Pubdate: Thu, 04 Aug 2016
Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Sacramento Bee
Author: Joe Mathews, Zocalo Public Square


California tokers, why are you trippin' so hard?

You keep saying that marijuana helps manage anxiety. But those of you 
who work in or partake of the cannabis industry sound like the most 
stressed-out people in California.

And that leaves me wondering what's in your bongs, especially since 
2016 is supposed to be a year of great triumph for you. Cannabis is 
booming in California. New regulations on medical marijuana are 
coming together, and a November ballot initiative to legalize 
recreational use seems likely to pass. California is thus well on its 
way to becoming Mary Jane's global capital, and a national model for 
how to pull cannabis out of the black-market shadows and into the legal light.

If the future looks so dank (that's stoner-speak for awesome), why do 
you all look so wrecked?

Did you get some bad schwag or something?

In talking to some of you in recent weeks, I've learned there are two 
reasons why you're stressed out.

The first involves all the necessary pressure you're putting on 
yourselves. Cannabis is not just an industry, it's a movement to end 
prohibition, and the hardest times for movements can come right when 
they are on the verge of winning what they want. Your movement's 
victory - the end of cannabis prohibition - requires a difficult 
transition that is stressful and scary.

In California, by one estimate, there are as many as 10,000 
cannabis-related businesses  only a couple of hundred of which have 
the proper zoning and licenses to operate a medical marijuana 
business. That leaves thousands of you trying to work out your 
futures very quickly  at least before 2018, when regulations for 
medical marijuana (including a state marijuana czar) and for 
recreational use (assuming the ballot initiative passes) are supposed 
to be in place.

Some of you may have to shut down. But others of you are engulfed in 
the difficult, expensive process of making your businesses legal 
quickly  but not so quickly that you run afoul of local police who 
are still conducting raids on your operations or federal authorities 
who already make banking and paying taxes too difficult for you. On 
top of all this stress comes the burden of being a political cause. 
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is building a gubernatorial campaign by backing 
the ballot initiative to legalize recreational use.

That brings me to the second source of pressure on you: the constant 
outside demands on your industry from those of us in what cinematic 
stoner Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski called "the Square Community."

California leaders have gotten way too high on the possibilities of 
fully legal marijuana. Today politicians and media claim that legal 
cannabis in California will end the drug war, rationalize our prison 
and court systems, solve homelessness, preserve agriculture, fight 
the drought through new water-saving technologies, create new jobs 
and economic opportunities in poorer and rural areas of the state, 
and replenish strained state and local budgets with new taxes on weed.

True, legal cannabis will create opportunities for change. But too 
many expectations are riding on this one plant.

Before exploiting legal marijuana for all manner of schemes, 
California governments need to get this transition right. The tax 
system for cannabis should be fair, so it doesn't drive out small 
players  or create incentives to keep the black market alive. The 
regulatory regimes for medical marijuana and recreational use should 
fit together and be transparent enough that California cannabis 
doesn't become a state monopoly.

If California gets this right, maybe some of the biggest dreams for 
marijuana can come true. At the very least, cannabis could be a 
thriving and well-regulated industry.

But for now, as the marijuana-friendly rap group Cypress Hill likes 
to say, we all gots to chill. These are stressful enough times for 
you stoners already.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom