Pubdate: Wed, 09 Sep 2015
Source: Seattle Weekly (WA)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2015 Village Voice Media
Author: Michael A. Stusser


Washington legislators are doing everything they can to keep 
marijuana users from smoking together. It's time that stopped.

It's time for us to come together and smoke marijuana.

Over and over, legislators at all levels in Washington state have 
prevented us from doing just that by hampering public marijuana 
use-in fact, a recent law makes providing a place for public use a 
Class C felony. Lawmakers are making it impossible to promote and 
celebrate cannabis. Thus it's time for some civil disobedience.

As an example of how cannabis can be used to elevate our civic 
engagement, let's look at a state that's getting certain things 
right: Colorado. Not only is the state working with its 
medical-marijuana dispensaries to expand patient care, many 
jurisdictions have licensed, members-only marijuana clubs where 
adults can safely use and learn about cannabis in a social, 
alcohol-free environment. In Seattle? Not allowed!

Colorado is also considering various social pot-use initiatives that 
would allow vape lounges and cannabis cafes. Another proposal would 
allow adults to bring marijuana into bars, theaters and restaurants. 
These establishments would all have dedicated smoking areas for 
adults, and smoking would never be visible from within 25 feet of any 
public space.

Colorado's also leap years ahead on public events involving ganja. 
The best one I've seen so far was a collaboration between Edible 
Events, a cannabis company, and the Colorado Symphony. Called 
"Classically Cannabis" in the symphony's High Note Series, it was a 
Bring Your Own Bud evening, including swag tables full of lighters 
and rolling papers, a designated smoking patio, and a parking lot 
full of food trucks for when the munchies kicked in. (Don't get 
mustard on your tux, man!)

We legalized weed here in Washington. That's a fact. (So is the $70 
million in tax revenue we collected in our first year, which the 
legislature had no problem spending.) It's also a fact that 
legislative pinheads are getting in the way of the public actually 
using it. "Once people have the right to acquire cannabis, the next 
logical step forward is figuring out what do they do with it," says 
Hilary Bricken, head attorney at Seattle's Canna Law Group. "People 
are saying, 'So I can have it, but where can I use it and not feel 
like a criminal?' "

A voter-approved initiative banned cigar lounges (and all indoor 
smoking in public places) in 2005, and the mayor is attempting to 
shutter all private hookah lounges as well. We've already discussed 
the city's no-smoking ban in parks. And now, with the passage of this 
summer's draconian Bill 2136, marijuana clubs can't exist either: " 
'Marijuana club' means a club, association, or other business, for 
profit or otherwise, that conducts or maintains a premises for the 
primary or incidental purpose of providing a location where members 
or other persons may keep or consume marijuana on the premises." 
While designed to kill cannabis clubs, the law is (most likely) 
illegal, as it makes it impossible for medical patients to provide 
marijuana to other patients.

Even the Seattle City Attorney's office thinks this is overkill. 
"We've supported creating adult-only areas where people can legally 
consume marijuana in order to avoid the problems caused by people 
using marijuana in public spaces, like streets and parks," said 
Deputy City Attorney John Schochet. "Unfortunately, the blanket 
felony ban on 'marijuana clubs' in HB 2136 makes that impossible 
under current law. We hope to get that fixed during the next 
legislative session." In the meantime, you'd be a fool to risk being 
arrested with a felony conviction on the line.

The Evergreen State needs to get some basic elements about 
legalization in place so as not become a laughingstock, and because 
the voters demand it! We need to be able to grow marijuana for 
personal use. (All the other legal states have this in place.) We 
need to decriminalize marijuana and expunge all records of those who 
were arrested and imprisoned for nonviolent marijuana-related 
offenses. And we need to allow and accommodate the actual smoking and 
vaping and ingesting of cannabis in adult spaces such as vape 
lounges, stoned cinemas, culinary tastings, art events, and Bud & Breakfasts.

The fact is, not only do people use marijuana, but they support the 
legalization and taxation of the plant for recreational purposes. 
It's fun! It's social! It's no longer taboo! You've seen beer gardens 
and cocktail classes and wine-tastings galore, right? Oktoberfest, 
anyone? Walla Walla wine tours? Craft-beer workshops!? Hell, Smirnoff 
Vodka just signed as the official sponsor of LiveNation at 25 music 
festivals, and Blu, an e-cigarette (owned by Imperial Tobacco) 
sponsors IndyCar, handing out samples of their toxic-sticks at auto 
races! Marijuana may be safer than alcohol, but it's still being 
shunned and shamed and banned throughout the state.

Well, guess what? In order to get it right (and rolling), I've 
decided to host a series of Higher Ground Cannabis Cultural Events. 
It's not a club. I won't sell tickets, and I won't sell weed. We also 
won't pass joints around-as, shockingly, this is a felony offense 
(considered "possession and distribution," with potentially five 
years in the slammer and a $10,000 fine!) The gig will be BYOBong-and 
we'll all get along. It will be educational, instructive, and a way 
to exercise our rights. I've lined up one of Seattle's best bands, 
and we'll have a few surprise guests to elevate the dialogue. We'll 
proudly and safely use cannabis in an adult-only environment, and 
have a damn fine time!

E-mail me at  if you want an invitation. And 
if the Feds decide to crash the party? We'll check their IDs at the 
door and lay out the hemp welcome mat. It's time to kick this 
Prohibition crap to the curb, once and for all.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom