NORML's “Cannabis Past, Present and Future” Conference Emphasizes Importance of Voting

Nearly 70 people gathered for the Orange County National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (OC NORML) conference in Laguna Woods on Saturday evening. Hosted in conjunction with NORML’s senior chapter, the night consisted of four speakers who spoke about how cannabis has effected their lives and discussed the ways in which the industry is going to change come 2018.

Books titled Tokin’ Women: A 4,000 Year Herstory of Women and Marijuana and A Parents Guide to Marijuana were scattered across vendor tables. All kinds of people form the industry were in attendance—from local and statewide activists to the CEO of Culinary and Cannabis, to dispensary employees. 

The conference was accented with catered Mexican food, deserts, red wine and beer,  although the dank aroma of cannabis wafted into the conference room from time to time. “Let’s go get baked, come back and then eat some cake,” one woman said to her man during a brief intermission. “Yeah, sounds like a good idea,” he responded.

Elvy Musikka was the first of the speakers to tell her story, while attendees munched on carne asada, Mexican rice and guacamole. Musikka is a 77-year-old marijuana activist who's one of four people receiving pre-rolled joints from the government since 1988 for glaucoma. The program, known as the Compassionate Care Investigational New Drug Program, was created in 1976. Although no new patients are allowed into the program now, there were once 30 people receiving cannabis from the U.S Government before the program ceased in 1992.  “We need to make this legal, California,” Mussika urged the crowd. “You guys were the first ones to start this, don't give it up now!”

The next speaker was Martin Lee, the co-founder of Project CBD, who discussed the science of cannabis and CBD research. The most fascinating moments of his talk came at the end, when he discussed the relationship between CBD and THC. “…We don’t see CBD as being only medical and THC being for recreational use or for those who just want to get high,” Lee said. “That is drug-war talk, and that’s what we’re trying to stop.”

He took questions at the end of his presentation and talked about the relationship between cannabis and dementia, which has become a popular area of study over the last year. He explained that cannabis has helped a lot of seniors diagnosed with dementia by halting the disease from worsening. He also explained that in one study looking at people who use marijuana and those who don’t, Alzheimer’s was more prominent in those who didn’t smoke versus those used the herb regularly. Despite these studies, however, Lee insisted that more science needs to be done before anyone solely relies on cannabis to treat Alzheimer's / dementia. 

The second half of the conference mainly focused on legalization. The third speaker of the evening was Sean Donahoe, the Local Politics Advisor for the California Growers Association. A veteran cannabis lobbyist, he shared his knowledge of the regulations being put together by the new Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation. His discussion also focused on the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA—previously known as the MMRSA) and the common misconceptions about how the MCRSA is going to affect California. One of his main points focused on the fact that local municipalities still have the power to ban cannabis if they wish. Prop 64 isn’t going to over run cities and force them to open storefronts.

The final speaker of the night was Dale Geiringer Ph.D, the Director of California NORML. He discussed how the laws will change should Prop 64 pass on November 8th. One of the topics he examined was what the penalties are for consumption now and how they’ll be January 2018—when Prop 64 goes into full effect (assuming it wins at the ballot box). Getting caught smoking or ingesting cannabis in public currently will count as a possession offense, unless you have a license. Under AUMA, there will still be no consumption in any public place except for licensed establishments. And if you get caught it’s a $100 fine. If you get caught smoking or vaporizing in non-smoking areas you’ll be charged with a $250 fine.

At this point in his presentation, tensions rose in the audience about whether to vote yes or no on Prop. 64. Geiringer stopped speaking for a brief moment, as one audience member yelled at another who spoke out against Prop 64. “This isn’t a debate, so shut up and sit down!” The two stared each other down for a hot second before both of them sat back down in their seats. It's yet another indication of the controversy surrounding Prop. 64. within California's cannabis community—not to mention an important reminder of how important it is to vote on November 8th.

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