Musings by Lauren Yoshiko | Photos by Daniel Lee
I want you to close your eyes.
Forget everything you know about legalization and medical laws and cannabis regulations through the decades.
Now, imagine an alternate timeline, where legal cannabis is not seen as a field to be plowed for riches, but as the healing plant it is—as a salve to treat the wounds of colonial capitalism, rather than perpetuate it.
What could that version of the industry look like?
It would start with a shift of the focus from the businesses to the people...
Placing the medicinal power of cannabis at the core of the industry. It would be no question that legalization of cannabis would mean the elimination of any criminal element attached to adult-use cannabis; it goes without saying every record would be expunged and past violations null and void.
The medical field would reflect the latest research and doctors would be well versed in cannabis. Lawyers in our present timeline have to take continuing education courses every year to keep up with changing laws—why not doctors too? Therapists would be as open and versed in cannabis medicine as they are to many other wellness practices. Your doctor would be able to access heavier potency products for you by prescription—the costs of which would be subsidized through health insurance like any other prescription.
Beyond a closer tie to the plant’s healing nature, imagine how that perception as true medicine could ripple out.
Instead of dedicating a percentage of sales tax revenue to city services, think of a sort of vice exchange, where people who have become houseless and/or are suffering from addiction could exchange street drugs like methamphetamine and fentanyl for high quality flower and edibles.
Farmers could get a tax break for their donation to the houseless community, and local authorities could help facilitate, making space for restorative dialogue between all these communities.
Dialogues that could even lead to finding employment at farms or processors. Just by interrupting the cycle of opioid addiction for one afternoon, it could be the first step in helping someone change the direction of their life.
Many lives could change. Lives would undoubtedly be saved.
Imagine redirecting just half of the creativity we put into aesthetically beautiful products; half the hours innovating new methods of vaporizing; half of the energy we spend arguing about retail license caps into an entirely new, more equitable environment.
We could redefine the relationship of cannabis in communities, working to ensure any and all new business ideas have a chance to come forward, regardless of whether they fit into retail, production or distribution categories. Event planners; chefs; cafes; venues; hotels; spas; barber shops; swimsuit boutiques—if every responsible business owner who wanted to incorporate cannabis into their business model could do so as freely as one can with beer, there would not be a bottleneck of licenses everytime a state legalizes. There would not be a situation like in Washington state, where it took several years until the first Black-owned dispensary opened, because no one in any community would need to wait in line for their application to be considered.
As far as saturation and censorship of cannabis businesses around schools goes, there is a way to engage with neighbors, youth leaders, educators and cultivators to find a peaceful rhythm for cannabis-related businesses in their cities. One that fosters more understanding and goodwill than 1000-ft limitations and frosted windows.
When we open our eyes, and come back to reality, these ideas may feel far away.
It’s difficult to imagine cannabis getting to be that progressive, or that it could catch on beyond our cannabis community. But if we open our eyes even more, we can acknowledge that when it comes to agricultural practices, that’s already happening. The trends in sustainable innovations coming from this industry are infiltrating conversations around regional food production and energy conservation everywhere, not to mention empowering consumers to get to know supply chains and care about the findings. It doesn’t have to stop there.
Cannabis can be more; do more good—we just have to carve out a different, new kind of path.