The discussion about cannabis reform, generally, if not of the recreational kind, has been bubbling just south of the Rio Grande since 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of four individuals who had cultivated their own cannabis for personal use. The court was rather unambiguous about the same, literally ruling that cannabis prohibition violated the human right of free expression of a person’s personality.
That said, the legislative path to reform so far, has been rocky.
In June 2017, President Enrique Peña Nieto signed a bill authorizing medical use.
However, the Supreme Court was not done (and clearly believed that this law did not go far enough). On October 31, 2018, the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the access to cannabis was a right, literally, of personhood and that cannabis prohibition was unconstitutional.
Since then, forward enshrining of the decision into law has hit not only repeated ball drops but COVID. The court has also issued legal extensions to the lagging legislature, but the writing is on the wall. This year, in late June, the court spoke up yet again, striking down the cannabis law that had so far been passed and effectively decriminalizing recreational use. There can be no more delay.
As a result, the president of the Mexican Senate, Olga Sánchez Cordero, believes that recreational reform will be finally passed into law as of December 2021.
It is not like they have much choice. But the fact that such a senior politician, and a woman, at that, is now making public statements about the same, is significant in Mexico.
Not to mention of course, just north of Mexico’s most famous, if not fortuitously placed river.
What Could Recreational Reform North and South of the U.S. Do Domestically?
One of the reasons that recreational cannabis in Mexico is so strategically interesting, of course, is that it will sandwich the U.S. between two neighbors who have proceeded on adult-use.
This will not be a deciding factor in pushing the issue domestically, but it will undoubtedly increase the volume of the voices now demanding reform in the U.S.
Beyond encouraging federal reform, at least of the medical kind, however, Mexican cannabis presents an even more compelling (if potentially threatening) spectre for the first time. Namely, import of cannabis grown in the Mexican recreational market but bound for the U.S.
It’s not like other agricultural produce has not gone this route before. Not to mention “illicit” drugs of every kind, including, of course, cannabis.
Ironically, particularly given the U.S.’s influence in Mexico, especially during the Drug War, it is going to be Mexico that is going to show the U.S. the way.
One thing is for sure. As of this December, 100 years of prohibitionist policy are disappearing.
Those expecting Mexico to suddenly turn into a Club Med cannabis experience may have some of their expectations broken. The new law will not establish a separate agency to oversee and regulate the nascent industry, but rather an existing one—the National Commission Against Addictions. Adults over the age of 18 will be allowed to cultivate up to six plants for personal use and possess up to 28 grams (about an ounce) of flower.
Penalties for unauthorized possession (people under 18 years of age), however, are going to increase, mainly to prevent forest land from being converted into cannabis cultivation areas, and to force regulators to create coordinated campaigns against problematic cannabis use, including by minors.
Not everyone is happy with the now pending passage of a very overdue piece of legislation. Advocates had hoped to include language better addressing priority license authorization for marginalized communities. While the bill does prioritize the same, it does not set aside a specific percentage of licenses for the same.
Advocates had also encouraged lawmakers to remove the strictest penalties for violating the law, calling them counterproductive.
Nothing, of course, is ever perfect.
That said, there is clearly a national shift in mood towards a recreational future. The Supreme Court of the land has now ruled twice that full reform is an inevitability. And as the political winds have changed, Senators have even been publicly gifted both joints and plants over the past several years.
It certainly sounds a great deal different than the current debate just north of the border.
Pakistan appears to be the latest country to succumb to the cannabis legalization wave that has gripped the planet with increasing speed (and in a strange twist to all of this as the world struggles toward a pandemic-free future).
During a recent meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Science and Technology, the Pakistan Minister of Science and Technology, Shibli Faraz, specifically discussed not only the worth of the global cannabis market in just a few short years, but also the place of Pakistan in it.
Beyond this, the government has already moved to begin cultivation of hemp for industrial purposes. Initially such supplies will be imported—but beyond this, greenhouses will be constructed in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. Hemp production has been legal since September 2020 as has medical use.
Experiments on cannabis oil have already begun (much like in Germany, in fact) and the government has now approved four sites for growing cannabis, with plans for tight control of the same so such materials are not exported except per the mandate of strict international control mechanisms.
With so many irons in the works, it is unsurprising that the government intends to formalize the nascent industry by legislative framework by the end of the year.
A History of Cannabis in Pakistan
While the recent moves by the government to formally legalize the plant and create an industry behind it are clearly being influenced by modern global cannabis reform, there is a long history of cannabis use in the country (and of course India, from which Pakistan was separated after the end of WWII).
Hashish is widely consumed in both smoked form (charas) or in liquid form (bhang).
During the 1980s, criminal laws were put in place around drugs including cannabis, in part due to pressure by then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan. Ever since then, until the new legalization and reform wave of the last decade, the country’s politicians have not changed their stance.
Some have even suggested (falsely) that legalization is against Muslim beliefs, perhaps because the use of cannabis is well-documented in early and ancient Hindu and Sufi texts. Indeed, Sufis still use the drug as a part of religious worship, believing that its use provides both relaxation and an opening of the mind.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the country was a must-stop on the Hippie Highway—including the hashish market in Peshawar. This is one of the reasons that many of the most popular commercialized strains hail originally from this part of the world. See Hindu Kush as just one example.
Cannabis grown in this part of the world also has a very distinctive purple and grey color and can grow to an exceptionally tall height.
Pakistan is now ahead of India in formalizing its cannabis market (although India is almost sure to follow).
Why is this Development so Intriguing?
Pakistan is home to landrace strains of cannabis. This is cannabis that occurs naturally in the wild. This generally means that strains are more stable. It also means such plants have characteristics that may add to the overall scientific inquiry about cannabis as reform continues to march across the world.
Pakistan, in fact, may become a valuable export market for the rest of the world just from a seed perspective, for this reason. Indeed, seeds for export are already on the planning board and will be produced initially near Rawat.
Beyond this of course, there are multiple ways that the cannabis plant can be used—and it is clear that Pakistan is looking at many of them.
Cannabis, particularly when it is native to an area, is a highly sustainable crop. It is also beginning to turn into a must-grow crop for overall economic development (in both developed and emerging economies).
Has Luxembourg become the first to legalize cannabis in Europe? Reports are circulating that the country of 600,000 recently became the first country in Europe to legalize the production and consumption of cannabis. However, news of this should be taken with a grain of salt. Despite growing movements for cannabis reform in Europe, many countries […]
Germany is going through changes. Not only did the country just elect new government officials yesterday in a national election, but longstanding Chancellor Angela Merkel already stated she’s stepping down. Possibly due to this, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union lost to the Social Democrats in the election, signaling a political change in Germany, which could lead to a recreational cannabis legalization.
If the elections in Germany result in a cannabis legalization, there will be another massive market opening up. More legalizations mean more and better products for users, and this is great for everyone. Products like delta-8 THC were never heard of before the recent cannabis boom, but this alternate to delta-9, which causes way less anxiety and couch locking, is now available thanks to the expansion of the market. We’ve got great deals for delta-8 THC, delta-9 THC,THCV, THCP, delta10, HHC, THC-O and tons of other products, so check ’em out, and see how many options are out there.
Germany and cannabis
As with nearly every European country (with the strange exception of Georgia), recreational cannabis is illegal in Germany. Having said that, Georgia did legalize the recreational use of cannabis, but without legalizing cultivation, sale, or a regulated market, meaning there is no actual industry. If Germany were to pass a recreational legalization bill, it would still be the first European country to set up a regulated market, and the first EU country to do either a legalization, or a regulated market. But, we’re not there just yet.
In Germany, cannabis is recreationally illegal at the moment, and is regulated through the German Federal Narcotics Act. Simple possession can incur up to five years in prison. Weirdly enough, there’s no law against actual use, so those caught using are more likely to be put in a program than face a more serious punishment. This is not always the case past a first offence, however, and is also dependent on the person being caught with a ‘small quantity’ only.
How much is a ‘small quantity’? The term isn’t defined specifically, and varies throughout different parts of Germany. It can be anywhere from 6-15 grams depending on location, although, in Germany, it’s not just about the amount in weight, but the amount of THC within, so the potency can help determine the amount.
As there is no regulated market, sale and supply crimes are illegal, and offenders can incur up to five years for more basic crimes, and up to 15 years depending on extenuating circumstances. Cultivation crimes are also illegal and are punished with the same jail time as sale and supply crimes.
Medical cannabis has been legal in some capacity since 1998, with a major expansion in 2017 to cover more illnesses, start domestic production, and allow for more imports and exports.
Germany has the largest cannabis market in Europe at the moment. In 2019, it was 2nd in the world for cannabis oil imports, and 4th in the world for cannabis oil exports. Prohibition Partners estimates that as of March 2020, Germany had approximately 128,000 patients that receive medical cannabis per year, though BfArM – The Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, was not able to give more specific information.
In Q4 of 2020, Germany imported 3,264 kilograms of cannabis, for a total of 9,249 kilograms for 2020. The import market has seen a 100% year over year increase between 2018-2020. Germany is just starting its domestic supply market, which is expected to filter another 2,600 kilograms into the market.
The new government which is being put together from the election, is the key to Germany and a cannabis legalization. On September 26th, 2021, Germany held National Bundestag elections to institute a new government. The announcement of current-Chancellor Angela Merkel’s stepping down means that after many years, Germany is about to introduce new leadership.
Merkel has been Chancellor of Germany since 2005, making for a 16-year reign. Her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU/CSU), which itself is a partnership between the Christian Democrats and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria, has led a coalition government for just as long. Perhaps Merkel stepped down because she felt tides turning. Or perhaps the election outcome was a result of the knowledge of her impending departure. Either way, after many years of the same thing, Germany voted for something new.
The Social Democrats and the Union were a part of the same government coalition prior to the election. Now that they are no longer part of the same coalition government, they are not necessarily voting partners anymore. The two parties have differing beliefs on many topics, like cannabis, and how it should be handled. Whereas the Union is for keeping cannabis illegal, the Social Democrats are for legalization, along with other parties like the Greens. Of the three top parties in the election in Germany, two are pro-legalization for cannabis, the Social Democrats, and the Greens. THe 4th is the Free Democratic Party, and it supports legalization as well.
The Social Democrats (SPD) and the Union have been voting partners in the past, which is the reason a legalization bill didn’t pass last year, despite there technically being enough support to pass it. In the past, the Union was the biggest party, beating out the SPDs. This time around, the outcome flipped.
In this election, the Social Democrats (center-left) narrowly beat out the Union (center-right), 25.9% to 24.1%. The Social Democrats won 206 parliamentary seats, the Union got 196, The Greens (left) took 118, the Free Democratic Party (FDP, liberal) won 92, Alternative for Germany (AfD, right-wing populist) got 83, the Left (democratic-socialist) got 39, and South Schleswig Voter’s Association (SSW, social-liberals) got 1. Since there is no majority here, a coalition government must be formed.
Since 2005, the Christian Democrats have formed coalitions with different parties. In 2005 it was a grand coalition with the Social Democrats, in 2009 with the Free Democratic Party, in 2013 and 2017, it formed grand coalitions with the Social Democrats again. Some see it as stabilizing to have a government of the two top parties, some see it as a threat to have such a homogenous government. It is quite possible that the two parties will partner once again, but there is also the chance that other things could happen. It’s expected this could be a long and difficult process given how close the votes were.
Its’s also quite possible that for the first time in a while, the Union could be shut out. If a coalition government is formed between the Social Democrats, Greens, and Free democratic Party, this would mean a very different government than the past eight years. In a situation like this, all parties are pro-cannabis. Whether it would actually happen or not though, is hard to say.
However, even if this full coalition doesn’t happen, the Social Democrats have apparently already signaled that they would like to partner with the Greens. Even two strong pro-cannabis-reform parties together could do it. If those two parties partner up, cannabis legislation can be expected. Because of the strong showing for the Free Democrats, this goes for them as well, making several different ways in which this election can lead Germany into passing recreational cannabis legislation.
What happened last time?
A cannabis legalization bill was put forward last year that would have instituted a regulated adult-use market. On October 29th of the year, it was rejected in parliament, and this was mainly due to the coalition between the Union and the Social Democrats. Though the Social Democrats are for legalization, the Union is heavily against. Since the two parties voted together, the Social Democrats voted against legalization. If they are no longer paired in the future, a future vote could turn out very differently.
At the time the bill died, the Social Democrats held 152 seats, the Union held 264, and the Greens held 67. Looking at the most recent election, and things have certainly shifted in Germany, opening the door wider for topics like cannabis reform. Given that the Union had a 41.5% majority in 2013, and is down to around 24% now, it shows a change in thoughts and opinions. It’s not shocking the bill died last year, as the government wasn’t constructed to allow it to pass.
Since the time the Union was so strong in 2013, public sentiment has gone in a different direction concerning marijuana. The German Hemp Association conducts polls yearly on legalization. In 2014, when it started, the percentage for pro-legalization was 30%, and went up to 46% within only a few years. The organization stopped polling for opinions on decriminalization in 2018, when the percentage reached 59%.
Germany is the biggest country in the EU, with the strongest economy. Its already a dominating factor in the international medical cannabis industry. A legalization there could create a large, and strong cannabis market. As the election results are still rather raw, its impossible to know how things will pan out. Politics involve many things we don’t see as private citizens, so to a certain degree we’ll have to be patient, and allow things some time to work themselves out. In the coming months, there should be a lot of talk coming out on this, and the conversation about legalization should get even stronger.
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Yesterday was the deadline for the comment period on the draft version of the federal cannabis reform bill, the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act (CAOA), and cannabis advocacy groups did not disappoint—with an avalanche of commentary rolling in before the time was up.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) signed on as lead sponsors for a sweeping bill to end the prohibition of cannabis at the federal level.
The draft version of the measure was released in July, which led to an open public comment period giving people time to weigh in on what will be the revised measure.
Several well-known cannabis advocacy organizations such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) and the Marijuana Policy Project (MMP) released their comments.
The Marijuana Justice Coalition opted to send a joint letter on the legalization proposal. The Marijuana Justice Coalition is made up of members including the ACLU, Center for American Progress, Drug Policy Alliance, Human Rights Watch, Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, MoveOn, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
In a 30-page comment document, NORML called for strengthening civic protections to provide justice to those previously wronged by federal marijuana criminalization and revising outdated employment policies. The organization also called for ensuring that small and local businesses can compete both with larger corporations and the illicit market by reducing regulatory and tax burdens. NORML also asked to narrow the scope of the proposed excise tax to exempt medical cannabis consumer markets and balance the roles of the FDA, TTB, ATF and antitrust regulators.
“We appreciate the leadership by Senators Schumer, Booker, and Wyden in their efforts to end America’s failed, unjust, and racially biased experiment with cannabis prohibition. The CAOA draft represents a thoughtful path forward toward ending federal marijuana criminalization. We are confident that similar language, once finalized and formally introduced in the US Senate, will possess bipartisan appeal — as we know that voters of all political parties strongly support repealing the federal government’s failed marijuana policies,” said NORML Political Director Justin Strekal.
The summary of NORML’s discussion draft can be read here.
MPP also stressed the importance of easing restrictions on medical cannabis patients. MPP outlined two major areas of concern: the possible upending of state licensing and regulatory systems, which does nothing but drive sales underground, and the impact on medical cannabis access, including for those under the age of 21.
“We are grateful for the leadership of Sens. Booker, Schumer, and Wyden to end an eight-decades long policy failure and appreciate the opportunity to provide feedback as the sponsoring offices refine the bill,” said Karen O’Keefe, state policies director at MPP. Federal prohibition urgently needs to end. It has wasted billions of dollars while upending tens of thousands of lives—disproportionately those of Black and Brown Americans—over a plant that is safer than alcohol.
The NCIA stated that the CAOA presents a “thoughtful foundation for comprehensive cannabis policy reform that clearly illustrates the authors’ engagement with stakeholders during the drafting process.” Read the NCIA’sfull draft of recommendations here.
“Ending nearly a century of disastrous prohibition policies is a monumental effort and one which should not be taken lightly,” said Aaron Smith, co-founder and chief executive officer of NCIA. “We appreciate Senate leadership for taking a big step toward that goal which a significant majority of Americans support. There is a lot of work left to be done and it is vital to include those most impacted by both prohibition and the proposed legislation in this process.”
The wave of commentary represents the importance of the bill and how the industry hinges upon those fine details.
Despite the many historical and political similarities, there is very little discussion regarding the ties between the LGBTQ movement and the fight to legalize cannabis in the US. Many of the most prominent, gay-rights activists also played pivotal roles in raising awareness about cannabis-related issues.
“The genesis of the cannabis movement, gay people served at the heart of it,” said Michael Koehn, 75, of San Francisco, an activist who has been heavily active in both LGBTQ and cannabis issues since he was diagnosed with HIV in 1985. However, while both battles have drawn many parallels over the years, it seems the burgeoning cannabis market is becoming increasingly mainstream and turning its back on the LGBTQ community.
It’s Pride Month and in our opinion, the best way to celebrate is by raising awareness about past and current issues, as well as shed light on the many contributions of the LGBTQ community to the cannabis industry. To learn more about activism and other cannabis-related issues, and for exclusive deals on flowers and other products, make sure to subscribe to the CBD Flowers Weekly Newsletter
Golden State Beginnings
The connection between the LGBTQ movement and cannabis legalization goes back decades, and, like many other major industry developments, has roots in California. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana 25 years ago, but according to David Goldman (Koehn’s husband), “If it hadn’t been for activity among gay folks, we wouldn’t have had medical cannabis on the ballot in 1996.”
Key activists in the gay community were campaigning for cannabis rights since the late 1970s, when positive HIV cases began to rise but treatment and research efforts were at a standstill. When AIDS starting spreading like wildfire through the gay community, suffering patients demanded medical cannabis to treat the anorexia, wasting syndrome, and other symptoms associated with both the disease and the few prescription medications that existed at the time.
In response, the federal government’s Public Health Service quickly closed the one legal source of supply in the country, which was coming from University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, the only program to be awarded a government grant to grow and study medical cannabis. This disgusting display of ignorance and lack of compassion sparked a grassroots movement that united two “countercultures” and would eventually become a widespread political movement around the world.
LGBTQ activists had a huge hand in helping pass a number of major pieces of cannabis legislation in the state, starting in 1978 when San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in the entire nation, became a major political supporter of Proposition W. It was the first proposition that essentially decriminalized the possession, cultivation, and distribution of marijuana within city limits, and the first bill of its kind to pass in the US, although it was eventually overturned.
Even Proposition 215, the first bill ever to fully legalize medical marijuana use, was co-written by Dennis Peron, a gay man, Vietnam Air Force veteran, and well-known pot dealer who lost his significant other to AIDS. After getting arrested in his home for providing marijuana to his dying lover, Peron put all his efforts into helping pass Proposition P in 1991, which allowed San Francisco-area doctors to ‘recommend’ medical marijuana to patients as they saw fit.
Then in 1994 – Peron along activist Mary Jane Rathbun (Brownie Mary), and other industry advocates – opened the San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club, which was essentially the first medical cannabis dispensary in the state. A couple years later, Peron was co-writing Proposition 215, which passed with a 55.6% vote and officially legalized medical cannabis use in the Golden State.
A Nationwide Movement
“Cannabis and queers have always shared in the fight for respect and legal recognition, which inherently links the two communities,” explains Sophie St. Thomas, a queer sex and cannabis writer, and author of Finding Your Higher Self: Your Guide to Cannabis for Self Care.
The fight for both LGBTQ rights and cannabis legalization continues to this day, now spanning across multiple industries, political parties, and countries. The movement is no longer alternative or unconventional, and advocates can be found in many different fields and walks of life. They include A-list celebrities, major politicians, healthcare workers, media personalities, big-time investors and entrepreneurs, and more.
A perfect example is Colorado Governor Jared Polis, the country’s first openly gay Governor and a fervent defender of cannabis reform. He also supports the use of therapeutic psychedelics and is expected to soon sign a bill that would decriminalize psilocybin in the state of Colorado.
“I personally know hundreds of LGBTQ industry members, from CEOs to budtenders, who believe in the plant as much as they believe in who they are,” stated Kyle Porter, president of CMW Media and a member of the community himself. “Without exact statistics, I can confidently say that LGBTQ people have been an integral part of this cause, whether publicly or not, and continue to be leaders and advocates striving for destigmatization and legalization.”
Two other notable names include writer and media personality Dan Savage, a marijuana-themed movie festival called SPLIFF, that bills itself as “a film festival made by the stoned for the stoned.” Fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race will know the name Laganja Estranja, who is known for her intense choreography and, of course, her unwavering love for cannabis. Aside from her performances, Laganja’s social media is largely focused on cannabis awareness, education, and activism.
“It’s still an LGBT issue because it’s still not accessible to everybody everywhere,” Paul Scott, a longtime marijuana and HIV activist and current president of the Los Angeles Black Gay Pride Association. “HIV/AIDS is still high in black populations in the South. And they can’t get pot. They still have to break laws. So absolutely it is.”
Misconceptions, Underrepresentation, and Exclusion
While cannabis and LGBTQ issues are both very politicized and interconnected in many ways, it seems the cannabis community is turning its back on LGBTQ business owners and consumers. According to a compelling article by Leafly’s Rob Csernyik, “as cannabis companies find their footings in a now-legitimate industry, in a sector still dominated by stereotypes and stoner tropes, the industry often overlooks LGBTQ representation.”
This sentiment is echoed by numerous other cannabis industry writers, including Tessa Love who made a similar point in a 2017 article for Slate. “Homophobia [in the cannabis industry] is even more of a slap in the face to the gay community,” Tessa comments. “Given the fact that the legalization movement rode on the coattails of the gay rights movement.”
Kyle Porter also made some interesting comments on this topic, stating that LGBTQ still face a lot of “resistance” in today’s cannabis industry. “The cannabis industry is currently white male-driven with many big corporate players entering the space daily. As with any major corporate environment, it can be difficult for gay leaders to be themselves while still earning the respect of potential clients and investors, who are predominantly straight. While this should not deter LGBTQ individuals from entering the space, it presents an extra obstacle to overcome in establishing one’s self or business in the industry.”
Amber Senter, co-founder and executive director of Supernova Women, a group of women of color in the cannabis industry, and who is queer herself, says she hopes that legalization will increase LGBTQ cannabusiness ownership, but worries that may not be a realistic outlook. “When cannabis started out, it was for people who weren’t seen as normal in society,” Senter, who’s queer, says. “So in the beginning, you had a lot of obviously LGBT people. Now with everything moving toward being corporate, they’re pushing everyone who was in it before out. There will be more opportunities overall, so there will be more opportunities for LGBT people. But at the same time, the culture is not the same.”
Others are more optimistic, and believe that the cannabis industry is progressive and welcoming to all, especially compared to other industries. Josh Crossney, CEO of the Cannabis Science Conference, said in a Forbes interview that, “The cannabis industry is the most accepting and inclusive professional community that I have ever been a part of.” At the same time, he made sure to emphasize that inclusion and representation are NOT the same thing.
“I do feel that the LGBTQ community is underrepresented,” he added. “There is an opportunity for further inclusion and representation in the cannabis space.” This seems like a fair and accurate way to sum it up. We’re on the right track, but we could do better.
We Need More Than Just “Rainbow Shit”
According to the 2015 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, sexual minority adults are more than twice as likely to use cannabis products when compared to heterosexual adults. Nearly 31% of LGBTQ adults reported using cannabis regularly, compared to roughly 13% of heterosexual adults. Although initially the reason for the medical marijuana push was AIDS-related, today, it has to do with mental health.
Rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, homelessness, addiction, insomnia, and other stress-related disorders are much higher among the LGBTQ community, due to marginalization, oppression, harassment, and assault.
Almost a third of sexual minority adults (30.7%) reported using marijuana in the past year, compared to 12.9 percent of heterosexual adults. These higher rates of marijuana use coexist with the higher rates of depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, homelessness, and physical pain that LGBTQ people experience due to marginalization and oppression.
However, despite these statistics, LGBTQ consumers are feeling equally ignored by cannabis companies. A survey conducted by Grindr’s and Brand Innovators, a market-research firm, asked 4,100 participants how they viewed companies that advertise to the LGBTQ community. In total, only 15.6% reported feeling “very positively” towards companies that do these ad campaigns ONLY during pride month.
For cannabis companies that advertise “regularly or continually” to the LGBTQ communities, that support rose to 40 percent. As legalization numbers continue to rise, the LGBTQ niche should garner even more advertiser attention. One obvious issue here, is there will inevitably be many companies that don’t actually support gay rights and will just slap a rainbow on some of their products trying to cash in on the movement.
“It’s one thing to co-opt rainbows,” says Daniel Saynt, founder of theNSFW Creative, a media brand that specializes in cannabis and sexual-wellness content. “It’s another to put your money where it matters. If a brand is giving back to a cause, it makes for a more authentic collaboration and helps further LGBTQ support outside of Pride month.”
St. Thomas agrees, noting that brands should “work directly with the queer community all year round, give to LGBTQ+ charities, and not just sell rainbow shit.”
Although it remains infrequently discussed, the connection between LGBTQ rights and cannabis reform is undeniable. “Cannabis wouldn’t be legal without the work of queer AIDS activists, so we’re going to have to see more than rainbows.” Sophie St. Thomas says. “Besides, many queer folks are too stylish to want to walk around with a rainbow vape pen anyways, it’s hard to match with an outfit.”
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Although the latest talks regarding cannabis legislation have been slightly more hopeful, it seems pretty obvious that President Joe Biden isn’t a diehard supporter of legalizing the plant entirely.
Back in the 1980s, Biden was actually very committed to the war on drugs, and cannabis in particular, helping draft numerous pieces of legislation that would keep low-level, non-violent drug offenders incarcerated for years to come. As of 2010, his opinions hadn’t changed much and he can be quoted saying, “There’s a difference between sending someone to jail for a few ounces [of marijuana] and legalizing. The punishment should fit the crime. But I think legalization is a mistake. I still believe [marijuana] is a gateway drug.”
Fast forward another decade and Joe Biden is the 46th president of the United States, during a time when cannabis legalization is an incredibly polarizing topic on many fronts: economic, social, and health institutions all have a major stake in the industry. At the very least it seems Biden has accepted that cannabis legalization is inevitable, and even mentioned that he thinks “it is at the point where it has to be, basically, legalized.”
However, he maintains his stance in favor of decriminalization over full legalization. But as we already know from watching the many states that have tried it already, decriminalization is a completely pointless step in between prohibition and legalization that allows for too much “interpretation” of the law.
For example, in a decriminalized state, a police officer can take your cannabis, fine you, and send you to court where your case will end up getting thrown out if it meets the criteria of a legal decriminalized amount. So, you’re out the money you spent on flower that remains confiscated, the city doesn’t get any money from your fines because they’re tossed out in court, and the entire ordeal is a mega waste of time for everyone involved.
Regardless, this is what Biden supports. And not only does put him at odds with most US citizens who have been wanting cannabis legalization for years, but it pits him against the majority of his own political party. This year, with Democrats in control of the Senate, leadership just promised to pursue comprehensive cannabis reform legislation within the first term year. To make good on this promise, Joe Biden proposed a plan for mandatory rehabilitation instead of jail/prison time for non-violent drug offenders. The idea might sound good on paper, but it is 100% misguided, and let me tell you why.
Cannabis has been illegal in the US for the better part of the last century, and as a result, thousands of people have been unjustly incarcerated for completely non-violent offences, and it continues to this day. This puts even more weight on the importance of passing comprehensive cannabis reform legislation.
New laws couldn’t come soon enough, but with any kind of significant legal changes in a country with millions of people, there will undoubtedly be some kinks to work out in the beginning. Many details go into the making of a successful cannabis market – such as social equity, interstate commerce, at-home cultivation, racial justice, business zoning and so forth.
Another important issue is legislating the newly legal product itself. It’s “legal”, yes, but for who? And what amounts are legal? And who is allowed to sell it, and how much? Where can it be grown and where can products be manufactured? The list goes on. Of utmost importance though, is how to deal with people who don’t follow the established guidelines.
According to President Biden, “nobody convicted of a drug crime should go to prison, they should go to mandatory rehabilitation,” he emphasized at a campaign event in Kenosha, Wisconsin late last year. “Instead of building more prisons… we [should] build rehabilitation centers.”
On the surface, it appears like a logical option instead of sending someone to prison. But it begs the question, if court-ordered rehab is mandatory, what happens if the person doesn’t complete the program? Or what if they don’t show up at all? Most likely, they will go to prison. So while it seems like a reasonable way for people to possibly avoid jail, it’s likely that a large number of people will still end up serving time, often based on arbitrary and unrealistic standards that patients are required to meet before they can “graduate” from their treatment programs.
As a matter of fact, a report published in 2017 by the group Physicians for Human Rights found that drug courts and rehab programs “regularly set participants up for failure.” The report went on to say that “Drug courts in the United States routinely fail to provide adequate, medically-sound treatment for substance use disorders, with treatment plans that are at times designed and facilitated by individuals with little to no medical training… Few communities have adequate treatment facilities, insurance plans often won’t finance effective treatment programs, and the criminal justice objectives of drug courts often overrule the medical needs of the patient in ways that threaten the rights and health of participants.”
Skewed data and shady practices at rehabs nationwide
While some drug court advocates claim the programs are a success, the actual data presented is a bit warped – starting with the fact that many of them are funded by privately-run, for-profit facilities that obviously have a vested interest in getting more patients, and subsequently, more funding. Additionally, many of the studies are basing the effectiveness of rehab programs by comparing them to prisons. So by those standards, it’s no surprise that people in rehab facilities have slightly better outcomes than those locked away in prison.
It’s also not unheard of for drug court judges to engage in the same discriminatory practices we see in our regular justice system. Knowing the programs will be evaluated based on a recovery-to-recidivism rate, they often choose enrollees that they believe will be most likely to complete the program successfully; completely glossing over the marginalized groups of people who may actually benefit most from a legitimate treatment program.
And that leads us to another issue with rehab facilities, are they legit? So many programs have been faced lawsuits for unethical, unsafe practices, and outright abuse. Take the notorious treatment program from the 1980s known as Straight, Inc. They demonized casual cannabis use and urge parents to send children who have tried it to their facilities.
Upon investigation, it was revealed that minors in their program were “routinely subjected to unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threats, mental abuse…and interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping and toileting.” Needless to say, the facilities were all eventually shut down, but many more exist and continue to abuse their patients, causing more problems and lifelong issues than they will ever fix.
The founders of Straight, Inc., Mel and Betty Sembler, took the vast fortune they amassed off the pain of struggling youth to start their own organization – The Drug Free America Foundation. Using their foundation, they funded numerous anti-cannabis campaigns and currently continue to remain major fundraisers for the republican party. Overall, Straight, Inc. is the perfect example of how a rehab facility (or the owners) can get rich for doing absolutely nothing, then use that money in a completely self-serving way. For them, keeping cannabis illegal wasn’t about helping adolescents or bettering the community, it was about lining their pockets and getting as wealthy as possible.
Overcrowding at already congested facilities
As of now, Biden administration plans for forced rehabilitation aren’t concrete yet, but it’s already a common practice in many states where cannabis is still illegal, mainly in the Southern US. There is an obvious problem with forcing people into rehab when they don’t need it: that leaves less room for the people who actually do.
This country is already in the grips of a national opioid crisis, and frighteningly, the number of overdose-related deaths has increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to research published this month by the American Medical Association, “In addition to the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 global pandemic, the nation’s opioid epidemic has grown into a much more complicated and deadly drug overdose epidemic … More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related mortality as well as ongoing concerns for those with a mental illness or substance use disorder.”
2020 saw over 81,000 overdoes deaths, compared to just under 71,000 the previous year. People are seeking help and trying to get placed into appropriate rehab facilities, but there just isn’t room for many of them. In most states, rehab wait lists are up 18 months long with hundreds, if not thousands, of people desperately waiting for treatment. Statistics found the most people drop off the list after about 2 weeks.
The most recent data available from the Department of Health and Human Services, states that more than 50% of all cannabis users in treatment were sent there by the courts or the criminal justice system. Less than 20% checked in voluntarily.
According to numerous studies over the last decade gauging the addictive qualities of various substances, cannabis rates lower than alcohol, tobacco, and even caffeine. That’s not to say you can’t become addicted to cannabis, because you totally can (and before you bite my head off, I’ve met people who would spend their rent and grocery money on pot, so that signifies a problem).
For some people, therapy and rehab could be beneficial. But forcing someone with no addiction problems to choose between jail and rehab is completely illogical and not at all in line with “comprehensive” drug reform; and for Biden to even consider this as a possibility for cannabis users, is wrong as can be.
In significant news affecting our American neighbours, that came and went, largely without a trace, the United States Senate shut down several attempts by the House of Representatives to pass reforms to cannabis legislation this month. Attached to spending legislation bills, slated for fiscal 2020, the House attached riders that would have prevented the federal […]