A Free-Floating Power

With a calm, collected demeanor, Solomon Johnson has a presence that lets you know he’s ready for the next challenge. When we meet at a cafe in Berkeley, California, Johnson is readying to open a restaurant within his home state of Maryland. He’s just returned from a charity event in Savannah, Georgia, that raised funds for No Kid Hungry—an organization that aims to end childhood hunger in the U.S.—and is on the heels of hosting a six-course CBD-infused meal in Napa Valley the prior week. As a chef working his way through a global health pandemic that decimated the livelihood of those working in the restaurant industry, Johnson has learned how to pivot. After the pandemic pushed him out of his first salary-based position in a kitchen, Johnson jumped on an opportunity to be featured on Chopped 420, a cannabis cooking competition on Discovery+. His restaurant endeavors in Oakland, California, and his success on the show, led him to become the chef for a cannabis-infused dinner series. Still, he assures me he’s not a “cannabis chef,” but rather a “chef who really loves weed.”

“Like any other ingredient in my pantry that I nerd out about, I do research,” Johnson says. “If I want to learn how to use certain food products to create something that people enjoy, I have to do my due diligence. It’s just about studying and experimenting. You know, getting your hands dirty.”

Johnson says his mom planted and watered the seed for him to become a chef. His parents also had a hand in his beginnings with cannabis as he grew up around weed and stole his first joint from his dad.

“The smell of [cannabis] reminds me of home,” he says. 

Photo by Cynthia Glassell Photography

Johnson was born and raised in Montgomery County, Maryland, and studied broadcast journalism at Bowie State, an HBCU, before moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to study culinary management. Now 35, his first job in a kitchen as an 18-year-old working at IHOP gave him the cooking bug.

“It’s like a pirate ship back there,” Johnson says with a laugh. “I was so young, and everyone’s like, you know, drinking and partying after work. You get all this camaraderie, and it’s like a second family because you work so much that you see them more than your family. It was a sense of community, and we’re just like a band of misfits, you know what I mean? It’s just like being a rock star.”

His friends at home started calling themselves the swoop team, an acronym that stands for a “special way of obtaining power,” that he’s transformed under his nickname Chef Swoop to mean a “special way of opening palates.”

“I’m a private chef. I’m a kitchen consultant. I have no home base really in particular other than where I decide to land. So that’s my special way of obtaining my power to do what I need to do is just being free-floating,” he says.

Photo by Cameron Dantley

Johnson moved to Oakland in 2013 and opened a cold-pressed juice bar the following year. After moving on from that concept, he started hosting pop-up dinners under his private catering company. When the pandemic shut down in-person dining, he started the Bussdown with his business partner chef Michael Woods in a CloudKitchen, a delivery-only restaurant facility. The Bussdown, Johnson explains, adopts a Pan-African food ideology, “which means we try to encompass all Black and brown food diasporas.” Within the Bussdown, the meals are influenced by places like Jamaica, Puerto Rico, The Dominican Republic, and the American South. Today Woods operates their fine dining restaurant Oko within Oakland’s iconic Tribune Tower while Johnson embarks on a fast-casual concept for the Bussdown in its first brick-and-mortar expression within a food hall in Washington, D.C.

In the midst of that opening, he’s also been the chef for Cannescape, a new tourism concept that incorporates cannabis-infused fine dining with overnight hotel stays. During a 4/20 dinner hosted in Napa Valley, Johnson presented a meal infused with CBD. The dinner included a smoked yogurt watermelon salad, and cannabis leaves dipped in a tempura batter.

“CBD, after eating it, you’re going to feel medicated, but because it’s non-psychoactive we want to make sure that people feel something,” he says. “So, an indefinite sleep, like not remembering when you fell asleep? That’s priceless. You get home and you’re like, ‘Damn, man, I don’t even remember passing out,’ and then on top of that, the food was delicious and everybody had a good time. That’s an undeniable experience.”

Johnson started experimenting with cannabis infusions when he was a freshman in college, but only jumped into it professionally after filming Chopped 420. He used cannabis flower-infused olive oil to win his victory on Chopped 420, but says he likes using kief for its flavor profile.

Solomon Johnson joins Cannescape founder Chelsea Davis at a 4/20 dinner event. Photo by Cynthia Glassell Photography

“It’s fun to incorporate [cannabis] into vegetable-forward dishes,” he says. “The herbaceousness of cannabis itself is just very complementary to the things that have chlorophyll. It just makes sense that green things taste good with green things.”

In terms of cooking with cannabis, he says he “cooks it like true food” and incorporates cannabis in things like sauces and oils. In the same way that he bucks the idea of being tethered to one place, he finds his creativity in incorporating cannabis beyond desserts.

“I want the food to stand alone because I want it to be delicious. I want it to be undeniable,” Johnson says. “I don’t necessarily want the infusion to be the focal point. You want the food to carry the weight. The infusion is just like the cherry.”

This article was originally published in the August 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.

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From the Archives: Smart People Glut U.S. Labor Market (1979)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Currently there are approximately 140,000 college graduates in America who can’t find work commensurate with their level of education. While through-out the ’60s and ’70s American colleges feverishly pumped out a steadily increasing volume of highly trained and educated people, the local market for their services has actually diminished, thanks to computerization and the reluctance of established industries to branch out into alternative modes of development, such as solar power, geothermal energy, etc. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Planning Association, by 1985 there should be 700,000 overqualified college grads competing for what few specialized brain jobs still exist. Says congressional spokesman Robert Hamrin, “More college students [should] become aware of the oversupply and lower their educational goals.”

High Times Magazine, October 1979

Read the full issue here.

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Sued for Cannabis Odor: Now What?

The movement to legalize marijuana has gained significant ground in the US over the past decade, with more than half the nation now allowing cannabis for either medicinal or adult use. If that means anything, it’s that there’s a heck of a lot of people out there taking full advantage of their legal right to partake in a plant that’s historically known to cause trouble with the law. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly live-and-let-live yet in legal states. Although fewer people are going to prison for cannabis, many are being dragged to court by olfactory-sensitive Americans over odors.

The Washington, DC-based Josefa Ippolito-Shepherd is leading the charge. She recently filed a lawsuit against her neighbor, Mr. Thomas Cackett, a registered medical marijuana patient, complaining that the marijuana smoke from his apartment was wafting into her abode, causing her to suffer a wealth of health issues. Although Judge Ebony Scott didn’t offer the plaintiff any damages, she did, however, find that the smell of marijuana was a nuisance. The judge said that marijuana is legal, but Cackett “doesn’t possess a license to disrupt the full use and enjoyment of one’s land.”

The Outcome is a Real Buzzkill

Cackett must now treat whatever ails him from at least 25 feet away from Ippolito-Shepherd’s residence.

The court’s decision is, of course, being praised by a slew of anti-cannabis kindred spirits who have, too, complained at one time or another about the smell of marijuana from a neighbor infiltrating their property. “From someone living in a condo surrounded by short-term rental units, I agree with the ruling,” Philip of Garden City Beach, South Carolina, said. “You can do whatever you want in your place until it adversely affects your neighbor. There are ways to get that medicinal effect without the smell causing problems for neighbors. We smell it all the time and it can make us sick and it triggers my wife’s asthma.” Plenty of others echoed that sentiment, arguing that, sure, it’s live and let live—but not if I can smell y’all living.

Cannabis users naturally disagree with the ruling. They argue that there are plenty of unpleasant odors that often waft into other people’s apartments that no judge would dare ever rule against. Arvie, a cannabis user from Maryland, contends that some food odors can be pretty pungent as well, so why single out marijuana smoke? “Must I cease and desist if my neighbor dislikes the fragrance of Old Bay?” he asks. “There’s really little difference in comparison.”

Right or wrong, it stands to reason that as marijuana legalization becomes more widespread in the US, more cannabis users could find themselves in court over pot odors, just the same as Cackett. They could lose the fight too and man, well, that really stinks. So, are there any preemptive strikes the average cannabis consumer can take to keep from being slapped with a lawsuit?

California-based real estate attorney Brendon Linder tells Cannabis Now that she wouldn’t worry about having to face the courts about complaints over the smell of marijuana, as further lawsuits will likely be rare. It’s more probable, she says, that states, local municipalities and property owners are going to push back harder against pot smoke. That sort of backlash against the bud is already happening. The Fresno City Council, for example, passed a local regulation in 2021 banning smoking “anything” inside of a multi-unit housing building and in any common areas. It was an obvious jab at cannabis consumers. “I think that this was a bit of over-reach and duplicative since (under current state law) a landlord may include such restrictions in their leases,” Linder said.

Cannabis Smoke Restricted for Years

Unfortunately, tenants have no right to smoke in rental properties and no-smoking restrictions have been prevalent in leasing agreements for decades. Because marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance in the eyes of the federal government, smoke-free and drug-free policies are common to see in rental contracts. Even in legal states, property owners have the right to include this clause in their rental agreements. Many still do. California, where cannabis has been legal in some capacity since 1996, is no exception. “The majority of rental agreements/leases in California for years have contained restrictions against smoking anything in the rental unit/home and common areas,” Linder said, adding that the no smoking policy is a standard clause. That clause specifically mentions vaping and cannabis, along with cigarettes,” she added.

In the case involving Cackett, he told the court that he smokes outside on the patio to keep from violating the no-smoking clause in his lease. He also testified that his landlord allowed him to smoke inside during bad weather. Ippolito-Shepherd sent hundreds of emails to Cackett asking him to stop smoking. Leaning on private nuisance laws is what helped Ippolito-Shepherd gain a victory in her case. It’s a move we could see unhappy neighbors embracing in more jurisdictions.

Using California again as an example, state law defines a nuisance as “anything which is injurious to health, including, but not limited to, the illegal sale of controlled substances, or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property, or unlawfully obstructs the free passage or use, in the customary manner, of any navigable lake, or river, bay, stream, canal, or basin, or any public park, square, street, or highway, is a nuisance.” This law is typically used as a defense against drug houses, but it could be used by anyone wanting to pursue a lawsuit against a neighbor over nuisance cannabis odors. They would first have to prove “injurious to health,” Linder said, but the “effects from cannabis smoke through a shared wall is not a stretch,” she added.

The good news? Linder doesn’t think we’ll see a barrage of these lawsuits where neighbors are sued for cannabis odor filling up court dockets. The bad news is that’s likely because more states and property owners are going to tighten up no-smoking restrictions. “Since tenants will generally be contractually denied from exercising that activity within a rented space, the facts constituting a cause of action for a private nuisance suit will be greatly diminished,” she said. Any tenant that goes against these policies could ultimately find themselves on the street. “With enough complaints, the landlord will issue a “notice to cure,” and if not corrected, then the landlord will evict. Since that is what is generally being done in California, I doubt there has been much use for, or application of, a civil complaint for a private nuisance claim. So, I doubt this will be some sort of rush to the courthouse.”

If Linder has any advice for cannabis users wanting to avoid lawsuits or evictions, it’s simple. “Don’t be a renter or purchase a home that has a shared wall,” she said.

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U.S. Secret Service Investigating Cocaine Reportedly Found in White House

The White House is putting a new meaning to its name. A white substance found in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue reportedly tested positive for cocaine, according to a preliminary field test, The Guardian reports. From fast food chain bathrooms to childhood bedrooms over Christmas, the infamous “white powder” (and we’re not talking about snow) tends to show up where authorities, whether it’s the federal government or someone’s parents, are going to make a stink about it. This time it landed in the Executive Mansion.

The U.S. Secret Service is investigating how the drugs got into the President’s home. Mind you, although Biden may be open-minded to psychedelic research, before you start any rumors, the alleged cocaine was found in a reference library “in an area accessible to tour groups, not in any particular West Wing office,” The Associated Press reports. So, most likely, some tourist ballsy (or stupid) enough to snort a line in the White House is responsible rather than anyone in the federal branch of government. 

The discovery of the substance led to an elevated security alert and a brief evacuation of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue after authorities discovered it during a routine inspection. At the time of its discovery, President Joe Joe Biden was at Camp David, a country retreat for presidents hidden in the woods of Maryland. The president and first lady Jill Biden returned to the White House on Tuesday morning shortly after the discovery. 

A spokesman for the Secret Service, Anthony Guglielmi, told The Washington Post that there is “an investigation into the cause and manner” of how the substance entered the White House. Authorities note that it did not pose a threat. Another official familiar with the investigation said that the amount found was of small quality. So, anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of drug use can deduce that the alleged cocaine was for personal use, not distribution. This gives credibility to the explanation that a tourist probably thought it would be cool (but dangerous) to do some white lines in the White House.

If so, it’s certainly not the first time a civilian used a visit to the White House as an opportunity to get high. The British actor Erkan Mustafa said he did a line of cocaine and smoked some cannabis while visiting the presidential resident during first lady Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” anti-drugs campaign, The Guardian reports. Considering that The War on Drugs was a generally minor component of federal law-enforcement efforts until Ronald Reagan’s presidency, in part fueled by Nancy’s “Just Say No” campaign, which was a privately funded effort to educate children on the dangers of drug use, it’s hard to be too mad at Mustafa for seeking the thrill of doing drugs in the White House at the time (although please do not try it yourself, we don’t want you to go to prison). The feds have locked up enough people for drugs; after Reagan moved into the White House in 1981, his focus on drug penalties led to increased incarcerations for nonviolent drug offenses, from 50,000 in 1980 to 400,000 in 1997.

Iconic stoner Snoop Dogg said he’d smoked weed in a bathroom in 2013, and fellow famous cannabis enthusiast Willie Nelson smoked a joint on the White House roof during the presidency of Jimmy Carter. 

Late last year, Biden announced he will pardon people with federal convictions for simple possession of cannabis in addition to directing General Merrick B. Garland and Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to begin the process of reviewing the classification of cannabis at the federal level. As a reminder, according to the Feds, the branch of government associated with the White House, cocaine is a Schedule II drug, while cannabis is still Schedule I. Meaning, despite all we know about the benefits of marijuana, under federal law, it’s more dangerous than white lines. 

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Cannabis Expungement Law Takes Effect in D.C.

The measure that was approved by the Council of the District of Columbia late last year mandates an “automatic sealing for non-dangerous, non-convictions as well as shorten the waiting periods before a person is eligible to seal their record,” and “would also expand the eligibility of who can seal their record.” The bill was signed by Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in January, but its enactment was delayed due to an arcane part of lawmaking in our nation’s capital. 

Laws in D.C. are subject to congressional oversight and approval––a stipulation that has prevented the district from implementing legal marijuana sales, despite the fact that voters there legalized cannabis back in 2014.

After Bowser signed the cannabis expungement measure in January, the bill was transmitted to Congress. As NORML explained, all “legislation must undergo a 30-day Congressional review prior to becoming law,” and absent a Congressional intervention, the bill will then become law.

That moment is now––or rather, on March 10, when the law officially took effect.

NORML has more on the new law:

“The Act provides for the automatic review and expungement of any convictions or citations specific to marijuana-related offenses that have subsequently been decriminalized or legalized in the District of Columbia, as well as any ‘records related only to simple possession for any quantity of marijuana in violation of D.C. Code § 48-904.01(d)(1) before February 15, 2015.’ It requires all cannabis-specific expungements to be processed by the courts by January 1, 2025.”

Paul Armentano, the deputy director of NORML, hailed the new law.

“Thousands of DC residents unduly carry the burden and stigma of a past conviction for behavior that District lawmakers, most Americans, and a growing number of states, no longer consider to be a crime,” Armenato said. “Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that the courts move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”

In 2021, it appeared that legal cannabis sales might finally be coming to Washington, D.C.

That’s because Senate Democrats at the time introduced a draft of an appropriations bill that did not include the so-called “Harris Rider,” a budget rider named for Republican Congressman Andy Harris of Maryland that had appeared in every such bill since 2014.

The Harris Rider has precluded Washington, D.C. from engaging in legal commercial marijuana sales. 

At the time, Bowser celebrated the rider’s apparent exclusion from the proposed bill.

“The Senate appropriations bill is a critical step in recognizing that in a democracy, D.C. residents should be governed by D.C. values,” Bowser’s office said at the time. “As we continue on the path to D.C. statehood, I want to thank Senate Appropriations Committee Chair, Senator Patrick Leahy, our good friend and Subcommittee Chair, Senator Chris Van Hollen, and, of course, our champion on the Hill, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, for recognizing and advancing the will of D.C. voters. We urge Congress to pass a final spending bill that similarly removes all anti-Home Rule riders, allowing D.C. to spend our local funds as we see fit.”

Activist groups pressured Democrats in Congress to hold firm and ditch the Harris Rider.

“In one hand, Congress continues to make strides in advancing federal marijuana reform grounded in racial justice, while simultaneously being responsible for prohibiting the very jurisdiction that led the country in legalizing marijuana through this lens from being able to regulate it. This conflict and contradiction must end now,” Queen Adesuyi, Senior National Policy Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement last year.

But it was not to be.

The appropriations bill that ultimately emerged last year included the Harris Rider.

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Washington, D.C. Mayor Signs Medical Pot Bill

The recently passed bill, called the Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 (B24-0113), was sponsored by Chairman Phil Mendelson of the Washington, D.C. Council in February 2021. The Washington, D.C. Council voted unanimously to pass on Dec. 20, 2022, followed by Bowser signing the bill on Jan. 30, just two days before a response was due on Feb. 1.

The bill expands the capital’s medical cannabis program in many ways, including lifting the cap on dispensaries, creating new license types, and codifies emergency measures passed in 2021 and 2022.

Originally the amendment proposed implementing an increased cap on dispensaries, but was later revised to include no maximum number (although the Alcoholic Beverage and Cannabis Board is given the power to establish a cap one year from the passage of the bill in January 2024).

It also authorizes the creation of more cannabis license types, including cannabis delivery services, online sales, educational programs, and areas dedicated to cannabis consumption. “At least half” of all licenses given to currently unlicensed businesses will be given to social equity applicants (defined as those who are D.C. residents with low income, have spent time in prison for cannabis-related charges, or are related to someone who was affected by the War on Drugs).

Medical cannabis was legalized in Washington D.C. in 2010, and an attempt to legalize adult-use cannabis was passed by voters in 2014 through Initiative 71. While it allows possess of up to two ounces of cannabis and home cultivation, it also allows adults to gift up to one ounce of weed to another adult, which created the loophole of gifting (or a way to get around cannabis sale restrictions by selling merch or apparel with a gift of cannabis for free). The Medical Cannabis Amendment Act of 2022 seeks to target those unlicensed businesses, giving them a path to obtain a legal license.

The act also codifies emergency measures that were implemented for cannabis. This includes the emergency measure that provides support for Washington, D.C. patients with expired cards and help struggling dispensaries as well, which was passed in November 2021. In July 2022, Bowser signed a bill allowing adults to self-certify themselves as medical cannabis patients.

Overall, enforcement action related to these changes won’t be implemented until 315 days have passed since the signing of the bill, which would be later this year in December. It also needs congressional review before officially taking effect.

Also recently in Washington, D.C., Mendelson the Second Chance Amendment Act of 2021 (B24-0063) is under congressional review. This would implement automatic expungement through “automatic sealing for non-dangerous, non-convictions as well as shorten the waiting periods before a person is eligible to seal their record. It would also expand the eligibility of who can seal their record.” All expungements would need to be processed before Jan. 1, 2025. If congress doesn’t make a move against the bill, its projected law date is set for March 16, 2023.

Mendelson also recently introduced another bill (B25-0052) on Jan. 19, which aims to legalize adult-use cannabis sales. The proposal includes a “Reparations for Victims of the War on Cannabis Fund,” which would offer anywhere between $5,000 to $80,000 to pay those who were negatively affected by cannabis criminalization. It also includes a “Cannabis Equity and Opportunity Fund,” which would gather up 40% of revenue to go toward loans or grants for applicants affected by criminalization. Additionally, the bill details a plan to reinvest cannabis tax revenue into community services such as mental health treatments and youth development.

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Biden Mentions Freeing Prisoners with Cannabis Convictions in MLK Day Speech

On Jan. 16, President Joe Biden spoke at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day breakfast event in Washington D.C., which was hosted by the National Action Network. In his speech, he briefly included a mention of consumers in prison for cannabis convictions. “And one other thing about equal justice. I’m keeping my promise,” he said in his speech. “No one—I’ll say it again—no one should be in federal prison for the mere possession of marijuana. No one.”

“In addition to that, they should be released from prison and completely pardoned and their entire record expunged so that if they have to ask, ‘Have you ever been [convicted]?’ You can honestly say, ‘No.’”

During his speech, he also mentioned his efforts to help release Brittney Griner, the all-star WNBA athlete who was detained and sentenced in Russia for possessing a small amount of cannabis oil. “And we brought Brittney Griner home just in time for Christmas.  And we have more to bring home as well,” he said briefly.

Biden appears committed to his promise to prevent citizens from being convicted and sent to federal prison for cannabis crimes, especially since his initial announcement in October 2022. Previously, Biden signed an infrastructure bill in November 2021, which included improvements for cannabis studies. In December 2022, he signed a bill called the Medical Marijuana and Cannabidiol Research Expansion Act which “establishes a new registration process for conducting research on marijuana and for manufacturing marijuana products for research purposes and drug development.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Sentencing Commission (USSC) voted to propose an amendment that would redefine simple cannabis possession in order to help guide judges preceding over cannabis possession cases. The USSC also released a report on Jan. 10 which analyzes data on cannabis possession sentences. During Fiscal Year 2021, 4,405 people received extra points on their criminal history record because of a cannabis possession conviction, and 1,765 entered a “higher criminal history category” because of that conviction. The report also found a decline in the number of people convicted for federal simple possession, from 2,172 in Fiscal Year 2014 to just 145 in Fiscal Year 2021.

The USSC initially estimated in an October 2022 report that 6,577 people could potentially receive pardons.

Biden’s pardon announcement in October has led other state governors to take similar action. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced that he would be exploring statewide weed pardons, and later signing an executive order in November to allow medical cannabis use. More than 1,450 Arizona residents with federal cannabis possession convictions were pardoned on Oct. 25, 2022. 

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued more than 45,000 pardons in November 2022. “We are a state, and a nation, of second chances. Today, I am taking steps to right the wrongs of a flawed, inequitable, and outdated criminal justice system in Oregon when it comes to personal marijuana possession,” Brown said in a statement. “For the estimated 45,000 individuals who are receiving a pardon for prior state convictions of marijuana possession, this action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions.”

Most recently, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf granted 369 pardons on Jan. 12, which adds to a total of 2,540. “I have taken this process very seriously—reviewing and giving careful thought to each and every one of these 2,540 pardons and the lives they will impact,” Wolf said. “Every single one of the Pennsylvanians who made it through the process truly deserves their second chance, and it’s been my honor to grant it.”

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Afroman Announces 2024 Run for President

Hip-hop artist and cannabis community icon Afroman announced over the weekend that he is running for president of the United States in 2024. Afroman, who became a hero of the weed crowd with his song “Because I Got High” in 2000, announced his bid for the White House on Sunday during a concert performance at the Black River Coliseum in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, according to a report from TMZ. Two days later, he took to social media to spread his message to a broader audience.

“My Fellow Americans, there comes a time in the course of human events when change must be affected,” Afroman wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “That time is now. Americans are suffering, and the status quo is no longer acceptable. Inflation is out of control. The economy is in shambles. The housing market is staggering. Politicians are corrupt. Bad apples are allowed to remain in law enforcement, amongst our noble and brave officers.”

“It is my immense honor and pleasure to formally announce Afroman as an independent candidate for President of the United States of America,” he added.

Afroman, aka Joseph Edgar Foreman, was born in Los Angeles in 1974 and got an early start in the music business by recording songs and selling them to his classmates by the time he was in eighth grade. He released his first album in 1998 before relocating to Mississippi, where he made contacts in the music business who would eventually produce and perform on “Because I Got High.” The song, which detailed how marijuana could interfere with the chores of modern life, became a hit in 2001, the year the track was featured in films including Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Afroman released his latest album, Lemon Pound Cake, in September.

Afroman Pledges To Be ‘Cannabis Commander in Chief’

Referring to himself as the “Cannabis Commander in Chief” and the “Pot Head of State” in his social media post, Afroman promised to make cannabis reform and other issues a priority of his campaign for president.

“Medicinal plants are criminalized, while pharmaceutical companies enrich themselves on chemicals with unknown side effects,” he wrote. “The media sows the seeds of hatred 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year. They attempt to divide based on race, religion, gender, sexual preference, and every other category that they can think of.”

In a separate post on Instagram, Afroman outlined eight priorities for his 2024 presidential campaign. First and foremost was decriminalizing cannabis and “other substances with low harm profiles.” He noted that federal law still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, the strictest classification under the nation’s drug laws. He promised change, saying he would deschedule and decriminalize cannabis and launch a public service ad campaign to publicize the benefits of the plant.

Afroman also pledged to make criminal justice reforms, noting that more than 40,000 people are incarcerated for cannabis at any given time, at a cost of more than $1.5 billion per year. He committed to commuting the sentences of all nonviolent federal cannabis prisoners and said he would “work hard to right the wrongs of the past, in all areas where Americans have been failed within the criminal justice system.”

He also called for law enforcement reforms, an end to all foreign aid, and reparations for African Americans. Other priorities of the campaign include tax breaks for professional athletes to encourage celebratory displays, the legalization of prostitution, and the “promotion of unity, peace, and love.”

“We need a candidate that is truly elected by the people, and for the people. We need a man that can step up and lead with a firm hand,” wrote Afroman. “The people are starved for a Commander in Chief, that leads from a place of love and not hate. In these dark times, we need a leader that truly embodies the American dream.”

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Activists To Demonstrate For Cannabis Clemency in D.C.

Hip hop icons Redman and M1 of Dead Prez will join cannabis activists in Washington, D.C. on Monday to protest the Biden administration’s failure to release people imprisoned on federal marijuana convictions. The rally, which is being billed as an act of civil disobedience, will bring together cannabis policy reform groups including Students for Sensible Drug Policy, D.C. Marijuana Justice, the Last Prisoner Project and Maryland Marijuana Justice as members protest in front of the White House on October 24.

Steve DeAngelo, a cannabis policy reform leader and co-founder of the Last Prisoner Project, said that he has helped organize Monday’s demonstration to bring attention to the plight of those imprisoned on nonviolent marijuana charges, often for decades. Activists hope the protest will spur the White House to take action on cannabis clemency before the November general election.

“As the nation heads into the midterms, I am calling for one simple thing— that President Biden keep the promise he made during the last election cycle, to release those people still serving prison sentences for cannabis convictions,” DeAngelo wrote in an email to High Times. “As the White House itself has admitted, the recently announced pardons will not free one single person.”

On October 6, President Joseph Biden announced that he had issued an executive order pardoning all people who have been convicted on federal charges of simple marijuana possession. An analysis of Biden’s executive order conducted by the New York Times estimated that the pardons will apply to about 6,500 people convicted of federal weed possession charges between 1992 and 2021 and thousands more with similar convictions in Washington, D.C. But the action provides no relief for cannabis prisoners currently behind bars, most on marijuana distribution and related charges. 

“At a minimum, if President Biden really wants the support of cannabis voters, as a show of good faith, he should immediately release at least 100 of the 2800 federal prisoners currently serving time on non-violent cannabis charges,” DeAngelo said. “If President Biden refuses to act, I will gather at the White House on October 24 along with hip hop legends M1 and Redman, and hundreds of other cannabis activists, to hold the President’s feet to the fire.”

M1 said, “I decided to participate in this action because of the inaction of this government to step on the right side of his/herstory. My cannabis community deserves freedom and justice. And with my cultural activist comrades, we will keep our finger on the pulse of the People. Free ‘em ALL!”

Biden Administration Exploring Rescheduling Cannabis

Biden’s announcement earlier this month also included a call for governors to take similar action on cannabis clemency at the state level. The president also directed Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to review cannabis’ status as a Schedule 1 drug. Despite the historic nature of Biden’s pardons, activists argue that the president did not go far enough.

“I’m outraged that the President would make an executive action on cannabis but release zero of our incarcerated friends and family,” Kat Ebert, board chair of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, said in a statement from the group. “He’s forcing us to raise our voices to be heard in order for the wider public to understand cannabis prisoners are still not free. On October 24th we plan to make it clear to the Democratic leadership that we won’t accept mostly symbolic actions. We demand clemency for all cannabis prisoners.”

DeAngelo is the co-founder of the Last Prisoner Project, a group working to free those imprisoned on cannabis charges. In addition to the activist groups involved, formerly incarcerated individuals and local cannabis freedom fighters will also take part in the protest.

“If President Biden truly wants to repair the harms of our nation’s unjust policy of prohibition, this initial progress must be followed up with bolder action—action that would actually lead to freedom for cannabis prisoners,” said Sarah Gersten, LPP executive director and general counsel.

Monday’s demonstration is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. local time at the gates of the White House, with Redman and M1 slated to appear to join the call for cannabis clemency. The crowd will gather at the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Square before engaging in expected civil disobedience nearby, with the goal of drawing attention to the lack of people released from federal prison as a result of Biden’s executive order.

“DCMJ is joining protests to free all cannabis prisoners because we’ve simply waited too long,” said Adam Eidinger, co-founder of D.C. Marijuana Justice, a group that has spearheaded cannabis policy reform efforts in the nation’s capital. “We are excited that students are leading this effort to make tangible gains on freeing cannabis prisoners whose continued confinement is immoral and unjustified.”

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Washington, D.C. Cannabis Company Sues City, Demands Return of $750,000

A Washington, D.C. cannabis company called Mr. Nice Guys DC recently sued the city for seizing more than $750,000 in cash during raids that occurred in 2021.

Mr. Nice Guys DC co-owners Damion West and Gregory Wimsatt seek justice for the money the police seized. “I’m going to be a voice for the people who don’t have a voice,” West told News4. “I’m not going to stand for it. We have done nothing wrong. We’re operating in a gray space that they created, and the only thing we want is our money back.”

“Like, where is the justice? They come in, kick in our door, raid us, you know take our money,” Wimsatt said.

In August 2021, police raided two Mr. Nice Guys DC dispensaries. The lawsuit describes the raid in greater detail, showing how the police took “$67,000 and destroyed two ATMs at the shop while searching the Ninth Street location. A spokesperson for DC’s Metropolitan Police Dept. (MPD) said three people were arrested at the store and charged with possession with intent to distribute marijuana and possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. The U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia chose not to prosecute those who were arrested,” the lawsuit reads.

The case against Mr. Nice Guys DC was dropped, but the co-owners never got their cash back. “Defendant District of Columbia’s D.C. police (MPD) routinely and unlawfully holds cash seized from individuals who have been arrested—many of whom are never charged with a crime—for months or even years past the point where the government might have any continuing legitimate interest in retaining said cash while providing no process to challenge that retention,” the lawsuit states.

“It’s been close to about $800,000 in product and cash. What we specifically asked for in this case was just the cash. That’s not including loss of damages in product. We’ve had other situations where they’ve actually banned us from our location,” Wimsatt explained.

The co-owners’ attorney, Charles Walton, told The Washington Post that the main goal of the lawsuit is to retrieve the seized cash. “D.C. police failed to return the seized money after investigations concluded and related criminal charges were withdrawn or dismissed,” Walton said. “Our goal is to have them produce the information associated with the chain of custody of that money, and to just return it.”

Cannabis dispensaries operate in a gray area in Washington D.C. Adult-use cannabis is legal, as voters approved it back in 2014, and possession, home cultivation, and gifting is allowed. Due to the “Harris rider,” (named in reference to Rep. Andy Harris) a Congressional rider that has been included in the 2014 omnibus bill prevents sales from being legal. To work around this, local dispensaries like Mr. Nice Guys DC sell non-cannabis items and customers receive cannabis as a “gift” with purchase.

In August 2022, Washington, D.C. Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration announced that it would be inspecting unlicensed cannabis businesses. By September, the inspections were delayed, creating more uncertainty about the future of these businesses.

Luckily, medical cannabis patients have remained a focus for Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who signed a bill in July to allow patients to self-certify themselves for a cannabis prescription, rather than waiting for a doctor’s recommendation. “We have made it a priority over the years to build a more patient-centric medical marijuana program and this legislation builds on those efforts,” Bowser said. “We know that by bringing more medical marijuana patients into the legal marketplace in a timely manner and doing more to level the playing field for licensed medical marijuana providers, we can protect residents, support local businesses, and provide clarity to the community.”

On October 20, Bowser also signed a bill that allows tourists to self-certify for medical cannabis as well. With this new law, tourists may obtain a 30-day registration to purchase from dispensaries when they visit the nation’s capital.

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