California NORML’s 2011 Marijuana Legalization Conference

California NORML’s 2011 Marijuana Legalization Conference

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

The Los Angeles Times on January 30 published an article by John Hoeffel that focuses on a January 29th National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law (NORML) conference in Berkley; billed by some as a “legalization summit”. Hosted by NORML’s California chapter, the conference sought to initiate discussion on the 2012 state election and the initiative to legalize recreational use of marijuana in California. NORML’s aim at this conference was to reach out to Cannabis growers, disgruntled legalization activists, medical dispensaries and defense attorneys specializing in California marijuana law.

Culture is said to be the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group. The culture of legal marijuana in California in 2011 revolves around the industry of medical marijuana. Marijuana for medical purposes became a reality in the Golden State in 1996 and the industry of legal cannabis has grown and evolved the past 15 years. Livelihoods have been cultivated involving every aspect of the legal marijuana business; an industry that has proven to be quite lucrative since before the end of the 20th century.

Proposition 19 failed in November 2010 by a 54-46% margin. A widely accepted believe for this is due in part to the failure of the movement to garner support from the growers, dispencery owners and defense attorneys specializing in cannabis law. Not only did they not speak out for the cause of Proposition 19, in many cases they sided with the opposition. Infuential and powerful sects of the California cannabis culture that felt, and deservedly so many would say, that the drafting of the resolution was a closed process that did not seek to include them.

The fact that this was the first conference that California NORML has hosted in a decade speaks to the orgainzations need in California to try and get the frayed ends of the cannabis culture on the state level to all pull in the same direction. “We knew there was a lot of dissatisfaction,” said Dale Gieringer, the organization’s California director who organized the conference. “A lot of people felt excluded because the writing process of Proposition 19 was very closed.” Dale Sky Jones, the spokeswoman for the Proposition 19 campaign, told the crowd at the David Brower Center near the University of Cal-Berkley campus, “Truly, this is a planning exercise. We’re here to hear you. This is the building process.”

The fact of the matter is that in some cases good portions of the voices at this conference openly joined in support of the opposition to the 2010 recreational marijuana initiative. Many of these groups felt that Proposition 19 did not include them, speak for them, protect their future industry market share and most decidely did not look out for the already established California legal marijuana culture. The issue of how they were not included in the writing of the initiative obviously inspired the feeling by many that they were also not going to be included in what would be the new state order of this industry.

The power shift that recreational marijuana could create with the industry market share caused a legitimate fear. Fear, doubt and skepticism spread for what could and should be some of the recreational marijuana movement’s biggest supporters. Fear that made these same people actually become enemies of Proposition 19. The freedom to use marijuana for recreational purposes without legal persecution in California is not the concern of these groups, they have already staked their livelihoods in the present day legal aspects and avenues of cannabis. The needs of these individuals and groups is to hold on to and if possible increase their market share with the passing of recreational marijuana. The fact that Proposition 19 was not going to absolutely deliver on both of these counts undoubtedly put the initiative in the crosshairs of the California legal marijuana proletariat, namely dispensaries and growers who are the working class of cannabis culture.

The 1983 movie classic “Risky Business”, contains a scene between Tom Cruise’s character, a high school senior that is infatuated and manipulated by a call girl and her boss, aptly named Guido The Killer Pimp. Trying to intimidate Joel, as well as give the uppper middle class teenager some valuable business advice , Guido quips to Joel “In a sluggish economy, never fuck with another man’s livelihood.” Does NORML’s recent convention usher in the beginning of medical marijuana’s status quo embracing the concept that legal recreational marijuana will not hurt their cash flow? Time will tell; however this is still a sluggish economy (when is it ever not) and the dream of legal recreational cannabis does not have a chance of becoming reality until the reigning pimps of California legal marijuana are persuaded that their livelihoods will not be compromised or their places in the legal marijuana culture usurped. 

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