A unique group of bedfellows stood up for the future of California marijuana at a pot confab in July. Even as the federal government continues to fight weed operations that are legal at the state level, including many in SoCal, the gathered dignitaries pushed for legalization and an end to the failed war on drugs.
The featured guest was former Mexican President Vicente Fox, who met with legalization proponents at the Drake Hotel in San Francisco on July 8. They announced a worldwide partnership with the goal of decriminalizing and regulating pot.
In the years since he left office, Fox has become a leading international voice for legalization. He believes it could end cartel violence and has said he would become a grower if it were allowed.
“We cannot afford more blood and the loss of more young people,” Fox said at a press conference to announce the partnership. “We must get out of the trap we are in.”
Fox met for three hours with pot entrepreneur Jamen Shivley and Steve DeAngelo, operator of the Harborside Health Center in Oakland. They plan to meet again in Mexico later in July, where they’ll be joined by the dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health and several lawmakers.
The stakes the group faces couldn’t be graver. In the seven years since Fox left office and his successor began an aggressive push against the cartels, more than 70,000 people have died.
In the United States, more people are arrested for non-violent drug crimes than for any other, and simple pot possession accounts for the largest part of that group. Most Americans support legalization and regulation, but the criminal justice system continues to ruin lives.
An ongoing battle is taking place in the state where the meeting took place. California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, and has allowed dispensaries to serve patients. But in the last few years, federal authorities have closed hundreds of dispensaries throughout the state. Local municipalities have succeeded at zoning many more out of business.
In Oakland, next door to San Francisco, the federal government is going after DeAngelo’s own dispensary. Last year U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag tried to shut down the Harborside Health Center, touted as the “world’s largest pot shop.“
But DeAngelo’s neighborhood and the city rallied behind him and he’s been open since. Oakland sued Haag and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to stop the asset seizure Haag had started. The judge dismissed the suit, ruling that the city didn’t have standing to sue on Harborside’s behalf.
The city appealed, and while that works its way through the courts, the judge has allowed DeAngelo to keep Harborside open. If he closes, thousands of patients would lose access to legal medication and the city, state and federal governments would lose millions in taxes.
Shivley, a former Microsoft engineer, has said he plans to open a chain of premier marijuana stores in Washington and Colorado. His sometimes grandiose announcements and bombastic style have earned him distrust in the marijuana industry, but he remains involved in the gatherings with Fox, DeAngelo and others.