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HIGH TIMES Medical Cannabis Cup Seattle Day 1 Recap

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The Great I-502 Debate Highlighted Day 1 Of The 2012 HIGH TIMES Seattle Medical Cannabis Cup

Today’s attempts to connect live from Seattle were dashed by all sorts of reasons, mostly due to no hard-wire internet access. But we spent the day recording lots of video that I am uploading to the RadicalRuss YouTube channel.

We are in the non-profit org area of the Cup, indoors at a great location. We are again next to NORML Women’s Alliance, a booth away from the Yes on I-502 booth, and across from NORML Washington and SSDP. I got to hear many conversations between the young people who have been counseled to vote no on the legalization initiative on the Washington ballot. My two favorites:

  1. Kari Boiter, who was the woman representing No on I-502 at the Hempfest Great I-502 debate, was talking to one of the young men at the Yes on I-502 booth who objected to her presentation at that debate.  His issue had to due with her citation of some “new penalty” in I-502, and the young man was showing her the text of the initiative and explaining that the parts that aren’t underlined represent the parts of statute that exist in law now.
  2. Another I-502 supporter, who revealed himself to have a master’s degree in political science, is speaking to a young man who is opposed to I-502-s zero tolerance provisions for people aged 18-21.  ”You know that’s a lot of folks who’ll get busted,” chided the opponent of the legalization measure.  However, when pressed by the I-502 volunteer about how he would vote, the man admitted that he doesn’t vote, because “the system is all rigged.”  I jumped in and said, “Well, then, conversation over. We’ll spend our time talking to people who will decide whether we legalize marijuana.”

Outside in the “medication area” is where the action is.  One man in a furry green bear suit is offering coupons for $75 to see a clinic’s doctor to get a Washington medical marijuana recommendation.  Three leggy models in four inch heels, fishnet stockings, and medi-pants (like “hot pants, but, you know, “medical”) are promoting one of the local dispensaries.  And everywhere you look, it is becoming clearer that the hash oil-smoking culture is beginning to overshadow plain old herb.

In what might be a case of shooting fish in a barrel, the “medication area” (basically a fenced-off parking lot but now a thriving marketplace of tents, throbbing rap and reggae, and very happy mellow people) abuts the back door of a indoor gardening shop.  The shop propped open the back door and laid out a bounty of mini candy bars, granola bars, trail mix, and ice cold beverages to lure in the very happy mellow people.  I must admit, seeing the collection of carnivorous plants, the flytraps and the long vaselike traps and such made me feel as if I was the fly caught in the Venus Flystore and between my wife and Karri, we weren’t leaving without purchasing a plant.  Sure enough, Karri bought the “sensitive plant”, a beautiful thing with narrow leaves that convulsively reacts to touch and “plays dead”.  And the Venus Flystore makes another sale for the price of some Snickers and bottle water.

Below are the embeds for the anticipated debate on I-502.  Once again, Alison Holcomb represented the legalization initiative she’s shepherded to the ballot and gotten 57% support for in recent polls.  Joining her in advocating for the legalization that’s on the ballot was City Attorney Pete Holmes, whose controversial move to not prosecute minor marijuana possession cases partially made this event possible.  Arguing for the defeat of I-502, thus ensuring the status quo of prohibition for another year at least, was criminal defense attorney Douglas Hiatt, a longtime proponent of Sensible Washington’s proposal to remove all criminal penalties for marijuana with no regulatory framework.  Joining him was Jeffrey Steinborn, a defense attorney and member of the NORML Board of Directors who voted in favor of NORML’s unanimous endorsement of I-502.

The second part, from after I fixed accidentally pushing “stop”… (be patient, the upload from this wireless is taking forever!)

It’s a strange position to be in about I-502.  I clearly am an I-502 supporter and have argued about it at length.  I’ve been suspicious of the motivation of some 502 opponents.  But there is no way Douglas Hiatt and Jeffrey Steinborn are motivated by anything but the desire to prevent injustice.  And as I meet and speak with more 502 opponents, like Phillip Dawdy and Kari Boiter and Don Skakie, I can feel their conviction and the fear that something dreadful is being pulled over on the community at the behest of Dark Forces.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised that despite my clear opinion that their reasoning is flawed, they’ve been earnest and fair and decent when speaking to me.

Kari Boiter, for instance, found me somewhere and engaged me in a pleasant discussion.  Douglas Hiatt saw me after the panel and asked, “So, have I convinced you yet?”  I replied, “Douglas, I can’t ever vote the same way as the Drug Czar.  But you’re a hell of a speaker and you represented your side well.  Phillip Dawdy told me he would tell me about some dirty politics going on; I promised I’d listen.  And to all of them and more I’ve said, “You know, in two months, 502 will have passed and I’ll help you change it.  And if it fails, I’ll support any legalization that can make the ballot and pass.”

But I have a conditioned reflex to distrust any argument that comes at me with fear.  For years I’ve listened to proponents of prohibition tell me how terrible things would happen if we legalized marijuana and now I’m hearing that same message from proponents of pot smoking.  I just can’t believe the world is worse off when people 21 and over can possess and smoke an ounce of pot in private.

One of Douglas’s lines was about how if 502 passed, we’d be left with nothing but decriminalization of an ounce, nowhere to buy it, and these terrible DUI standards.  I couldn’t help but think about my friends in Georgia, who have nowhere to buy weed, a DUI standard that is zero tolerance for metabolites in your pee with a 48 hour mandatory minimum jail stay for that failed pee test, and whether they’d prefer a 5ng standard and getting a legal ounce.

Another of Jeffrey’s arguments kept coming back to federal pre-emption, how this 502 is “not going to work”, because nobody is going to want to get involved in the registration and possible blow back from the feds.  I’m really glad the medical marijuana pioneers didn’t let fear of federal blowback prevent them from carving out limited legal exceptions to prosecution that weren’t “true legalization”.

But I have to hand it to them, Douglas and Jeffrey are fine lawyers and certainly won the HIGH TIMES crowd over, which from the beginning was loaded with the volunteers who were working the No on I-502 booth.  Douglas makes very impassioned speeches and his applause lines were clear winners.  The crowd was polite for Alison and Pete, even as there were small instances of grumbling, responses, and derisive laughter, they didn’t get out of hand.  Moderator David Bienenstock did a fine job making the point that we were all, audience and panelists, supporters of ending adult marijuana prohibition, but like any close family, sometimes we have disagreements.  As our ship sails through Prohibition and we are finally seeing land, we are just disagreeing about where and how to drop anchor.

Then I remember how much of the crowd matches anecdote #2 above and I breathe a sigh of relief.

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About Author

Executive Director: Russ Belville has been active in Oregon marijuana reform since 2005, when he was elected second-in-command of the state affiliate, Oregon NORML. After four years with Oregon NORML, Russ was hired by National NORML in 2009, working as Outreach Coordinator and hosting the NORML Daily Audio Stash podcast until 2012. Since then, Russ launched the 420RADIO marijuana legalization network and is the host of The Russ Belville Show, a live daily marijuana news talk radio program. Russ is also a prolific writer, with over 300 articles posted online and in print in HIGH TIMES, Huffington Post, Alternet, The Weed Blog, Marijuana Politics, and more.

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