by 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.