Recently, during a visit to our Portland dispensary, a local elected took a long look around our lounge—comfy chairs, members chatting companionably, upbeat jazz playing—and offered one of the best backhanded compliments I’ve ever heard.
“I have to say,” they nodded. “You’ve done a really good job of making marijuana boring.”
An important tactic of cannabis prohibitionists over the last century-plus has been to attach negative stereotypes to those who cultivate, provide, or use the plant. They’re slackers, they’re stupid, they’re stoners—essentially, they’re “THEY” not “Us.” Who else but demons would use or purvey the “Devil’s lettuce”?
Turns out, the answer to that question is: Small business owners. Big business owners. Educators. Politicians, journalists, musicians, lawyers and loggers. Grandmas and grandpas and moms and dads. Your friendly neighbors. Millions of them.
In medical and legal cannabis states across the nation, responsible dispensary operators have demonstrated that reasonably regulated dispensaries can integrate into communities with no increase in crime, and no disruption to neighbors beyond the parking issues that any new restaurant may bring.
Absent federal or state regulation, early cannabis activists (most but by no means all located in California) realized the need for self-regulation, and acted accordingly. Today, our office walls are as likely to sport zoning overlays and electoral maps as a Bob Marley poster. We’ve become de facto, if not de extremis, experts on tax law and banking issues. We’ve advised city commissioners, become city commissioners, and not too long ago, one dispensary executive became mayor. In Colorado, sensible medical dispensary regulations led the way to sensible adult use regulations.
Some say, with great disdain and as if the statement itself resolved the question, that “medical cannabis is only a stalking horse for recreational cannabis.” I would direct these naysayers to the medical cannabis pioneers, who took action against an immoral federal law at great personal risk and without cover of state regulations in hopes to heal themselves or provide succor to their ailing friends. I would have the skeptics ask these early advocates whether this “stalking horse” motif is a true estimate of their motives.
Sadly, as the links above indicate, many of these early advocates of medical cannabis are no longer around to respond to these charges about the words they chose in the heat of an ethical battle.
It’s not sexy, working for reasonable zoning, safety standards, or patient-sensitive tax regulations. It doesn’t take a renegade to operate a storefront facility that brings jobs to the local area, foot traffic to neighboring businesses, and security surpassing that of the average pharmacy. Rather the opposite.
The diligent work of countless medical cannabis pioneers, and of dispensary operators nationwide and here in Maine, means that opponents of legal medical or adult-use cannabis no longer pass the straight face test when they say that having well-regulated cannabusinesses in their neighborhoods will result in higher crime, more teen drug use, or other straw man arguments. The polls reflect this—support for well-regulated medical and adult use cannabis is rising nationwide.
And in the course of all that work, yes, maybe we’ve made marijuana a little bit boring. In fact, making marijuana boring may well be the best way for us to expand its beneficial reach to all responsible adults.
The way I see it, that’s a pretty exciting development.