Maybe we’ve all forgotten, but it wasn’t that long ago that cannabis was illegal everywhere. Today, all but 10 states have some form of medical or recreational cannabis. We’ve come a long way, stoner nation...
Before you take another victory lap to that local dispensary, it’s time to wake up and smell that kush, party people. Legal cannabis is in trouble. Many states with legal cannabis are a slow-motion trainwreck. In this collective crash and burn, cannabis companies are getting crushed, people are losing their jobs, and everything we fought so hard for is going ”Up In Smoke” like a blunt in a Cheech and Chong movie…without all the fun.
The Weedpocalype is upon us, and legal cannabis needs your help.
The Problems With Legal Weed
There are some heavy problems with the legal cannabis landscape that are killing the industry. These things need to change for legal cannabis to survive and flourish:
Cannabis Taxes are Too High
When you shop at a licensed recreational dispensary in California, state and local taxes hit your wallet hard. Typically, they add over 30% to the price of legal weed. How can a licensed operator compete with the illicit market with no regulatory or licensing costs, no tax burden, and can sell weed at a fraction of the price?
This is such a serious issue that some estimate the illicit market in California accounts for 80-90% of cannabis sales. Yikes.
Cannabis Regulations Are Too Restrictive
Getting a license to sell cannabis and running a compliant cannabis business makes jumping through the average hoop seem like a day at the beach. In cannabis, the hoops are made of razor wire, they’re on fire, and if you miss even one, you can lose your license or not get one at all. To say that getting a license and operating a cannabis business is complex and expensive is like saying the sun is hot. It just doesn’t even begin to describe it.
These challenges create another unnecessary financial burden compounded by the tax burden. This is another key reason why so many cannabis companies are in trouble.
Enforcement is Weak
A robust illegal market continues to thrive in California because the state and local governments don’t do enough to enforce the rules. But they’re more than happy to collect all those fat licensing fees and juicy tax revenue. Go figure.
The Cannabis Industry Cannibalizes Itself
This one stings a bit, but another major issue is that many licensed cannabis producers engage in unlicensed activity by using “burner distros” that buy licensed cannabis from producers legally but sell it on the illicit market. Yes, producers will either deny it or say that it’s necessary to survive. The truth is that it may very well be. But this only serves to highlight how detrimental the other problems are.
Cannabis Activism Is The Solution
It’s time to return to our roots before they’re ripped from the ground. Cannabis became legal because of activism, and activism can save cannabis now if we’re willing to step up like these activists who stood up to prohibition.
Brownie Mary was a waitress at IHOP for 25 years with a side hustle selling pot brownies. Then the AIDS crisis hit, and her side hustle became her passion when she saw that her brownies helped AIDS patients with wasting syndrome. She eventually became a volunteer in the AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital and baked nearly 600 brownies a day.
In 1991, Brownie Mary and Dennis Peron championed Proposition P, which made medical cannabis available in San Francisco and protected physicians who recommended it. Five years later, voters approved Proposition 215, making California the first state in the US to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Dennis Peron was an Air Force vet who served in Vietnam. When his tour of Vietnam ended, he smuggled two pounds of marijuana back to America and started a 40-year career selling cannabis.
But in 1990, a raid on his home drove Peron to become an activist. His lover, Jonathan West, was dying of AIDS, and cannabis was the only thing that relieved his nausea and pain. So, when police seized the marijuana Johnathan needed for treatment, Peron realized that the laws that criminalized cannabis possession for medical use had to change. He worked tirelessly with Brownie Mary on Proposition P and was one of the co-authors of Proposition 215. Both were significant moves toward ending cannabis prohibition.
Jack Herer published “The Emperor Wears No Clothes” in 1985. presenting a thesis highlighting cannabis as a beneficial plant outlawed because of greed and corruption. This resonated with the cannabis legalization movement. Thus the “Emperor” became its manifesto, while Herer became its unofficial “Hemperor.”
“Emperor” sold almost a million copies and provided a platform for Herer's message. He spoke at hundreds of rallies until 2009, when he had a heart attack after a speaking engagement. He passed away in April 2010.
DeAngelo wrote The Cannabis Manifesto: A New Paradigm for Wellness. “Manifesto” is DeAngelo’s vision for the human relationship with the cannabis plant and his call to action for rational cannabis policy. According to the Former Speaker of the California Assembly and Mayor of San Francisco, the Hon. Willie L. Brown, Steve Deangelo is the “Father of the Legal Cannabis Industry.”
DeAngelo has always been an activist. He founded Harborside Health Center in 2006, and in 2019, DeAngelo founded The Last Prisoner Project with Dean Raise and Andrew DeAngelo. The core belief that guides the project is that no one should be imprisoned for using cannabis.
Stroup first smoked cannabis as a freshman at Georgetown Law School. He soon became a regular smoker and founded NORML in 1970. Back then, only 12% of the American public supported legalization. Today, 68% support legalization.
This quote from Stroup about activism truly says it all: “When I look at it now, I think we must have been crazy, considering everything we were up against. But that’s what youth is good for: running into impossible goals and finding out they’re not so impossible after all.”
If you’re not inspired, you’re not breathing. The bottom line is that these activists had to push a much bigger rock up a much bigger mountain than the one we’re facing today. If they can effect change, we can do the same, and the time for a change in cannabis policy is now.
What Can I Do to Stop The Weedpocalypse?
Get involved. Even if you can’t be the next Dennis Perone or Brownie Mary, we can all do something. So, where to start?
- Look for local organizations you can join that support rational tax and regulatory policy. NORML is a great place to start!
- Call your local city council and state representative and let them know your views on cannabis. At the state level, request that your congressman participate in the congressional cannabis caucus.
- Register to vote and publicly support candidates that support reform of cannabis tax laws and regulations. Make yourself heard at the ballot box.
- Contribute to the cause. It doesn’t matter if it’s time or money. Most cities that have legal cannabis have trade organizations that are working to effect change and save the industry. Link up and pitch in however you can.
- Participate in cannabis-related events like seminars and conferences, or volunteer for a cause. These are great ways to network and become an advocate for reform.
- Follow cannabis news websites, blogs, and local cannabis advocacy groups on social media. Share news articles or tweets that support reform regularly to show your support.
Speak with your money and support licensed cannabis production by shopping at your local dispensary. If it happens to be a STIIIZY store, amazing. If not, it’s still amazing. A rising tide raises all ships, and STIIIZY stands with licensed operators everywhere. Look for your local STIIIZY dispensary and join the movement.