On an unusually warm late-February day in Colorado, Adams County resident Greg Duran was out canvassing his neighborhood for the presidential candidate he believes deserves a shot at the White House — Democrat Bernie Sanders.
“I believe canvassing in your own neighborhood is the first thing you need to do before you go outside of where you live,” Duran said the morning of Super Tuesday, the same day Coloradans and voters from more than 10 other states will attend primary elections and caucuses.
This kind of on-the-ground community involvement and campaigning isn’t new to Duran or his wife, Teri Robnett, who run the Cannabis Patients Alliance and are prominent grassroots activists in Colorado. In fact, Duran had walked a similar route in the days leading up to the November 2012 vote that ultimately saw Colorado residents voting to legalize recreational cannabis via Amendment 64.
In 2012, Duran was asking his neighbors to vote for legal marijuana. In 2016, he’s asking his neighbors to caucus for Bernie Sanders.
As Duran approached a neighbor’s house — a house he’d walked by many times but had never met its inhabitants — he smelled a familiar and unmistakable scent: patchouli oil.
“Once you smell patchouli oil you’re suspicious that the person might be consuming (marijuana),” Duran said with a laugh. “And so I told her that when I’d come by her house in 2012 to talk about cannabis she wasn’t home, and I asked her, ‘How do you feel about that?’ She knew some of the stuff we (the Cannabis Patients Alliance) had done, and she thanked us for our work.
“We talked about Bernie. She was leaning toward Hillary (Clinton), but I was able to have a door conversation specifically about why Bernie is a better choice for us. Immediately there was a deeper understanding of how this new president will affect us as cannabis patients — and then she told me she makes (pot-infused) topicals and creams. She was an older woman.
“And then she started asking me about the legalities. I told her, ‘Anybody can give anybody an ounce any time as a gift.’ I told her what’s legally OK here, and then she went ahead and said, ‘Hey, lemme give you an ounce.’
“She grew her own … She grabbed a Ziploc bag and gave me what she had in a jar. She said, ‘This is a gift for you being out there and having a real conversation with people.’ And that’s exactly what Colorado allows us to do — that’s the beauty of what we did here.”
“The beauty of what we did here” refers to Amendment 64, which allows legal home grows, retail sales, the gifting of up to an ounce of cannabis and more, Duran said. After he left his neighbor and new friend’s house with an ounce of home-grown weed — a substantial amount, given that most customers purchase pot by the eighth of an ounce — he was elated, he said.
“I felt really excited,” Duran said. “We in Colorado have the opportunity to be completely open and discuss (marijuana) without having fear. We can just gift it to somebody, just like if I had gone to her door and I was given a bag of zucchini or tomatoes — it’s exactly the same thing.”
When he got home with his new plant matter, he posted to his Facebook: “Went out canvassing for Bernie. So much fun, and someone gave me a oz of flower to ‘thank me’ for being out there. Damn I love Colorado.”
The day after his canvassing, Duran and his wife gave the woman’s home-grown product a spin.
“We tried some the other day,” he said, “and it’s very smokable.”
Many legalization activists have attached themselves to Sanders in part because of his cannabis platform, which would involve the drug being completely removed from the federal government’s list of the most dangerous drugs.
“Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use,” Sanders said in October 2015. “That’s wrong. That has got to change.”
While Sanders wants marijuana completely descheduled, his Democratic opponent Clinton supports its rescheduling.
“We haven’t done research, why? Because it’s considered a Schedule I drug,” Clinton said in November 2015. “I’d like to move it from Schedule I to Schedule II.”
Activist Duran pointed out the difference in the candidates’ policy choices.
“Rescheduling isn’t going to solve anything for us,” Duran said. “It’s going to deepen the problem.”
Canvassing and volunteering for Bernie Sanders, Duran said, has been unlike a lot of the work he’s done on previous campaigns.
“Last time I went and canvassed for Bernie Sanders I met a guy who had a little bakery in his garage, and after we’d talked about Bernie a bit, he just gave me a loaf of bread,” Duran said. “When talking about Bernie, he connects with just about anybody. I don’t think I’ve had anybody who was negative on Bernie’s message.”