08/02/15 Doug McVay

Century of Lies

This week coverage of the Cannabis Creative Conference featuring interviews with Aaron Smith of the National Cannabis Industry Association, Morgan and Twice Baked In Washington from the Marijuana Business Association, and some words from Congressman Earl Blumenauer.

Audio file


AUGUST 2, 2015


DEAN BECKER: The failure of drug war is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization. Legalization. The end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century Of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I'm your host, Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org. Century of Lies is a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. Drug Truth Network programming comes to you through the support of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy, from public radio stations, and from listeners like you. And now, on with the show.

Earlier this week I attended the Cannabis Creative Conference in Portland, Oregon. Here's the opening address, a videotaped message from Congressman Earl Blumenauer:

EARL BLUMENAUER: Good morning. Welcome to the first ever Cannabis Creative Conference. I'm sorry I won't be able to join you today. I truly wish I could be back home for this exciting event. I'm pleased to welcome my fellow Oregonians, as well as business people from Colorado, Washington, and Nevada. Thank you for all your hard work to help build and professionalize this industry.

Oregon's always been ahead of the federal government on marijuana policy. We were the first state to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, one of the first states to pass medical marijuana, and now again, we're one of the first to move ahead with the legalization of adult use.

I was able to vote to decriminalize marijuana back in the 70s, when I was a young legislator. As more and more states follow Oregon's lead, and legalize marijuana, one thing is absolutely certain: this would all be much easier without the confusing patchwork of federal and state laws that trap business people and state regulators in the middle.

The fact that thousands of state regulated marijuana businesses across America are being forced to do their business on an all-cash basis is perhaps the best example of this confused policy. I'm working here in Congress to remove the failed federal prohibition of marijuana once and for all, and to support legislation to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana at the federal level.

Until that happens, we must make incremental changes that allow marijuana businesses that are state-legal to thrive. I've introduced legislation to repeal a draconian provision in the tax code, 280e, that prevents state-legal marijuana businesses from deducting their business expenses. That's insane. This provision results in punitive rates of taxation that are two to four times higher than for any other ordinary business.

I also strongly support legislation that will ensure that marijuana businesses, who are operating in compliance with state law, do not have to operate as cash-only. Carrying around huge amounts of cash, necessary to run a business, only invites theft, and violence, to say nothing of money laundering and tax evasion.

Unfair and unequal treatment of marijuana businesses under the law incents evasion, punishes the many good actors who are working to build this emerging state-legal industry in a safe and sensible way. It is you all that I am truly inspired by, who are determined to make this industry grow and to thrive.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Representative Earl Blumenauer, the Oregon Democrat who's helping lead the fight in Congress to legalize and regulate marijuana. He videotaped that address for the opening session of the Cannabis Creative Conference in Portland, Oregon, on July 28th.

This was the first ever Cannabis Creative Conference, basically it was yet another trade show. There are a lot of trade shows for the marijuana industry these days. This was the second in the city of Portland so far this year, there are three more coming up in the next few months just here in Portland. There have been trade shows and business conferences in other cities around the state this year as well, and of course around the nation.

On one hand, this is a sign of growth, of a healthy new industry. On the other hand, how many of these things can the industry support? I mean, one or two of them have free admission, but others charge several hundred dollars to attend. Booth space for vendors and businesses costs thousands -- and that's without including things like travel, and lodging, and food, and of course promotional materials. They all add up.

The Cannabis Creative Conference did have good content, several very good speakers and presentations, most of which were geared to businesses. Like most of the other business and trade shows in the cannabis industry, this was put on by a small privately held business, an LLC as they're called. The company is run by an event planner whose linked in page shows that she has a lot of experience in the wedding industry, this is her first foray into the cannabis industry.

This kind of thing is a real change for me. I'm all about policy, public health, criminal justice, the politics of drugs and reform. I was briefly in the cannabis industry, spent a couple of years in a medical marijuana business, but it was utterly unsatisfying. I felt the pull the policy world and I was happy to jump back in.

So you'd think that I'd have very little interest in a trade show, and, well, you'd be half right. I couldn't be about interviewing people about their gadgets, or the professional services they're providing to these businesses. I don't get excited by the investors. The politics of business, on the other hand, the policy implications and the activism involved in growing a new industry that's still illegal in the eyes of the federal government – well now, that stuff is interesting, and it is important work.

I sat down for a short conversation with Aaron Smith, the executive director of the national cannabis industry association, to talk about the marijuana industry and NCIA's work. He had just finished delivering a keynote address to the attendees, reminding them that as people involved in the legal marijuana industry, they were – whether they knew it or not, whether they liked it or not – they were now involved in drug policy and marijuana law reform. Let's listen to that interview.

DOUG MCVAY: Aaron, how are you doing, sir?

AARON SMITH: Great. It's a good time to be involved in the movement to reform our marijuana laws, and Oregon is the place to be right now, so, great to be here.

DOUG MCVAY: You have seen this industry just grow by leaps and bounds, your organization has done a lot to make that happen and to make it possible for that to happen. I mean, you're not just promoting businesses as such, you're also promoting the kind of political change that's necessary for these businesses to exist. Tell me about some of the, tell me about some of the stuff you have going now.

AARON SMITH: Yeah, NCIA is a trade association, represents the interests of businesses in the cannabis industry who, really the biggest challenge right now is federal law, and getting federal law to come into alignment with state's like Oregon and Washington that have, you know, rationalized marijuana policy. One of the big issues for all of the businesses in the industry is that there's a lack of access to banking services, just not, not just financing, but simple ability to, you know, put your cash into a safe checking account.

And so, NCIA is working with Congress and the Department of Treasury to change the banking regulations so that state-legal businesses can have access to checking accounts and depository services. Just last week, we saw the Senate Committee on Financial Services pass an amendment, a budgetary amendment, that would disallow the Treasury Department from sanctioning banks that do business with our industry, and that was just one step. There's a lot of work to do on this, but that's something that is near and dear to our hearts.

DOUG MCVAY: Now am I right in remembering that that is the first time that a Senate committee has actually passed one of these amendments. I know that we've gotten them on the floor before, but that that's the first time that a Senate committee has actually done that?

AARON SMITH: Yeah. As a movement, for years we've really been focusing on the House, and, you know, we've had the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment for about 12 years now that we've, you know, been advocating for on the House of Representatives side, and it was only this year that the Senate started taking up substantive marijuana reform bills. And that's really, you know, it shows how seriously this is being taken at higher levels of power in DC.

So the Senate is looking at banking reform as well as tax reform, which is another issue that there's unfair provisions of the tax code that affect our industry, and also a bill called the CARERS Act, which is medical marijuana legislation, which was really in my opinion the first real marijuana bill, marijuana reform bill, that the Senate has taken up in its history.

DOUG MCVAY: Gillibrand and Booker of course, on the east coast, and --

AARON SMITH: And Rand Paul.

DOUG MCVAY: And Rand Paul. Out here, Senator Merkley has been a leader, Patty Murray was his co-sponsor on that amendment on the appropriations financial services bill. We're approaching the, we're fast approaching 2016, and the election. How do you see the industry, what kind of part do you see the industry playing in the 2016 elections?

AARON SMITH: Well, you know, I think it's important for everybody who is in this industry, whether they're in it because they want to change the world, or they're in it because they want to make a buck, it's really important that the industry get politically engaged. And, as we're moving into the presidential election, that means, you know, showing up to these town hall meetings, giving money to candidates that support our issues, and that, you know, raises eyebrows.

Here in Oregon, a couple of months ago, there was a fundraiser for Congressman Earl Blumenauer that raised I think $160,000. That's huge, and you better believe that Hillary Clinton saw that, the folks in the political realm all saw that, because they salivate at the opportunity to raise money for their campaigns. So, I think that, like Rand Paul, who came out to one of our events to raise money from the industry. That also raised eyebrows. And I hope other candidates, from both the Democratic and the Republican side, see the value that the industry has to help not just fund their campaigns but also of course help drive economic activity in this country.

And I think that, you know, no matter who wins the nomination on either side, they will be well advised to not, you know, be saber-rattling against marijuana like it's the 1950s again. You know, Governor Christie said some ridiculous statements, and that's not going to help him, and they'll, you know, they see the same polls we see, and they see that this is not an issue -- this is issue that they can use to actually, you know, bring in new younger voters, who are otherwise disenchanted with politics.

DOUG MCVAY: Let's turn for a moment to the practical side, the people side. What kind of advice would you give to people who are considering getting into the cannabis industry, starting a business or just becoming a part of the industry?

AARON SMITH: Well, I mean, there's a lot of excitement around cannabis now, and people are rushing in from all corners of the country to get involved in cannabis, which is great, and this is a measure of the success of this movement. But it's absolutely vital that people know that this isn't easy. If you're in to make fast money, go somewhere else, because this is a very highly regulated industry, and not to mention still illegal under federal law.

And so, I think that unless you're getting involved because you want to change the world, and change these draconian laws that are still putting people behind bars for marijuana, you should look elsewhere. But the people that are getting involved in this industry that are successful are doing it as a form of political activism, and I think that that's, you know, this is a great industry, and very exciting to be involved in, but anybody getting involved should come into it knowing that this is actually a political movement, not just another business opportunity.

DOUG MCVAY: Aaron, you are obviously a really busy guy and I'm very grateful to you for your time. You're also -- I admire the heck out of you and the work that you're doing, and I just want to thank you, say it on the record. Do you have any closing thoughts for the listeners, and where will people be able to find out more about the National Cannabis Industry Association?

AARON SMITH: Well thank you, Doug, for all your work, and this industry would not exist if not for advocates like yourself, who have, you know, worked tirelessly to change laws across this country, so that these business opportunities could exist. And, you know, this is, the industry is just at the spearhead of a long, you know, decades-long fight to rationalize our marijuana laws and allow people to have ownership over their bodies and make choices for themselves.

So with that, you can find us at TheCannabisIndustry.org, and we're the National Cannabis Industry Association, which is the national trade organization representing legitimate and responsible cannabis businesses.

DOUG MCVAY: That was an interview I got earlier this week with my good friend Aaron Smith. He's the Executive Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association. This is Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network. I'm your host, Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

There are several groups working to organize businesses and grow the marijuana industry, many of which were present at the Cannabis Creative Conference. One of those groups is the Marijuana Business Association, or MJBA. I spoke with Morgan from MJBA's Women's Alliance, to find out more about their efforts.

MORGAN: The Marijuana Business Association was established right after the turn of legalization in Washington state. I came in with experience as a grower, and my CEO Dave Rheins, the founder of MJBA, is a publishing pro from way back, from Rolling Stone and Spin magazine, and together we just created an amazing network of businesses. There's a lot of people involved in the back end, and we are really passionate about business in this cannabis industry.

DOUG MCVAY: How's the conference, of course it's only the first day, I suppose. You had a mixer last night, though, wish I could have made it. How's the, how have you found the reception down here, how have people received your organization?

MORGAN: It's been fantastic. I mean, it's so amazing because people really do need an association. They need to know where to go, where to find information, what's going on legally, what's going on professionally, and what's, what are the trends, what are people seeing. And so, as an association, just like a chamber of commerce, we have new members coming and checking it out. What do you do? How, what is your business and how can we help you?

As a trade organization, we can support you through information, networking, and opportunity through our educational events and job fairs and panels and seminars. We bring the best the industry has to offer. In Washington, Oregon, and Colorado so far, we're there every single month, and we'll be branching out into all of the other states as they also become legal.

DOUG MCVAY: Now, the Women's Alliance. Please tell me more about that.

MORGAN: Oh my gosh. Now is the best time in history for women to get involved in cannabis, in this emerging industry women are finding their power. They're finding their voice. They're finding that there are no limits to what we can and cannot do. And the Women's Alliance, when we get together, it's powerful, it is the most amazing effect of validation, really. We get together and we validate that we're on our paths, that we're -- that if we need any correction in our path, a sister will be there to help you and support you.

We felt, as a grower I was so alone in the industry, going, Man, there's a whole lot of dudes around, you know, and they're all telling me that their weed is great, and I'm like, have you even looked at mine? Would you like to, you know, let's share. But when I found other women growers, they're proud, and they're not competitive in like who's is best, but who's is beautiful? And let's really take a look at the products and services as an industry, and work together.

I mean, it's pretty powerful, I'm so impressed with these women, they inspire me every single day. Diane Goldstein from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and she's one of my heroes, you know. And for us to have examples of women to look up to, who are making change, it's really powerful. I want to be one of those women too.

DOUG MCVAY: Well, you are. Now, do you have state chapters as well as the national organization?

MORGAN: We are a national organization with currently presence in Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, but we're looking at Alaska, Nevada, California. We're really hoping that California turns legal in 2016, I think that's just when all the states may eventually get wind that this is a viable, sustainable economy that really needs to be brought into the light.

DOUG MCVAY: You got into this because you were doing growing, and now you're a spokesperson for the industry. What kind of advice would you have for people who are looking at getting involved in, in either the politics or the business side?

MORGAN: Find a group. Look at your local calendars or meet-ups. Search for cannabis. See what events are happening in your community. Go out. Because the only way that you're going to get information is to hang with the crowd. It's not just an industry, it's a lifestyle. So many of us that have been in the industry, you know, we take it for granted, you know, but there's so much education that has to happen.

There's just, I mean, people don't understand the differences, the health benefits of cannabis, there are so many stupid reasons that we're locking people up, especially our brothers and sisters of color. It's criminal, what they're doing to them. So I believe that women are a huge key to that, that we have the power to change the hearts and minds of so many people in this country when it comes to cannabis.

DOUG MCVAY: Conferences, conventions, trade shows like this, are -- they're becoming ubiquitous.

MORGAN: Everywhere.

DOUG MCVAY: There are five in the city of Portland this year that I know of, possibly there will be a couple more, and then there are the other kinds of events. How useful do you find these to be?

MORGAN: I think the, it depends on the conference itself. Who's the target market? Are we looking at consumers, or are we looking at business-to-business conventions? Right now, we're, I think Washington and Colorado and Oregon are getting tired. They're tired of spending $1,500 to $2000 on exhibitor space and maybe getting a 500-attendee return, you know? What's the bang for the buck.

Right now, there's a lot of disgruntled companies out there going, I can't do another trade show, I'm just exhausted. So what other opportunities are there for me to grow my business? I encourage people to join a trade association. Marijuana Business Association meets on a regular basis, every single month in those three states that I mentioned before, you get to be on stage, your brand is the one that gets to be promoted to our other members. We offer advertising, we offer affinity programs, if you have an offer that you only want to market to, let us help you do that. You know?

Everybody should just find somebody to join, a group to participate in, because through that, that's where you're going to learn what group you want to be with, you know, throughout your career. Maybe it's not the industry for you, I think it is, I think everybody should get into cannabis for one reason or another, but yeah, just get involved. Find out who's in the cannabis industry right now and hang out with them, follow them around in the industry.

DOUG MCVAY: I know you're -- you've got a booth to get back to and they are probably going to be letting out the last panel in a minute so it's going to get busy over there. But before I do let you go, I want to know where people can find out more about MJBA, and about the Women's Alliance, and also if you have any closing thoughts for our listeners.

MORGAN: Great, well, thank you. I would just encourage everybody to get along. And you can find us at the MJBA.net, and also the MJBA Women's Alliance has its own meet-up group, and we're also on Facebook. So join us, jump in. We also have a fantastic Marijuana Channel One on Youtube. Video is huge, and we promote all of our, really turning up the volume as far as promoting the industry through our video channels on Youtube. It's a huge market and I think that's where we're going to end up going.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Morgan from the Marijuana Business Association's Women's Alliance, I spoke with her at the Cannabis Creative Conference last week here in Portland, Oregon. You're listening to Century Of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network for the Pacifica Foundation Radio Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

I was fortunate enough to run into a good friend while I was at the Cannabis Creative Conference. She's known as Twice Baked In Washington, she's a health and wellness coach who lives and works in Washington state. She's also a medical cannabis patient and activist. We talked about cannabis, nutrition, health, and also about the new rules for social and medical marijuana in Washington state and how they're affecting patients.

TWICEBAKED: I think in general, the big thing that I do is, I'm very much about using cannabis for wellness. And so, I do that in my -- I practice that in my own life as a cannabis patient. I juice cannabis, and I use it in all these other ways than I'm normally seeing online. I'm normally seeing people taking bong hits, and cannabis is so much more than that to me, so I want to not only share that with the world, but sort of educate people on a spectrum of, like, not just people that are using it recreationally but other people that would just like to use it to benefit their health, on this bigger scale of wellness rather than just trying to get well. You know, it's bigger than that.

So, I'm sharing that with the world through my blog, Twice Baked In Washington, and I'm having just kind of fun, going, it's taking me places. MJBA caught up with me and they like what I'm doing, so now my platform got a little bigger and I can share it with even more people, which is really exciting for me. Because my passion really is about health and wellness, so -- and that's my background as well, so being able to marry the two together, of wellness and cannabis, and sharing that with other people, and inspiring people that use cannabis with another look at it, not just for having fun, it's for getting healthy.

DOUG MCVAY: Tell me some more about the health aspect, because I've seen some of your stuff on Facebook, I've checked your blog, you do have quite a lot of good stuff in there. You're a coach.

TWICEBAKED: I am. I'm a holistic health coach, and I do a lot of cannabis juicing, so it's a unique way of using it. I don't, with the juicing you're using it raw, you don't heat it, and you're able to consume a lot more of it, because it doesn't make you high. So, the benefits of that are, you're consuming CBD-A, and THC-A, and all these terpenes in their whole form, and phytocannabinoids, and it's wonderful for inflammation, it reduces the amount of migraines that I have, it allows me to just sort of thrive on another level than if I was just smoking it, per se.

DOUG MCVAY: Tell me something about juicing, because that is a method of using that I have absolutely no familiarity with, aside from what I've seen.

TWICEBAKED: Well, it requires a lot of product for one, a lot of either buds or leaves, and if you're not growing it yourself, you better know somebody who does because, it does, it really does. Let's say, 10 ounces of cannabis will give you about 8 ounces of juice, which is not really that much, right? It's not that much. Yeah.

DOUG MCVAY: Ten ounces of cannabis leaf or bud --

TWICEBAKED: Will give you a couple of ounces. Let's say it's one to one, even, that's still only ten ounces, which will last you, let's say you take three a day, couple days. And you don't really want it to last more than three days, so, the challenge is getting enough product. If you don't grow it yourself, and then following through and juicing it and actually taking it regularly, because that's the key, to regularly take it. Because you don't feel the effects until it sort of builds up in your system, or it has a few days to work.

DOUG MCVAY: Ten ounces. That's .... Yeah.

TWICEBAKED: Let's put that another way. One gram usually puts out one milliliter, for the metrics out there. If that makes any sense. So it's not much, it's not much, you need a lot of product, and that is a major challenge in using it for this particular, this way. So, that's one thing I always do. If I didn't have a collective that I was involved with, I wouldn't be able to use it to juice it, for sure.

DOUG MCVAY: Tell me -- okeh, so, how are things going up in Washington? I haven't been up there for a while, I know that they just -- they passed laws which have just gone into effect. What's it like up there?

TWICEBAKED: Things are kind of interesting up there. And actually, the mood for myself has kind of been, let's take a step back and think about what we're allowed to do, because the rules did just change. So, as a patient, where I could have before carried 24 ounces on me, now I can only have three. Which is a -- like I just said, three ounces doesn't give you that much juice, so looking at it from that perspective is an interesting way to look at it.

And so, it really does, it's really effecting a lot of patients, even just from that aspect. The collectives that we have to grow our farms on are being changed as well, from having 15 per patient that we're allowed to grow to having 15 per piece of property. So that's, I think that goes into effect next July, but it's still, like everybody's having to figure out what to do here, because things are changing so much for patients. They're trying to infiltrate the cannabis medical market with the recreational market, and it's definitely causing challenges for the people who use it medically.

DOUG MCVAY: Twice Baked In Washington. Where would people find your blog?

TWICEBAKED: My blog is TwiceBakedInWashington.com, and you can also find me on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook -- oh I just said Facebook. Youtube Marijuana Channel One. Absolutely.

DOUG MCVAY: That was an interview I had with Twice Baked In Washington, a medical marijuana activist and patient from Seattle, Washington.

And finally: Hempfest is scheduled for August 14th, 15th, and 16th this year. You can get the schedule and plenty more information about Hempfest at their website, HempFest.org. I hope to see you there.

And that's really all the time we have today. Thank you for listening. This is Century of Lies, a production of the Drug Truth Network. I'm your host Doug McVay, editor of DrugWarFacts.org.

Recordings of this show and past shows are available for free download from the website DrugTruth.net. By the way, as we close out the program I want to mention that we're trying out a new outro, some new theme music for the show, it's written by the executive producer of the Drug Truth Network, Dean Becker, and performed by his band Cultural Baggage. Hope you like it.

We'll be back next week with more news and commentary on the drug war and this Century Of Lies. For now, for the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay saying so long. So long!

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay, asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition: the century of lies. Drug Truth Network programs archived at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy.