I have a thing about most documentaries; it’s not unlike the thing I have about Brussels sprouts: I never want to watch/eat them, then I’m always glad I did. Happens. Every. Time. And the idea that I had to sit through a documentary that’s already nearly three years old, well, let’s just say my enthusiasm meter wasn’t exactly jumping with mind-blowing excitement.
Grass Is Greener ostensibly follows hip-hop icon Fab Five Freddy on his often-disturbing trek to uncover the truth about the history of cannabis prohibition in the US. Commencing in the 1920s New Orleans jazz clubs where Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington were forced to perpetually fend off being arrested due to overtly racist policies, the documentary concludes by interviewing rap legends Snoop Dogg and B-Real of Cypress Hill as they expertly discuss the current state of cannabis.
The film, streaming on Netflix, also provides perspectives from relevant lawyers, cannabis advocates and activists. By far the most harrowing are examples of families torn apart by America’s pervasive and unjustified obsession with convicting people of color for minor marijuana infractions. It’s a lot to take in.
The riveting examination provides us with a villain early on, the cartoonishly bigoted first director of the Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger. The political appointee enforced fabricated policies while ignoring definitive scientific studies specifically targeting two groups still grappling (and demanding) social justice in this nation: African Americans and Mexican immigrants. In fact, the very name “cannabis” was purposedly changed to “marijuana” to further connect the supposedly dangerous narcotic more directly with the feared Mexicans crossing the border. It’s all as infuriating as it is outrageous, but given the current societal climate in the US, not at all surprising. C’mon now, is Harry Anslinger all that different from, say, Jeff Sessions, the enforcer of the draconian child separation policy at the US border during the previous administration? Here’s a hint: He’s not.
But wait! There are good guys, too. Most surprising, perhaps, was former New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who commissioned a report on cannabis that refuted all of Anslinger’s preposterous claims. “Instead of science, the government knowingly and willingly chose propaganda, chose racism over and over again,” said one astute subject of the documentary about the irrefutable evidence found in LaGuardia’s report. But the direct line from Anslinger, to Richard Nixon’s War On Drugs, to Ronald (and Nancy) Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign and to Bill Clinton’s odious Crime Bill all relegated cannabis to be perceived as nothing short of premeditated evil. And it was all a lie.
I was amped up for action by the time Grass Is Greener gets to Jack Herer’s revelatory The Emperor Wears No Clothes, the truth bomb of a book that blew the lid off the perpetuated untruths about weed the US government had been spewing for a century. And by the end of the doc, I’m left with not only a crystal-clear understanding of the history of cannabis, but an even better understanding about American jurisprudence and how acutely unjust it has always been. Always.
Grass Is Greener should be required viewing for cannabis lovers, yes, but also for lovers of our country and democracy and justice. I’m so glad I saw this remarkably important documentary. Not surprisingly, I’m now craving a heaping serving of Brussels sprouts. I got the do-something munchies for sure.
This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.
Will the FDA regulate CBD? It’s a question on many minds as the FDA commissioner is to appear before the U.S. House Oversight Committee. Chairman of the Committee, James Comer, wants details on CBD. He said: “It’s not just their lack of action with respect to CBD and other types of hemp. It’s their inaction regarding a lot of areas of their jurisdiction … We’ve got an agency here that has a big budget, they have a lot of employees, […]
New York officially began accepting applications for recreational cannabis dispensaries on Thursday, a milestone in the Empire State’s new era of legalization.
The state’s Office of Cannabis Management said that the window for the first round of applications will run until September 26.
As previously announced earlier this year, the first dispensary licenses will be awarded to individuals with cannabis-related convictions on their record, or family members of individuals who have been convicted of pot-related offenses, a program known as the “Seeding Opportunity Initiative.”
“Today’s announcement brings us to the precipice of legal, licensed cannabis sales in New York State,” Tremaine Wright, chair of the Cannabis Control Board, said in a statement on Monday. “With the Seeding Opportunity Initiative, New York has affirmed our commitment to making sure the first sales are conducted by those harmed by prohibition. We’re writing a new playbook for what an equitable launch of a cannabis industry looks like, and hope future states follow our lead.”
Chris Alexander, the executive director of the Office of Cannabis Management, said that the launch of the application period marked a “monumental step in establishing the most equitable, diverse, and accessible cannabis industry in the nation.”
“We’ve worked to make this application as simple as possible for all interested applicants, and I cannot emphasize it enough that you do not need any legal expertise to fill this application out,” Alexander said.
The state announced the initiative back in March, with Alexander saying at the time that at least the first 100 dispensary licenses would be awarded to individuals with convictions.
Since legalizing recreational pot for adults last year, New York has made a concerted effort to do right by individuals and communities who were most adversely affected by cannabis prohibition.
In January, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the creation of a $200 million fund to support social equity applicants looking to enter the state’s new legal cannabis industry.
“New York’s legalized cannabis industry is in development, with the State expecting to issue licenses for adult recreational use. But the rise of what is estimated to be a $4.2 billion industry must create opportunities for all New Yorkers, particularly those from historically marginalized communities,” the governor’s office said in the announcement at the time.
“In support of that goal, Governor Hochul will create a $200 million public-private fund to support social equity applicants as they plan for and build out their businesses,” the announcement continued. “Licensing fees and tax revenue will seed the fund and leverage significant private investment.”
Last month, Hochul announced a $5 million grant to the state’s community colleges in support of “programs that will create or enhance non-degree and degree-eligible courses and programs, stackable credentials, and/or microcredentials that quickly address local employer skill needs within the cannabis sector, a projected multi-billion dollar industry with tens of thousands [of] jobs.”
“New York’s new cannabis industry is creating exciting opportunities, and we will ensure that New Yorkers who want careers in this growing sector have the quality training they need to be successful,” Hochul said in the announcement. “Diversity and inclusion are what makes New York’s workforce a competitive, powerful asset, and we will continue to take concrete steps to help ensure everyone has the opportunity to participate in the cannabis industry.”
The community colleges selected for the grant “must also partner with local employers in the cannabis industry and receive their input on curriculum development,” the state said last month, adding that “the New York State Department of Labor and the Office of Cannabis Management will support efforts to expand learning opportunities by helping to connect businesses and job seekers to these essential training programs.”
Fair Trials, a globally focused nongovernmental non-profit organization which campaigns for the right to a fair trial and against discrimination within justice systems is, along with the Last Prisoner Project, calling on the cannabis industry for action. They want to begin addressing the harm caused by cannabis prohibition—on a global basis—by working to free those jailed for cannabis possession and use.
Cannabis legalization may now be a reality in more and more countries across the globe. However, far too many people remain behind bars or continue to suffer directly from the war on the plant.
“The injustice of cannabis prohibition has resulted in millions of people worldwide serving time in prison or being saddled with a cannabis conviction, which brings with it a lifetime of harmful consequences, ranging from education and employment opportunities to immigration status and parental rights,” said Fair Trials Global CEO Norman L. Reimer.
“These harmful effects of prohibition not only impact the individuals charged, but also their families and communities. And those effects have been borne disproportionately by minorities, communities of colour, and the socio-economically disadvantaged. Legalising cannabis alone does not equal justice. Together, we must address the ongoing harms of past prohibition and leave no cannabis prisoner behind,” he said.
According to the ACLU, half of all American drug arrests in 2010 were for cannabis. Of the 8.2 million cannabis arrests between 2001 and 2010, 88% were for simple possession. While these numbers have dropped dramatically since then (according to NORML), several hundred thousand Americans are arrested in states where the drug is still outlawed to this day.
The problem of course is not confined to the U.S.
Even in Europe, which has a far more lenient policy towards all drug use and cannabis in particular, people still go to jail for the “crime” of both possession and home cultivation (even for medical use). In Germany, for example, cannabis is the number one “illicit” drug of choice and, of course, also accounts for the vast number of arrests. In Spain, the organizer of the club movement, Albert Tió, was prosecuted with jail time for his role in the same. However, here, like other places in the world, even the threat of prison does not deter users—and according to those who study the issue, it is not likely to in the future. Finland remains the E.U. state with the most people imprisoned for use.
Outside of the E.U., there are places where cannabis “crimes” are punished more harshly, including with life sentences or even the death penalty. Of these, most are in the “east” and Asia. Thailand in fact just made global news with the release of 4,200 prisoners in jail for cannabis (in conjunction with the implementation of federal liberalization policies). In other countries, reform has not happened yet—starting with China. Singapore and Malaysia have both been in the news over the last several years for sentencing people to death for possession. Last year, in the United Arab Emirates, a 25-year sentence was handed to a British soccer coach in possession of CBD oil.
The War on Drugs may finally be ending. But its terrible legacy still creates a dark overhang that shadows far too many people’s lives.
To find out more about the project, contact Norman L. Reimer at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ivan J. Dominguez at email@example.com.
The first museum of cannabis has just opened in Croatia’s capital of Zagreb.
The goal? To educate the public about cannabis.
The new museum offers an experiential guide through the history of cannabis along with cultural exhibits that include everything from cannabis-themed music to movies.
Themed museums are nothing new to Zagreb, which offers “museums” on topics from hangovers, broken relationships, and the 1980s. However, this experience promises to be a little different, just because cannabis reform is a zeitgeisty, if not universal, issue.
Visitors will be guided through two floors of cannahistory, including the plant’s use for the past 10,000 years as well as educational topics like the use of medical cannabis and the wide utility of hemp. However, the museum also focuses on the topic of recreational use—along with warnings about the potential health hazards of use.
Where is Legalization in Croatia?
In Croatia, like other European countries, hemp is legal; medical use is allowed in very limited cases and small amounts of possession of high THC are decriminalized but can lead to fines ranging from about $700 to $3,000. Growing and selling, however, are harshly punished with a minimum three-year jail sentence.
For most people who care about these issues, this status quo is far from enough. The limited legalization reform for medical use happened in October 2015 after an MS patient was caught growing his own to try to keep his symptoms in check. Cannabis for medical use is a good step, however, in Croatia as well as elsewhere, this still leaves patients in danger of being criminalized, particularly if their doctors refuse to prescribe the drug.
In February 2020 the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) tried to introduce a bill into Parliament to fully legalize the plant, but this failed for a variety of reasons, including ongoing conservative opposition and, of course, COVID.
The Great Cannabis Stall
Many countries in Europe who have legalized medical use are realizing that the current status quo on cannabis is far from enough. The people who pay the biggest price for the slow pace of reform are patients, who tend to have larger quantities of the drug at hand when caught—or are so desperate to control their condition that they resort to the more dangerous practice of growing for self-use when they cannot access the medical system (for one reason or another).
This is certainly true in places like Germany, Europe’s largest medical market, where 40% of cannabis applications to health insurers — which means patients are referred by doctors — are turned down (and for increasingly specious reasons, such as quoting old or outdated medical studies). In such cases, patients often have no recourse but to try to sue their health insurers and source the cannabis from other places including home cultivation. This is also very dangerous. Chronically ill palliative patients do not suddenly stop being sick.
Unlike Croatia, German politicians have now promised to pass recreational reform legislation sometime in the next year or so, but this has been pushed to a back burner. Germany already has a cannabis museum in Berlin.
Why is Cannabis Reform Different in Europe?
There are several reasons that cannabis reform is on a much slower trajectory within the EU. Unlike Canada, the states within the United States and Mexico, both sovereign and EU courts have been reluctant to rule on constitutional rights to possess and grow cannabis. The issue has been diluted by the attempt to shift the conversation into a mostly medical track — although CBD reform has gradually begun to take hold.
However, there is another reason which is now front and center: Governments who legalize recreational use want a fully legit, taxable, and accountable industry. While there is nothing wrong with this, and it is a sensible way to ensure consumer health, the approach so far has been to deny patients the right to grow their own in circumstances where health insurers refuse to cover the costs. Patients with severe illnesses are usually also the most economically vulnerable, and of course, will also not be able to participate economically in the coming recreational reform — just because they cannot afford to buy licenses.
Beyond this, tragically, even as a stop-gap measure, the idea of nonprofit patient caregiver collectives has also been a non-issue in the EU (unlike the American hemisphere).
Education, like museums, public campaigns, and social media along with efforts like Croatia’s new cannabis museum remain very important. But it is also increasingly obvious that they are not enough. A major shift in the education of lawmakers and politicians, as well as doctors and other authorities, needs to become mainstream.
The time of demonizing the plant and those who use it is overdue to come to an end. Prohibition itself is a museum piece. The time to make it that way everywhere is now.
With the Russian invasion of Ukraine now in its second month, the Ukrainian people have time and again shown their determination to keep their nation a free and independent country. Ukraine’s military and civilian soldiers who have joined the fight continue to repel the invasion from entering the capital of Kyiv, while last week the Russian aggressors announced a change of strategy in the face of mounting losses.
But despite their bravery and resilience in the face of a much larger force, the unprovoked war has taken its toll on the people of Ukraine. The southeastern city of Mariupol and other areas have been left in ruins, and the U.N. estimates the number of displaced Ukrainians who have fled the country at 4 million. Many of those who remain are facing a growing humanitarian crisis.
Ukrainians from all walks of life are resisting the Russian invasion, and members of the country’s cannabis community are no exception. Although cannabis is illegal for both recreational and medical use, consumption and cultivation of up to 10 plants have been decriminalized. As a result, Ukraine has a vibrant underground cannabis community, including a growing rank of activists advocating for the end of prohibition. Victories so far have been modest, with the country approving the cannabinoid pharmaceuticals nabilone, nabiximol and dronabinol last year.
Cannabis Stands with Ukraine
One group, Freedom March, has been advocating for progressive drug policy, leading demonstrations for the legalization of cannabis in Ukraine and defending the rights of medicinal cannabis patients since 2005. Freedom March member Nazarii Sovsun says the majority of the group’s activists are involved in the resistance to the Russian invasion in some fashion. Some have taken up arms and headed to the front lines to face the aggressors head-on. Others are supporting government logistics to provide humanitarian aid in the cities being shelled by Russian forces. Sadly, one of the group’s activists has been badly wounded and is receiving medical treatment for his injuries. Even those in the western part of the country, away from the most intense fighting, are unable to feel safe during the ongoing conflict.
“Russian rockets can reach any part of our country and air raid sirens have become a routine for all of us,” Sovsun explained in an email from the war-torn nation. “It is an unprecedented situation, and it is hardly possible to foresee what comes next for us.”
To help their fellow countrymen, Freedom March has launched a fundraising campaign, Cannabis Stands with Ukraine, that is seeking donations from the worldwide cannabis community and freedom lovers everywhere. Donations to Freedom March will support the cause in conjunction with the Kyiv School of Economics Charitable Foundation, which has already purchased nearly $300,000 worth of emergency medical supplies for delivery to the region, according to wire transfer documentation and invoices provided by Sovsun.
Freedom March has designated two causes to support with the funds raised by the campaign. As in any conflict, the Russian invasion has taken its hardest toll on Ukraine’s most vulnerable populations. The group’s first priority is the children who have become victims of Russia’s aggression.
“According to the officials, at least 145 children were killed, and 222 injured since the war began,” Sovsun explains. “Thousands of children lost their parents. We will use raised funds to provide those children with shelter, food, physical and mental recovery.”
Secondly, the fundraiser will support the people that have been Freedom March’s central focus — Ukraine’s medical cannabis patients. Supplies of many traditional medications are running low and getting cannabis to the patients who need it is even more difficult than before. To help address the shortages, members of Freedom March are supporting the nation’s medicinal cannabis community on multiple fronts.
“Together with our friends from the local community, we are working to find a way of providing CBD-based medication to those who need it urgently: epileptic patients and wounded soldiers above all,” says Sovsun. “Hopefully, this war makes it obvious to our politicians that people should have access to medical cannabis, so we are active on the legal front, as well.”
Ukrainians Confident They Will Prevail
Despite the challenges faced by the Ukrainian people as they stand up to the Russian invasion, their resolve is palpable, even from thousands of miles away. Sovsun is confident that Ukraine will emerge from the conflict victorious.
“We fight for our friends, our families, loved ones and children — what do Russians fight for? Ukraine is a very freedom-loving country. Just take a look at the demonstrations of our people in the occupied cities,” Sovsun maintains proudly. “They are not afraid of armed soldiers firing rounds at them. They are not afraid to stay in front of a tank column, not letting them go further. Unlike Russian people, afraid of getting days in prison or a fine for protesting, we think of ourselves as free people. Our society has come a long way and we will not surrender.”
Sovsun says that donations are needed to continue the fight, and is calling on those who can help to do so in the name of what is right and just. The group has already raised thousands of dollars, but wants to make it millions.
“Sometimes, if you refuse to take a side you support the evil, so we encourage you to take a strong stance in supporting our cause,” he says, adding, “With your help, peace is one step closer.”
One of Ukraine’s few cannabis brands, AskGrowers, is also supporting the effort to fight the Russian invasion. Because of the illegality of cannabis in Ukraine, the online cannabis marketplace and educational resource focuses on the U.S. market, growing to about 250,000 monthly visitors and a database of more than 5,400 cannabis strains in only two years. The AskGrowers team is based in Ukraine, although some members have been displaced by the war.
Lana Braslavskaia, who heads the brand’s marketing and public relations operations, was able to make it to Belgium to stay with friends, while the company’s SEO specialist has made it safely to Poland. But the male members of the AskGrowers team have remained in Ukraine to help resist the invading forces. No matter their situation, however, AskGrowers is continuing to support its workers during this time of crisis.
“First of all, it was important for our management to preserve the life and health of our employees and their families” Braslavskaia explains in an email. “To this end, it was announced that all salaries will be paid in full, regardless of the number of hours worked, even if the employee does not work at all. Moreover, this rule works for those who volunteer or join the Territorial Defense Forces or the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”
Those forces are fighting heroically and have held the Russian military from taking control, despite estimates before the invasion that the country would fall in three days. And last week, the tide of the war seemed to change.
“Russian troops are slowly, bloodily, withdrawing their northern groups,” Braslavskaia reports. “They realized that they could not take Kyiv, and decided to declare that this was part of their plan.”
Like Sovsun, Braslavskaia is confident that her country will prevail over Russian forces. But she says the country will never be the same.
“As a citizen of Ukraine, I have not the slightest doubt that victory belongs to Ukraine,” she says. “Moreover, I am sure that after this war Ukraine will be a different state, both internally and internationally.”
On March 24, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on people around the world to stand up for his country. In an address delivered in multiple languages from outside a Kyiv government building, he called for global protests against Russian aggression.
“Make yourself visible and heard,” said Zelensky, who has become the international face of Ukrainian resistance and resolve. “Say that people matter, freedom matters. Peace matters. Ukraine matters.”
Braslavskaia echoes the sentiment, calling on the citizens of the world to let the strength and spirit of the Ukrainian people inspire them into action.
“I just want to add one thing, don’t be afraid. Be brave in your speeches against aggression, be brave in helping the Ukrainians, because all this does not require your lives,” she beseeches. “After all, we are not afraid, our men and women fight every day for the lives of their families, our future as a nation and such human values as freedom and dignity. Be as brave as we are.”
A bill that would have brought sweeping cannabis reform to Tennessee appears to have fallen short in this year’s legislative session.
Local television station WKRN reports that the bill, known as the “Free All Cannabis for Tennesseans Act,” is “effectively dead” after its sponsor, Democratic state House Rep. Bob Freeman pulled the measure from the floor.
Freeman’s legislation would have resulted in significant changes in how the Volunteer State handles both recreational and medicinal cannabis, both of which are illegal in Tennessee.
It makes Tennessee stand out in an era of nationwide legalization, when one state after another has ended prohibition.
Freeman noted that many of Tennessee’s neighbors have either legalized cannabis in some form or are looking to do so.
“There is a very real possibility that, by the time we come back next year, we will be the only state that touches Tennessee that has not done some sort of legalization,” Freeman said, as quoted by WKRN.
The bill would have authorized the “the possession and transport of marijuana or marijuana concentrate, in permitted amounts, for adults who are at least 21 years of age,” the “transfer of marijuana or marijuana concentrate between adults, in permitted amounts, without remuneration,” and the “cultivation of up to 12 marijuana plants for adults.”
It also would have opened up medical cannabis treatment to minors by authorizing “a parent, guardian, or conservator to administer a marijuana product, excluding any combustible product, to a minor, over whom the parent, guardian, or conservator has legal authority.”
Under the legislation, the state Department of Health would have provided a form on its website “that, upon execution by a parent, guardian, or conservator, after consultation with a healthcare practitioner, creates a rebuttable presumption that the minor has a medical condition for which the use of marijuana is treatment for any such condition.”
But Freeman’s bill always had an uphill climb in Tennessee’s Republican-dominated legislature. The state’s GOP governor, Bill Lee, has said that he is against legalizing pot.
As Freeman sees it, Tennessee is now at risk of being left in the dust, with other southern states moving to legalize medical cannabis. Mississippi legalized the treatment in February, and Alabama did the same last year.
Under Freeman’s bill, the sale of cannabis would have been subject to state and local sales and use tax, “as well as an additional 15% marijuana tax.”
It also would have established that “local governments can impose a local sales tax on such sales, not to exceed 5% of the price of the products sold, of which proceeds shall be distributed identical to the existing local sales and use tax.”
“It highlights the fact that we are continuing to turn our back to the potential revenue for taxing this legally — people are already using it or else they wouldn’t be getting picked up and we’re criminalizing this putting people in jail for what is legal in other states,” Freeman said, as quoted by the station.
Freeman believes that most Tennessee voters are with him on the issue, a theory that could be tested in November’s general election.
In January, a pair of state lawmakers introduced a bill that would direct county election officials to conduct a public opinion poll on cannabis policy on this year’s ballot.
The legislation would place three non-binding questions on the general election ballot: Should the state of Tennessee legalize medical cannabis?; Should the state decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of cannabis?; and Should the state legalize and regulate the commercial sales of recreational cannabis?
“We’ve been wrestling around with this for years and years now,” one of the bill’s sponsors, state House Rep. Bruce Griffey, said at the time. “A bunch of jurisdictions have taken a step to legalize it. There’s certainly some valid arguments, is marijuana any worse than alcohol in certain situations?”
A BC company is pushing to regulate magic mushrooms and recently submitted a proposal to Health Canada. TheraPsil is a non-profit organization that advocates for safe access to medicinal mushrooms. They believe that the use of psychedelics should be between a doctor and a patient. Using the first federal cannabis regulations as a guide, they […]
Strange but true — there was a time when synthetic cannabis was legal in Canada, but the natural herb was not. How was this even possible? If you can find a source of effective medicine that is natural and non-lethal, why would you ever want to recreate it with chemicals? The simple answer is prohibition. […]
Quebec‘s sweeping ban on the sale of cannabis products was challenged in the Provincial Supreme Court last Thursday. Quebec’s cannabis accessory ban came into effect post-legalization and it’s been hurting small businesses ever since. Unless you are a provincial retailer, it is illegal to sell anything deemed to be a cannabis accessory, including lighters, shirts, […]