An open letter to the state of California.

For decades policy makers, law enforcement and the rest of the world have talked about us. Stoners. Growers. Criminals. Failed policies of prohibition have shaped the collective experience of the cannabis community. These policies have ensured we remained marginal and have left us underrepresented in public policy conversations.


It’s time to spark a new conversation. 

Today, we are at the table. We all talk together. It is that collaborative dialogue that is empowering progress.

Today, we are part of the conversation. 

It is the exchange of information and perspectives that is a best path forward. It is this path that will take us to the 21st century cannabis marketplace that reflects our decades of global leadership in this industry and is built on our solid foundation of environmental and labor protections, of small business and sustainable agriculture.

This is a complex challenge. It’s no wonder we need each other to succeed. 

We succeed when we share our message. This is true for all stakeholders. Everyone must have a voice. We succeed when we listen carefully to all perspectives. This is true for all stakeholders. Everyone must listen.

We succeed when we spread our message and tell the world who we are—free from fear and shame. 

When we succeed we protect our way of life, our farms, our businesses. More importantly, we protect the opportunity to start those farms, to get back to the land. We protect the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurialism that has driven our cannabis industry. We protect good jobs in communities up and down the state.

Today, in California, we are succeeding. 

We are succeeding thanks to the hard work and courage shown by every single one of you. We are succeeding thanks to lawmakers, from diverse backgrounds, putting aside party affiliation and political vulnerabilities to work together to solve problems.

We are succeeding thanks to the pen of the most experienced governor, a pen held by the hand of a leader who balances between sound thinking and innovation in a way that is uniquely Californian.

As implementation moves forward our success will be driven be the top quality staff at several state agencies who are enthusiastically embracing a complex public policy of regulating a multi-billion-dollar industry from the ground up. 

We are succeeding in expanding choice for patients. Providing pathways to alternative medicines and health care options. We are building this program on quality assurance and robust safety standard for workers and patients.

We are succeeding in professionalizing the workforce. We are turning marginal, seasonal jobs into full time professional jobs. Good jobs, in the communities that need the most.

This topic is invigorating—and this historic challenge is an opportunity for all of us to rise together. To overcome great challenges and realize great opportunity. 

All my life I have been called a “criminal.” I grew up on the wrong side of the war on drugs. It is this life experience that drives my public policy work, my advocacy, and my work in community development.

I am driven because I know that if we succeed in the public policy arena we turn “criminals” into farmers and entrepreneurs. We can build a bridge from a troubled past to a better future.

Adelanto chose cannabis cultivation over private prisons. Coalinga is considering transforming a shuttered jail into a cannabis oil manufacturing facility. Cannabis is taking root in new communities and is helping to drive reform of the criminal justice system in ways that promises to restore goodwill between law enforcement and the public.

In the infamous Emerald Triangle, decades deep cultural scars are being healed as local governments sunrise comprehensive local permitting programs.

The Bay Area, birthplace of the medical cannabis movement, continues to lead with innovative and ground breaking policies and courageous leadership at every level of government.

There is still a lot of work to do. 

We have lots of work to do in Los Angeles, as Measure D continues to inhibit the open marketplace and prevents many of the communities hit the hardest by the war on drugs from realizing the benefit that comes with policy reform.

We have lots of work to do in the central valley, the North State, and the Sierra foothills, in communities where misguided local policies perpetuate the injustice of prohibition while enhancing the negative impacts of unregulated agriculture and commerce.

A dynamic coalition must be built to make progress at the federal level on issues like banking, deschedullng, and—ultimately—full federal regulation as an agricultural product. We have lots of work to do to realize all of the potential benefits that robust cannabis and hemp industries can bring to our state, our nation, and our planet.  

We must work to ensure safe access, for patients throughout the state. We must advance protections for non-commercial cultivation of cannabis and we must develop programs to ensure that income levels are not a barrier to health care choices and options.

And, we will get that work done, because we will do it together.