Category Archives: culture

Is Home Cultivation Finally Coming to Washington State?


A new bill in the Washington state Legislature would add a long-awaited provision to the state’s cannabis law to allow adults 21 and over to grow their own supply of cannabis at home.

The new legislation, HB 1092 introduced last week by Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), would allow adults to grow cannabis plants at home for personal use—a move that would align Washington with the rest of adult-use states.

As it stands, Washington is the only state that allows retail sales of adult-use cannabis but still bars home cultivation. Currently only registered medical patients with a state-issued permit can legally grow at home.

If the bill is enacted, adults 21 and over would be able to grow up to six plants on their private property. Yields would be limited to no more than 24 ounces, or a pound and a half of useable cannabis. Homes with more than one adult resident could legally house up to 12 plants, for up to 48 ounces, or three pounds.

A big question that remains is how consumers would go about getting cannabis seeds in the first place. The purchase and sale of seeds is still illegal under state and federal law, despite the fact Washington has legalized cannabis itself. Under the current proposed bill, there is no mention of where consumers would be able to purchase cannabis seeds were the bill to become law.

Daniel Shortt, a Seattle-based cannabis lawyer at the firm Harris Bricken, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that he believes the new bill will have to answer how home growers can acquire seeds.

“The way the entire marijuana market is set up, producers and processors can sell to retailers, who can sell to the public. Would that mean that now, to get these seeds, potential home growers are getting seeds from the retail store?” said Shortt. “If those seeds are being sold, that’s really the only place where the government could actually get revenue from taxes.”

In 2016 alone, Washington lawmakers introduced 44 bills that deal with cannabis in some fashion. The list includes bills that relax residency requirements for licensed marijuana business owners as well as legislation around medical marijuana patients and their employers.

The recently introduced House Bill 1060 has garnered bipartisan support. The measure would allow medicinal marijuana to be administered on school grounds to children who need cannabis to function normally, such as those who suffer from daily seizures.

A full list of cannabis bills that have been introduced in the state is available online.

NWCC Monday Night Sesh

5Here is an article by 420 Culture about NW Cannabis Club and The Monday Night Sesh!

NWCC Monday Night Sesh

An old crow sits atop the sign that says NWCC – Northwest Cannabis Club – a rustic venue off of Powell in downtown Portland, OR. At first glance you may assume it’s another dispensary or headshop, however it is so much more! The NWCC has opened it’s doors to the cannabis community to create an environment where the culture can thrive, the community can network & businesses can grow with exposure. Every Monday night they host the “Monday Night Sesh” – several vendors set up & showcase / sample out products while heady glass collectors from around the world come together to sesh and show off. 

Join us for Monday Night Sesh

Every week NWCC is the host of the Monday Night Sesh, a gathering that brings the community together for an evening of smoking & networking. The venue is in the heart of Portland, OR. – 1195 SE Powell blvd. – a central location for the Oregon community. The club offers a sanctuary for dabbers and weed tokers to enjoy their products in a safe, private environment. Legalities prevent any cannabis products from being sold on the premises, the best bet is to come prepared with your own stash. Occasionally local extract companies or dispensaries will set up as vendors for the sesh & sample out products for free.

The Monday Night Sesh attracts a “heady” crowd of glass collectors & enthusiasts. When you first walk into the club you’re greeted by the friendly staff, once they get you taken care of you’ll have free range of the dab bar & the downstairs lounge.  On any given week during the sesh you can find over $50,000 in functional glass that people are passing around in the downstairs lounge. You can also find a pool table, foosball and a flatscreen TV in the lounge.

Come on down to the NW Cannabis Club and see what it’s all about for yourself. A lifetime membership will cost $20, this will give you the ability to use the club as a social venue for a $5 daily fee. The membership allows the club to operate as a private venue, which is an essential part of providing the community with a safe sanctuary.

Every few weeks we try to make it down to partake in the terpiness, hang out with some friends & network with new potential clients. We always bring our cameras & capture epic moments so we can share the experience with you & everyone else. Enjoy these photos from previous Monday Night Sessions :


Oregon Cannabis Legalization: State Fair Will Display Blue Ribbon Winning Marijuana Plants

BY @LYDIATOMKIW ON 07/29/16 AT 9:09 AM

Amid the chocolate layer cake bake off, the homebrew competition and displays of curvy vegetables, something new will be making an appearance at the Oregon state fair in August: marijuana.

In a sign of changing times as voters face questions of legalization across the U.S., marijuana growers in Oregon will compete for blue ribbons alongside other agricultural products.

“We regularly reach out to the community with some form of education, to de-stigmatize the industry and the plant,” Don Morse, chair of the Oregon Cannabis Business Council, told earlier this week. “For the people at the state fair to let this happen is really groundbreaking.”

marijuanaA cannabis plant is pictured at the “Weed the People” event as enthusiasts gather to celebrate the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana in Portland, Oregon July 3, 2015. Smoking marijuana became legal in Oregon on July 1, fulfilling the first step in a voter-approved initiative that will usher in a network of legal weed retail stores in 2016, similar to the systems already operating in neighboring Washington state and Colorado.PHOTO: REUTERS/STEVE DIPAOLA

The state’s growers will showcase their winning plants at the fair that runs from Aug. 26 to Sept. 5 in Salem, Oregon. Over 60 growers are expected to show off their leafy greens at the Oregon Cannabis Fair from Aug. 13 to 14 where three winners will be selected in three categories: sativa, indica and hybrids.

“This is really a reflection of where Oregon is now as a state,” Dan Cox, a spokesman for the fair, toldthe Oregonian. He said the state fair is meant to be a reflection of Oregon’s agricultural sector which has seen an uptick in marijuana farming.

“We are doing it 4H style,” Cox said. “You get a blue, purple or yellow ribbon. We are celebrating the plant as a farm crop from Oregon.”

Oregon has approved medical marijuana use and in 2014 legalized adult recreational consumption of the leafy green plant. Sales of recreational marijuana began in the Beaver State in October 2015.

The plants will be on display in the fair’s greenhouse and visitors must be 21 years old or older to enter the building and no smoking of any of the plants is allowed. A security guard will monitor the display.

Whoever takes home the grand prize will have the distinction of being the first blue ribbon winner in the U.S. of a plant that is still banned by the government, the Los Angeles Times reported.




Cannabuzz: The Rise of Canna Bullies

pot1-weedleafNot Everyone in the Cannabis World Is Chill

“That’s the thing about people who smoke weed,” said a friend to me recently. “They are some of the most laid-back, easygoing people I’ve ever met.”

We were talking about how people who have just consumed cannabis behave compared to those who have consumed alcohol. And within the context of that particular comparison, I absolutely agreed.

But recently, I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. And after conversations with others in the cannabis industry, I’m beginning to rethink my position. Because there is some truly fucked-up behavior going on, and it’s not helping anyone.

It wasn’t always like this—and by “always,” I mean prior to July 1, 2015, when Measure 91 went into effect. Sure, up until then, there were the normal squabbles and ego fits you might expect, but they remained pretty low-key. (“Bro, I grow weed waaaay danker than that trash, bro.”) (“Bro, that pound was light by eight grams. Eight grams, bro.”) (“I think his weed has bug feces all over it.”)

I started to notice a strong uptick in trash talk once dispensaries started selling to adult recreational buyers. No great shock—where there is money to be made, people don’t always behave at their best.

But then I started seeing some truly vitriolic postings on social media. People began attacking groups and individuals, in strings of increasingly hate-filled diatribes. The blocking of other profiles started to rise.

A wholesaler I know was asked by a potential client if the trim they carried had been blasted with butane prior to sale, explaining he’d heard from three individuals in Southern Oregon that was the case. The individuals in question had a beef with one of the wholesalers, and had taken to spreading false rumors about their products.

And some other people I’ve spoken to had experiences so hateful and disturbing that they asked I not share what they endured.

I’ve been immune, thankfully, until two weekends ago. I was responsible for booking speakers for the main stage at a local hemp conference—”main stage” being a terribly grand way to overstate the 14-inch-high platform pushed into a corner of an Expo Center hall, so near the concessions window that I could hear every order called out. I booked seven speakers for that main stage, with additional speakers booked into the various breakout rooms upstairs.

A “History of Hemp” expert I’d booked contacted me, ranting at some length that she had been mistakenly “relegated” to one of the breakout rooms, and that shedemanded to be placed onto the main stage. I explained we wouldn’t be able to accommodate her request, as the speakers had all been booked a month ago, but the breakout rooms at past hemp conventions had been standing-room-only events, and I was sure she would be speaking to a packed crowd.

The day before the convention started, I received a text. “I will absolutely be speaking on the main stage,” she informed me. “I will do this even if I have to remove whoever is on the stage at 12:30 in order for me to get on the stage. There is no changing my time, and I trump Josh. Josh, that’s how it is, and all you need to do now is retreat and say ‘Yes ma’am’ or not, but it’s over. I’m on the main stage, do not fuck any further with me.”

The emails that followed were even more profane and unhinged, and again, this was all about a 30-minute talk about hemp. We accommodated her request out of pity, only to have her hit the stage 15 minutes late to speak to a grand total of four people.

I get that the canna industry is taking a toll, with long hours, obscenely high fees, and ill-informed decisions being made by regulators with no real love for the plant. These are stressful days. And while I don’t believe we will all be kumbaya cuddle buddies, we have to do better. Threatening each other and trying to destroy each other’s businesses doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests. In case you’ve forgotten, weed is the ultimate chill-out tool. If we’re finding we can’t all get along, then let’s all get a bong and take a time out.

Tourism trends: Will travel for food, wellness and weed

traveltypes1_0603-1020x680By Anne Bauso June 3, 2016

More travelers are focusing their trips around these three themes, rather than traditional sights.

It seems business or pleasure are the only options travelers are given when defining the reasoning behind their trips, but motivations for travel aren’t always so crystal clear.

In fact, more and more travelers are going on pilgrimages to very specific destinations for reasons that don’t fall into the classic brackets of beach-laying, sight-seeing or work-trip. Here are three booming forms of tourism.


Pop quiz time! Have you obsessively documented a trip by dutifully Instagramming every beautifully presented quince tart tatin, honey-drizzled fried-chicken platter or salty-egg-topped papaya salad you’ve encountered?

Have you ever decided where to vacation based, at least partially, on the area’s local cuisine, or eateries and nightlife?

Then you might just be part of the growing sector of travelers known as “food tourists.” When deciding where to go for their next trip, travelers are increasingly factoring in a potential destination’s food and drink scene — whether it’s the local restaurants, food trucks and bars, or the nearby farms and markets, food artisans, vineyards and breweries. Hard-core food and vino lovers are often more interested in exploring a city or region’s gastronomic offerings than they are in the area’s natural or non-food-based cultural attractions.

tourismtypes5_0603-780x1080A merchant bags green beans at one of the many food markets in Barcelona, Spain. (Davide Camesasca/The New York Times)

Travelers on food sabbaticals might be set on sampling Sazeracs and muffelatas in New Orleans, going on a mission to find the best Key lime pie in Southern Florida or navigating backwoods highways in Quebec to come across a classic Canadian roadside sugar shack.

According to a 2015 report published by the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance (OCTA) and Skift, a travel news site, “In 2012, it was estimated that tourism expenditures on food services in the U.S. topped $201 billion, nearly a quarter of all travel income.” Because, honestly, show us the traveler who doesn’t want to eat and drink their way through a vacation.


Yoga retreats, spa getaways and other healing-focused trips may sound like a New Age fad, but humans have been going on health-driven vacations for millennia (think ancient Romans traveling to mineral baths, or sun-starved Victorians flocking to Mediterranean climes on doctors’ orders).

These days, wellness tourism is a nearly $500-billion-a-year industry, and it’s estimated to grow to $680 billion by 2017. “Wellness travel is one of the fastest growing — if not the fastest growing — tourism categories today,” says Beth McGroarty, research director at the Global Wellness Institute. GWI defines wellness tourism as “all travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal well-being, whether physical, mental, environmental or spiritual.” It’s a definition that McGroarty says is “willfully broad, because it spans many kinds of travel: destination spas, health and wellness resorts, fitness- or adventure-focused travel (like hiking, water sports and cycling), hot springs and wellness cruises. Even mainstream hotels — almost all the big brands from Westin to the Four Seasons — are adding more health and fitness programming.”

traveltypes4_0603-780x467Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah, offers swimming, yoga, hiking and biking treks.

Tracey Welch, general manager at Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah, says that most of the luxury retreat’s guests are in search of “healthy stress reduction, through reconnecting with nature and increased physical activity.” Many of Red Mountain’s guests want to immerse themselves in the stunning American Southwest surroundings, so the resort offers hiking and biking treks through Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.

On the more extreme end of the fitness spectrum is The Ashram, a Calabasas, Calif., wellness resort with pre-dawn wake-up calls and required 10- to 15-mile morning hikes. It’s not “ten-hut!” all the time: Guests get a daily massage before diving into an afternoon agenda of pool, weight and barre classes. Meals are totally organic, gluten-free and vegetarian (and alcohol-less!), with many ingredients coming from the Ashram’s own garden. Definitely not a cushy, mai-tai-by-the-pool experience — but there’s a six-month waiting list.

“Most of our guests come here to stop the clock and reset their body, mind and soul,” says director Catharina Hedburg.

While these well-being-centric resorts are certainly in line with the healthy living movement, McGroarty is positive that “wellness tourism is far more than a passing trend. In the coming years, the concept will increasingly reshape tourism — and how people perceive what they want to get out of travel — as we’ve known it.”

traveltypes2_0603-1020x680Pot tourists can visit Seattle, Portland or Denver and go on tours that visit shops and nurseries like this one.


Cannabis vacay, anyone? (All in favor, say “high!” Sorry, couldn’t resist.) In recent years, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska have legalized recreational marijuana and, as a result, these states are seeing a blaze of pot tourism.

Grass fanatics from all over the country are heading west to visit marijuana dispensaries and other cannabusinesses, go on canna “bus” tours to see local grow operations and other 420 facilities, take edibles cooking classes and even stay in “bud and breakfasts,” which are weed-friendly inns and hotels that allow smoking on the premises.

Those looking to combine wellness and marijuana tourism could consider Kush Tourism, a Seattle-based cannabis tour operator that offers tours in several states, including those that include cannabis massages and biking.

A warning, though, to hash-happy travelers: While recreational marijuana in these states is legal, public consumption of it is not. Here’s to your next — yes — trip.




Alana Semuels / The Atlantic

Alana Semuels     May 20, 2016

Can cannabis revive Oregon’s long-struggling reservation economies?

WARM SPRINGS, Oregon—The tribes on this reservation, located in the high desert on the eastern side of Mt. Hood, are accustomed to bad deals. Until the 19th century, the Wasco, the Walla Walla, and the Pauite survived off of the Columbia River, catching salmon and, eventually, trading for it. Then in 1855 they were forced onto the Warm Springs Reservation. It was 80 miles from the river, but they could still go there to fish—that is, until the U.S. Government started to build the Bonneville dam on the river in the 1930s and flooded their fishing spots.By the time the Dalles Dam was finished  in the 1950s—ending all hopes of fishing the river and the economic independence it brought—the tribe had been decimated by other factors too, including the removal of children to boarding schools, and the drafting of men to the Army.Now, the reservation, which spreads over 1,000 square miles in Oregon, is one of the most economically depressed places in the state. The unemployment rate is around 20 percent, and about one-third of its residents live below the poverty line. Sadly, the circumstances of Warm Springs are familiar for many Indian reservations. Nearly 30 percent of American Indians and Alaskan Natives lived in poverty in 2014, according to Census data, which is the highest rate of any race group.

Now, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs are trying to reverse that history by taking advantage of the intricacies of federal law that made them sovereign tribes with the ability to make their own rules. Between 1778 and 1871, American Indian tribes signed treaties with the federal government in which they gave up land and were granted sovereign nation status. Under the treaties, tribes have the ability to make and enforce civil and criminal laws, to zone land, and to license and regulate activities on their lands (with some exceptions in the court system).

The tribes in Warm Springs want to use that sovereign status to grow cannabis on their land and sell it off the reservation in Oregon, which in 2014 approved the use of recreational marijuana. Because the tribes are a sovereign nation, leaders say,  they will be able to start an operation quickly, without having to deal with the headaches of city, county, and state government. Recently, the tribes broke ground on a 36,000- square-foot greenhouse, and hope to get product to market by next year. Finally, after centuries of being on the bad end of deals with the government, the tribes’ status could give them a key advantage.

The idea of growing cannabis on the reservation has residents’ full-fledged support. In a referendum on whether to grow cannabis this winter, 1,252 voted for the idea, and just 198 voted against it, and turnout was high despite a snowstorm that could have kept people home.


A voter casts a ballot in the cannabis referendum in Warm Springs in December 2015 (Pi-ta Pitt)

“I don’t smoke but I thought it was a good idea to bring in revenue,” Tom Kalama, a tribal member and reservation resident who voted for the initiative, told me. And the tribes are in need of more money. Tribal members used to get $100 a month from the tribe, dividends from economic ventures, Kalama told me. Now they get $25. Seniors used to receive $600 a month, now they receive $300.

Tom Kalama was sitting under a canopy where his wife Jeanine was selling Indian tacos (meat or beans on frybread) to passers-by. Their sons, ages 44, 42, 41, and 35, want to work on the reservation, but it’s hard to find jobs, Kalama told me. Instead, they drive outside the reservation for work, if they can find anything close to home.

The move to start a cannabis operation could also serve as a blueprint for other tribes that have yet to figure out how to gain from their sovereign status. “We’ve yet to see tribes fully exercise their sovereignty, and I think that cannabis is strangely a lens that will demonstrate the capabilities of taking that on,” Pi-Ta Pitt, the cannabis project coordinator for Warm Springs Ventures—the tribes’ economic development arm—told me.

Sovereignty is a big deal for tribes across the country. For centuries, despite the treaties, decisions on reservations were made by people at the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, or by other state or federal agencies. Then, in 1970, Richard Nixon started to shift the federal attitude towards tribal sovereignty. The U.S. government had been controlling and subjugating the tribes for far too long, he said, in a speech to Congress. The federal government should step back, he argued, and let American Indians control their own resources.

The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 ushered in what’s known as the era of self-determination, according to Robert J. Miller, an expert on Indian law at Arizona State University. It’s taken awhile to take hold, he said. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies resisted ceding control for a long time, but the tribes are trying to be more independent now.

“Communities that call their own shots and have flexibility in making their own decisions bear the risk of failure but also reap the benefits of success,” Eric Henson, a research affiliate at the Harvard Project, told me. A series of studies by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development backs up that claim. Comparing tribes that were economically successful and those that weren’t, the studies found that tribes that make their own decisions about economic development outperform those who cede such decisions to outside agencies.

In Mississippi in the 1970s and 1980s, for instance, a tribal leader named Phillip Martin created a manufacturing hub, industrial park, and eventually a theme park, on the Mississippi Choctaw reservation, lifting the tribe from poverty to wealth. Because of his efforts, the unemployment rate on that reservation fell to around 4 percent, at a time when the rest of the nation was going through a recession. Tribal businesses employed 7,000 people at the time of Martin’s death in 2010. This was an especially remarkable feat because Martin led the tribe to self-sufficiency before the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 made it easier for tribes to operate gaming businesses in their territory.

What’s more, the tribes’ ability to call their own shots could be essential in the cannabis business, Pitt told me. Private growers might spend thousands to set up an operation somewhere and then get harassed by city or county authorities who don’t want a cannabis operation in their vicinity (the use and growth of marijuana is still illegal under federal law). The tribes also don’t pay county or state land taxes, which could give them a big financial leg up in a state like Oregon, which levies high property taxes to make up for the lack of sales tax.

The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs have tried other things to lift themselves out of poverty—efforts such as gaming which also takes advantage of their sovereign status—and most haven’t been successful. Warm Springs has a casino, a hotel and lodge, and, up until very recently, a timber mill (the mill went bust).The casino was far from the target market of Portland, a hilly two-hour drive away. The hotel and lodge are dated and have to compete with hundreds of other resorts closer to Portland. The timber industry has been dying for years. Marijuana, on the other hand, is a market that’s just starting up, and the outcome could be very different, tribal leaders say.


Ben Bisland on the area the tribe has cleared for the greenhouses (Alana Semuels / The Atlantic)

“The tribe has really been on the decline for several years—this will be a good foothold to start climbing again,” Ben Bisland, who manages projects for Warm Springs Ventures told me, standing on the flat expanse of land under a butte that will house the greenhouse.

Nationally, it can be difficult for tribes to thrive because of the circumstances that led them to reservations in the first place. Native people were often confined to reservations with barely farmable land and with few resources. Reservations often don’t have infrastructure like broadband or railway lines that could help support industry. Overlapping jurisdictions between federal, state, and tribal entities made it difficult to get anything done. And “It’s literally been American policy to acquire all the resources and land the indigenous peoples had,” Miller, the ASU professor, said.

The gaming act has made winners out of some tribes, mostly those located close to cities who can start up casinos and attract a high volume of customers. But others, like the tribes in Warm Springs, have not found casinos to be very profitable, because their reservation is too far from big population centers. The Warm Springs tribes are situated in the perfect location to grow cannabis, though, Pitt said. There are more than 300 days of sun a year, and the reservation is close enough to easily bring product to market.

Warm Springs is not stopping at marijuana. They’re moving ahead on other economic development opportunities, too.  “Marijuana is notthe answer. It’s part of the answer,” former Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, who serves on the tribes’ economic development board, told me. The tribes are trying to become a national testing site for unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, and want companies to test how to use drones to fight forest fires on the reservation. Warm Springs Ventures, the tribes’ economic development arm, recently booted a private telecom company and founded its own tribal telecom company. Its also getting into the carbon offset market. “Think about 200 years of deprivation, being driven onto the poorest land available— – you don’t overcome that with a decade of gaming,” Henson, from Harvard, told me.

But as a way to test the sovereign power of tribes and their ability to create economic development for themselves, marijuana could be a big deal. Because Oregon has approved recreational marijuana, and because it has independent tribes, the state could become a testing ground for a new industry that could replace, or supplement gaming, on reservations. This is not true in other states: Despite a 2014 Department of Justice memo that said that the federal government wouldn’t interfere with cultivation on tribal lands, state interference in South Dakota has motivated one tribe to suspend its marijuana operation, while a sheriff’s office in California raided anothergrowing operation on tribal land there. Warm Springs, for once, has been able to take control of its own business, and perhaps set a path for other tribes.

“This is something that can be an inspiration to other tribes, to be able to learn, what does sovereignty look like,” Pitt said.

How Cannabis Clubs Provide Support And Community To War Veterans

May 09, 2016 1200x600

Underneath a billboard advertising premium cannabis is one of Portland’s only operating cannabis lounges, and on any given day at the Northwest Cannabis Club the bar is full of U.S. military veterans.

Thomas Cashman is a veteran and vice president of the Oregon chapter of Grow For Vets, a non-profit organization headquartered in Colorado. He says he feels more comfortable there than at Veterans of Foreign Wars (VTF) clubs.

“Self-isolation is a huge symptom of PTSD and for me it was the most challenging one to break,” says Cashman. “Not every veteran wants to go to the VFW and drink whiskey and tell war stories. I don’t like to tell war stories and I don’t even like hearing them anymore. We have had a decade of that, I have heard them and I am done. I want to talk about how we can help more veterans and how we can get more veterans involved in helping more veterans.”

Grow for Vets supplies veterans with cannabis


Grow For Vets provides any U.S. military veteran over the age of 21 with a regular supply of free cannabis, regardless of formal medical marijuana program status. Their mission is to “save more than 50 veterans who die each day from suicide and prescription drug overdose” by providing veterans with a “safe alternative to deadly prescription drugs…and resources necessary to obtain or grow their own cannabis for treatment of their medical conditions.”

There are currently 21 million living U.S. veterans of all wars. Nearly 50,000 of them are homeless. Median incomes are low, around $30,000 and between 15 and 30 percent have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with higher rates among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

Many veterans are undiagnosed. Those who are diagnosed usually are prescribed combinations of psychotropic prescription drugs, and many self-medicate with illegal drugs. Many have turned to alcohol abuse. Every day, about 22 (or more) veterans will take their own lives. A growing movement of veterans are using cannabis to treat both the physical and mental wounds of war.

“This is basically our unofficial clubhouse, it’s our basecamp,” Cashman says of the NW Cannabis Club.

Cashman says the club, which is private and “BYOC” (bring your own cannabis), allows Grow For Vets to host events and the club also hosts events in their honor. Veterans receive discounted membership and collection jars for the organization are displayed prominently at the register.

“This has become a gathering place for veterans who don’t drink,” Cashman says.

Retired soldier uses cannabis to treat PTSD980x1

One of those veterans is K. Patton, a retired army soldier working in Oregon’s new legal cannabis industry. Patton is a conservative and a registered Republican, who believes safe access to cannabis is a bipartisan issue. He is a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, diagnosed with PTSD and using cannabis in place of pharmaceutical drugs to help combat the symptoms.

After returning from a tour of duty in Iraq and a tour in Afghanistan, Patton has had difficulty adjusting to civilian life. He didn’t have much of a support system and was having trouble sleeping, keeping a job and maintaining relationships.

“If I heard a loud noise, I wouldn’t hit the floor but I would tense up, ready for a strike. My life was in the shitter and somebody told me I needed to get help,” says Patton.

He decided to seek professional help but instead he waited for months to be seen at his local VA hospital in Atlanta, which was ill prepared for the flood of new veterans created by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and caught up in bureaucratic scandal over secret waitlists.

He says he went nearly homeless for months to save up the money to relocate to Portland, where he was able to see a VA doctor without a long wait. He says although he had a great doctor, the drugs he was prescribed didn’t work.

“The only tools the government lets [my doctor] have are pharmaceuticals,” Patton says.

He was prescribed Citalopram, an SSRI anti-depressant drug.

“I tried to take it for awhile. I felt like something added was in my brain, it wasn’t stopping anything, it was just there. It was unsettling,” he says.

He was anti-drug before using cannabis980x2

Photo credit: Thomas Cashman

Prior to trying cannabis he says he was very anti-drug. He grew up watching drugs and the war against them destroy his community and his own family. He says his military service combined with extensive world travels have changed his perception of the War on Drugs and cannabis specifically.

“I got to see [the international drug war] from several different perspectives. I have been smart enough to study it. I could have been a statistic – any wrong move and I could have fallen into the system. Anything from having a kid or having no money to going into selling drugs, taking the easy way out,” says Patton.

Patton was born and raised in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in the late 80s and early 90s. He never knew his father and because his mother had a substance abuse problem he became the primary caretaker for his younger siblings. He refers to the era when he grew up in the New York City suburb as the “crack wars.”

As a kid, he read science fiction to escape and knew he wanted to travel when he grew up, which inspired him to enlist.

“There were always people on the corner using kids to sell drugs. The drug dealers would use everybody and anybody around them to sell drugs, including their own family,” he says. “One day, the police – the good guys – ran up on all the kids and other minors coming out of school and had us against the wall, patting us down – all that stuff. I didn’t have anything to do with it and I am getting pat down like I am the guy on the corner. I didn’t hate them for it but it pissed me off, I knew it wasn’t right. I didn’t know at the time they were taking my civil liberties away.”

Patton says the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan don’t compare to the war he grew up in; the foreign wars were more dangerous but the one at home is more frustrating.

“It’s war-like, but it’s war against America, it’s a war against ourselves. We kill each other, we throw each other in jail, waste money – it’s a war on ourselves.”

He says witnessing the corruption on the streets and the governmental corruption led by Democratic state administrations in New Jersey led him to register Republican. Shortly after graduating high school, Patton enlisted in the U.S. army in August 2001. He was planning to be a career officer.

“I knew I wasn’t going to have enough money for school… I wanted to be a solider because it’s an honorable profession. I just knew it was what I wanted to do and was grateful to be doing it.”

Patton fought in two wars980x3

Photo credit: Thomas Cashman

A month later the September 11 attacks happened. He says he knew he would fight in a war, but didn’t imagine he would fight in two. After being stationed in Korea, he was deployed to Iraq in 2005.

In Iraq, Patton was part of an artillery unit, Convoy Logistics Patrol, that delivered ammunition to bases around the country, in addition to being on active duty guarding bases in Baghdad.

“If you didn’t get mortared the night before, then you would wake up in the morning,” he says. “We would get our mission, check vehicles and do maintenance.”

The deliveries were usually carried out overnight, when it was slightly safer to travel.

“It still wasn’t safe – far from it,” he says.

After 13 months in Iraq, Patton left the military, moved to Georgia and joined the Georgia National Guard. He says one of the motivations for leaving active duty was because he had become more politically aware and no longer agreed with the wars. Before going to war he says he primarily watched Fox News and had general faith in the government.

“My whole belief system was questioned.”

Shortly after the presidential election in 2008, he was called back to active duty in Afghanistan. When he found out he was going back he says he was frustrated at first – he was just coming out of his shell, making friends and had stopped carrying a gun with him everywhere. He says, however, he was ultimately honored to serve again.

Afghanistan was far more dangerous for him than Iraq. “Afghanistan was a whole different type of war we were fighting. Here we were a handful of men for hundreds of hundred of miles, fighting an unseen enemy. It was kinda like Vietnam – they knew where we were at all times and we just wait to get attacked.”

Afghanistan changed his views on drugs980x4

Photo credit: Thomas Cashman

He says his views on drugs really shifted during his time in Afghanistan. In much of the country both cannabis and poppies used to cultivate opium are grown in the open. He says the U.S. military tried to encourage the farmers to grow other agricultural crops, but no longer tries to eradicate the fields.

“It’s a part of life, we could destroy all the poppy we want, but they [the Afghani farmers] have nothing, if we destroyed their crops they would go after us. It wasn’t worth it to U.S. commanders on the ground.”

Patton says his exposure to cannabis culture, and international drug culture generally, has really altered his perception of it. He wishes it was taken more seriously by the government so it can be studied and properly administered by medical professionals.

“I just saw the toll of the drug war first hand. I saw addiction in my family, the amount of money we [the United States] have spent fighting it, seeing minorities and the poor people in America that are targeted by the War on Drugs. We need to have smart decriminalization and rehabilitation – we need to say we are going to stop it now, today.”

Since leaving active duty and relocating to Portland, Patton met and became active with Grow For Vets and frequents the NW Cannabis Club informally with many of the other local members.

Cannabis lounge gives them a sense of community980x5

Photo credit: Thomas Cashman

Thomas Cashman says so many vets have been drawn to Portland’s cannabis lounge because fighting in wars bonded them to their fellow soldiers. They crave the sense of community, unity and family cultivated by service to their country and each other but are often isolated in civilian society, which further exacerbates PTSD.

Cashman says the Oregon chapter now has about 150 members they serve with free cannabis provided through donations from local growers and cannabis companies. Many of the growers are often veterans themselves.

“There are a good number of veterans that are growers,” he says. “There is crossover in those communities. It’s people who are used to standing on the edge and looking over. They understand that freedom is inherently unsafe and they accept and assume that risk.”

Cashman joined the military in 1989 and fought in both the first Gulf War in the 90s and the Iraq war in the 2000s. He was discharged in 2013 after a traumatic brain injury he suffered from a motorcycle accident while he was off-duty. He drank heavily to cope with his symptoms of PTSD.

After his discharge a friend whose parents were growers started providing him with free cannabis. He said having the regular supply changed his life. He stopped drinking, enrolled in school and started working through his PTSD.

“The biggest thing cannabis does for me is helps me sleep, sleep is so key to health,” says Thomas Cashman.

They also host educational events to bring more veterans into the fold, he says.

“My hope is the more veterans who successfully use cannabis, the more veterans will successfully use cannabis to treat their symptoms and as an alternative recreation to alcohol as well.”

Photos by Thomas Cashman

A Civilian Perspective on Veterans & Cannabis

by Jennifer Shewellgfv1Left to right: Mandyjoe De la Torre, Teddy Montoya and Kim West. Photo by Thomas Cashman


When you go college, as I do, you tend to develop a system of labels and stereotypes for just about every group of people you might encounter, it’s just human nature to define things.

When you go to a school with a whole lot of veterans (about 30% of the student body) they are just another group group of students with a label. However, the unintended side effects of such a stereotype creates yet another obstacle for veterans already dealing with re-assimilating to civilian life often while dealing with issues such as PTSD, traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and/or chronic pain of some kind.

One veteran, Thomas Cashman, had this to say; “People would thank me for my service right before slowly backing away.”

That quote is actually referring to a story Cashman relates about his own personal experience at The Art Institute of Portland. Cashman, who is now vice president for the Grow for Vets, Portland Oregon Chapter, does not seem to have that problem anymore.

When asked what made the difference his response was; “I realized that my intensity, my demeanor was off putting. I had to lighten up. I had to open up. Cannabis helped with both of those things”.

Veterans Take on Cannabis

While most people would not typically relate cannabis and veterans there are many who want that to see that change. Grow for Vets is an organization that advocates for cannabis use among veterans. They focus on educating veterans and providing them with medicine. The Portland, OR chapter is even working towards solutions to create opportunities for veterans to work and learn to grow their own medicine.

Cannabis can be a powerful tool to ease pain, anxieties and improve mood, but it does not happen in a vacuum. Isolation is a common side effect of many conditions that veterans are faced with with daily. Cannabis cultivation is a community effort that frequently brings grower, processors and patients together.

As it turns out if you put veterans to work in an environment where they can make a difference, while being able to use cannabis, you can actually see them start to heal right in front of your eyes.

A Civilian Perspective on Veterans & Cannabis

There are many who may have a difficult time accepting cannabis as a viable medical treatment, but I have to say; after spending time with Grow for Vets it is apparent to me that veterans and cannabis just go together.

I am a civilian. As a civilian, I can tell you that it can be awkward to sit and watch a group of veterans bonding over cannabis. Awkward but not uncomfortable. The awkwardness is not because they are unapproachable, rather it is because it is very obvious when you aren’t one of them.

Still, amidst the awkwardness, what you see is beautiful.

A newly discharged veteran approaches the group and there is instant camaraderie. A ‘knowing’ of what it is to serve, strengthened through a common love of cannabis. Laughter, and human connection…an extended family that is always growing and changing. That is what I see when I watch Kim and Teddy and Thomas and the other veterans-A continued love and desire to serve, to give back to this military family that has seen so much death, and destruction.

“I made it through some of the hardest days and nights of my life because of these folks” says Thomas, “I know we can get through any challenge the same way: together.”

These veterans aren’t just healing themselves, they are showing us how it’s done;

One step at a time, one boot in front of the other. Together.


The Failed Promise of Legal Pot

New laws on marijuana were supposed to boost tax revenues and free up cops to go after “real” criminals. But underground sales—and arrests—are still thriving.


It’s just after four o’clock on a hot Seattle afternoon, and Thomas Terry is standing in the parking lot of a Jack in the Box. Known for fights that end with police sirens and sometimes ambulances, it’s a spot some locals half-jokingly call “Stab in the Box,” but today the scene is quiet.

A man is walking up the street toward Terry and a few other young men who are gathered in the shade of a brick wall where the parking lot meets the sidewalk. As he draws near, one of them opens his mouth, and the words tumble out:

“Kush? You want some weed?”

Whether the man does or not, he says nothing, and keeps walking. It’s the middle of August, two years and eight months after voters in Washington passed an initiative to permit both the possession and sale of recreational marijuana—making the state the second in the nation to do so. In large part, the law was aimed at eliminating the black market for marijuana and redirecting those sales from parking lots and living rooms into stores, where the state could monitor and tax the transactions. Yet, although legal marijuana has generated real declines in arrests, the presence of Terry and the young men on the corner points to a hitch not just in the nuts and bolts of marijuana sales but in one of legalization’s most touted goals.

Asking to be identified only by his initials, D.C., one of the young men on the corner, breaks it down. Business has fallen since the law passed, but enough people think they can score a bargain, or simply don’t trust the shiny new stores, to keep things moving. The police know about it—they always have—and they still bust dealers. Sometimes they do sweeps, D.C. says, referring to a well-publicized raid downtown. The cops are definitely more relaxed about it, he says, but sometimes they still show up and bust whoever’s around.

A few days later, the corner is empty. The reason is a Ford SUV, painted black, blue, and white, idling at the curb a few feet away; a police officer’s arm hangs out the window as he surveys the faces passing by. A few hours later he is gone, and the crowd is back. Mostly, the crowd is black. Mostly, the cops who will bust them are white. Mostly, on the corner it’s hard to see how anything was changed by a movement that aimed to change everything.

The dream of legal marijuana as it is being sold to the American public is that it will not only give states a chance to reap a tax windfall off of a drug millions of Americans already use; it will end the back-and-forth tussle among cops, users, and dealers, and shift police resources to more serious crimes. Most compellingly, advocates hold out the promise of a major step toward dismantling one of the pillars of racially biased policing—the war on drugs—and finally reeling in a legal net that has long entangled black men at vastly disproportionate rates.

Proponents of legalization make this case explicitly. In factsheets and reports, the American Civil Liberties Union describes marijuana laws as generating “staggering” racial bias. And the statistics do paint a stark picture: Although whites are as likely to use marijuana as blacks, nationally black people are almost four times more likely to be arrested for possessing the drug. In some states, it’s closer to nine times. Those arrests in turn show up on background checks for everything from apartments to jobs, and despite the courts’ presumption of innocence, arrests are often treated by society as de facto markers of guilt. So in one fell swoop, voters are told, they can balance government budgets, begin to close a pipeline that sends one in three black men to prison, and free up the cops to chase real criminals. Plus, now it’s legal to get stoned.

One-half of the dream is coming true. In the first two states to go legal, arrests for marijuana possession have dropped dramatically—by 98 percent in Washington and 95 percent in Colorado as of last year—and high taxes in both states are generating tens of millions of dollars a year for education and public health. At the same time, legal markets in Washington and Colorado along with loosening medical-marijuana laws around the country have together exerted enough downward pressure on street prices that Central American cartels have reportedly begun to shift production away from marijuana, toward more profitable drugs like heroin.

But the other half of the dream is faltering. The rub lies in reconciling those dramatic statistics with the reality on the street: The same faces standing on the same corners. The same neighborhoods cruised by the same cops. The same cautious side-to-side look before a thickly flowered stem is removed from a backpack, peered at closely, maybe smelled and rolled between the fingers, and, in a quick change of hands, finally sold.

As legalization efforts proceed apace, the risk is that even as possession arrests taper off, black markets will continue entangling young black men. Half of all drug arrests are for marijuana, and about one in eight of those is for distribution. According to experts, even that number likely conceals cases where police target dealers but ultimately arrest them only for possession, which has lower probable-cause standards. And like possession arrests, arrests for selling marijuana show broad trends: The sellers who the cops catch are mostly male, more than half are under 24, and black people are arrested at four times the rate of whites, even though whites are up to 32 percent more likely to sell the drug.

The risk is that, by itself, legalizing marijuana possession changes none of this and that, even as legalization spreads, young black men will continue to be arrested at disproportionate rates for selling the drug. In turn, this leaves intact a version of the same specter that helped spur legalization in the first place: An arrest record’s scarlet letter will continue to blight the collective futures of urban communities of color, the natural effect of an economic incentive the state did not remove.

Why is a black market that was supposed to be vanquished still thriving? In short: economics. Judging the size of a black market has always been a tenuous endeavor. In Washington, one of the first big unknowns the state tackled when it set about creating a legal market was the size of the demand—a state that had just made a historic change to marijuana laws didn’t even know how much of it people smoked. But aside from some brief initial shortages, stores in Washington and Colorado haven’t generally had a problem keeping the shelves stocked. Partly, that’s because both states had preexisting medical-marijuana markets, and some of those producers easily migrated into the new legal recreational system.

Instead, what is keeping people in Colorado’s black market is price, with a dose of convenience thrown in, says Mark Vasquez, a former narcotics detective and now the chief of police in Erie, Colorado. Vasquez heads the Colorado Association of Police Chiefs’ marijuana working group and has traveled nationally to educate other departments about Colorado’s experience with its new legal system. “The black market,” he says, “is alive and well and will continue to thrive in Colorado.”

There are a few basic reasons for this. First, the medical market, Vasquez says, can sell marijuana more cheaply than the state-licensed and -regulated stores because medical dispensaries don’t have to charge most of the combined 27.9 percent tax on the drug. This increases the resale of medical marijuana on the street. Second, there are the plants that are grown for personal use, which are allowed under the law. Vasquez says the result is a steady supply of marijuana not only for street dealers but also for Craigslist sales, which have become so ubiquitous that some city departments don’t have the resources to crack down on them.

With various illegal sources flourishing, Vasquez says, the challenge for regulators “is trying to find the sweet spot, where the taxes are low enough that there’s an incentive for people to go to the regulated stores.”

Francisco Gallardo, a community leader in Denver, summarizes the situation more succinctly: “If it’s ridiculously expensive and they can get it from their homie cheaper, that’s what they’re going to do.”

As a former gang member and a program director for Denver’s Gang Rescue and Support Project, Gallardo works to help predominantly young men of color escape gang and street life in metropolitan Denver, where marijuana culture is a constant presence. Informal dealing, he says, is still very much a part of life in the city, especially in Denver’s urban core. Like Vasquez, and without prompting, Gallardo pinpoints the issue as one of price. In Colorado stores, prices are higher than on the street, Gallardo explains, leaving space for dealers to make a profit while still undercutting the legal market. “There’s people out there definitely shucking and jiving, there’s no doubt about that,” says Gallardo. “If you can do it without the taxes and the cost, people are going to try.”

Data that might tease out the size and extent of the black market since legalization is by turns scarce and mixed—but doesn’t contradict either man’s point. While marijuana distribution arrests in Colorado as a whole fell sharply after legalization—almost 98 percent—in urban Denver, the decline wasn’t nearly as pronounced. Compared with the three years before legalization, the three years since show a decline in distribution arrests of only 36 percent. And that number should probably be even lower: After the law first passed, Vasquez says, some police officers backed off on making any marijuana arrests, choosing a hands-off approach until they had more clarity about what exactly what was legal under the new rules.

Off the top of his head, Gallardo says, he could name four marijuana dispensaries within walking distance. But even with the stores so close at hand, Gallardo explains, some people keep going to street dealers for one reason: It’s just plain cheaper. The only way to get street sales down, Gallardo says, “is if they reduce the tax.”

Enter the dead admiral.

In his office at the University of Washington, surrounded by books lining three walls from floor to ceiling, Bill Rorabaugh is every inch the historian. With white hair, wire glasses, and a grandfatherly crinkle around his eyes, he smiles and leans back in his chair. A scholar of 19th- and 20th-century America, Rorabaugh didn’t start out specializing in black markets—and certainly not black markets for marijuana. Instead, early in his career, Rorabaugh studied alcohol, especially in the pre-Prohibition era, and wrote his first book, The Alcoholic Republic. But in the course of that research, a man came to his attention who seemed to understand black markets especially well—and how to end them. He was Rear Admiral Luther E. Gregory, and he held the solution to a much earlier black market in Washington state.

By the beginning of the 1930s, America’s alcohol prohibition was coming to an end. The beneficial effects predicted by prohibition boosters—from reduced crime and mental illness to lower taxes—had not wholly materialized. Instead, violent gangs had taken over the supply chain as well as significant swaths of U.S. cities. Speakeasies sprang up as quickly as the police could close them down, and gangsters massacred opponents in the streets.

In the throes of the Great Depression, legislatures all over the country were also beginning to see alcohol as a way to fill state coffers. Slogans like “Give us beer and balance the budget!” appeared on parade floats and posters. Everyone wanted to bring liquor back—and the lawmakers wanted to do it with a hefty tax. The only problem was that the bootleggers were well established, and fixing prohibition meant finding a way to force illegal operations to go straight or close their doors.

When repeal finally came, Washington’s then-Governor Clarence Martin asked Admiral Gregory to head the state’s new Liquor Control Board. Critically, Martin gave Gregory carte blanche to mold the new policies as he saw fit. Gregory took up the challenge—and surprised everyone.

First, instead of cracking down on bootleggers and speakeasy operators, Gregory gave them amnesty and issued licenses to anyone willing to play by the state’s rules. Second, backed by the governor and his influence in the Senate, Gregory arranged for alcohol taxes to be set as low as any in the nation, which allowed those willing to follow the law to keep a significant amount of their profits, and it made room for legal operators to compete with bootleggers’ prices. Third, Gregory punished anyone who broke the rules—even once—with an iron fist, blacklisting them from ever making or selling alcohol in the state again.

Predictably, this caused some turmoil in a legislature anxiously awaiting an infusion of cash from liquor sales, but the governor backed Gregory. Faced with a low cost of entry and legal profits, bootleggers and speakeasies around the state mostly turned legitimate. Meanwhile, the few remaining stragglers were quickly put out of business, and drinkers flocked to a competitive legal market.

That might have been the end of it, but there was one more piece to Gregory’s plan. After holding down taxes—and thus prices—for three years, Gregory abruptly raised taxes so much that they were among the highest in the nation. The price of booze went up, of course, but people kept buying legal liquor and beer. There was no alternative left. Gregory had broken the back of the black market.

What the admiral saw so clearly was the importance of the legal market’s cost-price margin—the difference between production cost and final selling price. Gregory knew that margin was where bootleggers lived, and shrinking it would leave less room for them to undercut legal prices and still turn a profit. By bucking the revenue-hungry legislature and setting taxes low in the early years of Washington’s liquor market, Gregory stripped the black market of its ability to compete.

The strategy hasn’t exactly been lost in time. When Vermont commissioned the RAND Corporation to put together a survey of the different scenarios for legalizing the drug in their state, the policy research behemoth referenced the approach Gregory used as one possible option. Although the report pointedly stopped short of making recommendations, it emphasized the importance of making the legal retailers competitive with the black market.

The report also emphasized that the Gregory plan isn’t without risks. Since marijuana makes up a very small part of most users’ budgets, the report notes, even a relatively high tax would only have significant negative effects on heavy users, and a low tax wouldn’t save average users much money. What’s more, the report warns, allowing prices to drop too low would remove the disincentive of cost from those teetering on the edge of using too much of the drug.

Another, potentially larger risk of the strategy, notes Jonathan Caulkins, the lead author of the report and the former co-director of RAND’s Drug Policy Research Center, is that during the period of initially low taxes and correspondingly high profits, a marijuana business lobby might be able to become sufficiently entrenched in a state to interfere with later plans to raise taxes. And of course, the parallel between street corner weed sellers and bootleggers isn’t a perfect one: Unlike a speakeasy, which might be able to obtain a business license and reopen as a legal business right away, the average drug dealer is separated by a wide gulf of capital and expertise from being able to open a storefront marijuana retail operation.

But Gregory’s strategy can still be mined for shards of economic and social truth. Costs of entry to the legal market matter, as do prices. Dealers’ networks and producers’ facilities take time to set up, and illicit production especially has significant startup costs of its own—which means that while black marketers may have to be coaxed out of business, once they’re out, it’s likely they’ll stay out. And for a policy movement that promised to reform criminal justice, perhaps the most important lesson to take from Gregory is that a disincentive from the state is infinitely more effective when coupled with positive and easily accessible rewards for following the rules.

One looming unknown pointed out in the RAND report was exactly how much of a premium consumers would be willing to pay to buy marijuana from a legal store. Only one survey had been conducted, the report said, a small poll of Washington-state residents who self-identified as marijuana users. On average, respondents said that they would be willing to pay about $5 more per gram to buy marijuana from a legal store. For a gram that costs between $10 and $15 on the street, that’s a price bump of one-third to one-half that consumers would tolerate. But the average belied a split in the respondents: While almost half said they would be willing to pay between $5 and $10 extra per gram for legal marijuana, nearly a third said they wouldn’t pay anything extra at all. Altogether, just under half of those polled marked maximums of $2 or less, with the heaviest users indicating the least willingness to pay more.

Parsing the survey too closely would be a mistake, Vermont’s RAND report warns, especially with such a small sample size and a methodology that let participants opt in using an Internet form. But despite their lack of specificity, the results paint a plausible picture: a market split between a slim majority of users willing to pay more in a legal store and a smaller but still significant portion who are relatively happy buying on the black market.

In perhaps the ultimate historical nod to the admiral, legislatures in both Washington and Colorado independently lowered taxes in both states last year, explicitly citing the goal of putting pressure on illegal markets. But both moves were small. Washington’s effective tax rate, including sales tax, went from about 44 percent to 43.5 percent; and Colorado passed a measure to reduce its tax from 27.9 percent to 25.9 percent by 2017, leaving both states near what the survey, however imperfect, paints as the upper end of acceptable rates.

The move itself also acknowledges a more worrying possibility. In a classic case of diminishing returns, if even 75 percent of smokers can be enticed into the legal market, a state will capture the majority of the possible revenue from marijuana. But if the Washington survey is even generally right, creating a system that entices every buyer to participate would require setting taxes so low that revenue from the whole system would plummet. For states, eradicating the last stubborn traces of the black market may in fact carry little positive incentive.

Yet, even acknowledging such a policy for what it is—a plan for half success—the insidious temptation is that from the outside, the failure built into it looks almost inevitable. After all, getting 75 percent of smokers to go legal is pretty good, right? And lawbreakers will always exist, won’t they? In fact, the question of eradicating the black market goes as deep as the roots of crime itself.

In Seattle, a few feet off the corner, Terry explains that he started selling weed when his mom lost her job. He had never sold before, but he’d seen his friends do it. He knew it was possible, he knew how it worked, and he knew he could make money doing it. He was 16.

“If I didn’t provide money, no one else would,” Terry says, adding that he also tried mowing lawns that year. “I couldn’t just wait there and pray that someone would pay the rent.” Later, he dropped out of school, and even though he got a normal day job, he had become familiar with a routine that worked too well to give up. Soon he had a child and, always, there were bills to pay.

Today, Terry says, dealing isn’t his main source of income. He still works a regular job—he’s a dishwasher—and that job provides most of his income. But he’s not full time—few people at his work are, he says—and at $11 an hour, most weeks he brings home about $300. After bills and rent, there’s not much left over. The hustle, Terry says, is good because it’s there when he needs it, and it pays cash. “My money that I use to pay for diapers, formula, stuff like that, comes from selling,” says Terry. “Unless you’re the budgeting king of the world, you’re not going to be able to make it on $300 a week.”

As Terry and others on the corner talk, a picture starts to emerge of dealing as a kind of safety net. A few mention having jobs, and when Terry says that the hotel where he works might be hiring, another man quizzes him for details. But to a man, each also describes his own version of an economic cycle in which the ends that are supposed to meet often don’t: low pay, part-time hours, child support for some, the difficulty of finding a job with a criminal record, and rents that only seem to go up.

“I know that under any circumstances,” says D.C., “I can come out here, and you can give me a bag of weed, and at the end of the day, I can have some money in my pocket.”

Some on the corner are clearly in the game for something more than diaper money. While Terry and D.C. talk, another young man bounces up to the group. All bravado, he’s hoping to sell to the sellers, offering to weigh everything out on an electronic scale in his SUV parked nearby. Flashing a grin, he says selling weed lets him support four girlfriends.

But for Terry and the others who share the corner with him, the day is short on glamour. After the young man with the SUV and the scale leaves, they go back to what they were doing—taking turns calling out muted offers to the faces walking past, occasionally making a sale, and treading the line between gossip and trash-talking to pass the time. It’s an economic equation built around skimming the margin: Buy an ounce, sell it in grams, dodge the cops, and keep the difference. Legalization pinched dealers, D.C. says, because it drove prices down. But there are still customers, and that means they can still make money, even if it’s not as much as it used to be. As long as that’s true, he says, the work will be what it always has been: reliable.

In one form or another, marijuana legalization is coming, almost without a doubt. Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana, 16 have decriminalized it, and seven allow medical use of the drug. Altogether, 27 states have relaxed their laws on the drug, and President Obama himself, speaking to Vice last March, admitted that if enough states legalized marijuana, it would be natural for Congress to consider removing it from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act—a move that would amount to overnight legalization nationwide. In March, the Supreme Court declined to hear a suit, filed by Nebraska and Oklahoma, that sought to strike down Colorado’s law. Less than a month later, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders floated the idea of de-scheduling the drug at the last Democratic presidential primary debate, and no one batted an eye.

It would be a mistake to call marijuana legalization a failure, even in the loosest sense of the word. After all, nationally, just fewer than one in eight marijuana arrests on average are for distribution; the other seven are for simple possession. That means that out of eight marijuana arrests that would have happened tomorrow in Colorado, seven of them won’t, because possession is legal. That means seven Coloradans who could have lost everything—from their jobs to their housing to their college financial aid—as a result of an arrest or conviction will instead simply go about another day of their ordinary lives. But the persistence of that eighth arrest—the roughly 12.5 percent of marijuana arrests that are for distribution—means that legalization isn’t a complete success, either. Those few distribution arrests cause the majority of marijuana-related incarcerations, and still disproportionately affect black men.

On the corner by the Jack-In-The-Box, the greeting/offer is called out again, and again the target keeps walking without reply. Far from being bothered, the young men barely seem to notice. They know their customers are out there, and they are content to wait.

A larger but still familiar cycle is also at play. A few weeks later, as summer is winding down, Seattle police conclude a buy-bust operation months in the making—focused on the corner. Nearby shop owners and residents had complained. The young men made them feel unsafe, hanging around late into the night, offering drugs, and making catcalls. The police go so far as to close nearby alleys, where sales had been occurring, and over two days arrest 20 people for sales of all types of drugs, including nine marijuana sales. Of the 24 people targeted in the sting, 20 are black. The neighborhood is 75 percent white.

Legalization has changed the black market. Gallardo points out that, in Denver at least, it is neither as large nor as violent as it used to be. Plus, instead of buying from cartels, the dealers mostly seem to buy from what Gallardo calls “mom-and-pop operations.” Altogether, even with the remaining risks that arise from dealing, selling marijuana seems to have become a more relaxed affair.

The cops haven’t changed as much. People seem less fearful of arrest, but it still happens. And, Gallardo says, the police still seem to use marijuana raids as a tool whenever they want to crack down on a particular corner or block. The drug still amounts to a vector of suspicion, which police are still free to follow into citizens’ lives as they see fit. Or, as a Drug Policy Alliance report puts it, noting that black Coloradoans continue to be arrested for marijuana at 2.4 times the rate of whites: “While the number of marijuana possession arrests has dropped, the law enforcement practices that produce racial disparities in such arrests have not changed.”

The stores and the street also attract different sorts of people, Gallardo says. The black market isn’t as appealing to people who have the money to pay legal prices. They even seem to understand that, if it costs a bit more, some of the higher prices in regulated stores help to pay for important programs—plus, there’s no risk and they can afford it. The street, however, is a draw for people who can’t afford legal marijuana. And in most urban centers, the people with the least are also usually people of color.

Listening to Gallardo, the risk begins to sound not so much like one of outright failure, but of a success rendered hollow by its unequal distribution. The new system has clearly not replaced, or even threatened, corner dealers either in Washington or Colorado. Rather, they fit into the cracks of a new world, where middle-class stoners are able to engage in a favorite pastime without fear of prosecution, and an expensive legal market keeps everyone else looking for a bargain. The result: Small-time, under-the-table dealing remains lucrative enough to entice young black men to cross the line, to be arrested far more frequently than their white peers. And the hustle continues.

Marijuana entrepreneurs pitch ideas in ‘Shark Tank’ style forum


Nina Mehlhaf, KGW 10:00 AM. PDT May 03, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. — Thirty marijuana-related business owners are vying for millions of dollars at a downtown Portland hotel this week.

It’s the first time this “Shark Tank” style forum has come to Oregon. It’s loosely based on the hit TV show where investors hear the business pitch, then decide if they’ll provide a stake in the company or capital.

Oregon officials just recently lifted the restriction that marijuana investors had to be from within the state. Now, 200 high-net-worth investors from around the country are at the downtown Marriott Hotel this week for the Top Cannabis Pitch Forum.

Previously in the tech sector, stocks and banking industries, the investors are making the jump to the marijuana industry.

They’re with Arcview Investments Group, and have given $70 million to more than 100 businesses linked to pot.

“They’re saying wow, and there’s no big multi-national players in this?” Arcview CEO Troy Dayton said. “This is a huge opportunity, not just from an economic and growth creation standpoint, but because many of them are impact investors, they want to see a world where people aren’t punished for cannabis.”

That’s what former Portland Trail Blazer Cliff Robinson is all about. His cannabis and hemp business “Uncle Spliffy” aims to one day get professional sports on board with medical marijuana use. He’s one of the 30 entrepreneurs making the tough pitch for money.

“When you go out and play basketball, you’re focused on the court, you’re not focused on the people around you,” Robinson said. “This is different, where you have to get in there, sell your company and sell yourself.”

In November, Arcview says at least nine more states will vote on legal pot. They believe Oregon has become a leader, with the lowest taxes and regulations. Investors see that as a way to make money on the homegrown ideas like Justin Roney’s, Sow1Farm based in Hillsboro.

Roney’s company ferments food scraps into organic potting soil, available for any gardener but he’s targeting marijuana growers.

“Nowhere in the world are there 200 high-net-worth investors looking for businesses kind of like ours,” Roney said.

Arcview projects that by the year 2029, the legal marijuana industry will be worth $100 billion.