September 19, 2017

Cyd Maurer, activist and blogger

Cyd Maurer

Cyd Maurer was a news anchor for KEZI Channel 9 in Eugene, Oregon. A graduate of the University of Oregon, Maurer was a rising star at the station until she was unjustly fired for her personal marijuana use. Her co-workers and staff had only good things to say about Ms. Maurer, but she was the victim of an outdated, unscientific corporate policy. KEZI's loss is the cannabis community's gain as Ms. Maurer is now dedicated to improving marijuana laws and policies. By coming out of the cannabis closet herself, Cyd hopes to continue to end the stigma surrounding marijuana use and bring more freedom and equality to the cannabis community.

Rihanna & Snoop Dogg Want to Sell Us Marijuana? A Millennial’s Look at “Big Weed”

Let me be the first to say: I love Snoop Dogg, I love Rihanna, and I love cannabis. I mean, as the youngest child in my family, I still remember when my older, teenage siblings would ask me what my favorite song was, and at age 4 I would immediately start singing, “Snoop doggy, dawwww-aw-aw-aw-awg.” True story. I loved him then, and my love for hip-hop has only grown. When it comes to Rihanna, as if loving her music wasn’t enough (I mean, I flipped out when the BBHMM video dropped) following her on instagram and snapchat makes it feels like we’re basically friends.

So, when I saw the news that my favorite childhood rap artist, and my biggest celebrity friend-crush are BOTH creating their own brands of weed, my reaction was something like, “AH! That’s so awesome!! Wait… they’re like really rich though… Aren’t a lot of activists in the cannabis law reform movement like… kinda against that? Wait… are Snoop and RiRi creating the first forms of BIG WEED!?”

And that’s how I arrived at this article. To be completely honest, I really don’t know what to think. One side of me thinks “Leafs by Snoop” and “MaRihanna” are great. I love the idea of marijuana going more “mainstream” – and actually I do think the legal marijuana movement needs some big name supports if we want to see full cannabis acceptance. But, does starting your own celebrity line of weed products really aid in the fight against marijuana prohibition?*

You could argue yes.  With more money and more star power comes more exposure. More exposure to a legal, functional, and lucrative marijuana industry can’t be a bad thing. It could perhaps entice other states to look closer at legal weed and the benefits that come with it. Chances are a lot of Snoop and Rihanna fans are also already fans of cannabis… but there’s also the chance that their influence could change some people’s minds toward cannabis. (For example: Oh I love Rihanna. She’s so successful and so beautiful! Oh, she smokes pot? Maybe it doesn’t make people lazy? Maybe it’s not at scary as a I thought?)

However, you could also argue no. For exhibit A, we turn to Ohio. Sure, Nick Lachey wasn’t proposing his own line of weed per se, but simply the threat of big weed made even some who love cannabis turn against an initiative to legalize it. Yes, you read that correctly. In the case of Ohio… celebrity power and scare of “big weed” actually made pro-cannabis voters say, “I would rather continue consuming an illegal plant and risk being legally persecuted than legalize that plant just to buy it from those people, in that way.” 

If that’s what it takes to get marijuana law reformers to stand against legalization, will Snoop Dogg’s and Rihanna’s products help or hinder the progress of marijuana legalization? Many young people fully accept cannabis (whether they use it or not), so as a millennial, it’s not hard to picture a future where legal weed is completely normal. And in that future, it will probably be treated similarly to the way we currently treat alcohol. And continuing with that logic, it seems to me that someday MaRihanna could just be another name on the shelf, right next to amazing buds grown by local farmers, similar to the way Budweiser is just another name on the shelf, right next to Ninkasi.

One thing I do know, is those involved in the legal marijuana industry right now need to view themselves as pioneers. Every new step we take in this brand new industry should be a step toward freedom for all cannabis consumers. Do you want to be remembered on the right side of history, or the wrong one? That’s a question I hope all cannabis law reformers and legal cannabis investors are asking themselves every day, because we truly are writing history.

 

*To be fair, these stars have never said that it’s their goal  to aid in fight against marijuana prohibition, but an expansion of legalization would certainly help their companies, right? When we’re still in such a precarious spot with legal weed in this country, it’s important for the cannabis community to consider the strength of their wallets, and their words.

Accepting Mary Jane: Three Reasons All Women Should be Pushing for Legal Weed

Even though a majority of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana, there are still many negative misconceptions out there that hold us back from full cannabis acceptance. The momentum is shifting, but old-fashioned ideas linger in many areas of the country, and within different segments of the population.

Being a 25-year-old woman who consumes cannabis, one common misconception I’ve observed is the notion that weed just isn’t “ladylike.” That women ought to stick to wine and cosmos at the sake of appearing less-womanly.

This is exactly the sort of misconception I hope to help abolish! I mean, let’s consider the facts: we’re talking about a flower nicknamed “Mary Jane.” It’s time for all women to embrace cannabis. Women everywhere deserve to know why legal weed will benefit them. Of course ending marijuana prohibition creates a better world for everyone, but today, I’m focusing on the ladies:

Three Reasons All Women Should be Pushing for Legal Weed!

#3: The Health Benefits of Cannabis are Endless!

I’ve heard several women in my life, and in pop culture, refer to wine as “mommy juice.” With hectic and demanding lives, it’s no wonder many modern women are often looking for something to take the edge off, but what some women don’t realize is that cannabis is a safer, healthier alternative to that “mommy juice” in their glass every night.

The medicinal qualities of cannabis can help people relax and fall asleep, may reduce the risk for certain cancers, and could even help people manage their weight… all without the calories, hangover symptoms, or damaging effects of alcohol (or the risky side effects that occur with many prescription drugs).

Darrin Harris Frisby/Drug Policy Alliance Research shows one in four American women take antidepressants, and an increasing amount of women use and abuse opioid pain killers. Amazingly, different strains of cannabis can help manage those conditions, and more!

In states where cannabis is legal, trained budtenders offer expert advice on what strains are right each individual customer, depending on their needs. Here in Oregon, it is so amazing to have the ability to walk into a dispensary and ask for a strain that will help me fall asleep, or one that will boost my mood and energy.

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for prescription drugs, just that cannabis can sometimes be a healthier substitute for women looking for alternatives – and I want women to know that!

#2: Legalizing Marijuana Creates a Brand New Industry Where Women Can Lead

Because woman have been historically undervalued, most industries are dominated by men. The legal marijuana industry is different, because it’s just getting started and offers a more even playing field for men and women who hope to invest, create new business, and be the leaders of marijuana-related companies.

Today, women have more opportunity than ever before, and intelligent, determined, and skilled women are proving they can shine within this new business arena.

Even women who don’t consume cannabis should be looking at the new legal cannabis industry with open, and eager eyes. There’s no reason you can’t get involved with the business side of the fastest growing industry in the US. Weed is lucrative, and judging on history, the demand for weed is not going away. Modern women, in the Midwest, the South, the Northeast – wherever they live – should be pushing for legal cannabis, and all the career and investment possibilities that come along with it.

Women who aren’t looking to get involved with the industry should think about the community benefits that come along with the legalization of marijuana. Your community will likely be safer, there will likely be more tax money available for schools and other public services, and the potential for economic development that comes along with a new industry is incredibly far-reaching.

Unlike the already formed, male-dominated images of the American business world today, the legal weed industry offers women an almost blank canvas. It’s up to us whether we want to grab a brush, or just sit back and let the men paint another picture the way they’ve imagined it.

And the number one reason all women should be pushing for legal weed…? 

#1: Cannabis Creates a Much Safer World for Women than Alcohol

Let’s say you don’t have any ailments you’d like to use cannabis for. Let’s say you’re really not interested in cannabis at all, you don’t really want to consume it, you don’t really want to work in the industry, and the economic benefits of legalization have not convinced you. As a woman, you should still be in favor of legal weed because it offers a safer alternative to alcohol.

When considering the fact that alcohol is involved in an alarming percentage of violent crimes, sexual assaults, and cases of domestic violence, why is the legal deck stacked in favor of alcohol consumption?

Marijuana doesn’t cloud your judgement in the same way alcohol does. It doesn’t cause you to loosen your inhibitions or “blackout,” and it won’t fuel the flames of your husband’s fiery temper. If your college-aged daughter goes off to a party, what would you rather her be under the influence of? What about the men around her? Would you prefer them to be high from alcohol or high from cannabis? Studies show that even sex is safer for those who consume cannabis than it is for those under the influence of alcohol.

Clearly, all three of these reasons show I’m a true believer in the success of the legal cannabis industry, and that I’m a true believer that women are capable of pretty much anything. I believe that when exposed to facts, more women around the country (and hopefully world) will start to recognize why legalizing cannabis is so important, and that’s why I’m working hard to spread those facts!

No One Belongs in Jail for a Plant: POW420 Helps Those Serving Time for Marijuana

Marijuana is becoming increasingly accepted in the United States, yet even in places where it has been completely decriminalized, people are still serving time behind bars for nonviolent, marijuana-related “crimes.” Because they are essentially victims of the “War on Drugs,” some people call these incarcerated individuals Prisoners of War.

Adela Falk and Dennis Boisvert have both been particularly empathetic to those serving prison time for cannabis. Together, the two have more than 35 years of combined activism under their belts. Even though marijuana laws have come a long way, Dennis and Adela have recognized that more needs to be done.

“Activists were not meeting the needs of cannabis prisoners,” said Dennis.

And that’s why they formed the group POW420. The main message is, “No One Belongs in Jail For a Plant,” and their work reflects that belief.

You may have read recent headlines about Jeff Mizanskey. Jeff was released from a Missouri prison last month after serving 21 years for a nonviolent marijuana offense. Through POW420, Adela and Dennis reached out to Jeff while he was still incarcerated, and helped play a part in his ultimate release.

“We sent out our newsletter, ‘Prohibition Times,’ and Jeff replied.  It can be that simple,” Dennis said. (The group actually sends that newsletter to more than 300 people actively serving time in prison for cannabis, to help them keep up-to-date on changes to marijuana policies that could potentially assist in their release.)

Adela and Dennis ended up corresponding with Jeff quite a bit, and Adela was even allowed to share four meals with him. Dennis said, “She took every opportunity she could,” to visit him.

The group’s ultimate goal is to end marijuana prohibition and to see all the POW420s released, but making sure people like Jeff don’t to feel forgotten is also clearly at the core of their mission. In a letter on their website from August of 2014, Jeff’s writes to Adela, “Yes you do put a smile on my face every time I get a letter from you. I don’t smile much in here. Thank you again.”

There are countless reasons to celebrate Jeff’s release, but one of Adela’s reasons shows how committed she is to helping people wrongfully locked away.

“Adela is very happy that, with Jeff free, she can start visiting Natalie DePriest,” said Dennis

Natalie is currently serving 15 years in a Missouri prison for growing marijuana. She’s is one of the next people the group would like to help see released. Dennis went on to explain why this is the case:

“We are limited in ability to do things for prisoners because typical state laws allow you to visit only one prisoner at a time. So, once you are on a prisoner’s list, you can’t be on anyone else’s in that state, and we’re human with geographic limitations.”

Because of these limitations, Dennis and Adela are hoping to try a new model for POW420 soon. They said that they’ve recently formed a business that is licensed to publish interviews, which in turn will allow them to interview more than one prisoner in a state. With the ability to help more inmates wrongfully incarcerated for cannabis, the group will definitely need more help – and they welcome it openly.

On the POW420 website, the group lists several examples of how you can take action. You can volunteer to send birthday cards to POW420s, you can share your story, or you can simply spread the word. Regardless of what you do, Adela, Dennis and the group POW420, remind us that doing something is important. While celebrating the strides being made in the world of marijuana policy reform, we can’t forget those who are still being victimized by the legal system due to cannabis.

Celebrating My First Legal Marijuana Purchase in Oregon

Today, along with thousands of others around the state, I purchased legal marijuana in Oregon for the first time ever! If you’re not sure how to react to this, let me just say… YOU SHOULD BE CELEBRATING! Even if you don’t consume cannabis, there are many reasons you should be happy there is now a legal system in place for those who do.

Why? Because marijuana is a safer alternative to alcohol. Because marijuana prohibition has failed, and has wasted millions of dollars with zero success. Because now Oregon will actually benefit from sales that have long been diverted to the black market. Because now Oregon law enforcement agencies will have more time to focus on keeping communities safe, by stopping real, dangerous crimes. Because too many people have had their lives ruined for simply possessing a plant. These are people who could have had futures, could have contributed to society, could have added to the economy, but have instead ended up in the cycle of the system, and have in turn become more of a burden than they were before.

Today, buying legal cannabis is a news story – but I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to the day that saying, “I bought a gram of Multnomah Coma from The Greener Side in Eugene,” is treated the same as saying, “I just bought a fifth of tequila from a liquor store in Eugene.” Even though both of these things are now legal, they are not at all treated equally. (Trust me, I know.)

The reality is, cannabis is safer than alcohol and less of a burden on society. So, if you’re comfortable with liquor stores, with beer gardens, and with vineyard wine tastings, you should be welcoming legal marijuana sales with open arms.

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to get Measure 91 on the ballot and passed! I am so thankful for all of your tireless effort! There are still things to work on when it comes to full equality, but today was historic and a major step in the right direction. Now that more people have the ability to buy legal cannabis, more people will be exposed and educated to the realistic effects of the plant. The social acceptance of cannabis use is inevitable, and days like today just reinforce my belief in that statement.

Cyd Maurer buys marijuana
I was honored to be the first customer of legal adult-use cannabis at Eugene’s Greener Side.

Here’s the video of my first purchase!

Cyd Maurer and her first purchase
Freedom feels good.

My First Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference

Cyd Maurer and Earl Blumenauer

As new cannabis activist, the Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference was exactly the event I had hoped it would be. I learned a ton about the emerging cannabis industry, like all the specifics with Oregon’s new laws and regulations, and I got a chance to hear great insight from industry experts. Because everything is so new, events like this are critical to success. The more we come together and educate each other now, the better things will turn out in the long run for Oregon’s legal marijuana industry.

Although a very new experience for me, I also did something at the OMMBC that I used to do nearly every day. Minutes after walking through the doors of the conference I was sitting next to Congressman Earl Blumenauer with lights on, microphone in hand and camera rolling.

It was my first time interviewing someone since recently losing my job as a local news anchor. That interview just so happened to be with one of the most impressive marijuana policy reformers in Washington DC. I am so happy we have someone in Congress like Rep. Blumenauer who is willing to say things like this, found on his website:

“Millions of people have been caught up in the justice system for marijuana offenses, and over 660,000 are arrested each year for possession.  Too often people are serving time in jail for using a drug that nearly half the nation’s population feels should be legal for recreational purposes and 70 percent feel should be legal for medicinal purposes.”

I learned at the conference that he actually voted to decriminalize Marijuana in Oregon in 1973!

During the interview, Congressman Blumenauer spoke about all of the work being done a federal level to improve banking practices for marijuana-related businesses. He spoke about his support for changes that would allow the cannabis industry can have access to the same resources other small businesses do.

I asked Rep. Blumenauer how long he thinks it will be before we see marijuana legalization on a federal level, and he confidently said five years. According to the Congressman, “In five years we’ll be treating marijuana the same as alcohol.”

I agree with the Rep. Blumenauer’s optimism and want to encourage others to hold the same faith. We just need to keep up the hard work! People who attend events like the OMMBC are doing exactly what it takes to keep progress heading in the right direction: networking, speaking out, and educating others so this new industry can be developed in the best, most successful, and most professional way possible.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer

Another highlight of the event was interviewing Matt Rowe, the Mayor of Coquille,Oregon. (Rowe also happens to be the youngest Mayor in Oregon!) During his talk, Rowe spoke in length about why rural Oregon communities should not prohibit the legal marijuana industry. The list of cities and counties that are doing just that is growing by the week. This is something I’ve written about, and I really agree with Rowe’s message that allowing legal marijuana would mean real economic growth. Growth not just because of potential tax revenue, but because the new growth industry in Oregon will create countless jobs; legitimate, legal jobs that many localities are simply disregarding.

If you’d like to watch my interview with Congressman Blumenauer, and with Mayor Matt Rowe, the videos will be uploaded to Marijuana Politics soon.

I also had the honor of speaking at this year’s OMMBC on the Media Panel. With my background in local news, and as a new marijuana activist, I’ve frequently been asked my thoughts about the way the media portrays pot, and that was exactly the question I faced once again at the conference.

The panel was moderated by Anthony Johnson, the Director of New Approach Oregon, the campaign that facilitated the passage of Measure 91 in Oregon. The other two speakers were Dean Arbit, the founder of “Smell the Truth,” The San Fransisco Chronicle’s marijuana blog, and Russ Bellville, or Radical Russ, the Executive Director of 420radio.org and an online cannabis reform activist.

2015 PDX OMMBC media panel

Like many of the panels at the OMMBC, each of us brought three very different points of view to the table. Dean spoke from the perspective of mainstream media and its portrayal of marijuana news, Russ focused on his area of expertise which is more alternative media, and I spoke about my experience with local media.

I thought both Dean and Russ brought up excellent points, and great pieces of advice for those taking part in the new cannabis industry. Dean warned people that the mainstream media is always going to be looking for the most crazy, dramatic story out there – so it’s our responsibilities as professionals in the industry to try to limit these stories from the very beginning.

For example, he asked us all to talk to our friends who might be first-time cannabis consumers and recommend that they take it easy with edibles when they become legal in Oregon. The media seems to love it when people get accidentally “too stoned,” so the more we can educate people and alleviate these issues, the less we’ll see this type of negative press.

And speaking of educating, that was one of the main points made by Russ Belville. Russ pointed out several headlines in the recent months that falsely represented studies or statistics to make legal marijuana look bad. Sadly, there were quite a few examples. Russ also blogs for Marijuana Politics, and one of the most glaring cases of this is highlighted in a recent article of his. In this particular instance the organization not only twisted the facts, they got them wrong. They reported that heavy use of marijuana among surveyed teens had gone up significantly… when it fact it had decreased significantly.

Russ uses his alternative media platform to point out these misrepresentations of the facts, and to educate people about the truth. I for one am grateful that he’s taking a closer look at many of the misleading headlines that so many people just read and instantly take as factual.

For my insight into the local media, and the coverage of marijuana news stories, I once again hammered home the continued need for social change. Local news stations are trying to serve their communities, their target audiences. In my experience as a journalist in Eugene, I saw the coverage of marijuana stories change over a matter of a few short years. It changed along with the strong public opinions coming forward, fighting to end marijuana prohibition. With Measure 91, there simply were more cannabis-related stories to tell, and people were more interested in them. It became clear that popular opinion in the area was at least interested in marijuana stories, so in Eugene we saw the coverage get more extensive and educational.

I guarantee this shift has not happened in other parts of the country, where audiences are outspokenly against cannabis. Because of the overall social views, the stories have likely remained scarce and only negative. We need to keep pushing for the social acceptance of marijuana, for education and exposure, because ultimately the local news will try to reflect what they think their viewers want to see.

I could definitely write more about what I learned at my first Oregon Medical Marijuana Business Conference, or about the amazing people I met there, or the cool ideas that I got by walking around, but I will spare you, and simply recommend that you check out the next conference.

Events like the OMMBC are helping facilitate a positive outcome for Oregon’s legal Marijuana industry. Things are just starting, they are rapidly changing, and there is so much for everyone to still learn. I feel fortunate for those who are making events like this happen, because I think their importance can’t be understated.

If you’d like to attend the next Oregon Marijuana Business Conference in Ashland, you can click here for more details.

Why Banning Legal Weed is Bad for Oregon Communities

legalize it cannabis leaf sphere

Six counties and 17 cities in the state of Oregon are currently deciding to Prohibit Licensed Recreational Marijuana Facilities. That’s the list today, but sadly it seems to be growing by the week. By refusing to recognize the benefits of cannabis, or at least the benefits of doing away with prohibition, these local governments are not doing themselves any favors. For example, according to the Associate Press:

A marijuana tax for schools in Colorado raised more in the first five months in 2015 than it did for all of 2014.

May excise tax collections reported this week showed the recreational pot tax for school construction raised $3.5 million, bringing the 2015 total to $13.7 million

The tax brought in just $13.3 million in all of 2014.

Oregon is near the bottom in the nation for school funding, and there is no reason we should be denying our education system these vital tax dollars.  If they’d like their communities to be safer and better-funded, these local politicians would reconsider banning the legal pot market. The Denver Post reported in June:

A record 71.3 million visitors spent $18.6 billion in Colorado in 2014, marking a high point for the state’s thriving tourism industry.

With Denver and high country resort communities reporting record performances in 2014, it’s not surprising the state set new benchmarks for tourism last year.

A few weeks ago, I signed up for email updates from the State of Oregon Liquor Control Commission about the progress being made on implementing Measure 91, Oregon’s legal marijuana law. The OLCC is in charge of the creating the specifics of the new law and sends out messages to those who want to know about about upcoming meetings, new decisions, and things of that nature.

I was hoping the emails would be informative, and show signs of good progress, but to my disappointment the most frequent update I’ve received so far goes like this:

OLCC: Cities/Counties prohibiting licensed recreational marijuana facilities (UPDATE)

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission has updated the list of Oregon cities and counties which have prohibited the establishment of licensed recreational marijuana producers, processors, wholesalers, and/or retailers.

If you haven’t already guessed… the update is never that one of the cities or counties has been  taken off the list. No no. It’s constantly getting updated because more cities and counties are going on the list.

Here’s a look at it currently:

Cities and Counties

These localities are not only doing what they can to limit progress, but they’re forcing tax dollars out of their local economy. The governing bodies who are making this choice are not acting in their community’s best interest.  Even more disappointing are the cities and counties who are not even going to put this issue to a public vote.

Marijuana is legal in the state of Oregon now. People are going to consume marijuana, just like many people consume alcohol. It’s actually safer than alcohol, so if if your city has bars and liquor stores it’s very hypocritical to find legal weed offensive.

If the legal marijuana market is banned from a particular city or county, people are just going to leave the area to buy legal weed somewhere else. Alternatively, they could also just stay at home and keep purchasing it on the black market like they likely already have been.

I hope that once marijuana has been legalized in more states, and once more people see the many benefits of ending prohibition, these cities and counties will eventually come around. In fact, I plan to do what I can to change their minds. I truly believe if they listened to the facts, rather than relying on out-dated and unscientific opinions, lawmakers would be fighting to bring legal marijuana to their community, not keep it out.

 

 

One Family’s Fight in Mexico Highlights a Global Need for Medical Marijuana

Medical cannabis sphere

The tough reality for a family in Mexico is yet another example of why medical cannabis needs to be legal globally. Four out of five Americans agree that medical marijuana should be legal, yet in the majority of the country, and the rest of the world, sick adults and children are still being denied a medical option that could truly help them.

A recent Washington Post article profiles Raul and Mayela Elizalde and their quest to obtain medical cannabis for their 8-year-old daughter, Grace. Grace has been diagnosed with ­Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, an illness that causes her to suffer hundreds of flash tremors each day. Her parents have tried nearly everything to help Grace, even a risky brain surgery, but nothing has helped. The article describes their struggle:

Mayela had trained as an engineer and worked in economic development, but caring for Grace became her full-time job. In an Excel spreadsheet, she has documented the 19 anti-convulsive pills and powders Grace has taken in various combinations since August 2008. The side effects have often been distressing: Medicines have shrouded her peripheral vision, caused incessant drooling and made it difficult to chew. Her parents have visited more than a dozen neurologists, plus orthopedists and gastroenterologists, optometrists and geneticists. They experimented with homeopathic drops, acupuncture, herbal infusions.

Raul once drove three hours to the border town of Laredo, Tex., and spent $5,147.07 to fill a prescription for Cortrosyn, which Mayela injected in Grace’s buttocks at 6 a.m. for 40 days.

“It didn’t work,” she said.

There have been countless success stories of how CBD, the major non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, can help children battling severe forms of epilepsy. With that knowledge, the Elizaldes have been doing everything thing they can to get CBD to Mexico for Grace to try. Soon, they could make history:

Earlier this month, though, a federal judge ruled that the Mexican government could not prevent Grace’s parents from importing cannabidiol (CBD) to treat her seizures. If the family can obtain the product, Grace could become the first person to legally use marijuana in Mexico.

In Mexico, like in parts of the US, the social stigma surrounding marijuana is so strongly ingrained, it’s very difficult to get people to understand any other truth. In the Washington Post article, this is evident through the words of a current Mexican lawmaker:

“It’s wrong to think that legalization would resolve the problems of drug trafficking and public security; rather, it would aggravate the problem of public health,” said Eduardo Santillan Perez, a Mexico City legislator from the left-wing Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). “If you are poor, jobless, uneducated, without alternatives for your free time, marijuana risks pushing you into illicit activities.”

If you’ve heard my message as a cannabis activist yet, it shouldn’t surprise you that I fundamentally disagree with everything in that statement, but I want to focus on the implication of cannabis legalization being a public health concern.

Medical cannabis helps hundreds of thousands of people everyday and has never once killed someone. You cannot overdose on cannabis and so far studies have shown CBD to be “well tolerated and safe” even at high doses.

In reading what Grace’s parents have gone through with the legal treatments available – the risks, the adverse health effects and the costly, yet ineffective procedures – how is it that medical cannabis is still illegal? Why are people so comfortable with pharmaceutical drugs, but so uncomfortable with a plant that grows from the ground?

Prescription drug commercials are so prevalent they’re almost comical at this point. We all know the model. A sad person is quickly made happier by the drug their doctor gives them halfway through the ad, then as they walk peacefully throughout the end of the commercial, a voice-actor quickly reads some pretty disturbing side-effects, similar to the ones that Grace has experienced.

Personally, I scrutinize theses ads. “Might cause bleeding where?” – “Thoughts of suicide might occur…? Aren’t they selling this medication for depression?” – “In extreme cases, could cause sudden death?! How is this drug legal?!”

Aside from the clear benefits of trying an alternative safer than many pharmaceuticals, another reason legal cannabis is better for the “problem of public health” is because of the dangers the illegal drug market. Listen to the real cost of marijuana prohibition in Mexico:

The Elizaldes understand the concerns about drug violence. As they were raising Grace, their hometown of Monterrey became one of the country’s most crime-ridden cities, with the Zetas and Gulf cartels vying for dominance. The fathers of both Raul and his wife, Mayela Benavides, were kidnapped. Mayela was robbed on her way to pick up Grace from school. At one point, two men entered Raul’s hair-accessory store and informed him they were from “The Company,” which he knew to mean the Zetas. They charged him $150 a month, coming with their notebooks to collect, until he chose to close down.

“It was pure terror,” Raul said.

Mayela and her husband didn’t see themselves as activists promoting legalization. They just sought medicine for their daughter — and for other sick children.

People like the Elizaldes should not be forced into the political arena simply because they’d like to treat their sick loved-one. We’re making some huge strides of progress here in the US where 23 states have legalized medical cannabis, but we’re still so far from where we need to be. We need to share stories like the Elizalde’s, to highlight this need for continued change.

Fernando Belaunzarán, a Mexican lawmaker, has tried to legalize marijuana in the country. He’s also co-sponsored a bill for medicinal use, but both failed. He’s quoted in the article saying, “The war on drugs has generated such an avalanche of ideology that it’s difficult to break these prejudices.”

I completely agree with this. That’s why we need to keep speaking up. Hopefully, the more we spread the truth, the sooner little girls like Grace can have access to treatment that could help them toward more healthy, happy and normal lives.

 

Weed & Weddings: Why Marijuana Goes With Modern Matrimony

marijuana cannabis weddings bride groom

You may have seen recent headlines circulating about a wedding in West Linn, Oregon offering an open Weed Bar(!) to guests. Because legalization just took effect in Oregon on July 1, the idea of providing marijuana to wedding guests is still very new, but I believe cannabis-friendly weddings will inevitably become the new norm for modern nuptials. I believe this for a lot of reasons, but the main reason is simply because many people enjoy using marijuana in social settings. We will only see cannabis bars at more and more weddings and other social events as marijuana becomes more mainstream in Oregon and across the country.

Portland’s KGW Channel 8 News interviewed the couple in West Linn and wrote an article detailing the positive experience they had with their open weed bar, reporting:

The legalization of pot in Oregon has couples considering weed bars at their weddings.

“We were shocked by how much people loved it,” said groom John Elledge of his recent reception. “I’m still getting a couple of texts a day from guests who enjoyed the weed tent.”

If you look at the facts, the reaction the couple received should be no surprise. Based on a National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2013 there were 19.8 million current marijuana users. Clearly, people are using marijuana, and many people enjoy it. If legal cannabis is offered to adult wedding guests, odds are many will enjoy the opportunity to consume it. KGW went on to write:

Elledge, who describes himself as a professional marijuana grower, seems pleased to be a pioneer.

“Even an 81-year-old woman who hadn’t smoked weed since the ’60s came into the tent at our wedding,” he said. “Though skeptical at first she ended up loving it.”

And right there is a perfect example of the power of exposure. The main reason I felt the need to come out of the cannabis closet was to expose people to the truth about cannabis and its positive effects. I was a local news anchor who was fired for using marijuana in my personal time, and my story really shook some people’s perception of me. Rather than changing their positive opinion of me, I thought sharing my story could help change people’s negative opinion of cannabis consumers. So far, I’ve been right.

The growing trend of “Cannabars” at wedding will expose more people to responsible adult cannabis use. This trend will hasten the acceptance of marijuana use.

Imagine showing up at your cousin Brenda’s wedding and lighting up a joint for the first time with Aunt Sally! Aunt Sally could change her mind about marijuana and then go back to her friends in rural Oregon and tell them about her positive experience with cannabis. Maybe those friends each tell a couple people, and soon Aunt Sally’s small town is a little more open-minded to legal marijuana.

Another major positive to having weed at weddings? Consuming cannabis is safer than consuming alcohol. Whether it’s a full-on open bar with hard liquor or just champagne for one toast – it’s almost expected to provide your wedding guests with some form of alcoholic beverage.

Knowing the dangers of alcohol, why not provide a safer alternative? They are your loved ones after all. Wouldn’t you rather them consume cannabis, something that causes less harm, is less addictive, and can’t kill them?

With the facts the way they are, I don’t think it will take very long for more people to see the benefits of providing guests with marijuana. If you’re within the law, consider having a weed tent at your next big event! You might be surprised who enjoys it, and more importantly, those who enjoy it might even surprise themselves.

 

 

My First Seattle Hempfest as a News Anchor Turned Cannabis Activist

Cyd Maurer

Less than a month after coming out of the cannabis closet, I found myself a part of the world’s largest annual gathering centered around cannabis: Seattle Hempfest. After several years of working as a local news reporter and anchor and hiding my cannabis use at all costs, I was suddenly speaking to hundreds of people about exactly that.

Calling my Hempfest experience surreal would be an understatement. Being my first-ever cannabis-related event, it was pretty great being thrust into the mix.

Starting with the VIP Party Friday night, I quickly realized I was surrounded by history-makers in the legal marijuana movement.  I saw and met a number of noteworthy people, including fellow Eugene resident, Elvy Musikka.

Believe it or not, Elvy receives legal marijuana from the Federal Government, and has since 1988. (And she’s not alone, three other people are also still a part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program.) Elvy is living with glaucoma and fought for the right to use medical cannabis. In the end, she won, and has been smoking government-rolled marijuana cigarettes ever since.

I had never heard Elvy’s story before, and it was humbling. Being around her and all the other activists made me feel very grateful. It was the 24th Annual Seattle Hempfest, and I am 25 years old. To think that many of the people I met and talked with have been fighting for cannabis for my entire life, or longer, just encouraged me to continue to push for the changes that they’ve made possible.

When I spoke on the main stage, the message of my speech was if you can talk about cannabis… you should talk about cannabis, because exposing people to the truth about the plant is the only way to bring about social and political change.

That has been my message from the beginning, but I’ve only been able to share it because of what people before me have accomplished. People like Keith Stroup, the founder of NORML, were instrumental in getting us this far, and at Hempfest, suddenly he was shaking my hand. He walked up to me after I spoke, introduced himself and complimented me on my message. What an incredible moment.

Without the sacrifices of many people like Elvy and organizations like NORML, I would not have been able to speak out. Being around them reinforced my drive to fight for the acceptance of cannabis use and I was honored to be on a panel with other advocates, speaking out against the unfair discrimination that the cannabis community faces today. I hope that I will be part of the generation of activists that puts an end to marijuana prohibition on a global level. Seattle Hempfest was my first cannabis-related event, but it certainly won’t be my last.

Cyd Maurer at 2015 Seattle Hempfest

Photo credit at Hempfest: Doug McVay 2015

Speaking Out Against Cannabigotry at Seattle Hempfest

media-mavericks-turned-marijuana-activists

Seattle Hempfest was my first-ever cannabis related event after getting fired as a local news anchor for using marijuana. I was the victim of cannabigotry and after coming out with my story, I was invited to speak about my experience on a panel among some pretty impressive people.  The panel took place on the Ric Smith Hemposium Stage and was titled: Cannabigotry: We Legalized, Why Are We Still Fighting?

Each speaker was asked to define cannabigotry as they understood it. I define cannabigotry as treating someone differently simply because they use cannabis. In my experience, I lost my job as a local news anchor for using marijuana in my free time, even though I would have kept my job had I chosen to use alcohol and pharmaceuticals. To me, that is a perfect example of cannabigotry: I was punished for using a safer substance than the socially accepted vices.

In the picture above you can see the rest of the panel included Charlo Greene, a fellow former news anchor whose story went viral when she quit live on the air to focus on legalizing marijuana in Alaska; Stephanie Viskovich, a medical marijuana activist in Washington State;  Allison Holcomb, the leader of Washington State’s I-502 marijuana legalization campaign; and Leland Berger, a longtime Oregon cannabis advocate and attorney. Needless to say, I was very honored to be at the same table as these experienced activists.

I really enjoyed the discussion because we all brought very different ideas into the conversation. Mine and Charlo’s stories have a lot of parallels, but one of the examples she brought up about cannabigotry had nothing to do with employee rights. Her example had to do with cities within Alaska trying to block marijuana legalization less than a week after the majority of Alaskans voted Measure 2 into law.

Oregon is experiencing the same thing right now, and it is very disheartening. I really appreciated that Charlo made this point because it is yet another example of why social change needs to come first. The only way laws and policies are going to continue to change for the better is if people are exposed to the truth about cannabis.

Stephanie Viskovich was clearly passionate about the rights of medical marijuana patients in the state of Washington. She spoke about the cannabigotry they’ve experienced before and after recreational legalization in Washington. Allison Holcomb spoke about the racial history of cannabigotry, saying that the system has been set in place to fundamentally hold back minorities. And Leland Berger was able to give a very experienced look at the matter from his work as a trial attorney. He’s seen cannabigotry play out in real life time and time again, and his opinion was powerful.

Everyone brought examples of cannabigotry to the table. While this made for great discussion, it also really shows that the initial question that the panel proposed, We Legalized, Why Are We Still Fighting? is still a necessary and continuing discussion. While marijuana is legal in Oregon and a handful of other states, it seems like the battle to true freedom is still being fought.

Throughout the panel, I continued to voice my opinion that the most important thing for change is to keep talking about it. Keep talking about marijuana, its effects, and its many uses. Every time I made this point, it seemed as though everyone on the panel agreed. Regardless of our different viewpoints, it is glaringly clear that the conversation must continue.

At the end of the panel, Leland Berger said: “I want to end on a very positive note. If you’re 35 or younger, 80% of you get it on social issues. If you’re a young person, you’re going to be okay.” Leland is right. The vast majority of young people, and many others, agree that responsible adults should be able to live their lives the way they want to. It’s time to stop being the silent majority. Once again, if you can speak up, you should.

Cannabigotry panel ast Seattle Hempfest
(Photo by Doug McVay copyright 2015)

 

3 Things I’ve Learned from Coming Out of the Cannabis Closet After Being Fired As a TV News Anchor

Cyd Maurer

Less than two weeks ago I explained to the world “How I Went from being a Local News Anchor to a Marijuana Activist.” After years of hiding, I came out of the cannabis closet, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision.

Before telling my story, my mind was filled with every possible hypothetical. I spent hours wondering and worrying about what would happen after clicking “post” – but the incredible reaction I received was beyond what I could have ever imagined.

I’m not saying it’s been easy, but it’s already been very freeing and extremely rewarding.

I believe more driven, ambitious, and responsible cannabis users should draw attention to themselves, if at all possible. It’s the only way to shift social views away from the senseless stereotypes currently associated with recreational cannabis use. If you’re considering it, here are:

3 Things I’ve Learned from Coming Out of the Cannabis Closet:

1) The Response is Overwhelmingly Positive…

I have been truly amazed by how many people have contacted me and thanked me for coming out of the cannabis closet. Thanked me. Thousands have seen my video, thousands have visited my website, and hundreds have written to me personally. Of those personal, private messages – almost all have been positive. Some of the notes have moved me to tears and every single one has just reinforced my mission to end the stigma surrounding cannabis use. There is no reason why millions of responsible adults should feel like second-class citizens for enjoying cannabis, a plant safer than alcohol, tobacco, and most pharmaceuticals.

The positive response shows that many people support cannabis use, yet it remains illegal in most of the country, and even where it’s legal, there is still a negative stigma. Every message I read just encourages me more to continue this fight for acceptance.

2) …but Haters Gonna Hate

Of course, as with anything that is seen by thousands of people, some will find reasons to be negative. Personal messages have been almost entirely supportive, but comments on various websites have certainly been mixed. I wanted to start a conversation, so I’m up for a reasonable debate on why cannabis use should be socially acceptable, but I try not to waste my time on people who aren’t willing to listen to facts and research. I did not appreciate the blatant sexism and personal attacks I received on my character, but when people resorted to cruelty, I tried not to take it to heart. It’s not easy to grin and bear it, but it helps that the haters have been outnumbered by a ratio of about 15 to 1.

If you’re nervous about people judging you, just realize that every time a responsible adult comes out of the cannabis closet, it gets a little easier for the next person who wants to take the leap. Don’t let the haters hold you back!

3) It was Totally Worth it

Comments that clearly misinterpret my message have been disheartening, but they have also resulted in something incredible: a dialogue. That’s exactly what I wanted to happen and I’ve been so impressed by countless strangers who have kept the conversation going. I’ve appreciated all the compassion, willingness to stand up for me, and well-developed arguments, complete with citations and research. My story is getting people to talk about the facts, and I know the facts are in my favor.

Because of the facts, the social acceptance of cannabis use is inevitable, but it is only possible if people take a stand. The more we educate and expose people to the truth about cannabis, the faster social change will come. If you can talk about your cannabis use, think about the difference you can make.

Education and exposure are key. So far, coming out of the cannabis closet has been totally worth it.

I’ll be blogging here at Marijuana Politics and you can follow my journey out of the cannabis closet at www.AskMeAboutMarijuana.com.