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CROSSROADS: The Future Is Now

Jul 02, 2018 05:37PM ● Published by Ricardo Baca

 So much this.

Like any Gen Xer co-opting Millenialspeak, I’m certainly guilty of employing this modern linguistic device when sharing something I wholeheartedly agree with on social media. In another era we might have said  Exactly or  I totally agree, but ultimately the meaning is the same: YAAAAS.

So while there are countless heady conversations and debates to be had about the present and future of legal, regulated cannabis—and other substances that should not be deemed illegal—it’s summertime, and I’d like to celebrate some of the big wins we’re starting to see, some of the trends born out of legalization that are beginning to develop, some of the news stories that occasionally come across our feeds that inspire an RT with an exclamation,  So much this!

So while there is still much work to be done, here are a few 420-friendly trends I’m jazzed about.

(LEGAL) SOCIAL CANNABIS USE 

Adult-use cannabis became the law of the land in Colorado in December 2012, when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed Amendment 64 into the state’s constitution. Yet here we are nearly six years later, and it’s still illegal to consume marijuana almost anywhere in the state.

It’s just embarrassing, and even an enlightened attempt to create the world’s first permitted cannabis consumption spaces—Denver County’s voter-approved Initiative 300—has yet to make a real impact in widening legal spaces for social use.

So imagine Coloradans’ chagrin when they read about cannabis consumption lounges opening up in Northern California (San Francisco) and Southern California (West Hollywood) less than six months after the state’s Proposition 64 was implemented. And as a lifelong Denverite, allow me to say to my friends and readers in Cali: We’re not hating, we’re just jealous. 

I was in the Bay Area earlier this year speaking at a National Association of Hispanic Journalists gathering at the San Francisco Chronicle when my friend (and fellow cannabis journalist) David Downs pointed me in the direction of a retail marijuana shop called Barbary Coast. 

“Once you walk in, you’re inside the shop, of course,” he said. “But keep going back, and let me know what you think.”

 I headed over on my own, bought some of Kiva’s infused chocolate-covered coffee beans and walked to the back of the dispensary, where a friendly gentlemen checked me into an adjoined lounge connected to the shop. The space was elegant and lush, and the leather booths were filled with lone professionals on laptops, double-dates canoodling, and work meetings getting shit done—not unlike the scene at Philz Coffee down the road—only these customers were hitting vapes, rigs, and joints.

It was beautiful, especially given the public consumption struggle we’ve witnessed in Colorado. But it was also painfully normal—boring, even. It felt like an elevated coffee shop or bar environment. The place wasn’t hot-boxed, but the scent of weed was certainly present. It was normalized, and as beautiful as it was, it was also frustrating knowing how much legislators and prohibitionists are fighting this kind of progress back in my home state.

POST-LEGALIZATION SOCIAL EQUITY PROGRAMS

These kinds of headlines give me my favorite kind of goosebumps: “San Francisco to Dismiss Thousands of Marijuana Convictions,”  National Public Radio; “Top New York Lawmaker: Expunge Convictions if Cannabis Goes Legal,” The Associated Press; “In These States, Past Marijuana Crimes Can Go Away,”  HuffPost; “Details on Plan to Expunge Some Vermont Pot Convictions,” CBS affiliate WCAX. 

Think about it: Those four recent headlines from trusted, mainstream news organizations just took us coast-to-coast-to-coast-to-coast, referencing local initiatives across the US that will expunge cannabis convictions from people’s records now that marijuana is legal where they live.

This is right. This is just. This is fair. This is the future, and thank goodness these nonviolent marijuana offenders will no longer have to deal with the significant repercussions of having a weed citation or arrest on their criminal record.

Of course, not enough states are pushing these kinds of laws, and some progressive programs appear to be falling short. (Funding For Social Equity Piece of Retail Marijuana is Slow in Coming— Worcester (Mass.) Telegram) But still, California and Vermont are on the right side of history, and other states will soon follow suit.

SANE, FACT-BASED REPORTING IN THE MEDIA

I’m a pretty average guy when it comes down to it, but if I have a legacy, it will likely involve the impact my colleagues and I had on the way cannabis is discussed and reported on in the mainstream media.

I started  The Cannabist from inside  The Denver Post’s newsroom in 2013, and while we refused to repeat the many lies of prohibition, we also ignored the blind activism of publications like  High Times—and that modern, fact-based middle path ended up laying the groundwork for much of the cannabis journalism you read today. (If you’re curious about those early days, check out the documentary Rolling Papers, which is still streaming on Netflix.)

And so it makes me proud to see mainstream media organizations report responsibly on cannabis, especially since most of them were still repeating the garbage gateway-drug narrative after Washingtonians and Coloradans became the first to legalize it in 2012.

Enter André Picard, the health columnist at  The Globe and Mail, the most widely read newspaper in Canada with roots dating back nearly 175 years. Here’s what Picard columnized on late-May 2018, as Canada prepared its federal implementation of legal, regulated recreational weed:

“As Canada prepares to go live with pot sales in a few months, what can we learn from four years of practical, hands-on experience in the western United States?

 “The first takeaway is that all the fretting about the impact on children and teens is largely unwarranted. Before legalization, 17 percent of Grade 10 students in Washington State said they had smoked pot in the previous month. Four years of legal doobies later, 17 percent of Grade 10 students say they have smoked pot in the previous month.” 

While some journalists and columnists still spread fear-based narratives with no basis in the legal market, Picard looked to the most experienced municipalities in legal cannabis and told his readers about what they have experienced, based entirely on government (state and federal) data.

As the headline of his column hints: The kids will be alright. And so long as journalists report on what is known, instead of what they were told as children, so will they, I hope.

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