I HAVE GOOD NEWS! Today we’re going to explore how you can shatter the myth of the lazy, unmotivated, forgetful stoner and defend cannabis consumers everywhere. And you can do it while stoned!
I also have not-so-good news! It’s going to involve taking time out of your day. Not much, but you are going to have to click on some links, maybe type a little, and make a phone call. So it’s about on par with the effort you exert using Tinder—without all that lingering regret.
Right now many things are at stake in our state’s capital, within both the medical marijuana (OMMP) and recreational pot programs. So I spoke with Maura C. Roche, strategic consultant to the Oregon Cannabis Association, and she suggested cannabis users and advocates familiarize themselves with the three bills in the 2016 legislative session that pertain to our favorite little green plant. Buckle up, because things are about to get wonky.
First, there’s House Bill 4014. This one deals with a wide range of issues, including lifting state residency requirements and criminal sentencing adjustments. It also deals with how cannabis growers, processors, and others are licensed, and allows the governor to enter into compacts with the state’s tribal governments related to marijuana growing, processing, and manufacturing.
Next, there’s House Bill 4132, which is a little more straightforward. This one keeps OMMP patients and caregivers from having to pay tax on their purchases.
Lastly, there’s Senate Bill 1511. This one would allow existing dispensaries to sell edibles, concentrates, and topicals to non-OMMP cardholders.
“HB 4014 and SB 1511 are the primary vehicles for cannabis-related policy in the 2016 legislative session,” Roche says. “They are similar in their structure, and there is probably still some work being done to determine the ultimate content of the legislation. And there will also be a bill on access to financial services for cannabis business owners, as well as some industrial hemp legislation. It’s unclear how much of this legislation will move in short session, but safe to say that one of these production, processing, sale, and use bills will move at a minimum.”
It’s wise to keep on top of which bills are open for debate and modification. The best way to do that is to keep track of what the 2016 legislative session—which began on February 1—is discussing by going to oregonlegislature.gov. From there, you can track when committees are meeting and testimonies are being heard (under the “Committees” tab, click “Agendas Online”). And perhaps most importantly, you can find out the name of your elected official and how to reach them.
When you do contact an elected official, keep your passions in check. It’s tempting to unload in spectacular fashion, but while insults and rants might make you feel better for a hot sec, ask yourself: If you were the recipient of such a communiqué, would you think, “This not-at-all-crazy-sounding hothead makes some reasonable points. Perhaps I should reconsider my position on newly legal cannabis!”
So save your bon mots, Gore Vidal, and focus on making a concise, polite argument for your position. Address how legislation could affect your life, mention if a provision or decision will be good or bad for the local economy, write about your experiences as a responsible cannabis user, and always emphasize your support for “regulated, adult-use cannabis” and “the reduction of black-market sales.” The elected official you’re working to persuade is probably not a huge pothead—and might still hold on to old stigmas about cannabis—but he or she does share values with you: a desire for safe streets, an interest in reducing suffering, and so on.
Consider placing your arguments in the context of Oregon’s economic interests. We are renowned for our wine, coffee roasters, and artisanal small-batch distilleries—it’s in Oregon’s interest to produce high-quality cannabis to add to the list of what makes Oregon special. How would Oregon’s world-renowned craft brewing industry have developed if beer lovers had no legal place to drink, and faced fines and potential jail time for drinking in their hotel room? This is one of the major issues the canna industry faces right now. Remember, cannabis is potentially the most powerful economic engine in Oregon since timber, and our ability to offer tourists and residents the opportunity to enjoy it without undue persecution is key to developing our state and local economies.
But you MUST SPEAK UP. If you enjoy cannabis, you have an obligation to exercise your democratic rights. In the time it takes you to roll a joint, load a bong, or prep a dab, you can do your part. It’s free and easy, and you can get stoned when you are done as a reward. Is it thrilling? No. Is it necessary? Hells to the yes. So start clicking, emailing, and phoning.
By Josh Jardine