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Legalization Realization

What’s in store as California heads toward the legalization of cannabis?

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Dylan Marzullo

Co-owner, Deep Roots

As the co-owner of a hydroponic growing and gardening supply shop in Santa Rosa and Sebastopol that caters to cannabis growers, Marzullo gets asked about the run-up to legalization all the time.

"That's the question of the decade," he says. "I have this conversation at least five times a day."

He hopes business will stay the same, but if voters approve legalization, he realizes his industry will grow, and with it will come more competition from big retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's. Those stores already carry some of the soil amendments and fertilizers that Deep Roots carries.

"We're at the mercy of where the market goes."

He says he's carved out a narrow niche, and his edge is know-how and a willingness to deal.

"Big stores are not willing to negotiate on a larger level. They're asking full retail price for everything."

He hopes growers will appreciate the role they play in what is, for now, a small, local community. —Stett Holbrook

Kevin Sabet

Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM)

For Kevin A. Sabet, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) and advisor to three U.S. presidential administrations, the move to legalize weed is all about one thing: money.

"There's a huge industry that wants to make money off of other people's problems," Sabet says by phone, on his way to speak to schools and communities in Hawaii about the risks and effects of "21st-century marijuana"—much stronger than the marijuana of 10 to 20 years ago. "And I'm very concerned about that."

Sabet founded SAM in 2013 because he was concerned with the false dichotomy of the marijuana debate: that we either have to legalize marijuana or incarcerate people for it. "I thought there were many better, smarter solutions on these two extremes," he says.

Sabet's biggest worry, he says, is with the adolescent brain. "My concern is that access and availability and legalization would increase the influence of an industry that's going to downplay the harms."

Last week, Sabet spoke to schools in Marin, where he says that many parents were unaware of the negative effects of marijuana, and thanked him for bringing the issues to their attention. "I heard a lot of people saying that this is not an issue that folks want to talk about around here—that this is kind of something that gets slipped under the rug," Sabet says. "And that it's really an elephant in the room because, you know, no one starts their heroin addiction putting a needle in their arm, right?"

Learning from Colorado about how the marijuana industry has taken hold should be frightening for Californians, Sabet says, who have taken a strong stance against tobacco.

"I find it particularly ironic when certain people talk about how anti-tobacco they are and anti–tobacco industry, yet they're OK with sort of rolling out the red carpet for the marijuana industry."—Molly Oleson

Random North Bay Pothead

Marin County, Somewhere

As if in a dream, I encountered a random North Bay pothead over the weekend. He was wandering around an undisclosed location in West Marin, smoking a joint while eating a plum and reading the latest Bolinas Hearsay News. I approached this man, a wild-eyed hippie in dirty, patched coveralls, as he blew a big puff of smoke in the general direction of capitalism, which random North Bay pothead disdains as a matter of principle.

I approached random North Bay pothead and asked, What are your hopes and concerns when it comes to cannabis legalization in California? To which he responded: "Are you a narc?"

I convinced him I was a reporter on a search for hopes and concerns as they relate to cannabis legalization.

"I'm concerned that you're walking up to people you don't even know and asking them dumb questions," he said. "But I'm hopeful you might join me for a puff of this fine, stanky homegrown, so that we might get to know one another before I answer your questions in a more thoughtful manner."

Wisps of smoke blew across Elephant Mountain, which we had by then mounted—though the memory is hazy, at best. The man finally admitted from atop the massif, "I'm concerned that when cannabis is legalized, my entire self-generated identity as a West Marin outlaw vagrant will go up in smoke, and I'll have nothing. I'll be nothing, nobody. Yet I'm hopeful that I'll be able to go grab a gram at the Tamalpais Junction 7-11 to go with my Slurpee. That would be cool." —Tom Gogola

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