The Evolving Paradigm of Cannabis: Perspectives on Community Potential

marijuana-smokeby Eric M. Gudz 

Our society is in the midst of a fundamental change in the cultural, political and scientific understanding of cannabis. The current policy landscape which defines the legality of cannabis reflects over 100 years of precipitous change, manifesting in every level of organized government.

New state laws, such as the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act of 2015, or MCRSA, sought to bolster existing state laws, previously defined by Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Prop 2015) and SB 420. These changes in state law prompted hundreds of communities across the state to begin their respective local conversations about cannabis policy, and these conversations come at the eve of a major decision in this upcoming election to vote for the legalization of adult use cannabis with Prop 64 or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.

In the wake of this rapid advancement of policy, countless individuals and organizations geared towards scientific inquiry, social justice restoration, and community development have begun to demonstrate their strong support for this next chapter of the cannabis movement. Through this understanding, advocates and policymakers alike have begun to pierce the veil of 97 years of prohibitionist propaganda and have started to heal communities left fragmented by misaligned policies predicated on the preponderance of fear.

This realization, while groundbreaking, remains indebted to the social and criminal justice and entities working tirelessly to fix the misaligned, prohibitionist cannabis policies of the past. Given the fact that the cannabis movement community and the industry will always be interrelated and intertwined, municipalities have the incredible opportunity to redefine “business as usual” through the encouragement, support, and facilitation of sensible, open-minded regulations.

Cannabis businesses, supported by informed policy at the local level, can provide real and lasting value to their communities by embodying social justice principles, fostering community commerce programming, spurring the development of educational apprenticeships/fellowships, and providing leadership for youth restorative justice efforts in need of support throughout the city.

In demonstrating how community-oriented localities may adopt the recently enacted MCRSA laws, one can begin to envision the full potential for the future cannabis industry. Business and commerce may yet be infused with principles of social justice and stewardship to better integrate themselves in the cities they wish to serve. Society may yet value more highly the strength inherent in compassion and begin to more wholeheartedly reject the short-sightedness of fear.

These policy considerations, however, must be made with the full strength of our combined communities. One of the real treasures of our city is our steadfast dedication, from our staff and citizens alike, to come together to solve our pressing local challenges in defiance of fear. The challenges our city will encounter with the global shifts in drug policy are no different, and they will require nothing less than a full dedication of the admirable strength of our city’s collective character. We must utilize this strength with our communities combined to address these challenges, as we have done so in Davis for nearly 100 years.

We cannot let misguided fears outweigh our duty and responsibility to remain inclusive and open-minded in our policy discussions. While further local outreach and exploration is a given to fully grasp the policy complexities of cannabis, the conversation must begin not from a point of fear but from a point of compassion, as the spirit of our state laws intended.

Together, we can actualize the real opportunities present in cannabis policy for social justice as well as commerce. We can foster resilient local economies founded on the principles of social & environmental stewardship. We can positively integrate our principles of community into a post-prohibition world. And most importantly, we can do all this while addressing the needs of all community members, most especially our medical cannabis patients.

Eric Gudz is the Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Integrate Cal, a Benefit Corporation focused on blending community development with local planning to guide emerging cannabis businesses in Northern California, and the Vice Chair of the National Board of Directors for Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a global non-profit working to end the injustices caused by the war on drugs through education and harm reduction. Eric holds a Master’s of Science in Transportation, Technology, and Policy from the University of California at Davis, and he holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Conservation Biology from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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    1. quielo

      “Promote social justice through stoner culture”? Or perhaps in honor of his Nobel it’s a shout out to Dylan:

      They’ll stone ya when you’re at the breakfast table
      They’ll stone ya when you are young and able
      They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck
      They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say “good luck”
      Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone
      Everybody must get stoned.

  1. Barbara King

    One thing that I don’t like in the marijuana initiative, Prop 64, is that it allows marijuana advertising that does not target people under 21.

    Before tobacco advertising was banned, the tobacco industry found many ways to get around language like that, and I expect the same from marijuana advertising.

    I also expect that, if Prop 64 passes, it won’t take long for tobacco companies to go to court with the argument that, if marijuana advertising is allowed, then tobacco advertising cannot be banned.


    1. Biddlin

      “ won’t take long for tobacco companies to go to court with the argument that, if marijuana advertising is allowed, then tobacco advertising cannot be banned.”

      Tobacco adverts are banned because decades of studies proved the harm caused by cigarette smoking. If it is legalized, then the possible hazards of cannabis maybe objectively evaluated and enumerated.

  2. Jim Frame

    It’s not at all clear to me what, if any, nexus can be found between recreational cannabis and social justice.  The piece reads to me like a bunch of BS in support of the right to get high and — most important — the right to make money off of people getting high.


  3. Olderthandirt

    I created an account here for the express purpose of giving a shout out to Eric Gudz and kudos on a well written piece.

    Surprised at the negative comments I see.  Whatever.

    Hulloo California (-:

    I’m a neighbor of yours to the North in green Oregon. For those of you against the “legalization” of cannabis, a simple plant fer pity sake, please breath a little easier.

    The experience of “legal” cannabis documented in Colorado, Washington and here in Oregon, when looked at with an open mind and honest heart, has ultimately proven to be a positive.

    So with respect to the articles focus, relax folks. “Legalize” a plant that should never have been criminalized in the first place and focus on actual rather than fictional issues. Ya know, jobs, housing, public infrastructures etc.

    Mr. Gudz, you write well. Thank you for a reasoned, positive perspective on the larger social needs of our society and one simple way to encourage community.


  4. Frankly

    Ethanol injested in moderation provides some health benefits and makes most people feel good.   THC injested in moderation provides some health benefits and makes most people fell good.  And the government makes a lot of cash from ethanol… so why not THC?

    1. Don Shor

      In Solano County we are voting on an “up to” 15% tax measure on “marijuana-related businesses” in unincorporated areas of the county. Based on gross receipts.

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