Why do activists flock to the Emerald Cup, as Tim Blake tells the Journal in this weeks' issue?
It crosses my mind — somewhat pessimistically, I will admit — that marijuana activism is relatively easy. It's not a difficult position to take, that weed is a relatively harmless drug. It doesn't take a leap to imagine that cannabis has health benefits for both the sick and well. It's also something that's inherently fun for millions of users around the world. So it's not difficult to build a really big party around a collection of academic seminars and panels. You can't throw an "end police brutality" festival with beer and musicians and expect 10,000 people to pay $40 to get in. (Those are called marches, or sit-ins, and they are incredibly dangerous for participants, as we're seeing all over the U.S.)
That's not to denigrate those who've been working for decades to end the racially biased war on drugs or to support terminally ill people with palliative marijuana. It's a damn good thing that their job's getting easier.
Despite that, activists at the Emerald Cup last weekend were lamenting a flight of marijuana activists from the cause. Is it because victory is in sight? And what does that open the industry up to?
Kym Kemp's story, "CannaActivists Warily Eye Cannabusinessmen," at the Lost Coast Outpost (while a little bombastic in prose at moments) neatly sums up the tension pervading the Emerald Cup this past weekend.
"The activists guardedly watched the business interests and warned of the possibility of big money co-opting cannabis and its culture," Kemp wrote.
That fear wasn't more palpable anywhere than the NORML women's alliance panel, where longtime activists expressed concern over infiltration of marijuana culture by the "suits." (See this week's cover story on page 14 for more on that panel.)
Still, in a Facebook post following the Cup, panelist and longtime cannabis advocate Debby Goldsberry wrote, "Woke up very excited, after having such a fun time at the Emerald Cup, and finally realizing that the guys in suits and ties are never going to be able to overrun our culture."
That's a remarkably positive outlook. The Emerald Cup, with its wide array of attendees, could not possibly have fully represented the green-eyed business set. Oh, and they were there. Slick booths, expensive banners, bright lights, lipstick and cleavage.
Can the peace-and-love medicine people really fight corporate commodification of weed? The image-oriented, swag-tossing, bullhorn criers are always going to command more attention than the people quietly giving away CBD pot to the terminally ill.
Big cannabis poses a threat, but so does the lack of motivation to stand up to big cannabis. There's a set of cup attendees that just can't let go of the "outlaw." In a massive, media-saturated, public festival, thousands of people were getting stoned at the county fairgrounds in downtown Santa Rosa in the middle of the day. But, instead of stopping by the NORML booth to pay respect (OK, a fair amount of people probably did this), people were gathered around the booth selling posters of the Sopranos characters and topless women with guns. There's a strange worship of criminality that seeps into weed culture, despite the ubiquity of pot and increasing acceptance of it.
I wasn't convinced, like Goldsberry, that the Emerald Cup proved the peace-and-love pot industry would persist. But there was a lot to be hopeful for. Primarily, a group of quiet thinkers and worriers. People who've been promoting pot's friendly image all along, or who are ready to come out of the shadows in a forward-thinking and thoughtful way. Let's all — smoker, patient, or simply observer — welcome them.