No pun intended, it’s one of the haziest problems in cannabis. Why? Because it’s hard to tell who is who. And even worse, the opposite of the foolish people that wanted to pretend they contributed to this moment are cunning-ass sharks that understand the game at every level from why pheno hunting is important, to walking the halls of Congress and the only legacy they’re worried about saving is their family office, a mechanism big money families use to create even more wealth and evade taxes. It’s truly proper ruling-class shit.
Those scariest of fuckers are not who we’re highlighting here. They don’t even want you to know they exist. There are probably less than 20. Some of them are nicer than others.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the guys we might confuse with the worst because of their bad ideas. Many are in fact far more terrifying than any C-list trust-funder, those who have no idea what they’re doing because the level of access they gain just by showing up for years, maybe even decades. In the best case scenario, they came into the game when it was still more of a criminal justice issue and stuck around.
But in sticking around they watched the conversation change from getting out of cages to how long until we can ship packs internationally? This is a real question at this point.
Sometimes that turned into a quest for cannabis participation trophies on top of their attendance records, while not technically nefarious, it led to a lot of headaches across America from people pretending they knew what they were talking about when it came to growing, shipping, or selling cannabis at an industrial scale. And then when you try and raise a point about the headaches being created by their idea that doesn’t come from a place of experience and you get hit with a “you should google me” by someone who has never flipped a pack, harvested, made sure they didn’t screw up a cure or pawned something to make payroll.
Why should people without any experience dictate policy? How did we get here?
The biggest problem was how hard it was to organize cultivators in Northern California between Oaksterdam founder Richard Lee’s Prop 19 in 2010 which failed by a few points and Prop 64 in 2016 which won. And that’s California, it’s even harder to organize people in other states; it’s still extra sketchy. One of the things that compounded the problem was the more experience you had cultivating, the more likely you were to keep your head down.
And I’m not talking shit about those people that had to keep their head down, I get it. Since my move to California in 2009 I’ve had employers and friends deal with the perils of the United States Department of Justice and its affiliates on many occasions. Most of the worst incidents were in that critical time frame for organizing. As people watched their peers and the few industry faces of the moment that went public deal with their headaches, they understandably went further up the hill or deeper into the woods.
In that void of experience, the people got into the game to get people out of cages and started getting more involved with what cannabis legalization should look like. Some would even build their own tables to sit at and groups to populate with their personal comrades, and then attempt to speak for all growers. It was fucking madness.
And while those deep in the game would be able to cut through the participation bullshit quickly, the policymakers those people got into the ears of were clueless or really didn’t care. A couple of fundraisers with the right politician and your 501c4 was now a player in local or federal cannabis! But these groups of pretenders would clash over money and resources. Most of the people that did the most damage in California burnt every bridge they had; they won’t be a factor in the national conversation.
But the growers still haven’t emerged as a truly organized entity to push that goal. Most of the cultivation organizations in the industry are extremely localized. There have been statewide growers organizations in California, but much like the early social equity struggles, people felt like they were being figureheaded.
Essentially, small farmers felt their struggles were being used to get people in the room to push their own issues. This happened so many times in California. It became very hard to organize producers leaving a void of knowledge for policymakers that might actually want to talk to someone who knows how they’re doing.
Another side effect of these popup cannabis industry organizations is how they diluted what little voices there are, and then normalize just starting random trade groups. As I’ve noted before, these days any letter to congress looks like it was signed by all 32 NFL teams because there are so many pot organizations signing the bottom.
The only way to solve this gap between advocacy and execution is to challenge the people trying to dictate the future. We can’t let bad policies get pushed on us by people that literally just want their voices to be heard.
And this isn’t to hate on the real OGs. I know this awesome gay couple from San Francisco that helped Dennis Peron pass medical marijuana in 1996. They’ve been at everything since: NORML meetings, conferences, court support for farmers, the whole nine. While not experts in industrial cannabis, they played a big factor in helping get us to this day where 14,000 less Californians a year have to deal with a cannabis arrest. And I’ve never heard them once try to convince people they were experts in anything. I love that. And I never want to discourage real advocates because there are still so many people that need our help in getting out of cages.
Just don’t pretend you know what you’re talking about.