Unlikely Bedfellows

No one is surprised that among the groups opposing California’s Porposition 19, the Control, Regulate, and Tax Marijuana initiative on the November 2 ballot, are financially entrenched business organizations. The prison and law enforcement industry, which profits every time a marijuana user is branded a criminal; the beer industry, which worries that Californians will collectively discover that marijuana is far less harmful than alcoholic products; and, of course, major party politicians, who serve at the behest of their corporate benefactors — all of these factions are predictably allied against pot legalization.

How shocking — and how utterly demoralizing — to learn that some well-known (in the pot community, anyway) activists, people who helped bring medical marijuana to the state and seem to have dedicated their lives to educating the citizenry on the the benefits of kind green bud, are actively opposing Prop 19.

Their reasons are many, but reduced to a thesis sentence their complaint is this: We can do better.

They’re right. We can. And we will. Proposition 19 doesn’t do all the things we who understand marijuana’s gifts want it to do, such as provide amnesty for the thousands of incarcerated citizens held behind bars for possessing a weed that grows in my backyard next to the cucumbers and tomatoes. It doesn’t allow citizens to grow unlimited amounts. And it does allow an onerous tax on a substance that can be easily politicized.

But what Prop 19 does do is set an example for the rest of the country. What it does is remove the specious stigma attached to cannabis, a plant that should be celebrated not reviled. It provides protection to millions of innocent people who are tired of living in fear of legal harassment.

To be a marijuana activist and do anything but support this measure is beyond ironic. It’s heartbreaking.

Yes, some of the pro-pot anti-19 cabal have vested financial interests in the status quo. But even stronger than greed is their ego. These good folks who have done so much for lovers of the leaf weren’t consulted on the creation of Prop 19. Nobody sought their permission. No one made them feel important. And now they’re demonstrating just how important they really are.

Recently I was on the subway and saw Richard W. Eastman, aka RWE, who’s pretty hard to miss because he wears loudly pro-marijuana clothing. I introduced myself and told RWE that I had written a book about the wonders of marijuana, a book that, I hoped, would help educate and motivate our brothers and sisters. RWE said only this: “Am I mentioned in it?”

When I told him he wasn’t, he turned away, uninterested.

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