Illegally Healed: Talking Shop with Cannabis Attorney Dale Schafer
The cannabis industry is one of many facets. From the advocates and activists speaking up for cannabis, to the patients that desperately need it, to the recreational smoker, to the lawyers defending or prosecuting, to those serving jail sentences from using or selling cannabis, to illegal drug dealers, to legitimate investors and entrepreneurs; there’s a lot of people involved in the cannabis industry. But few have seen it from more than one angle. And, certainly no one has seen in it is as many as Dale Schafer.
Schafer, a lawyer based in California, went from running a well-established law firm and being a small-time recreational user in his off hours to being arrested and serving time for over five years due to a cannabis collective he made to gather medicine for his former wife who was diagnosed with cancer. Labeled a saint by many and an outright drug dealer by others, Schafer has experienced every facet of the cannabis industry. Now, once again a licensed lawyer, Schafer uses his expertise to defend cannabis users from criminal prosecution, help fight unjust drug laws, help create literature like California’s recreational cannabis bill Prop. 67 and much, much more.
If there’s one man on this earth that knows about cannabis’ controversial role in contemporary American politics, it’s Dale Schafer. I hope you enjoy my lengthy conversation with Schafer as much as I did.
Written by Maxwell Davis & Dale Schafer
Edited by Maxwell Davis & Jon Russell
Maxwell Davis, GreenSea Distribution: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today, Dale. For those who may not be familiar with you or your company, would you briefly introduce yourself?
Dale Schafer, Founder of Law Office of Dale Schafer: I’ve been an attorney for 30 years. I’m also a father of 5, grandfather of 9 (with one in the oven) and the family is very eclectic.
I’m 16 months out of federal custody for growing cannabis, after serving a 5-year sentence. This experience was transformational and will influence the rest of my life. As I go forward in the new cannabis industry, my perspective will be through the prism of all my experiences. This includes representing businesses, insurance companies, governmental entities, police officers, correctional officers, cannabis patients, growers and many others.
My youth included a family that owned liquor stores so I see the evolving industry as having similarities to that reality. It also included family members that produced agricultural and consumer products and distributed them to retailers in a commercial market.
There is much more, but my understanding of the current cannabis market place and where it is going in the future is shaped by many of the above things.
Maxwell Davis: That is quite the background. Acting on all sides of the law, I’m sure you have seen cannabis through a number of different lenses many can only begin to imagine. Now, your history with cannabis is vast, ranging all over the spectrum. Tell me a little bit about the dispensary you began in Cool, California and how the situation unfolded. Did you even call it a dispensary?
Dale Schafer: I began consuming cannabis in 1971, so I was not naïve to the experience. In 1997, my wife Mollie Fry, MD, at the time was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was a physician and was also not cannabis naïve. However, we were not involved in the cannabis world and, given our professions, our cannabis use was not public. We were fully aware of Prop. 215 and confronted her oncologist for a recommendation/approval for the anticipated effects of the chemotherapy that was rapidly approaching. He turned white as a sheet, stammered and stated he would not put anything in writing. He prescribed Marinol and presumably went to change his underwear.
Dale Schafer & wife Molly Fry – Image Courtesy SFGate.com
The chemotherapy was horrific. Without it, I would have been a widower with small children. Our youngest was 5 at the time. However, with it, Mollie was bald, puking and very close to death. Cannabis literally kept her alive. It became my job to get it and make it available whenever she wanted it. She was using 2 ounces a week, so I needed to get large quantities and, once again due to my profession, I was not well-connected in this area. Thus, the odyssey began.
After buying large amounts of cannabis, quarter pounds and up, for large amounts of money, roughly $4,000 per pound, I put some plants in the garden. Growing cannabis is not that difficult. I was able to produce several pounds of decent quality buds. We had a friend with AIDS too, so in 1999, I put a few more plants in the garden for him. And then, someone called the sheriff and we were off to the next phase.
Our efforts to work with law enforcement rapidly led to a change in my law practice. Mollie began providing medical recommendations to patients. As patients lined up at the door, I became politically active and ran for District Attorney to force official guidelines for local patients. I received enough votes to force a runoff. I believe that was a major factor in my Federal prosecution.
In 2000, after the Federal Appellate Court in San Francisco allowed a medical necessity defense to Federal drug laws over cannabis, I agreed to grow for 10 to 15 of our sickest patients. We had about 5,000 patients at the time. The sheriff sent deputies to my garden every year for compliance checks and I showed them all the paperwork for the patients I agreed to be a caregiver for. I had a worker deliver the processed cannabis to the patients for a $10.00 delivery fee, and the buds were free. He decided to send some buds through Fedex on one occasion. They were confiscated by the Feds and the local Federal task force was officially after us.
So, no, I did not have a dispensary. I had a small collective before that was legally recognized under state law. The Federal government did not recognize any cannabis activities as being lawful and that was a theme that carried through to my conviction.
Maxwell Davis: That’s quite an evolution of events. I am very sorry to hear of Mollie’s, and the rest of your patient’s, illnesses. Looking back on your experiences, in what way did going to prison, especially as a lawyer and for something as senseless for growing medicinal cannabis for patients, affect you and your career?
Dale Schafer: I was aware, at least on an intellectual basis, of the war on drugs and the prison industrial complex before this odyssey began. However, once the doors shut behind me, the realities entered into my very pores. I felt that once the DEA raided me in September of 2001, I was going to prison. Mollie and I were symbolic to the government and the Bush Administration took special notice of our arrest and prosecution.
Seeing a criminal prosecution from the inside gave special clarity to my legal knowledge about the system. It was not about truth or justice, but about a message and getting a pound of flesh for the decision to prosecute. After the DEA raid, we all waited for the Supreme Court to decide the Raich case.
Two weeks after the decision, in 2005, we were indicted and arrested. We had very good legal help and it took until 2007 for our case to go to trial. The Judge was as fair as he was allowed to be, but the die was cast once we were indicted. It took the jury about three hours to convict us because we had no defense under Federal law. We were given the minimum mandatory of 60 months, based upon the charge of 100 plants in the indictment. It took until 2011, but we were ordered to surrender to begin serving our sentences.
Dale & Molli during a rally before surrendering – Image Courtesy CA Norml
We surrendered in Sacramento and my journey began. I was destined for the private prison in Taft, but I was not going directly there. I went from Sacramento county jail to San Bernardino county jail to Pahrump and then on a plane to Honolulu for 90 days. From Honolulu, I returned back to Pahrump and finally, after 4 and ½ months, I was in Taft.
Once I landed in Taft, I had time to assess the realities of my situation. It was clear I was in prison for political reasons. Every place I had been held was vastly different than the Taft camp and I was astute enough at reading and interacting with people to avoid violence. I had experienced solitary confinement, lock downs, crazy cell mates and the tribal nature of prison. Now, I began to reflect and get used to another four plus years of confinement.
Because I’m a lawyer and had been medically trained, I was able to interact with all tribes on the compound. I was also elevated, reluctantly, to the status of an “OG Wood”. I was 56 years old when I surrendered, thus OG, and I am a caucasian male, thus wood. I conveyed information to other shot callers to help keep the peace. I was forced to take “classes” to enlighten me to the errors of my ways. Drug classes were entertaining and I played the role of the turd in their punch bowl on many occasions. I repeatedly confronted the idiots equipped with cop mentalities with logic and facts. Luckily, I was not punished because I had facts, logic and a lawyer’s confrontation skills.
Because of this ideology, I spent many hours talking with prisoner victims of the war on drugs. Most were African-American or Latino and were serving lengthy sentences, ten plus years. Most had families, including children, and it became equivocally clear that there were collateral damages to the communities of color. These men were not stupid. They had simply taken advantage of the biggest employment opportunities available to them: the drug trade.
Rehabilitation was a joke, especially in private prison. The guards, and ancillary employees, were ill equipped to do more than help warehouse men. Cost cutting was the order of the day and, if a dollar could be made off inmates or their families, the prison went for it. I was fortunate enough to have a supportive family that could put money on my books for commissary, phones and e-mail. For those not so fortunate, there was the hustle. There was an underground economy inside and everything was readily available.
There were many more experiences, including another facility and drug program, in my future, but I was beginning to understand the economic nature of the prison industrial complex and the racist futility of the war on drugs. The men I talked with were no longer just statistics to me. I decided that when I was released, I would do all I could to fight to reform the prison and criminal justice systems, the war on drugs and the prison industrial complex. My mission was becoming clear. And, luckily, I would be leaving prison with my law license. Nothing else, really, but at least I would be able to go back to practicing law and fighting the best way I know how.
Maxwell Davis: That’s a fascinating, albeit excruciating, experience. It is remarkable you’ve had to endure all this simply because you were a lawyer, advocate and medicinal marijuana grower for those truly in need. Your sentence was no short task. So, with the passing of Prop. 215 and later Prop. 64, how do you feel the stigma surrounding cannabis has changed since your initial arrest?
Dale Schafer: The stigma surrounding cannabis was in a rapid state of change when I entered the cannabis movement in 1997. The passage of Prop. 215 brought a clear statement from the Federal government about medical marijuana, labelling it as “Cheech and Chong” medicine. Forces within the government were pushing back with a stringent focus on the long standing medical utility of cannabis as medicine.
I first met Dr. Tod Mikuriya in 1999 and he began to educate me about the history of cannabis in medicine. I met with many others working within the movement who were trying to change the narrative from stoner to medical too.
In 2004, SB 420 became law and cannabis as a medicine gained expanded legal standing. The collective/cooperative model that had been nascent during my growing years now exploded. Dispensaries appeared everywhere overnight and law enforcement was lost in disarray. The medical narrative was gaining momentum too, as we all watched the Raich case work its way through the Federal Courts. When the Supreme Court confirmed the Federal Commerce Clause power over ALL cannabis activities, we were all very discouraged. Two weeks later, I was arrested and our case joined in the cause to push back against Federal intervention in a State matter.
By 2005, most Californians were accepting that cannabis did offer medical value and that sick people should be legally allowed to have legal access to it. Policy makers, on the other hand, were not so convinced. The thought that adults should be able to use it for non-medical purposes was not favored by most Californians.
Across the nation, the stigma against medical use was still prominent and most policy makers were against legalizing cannabis for any purpose, including medical use. The Federal government was still baring its teeth in opposition and my case demonstrated their zeal to send a message to the criminal element that was pushing for any form of legalization, whether State or Federal.
By the time of my conviction in 2007, medical cannabis was well established in California. Visions of AIDS, cancer and kids with seizures were at the forefront of the movement. In 2008, Jerry Brown (then Attorney General) issued guidelines for collectives/cooperatives and the criminal laws further lost their effectiveness in trying to rein in the expanding industry. It seemed clear that the movement had evolved into a quasi-legal commercial marketplace with public support. Local cities and counties began to push back with land use restrictions, but things were already out of control. A controlled market was beginning to be talked about and the futility of the war on drugs was on the lips of many, if not most, citizens.
In 2010, Richard Lee spearheaded a non-medical (recreational) initiative and there appeared to be a good chance of passage. The Cheech & Chong stigma was replaced by acceptance of the medical utility and recognition of the failure of prohibition. However, there were fractures within the medical industry and the forces opposed to “legalization” fanned those flames. When then-Attorney General Eric Holder threatened Federal intervention at the last minute, enough tepid support dissolved for the initiative to be defeated. However, it seemed clear that across the entire nation, the beliefs about cannabis had changed.
Efforts began in many States to bring voter initiatives forward to legalize not only medical use, but non-medical use. By 2012, multiple States voted on recreational use and the passage of the initiatives signaled a shift in popular attitudes about both medical and non-medical use. Substantial numbers of voters in all states were in favor of medical use, as evidenced by the passage of laws, by both initiative and legislation, in increasing numbers of states. In 2013, AG Holder issued his guidelines, the Cole Memorandum, for enforcement of Federal cannabis laws in legal states and it was obvious that even the Federal Government was accepting of popular attitudes about allowing the states to be the laboratory to answer popular demand for a change to cannabis prohibition.
As Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska began to create a legal cannabis industry in their respective states, California finally acted to legalize and regulate their out of control medical cannabis industry. California voters voiced their willingness to bring all cannabis into a taxed and regulated market and Prop. 64 easily passed last November.
Yes on 64 Image – Courtesy Glide Unconditionally
At this point, those still advancing stigmas against cannabis are being met with substantial public push back. The average citizen in California, and in many locations across the nation, no longer falls for reefer madness propaganda. Medical utility is an accepted reality and more and more policymakers are gaining personal experience in the benefits of cannabis in treating illness. The stoner portrayals are being taken over by actual people that have used cannabis recreationally and succeeded in life. Politicians now admit to cannabis use in their past and get elected. There is still a long way to go to remove all stigma from cannabis. Both sides of the cannabis question have unfounded beliefs about the plant. Demands for research and truth are getting louder and policy makers seem to be listening.
Maxwell Davis: It appears reactions to the cannabis plant are beginning to change dramatically across the planet. With more and more research hinting at medical benefits, and recreational comparisons being drawn to the alcohol industry, do you ever look back with hindsight with a hint of remorse or disgust? You gave a considerable amount of your life for serving to a crime that no longer exists. I guess what I am asking is, when you think back on the ordeal you experienced, what is biggest takeaway?
Dale Schafer: Honestly? Humans can be evil bastards. Humans acting in groups can do evil, hateful things while rationalizing their actions. Money and power are motivators for people to act individually and collectively in ways that have remained constantly evil for thousands of years. This time and place is no different.
People in America like to blow smoke up their own asses about how we are unique in history. However, when the actions of this nation concerning “drugs” are examined, the worst parts of human nature are all over the place. Laws against drugs were racially targeted. Laws to control drugs were motivated by racial animus and financial interests. There were a small number of individuals and corporations that influenced drug policy in this nation over the course of the 20th century. When looking carefully at these influential forces, the worst kind of political and financial interests jump out.
The emerging cannabis industry has the potential to fall victim to these age old human characteristics. I was very involved in the efforts to pass Prop 64 here in California and the potential for greed to take over the new industry was a major theme by individuals and groups within the industry that were opposing adult use legalization. Of course, greed is going to be a problem. The war on drugs has disproportionately affected the communities of color and that will be a major theme to be addressed as the regulated industry evolves and grows. Because of the local control allowed by both the medical and adult use legal structures, we are already seeing politics cast its ugly shadow over how and where things develop. California has 58 counties, over 400 cities; traditional production areas and huge consumption areas. Overall, the State is blue, but there are well established red areas. There are billions of dollars flowing through the current industry and trying to bring those dollars into a regulated market will be difficult. Many will get hurt in many ways.
Maxwell Davis: Yes, there certainly is a high potential for those who have historically opposed the industry to not only partake, but potentially monopolize. Companies like Monsanto, who have traditionally lobbied against cannabis, seem to be doing just that. Given all you’ve experienced, it’s safe to assume you are not a proponent of the War on Drugs. In your opinion, how should drug policy be handled in the United States?
Dale Schafer: If I had a magic wand, I would blow the whole god damn drug control structure, both State and Federal, to pieces. What began in 1906 with the Pure Food and Drug Act as an effort to bring truth in labeling to “drugs”, has now morphed into an evil economic, control and punishment system.
My goal would be to bring honesty to drug policy. Humans use psychoactive substances; they always have and they always will. The major substances of abuse, what we call drugs, are not as dangerous as they are portrayed to be. I’m not saying they are totally safe. However, even with heroin, the clear majority of people that use it do not go on to develop a pathological use pattern. Recognizing that truth and recognizing human nature, allowing legal access, honestly educating about the problems and making science based, success proven treatment easily available, at little to no cost, would offer a sustainable situation. We can never achieve a drug free society. The massive failure of the war on drugs should make this obvious.
We, as Americans, represent 5% of the world’s population yet we consume over 80% of the world’s opioid-based pain medications. These prescriptions medications are not all prescribed simply for physical pain. Our society is crying out in psychic pain and wondering why we have an opioid epidemic. We blame physicians for over-prescribing yet we fail and refuse to look into the mirror at ourselves. People are coming to understand that drawing an arbitrary line between alcohol and tobacco and all the other “drugs” is irrational and unworkable. Until the Harrison Narcotic Tax Act of 1914, physicians were free to treat, and maintain, an “addict”. Drugs back then were commercially available to all and those with problematic use could seek help from their physician. Few, if any, reliable statistics are available from that time, but I believe it can be safely said that our present drug problems are far worse than our drug problems back then.
Realistically, I would favor cannabis being transferred to ATF and being handled more like alcohol. Hemp should just be an agricultural product. The Federal government will not let go of drug control easily so I would like to see the CSA reevaluated from top to bottom for the realities of what substances do to humans, how easy they are to cause problematic use and how difficult it is to treat the problematic use. Medical preparations could be available by prescription and high quality, controlled quantity substances could be available outside of the medical control structure. Honestly, the DEA should be dissolved into other Federal law enforcement agencies. I find it difficult to find positive words to describe the current DEA.
I would like to see major efforts put into the drug treatment industry. Removing all personal use and small scale involvement from the criminal justice system would be a good start. Harm reduction should be taught from grade school on and be as ubiquitous as CPR. AA/NA and the 12 step should be relegated to the status of voodoo medicine. Offering science based, success proven treatment options to the individual struggling with substances in my view should be the starting point, including MAT, hallucinogens and maintenance. Treatment for nicotine dependence offers a blueprint for treatment of all substances of abuse.
Maxwell Davis: That’s a fascinating viewpoint. One that makes me think you would like to see the Portugal stance on drug policy openly adopted in the United States. I think, to some regard, legalizing cannabis allows us to take the conversation further and begin truly debating drug addiction. Take, for instance, when Irish Drugs Minsiter Aodhán Ó Ríordáin announced he would open up drug facilities for addicts after seeing the effect it had on the country’s streets. Continuing your thoughts on this conversation, what seems most archaic about cannabis laws in the United States today?
Dale Schafer: They are schizophrenic. They are not based upon science or logic, but politics, money and power from the past. They are resistant to change, but they are changing, because people’s beliefs about cannabis are changing.
California is light years ahead of most states with their cannabis laws and policies. I’m in contact with numerous people around the country trying to change and implement cannabis laws in different states and their frustrations are difficult to watch. Each state has control over its internal police, health and safety powers. However, the Federal Commerce Clause authority over cannabis has been solidified by the SCOTUS and the next administration could cause considerable legal problems for legal efforts at the state level to make cannabis more legal. The actual production, distribution and use of cannabis will continue though and I wonder if the Federal government wants to reignite a losing battle.
Maxwell Davis: Moving forward, what are your specific thoughts on California’s Prop. 64? I know you played a role in its creation.
Dale Schafer: When I first read the 62 pages of the initiative, I was struck by the reforms to the criminal justice system and the money to be put into drug treatment. Since that was my mission after leaving prison, I was immediately a proponent. I had to be! I was not surprised at the structures of control since I had experience with the alcohol industry. I wanted to see more employee protections and parental protections, but I recognized that politics would likely prevent further improvement in those arenas.
I recognized that passing Prop. 64 would set off a tsunami across the cannabis landscape. Because of the economic and political power of the state, California is the epicenter of cannabis in this country, and arguably, the entire world. Legalizing adult use sends signals across the country. The economic power brought with it a legal structure that has the potential to be a strong economic driving force, encouraging other states to legalize too.
My colleagues in the criminal defense community are already seeing the benefits of the reforms in the criminal laws. Pending cases are either being dropped or lowered to misdemeanors and settled. They are still awaiting the forms for reductions and expungements past records and for incarcerated people to seek release or sentence reductions. Once the forms are available, I expect considerable activity in those areas, as well.
Many local policy makers are upset that Prop. 64 takes away their legal ability to ban personal gardens. The activities of some of these prohibitionists will require court decisions and I expect much work in that area. However, the ability to grow 6 plants per residence is clear in the law and I expect the courts to validate that fact.
I’m heartened that our new Californian Attorney General Xavier Becerra, and newly hired consultant, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, seem poised to fight the Federal government over cannabis laws. I would like to see a clear fight over the rights of states under the 10th Amendment vs. the legal fiction the Commerce Clause has become in the area of cannabis.
Overall, I’m hopeful that Prop. 64 will be one of the final nails in the coffin of cannabis prohibition.
Maxwell Davis: Many people in the cannabis industry, myself included, see California as the major stepping stone. Coming the same day as a Florida MMJ program, it seems clear the United States will, at some point, federally decriminalize and possibly legalize cannabis. Even with new Attorney General Jeff Sessions and a Republican led administration and senate, it seems too big to stop at this point. Now, you use your cannabis and law knowledge to educate people. As a drug reform educator and attorney, what do you feel is your biggest priority?
Dale Schafer: Justice and order is needed in the newly evolving industry! Capitalism is coming to the industry and therein lies the potential for problems. There will be a period of five years for traditional cultivators to establish their position in the market before large grows become available. Those traditional growers are subject to their human natures and their efforts to control the production may well be their undoing. The dispensaries have had considerable market power, but I see a regulated market as leveling the playing field and how the loss of power is handled could prove problematic. Manufacturing has been occurring for years, but not legally. Testing is rather new, but unregulated and therefore, untrustworthy. These businesses are currently in existence. However, there are new licensed business on the way and their presence in the stream of commerce is not yet understood or trusted.
Distribution and transport is currently being done by a shadowy group of off the grid individuals. These activities will not only be legalized, but closely monitored. The state, and local jurisdictions, will want to know where cannabis is and how much is there. Ultimately, they want their tax money so there will be careful attention paid to quality assurance since that step of the process weighs and accounts for cannabis products. Transportation is a necessary, but frightening, step in the process. No law enforcement officials I have talked with have any answers about how to guard the products during transport. Guns and Schedule 1 drugs together violate Federal law, but millions of dollars’ worth of cannabis products can be put into a single vehicle and that may cause some rethinking, especially given the right to bear arms in our constitution.
The regulations that are coming will make it difficult for a license to be obtained on a shoestring. There is lots of money floating around out there, but there are lots of strings attached. Business plans are being drafted and “angels” are everywhere. It appears that it will require hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain a license. A team of people with legal, tax, accounting, business and regulatory experience also appears necessary. These realities will “weed out” the vast majority people currently in the industry. Capitalized business people may not share my desire to bring justice, equality, compassion and fairness to the new industry. I will do my best to ensure those principles are realities.
Maxwell Davis: You raise some fascinating points. The guns and cannabis debate has been raging well on into Oregon’s recreational market. Many producers feel they should have their constitutional rights in tack to defend themselves and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of product. Of course, with the new industry and regulation comes in a new set of investment. I think you are right that many of those new investors will be searching for profit, not drug reform, the medicinal value of the plant or helping the communities most hurt by the War on Drugs. Tell me, do you consider yourself currently working in the cannabis industry?
Dale Schafer: The simple answer is yes. However, I must qualify that.
I’m currently licensed to practice law, but I’m also under Federal Court Supervision. I’ve been very careful in what I’ve been doing to avoid Federal laws that criminalize counseling, aiding or abetting the violation of Federal law. I consult with individuals, business and governmental entities about cannabis laws. Recently, I have done some teaching seminars about the landscape and where I see things going. I’m working on some projects that I hope will develop over the next year as our state laws begin to license and regulate the industry.
As a convicted felon, I don’t see myself getting a license in the new industry. However, acting as counsel to the industry and trying to be as knowledgeable as I can be should provide me with a way to earn myself the ability to retire. As other opportunities present themselves, I will certainly look seriously at them and consider them.
Maxwell Davis: You do not believe you will be able to obtain a cannabis license for being prosecuted of a cannabis crime? That seems incredibly unjust. As a lawyer, what are some of your commonly asked questions in regards to the cannabis industry?
Dale Schafer: How do I get a license? What type of license should I try to get? How much is it going to cost? I have a criminal record, can I get licensed? Where is the best location for my cannabis business? How do I get the local politicians to allow permits? What will be the best business type for a licensed market? How do I deal with Federal Tax deductions under 280(e)? Are any banks handling cannabis businesses?
There are many more questions people ask me, but these are some of the more common ones. Unfortunately, there are more questions than answers.
Maxwell Davis: Is there anything you would tell up-and-coming entrepreneurs hoping to join the industry?
Dale Schafer: I tell everyone hoping to get into the nascent industry to be agile. Learn about the political landscape of California, where they might be able to actually get a permit/license and what they want to do. Anticipate change in the industry and look and think outside the box.
The current industry is based upon hiding from the cops, sneaking around, avoiding politics and not having the courts to turn to solve problems. That is about to change drastically. When cannabis can be openly grown without fear, agricultural techniques will change too. So, don’t set your bottom line on current cultivation realities. Local politics can ruin a cannabis business overnight, as we’ve seen in the counties and cities of the already recreational cannabis states, so being engaged locally and politically, to some extent, will be necessary. Contracts will be signed and enforced in the courts, so get ready to deal with a real commercial market.
Weathering the storms of the first couple of years will require enough capital backing your business to stay afloat. That means: get funding. Be very careful about the strings attached to money. If you think you might be tempted to divert cannabis if times get tight, stay out of this new industry. It’s not one for the weak of heart. I’ve talked with both state and local policy makers and they will be carefully watching for diversion. If they see it, they will go after you. Taxes and tight regulation will be reality of the business, so, fighting it will give you gastric upset and simultaneously do nothing to change reality.
People are going to fail. Lots of people will fail. Prepare yourself for the possibility of problems and build it into your business plan. Necessity never made a good bargain, so resist jumping into something just because you can. Plan on cannabis being $1.00 to 2.00 per gram in the near future. Price will drop astoundingly. If you’re looking to invest, consider all this. What do you want for your money? Look for people that demonstrate an understanding of the realities being faced and an ability to run a business.
There will be billions of dollars made in this new market, but there will be large sums lost also. Plan on change and be as agile as you can be.
Maxwell Davis: Do you have any advice for those struggling to medicate in communities without favorable cannabis laws?
Dale Schafer: I personally used cannabis for decades before it was lawful, so I understand that the illicit market exists. If you live in an area, whether state or local, where it is not lawful, understand that cannabis will be available. However, if there is need for special preparations, it will be expensive. Look around for trusted members of a medical cannabis community and work with them. They’re around.
The long-term answer is political. If cannabis is not lawful where you live, work to change that. I understand that some locations are easier to effect change in, do your best to understand all factors involved and act accordingly.
I can’t encourage people to break the law. However, the reality is that cannabis is not that difficult to grow and most preparations are relatively simple to make. There is plenty of information available on the internet to learn for the avid reader.
Maxwell Davis: More than almost anyone else, you’ve seen the cannabis industry in almost every aspect. You work within it, you’ve spoken at industry events, you’ve been arrested for it, you created your city’s first cannabis collective, you’ve been a patient, you’ve been a caregiver and so much more. I guess my question is, what do you think the cannabis industry needs to know?
Dale Schafer: Necessity creates courage. Education creates strength. The landscape is changing and the pressure needs to increase to change the prohibitionist policies of this nation. Using cannabis is no longer the black market, but it was when I was young. Share your experiences and successes! Cannabis should be guided into the mainstream, so move away with stoner branding and imagery.
It will be the generation of my children that I believe stops this madness. I have two from generation X, and three millennials, and they don’t buy any of the old bullshit about cannabis. That generation has us old farts outnumbered and their political power is just awakening. This last election cycle holds promise that this generation will find their political power and their causes. I believe cannabis will be one of their causes and I want to do all I can to help that process.
Human physiology and the cannabis plant have not changed in all of recorded history. This plant has been around for thousands of years before recorded history and humans have only tried to prohibit it for a fraction of that time. Although we are coming to the end of a shameful period in history, this will pass. The paradigms of prohibition are coming to an end and when that happens, the opponents will quickly want to agree that it should have been legal all along. That is how history works. So, where you can use cannabis legally, enjoy it! If it is illegal where you are, be careful, but enjoy it. It is, after all, good for the soul.
Maxwell Davis: Well, thank you so much for taking time to speak with me today, Dale. This interview has been as informative as it has been inspiring. I am deeply troubled and apologetic to you for suffering for such a gallant, positive pursuance. I wish you all the best in the future. Should you ever find yourself up in Oregon, don’t be a stranger! Thanks again, Dale.
Dale Schafer: Thank you for having me, Maxwell. I hope together we can better educate the cannabis community!