ABOVE: Michael Balderstone in front of the pot shop.
ABOVE: Michael Balderstone in front of the pot shop. Contributed

What we can learn from US weed legalisation

THE Nimbin Pot Shop has posters of MardiGrass on the walls and is a clean sterile environment where people can buy their weed legally.

But this dispensary is not in Nimbin, but rather Seattle, Washington, where the owners were so taken with the Northern Rivers town that they decided to name their store after it.

The discovery was made by Michael Balderstone who was on a three-week trip looking into the changing landscape of marijuana in America.

Mr Balderstone said that Nimbin was well known and there was lots of interest in the small Australian town, particularly as a result of the MardiGrass Festival.

"Nimbin has a big reputation in global cannabis culture," he said.


Joe at the Nimbin Pot Shop. Photo Contributed
GROWTH INDUSTRY: Joe at the Nimbin Pot Shop in Seattle. Contributed

Arriving in Vancouver on February 23, Michael spent time with friends and explored the Canadian cannabis scene where their Prime Minister Trudeau has promised to legalise and regulate recreational use of the drug.

Later he travelled to Seattle in Washington State and Portland, Oregon where he witnessed first hand the effects of full legalisation of recreational marijuana.

"We spent three weeks and probably visited 50 dispensaries and had a good look at the whole scene," he said.

"It's completely deglamourized, just no big deal and part of everyday life.

"There's big taxes which the states obviously love - up to 37 percent on top of the weed at the retail level as well as 25 percent at the grower level.

"They're excited by Colorado making a billion dollars last year in tax.

"The dispensaries were all very clean, health inspected, everything is regulated, quality controlled, which has taken the whole black market criminal thing out of it."

Mr Balderstone said every type of cannabis is available from edibles, capsules, tinctures and shatter, to oils, hash and raw bud.

"Most of it is sold as raw bud, all sealed in containers, all labelled with which strain it is, the strength of the THC and the CBD in it, where it was grown, and it's all tested and analysed to make sure it's clean," he said.

"All the stuff we don't do here, and all the advantages that come with ending prohibition and regulating it.

"We spent quite a bit of time in Mark Emery's Cannabis Culture lounges which are full of every type, gender and age choofers. For the $5 entry you can bring your own weed and vapes or billys or whatever, or buy and hire.

"Pot sold at similar prices to home, centered around $10 a gram though I saw ounces for as cheap as $99 and grams of bud for as high as $20.

"We're slowly getting on the track here and I know the truth will come to the surface in time but we are way way behind in Australia.

" I think we're still paranoid from the modern reefer madness propaganda. John Howard was a big instigator.

"They've had legal medical cannabis for twenty years in some States in America that are now fully legal for anyone over 21 because they've seen how beneficial the changes are.

"People here forget that prohibition of cannabis is less than a hundred years old and we can change back easily."

The 'legal weed tour', as he called it, showed Michael the employment benefits of full legalisation.

"Thousands of mostly young people are employed in the industry, from growers to trimmers and packers to dispensary workers and medicine makers," he said.

"We met people who run weed tours and others who just make hash and shatter.

"Others want to be growers and others want to run shops or lounges.

"Whatever, there's plenty of job variety and thousands of young people are working in an industry they love rather than queuing at Centrelink in between bong sessions and the couch.

"Hemployment is the big surprise winner in re-legalisation."

Michael said he estimates there's 100,000 jobs waiting to happen in a regulated Aussie industry if the government chooses a cottage industry model like he witnessed in North America.

"The big corporations want to control it but the knowledge and expertise is grass roots," he said.

"The more people we involve in this industry the better in my opinion rather than a few big giants.

"I'm optimistic the positive changes seen in America emphasise the benefits and de-stigmatised marijuana for the Australian government and Australians in general."