05/27/16 Adam Eidinger

The "Green Rush" examined: Adam Eidinger head of DC marijuana effort, from Colo: Taylor West of The Cannabis Industry & Vivian McPeak Dir of Seattle Hempfest

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Friday, May 27, 2016
Guest: 
Adam Eidinger
Organization: 
DCMJ
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CULTURAL BAGGAGE

MAY 27, 2016

TRANSCRIPT

FIRST VOICEOVER: America, Colorado has a problem.

SECOND VOICEOVER: We're in the middle of an immigration crisis.

FIRST VOICEOVER: A certain type of people are moving here in droves.

SECOND VOICEOVER: You know the kind of people we mean.

FIRST VOICEOVER: Potheads.

SECOND VOICEOVER: Smokehounds.

THIRD VOICEOVER: Dabbin' daddies.

FIRST VOICEOVER: Ganja Garries.

SECOND VOICEOVER: 420 Andrews.

THIRD VOICEOVER: Hippies.

FIRST VOICEOVER: All of them coming to Colorado. Bothering us.

SECOND VOICEOVER: This building used to be an animal shelter. Now it's a gourmet rice crispie treat and cargo short emporium.

THIRD VOICEOVER: And it's not just white dudes with dreadlocks who haven't landed a kickflip since 2007.

FIRST VOICEOVER: It's also business majors.

SECOND VOICEOVER: The best thing about weed is you can take it way too seriously. Like as a job. No. A career.

DEAN BECKER: Hello, friends, welcome to this special edition of Cultural Baggage. I'm your host Dean Becker, and today we're going to get the thoughts of some folks around the country about legalized weed and the people it breeds.

ADAM EIDINGER: My name is Adam Eidinger, and I'm the founder of DCMJ, the group that legalized marijuana in Washington, DC.

DEAN BECKER: Adam, you know, the reason I'm calling this week, we're trying to determine the feasibility, if you will, for folks around the country, I get contacts, you know, hey, should I move to Colorado, or Oregon, or, you know, where's the best potential? And I know that, you know, the laws are kind of shortsighted in Washington, DC, at this time. But is there opportunity there for knowledgeable growers to benefit?

ADAM EIDINGER: Well, I mean, there's no market for homegrown marijuana. There is simply the right to -- we have legalization without commercialization. We do have a medical marijuana program, there are five cultivation centers and five dispensaries, and, you know, I think we have something around a thousand plants between all of the dispensaries.

DEAN BECKER: Right.

ADAM EIDINGER: So, there is a program, it's a tough program to be in, it's very strict, there's not a lot of money being made at this time because the people in that program haven't, you know, reached the economy of scale they really need, first, and, you know, the market is forcing the price so high in these dispensaries that the underground economy is still thirty to fifty percent less expensive.

DEAN BECKER: That brings to mind then, you know, the black market is still thriving, even in Colorado, Oregon, elsewhere, because of taxes and qualifications for testing, and all this stuff, that, you know, it seems to, I don't know how to say this, undercut the logic of legalization.

ADAM EIDINGER: Well, I think the idea of legalization isn't necessarily commercialization. For me, the idea of legalization is not arresting people, having access to cannabis for adults, and as little government interference as possible. That's real, that's real access. So, what we passed, you know, home based product and sharing of marijuana, we just went and took marijuana from being a very expensive thing and turned it into something that is very cheap, and so cheap that you can't even ask for money. And, what has happened is that the person who has a business helping people grow their own marijuana, someone who's an expert grower who can come and set you up in an indoor situation or even using natural light, which is allowed by the way? I think those people are making a good business in DC right now. There are multiple services that will set you up. There are services that will front all the equipment necessary for growing, and you pay a monthly fee, that essentially finances for you. So there are other ways to make a living.

I own two head shops in the DC area, one in Maryland, one in DC. We sell smoking devices and vaporizers. Our business is protected under the initiative, it's not something that can be shut down any longer. It used to be something that was shut down, and we were -- we were shut down, actually, in 2012, we were raided. So, I, you know, I think there are, you know, big improvements and really, the price of marijuana should come way down. And I think part of the problem is that lawmakers have looked at legalization as, we're just going to take the current price, the underground economy price of marijuana, and then just, we'll, you know, tax that, and this just isn't going to work. The current price is artificially high because of prohibition, because of the illegality, because it's not produced on -- to scale, because people are still growing it indoors, mainly because of legal issues. When you take out all of the, strip it down to just an agricultural crop, and you want to grow it most efficiently, you're only, I think, you're looking at farmgate ounces of twenty dollars, instead of farmgate of a hundred dollars, or two hundred dollars, for cannabis.

So, when we get the price really low, then you also, you stop having dispensaries, because you would just buy this wherever you buy things, in a supermarket. You'd have have a -- you'd buy it at Whole Foods or at Safeway. It would be widely available. You know, I see it as a very inexpensive plant, that is extremely beneficial, and those who like to keep the price high are essentially the government and the criminals.

DEAN BECKER: Right.

ADAM EIDINGER: Those who want to keep the price low are the consumers, and so I'm all about passing consumer friendly laws. There are far more consumers than there are businesses, and that's the way it's always going to be, and so why shouldn't consumers be the ones benefiting the most from legalization? And the best way to benefit is to be spending less money on marijuana, and, you know, it's amazing when you have your first crop, home grow, and you go from spending two or three hundred dollars a month, or maybe more, on marijuana, to spending nothing. And actually having extra marijuana, literally thousands of dollars worth of marijuana, that you can give away to your friends. And that ends up becoming a virtuous cycle, and, you know, I haven't bought marijuana since the law went into effect. I mean, people have been sharing it in this town, if you live here, the sharing is amazing. It's the land of free marijuana.

And there's nothing wrong with it. And then meanwhile, you're saving money you would have been spending on this plant, that doesn't need to be expensive. What can you do with that money? Well, you can save it for your retirement, of course, but you can also start businesses. You can use it to buy a beautiful thousand dollar bong, you know. I mean, there are lots of things you can do with that money, so, it isn't why the economy isn't benefiting from cheap marijuana. It really does benefit, and I think there's overproduction going on in Colorado, for instance, in Washington state and Oregon, mainly because of the national prohibition, because people are sending it out of state. It's helping meet the national demand, which is quite high, and, you know, I don't really have a problem with it, really, because I want to see what they're doing, potentially the shipping of marijuana from Colorado or California of whatever, to anywhere in the United States, should be legal.

And it shouldn't be this kind of thing that has to be, you know, you're ghettoized in your medical marijuana program. I mean, even DC, they say that the dispensaries can only -- you know, the customers who stay as medical patients can only pick one dispensary. And they can't shop around. What kind of market is that? You know. So, we, you know, we are seeing, like, artificial barriers being placed by the government time and time again, and really a lot of the medical marijuana advocates are guilty of this. Unfortunately, they've played this game where they thought legalization means commercialization. No. It doesn't. Legalization means no more arrests, it means the plant is legal for adults. That is clearly legal. And, I think a lot of people are having a hard time wrapping their heads around. What most of these so-called legalization efforts have been around the country, they're actually regulation efforts. They should stop calling it legalization. They should say, we're passing regulation. True legalization, there is no regulation. You know, and that's what we have right now, and I love it. It's amazing. I don't have to register with local government to grow marijuana in my home.

DEAN BECKER: I like to quote, actually a gentleman who lost his bid for senate here in Texas last night, but he was a representative, David Simpson, who was quoted as saying, I want to treat it like jalapenos and tomatoes.

ADAM EIDINGER: And even -- exactly. And if you grow tomatoes and jalapenos, and you grow a lot of them, more than twenty thousand dollars at farm value, you are regulated by the USDA. You would have to fall under their base food handling laws and regs, and that's, again, there's a good reason for that, because your food is going to go out to thousands of people. You could potentially sicken thousands of people. But if you're growing marijuana for yourself primarily, maybe a few of your friends are going to be lucky enough to get some. What kind of public interest is there in regulating that? We know the plant is not lethal, we know that, you know, there's zero public interest. All it is is creating unnecessary bureaucracy.

So on the small scale, it should just be fully legal, meaning anybody can grow it, anybody can have it, as long as they're over 21. And just the same way that anybody who wants to go out and buy some hops and wheat and barley and whatever, and can make their own beer, or someone can go out and buy some grapes, then want to make their own wine, you can do that. But as soon as you turn into a commercial thing, you start effecting significant number of the population who's going to use your product, you have to be regulated. That makes sense. So I'm not opposed to regulation. I just think this is -- the idea that you can, that how you should go about legalization, my argument is you start with legalization and then you get to regulation. You know? And too many of these efforts have been, we're going to put in place a complete system, and we're just going to ignore the market, you know. And it's like, whoa, whoa, why don't you let the market dictate how this is going to turn out, it's going to work to the advantage of the consumer.

If we treat it like it's only a few people who are ever going to be able to handle it, or use it, or it's going to be all patented, and it's going to be just Schedule Two, and only a handful of giant pharma companies are going to be able to sell it, we're going to stifle innovation, we're going to keep the price high, we're going to have low quality, just like we did when we had tariffs on cars, or on, you know -- it's just so painful, I realize, for some people that have profited for so long, to, making money off of the high price of marijuana, but they should see that the price of marijuana dropping creates other opportunities and other innovations, and those will benefit the vast majority of us, versus just the small few who benefit from, you know, keeping it expensive and controlled.

I opposed the Ohio initiative last year that failed, okeh. You know, I opposed it because it was going to set up a monopoly, you know, and I was very outspoken, I was very much in touch with the local activists there, and that was an example of where you can spend twenty million dollars to legalize, but if you don't have the consumer at heart, it's going to fail. So, I think if the lawmakers around this country, instead of phrasing it as we can generate tons of tax revenue off marijuana users, rather than say that, they should be saying we can put money in peoples' pockets who are low income that are already wasting money on marijuana because it's too expensive because of the black market.

I mean, they're not thinking of it that way but that's really the real benefit, it's, like, ask people, that's when, I mean, no one put money in my pocket. I put the money in my own pocket, because I was wasting it having to give it to cartels, the Mexican cartels to smuggle weed, for so many years. I mean, I must have given the Mexican cartels ten thousand dollars or more just in the last few years buying weed from the underground economy, and, you know, I think people in Texas can relate to northerners buying marijuana that's being smuggled across the border that's blowing through the state of Texas. It's just unacceptable, it's unnecessary, and really, I'm all for Mexican marijuana coming here, but legally. You know? Like coffee, or, you know, something else, you know, they won't want to move here, either, if they can legally sell their pot here.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Adam, we're going to have to wrap it up here. If you would please, is there a closing thought and or a website you might want to share with the listeners?

ADAM EIDINGER: Okeh. Yes, please check out DCMJ.org, it's a website that updates you on what's happening here. And demand more of the national groups like NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project, Drug Policy Alliance. Demand that they take more protest actions. That's what we've been really focused on, is, you've got to do more protests, you've got to mobilize people. Public smoke-ins do create a lot of pressure on public officials, they should be happening in all fifty states.

DEAN BECKER: It's time to play Name That Drug By Its Side Effects! Fever, anxiety, nausea, delayed ejaculation, shakiness, profuse sweating, decreased appetite, bedwetting, suicidality, and death. Time's up! The answer: Zoloft, from Pfizer Incorporated.

TAYLOR WEST: I am Taylor West, I'm the deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association.

DEAN BECKER: And you are based in Colorado, correct?

TAYLOR WEST: Correct. We have offices in Washington, DC, and Denver. I am based out of the Denver office.

DEAN BECKER: Now, I got a chance to speak with Adam Eidinger out of DC, but today, I'm kind of curious about the situation in Colorado. I get requests from people thinking of moving to one of the green rush states, if you will, and I'm just wondering if the opportunities are developing or diminishing in Colorado. What's your thought?

TAYLOR WEST: There are a lot of opportunities here in Colorado. But it's certainly important to remember that there are lots of people looking to take advantage of those opportunities as well. So, I think it's good for people to have a realistic expectation of what opportunities might be here. You certainly can come to this state and if you've got a strong set of skills that you can offer to the industry, there are a lot of ways to contribute. You know, this is an industry that's growing, and continuing to grow very quickly, even here in Colorado. And the industry needs all kinds of different skills. Accountants and attorneys, cultivators, salespeople, you know, marketing professionals. But there are also lots of other people who are looking to fill those roles, so you need to have a really clear idea of what your unique value could be.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And I would imagine that the increased competition has led to, let's say, increased land prices, rental prices, all that sort of thing for the warehouses where much of this is being grown. Correct?

TAYLOR WEST: We have seen a very dramatic change in the commercial real estate market in Colorado, especially in the Denver metro area, because cultivation has very specific sets of requirements, in part because of the regulations that the state puts on them. So, the properties that meet those requirements have largely been snapped up. You are seeing more businesses starting to build their own facilities, whether they be greenhouses or warehouse facilities, and finding property outside of the metro area to take advantage of better real estate deals. So that's been, you know, something that can continues to evolve as the industry grows here.

DEAN BECKER: I spoke to one individual who was looking to buy cheap land down south, I think in the San Luis area, and ran into a situation where the local, I don't know, authorities won't allow people to just move in an RV and a shack and start growing, they want a permanent facility, so to speak.

TAYLOR WEST: Sure.

DEAN BECKER: So I guess there are parameters or rules, that depend on your location within the state, and the attitude of the local officials?

TAYLOR WEST: Absolutely. There are state level regulations around how your facility must be set up, regarding security, especially, and privacy. But local governments also can put in rules and regulations about how they will permit construction to happen in their areas. So it's very important if you're thinking about, you know, coming to a state like Colorado that has a highly regulated market, that you really do your research to understand what is and isn't possible in the specific area where you're looking to work. You know, we typically recommend that anyone who's looking to get into the industry by starting a business, that they reach out to an attorney before they do much of anything, so that they're working with an attorney who's familiar with all of the ins and outs of these regulations, because it is a very complicated world, and it's not nearly as simple as just coming in and setting up shop on some open land.

DEAN BECKER: Fair enough. Now, one of the scenarios I want to discuss as well is that you can come to Colorado and, as an individual, you can grow a certain amount of plants, but if you want to, I don't know, be a mid-level grower and distribute and or, I don't know, you've got the people with, I guess, tens of thousands of plants these days. But those, there's licensing fees, and other costs that you need to incur as well, right?

TAYLOR WEST: Absolutely. We are no longer living in a world where you can kind of set up a business with just a small amount of product and a few customers. This is a highly regulated market, and the first step to being able to do any of that work is going through the licensing process at the state and local level. So, it is, you are able, as you said, to grow a certain number of plants for personal use, but once you get beyond that, if you're going to do any kind of commercial cultivation or commercial sales, then you're going to have to go through the state licensing process.

DEAN BECKER: And, what are those levels? I mean, are there not a couple of levels, one is a mid-level producer, how many plants, and then how much are the fees, if you move to the larger scale?

TAYLOR WEST: I don't have those numbers directly in front of me. The Marijuana Enforcement Division here in Colorado assess those numbers, but you're right, it is a tiered system, where, depending on the size of the facility that you're planning on establishing, your license is going to be different. It's also different depending on if you are planning on cultivating for retail sales, or for medical sales. There are different licenses for medical and for retail. So that is another thing to kind of make a decision about. A lot of businesses in Colorado have licenses for both, so that they, you know, aren't limited. But, but you do have to go through that licensing process in, for both of those market sectors.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, we're speaking with Taylor West, she's the deputy director of the cannabis industry. They're based in Colorado and Washington, DC. Taylor, what am I leaving out, what would you like to bring forward to the listener?

TAYLOR WEST: Well, another thing to know if you're thinking about starting a business in Colorado is, right now at least, the state does require a two year residency in order to apply for a business license for retail marijuana. So, you know, if you're thinking about coming out here and starting a business, know that you're going to need to either be working with someone who already has that residency, or you're going to want to come out here and establish residency for a couple of years. That's not the same for someone who just wants to come out and work in the industry. If you, you know, want to try to get a job with a dispensary or you want to offer your services, you know, in a, as, say, an attorney or an accountant, or a software developer. You know, those are different situations. But, specifically to apply for the licenses for cultivation, or dispensaries, or infused product makers, there is that residency requirement.

DEAN BECKER: All right. Well, Taylor West, I want to thank you for your insights. Folks, if you want to learn more, I urge you to visit TheCannabisIndustry.org.

All right. We've just heard some voices of folks in Washington, DC, and Colorado, and talking about the potentials for the green rush in their state. But here to fill us in on that situation in Washington state is the chief organizer for the Seattle Hempfest, my friend Vivian McPeak. Hey Viv.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Hey Dean, how are you, my brother?

DEAN BECKER: I'm good. You know, we're hearing of possibilities in these other locales, but you recently had a piece in the Seattle PI that talked about your situation. Why don't you fill us in on what you wrote there.

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Sure. Well, you know, basically, nobody's ever legalized cannabis in this, you know, after 80 years of prohibition, before, and there's really no right nor wrong way to do it, and so every state is -- the states that are flipping are doing it in their own ways, and personally, if I was thinking about how I want to do it, I wouldn't copy Washington state. You know, back in 1998 we passed I-692, legalizing medical marijuana, and patients could possess up to 24 ounces of usable cannabis, a 60 day supply. But our legislature just turned that completely around, and they brought 24 ounces down to 3 ounces of cannabis. And until recently a patient could grow up to 15 plants, now we're down to only a handful of plants.

And I just think it's crazy, you know, here in Washington state, if you pass somebody a doobie, or you hand somebody a gram of pot, technically it's a felony. So I'm really glad that, you know, you can walk into a rec store, you can buy, you know, you put a half an ounce of pot in each pocket and walk out, get in your car, drive by without looking in the rear view mirror. And I think that's a big, huge step forward. But you can't even grow a single plant if you're not a patient. So I think that we have a long ways to go. You know, here in Washington state, I think we've kind of taken two steps forward and a step backward.

DEAN BECKER: Right. And the situation there is that, in order to be able to grow, recreationally, I guess you have to get a license through the state, pay some fees, I imagine. Right?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Well, you can't grow recreationally, period. The only people who can grow -- well, you can grow if you're a licensed, you know, cultivator, but that's not recreational, that's a commercial operation. But an individual, an adult 21 and over, you can't grow even one plant unless you're a medical marijuana patients, and then you have to sign up on the registry, which I have trouble with right there, because, you know, this presidential election could turn everything around. And if you're on some federal -- if you're on some state registry, then I think there's a good possibility the federal government could end up getting that information, because nothing is secure these days.

And, the other thing is, you know, we had a collective garden rule here in Washington state until just recently, until our legislature passed this Cannabis Patient Protection Act, and I don't know what it protects anybody from except maybe a supply of marijuana. Previously, up to ten people could participate in a community garden with a cap of 45 plants. Now only four patients may participate, and, you know, and granted the number of plants has been increased to sixty. We've really had some restrictions. The other thing is we have this seed to sale madness, which tracks every gram or microgram of marijuana from seed to sale, as if it was, you know, Oxycontin or some mild form of plutonium. So personally, you know, I believe that cannabis is no more dangerous than wine or, you know, less dangerous than wine, and, you know, a little more dangerous than grapes. And I think that the laws ought to be somewhere in the middle.

DEAN BECKER: I'm with you there, Vivian. Now, as part of the 2016 Seattle Hempfest platform, you guys have 25 national and regional movement goals. You want to fill us in some of those?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Yeah, I don't have the list in front of me, but I can tell you right now that at the top of the list is getting cannabis off the federal schedule entirely. Not rescheduling, but descheduling it and getting it off the Controlled Substances Act. We're fighting for home grows for everybody here, we think that everybody ought to have the right to grow some plants in their house, so long as they're of age. We're fighting against job discrimination, we're fighting for Second Amendment rights for cannabis users, equality. We're fighting for reasonable smell regulations for grow facilities, and elsewhere. We're fighting for parental rights, we think that children who are medical patients should have the right to have cannabis administered to them in schools, the way that they have other medications administered to them by the school nurse, and etc.

You know, we have a long haul to go, we've come a long ways, but boy, we're just getting started. And I think that the danger is that people start feeling kind of fat and sassy, you know, like we're on our way here, and we can slow down and man, we need to speed up. You know, we need to really go in heavy right now, because the momentum's on our side. But while we're having this, as you know, Dean, while we're having this conversation right now, someone's getting pulled over or somebody's having their door broken down and their life is going to completely radically change. They may lose their house, and their family, and their freedom. Some people lose their life in the process. So yes, we are, we're, you know, we're going full steam ahead with a full head of steam this year at Seattle Hempfest. And our platform agenda is really what we're lined up to work on the next 25 years. And I hope it doesn't take that long.

DEAN BECKER: Well, once again, we've been speaking with Mister Vivian McPeak, with the Seattle Hempfest, and if you'd like to attend, when is that going to happen this year, Viv?

VIVIAN MCPEAK: Seattle Hempfest is the third weekend in August, it's the 19th, 20th, and 21st this year. And it's equal parts a leap of faith, labor of love, and a call to action.

DEAN BECKER: All right folks, learn more at Hempfest.org.

Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. Two points: One, the end of prohibition depends on you. Two, because of prohibition, you don't know what's in that bag. Please, be careful.

FIRST VOICEOVER: America, there is a solution.

SECOND VOICEOVER: Legalize weed in your states. Because it's just weed.

FIRST VOICEOVER: Don't get us wrong. We love weed.

SECOND VOICEOVER: I'm high right now.

FIRST VOICEOVER: When you make weed illegal, some idiots think it's special.

SECOND VOICEOVER: So they leave your state and they come here, where they treat Colorado like it's their parents' basement.