This last week I attended a reception for Oregon members of the National Cannabis Industry Association. The event took place at one of my favorite venues, the Kennedy School McMenamins location in Portland, Oregon. It's an old schoolhouse converted into a hotel and bar. For those of you not from Oregon, McMenamins is a company that restores historic locations and makes them into fantastic places to hangout. If you are ever in Oregon, definitely check one out, they have several locations.
When I first checked in I finally met someone that I have admired on social media for awhile now, Bethany Moore. I have followed her on Twitter and I'm friends with her on Facebook, and I always like the thought provoking, witty, and/or humorous things that she posts. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to meet too many people when I left work and headed north to Portland. Usually fighting traffic all the way there results in me being late, but I was actually one of the first ones there.
It gave me an opportunity to talk with Aaron Smith, the head of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). We had talked a lot via e-mail over the years, but had never actually met in person. When it comes to national lobbying on behalf of the cannabis industry, NCIA has done a tremendous job in the almost five years the organization has been around. Cannabis activism is a multi-faceted endeavor, and having an organization that represents the industry to federal politicians in a strong way like NCIA does is very important to reform efforts.
Aaron had some last minute things to take care of, so I shook his hand and told him I'd catch up with him later. That's when I ran into Sam Chapman, and old friend that I haven't seen in quite awhile. Sam knows very well that I don't come out to things that often, so he was quite surprised to see me. We struck up a conversation about some plans that he has for local activism and a data project, and were joined by one of United States Representative Earl Blumenauer's staff, a very nice lady named Tara.
I was a public policy major in college, so I have a lot of friends that are staffers for state and federal elected officials. Very, very few of them are interested in cannabis policy at all, let alone well versed on the topic. Tara had very interesting things to say, and it showed that she worked for what I consider to be the most cannabis friendly federal politician in America (Earl Blumenauer). Tara was very genuine, and I hope to work with her in the future spreading Earl's message.
It was fairly surreal to meet Earl Blumenauer. I've covered him on this blog for almost six years now, and followed his political pursuits even before that. I know there are lots of people out there that claim to be Earl's biggest fan, but I'm fairly certain that I'm actually his biggest fan. So when he joined our conversation, I was a bit star struck. I had so many questions that I wanted to ask him, and a bunch of witty comments up my sleeve that I planned on unleashing at the perfect times.
Instead I just stood there and hung on every word that Earl had to say. The event was the day after the first Democrat debate, a debate in which Bernie Sanders came out and said that he would vote for Nevada's marijuana legalization initiative, and a debate in which Hillary Clinton's comments on marijuana policy fell flat and were disappointing. Right before the NCIA reception, Hillary did an interview in which she changed her tune a bit, stating that states like Colorado should be allowed to proceed with legalization without federal interference.
"That is what she had originally told me, but for some reason it didn't come out that way in the debate." Earl Blumenauer said. I then took that opportunity to ask Earl a question. I asked him what he thought about the notion that most Americans think that Congress will legalize recreational marijuana, but I have always felt that it would be more like repealing federal prohibition, which is not exactly the same thing.
Earl replied with (paraphrasing), "Absolutely. It will be treated similar to alcohol, where there is no federal prohibition, and it's up to the states to proceed as they see fit. We (Congress) reserve the right to tax and regulate, just like alcohol. And we need to have a reasonable tax rate, you know, nothing outrageous." Why aren't all federal politicians more like Earl Blumenauer?
Earl then stated that he still feels that this will all occur by the end of this decade. "It will be game over for federal prohibition within five years." said Earl Blumenauer. I explained to Earl that I have quoted that claim many, many times on my blog. He then looked at me, gave me a wink, and said very enthusiastically, "And I hope you hold me to it!" After mumbling something that even I can't remember because I couldn't hold back the man crush feelings anymore for this amazing man, Earl hinted that there are some very significant things coming down the line in Congress, that he counted talk much about it now, but that he was extremely excited about what's to come. He was glowing when he said it, so I have to assume that it's something major. What will it be? I guess we will just have to sit and wait.
I do have one bone to pick with Mr. Blumenauer. He was not wearing his signature look - the bow tie. He was wearing a normal neck tie. I guess the only way to make things right is for Mr. Blumenauer to meet me for lunch sometime so we can talk the toke...I'll bring the cannabis!