On Tuesday, Anaheim Police Chief Raul Quezada moderated a marijuana legalization workshop, in which seven panelists took on the impacts of California's Proposition 64, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA). During the two-hour seminar, however, it became apparent that it was going to be less an informative discussion and more a laughable scare session out of the eternally quotable Reefer Madness.
In retrospect, this attempt at “education” shouldn't have been a surprise—Quezada was a key figure in Anaheim’s dispensary shut down back in 2015. But still: when only one of the seven panelists was pro-legalization, Quezada's show was force-fed propaganda. He hosted two hours of people darkly warning of all the evils coming California's way if voters legalize weed—this must've been how a Women's Christian Temperance Union revival must've gone back in the 1910s. You know this was a meeting for the olds when the only other reporter in attendance was Orange County Register columnist David Whiting, who never met a cop badge he didn't want to lick, or a topic he didn't immediately turn into something that his middle-aged gabacho readers could freak out about and shake their fist at modernity over.
One idea that came up several times was that anecdotal evidence doesn’t suffice for the lack of scientific data on long-term marijuana use. “The problem with Big Marijuana and vertical integration,” said Lauren Michaels, the legislative affairs manager for the California Police Chiefs Association, “is that we don't have conclusive studies on what regular marijuana use does to someones health in the long term.” Michaels explained that 20 percent of the using market accounts for 80 percent of sales and those people, according to her Powerpoint presentation, use marijuana “three to four times a day. “
(Has Michaels ever talked to Cheech and Chong? Cheech is now one of the most prominent Chicano art collectors in the country; Chong isn't dead, folks, no matter what Facebook and Twitter told you)
Growing was another topic of concern. Along with the excessive use of water and electricity, pesticide application was another point mentioned by multiple panelists. Jason Nordhorn, of the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, pointed out that people up north have made it known that pesticide ingestion via weed is a major concern. “This is an issue about consumer safety,” Nordhorn said. “Whether you’re applying it or consuming it—however those pesticides are being applied, those chemicals don’t leave your body and people are beginning to realize that pesticides are used in nearly every grow.”
(Like pesticides, hormones, and other nasty chemicals aren't used in modern-day agriculture? Someone take Nordhorn to the Central Valley, for chrissakes)
John Jackson, Police Chief of Greenwood Villiage in Colorado, pointed out that Prop 64 makes impossible promises, like “Incapacitating the black market and move marijuana purchases into a legal structure with strict safeguards against children accessing it.” Although Colorado only legalized cannabis a little more than a year and a half ago—which probably isn’t enough time to determine the big picture—he says that the illegal sale of marijuana in Colorado hasn’t stopped.
(Someone tell him about the good ol' boys in Kentucky continuing to make moonshine nearly a century after the passage of the Volstead Act).
He read Section 2, Part C of Prop 64, which states that the revenue earned from taxes will go to public health programs to educate youth in order to prevent and treat serious substance abuse. Part C states that the revenue will also go toward training local law enforcement to carry out the new law with a focus on DUI enforcement. Without directly saying that he thinks this section of AUMA is bullshit, he stated that in Colorado, there’s been a spike in youth hospitalizations due to edibles. He also stated that his department has dealt with more stoned drivers and THC-related traffic fatalities since marijuana was legalized.
(Jackson's obviously a Coor's guy)
And it went on like this. You know the odds were stacked against pro-legalization voices when during the Q&A, an ex-veteran asked the panel if cannabis is really an effective treatment for PTSD as opposed to Prozac, and other prescriptions. Nate Bradley, the Executive Director of the California Cannabis Industry Association—the only pro-legalization panelist—explained that cannabis is excellent for PTSD treatment. Diagnosed with complex PTSD, cannabis relieved Bradley from having to take nine different pills a day, he explained.
But then Ben Cort, an addiction specialist from Colorado on the panel, jumped in and said that he, too, was diagnosed with PTSD and that his doctor, along with many doctors he works with, believe marijuana makes PTSD worse. “Cannabis is contra-indicated for use of PTSD. That means that the medical science tells you that there’s a rule that it typically makes things worse… There are exceptions to the rule, and I would never presume to tell somebody that it doesn’t work the way you said it does,” Cort said, as he looked over toward Bradley.
“Cannabis was one of my doctors first recommendations, and he has 38 years of experience as a psychiatrist specializing in addiction medicine,” Bradley shot back. “I guess it’s kind of give and take, but I have friends in nursing and medical school who’ve called me over the last six months saying that they’ve seen cannabis in their science and psychology textbooks as methods of treatment for PTSD and other illnesses.”
This was the only time the discussion got heated. Cort agressively interrupted, Bradley saying that it was contra-indicated, but Bradley continued, arguing that cannabis with different levels of THC and CBD do help many illnesses, including PTSD. Cort: you were tilting, man.
But perhaps the most troubling part of the workshop was when Cort addressed the 60-person audience. Although his presentation was reminiscent of Dr. Kevin Sabet’s reefer madness, his passion wasn’t the problem. The issue was when he asked how many people in the room had read Prop 64…and I was the only one who raised my hand.
The sad reality is that most of California probably hasn’t read Prop 64, which likely means people are forming opinions based on what’s being said, rather than doing research. The point of going to conferences is to increase your understanding of a topic—not have someone tell you what to believe. And anti-marijuana workshops like Quezada's fête, can be dangerous (and terrifying) to the uninformed. Although the workshop could've included more pro-marijuana panelists, that's not the issue. The problem is that it’s easy to eat up the propaganda if you don’t do your homework prior to a conference; it's like going to class not having done the homework!
That said…Chief Quezada? Stick to reforming your kill-happy department instead of lecturing people about something that nets y'all millions in funding, m'kay?