The return of the Prince of Pot, and other pot news

And, Washington state issues its first retail marijuana licenses this week. How things have changed in five years.

Big news in the world o’ marijuana. Looking ahead, we can see how the big marijuana news will affect us in B.C. down the road.

It is worth noting that Marc Emery, long known as Canada’s “Prince of Pot,” is set to be released this week after five years in jail in the U.S. (though it could be a while before he can legally return to Canada).

Emery, as we all know, is the marijuana advocate and campaigner for marijuana policy reform, in particular legalization. He was a founding member of the Marijuana Party of Canada, and he helped found the British Columbia Marijuana Party (BCMP), which he still currently leads.

He was the publisher of “Cannabis Culture” magazine (for years a complimentary copy arrived at the offices of the Townsman every few months — I never did find out how that subscription came to be). He was also a seller of marijuana seeds, and that’s how he ended up in an American jail. The U.S. authorities labelled him a drug dealer for selling seeds into the U.S. The Canadian authorities agreed, and so to jail he went.

Oh, how things have changed since Marc Emery went up the river. The conversation about marijuana reform he took part in never died down — in fact, it just got noisier (though Emery was a pretty noisy part of that conversation). Witness the recent attempt to get marijuana reform on a referendum ballot, here in B.C. “Missed it by that much,” as Maxwell Smart used to say. But the subject is going to come up again, and it will come up again soon. It will be interesting to see how involved the Prince of Pot will be inclined to be, next time around.

More importantly, in marijuana news, Monday this week was the day Washington state issued its first retail marijuana licenses, following the lead of Colorado — where the money is pouring in apparently — and Uruguay, which late last year legalized the cultivation, sale, and consumption of cannabis, becoming the first country in the world to do so (using a model that may well be followed by other countries when they set out to reform their cannabis laws).

Washington state has licensed 24 stores in all. Spokane has three stores. Vancouver, Tacoma and Bellingham each have two. Seattle and the other cities on the list have one each. Officials eventually expect to have more than 300 recreational pot shops across the state, according to the Associated Press.

And pot prices were expected to reach $25 a gram or higher on the first day of sales. I’m not saying I know, but this is a considerable mark-up from an average street price of between $10 and $15 (medical marijuana is even less expensive).

But people are going to pay the prices, that’s for sure. And here in B.C., where we’re famous for our cultivation, we are looking across the border at that ready-made export market — just across the border!

We’ve gradually started making changes to our medical marijuana rules — it’s my belief that it’s the first step in a very long journey towards decriminalization, regulation and taxation — but all of a sudden, recreational marijuana is where the money is. All that great tax potential for government coffers.

Perhaps now that the Prince of Pot is out of jail, Canada’s and British Columbia’s conversation on these matters will pick up pace.