In Defense of The Cannabis Farmers Market

CANNABIS CULTURE – Marijuana activist David Malmo-Levine on the cannabis farmers market as a form of peaceful protest.

“Canada is free and freedom is its nationality.”

– Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s 7th Prime Minister – the guy on the Canadian 5 dollar bill.

What this article is meant to do

This article is meant to do two things: 1) defend the idea of a cannabis farmer’s market and address concerns raised by critics, and 2) come up with a game plan to defend the dealers at the next cannabis farmer’s market – April 20th, 2016 – from attacks by the police.

1) Defending the idea of a cannabis farmer’s market and addressing concerns raised by critics

Canadian passports are a wealth of knowledge

The quote at the beginning of the article is a good place to start. That quote is on page 16 of every Canadian Passport. I know this because I was recently stuck in jail, carefully examining the only piece of reading material they allowed me – my passport – while incarcerated this July 1st, 2015 for obstruction of a “peace officer”.

My actual crime was to hug someone getting arrested for a flower offence (a cannabis flower offence, yes, but a flower offence just the same).

This direct-action – a conscientious obstruction “hug power” arrest-resistance tactic – is a way to protest the arrest by choosing to get arrested at the same time, slowing down the process, increasing the budget requirements of any future similar arrests, putting images of resistance to unjust laws into the mass media and alternative media, and by doing so informally but effectively demanding of society a debate upon the activities in question that led to the original arrest.

Perhaps resistance to the establishment’s legalization model in this assertive manner might even prompt a debate in court in front of a judge.

I find it sort of ironic that I would come across a bit of Canadian propaganda about how free Canada was while stuck in a Canadian jail for assertively protesting the concept of “flower offences”. On Canada Day, no less.

Of course, my people prefer calling July 1st Cannabis Day. Perhaps because our leaf is more useful than the maple leaf and our identities are more closely tied to this cannabis plant than to our geographical region. Finding ourselves to be Canadian, we want Canada to stay true to its “true north strong and free” public relations campaign – especially on the day we hear that mantra repeated so loudly.

Plus “Cannabis Day” began in 1977 and “Canada Day” began in 1982 so we were here first, really.

Canada is a nation of free people

Canada is a nation of free people, and “freedom” is a well-defined term. The best definition comes from John Stuart Mill, in his book On Liberty. After listing off all the political rights (thought, belief, opinion, expression, association and assembly) that found their way in the same order into the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982, Mill then immediately writes:

Secondly, the principle requires liberty of tastes and pursuits; of framing the plan of our life to suit our own character; of doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow: without impediment from our fellow-creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse, or wrong.

Cannabis activists generally feel that if the above definition of freedom is the correct definition, we were the ones using our freedom and the police were the ones denying our freedom.

Is the cannabis farmer’s market harmless?

Our critics would counter that our activities actually are harmful, and thus we can’t claim to qualify for protection under the Mill definition of liberty. Their accusations of harm have recently boiled down to two points:

A) the protesters have no reason to protest, it’s more of an event than a protest, an excellent and adequate legalization model has been created and activists should obey directions from the city to shut down sales of cannabis. Obedience to structures imposed by rulers is a greater virtue than idealism and assertive direct action in defense of those ideals.

And

B) that cannabis harms teens regardless of whether or not teens use it properly, and so teens must not be included in any sort of legalization model or regulation structure, and the cannabis farmers market – which allows teens to purchase and consume cannabis – cannot be allowed to continue.

Let’s go over these concerns carefully.

The pot war is a class war – pot peace should not also be a class war

Firstly, the current “legalization” of medical marijuana leaves much to be desired. In terms of the users, it excludes and/or stigmatizes and/or creates unnecessary barriers for access to cannabis to teens, the poor, and those who would choose to use cannabis for preventive medicine. It also creates unnecessary economic barriers for participation in cultivation and retail.

Prime Minister Steven Harper’s MMPR system prevents all but millionaires from participating in the supply of cannabis, while Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and his council have made it nearly impossible to participate in dispensing cannabis unless one is in possession of $100 thousand in infrastructure and another $30 to $35 thousand in licensing, as well as one of the extremely hard-to-find permitted locations.

To activists, throwing 50% to 70% of users and 70% to 90% percent of the growers and dealers under the bus is unacceptable. To keep the math simple, many activists in Vancouver have adopted the “no smoker/dealer/grower left behind” rule – we want our economy to be as inclusive as possible, and leave no harmless people as targets for the police. That means everyone gets a seat at the legalization table. Everyone is legit.

The main reason for a cannabis farmers market: demonstrating that the ideal is workable

This is why we need a cannabis farmers market. There are no users, growers or dealers left behind in a cannabis farmers market – everyone is welcome! This is exactly why we have a right to defend this working model with “hug power” or “conscientious obstruction”: We need a working example of the kind of legalization – inclusive – that activists have been fighting for since at least 1969.

There is no hope of getting an inclusive legalization model out of the courts or our elected representatives. Even the Liberal Party, who have promised to legalize recreational cannabis use, would still exclude too many people from legitimacy, since they too have been perpetuating the myth of how cannabis harms teens.

Our only hope is that the continued demonstration of an inclusive model working properly three or four times per year, every year gives activists something to point to – a way to improve current models and end the war on pot for real.

To watch the police destroy the cannabis farmers market and do nothing is a form of complicity in the (not so) gentle genocide of the medically autonomous and the eradication of one of the few inclusive economies in the world.

Much of society today – 5 U.S. states with recreation models and 23 states with some form of legal model, not to mention the Canadian and Vancouver medical models – is experimenting with legal marijuana and the Vancouver pothead community know they can do better. They know this because they have been doing better, providing workable cannabis distribution models twice a year, every year, since 1996.

Faked concern over teen cannabis use is the prohibitionist’s last remaining weapon

Here is the police’s version of events from the Toronto Star:

Spokesman Const. Brian Montague alleged in a release a man was “overtly” selling marijuana to minors and that he failed to stop after being warned.

As anyone can plainly see from the literally dozens of camera-phone and professional videos shot before the arrests, there was no mention of selling to minors, and non-violence was loudly proclaimed as the absolute limit of protest from activists to the crowd.

Initial reports from reporters made no mention of selling to minors either.

It seems, on the surface at least, an excuse for brutality thought up as an afterthought justification.

If anyone participating in cannabis day were actually harming young people, you would think it would be the police shaming the protesters with a few choice words. Instead, it was the protesters shouting “shame, shame, shame!” at the police until they left with their tails between their legs.

Cannabis vs. alcohol

I looked directly into the eyes of police officers when I was offering them a free copy on my newly-published book on cannabis and teens – about 10 or 20 minutes before they moved in for arrest.

They looked like they would have rather been doing something else, and none of them took my book to read! Unfortunately, their wages depend upon them not understanding the issue.

Critics of our events point to the 64 persons (out of 25 to 30 thousand attendees) who went to the hospital from the cannabis farmers market with symptoms of intoxication.

What is never mentioned is that activists have since discovered that the emergency response technicians were telling everyone to walk themselves over to get checked out at Saint Paul’s Hospital regardless of how mild their discomfort was, and that all but two made it to the hospital on their own steam. Everyone was fine after visiting emergency and no one was actually admitted to the hospital.

Contrast that with the party our Prime Minister Steven Harper threw for his 18 year old son and his teen friends – an alcohol-drenched affair that led to one teen to be taken to the hospital with a (potentially fatal) case of alcohol poisoning.

If pot were legal for teens and teens understood it’s advantages over other relaxants, nobody would have to fear death from attending our Prime Minister’s teen parties any longer.

Luckily for the Prime Minister, there is a legal loophole that allows him to escape culpability:

The legal drinking age in Ontario is 19. However, a parent may supply their own underage child with alcohol in their own home.

It’s not illegal for parents to allow other minors to drink in their home, as long as the parents aren’t supplying the alcohol.

According to my math, approximately 50 similar serious alcohol experiences happen every day in Canada. The rate of hospital inpatient events ending in discharge or death where alcohol was identified as the primary source of a behavioural or mental disorder increased from 47 to 51 per 100,000 between 2006 and 2011.

Cannabis is known to be an excellent substitute for alcohol:

http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/cu/cu58.html
http://www.leafscience.com/2014/02/01/marijuana-may-lower-use-alcohol-harder-drugs
http://www.hamsnetwork.org/mm
http://www.marijuana.com/blog/news/2014/06/how-cannabis-acts-as-a-substitute-for-alcohol-and-a-cure-for-alcoholism
http://norml.org/news/2014/02/20/cannabis-may-be-a-substitute-for-alcohol-study-says

So, in effect, the more young people attend pot rallies, the less they attend alcohol-advertisement-fueled sports arena drinking parties and post-championship hockey riots. This has actually been shown to be the case in championship soccer matches in Holland:

Police claimed that the availability of the drug in the Netherlands probably helped to defuse any violence among thugs normally found in a boozy rage.

Scores of ticketless England fans gathered in coffee shops in Eindhoven, where cannabis is legally sold and smoked, to watch the game, greeting the defeat with mild disappointment and gentle applause.

“The cannabis may have helped relax them,” said Johann Beelan, Eindhoven police spokesman. “Even the hooligans enjoyed the party – and they told our officers.

“There were lots of things for fans to do and everybody had a good time,” he added. Only five fans were arrested, all before the game and all for minor offences.

No increase in psychosis or dips in I.Q. rates of pot users in the general population

Just in case anyone wants to know the truth about cannabis and teens in great detail, there is an online version of the same book I tried to offer the police – available for free on Cannabis Culture.

In a nutshell, cannabis doesn’t make your kids stupid or crazy. There is no increase in psychosis or dip in I.Q. rates in the general population over the same time that cannabis use rates have skyrocketed. Cannabis is actually a safer anti-depressant than Effexor, is one of the only non-toxic relaxants known to human kind, and is an intelligent preference for smart teens who are doing their best to manage their hormones and know all the reasons for staying away from alcohol and tobacco.

Now, if an alcohol vendor were to have been accused of selling alcohol to a minor, they would not be ripped from a political protest and or a public place and arrested, they would instead be given a fine.

And a caffeine vendor who got caught selling caffeine to teens would be ignored by all of society, even though caffeine is more risky than cannabis in every category (overdose and overuse deaths as well as withdrawal symptoms) except for impairment levels of novice users.

If you get caught lying 15 times, you no longer get the benefit of the doubt

Clearly, this “activists are harming teens” is just more reefer madness like all the rest over the last 100 years:

In 1999, the Ron Mann film Grass, narrated by Woody Harrelson, was released. The film documented the various stages that anti-marijuana propaganda evolved through over time. It first began in the early 1900s with “If you smoke it … you will kill people.” By the 1930s that had changed to “If you smoke it … you will go insane.” “You will become a heroin addict” followed that in the 1950s. “You will withdraw from society, lose all motivation and undermine national security” became the new official truth in the 1960s. Finally, by the Reagan era of the 1980s, the story became “You will be in the grip of Satan and the godless sodomites that run Hollywood.” The film uses footage from various educational campaigns to illustrate the point that the excuses to justify the discrimination suffered by the cannabis community shifted to a new myth as each old myth was debunked. (116)

A similar conclusion was reached by reporter Dan Gardner, who wrote the following in the Ottawa Citizen back in 2005: Much of the focus of this long debate has been on marijuana’s alleged effects on mental function, and over the past century an enormous amount of research has looked for damage done by the weed. Unfortunately, much of the research, on mental health and other concerns, was dubious and its appearance followed a predictable cycle: The research is released to lurid headlines, the evidence is used as proof that the law must be tough or get tougher, and later, when subsequent research fails to bear out the original study, the fear is slowly and quietly forgotten. (117)

But too many people now know the truth: the prohibitionist’s last remaining weapon, that cannabis harms teens, will no doubt one day be abandoned, just as most of the world no longer believes Jews, witches and Socrates hurt children.

Hopefully those who have read this far agree that cannabis farmers markets are vital to keep the inclusive pot distribution model alive, but what can we do to prevent the police from doing the same thing in April and July of 2016 that they did in July of 2015?

2) Coming up with a game plan to defend the dealers at the next cannabis farmers market – April 20th, 2016 – from attacks from the police

The first thing we can do is fight the charges against the activists arrested last July 1st in a public manner.

I am now in discussions with a high-profile lawyer with experience in counter-culture and protester cases. I am in the process of setting up an Indiegogo crowdfunding project to raise the minimum $7500.00 retainer to get this respected lawyer to articulate our “demonstrating our ideal cannabis distribution model” ideas into the mass media and the court of public opinion.

Hopefully, many will see the advantage of having an inclusive cannabis economy and will conclude that support for the legal defense of the defenders of the market is a great investment to that end.

Secondly, we need to be smarter about how we set up our farmers market next time. We should wait until there’s about 1000 people there before the vendors begin. We should poster like crazy so the event is well-attended and all attendees arrive at the same time. Vendors should be in a circle in the inside of the crowd, and should attach themselves physically to their booths. Retailers should keep most of the cannabis and cash hidden, and teams of runners – some in disguise as customers – should be ready to hide the cannabis and escape with it and the cash so police get little for their efforts.

And we should always remember to keep it non-violent. We must lose our anger, and instead find empathy for the police for being on the wrong side of history and the wrong side of a genocidal conflict.

Civil disobedience is not the best way to solve problems. It would be far better to have a full-spectrum debate and direct democracy voting on this (and every other) issue. At the very least, our “representatives” should not be legally allowed to ignore recommendations such as the Le Dain Commission or the Senate Report of 2002.

But we aren’t allowed to vote on pot and the courts have dismissed the notion of constitutional protections for harmless pot users/growers/dealers. As well, Vancouver municipal representatives have thrown most of our community under the bus. Civil disobedience is therefore justified and required.

Even when arrested, we continue to win the dignity battle. After the arrest of one cannabis dealer and four of his supporters, the police vanished and the rest of the vendors set up with no problems or interruption.

We maintained our dignity despite a brutal attack by the police. We should all be commended for not going quietly, instead calling “shame” and scaring away the book-phobic people with the guns.

The only two ways to lose this battle are give up and leave, or give in to hate and anger and become violators of human integrity and dignity ourselves.

We must do neither.

We must instead continue to be assertive – without being either passive or aggressive – as we have done for the past 20 years.