CA: In the Weeds Over Marijuana Legalization

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Photo Credit: Luis Sánchez Saturno

I’ll start by saying I have nothing against marijuana.

I don’t buy into the argument that weed is a gateway drug or that it correlates to criminal behavior.

I occasionally treat myself to those little chocolate covered blueberry edibles and have friends who use it in some form or another every day.

But when it came time to vote on whether or not to legalize weed in California, I voted against it.

There were certainly issues that I thought warranted its legalization, but I felt that California had mostly addressed them.

Medical marijuana had been legalized by the state in 1996 to treat, “any illness for which marijuana provides relief,” creating a safe and viable way for Californians to acquire all the medical-grade cannabis their hearts desired.

In 2010, then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decriminalized marijuana, significantly reducing the incarceration rates and punitive sentences for minor possession that disproportionately affected minorities.

But the reason I voted no wasn’t for social reasons, it was for a socioeconomic one.

I kept hearing what a boon it would be for the common people of California but I couldn’t help thinking that, increasingly so, these things rarely work out that way.

In my mind, legalization would ultimately pave the way for the marijuana industry to morph from the network of small-scale operations it is today to a small number of large monopolies benefiting only a select few.

Take for instance Weedmaps, a Yelp-like company which connects marijuana users with dispensaries, delivery services, and doctors.

They donated one million dollars to the main pro-legalization campaign and have set about lobbying high profile California legislators like gubernatorial hopeful Gavin Newsom.

According to an interview with the Wall Street Journal, former CEO Justin Hartfield, hoped to make Weedmaps into the Philip Morris of the pot world.

Given this, I just didn’t think legalization would economically benefit as many people as was being claimed.

That being said I’ve recently had a change of heart and it wasn’t empirical evidence or an esoteric argument that swayed me, it was my mom.

My mom struggles with anxiety.

It is challenging for her to relax and she often feels agitated and blue for no identifiable reason.

She has tried medication and meditation and therapy, none of which have provided her with very effective or consistent relief.

Several weeks ago she came to me and said, “now that weed is legal, I’ve been thinking I might like to try it, you know, for my anxiety.”

I could tell she was asking for some assistance; it made my heart want to burst.

So midday on a Wednesday I took my mom to Harborside in Oakland.

It is the Apple store of the dispensary world: minimalist, bright, well-branded.

A slight but compassionate budtender named Kyle listened to my mom’s concerns, walked her through her options and helped her pick the strain to suit her needs.

It was all so easy for her.

Now, she could have easily gotten a medical card for this years ago but knowing my mom, she was only comfortable with the idea once it became legal.

As with so many other things, there is a double standard for the women of my mother’s generation.

Dads could smoke as much weed as they wanted out in the garage but as respectable mothers or wives, women just didn’t do that.

It was something I hadn’t thought of, that someone might not utilize weed because they felt it wasn’t socially acceptable for them to do so.

Because that stigma doesn’t exist in my generation, I was ignorant to this less obvious benefit legalization brings.

So far my mom seems pleased with the results, claiming she feels “very nice” when she uses it.

Sometimes you just need your mom to set you straight.

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