How to Be An Informed Cannabis Consumer

Being a consumer in the brave new world of legal cannabis markets can be an intimidating, confusing experience. Dispensary shelves can contain dozens of varieties of cannabis flower, as well as hundreds (or even thousands) of other assorted products; new products are seemingly released daily; labels can contain hard-to-pronounce, sometimes scary-sounding chemicals; and lab testing results show percentages of compounds that science does not even understand completely. On top of all that, since the industry is so new, most companies have not yet had time to gain a reputation as a trusted grower or product manufacturer that consumers can count on for consistency and quality. In some cases, people even disagree on what constitutes “quality” in a cannabis product.

As the cannabis industry continues to mature, it is often said that consumers will become more discerning. But what does that mean? What should you be concerned about when deciding how to spend your hard-earned money?

There’s a Lot More to Cannabis than THC (and CBD)

The cultivators and dispensaries that I work with consistently tell me that one of the biggest factors in a product or batch of cannabis selling quickly is high THC test results. However, THC — and even the combination of THC and CBD — do not tell the whole story. Many cannabis researchers are supportive of the theory of the Entourage Effect, put forward by Raphael Mechoulam, the scientist who first discovered THC and CBD. In basic terms, it states that the effects of a particular variety of cannabis are the result of synergistic actions by all of the plant’s components: the dozens of cannabinoids, terpenes, flavonoids, and other compounds produced by cannabis. Terpene testing is available in many legal markets and should be being performed by top organizations that are truly trying to dial in their strains, as they play a big role in the effects caused by the final product. Ask to see terpene profiles in addition to those of cannabinoids.

Is it Organic?

Cannabis cannot at this time be certified organic, as that program is regulated by the federal government, and many companies using the term are doing so incorrectly. Ask about how the plants are fertilized. Most growers use some form of hydroponics, which cannot be organic, as they employ synthetic nutrients as fertilizers. However, if growers are using natural fertilization sources, such as kelp, earthworm castings, molasses, guano, and materials of that nature, then it is likely that their approaches are closer to what is known as “organic.” It’s also a big plus if they mention beneficial microbes, which can play a huge role in naturally boosting plant health and contributing to a higher-quality final product.

The production and use of synthetic fertilizers is also not environmentally friendly and standards that organic operations must follow include conserving natural resources and protecting biodiversity, which are also principles that are important to some consumers. Ammoniacal nitrogen is produced through the Haber-Bosch process, which requires significant fossil fuel inputs (typically natural gas derived from fracking) and results in greenhouse gas emissions. Run-off from synthetic nitrogen fertilizer has resulted in massive “dead zones” where algal blooms kill fish and other organisms by starving them of oxygen. For a peek into the impact of phosphate mining, look up the history of the Pacific Island nation of Nauru, which has basically been stripped bare due to demand for fertilizer. Cannabis is at this point a tiny percentage of the world’s agriculture, but being a small part of a big problem doesn’t help anything. If buying organic is important to you in regard to food, then ask for cannabis grown in soil with natural fertilization and avoid product grown in hydroponic systems, which includes using synthetic fertilizers in inert media such as coconut coir and rockwool.

The Indoor vs. Outdoor Debate

The prevailing opinion in the industry is that indoor grown cannabis is superior to outdoor. I am here to tell you that is not always the case; that prejudice is partly based on outdated notions of outdoor product from prohibition. At that time, illegal growers did not care for their plants; the main goal was not getting caught. Now, in legal states skilled cultivators are growing incredibly high-quality greenhouse and outdoor product. The full spectrum of the sun also cannot be matched by any lighting technology that exists today, and it promotes the development of cannabinoids and terpenes differently (better, in my opinion) than any artificial lamp ever could. Finally, if environmental impact plays a role in your consumer decisions, then you will want to ask for greenhouse or outdoor-grown product, which have a drastically smaller carbon footprint compared to the energy-hogging nature of indoor grown cannabis.

Watch Out for Pesticides…

Unfortunately, the recalls in Denver have shown that a significant amount of legal cannabis growers are using chemical pesticides improperly. Right now, we don’t know if pesticides can be safely used on cannabis as no research has been done to this point. Ask about the grower’s IPM practices. IPM means Integrated Pest Management and any good cultivator should be able to talk about their holistic pest control strategies. See if they talk about cleanliness, prevention, environmental control, resistant varieties and, again, using natural materials such as extracts of garlic, thyme, cayenne pepper and the like. Conscientious cultivators absolutely can bring in pest-free crops without the potentially highly toxic chemicals being used by some growers.

How Old Are Those Tests? And What Lab Performed Them?

Many dispensaries will happily show you or quote you test results for their products, but are those results actually relevant for what you are actually buying? Test results can vary from harvest to harvest, as changes in environmental conditions, fertilization, the amount of time a plant was allowed to flower and other factors can all alter the cannabinoid and terpene profile of a plant. Ask if the test results are for the particular harvest batch (or production batch, in the case of infused products) that you are being sold. Historical tests can provide some idea of the characteristics of a strain or product, but will not always be accurate.

Make sure to ask what labs are doing the testing and do some research on them too. Some labs are unfortunately not equipped to provide accurate results and some have even been accused of faking favorable results for growers in order to bring in more business. It is difficult for those without science backgrounds to understand how to evaluate a lab, but a simple question would be, what type of equipment is a lab using? My contacts at Agricor Labs, one of the leading operations in Colorado, tell me that Agilent and Waters are the top laboratory equipment manufacturers; everything else is a distant third, at best. Unfortunately, to save money, some labs are buying cheaper brands of equipment, or even purchasing old machinery second-hand. Also investigate the background of the people running the lab. Look for individuals that came from the medical, pharmaceutical, or agricultural fields and have significant experience in testing other crops or products for quality and safety.

As you can see, there’s a lot to think about as a cannabis consumer and the issues above are just the tip of the iceberg. Still, your budtender will probably not be able to answer all of the questions raised here, as most dispensaries buy cannabis and other products from many different suppliers. But, if enough people ask them, dispensaries, growers and infused product manufacturers will be forced to educate those selling their products on exactly what makes them better, or possibly even change their practices if they are not in line with what consumers are demanding. While the newness of the industry itself can be a little overwhelming, it’s also a truly unique opportunity that we have to be able to set the standards and collaborate in deciding where we want this field to go. Being an informed, selective consumer and voting with your dollars is one of the most effective ways to shape the industry and make sure that the types of products you are happy to purchase will have a place on dispensary shelves. If we want safe, high-quality, reliably tested and responsibly produced cannabis — and who wouldn’t? — then we have to start asking for it.

TELL US, do consider any of this criteria when buying cannabis?

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Choose Cannabis for Wellness, Not Intoxication

Bill
O’Reilly eyed my brother and me like a hungry lion looking over a couple of
lambs. He twisted his face into the trademark O’Reilly sneer and scolded us
with a tone of triumph: “Come on, you know what the ruse is, you know what the
scam is.”

I’d
known the comment was coming. It’s standard procedure for hostile journalists.
They all think medical cannabis is a fraud.

My own cannabis recommendation is technically for chronic pain, but I used it for many other purposes. Some were unquestionably therapeutic, like helping me sleep. Others, like shaking off nervousness or sadness, seemed borderline. But there were some that just didn’t fit my definition of medical use, like enhancing the enjoyment of a meal or a piece of music.

Like
most people, I used to be locked into an outdated illness concept of human
health that views us as either sick or healthy. If we are sick, we go to the
doctor, who writes a prescription or recommends a procedure, after which we are
supposed to recover and go back to being healthy — if we’re lucky.

But
over the last few decades, it has become evident that human health actually
operates on a spectrum of wellness. That spectrum occupies the space between
perfect health and acute sickness, and it is where most humans spend the
majority of their lives.

The
best ways to preserve and enhance wellness are safe and non-invasive. We have
learned that diet, exercise, acupuncture, chiropractic, meditation and other
holistic healing techniques are effective alternatives to pills and operations.

That’s why so many gyms and yoga studios have opened in the United States; why most grocery stores have an organic section; why insurance policies often cover chiropractic, acupuncture, and nutritional counseling — and why integrative treatment centers for cancer have experienced explosive growth.

Over the years, many patients confided in me that they appreciated the protection of the law California’s Prop 215 but didn’t really consider themselves sick or injured. Non-patients also frequently approached me with comments like, “You know, Steve, I totally support everything you are doing to help patients. I believe in medical cannabis, and I smoke weed myself — but I’m not sick; I just like to get high.”

I would
respond by asking for details. When and why do you use cannabis? What specific
benefits does it provide? How has cannabis made your life different?

A
composite of the answers I received would run something like this:

“Without
cannabis, I’d get home feeling irritated from a long day at work, a hassle with
a boss or a coworker, a hot rush-hour commute, whatever. My back might be
aching, and I wouldn’t feel like playing with my kids or talking to my wife.
I’d often have a sour stomach and not much appetite. Dinner wasn’t very
appealing and sometimes gave me heartburn or indigestion. After dozing off in
front of the TV, I’d wake up and sometimes not be able to go back to sleep. In
the morning I could be tired, and not feel like going to work or doing much of
anything.

“With
cannabis, everything is different. I’m happy to see my family and have as much
fun playing with my kids as they do. I forget about my aching back, and
reuniting with my wife is a pleasure, not a chore. Dinner smells and tastes
great, and I never have a problem with digestion. After dinner, the wife and I
put the kids to bed, and then we have some extra special intimate time
together. I curl up next to her, sleep soundly till morning, and wake up
refreshed and ready for the new day. Cannabis makes my life a lot better, but
I’m not sick and I wouldn’t die or end up in the hospital without it. I’m not a
patient; I just like cannabis.”

Over time I realized that the same description of symptoms presented to the average MD would probably result in a diagnosis of anxiety, insomnia, depression, arthritis, low libido, erectile dysfunction and acid reflux. Every night a parade of ads promoting a variety of pharmaceuticals for exactly these conditions marches out of our TV sets — and most of them have a list of side effects like something out of a Stephen King novel.

For
most people, cannabis is a better alternative. Its power to preserve and
restore homeostasis throughout the brain and body makes cannabis effective for
almost every condition advertised on TV, and its side effects are mild and
transitory. It also has a wide range of more unique benefits that are
frequently overlooked, or mistakenly characterized as “getting high.”

These
include its ability to extend patience and promote self-examination; to awaken
a sense of wonder and playfulness, and openness to spiritual experience; to
enhance the flavor of a meal, the sound of music, or the sensitivity of a
lover’s touch; to open the mind and inspire creativity; to bring poetry to
language and spontaneity to a performer; to catalyze laughter, facilitate
friendship, and bridge human differences.

When I first shared this interpretation with my father, he gave me his “don’t BS me” look. Dad was already using cannabis for pain and insomnia, so he didn’t outright challenge me — but I could tell I had strayed too far into New Age woo-woo territory for his comfort. So on our next visit, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that my father had noticed an increased desire to write his memoirs — to do something creative — after his evening dose of THC-rich tincture. After his grief had subsided enough to date again, Dad very discreetly let me know that he’d also discovered its ability to enhance sensuality and intimacy.

These
are not the attributes of an “intoxicant,” which is defined by Merriam-Webster
as a substance that can “excite or stupefy… to the point where physical and
mental control is markedly diminished.” They are the attributes of a wellness
product that enhances and facilitates some of the most meaningful parts of the
human experience.

Different
cultures have used a variety of methods and substances to achieve enhanced
states of mind, but all pursue it by one means or another. Each one has
developed its own set of cultural norms and language to assess and regulate
appropriate use, but there’s never been a drug-free society in all of history.

Since
the passage of legalization in Colorado and Washington, the term “recreational
use” has become the catchall phrase to describe all consumption of cannabis
that is not “medical.” Lacking any commonly accepted definition, “recreational
use” has in effect become a code word to describe “just getting high” — or
intoxication. This is unfortunate, because the phrase obscures more than it
illuminates, and it perpetuates misconceptions about cannabis that have kept it
illegal for decades.

I
didn’t come to this realization quickly or easily. When I first heard the term
“recreational use” it sounded like a step forward — and it was, compared to
words like “addiction” and “dependency.” It also provided a convenient contrast
to “medical use” after that phrase entered the modern lexicon in the 1990s —
but the more I used the language, the less comfortable I felt with it.

Neither
medical nor recreational fully or accurately described the way I saw most
people using cannabis. I suspected there was a third category but didn’t know
how to analyze or describe it. It’s taken a lifetime of activism and probing
questions by the likes of Bill O’Reilly to collapse the fallacy and crystallize
my thoughts into a coherent thesis.

Today,
I believe there is no such thing as the recreational use of cannabis. The concept
is equally embraced by prohibitionists and self-professed stoners, but it is
self-limiting and profoundly unhealthy. Defining cannabis consumption as
elective recreation ignores fundamental human biology and history, and devalues
the very real benefits the plant provides.

Dennis Peron, the man who opened the first cannabis dispensary in the U.S., has been derided for saying that all marijuana use is medical. I would make the same point a bit differently: the vast majority of cannabis use is for wellness purposes. The exception to the rule is misuse; any psychoactive material can and will be problematic for some percentage of the population — cannabis included.

The
downsides of cannabis pale in comparison to those of other substances, but they
still need to be taken seriously and looked at carefully. The lessons learned
with alcohol — that it shouldn’t be marketed to kids, or promoted as part of a
glamorous lifestyle — should be integrated into our new approach with cannabis.

We also
need to recognize that the chemistry and effects of the plant are qualitatively
different than those of alcoholic beverages. When accurately viewed in the
context of science and history, cannabis emerges as a medical and wellness
product with a huge range of applications. One day “recreational” cannabis will
seem as quaint as “medical” alcohol was after the end of liquor prohibition.

TELL US, how does cannabis improve your
wellbeing?

Originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE

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Can Couples With Opposing Views on Marijuana Survive?

The dating scene can be a nightmare for singles and  with the added layer of the COVID-19 pandemic, things aren’t getting any easier.

There was once a time when a belief in God, country and a desire to spawn a litter of children was enough to bring couples harmoniously together for both good or ill. But those days are long gone. There is so much more at stake now, as centuries of oppression throughout American history have led to the rise of women’s rights and a cultural obsession with giving people of all walks of life the same freedom to live out a miserable existence in their pursuit of happiness.

But not every citizen is prepared to jump onboard the progressive trends gaining traction in the United States. Some folks are more concerned about maintaining the antiquated standards of our forefathers than conducting themselves with any level of common sense, honor and civility. So, depending on individual personalities, any mutual attraction between two people can quickly turn to disaster when opposing views on touchy subjects come to light.

And believe it or not, marijuana is right up there with those issues that have a tendency to drag even the most promising couples down the Shakespearian rabbit hole to the ranks of star-crossed lovers.

Loud and Proud?

Although a majority of Americans now support the concept of legal weed, that doesn’t mean everyone out there on Tinder, Match and other love connection sites are eager to date, build a life or even have a one-night-stand with someone with an affinity for cannabis. The stigmas associated with the herb still run deep, which means there is still a portion of the population with an aversion to all things weed.

In some cases, cannabis remains associated with the drug culture. So even if a person understands that marijuana is safer than alcohol and that it has therapeutic benefits — hell, they may also feel strongly about criminal justice reform and be in favor of decriminalizing it at the federal level — they still may never be happy about having a sheet-soaking love affair with someone who gets high.

It is not uncommon to see dating profiles branded with the phrases “potheads swipe left,” and “druggies need not apply,” during those late-night searches for the one, or at least the one right now. Honestly, this degree of forwardness makes it simple for the average cannabis consumer. We swipe left! There are also those die-hard marijuana users who proudly stamp their profiles with “420-friendly” and other green phrases to let others know that they are down with the doobie. Yet most seem intent on keeping that information private until the time is right.

Not unlike abortion, gay marriage or a fondness of Kid Rock, marijuana is still one of those issues that gets put on hold until after the first date. While a person might be quick to point out during an initial encounter that they “have a cocktail from time to time,” and perhaps even reveal their less-than-flavorful music taste, very few will divulge their passion for pot. Unless, of course, they connect right out of the gate with someone on the same heady wavelength. But because most people are still so reserved about the pot issue, maybe feeling the need to protect their careers or keep it a secret from family members, this part of a person’s lifestyle can be difficult to gauge.

Recently, reports have surfaced suggesting that in spite of whether two people agree on marijuana, it may still be possible for cannabis users and non-users to have a successful relationship. All that needs to happen, or so they say, is for the user to convince the non-user that weed hasn’t turned them into a non-productive, burned out stoner with nothing to offer civil society. The article suggests that the marijuana consumer should come clean as soon as possible about their use, engaging in an open dialogue with their non-using partner in an attempt to assure them that weed has enhanced their lives rather than contribute to their degeneration.

But this can be tricky.

Finding Love in a Dopeless Place

We admit that honestly is the best policy, especially if there is any interest whatsoever about moving the relationship to the next level. But it is important to understand that the outcome of that discussion could go either way. Your date may be relieved that they, too, are sitting across from a marijuana fanatic, or they might be offended by it and you’ll never see them again. We are not so sure that approaching a dating situation with integrity is necessary for the occasional hookup. In fact, less information is often better in these cases. Honesty about one’s marijuana use is really only critical in a spot where there seems to be some chemistry and an interest in seeing each other naked on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, we are not hopeful that this smidgen of morality will lead to a happy ending in the case of two people with opposing views on cannabis use. Marijuana is not precisely the same deal-breaking construct as being a Trump supporter (or vice versa), but it is still in the same ballpark. Again, many people support legalization, but some of them are far from ready to get into a long-term relationship (or even a temporary one) with a cannabis user. Sure, it’s a hypocritical stance, but that doesn’t make it any less real. We are still living in a time when people will consume alcohol in front of their children, yet they hide their cannabis use from them at all cost. Legal marijuana still needs more time to mature and become socially acceptable before this changes.

Our advice, if cannabis use is and always will be a large part of your life, is to do your to best enter into relationships with people who feel the same way. This certainly won’t ensure that you’ll live happily ever after — it is a relationship, after all — but it might keep you from wasting too much time on the wrong person. Seek out cannabis-friendly dating sites. There are a few out there that might be worth your while. Or you could always utilize the sneaky methods employed by boozehounds for decades: just hide it from your significant other and hope for the best.

Hey, it’s your life. We’re just trying to help you get through it as easily and as stoned as possible. If you happen to get lucky in the process, good for you.

Now, go forth and be loved!

TELL US, could you date someone who doesn’t use cannabis?

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Enjoying Edibles Without Getting Too High

A study was recently released stating that chocolate cannabis edibles are difficult to accurately test for cannabinoid levels. This doesn’t surprise me, as it’s long been known that chocolate is a psychoactive substance by itself. It clearly is a stimulant due to the caffeine in the cocoa seeds. Plus, it also contains that bit of bliss that prompted a scientist to bestow the Greek name theobroma on the active ingredient, literally meaning “food of the gods.” When mixed with entheogenic substances, such as magic mushrooms, you are guaranteed to come on faster to the experience.

No doubt then it has a similar effect when made into cannabis
edibles. While I guess that makes it difficult to test properly, I actually
enjoy that quality. In fact, if you can hold back from gobbling it down, and
let the cannabis chocolate melt in your mouth slowly, where it will be quickly
and thoroughly absorbed by the soft mucous membranes, you may find the effects come
on faster and with a very smooth ascent.

Due to a recent diagnosis of moderate COPD, I have had to stop smoking joints for the past several months. I plan to start vaping soon, but felt it wise to have a considerable amount of time to completely hold back from inhaling anything. Tinctures just don’t do it for me for any length of time, although I can appreciate their medicinal qualities when required. At bedtime, I will take a tiny bit of full spectrum cannabis oil, which is quite strong and lulls me to sleep, while it does its magic healing all night long. But what about the rest of the day?

And so, I have been perfecting the art of edible eating. Everyone
has their favorites no doubt, but here’s what I find I like the best. Granted,
bear in mind, I do have a high tolerance!

Organic dark chocolate bars remain my go-to much of the time. I do enjoy the Satori chocolate covered almonds, but honestly, if I grow organic cannabis flowers to smoke I also want to eat organic cannabis mixed with organic ingredients when possible. There are a handful of organic chocolate edibles available, my fave being Revive dark chocolate bars made in northern California. The effect is a pure experience that can be easily titrated once you do understand the unique characteristics of chocolate. Plus, dark chocolate is probably the healthiest way to consume sugar.

I never could understand edibles that are big, delicious and
deadly. An irresistibly yummy 400 mg THC cannabis cupcake,for example, is never
a good idea. Who can only eat a small bite? And to ingest the whole thing would
be trouble for sure. On the other hand, I get it why companies are now making 1
and 2 mg gummies and lozenges for newcomers to experiment with tolerance levels
but for me, I would have to eat so many the sugar would be overwhelming!

My other personal pick would be the Atlas Edibles granola chunks, which are sweetened organically and spiced just right. There are three flavors on the market in California: sativa, indica and hybrid. While I try to avoid those simplistic terms when explaining cannabis highs (the terpenes are so much more accurate), it is a helpful way to know what to expect. The sativa variety, with a hint of cayenne in it, is perfect as an afternoon boost of creative energy.

Some of the savory edibles are also quite tasty, but honestly not
my preference. I recall opening a bag of cannabis-laced spicy cashew nuts once,
which were salty and delicious and the high was wonderful. However, the next
evening I thought I’d repeat the experience and finished off the bag. It ate
just about the same sized portion as the day before, but being the bottom of
the bag, more spices had settled there, meaning it was a much stronger dose.
When they came on, about a half an hour later, all I could do was crawl to my
bedroom. Believe me, I never tried that again. Back to the chocolate it was, as
it can be more uniformly blended.

I was recently at a cannabis event in Europe and a lovey young
Italian sister and brother had a booth there. I’d chatted a bit with them the
first day, and then saw them again the next morning as I was eating breakfast.
Recognizing that I obviously have had many years of cannabis experimentation
under my belt, they came rushing over, giggling with huge smiles on their
faces. “What do we do? We split this brownie and have been awake all night,
higher than ever before. We can’t stop laughing and crying!” The girl’s huge
blue eyes were indeed like saucers and her brother had a wide grin, but you
could tell they both were also exhausted. “How are we going to run our booth
today and talk to people?” they wondered.

So I found a waiter and got them some peppercorns to chew on and as expected, practically instantly they were back to earth.“Grazie!” they said later in the day.

That seems to be how we all learn about edibles at least once, by
gobbling down too much. They are to be respected and experimented with until
you get your personal dosage figured out. Another trick to help return to your
body if you eat too much is to drop some high-CBD tinctures in your mouth and
swish it vigorously around with a bit of water if necessary. The CBD can
counteract the high THC effects.

I lived in India for several years, and while they may make some
of the best hashish on the planet, it generally is made from what we’d regard
as inferior cannabis. Considering they cultivate it for the seeds as well as
what they turn into hash, the flowers are not the focus. Grown with seeds, male
and female plants together, they will never produce the powerful sensimillia we
have grown to appreciate in the western world. The same truth applied to the
funky weed from south of the border that I grew up on back in the 60s and 70s.
When smoked, it vaguely got you high, but when I cooked with it I quickly
discovered it packed a punch!

I enjoyed making homemade edibles in India for my friends and it
always surprised them how high they got. But it was always a guessing game on
dosage. We are blessed today to have legally-tested cannabis edibles with
precise directions about dosing on the packaging so no one has to experience
the heavy effects of eating too much. But if you do, don’t forget to have some
peppercorns or high CBD tinctures on hand!

TELL US, what’s the worst
edible experience you’ve had?

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Mexico’s Cannabis Legalization Languishes as Narco-Wars Escalate

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, once a left-wing firebrand, received criticism at home over his July 8 meeting with Trump at the White House, where he was called to inaugurate the renegotiated “NAFTA 2.0,” which recently took effect. 

Top CEOs from both countries were in attendance at the White House dinner, including Apple’s Tim Cook and Mexican magnate Carlos Slim.

López Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, heaped effusive praise on Trump, even saying the U.S. president has “treated us [Mexicans] with kindness and respect.” This seemed a peculiar thing to say of the man who has built a political career out of demonizing Mexicans.

“The forecasts failed,” AMLO told reporters after the meeting. “We didn’t fight. We are friends, and we’re going to keep being friends.”

Unfortunately for AMLO, the days leading up to their meeting saw eruptions of spectacular bloodshed across Mexico—grisly evidence that there is no end in sight for the narco-violence that has engulfed the country for the past 15 years. And the day after the meet, U.S. border agents shot a man to death at the Mexicali-Calexico crossing in California. 

Most disappointing for many Mexican activists who once placed high hopes in AMLO, the cannabis legalization ordered by the country’s supreme court back in October 2018 has been delayed yet again. Many are looking hopefully to the new law as a first step toward ameliorating the violence and bringing at least one element of the underground economy into a legal, regulated market. But delays to its passage are starting to seem interminable. 

Kicking Legalization Down the Road Thanks to COVID 

In its 2018 ruling, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) gave Mexico’s Congress 90 days to amend the Health Code to allow for legal personal use, possession and cultivation of cannabis.

AMLO gave his full support, but lawmakers deadlocked on what degree to allow a legal market, and whether it should be in the hands of the state or private sector. Since the 90 days ran out, the SCJN has given Congress repeated deadline extensions to pass the law. 

This February, the deadline was extended to April 30, and lawmakers were ambitiously pledging to beat it. The bill, dubbed the Law for the Regulation of Cannabis, called for permitting individual possession of up to 28 grams and cultivation of up to 20 plants per household, depending on how many family members reside under the roof.

It also called for creation of a Mexican Institute of Cannabis under the Governance Secretariat to oversee a legal market. In March, the bill did pass the key Senate committees on Justice and Health, and lawmakers appeared to finally be racing to the finish line.

And then COVID-19 happened.

Just as progress seemed imminent, Congress shut down in response to the pandemic. Days before the new deadline ran out, Congress shook down the high court for yet another extension. And this one is far more flexible. Lawmakers now have until the end of the next scheduled legislative session—a window from mid-September to mid-December. That means it will likely be at least two years after the SCJN imposed its 90-day deadline before the law is passed.

Compounding the frustration, a planned expansion of Mexico’s medical marijuana program is also stalled. Lawmakers revised the Health Code to allow for medical use in June 2017. The law ordered the Health Secretariat to issue regulations establishing norms for cannabis use by qualifying patients. But this deadline came and went without action.

Mexican patients have since been confined to use of CBD-only products imported from the United States, as illicit cannabis has long gone north from Mexico to the U.S. 

With the legalization bill on hold, the Health Secretariat recently announced that it is preparing to release the medical marijuana regulations.

If followed through in a timely manner, this could provide a limited legal market for herbaceous marijuana (high-THC cannabis flower) while full legalization is delayed.

Nightmarish Violence Unabated

If more evidence is needed that Mexico’s endemic narco-violence is still as strong as ever, the proof was in the headlines during the days surrounding the AMLO-Trump meeting.

July 3 saw a bloody shoot-out just across the border from Texas, involving government troops and presumed gunmen from the Cartel of the Northeast, a splinter faction of Los Zetas. Mexican army soldiers said they came under fire from the gunmen in the border town of Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas, according to The Border Report. They returned fire, killing 12 gunmen. 

Two days prior, there was another horrific massacre as gunmen killed 24 people after storming a drug rehabilitation facility in the city of Irapuato, in central Guanajuato state. It’s unclear which faction was behind that attack, but rehab centers have unknowingly become a favorite target of the warring narco-gangs.

Homicides in Mexico hit a new record last year and are trending higher still in 2020.

Meet the New Boss? 

More Mexican commentators are growing suspicious of the left-populist AMLO’s closeness with right-populist and Mexico-bashing Trump. Some even went so far as to call the White House meeting an act of “national treason.” 

AMLO ostentatiously declared the drug war to be “over” after taking office in late 2018. In May 2019, he dropped out of the US-led, anti-drug Merida Initiative—but this was only after most of the military aid had already been delivered.

Now his critics say AMLO’s new National Guard force, ostensibly created to combat the narco-violence, is being used as proxy force for Trump, intercepting migrants before they reach the US border. 

It was actually the conservative Mexican commentator Enrique Krauze who on July 5 wrote a harsh op-ed in the New York Times, ahead of the summit, entitled “Mexico’s President is All In for Trump.”

Krauze writes:

“There is only one power that Mr. López Obrador…recognizes and fears, and that is the only power greater than himself—the United States… That’s why when Mr. Trump threatened to abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement or to impose tariffs on Mexican products, he agreed to turn Mexico into Mr. Trump’s wall. The new National Guard, which was supposed to prevent and combat this country’s unspeakable drug violence, has instead been deployed on our southern border turn away Central American migrants and, on the northern border, to keep them penned up in subhuman conditions.”

The National Guard is also involved in cannabis enforcement. On July 9, the force announced the decommissioning of 66 tons of illicit cannabis in a series of operations across the country, with one of the biggest hauls in the state of Sonora.

Cannabis legalization will likely be only a small step back from the brink of social cataclysm in Mexico. But with even that first step stalled, the trajectory is deeper into crisis.

TELL US, do you think Mexico will legalize cannabis?

The post Mexico’s Cannabis Legalization Languishes as Narco-Wars Escalate appeared first on Cannabis Now.

The Good New Days

It’s easy to complain in these dark days of the emerging legal cannabis industry. There seems to be no limit of negative stories about how the combination of state and county taxes and regulations are bringing us down and, that as a result, the corporate giants may take over the cannabis world. As we witness the demise of so many of our colleagues’ brands and businesses, it is tempting to hide our heads in a pile of weed and cry for the good old days.

But wait a minute. Who’s to say we won’t be yearning for the present times in the future? I have no doubt that exhausted gold miners back in 1850 often kicked themselves for leaving comfortable homes in other parts of the world in their quest for treasure in the mountains and rivers of California. The difficulties they encountered as they eked out meager quantities of gold dust, while living in hardscrabble conditions, make our lives look like Easy Street. Yet I can guarantee that 30 years later, as they drank champagne in elegant San Francisco drinking establishments, they yearned for the “good old days when we were simple miners.” Time has a way of glorifying the past and burning away the hardships.

Yes indeed, we can reminisce for hours about being cannabis outlaws and about how easy it was to grow it, dry it, trim it and stick it in a plastic bag and sell it right away. No taxes, no fancy packaging, no rules and regulations to fret about. Yet how easy it is to forget the stress that came along with living illegal lives, with never being able to fully be ourselves when out in public. We humans tend to see the past through rose colored glasses, ignoring the daily anxieties when they don’t fit into the perfect picture. In retrospect, life was pretty darn good. Even though we were pioneers, we certainly had it easier than the forty-niners. Plus we had the bonus of getting high on great weed. But honestly, life back in the early days of growing cannabis certainly had its challenges.

Likewise, right now as we struggle through this quagmire of new regulations, we have challenges that seem overwhelming. However, I am not the only one who is starting to feel a slight let-up in the doldrums of daily issues. Or maybe more realistically, we are just becoming familiar with them and learning how to cope in a more relaxed fashion. As more time passes, I trust we will adjust to the new system and hopefully new and better ones will fall into place. Before long, we’ll be fondly remembering the good old days right after legalization in 2018. “How innocent we were,” we’ll chuckle with knowing smiles.

What at present may seem like a tremendous burden becomes a glorious memory as time passes. The few of us craft farmers who are still standing in this business are already reflecting on what we have been through and how we have made it this far. “Remember that year they changed the packaging wording three times?” We are the pioneers of the legal cannabis business in California. We are the core group of tenacious companies dedicated to surviving and committed to sharing the best of the best with the rest of the world. We are still riding the roller coaster. We’re in for the long haul and proud of it.

So while we may be bitching today about adapting to the changes, I have no doubt that in the future we will be bragging about it. Already journalists come to the survivors asking for stories of the transition to being legal. Documentaries are being made and cannabis museums are opening in a few places across the state. We are history, while we continue to make history and the world wants to know the stories.

It’s quite an odd feeling, one day you are a young and vital member of your community and in the blink of an eye you become a “respected elder.” How did that happen?  I often wonder if those wonderful fellow outlaw/grower friends who are no longer in their bodies were still alive, what would they think? So many stories are lost with them. Nevertheless, it is up to us to carry on as best we can and tell our own stories.

To that end, a group is beginning to form here in the Emerald Triangle, spearheaded by the indomitable Pebbles Trippet. To quote Pebbles, who has been a peace and cannabis activist since the early 60s, there is a need for “An elders council of the cannabis community that embodies the knowledge of the whole derived from decades of experience from the underground. By gathering that knowledge, we can better prepare for the unknown future.”  

What is especially heartwarming are the younger folks nurturing the process. They recognize the value of the lessons to be garnered from the elders. Thanks to people from the younger generations, such as Casey O’Neill, Jenn Procacci and Phoebe Smith, a few gatherings have already been held with ideas and stories shared. This feeling of respect for all is definitely part of the “good new days” and a great step into a bright new future.

TELL US, does cannabis help you stay hopeful?

The post The Good New Days appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Bloomberg Is the Worst Candidate in the Race on Marijuana

Mike Bloomberg, the former three-term Republican mayor of New York City, is now the neon-horse candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. For what else do you call a man with $68 billion thrusting his name in front of the nation’s face in screaming 72-point font, illuminated by a record $400 million and counting in self-funded campaign advertising, all before appearing on a single primary or caucus ballot?

For the moment, Bloomberg polls a respectable third among the still-crowded field of candidates, but maybe not for much longer. The money mayor appeared for the first time on a debate stage Wednesday in Las Vegas, where, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, his rivals took turns simply eviscerating him, for his terrible record with women as a business executive, for using stop-and-frisk to turn New York into a police state, and for cynically buying his way into politics, as Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce observed.

Much crueler they all could have been given the setting. Cannabis is legal in Las Vegas. There are 24-hour dispensaries. The biggest weed convention in the world is here. All seems pretty good — and this is an atmosphere that Bloomberg used all of his power, and the power of the New York police state, to suppress and prevent. As bad as Bloomberg’s record is on the above, his record on cannabis is even worse.

Fat Jew knows. The viral content sharer-and-creator was one of the extremely popular social-media influencers solicited by the Bloomberg campaign to starting meme-ing for money. Rather than take the check and get to stepping, Fat Jew told Bloomberg to get stuffed. Fat Jew grew up in New York City, which means he had a front-row seat for this: Under Bloomberg, by the mid-2000s, New York police were arresting 27,000 people a year for cannabis offenses — up from 1,500 in the early 1990s, with the vast majority of them people of color.

Under Bloomberg, who wants to pay weedheads to help him become president in 2020, New York City became the worldwide leader in marijuana arrests, as Salon’s Alex Pareene wrote. (Bloomberg also oversaw an NYPD that spent millions on military-grade equipment and sophisticated technology to spy on activists — and millions more on use-of-force settlements.) (He also-also paid off a band of craven and venal lunatics to boost his candidacy.) (Jesus, is there any low to which Bloomberg hasn’t already stooped??)

Now while it’s true that Rudy Giuliani and his choice for police commissioner, Bill Bratton, kicked this pebble down the hill in the 1990s, Bloomberg took the rock and started rolling boulders after it. Bloomberg continued NYC’s war on weed and eagerly expanded it, and meanwhile opened up an intellectual front.

According to Bloomberg, medical cannabis, an extremely popular policy innovation and a concept supported by science — there are cannabinoid-based medicines as well as strong evidence supporting the idea that whole-plant cannabis has significant medical benefits — is “one of the greatest hoaxes of all time,” he told a radio interviewer in 2013. “Medical, my foot,” Bloomberg said. “There’s no medical. This is one of the greatest hoaxes of all time.” Oh, and by the way, in a weirdo backwards nod to the dystopian New York of the early 1970s, selling weed is basically the same thing as heroin, as in anyone slanging weed qualifies as a “drug dealer” and drug dealers will sling heroin if not weed. “[D]rug dealers have families to feed,” Bloomberg said. “If they can’t sell marijuana, they’ll sell something else. And the something else will be something worse.”

The best thing about all this that Bloomberg smoked weed when he was younger. “You bet I did,” he told an interviewer in 2001, when he was first running for mayor. “and I enjoyed it.” Just a year later, Bloomberg was backing away from that moment of candor, saying how much he respected the laws, how much he opposed even half-measures like decriminalization, and how much he regretted saying smoking weed could be a pleasurable experience. You almost get the idea that Bloomberg probably doesn’t give a darn about what he says or does as long as he gets to be the boss.

In that sense he’s not unlike Donald Trump. Both are rich and conservative dudes from New York who wear suits and like to talk about markets. The difference is a matter of degrees of sophistication. The other difference is that compared to Bloomberg, Trump is pretty good on weed. The war that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions warned of never materialized. The federal roadblocks to a national market and a environment encouraging research still exist, which means Trump is basically a chaotic neutral on weed. Compare that to Bloomberg, the very lawful and, at least on cannabis, very evil mayor of lock-you-up-for-weed-town USA. We don’t recommend anyone be a single-issue voter, but if cannabis reform is your bag, listen to Fat Jew. Bloomberg has done nothing to earn your vote, and he has worked overtime to ensure that, if you lived in his New York City, you would not be able to vote. Don’t forget that.

TELL US, does a politician’s cannabis policy matter more to you than other issues?

The post Bloomberg Is the Worst Candidate in the Race on Marijuana appeared first on Cannabis Now.

The Joys of Growing Older

I never thought I’d be so happy to turn 65. Finally, this year on Feb. 1, the big day has come and while I feel basically the same as I did on Jan. 31, something is noticeably different. Not only do I receive Medicare at last, but I have entered the next stage of life, along with millions of other baby boomers. “OK Boomer” may be the response, but remember, getting older will happen to all of us and should be considered.

Believe it or not, growing older affords a certain amount of righteous entitlement and freedom. Although they say at least 29% of boomers ages 65 to 72 are still working or looking for work, I’m talking about the liberated head space that comes with aging. Clearly, I am in the 29% of working seniors, but it’s just not the same as when I was 30 and working at a daily newspaper. Yes, I still have deadlines looming constantly, but along with age comes the grace to accept them without as much stress and competition.

Same goes for politics. Yes, the world is crazy right now and doesn’t seem to be getting better. Between climate change and corrupt politicians, it seems pretty darn horrendous. Yet I am always reminded of something my father drove into my head when I was a teenager: “History repeats itself.” I refused to believe him back then, when I was a full blown optimistic flower child, but now that I have actually seen history unfold before my eyes, I get it. As we learn from our mistakes, it doesn’t seem as daunting. It’s all about human nature doing its thing.

Of course, I have no doubt that a lifetime of cannabis consumption has helped me to realize these conclusions. Questioning authority and raising my consciousness have been my dear friends, the best techniques to understanding this bizarre human nature that comprises humans. We are what we eat and we are what we smoke. Cannabis has inspired me to both go with the flow and lead the parade, to sit back and watch the show while also being a central character. And with age, comes the revelation that it is all exactly as it is meant to be.

So what if I am working harder than ever in my life at 65, running a cannabis business? It is an opportunity to learn, to meet fantastic new people all the time, and to share knowledge gleaned over my six and a half decades. So what if I have now been diagnosed with moderate COPD, had a hip replacement and some heart issues? Every machine wears down eventually, but the lessons learned from all of those conditions can be used to help teach and guide others on their path. Even the worst most foreboding situations can be seen as gifts from the universe.

Every morning as I awake I recite my six goals for the day: to practice unconditional love and compassion, honesty and humility, discipline and devotion. Then I remind myself of the three little words taught to me by our teacher in India many years ago: ”Have no doubt.” That’s a big one. It is the core essence of finding peace in one’s life — to accept that whatever happens has a valid reason and an outcome of exactly what is supposed to transpire next. The ugly duckling will turn into a swan every time if you let it be itself. Again, go with the flow.

Granted, I do not smoke as much cannabis or take as many psychedelic journeys as I did as a young woman. But as one ages, the need is not necessarily there. So many imprints have been made already, so much guidance has been granted by the sacred herbs, that I feel fortunate to have found them early in my life. My experiences with entheogens has no doubt brought me closer to the understanding of the divine and raised my levels of compassion. They have helped me accept any fears of death and the next great chapter. Funny, they used to talk about “acid and marijuana flashbacks” when I was a kid and I laughed. But now I see how actually beneficial it is to be able to tune back into those other levels of reality at any time. To feel the godliness in me and everything around me, including animals and plants.

I also find that as I grow into my “senior-hood” I recognize how different, and the same, I am from my parents. I watched my parents mellow with age, and I imagine I am doing the same.  I did my “dropping out” several times in my lifetime and I don’t regret a bit of that. Yet, I also see the effects of being a flower child in my youth, who has blossomed now into a full-grown plant full of fruits and flowers. Every plant needs a steady watering to become fully ripe and I have certainly never shied away from growing experiences. If now, at 65, I still need to work to keep this plant blooming, so be it. Every day is a fresh experience, be it on the road going overland to India as I did so many years ago, or here on the ranch as I help guide our business to fruition. It is all part of my complicated karma.

While I cannot prescribe my lifestyle for all, or the cannabis consumption contained therein, it certainly has worked for me and many others of my baby boomer generation. Imagine if all those babies turned into conservative grumps? Thanks to the ’60s and the hippie revolution, we have a balanced population to keep things interesting. Whether you find your peaceful place via meditation, cannabis, psychedelics or doing service for others — or a combination of all of these things — your higher consciousness will be an uplifting force for our otherwise confused world. I suggest you be not afraid of aging, because besides the great benefits of Medicare, there is the calm peace of mind that will take you under its wings if you let it. Embrace it… it’s all going with the flow of life.

TELL US, does cannabis help you go with the flow?

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Who’s Still Standing in the Cannabis Industry?

When I look back to the beginning of the 2010s, to where the emerging world of cannabis stood ten years ago, it’s clear that we lived and worked in a whole other scene back then. In 2010, California’s Proposition 19 (also known as the Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act) was an initiative on the November ballot, but it was narrowly defeated. Even though Proposition 215 — permitting the use of medical cannabis — was passed years earlier in November 1996, the citizens of the state were still not yet ready to go all the way. It took several more years to further break down the stigmas around cannabis, and we still have a long way to go.

Here in Mendocino County, I began growing cannabis for medical uses in full sun as soon as I could, with my partner Swami Chaitanya. In those days, we’d gather several scripts from various patients and grow a few pounds for each of them. I must admit that often the patient was not the only one to consume our flower, but they always got their fair share in return for the script. We were very much in the grey area of legality. But considering we’d all been complete outlaws before, this was a huge step.

It was in 2014 when the first cannabis political organizations began to form in various California counties. Slowly, farmers were willing to come off their remote mountain ranches and began to speak up, knowing that if we did not help shape the future of legal cannabis in our state, there would be no future for us in it.

It was a bold step when we formed the Mendocino Cannabis Policy Council that year. Meetings were held at least once a month, often at the local grange or at AREA 101 in Laytonville (home of The Emerald Cup). None of us were very good at setting up official organizations, so plenty of time was spent figuring out simply how to write a mission statement and create by-laws. We spoke about marketing our county’s fine cannabis, talked about influencing our conservative Board of Supervisors and shared growing and sales techniques. Plus, there was always news and gossip about who got busted recently and the price of weed on the illicit market.

In retrospect, I realize that very few of those farms that were involved back then are still in the business. As the harsh reality of coming into compliance became more evident and people saw the full costs it would entail, many began to back off, either retreating to the “traditional market” as we call it now, or quitting altogether. Growing cannabis has always been a transitional business, but this was different. Many of the original growers, the real “OGs”, were packing up and leaving, while upstarts were entering the scene with glorious dreams of easy fortune.

We welcomed one and all, although at times we felt a twinge of jealousy over the farms that had enough financial backing to make a big impact. Once brands came into being, many of the big guys who drove the giant pick-ups and lived high on the hog pushed their way in, as if to prove they had it all wrapped up. Others showed up from all corners of the globe, ready to take on huge investments and be winners in the cannabis game. Enormous numbers were tossed around with ease, and many thought they’d strike it rich in the Green Rush.

Taking the long view at the close of this tumultuous decade, the picture is coming into focus. Several of those big players, who took in massive investments based on convertible notes, are facing insurmountable debts they cannot repay. They may have built recognized brands, but without enough licensed stores to sell their products and exorbitant taxes that keep many consumers going to their dealer down the street, they are at a loss. Suddenly the pipe dreams of fame and fortune are literally going up in smoke.

So who remains in the game at this point? It is at the big cannabis events where the shift becomes most evident. Sadly, we see very few actual farmers anymore at industry events like the Hall of Flowers or cannabis festivals like the Emerald Cup, and forget about finding a farmer at MJBiz. Mostly the companies present are large corporations who can afford to spend $100,000 for a slick booth and the staff to work it. No longer does a customer get to meet the farmer in person, smoke a joint and hear stories about growing weed. Now it is all about the sales pitch and the glitzy packaging, not much different than if they were selling cosmetics or packaged foods. The personal touch is gone and has been replaced by classic consumerism.

I am happy to report that there remain a few small cannabis brands, such as Om Edibles and our Swami Select, who have survived because we have stuck to old-fashioned farming and production methods and, just as we grow our crop with organic methods, we do the same with our businesses. We continue to live simple lives, truly caring about the quality of our product and getting it into the hands of those who will truly appreciate and benefit from it. We may not be able to afford a fancy booth at an event, but we are there in person to share our authentic stories of the past and our dreams for the future.

We will continue to advocate to change unworkable policies, so that the day of full legalization will come and its benefits will be widely shared. The 2010s was a decade of making a new mold, and for some, breaking the old one. For the brands that carry on with integrity and faith, there remains hope. Not to say that only the small companies are good — there certainly are some large brands which are doing it right. But time is bound to sort out the greedy ones who only saw the money from those of us who truly have a passion for the plant and its magical products.

As we head into this new decade, we pray for peace and understanding to blossom, so that our planet may survive. We have learned a huge lesson over the past 10 years and feel ready to enter 2020 with great hope for advancement on many levels. It won’t be easy, but it’s bound to be interesting and a challenge well worth the effort if it brings pure cannabis to those who need it. That is our mission after all.

TELL US, do you feel pushed out of the cannabis industry?

The post Who’s Still Standing in the Cannabis Industry? appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Push for the Best Legalization

On Tuesday, Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, said his state should legalize cannabis. In his State of the State address, Cuomo promised his state would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over.

Cuomo tried this last year and it didn’t work out, but not because marijuana legalization is a bad idea. Broadly speaking, it’s a good idea, and you should support it. According to most every poll, you probably do.

If you don’t, you are either a cop, or a creep. Maybe, both! If you are neither, or if that’s what you claim, now’s a fine time to check yourself, and figure out how you’ve become a fellow traveler with the kind of people who go on Tucker Carlson to tie cannabis to mass shootings — because that’s exactly what you’ve managed to do.

One undeniable unexpected consequence of marijuana legalization is that it’s created a bunch of enemies of marijuana legalization among people who smoke weed. In California, home to America’s oldest established cannabis economy — for purposes of this argument, let’s call a structured, recognizable, and at times legal supply chain and marketplace an “established” one — legalization has become a loaded word. In 2020, it is very easy, online or off, to find weedheads who curse legalization, even as they fire up joints along Lake Merritt in full view of bored Oakland police.

For these souls, the most cursed number in the universe of digits is 64, for the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, Prop. 64, the devil’s bargain that, in their analysis, took a perfectly good thing — medical cannabis, “Prop. 215,” the world of shady doctors offices, affordable but questionable pot, and enemies on all sides, on all levels of government, happy to take it all down at a moment’s notice — and messed it all up, transforming pure and righteous cannabis culture into something corporatized and capitalized, all bad and awful.

This is a result of conflating chronology with cause. It is true that in California, after voters approved Prop. 64 in Nov. 2016, the price of cannabis skyrocketed, opportunity to enter the industry constricted, and many legacy operators — farmers, sellers, and whatnot — have not been allowed into the new, many-billions-of-dollars industry. That’s all bad! But guess what? That’s not legalization’s fault. If you don’t like all that, your beef is with regulation, and the exact nature of how legalization came about. Seems to me like you don’t like crony capitalism, or financialized markets, or corruption. And yes, all these are bad! But I have news for you: legalization did not create these, and these all existed prior to Prop. 64.

Of course, you might be a libertarian, or an anarchist. In which case, you might believe that any form of regulation or government intrusion into your life is an affront. If this is so, OK. When you find your Utopia where you grow your own food, police your own self, and otherwise are able to exist without laws or strictures imposed upon you by a society of people with whom you must share space and resources, please stay there, and don’t call me. The realistic among us will recognize that even an anarchist commune has agreed-upon standards of behavior. For those people, those who are still upset with how legalization’s played out in California, and may be compelled to warn New Yorkers or others not to make the same mistake, I sympathize with you — to a point.

I agree that many aspects of pre-legalization life worked better. For me. I will always remember the 2017 Emerald Cup as the apogee of what cannabis could be. I miss being able to buy untrimmed branches of flower from Empress Farms, different types of jars of boutique pot, edibles in containers that did not require a hacksaw to open. I, too, miss the host of cultivators, edibles makers, and other genuine weirdos, freaks, and rebels that grew and sold the weed I smoked for most of my life. Most of them were very cool, and I prefer them to being beset by brands. I think it’s absurd that joining a regulated market can cost a farmer in Mendocino County $50,000, and that the state isn’t making, say, business loans available to legal farmers as an incentive. I think taxing cannabis that’s unsold is foolish, and I think charging $80 or more for an eighth of cannabis is borderline criminal.

But that’s the irony here. All the complaints about the privations of the legal economy miss the point. Underground farmers made $3,000 a pound because cannabis was illegal everywhere else. Everything you liked about a pre-Prop. 64 environment came at an immense cost, one that apparently the complainants didn’t see, either because they were isolated from it or they chose not to acknowledge it — or, worst, they knew exactly what the human cost was and didn’t care, because everything was OK for them.

Because, you see, the pre-legalization world was terrible for many more people, the people whom our society abuses, impoverishes, and robs of privilege the most.

Let me illustrate what I mean. A common complaint about New York, the country’s largest city, the hometown of our president and the cultural whatever-you-want-to-call-it of America and Americanism, is not that it’s crowded, or corrupt, or inhospitable —though all those are true. It’s that New York smells like weed. Try to understand what a sea change that is. For many years, New York was the per capita capital of marijuana arrests in the United States. New York cops hauled away more people, per capita, than police in Oklahoma, or whatever other red state you might fool yourself into thinking was hell on earth for weedheads, pre-legalization.

With this context, here’s an anecdote for you: A friend and colleague’s husband was walking home from work one day. He had a backpack on. A squat, stocky fellow in street clothes fell into step beside him, and demanded to know what was in the backpack and why he’d just thrown away a joint. A struggle ensued. The stocky fellow’s partner appeared, flashed his badge — they were both undercover cops — and put my acquaintance, a doctor on his way home from the hospital, in cuffs, and led him away to jail, where he spent the night, on the charge of “destruction of evidence,” discarding the phantom joint that he never had. It happens that my acquaintance, being a young doctor, had resources, sued the NYPD and won a settlement that helped pay for school! Many, many others have not had that luxury. Stuff like this happened on the regular before legalization — and now it doesn’t. Now New York smells like weed, and cops have to do something other than waste my money and yours on frivolous “busts.”

How’d that come about? Colorado and Washington legalized, then Oregon and Alaska, then Nevada and California and Massachusetts and Maine, and Michigan and Illinois. A bad old policy became untenable.

It is true that black and brown people are still, at times, jacked up for weed in New York. That is because our society is one founded on genocide, and slavery. It’s also true it’s hard to get a business opportunity in cannabis if you are not white and male and thus possess wealth and influence disproportionately to those who are darker, or women. All this, and pricey weed, and local bans, are because of how legalization is implemented, or how cannabis is regulated, or how America is in reality. I encourage you to agitate against these ills and advocate changes, and push for the best legalization. The alternative is arguing that the status quo, before, was okay. Maybe it was, for you. I can assure you that for many more, it was not. 

That’s why Andrew Cuomo has to try to legalize cannabis again this year, because the version pushed last year didn’t go far enough, didn’t help out the people who had been harmed. That’s admirable. So is pushing for lower taxes, saner regulations, and more inclusivity — for changing a legal landscape into something functional, and equitable, and sound. What’s not is pining for a bygone golden age, when others suffered, or did not enjoy your privileges, so you could make more money, or buy cheaper pot. Doing that makes you a giant, raging jerk. If you’re cool with that, great. Own it. If not, now’s a fine time to adjust.

TELL US, are you in a state that has changed its cannabis laws? What have you experienced?

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