Lt. Governor and Other Dignitaries Scolded for Using the Word ‘Marijuana’
The sheer enormity of the Lt. Governor of California arriving in this rural Southern Humboldt community to listen to cannabis farmers (and others) speak helped create an enthusiastic crowd for the out-of-town visitors. Nonetheless, one of the participants called the commission to task for using “racist” terminology. The word “marijuana,” he insisted, should be scrapped and “cannabis” used instead. The crowd enthusiastically agreed.
Throughout the rest of the meeting, commission members struggled to switch to the usage preferred by the audience. At one point, Assemblymember Jim Wood apologized for using the word marijuana saying that the crowd had “educated” him.
When the meeting began, Newsome pointed out that the panel was there to learn. He related that his mother had taught him “seek first to understand before you seek to be understood.”
But over a year into the two years the commission is slated to operate, understanding the positions of the small farmers in the Emerald Triangle proved tricky. Marijuana and cannabis weren’t the only words indicating a gulf existed between these constituents and their representatives. Understanding the farmers’ need for a regulatory framework that addressed on the ground realities can be difficult for those outside the community. At one point a woman grower asked what rules were the commission considering recommending in regards to bringing cannabis to market–she wanted to know what would be done about legal issues that small farms face as they transport their product from the county the cannabis is grown in to another county where the cannabis is dispensed..
Representative Jared Huffman looked puzzled and asked, “Do you mean trafficking?” The audience groaned and several members of the crowd struggled to explain the nuances without much success.
Nonetheless, there were moments when the crowd spoke and the representatives appeared to have heard and understood the message. One such moment occurred when 25-year-old Jonathan Baker a local resident, spoke. He explained that he was a second generation cannabis farmer and he was worried about “big industry” taking over cannabis production. “Cannabis,” he said, “is [currently] produced by many many small farmers… We do not want 30 to 50 permits for the entire state.” The crowd applauded fervently.
“There are 4000 or more outdoor farms,” Baker said, “Let alone indoor. Please make it viable for all of us to enter [into legal production.]
For many of the small farmers packing the room during a busy work season, this meeting offered hope that their representatives were developing a regulatory framework that would allow not only them but their children and their children’s children to make a legal living growing cannabis. The members of the commission appeared to agree though for a different reason. According to a report issued in March by the commission,
Keeping marijuana businesses small increases the cost of inspections (due to more numerous sites to be inspected), but also may yield smaller operations which can less easily marshal the resources necessary to overly influence the regulatory process. Allowing large corporate entities makes regulatory inspection easier, but raises risks of regulatory capture.
Marijuana vs cannabis, traveling with product vs trafficking—words show mindsets. As policy makers struggle to use words acceptable to the cannabis community, the effort will shape minds that shape policies.
Friday’s dialogue may be another step towards a society where cannabis farmers are as mainstream as grape growers.