Part 5: The Dutch Coffeeshop
One of the most transformative experiences of my life was the trip to Amsterdam Kristin & I took in 1997. It was like taking a trip into the future, to a time when pot is legal and coffeeshops that sell it are as commonplace and normal as bars and liquor stores. Not only did this trip make me realize that legalization is inevitable, but more importantly, that numerous new business opportunities will open up when drug prohibition does finally comes to an end.
Imagine if the year were 1932. It would have seemed insane at that time to talk of opening a new brewery or pub, since Prohibition was still the law of the land... but if you could see into the future, you'd have known that those laws were just a year away from being repealed, and it wouldn't seem crazy at all. And right up until Prohibition was repealed, its supporters couldn't see it coming. There's a quote I love from 1930, from comments made in Congress by Senator Morris Shepard of Texas: "There's as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail." How wrong he was!
Of course, we don't know when the war on drugs will end. That said, I do think our side is making excellent progress and that things could change faster than anyone expects. (History shows us that when big stupid things fall apart, the collapse can often be surprisingly swift.) And we're not willing to push the envelope ourselves... our goal is to be in a position to launch a new business enterprise on the day when the laws change, but not to be among the pioneers actually testing the laws. We will never sell nor grow any pot until and unless we can do so legally.
Moreover, even in a future where a full-fledged Dutch-style coffeeshop is legal, we intend to be as subtle and discrete about any such services we decide to offer ourselves. We will take our lead from the Dutch and their Blind Eye policy, the point of which is that it's easier for a tolerant public to turn a blind eye to something like pot-smoking if it's kept out of the public eye. (That's why pot-cafes are officially referred to by the euphemism "coffeeshop".)
Our vision is to create a private club in an invisible location, even more like the classic prohibition-era speak-easies than are the Canadian Smoke-easies currently in operation north of the border. Our Secret Society of Stoners will be known as the Lighter Club, and their Clubhouse will be hidden behind an innocuous-looking door at the back of the coffeeshop, in a well-ventilated secret room, into which are admitted only official members (and certainly no one under 21). It will also operate as a completely separate enterprise, which we will launch as an official business on Legalization Day.
How quickly we begin to create such an establishment will depend entirely on the laws of the land (may they change someday soon) and of the city to which we eventually move (which will ideally be a hippie enough town to tolerate such a place once the laws are repealed).
Until drug prohibition ends, all we can do is work as activists
and support reform organizations. But someday, when the laws and
our dreams converge to allow us to start a tax-paying marijuana
growing operation, we plan to start a new company with this specific
purpose in mind. Even though we know absolutely nothing about
pot-gardening (the only living plants we've ever actually seen
were in Amsterdam), we plan to jump right in and start growing
pot as soon as we're legally in a position to do so. We have a
horticulturist with a Master's Degree on our team, and we're really
looking forward to turning her loose in a greenhouse full of cannabis
plants. But with the asset forfeiture laws being what they are
in this country, we remain unwilling to risk the growing of even
one plant. This does mean we have absolutely no experience yet
in the growing of weed, but we're quick learners and it is, after
all, a weed. How hard can it be?