09/11/19 Jimi Devine
Century of Lies
Drug War Facts
This week on Century, a conversation with journalist and cannabis connoisseur Jimi Devine, senior staff writer for Cannabis Now and a contributing writer for the LA Weekly.
CENTURY OF LIES
SEPTEMBER 11, 2019
DEAN BECKER: The failure of the 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 McVEY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVey, Editor of drugwarfacts.org, my guest this week is for my money one of the best cannabis journalist in the business, Jimi Devine. Jimi Devine is a journalist he is based in California. First let’s get to this piece that you just got published in the L.A. Weekly.
JIMI DEVINE: Well I think – and this is how I started the story and so I am gonna start here the same way. In the context of this conversation it’s important to remember that these dispensaries – all the research points to that they make the neighborhoods there unsafe, but even with that generalized fact that is now proven, these giant piles of cash that dispensaries are forced to accrue for these quarterly tax payments are just too lucrative of an opportunity for the criminal class in California and that’s what we’re seeing as legalization has – even though the black market is three times larger than the legal market, as legalization has moved on and people feel like they’re getting less and less money for their product, its dark times. A lot of these industry insiders – a lot of people have a deep understanding of how the security aspects of this industry works and then furthermore, these operators are forced to file these in-depth security plans which you’ve got to remember the operator is looking at it, the consultants are looking at it, the city is looking at it – there’s a lot of places in various municipalities where you could see these spring a leak and the actual information getting out if it’s not public already. So that is the context that these operators are working in and now in the recent months the cannabis industry has always been a target, especially during the harvest season which we’re starting to enter in to, “Croptober” as it’s known. But recently these operators have been taking a serious hit – San Jose has had 6 people hit in the last few weeks. Sacramento has had even more. Two operators hit in the same night – one hit for $160,000 plus $1,000 cash tax payment – an actual safe was cracked in that one so that’s far beyond stick up kids getting a big score. But that happened, too, some stick up kids in Oakland scored twenty pounds so this is happening in so many different ways and so many different municipalities. It’s a statewide problem and a lot of people believe it’s a banking access problem as well.
DOUG MCVEY: What are people doing to try and work through this?
JIMI DEVINE: I interviewed L.A. PD for the piece. They’re convinced people are using armored cars to transport their money and stuff like that, but there’s only so much you can do. You have to pay your taxes. If you have merchant services, it’s probably gotten shut down a thousand times and it’s a tough situation. The best thing people can do is contact their congressman to support things like the Moore Act, the Safe for Banking Act. It’s actually interesting – I interviewed the Cannabis Caucus Co-Chair people, Rep. Lee from Oakland, and Rep. Boomanouer from up your way and I asked them how important the banking access issue was right now to what they have going on and in that time I was asking them in context of equity programs – you know, how important is it for the lowest tier operator to have access to the market. But the Cannabis Caucus is all in on banking. Now they’re putting their full weight behind the Moore Act, which they think is better than the Safe Banking Act. Regardless, now there’s this chatter on Capitol Hill that something should pass in October. So in some context, if something were to pass, I am sure the mechanisms would be they’d be able to create the mechanisms they needed rather quickly so in this crime wave, it’s actually interesting that this might be the twilight of these kinds of opportunities for the criminal class because these cash piles are not gonna last much longer it looks like. I doubt too many are thinking ahead like that but it may be a reality of the situation.
DOUG MCVEY: Of course if people could use credit cards at dispensaries that would – I mean yeah, boom. Problem solved.
JIMI DEVINE: Amen – Amen, and then you know then those neighborhood safety statistics go by even further because the only people taking the hit in the neighborhood is the dispensary but per capita, that brings the crime wave up even if the wider crime rate has been dropped by the dispensaries precedence, so once you get rid of that aspect it’s gonna be even wilder to see what the real data looks like from Rand and stuff like that in a few years. L.A. PD tracks burglaries and robberies as separate incidents and I wasn’t able to get the breakdown between retail operators – excuse me, legal retail operators and the widely, most prolific black market in the world in Los Angeles but if you look at the data there are still a ton of people getting robbed at dispensaries because they have to use cash and it just is what it is.
DOUG MCVEY: Well we’ll be following this, we’ve been of course following this the whole time but will continue and hopefully we’ll see some kind of a resolution. I mean, God knows we need it. Let’s talk about some of the other stuff that you’ve been working on that’s a little lighter. You are also a cannabis correspondent as well?
JIMI DEVINE: Yeah. I am one of the main guys in the world covering high end genetics, like elite boutique stuff.
DOUG MCVEY: In fact you’re senior staff reporter.
JIMI DEVINE: I am the Senior Staff Writer at Cannabis Now, and pretty much a weekly contributor at L.A. Weekly, and then sometimes I’ll have appearances on other reputable publications.
DOUG MCVEY: L.A. Weekly is pretty reputable. Not bad.
JIMI DEVINE: It’s a great platform. I love it. It’s been really cool. I can imagine it would be similar to writing about wine in Paris, you know what I mean? I live out with where all the dope weed is and get to cover. With all of the problems that have come with the Adult Use of Marijuana Act implementation. One thing for me as a journalist it’s kind of simplified my life is the way the distribution system works I can find that weed and I know where it’s going all over the state. It’s easier for me to track the best cannabis and tell people – not because I’m getting paid for it, because I am hunting down these strains. I am spending a lot of my own time and money trying to really find these best cuts and then when I eventually find them – the way the systems works now, it’s a lot easier for me to tell people where to go get it as opposed to pre-2016 where dudes are selling pounds, it was a lot harder to track everything. It was a lot harder to pick things because I wanted to make sure I picked things that people would actually have access to and not something that was under two lights in Billie’s closet.
DOUG MCVEY: Friends, just a reminder that I am speaking with Jimi Devine, he is a journalist currently based in California, Franklin Pearce College, New Hampshire – are you still on SSDP’s board?
JIMI DEVINE: No. No. I got off – I was on when I got out here. I moved out here in 2009, right after I graduated. I was off in 2010, and got more involved in more local stuff. Ace of Protests, stuff like that when the big Harborside protest happened in Oakland I was one of the volunteers there helping coordinate traffic. But there was a gap too, as I got my feet wet in the dispensary – I came out here to work in the dispensary. I still work at a dispensary 6 days a week. But as I came out here to get my feet wet in the industry there was a gap before I got my foot in the door in the media. Since I graduated in 2009, so many major newspapers closed in 2008 and now all of these amazing writers are out there looking for work. So how does a kid compete against that? Eventually I got my foot in the door in the podcast world selling advertisements and then the podcast owner and host, David Downs, Leafly’s California Chief, he was working with S.F. Gate at the time and told S.F. Gate, hey, Jimi knows the industry really well – you should bring him onboard. I got my shot and here we are four years later. It’s been a wild ride! But SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy) was dope because it gave me the backbone in covering this industry being 33-years old saying that I’ve done it for 14 years people look at me like what? So that’s always fun. A lot of people now that are new in the industry you always hear about people talking about what they did before cannabis. I went to prom. (LAUGHTER).
DOUG MCVEY: Jimi, I love you and I love your writing, too, I think that you experience as a drug policy reformer and doing all of this stuff really does inform your work and I just love what you do, man. I love what you do.
JIMI DEVINE: That’s great – and it also really helped me build trust with these growers – these legendary killers that didn’t want to talk to anybody. They were like, oh, would you, Jimi – I was a normal kid that – an SSDP kid that moved out here to try and do a right and everyone knows I am nobodies cousin – I am nobodies brother. This whole industry is so deeply interconnected up here. I am a fair set of eyes. I never (BEEP) with anyone, I have had zero complaints about the strain list I have written over the last three years. The only complaint I get is why wasn’t I on it. (LAUGHTER). So I am loving it. I called the Emerald Cup – something on the podium at the Emerald Cup the last two years in a row. I pick five strains every harvest, like, keep an eye out for these. 2017, Rose came in 2nd place, won the Breeder’s Cup. I had it on my list two months earlier, and then last year Cherry Pie came in 3rd place in one of the personal cultivation categories and I had that on my list two months earlier. So I am trying to triple up on the Emerald Cup this year, find that flame. Its nice when you are covering the depressing things like the crime stories, the failure to implement equity programs properly and when you are covering all the roadblocks, as the snowball has rolled down the hill and I am super thankful for how far the snowball is – sometimes there’s these things that kind of irk you and you hope the system can figure it out. So when I have those days when I get to just look at amazing cannabis with the world’s best cultivators – and those are some of the people that treat me the best. Those are the people I hug – like, thank you for what you do! Its awesome. I love covering strains. There are so many amazing people and so many are working their way in to light or are already there and it’s beautiful.
DOUG MCVEY: So what kind of strains should I be looking at – I mean obviously I live in Oregon, so we have a –
JIMI DEVINE: Yeah – you’ve got some good cuts up there for sure. In Oregon you’ve got a couple of options. My first picks if I were up that way; Green Boatie – very fantastic cuts. I forget the name of the dispensary they are affiliated with – but I know it’s available up there. Then Benson Elvis. Benson Elvis was one of the best cultivators in California, they headed north post 2014 to start the process of being a legal cannabis company. They came back to California, crushed it. They had some 24K that was dope, beautiful. Now I am seeing they are back in Oregon again so those guys are fire. But actual cuts – like the genetics that are getting me the most excited right now – I really like the stuff from C Junk Genetics, the Wedding Cakes, the Animal Mints variants – excuse me, the Kush Mints variants, like Animal Mints, the Sunday Driver is super good. Stuff from Canarado – they have a lot of beautiful cuts right now. The Village, of course, Budologists, Cymbiotic Genetics – Cymbiotic Genetics won everything at the last great Chalisse before everything fell apart. The event scene – there’s another tragic conversation, but those are the strains that are really – you get in to some that are really like – there are different strains that are more exciting to smoke as like Diamonds and Sauce than flower. Because when you’re smoking flower you are always looking to get high, that’s the whole point. But when you start talking about the subtle flavor hints and do you want something that’s creamy like a Gelato or something that’s a little bit more vapory – the way it hits your lungs – blah, blah, blah. So it’s a personal preference thing, but I just try and smoke for every tax bracket and tell the truth and so far so good.
DOUG MCVEY: Especially for every tax bracket. I will see these like, ah, this is fantastic! Ah this is the most expensive thing you can find – it’s like, NO. Just no. I have been a value shopper for too long and if I can’t even afford to look at the top shelf – I don’t even wanna – but I would like to know something about the things that I could afford, you know?
JIMI DEVINE: I hear you, this is how I respond to that – and I totally get that. It’s important to remember these boutique growers can only scale up so far and still be boutique. Eventually it’s going to be a supply and demand issue and those guys are in a situation where they can keep raising the price because for those people first in line, it is the flame. I hear you, but there’s a lot of these guys doing slightly less nice things in a wider capacity and that’s cool. It’s really a race to the bottom. Who’s gonna grow the best pot for cheapest, the fastest. That’s who’s gonna win and that’s the biggest spot up your way – isn’t it, like the biggest spot in the state is the one that sells the value ounces, right? That’s what I have heard.
DOUG MCVEY: Well we have a couple of places up here that advertise the $40 ounce and then we have a lot of other ones where the lowest end is more like around 80-100 and even there too, its whatever. I’ll just take whatever smells good, but something that I am not sure who will be the Two Buck Chuck of weed I guess. That’s the big question.
JIMI DEVINE: There’s a lot of people trying right now for sure. I see all these – and it’s interesting to see the varying quality. Like I saw a $15 half ounce up in California that was just so dirt – it was offensive. I wouldn’t even tell someone to cook with it (LAUGHTER) But on a more – let me state my fav list, I meant to say a couple more strains that I know I need to make sure I give proper credit to –
DOUG MCVEY: Please.
JIMI DEVINE: Big strains this summer for me; Gelanaid, Gelato 41 by Connected crossed with Lemon Tree – fantastic! That was so good! Alien Labs Area 41, that’s the Gelato 41 crossed with their old school L.A., OG Kush cut that’s really dope. Mendo Brathis, gassy phenotypes and MendoBreath are always like super special for me. The Cherry Pie that I already mentioned – super special for me and Skittles, whenever you can get your hands on the real Skittles from Mendocino – there’s a couple of people in the Bay Area that do it well, particular IC Collective and Craft Cannabis, those are probably the two best versions that I have seen outside of Mendocino – yeah, whenever you can get your hands on that, that’s the hype. It’s hard to grow, its super velvety, its connoisseur weed that has to be grown by a connoisseur person that wants to smoke it themselves, because that’s the only way it’s going to be done. When you get it, it’s a beautiful thing and its super exciting whenever you see these new phenotypes come down from these mythical strains and it takes a couple of years for these things to propagate enough for the masses to really see them – get a little wind in their sails. So you will hear about the new seed drop and if you’re lucky a couple of years later maybe it will be available on shelves. Right now you see The Mack, The Miracle Alien Cookies. It’s been hyped for a couple of years now. But now you’re seeing it get to real production levels, blah, blah, blah and it’s so great.
DOUG MCVEY: Interesting. Some very cool stuff. Again, folks we are speaking to journalist and cannabis connoisseur, Jimi Devine, based down there in California, writing for L.A. Weekly, writing for is it Cannabis Now?
JIMI DEVINE: Yep.
DOUG MCVEY: Cannabis Now. I met him back when he was with Students for Sensible Drug Policy.
JIMI DEVINE: I think we met in ’06 at Georgetown and then we probably chatter at the Freedom Rally the year after because I was - -
DOUG MCVEY: Would have done that and then I came up to Franklin Pearce for a regional conference that you guys sponsored.
JIMI DEVINE: Yeah! That was ridiculous – oh man, we had so much fun.
DOUG MCVEY: Yeah, that was fun. First time I had ever been up in New Hampshire and it really was a beautiful area. I am from the Midwest so –
JIMI DEVINE: It was primary season, too. So that made it fun. It was just at the end – the conference ended up happening right after the New Hampshire Primary so my whole time in college was the build up to the ’08 election and learning journalism in that area at that time was super fun.
DOUG MCVEY: Brilliant stuff. Hey, you mentioned the election back then, I gotta ask you – what do you think we’re looking at for this circus coming up next year?
JIMI DEVINE: Full disclosure, I would work the door at Bernie Sanders’ in San Francisco, so I am fairly biased on this but weed wise, I think the biggest – I think Florida is going to legalize. I think now that they have the whole team back together because first what happened was the medical – I am so glad – because I cover the whole country so sometimes I am bad with names, John Morgan, right?
DOUG MCVEY: John Morgan – that’s the one.
JIMI DEVINE: Yes, that’s the one. Thank God. So the way the Florida legalization started was some of John Morgan’s homies that he worked with on medical were like let’s get this conversation going and started working on language a couple of years ago so on and so forth and they got their petitions. They hit that threshold that requires the Florida Supreme Court to take a look at the petition and not long after that, John came on board. The ball was already rolling. There were saying if they could make it over a few more thresholds and the industry saw that it was real why wouldn’t they back it? It’s the people – it’s the same people that helped them open the dispensaries. But John – the figure head of medical marijuana – the face of medical marijuana in Florida came onboard and that changed everything. A lot of people in Florida when they listen to John speak they feel that they are listening to a public servant speak even though he is a private practice lawyer. You can hear the conviction in his voice when he speaks about the patients. With John coming onboard, it changed the game in Florida so 2020 legalization for Florida looks like it’s going to be serious. There is other stuff going on, but that’s the one I think is going to make the most waves.
DOUG MCVEY: While we still have a few minutes – vape carts. Oil – all this stuff happening. What are you seeing, what are you hearing down there in Cali – how are consumers reacting as far as these illnesses?
JIMI DEVINE: It’s crazy because the underground sesh team – because now we’re at 6 fatalities as of today. Wild, wild. Let me preface this with the just coverage – the wider media coverage. I think the wider media coverage has not separated the legal market enough from what’s happening with these people supposedly using honey cut, which allegedly contains Vitamin E, but that’s generally what people are saying is happening. These producers are getting thrown under the bus with these you gotta remember there was a time just like it took time for the wind to get in the sails of those strains I mentioned, it took time for people to find out what was happening with this honey cut stuff. I am sure there are some producers out there that thought there were just gonna stretch their product – make an extra buck, had no ill will or intention to make anybody sick. Once word got out what was happening they stopped. It is those people. I worry about the people who heard about it and didn’t stop doing it. You know what I mean? Now there are at this wave of national media. You turn on CNN at 8:30 AM, and it’s about the vape crisis. I would imagine those black market producers that were messing around in the dirtiest of stuff – what’s gonna happen to these people? We don’t know. There might be a crime bill about this, you know? Heads are going to roll for this for sure – for sure. It’s crazy to see how heinous – somewhere between stupidity and heinousness. It’s just so sad. That’s where it all falls – every time somebody poured honey cut in to their product to make more of it to stretch – to keep the viscosity and not lose any THC value – it fell somewhere between being an idiot and being an asshole – somewhere in the middle.
DOUG MCVEY: The Washington Post is reporting today that the State of New York is subpoenaing three different companies, Honey Cut Labs of Santa Monica for its’ Honey Cut diluting agent. Floraplex Terpenes in Ipslany, Michigan for its Uber Thick agent and the other one is Mass Terpenes in Amherst, Mass, for its Pure Diluent.
JIMI DEVINE: Yeah. It was wild because so much stuff happened on Friday. Friday was a big day for this. The CDC dropped an announcement. They released a preliminary results of their investigation that’s been going on since August 1st and found there was no infectious diseases associated with it so it must be from being exposed to chemicals. On the same afternoon, the LA County Health Department announced the first death in Los Angeles, and it seems like someone is dropping every day since. It’s wild. I feel like every news cycle over the last week it just feels like there’s another one and it’s wild. I spoke to some of the world’s best cartridge – legal cartridge manufacturers, I spoke for a piece for LA Weekly that hasn’t dropped yet. I spoke with Raw Garden, I spoke with Field – Field won the Emerald Cup. Field won the Secret Cup. Field won the Cannabis Cup. If it’s a bad PR situation for that guy, it’s a PR situation for everyone if the most legit names are being hit by this than how can the more middle of the pack people not be, you know.
DOUG MCVEY: Again, it’s a sad situation and condolences to all of the families and friends of those who’ve died or been affected by all of this.
JIMI DEVINE: They are putting a lot of resources in to it. The FDA, CDC, everyone is working very hard with local officials to try and figure it out. But like I said, now that the word is out we can only hope that these illicit operators are not using this stuff anymore. It’s sad and it’s crazy because within the regulated operators and these illicit operators there’s a third group of underground, illicit operators that knew what they were doing and still know what they are doing but they just had the bar set too high for them in California. It was just a little bit out of their reach so they took their skillset that would be totally acceptable in the regulated market that they couldn’t afford to get in to to the underground market and those other guys that are making underground cartridges but they are safe – God, those guys. Those guys that’s who’s having the most sleepless nights for sure!
DOUG MCVEY: Well hey, we’re coming up to the end of the show. Again folks, I have been speaking with Jimi Devine, journalist in California, writer with Cannabis Now, LA Weekly, former SSDP (Students for Sensible Drug Policy), activist, chapter leader, board member and a good friend and a great writer. Give folks your social media so they can follow you. Any website that they should know about.
JIMI DEVINE: For sure! @jimidevine, jimidevine.com. I am pretty active on Instagram, too; thejimidevine. Otherwise, it’s Jimi Devine on everything. Shout out to you, Doug. Thanks for having me. Super fun time. I always love talking shop.
DOUG MCVEY: Jimi, you take care, man. I will just keep on looking for your bi-line.
JIMI DEVINE: Thank you, Sir. Appreciate you! I ran into so many different people I tell the people that really want to creep on me, my Muckrack page is good, cuz it gets everyone. (LAUGHTER)
DOUG MCVEY: I subscribe to Muckrack, so I will – of course!
JIMI DEVINE: That’s the spirit – thank you again and keep crushing with the show.
DOUG MCVEY: Alright, brother. Thank you. Well folks, that’s it for this week. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies. I’ve been your host, Doug McVey, Editor of drugwarfacts.org. The Executive Producer of the Drug Truth Network is Dean Becker. Drug Truth Network programs are available by podcast the URL’s to subscribe are on the network homepage at drugtruth.net. The Drug Truth Network has a Facebook page, please give it a like. Drug War Facts has a Facebook page, too. Give it a like, share it with friends. Remember, knowledge is power.
You can follow me o Twitter; @dougmcvey and of course, at drugpolicyfacts. We’ll be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed war on drugs. This is Doug McVey saying, so long.
For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVey asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition, the Century of Lies. Drug Truth Network programs are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.