It's a big year ahead in Colorado, Washington state, Uruguay, and for me here in Mississippi. As of today, Wednesday January 1st, retail stores and licensed pot growers commence legalized business transactions. Each resident of Colorado can grow up to six plants at home already. Tourists can buy and consume.
Colorado is already very attractive for its numerous natural gifts, but legal marijuana is the greatest tourist inducement for the state ever; bigger than snowboarding, skiing, resorts, mountain climbing, you name it. This is a complete game changer, as prohibitionist regimes throughout the states and provinces in Canada and the USA are about to find out.
I take pride that I contributed $15,000 to the signature gathering campaign in Colorado in 2000 to pass its Medical Marijuana Act that year, which passed. That experience prepped the stage for Mason Tvert's SAFER campaigns that legalized marijuana in Denver (2006) and the entire state of Colorado (2012). I also take great pride whenever I see Mason Tvert (now spokesperson for Marijuana Policy project) refers to me as an influence and inspiration in his early campaigns, which were covered in Cannabis Culture magazine.
Washington State also launches its chain of liquor-control board administered marijuana retail outlets by May of this year. This will have the effect of making Washington state - and Seattle particularly - a-hipper-than-thou place for American and Canadian stoners (about 30,000,000 potential marijuana tourists in total from both), which makes legalization a double blow to my home province of British Columbia, as Washington state is the main competitor to B.C. for summer tourists, and Colorado's snow-ski-snowboard mountain resorts are B.C.'s #1 winter tourist competitor.
And now there's Uruguay, with its $1-per-gram pricing; sure to be popular too, as co-operative grow clubs are also permitted, and cafes for smoking. That is sure to make Montevideo, capital of Uruguay, the new Amsterdam of the southern hemisphere, except with prices ten to twenty times cheaper than Nederweed ($12-$20 a gram in Amsterdam vs. $1 a gram in Montevideo). At this time, only residents are permitted to buy up to 40 grams monthly, but it will be impossible to avoid servicing a vastly increased tourist sector.
And I will finally be out to participate in the changes. As of Jan. 1, I have 189 days to go in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, when on July 9 I will be picked up by U.S. marshals and taken to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Louisiana. I'll be there four to five weeks while a temporary passport is produced in conjunction with the Canadian consulate in Atlanta, and then ICE buys me a plane ticket to be sent back to Canada, so I should arrive home around August 15th. It's unjust that I (and any other Canadian in the U.S. BOP system) have to be held for considerable time after my sentence is up, because they really could just produce my passport now and put me on a plane home on July 10.
In any case, I will arrive home and get right to work at the Cannabis Culture Headquarters retail store on West Hastings St. in downtown Vancouver, where I will be meeting people all day long, five days a week. I also plan on speaking throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Newfoundland in September and October. In our 10 years together, Jodie and I never took vacations and have never travelled outside of Canada, so we will be attending the Amsterdam Cannabis Cup this year in late November, and going to Jamaica and Uruguay by February 2015. Unfortunately, I am barred for life from entering the United States - until such a time, I suspect, that marijuana is legalized at the federal level in the USA. I hope some day Jodie and I are able to tour throughout the United States and meet the numerous activists and supporters making changes across the country.
My dear friend Dana Larsen's Sensible BC organization has become the most influential political action group for legalization in Canada, following their provincial marijuana decriminalization referendum campaign in British Columbia. They achieved an admirable 220,000 signatures in the three-month drive that spanned Sept. 7 to Dec. 9, but not enough to compel an initiative (in large part due to the numerous barriers and challenges created by the restrictive referendum process). They will be going for the 350,000 necessary signatures for a decriminalization initiative once more, in 2015, and I will certainly be taking an active part in that campaign.
In October of this year, I will be publishing The Illustrated Canadian Cannabis History, a 104-page comic book of the remarkable history of hemp, cannabis, and activism in Canada from the 1600s to the present day. Written by former Cannabis Culture Magazine editor Dana Larsen and illustrated by Cannabis Culture Magazine artist Art Penn, this project has been ten years in the making, and will be completed this fall, timed deliberately for me to prepare and release for publication! With over a hundred pages of comprehensive and fascinating work content, 24 additional pages of advertising, and full-colour front and back covers, it will be the perfect item for sale at Canadian 4/20 events, Cannabis Day (July 1st) rallies, protests, marches, and to inform politicians, students, media, and the general public. The wholesale price will be such that hemp stores or activists can buy in bulk to hand out. It will be a great publication for promoting our history and culture!
The most important project for Jodie and I begins on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015. That day kicks off our Election 2015 Canada-wide speaking tour, where we will speak at rallies in thirty cities in nine provinces, until Monday Oct. 18, 2015, the day before Canada's federal election. The intent will be to impress upon the Canadian cannabis culture to get out and vote - and vote against the currently-governing prohibitionist Conservative party. It is essential that the Liberal Party of Canada, under leader Justin Trudeau (who explicitly favours legalization of cannabis, along with legalization being very explicit Liberal Party policy), forms the next government, with input from the also laudable Green Party MPs and New Democratic Party MPs. Currently, the polls show that the Liberal Party has a good opportunity to become the government ... if our people show up to vote, which they usually don't, so Jodie and I will have our work cut out for ourselves.
Of course, I have a very personal motivation to do my utmost to defeat the Conservative government. The Conservatives, in the most crass, illegal and unjust manner possible, refused to follow through on the International Transfer of Offenders Act, a bi-lateral treaty that obligates the Canadian government repatriate me if I qualify (and I do) so I may serve my sentence in Canada.
In the time since the Conservatives signed on to the extradition that has had me exiled and imprisoned 2,600 kilometers from home in May 2010, they have gone on to enact mandatory minimum prison sentences for growers and sellers of cannabis. The Conservatives took away the right of medical users to have their own gardens or designated growers. The Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and all his cabinet minister lackeys, demonize the cannabis culture at every opportunity, and me in particular (see my previous blogs). The Conservative Party fundraises vigorously to its base of 100,000 donors by vilifying the Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, myself, and the cannabis culture.
Our obligation, if we are to legalize cannabis by 2016, is to get seriously involved in politics, and join a political party (I would recommend The Liberal Party of Canada, of course) to support those candidates who advocate legalization, and who can win the election in their riding. Give money to that party regularly, perhaps $10, $20, or $50 a month, and let them know why. And if you live in British Columbia, make sure you join Sensible BC to prepare for the campaign when I'm back home.
I am rarin' to go - I hope you are too! See you in August this year, my friends.
This blog first appeared in Cannibis Culture.