This is our farm column from farmer Casey O’Neill. O’Neill is the owner operator of HappyDay Farms north of Laytonville, and a long time advocate for the cannabis community in Mendocino Co; more of his writing can be found here. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer. If you would like to submit a letter to the editor feel free to write to [email protected].
My sociology teacher always said, “things that are thought to be real are real in their consequences.” I spent the weekend at the Meadowlands cannabis conference, and although I did plenty of weed smoking and hanging with friends, I also did a lot of listening and thinking about public policy, systems of governance and regulation, and how cannabis fits in to these frameworks.
Enough people believe in our systems of governance that the effects of those systems are real in their consequences, and there are still many people incarcerated in this country for cannabis convictions. Prohibition is bad policy, but often enough so is regulation. Looking around the conference, I was struck by how much smaller it was than in past years, and how hard the small operators are struggling to stay afloat.
Plant medicines are part of what has made us human, and access to medicinal and food plants are fundamental human needs and should be treated as human rights. When public policy makers craft legislation and regulatory packages that limit adult access to plant medicines, unnecessary suffering and negative impacts occur. Enforcement is patchwork and affects communities in different ways based on race and socioeconomic status.
After a decade of participation in conversations around cannabis policy, I’m often disheartened and disillusioned by the state of cannabis in California. The lockout of the vast majority of operators unable to meet the costs and administrative requirements of burdensome regulations is a continuing travesty. The economic impacts on producer economies are real and are being felt throughout the state. The lack of retail in many parts of the state and the inability of local jurisdictions to move meaningful policy reform forward means there are many places without clear access for cannabis.
On the other hand, as legalization initiatives and regulatory packages are being unrolled around the country and the world, there is unprecedented conversation about cannabis at all levels of government. The human effort at creating systems of governance continues in an iterative process. Prohibition ends one state at a time, and although the regulatory schemes don’t often seem much better, there is still so much work to be done to end incarceration and free the many people in prison for cannabis.
It’s hard to find footing and direction in policy development when so many levels of government seem broken and corrupt. The frustrations of dealing with bureaucracy at the local and state level, the asinine nature of federal Prohibition, the obscene lobbying and money in politics are all good reasons to be angry, yet the work must continue to move towards systems of governance that are more just. Big appreciation to everyone who puts in time and effort to make change possible, civic duty in action is empowering to behold.
One of the threads of conversation this weekend was about creating safe space for people to be able to participate in cannabis consumption. New York’s framework allows for cannabis to be consumed anywhere that tobacco consumption is authorized, fostering more protection and less likelihood of negative law enforcement interaction for impacted communities. These types of steps towards access and safe spaces should be recognized and replicated.
I love the sharing and camaraderie that cannabis inspires. I love that when I smoke it, I become more reflexive and able to see the world from a different perspective. Cannabis makes me want to be a better person, and I love that it teaches me so many lessons, even though some are not easy, or are not what I want to hear.
I hope that over time we will see true normalization of cannabis and other plant medicines, and that access to quality food and medicine plants can be fostered for more people, more often. It’s weird to feel both hopeful and daunted at the same time, but I still believe in a future of small businesses, cooperation and mutualism based on shared values. As always, much love and great success to you in your journey!