Pubdate: Mon, 16 May 2016
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Column: California Journal
Copyright: 2016 Los Angeles Times
Author: Robin Abcarian


California Looks Poised to Emerge As the Center of the Cannabis 
Economy in November

SANTA CRUZ - The other day, in a seaside cafe here, veteran cannabis 
journalist David Bienenstock gamely fielded my attempts to catch up 
on a subject I have failed to appreciate for far too long: the coming 
end of marijuana prohibition.

Earlier this month, the backers of a California initiative to 
legalize the recreational use of marijuana (including Lt. Gov. Gavin 
Newsom and tech kabillionaire Sean Parker) said they had gathered 
enough signatures to make the November ballot. In the same week, the 
federal government dropped its long-standing case against Oakland's 
Harborside Health Center, the largest medical pot dispensary in the country.

California, with a thriving medical marijuana industry, already 
produces and sells more pot than any other state, including Colorado, 
Washington and Oregon, which have all legalized adult recreational 
use. In California, we could see a tenfold increase in what is 
already a billion-dollar-plus industry, and this despite the 
continuing federal classification of marijuana as a dangerous 
substance with no medical value.

Right now, a majority of Californians favor legalization. Latino 
voters, who strongly opposed a failed legalization measure in 2010, 
are increasingly leaning toward it as well.

The stars, finally, seem aligned.

"This is California's time to reemerge as the center of the cannabis 
economy and the center of cannabis culture, and that's what's so 
exciting," said Bienenstock, 40, who has just written a modest but 
charming weed primer, "How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide 
to Getting High." A former High Times editor, Bienenstock, who lives 
near Santa Cruz, writes Vice's "Weed Eater" column and produces 
Vice's very funny cooking show, "Bong Appetit."

I am not a weedinista. I hate feeling stoned. I don't think pot will 
save the world, and dependence, especially with younger users, can be 
a problem. But I do think, in some settings, it can work miracles.

A year ago, probably after hearing me knock pot smokers one too many 
times, David Downs, a San Francisco cannabis journalist, who is 
married to my niece, sat me down and explained something I hadn't 
known. There are two important components in marijuana. The primary 
psychoactive ingredient in pot is THC, which also has medicinal 
properties such as pain relief and nausea reduction. And there's CBD, 
a non-psychoactive ingredient that has been shown to be helpful for 
many ailments, including epilepsy, cancer pain and anxiety.

Increasingly, researchers are investigating the health benefits of 
CBD. Growers, in turn, are meeting demand for pot strains that are 
high in CBD and low in THC.

You can achieve a tremendous benefit from high-CBD marijuana and 
never feel stoned.

This was a revelation.

I recommend Bienenstock's book for people who want to know more about 
pot because it's far more than a how-to guide.

It covers the history of cannabis, the biology of the plant, the many 
ways it is processed for human consumption, and some of the medical 
applications of its various compounds, which are only now starting to 
be accepted by the American medical establishment.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta's ground-breaking 2014 CNN special about a young 
girl whose uncontrollable epileptic seizures were radically 
diminished by CBD is often cited as a watershed moment. The girl's 
family only became aware of CBD, Bienenstock said, after watching the 
reality show "Weed Wars," featuring Oakland's Harborside dispensary. 
No medical professional had ever suggested they look into CBD.

"How to Smoke Pot" offers tips about pot etiquette (yes, do pass the 
dutchie on the left hand side; no, don't ever joke about being a cop) 
and how to handle being too high (lie down, stay hydrated, and 
remember that no one has ever died from a marijuana overdose).

Bienenstock is versatile; he also has advice on how to get a job in 
the incredibly diversified cannabis industry, how to make 
marijuana-infused butter, how to roll a joint in a windstorm. I saw 
him light one in a windstorm, a slightly less impressive feat.

He takes pains to explain why it's so important to be vigilant and 
patient when ingesting edible forms of cannabis, which take effect 
much more slowly and make you much higher for far longer than smoked 
cannabis. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's infamous 2014 
misadventure with a cannabis-infused candy bar in Colorado is Exhibit 
A in how not to do it.

But above all, the book is a plea to keep pot weird, a call for those 
who have worked so hard to bring an underground economy into the 
light to struggle against the forces of capitalism that would reduce 
an inherently spiritual substance into just another marketable 
commodity, like Twinkies.

"Marijuana should transform capitalism," Bienenstock said, "not the 
other way around."

I doubt that will be possible. Every month, it seems, the private 
equity groups, the technologists with their delivery apps, the PR 
firms hold yet another conference extolling the investment 
opportunities for the pot industry. I am on the mailing list of at 
least two magazines dedicated to cannabis entrepreneurship.

For members of a long besieged group, who for years have risked their 
livelihoods and freedom to provide a drug that is far safer and far 
more beneficial than alcohol, this is a moment that is fraught with 
worry for the future.

"Prohibition, for all its evils," Bienenstock said, "acted in a way 
to protect this underground economy from capitalism."

If Californians vote to legalize marijuana six months from now, they 
will be validating what many already know to be true: Pot is no 
longer the counterculture.

It is, quite simply, the culture.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom