Forgive those, who drink from the Kool-Aid, for they know not what they do

Forgive those, who drink the Kool-Aid, for they know not what they do

By: Heather Schafer

0001.jpgI don’t think that it’s any secret that I came into cannabis through the california medical marijuana scene. One day in 2000, just after finishing my degree as a Paralegal, I got a call from my dad, asking if I had any stored sick, or vacation, days that were usable at work. Panicked, because my step-mom (basically since age 9, so my mom…) had been diagnosed with breast cancer, only 2 years before, and we were not yet out of the woods by a longshot. My dad reassured me that she was ok but he was unsure about the honesty, and integrity, of their new office manager and her then boyfriend. (My parents, Dr. Mollie Fry and Attorney Dale Schafer had opened one of the first medical marijuana clinics, in northern california, which had been cash heavy since inception.) In essence, I was asked to come up and hang out in their lobby, for a week, and see what I could find out about a discrepancy in the till. Didn’t take long for me to figure out that when $10,000, in cash, walks into the front door and the only ones documenting it are less than honorable…Well I think we all know how this story ends. That day, in April of 2000, I entered into the world known as the California Medical Marijuana Movement and it has been a wild ride ever since.

I grew up, quite a bit, in the medical cannabis world. Although I was already almost 25 when my parents opened their office, I was just becoming a parent (something I think causes most individuals to grow significantly), had not yet been diagnosed with SLE and, at the time, still had no idea of what the US Government was truly all about. I came into contact with thousands of desperate and severely ill people and that, along with my upbringing, secured a strong sense of compassion within me. This, most definitely, explains the love/hate relationship I have with politics and specifically the politics of cannabis.

There is, unfortunately, no room for compassion in politics as it appears to be driven, at some level, by money and greed. Now, that is not to say that a compassionate person cannot become a politician or that politicians cannot be compassionate but in general, it seems like, compassionate people have a hard time fitting into the political and business world. I’m bringing all of this up because politics has taken a front seat in marijuana, these days, and transformed a community of sick people, and their caregivers, into an industry of innovation, business and, unfortunately, a lust for money. Patients and caregivers, who are concerned with the way their lives will be governed  are coming head to head with the world of business and industry which cares not about how but only if their goals are accomplished. This butting of heads has, unfortunately, wreaked havoc on long-time friendships and created a certain antagonistic environment within the once accepting and sometimes hippy-ish cannabis community.

Every day I read articles about the propositions, up for vote in November, and I have to admit that coming from the medical marijuana world, yet observing the thriving cannabis industry around me, I can see that both sides have viable arguments. However, the truth is that most people, and especially tourists, don’t care about the politics unless it will directly affect them. They want to come and experience the cannabis culture and make  their own decisions without the pressure of others. To put it simply, tourism (and honestly life) and political pressure do not go hand in hand and the other truth is that most people will not go into that voting booth and agonize over the questions related to cannabis. Most people probably won’t even read much beyond “Do You Want To Legalize Recreational Cannabis? Yes or No”. My theory is that we humans are selfish creatures and generally don’t care about anything that does not directly cause something to happen in our own lives. Well, that may be a little harsh and, honestly, isn’t even really all my idea but nonetheless it’s still true.

So yesterday (because I just love the politics of cannabis so much) I attended a local county meeting where both pro and con, cannabis, participants had been invited to contribute, their thoughts and opinions, towards creating reasonable county ordinances under the new California Medical Marijuana and Safety Act. One gentleman, a father and resident, offered a presentation on how within the last 5 years several aggressive cannabis growers had moved into his neighborhood, violated the current ordinance, threatened him and his family, and now that he had finally decided to sell his house he cannot get a buyer, to complete the sale, because Google Maps clearly shows a number of growers all around his property. Let me just clarify that he called them large grows, and to some people 50+ plants is a large grow, and the current county ordinance is 200 sq. ft. Anyway, he apparently has gotten passed up, a number of times, by buyers who wished that he lived somewhere else because they love the house but hate the neighborhood. He had contacted law enforcement, on more than one occasion, and been told that the grows around him were basically small potatoes and they had “bigger fish to fry”. Out of obvious frustration he had come to air his grievances before a room of mostly pro-cannabis growers and dispensary owners. As you can imagine, in a situation like this, the opportunity for things to get tense was huge and it did not disappoint.

You see, the homeowner went far beyond the terrible predicament, he was currently in, and started quoting National Institute of Health statistics about the health risks and addictiveness of cannabis. Now, can I just say that the meeting topic was Taxation so anything from the NIH was inappropriate to be presenting and he was not an expert so half of the statements made were picked from someplace down below. Then he brought out the big guns…the hysteria of how his kid’s swing-set was only 40 feet from his neighbors grow and how that was somehow going to translate into a rise in high school dropouts in the community. Let me just tell you that it got pretty deep in that room, for a minute, and one older gentleman just could not take it anymore and had to burst out in comment. Nothing terrible, no name calling, he just announced that in no uncertain terms, all of the information presented was crap and had no real scientific value. This led to the people, in charge, getting fairly tense, some raising of voices and at one point I thought things were gonna start flying. Unfortunately, this is common in counties all over the state and I can’t help but think that it’s hard to get upset with the people who “unknowingly drank the Kool-Aid”. What I mean is that prohibition has brought about much incorrect, unfactual and generally ridiculous information and all of it was fed to the general public, by the ones who we trusted to be in charge. As children we are taught to listen to, and believe, our parents and that, in turn, teaches us trust. This same type of trust is what many of us put into our leaders and so we assume that what they are telling us is true and can be relied upon. Even Dr. Sanjay Gupta stated “I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.”

They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true.”

I believe this trust instinct is so deep, and strong, that even when we know the truth we struggle with going against the grain and what we have been taught. In other words, I believe that even though this homeowner was in his early to mid 40’s, knowledgeable and even had used cannabis in his past he still reverted back to “the kool-aid” he had been fed his whole life, once he felt that he and his family were being threatened. This is probably very similar to an adult who acts badly or reacts poorly when in a time of weakness.

So my message today is this, Forgive those who drink from the Kool-aid, for they know not what they do. Have patience for those around you as they don’t have your knowledge and haven’t walked, your path, in your shoes. Find time to be understanding and compassionate even though we already know that little compassion lives in politics and sometimes life. Finally, remember that sometimes there are forever consequences for temporary meltdowns so try to have forethought and composure in all situations, especially cannabis politics.

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