Regulate Cannabis Like Zucchini, Soft Secrets (Italy), 2020 #4, page 27/28. Interview of Richard Rose by Fabrizio Dentini.
1) How do you present yourself to the Italian public?
Now in my sixties, I came to Italia 4 years ago to retire. My wife is Italian, born in Brazil. We love Italy for many reasons and never want to leave. For us it is paradise, the people, food, weather, culture, history. Italians have been very kind to us, like brothers and sisters. Today I just write and produce The Richard Rose Report (https://therichardrosereport.com in 13 languages), and consult on hemp and marketing.
2) What made you “nutty for hemp”? How did you develop this deep interested in the applications of this specific plant?
I’ve used it as medicine starting in 1971, and it kept me alive. In 1972 I campaigned to legalize, California’s first vote on it. Then after being an award-winning food developer and marketer using soya to make foods since 1980, in 1994 I pivoted to using hempseed instead. I ended up investing $2.5 million over the next 8 years to create the modern hemp food industry in the US and Canada. Today, that is hemp’s first billion dollar industry.
3) Can you report us what is going on on the other side of the ocean? In US several countries did legalize already cannabis, how this decision impacted on the American society?
Forty-six of the 50 states have some form of Cannabis reform, however, it is still not actually legal yet in any of them. Like psychedelics, marijuana is still Schedule 1 federally and in each state (the most-restrictive category, “no medical value” and “high potential for abuse”) so the market is not free but is highly regulated. Many are still arrested every year, 5.000 in Colorado and 6.000 in California. Marijuana taxes are used to raid the “competition” including patient grows. Even in Denver Colorado, growing just one plant outside in a locked and fenced yard, one can lose their house to asset forfeiture. It isn’t legal, yet, just “legal.” Rich old white guys are making millions on what people of color still sit in prison for. Taxes are high, and the massive savings in enforcement costs are ignored, never discussed or discounted. Heavily armed SWAT teams of police serve zoning violations on homeowners, with as much as $30.000 per day fines even in California. Constitutional protections are ignored daily with impunity.
4) What kind of positive influence has cannabis legalization on economical and social level?
It has opened up the conversation in public. Stigmatized only a few years ago, there are now TV shows and movies about marijuana, and not just the “Cheech and Chong” type, but normalized ones. Even “Soccer moms” in the suburbs use it, and it seems everybody has a THC vape pen. Economically, Colorado has already gained $1 billion from taxes. But where there’s regulation, there’s corruption. And the savings in enforcement costs is huge, as big as the black market was.
5) For Italian activists cannabis legalization is the goal to achieve. What kind of advice are you willing to share with them?
Try for as little regulation as possible, just allow patients and adults to grow a few plants for themselves without fear. There is no need for a highly-regulated system, as that’s just to be able to create a “Walmart of Marijuana,” big companies selling it retail. Even the Drug Enforcement Administration called it “the safest therapeutic substance known to man,” this is not a dangerous or hazardous plant and it doesn’t need to be treated as one. Regulate Like Zucchini should be the first goal.
The development of Cannabis Light in Italy is profoundly helpful to the cause. It normalized the word and image of the plant in society, with shops and billboards proudly proclaiming “CANNABIS” everywhere. What we saw in the US was in the most-conservative states, CBD was the first time they would accept any type of Cannabis. Even the very conservative Senator Orrin Hatch from the Mormon religion state of Utah made a very positive statement about CBD. One child with seizures in a wheelchair in a Legislator’s office did more than a thousand activists using reason and common sense.
Cannabis Light is the sharp point of the legalization spear, that’s why they are starting to crack down on it here despite being legal. Since the most resistance to legalization is from older people long-indoctrinated with the lie of Prohibition, a macabre fact of the Coronavirus crisis is that there are fewer people resisting the inevitable.
6) Is legalization itself an absolute positive issue or does it hide some negative side effects?
There is definitely a strongly net positive, although due to human nature there are some negatives but not because of the plant itself. Colorado saw fewer suicides, less drunk driving, 20% fewer workplace deaths, and increased happiness after “legalization.” While elderly use increased because it is medicinal, teen use dropped; that’s the perfect outcome.
The greed factor is the downside, but that’s due to the law not the plant. There’s been an increase of corruption among police, politicians, and regulators because of the money involved. Because the way they “legalized,” there is a greater need for lawyers, police, consultants, lobbyists, and the companies selling it don’t want increased competition. That means there’s never been as many aligned against true legalization as today after “legalization.” And the legalization organizations have a perverse disincentive to achieve true legalization, in order to keep their jobs. The heavy regulation has corrupted many politicians and regulators. And the companies which already have a license are in no hurry to see it descheduled or truly legalized, as that will increase competition for them.
7) Can you tell us if you noticed negative side effects of legalization in US?
Just the corruption noted above, but remember that the US still hasn’t achieved real legalization, it’s more like “Prohibition v2.0.” Scientific research is still very difficult, companies can’t use banks, taxes are higher than normal businesses, hundreds of thousands of people still go to jail for growing or possessing, and people are still in prison for life for the same thing rich old straight men make millions on today, in the same states. Nationally, arrests didn’t go down, there are still ~750,000 arrested annually, mostly people of color. Despite similar usage rates, blacks are arrested 4 times more than whites. But true legalization will have very few negative consequences.
8) From your point of view which are the main obstacles for a complete legalization of cannabis in Italy?
The belief that it is not possible is your biggest obstacle; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. We need to allow room for thinking that it is achievable. No one is more pessimistic about Italian politics than an Italian. Just because it has always been the way it is doesn’t mean it will always be that way in the future. We need to create what we want, not accept what we don’t want. More studies aren’t needed, there are over 25.000 studies already, going back hundreds of years.
For Italy, it should be a profoundly easy decision, the usual opponents are on thin ice. For police, it makes their job easier because they can concentrate on real crimes, instead of illegal agriculture. For the religious, Cannabis is mentioned in the Bible often because God doesn’t make mistakes. Kaneh Bosm is the healing anointing oil Cannabis, as is the incense of Moses and Solomon. In Ecclesiasticus 38:4 is “The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them.” In Genesis 1:29 is “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” (Cannabis seed is even higher in protein than meat.)
The Italian anti-mafia agency wants it legalized so as to remove a bulk of the mafia’s profits, in one wiretap a capo was heard saying “if they legalize Cannabis we are ruined.” Doctors want it legal so they can better treat patients. Taxpayers should want it legal as it will significantly reduce medical and enforcement costs. In the US, legalizing will result in savings in prescription drug costs of almost $4 billion annually, 1.1% of all prescription drug expenditures there. In Italy, one study found Cannabis Light led to “a 1-1.5% reduction in the number of anti-epileptic, anti-depressive, opioid and anti-migraine prescriptions, whereas prescriptions for psychotic patients decreased by approximately 4-5%.” And that’s just the prescription drug savings, there will be massive savings for the health system from reduced inflammation and cancers, suicide attempts, drunk driving and falls, dementia, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and the like.
As for teens, it is better for them to use it than drink or use harder drugs. And as we saw in the US, once its legalized and normalized and used by older people for medicine, it loses its allure and fewer teens use it.
Some say Italy is too conservative, but it really isn’t: it has some of the highest rates of use of cocaine in Europe, you had a porn star in Parliament, as many use Cannabis here as in America, and few attend church any more. Above all it is a country of compassion, and Cannabis is at its most-fundamental a matter of compassion for the patients needing it. It’s not a gateway drug to hard drugs, it is in fact a gateway drug OFF hard drugs. There’s no reason to import it from Canada or Netherlands, or to have the Army grow it as if it were something dangerous. Portugal is even more conservative than Italy and they decriminalized ALL drugs. Some of the most-conservative US states legalized it, as did another strongly Catholic country, Uruguay. Even Thailand, with its long history of executing marijuana users, legalized it.
9) In Italy on daily news you can watch hemp farmer like Franco Casalone being arrested because of hemp. What do you think about that? How is possible to create an healthy hemp industry if police still focus on repression?
Hemp will never be free as long as there are marijuana laws. We see that even in the US which explicitly legalized hemp in 2018: some states still treat it as though it were marijuana, despite being compliant hemp. Arresting Brother Casalone and others growing hemp (or even Cannabis for that matter) is a shameful waste of public resources and must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Everyone should attend his court hearings wearing green to send the message that his work is important and he has the public’s support.
10) Prohibition as been always connected with racism since Anslinger decided to criminalize a plant to criminalize part of US population. Considering this can you tell us how do you feel about #Icantbreath movement?
Yes, all drug laws were designed to criminalize the drugs of choice of minorities, starting with the anti-opium laws of the Chinese, who built the American west. Then alcohol Prohibition targeted the drug of choice of the Irish and Italians in America. Marijuana laws in 1937 targeted blacks and Mexicans. When that was ruled unconstitutional in 1969, Nixon wrote the Controlled Substances Act to target blacks and war protesters. His own Shafer Commission report recommended decriminalization, which he ignored.
This pattern of systemic racism is built into American society and the justice system, designed to replace slavery with prison. Many prisons are privately-owned, and they need an ever-increasing supply of convicts to stay profitable. Their friends the judges and police are more than happy to oblige them. Drug laws are that tool, 60% are in prison even for life for minor nonviolent drug crimes. The current protests are the inevitable backlash against that institutionalized racism, which permeates every aspect of American society. As John F. Kennedy said: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Founding Father Benjamin Franklin said “We need a revolution every 200 years, because all governments become stale and corrupt.” It is long overdue.
I wrote this song about the Cannabis Light issue in Italy:
We come together to talk about hemp
Again and again it’s just a contretemp
It’s going in a way you could not see
Don’t flee don’t pee don’t be
That guy getting in the way
Hear a brotha out, sit and have a stay
Sure they gonna make cara bucks
Why else grow hemp, just for the yucks?
It’s hard it’s risky they used to grow for fiber
But most days that don’t return even a fiver
Canapa is marijuana’s brother
Don’t you celebrate when your brother wins another?
The more they sell and they more they make
The more Cannabis is gonna snake
Towards the finish line
Bring it home brother, make a dime
If you don’t like it don’t buy just grow your own
Organize a posse and lobby down in Rome
If you don’t then shut yer trap
The ones saying it shouldn’t be done are the point of this rap
You say it’s about ethics and I have to agree
But slowing down the movement is what’s botherin’ me
There are many rivers to the sea
Be like the tea and infuse totally
It don’t have to be your way to be right or tight
We’re all in this together, let’s don’t fight
Smokable hemp has its place
Everything new is in a race
To get sustainable so prices come down
Unlike it was when underground
Give it a chance the Free Market rules
At least that’s what they teach us in the schools
They pushin’ the law, and that’s a good thing
The law is bad it has a sting
It’s not right it’s not compassionate
It only rewards the bags of shit
Who pay the Senators for status quo
Giving them money and a Ho
Hate the game, not the playa
The law is the dragon we be slaya
Brother lets heal this rift
And work together for this gift
From the Tree of Life
No reason to have strife
Tobacco is the real enemy we all agree
Anything that cuts it down I’m down no frown you see
You’re my fratello so please be mellow
The fellow to bellow is quello in Roma
Governing like in a coma what’s that aroma
Parliament is dead as a carcinoma
Blocco l’mafia, Bros grow for Bros
Not for the pros steppin’ to avoid the capo’s toes
Uguali l’ortofrutta e la pasticceria
Anche è la Cannabiseria
Pomodoro fava melanzane
The rasta down the street grows it like banane
Carciofi anche il zucchini
The Bro grows it right, just for me
We can have it that way
Keep the bad guys at bay
And the government too
They had 80 years of screwing you
Take it back, it’s just a plant
Does your God mistakes cuz mine can’t
Dodecimille anni senza alcune danni
Safer than water better than money
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