Toking In 2010: Biggest Cannabis Stories of the Year


Graphic: Naming And Treating

​​By Jack Rikess

Toke of the Town
Northern California Correspondent

Here are the stories, tidbits and bong-thoughts of 2010 that caught my attention. 

In July, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs changed its stance from “attention” to “at ease” by allowing the use of medical marijuana for GI’s in the states where medicinal cannabis is legal.
Maybe one of the biggest underreported stories of the year was the acceptance by the U.S. federal government to allow marijuana as a possible medical treatment.

​Maybe the silence is there is because it is working. Under the repressive climate that still persists, despite success that has been achieved, some of the medical establishment is still fighting the results.
According to an article in the LA Times, around 25 percent of the returning vets from Iraq and Afghanistan are experiencing effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Using cannabis as a treatment for PTSD has proven to be an effective alternative to the drugs that leave soldiers dependent, depressed and out of it.
Many of the vets complain that the drugs dispensed by the VA have not helped and they have become estranged from family and friends due to the addictive nature of the treatment being offered.
“I ran the limit with V.A. drugs,” returning Vet Paul Culkin said. “Once I turned to medical marijuana, my life improved.” 
But that doesn’t matter to Dr. Andrea Barthwell. “Even if we have some success, there’s no data to examine. There hasn’t been a standard of care set. We can’t tell how many people are being harmed by it.”
What year are we in again? 
Nevada and Medical Marijuana
“Yes, we have no dispensaries.”
In the year 2000, the voters of Nevada overwhelmingly passed a medical marijuana bill. Since that time, dispensaries sit as vacant as Lindsey Lohan during a script read while advocates and activists try to work with an industry-fixated town that is losing more money than a drunken Keno player. Regular folks and hopeful Green Rush operators work on getting the medicine to the people, but mostly it’s just a big financial sinkhole for anyone who, at this time, tries to get involved at the distribution level. 
Imagine all those ten-gallon jars, on counters and in display cases, remaining empty while town leaders ponder ways to revitalize a town with 18 percent unemployment.
Two words to all you Strip Daddies: The munchies. You allow medical marijuana – you’ll see food and beverage tabs that would make Bugsy smile.
The town’s depressed the way it is…And you guys think weed would be bad for your image. 

Proposition 19
To 2010, this was the eight hundred pound bud in the room.
Not one of the politicians running for office would endorse the bill for fear of alienating some unknown voting force. The polls fluctuated like Oprah’s scale. But it opened doors of perception not seen since Tim Leary told us to, “Turn on, tune in and drop out.” 
Prop 19 showed the weaknesses and strengths of the movement. Heroes and villains were made and crucified. And now as the blue smoke settles, the verdict is still out. We all know one thing: There’s no going back now.

Hash is the new black. The demand for hashish with connoisseurs, especially down in Hollyweed, blazed like a hot-knife fire in Ought 10. New and different methods for making hash are being developed that solve the bubble out and melt issues, leaving us with a smooth burn like it did in the day.
The High Times Cup in San Francisco had a few party-goers doing the taser-dance on the floor because of the unexpected high quality of the Hash being smoked at the event. A few stretchers had to be called. 
Unexpected bonus: While many of the old-school types still do throw away their trim and larf in the dumps and down secluded ravines in plastic garbage bags, the smart growers are selling it for a decent profit.
A tertiary business was created by some enterprising hippies who search the countryside for discarded leaf to make their own hash or sell it to other hash-makers. 

Graphic: Opposing Views

San Jose Medical Marijuana Busts

All I can say is…I don’t get it. Sixty miles away, it’s like another country.
Every day another dispensary or delivery service is being busted in San Jose and the area. Just last week the City Council made some rules to limit the harassment the dispensary owners down there are facing. 
To be fair, according to some people I interviewed in San Jose, this was another case of some dispensaries getting too big for their britches. They start small and in no time, they have thousands of members. The rules state you can’t have that many, but the rules remain fuzzy at best.
Because of the disorganization surrounding medical marijuana practices in the South Bay, many SJ growers are sitting on their crop until the smoke… clears? Or starts up again?
The Union Label

It was this year that United Food Commercial Workers Local 5 reached out to the budtenders of the Bay Area for unionization.
“There are thousands of new workers ripe for unionization,” Dan Rush (really, that’s his name), Local 5 organizer, said. “There will be good union jobs with middle-class incomes.”
Too bad for Mr. Rush that budtenders make pretty good money (around $17 an hour plus bennys) and for the most part, love what they do.
Good luck there, Norma Rae, I don’t think the budtenders are going to need any representin’ any time soon. 

San Francisco Marijuana Task Force

All I’m going to say is that, San Francisco, with all of her good intentions, becomes too political and too sensitive for her own good.
The San Francisco Marijuana Task Force (SFMTF) is no different. Less than a year old and infighting is prevalent with the fear that some less than scrupulous dispensary owners are trying to get a piece of the pie for themselves at the expense of patient’s rights. 
We’ll see. Remember, all eyes are on San Francisco to see how the whole Green Rush thing is going to work out. Other states that have passed medical marijuana laws look to us to see how we do it, warts and all.
That is, until Colorado surpasses us because their dispensaries are allowed to be for-profit.
Mom, Are These Brownies For Me?
San Francisco Department of Health has established some of America’s first regulations concerning magic baked goods. After some kids and grandparents got into mom and dad’s cannabis-infused brownies, San Francisco demanded new packaging for all baked goods.
No longer can they have brands that mimic candy wrappers that look like Snickers but say, Snockers. Packages have to be individually wrapped and clearly identifiable as cannabis-infused baked goods.
And children and grandparents are not allowed in the kitchen where funny goods are being baked. (OK, I made up the part about the grandparents.)
Also if you want to make hot or cold food on the premises like ice-cream or milkshakes, you have to take a class and there will be a test. 
Put the lime in:
A) Your ear.
B) Out the window.
C) In the Coconut.

Photo: RCMP

Need I say any more?
When Royal Mountie Dan Moskaluk (truly a Canadian name) came upon a 2,300-plant grow in British Columbia, he was surprised by a few black bears that were trained to guard their master’s crop.
At first skeptical and little afraid, the police soon realized the bears were quite docile and very mellow. 
Maybe the Jimi Hendrix headband and the blunt hanging from Yogi’s mouth should have been the first give-away.
The Green Rush

The rumor mill was spinning like a hamster on Red Bull the closer it came to voting time. There was talk of R.J. Reynolds and Monsanto buying land throughout Mendocino and Humboldt counties in preparation for the passage of Prop 19. 
Land sales did go boom with investors coming in from Europe, Israel and Russia. Billboards sprung up along the highways advertising the cheapest turkey bags and the Wal-Mart in Ukiah at the end of the harvest has a wall displaying all sorts of different Fiskers scissors for any one of your various trimming needs. 
But to say that Big Business got involved where we could see it, I don’t think so.
I did hear that McDonald’s was going to put out a new ‘Happy, happy, happy Meal™,’ but that was it.

No Hemp For Old Men

Ron Paul tried to get the American hemp industry off its feet again with the introduction of a bill that would allow for the industrial cultivation of the hemp plant.
As any stoner will tell you, the Declaration of Independence was written on hemp. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew it. 
For many centuries, hemp was the bomb. It made the sails that discovered the world. All our clothes were made from it. And it was cheap. You didn’t have to kill trees. Did I mention it was cheap?
And like the water-fuel engine, it was too practical and there was more money to be made from lumber and cotton. 
There’s no THC in it, so what’s the deal?
It’s too bad we’re not in some economic slump where quality, inexpensive, building materials could help us change our image from a non-productive country to one that does stuff.
Barack Obama Inhaled

In a direct response to the vague answers of the previous two presidents concerning their Marijuana use, (“Ah didn’t inhale” And “Made a bong once in shop, hee, hee, hee”) it was very refreshing to have a president say, “Yes, I inhaled, that was the point.”
That’s also why it is disheartening to have a cool president who was still pressing the illegalities of marijuana, even in 2010.

Photo: The November Coalition
Kandice Hawes of Orange County NORML protests the madness

Busts Are Up

Everyone tells me that weed is almost legal in San Francisco, yet in Frissy and New York City, the arrests for marijuana are up.
This does have a lot to do with the fact that heads are smoking more freely and forgetting to look up and see if a cop is around before sparking up that joint.
The Minneapolis Five-O busts four stoners a day for weed. 
Last year, New York wrote up better than 47,000 stoners for weed infractions. 
California has to let go of about 40,000 prisoners from our prisons due to the lack of funds and overcrowding.
Lucky that they still have room for the Tommy Chongs of the world.
Eric Holder Spoils The Party
A few weeks before the historic vote was to take place concerning the possible legalization of marijuana in California, attorney General Eric Holder announced that even if Prop 19 was passed, he’d still arrest marijuana users.
“Marijuana is illegal under federal law. Drug agents will vigorously enforce against anyone carrying, growing or selling marijuana,” Attorney General Holder intoned.
That, along with the Rand Corporation’s supposed findings that legalization would have little effect on Mexican drug-related crimes, and worse, maybe the price wouldn’t come down on the cost of weed as dramatically as some were predicting, all possibly led to the failure of the bill.
This one-two-three punch sent many who were on the fence voting-wise, straight down for a no vote.    

Graphic: The Australian Heroin Diaries

Head of the Class
Schedule I is the only category of controlled substances that may not be prescribed by a physician. Under 21 U.S.C. § 812b, drugs must meet three criteria in order to be placed in Schedule I:
The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse.
The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.
Here it is in a nutshell. The fight over marijuana right now is whether marijuana possibly could be a medicine.
Fourteen states have said yes. According to the feds, however, there is no data proving that marijuana has any medicinal benefits.
That is largely because as long as marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, no research can be done. There is only one university in the United States that is allowed to explore the virtues and possible long-term benefits of marijuana, and they cannot get what they need for research because of the classification of the drug.  
Because of this, the attorney general and other authority figures can continue to scare the straights with misinformation and fear that their children will be locked up, even if a state passes a bill for legalization.
As long as pot is demonized along with the likes of heroin and PCP (coke and speed, as Schedule II drugs, are considered less dangerous than marijuana), pot smokers can and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and at the whim of the current political climate until this classification is changed.
Besides general misinformation, this is the basis for all the madness surrounding the demon weed.

As the political tides change so does everything we take for granted. The new conservative Dutch government announced in an astonishing decision that tolerance under which the coffee houses which have sold hash and marijuana to stoney tourists for more than 35 years, is coming to an end.
This is mostly because of a lot of uncool Belgian neighbors are coming through the bridge and tunnels over the border, getting hammered, and ruining it for the rest of us.
The Dutch government says they no longer want to be known as a loosey-goosey country and is hoping the make-over will help.
In a move that is sure to ensure the legacy of black markets for decades, only locals with “coffee house passes” will be allowed in.
“The heart of the problem is the crime and disturbances surrounding the sale,” said Ivo Opstelten, the Dutch minister for security and justice. “We have to go back to what it was meant for: local use for those who would like it.”
In three years there’s going to be a sad day in Parliament when some white-wigged dude is going to have to stand up and say humbly, “Ve vant our Hash money back now. Oops, ve made a little mistake.”

Photo: Jodi Hernandez/NBC Bay Area

Yet another big story of the year that the straight press has stayed away from is that medical potential of the cannabinoid CBD.
According to
CBD (Cannabidiol) increases some of the effects of THC and decreases other effects of it.
Larger amounts of CBD tend to relax both mind and body, and decrease feelings like anxiety, nervousness, and paranoia.
Cannabis which has a high level of THC and low level of CBD will produce a very strong cerebral high. The body may feel more physically energetic when compared to ingesting cannabis with larger levels of CBD. 
Cannabis that has a high level of both THC and CBD will produce a fairly strong cerebral high. The body will feel somewhat relaxed and heavy. At lower doses, physical activity is possible (with effort).
Cannabis that has low levels of THC and high levels of CBD will produce more of a stoned feeling. The mind feels relaxed and dull, the body feels relaxed and heavy, and most people do not like to engage in physical activity after using it. 
But here’s the real dealio…CBDs are the future of cannabis.
I personally know individuals who are treating themselves with the leaves of certain strains of weed and are beating Hepatitis C and Cancer. I am not making this up.
In England they’ve been doing research for many years and are of course are light years ahead of the States in this field.
The bad news is…IF, if, the proper strain was isolated and all medicinal benefits from the plant could come from CBDs, which doesn’t get you high, you could actually have dispensaries selling Medical Marijuana with very little THC. Another reason legalization needs to happen.
Weed, Misdemeanor to an Infraction in Cali
If you get busted with less than an ounce in San Francisco, the police will give you a ticket and you no longer have to face a jury. 
If you’re familiar with the people of San Francisco and their unique ways, I bet when push comes to shove, when in doubt, if it came down to it I’d vie for a jury trial opposed to facing Judge Judy.
It’s going to be like “Let’s Make a Pot Deal.” Would you like to try to plead your case in front of 12 jurists who believe that San Francisco is already too conservative, or would you like to take your chances with a judge who’s bored and wants to get a hooker and go fishing…Hmmm.

For the Kid in All of Us

In the summer just when it looked like Proposition 19 might have a chance, horror stories started to rise like just like the old days when the public nemesis was comic books, rock and roll, and video games.
The cries began, “What about the children?” Marijuana will stop the kids from learning and they’ll quit school and become pot smoking hobos. Is that what you want?”
Studies have shown that while tobacco and alcohol use is down with teens, marijuana usage is up, slightly, but up. 
I see it around me. Most of the parents I know hide their pot use from their kids until they are old enough to have a conversation regarding drug use. 
At the same time, I see more and more parents bringing their kids to shows and events where they know marijuana is going to be prevalent, like anywhere in this city.
So I can see why marijuana use is rising with our youth, it is becoming more and more socially accepted. 
This data can be interpreted anyway you want. 
In the weeks preceding voting day, the opposition was hot with the rhetoric when it came to kids and pot use. Rightfully so, we do need to be responsible if we want to bring marijuana into the mainstream. 
Here’s my point…
The papers and the Net are full of scary stories with kids eating magic brownies and pictures with two-year olds hitting on a bong. 

​But there is another side to new users turning on that no one is reporting: The number of the elderly who had  never previously smoked marijuana or ever had any intention of doing so, who have found medicinal benefits, and yes, recreational benefits, from getting high.
I know so many friends who have given a joint to a family member who was either in pain from the treatment they were receiving, or needed some alternative medicine to what their local doc was recommending. 
Marijuana works. It takes away pain, changes your mood and makes you eat when don’t think you’re hungry. You don’t have to be House M.D. to know that. But our parents and grandparents don’t. 
They, like many, have been fed a line of bull and just like that high-school student who gets stoned in a backseat of a buddy’s car for the first time in the parking lot after school, they find after the fear subsides, this marijuana thing is pretty nice. “In fact, I feel good. Now I’m laughing. Geeze, I haven’t laughed like that for months. Holy Cow, I don’t even want to do Heroin. Everything I hear about this is wrong. I’m really enjoying myself. Now, only if my legs could move.”
I know of so many stories from the past year where grandparents have reached out to Cousin Maynard or some other cool cat in the family, wondering if the effects of marijuana might work for them.
I know from the interviews that I’ve done over the past year with patients in dispensaries who never thought they’d be where they are… and maybe they wouldn’t, if it wasn’t for an external condition that made them seek out some relief.
Maybe this is what it takes but it doesn’t have to be.

Here’s an idea: How about being extra nice to Grandpa and Nana for Christmas this year and give them a vaporizer stuffed with some exotic purple Kush. I know they’ll thank you even if they don’t know how. 

Photo: Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco.

Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at

Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.

His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.

He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.