March 29, 2011

What to do when Legislators threaten Jobs, Children & Your Medicine. ~ Cecelia Smith

Labels on Food and in Your Mind.

Can your State Representative make your home more dangerous for children? One in Colorado almost did.

To be fair, she didn’t realize what her bill would mean for kids. You can’t always think about kids. Not when you’re a Representative, or the owner of a company that represents big business. Or both, like Rep. Cindy Acree.

Oddly, child safety had just become her new mantra. The big threat to kids? Small businesses boosting state revenue, creating jobs and using locally-grown ingredients.

So Rep. Cindy Acree tried to ban the MMJ edibles industry. Not edibles themselves—she encourages you to make your own. (Especially if you’re really sick—then you should definitely spend more time cooking.) In the uproar, everyone overlooked some facts.

If you make something in your own kitchen, you use your own containers.

A medicated cookie in Mom’s cookie jar is more insidious than one in its individual packaging. Especially if you’re eight, and pretty good at swiping cookies from the jar. Or especially if Dad packed your lunch. (Oops.)

For sticky fingers, a baker’s dozen is easier to pilfer from than an individually-wrapped product. And unless your kitchen equipment includes an industrial label-maker, you wouldn’t stamp each batch with handy notes-to-self about what not to do (give it to kids; operate machinery)—the type on typical Colorado edibles today.

But Colorado edibles weren’t proving Acree’s point. More parent-troubling images were used instead—and later exposed as a T-shirt graphic (never made into food) and a long-banned California product. Now the maligned MMJ industry put some labels on Ms. Acree herself.

Wouldn’t you?

Labeling is natural—especially when someone threatens your livelihood. Or whenever. Good, Bad, Edible, Inedible: labeling is a survival adaptation.

You’ve mastered survival, but your mind is stuck in that gear. When you’re busy labeling—Crazy Lady, Bad Thought, Good Meds—you miss what’s happening now, here.

But you’re mindful. You watch your mind; watch labels come and go. When you’re trying to be present, labeling stops you. When you’re present, you stop labeling. There’s no word for all of this.

Poor Cindy Acree. According to her business’s homepage statement, “the image your name projects defines who you are.” When “who you are” is your image, you can’t watch your mind creating images—who would you be then?

But sure, names are important: that’s why Acree named her company “Protektmark.” “Protektchildren” wasn’t as catchy.

It turns out protecting trademarks and protecting children are pretty much the same thing. Discussing her child-saving ban, Acree told Westword,“I’m shocked you haven’t seen General Mills or Post or any of these manufacturers down here talking about trademark violations.”

Finally, someone’s protecting General Mills and Post. It’s like protecting kids—as long as you don’t care about the obese ones. At the hearing, Acree displayed their sugary cereals (and Mountain Dew, another child-friendly staple).

It’s good to discuss marketing, edible stuff and kids. But no one mentioned the childhood obesity/diabetes epidemic caused by such processed products and the $10 billion spent each year marketing them to kids. Nobody mentioned pharmaceuticals’ prime-time lullabies. (Big Pharma’s marketing budget? Over $30 billion a year.)

Acree now demands labeling laws. Just for edibles. You want labeling laws for corporations—so you can stop buying genetically-modified food? Protect your kids?

Tough luck. Acree doesn’t mention food/pharma-corporations—their labeling or marketing.

Smart business move. To promote her company, she shouldn’t provoke them.

Protektmark’s owner profits by helping businesses use Intellectual Property law. And food/pharma-corporations are I.P. law’s biggest fans. That’s how they pocket profits owed to indigenous communities—or plant-based medicine cultures. (One example: I.P. laws allowed a corporation to funnel all profits on neem away from Indians who’d tipped them off by nicknaming the neem tree their “village dispensary.)

Since MMJ is a plant-based medicine culture itself, you could jump to all sorts of conclusions here. But you’re mindful: you don’t have to follow all your thoughts.

It’s tough, when you know that corporations already synthesized marijuana’s active compound. Synthesize a plant’s chemical, add some I.P. laws, and you have the basic recipe for most pharmaceuticals.

Is this a real conflict of interest? If Republicans ban local MMJ industries (like they’re preparing to do in Montana), corporations will have an easier footing. And they’ll pay for help—if you have the right image.

Representative Acree’s ban never stood a chance. But it’s a good lesson on mindfulness. Look at all your labels. Some (like “Representative”) can hide the truth. Despite Acree’s motto, labels don’t define you. Sometimes, it’s what you do.


Cecelia Smith works in Boulder’s herb industry, teaches restorative yoga, and bikes everywhere with her mat in tow. Wintering in Vermont, she’s riding in the trees and trying to stay mindful on the not-quite-Colorado snow. Read her blog here.

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