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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

In the beginning, it isn’t clear if Donald Trump will even make it inside.

It’s around 10 a.m., April 29, on Burlingame’s Old Bayshore Highway—just south of the San Francisco International Airport—and protesters have just finished forming the second of two human fences that they hope will block access to the only road entrances to the adjacent Hyatt Regency, site of the 2016 California GOP Convention.

The protesters forming the fence sit cross-legged across the road, their arms joined through sections of plastic tubes that are penned with slogans such as “Stop Hate,” “Capitalism Kills” and “Love Trumps Hate.”

Trump, the leading GOP candidate, is slated to speak at a 12:30 p.m. luncheon, and Burlingame police officers line the sidewalk nearby, their eyes fixed on the protesters.

About 100 yards north up the road, closer to the hotel lobby, the crowd of activists surrounding the other human fence is far larger. There, dozens of anti-Trump protesters hold signs that read, among other things, “Make America Hate Again” and “Californians Against Trump/Hate.”

A brass band snakes through the crowd, lending an air of festivity to an otherwise tense scene. Tania Kappner, a Bay Area activist, directs much of the action through a megaphone.

“I need about half of you to go support the folks locked down on the other side. Not everybody, just half!” she says. “We need to shut this entire road all the way the fuck down!”

Inside the Hyatt, past the line of police, the mood is expectant, almost giddy. The line to see Trump speak stretches more than 100 feet long, and because he has a Secret Service detail, it moves slowly—aside from a bag check, attendees must pass through a metal detector.

Inside the banquet ballroom, after it is announced Trump made it into the building, albeit a bit late (he was secreted in through the rear), he is introduced by State Sen. Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, who hails Trump as “our next president,” and then gets the crowd involved. “To all the lobbyists who think they can buy our freedom,” he says, and then the crowd joins in, “you’re fired!”

When Trump finally enters, the mood is electric.

“That was not the easiest entrance I’ve ever made,” he says, drawing laughter. “It felt like I was crossing the border.”

Trump then goes on a rambling account of his campaign thus far, how he’s proven his doubters wrong, and how he’s more popular than the other candidates. (Just days later, the other two remaining Republicans would suspend their campaigns, clearing Trump’s path to the GOP nomination.) True to form, he calls Ted Cruz “Lyin’ Ted” and Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary.” He mocks John Kasich for eating during news conferences.

Trump says he will be heading to Indiana soon to hang out with coach Bobby Knight.

“He’s a winner,” Trump says. “That’s what we need now, we need winners.”

Aside from trade deals and immigration, Trump avoids talking about the issues, and mostly praises those who support him. He mentions an endorsement he received from 16,500 members of the U.S. Border Patrol, and refers to them as “phenomenal,” “great-looking,” “strong” and “in-shape.”

He also assures the crowd he will have no trouble building the wall he’s promised on the Mexican border.

“It’s so easy,” he brags. “I can just see that beautiful pre-cast plank, good solid foundations, nice and high … ”

One can barely hear his words through the applause.

When Trump finishes, the hotel is on lockdown, with police holding the line against an increasingly riled-up group of protesters. The only way out is a side door leading to the parking garage, and broken eggshells—from raw eggs thrown by protesters—line the walkway as luncheon attendees shuffle uneasily to their cars.

Back inside, the Monterey County Republican Party is the only county party with a booth, as was the case at the state GOP convention last fall. And once again, the table is set up with a “Delete Hillary” cornhole game that aims to bring light to Clinton’s so-called scandals. The game is in keeping with the wireless password for convention attendees: “hillarycantbetrusted.”

Monterey County GOP shotcaller Paul Bruno, the Central Coast regional chair for the Ted Cruz campaign, is sipping a cocktail near the table later in the day.

“We’ve been deleting Hillary, and we’re going to continue deleting Hillary,” he says. Bruno adds that he just got back from a Cruz rally in Indiana, and praises Cruz for being “somewhat of a maverick.” But, he says, all the GOP candidates “bring a lot to the table.”

The evening brings a speech by Kasich, the most moderate of the GOP candidates, who was trailing heavily in the polls. His tone is wistful, as if he already knew that his defeat was sealed.

“I’ve been endorsed by over 70 newspapers,” he says. “Wish it mattered.”

Kasich ended his campaign several days later.


The next morning, the Hyatt is packed with attendees wearing “Team Cruz” stickers. Cruz will be giving a speech at a 12:30 p.m. luncheon. For Cruz, the most conservative of the candidates, it’s been a tough week: On April 26, Trump swept Cruz in five states, and on April 28, former House Speaker John Boehner referred to him as “Lucifer in the flesh.” It would get even tougher in the week that followed: On May 3, Cruz suspended his campaign after getting trounced in the Indiana primary.

But on this day, the excitement in the banquet room is palpable, and Cruz is introduced by former Gov. Pete Wilson, a surprise guest who recently endorsed Cruz.

“Never has the California Republican primary election been so critical to the future of our nation,” he says.

When Cruz finally takes the stage, he is welcomed by rousing applause. “God bless the great state of California!” he says, drawing cheers. After thanking some people, he begins praising Carly Fiorina, who he named as his running mate April 27.

“Carly terrifies Hillary Clinton. I picture Hillary thinking about Carly, tossing and turning, and tossing and turning—in her jail cell,” he says.

He then goes on to describe his platform: Abolish the IRS, rein in the EPA, end Common Core education, “rip to shreds” the Iranian nuclear deal, and repeal Obamacare.

Shortly after Cruz’s speech is a seminar about the Republican National Convention, and the complex set of possibilities that would play out if Trump didn’t win 1,237 delegates—an outright majority that would secure the nomination.

After the seminar, in a men’s room across the hall, a 50-something man tells an elderly man that he didn’t know it cost $900 to become a delegate.

“You know what they say in Poland?” the elderly man says.

“I should let you know I’m Polish,” the other man responds.

“Tough shit-ski. You know what they in southern Poland?”

“I don’t know.”

“Tough shit-ski, y’all.”

Trump, who could barely make his way into his own party’s convention, may actually find his way into the White House.

This piece originally appeared in the Monterey County Weekly.

Published in Politics

Boy, this has been an ugly election cycle. The candidates and their supporters have been dragging some pretty dark parts of our society into the spotlight, and it has not been pretty.

But for me, there is at least one shining green light to be seen: Both parties appear ready to be getting ready to accept cannabis into our “legitimate” society in one form or another—although there are still some fairly stark differences in their stances.

So, with the California primary coming up in June, let’s look at where the remaining presidential candidates stand on cannabis.

The Red Team

A Republican administration is generally viewed as a setback to the legalization movement. But even the Red Team is getting on board with a wider acceptance of cannabis.

GOP front-runner Donald Trump is typically vague regarding marijuana, and has changed his publicly stated views on legalization several times over the years. In 1990, he said that all drugs should be legalized and regulated to end the failed War on Drugs. Now that he’s the GOP Golden Boy (Orange Boy?), he’s hedging his bets regarding legalization for recreational use. In a recent interview with Bill O’Reilly, when pressed on the issue, the closest Trump would come to supporting legalization was to say that “there are some good things about” it. However, Trump did not hesitate to assert his complete support of medical marijuana.

Running a distant second in the GOP race is Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. At the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference, Cruz said he was opposed to legalization for adult recreational use. But earlier this year, he said he would not roll back the laws enacted in Colorado and Washington, so he appears to be softening a little on the topic. He told radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt: “When it comes to a question of legalizing marijuana, I don’t support legalizing marijuana. If it were on the ballot in the state of Texas, I would vote no. But I also believe that’s a legitimate question for the states to make a determination. And the citizens of Colorado and Washington state have come to a different conclusion.” Cruz also says states should regulate medicinal use without federal interference: “I think it is appropriate for the federal government to recognize that the citizens of those states have made that decision.”

The GOP’s longest lasting also-ran, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, has been completely opposed to cannabis, even for medical use. But even he appears to be loosening up a little. While still generally opposed to legalizing marijuana for recreational use, he said at a town hall in Hollis, N.H., “Medical marijuana, I think we can look at it.” Kasich, who has admitted using marijuana himself several times, recently discussed the topic on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. While he opposes incarceration in favor of treatment for drug-abusers across the board, he explained his opposition to legalization thusly: “The problem with marijuana is this: We don't want to tell our kids, ‘Don’t do drugs, but by the way, this drug’s OK.’”

Colbert fired back with a wry: “Isn't that what alcohol is?”

You can watch the exchange here.

The Blue Team

A Democratic White House is the great green hope for the legalization movement, with Bernie Sanders being wholly in favor of a complete end to the War on Drugs, and Hillary Clinton now stating 100 percent support for medical cannabis.

Clinton’s position is in an evolutionary phase. In 2011, she opposed complete legalization in favor of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But on March 24 of this year, she told Jimmy Kimmel: “I think what the states are doing right now needs to be supported, and I absolutely support all the states that are moving toward medical marijuana, moving toward—absolutely—legalizing it for recreational use.” She continued: “Let’s take it off … Schedule I and put it on a lower schedule so that we can actually do research about it.”

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is the only candidate to receive an “A” rating from the Marijuana Policy Project. Sanders has long expressed support for allowing states to make decisions regarding cannabis legalization, even going so far as to say that he, personally, would vote in favor of legalization in his state. On a national level, he staunchly supports marijuana decriminalization and medicinal use.

While other issues in the election cycle are causing wide rifts, it appears that marijuana’s time has come at last. It’s a new day for cannabis, America!

In Other News

• With California barreling toward expected legalization, the county of Los Angeles is giving itself a time-out, of sorts, to figure out how to handle cultivation in unincorporated areas. The county has banned dispensaries from operating on county land since 2011, and has temporarily banned all cultivation—even by patients. The current ban is in place for 45 days to let the county assess the best way to approach cultivation, including environmental impacts and possible criminal activity. Coupled with the long-standing ban on dispensaries, the ban leaves few options for patient access. The ban can be extended for a year if deemed necessary by the county Board of Supervisors.

• On the lighter side, pizza-delivery app Push for Pizza has teamed with Nikolas Gregory Studio in Queens, N.Y., to produce a pizza box than can be used to make a pot pipe. The brain-child of 25-year-old Nikolas Gregory, the box features a perforated cutout that serves as the body of the pipe. And, y’know that miniature plastic table thing that supports the middle of the box? Well, they’re making it a ceramic bowl that slides into the cardboard body from the box top.

Genius!

Published in Cannabis in the CV