Last week, as the joint of OG Kush I’d smoked began to dissolve the pain from my sciatica, David Goldman proclaimed, “We are in the golden age of weed!” I was in no state to disagree with him. David is a spokesman for the San Francisco chapter of Americans for Safe Access. He helps make sure that patient rights aren’t violated and, when they are, he is instrumental in righting those wrongs. Not merely a core member of San Francisco’s ASA chapter, David also holds a seat on San Francisco’s Medical Marijuana Task Force. The Task Force is selected by City Council members to gather information pertinent to the regulation of medical cannabis in San Francisco and advise the council. Of course, he’s also a patient. He’s been involved with the anti-prohibition movement since 1996 when Proposition 215 first came around. David is a retired schoolteacher—he taught high school math for 34 years—a passionate advocate, and an important part of the cannabis movement.
David isn’t a grower, he isn’t an entrepreneur, he isn’t a dispensary-owner, he doesn’t hold a political office, nor does he work in law enforcement. He’s just a regular dude who found a way to get involved and be part of the cannabis movement. David’s work will, most likely, have an affect on every cannabis user at some point in their lives. It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s not. The actions of small groups define the standards of the new era. We live in a nation shaped by policy, and individuals shape that policy. Since San Francisco remains at the forefront of medical cannabis self-regulation, the policies implemented in SF impact the rest of the country.
As I said, David is a pretty average guy by most standards. Of course, his role in the cannabis movement/industry makes him different than a lot of the other folks I’ve met. He is simply a dedicated patient who has realized the power that comes with United States citizenship. He organizes rallies, meetings, and protests. When President Obama attended a fund-raising breakfast at a prominent San Francisco hotel on April 21st, David got people together through ASA to wait outside of the hotel for the president. They made signs that politely reminded the president of his commitment to patients’ rights, and met him as he exited the breakfast. It was a simple act, but powerful. Without a massive amount of money behind him, or an elected office to maintain, David uses only his passion to influence change. David spends his time getting educated and staying informed. He turns up in the places where a concerned citizen’s input is needed. He holds court in the places where citizens must organize themselves. He is a man of the times in this green wave, and the small ripples he makes today will surely amount to sizable waves down the line.
Our generation has come to recognize activism as more an airing of grievances than a transformative act. We inherited activism and protesting from a generation who made it work, and we expected it to work automatically for us. For most of my life, I haven’t seen activism accomplish much of anything. That’s not to say that activism is toothless, but it’s come to signify the last ditch effort of the defeated. I applaud those who speak out against what they believe to be the shortcomings of the institutionalized United States, but making a protest really count for something without money or influence is difficult indeed.
We live in an era dominated by incumbency, and incumbency bows to its revenue sources, not the citizens—no matter how much they protest. That said, cannabis is an exception to this rule. Unlike most other social causes, cannabis has the capacity to generate tremendous amounts of revenue and jobs. This means that lawmakers must consider not only the shouts of protesters, but also the potential revenue tied to cannabis. Beyond the money, there’s the growing acceptance. Folks from just about every demographic partake of cannabis, or at least know someone who does. In the public’s eye, it’s no longer merely an issue fought by hippies against the man, but by patients against an overly restrictive government. Cannabis activism gets attention from a wide range of people—and it keeps their attention because it’s tied to major revenue.
We are entering an era of restructuring in the United States. The decisions being made now create both a new precedent and a new example for how citizens can be involved in government. It may just be the San Francisco task force, but David’s involvement in community politics represents something bigger than that. We’re not talking about planting some trees in the park or deciding where the new shopping center will go. We’re talking about setting the standards of an emerging industry, and affecting large scale policy change within the United States government. It’s the renaissance of the citizen: the restructuring of power from the community up, and cannabis is the means.
ZACH G. MOLDOF
Previously on Weed Dealings, Chronic Employment