By DAVE ABARTA
The time is now to have a balanced and honest discussion about the emerging cannabis market in our town. Local expertise and historical knowledge, as well as all rational signs, point toward legal, regulated cannabis businesses in the Truckee/North Lake Tahoe region being here to stay; however, we are once again faced with the possibility of prohibition.
The choice is now simply — would a safe, regulated, taxed, zoned, and licensed local cannabis industry better serve our community? Or should we put our hopes back into “Reefer Madness” and the failed war on drugs by prohibiting what we know is already present? Not wanting to end up with a thriving un-regulated, un-taxed, and un-safe local black market is where our opponents and we come together in agreement.
In the past two years, the Truckee community has continuously and overwhelmingly voiced its support for the cannabis plant through medical, recreational, and policy votes. Currently, more than 61 percent of all Americans support legalizing cannabis for any reason, while 80 percent support legalizing medical cannabis.
Conversely, the prohibitionists’ intellectual foundations have all but collapsed, leaving behind a landscape of routinely discredited and debunked arguments to keep cannabis banned. Unfortunately, there remains a small but very well-funded and active local minority who continually voice these discredited ideas in support of an all-out ban on everything cannabis in our community.
The current hypocrisy and misinformation that keep cannabis illegal are the same falsehoods that many drug war advocates have been touting for decades. We’ve continually heard that cannabis can’t be implemented because it’s dangerous. This is completely ridiculous, as a simple search on Google or PubMed (website for peer reviewed medical research) will reveal there are thousands of scientific case studies on the efficacy and safety of cannabis. The federal government itself even holds the patent for the use of the cannabinoid CBD as a neuroprotective medicine.
We’ve heard that the largest local concern regarding regulation of this industry consistently surrounds the potential effects on youth access and underage use. Yet, according to a Colorado report, state youth use rate is statistically lower than the national average and remains relatively unchanged since legalization. Moreover, more than half of all youth surveyed reported receiving cannabis from unregulated, unlicensed sources. We wholeheartedly agree with educators, counselors, and concerned parents that supporting healthy choices, preventing underage access, and decreasing underage youth use should be a top priority. However, prohibition has never and will never offer effective solutions to these issues. If we can work together to regulate and license cannabis, we will also be able to effectively achieve community solutions in the process.
Another important belief that’s currently being turned upside-down is the stereotypical cannabis consumer. The new-age cannabis consumer is no longer the proverbial “stoner” of yesteryear, they are instead are self-described as active, professional, family-oriented, and affluent. They are bi-partisan, enjoy full-time employment, and more than 42 percent of them are parents with children under 18 years old. More than 80 percent of those surveyed now use cannabis as part of their overall wellness program and favor it to other substances like alcohol and pharmaceuticals. These new-age consumers already offer a wealth of value to local businesses and look dramatically like our current tourist demographic in Truckee.
The war against prohibition is far from over, but the intellectual struggle is. The Truckee Town Council and staff deserve praise for their diligent work throughout this historic and arduous process. While we all wholeheartedly understand the difficult decision that the council has in front of it, we would hope and believe that it will have the bravery and courage to do the right thing for our community. It is time to bring cannabis out of the shadows and into the light once and for all.
~ Dave Abarta is president of Green Trees Wellness based in Truckee. He co-wrote this piece with Jennifer Barnaby, Corey Leibow, and Lee Graham.