Culture: Always Be Hustlin'

By Sean Donahoe 6/1/2015
Across the state and in our Capitol, the cannabis movement is on the roll in California. Two months ago, Assembly Bill 243 was heard in the Agriculture Committee, a historic move that hasn’t been fully appreciated. Within the committee hearing room, three dozen cannabis farmers representing Emerald Growers Association, California Cannabis Voice Humboldt and other organizations were there to support a sensible, agriculture-based approach for regulating the cultivation of medical cannabis. Outside in the corridors there were several dozen more farmers and supporters, gathered around a television set that Capitol staff had to set up to display the hearings. There was profound strength in this group—all wearing matching green t-shirts with statements like “I am a farmer” or “I [heart] a farmer” on the fronts and their respective organizational logo and “#sameteam” on the back.

As Assemblyman Jim Wood, representing the Emerald Triangle, presented his bill, and he called for EGA Executive Director Hezekiah Allen, a third generation cannabis farmer from Humboldt, to testify on the importance of getting cannabis regulation done right this legislative session. As his testimony wrapped up, Hezekiah turned to the eager audience and urged the proud farmers to rise in in solidarity together. Outside the chamber doors that was the signal for the group to cheer loudly in unison. This display caused committee chair Assemblyman Henry Perea (Fresno) to smile and laugh—all the Capitol heard this voice and recognized this moment in California history, as cannabis farmers were accepted in the Capitol building as a credible and important constituency. It was a great day. And the legislative session had only just begun. Cannabis farmers had made their presence felt in Sacramento, they treated the elected officials and staff with respect, and the whole Capitol community welcomed them.

Over the last six months, the Reform CA movement has been spreading as town hall-style listening sessions, an April 20th “thunderclap” social media coordinated event, and great fundraiser events are getting the reform machine fueled up for our November 2016 legalization push. These listening sessions began in Oakland, San Diego, West Hollywood, Riverside, Santa Ana, Garberville, Grass Valley, Redding and Santa Cruz, followed by San Luis Obispo and Fresno this month. Before drafting legalization language this time, there was a real desire by the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform to gather information, to experiment with ideas, to discuss our collective goals with the cannabis movement’s base across the state. Reform CA Chairwoman Dale Sky Jones (Oaksterdam University,) Kristin Nevedal (Americans for Safe Access and Emerald Growers Association), and Dale Gieringer (California NORML) led these many meetings, with representatives from the Marijuana Policy Project and the Greater Los Angeles Caregivers Alliance joining the leadership team for some of the meetings. Civil rights issues, cultivation rights issues, local control issues, and preserving access to medical cannabis were the central conversations at these events, but there were opportunities for local ballot measure organizers to ride this wave of reform enthusiasm.

A bit later in the Spring more town halls, separately hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance and by the Lieutenant Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force have brought this reform message to more and more people, as more and more voices are added to this historic conversation. California will legalize cannabis in 2016, and we have every reason to believe that this enthusiasm, this organizing and this collective wisdom will ensure that our laws are reasonable, our ideas are heard and our community achieves what it’s been pushing for so long. Are you excited yet? I sure am.