Pubdate: Thu, 12 May 2016
Source: SF Weekly (CA)
Column: Chem Tales
Copyright: 2016 Village Voice Media
Author: Chris Roberts


If the Mission District manifested its own member of Congress - and 
if this representative were a he in his late 60s - he would look 
exactly like Earl Blumenauer.

A mix of Bernie Sanders and Bill Nye the Science Guy, decked out in a 
bright-patterned bow-tie and plaid-checked sportcoat - and with a 
bicycle lapel pin - Blumenauer cut a natty, professor-like figure as 
we shared coffee on the patio of a Sixth Street cafe (a phrase that 
still feels unreal to type).

The representative for that hipster haven to our north called 
Portland, where there are currently over 100 retail outlets selling 
recreational cannabis, Blumenauer was in town last week for the first 
stop of a four-day, multi-city swing through California. In San 
Francisco and Silicon Valley, he had meetings scheduled with Uber and 
Google, as well as a lecture at Stanford and a campaign event in 
Santa Barbara, before making stops in Las Vegas and points east.

In addition to meeting with business types, lawyers, and politicos, 
Blumenauer is mounting a nationwide tour. He's traveling to every 
state in the union that has a legalization measure on this fall's 
ballot - places like Ohio, Vermont, Florida, and Maine as well as 
California - to talk up the many benefits and few appreciable 
drawbacks of allowing adults to buy and sell cannabis, as well as the 
necessity of allowing legal weed businesses to openly use banks and 
claim their business expenses on their taxes (two things they still cannot do).

This is something he's been working on for a while - he helped pass a 
decriminalization bill in the Oregon state legislature in 1973. And 
over 40 years later, the final victory is in reach.

"If we do this right," he says, "in five years, it's game over" for 
cannabis prohibition.

But to do that, he needs money. And that was the other reason for his 
visit: A few hours after our coffee date, he was at the Twitter 
building, collecting checks from entrepreneurs - who paid between 
$150 and $1,000 to bend his ear - at a fundraiser thrown by the 
cannabis industry.

Out-of-town politicians rolling through town is nothing new. 
President Barack Obama regularly uses the Bay Area and Silicon Valley 
as an ATM, and of course Sen. Dianne Feinstein and U.S. Rep. Nancy 
Pelosi are happy to collect checks from their neighbors. But it would 
still be a quantum leap to see the likes of them or Mayor Ed Lee 
comfortably pressing the flesh with people smelling faintly of vape 
pen, however well-dressed and eager to contribute.

So in the meantime, elected from elsewhere are happy to fill the gap 
and take money from marijuana, which is more than eager to get 
involved with government.

A few nights before "Congressman B" rolled through town, statewide 
politicians were in San Francisco, and making promises to a room full 
of weed growers at the Rexford near Union Square.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) is one of the lead authors of the 
Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which explicitly 
authorized for-profit commercial cannabis activity in California. He 
was the main attraction at an event benefiting the California 
Growers' Association, the major lobby - but, believe it or not, not 
the only lobby - for cannabis growers in Sacramento.

Also there was San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, who openly 
hopes to represent the cannabis industry's needs in the state Senate 
(and who appears to have outflanked his colleague and competitor for 
the seat, Supervisor Jane Kim, on the weed issue).

"It was sort of a farcical situation for a long time, where we 
pretended the cannabis industry didn't exist," Wiener says. "It does 
exist. It employs a lot of people, and it creates a product a lot of 
people want."

Pot is far from Wiener's top issue, and cannabis is not giving Wiener 
anywhere near the amount of money seen he sees from real estate or 
other interests. But for now, in addition to publicly supporting the 
Adult Use of Marijuana Act, the recreational cannabis legalization 
measure that California will vote on in the fall, Wiener - the wonky, 
self-declared urbanist and Harvard lawyer who looks to be about the 
last person you'd expect to be pro-cannabis - is the local elected 
official who has done the most on the cannabis issue.

Wiener sponsored the legislation to create a city task force to 
figure out how to get San Francisco ready for legalization. He is 
also the lone local elected official pushing city bureaucrats to 
figure out what the city needs to do to ensure that its current 
medical cannabis industry - roughly 30 medical marijuana retail 
outlets, plus the warehouses that may number in the dozens where some 
of that marijuana is grown - complies with Bonta's MMRSA and can 
acquire the state licenses that will be required to stay in business 
past Jan. 1, 2018.

All that is is to say Scott Wiener has done more than nothing. Which, 
for now at least, is worth some checks from cannabis.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom