Words Mean Things

Words mean things. Choose your words carefully. You may get what you ask for.

By “Pioneer” Pete Gendron
Oregon Cannabis Connection


These sage words of caution have been heard by audiences at places such as the THC Fairs in Oregon, uttered by yours truly. But what do they really mean? It’s just as simple as the three short sentences.

Words mean things.

Knowing and understanding both the language and common usage is critically important in a debate. We are currently debating the future of cannabis. As such, I refuse to demean the debate by using the term “marijuana” as a default. By choosing the word “cannabis” and applying it consistently, we are discussing all forms of the plant. Whether medical, for adult use or grown as hemp, the debate is about more than the illicit drug known as marijuana.

Notice in the above paragraph I said “adult use,” not “recreational use.” As one of the fathers of our movement, Dennis Peron, once said: “All marijuana use is medical.” In fact, almost every dispensary owner or employee will tell you that most of their “recreational” customers are self-medicating—not seeking just enjoyment, but relief from their symptoms—without a medical card. In the context used by Dennis Peron, the wording is correct.

Choose your words carefully.
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“Pioneer” Pete Gendron, “Ask” Ed Rosenthal and “Farmer” Tom Laurerman at the Oregon State fairgrounds inspecting cannabis plants. Image: Pioneer Pete Twitter.

The Joint Committee on Marijuana is comprised of people who do not consume cannabis. In fact, between the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Department of Agriculture (DOA) and the legislature, you will not find one person who admits to using cannabis now. This is because although “marijuana” is legal in Oregon, the state may deny employment to or fire employees based upon its use. So we have a situation that looks a lot like putting Alcoholics Anonymous in charge of the OLCC. People with no real experience with our favorite plant are calling the shots and making decisions for us.

This leads to terrible situations like “The labs issue” currently being discussed. We went from years without any required lab testing to minimal requirements for testing under the rules that codified dispensaries. We began to test for THC, CBD, mold and mildew at the request of patients who frequented the dispensaries. Other tests were available at the request of the producer or dispensary. It was a fair system that addressed the needs of the producers, retailers and patients.

Then the straight people came in and set new standards that we were all required to abide by after the passage of M91. First they were so overly strict that they had to be revised just two months after implementation (October-December of 2016). The problem was that certifying labs limited market access—This was under-staffing of the ORELAP program by the OHA (see “Ducks & Beavers” OCC Dec/Jan 2016) We went from no standards to too-strict standards at the demand of the Department of Justice, then dialed back the requirements in some areas to cope with the fact that the straight people at the OHA weren’t doing their job. (Oh, if only they could blame it on all the pot they were smoking instead of having to own up to their ineptitude.) So now—temporarily—we have no standards at all.

You may get what you ask for.

If only it were so easy. The number one complaint from cannabusiness professionals is regulation. We asked to be regulated like other industries and, to an extent, this is happening. This is what we asked for. But we now have to go back to the first sentence. In order to win this debate we must clearly define the terms and the words being used. When we allow others to define our words, they are used against us in a corruption of their basic meaning. We must own our language to win the debate.

The state seeks to regulate “in the interest of public health and safety,” This has been a constant theme in many conversations, as we seek to normalize cannabis cultivation and consumption in Oregon. But what those eight words mean can differ depending on who you ask. Members of the Oregon Sun Growers Guild (OSGG), including me, have had a seat at many tables as we develop the rules for this budding industry. But the straight people employed by the state are free to pick and choose from our advice. If they listen Monday, Wednesday and Friday,, but ignore us on Tuesday and Thursday, then they don’t get the whole picture. The state should be doing a better job of listening to the cannabists if they indeed want better regulation. Who could possibly know more about our needs than we do!

At the end of the day, the issue is the same. People who don’t understand/don’t care about/openly hate us and our plant have not just decision-making authority but veto power, as the laws are implemented. You read that right—veto power. Many good suggestions have died at the hands of the OHA and Justice Department because they simply refuse to implement M91 and the will of the voters.

So now you, as an Oregonian, have until April 30 to comment to the OHA on what responsible testing standards look like. You can stand with the OSGG and Oregonians for Public Health and Safety (OPHS) and demand access to safe medicine. Or you can let the straight people decide.

Visit OPHS and OSGG on Facebook and at www.oregonsungrown.org and share your opinions. Tell the OHA you want safe access. Or do nothing and let others decide your fate. But please remember: “Words mean things. Choose your words carefully. You may get what you ask for.”

Pioneer Pete would much rather be discussing the terpenes and phytochemicals in cannabis roots and their healing value as documented for over 5000 years, but is currently defining what a PPM looks like to people with no science background.

© 2017 Oregon Cannabis Connection. All rights reserved.


One thought on “Words Mean Things

  • 06/23/2017 at 4:51 am

    The words in Measure 91 mean that the people of Oregon have effectively and totally given up their inherent natural right to freely and inoffensively possess and consume cannabis. Via linguistic alchemy, these words have transformed a natural right into a privilege granted by The State — ‘oh please, please let us have some cannabis! Thank you, thank you master.’

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