What a whirlwind weekend! The California NORML Conference commemorating 100 years of cannabis prohibition in California brought together cannabis activists from across the spectrum at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Center, almost directly under the span of the breathtaking Golden Gate Bridge. Experts in policy, law, taxation, entrepreneurship, and public opinion convened over three days to address the question on everyone’s mind: what’s next for cannabis legalization in California?
I had the great honor of meeting many luminaries who could only be described as legends in the field. They include Robert Raich, an Oakland-based attorney who has brought not one but two cases to the Supreme Court on the question of whether the federal government can quash state innovations in cannabis policy; Joe Elford, the chief legal counsel for Americans for Safe Access who is spearheading ASA’s challenge to the DEA’s 40-year refusal to reschedule cannabis under the Controlled Substances Act; Elvy Musikka, who for a quarter century has publicly shared her story of how she still receives a tin of joints to treat her glaucoma from a very well-connected dealer – the federal government; Dr. Michael Aldrich, the first American to successfully defend a PhD dissertation on the history of medical marijuana (in 1970!) and his wife Michelle, who has courageously publicized her successful attempt to cure her cancer with cannabis oil; Chris Conrad and Mikki Norris, who publish the West Coast Leaf and have a half century of hemp activism between them; Dennis Peron, the principal author of California’ historic Proposition 215; Richard Lee, who founded Oaksterdam University and spearheaded 2010′s unsuccessful Prop 19 campaign; Ann Lee, Richard’s mother and co-founder of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition; Dale Sky Jones, who has ably undertaken the task of running Oaksterdam as Richard Lee focuses on defending himself against federal prosecution; “Aunt Sandy” Moriarty, a pioneer of cannabis cooking; David Downs, the editor of the East Bay Express‘s “Legalization Nation” column and SFGate.com’s “Smell the Truth” blog; Dr. Frank Lucido, a living enumeration of medical marijuana best practices; and many more. Great thanks go out to Dale Gierenger and Ellen Komp of California NORML, who along with a small army of volunteers put on the most authoritative conference of cannabis experts I have ever attended.
Although the panels took a sober look at the challenges ahead, everyone left the conference with a great feeling of optimism. I look forward to summarizing the major issues explored in future posts.