by David Downs
Decorated Bay Area news man John Geluardi released his first book, Cannabiz: The Explosive Rise of the Medical Marijuana Industry this October. A former staff writer for the SF Weekly and current East Bay Express contributor, Geluardi saw so much momentum building behind medical pot, he researched and reported a 200-page non-fiction paperback, released by Pollipoint Press of Sausalito, available nationwide and online. An essential primer to the rise of and challenges facing the sector, Cannabiz offers a front row seat to one of America's historic new movements. Geluardi concludes his Q&A with Legalization Nation, picking up where he left off — on new fissures in the field, the fallout from Proposition 19's failure, and the medical pot industry's political forecast. Edited for length and clarity.
Legalization Nation: So what do you make of these calls to boycott dispensaries and growers who were against Prop 19?
John Geluardi: I think it's sort of post-election bitterness and if it is, it's misguided. I think now that the election is over people should be a little conciliatory and I think the legalization people need to get more of their ducks in a row. Looking at that last campaign, it was fairly flawed. I think it was a bad year.
Legalization Nation: That's what we were reporting a year ago.
John Geluardi: I think that really hurt the effort. They also overstated the revenue from taxes if it was legalized. I think that was greatly overstated and people were getting adamant about the idea that it was legalized the cartels in Mexico would go away and they would stop being violent. These cartels are very diverse operations, they're not just into marijuana, they're into an assortment of drugs in addition to extortion, kidnapping, and arms trading. The idea that these guys would fold their tents and go work for the post office was a little fantastic and I think people saw through it, frankly.
The other thing was, there was no driving force behind the legalization campaign like there was behind Prop 215, which was being driven largely by the AIDS epidemic. ... As a social justice issue I don't think they were quite able to frame it as that. They tried, but it was poorly done or something, I don't know.
Legalization Nation: Did writing Cannabiz change your perspective at all about the issue?
John Geluardi: I'm not vitally attached to it. I don't smoke pot although I smoked a bunch while researching it, for research purposes.
If anything I believe now in a much stronger fashion there's a lot of hypocrisy in the billions of dollars being spent on marijuana prohibition somehow benefiting anyone. It's absolutely absurd. It's one of the most failed anti-crime efforts in history.
But there's also a lot of hypocrisy in the medical marijuana industry as well. It's by and large males aged 18 to 35, and American males are one of the healthiest demographics in the world.
Legalization Nation: Does the hypocrisy of the drug war and medical marijuana cancel each other out then?
John Geluardi: They do sort of cancel each other out, but prohibition is more harmful. It affects people's lives in a very negative way and it misleads taxpayers and wastes their hard-earned money.
Legalization Nation: So what do you think about full legalization in California?
John Gelaurdi: I'd hate to go on record as supporting either side. I see positive things about legalization, especially stopping this silly idea that prohibition is somehow a value to the community. The anti-legalization campaign took a tack during this last election that if legalization occurs this brand new substance was going to come charging onto the shores of California, there's going to be wrecks on the highway and kids are going to be high. Marijuana has fully infiltrated California and has been for years. There's much bigger problems in high school, like oxycontin for one. The fact that people are decrying pot, just seems outrageous and hypocritical.
Legalization Nation: We've said this election has shown that medical marijuana has emerged as a tolerable state of of detante in California.
John Geluardi: I think that's a really good observation. It's kind of interesting though, this last election, not just in California but in other states, voters said no to medical pot. I don't know if the industry went through a hiccup, but it took some hits. Oregon, which is the most pot friendly state in the country, rejected dispensaries. But they were rejecting the business of marijuana, as opposed to rejecting marijuana in any way, shape or form.
It's going to be interesting to see how medical marijuana industry regroups after this election. I don't know if the industry has reached sort of a saturation point, and it's just going to have to regroup for a while.
Legalization Nation: Do you think the DEA will raid permitted large-scale grows in Oakland?
John Geluardi: It remains to be seen. You never know how the DEA is going to react. If you look at history, the DEA has a tendency to avoid busting dispensaries where there's a lot of symbiotic relationships with the communities they operate in. They don't usually bust dispensaries in cities that sanction them.
Legalization Nation: It does seem like the trick is to pay taxes — pay for protection if you will — and once cities get hooked on that tax revenue, they'll never turn it down.
John Geluardi: I think elected officials at the city, and county level, they say, 'No, no, no' and they really mean 'Yes, yes, yes.' They see it, they want it. There's money, there's jobs, there's an infrastructure of highly motivated people who could walk precincts and make phone calls and contribute money, and they want all that, but they haven't quite yet grown the balls to embrace it.
Legalization Nation: Well, they can't lead, they have to follow.
John Geluardi: Unless you've got, like, a Rebecca Kaplan. Here's a young politician that vigorously represents this younger, new side of Oakland and she didn't hesitate to embrace it and she almost won mayor.