Higher Ground: An Introduction, Marijuana Machines, and Our Top Doc Goes Green

The Feds finally hint that weed is not evil.

Many of us seek an elevated state of mind. Our jobs stress us out, our relationships are challenging, world news is depressing, and we just want something to take the edge off. A glass of wine. A Valium. Or, in my case, a few hits of this funny weed called cannabis. I’m not apologizing; I’m overjoyed. Shockingly, the citizens of my fair state voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use, and, in addition to the massive tax revenue it’s generating for our political pinheads to spend wildly, it’s giving the rest of us yet another way to ease the pain—and occasionally burst out in uncontrollable laughter.

The prohibition on marijuana will come to an end. That’s a fact. While Washington is ahead of the curve, nationally a majority of our citizens support legalization of both recreational (54 percent) and medicinal (78 percent) marijuana. The real question will be what side you were on when the pot leaves came tumbling down. As with civil rights, gay marriage, and gun control, there are resistant, plodding, dimwitted late adopters who will oppose legalization just as the Temperance Movement (know as “drys” in their time) did while propping up the 18th Amendment. I try and be nice to these modern teetotaling crusaders. Maybe they just need a hug. Or a push. Or a puff.

Wonderful things are happening in the world of legal kush. Cartels are losing money and splitting town, domestic violence and teen drug rates are plummeting in legal states, and in places like New York that have decriminalized cannabis, arrests are down 75 percent. Best of all, as I write this, I am stoned to the bejesus on legal herb.

And while it’s great that Washington got the ball rolling with Initiative 502, our weed laws have serious deficiencies. Unlike the other four jurisdictions that legalized ganja—Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia—our stupid-ass statute doesn’t allow citizens to grow their own. While you and I may not want to devote our entire basements to grow lights and stinky Mary Jane plants, if we’re going to legalize an herb, we might as well allow citizens to be poticulturists. (DIY home brews got nuthin’ on the ganja-thumbs!)

Initiative 502 also did not address the medical-marijuana system that has been in place since passage of the Medical Use of Marijuana initiative in 1998. The resulting unregulated collection of dispensaries and collective gardens not only helped thousands of citizens cope with a wide variety of ailments, but opened the door to fly-by-night operators who don’t card, don’t pay taxes, and don’t look any different than the black market we’re attempting to snuff out.

Hearings intended clean up this Wild Weedy West are underway in our dysfunctional state legislature, with proposals ranging from the ridiculous (Sen. Ann Rivers originally wanted to eliminate smokeable pot) to the moderate (Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Wells envisions a single tax structure, home grows for all, and allowing well-established, rule-abiding dispensaries to get licenses). It’s looking as though the medical market will be folded into the recreational system (read: screwed), and patients may not only have to join a mandatory registry (I can see the NSA drooling now), but pay taxes on their meds.

In addition to addressing these ongoing issues, this column will ponder what it means to be high. It will explore the ways people are getting high (Weed-of-the-Month Club!), making money on people getting high (Marley Natural), and using cannabis for medicinal purposes, as well as an occasional rant about how hundreds of thousands of (mostly African-) American citizens are still being arrested every year for marijuana-related offenses. In short, I hope to elevate the dialogue on the legalization movement.

Let’s start with the latest on the weed watch.

• Last week the new Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, said that for certain medical conditions, marijuana may be helpful. The reason this is noteworthy is that marijuana’s therapeutic properties are news to the federal government, which still believes cannabis has zero medicinal value, listing it as a Schedule 1 narcotic along with meth and LSD.

• Washington got its first pot vending machine! Located in the Seattle Caregivers medical dispensary, the ZaZZZ machine contains edibles as well as bags of weed (but no Doritos). The high-tech contraption scans not only your medical-marijuana card (the automats are not yet in recreational stores), but also your driver’s license, then cross-checks the data with the biometrics from the machine’s camera. According to ZaZZZ’s maker, American Green, they’ll soon add security that will require customers to provide fingerprints or retinal scans, and track all purchases. Intrusive databases and speedy, anonymous, machine-distributed weed? Yeah, that’s not gonna set off any pothead paranoia alarms.

But what does the ZaZZZ portend? I worry that as we move from bud-tenders selling organic flowers to machines spitting out disposable vape pens, THC-infused energy drinks, and GummyBear edibles, the more this new era will look like fast food, Big Pharma, and cigarette machines of old.

higherground@seattleweekly.com

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