t mean I support all of them. Take Ohio. Please. Ohioans will vote in November on legalizing marijuana for adults (and for parents to be able to administer to kids who have a doctor’s recommendation). The only problem? The group bankrolling the initiative, ResponsibleOhio, has crafted the law so that its members have a monopoly on grow operations. The initiative specifies only 10 locations in the entire Buckeye State where growing ganja would be allowed. Surprise, surprise—the 10 groups of investors who financed the initiative (to the tune of $20 million thus far) have claimed ownership of those sites. Investors include veteran Republican strategist Neil Clark, relatives of President William H. Taft, Nick Lachey (yep, the tool from boy band 98 Degrees), and NBA legend Oscar Robertson.

It also doesn’t help that promoters of the Ohio initiative are using a marijuana mascot called Buddie to hype the campaign. Buddie is—you guessed it—a huge marijuana bud. With a Superman-like-cape, six-pack abs, and a giant green bud-head, this Cannabis Cartoon is wrong on so many levels it makes my head spin (and not in a good way). Buddie has garnered press, all right—as well as a mega-backlash from children’s advocates and legalization supporters.

“This is at best, irresponsible. The superhero theme clearly appeals to a younger crowd,” commented Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies spokeswoman Jen Detwiler. “It’s a shameless attempt to entice young people.”

ResponsibleOhio says Buddie visits only college campuses—on the “Green Rush Bus Tour” —to promote “Buddie’s 21 and Up Club.” Personally, I think it’s a great idea. In fact, Buddie should hop in a BadHabit clown-car with Joe Camel, Spuds MacKenzie, and Ronald McDonald. And make room for newly minted mascots Pharmie (a giant benzodiazepine pill), Bang-Bang (a plush bullet mascot from the NRA), Nukey (our radiated pal from Hanford)—and throw in Duncan the Diabetes Donut while you’re at it! At least that way the dummies can use the car-pool lane.

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.