George Mull opposed Proposition 19. Steve DeAngelo campaigned for it. Which made it all the more interesting at the recent CalNORML conference in Berkeley, where both said that medical cannabis distribution in California is — and I’m paraphrasing here — a total fucking mess.
Mull is a Sacramento attorney who represents several NorCal collectives, and their struggles in assorted cities and counties have convinced him that statewide regulation is necessary. To that end, he co-founded the California Cannabis Association and actively campaigned against Prop. 19, which he feared would erode patient rights under Prop. 215 and SB 420.
That stance cost Mull some support in the MMJ community, and the scene got downright surreal when he shared the No-on-19 podium with Bishop Ron Allen at the INTCHE show in Daly City. But it also gave Mull some fresh perspectives about medical cannabis distribution and how to deal with law enforcement concerns.
“Some of the friends that we made being strange bedfellows with the No-on-19 campaign allowed us to start a dialogue that we never we believed we could,” Mull told the CalNORML conference attendees. “We’re moving forward to address real concerns of law enforcement that are actual problems.” The biggest include diversion of crops for non-medical use and California exports to other states.
Those discussions have led Mull to endorse “seed-to-sale” tracking systems for medical cannabis, statewide licensing of cannabis dispensaries, mandatory safety testing, and so-called “bright line” rules that law enforcement can follow during field investigations. He also advocates the formation of a statewide commission to develop medical cannabis regulations, wresting control from cities and counties in the process.
That approach isn’t necessarily endorsed by DeAngelo, the executive director of Harborside Health Center in Oakland and San Jose. (Or maybe it is; I haven’t asked.) Both cities passed medical cannabis taxes in November, and Oakland is currently chewing on an ordinance to allow large-scale cultivation. This type of innovation may not be possible under a statewide approach, but DeAngelo agrees that medical cannabis distribution needs an extreme makeover before Cali voters will support legal, non-medical cannabis.
“Many of them (voters), more than you would expect, think that legalization means that the Mexican cartels are going to be allowed to open up on the corners of suburban subdivisions and start selling weed to kids on the way to school. They really believe that,” DeAngelo said.
“More realistically, people are concerned about their kids going into a 7-Eleven and walking past not only the booze and the tobacco, but also walking past the weed. They are concerned that cannabis is going to end up in the hands of companies who will spend 20, 30, 40 times as much money on promoting them, on creating a market, as they do on producing the product. This is what scares Americans and freaks them out. It’s what scares Californians and freaks them out.”
Some medical cannabis dispensaries contribute to Californians’ unease through their business and marketing practices, DeAngelo added. “Most Californians have images of naughty nurses on roller skates with signs hustling people into a shop, and that’s not something anybody’s going to want to welcome into their neighborhood.”
DeAngelo concludes: “It’s very important that we envision and that we advocate a system of cannabis distribution that’s going to be safe, seemly and responsible, that’s going to address the concerns of mainstream Californians and mainstream Americans, and that is going to show them and reassure them that we are worthy of the trust that we are asking for.”