Fear and Loathing in Legal Territory

From legal growing fields through the black market and into the heart of the medical movement, our writer takes an up-close look at the recreational marijuana revolution.

Michael Stusser’s column appears weekly on HigherGroundtv.com as well as the Seattle Weekly and other newspapers around the country.

Something about following a black pick-up truck in the dead of winter to a giant marijuana field in the middle of nowhere still feels wrong. It’s not so much the snow on the Okanogan ground, or that there’s no cell service in case these drug dealers want to body-bag my ass. Actually, it’s the safety of the escapade that blows my flippin’ mind. This gang of ganja farmers is operating in the great wide open, growing a shit-ton of legal weed—even hyping it on social media—and doing so without having to keep one eye peeled for DEA choppers, drug-sniffing dogs, or local coppers. Is this the end of paranoia? Maybe. Maybe not.

New marijuana laws in Washington and Colorado might have some lucky citizens wallowing in a safe stoney cocoon, but nearly 700,000 people a year are still arrested in the United States for marijuana-related offenses. In many states, you could serve 25-to-life for buying the amount of weed I just snagged at a recreational shop for $45. This issue is not settled. Not by a longshot. And as Tim McCormack, owner of Antoine Creek Farms, tells me as he steps out of his snow-covered ride, the long shadow of marijuana’s illegality had them scared shitless at the beginning of their public pot experiment.

“Oh, believe me, it was plenty weird for us when we had to transfer 1,600 marijuana plants in a U-Haul truck at 4 in the morning from an ‘undisclosed location,’ ” he says as the sun sets behind the mountains that butt up against his grow fields.

McCormack, CEO of one of the state’s largest marijuana producers, is referring to a conundrum known as the “first seed problem” or the “magic-bean scenario.” Since marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, even fully licensed growers find themselves in a catch-22. See, before you get a license, it’s illegal to grow marijuana or even possess seeds. That means that the first growers under the Washington law have been expected to conjure an immaculate conception, producing plants from thin air. Once those growers are given licenses, state officials just look the other way while the farmer magically comes up with starter plants; don’t ask, don’t tell. But don’t tell that to the countysheriff.

“I had a long discussion with my partner, Brian [Siegel, CFO] about who would drive the truck with our plants, and what we’d say if we got pulled over,” McCormack recalls. The reason Tim didn’t drive? “Well, I told Brian that the whole management team shouldn’t get busted in the U-Haul. And I’m also a lawyer, so I could bail him out.”

Fifteen days after McCormack and Siegel’s June run, an inspector from the state came by to make sure the non-flowering plants they’d miraculously created were the right size. Then each was bar-coded and entered into the state’s BioTrack software system, officially becoming part of the state’s newest industry.

The black market, it turns out, still has value in Washington’s new green market. It is, quite literally, the seed of the recreational revolution.

While wheat is the most planted, and sugar cane has the highest annual yield, cannabis is the planet’s biggest cash crop, worth over $300 billion. And weed is the fastest-growing industry in the U.S., with growers reaping about $36 billion a year. What used to be an underground economy is now above-board in some places, and threatening to take flight.

This past November, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C. all passed ballot measures to legalize recreational use for adults, joining Washington and Colorado. For the first time, a majority of the U.S. population thinks marijuana should be legal; the Oxford English Dictionary’s word of the year was about it (“vape”); Tommy Chong made the semifinals of Dancing With the Stars because of the cultural recognition he built with it; grandmas smoking it are a viral sensation; and Hillary Clinton saw a vision of it in her latte.

Ganja-smoking is smack-dab in the middle of my wheelhouse; I have a long history with the stuff. While I don’t support the idea of waking and baking, blazing at 4:20, or firing up “Everyday, All Day,” it has served to energize and inspire me for decades. That said, I don’t think that marijuana is the Solution, that it’s necessarily “Better Than Alcohol,” or that “if we all had a bong, we’d get along.” It’s also not a Devil Weed or a gateway drug, but it is still clearly not a good idea for developing brains.

And then there is the biggest dichotomy of all: marijuana is legal here, but listed as a Schedule 1 narcotic at the federal level. It is this double life that makes the plant a fascinating conundrum. So I set out to get clues to marijuana’s future. Passing fad, or the End of Prohibition? Should we Just Say No, or is the revolution real?

Joe Bighouse, the Master Grower at Antoine Creek Farms, is old-school. And by that I mean he’s paranoid. Asked about his pre-legal experience, he recoils before relaxing, a little. “Well, I guess they can’t go back and get me now,” he mutters.

“Look, it’s not exactly something I could ever put on my resume, but I had lots of indoor experience. A big operation. Outdoors, though? This is all new to me,” he says, walking around his giant legal operation where workers dry, trim, and package the marijuana. He’s right about the “big” part. This inaugural grow consists of 1,147 plants and 21,000 square feet of plant canopy.

And this is just one operation. The Washington State Liquor Control Board (whose name clearly now needs to be hyphenated) has approved more than 300 growers to supply the Evergreen State’s demands, with another 2,000 applicants still pending. And because no one (at least in government) had a clue about how large the plants might get (the seeds being magic and all), rather than limit the number of plants, the LCB imposed a cap on cultivation—at 2 million square feet of plant canopy. Antoine Creek currently accounts for just one percent of that potential canopy.

Whereas indoor operations—the go-to in illegal days—require energy-sucking lights and ventilation, outdoor plants can grow through the roof. But marijuana doesn’t always grow like a weed. “There are a lot more variables growing outdoors, that’s for sure,” Bighouse explains. “Rabbits, mold. mildew, wind, deer, frost, grasshoppers. Hell, plants can even get sunburned.” Bighouse stops as he sees me taking copious notes. “The thing that—I guess—we don’t have to worry about is being busted. I tell ya, though, a lot of time I’m out there checking plants, and just waiting for the helicopters . . . ”

The first harvest at Antoine Creek got hit hard by a freeze, but will still generate a thousand pounds of marijuana and be separated into more than 600,000 packages for sale in stores—some of it flower (or bud), some finely ground leaf, and some of it the sticky kief powder many of us like to sprinkle on a bowl for an added kick. By law, independent labs will test the product for contaminants including salmonella and E. coli, determine the levels of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the principal psychoactive component in marijuana) and CBD (cannabidiol, one of at least 60 active cannabinoids identified in cannabis), and make sure that all chemical contents are correctly displayed on package labels. That ain’t cheap.

“If we want legal weed, it’s got to be regulated, or the whole thing will get shut down,” McCormack notes. “On our end, it’s a big investment—for us, over a million dollars. There are a lot of steps to follow with testing and labeling. But this is the way we’ll be taken seriously as an industry, as businesses. Consumers will know exactly what they’re getting, the government will be involved in the process, and we’re happy to comply. We call it the Fellowship of the Green.”

For the much larger red-state “fellowship” out here in Chelan County, the politics cut both ways. In the 2012 election, the voters rejected same sex-marriage (57 percent), voted for Mitt Romney (57 percent), and supported the initiative to legalize weed (52 percent). Nationally, there’s still a “Be Smart, Don’t Start” mentality from Republicans, as only 30 percent of them support recreational marijuana. Those pushing the numbers into the overall majority (52 percent) include millennials, nonwhites, and independents. “Most everybody’s been really great and supportive here,” McCormack notes. “Though the local propane company wouldn’t sell to us. Apparently we don’t ‘align with their corporate morals.’ ”

McCormack’s law degree makes him well aware of the delicate legal tightrope his company is walking, and how quickly that rope can go slack. “Look, we’re managing against risk. The next presidential election could be detrimental to our bottom line, so we’ll try and make money while we can—and enjoy being a part of this incredible time in our history.”

One dispensary that will not be selling Antoine Creek’s strains of legal cannabis is Lance, a drug dealer operating “outside the lines,” shall we say. Peddling “traditional supply,” as it’s known, Lance sells weed out of a backpack, pays no taxes, and avoids the costs of lab testing, security, health care, payroll, and packaging (except for the Ziplocs). He also didn’t need to pass a criminal background check, as is required for dispensary owners.

“I think it’s cool they legalized it,” Lance says while we sit in our usual spot in the PCC parking lot. “The chance of going to jail here is pretty much gone now, which, ya know, is a big deal. I’m happy about that. But in terms of sales, I’m down probably 30 or 40 percent.” Surprisingly, the exodus of customers isn’t for fear of being busted. “People just want variety. I have this lady baking some great cookies, but otherwise, for edibles and oils and all that crap, you need to go to a dispensary.”

Edibles—pot brownies, chocolate bars, suckers, and such—currently make up almost 50 percent of the legal-marijuana market. And that’s just the tip of the green-berg when it comes to ways to get high. The days of big ol’ bong hits, dime bags, and ditch weed are waning, being replaced by vaporizers, THC caramels, elixirs, dab kits, and a variety of concentrates, including shatter, budder, and hash oils the likes of which Cheech never saw coming.

Lance is hesitant to give me too much information about his own “farming methods,” but he will tell me he’s a middleman for two individual indoor growers in the Olympia area with several hundred plants each.

Today Lance is offering a choice of either Lemon Haze or Ghost, his most popular strain as it’s consistently “qual”—by which he means it gets you super-baked.

“My guy’s been growing for, like, 30 years, and has it down to a science,” he says. According to Lance, his supplier actually is a scientist at the University of Washington. “Smell this,” he implores, opening a giant Tupperware of Lemon Haze. I’m no cannabis connoisseur—to me, weed is weed—but I take a whiff and am impressed by the citrus tones, hints of cigar box and pungent skunk afterbite. I buy a big ol’ baggie.

I couldn’t tell you if the sinsemilla at legal dispensaries such as Cannabis City or Uncle Ike’s is better or worse than street kush; I’m sure eventually the retailers will have the best Alaskan Thundergoo and Cannabis Cup Winners ever grown. What I can tell you is that the dispensary experience, for me, is infinitely more pleasant than sitting with Lance in my car exchanging cash and awkward conversation in the dark. No offense to Lance, he’s actually a fine,interesting fellow.

If you haven’t visited a licensed dispensary in one of the legal territories, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. These aren’t your gritty Haight-Ashbury head shops with beaded curtains, psychedelic velvet wall hangings of Jimi Hendrix, and dusty shelves full of peace pipes, Hacky Sacks, and grinders galore. Rather, most recreational dispensaries (“rec shops”) have that “new-car smell”—they’re not only brightly lit, but sit in renovated buildings with high-end security and the look and feel of Apple (and not one you can make a pipe out of). They do this not only to avoid trouble with the neighbors and the federal government, but to attract a newer (more affluent) clientele. When unseasoned customers first visit, rather than feel they’ve made a drug deal, they’ll have an experience they’re familiar with, so long as they have patronized Restoration Hardware or SuperSupplements.

But no matter how hard they try, these shops can’t shake the longstanding stigma of Reefer Madness; the sinister smoke screen of the War on Drugs will require more than a few years of semilegal existence to fade. Marijuana is still a controversial subject, and rec shops are being opposed in Washington and Colorado, with city councils, church groups, and neighborhood-watch programs attempting to bar them. (Thus far more than 100 cities and counties have put a halt to marijuana businesses in Washington. Last summer the Fife City Council decided to ban pot shops, and a Pierce County Superior Court judge went along with the ordinance in August; similar rulings followed in Clark, Wenatchee, and Kennewick counties.)

Many retailers have been given licenses, but can’t find a place to set up shop, as they aren’t allowed within 1,000 feet of schools, playgrounds, libraries, game arcades, public-transit centers, or parks. Other ordinances hindering success include limitations on signage and advertising and a ban on window displays; the sale of marketing materials is also strictly forbidden. Sure, it’s cool to sell Aunt Bessie from Omaha a big ol’ bag of Pineapple Kush that will knock her on her ass, but for Chrissakes don’t let her buy a XXXL Clear Choice Cannabis T-shirt! The best solution to the opposition in legal territory is the Oregon model: Cities can opt out of having retail stores, but they won’t receive any of the taxes collected on pot. Boo-yah!

Though Washington was slow out of the gate, the 100 rec shops that have gotten rolling are reeling it in—and then giving large chunks back in taxes. Total sales for July–December 2014 were $65 million, giving the state government more than $16 million in excise taxes to play with. Once the WSLCB gets into the groove and starts approving more applications for stores (334 will ultimately open) and new products (edibles, marijuana-infused coffees, oils, even a Weed of the Month Club!), boatloads more money will line the state coffers, enabling political pinheads who propped up prohibition to bail themselves out of debt. But while I-502 directs taxes toward infrastructure, health care, education, and substance-abuse prevention, the exact allotment percentages were left hazy, so members of the legislature have been clamoring like stoners at a dessert buffet for the sweet spoils.

It’s reasonable to argue that the legal taxes are too high, helping to keep the street trade alive. (In a triple-decker tax sandwich, pot is taxed 25 percent at multiple levels: from farmer to processor, from processor to retailer, and then from retailer to consumers, who also get hit with a 10 percent sales tax. And don’t count out the Feds—who expect another 25 percent of their drug money.) At around $10 a gram, Lance’s ganja is half the price of similar strains in recreational dispensaries. The disadvantage? Well, the black market is illegal in all 50 states, and while you may get only a $27 ticket in liberal locales like Seattle, Boulder, and Berkeley, other backwaters will lock up your ass lickety-split.

The law also results in Lance taking greater, scarier risks. For several years he’s driven a carload of bud to Texas, making around $30,000 profit for the journey. This year, to compensate for his loss to retailers, he’s taking an extra trip with his lemony-dank. If caught, he could serve massive jail time.

Lance isn’t the only one working outside the bounds of 502. While the initiative set up a framework for recreational marijuana, it didn’t address the longstanding use of medical cannabis, which has been part of our Evergreen culture since the passage of Washington’s Medical Use of Marijuana initiative in 1998. Citizens passed I-692 by almost 60 percent, making our fair state one of the first of 23 (plus the District of Columbia) that have legalized medical marijuana.

As the state legislature tweaks the new law, people like Deidre Finley, owner and operator of the MMJ Universe, hang in the balance. Her business could soon be vaporized, so to speak, and potentially leave folks like those who I’m eavesdropping on at the Cannabis Farmer’s Market in rural Black Diamond without the collective’s knowledge and expertise . . . or cheap weed.

“It won’t get you stoned, Nana,” a pink-haired 20-something reassures her blue-haired grandma.

“That’s true, ma’am,” explains a vendor. “This cannabinoid oil has very low THC—the part of weed that gets you high—and is very high in CBDs.” That’s the compound in cannabis that’s no fun (and by that I mean it won’t get you stoned to the bejesus), but has been effective in treating symptoms in patients.

“Medical marijuana—and cannabis extracts—help with so many medical ailments: chronic pain. Seizures. Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, and the list goes on,” explains Finley. She’s held this farmers market on her property on weekends for several years; it’s one of nine such in Washington. “Instead of a gateway drug, they should call it an exit drug,” she says. “People come here from all over the country to have access to cannabis products that often replace pharmaceutic drugs, wean them off methadone, and of course replace alcohol.”

Finley isn’t blowing smoke: The Journal of the American Medical Association just released a report showing a 25 percent reduction in fatal painkiller-related overdoses in “420-friendly states.” “The vendors here,” it states, “are making custom formulations for patients—topicals for rheumatoid arthritis, special CBD oils for migraines that are 20 times more powerful than ibuprofen, transdermal patches for people going through chemo.”

One after another, Finley pulls me over to meet patients who use cannabis to treat their ailments: a middle-aged carpenter with MS who smokes to relax his muscle spasticity; a woman suffering from Chiari malformation who “fired her doctor”; an old man whose family was wiped out by “downwinders syndrome” (exposure to radioactive contamination) and claims he beat cancer with pot; and 65-year-old Dee Dee Baker, who was on 12 painkillers after spinal surgery.

“My doctor said I also needed knee and hip surgery for constant pain I was having,” she says. “Before I did that, I wanted to look into cannabis.” Baker had worked at Swedish Hospital for 40 years, and did her research. “I begin using low THC tinctures, and within two and a half weeks I was running up stairs again. And in two years I’d lost 102 pounds.” The MMJ circus tent was like an evangelical show, except instead of preaching about Jesus, they were being healed by the power of pot. Praise Sativus!

“502 is for getting people high,” notes Finley. “They set a minimum level of 3 percent THC. They don’t allow CBD products. Some of my patients aren’t looking to get high. And no [recreational]growers want to grow low-THC strains, as it’s not appealing or profitable. We have boutique, patient-loving growers here [at her farmers market]who are the only ones who will grow it. We need the medical system.”

No doubt not all the people milling about the farmers market are using marijuana as medicine . . . unless you count getting super-baked as stress relief. But nationally, marijuana is medicine for about two million Americans who use the herb to alleviate the affects of everything from Alzheimer’s to cancer. Whereas the country is split on recreational weed (roughly 52 percent support legalizing it for adults), an overwhelming majority—78 percent—support it for medical purposes if a doctor recommends it.

The current parallel system of recreational sales and medical use is, simply, a clusterfuck. Whereas there are only a smattering of state-licensed rec shops in the Seattle area (capped at 21), over 300 medical dispensaries have opened their doors here—many in the past few months. And among those are an unruly group of so-called medical dispensaries and delivery services that don’t check IDs and don’t follow rules related to collective gardens. The city isn’t exactly rolling out the red carpet for this new business.

“They’re creating a public-safety nightmare, frankly, and they’re undercutting the 502 stores because they’re unregulated and untaxed,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes recently. “If you’re a commercial [medical-marijuana] operation lacking a 502 license, it’s a felony operation. Period.”

Finley agrees that it isn’t perfect, but the medical system is necessary. “A lot of bad actors are taking advantage, and they need to stop calling themselves ‘medical,’ ” she says. “I’d be willing to require testing of cannabis, regulate dosages, and pay B&O taxes [which she already is doing]. But a large percentage of very sick people are also very poor people. So to charge 87 percent taxes to those who can least afford it doesn’t make sense. You don’t see big pharma paying taxes—and you don’t pay taxes on your ibuprofen. Look around; you see PTSD veterans and people with long-term illnesses. This is medicine.”

Efforts are underway to merge the marijuana outlets. Senior weed statesperson Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles is attempting to combine the parallel medical and recreation dispensaries into one system, clean up the insane tax issues, and allow for personal growing for all citizens (six plants each). Major points of contention include what taxes medical customers might pay (if any), what rules and regulations producers and growers will need to follow, and whether experienced medical dispensaries will be given licenses. This last point is particularly sticky, since medical-marijuana dispensaries have been cultivating institutional knowledge and trust with their patients for decades now.

“I’m sorry, but a 24-year-old budtender in the city isn’t going to ask about your symptoms,” says a patient at Finley’s farmers market, “or know everything these long-time dispensary operators and vendors do.”

Al Olson sure doesn’t look like he has much in common with Finley and her market full of true believers. If you didn’t see his business card or byline, you’d never guess he was a big-time burner. With his silver hair and conservative reporter’s garb, he fits right into the newsroom, the type of place he’s called home since he was 16 years old. But instead of huddling in the NBC studio, where he was a founding editor at MSNBC and worked for NBC for nearly 20 years, today Olson is holding court at literally the highest place in town: the top of the Columbia Tower, where he runs marijuana.com.

“I got my medical marijuana card in 2010, and when the editors at MSNBC found out, they told me I couldn’t write about marijuana anymore. They said because of my belief that weed ‘had medicinal value’—I could no longer be objective. Well when I was the food and wine editor for the San Jose Mercury News in the ’90s, they had no problem with me drinking wine and covering that industry!”

MSNBC eventualy relented, letting Olson file a few marijuana stories as a business reporter in late 2013, and once they began to see the traffic they were getting, let him run wild. Still, Olson didn’t like the way they covered the issue. “Mainstream media is struggling with the way they tell the weed story. They’re lazy. There aren’t two sides—there are 200 sides: health, science, lifestyle, civil rights, politics, policy, medicine. And the best thing about it is that when there’s a 50/50 split—which is where we are right now—journalism is at it’s best.”

Now Editor-in-Chief of marijuana.com, Olson was hired by a group of young tech kids out of Irvine, who created an app called Weedmaps. Along with the locally based Leafly (owned by Privateer Holdings), Olson’s employers are battling to become the Yelp for marijuana. Weedmaps knew they’d need a seasoned veteran to take them from stoney humor to the mainstream. “I’m covering the issue as an industry story, really. I’m a business journalist, and this is going to be a huge market.”

According to ArcView research, an estimated $2.7 billion of legal weed was sold in the U.S. last year (a 74% increase from the $1.5 billion in 2013). Sixteen million Americans admitted having fired up in the last month. As the ranks increase, the industry is projected to grow to $10.8 billion by 2018, and $40 billion by 2020, making it bigger business than the NFL or the organic food industry. Weedmaps is making its own bank, hauling in $30 million a year from strain reviews and dispensary advertising.

“We’re not cheerleaders for the industry,” Olson maintains, putting on his reporter’s fedora. “People are curious! We want to appeal to parents who want more information, and we also want to go after the bad guys selling snake oil and pump and dump operations. Weed’s been around for millennia—it’s not going away. For me, marijuana is the story of a lifetime.”

Obviously my own assumptions about hippies, heads, and dead-end stoners had kicked in as I prepared for the final stop on my tour, deep inside the world of marijuana activism. After sending a third e-mail confirming a meeting with Vivian McPeak, the longtime executive director of Seattle’s Hempfest politely responded, “Yes, Michael, I have you on my calendar.” I needn’t have worried—not only is McPeak the CEO of the world’s biggest marijuana gathering, he’s sharp as a tack and more organized than Martha Stewart’s spice rack.

“We’re coming up on our 25th year of doing this, and have over 1,000 trained staff and volunteers who make Hempfest possible. Permits, safety patrols, insurance, first-aid responders, Porta-Potties—we’ve got our shit together—we’re organized.”

I wondered if the band of hungry entrepreneurs hoping to get in on the Green Rush worried him. “I think it’s actually advancing the cause. Jobs, commerce, revenue, taxes; it’s part of the process of ‘normalization.’ We’ve always said we want to include everybody. Capitalists, stoners, ganjapreneurs. Everybody. So now I just want these people who are seeing the ROI potential to think about where they’d be without the hippies and longhairs who came before them.”

As McPeak points out, legalization lines up beautifully with conservative values: states’ rights, individual freedom, sound fiscal policy, American-grown industry, and smaller government. Job creation’s also a biggie. According to CannaInsider, a job-finder and business newsletter for weed, marijuana will create 200,000 new jobs this year, from hands-on gigs like edibles artisans to kush tour guides, lab techs, and web developers.

So now that pot’s no longer a subculture, but heading mainstream, is there a need for Hempfest? “More than ever. There’s no ‘legal’ pot. You pass me a joint—it’s a felony! It’s great that Initiative 502 passed, but it’s not legal to smoke marijuana at the federal level. Even at the state level, 29 grams is a misdemeanor, 40 grams a felony. Growing plants—if you’re not a patient—gets you five years in the pen. Politics trumps the law. If they wanna bust you—guess what? They will. We’re looking for equality for all under the law. We want marijuana taken off the Federal Schedule for drugs. Alcohol—which kills more people than all the other drugs combined—isn’t even on the schedule! And after that . . . ”

I had riled the man up.

Well aware that the winds can change—sometimes overnight—McPeak wanted to leave me with one more critical note: “We’ve really got great momentum, now, but it’s ours to fuck up. A guy was just making BHO oil in his apartment the other day and blew up the ex-mayor of Bellevue. That’s no good. People can’t be leaving their edibles out for some toddler to eat, they can’t be driving around impaired—that’ll blow it . . . for all of us.”

In the next 10 years, dozens more states will vote on legalization, including California, Maine, Missouri, Nevada, and Arizona in 2016. If the patterns from Washington and Colorado continue—high tax revenues; lower incidents of drunk driving, property crime, and domestic violence; and lower teen drug use—it seems likely, if not a no-brainer, that the pendulum will swing. But in all battles worth fighting for, there will be debate and resistance. And so what can we on the bold frontier of green Washington impart to those who will follow? What can trailblazers share with neophytes?

Well, for one thing, marijuana is many things to many people, but what it is not is either side of the false polarity that’s been built around it. It’s not a panacea and it’s not a gateway to hell. It’s medicine for cancer patients. It’s an escape for soccer moms. It’s a material used in paint, fuel, and plastics. It’s a cash cow for private prisons. It’s a secret hobby of middle-aged accountants. Weed is not this or that; weed is this and that. (And that. And that.) Perhaps one day there won’t be a single, monolithic image of cannabis. Perhaps, as with alcohol, people won’t be judged and labeled according to whether or not they indulge, but rather by how they act when they do. It’s tough to predict what pot will become, because we’re not even honest about what it already is.

My best guess for the future? There’ll be a cannabis section in grocery stores, similar to where the liquor section is now. It will include some THC chocolate bars, a few CBD pills (that don’t give you the buzz, but help with migraines, joint pain, and insomnia), nice selections of artisanal bud, and packs of disposable vape pens. Stiletto stoners and Costco members will load their well-labeled, hopefully organically grown cannabis products into their shopping carts—next to the granola, Chianti, heirloom tomatoes, and never-ending toilet paper rolls—and life will go on.

But we’re still a ways away from that mellow new world.

This summer, wildfires came dangerously close to Tim McCormack’s Antoine Creek Farm, and he wanted to thank the fire and police departments for not letting his dream go up in flames. ?After the fire was contained, I invited them all to party at the farm,” McCormack explained. “The Sheriff looked at me and said, “We can’t come to a pot party, man.”

Still, the CEO wanted to do something for these brave men and women. He remembered the Okanogan sheriff telling him that since weed was now legal, the new drug-smelling dogs had to be retrained not to sniff out marijuana. As a thank-you, McCormack is sponsoring the new K-9 units. Peace out, dog.

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.