Pubdate: Thu, 01 Oct 2015
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Los Angeles Times
Author: Maria L. La Ganga


A Veteran Advocate of Marijuana Legalization Looks at What's Ahead

SEATTLE - Allen St. Pierre went to work at NORML, the National 
Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, when the United States 
was in just-say-no-to-drugs mode.

That was a generation ago and California was years away from becoming 
the first state to legalize medical marijuana. On Thursday, 
recreational marijuana sales will begin in Oregon, the third state to 
legalize party pot.

St. Pierre is now NORML's executive director, and he talked this week 
about the country's embrace of cannabis. "What a long, strange trip 
it's been," he said.

Oregon voters approved recreational marijuana use in November. 
Possession became legal July 1. As of Thursday, medical marijuana 
dispensaries could sell pot for recreational use. Sometime in 2016, a 
full retail market will be in place. What sets Oregon apart?

What's really, really, really, really notable about Oregon - which 
the history books will reflect - is that the Legislature of their own 
wanton will advanced the date for retail sales. That kind of speaks 
to not only Oregon's progressivity on this, but also the fact that 
demand has been pent up and waiting under the guise of medical 
marijuana for at least a dozen years.

Where does that put Oregon in the small group of states where 
recreational use is legal?

Oregon now joins Colorado and Washington. Unlike the Oregon 
Legislature, which moved up legal sales faster than the 
voter-approved initiative, Alaska is hewing to its original timeline. 
Recreational sales won't happen there until 2016.

How did Oregon speed up retail sales?

I have to borrow a term that Steve DeAngelo of [the pot dispensary] 
Harborside in Oakland used in a lecture at a NORML conference. Flip 
the switch. He said that - if states were allowed about a dozen years 
to have the medical marijuana infrastructure play itself out, if 
there were no greater number of DUIDs [driving under the influence of 
drugs], no increase in problems for children - at some point it would 
be logical to flip the switch and let medical marijuana providers 
become regular providers overnight.

That's generally what's happening in Oregon. The folks who have been 
in the medical marijuana business for about a decade were given the 
opportunity to go to the head of the line and upgrade their licenses. 
Most have done so.

We figure that for every nine marijuana users, one is a bona fide 
patient in need. The folks today that are pivoting from medical to 
recreational are going to get to sell to 9 out of 9 cannabis 
consumers, which works better for them.

What's next for the push to legalize marijuana? Tell me about Issue 3 in Ohio.

In November 2015, Ohio will be voting on a measure to legalize 
marijuana. We endorse it with a strong degree of chagrin. It's 
anticompetitive, though it's not a monopoly. It will allow 10 
producers and 1,000 sellers. From a consumer's point of view, we 
wouldn't write it that way.

But given the Hobson's choice to continue prohibition, our board 
instead chose to favor it. At a minimum it would clearly end 
marijuana prohibition. We would take that in a licketysplit second. 
In addition, Vermont is likely going to be the first state 
legislature to pass recreational drug legalization, probably before 
the end of the year. Every tea leaf indicates it's going to be the case.

 From a historical point of view, in Oregon, with the Legislature 
moving recreational sales up so precipitously and now seeing the 
Vermont Legislature probably doing this, that means it's not just 
wild-eyed activists or people who want to make money pushing 
initiatives. Once a state legislature does it, it will break the dam.

In what other states are initiatives underway to put recreational 
marijuana on the ballot?

In 2016, Michigan, California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts and 
Maine will all have marijuana legalization initiatives. Funding is 
generally committed and people are on the ground in those states 
ready to go. Polling and focus groups indicate it's a go. We're 
hitting 55-percentile support levels.

Florida is a total wild card once again. John Morgan [the attorney 
who led an earlier medical marijuana initiative] is claiming he will 
put up another $5 million. Ethan Nadelmann and the Drug Policy 
Alliance are pushing for outright legalization.

What is the situation in California?

We will know on Oct. 1 whether California voters will face one or two 
legalization measures - ones that have sufficient resources for real 
campaigns - on the November [2016] ballot. We're hoping that there's 
only one. Because when voters are faced with two, both tend to lose.

What have we learned from Washington and Colorado about how 
legalization has - and hasn't - worked?

Rand Corp. and the state of Colorado and Brookings Institution all 
have opined that legalization has worked out pretty well. The areas 
we still have concerns with include protection for employees. If you 
come up positive in a drug screen, you can still be fired.

And edibles. Nobody knew and it wasn't until tax data told us, but 
now about 35% to 40% of the market in Colorado are edibles and 
concentrates. They're a different dynamic, with different health and 
safety concerns. There's a genuine dearth of information.

What are the most common ways of using marijuana?

Marijuana Business Daily just did a big report called "What Cannabis 
Patients and Consumers Want." It showed that smoking was the most 
popular way, followed by vaporizing, ingestion, "dabbing," absorption 
- - salves on skin. At NORML, our studies show that the most popular 
ways of smoking are pipe, then joint, then water filtration or bong.

Dabbing is taking marijuana concentrate and smoking it in a bong.... 
You get a big, massive what the kids would call "rip" off of it.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom