[Editor’s Note: This is the first installment of a new, bi-weekly series about how cannabis activists can add value to today’s cannabis industry – by Amanda Reiman, VP of Community Relations with Flow Kana. You can also read parts two and three.]
Transition. Change. Metamorphosis.
Whatever you call it, the dissolution of one reality for the sake of another is never comfortable yet always present.
As humans, we cling to our current reality with the naiveté that we can stop time and the inevitable change that comes with it.
We are always wrong.
In America, where one’s occupation equals their identity, one of the most threatening changes is that from an evolving industry.
Hell, Trump got an entire demographic to vote against their own self-interests because they feared their coal driven livelihood was gone and he promised to get it back.
When I was growing up in Detroit in the 1980’s, the replacement of auto workers with machines was driving an economic downturn that plagued the area for decades, and continues to, although with cannabis legalization recently hitting Michigan, there is hope.
Which brings me to the theme of this series.
The cannabis movement is transitioning into the cannabis industry.
Individual identities, customs and power structures that were built up during forty-plus years of prohibition were, in an instant, required to fit into the traditional capitalist system of American business.
And the two could not be more opposed.
In fact, many of the customs cultivated in the pre-legalization scene were founded on anti-capitalist principles.
From the farmers cultivating off-grid in the hills of Mendocino and Humboldt counties, to the medical cannabis warriors making sure that those who needed their medicine in urban centers had affordable access – a respect for the land and for fellow humans was paramount to early cannabis provision in California.
These values are not common, nor cultivated in traditional American business.
We should also recognize that prohibition elicited the same money-hungry, power-driven business interests as post-legalization industry, but the illegal nature of the trade encouraged violence, human rights violations and environmental degradation as part of their identity.
Indeed, legalization and the resulting regulations yielded to a ‘kinder, gentler drug king pin’.
But how do those who want to see values like stewardship and compassion, manifested under prohibition, continue to fight an enemy when he is no longer an arresting officer and is now the CEO of a well-financed legal cannabis company?
That question had many activists like myself wondering: what now?
We had spent so long fighting for the removal of criminal penalties for cannabis and the restoration of rights for those with criminal justice involvement.
We shouted about racial disparities in arrests and the harms of taking babies from their mothers for a positive THC screen.
And now we are standing in a sea of venture capital, foreign-made extraction machines and former drug warriors “changing their tune” after they realized the money they could make.
During the Prop. 64 campaign I often said, “Legalization is going to help a lot of things, but it won’t take down capitalism.”
I said this in response to people who wanted/expected the legalization initiative to direct the regulators to follow a different paradigm, one built on the values of compassion, economic and environmental justice, and a level of fairness completely foreign in 2019 America.
I’m taking back my words.
Now that I see the void that legalization has created for activists and the ways in which regulations have touched on a myriad of other progressive issues, I do think that legalization of cannabis can challenge several areas made worse for wear by the capitalist paradigm.
In the coming segments, I will go into more details around each area ripe with opportunity for frustrated cannabis activists.
The next segment will focus on creating change from the inside out by using the economic focus of capitalism to our advantage.
Several activists have, like me, ended up working for private cannabis companies. We use these roles on the “inside” to promote the values and traditions that represent the best of the pre-legalization culture.
More to come!
Amanda Reiman is the Vice President of Community Relations for Flow Kana, a branded cannabis distribution company that works with sun grown farmers in the Emerald Triangle. She is also the Chair of the Board for the Traditional Farmers Advocacy Alliance and on the Board of Directors for the International Cannabis Farmer’s Association, both of which engage in education, research and advocacy around support for traditional sun-grown cannabis farming. Dr. Reiman is also a Board member for the California Cannabis Tourism Association, the Mendocino Cannabis Industry Association, The Mendocino County Fire Safe Council, and The Initiative, the first incubator/accelerator for women-owned cannabis businesses.
After receiving her PhD from UC Berkeley, Dr. Reiman was the Director of Research and Patient Services at Berkeley Patients Group, one of the oldest dispensaries in the country, and the Manager of Marijuana Law and Policy for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national non-profit that was engaged in the drafting and campaigns of legalization initiatives across the country and abroad. She also taught courses on substance abuse treatment and drug policy at UC Berkeley for 10 years and has published several research articles and book chapters on the use of cannabis as a substitute for opiates and the social history of the cannabis movement. Amanda currently resides in Ukiah, CA.