Apr 22, 2016
We did something different this week.
Wednesday was April 20, a day that's grown into an annual holiday for cannabis counterculture. So for the show this week we set up a live podcast – or potcast – delving into all the policy details of marijuana legalization.
Yes, you could say we got into the weeds of the issue.
Our panel of pot experts included Kimberly Simms, a lawyer on the front lines of medical marijuana, Alex Kreit from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and Amanda Chicago Lewis, the national marijuana reporter for BuzzFeed News.
If you missed the event, though, sadly you will not get the chance to hear the whole thing because, well, something went wrong with the recording and it isn't suitable for full release. (If you want a copy of the file despite its poor quality, email us and we'll send it to you).
Hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts made the best of things by rounding up some of the highlights from the live event. They helped fill in the blanks and tried to clear up some of the haziness surrounding new laws regarding both medical and recreational marijuana in California.
Last fall, state lawmakers passed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, or MMRSA, which will change the way medical marijuana is regulated in the state once it's implemented over the next few years. One of the major differences under MMRSA will be the shift from the nonprofit, collective model that now exists, making medical marijuana more of a straightforward for-profit industry.
There's also a measure that will likely be on the November ballot that looks to legalize recreational marijuana in California. Even it it's passed, local municipalities will still be able to ban both medical and recreational marijuana and, of course, the federal government still classifies marijuana as an illegal drug.
As both medical and recreational, or "adult-use"– the preferred nomenclature these days – marijuana is slowly but steadily mainstreamed and commercialized, there are social justice concerns to consider. Amanda Chicago Lewis, following up on an article she wrote, discussed how communities of color have been disproportionately punished for marijuana, and now they're not the ones benefiting from its legalization.
"The law enforcement lobby has a very big influence over how cannabis is being legalized in every single state," she said. "They're very nervous. ... about turning this drug into something legal and what could potentially happen and especially about people who were willing to commit crimes suddenly becoming zillionaires, but these laws really don't make sense."
She said not allowing people who have drug felonies on their records to participate in the legalized marijuana industry is essentially discriminatory against mostly black people who've been punished more than white people under current drug laws.
Lewis and Keatts also talked about the possibly of de-scheduling pot, the issues that come with the federal government's lack of leadership and the country's accelerating acceptance of the drug.
At the live event, Simms summed up that shift nicely. She said its time for government officials to reflect the current zeitgeist when it comes to pot.
"We're all responsible for making sure that our elected officials know how we feel about this issue and that cannabis users are your neighbors or your attorneys or your CPAs or your kid's soccer coach," she said. "We are everywhere and we should not be marginalized anymore and it's time to regulate it and figure it out and come out of a cannabis closet."