Pubdate: Thu, 17 Dec 2015
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Column: Chem Tales
Copyright: 2015 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts

At the Emerald Cup, Sean Parker - Whose Name Was on Everyones Lips - 
Was Nowhere to Be Found


The manifestation of the once-rogue marijuana industry's current 
commercial success and its untold future potential were on display 
last weekend at the Emerald Cup, the state's largest cannabis 
convocation. But while some of the state's 55,000 outdoor cannabis 
farmers were dressed for success in Carharts, hoodies, and flannel, 
the biggest name - subject of the biggest news - was a no-show.

In between lining up for dabs of artisanal pressed hash made by 
Frenchy Cannoli and rushing the Cookies booth to pose for selfies 
with social media phenomenon Berner, more than 20,000 weedheads also 
heard two words, whispered like a mantra and uttered like a curse, 
over and over and over again: "Sean Parker."

Parker was not present at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, where the 
merits of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act - the marijuana legalization 
ballot initiative that the Napster cofounder and Facebook billionaire 
will supposedly bankroll - were the hot topic. After all, as some of 
the shriller Cup attendees warned, if passed, in addition to allowing 
adults 21 and over the right to carry an ounce, grow six plants, and 
pay a 15 percent excise tax for the privilege, the AUMA could make 
the Emerald Cup - the operators of small farms mixing with the city 
slickers, most everybody pleasantly stoned, all of it - go away 
forever, regulated into the ashtray of history.

Parker has not written a check nor has he publicly declared himself 
the man who will pay for adults to smoke weed more freely in 
California, but the AUMA is nonetheless known as the "Parker 
initiative." Also conspicuously absent were representatives from the 
Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project, members of 
Team Parker who worked on the legalization efforts in Washington, 
Oregon, and Colorado. And WeedMaps CEO Justin Hartfield, who parked 
$1 million in a pro-legalization political action committee in April, 
was nowhere to be found. (Weedmaps may stand to lose much under the 
AUMA; according to San Jose dispensary operator Dave Hodges, "95 
percent" of the weed businesses advertised on Weedmaps's "Google maps 
for pot" may be forced to go out of business.)

WeedMaps's branding, at least, was everywhere. It was in "WeedMaps 
Hall," on the "WeedMaps stage," that Parker's impact on California's 
biggest cash crop was discussed during a legalization forum on 
Saturday night. Without Parker or other major players present, it was 
left to Nate Bradley, the executive director of the California 
Cannabis Industry Association, to speak on AUMA's behalf. In his 
endorsement, he offered what felt like faint praise. The AUMA is not 
perfect and needs more fixing, he told a crowd of a few hundred, but 
it's the best - and only - shot California has at legalization. "When 
it comes to an initiative, you're making a cake," he said. "You need 
ingredients. You need a coalition. You also need funders."

Funders are what everyone else does not have. As Bradley pointed this 
out for the hundredth time, supporters of rival ballot initiatives 
(which don't have a ghost of a chance of qualifying and were not 
invited to speak) muttered, shook their heads, and lined up to spout 
their personal fears during the "question" portion of the debate. In 
successive breaths, doubters noted that the Emerald Cup could be 
regulated out of existence, but that Santa Rosa could easily grant it a permit.

It felt a bit like a Republican presidential debate sans Donald 
Trump, with Scott Walker and Rick Perry posing questions from the audience.

However flawed it may be, Parker's initiative is good enough for Tim 
Blake, the veteran Mendocino farmer and Emerald Cup founder who 
publicly came out in support. "These guys are going to go, with us or 
without us," said Blake, noting that the AUMA's authors added a 
five-year moratorium on large farms at growers' request. "If they 
didn't change their language, they'd have 1,000-acre farms, and wipe 
us all out."

That public endorsement earned Blake the label of "sellout" by some 
of the movement's more militant types. "To me personally, it felt 
like a coronation and not a true debate," said Marina, Calif.-based 
activist Kevin Saunders, who pledged to "personally sink the AUMA." 
Later, on social media and on email threads, lawyers and activists 
stoked fears over other "new crimes" the AUMA would supposedly usher 
in: $100 tickets for smoking weed in public, warrantless searches 
from police searching for excess plants or an "open container" of 
bud, and jail time for cannabis concentrate makers using a solvent.

This is the atmosphere in California at the twilight of prohibition 
and the dawn of legalization: confusion, suspicion - and fear. "I 
feel fear. I feel real fear," said one cannabis business owner I ran 
into on Sunday evening, after the awards had been handed out and the 
party was starting to break up.

"My business could be regulated away... by someone who is not here," 
he added. "I put years into this shit. I have two kids. What am I 
going to do after this?"

The question wasn't meant for me. But there was nobody else around to ask.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom