Has Cannabis Become Boring?

There once was a time when weed was rebellious and dangerous. The summer of love and counterculture movement ensured that cannabis was the drug of choice for young people across America, and beyond. But thanks to legalization, the nonconformity of stoner culture is melting away into a trendy, commercialized, and predictable, multi-billion-dollar industry.  

Weed is great, and the fact that less people are going to prison for it is even better – but one thing that many smokers yearn for is the good ole’ days of solidarity and civil disobedience among potheads. Now that cannabis is more of an industry than a lifestyle, has it become a bit boring?  

Is weed still cool these days? 

For the record, I still love weed and smoke it regularly. I enjoy it on my own, with friends, at home, in nature, in the car, and pretty much anytime, anyplace. It’s relaxing and familiar, and for some reason, I find it a fun way to kill time. I smoke mainly blunts and the entire process of rolling and smoking a blunt is somewhat of an experience. But it’s also worth noting that I’m 32 years old and grew up during that period when smoking weed was still considered an act of defiance; a big f*** you to the man. Longtime cannabis reform activist and dispensary owner, Russ Belville, puts it perfectly. 

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“There’s an aspect of when pot was illegal, it was a forbidden fruit, rite-of-passage sort of thing,” he says. “Now that pot is legal, it’s mom’s Chardonnay, it’s dad’s cigar. It’s not cool anymore. It’s kind of lame to the kids.”  

Think about some of historically cool stoners for a second, like Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Willie Nelson, Mike Tyson, and Snoop Dogg – or even some of the “younger” ones like Seth Rogen and Wiz Kalifa. Although at one point in their lives they were going against the grain with their pot use, each of them are now operating very successful and completely legal cannabis industry companies that offer a wide range of popular products.  

What the stats say 

Obviously, there’s very little in the way of data when it comes to determining what people actually think about pot. We know that people are buying it, and they buy a lot of it. The cannabis market was valued at $13.2 billion last year, and that doesn’t account for the huge number of people still buying from there dealers, either because it’s illegal where they live or simply for convenience. And although what is “cool” is largely based on personal perspective, one way to see what’s currently trending is by looking at what teens and young adults are doing. Based on recent data, it’s not weed.  

Data from Monitoring the Future, an organization that has surveyed national drug usage rates of high schoolers every year since 1975, recently took a look at how these numbers may have changed post-legalization in various states. As per their results, “Since 2005, the number of 12th graders across the country reporting they’ve used cannabis in their lifetime has hovered below 45 percent.” During that same time period, cannabis became legal for medicinal use in 38 states, while 21 states of these states have also legalized recreational use.

Interestingly, the date indicates that legalization results in less teens using cannabis, not more as previously believed. According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, numerous states saw these declines, including Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Washington D.C. In Colorado, the first state to permit recreational use, only 9 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 used cannabis monthly between 2015 and 2016, a drop of two percentage points from the year prior. In a rather comical flip of the script, “middle-aged parents are more likely to use marijuana than their teens,” says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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Another newer study came up with similar results based on legalization patterns. Dwight Mark Anderson, PhD., from Montana State University concluded that “teenagers are less likely to use cannabis in places where the drug has been legalized.” Anderson and his team looked at health surveys of US high school pupils between 1993 and 2017, and they published their results in the medical journal Jama Pediatrics in 2019.

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What real people are saying 

Almost everyone I know still smokes weed, so my opinion is likely a bit skewed. Add to that, I hang out with people close to my age or older, so late 20s and up. And aside from my kids, I honestly cannot think of anyone that I talk to on a regular basis who is under the age of 29. So I definitely fit into that demographic of parents or everyday older people that smoke weed regularly.  

That being said, I wouldn’t necessarily classify pot as “cool” either. When I was a teenager, absolutely. But these days, it’s just a product that I use on a regular basis because I enjoy the effects it has on me. That seems to be the case with most people I speak to, short of a few acquaintances who are actually obsessed with/addicted to pot. To find out what other people are thinking, I checked out good ole’ reddit. I found a few posts from people wondering what to do because they have grown bored of pot’s effects. 

They asked if they should quit, smoke more, or move on to new drugs. The majority of commenters were suggesting tolerance breaks, which is pretty solid advice for someone who just wants weed to “feel like it used to”. Others suggested trying different products or strains, which are also great ideas. A very small number of people said they quit altogether because they just lost interest in smoking, which is also understandable – I mean, if you aren’t getting high, there’s no point in wasting your money on it… pot is expensive!  

Final thoughts 

So, is cannabis boring now? Or is it still the cool, carefree drug it always was? Honestly, who the hell knows! Supposedly teens are using it less now because they associate it with their “boring” parents, but I don’t know any teens so I have no point of reference to gauge the accuracy of this statement. We know that studies are not always correct or unbiased, and teens are not always forthcoming about illegal things they are doing. And with so many varying opinions in this world, even within the same population demographics, it’s hard to say what the vast majority of people think about a product, especially in such a subjective way as whether it’s “cool” or not.  

So, you can take this all with a grain of salt because what’s cool and what’s boring is very much a matter of opinion. However, when I meet someone else that smokes, regardless of how common that is in today’s day and age, there’s still a fun and exciting aspect to it. In my opinion, nothing bonds a group of strangers faster than a fun chat over a nicely rolled blunt.  

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A Clarion Call

Rallying outside the White House with my friends Umi RBG and M1 (among others), from the legendary Dead Prez hip-hop crew, set me to thinking about the relationship between politics and cannabis culture. Freeing the Plant and all our loved ones who are still in prison is a crucially important political task, but legalization isn’t the end point of our movement—it’s just the beginning.

Our real goal is to build a world that lives by the lessons that cannabis teaches us—a world where the power of love is greater than the love of power; where individual freedom is valued over submission to authority. That work happens mostly through the mechanism of culture rather than politics, and most often through music.

Steve DeAngelo—with hip hop legends Redman and M1 of Dead Prez— at the gates of the White House on on October 24, 2022.

Wherever I travel in the world, I ask young people how they were introduced to cannabis. The answer is almost always reggae or hip-hop music, no matter where we are or what language is being spoken. This worldwide expansion of cannabis consciousness through music—through culture—is a beautiful cycle: The plant inspires artists and prophets; their voices call in our newest brethren; those new cannabis warriors strengthen and empower our community; and with that strength, we’re more able to pass more laws and free more prisoners. The freedom thereby created, in turn, makes it safe for us to be more open about who we are and what we believe in; safe for us to create new expressions of cannabis culture that get beamed all across the planet. It’s those culture beams reaching the minds and souls of young people that awaken the next generations of our Tribe.

As long as we listen to the lessons the cannabis plant teaches us—as long as we live by the value system those lessons have taught us—this cycle will continue, and our Tribe will survive.

Cannabis Culture
Police observe a crowd of cannabis prisoner reform activists that gathered to draw attention to the people still unreleased from federal prison in spite of President Biden’s recent executive order.

But we must never, ever let go of our culture. We cannot allow corporate cannabis to replace it with bland, meaningless marketing. We can never allow cannabis to be reduced from a sacred plant to just another commodity. Without our culture, we’re lost. If you love the plant, if you believe in the new world she’s guiding us to, do all you can to protect, preserve and promote cannabis culture.

This story was originally published in issue 47 of the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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Cannabis, Celebrity & Culture

Arguably, the greatest lubricant for cannabis normalization hasn’t been enthusiasts, activists or lawmakers, but pop culture. Of course, culture alone hasn’t been enough to usher in legalization (if it had, it would’ve happened much sooner). But it’s fair to say that the soft (but undeniable) advocacy employed by screen actors, artists, musicians and others, as well as depictions in different kinds of media, have helped everyday people to see that the kind herb may not be so bad as Uncle Sam says it is, after all.

When superstar Kacey Musgraves’ Grammy-winning “Same Trailer, Different Park” dropped in 2013, many in the country music world were scandalized by the then-24-year-old’s multiple references to smoking weed. She’s hardly the first in the genre to toke, as Willie Nelson has of course been loud and proud his entire career. But, based on optics alone—she’s a young white woman from Texas performing in a space closely associated with politically conservative Americans—her immediate differences from other prominent musicians who famously loved to toke up set her apart. 

Millions of fans, some of whom felt that the culture surrounding country music was a bit too uptight, instantly loved her for it, while still, others found reason to cast blame. “You’re so less attractive to me now,” one commenter wrote on a photo Musgraves posted on Instagram in 2019, which showed her exhaling smoke blissfully with a joint in hand. The singer clapped back instantly: “Oh, nooo! I only exist purely for your pleasure. What am I gonna do?” with a thinking emoji in tandem. #savage 

But weed hasn’t hurt Musgraves, who has 2.4 million Instagram followers. If anything, it’s only helped. She’s since racked up awards and made best-selling albums. She’s even selling branded rolling papers—appropriately named “Slow Burn” after one of her most famous songs—as well as a lighter and grinder. 

Louis Armstrong

Before and alongside these country music luminaries, many other musicians and celebrities helped paved the way simply by using. Jazz icons Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington all famously and openly lit up, despite being used as an example by Henry Anslinger, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, who was the principal architect of the US prohibition during the draconian Reefer Madness era in this country. 

“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind,” Anslinger said. “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music–jazz and swing–result from marijuana use.”

Jerry Garcia illustration by Robert Risko
Jerry Garcia

From there, Anslinger’s rhetoric and policies laid the groundwork for all-out criminalization and the eventual War on Drugs, the legacy of which still exists today, particularly in the fact that cannabis is still federally illegal in the US. In 1937, Congress passed his Marihuana Tax Act, effectively prohibiting cannabis on a federal level due to the heavy tax burden introduced.

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA), which was ratified in 1970, made cannabis illegal for good. In between, a counter-culture movement sprung up in the 1960s, in which weed was arguably a central component. From that wellspring came cannabis-friendly icons including The Grateful Dead (led by Jerry Garcia), which was the band that became the official anthem-holder of white stoners everywhere. Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Carlos Santana, The Velvet Underground, Simon and Garfunkel, Pink Floyd and The Beach Boys are other notable acts that also openly smoked and whose legacies endure today—with cannabis one of the drugs of choice of that bygone era, there are also hundreds more examples of popular figures partaking and otherwise endorsing the coveted plant.

Bob Marley illustration by Robert Risko
Bob Marley

Cannabis becoming flat-out federally illegal after the CSA’s passage didn’t stop the train of pop culture cannabis consumption. If anything, it only made it more subversive and, therefore, cool. Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong of Cheech & Chong fame were a slapstick weed-soaked silver screen duo who came to prominence in the 1970s and are still beloved as original pioneers of today’s cannabis culture. Though Bob Marley and The Wailers started producing hits in the ’60s, it was in the ’70s when the reggae sensations rose to international prominence. Their religious beliefs through Rastafari, as well as their cannabis consumption, also took center stage in their public image. Peter Tosh was also Rastafarian and a famously-pot smoking reggae contemporary of Marley’s, but with a harder political edge. To this day, his 1976 anthem “Legalize It” is still a rallying cry for tokers all over the globe, even while marijuana continues to remain largely illegal.

In more recent history, the public face of cannabis has become more widespread and representative of different cultures, though the legacy born in the ’60s and ’70s endures, particularly with longtime jam bands Phish, Widespread Panic and Dave Matthews Band. We also see its impact via the spread of reggae culture into other island communities, especially Hawaii, and more cannabis-friendly communities such as those of underground (and now legal) cannabis cultivators in northern California.

Carlos Santana illustration by Robert Risko
Carlos Santana

Weed’s next and arguably greatest push into mainstream popular culture came with the rise of hip-hop, which started as a music genre born out of lower-class Black communities and crossed over to mainstream appeal during the late 1980s and especially the 1990s, bringing the plant with it. Some rappers and groups, such as Snoop Dogg, Cypress Hill, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Method Man, Redman and Dr. Dre, dedicated entire albums with chart-topping hits specifically to the plant. Snoop has since become a bonafide cannabis icon, even starting his own media publication, Merry Jane, while Cypress Hill’s B-Real heads up his own cannabis brand and dispensary chain, Dr. Greenthumbs, named after one of his most famous songs. His signature strains sold are different phenotypes of OG Kush, which was introduced to him in the ‘90s by famous grower JoshD, who bred the Florida-born strain to prominence after its arrival in California.

Rappers today have carried that legacy forward, including Wiz Khalifa with his Kush and OJ album (and now his own legal weed brand) and Berner, who has his own veritable worldwide legal weed empire. Jay-Z owns nationwide cannabis brands and raps often about selling weed—both legal and illegal—but is also rumored to not be super into smoking it himself. Kid Cudi, Curren$y, Drake, OutKast, The Game and 2-Chainz are other notable names who’ve melded their art with their favorite plant. 

Snoop Dogg illustration by Robert Risko
Snoop Dogg

The rise of hip-hop also coincided with the birth of the internet and the advent of music television, fomenting its place not just in cannabis culture, but also in popular culture, in general, and giving it greater reach than possibly the music of the 1960s in numbers over time. It also grew alongside the golden era of stoner movies, frequently with cameos from one of the aforementioned stars: How High stars both Method Man and Red Man and is considered canon among both rap and weed fans; so is Friday, written by Ice Cube and DJ Pooh, which stars Ice Cube and comedian Chris Tucker.

Half Baked is another quintessential cannabis-fueled movie and what birthed Dave Chappelle’s career (though I’d argue that his giving up weed for his girlfriend at the end is a genuine betrayal to stoners everywhere). Harold and Kumar go to White Castle sometimes gets cast aside as dumb but is brilliant in its subtle knowledge of deep stoner culture—any movie that so prominently features the dregs of the fast-food world, much beloved by those with the munchies, is obviously clued into the quirky loves of stoners countrywide. Dazed and Confused harkens back to the more innocent times of 1970s weed, while Super Troopers gave us the iconic line, “Littering and…littering and…littering and smoking the reefer.”

Seth Rogen illustration by Robert Risko
Seth Rogen

There are some drawbacks to weed’s popularity in pop culture. While saturation can lead to normalization and a reduction of stigma, it has also made cannabis a bit of a punchline. Stoner depictions in various media have also perpetuated stereotypes, notably Afroman’s 2000 hit “Because I Got High,” which runs through a litany of forgetful and absentminded foibles that the rapper attributed to smoking weed. The Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott movie Dude, Where’s My Car? basically gives away the plot without having to watch it, funny though it is, and it’s definitely not a positive portrayal of healthy or functional cannabis consumption. 

 More recently, a new guard of smoke-filled movie stars has taken the old guard’s place. Seth Rogen, who today owns the lauded and legal Houseplant cannabis brand, is considered a bonafide social and political advocate for cannabis legalization. His movies have also legitimately crossed over into weed culture, including the 2008 hit Pineapple Express, which birthed an actual cultivar that remains popular to this day. His social media presence, especially during the pandemic, shows Rogen making pottery and curating tasteful cannabis accessories, a glimpse into the life of a rich and successful pothead who also happens to have good taste. Functional stoners see themselves in him—as a wealthy celebrity, Rogen may occupy a different stratosphere of life than most can ever imagine, but he’s aspirational in all the right ways by a group typically denigrated and assumed to be lazy, forgetful and generally unintelligent.

Miley Cyrus illustration by Robert Risko
Miley Cyrus

These depictions are also almost entirely male-oriented, save for Musgraves, which is also beginning to change as wider acceptance of cannabis use courses through the US and women not only are consuming more than they had in the past, but also feel more comfortable doing so in public. Pop superstar Miley Cyrus has been an avid cannabis user and publicly (sometimes controversially) so ever since she graduated into adulthood from her kid-friendly Hannah Montana days; Rihanna is a veritable weed queen, who has talked about it often in interviews and has allowed herself to be frequently photographed while smoking. Lady Gaga has come out as a fan of the plant, and so has Megan Fox, Anna Faris, Bella Thorne, Kathy Bates, Tove Lo, Cameron Diaz and Charlize Theron, among many others. The list is admittedly smaller, but likely, as in real life, there are plenty more notable women in pop culture who like to smoke weed.

Whereas in the past, using cannabis was a more counterculture act, regardless of who in pop culture was consuming, there were visibility limitations owing to the lack of access we had to cultural figures compared with how much exposure they have today. I believe the internet helped bridge the gap between culture and popular consciousness for the final leg of cannabis prohibition, which we appear to be living in today. At a certain point, being bombarded with certain images and symbols over and over has a sanitizing effect, and how much more media we consume compared with people 30-40 years ago and beyond means that we’re becoming exposed to the regularity of cannabis consumption more than at any point in history.

Rihanna illustration by Robert Risko

So, what to make of all of this cannabis consumed by the famous and influential for the better part of a century? While it’s activists and the lawmakers they lobby who are, in the end, mainly responsible for the ongoing tide of legalization in this country, it’s the plant’s ironclad presence in popular culture that has helped grease the wheels all the way along with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

Drawn To Him

Robert Risko, America’s top magazine illustrator, debuts on our pages.

When my team at a previous magazine heard I was leaving my post as editor in chief, they asked my dear friend and easily the most celebrated magazine illustrator in the US, Robert Risko, to create a portrait of me as a goodbye gift. When the large, framed work on white canvas was given to me, a rush of emotions washed over me. “Wow, even I have a Risko now,” I thought, feeling sheer gratitude at such a beautiful and thoughtful gesture.

Robert Risko illustration

Risko, who’s been the chief artist at Vanity Fair for precisely four decades and whose colorful, whimsical, instantly recognizable portraits helped elevate that magazine to colossal cultural relevance (along with photographer Annie Leibovitz), is as interesting personally as the famous subjects he expertly captures. To see a Risko illustration accompany a story in VF—and later The New Yorker, Time, Rolling Stone—is to signal to the reader that not only is this story worthy of attention, it’s also worthy of the “Risko treatment.” Has there ever been a bigger compliment to a magazine artist? Others certainly agreed. In 2017, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC held an exhibition of Risko’s iconic portraits he had completed for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor since 2002.

When I asked Risko about possibly illustrating this pivotal feature in our “culture issue,” my friend didn’t hesitate. “Ohh, that sounds really interesting…” And just like that, Robert Risko joins the cannabis community. How cool is that? —Richard Pérez-Feria

This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.

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What and Where Is Cannabis Culture Today?

Danielle “Dan” Guercio, a New York-based cannabis writer and creative, felt that cannabis news stories had to focus on “a brand, celeb, political or science angle” to get featured.

“The only culture stuff we get is from the same five dudes and their friends,” she said via LinkedIn comments

“There’s a little bit of an echo chamber happening in the professional space right now—too-similar circles circulating too-similar information,” she told me in a follow-up chat. 

The suggestion was certainly interesting. Were we running into an echo chamber where only a few similar voices speak for millions? I wasn’t sure about the number of representatives. But I certainly agreed when it came to the stories. With commenters telling me they wanted more success stories and relatable topics, is the news playing gatekeeper, or is the public short-sighting the current offering? 

When I pitched the topic to my editor, he told me I could pursue it “only if you go into it realizing you are one of those dudes.” I agreed to the condition despite not fully agreeing with the opinion. Sure, my work appeared regularly on a few outlets. Still, I could name several voices on this publication and numerous others that cover all things pot. And even if only five of us dudes are covering the scene, I can name at least two that probably wouldn’t consider me a colleague they’d want to associate with. 

I get it, if that’s the case. Those prominent writers certainly walk the walk more than I ever could. Maybe it’s the imposter syndrome talking, but I never thought a 30-something who can barely roll a J, hasn’t grown a plant and hasn’t been busted for anything really represents what many in the Western world consider authentic weed culture. Or, maybe it isn’t the imposter syndrome but rather the reality of the current situation. 

Before tackling if it is adequately covered in the media, I needed to unpack what cannabis culture is in the first place. To do so, I asked roughly 100 pot personalities, from underground operators to MSO execs to casual consumers. 

What is Cannabis Culture?

Cannabis Culture is a Canadian weed publication once run by this guy who did some questionable things…

Wait, wrong cannabis culture. That’s a story for another day. The cannabis culture we’re looking to nail down is a bit more ambiguous—just like it’s been for decades. 

Defining culture can be challenging at times. Taking pot out of the equation doesn’t help much, either. Culture’s definition varies depending on the source. Most would summarize it as our shared or collective knowledge, experiences, beliefs, patterns, behaviors, attitudes, religions and other components we’ve encountered as humans over many generations. We shape the world around us through our collective experiences. As time progresses, our culture evolves with it. Our worldviews grow while some once dominant traits or subcultures fade into the background as others gain prominence. 

That sums up cannabis culture throughout the ages, particularly today. While many may have clearly defined views of the culture, others contest that it has always been wide-reaching.

“It is a multifaceted phenomenon encompassing a wide range of social and behavioral aspects surrounding the consumption of cannabis,” said Kimberly Shaw, a 10-year cannabis grower and plant enthusiast. 

Thanks to legalization and expanding access, millions of newcomers are now part of the discussion. Does this make them part of the culture? It depends on who you ask. While many casual consumers are welcomed by most, fear over particular types runs high. 

“Excluding the overlap with mainstream pop culture–movies, music, celebs, etc.—the cannabis culture as it was once known has evolved into “industry” culture,’” said Benjamin Owens, a cannabis event organizer and author of psilocybin recipe book Mr. Boomer’s Magic Kitchen

“The culture has many faces and many independent desires,” said Alex Redmond via Twitter

“From MSOs to ancillary businesses—it doesn’t feel like we’re attracting the best and the brightest,” he added. 

Whether we like it or not, these individuals are part of the cannabis community, a now bloated but still technically accurate term for pot consumers. While some may not like the inclusion of casuals and atypical consumers or operators, there’s no denying these folks represent the evolution of the modern community and its culture.

“Cannabis culture today is evolving and being remixed across geographic boundaries, legal and legacy sectors, and consumer communities,” said Michael Kauffman, executive director of the Clio Music & Clio Cannabis awards.

Until recently, cannabis culture helped describe the few prevailing cannabis subcultures, including medical users, advocates, trappers and the hip hop community. But, some argue that view excludes today’s and past era’s cannabis consumers. 

“I always say the cannabis culture is a subculture of all other cultures,” said Ngaio Bealum, a prominent cannabis writer and comedian, among many other talents. He added, “Whatever it is that people do, there’s a subset of people that like to get high and do it.”

Similarly, Morgan Fox, political director for NORML, told me the cannabis community has always represented more than just its most vocal pot proponents.

“I think it’s kinda difficult to answer because cannabis culture has always been ubiquitous,” he said. Since prohibition has been in place, there’s been a kinship between weed consumers from various walks of life. 

“Even people that were super undercover about their cannabis use…part of the culture of cannabis use was that when they would find somebody else that they know also consumed cannabis, there’d be sort of like an instant rapport and understanding,” said Fox. 

The silent consumers throughout the ages certainly help contribute to the culture. But if you were to ask the general public during those times what they considered cannabis culture, few, if any, would say the silent majority. Instead, they’d likely mention the loudest communities and subcultures. Does that eliminate those not in those groups? It shouldn’t, but the truth is that many in the community, be it media, business or sometimes more sophisticated consumers, practice this approach. 

My hunch is that, like anything people hold dear, they feel responsible for protecting the cannabis community and culture they grew up in. As the world around them changes, they become protective of what they see as the proper culture. Without conflating cannabis into another massive societal issue, it feels like cannabis’ old guard is protective of its remaining culture as cannabis gentrifiers enter the community. While justified and correct in many ways, I do wonder if certain members of cannabis are shutting out passionate cannabis folks because they don’t fall into the standard personalities or perspectives we’ve established as “authentic.” If they don’t look a certain way, don’t know enough about the plant, or haven’t been arrested for it, are they still considered members of the culture?

The Pillars of Cannabis Culture?

The cannabis community has always been wide-reaching, even if consumers often stayed low-key. In recent eras, that quiet consuming approach helped minimize particular consumers as different subcultures became dominant voices. While true that culture varies by country, state, city and neighborhood, a few prevalent subcultures continue to shape much of the conversation. 

Few, if anyone, will deny that the medical community started it all off. While some could have puffed on the plant for fun in the early days, documented history shows that groups stretching across various continents and centuries turned to cannabis for its healing properties. One of the most heavily cited examples is the plant’s inclusion in ancient Chinese pharmacopeia.

“I think cannabis transcends almost everything because it’s biology,” said “Hawaii” Mike Salman about the body’s endocannabinoid system.

Salman, the co-founder of New York-based infused dining events Chef for Higher, grew up in the Bay Area and Hawaii cannabis communities. There, he began developing an appreciation for how the plant fit into daily life and wellness. His professional career saw cannabis converge with one of the most influential cultures of the past 40 or so years, hip hop. Like other genres of music before it, hip hop has continued to help shape cannabis while the plant has done the same to it. Listen to any track from today’s artists, and you’ll soon run into some bars about pot. Those odds increase when the track features names like Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa, Kid Cudi or [insert your favorite pot-loving hip hop artist here]. The trend is nothing new, with artists ranging from Rick James to Louis Armstrong shouting out the plant over the years, but hip hop has run with it like nobody else. 

As road manager for acts like Mobb Deep and editor for The Source Magazine, Salman was front and center as hip hop and cannabis furthered their bond. He credited hip hop’s influence in promoting both communities’ cultures.

“[Hip hop] is the broadest cultural expression that we have,” said Salman, saying the culture can be identified through music, fashion, vernacular and many other facets of life—cannabis included. 

Until hip hop’s emergence, the counterculture movement of the 60s and 70s was the best example of music and cannabis coming together, at least since the Jazz Era. Some may still argue that the counterculture movement is the most potent example due to drug culture and music helping advance societal perspective shifts. Simultaneously, the counterculture and civil rights movements, particularly for Black Americans, were the two groups targeted in the Nixon-era War on Drugs in an attempt to stop both growing influences in America.  

Whether it’s jazz, classic rock, hip hop or otherwise, the cannabis connection is forged thanks to another crucial subculture: the underground. 

Call them OGs, trappers, legacy operators, your guy or whatever you want. We wouldn’t have cannabis culture without the ones supplying the pipeline. The OGs kept the medical market thriving despite prohibition and draconian criminal punishments for often non-violent offenses. Until legalization, if you saw weed, you knew it came from the underground. They supplied pot to the musicians and club attendees throughout the decades, just as they did for you and I in these modern times. It’s been the same for ages because of the underground, no other way to say it. 

Without their contributions and sacrifices, cannabis culture wouldn’t have flourished. And we for damn sure wouldn’t have the legal market that often turns a cold shoulder to the OGs when setting up licensed businesses. 

These large groups of people help shape cannabis culture in the US and most other nations. Hip hop can play more or less of a role, depending on the country. However, the medical and underground movements are linked to the culture no matter in America, India, South Africa and even more restrictive parts of the world. Still, as legalization and access grows, so does the cannabis community. 

Therein lies the conflict: Are newcomers part of the culture or just the community? And are either of their stories getting told properly? 

Much More To Consider

The above groups have every right to claim a significant stake in the foundation of cannabis culture. However, many participants, new and old, could argue that their communities deserve a place in the culture conversation. 

Advocates and other plant-passionate individuals make up a huge portion of the community. It indeed can be argued that they are pillars just as much as the above groups. With the subcultures having their fair share of overlap, separating advocates from the medical, underground and hip hop communities and calling them their own pillar felt redundant. But others would do so and are correct in that approach. 

The term advocate has become a freely used descriptor as legalization efforts gained steam in recent years. Jimi Devine recently highlighted the concern around under- or uninformed folks calling themselves advocates or framing themselves as experts when they’re far from one. Still, the true advocates, the ones passionate about education, reform and eroding stigmas, are a community that deserve their recognition as cornerstones of the culture in the past century or so. 

Then there are the casuals. These folks like their pot quite a lot–sometimes consuming every day, sometimes less frequently. No matter how often they partake, when they do, they enjoy it. While they may love it, you won’t confuse this group for OGs. 

Some in the group pursue plant knowledge to become more informed consumers, advocates or otherwise. Parents and working professionals are becoming two of the more prominent voices in the casual consumer community. 

“Cannabis offers a safer and healthier alternative to alcohol, which is often the go-to choice for working parents,” said Tara Furiani, CEO at Not the HR Lady.

Other casuals aren’t that concerned about the plant other than how high they’ll feel. For some, all they want to know about is THC percentage or the difference between indicas, sativas and hybrids. Some don’t even care about that. I remember the most significant takeaways I got from the 2021 MJBizCon came from Vegas cabbies, who exclusively discussed price and THC percentages. Whether people like it or not, a lot of casuals just want the basic info or even less. 

While this group’s lack of knowledge and/or zero desire to learn more can frustrate some pot-passionate individuals, we can’t disregard the casuals from the conversation. If we do, the education gap will only grow. But, if we provide them with this type of basic information, they may become more interested, and thus informed than they ever intended. That is where I like to write most of my articles. I feel much of cannabis media has skipped over this group, instead focusing on the experts and passionates or the business community. Plus, everybody knows my ass isn’t OG. 

While casuals aren’t entirely representative of the culture, this group’s massive numbers shape cannabis society. Even if they aren’t impacting OG mindsets, they are the symptom of legalization, helping divide the consuming community into informed, passionate consumers and everyday folks who are helping erode stigmas whether they are aware or not. Should the casuals be leading the conversation on cannabis ethics, cultivation or other important topics? Certainly not. But their experiences and voices are shaping the cannabis community–one that many experts and insiders may not recognize if they stay within their echo chambers. 

This leads to the last question…

Is the Media Adequately Covering Cannabis Culture?

While many differed on what cannabis culture is, most agreed that mainstream media failed to adequately showcase it .

Respondents often told me they consider mainstream media to be traditional TV and print outlets, not including more niche cannabis publications in the grouping. Many felt that depictions in the news and in fiction-based media continued to rely on stereotypes rather than actual consumers.

“There’s definitely still a lot of caricatures and stereotypes that are popular,” said Nadir Pearson, VP of business development for cannabis brand WISECO

While you can find cannabis use normalized in select news and fiction projects, recent examples like Netflix’s now-canceled Disjointed series highlight the ongoing lack of quality cannabis representation in media. Others, like Hawaii Mike, highlighted concerns around the digital news model. 

“It’s skewed because we’re in clickbait culture still,” said Salman, saying that demonization pieces continue to generate clicks. 

Like traditional news, digital media thrives on the “if it bleeds, it leads” model. Meaning, sensational stories win out more often than not. Those that disagree should see traffic numbers for positive articles versus negative or sensational pieces. The model is also rampant on social media, with scores of influencers looking to cash in on “shocking” or informative content “no one will believe,” despite being easily sourced on Google or Wikipedia.

Salman’s argument is valid. When publications like the New York Times run stories about dogs eating edibles instead of more pressing cannabis topics, one has to wonder what’s getting passed over. However, it could be argued that these pieces target the casual consumer crowd, not those in the previously mentioned pillar or advocacy subcultures. While most of us reading this aren’t dumb enough to leave an edible around our dog, tons of NYT readers probably aren’t aware of the effects of pot on their animals–much less the impact of sugar, chocolate and other ingredients in those edibles. Those readers need this sort of information, but without less doom and gloom, ideally. 

On the other hand, most news outlets beyond mainstream TV and digital publications may not cover culture for different reasons. Some respondents felt the media is covering what the public is already consuming.

“People are really focused on news and business,” said Pearson, adding, “Those types of things versus the actual culture.” Pearson’s point can be supported by the vast array of cannabis business publications while many culture-based outlets have shuttered in recent years.  

News coverage also boils down to budgets, bandwidth and public importance. With minimal budgets to hire full-time writers or commission freelancers, media outlets, especially nascent pot publications, may be unable to cover all the stories they want. In that case, editors often go with their gut and/or performance metrics to determine what stories get picked up. In that case, you either need to pique an editor’s interest or prove that this kind of story will generate clicks, shares and comments. If publications don’t follow this model, they risk losing ad revenue and likely commission less work. It’s an ugly cycle that nobody other than Google and social media ad platforms seem to enjoy. 

That’s why I propose cannabis news seekers evolve alongside the culture. Don’t abandon your traditional news. Pot-focused outlets are still producing helpful and often must-know information. But, you may need to bounce around to various outlets to find comprehensive coverage spanning current events, business, politics and culture. I’ve got an Excel spreadsheet if you wanna look it over. Hit me up.

Simultaneously, expand your sources of information. Social media can prove beneficial, like Reddit’s r/trees community, as well as in some groups and conversations found on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Just like traditional news, some of these sources can also produce lackluster results. A certain level of critical thinking and analysis is required. At the same time, Oldheads like myself must also keep up with the times. Branching out to YouTube, Discord and TikTok can all open up avenues to insights from different cannabis community members and content creators. 

Let’s not entirely discount independent journalists, either. While it’s a good rule of thumb to disregard the opinions of nameless, faceless accounts, some are providing excellent news, often on regional levels. Critical analysis is even more important when sourcing news here, but there are trusted names you can connect with and follow for more insights. 

Meanwhile, more cannabis-specific apps and platforms are helping reduce noise while focusing on the culture. Pearson’s Hybrid app cultivates a dedicated following based on a calendar highlighting drops, community events and other authentic experiences. Hybrid is currently available for Apple users. 

And as always in life, it’s good to step out of the digital sphere occasionally. Don’t forget how important it is to show up. I’m not one to talk, with my introversion, disabled dog and pandemic really ramping up my desire to never leave the living room this past year or so. But let me tell you from experience, showing up is the best way to understand the pulse of the community on a local, national and international level. If you can, go to info sessions, meetups, rallies, public forums and anywhere else where pot is in the discussion. I stay in the loop on all things New York State cannabis thanks to Mannada’s Kristin Jordan and The Maze Calendar newsletter. 

At the same time, try to save up the cash to attend events like Spannabis, the High Times Cups and various other national and international gatherings. Find the ones that cater to what you want to learn about and dive in. 

Do these options fix the media’s lack of cannabis coverage? Absolutely not. But I would argue that cannabis culture is covered more often by more people than credit is given. But with the task of covering an already large and evolving culture, some critical stories won’t reach the masses. Be it a hesitation from major media or other limitations facing many smaller brands, it isn’t easy to adequately tell the legacy and ongoing news in cannabis culture or its surrounding, growing community. 

But, if you continue to evolve with the times, you can discover a world of cultural content out there–and most of it isn’t coming from me and four other dudes. At the same time, folks like myself need to keep an open mind and hear out the voices that sometimes aren’t being heard. We don’t need to pitch every suggestion we receive, but there are more voices to consider than the ones we rely on. 

The post What and Where Is Cannabis Culture Today? appeared first on High Times.

Can I Smoke Weed at Work?

With marijuana becoming legal in more and more states, the question has to be asked: Can we smoke cannabis at work? Smoke breaks are part of the regular pattern of Solonje Burnett’s workday, though where workers at an Amazon warehouse or a downtown office tower might look forward to state-mandated ten-minute pauses every few hours for coffee or cigarettes (or both), Burnett punctuates her day with cannabis. And everything seems to get done just fine.

“I’ve been on a mission to normalize puff (or joint) breaks while at work for years,” says the Brooklyn-based entrepreneur who is co-founder and CEO of Humble Bloom, a cannabis culture agency, as well as the co-founder and Chief Culture & Community Officer of Honeypottt, a cannabis-focused discounts and promotions management app. For Burnett, who stays plenty busy, cannabis is a key part of that productivity—just as much as updating her LinkedIn profile, hopping on Zoom meetings and attending networking events.

“Cannabis is the medicine I need to get through juggling the many tasks of a creative entrepreneur,” she says. “It’s a matter of maintaining balance, achieving focus, finding flow and staying in a calm, elevated mindset.”

Work and Weed

Though Burnett is self-employed and thus enjoys freedom from the rules that dictate the lives of hourly wage-earning employees, even if she were a worker bee, she has two things going for her. She’s in New York, where the legalization law specifically permits cannabis use wherever tobacco is allowed. And New York also expressly forbids employers from taking action against an employee for off-duty cannabis use. 

You can come back from a lunch break reeking of the joint you just stubbed out, and that’s not sufficient cause to fire a worker in the state, observed David C. Holland, a New York City-based defense attorney. Somewhat controversially, New York’s law also has no public-safety exemption—meaning an off-duty firefighter can use cannabis, whereas a subway operator or bus driver, who may be subject to post-accident testing should a mishap happen on the job, might have to think twice. (Cops could too, in theory, though a NYPD brass revoked an earlier order this summer granting cops that right.)

But not everyone else is so lucky as Solonje Burnett or as a New York City firefighter. As two-thirds of Americans live in states where cannabis can be legally possessed and consumed and the debate over criminalization shifts to Congress and the White House, certain key practical considerations remain unaddressed. 

These include balancing an employer’s right to create a functional and profitable working environment with employees’ rights to govern their own personal conduct. So, can you smoke cannabis at work? 

Worker Protections Lacking in Legalization

So-called “first-wave” legalization states such as Colorado and California don’t have the same protections for off-duty cannabis use as New Yorkers. (Cannabis culture is worth only so much.) This was a flaw that legalization advocates noted and addressed in later laws and have had to return to lawmakers to correct in states that legalized first.

In California, a bill protecting workers from termination for off-duty cannabis use in 2024 recently passed the state Legislature and is expected to be signed into law later this month, nothing in any state law in the country allows you to use cannabis during work hours. 

Yet, as Burnett and others contacted for this article observed, every workplace in America likely has someone under the influence of cannabis while on the clock.

But what does that mean, anyway? There’s a vast gap between responsible, mindful cannabis use to soothe anxiety or stimulate creativity and visible, disruptive intoxication—yet in workplace culture, the two are often treated as one and the same. 

That’s the nature of cannabis drug-testing, where a positive result famously reveals past consumption that may be days or weeks in the rear-view.

Use Weed, Get Fired

The law’s strength has yet to be tested in the courts, but in New York and New Jersey and other states where off-duty use is protected, the only way to get fired for cannabis use is to demonstrate intoxication as well as impaired performance. And that impairment must be clear.

“The odor of weed isn’t enough to get drug tested or disciplined,” said Holland, the New York attorney. “There has to be a clear and articulated observation that the worker isn’t performing up to speed.”

That, however, is also going to lead to problems in the form of lawsuits challenging dismissals, as employers seek to allege that a worker producing 100 widgets a day suddenly slipped to 85 because of cannabis—and attempt to prove it.

“You’re going to see a lot of fabricated claims,” Holland said. But one thing that won’t be tolerated, since it’s not protected, are smoke breaks like Burnett’s. Possession at work and use during work hours aren’t protected acts, so anyone who does like to consume during the day beware.

Unfinished Business

This weird list of conflicting bullet points—you can’t smoke marijuana on the job or during work hours, though many do; you can’t smoke weed at home in some states and be safe from ramifications after a drug-test, though for many, this will never be an issue—leaves anyone searching or offering practical advice in a bit of bind. 

But it also illustrates the incomplete project marijuana legalization remains, even in states where cannabis culture is deeply rooted. Policing cannabis at work is still a technique to control and punish workers. 

And given the different standards applied to blue-collar and service-industry workers compared to knowledge economy workers—many of whom are still comfortably working from home, enjoying the privileges granted during the COVID-19 pandemic, which may also include the freedom to indulge in cannabis—there are racial and classist divides at play, too.

Quiet Quitting

Though for now, in the great workplace debates around “quiet quitting” and dragging workers back to the dreary rigors of commutes, cubicles and business-casual, cannabis use hasn’t appeared as a dividing line quite yet.

“I haven’t heard any complaints, post-COVID or otherwise, about office workers being upset that their co-workers are smoking cannabis at work,” said Ellen Komp, the deputy director of California NORML, one of the chief sponsors of the workplace-protections bill currently awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature. 

This could partially be because employers are still in the process of summoning office workers back into the office—and only some employers at that. Many are content to let their workers remain at home several days out of the week, or all of it, if that’s what it takes to keep their people happy and productive.

As for co-working with cannabis, that’s a cultural shift that’s yet to take root, at least officially. For now, American workers will have to make do with a familiar status quo: uneven and unequal treatment, and some unclear directions under the law, rules and culture still struggling to adjust.

“Employers and co-working spaces need to recognize and release their biases,” Burnett said. “Many of us are already high in the workplace. It’s all about responsible conscious consumption.”

The post Can I Smoke Weed at Work? appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Legacy Cannabis Operators Shunned From Billion Dollar Industry

Legacy cannabis operators are the ones who bore the brunt of prohibition and paved the way for a new, legal market to flourish; one worth billions and one that has been unwelcoming, at best, to these industry OGs. Cannabis activists and many longtime business owners are pushing for the inclusion of legacy brands in the world of legalized pot. Otherwise, states are missing out on billions of dollars annually as illicit sales continue to thrive, even in recreational markets.  

The cannabis industry has changed a lot over the last few years, but fundamentally, we all want the same thing: progress, although that could have varying meanings for different people. For more articles like this one, and for exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and other products, remember to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter. Also save big on Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!

What are legacy cannabis operators?  

Legacy operators are the trailblazers who started their cannabis businesses before it was legal, and are much more in-line with ‘stoner culture’ and history. The term can refer to business owners who run “grey market” dispensaries that have not yet become legally compliant, or street dealers who continue operating the same way they have been for decades. 

While some legacy operators have no intentions of going legit, an overwhelming majority say they would if the process wasn’t so expensive and permeated with red tape. With so many different and constantly changing regulations to adhere to, and startup costs in the hundreds of thousands, it’s no surprise that legality is out of reach for many.  

Take De’Shawn Avery from New York, who has been selling flowers for years and claims he “provided a very in-demand product when there was no product.” Before legalization, savvy entrepreneurs like Avery were a community staple that many of us were very grateful for; after legalization, they began to worry about the future of their businesses and what their roles would be in the new industry.  

Avery, and generations of other legacy dealers, fear they don’t fit the modern-day archetype of a cannabis businessperson. “It’s usually not Black people or people with records who are favored when it comes to money-making opportunities,” he pointed out.

And he’s not far off the mark for thinking that way. A few states have started to keep information on demographics within the cannabis industry and a study conducted by Marijuana Business Daily found that only 4.3 percent of cannabis companies are owned by African Americans, 5.7 percent were Hispanic/Latino owned, and 2.4% were owned by Asian Americans. That leaves 87.6 percent of pot business that are white-owned, most of which are also male-owned companies.  

To make matters worse, in most states people with prior felonies face additional restrictions when applying for cannabis business licensing. So, let’s say a legacy operator gets arrested on felony drug possession charges, then cannabis becomes legal in their state the following year. Despite having experience in the industry, existing clientele, and the perfect opportunity to transition from working in the shadows to being a legitimate business owner; they would have to wait 3 to 10 years before they could legally apply for a license. At that point, all the other businesses in their area would be already established, have possibly stolen some of their customers, and it would be even more difficult to get a foot in the door. 

The cannabis industry is definitely more inclusive than others, but often, still holds on tightly to that ‘old-boys club’ mentality that can make women, minorities, and those longtime legacy operators feel shut out.  

Looking West 

For a perfect example of the struggles faced by cannabis legacy operators, let’s take a quick look at what has been going on in California since the state passed proposition 215 and legalized medical marijuana back in 1996. At that point, the industry was still small and totally fringe. Most residents did not even know that cannabis had been legalized medicinally for so many years, and there were only a small number of dispensaries scattered throughout the state. 

By the time I turned 18 (in 2008) and was able to get a ‘medical card’ (which was shockingly easy and practically every pothead I knew had one), the industry had become very recreational. “Dispensaries”, or retail pot shops, were popping up everywhere. I once bought weed from a guy who was running his “dispensary” out of a detached garage on is property in the middle of Victorville, a small town in the high desert on the way to Vegas.

That “anything-goes” state of the industry led to the eventual passing of Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized the possession and recreational use of cannabis for anyone 21 years of age or older. A lot of the businesses operating under the original medical regime, or under the table as many were, could not meet all the demands of operating in the new legal market, and thus, were forced to shut down or continue running illegally.  

One of the biggest issues, aside from the exorbitant costs of licensing, were local moratoriums and that zoned only certain areas for cultivation, retail, and other cannabis operations. By July 2021, still just 31 counties and 181 cities (out of 58 and 482, respectively) allow any type of marijuana businesses within their jurisdictions.  

 “We voted for a law, and we are blocked at the local level,” says Andrew DeAngelo, a long-time California cannabis activist, industry consultant, and co-founder of legacy dispensary chain, Harborside Collective. “There are big counties that are known for growing weed where it’s banned,” he adds. 

States are losing billions 

This excessive regulation, greed, lack of consultation or legal help, and over-taxation has resulted in an estimated loss of up to 75% of potential cannabis revenues in some markets. In California, for example, data firms peg the number at around $5.6 billion dollars lost to the illicit market every year, that’s just over one half of the market’s total value in the state.  

It’s the only state so far that has seen recreational sales shrink following legalization. And the massive busts of illegal businesses rage on as high taxes and insane operating costs drive up prices, which are then passed on to the consumer. Instead of paying more money for crappier product, many people just stick to buying it from their dealers or illegal dispensaries that charge less and don’t pay taxes.  

Not to mention the convenience of buying from dealers, who have traditionally operated on a text-and-delivery or text-and-pickup basis. Even with a growing number of drive-throughs and delivery services, it’s still so much easier to buy from your local plug sometimes.  

A ‘less-than-welcoming’ industry  

The B2B side of the cannabis world is just like any other industry, and to be successful, you’ll need to be familiar with all the legislative and business jargon that comes with a billion-dollar industry. In cannabis, things can be much more complicated as far as regulations and business dealings are concerned; so the list of topics you’ll need to know, at least at a base level, can get quite expansive.  

“I’ve had to educate myself tremendously just to make sure I can speak the language that these people are speaking,” says Marie Montmarquet, co-founder of MD Numbers, a family of weed brands from cultivation to retail that previously operated a delivery business prior to legalization. “So, if I’m in a meeting and they’re talking about 1031 Real Estate transfers, I know what 1031 Real Estate transfers are.” 

The ultra-capitalistic environment coupled with constant oversight and regular contact with law enforcement and state/local governments, fosters an environment that feels stuffy, tense, and inhospitable – especially for anyone who has faced their own legal turmoil over cannabis, and still cannot fully trust those powers that be.  

Nomenclature: Legacy market vs black market  

Much like the politicized issue of the words “marijuana” vs “cannabis”, there is an ongoing debate about replacing the term “black market” with different phrases, one of which is “legacy market”. Black market doesn’t apply solely to cannabis, it refers to any economic activity that happens illegally.  

The selling of illegal products, of course, is a black market activity. But selling legal products in ways that are not prohibited also classifies. Like buying cigarettes in one state and selling them in another, for example. Cigarettes are legal in every US state, but because tobacco tax codes vary so much, you cannot legally buy cigarettes in Arizona and go sell them in California for a profit.  

The idea has been floating around that using the phrase “black market” is outdated and culturally insensitive. Danielle Jackson (Miz D), a Vancouver-born artist, advocate and entrepreneur, was one of the first to say publicly that “legacy market” should be used over “black market” when describing pre-legalization cannabis businesses. Her comment got overwhelming support from the audience.  

Many are tweeting in agreeance, such as Jennifer Caldwell , partner and technical lead at Cannabis License Experts, who added that, “To me, the term ‘black market’ implies a negative connotation of illegality and illegitimacy. Whether people are growing illegally or not is a complex topic at the moment.” 

Moving forward

Seeing how much money is on the line, legal states are beginning to offer incentives to make the transition more seamless for legacy cannabis operators. In California, in addition to the $100 million bailout, Governor Newsom has suggested expungement of cannabis-related convictions as well as an extension to allow licensees that have missed the deadlines to transition; albeit at high costs and great inconvenience, still. Other states are taking similar steps to ensure these business owners – the true backbone of the industry – are less excluded.

With legacy dealers, the experience can be a very mom-and-pop, tight-knit atmosphere, so word of out is key to the growth of these businesses. When big businesses come and take over all the available retail locations, cultivation spaces, and advertising channels, there’s little room left for any small businesses to make a name for themselves.  

“We’ve seen in lots of other states that big pharma, big tobacco, alcohol and large companies are all prepared to move in and just take over right away,” says New York State Senator Liz Krueger. “We don’t want that to be the story in New York. We want the story to be small mom-and-pop community-based businesses starting and growing and expanding…[and] we want people who are selling in the communities that they live in, in the illegal market and out of the illegal market.” 

“We don’t need anybody that’s coming in here just for the financial aspect,” added Edgar Cruz, CEO of cannabis brand Ekstrepe, based out of Long Beach, California. “We all understand that this is a cash cow now. What we need is support for our communities to make sure that we are included in this kind of cultural-based industry.” 

Final thoughts  

This is a lesson that every state or country considering legalization needs to take note of. Despite the financial success of the legal cannabis industry, we need more education and resources, and less taxes and regulatory red tape to harness the untapped knowledge, connections, experience, and economic wealth that exists in the legacy market. Otherwise, consumers will continue shopping in illicit markets, states will lose millions, and legalization will have done little more than prevent people from getting arrested for pot possession in certain areas.

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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

The post Legacy Cannabis Operators Shunned From Billion Dollar Industry appeared first on CBD Testers.

Rexx Life Raj Creates Community Through Music

Bay Area MC Faraji Omar Wrightz—known professionally as Rexx Life Raj—is serving up music and giving back to his community. The former D-1 football player has always known music was his outlet, and his most recent album, California Poppy 2, is both a reflection on our current times and an expression of Raj’s infatuation with neo soul.

For Raj, having a platform and using it to inspire others is the true meaning of what it means to be successful. “I’m blessed to be in a position where I have all of these resources, so it was always important to me to try and give back somehow, whether it be monetarily, giving wisdom or just helping people out in whatever ways they need.”

When we connected by phone, Raj was excited to discuss his growing involvement in the cannabis industry, his vision and plans for growing a cannabis company that focuses on supporting people of color and how music is simply his tool for making lasting change on the community he came from and on the world at-large.

Courtesy of Darrin Baldridge

Rex Life Raj on Music, Representation and Cannabis

Your mother was a gospel singer. Was there always a lot of creative energy bubbling around your household?

I was always around music from the time I was small. It was one of those things where I was born into it. Like you said, my mom was a gospel singer, so we were in church every Sunday with choir practice Tuesdays and Thursdays. My aunt was the piano player for the choir; my uncle was the choir director, and my grandma was the lead singer in the main choir. They would also perform at different events as a quartet.

My parents had—and still have to this day—a delivery service in Berkeley, California called IBS Courier Service, and during the weekdays, I’d be in the backs of trucks and vans listening to all different kinds of music. Lots of oldies, 102.9 KBLX. When I got to elementary school, that’s when I got introduced to rap, R&B, neo soul and all of that.

What was it about the neo soul genre that really clicked for you?

Neo soul has so much soul, passion and pain in it. It was a sound I was familiar with growing up in church, but it was married with a new sound of rap and banging beats. To this day, I just love soulful music because it just comes from a more real place.

You also grew up playing football. Were sports and music competing interests?

I pursued music in middle school and high school. Music was really my focus. Around 11th or 12th grade, music started to compete with football, and things [for football] started to get real when I started getting scholarship offers. Suddenly, I had to put more time into football. Music had been the priority and the passion, but football had gotten to a point where it became a vehicle that could help put me through college and help get me my degree. So I used it as such.

When I went to Boise for football—at that D-1 level—you don’t really have time to do music. It’s really football from 5:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. every day. I did little shit in my closet in my dorm room, and when later I moved into apartments and houses, I’d continue to put the studio in the closets. Music remained my passion and hobby, and when I had downtime, I’d do it. But in those years, football for sure sort of trumped music. I always knew that when I finished football, I would pursue music full time. I wasn’t one of those dudes who had the NFL dreams; rather, I always knew I’d get back to music at some point.

So you knew music was for you before football ever came into play.

Yeah, I grew a passion and a love for it at an early age. I knew that football was the vehicle that would help me get a college degree and would help open my life up to experiences I’d never had. When I first went to college, nobody in my family had received a college degree. Then my cousin Joel ended up getting a degree from San Jose State, so I became the second person in my family to get a college degree, and I know that meant a lot to my parents, especially my dad.

With the analogy of using football as a vehicle and calling something a vehicle—it’s something I do with everything. Like with music. Even though music is my passion, I understand that it’s a vehicle to open doors to a lot of things, which is why I try to preach to people, “Whatever you’re doing and whatever you’re passionate about, if you have the opportunity to be big and have a big platform and make money off of it, you should use it as a vehicle to open doors to other things.” I believe in diversifying whatever you do.

Would you say the diversifying mindset is what drives you musically?

Yeah, musically in the sounds that I use and the beat selections and all of that. There are so many different worlds that you can choose from, and when you combine them, you never know what you can come up with.

How did you choose your name, Rexx Life Raj?

My boy came up with “Rexx in high school. We were a group of homies who called ourselves “Rexxes” and were Rexx Life. It’s something I’ve been rocking with forever and sort of just used it. Now, Rexx Life has become a collective of different artists in different realms—rappers, singers, producers, videographers—different types of artists that are all in this collective of Rexx Life. It started in high school as a clique of homies and has blossomed into what it is now. 

What inspired your latest album, California Poppy 2, and what went into its production?

I think all of my music is pretty heady in that it comes from an introspective place and reflects stuff that I’m going through. What’s crazy is, the original California Poppy was a lot more bright and a lot more fun—stuff you could play outside or in your car on a beautiful day type music. California Poppy 2 is similar but for sure darker. I remember talking to my manager like, “Does this project feel dark?” And he was like, “Yeah, but you’ve got to think: The world is dark.” When I thought about it from that vantage point, it made sense.

There are songs like the track “Tesla in a Pandemic,” where I’m looking at this Tesla, and it’s a bittersweet feeling to have music going well enough to be able to get this beautiful car, but I look around the world and the world is crumbling around me. People are struggling and dying, all kinds of stuff. The track “State of Mind” is more introspective because I was writing alone in the studio with a more stream of consciousness that contributes to it being a more “heady” album.

You can’t be guilty for your own success, but you have an awareness and humbleness that other people are in different situations.

Exactly. The one track that was more turned up was “Freak” with Juvenile. I can’t even remember how that came about, but I’m happy it’s in there, because I think the album needed that balance of something that was more fun.

In terms of different situations, what’s the work you do with Good And Proper?

Good And Proper is an event series that we started ourselves before COVID. The idea of it was to do these fundraiser events that weren’t your typical fundraisers. Instead, they’d be more of a longue type vibe, with art, couture DJs, drinks—more of mingling events that raise money for local organizations or charities. The first event in 2019 was in San Francisco and had a couple hundred people. In total, we raised six or seven thousand dollars. 

I’m signed to Empire right now, and they matched whatever we raised—around three thousand dollars—so we were able to donate around six or seven thousand dollars to an Oakland organization called Youth Radio. It’s an organization where kids can come and learn how to be studio engineers, learn how to start their own media platform, start their own content series or be a radio host. It’s a place for kids to come in and learn these different aspects of media.

While we weren’t able to throw one last year in 2020, whenever things open back up, we’ll throw one again.

Was using your platform for good always something you envisioned doing?

Where I’m from, a lot of people don’t get a chance to make it out, get a big platform and make a lot of money. There are some who leave and never come back. Then there were those who got successful becoming a rapper or by going to the NFL who did come back and gave it back to the hood in whatever ways they saw fit. 

Giving back is a big deal for me because I know there’s a lot of kids who don’t have resources, opportunities or support systems around them to help them to flourish to where they need to go. I’m blessed to be in a position where I have all of these resources and tools, so it was always important to me to try and give back somehow, whether it be monetarily, giving wisdom or just helping people out in whatever ways they need. It’s a big deal to give back, especially to where you came from.

Rex Life Raj
Courtesy of Darrin Baldridge

What would you say your relationship with cannabis is?

When I first started smoking in high school, I used to get really high and rap. But when I went to college and started playing D-1 football, I couldn’t smoke because we got tested all of the time. For four or five years, I didn’t really smoke. Then, when I graduated from college, it was weird because I would get middle school high. 

Mind you, I’m a bigger dude, but I would take a couple of hits and be faded. So I had to chill out for another couple of years because of how weirdly high I was getting. In the Bay Area, we call that “rapper weed.” Once clubs and dispensaries started to open up, I got my medical card and started to experiment and find weed that fit me instead of trying to smoke the stoner, rapper weed.

Finding the right weed is sort of like dating and finding the right person to be in a relationship with.

It’s literally that. I remember at one point, I was going to the club, finding different weed and rating it. Then I’d record my findings on a white board in our studio. I notated the ones I liked and didn’t like.

Now, I only really smoke when I make music. It helps me come up with different ideas, cadences and all of that kind of stuff. I think I’m more of a creative smoker. I like the headspace weed puts me in.

So for you, weed helps stimulate your mind in a particular way.

Especially if I’m in the booth. There are times where I’ll hear a beat and just start writing, but other times, I’ll hear a beat, and I’ll want to lay down different melodies and see what I come up with. If I’m in the mode of creating really unique melodies and harmonies, weed puts me in a place of freedom where I’m not really thinking too much, where I can just let go and see what comes out. That’s what I really like about it.

I’ve wanted to get into cannabis for a while, but right now, the market is pretty flooded and a lot of rappers are coming out with their own strains, though not all of them are legal. It’s easy to print a bag and put a random strain in the bag and sell it. So I’ve invested a lot of time understanding the business side of cannabis. Luckily, I have a good friend of mine—Mark—who has a company up in San Francisco called Permanent Holiday. They do flower, edibles and everything else. He actually has a delivery service connected to it, which is really clean, and has all of his licenses, distribution, warehouse facilities for proper packaging—he has everything in house to help me.

When I first started going on tour three or four years ago, Mark and Permanent Holiday were one of the earliest tour sponsors for me. When we would go on the road, we would put up the Permanent Holiday logos on banners at shows and at meet-and-greets. I watched him level up from being a grower down in Humboldt to actually having this big facility in San Francisco. Being able to see him and watch him grow has been really cool, but also he’s been great at guiding me and walking me through the process of helping me get certain licenses and insurances and making sure my packaging is adequate. He’s also introduced me to a ton of strains. Down the road, we’ll actually make a strain from scratch.

The biggest motivation for me getting into the cannabis business is because it’s one of those things I feel people of color should be doing. So many people are locked up or have served time for [marijuana-related offenses], which is why my platform—California Poppy—will be a brand that sells weed but will also be an educational tool. When the world opens back up, we’ll have webinars and seminars where we’ll bring all of these different cultivators and brands from the Bay Area together and will give people the game. 

The biggest issue I have with the cannabis business is the barrier of entry. The barrier of entry is so high, and there’s such a steep learning curve that dudes would rather print up a bag and put some weed in it and sell it on the black market rather than learning the game and actually doing it the right way. I want to open up this flood gate of information and knowledge for people who look like me and are trying to get into the cannabis business the legal way. I feel like we deserve a place in this space.

Do you foresee your company weaving in cannabis activism in some way to promote the inclusiveness of what the space can be?

We’re still trying to figure out exactly what that will be, but it’s a priority for me to work with people of color. That includes growers of color and different brands of color. For the short time I’ve been in the “cannabis game,” you see big money coming into it and how fast it’s becoming corporatized. You see these brands that are targeted toward white, Caucasian people. I just want to have a space for the urban couture brand and build something around that. There are a lot of people in that space, and there are lots of opportunities for people to do stuff there.

Have you thought about also employing folks who have served time for trumped up possession and other cannabis related offenses?

I 100 percent want to do that. Mark was telling me California has certain grants for people who were incarcerated for weed crimes that help those individuals start a business. That’s something not a lot of people know about. I didn’t even know about, but it’s something I will want to put on my platform. 

I know people who have been locked up for marijuana, and I know millions of people have relatives or friends who have been locked up and don’t realize that if they were in a certain position, there’s money, permits and insurance available to you if you apply for it. Unfortunately, that knowledge isn’t circulating in my community like it is in everyone else’s community.

Follow @rexxliferaj, and check out californiapoppy.co for the latest in Raj’s cannabis endeavors.

The post Rexx Life Raj Creates Community Through Music appeared first on High Times.

Is Cannabis Prohibition Unconstitutional?

The United States prides itself on being a nation of social and economic freedom. As a matter of fact, these are some of our founding principles and fundamental rights. Numerous documents have been drafted over the years to make sure these liberties are never taken away from us; the most important being the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  

These documents outline our inalienable rights and the responsibilities of a government that works for us to protect said rights. This all sounds amazing, but what happens when there is a major discrepancy between our legal rights and what we consider our intrinsic rights? Regarding cannabis, this is a question coming up with more regularity; because, if we are granted “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”, why would something natural, non-toxic, and therapeutic – something that by all definitions, “makes us happy”, be prohibited?  

Getting straight to the point here, is cannabis prohibition unconstitutional? Numerous industry advocates and legal experts are raising this question in the United States Supreme Court.  

Weed legality is incredibly complicated and constantly changing. But one aspect of it that does not get challenged enough is whether cannabis prohibition is actually unconstitutional? Is banning cannabis, legal? Maybe focusing on our most important historical documents is the key to federal legalization. In the meantime, make sure to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter for deals on legal cannabis products, as well as all the latest news and industry stories. Also save big on Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP & HHC products by checking out our “Best-of” lists!

The Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights 

Now, let’s get back to these important documents. Earlier I touched briefly on the Declaration, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, but I would be remiss not to discuss each in further detail. After all, they are undeniably our most valued government documents.  

There are some obvious parallels between the three, starting with the fact that they all have a preamble – which are expressive, introductory statements. They were all written to ease civil unrest or general political turbulence. And most importantly, they all work together and play off each other to guarantee that our basic rights – which the founders believed came from God – are protected and that we, the people, have a way to hold our governing bodies accountable.  

That said, there are some critical differences between these documents as well – in how they are written, their history, and the purposes they serve. The Declaration and Constitution were both drafted in what is now known as Independence Hall, by a congress and convention that met in 1776 and 1787, whereas the Bill of Rights was written two years later, in 1789, by a congress that met in Federal Hall in New York.  

The Declaration was written almost entirely by Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison was the primary drafter of the Bill of Rights and Constitution, along with James Wilson. The Declaration was created as a rationale for breaking away from the oppressive British government; and the Constitution and Bill of Rights were constructed to establish a government that will defend our newly established freedoms, as per the Declaration of Independence. The Bill of Rights describes the rights and liberties of the American people, and the constitution details the government’s role in preserving these rights.  

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness 

Regarding cannabis, let’s focus more on the part about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. In that short statement, the preamble to the Declaration of Independence basically encompasses the entire theory of a democratic, American government.  

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” 

There are a few different interpretations of the “pursuit of happiness” segment, but there really are not very many ways to misconstrue that. Some describe it as the right to freely pursue anything joyous, as long as you live life in a way that is not violating the rights of another individual. Others take that definition one step further to include breaking the law as a barrier to “pursuing happiness”.  

Arguably, cannabis makes most people happy… it does me for sure. My cannabis use doesn’t harm others or infringe upon anyone else’s rights; however, it is still illegal. But legality is just about as subjective as defining happiness. I mean, interracial marriage was once illegal in the US, and the only people allowed to work, vote, and own property were white men. Laws are often unjust and society is waiting on the right people to make waves, shake things up a bit, and abolish the old, archaic ways.

So, at this point, knowing the medicinal benefits of cannabis and how it functions in the human body; and taking into consideration that the level of intoxication and risk of adverse effects are both very low; how can the government justify prohibition anymore? If alcohol is legal, then yes, keeping cannabis illegal does seem to border on unconstitutional.  

Liberty vs Personal Sovereignty  

If you’ve been following any global cannabis news lately, you’ve likely noticed that some countries, like Mexico and South Africa, are pushing cannabis legalization through Supreme Courts using personal sovereignty clauses in their constitutions.  

Personal sovereignty can be defined as follows: To be sovereign over one’s self is to be free of the control or coercion of others – to truly direct one’s own life.” Summed up, it’s the concept of self-ownership and governing one’s own body without interference from anyone else, including the government. This applies to legal/inalienable rights, body and health-related rights, and simply being the sole controller over your own body and life. Personal sovereignty is a central idea rooted in several different political ideologies including liberalism, libertarianism, and anarchism. 

Many countries that have constitutional documents and supreme courts also have personal sovereignty clauses. What’s interesting is that even these “God-given” rights do vary based on your locality. So, what’s considered inviolable in one country might not be so in another country. That being said, no, the United States does not have a personal sovereignty clause in its constitution. The closest we get is that passionate preamble, which is not absolute and can be interpreted in different ways.  

Because cannabis laws are relaxing all over the world and a greater number of large-scale studies are becoming available, it’s possible, theoretically, that the “pursuit of happiness” argument could hold up in court, but as of now, that has not happened yet.  

NORML’s amicus brief  

In an amicus curiae brief filed last year by a NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law) Legal Committee member David Holland, Esq., argued that the harsh federal scheduling of cannabis is unconstitutional because all three branches of our government (legislative, executive and judicial) have supported and promoted laws and policies that directly contradict the plant’s illegal status.  

Holland said: “The Brief exposes a fundamental paradox – if cannabis is federally illegal for all purposes, and the three coordinate branches of federal government have acted to allow for cannabis businesses, then the federal government is nullifying its own law. Simply put, under the Constitution, something cannot be illegal and legal at the same time especially when it comes to state laws that conflict with federal laws. The only resolution to this constitutional conflict is for the Supreme Court to invoke the doctrine of estoppel to prevent the federal government from reversing course and retroactively penalizing that which it has protected in fostering state cannabis programs and effectively legalizing it.” 

He added: “Federal precedent exists for the Court to invoke the doctrine and Attorney General William Barr has testified before Congress about his belief that it would be fundamentally unfair to penalize those who in good faith relied upon those government statements and policies because it would violate Due Process. Due Process and fairness are the very heart of the reasoning for the Court to invoke the doctrine of estoppel.” 

Click here to read the full text.  

What about Justice Clarence Thomas? 

A sudden and unlikely proponent of cannabis legalization is Justice Clarence Thomas, one of the Supreme Court’s most conservative members. Thomas is challenging federal cannabis prohibition based on the government’s inconsistent policies and enforcement. He asked whether the federal government had the right to undermine state-regulated markets, and what to make of all their contradicting messages.  

“Once comprehensive, the Federal Govern­ment’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana,” Thomas wrote. “This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the un­wary.” 

Thomas’ newfound views stem from a case brought against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by a medical cannabis dispensary in Colorado. They sued over a tax code that blocked cannabis retailers from claiming regular business deductions that other industries were able to do.

cannabis unconstitutional
Justice Clarence Thomas

In 2009 and 2013, the Department of Justice issued memorandums instructing prosecutors to let cannabis businesses in legal states operate without interference. Additionally, congress passed a law in 2015 that completely prohibits the Justice Department to spend any money going after these legal operators. “Given all these developments, one can certainly understand why an ordinary person might think that the Federal Government has retreated from its once-absolute ban on marijuana,” Thomas wrote. 

“If the Government is now content to allow States to act ‘as laboratories’ ‘and try novel social and economic experiments,’ then it might no longer have authority to intrude on ‘the States’ core police powers . . . to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens,’” he wrote. “A prohibition on intrastate use or cultivation of marijuana may no longer be necessary or proper to support the Federal Government’s piecemeal ap­proach.”  

Jim Thorburn, the attorney who is representing the Colorado dispensary whose lawsuit Thomas commented on, believes there’s a way to legalize marijuana federally through the Supreme Court. “Justice Thomas is providing the roadmap to the end of Prohibition,” says Thorburn. “He’s trying to end the federal prohibition.” Thorburn believes that Thomas’ statement was a suggestion to attack Gonzales v. Raich head-on. “When he says this is straining the core of federalism, and calling Gonzalez v. Reich into question, whether the Court could support that case today—I think he’s suggesting that cannabis prohibition might be unconstitutional,” says Thorburn. 

Conclusion – Is cannabis prohibition unconstitutional or not?

The fight for cannabis, Thorburn says, could very well be decided by the Supreme Court, similar to how marriage equality, abortion rights, and other social issues have been historically resolved. Only time will where that final push to legalization will come from, but looking at some of our oldest and most important government documents may hold the answer.

Hello and welcome! You made it to CBDtesters.co, your one-stop-shop for the most up-to-date and thought-provoking cannabis and psychedelics-related news, offering up the most relevant stories of today. Join us frequently to stay informed on the quickly-moving universe of legal drugs and industrial hemp, and sign up for The THC Weekly Newsletterto make sure you always know what’s going on first.

Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

The post Is Cannabis Prohibition Unconstitutional? appeared first on CBD Testers.

Cannabis Around the World: the History and Culture of Ganja in Jamaica

Jamaica is known internationally for its associations with cannabis. Yet, most people still have a muddled view of the history and culture of ganja in Jamaica. Stumbling into sensationalism and exoticization when talking about cannabis cultures worldwide is easy. Hopefully, these factoids about the cannabis culture of Jamaica will help you have a clearer view […]

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Is CBD the Secret Ingredient in Successful Beauty Products?

The search for endless beauty has been going on for more than a millennium. From ancient mythologies (hello Cleopatra) to high fashion magazine articles, beauty has always been the focus for many women. The beauty industry strives to accomplish one mission: eternal youth. It’s promoted and sold to consumers on a day-to-day basis. In the […]

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