Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Catching up with our fellow tokers.

I had a pretty good time interviewing Mike Cann from for my reporting class so I thought I'd post it here. Take some time to read it and educate yourself and about marijuana reform and get involved!

Tell me a little about yourself?
Basically, I’m a 30-something year old financial professional. I grew up in the North shore in Byfield, Mass. I do music shows, I’m on the MASSCANN/NORML board of directors, and I book the music for the annual Freedom Rally [on the Boston Common].

How did you get involved with MASSCANN/NORML?
Probably a lot like other people; reading High Times growing up and going to the Freedom Rally. I went to a couple of the first years they had it when I was in college and I ended up coming back. I was helping a friend of mine who was in a band trying to book their band for the Freedom Rally and I just ended up in a meeting and decided I wanted to help out and I’ve been doing it ever since. Basically, what we do is we try to let people know what going on with marijuana reform and how they can help. With MASSCANN/NORML we started out with 50 non-binding decriminalization and medical marijuana initiatives and we won every one.

What does marijuana reform mean to you?
I think the big thing is to make sure that people aren’t arrested is number one. It’s always been the big issue for me that peoples lives get ruined over one joint. I think bigger than that, the drug war itself and the crime, it’s just to make the world a better place. One of the biggest things I try to bring to this is that we’ve always focused on people who are users of marijuana which is fine and great, but there are also a majority out there that don’t use marijuana that also support us, and that’s what you saw with the vote [on Question 2] is that of the 65% that voted for marijuana decriminalization and at least half of those that voted for it are non-users. I think that he war on marijuana users and the drug war effects all people whether you use or not and I think that’s a big message I’m trying to get out there.

Marijuana is often referred to as a ‘gateway’ drug, do you think this is a misnomer?
Absolutely, I smoked pot but I never did heroin, I never had a problem with any of those other things. Obviously there’s always that one person, but that person also drank milk, and I’m sure they drank beer first and we don’t try to outlaw beer cause of other drugs like heroin. It doesn’t make any sense and scientifically it is shown it is not a gateway [drug].

Are you a medical or casual user?
Both. I’m a former athlete; I was an amateur wrestler. I’ve got a bad back. I probably needed surgery about 10 years ago and I didn’t go for it. I’ve just been dealing with Ziatica. I’ve always enjoyed it too so I’m not going to say I don’t enjoy it or even use it. Even if I was pain free tomorrow, I still think I’d smoke pot.

How long have you been using?
[Laughter] I tried it when I was in high school but wasn’t really a smoker because I was an athlete. I pretty much stayed away from it, you know, I tried it quite a few times in high school, but I never really was a regular user until I got to college. I used to get these migraines, and I lived next to a kid who always had it and if I had a migraine I’d talk to him and it would work and I discovered that it not only work but I liked it and enjoyed it.

How does pot affect you?
Not much, the biggest thing for me is if I’m out 5 or 6 hours at a show, working and I come home and I can’t sleep cause my back hurts I have two choices; I can take a Tylenol, which will work, or I can smoke a joint. And if I smoke a joint, for me, it makes me feel better than if I take a Tylenol cause I know that my father has the same condition as me and he just had a liver transplant and I’m convinced its from 25 years of taking Tylenol. Doctor’s tell you, “Yeah, this is going to kill your liver.” For me personally, it allows me to moderate my Tylenol use. In general, it doesn’t do too much for me, especially compared to the drugs they wanted to put me on.

What negative effects have you seen from marijuana use?
The big thing is that it’s illegal; so therefore, by people using it in an illegal market it creates black markets and I think there’s some violence associated with that, so that’s one negative. I also think anything you smoke is generally not a good thing so obviously smoking cannabis may not be the best thing for your lungs and may not be the best thing health-wise. Obviously, I think some people have problems with substances whether it’s chocolate or alcohol or tobacco or marijuana. For some people, it take’s over their lives like anything else so I think like any other substance out there that people like and enjoy, for some people, it’s an issue.

What’s up with Scott Brown and his re-criminalization tirade?
Yeah... yeah...[laughter] Scott Brown is a Republican in the state and is supporting a bill that would fine anyone $1000 for marijuana in the car. It doesn’t matter if you’re using it or not, whether you’re sober or not, medical user or not, it’s basically a blanket law that would charge $1000 and if it’s not paid then it would be a criminal offense. Which to me is de facto re-criminalization. A lot of people are not going to be aware of it and not be able pay $1100 in fines within the 30 days they’re probably going to require if this becomes law. There are a lot of us out there who don’t like it so we decided to stage a protest next Tuesday night at his next campaign fundraiser.

What positive things can you see coming with the approval of medical marijuana?
The big thing is someone like Marcy Duda, who’s a grandmother, who’s been testifying for years at the state house to be able to get legal marijuana. Marcy has a brain aneurisms and she testified last year that she had two sisters with the same medical condition, neither one of them used medical marijuana and both of them are dead right now and she credits marijuana with saving her life. Someone like her would be able to either have someone grow some plants for her or grow them herself. That would be the big thing, that someone like Marcy would have access to medicine and not have to go to the black market, not be at risk for arrest and be able to get good cannabis to help her relive her daily pain.

Of legalization?
Ending the black market, taking corruption out of our government. I’ve become more conservative as I’ve grown older and people don’t necessarily assume that being a marijuana reform advocate. I think that’s a big thing you get from law and order people, is that there’s no respect for the law, and there’s a reason why there’s no respect for the law. The law is unjust and it doesn’t make any sense. When you put these illegal drug gangs out of business and at the same time, get rid of the biggest law out there that people don’t respect, I think that people might actually start to respect the law again and get much more good will for police out there.

How will Americans react to marijuana regulation?
I think that most Americans would be fine with it. I think even the ones that pose against us right now, once it happens I think they will be totally happy with it just like they were when alcohol prohibition was repealed. It’s been proven--and this is another big thing I like to being up, especially with people who are against changing the law-- other count and other states, if you look at Amsterdam, have lower use among adults and youth because its regulated. You look at neighboring countries that have laws similar to the U.S. and they have higher rates of use. It’s the same thing in America in the states where it’s decriminalized, we’re not seeing higher rates of use, and we’re actually seeing lower rates of use. When you legalize it there’s kind of a taboo factor, outlaw factor, that goes away and it’s not as exciting anymore.

What types of obstacles and opposition are reformers facing with these bills?
Our biggest obstacles are the politicians themselves. Every single year we’ve had hearings on this and we bring out a lot of medical users from Massachusetts to speak at these and the last year, for instance, the bill actually passed the committee, we had a vote on committee level, and we won the vote and it should have gone to a full house vote but it never did. The politicians are too scared to be on the record one way or another, they’re too scared to make the 65% (which is more like 80% for medical), they’re worried about making them upset by voting against medical. On the other hand, they’re worried about small percentage like police union, jails, the district attorney, on the other side are worried about making those folks upset that also fund their campaigns. We’re kind of stuck where we’re really trying to get the politicians to let us have a vote on medical marijuana and we think it will win if it comes to a vote with a full house but that’s our biggest obstacle, to actually get them to allow us to get this to come to a vote.

What’s the best way to get involved with marijuana reform?
I would say if you’re a college student, start or join a NORML chapter or student policy chapter. Also, if you’re just regular person, same thing, I would look out for NORML chapter and probably attend the meetings to see how you can help out there. Beyond that, I would say there are a lot of things you can do. Whether you show up to the Scott Brown rally for instance, showing up with a video camera and recording it, putting it up on YouTube, writing about it. I always tell people that it really depends on who you are what you want to do. There are so many ways you can get involved; it’s about taking the way will keep you interested.