Sullivan: Responsible industry ambassadors set the foundation for greatness
“Too much light often blinds gentlemen of this sort. They cannot see the forest for the trees.”
-Christoph Martin Wieland (1733-1813), Musarion , Canto II
Most of us know this saying as some variation of the adage “don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees,” meaning do not get caught up in so much of the minutiae that the big picture is lost. At least as far as the Great State of Missouri is concerned, we have won an epic and hard-fought battle, but we must not lose sight of the fact that we have not won the war. These are exciting times for many, and many are understandably enthusiastic at the newfound freedom that our Constitutional Amendment has provided to the citizens of this state.
The citizens of our state are truly blessed that this was the mechanism of legalization that many dedicated individuals fought long and hard to achieve. As an attorney, I can attest to what many of you already know; there is no higher law in the land than constitutional law. Having medical marijuana legalized by such a thoughtfully crafted and thorough constitutional amendment, overwhelmingly supported by the people, will provide the citizens of our State with protections from overly restrictive legislation that has continued to plague the industry in many other legalized states.
We should all be thankful for this and thankful for those who drafted and fought for this amendment, as well as the citizens of our great state that voted it into law. That being said, we must not lose sight of the forest for the trees, and we must not let the enthusiasm of winning this battle blind us to the fact that we have not yet one the war. The war for absolute legalization and reform has not been won and the revelry of the battle won cannot be allowed to damage the effort to win the war.
We cannot forget that we are a nation of laws and what we have achieved thus far was achieved through acceptance and united participation in that legal process. Everything about our country is founded on the rule of law and the effective administration of what I consider to be the greatest country on earth depends upon adherence to the rule of law. As we enter this new phase of legalization in our state, we should not lose sight of the fact that right or wrong, prior to this constitutional amendment, marijuana was illegal in this state. The amendment did not simply create a blanket legalization of all things marijuana. Even those of us like myself who are not even users of marijuana believe that full legalization and reform can and will be achieved, but we are not there yet.
If we want to get there, we have to continue to fight the war in a responsible way that encourages the state government and the citizens of the state to eventually move forward to the legalization of adult-use and appropriate reform of all marijuana laws. We have a process in our state and in our country for protesting and changing what the citizenry feels to be inappropriate laws. In our system of government, ultimately the majority will prevail, but stigma and public apprehension still exists. So, while working towards that goal all of us in the industry must do everything we can to provide the best possible example for the citizens of our state, the citizens of other states working towards legalization, and the citizens of the country as a whole. We simply cannot get caught up in the fervor of legalization to such an extent that we go beyond what has been most generously permitted under our constitutional amendment. No, it is not perfect, but it is darn good. No the emergency rules implementing the amendment are not perfect, but they are darn good and the Department of Health and Senior Services should be applauded for the incredible jobs these dedicated public servants have done to ensure that the will of the people prevails. Yes, mistakes will be made. Yes, there will be gray areas, but now is not the time to test those boundaries at the expense of the wealth of achievements that lie ahead for this industry.
At the risk of descending into excessive cliche, “[t]he better part of Valour, is Discretion…” Yes, that is the actual quote from Shakespeare, colloquially repeated as “discretion is the better part of valor” or “caution is the better part of valor.” In other words, discretion would be the industry watchword when interpreting the current state of the law in furtherance of our goal to broaden legalization and reformation of all marijuana laws in this country.
Since the amendment has been passed and even more so since patient cards have been issued, social media has been abuzz with stories that clearly describe actions that range from tip-toeing along the lines of legality to fully leaping right over the line. We should ask ourselves what purpose it serves to flaunt legalization in the face of the government, as well as many still apprehensive citizens when we have already come so far. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The question is why would anyone want to do anything to snuff that light out at this point.
The public is on our side; the majority lawmakers are on our side even if they will not quite admit it yet; we will see what I am sure many of the activists, who have been involved in these issues for far longer than I thought they may never see in their lifetimes. It will come, but playing fast and loose with the law and taking advantage of the fact that there is doubt and uncertainty in this period of transition will not get us any closer to that goal. It is incumbent upon industry leaders and leaders in the community to police ourselves and educate the community on the long-term goal of prosperity and acceptance.
Yes, the authorities are currently are going through a period of transition in many ways regarding marijuana law and with that transition comes a learning curve. It serves no interest to be rude and defiant in the face of that reality. I know that many involved in the movement have a disdain for law-enforcement. However, not one of those law enforcement officers policing our streets had a hand in making marijuana illegal in the first place, and not one of them was given a choice when they became a public servant as to whether they would uphold the laws of the state. In fact, they are sworn to do so. So, what good does animosity toward them do during this transitional period. Is not consideration and education perhaps a better route?
Recently, I spent 30 minutes talking on a street corner with two uniformed police officers in my community explaining everything I could to them about the new laws and how I interpreted them as a lawyer and what changes it would mean for them. Perhaps to the shock of many readers, they were extremely receptive, cordial and grateful to receive that information. For those of you saying “sure, they act that way when talking to a lawyer,” take a look at my twitter profile @lawyerologist and you will see that my appearance does not exactly exude conservatism. I was surprised to hear that they had not received any information whatsoever from their respective departments on the issue. I promptly offered to come to the department and answer any questions they had and help in any way I could and my offer was appreciated. What they got to see was an individual involved in the marijuana industry that approached them cordially, that spoke articulately, that was respectful, and that did not show disdain for them simply having done their job in upholding the laws that were, in fact on the books whether they liked it or not.
At this time of transition, everyone in this industry, the patient/consumer, all the way up to the largest cultivator, manufacturer or dispensary owner, needs to be an ambassador for our industry, and ambassadors create good responsible impressions for the community thereby fostering acceptance and destigmatization. The more law enforcement, city governments, and our neighbors see that this is just another industry that, like any responsible industry, is filled with some extraordinarily bright people with some very innovative ideas and some very good and taste tensions, the more smoothly we will move towards the goal of greater legalization, elimination of stigma and unfair laws, and the acceptance that so many who have worked so hard to see.