Pro-pot, progressive-minded voters of NEO (northeast Ohio), are you envious of the tremendous legalization inroads made in pioneering states like Colorado? The ones Norm Roulet described here and here ? Well, with the benefit of a couple years worth of hindsight, you have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually improve upon legalization models developed by California and Colorado.

That’s right  – disparaged, denigrated, and despoiled, Cleveland and NEO have a unique opportunity to shock the nation, transforming urban blight to urban bliss via cannabis commerce as Norm envisions here.

Industrial grow facility envisioned for brightest, greenest East Cleveland.

But that can only happen if NEO pot proponents get it right from the start.

That’s what I urge you to do, and I’m here to tell you exactly how you can.

First, let me explain how I’ve to know about poteconomics.

By complete coincidence, in May of 2009, I moved to a once deteriorating Denver neighborhood now known far and wide as “Broadsterdam” (South Broadway + Amsterdam) or “dispensary row.” No one knew what a “dispensary” was. A mere seventeen months later, I can walk to thirty of them and select from hundreds of High Times centerfold strains grown under optimum lab conditions. Here’s a closer look. Talk about “thriving under the influence!”

Hog heaven, right?

Yes and no.

Yes, because this is a phenomenon I never expected to see in my lifetime. Every time I set foot in a MMC [medical marijuana center], I’m a kid in a candy store. I launched Cannabis Commerce to cover the cannagrowth shooting up all around me.

No, since a terminal cancer patient living in the conservative corridor between liberal Denver and Boulder, in a dispensary-free burg like Broomfield, is forced to scramble for his meds. You see, every city in Colorado can opt out of any amendment the state voted for. You probably didn’t know that.

Yep, in Colorado — as in California — it’s all about “the meds.”

Who gets them. Who doesn’t.

If 75% of the medical marijuana cardholders weren’t technically “fraudulent” — given recommendations by sympathetic doctors for maladies that fall somewhere south of being run over by a threshing machine — only a minute percentage of Coloradoans could transact at MMCs.

Compare that with Norm Roulet’s proposal to add recreational and industrial use, the full monty, to Ohio’s referendum to truly legalize marijuana from the get-go.

So, do you want to become another copycat state, which goes to incredible lengths to pass pot legislation intended solely for the chronically ill? I hope not. I don’t recall Thomas Jefferson, hemp grower, author of the phrase, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” limiting the allotment to the chronically ill.

Or do you want to become the first medical, recreational and industrial marijuana state from the outset?

Your biggest choice is your biggest chance!

The former choice insures things will stay exactly the way they are for 98% of you. The latter choice means the sky’s the limit.

Your call.

Benefits of daring to be different

A lot of you read Norm’s account of his recent trip to Boulder, CO, where I’ve spent most of my adult life. He was pretty ga-ga about the place, with good reason. And it’s not because they automatically assign you a Tesla for residing in the 80302 zip code.

The main reason Boulder’s so desirable, apart from the obvious scenic allure of the flatirons, is that the city dared to do what no other city dared to do at a time it made a difference — commit to buying “open space,” enough raw land to create a natural buffer between itself and encroaching suburbia.

The city’s been buying farms and ranches to protect its borders for forty years. It’s still buying them today. And, oh by the way, yes you can ride your mountain bike and walk your dog on those lands.

That bold decision made for a healthy, less-polluted lifestyle, with a ton of visual impact. It guaranteed a huge upsurge in property values compared to surrounding areas.

But you don’t live in scenic Boulder, Colorado. Perhaps you live in East Cleveland, a godforsaken toxic wasteland by the lake. That’s actually a good thing! Why? It’s a fact of life you have to down to go up. You don’t jump high without bending your knees, and you don’t build eco-skyscrapers without digging foundations deep into bedrock.

So, the concept of metamorphosing a godforsaken wasteland into “an urban Eden” is more glorious than elevating less desecrated parcels of god’s green earth. The concept will attract even more press attention and contributions from environmental organizations. It intrigues tree huggers like me from 1,200 miles away.

So, when the time comes to cast your vote, and it’s coming a lot sooner than later, be daring: make sure that ballot initiative includes recreational and industrial use!

That said, there’s no denying that it will take much more initial groundwork to implement a heretofore unattempted model. There’s also no denying that groundwork will pay off exponentially over the long haul. So be prepared to dig in for a worthwhile cause.

What else can Ohio improve on?

The Cali and Colo legalization models: long, drawn-out affairs

Thirty dispensaries within a one-mile radius of my home didn’t happen overnight … although it seems like it did. After Colorado voters passed Amendment 20, Medical Use of Marijuana, in 2000, Denver’s dispensary scene germinated for the better part of a decade. California passed the Compassionate Use Act four years earlier, in 1996; it took time to simmer there, too. Legislators held up the parade of progress until around 2008 when the first MMCs (medical marijuana centers) made their appearance.

Unless you feel like living in a toxic wasteland for another decade, don’t word your referendum so that cannabis commerce takes 8-12 years to painstakingly progress from legalese on paper to brick and mortar on a street. And, god forbid, don’t be another New Jersey that’s had MMJ on the books for four years and hasn’t sold as much as a skinny joint. Instead, plan to become “the brightest, greenest East Cleveland” right out of the gate!

Regulatory shocks after the fact

MMJ, as opposed to full-on legalization, invites endless wheel spinning on the city, county, and state levels. I don’t know about you, but I’m not in favor of empowering elected officials to keep revising their bizarre legislative innovations ad infinitum.

MMJ, as opposed to repealing prohibition, grants regulators carte blanche to run amok after the industry begins finding its own equilibrium. Don’t allow regulatory boards to devise Big Brotherish innovations like video surveillance “from seed to sale,” as we saw this summer with Colorado HB 1284.

HB 1284 was set up as “an exercise of the police powers of the State for the protection of the economic and social welfare and the health, peace, and morals of the people of this state.” It’s a safe bet having their morals policed wasn’t what 150,000 and counting Colorado cardholders and industry players had in mind.

Don’t allow The Thought Police to go all authoritarian on you after the fact! Have your guidelines and regulations in effect before the party begins, not after. If you’re not strong about this …

Imagine pouring all your blood, sweat, and tears into starting up a successful cannabusiness. You jump through every hoop, comply with every existing regulation, only to lose your license because the Department of Revenue suddenly decides you’re located 999 feet from a daycare center instead of 1,000 feet!

That’s the favored harassment technique in Cali and Colo. Think about it: just how real is the problem of toddlers toddling out of daycare centers and into dispensaries to trade milk money for hash oil? That sort of thinking is as contaminated as the Mittal superfund site.

Nip this in the bud! Don’t let cannabis commerce get off to an explosive start, as it did out west, only to find cannabusinesses eviscerated by regulatory larks after they’re already established.

Cannatax: choke the golden goose or go for the gusto?

The amount of taxes that can be collected from medical marijuana, nothing more than a niche market, is minuscule compare with the megabucks that can be collected if marijuana isn’t saddled with a crippling adjective. Why hogtie the nation’s #1 commodity?

Do you want an economic savior or an incidental tax source that can barely finance a community dog run?

Don’t mess around, go for the gusto! Be a model for every seemingly moribund hellhole on earth. Dream big about projects like Capstone, and don’t allow shallow-minded naysayers to drag you down.

Like everything else worth working for, there is a sacrifice

What about the people with debilitating diseases who need releaf now?

Won’t going for the whole enchilada instead of settling for the tortilla chip prolong their quest for the palliative releaf of cannatherapy? Why, yes it will. That’s a big price to pay. Unfortunately, big changes with big payoffs come with big prices to pay.

It would be nice to have no pain for a lot of gain, but this is Planet Earth, not Planet Perfect. Easy for me to say since I don’t have a chronic illness, right?

What I’d say to that is that I’d expect friends and relatives to keep aiding the chronically ill by helping them obtain underground meds as they  always have — for the moment.

Doesn’t that mean “caregivers” face arrest and imprisonment, according to whatever draconian laws are in place in Ohio, while referendums for full legalization are being drafted? I’m afraid so.

Here are the benefits of making that sacrifice:

  • Everyone participates in the transformation, not just a few.
  • Everyone’s environment becomes energized from free cannabis enterprise, not just the environment for the most debilitated.
  • Money to care for debilitated persons and future debilitated persons becomes more available from tax proceeds generated by free cannabis enterprise.
  • Friends and relatives who aid the chronically ill have more money to help them when they have cannajobs instead of unemployment checks.
  • Cleveland becomes a model city, not another me-too city.

I’m not going to kid you. Passing a marijuana referendum instead of a medical marijuana referendum is the rockier road.

However, fencesitters might be psychologically more inclined to vote “yes” if they know people with chronic illnesses would not receive legal meds unless the referendum, which includes provisions for recreational and industrial use, is passed.

What do you want?

So Ohioans, what’s it going to be?

Do you want it functional or dysfunctional?

Do you want to be a wishy-washy, confused, goofball state like New Jersey, which holds the “rights” to growing marijuana so close to the vest they only offered these rights to one university, Rutgers, to grow the entire states’ supply, choosing to eschew a cannabis economy altogether (which the university actually turned down)?

Or do you want to be the first state or municipality voting to end prohibition from the get-go, getting people working again for decent wages in cannabiz, adopting Norm Roulet’s vision of becoming a model growing center and distribution hub for the world?

Citizens of Ohio: your biggest choice is your biggest chance.