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Weed Entrepreneurs Leave N.C. for 'Greener' Pastures

Stop the Madness

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Two years ago this week, I was sitting at my desk at the SF Weekly in downtown San Francisco, furiously putting the final touches to our annual music issue. In San Francisco, we didn't do a special 4/20 issue each year. We didn't have to. Every day is 4/20 in California, as it is now in many other states.

We had a dedicated cannabis reporter at SF Weekly, Chris Roberts, who monitored all aspects of the booming weed industry, from the doctors who issue medical marijuana cards at places like Green Evaluation in the Haight-Ashbury, to the growers up north in rugged Humboldt, Mendocino and Trinity counties, to the little shops across the city that carry all manner of marijuana edibles, like the Bloom Room just a short stroll from my office.

Cannabis is not just big business in California; it's business as usual. Next year, the state will rid itself of its "medical-only" façade, legalizing weed completely. Several other states — Alaska, Washington, Oregon Nevada, Colorado, Maine, and Massachusetts — and the District of Columbia have done the same. And another 19, including southern states Arkansas and Florida, have legalized medical marijuana. That's a total of 27 states plus D.C. that will have some form of legalized marijuana use by 2018.

Business Insider reported in January that the legal cannabis market is growing as fast as broadband internet did in the 2000s. When all changes to state laws take effect in states that legalized marijuana in 2016, one in five Americans will have access to fully legal weed, according to the Insider, which also reported that the North American marijuana market raked in $6.7 billion in revenue in 2016 and is on track to top $20 billion by 2021.

Not only is North Carolina missing out on all that revenue and all those jobs; it is losing talented entrepreneurs. And that's the focus of our cover story this week by Erin Tracy-Blackwood. In her report, Erin talks to two former Charlotteans and one former Greensboro resident about why they chose to leave North Carolina, the state they love, and move to Colorado, Oregon and California, respectively.

It was simple economics.

Sadly, the subjects of Erin's story asked us not to use their names — even though they work in a completely legal industry — because of pushback from the Trump administration. In February, the press secretary to the president who campaigned largely on the idea of state's rights, announced plans to ramp up federal enforcement of marijuana laws in states where it is legal. So much for Trump's promises of jobs and commitment to upholding the "will of the people."

But the cat's out of the bag. There's no reversing progress that most Americans have categorically approved.

Not everything is so serious in this special 4/20 issue, and it shouldn't be. Weed is fun, right? It involves lots of laughing, and hopefully you'll get a few when you read my story in the music section. I've compiled a list of the Top 10 weed songs by Charlotte artists — from rapper NiGE Hood's dancefloor banger "Fried on Friday" to Serfs' shoegazy noise-pop song "Marijuana Mom." In the food section, Ryan Pitkin offers up some recipes for marijuana edibles that you can make for yourself — when you travel to one of the states where it's legal, that is. We aren't promoting illegal activities. No siree.

And we don't assume that everybody celebrates 4/20. As fun as it is for me to talk and write about weed, as delightful as it is to hang out and get into deep conversations with friends who are stoned, my own days of weed and roses are way back in the rear-view mirror. I'm a member of one of those secret clubs that avoids mind or mood altering substances of any kind. But that's me. Others have their own reasons for avoiding weed. And that's OK. Choice is a good thing.

But for many Charlotteans, marijuana provides valuable recreation and relaxation. In some cases, it is essential therapy for people suffering from serious medical conditions. That North Carolina lawmakers still see marijuana use as bad behavior is mind-boggling — particularly when at the same time the state openly celebrates alcohol use, which has virtually no health benefits. There's a disconnect here, folks, and readers of Creative Loafing are not fools. So write to your congresspeople and tell them that you've had enough of the tragic, unnecessary incarceration of weed users and vendors; tell them you're sick and tired of all the lost jobs and revenue. This madness must stop.

mkemp@clclt.com

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