Viewpoints

Getting schooled on the new realities of cannabis

Mike “Big Mike” Barnes takes a celebratory puff from his pipe in his privately owned “420 Limo” at an election party hosted by the Berkeley Patients Group for Proposition 64, which legalized and taxes the recreational use of marijuana, at The New Parish club on Tuesday, Nov. 8. 2016, in Oakland, Calif.
Mike “Big Mike” Barnes takes a celebratory puff from his pipe in his privately owned “420 Limo” at an election party hosted by the Berkeley Patients Group for Proposition 64, which legalized and taxes the recreational use of marijuana, at The New Parish club on Tuesday, Nov. 8. 2016, in Oakland, Calif. aseng@sacbee.com

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry last week when I saw a billboard for Weedmaps on Highway 80, telling SacTown that it had us covered.

I had the pleasure of working against Proposition 64 – the campaign to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and over – and learned quite a bit about Weedmaps and other areas of the marijuana industry.

I say “pleasure” because it was a fascinating issue to research and debate, especially being a parent of two young children.

It also is the first campaign I’ve worked on in which I have been told I look like a narc, because I was wearing a suit, although I thought narcs were supposed to wear plain clothes. Until this campaign, I had never been asked whether I have smoked marijuana. Sorry, Mom, though I’m sure you knew. And I was called upon to comment on Brad Pitt’s rumored problems with marijuana. I declined.

I’m no neophyte, having worked for 22 years in politics, first as a Capitol staffer and later as a consultant on maybe 100 campaigns. I long since have lost count. But the Proposition 64 campaign opened my eyes to the new and very sophisticated industry that is poised to pounce on the California market.

During this campaign. I visited and spoke with editorial writers across the state. The first question I would ask was: “Have you heard of Weedmaps?” For the uninitiated, Weedmaps is the “Yelp” of marijuana, a go-to site for aficionados — and a $1 million donor the legalization campaign.

Many newspaper writers would stare blankly, clueless. But at a debate at Long Beach State, when I asked that same question, almost every hand in the audience of 200, mostly millennials, went up. That helps illustrate the lack of understanding of the current world of marijuana and where much of the real action takes place.

When I started working on this campaign, my father-in-law, a product of the ’60s asked: “What’s wrong with folks making money?” I have no problem with companies making money, but my father-in-law, like most folks older than 60, has no idea what the current marijuana industry looks like.

The joint you smoked in the 1960s or even the one smoked in 1989 is nowhere near the potency of today’s product.

As I said, the marijuana industry is very sophisticated industry. The big players use data-driven research to market and brand products, and push for high potency, and they have Silicon Valley venture capital behind them.

California’s challenge will be whether there is a sufficient framework to tackle the myriad issues that will come with marijuana legalization.

How many parents have seen the Weedmaps website or viewed the elaborate YouTube TV channel highlighting the marijuana strain of the day or the dispensary of the week?

How many parents have heard of Eaze. It’s the Uber of Pot, and it will deliver its product to where you are. You should prepare yourself because much of the activity will not be at the dispensary across town, but on your kid’s phone.

When the chief executive officer of Eaze does an interview highlighting his support of Proposition 64 and then explains that the best selling strain of marijuana is called “Girl Scout Cookie,” shouldn’t that give all of us pause?

Oregon recently enacted regulations to eliminate these sorts of names of marijuana strains because they are enticing to kids. Will California regulators or the Legislature do the same? They should, because as it’s written, Proposition 64 fails to adequately protect kids from such names, intended to entice younger customers.

Should we be concerned that Proposition 64 will allow home delivery of marijuana within 15 minutes or less? Search “pot versus pizza” on YouTube if you don’t believe me.

Proponents of Proposition 64 highlighted that marijuana products would only be available at brick and mortar facilities, but neglected to acknowledge that home delivery is allowed and Silicon Valley investors are looking at this market as an investment opportunity.

Keep in mind that home delivery of marijuana means a car in our neighborhood with a trunk full of marijuana products and a driver carrying cash. Colorado and Washington do not allow for home delivery of recreational marijuana.

Will California regulators or legislative leaders call for a ban or add restrictions like Oregon did and limit the amount of money the driver can carry and require a secure lock box in the car?

The sky will not fall with the passage of Proposition 64, but it is clear that it will set off a host of battles that will be fought in the halls of the Capitol in the coming months. Lobbyists, fire up your, ah, engines.

Andrew Acosta is a Sacramento-based Democratic political consultant, andrew@acosta-consulting.com.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

  Comments