An exciting election year for cannabis

If you haven’t yet heard, there are a couple of exciting news items in the cannabis world this week.

First off, South Dakotans will decide whether to become the 15th state to legalize medical marijuana. They were the only state to ever have a medical marijuana bill measure not pass when it made the ballot in 2006. This time around, the South Dakota Coalition for Compassion collected more than twice the necessary number of signatures to qualify their proposal for a spot on the ballot, a sign that voters in South Dakota are much more open to the idea of medical marijuana than they were four years ago. If passed, the measure would create a system where qualifying patients would be issued ID cards and be allowed to have up to one ounce of dried “useable” marijuana and either a designated caregiver to grow the plants for them or up to six plants they grow themselves. Caregivers would only be allowed to help a maximum of 5 medical marijuana patients, which will probably mean no-go on dispensaries. The measure would require a written recommendation by a doctor who you see for other things besides getting a written recommendation for medical marijuana. It also provides access to minors, so long as they have parental consent, they are thoroughly educated on the risks and benefits of medical marijuana and the parent or guardian agrees to be their designated caretaker. While much more restrictive than California’s medical marijuana regulations, it is similar to many other states’ proposals. Read the full text of the proposed measure here.

The more exciting news that’s absolutely flooding my twitter feed: A group of Californian proponents of legalization have collected far more than the necessary signatures to put a state-wide legalization measure on the ballot in November. This legislation would legalize up to an ounce of dried marijuana for personal use by adults under 21. It would place heavy penalties for sale to minors, and possession on school grounds would remain illegal. It would, however, allow for the personal growth of marijuana in a 25 square foot area of one’s yard. Awesome. View a pdf of the proposed legislation here.

Sadly, it seems some cannabis users are actually opposed to the measure. One of the most revered names in the cannabis culture (he even has a high quality strain named after him), Jack Herer, is trying to convince people to vote against the measure. Herer doesn’t agree with the proposed taxes put in place on marijuana, one of the bill’s main selling points. Herer had a different proposal in mind, but couldn’t find enough support for his version to get it on the ballot. Other concerns include the section in the bill that would make smoking in the presence of minors illegal. Opponents of the measure argue that this unfairly discriminates against parents, and point out that there are no laws preventing parents from drinking alcohol in the presence of minors.

Marijuana growers in the “green triangle” of Humboldt County are also not too keen on the measure, saying that a legal market will raise supply and drop the price of their crop, endangering their local economy. I have to say that this seems very selfish to me. To oppose this legislation is to send more responsible adults through the criminal justice system for possession of a small amount of weed. And why? So you can keep selling your pot for huge prices on the black market? To the growers in Humboldt County, I say you need to see the bigger picture here. It’s the first step to real drug reform change, and you want to knock it down for selfish reasons? You all grow some of the finest marijuana in the world, so you have no excuse to not get creative with this new legal environment. Give yourselves a brand, advertise your high standards, showcase your world-class product and sell in smaller quantities to individuals. You could market so many edibles, like dispensaries are already doing. And since paraphernalia will be legal, more people will be willing to buy huge conspicuous pipes and bongs. You people could have the ultimate marijuana tourist destination in the world; you could outdo Amsterdam with some honest effort. So please, my west-coast brothers, don’t shoot down a good start. We need to take this one step at a time, and we need every inch that we can get.

If you’re a Californian, you can pledge your vote for legalization on Facebook. Come November, the nation’s eyes will be on California. Please don’t let this opportunity lie around for another four years. The time for change is now!

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