Cannabis Blamed for America’s Mass-Shooting Epidemic

Another week, another mass shooting to blame on cannabis. Six days after an 18-year-old who’d just bought two AR-15-style rifles on his birthday murdered 19 fourth graders and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, TX, Fox News host Laura Ingraham asked her roughly 2.2 million viewers whether the real problem wasn’t actually cannabis legalization.

“Why aren’t people in general not talking more about the pot-psychosis violent-behavior connection?” asked Ingraham, who added that anyone advocating gun-control measures—such as the 90% of Americans who support universal background checks—as a rational response to Uvalde are “completely oblivious to what the legalization of marijuana has done and is doing to an entire generation of Americans with violent consequences.”

At first blush, injecting cannabis into the conversation over mass shootings seemed like a fresh spin, another effort at misdirection to steer the conversation toward “hardening” schools, or arming teachers or vague jeremiads about “mental health”—anything but a discussion about the easy availability of weapons or that particular weapon, the AR-15-style rifle, the instrument of choice in a mass-shooting in Buffalo the week before that claimed another ten innocent lives.

But, in fact, Ingraham lifted her screed nearly verbatim from the Substack account of disgraced COVID conspiracy theorist Alex Berenson, a former reporter at The New York Times turned novelist turned multi-purpose conservative contrarian. Berenson noticed a post-publication change to a Times item that initially reported an acquaintance’s claim that the Uvalde shooter was mad that his grandmother “didn’t let him smoke weed or do what he wanted.”

That detail later disappeared from the story, which for Berenson was evidence of… well, not much, aside for more support for his pet theory. “Cannabis causes psychosis,” as he wrote. “Psychosis causes violence,” he added, including, an unmistakable syllogistic link, mass shootings.

It’s a serious charge, that’s also completely unserious. Serious observers have already roundly dismissed this fresh demonization of cannabis. Nonetheless, it’s gaining new life as conservative commentators and politicians embrace cannabis as a method to stoke grievance in America’s ongoing culture war.

Rebirth of a Notion

Before he became known as the COVID-19 pandemic’s “wrongest man” and got himself kicked off Twitter for claiming vaccines were worthless (or, actually, dangerous), Berenson’s angle was being a cannabis legalization contrarian. In pursuit of this chimera, he peddled an anti-legalization polemic that, according to a mass letter signed by 100 researchers in 2019, used “flawed pop science and ideological polemics” to “promote some of the worst myths about people of color and people with mental illness”—including the idea, unsupported by science, that cannabis makes them violent.

In serious circles, such as the researchers and clinicians who signed onto the letter labeling Berenson’s theories as worthless warmed-over garbage left over from the Just Say No era, the idea that cannabis legalization is connected to America’s mass-shooting epidemic is laughed out of the room.

But Ingraham’s appropriation of Berenson’s exploded theories set off a chain reaction in the right-wing media echo chamber, where, along with virulent transphobia, cannabis is being tested out as a front in the culture war.

On June 6, the conservative Wall Street Journal’s even more conservative editorial page said that, if it were true that the Uvalde shooter smoked weed—an enormous, Hollywood-sign-sized “if”—“it would fit a pattern.”

“Mass shooters at Rep. Gabby Giffords’s constituent meeting in Tucson, AZ (2011); a movie theater in Aurora, CO (2012); the Pulse nightclub in Orlando (2016); the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX (2017); and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL (2018) were reported to be marijuana users,” the WSJ opined. “It could be a coincidence, but increasing evidence suggests a connection.”

(It bears mentioning that most of those shooters were also AR-15-style rifle users, but that, surely, is a coincidence.)

The Missing Link

In addition to noting that the main link between mass shooters wasn’t that they used weapons but that they smoked weed, Allysia Finley, the piece’s author, cited a few studies in her argument. This included a meta-analysis, published in The American Journal of Psychiatry in May 2020, that tried to investigate an association between youth and “the risk of perpetuating physical violence.” That meta-analysis, led by researchers in Canada—where, just for funsies, cannabis was legalized nationwide in 2018—found a “moderate association between cannabis use and physical violence.”

The study’s authors didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Cannabis Now on how their work is currently being used to steer American attention away from gun control—which is much stricter in Canada than in the US, and which has legalized cannabis, and which doesn’t seem to be gripped by the same mass shooting epidemic.

On June 13, the conservative Washington Examiner hopped on the bullshit train, adding its own fresh load of trash to the pile. “One way to reverse growing rates of violent crime,” posed the newspaper’s editorial board, using most of the same arguments as the Journal, “may be to recriminalize the use of marijuana.”

Though violence absolutely surged during the COVID-19 pandemic, on the aggregate, the US hasn’t been this peaceful for decades. Violent crime, as Pew Research found, dropped 49% between 1993—right around when New York City launched a decade-long war on joints—and 2019, by which time more than a dozen states had legalized adult-use cannabis. In fact, a 2018 study found that the rates of certain crimes dropped in areas that had recently legalized cannabis.

You could just as easily (and more convincingly) argue that legalization has made the US more peaceful. That at least might be a little more honest, if a little naive, as the causes of violence are known to be complex, an overlapping web of material circumstances.

Political Quackery

Rather than grapple with the broader set of facts or engage with skeptics, the conservative echo-chamber is sealing itself off. In a letter to The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board that the newspaper didn’t print, Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, pointed out a slew of other studies, including a data analysis from the RAND Corporation that tried to find a link between cannabis dispensaries and crime—and failed to do so.

“Claims that cannabis use causes violence are frankly absurd when you consider that there are tens of millions of regular cannabis consumers in the US who have never engaged in any violent activity and there have been no conclusive studies showing an association between violence and either cannabis use or its legalization,” said Morgan Fox, NORML’s political director, in a statement provided to Cannabis Now.

“Cherry-picking anecdotal instances and pretending that they represent a ‘disturbing trend’ when the experiences of legal cannabis markets here and abroad say otherwise is just the newest iteration of a long-used tactic by unscrupulous prohibitionists to demonize this substance and the people that use it,” he added. “Such assertions are pure political quackery, and an attempt to distract from the real issues at hand as well as the overwhelming successes that states have achieved by regulating cannabis.”

So far, it doesn’t seem like Berenson’s shameless recycling of his increasingly dusty conspiracy theory is making much headway among the US public. But as mass shootings and dead children continue to pile up, and opponents of gun reform seek any other sacrificial lamb other than reasonable restrictions on who can own an AR-15, cannabis is taking another familiar turn in the barrel.

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The 4/20 Holiday: Who’s It Actually For?

Cannabis’ journey toward legalization in the US is helpful in understanding the shift taking place around the 4/20 holiday. Although legal marijuana in the US owes an unpayable debt to San Francisco—to the struggles and the activists living in the city, those affected by AIDS and the counterculture warriors who laid the groundwork for the first legal cannabis in the nation—the historic relationship between cannabis and the “official” San Francisco, the civic leaders and the electeds, is at best uneasy and erratic. 

Here’s a data point. Back in 2010, when California had the chance to be the first state in the country to legalize adult-use cannabis, it was San Francisco elected officials—then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, then-District Attorney Kamala Harris and Senator Dianne Feinstein—who led the charge against legalization. Voters listened, and Prop. 19 lost that fall by seven percentage points. 

Here’s another: Now, in 2022, in California’s fifth year of adult-use legalization, with the local tourism economy in the toilet post-COVID-19 pandemic and civic leaders desperate for a boost, San Francisco City Hall and local business boosters have launched a 4/20-themed “cannabis festival.” Official weed-themed scavenger hunts, historic walking tours and dispensary visits, all predicated on the hope that cannabis can help bail the ailing city out. 

When the city is in need, weed is there, a handier ATM than casinos or parking tickets, and 4/20 is the shill. But how about the flip side? Every legal cannabis business says they desperately need tax relief to stay alive, to ensure legalization doesn’t fail and box out the much more affordable illicit market. All that’s up to someone else, say Newsom, Harris or Feinstein. So far, nobody’s pledged to reciprocate.

This history is relevant because it illuminates something, about cannabis broadly, and 4/20 in particular. 

The Slow Capture of 4/20

After decades of shunning and scorn, weed’s sudden embrace as a point of civic pride is part of the slow but unmistakable tectonic shift we’ve witnessed in our lifetimes—from when a nub of a burnt-out joint, a scale or more than two baggies was casus belli for millions of people to become victims of the War on Drugs. Fast forward to present day, and there are almost enough billion-dollar cannabis companies to field a baseball team. 

There’s progress and that’s good. But something else is happening. 4/20 itself, instead of a renegade act of mass defiance—shamed in the media for being too messy—is now an official permitted event, complete with vendors, on-site sales…and rules. Officially at least, you can’t bring your own stash into Golden Gate Park this year. You can smoke all you want, provided you buy from the right people who paid for the privilege.

The slow capture of the 4/20 holiday begs a question: Just who’s all of this for? 

Caryn York smokes weed. She smokes even after she was arrested for petty possession in 2003, the summer after her freshman year in college, and spent the night in jail for three grams of cannabis. She got probation but, as the judge warned her, her life was very nearly derailed—for three grams of weed

Today, a professional and the executive director of the Women’s Prison Association, which advocates for women formerly and currently incarcerated, she still smokes. But for York, a Black woman from Baltimore, 4/20 hits different than it does for some of the rest of us.

“4/20 was never really a holiday in the Black community,” she said in an April 15 interview. With the episodes like the night when a city police officer swooped on York and her friends smoking in a park, bringing them to jail, “We’d celebrate 4/20 in secret,” she said. “I didn’t really learn about 4/20 until I was in college.” 

While at university, she discovered her white friends engaging in what looked a little like a goofy sorority ritual: speaking in code words, arranging a rendezvous on a special day, at a specific time. And for what, exactly? They weren’t at the same risk. This was just a game. And what if you smoked every day—for pain or for pleasure, physical or mental?

York lives in New York City now, as I do. In NYC, where Rudy Giuliani’s lasting legacy is ramping up marijuana arrests from a few thousand a year in the early 1990s, to more than 50,000 by the year 2000, legalization is still fresh and new. It doesn’t hurt you can smoke cannabis wherever you can smoke tobacco without the risk of copping a ticket, a right still denied to cannabis users in California, Colorado, Oregon and every other state that legalized cannabis a decade ago. 

In New York, in only the second 4/20 of the state’s adult-use legalization, it’s a massive party, a free-for-all. Rooftop parties, VIP smoke-outs, an enormous crowd in Washington Square Park, where plugs set up card tables and trap all day without fear of police who can only write a $250 violation for petty sales. 

This is all great. In New York, the 4/20 holiday is not corporatized, monetized or captured yet by the same establishment that spent decades trying to quash, discourage or shame it. But something’s still missing.

“When I think of 4/20 today, I actually don’t connect it to any of the current efforts to legalize marijuana,” York told me. “We have to go deeper.”

For example: New legalization laws automatically expunge old criminal records of marijuana offenses that are now legal. That’s nice—but marijuana arrests weren’t designed to simply snare someone for smoking weed. The smell of marijuana was probable cause to search your pockets or your car, to check your probation status. Legalization doesn’t clear other charges racked up after the smell of pot drew in police like moths to a lightbulb.

“It’s personal for me,” York said. “It’s triggering a bit, where it’s like, I went to jail for this shit. I had a criminal record that I had to actively have expunged.” 

One may say 4/20 is a holiday and not the time to think about the work. That might land if it weren’t for the fact that most of us don’t think about it much on the other 364 days, either.

Is 4/20 The Next Hallmark Holiday?

It was somewhere between the billboards making dusty stoner puns in order to pimp pizza rolls; the ads featuring red-eyed, droopy-lidded anthropomorphic food containers—whether it was Buffalo Wild Wings or someone else, I can’t remember and I don’t care. It was somewhere between the smarmy best junk-food to eat on 4/20 listicles and Carl’s Jr stuffing CBD in its hamburgers for whatever reason, when the 20th day of April started to feel a little old, a little played-out. 

All this was inevitable. Complaining about America doing an America is 21st-century tilting at windmills. In the same way the cannabis legalization movement gave way to a capitalized industry, “tax and regulate” means 4/20 completes its long and predictable journey from teen-aged inside joke, to counterculture milestone, to crass marketing opportunity. A Hallmark card can’t be far behind, when what we really could use is a federal holiday for the millions and millions of drug-war victims.

Because that’s the thing. The War on Drugs isn’t over. Weed was the easiest catch—everyone uses it, it stinks up the room—but cannabis prohibition was just the most obvious symptom of an overall malady that’s still plaguing us. We’re still sick, but here we are, releasing ourselves from the hospital, shaking society’s hand—a hand that, until just a little while ago, held a knife stuck into our backs. Let’s wipe the blood off before we have a party.

It’s nice that the 4/20 holiday is bigger than ever and people are having fun. I genuinely hope more people smoke weed. But 4/20 should also have at least some acknowledgment of the unfinished business at hand. Instead, it’s business as usual. 

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Where Did the Term Puff, Puff, Pass Come From?

The first time I smoked cannabis, I was at a party and someone passed it to me. My boyfriend at the time leaned over and whispered “The rule is puff, puff, pass, you take two puffs and then you pass it.” I appreciated knowing the rules of etiquette, and appreciated the generous sharing even more. I never thought puff, puff, pass etiquette would become so complicated. But years later, as a long time medical cannabis patient, my views on the culture of Puff, Puff, Pass have become much more nuanced.

To be fair the term puff, puff, pass is not universal, in the ’60s and ’70s the rule was to not “bogart” the weed. One patient shared with me that she grew up with “Puff, Pass” and so was confused in college when her friends took two puffs before passing. The rule is slightly different in different times and places. Still, what carries through all these rules is the expectation of sharing in relatively equal portions. So what are the pros and cons of this implied social norm?

On one hand, the culture of sharing is a beautiful aspect of the cannabis using community. We like to share, and to do it in a fair and orderly manner. When people smoke together they bond. Some of the most unexpected groups of people come together over cannabis and a lot of that happens in circles of smokers, happily passing their joints.

But this cultural habit is not without its problems. One of the biggest issues is the transmission of germs. Sharing joints, pipes, e-cigs and anything else that you put your mouth against is a pretty personal act. Like kissing, it might bring you closer together, but it will also swap the germs in your mouths. Unfortunately we are likely puff, puff, passing any illnesses around the circle with our joints and pipes; putting ourselves and others at risk for anything from the flu to oral HPV. Even for healthy people, much less for patients with compromised immune systems, this can be a dangerous way to socialize.

The norm can also backfire against patients who need to use large amounts of cannabis to manage their condition. These patients are usually already pressed financially by their high cannabis bill, but need to be able to medicate throughout the day. If they are in a social situation with other cannabis users, they may feel pressured to share. Their five joints may seem like an incredible abundance to those around them, but when split between a few people will leave them in pain and under medicated. Those who need more, sometimes are pressured to share more, and can bear the financial burden of the sharing culture.

Not sharing is an option, but the social norm to share is often palpable and can bring negative social consequences. I’ve gotten glares and raised eyebrows, or annoyed comments when I’ve tried this in the past. At a recent wedding, as one of the few people who had brought any cannabis, I was surprised at how many people seemed to feel entitled to my joints. I was happy to share, and did so often, but I am also a chronic pain patient and didn’t feel like I should have to share my joint every time I needed to medicate. Still I got irritated comments from several friends and new acquaintances. “Are you gonna pass that to me before it’s out?” one person burst out with indignantly, as an unshared joint neared its end. I had shared with him earlier and now he seemed to think my cannabis was community property.

Other patients have shared similar stories about pressure to share. “If I roll it, it’s a big bummer,” one patient told me. “You just don’t know what everybody else’s etiquette is.” Because of this, some end up removing themselves from the social context in order to medicate, pushing them further away from other people, rather than closer together.

Ultimately, some kind of middle ground may be best. Puff, puff, pass is a beautiful thing but it can’t apply in every situation. I would never want to give up those circles of people smoking and sharing, but maybe we should all start bringing personal joint holders to the circle. If someone’s feeling sick or worried about getting sick, maybe they should smoke on a personal joint. Either way, the foundation of puff, puff, pass is generosity. Look for hygienic ways to share with others and if you notice someone bogarting their own joint, just remember that they may have a good reason for it.

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Silver Linings of Cannabis in 2020

It’s easy to sit back in seclusion and complain about what a difficult year 2020 has been. Yes, we have all encountered great tribulations and changes we never expected. But as an old hippy, I highly recommend you get comfortable, smoke a fatty, go with the flow and consider the benefits of living during a pandemic. There is always a silver lining, if you just take the time to look.

Of course, in the world of cannabis, the number one reward for Californians was issued last March when Governor Newsom announced that all licensed marijuana businesses in California could continue with business as usual during the imposed lockdowns, deeming it an “essential” business. Wow – from illegal to essential, thanks to COVID-19. Cannabis sales sky rocketed, although now they are primarily executed by delivery services or curbside pickup services at dispensaries. More time at home equals more time to get high.

Thinking Outside the Bowl

During these singular times, many people experiencing loneliness have undoubtedly turned to cannabis as a companion to heighten creativity and elevate their mood. While the old-fashioned art of sharing a joint may be gone forever, here at the Swami Select farm, we have been learning how to smoke out of our own bowls or personal paraphernalia. We’ve even had Zoom calls where we pretend to pass the doobie. And the cool thing is, we can do this with friends all across the globe! Having a big imagination helps a whole lot during lockdown.

It’s funny how quickly a word can become so ubiquitous. Take “Zoom” for example. It’s a noun (“Are you on Zoom?”); a verb (“Let’s Zoom”); and even an adjective (“She has Zoom burnout”). We found that Zooming is a great way to have a seshin’ with your friends, share stories and music, and even check out cannabis together. 

While the traditional December Emerald Cup is cancelled for the first time in 17 years, we do still plan to hold the contest virtually in March. Judging will happen with the help of some sort of Zoom arrangement. It’s simply the time to think outside the bowl.

Another benefit from the shelter in place orders is recent studies indicate that alcohol use and cigarette use is down, complementary to the increase in cannabis use. Seniors who gave up smoking marijuana in the past are taking it up again and exploring other means of ingesting, and embracing the medical use of tinctures, salves, creams and ointments. Pain relief, sleep aid and anxiety relief are a major reason more people of all ages use the magic herb. 

And while you are staying home, you’re probably eating better than ever before, as home cooking is generally healthier than most highly salted restaurant fare. Even if you’re not a great cook, when you get high and sit down to a meal you made yourself, it just tastes better. And while in the kitchen, many stoners, including myself, have begun to make their own edibles. Here’s a great recipe for canna butter and now I enjoy tasty cookies with a solid buzz. Before coronavirus, I never would have taken the time to do that. 

Slowing It Down

Of course, the other benefit of being stuck at home is more time with your animals, your plants and your hobbies. Even your favorite TV shows! For us on the ranch, it meant we had more time in our gardens this summer which was a real plus. Before the coronavirus, life was so busy, and we were constantly pulled away by the responsibilities and go-go-go of the outside world.  It’s fun and wonderful, but it keeps us away from the cannabis plants during the growing season. This was a real bonus! 

Photo Mike Rosatti

I’ve heard from friends who live in the city that things have slowed down there too. They can hear the sounds of birds singing, and the skies are a brilliant blue that hasn’t been seen in decades. What a great lesson to know we truly do have the ability to heal our planet if we all become conscious of our fossil fuel use and recognize what’s needed from us to survive.  

Working from home has taught so many people how nice it is to avoid a long commute or dressing up for the day, and it spares the costs associated with transportation and eating lunch or dinner out. Instead, we stay comfy at home with our computers working harder than ever — what else is there to do? But the benefit is that “Safety Meetings” throughout the day are so much more admissible! 

Consider cannabis as your best companion during these quiet times. Let her guide you into sitting in meditation, doing exercises, reading that book that’s been sitting on your shelf, or doing something creative. If we can look at this down time as a gift from the universe, it has a whole different feel to it. Open your heart to those in need around us all, whether they be ill or in need of support. The cannabis culture has always been about sharing. 

The Power of Community

Our hearts go out to those who have personally suffered or lost a dear one from COVID-19. Plagues and pandemics are as old as life on this planet. In the Great Plague of the Middle Ages, from India to Scandinavia and the British Isles, nearly two thirds of the population died. 

Thankfully, while the number of deaths is high, we are still nowhere near that number. By acting together to protect ourselves and those around us through socially distancing and wearing masks, we can see that it really does make a difference – we really can slow the progress of this pandemic and ultimately bring it under control. 

This is a great lesson in the power of community, similar to the power we have discovered over the years as we have struggled to free cannabis and erase the stigma around this most beneficial plant. When we act together for the good of all, it makes a difference.

Swami, Tipu and Nikki at home.

As we all learn to live with less and recognize our true priorities in life, we can thank this most unusual year for teaching us that. So, whether you stay cozy at home or enjoy a quiet walk in nature, getting high while you do it will calm your nerves and put a smile on your face. And when we can freely gather again, I pray we retain these lessons and appreciate the love we share even more.

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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

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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?

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

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

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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?

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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?

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