Equanimity and Justice

by | Apr 17, 2019

Imagine cannabis as a wrongly convicted prisoner, sentenced to life on trumped-up charges. Along the way, countless people are thrown in prison alongside her, just because they knew her or worked with her in some way.

In the meantime, people are crying throughout, “She’s innocent! She’s innocent!” And finally, after all of that suffering and pain that it took to get her out, she’s told that instead of a criminal, she was the source of a brand new industry that could revitalize the world’s economy. Slowly but surely, in country after country, she is freed. And the people who get to take her home and share in the profits are NOT those who’ve suffered and struggled alongside her, but instead, the same people who financed the prison they served their sentences in.

Every cannabis OG sees a variant of this playing out internationally. Up in the Kootenay Region of British Columbia, some of BC’s finest growers can’t even get bank loans to compete in the newly legal market because the scent and stigma of outlaw weed trails them wherever they go. And here in NorCal, the veteran growers may potentially get cut out of the deal no thanks to an 11th-hour decision by the California Department of Food and Agriculture to allow for a stacking of small-lot permits, which has allowed certain well-financed players to scale up rapidly. Cannabis wouldn’t have ever broken out of her prison were it not for the desire all good people possess to see justice served. Wherever you have justice, you have equanimity and healing, so I’d like to speak today about equanimity, justice and how Medicine Box commits itself itself to both.

the statue of liberty and cannabis leaf, cannabis industry

Is Cannabis Getting Its Due?

As the industry in California stands, the only people seemingly getting rich off of cannabis are the lawyers and the black market. Mainstream legalization advocates argued in the run-up to Prop 64 that cannabis should be regulated like alcohol. What we ended up with was an unwieldy mess that treats our produce like weapons of mass destruction – except in this case, WE’RE the ones who get blown up.

And that worries me greatly, since as I mentioned last month, we are in one of the most significant yin-and-yang cultural shifts in human history. We have a raging opioid epidemic co-occurring alongside the self-care revolution. In addition, in health and wellness we witness the western embrace of yoga and the doula revival challenging the materialism of our civilization’s health care. This shift in global consciousness continues to battle with the old paradigm imposing its edicts upon WE as a culture. We’re seeing this struggle play out right now in cannabis, with the major corporate players, many flush with cash from the Canadian Stock Exchange, to corner the market. Should that happen, the social and economic benefits promised by legalization will only be shared by an already lucky few – and the opportunity to create a truly new kind of industry will be lost.

And if WE can’t get this right, what hope do we have for more established industries to change their ways? As my friend Rob Hill from MG Retailer once said to me, “If WE don’t get the cannabis industry right, WE might be doomed.” And as WE’RE seeing, even a cannabis industry built on a single systems approach, with one set of stakeholders/investors focused exclusively on the metric of money, might not survive in this new reality. Last year, California cannabis tax revenue only clocked in at $345 million, far short of the $630 million Governor Jerry Brown predicted in his budget, and roughly even with the previous year’s, back when only medical patients could legally purchase it. Even in Canada, shortages of product and purchase outlets have strengthened the black market as well. Addressing a brand new market the same old way just won’t cut it anymore.

cannabis money leaf, cannabis industry

Righting the wrongs

As a permaculturalist, I believe in a whole systems approach that integrates community, consumers and business into its design matrix. How that leads to a more equitable future depends on all the stakeholders, from the politicians to the investors to law enforcement all the way down to the level of the OGs seeing themselves as part of this matrix as well, too, whether they supported legalization or not. Easier said than done, I know, but the current reality serves no one, and a better one is possible with just a modest shift in how we respond to each other’s needs.

On the product level, this means creating and supporting products that put the GOOD in consumer goods, and provide value, education and benefit for society at large. In the whole systems model I subscribe to, people are the new currency, both the people you work with and the customers as well. Because our reality is shifting, those people are searching for ways to adjust. It is not enough to give them a pill and be done with it. If you give them more than what they expect, not only you but the society you live in will change for the better. And that’s what ultimately, equanimity and justice in cannabis means – the good actors winning over the sorely mistaken.

So if you are committed to this project, the next time you’re ordering from a dispensary or a delivery service, ask yourself these important questions before you give a business your money and your support.

Does the business have an educational platform?
There’s a lot people have to learn – and unlearn – about cannabis, and we’re finding out new things every day. The brand you purchase should commit itself to keeping you, the customer, up to date.

Does the business have a multi-stakeholder model? 
Society pays the highest cost imaginable for purely extractive business models. With the rise of social benefit corporations, brands can spread the wealth throughout their communities, and so can consumers.  

 What are the business’s brand values? 
Choose the brand like you would choose your friends. You wouldn’t want to hang out with a liar or a hypocrite. Conversely, if they are who they say they are, they’re a keeper.

Is the brand a good environmental steward of the land they operate on?
Elon Musk’s Mars colony notwithstanding, this is the only world we have. Your brand should take that seriously, and hold their processes to the same brand values that it holds itself to.

Are you enhancing your quality of life by supporting the business?
There are quite a few good souls out there fighting the good fight right there with us. Rest assured, if you’re purchasing from any of these organizations, you’ll be more than happy with the answers to the preceding questions: the Grow Sisters of the Emerald Triangle, my compatriots in the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, which continues to advocate effectively for the craft farmers in my region. Education is key to delivering an ethical local industry, and the work they’ve done in educating the public and our Supervisors has been invaluable. The ICFA (International Cannabis Farmers Association) is developing standards and practices for sun grown heritage farmers as well as fighting for the preservation of this legacy by advocating for fairer taxation and representation.

Justice provides its own form of medicine for an ailing society, and cannabis, as we all know, is a powerful medicine when used correctly. Through our organic farming techniques and support of family farms, Medicine Box pursues its own course towards restorative justice. Now that cannabis is being set free, we want to make sure that those within our communities that built the crop up to this point do not fall prey to the greater injustice of being written out of the industry. So long as there are people who support Medicine Box, they never will be, either.

And with that, let justice be served.