Pubdate: Wed, 08 Jan 2014
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts
Column: Chem Tales


The Problem With Marijuana Fundamentalism

Here's a story for the ages: Last week, adults walked into stores
where they exchanged cash for marijuana. The deal done, the adults
walked out. Next, everyone went on with their lives -- as if nothing
significant had happened.

Here's the twist: It was all perfectly legal -- and nobody gave a
shit. News organizations from around the world did not cover it and it
was not declared the beginning of the end of drug prohibition. This is
because it all went down in Oakland, and not in Denver.

For now, all the fun and all the headlines are in Colorado, where the
first legal marijuana sales to adults in the United States since the
1930s -- any adults, not just those with a note from a doctor with
debatable scruples -- began Jan. 1 at 8 a.m. Folks eager to be among
the first to score a taxed and regulated eighth lined up just a few
hours after 2014 began; some came from as far away as Ohio -- by car
- -- and stood outside in the snow to participate in history.

In a few months, stores in Seattle will follow suit when Washington
state's legal cannabis stores go live. Meanwhile, back in the Bay
Area, legalization is still somewhere in the future -- though it is
also possible for adults to buy cannabis with the blessing of the law.
You just need to be quiet about it.

Speakeasies behind nondescript storefronts, closed to the general
public and accessible often only by word of mouth or a personal
referral, prohibited by law from advertising: These are the Measure Z
clubs, named after the initiative that two-thirds of voters okayed.

This modest step towards an adult marijuana marketplace was made back
in 2004. In that time, the sky has not fallen and what woes there are
in Oakland are not blamed on weed (Occupy, a lack of cops, and a
preponderance of Jean Quan are the more common scapegoats).

You can't tell too many other people about the Z clubs, and God forbid
you put the name, address, or any distinguishing characteristics of
your provider in the newspaper. It's lurking out in the open, but it's
still lurking. It has the look and feel of something shady and
surreptitious -- which means it kind of sucks.

For now, this is the closest we have to a legal adult marketplace. A
small step, still waiting for its follow-up.

This situation is not ideal, and for many -- especially for
legalization fundamentalists -- it's not acceptable. That attitude can
be dangerous for progress.

For a weed fundamentalist, the only victory is a total victory: an
immediate and unconditional end to the marijuana war, amnesty to all
marijuana prisoners-of-war, and a free, unregulated, and untaxed

That we do not have. And will never have, at least not all at once.
And insisting on such a utopia is partly why we've been forced to
content ourselves with police-accepted "secret" cannabis clubhouses
for a decade.

The next time you hear the words "marijuana movement," allow yourself
a laugh. There really is no such thing. The exact set of rules in
place in Colorado right now, if presented before some California-based
marijuana fundamentalists, would be rejected.

Spend a little time in marijuana circles and you'll see that no two
versions of legalization are alike. Some oppose paying sales tax on a
plant product. Others abhor the idea, pushed by the power structure in
Sacramento, of putting legal weed under the Alcoholic Beverage
Commission. And putting limits on how many plants an adult can grow
and how much pot you can buy at once? Go fuck yourself; we're not
interested. The status quo is better for now.

That's marijuana fundamentalism. And it's alive and well. To
fundamentalists, no change is preferable to a law with the slightest
flaw, like restricting weed sales to those 21 and over (as Colorado

The lesson here should have been learned way back in 2010, when pot
farmers in Humboldt and "patient advocates" in the cities bonded to
oppose California's most recent shot at legalizing weed, Prop. 19.
Backers couldn't believe it. "We're all for fucking legalization,
aren't we?" screamed the soft-spoken Richard Lee, the Oaksterdam
founder and main bankroller, at a forum that fall.

Are we? Hard to say. Meanwhile, the speakeasy is open. If you can find
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MAP posted-by: Matt