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PHOTO: Memorials in Mexico from deaths resulting from Drug War policy.
A little after high noon a press conference for the “International Summit on Cannabis” began as Harborside Health Center CEO and recent federal cause célèbre, Steve DeAngelo, welcomed the rather thin turnout of media assembled in one of the ballrooms at the venerable Sir Francis Drake hotel across from tourist-central Union Square in San Francisco.
Surprisingly, usually when you have the ex-president of Mexico with an executive formerly with Microsoft, other pro-pot activists and friendly government officials from other states joining forces to hold a press conference announcing a major global initiative ending prohibition on cannabis, it’s a big thing.
“86,000 people have died in Mexico since 2006, because of the drug wars there. Ending prohibition in America will reduce crime in the U.S. and Mexico,” Mr. DeAngelo remarked in an introduction to the former Mexican president.
“In Mexico, 40 people die every day because of prohibition,” Mr. Fox stated, bringing the table mic closer. “The cost of the War on Drugs is unbearable. It started with your president Nixon and it is hasn’t worked. It is a failure. It is a waste of money…more importantly…it is loss of talent. It is a loss of hope.”
It’s kind of surreal watching an international politician, from a conservative party, coming over to our side.
“It is the United States’ mammoth consumption of drugs that fuels the gangs of Mexico. The money supports gangs and bribes, further corrupting the process. We need to end the prohibition on cannabis. Make it legal for medical cannabis and adult use. Prohibition doesn’t work.”
“We witness the case here in the Bay Area, where we see the Federal government pressing against the wishes of the people. It is time to take positive political action against what we know is wrong. With the synergy we’ve created today, with these activists and Jamen, we can do it. We can bring peace and harmony to our two countries and end the violence of the Drug War. In Portugal, 10 years after legalization, drug use in that country has dropped 25%. Do we need to fear legalization? They thought the worst when they legalized in the Netherlands. It wasn’t the end of the world. We are here to form a new paradigm in the way we view cannabis. We’re here to bring peace back to Mexico and to the families of Mexico.”
Former President Fox was later asked, “What the next step?”
“Of course, I have many questions too. What’s the next scenario? Based on what is happening in Colorado and Washington, and here in San Francisco, by partnering and working together we can achieve good responsible adult use of cannabis. We’re holding a conference in San Cristobal July 19-21st, to further discuss our next steps.”
When the president was asked about prohibition and human nature, Mr. Fox remarked. “We’re approaching a last frontier with cannabis prohibition. Gay rights, abortion, we need to let people decide for themselves. Look at Adam and Eve. God said not to eat the apple. He might have had better success if he told them the apple had worms. A better strategy. God created us free to decide freely.”
Jamen Shively, the other central figure of the day, spoke passionately about ending prohibition and the devastation it’s causing Mexico.
“When I was sixteen, I went down, coincidently, to Vicente Fox’s home state, Guanajuato, to build latrines and provide health education to rural areas. I’ve known Vicente that long. I was born in the Bay Area, as well as many generations of my family. My family held the largest hemp concession in the world, once. Prohibition must end. With hemp, we will be the job creators. Pulp and paper, building materials and nutritious food, all can be derived from hemp. Stop arresting people. We can transform the world by ending the prohibition on cannabis and replacing it with responsible regulations. Together, we can change the world for the positive.”
While other local activists spoke eloquently about the need to end this stupid Drug War and the futility of continuing it, I thought about this most recent April 20, when I was in Denver to help usher in a new era– one of legal marijuana for recreational purposes.
On the morning of the 21st, a little groggy and tired from all that ushering, I attended a brunch with a bunch of Colorado’s heavy hitters. I met Mr. Shively there. The sun was bright and high and a group of us were relaxing on the front deck of this Victorian structure, what the locals call, “the Cannabis Building” because many offices of players instrumental in getting the Rocky Mountain state high are located inside.
I think I can call him “Jim.” We hung out and he told me what he was doing. We talked for a little while and I came away very impressed. I didn’t realize when the papers and large banners in websites declared, “Microsoft Exec Gets Into Pot Business,” it was Mr. Shively. Jim.
I think if I hadn’t met him personally, I might have been suspicious of his motives, that his sole motivation is money. And yeah, I don’t think there’s a person in the industry that isn’t thinking about deriving a means of possible profit when this crazy merry-go-round stops, hopefully at full legalization. Mr. Shively’s family did run the hemp game for a couple of centuries until Old Man Hearst and others said, “No, screw hemp. It costs pennies. The profit is in the wood.”
“I don’t think there’s a person in the industry that isn’t thinking about deriving a means of possible profit when this crazy merry-go-round stops, hopefully at full legalization.”
So why shouldn’t people who invest, take a chance, make money?
But that wasn’t the issue or even a general concern at the press conference. It was about two countries that are intertwined because of graft, corruption and crime. And putting their global heads together to find a solution.
Representative Roger Goodman from Washington, Oaksterdam’s Dale Sky Jones, California NORML’s Dale Gieringer, Ph.D., and LEAP’s Nate Bradley also lent their time and energies speaking about the absurdity of prohibition. As Dale Sky Jones said, “This isn’t so much about legalization, as it is about a moratorium on building more prisons. Let’s build schools. Give our kids a chance.”
A quiet boulder that’s masqueraded as a pebble was dropped into a shallow media pool in an historic old ballroom in San Francisco. I was expecting more ripples from the press, but this is just the first wave of a tsunami yet to come.