Escape from L.A.

Ngaio Bealum is a Sacramento comedian, activist and marijuana expert. Email him questions at

So, voters in Los Angeles just passed a ballot measure to shut down all but 135 or so cannabis clubs. What gives?

—SoCal Sal

Who knows? The voters just kicked through a law that enacts most of the regulations from an ordinance passed by the Los Angeles City Council in 2007. This law states that all the clubs that registered with the city prior to the 2007 cutoff date will be allowed to stay open. Everyone else has to shut down.

No one yet knows when the clubs will have to close, nor do they know how they are going to enforce closures. If Assembly Bill 439 passes, then prosecuting “rogue” dispensaries through the criminal courts could be impossible, and Los Angeles doesn’t have the manpower to shut down the 300 to 1,000 dispensaries that are open now (this number is vague, because no one really knows how many cannabis clubs actually exist down there, and new ones open all the time).

Los Angeles could maybe ask for federal help, but even then it becomes a resource issue. If the feds shut down 10 clubs a day, that’s one to three months of constant overtime and paperwork. Not to mention that Los Angeles is hella wild, so even if the feds send it into overdrive, other clubs will still open.

Oh, yeah: Club owners that are being forced to close will most likely head back to court, just as they did in 2007. They don’t even have to get a ruling right away, they could just tangle it up in court for another five years.

The situation in Southern California just reinforces the notion that California needs comprehensive statewide cannabis regulations.

Did they really just plant hemp in Colorado?

—Hempy Hugh

Yes, they did. Springfield farmer Ryan Loflin has planted 60 acres of hemp. Colorado’s Amendment 64 allows farmers to produce a small amount. This isn’t the first time someone in America has tried to grow hemp. The Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota legalized industrial hemp in 1998. They put in a crop in 2000, and the feds raided it right before harvest.

Hemp is similar to cannabis, but has virtually no THC. Hemp does have many nutritional and industrial uses. As it stands now, U.S. companies have to import hemp. That may change. Kentucky has just passed a law that allows farmers to grow hemp, but its law doesn’t kick in until the feds make hemp farming legal. California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a hemp bill in 2011, citing fears of federal intervention.

The burgeoning hemp trade is one of the reasons William Randolph Hearst started his yellow journalism campaign against “marijuana.” He saw that his paper and foresting businesses were threatened, since 1 acre of hemp produces as much pulp and fiber as 4 acres of trees, so he began running stories about this “new” drug that caused Mexicans to go crazy and made white women want to hang out with black jazz musicians.

But I digress. Read The Emperor Wears No Clothes: The Authoritative Historical Record of Cannabis and the Conspiracy Against Marijuana by Jack Herer for the full scoop.