How! High are you? My name is “Radical” Russ Belville and this is my thirteenth consecutive Global Cannabis March. I am a writer and the host of The Marijuana Agenda podcast and a partner in Delta-9 House & Studios, Portland’s 420-Friendliest Airbnb. I’ve traveled all across North America over the past thirteen years arguing for the end of marijuana prohibition for adults. I’ve got to say, it’s a great day to march for marijuana in beautiful, legal Potland, Oregon!
Maybe you’re thinking, “Now that marijuana’s legal, what’s there to march about?”
Good question. When the march began in 1999, no states had legal marijuana. When I began marching in 2005, 2-out-of-3 people opposed legalization. But now, it’s legal in nine states and 2-out-of-3 people support legalization.
But legal ain’t equal. We can still lose our jobs for smoking legal marijuana. We can still be denied our gun rights for smoking legal marijuana. We can still lose our children for smoking legal marijuana. We still have no public place to gather with others for smoking legal marijuana.
Legal ain’t equal in our personal lives and legal ain’t equal in our business, either. To quote my friend Jodie Emery, “we thought legalizing marijuana meant making the current marijuana industry legal.” Instead, we’re seeing a new marijuana industry developing that’s squeezing out family growers and minority distributors. Blacks and hippies did the time; whites and yuppies make the dimes.
We heard a lot about how we should “treat marijuana like alcohol.” But legal alcohol is allowed to take business deductions that legal marijuana cannot take. Legal alcohol need not fear having its bank accounts closed like legal marijuana does. Legal alcohol doesn’t have to worry about federal interference like legal marijuana does.
And on this Cinco de Mayo, when the length of Tom McCall Waterfront Park is packed with parents and children enjoying a three-day outdoor public festival sponsored by Modelo Especial, Corona Extra, Negra Modelo, and Cerveza Pacifico you can drink openly, while actual marijuana is invisible at our outdoor public festival, it is glaringly obvious that even though alcohol and marijuana are legal, legal ain’t equal.
We also insisted that legalization shall not harm medical marijuana. Three times in Measure 91 we made that point clear. So, what is the state doing? Denying out-of-state patient cards. Steep reductions in grow sites. Invasive tracking and inspections. Complex regulations and exorbitant fees that are driving growers away from the program.
These drastic changes to the medical program are unconscionable. This state charges $200, the highest fee in the nation, for a sick or disabled person to join a medical marijuana program that has always run a surplus. This state diverts funds from that program to balance other budgets, then has the gall to demand hundreds more in new tracking fees from growers trying to provide for sick and disabled people?
We’re marching today because we still have much work to do. We got marijuana legal, but legal ain’t equal.
Legal ain’t equal to the OLCC. They’re so fearful of pot they devote only twice as many of their minor decoy operations to alcohol as they do marijuana, despite there being ten times as many alcohol retailers as pot shops. Then they’re shocked when the last five pot stings carded kids 100 percent of the time, but are hardly concerned that bars and restaurants fail to ID 1-in-8 teens who try to buy booze.
Legal ain’t equal to the OHA. They’re so fearful of “gaming the system” they’ve turned the system into an expensive game most growers don’t want to play. Then they’re upset when patients return to the very same unregulated, untaxed, underground market that OHA is changing the rules to try to eliminate.
Legal ain’t equal to the legislature. How else can we explain a Clean Air Act that forbids indoor smoking because we proved secondhand tobacco smoke was harmful but is then amended by the legislature to include cannabis vapor, even though there’s no proof secondhand cannabis vapor is harmful. The Clean Air Act provides no exception to allow for cannabis smoking, even though there is an exception for tobacco smoking at smoke shops and cigar bars.
Well, what the hell good is a right if you have no place to exercise it?
We’re marching today because we want our equal rights. If this society has figured out how to accommodate beer drinkers and cigar smokers, then those accommodations should be open to pot smokers as well! Thank you for coming out today and until next time, take care of each other, tokers!