“At least a 51 percent majority, or controlling interest, in the applicant, must be held by a person(s), who has or have resided in Washington state for six months prior to the application date, and meets at least two of the following qualifications: lived in a disproportionately impacted area (DIA) in Washington state for a minimum of five years between 1980 and 2010 … OR applicant or a family member has been arrested or convicted of a cannabis offense; OR household income was less than the median household income within the state of Washington ($82,400).”
According to Axios, applicants “who have served time in prison for a cannabis offense will get higher priority when it comes to distributing the social equity licenses,” as will those applicants who “make less than the state’s median income, and who have lived in areas with high rates of drug convictions, poverty, and unemployment.”
Social equity provisions have become the norm in states that legalize recreational cannabis for adults, as advocates have stressed the importance of remedying harms inflicted on individuals and communities in the era of prohibition.
But in Washington, which became one of the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana back in 2012, those social equity provisions did not come until later.
The state created the social equity cannabis program in 2020, when the state’s Democratic governor, Jay Inslee, signed a bill into law that provided “the opportunity to provide a limited number of cannabis retail licenses to individuals disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws.”
“The LCB recognizes that cannabis prohibition laws were disproportionately enforced for decades and that the cumulative harms from this enforcement remain today,” the agency explains on its website. “In 2020, in response to a policy priority identified by the Board, the LCB developed agency-request legislation created the state Social Equity program, the Social Equity in Cannabis Task Force and the opportunity to provide a limited number of cannabis retail licenses to individuals disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws.”
But the state clearly still has a lot of work to do; as Axios noted, more than 10 years after the voters there made history, Washington’s cannabis industry “remains dominated by white entrepreneurs.”
When it comes to cannabis photography, Marvin Lee Stohs is a name worth remembering.
Working out of Washington State, the 30-year-old, better known online as Surface Area, has quickly become an in-demand photographer of buds, batters and all things weed. Known for his insanely detailed shots — what Stohs calls “a glimpse into an alien world” — the lensman’s indelible work has netted him more than 35k followers on Instagram alone. Stohs’ success isn’t a simple matter of luck, however and it doesn’t come from simply pointing a camera and hitting the shutter. His rocky journey to the top has been paved with hard work at every step along the way.
A self-taught photographer, Stohs launched his professional career nearly a decade ago when he found work with international clients, as well as several Burlington, VT-area head shops that hired him to photograph vaporizers. But, starting in 2017, the success of Initiative 502 in Washington State (passed in 2012) inspired Stohs to switch gears and test his talents in the then-nascent legal cannabis industry. Long before deciding to focus on super macro cannabis photography, Stohs says that he listened to his gut and combined his dual passions — photography and cannabis — and that proved to be extraordinarily valuable.
“Vaping was becoming kind of unpopular at that time, and as soon as weed became legal, I knew there was going to be some type of market for photographers in the industry,” Stohs said.
Stohs says his own approach and ultimate aesthetic in much of his work is inspired by some of the biggest names in cannabis photography, including Sean Moore (Dankshire) and Erik Christiansen (Nugshots). At the same time, the budding photographer also knew it was vital that he get a body of relevant work under his belt as quickly as possible.
“I basically did what every beginning cannabis photographer does,” Stohs said of his first attempt at establishing a name for himself. “I went to the weed shop, bought one of my favorite products sold by the company, took pictures of it, and posted it on social media and tagged them. Then you hope that they’ll take the bait and send you a direct message the next day asking about your pictures.”
He was an instant hit. Almost immediately a popular Washington cannabis brand reached out to Stohs and commissioned him for work — some of which was later featured in High Times. It was, according to Stohs, exactly the type of recognition and cache he was hoping for. And things have only gotten better from there.
Today, Stohs’ work is collected on Instagram, where a scroll through his feed reveals a veritable kaleidoscope of far-out, expertly captured images of cannabis in all forms. Whether he’s soliciting followers to guess the weight of a jar of badder or sharing his latest shots from Washington’s top cultivators and extractors, the business of being a cannabis photographer is one Stohs conducts exclusively through the ubiquitous social media platform.
But as legions of influencers, brand and content creators can attest, life as a cannabis-affiliated Instagram poster is also one frequently fraught with fear and anxiety, due to the platform’s seemingly never-ending crusade against weed.
“It’s really difficult to be a content creator in today’s age, especially with how many restrictions are being put on cannabis content shared on Instagram and Facebook,” Stohs weighs. “I constantly live in a state of anxiety every time I press ‘share’ on any posts, on any account that I work with. I’m worried that my posts might get flagged or that my account may be deleted for the tenth time.”
In total, Stohs says his main Instagram handle @surface_area999 has already been pulled a staggering 15 times. Though he’s been able to successfully recover it in each instance, Stohs explained that cannabis photographers relying on the platform remain in an anxiety-inducing situation, without much hope for change.
“That’s my entire business,” he says. “I don’t have any other websites or social media platforms. I run my entire business on Instagram, so it’s very, very stressful for me to be living like this all the time. I’ve also seen a lot of social influencers who are switching to different apps and kicking themselves in the butt because they lost their 60k follower-strong account that they’d worked more than a decade to build. I hope it gets better, but I just don’t think it will.”
While Stohs’ nerves surrounding Instagram show no signs of waning, he’s on firmer ground — almost upbeat — when it comes to the issue of destigmatizing cannabis. Recalling his own upbringing, Stohs shared that his mother was once fervently anti-cannabis, going so far as to tell him that anyone who smoked weed would “never amount to anything.” Though the process wasn’t easy, Stohs says his mom has subsequently come around on the subject. Now, as a father himself, he’s enjoying the results of taking a decidedly different approach to cannabis with his own daughter.
“When I was growing up, I always felt afraid to get in trouble because of weed,” he said. “So, today, being able to sit on my back porch and watch my daughter run around with pot leaves from weed plants we’re growing and showing her how to grow and how to trim… it’s just a super remarkable feeling. In my daughter’s young mind, it’s got to be the complete opposite of how we felt as children. I come home with weed, and she tells me it’s beautiful because I’ve taught her that weed is, in fact, a flower.”
Beyond his efforts to normalize cannabis within his own immediate family, Stohs’ striking photography also gives the rest of us another medium to appreciate the plant’s natural qualities and transcendent beauty. One of his new favorite approaches is objective microscopic photography, in which fields of glistening trichomes and rich globs of concentrate are revealed in detail unavailable to the naked eye. Even though Stohs is the one taking the photos, he says he’s still personally blown away by what his camera reveals.
“At this point, a lot of us are getting into objective microscopic photography. We’re taking pictures that you can’t see unless you’re using a fucking microscope!” he says incredulously. “Look, a lot of people might think that they’re ‘just taking pictures’ but I disagree. No, I don’t take pictures; I take super-macro pictures of alien worlds within plants. The moment I saw how otherworldly this stuff looks in this format, it just immediately had me hooked.”
This story was originally published in issue 42 of the print edition of Cannabis Now.
A Washington State legislative committee last week approved a bill that would permit interstate cannabis commerce between companies in states that have legalized marijuana. The measure, House Bill 1159, was advanced by the House Regulated Substances and Gaming Committee with a 6-5 vote on February 14. Passage of the bill comes one month after a legislative committee voted to approve companion legislation in the Washington State senate.
The bill would permit state officials to reach agreements governing interstate cannabis commerce with other states that have legalized marijuana. To be enacted, the bill requires other states to adopt similar policies and for the federal government to approve a plan authorizing cannabis trade across state lines. Federal authorization could come in the form of legislation that allows interstate cannabis commerce or through a legal opinion from the US Department of Justice “allowing or tolerating” cannabis companies to do business with regulated entities in other states, according to the text of the measure. Democratic state Rep. Sharon Wylie, the lead sponsor of the legislation in the Washington House of Representatives, said that the bill continues the work in other states to lay the groundwork for such a policy change.
“This bill attempts to mirror the efforts that are taking place in other recreational legal cannabis states by preparing for interlocal agreements and interstate commerce should the federal government change the rules,” Wylie said before the vote by the House Regulated Substances and Gaming Committee on February 14.
Other States Already On Board
California and Oregon have already approved proposals to allow cannabis companies to engage in interstate trade, and a bill to permit such trade was introduced in the New Jersey state senate last summer. But even with multiple jurisdictions on board, transfers of marijuana products across state lines will not begin until the federal government approves such a plan.
A companion bill in the Washington state senate was approved by the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee with a voice vote last month. At a hearing for the bill, Sen. Karen Keiser, the chair of the committee, said that it was important to take “early action” on the legislation, especially given that it “seems to have pretty substantial support,” according to a report from Marijuana Moment. The companion bill is now being considered by the Senate Rules Committee.
Allowing cannabis interstate commerce would open new markets to independent operators in the industry. Jason C. Adelstone, an associate attorney with the cannabis and psychedelics law firm Vicente LLP, said that a plan would also benefit companies that are already doing business in more than one regulated market.
“Currently, to operate in multiple states, a business must establish operations in each state in which they desire to be licensed,” Adelstone said. “If the interstate transport of marijuana is federally legalized, then an operator could establish a large cultivation facility in, say, Arizona or Southern California that could supply demand throughout the country. This would increase the customer base of a state-legal marijuana business without substantially increasing the cost of satisfying that demand.”
Adelstone notes that the legislation would also benefit cannabis operators in other ways. The bill could help by stabilizing prices on cannabis, writing that “any oversupply of the local market could be sold to out-of-state retailers, which would increase revenue and decrease current costs variable associated with oversupply.”
“Another potential benefit to the federal government permitting interstate transport of marijuana is environmental. Indoor cultivation facilities, like those needed in the northern, colder states, have a huge environmental footprint,” he added. “By allowing interest commerce, these indoor facilities could theoretically be replaced by outdoor cultivation facilities located in places like Arizona and Southern California, which could help with the Biden administration’s goal of reducing carbon emissions.”
Federal Approval Required
While the movement to permit interstate cannabis commerce is making progress at the state level, enacting such a plan requires the approval of Congress or the Justice Department. Adelstone says, however, that such a proposal is unlikely to receive federal approval in the near future, noting that the political climate in Washington, DC would likely prevent a cannabis interstate commerce bill from being passed and signed into law during President Joseph Biden’s current term in office.
“The Democrats are focused on including social equity provisions into any federal marijuana bill, which, depending on how extensive such provisions are, would likely keep the necessary nine Republicans from supporting any such bill in the Senate,” Adelstone wrote. “Additionally, with a presidential election on the horizon, the Republicans are not likely to support giving President Biden a win on an issue that is very popular with voters. SAFE banking and addressing 280E are the primary focus of the industry right now, so I doubt many operators would spend much political capital on pushing an interstate commerce bill.”
The Washington Senate this week approved a bill that would protect cannabis users from pre-employment job discrimination. The measure, Senate Bill 5123, was passed by the state Senate on Wednesday by a vote of 28-21 and will now be considered by the Washington House of Representatives.
Under the bill, employers would be barred from refusing to hire a job candidate based solely on the results of pre-employment screening for cannabis use. The legislation does not include protection for other substances, so screenings for other drugs would still be allowed during the hiring process.
“It comes down to discriminating against people who use cannabis,” state Senator Karen Keiser, the lead sponsor of the bill and the chair of the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, said in a statement cited by online news site The Center Square. “For people using a legal substance, having a pre-employment test like this is just plain unfair, and we should stop it.”
“At a time when the number of unfilled positions is extremely high, we shouldn’t be limiting our workforce by deterring qualified job applicants,” she added. “This legislation opens the door for people who might otherwise not even apply for a position.”
The legislation does not apply to some jobs including positions in the airline and aerospace industries. The measure also does not apply to jobs that require a federal background check or security clearance.
While the bill protects potential employees from drug tests while applying for a job, Keiser noted that the bill does not prevent employers from subjecting their workers to drug screenings for weed during employment. Under the measure, companies will still be allowed to fire employees who test positive for cannabis in order to maintain a drug-free workplace. Employers could also subject employees to a drug test for cannabis use after a workplace accident or if they suspect a worker is impaired by cannabis while on the job.
“If your employer wants to test you every week after you’re hired, they’re still able to do that,” Keiser said. “This is simply opening the front door of getting into a job. Because too many people who see that they have to take a drug test to even apply, don’t even apply.”
Washington Legalized Recreational Pot In 2012
Washington legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 with the passage of Initiative 502, a ballot measure that was supported by nearly 56% of voters. But while the measure protected cannabis users from prosecution, the initiative did not include protections for workers who use weed off the job.
Nevada became the first state to protect job applicants from pre-employment drug tests for cannabis in 2019. Since then, other states have also passed employment protection measures, including a California bill protecting workers from discrimination based on their use of marijuana while off the clock that was passed last year.
Cannabis advocates who support employment protections note that current drug screenings can only determine the presence of cannabis metabolites, which can remain in the system long after using marijuana. Burl Bryson, executive director of The Cannabis Alliance, told lawmakers at a public hearing last month that potential job candidates can consume cannabis legally “and still test positive … weeks later.”
“If the same approach were applied to alcohol, employers would refuse employment to anyone who enjoyed a beer or a glass of wine on the weekend,” said Bryson. “We all know that this is not a workable standard.”
“It simply doesn’t make sense to base an employment decision on that kind of unreliable outcome and test,” Keiser told her colleagues in the Senate before Wednesday’s vote.
Brian Fitzpatrick, CEO of the cannabis industry compliance platform Qredible, said that there are legitimate reasons for some employers to maintain a drug-free workplace. But he added that “exceptions need to be made, particularly for medical cannabis users, but also for responsible adult users.”
“There are policies that exist that govern not showing up for work intoxicated under the influence of alcohol, and cannabis should be no different,” Fitzpatrick wrote in an email to High Times. “Unlike alcohol, there is research suggesting that cannabis use does not significantly impair job performance, as such, employers should re-evaluate their policies regarding cannabis use to create a more equitable approach to cannabis users.”
Cannabis consumers in Washington state may soon be subject to a “dank tax.”
Lawmakers there have introduced a bill that would tax marijuana products based on the percentage of THC.
In other words: the stronger the weed, the higher the price.
“Research indicates that between 12 and 50% of psychotic disorders could be prevented if high potency cannabis products were not available,” said Washington state House Rep. Lauren Davis, one of the sponsors of the bill, as quoted by local news station KXLY.
Davis believes that the measure is necessary to combat what she describes as a “crisis.”
“If we fail to act now to counter the emerging public health crisis created by high potency cannabis products, we will soon have another epidemic on our hands,” Davis added.
“[Thirty-seven] percent of the selling price on each retail sale of cannabis-infused products, useable cannabis with a THC concentration less than 35 percent, and cannabis concentrates with a THC concentration less than 35 percent,” the summary read. “[Fifty] percent of the selling price on each retail sale of cannabis concentrates and useable cannabis with a THC concentration of 35 percent or greater but less than 60 percent; and 65 percent of the selling price on each retail sale of cannabis concentrates and useable cannabis with a THC concentration greater than 60 percent.”
“Marketing and advertising prohibitions on advertising a product that contains greater than 35 percent total THC … Prohibits cannabis retail outlets from selling a cannabis product with greater than 35 percent total THC to a person who is under age 25 who is not a qualifying patient or designated provider … Requires cannabis retailers to provide point-of-sale information to consumers who purchase certain cannabis products and requires the Liquor and Cannabis Board to develop optional training for retail staff … Requires mandatory health warning labels for cannabis products that contain greater than 35 percent total THC … Requires cannabis products to be labeled with the number of serving units of THC included in the package, and with an expression of a standard THC unit in volume or amount of product … Directs $1 million annually from the Dedicated Cannabis Account for targeted public health messages and social marketing campaigns.”
Not everyone is on board with the proposal, which has a dozen sponsors.
Carol Ehrhart, who owns a dispensary in the state, told KXLY that the proposed tax increase could lead to some adverse consequences.
“There’s this, you know, idea that the THC is going to get me further along. The higher that we make those prices, the more apt someone is to buy the higher priced item because they think they’re getting more bang for their buck when they’re really not,” Ehrhart told the station.
“A product that we’re selling right now for $40 that’s over the 60% threshold would go to $47, almost $48. You know, that’s seven or $8 in taxes on one piece of product,” Ehrhart added.
Washington became one of the first two states to legalize recreational cannabis in 2012, when voters there approved a measure that legalized possession and paved the way for a regulated market. (Colorado also approved a legalization measure the same year.)
Gassy and pungent or fruity and sweet, dank herb can really offer the senses a scintillating experience. But when it comes to the reason why certain cannabis cultivars smell and taste the way they do, the truth is in the terpenes.
Terpenes are a diverse group of compounds produced by a variety of plants. Thousands of terpenes are found in nature, but there appear to be a select number present in cannabis, where they also play a huge part in the varying effects each unique strain offers.
Puffin Farms — a Washington-based, Clean Green Certified, sungrown, adult-use cannabis company about to enter their seventh grow season — takes terps seriously.
“We only select strains [to cultivate] that have fragrant terpene profiles,” said Jade Stefano, co-founder and CEO of Puffin Farms.
Also a board-certified naturopathic physician, Stefano insists the team personally tests any potential cultivars prior to agreeing to produce them.
“We have to love how the aroma comes across, as well as how it tastes when we smoke it,” she said.
The company also works to preserve the robust terpene profiles of the strains they grow, gaining a fan base for their wide product catalogue, which includes bud, rosin, bubble hash, “trifecta” joints dipped in CO2 oil and rolled in kief or bubble hash, and their patented EVFO (short for extra virgin flower oil) concentrate.
“Our focus has been on terpenes ever since Puffin was started,” Director of Extracts Jeff Wilhoit said. “They’re the number one thing we strive to keep in their natural state. They’re just as important as cannabinoids to modulate your high.”
Not All Marijuana
Stefano is quick to point out that just because an individual cultivar contains certain terpenes, does not mean their outcomes will be the same from strain to strain.
“Terpenes synergize in different ways depending on ratios [within the plant], so you may not get an expected effect,” she said, noting that the entourage effect, or the understanding that the compounds present in cannabis work best in synergy with each other, is the true explanation for how strains work.
“You’re never going to get that beautiful, complicated flavor from an attempt at recreating a cannabis strain.”
For example, if you see limonene present, you may assume it’s an uplifting strain, but the presence of other terps may actually make its effects more relaxing. Additionally, every person’s physiology is unique, meaning individual results may vary.
Some producers are also using plant-derived terpenes (or even synthetically produced terps) in their concentrates, mostly to cut costs. Consumers must be diligent in reading product labels in order to know what they’re actually ingesting.
Stefano argues there’s no way to synthesize what Mother Nature already offers.
“I don’t think you can ever achieve what the plant will achieve when it expresses its own genetic potential of a terpene profile,” she said. “You’re never going to get that beautiful, complicated flavor from an attempt at recreating a cannabis strain.”
So how do you figure out which cultivar is best for you? Researching anecdotal accounts of strain effects is definitely key, but the team at Puffin Farms also recommends keeping a personal journal outlining your experiences after consuming different terpene profiles.
Stefano also says to follow your nose. “People should take some time to smell their cannabis and really use their nose to guide them,” she said. “If you like the smell of it, chances are that’s a really good fit for your physiology and for your preferences, because that aroma that makes you feel good when you sniff is going to have a similar effect when you go to consume it.”
This story was originally published in the print edition of Cannabis Now.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) has officially announced that it will open up social equity applications on March 1. The window for applications will only last 30 days, ending by 5 p.m. on the deadline.
Only 44 licenses that were previously “forfeited, canceled, revoked, or never issued” are being made available to those who qualify. Applicants must have been living in a disproportionately impacted area (DIA), which is defined as having a high poverty rate, participation in “income-based federal programs,” unemployment, and rate of convictions, between 1980 to 2010. Applicants must have been convicted of a cannabis-related offense themselves, or know a family member who was convicted as well. Finally, the applicant’s income must be less than the state average, which is $82,400.
The LCB has set up webinars for Jan. 24 and 28 in order to assist potential applicants through the licensing process.
While social equity has become a standard in the industry, especially in states that have only recently legalized adult-use cannabis, Washington State’s initial legalization did not include these provisions.
“The 2012 ballot measure Initiative 502, which legalized recreational use of cannabis by adults, did not include provisions or create programs to acknowledge the disproportionate harms the enforcement of cannabis laws had on certain populations and communities,” the LCB stated. “The LCB recognizes that cannabis prohibition laws were disproportionately enforced for decades and that the cumulative harms from this enforcement remain today.”
In March 2020, Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 2870 (which was introduced to the legislature by Rep. Eric Pettigrew), which took effect on June 12, 2020. This created a state social equity program, a Social Equity Task Force, “…and the opportunity to provide a limited number of cannabis retail licenses to individuals disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of cannabis prohibition laws.”
Currently, there is a new bill being proposed that aims to improve upon the original social equity bill. Senate Bill 5080’s first hearing was held on Jan. 10 with the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee, Washington CannaBusiness Association, and Craft Cannabis Coalition. Many who were present discussed their concerns with market oversaturation, asking that the number of social equity licenses be reduced.
In December 2022, a Headset report found that annual cannabis sales in Washington State were in decline by about $120 million in comparison to data from the previous year. “From March 2020 to March 2021, legacy cannabis markets saw drastic increases in growth,” wrote Headset about the decrease. “In the beginning months of the pandemic for example, Colorado’s total adult-use sales grew by 63% from February to July 2020.” However, the increase of sales during the pandemic prompted an unusual meteoric rise. “What you’re seeing as a ‘dip’ is really sales returning to normal growth as more people returned to in-person work,” said LCB spokesperson Brian Smith. He added that this downward trend isn’t isolated to just Washington state, but is being seen across the country in other legal states as well.
Washington State also made strides in 2022 to work on other outdated laws. In April 2022, Gov. Inslee signed House Bill 1210, which replaced all references of “marijuana” in state legislation with “cannabis.” According to bill sponsor Rep. Melanie Morgan, the connotations behind marijuana needed to be removed. “The term ‘marijuana’ itself is pejorative and racist,” Morgan said. “As recreational marijuana use became more popular, it was negatively associated with Mexican immigrants. Even though it seems simple because it’s just one word, the reality is, we’re healing the wrongs that were committed against Black and Brown people around cannabis.”
Doris sputtered to her husband, coughing out a huge bluish cloud of Hawaiian X Super Skunk #1 spiked with a touch of Master Kush, which drifted toward what they thought was their locked bedroom door and swirled about the head of their “I can’t sleep” six-year-old. Arthur, an inquisitive, intelligent and, to be honest, somewhat pushy offspring, stared at his parents in disbelief from the foot of the bed, his attention fixed on the gigantic spliff that Mommy was passing to Daddy to “help them sleep.” Unfortunately, Arthur had just attended his first Drug Awareness Day at school, and he had a lot of questions. Luckily, Arthur’s parents had yet to commence the Vulcan Mind Meld, sparing young Arthur many years of future therapy.
“But you said you don’t smoke cigarettes. You said they were bad.”
“That’s right, Arthur, they are bad,” explained Dad. “But this isn’t a cigarette—really.” Doris blanched. “Steve, you’re confusing him.” Arthur’s cute brown eyes narrowed as he gave his parents that intense look he reserved for little league, girls and liars. “I know what it is. It’s a joint! They told us about that at school.”
“Who told you it was a joint?”
“Jack the policeman. He came to our class and showed us a cigarette just like that one!” said Arthur, pointing at the funny-looking “cigarette” with two pointy ends and a big bulge in the middle. “You lied!” he yelled, pointing at his father. Steve looked in desperation at his wife. “Come here, honey,” Doris said softly, as Arthur climbed onto the bed. “Mom and Dad need to talk to you about something.”
Doris and Steve are wrestling with an increasingly common dilemma among parents who smoke pot: just what to tell their young and pre-teen kids about the mighty herb. The nation’s airwaves and cable markets are saturated with carefully crafted, government-sponsored “public service ads” designed to scare, shame, intimidate and coerce kids into not smoking pot. There’s the cheery Investigator, which glamorizes parents who give their kids the third degree, grilling them mercilessly for information about their activities and friends just like, well, cops. In Pick Up, a stoner forgets to pick up his kid brother. Another one, Pool, shows a toddler pushing a raft into a swimming pool, presumably to follow the raft in, while a casual, low-key voiceover intones: “Just tell your parents you weren’t watching her, because you were getting stoned.”
No wonder intelligent parents who want to have a toke or two after a hard day have been looking at various methods of raising kids and having their reefer, too.
Let’s start with something we can all agree on: Kids should not smoke pot. Just as you don’t start the day by handing your six-year-old a tumbler of Jack Daniels and firing up his Camel, parents should not be in the business of getting kids stoned—just ask former Hollywood child-tokers and subsequent rehab-grads Robert Downey Jr. and Drew Barrymore, both of whom were exposed to grass at a tender age by their swinging-’60s parents and the crowds they ran in.
Parents should follow NORML’s (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) guide-lines for responsible marijuana use:
“NORML believes that marijuana smoking is not for kids and should only be used responsibly by adults. As with alcohol consumption, it must never be an excuse for misconduct or other bad behavior. Driving or operating heavy equipment while impaired from marijuana should be prohibited.”
Nonetheless, in the real world, 20 million Americans say they have toked the bone during the past year, and despite findings that reefer reduces sperm count, millions of these proud and unashamed potheads are now raising, or have raised, kids who aren’t one-eyed freaks, Charlie Mansonites or pinheads, thereby refuting the myth that pot causes genetic mutations (at least not the visible kinds, which in America, the land of fleeting images, are the only ones that count). Of course, herb—like alcohol, nicotine and mercury-laden tuna—is another substance that has no place in a woman’s body during pregnancy. However, once the pregnancy is over and the child has finished breast-feeding, many parents return to smoking pot, for all the good reasons: responsible recreation and relaxation.
The New York Times recently reported that in a poll conducted by RoperASW, as many as one in 10 American parents of children under 18—about six million people—said they had smoked herb in the past 12 months. One in 20 parents, or about three million people, said they had smoked in the preceding month. The number of Americans who lit up in the last 15 minutes was unavailable, but considering the reluctance of those still holding jobs, or respected members of highly paid role-model professions—i.e., doctors, lawyers, teachers, talkradio jocks, governors—to admit to being anything other than a pharmaceutical junkie in Ashcroft’s America, one suspects that the number of regular tokers is a lot higher than reported. Life in prison in three-strike states like Texas is less than appealing; then again, it’s not Malaysia, where, if you get caught sucking on a joint, a swift trial is soon followed by death.
But short of that, getting nabbed blowing a doob in front of the children can have grave consequences, chief among them losing your kids.
Frank and Sara are the parents of Jake, a 10-month-old baby who was properly strapped in the back in his car seat when his parents were pulled over by cops in Oregon.
“First of all,” Frank told High Times, “the cop just said, ‘Give me the pot, or we’ll search the car.’ So my wife handed him the baggie! I was flabbergasted.” The cops separated the couple. “There was Good Cop and Psycho Cop. First Psycho Cop wanted to know if there was anyone higher than me. How could there be,” laughed Frank, “since I’d been drinking Scotch, too!” An incorrigible wise-ass, Frank’s flippant comeback—“Pablo Escobar?”—didn’t go over well, either. “Sara was only stoned, but her license had expired, which gave another new wrinkle to the situation. Then I got the Good Cop, while Nut Cop went to work on my wife.”
“It freaked me out,” recalled Sara. “The first thing he said is that they can take our son away for this. Then the cop gave me his card and said I had three days to rat out whoever sold us the pot. But we talked to the ACLU, who told us they were full of shit.”
“We never smoke in the car anymore, ” Frank added ruefully. “We shouldn’t have been smoking and driving in the first place.”
Both the US and Canadian governments use draconian drug laws to hassle groups and individuals who refuse to toe the antipot line, claiming that marijuana use—not to mention political activism—creates unfit parents. Divorced parents have used the marijuana laws to smite their mates, especially in nasty custody battles. Debra Cannistrad, a medical-cannabis user living in the San Joaquin Valley of California, was threatened by an ex-spouse for custody of her 12-year-old daughter and 14-year-old son, two days after holding a vigil for a jailed cannabis researcher. Fortunately for Debra, the father—a deadbeat dad—outpoints Debra for parental malfeasance, but nonetheless, the use of a joint as a loaded gun is an indication of the emergence of a snitch society, a la the late Soviet Union.
Other situations are even more bizarre. A couple in Washington State lost their daughter immediately after birth when hospital workers, without their knowledge or consent, tested both the mother and her newborn girl for cannabis. When both tested positive, doctors blamed minor medical problems with the baby on her mother’s cannabis use and accused her of endangering the child’s life. The baby was isolated and the mother not allowed to breast-feed her. The child was returned to the couple in a week, but they were first made to sign a contract with 13 conditions, including urine-testing, mental-health evaluations and agreeing to allow state inspectors to enter their home anytime they damned well pleased. So much for the Fourth Amendment. Once again, this woman obviously should not have been toking up during any stage of her pregnancy—but does that justify the extreme measures the hospital took?
As kids get older, the dilemma for parents who smoke pot gets even more problematic.
Even in a city as sophisticated and progressive as New York, there is a wide divergence in attitudes and styles among the city’s parents regarding their kids and pot, which one suspects mirrors the nation’s attitude as well.
Tahisa, an urban planner, and her husband are raising a 14-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl in New York’s most fashionably transgressive neighborhood, the East Village. She’s a pioneer, having lived in the EV more than 20 years, arriving long before the neighborhood’s recent resurgence and ultra-gentrification. Many of the tenement apartments, abandoned and trashed in the 1980s, now go for $2,500 a month, and uptown hipsters who once came to Avenue B for cocaine and heroin today travel downtown for gourmet coffee shops, expensive punk jewelry and haute cuisine. It’s now a prime residential neighborhood, attracting middle-class parents with children; its playgrounds and community gardens are packed with kids.
“I smoked when my kids were small, so they always saw us smoking, and all our friends smoke. So we never had to tell them that we smoke; they saw us smoke,” said Tahisa. When their kids started school, they started getting the standard anti-drug diatribes. Tahisa told them it was propaganda. “We told them pot was really good, that birds eat it, and that tobacco is much worse for you. Our biggest concerns were tobacco and glue-sniffing.”
Part of Tahisa’s agenda was to demystify pot. “We didn’t want to make pot seem so deviant that our kids would be attracted to it. We didn’t want to sneak around. If we were going to do this, we shouldn’t have to hide it. If they saw it as just a normal thing, we thought they would probably decide not to do it.”
Amy, a close friend of Tahisa’s, is medical researcher, and with her husband Ron, a media consultant, they have taken a similar tack with their 12-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter. “Pot is so much a part of our lifestyle, the kids take it for granted.” Amy, her husband and their friends have smoked weed for more than 30 years and have no intention of stopping. “When our kids have friends over—especially ones who we don’t know—we go into the bathroom, or up on the roof, to get high. And we certainly don’t buy pot with them around, say if a dealer comes to our home. But after all, this is the East Village.”
At a certain age, when Amy felt her kids were ready, she told them that she and Ron weren’t smoking cigarettes. “Then we went on to say that what we do is okay, but it’s against the law,” said Amy, “and we could go to jail for it if certain people found out.”
You don’t want to see Mommy and Daddy in an orange jumpsuit in chains behind bars, do you? That’s pretty effective. Amy and Ron also explained that not every law is good or just and that what they were doing wasn’t wrong; that some drugs, like medicines, are good, and other drugs, like heroin, cocaine, nicotine, PCP, glue, Ecstasy and acid, are very, very bad. “When they started school,” said Amy, “we told them never to mention that we smoke anything at all. And it’s surprising how well they understand.”
This medical tack is similar to the one used in a forthcoming 2005 children’s book, Just a Plant (justaplant.com) by Ricardo Cortes, an educator and Webmaster of the art-and-culture website magicpropagandamill.com. The book tells the story of a little girl who discovers her parents smoking marijuana. Cortes then follows the efforts of the family to rationally explain to their daughter just what pot is and what it does.
“She goes to a farm, and the farmer talks to her about how it grows, how it has seeds and how it’s used for a lot of different things,” says Cortes. “People use corn for eating, people use marijuana for making canvas, paper, etc. Then there’s a medicinal aspect: How does it affect the body? In the story, she goes to a doctor to find out about it. He tells her patients use it as a medicine; there are many plants used as medicine. The doctor also explains that because it’s a medicine, it’s not something for children.”
Cortes takes care in the book to explain that there are things adults can do that kids can’t: driving a car, having a glass of wine, drinking coffee. Then he deals skillfully with the illegality of pot. “At that point in the story, the child is like, I learned everything there is to know about pot, and it sounds beautiful.’ But if you just stop there, that’s dangerous, because now the little girl goes to school and says, ‘Yeah, my mom smokes pot!”’
In the story, the girl then stumbles upon some kids smoking a joint and tells them she knows what they’re smoking. Then the cops roll up for the last lesson of the story: It’s illegal. Cortes brings in the history of Prohibition and tries to portray the cops as good guys, to an extent, by stressing that there are laws they don’t like enforcing. “The cop says that this is how our country works,” Cortes explains, “and if you want to change a law, there are certain ways to go about it.”
But as Tahisa found, as children get older, social institutions intervene to make changes in a parent’s pot policy. “We stopped smoking for awhile because we could see our kids were being pressured at school. They gave a citywide questionnaire to the kids. We kept our son home from school that day because he told us about it, and it was really like: Rat out your parents and rat out your friends. We didn’t want to put him on the spot by making him have to lie, so we stopped smoking.”
But old habits die hard for parents who grew up in the ’60s and ’70s. “My husband still doesn’t smoke pot, but I started again. Because, in the words of Louis Armstrong, it relaxes me,” Tahisa said with a smile.
Other parents take an entirely opposite approach to herb and kids; one of hide and deny. Dennis and his wife Dee are raising twin girls, now 13 years old. Both girls are very bright and go to top-tier public schools on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
“I don’t tell them. That’s it,” Dennis laughed, then became serious. “There’re two ways to deal with it. One is how I deal with it when I want to get stoned, which is to go into the bathroom, open the window and lock the door. That kind of works, although one time we were out on Fire Island and I had smoked a joint in the bathroom, and my daughter goes in right afterwards and says, ‘Dad, that incense you burned really stinks!’ She was 11 or 12—they don’t know anything.”
Dennis fears that his daughter will be at a rock concert and somebody will be smoking a joint near her, and, says Dennis, “Her friends will say, ‘Oh, it’s pot!’ And she’s going to say, ‘Oh, no it’s not, it’s incense!’ And she’s going to look like an idiot and figure out that I lied.” Dennis has also gone to extremes to conceal his THC jones by concocting marijuana butter. “The feeling was that smoking is bad for you, so I’ll try a different way of doing this. I thought that if I could get this down, I wouldn’t have to go to the bathroom to smoke. I’d go to the refrigerator!” Dennis cooked up a butter recipe he found in High Times, but the project backfired. “We ate the butter, went to a party, had a great time, got really, really stoned—like we were tripping—and then we went out to dinner by ourselves. And we were both super-paranoid, terrified, and we stayed stoned for the next two days.”
The problem with the hide-and-deny method is, what do you tell your children when they inevitably ask? Do you tell them the truth? “They hear in school that marijuana sucks,” says Dennis. “We were on a long drive, and one of my daughters asked my wife if she ever smoked pot. And I’m thinking, ‘What is she going to say? It’s never come out that direct.’ And she said no. Then I’m thinking, ‘What am I gonna say? Yeah?’ Then my daughter said, ‘Dad, and you?’ And I said no, and she said, ‘Good.’ I think it’s a scary thing to be asked, because of what they see on TV and what it means, like breaking the law. They’re brainwashed. And I don’t want them smoking pot, you know? When they’re in college, they can smoke pot. I don’t think they should be smoking pot in junior high school or high school—even if I did!”
That brainwashing is orchestrated straight from the top, at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). ONDCP reports directly to the president, and it serves as a kind of amorphous umbrella organization for all of the precisely calibrated “campaigns” that “target” parents and young people with misleading and disingenuous public-service advertisements. ONDCP coordinates overall drug policy, along with the efforts of other government/business coalitions such as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, to keep America scared of marijuana with recent media campaigns like Parents: The Anti-Drug and My Anti-Drug, specifically directed at kids. ONDCP’s Ad Gallery features such gems as Wallet, in which a young teen takes us down to the basement to meet his wasted, long-haired, glassy-eyed older brother, who looks more like a dope addict than a pothead, and who “never did anything at all.”
From the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, the creators of Parents: The Anti-Drug (theantidrug.com), comes Slam, a truly vicious commercial teeming with violence and anger, in which a father and his teenage daughter yell and scream with vein-popping animus (“I hate you!”), slamming the door repeatedly in each other’s faces, after Dad covertly searches his daughter’s room and finds—horror of horrors—a bag of pot! Once again, so much for the Fourth Amendment, at least if you’re under 18. By the way, the daughter in the spot looks well over the age of consent. The commercial condones this kind of despotic, foaming-at-the-mouth behavior with an ambiguous admonition to parents at the end: “Afraid of a few slammed doors? Get over it. Because to help your kid with their problem, first you have to get over yours.” Let’s look at this statement: At first it seems to imply that the parents should get rid of their explosive anger, but actually it justifies this oppressive approach. The problem parents have to get over is their reluctance to get violent and hysterical. Obviously compromise, conflict resolution and reasoned argument are for sissies.
The National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign also sponsors My Anti-Drug (freevibe.com), which brings us, in Spanish, Dummies, featuring the famed crash-test dummies (which used to promote seat belts) toking it up and getting into a devastating accident in a lab dedicated to making accidents happen. You don’t have to speak Spanish to figure out La Causa. Ads also come in Cambodian, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese. Dummies mines the same vein of malleable truth and outright mendacity as the spot with the poor Hispanic kid mourning the loss of a friend in a traffic accident and blaming it on pot. What the ad fails to mention is that accidents involving pot usually also involve alcohol. Liquor is metabolized by the body in hours, leaving pot—which can stay in the fatty tissues for months—to take the blame.
And, of course, the ad that has generated the most controversy is the 2002 Super Bowl Sunday spot that equated blowing a J with supporting international terrorism. (“Where do terrorists get their money? If you buy drugs, it might come from you.”) Presumably Osama bin Laden gets a cut from every nickel-bag sold in America. Quaffing down a sixpack is way cool, because it’s legal. Filling up your SUV with expensive gasoline from those good friends of the Bush family (and our valiant ally in the war on terrorism), the House of Saud, is also no problemo—save when the dough goes to support Muslim madrassas throughout the world where children learn that Jews are pigs and monkeys, the United States is the Great Satan, and the lust for death is far more powerful than the lust for life. Think of it as No Terrorist Left Behind.
It’s swell for Budweiser to spend 50 G’s a second to keep people drinking beer—that’s free enterprise. It is quite another thing for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy to spend over $1.6 million each for two 30-second ads during the Super Bowl, the biggest media market in the United States, to blast government propaganda down the throats of 130 million people. Since 1997, over a five-year period, approximately $1 billion has been allocated to paid media—your tax dollars at work, on behalf of ad agencies and TV networks. And most studies have shown that these scare tactics increase, rather then lessen, a kid’s curiosity about illegal substances. The moronic This Is Your Brain on Drugs campaign, which likened the Stoner’s cerebrum to an egg in a frying pan, became one of the most parodied and ridiculed advertisements of its day.
Maybe it’s time to allow parents who smoke pot to raise their children their own way, exercising responsibility and good judgment, and with the guidance, honesty and intuition that only a parent can bring to their children’s lives. Take the billions being squandered on frightening our kids and freaking out their parents, and turn it over to libraries, colleges and our sorely underfunded public schools—or return it to the taxpayers as a rebate, so the citizens of America can finally afford some decent herb.
When it comes time for TreeHawk Farms CEO Jason Olsen to determine the strain allotments for his indoor grow space, he always saves plenty of room for Magnum PI. A top seller for his Chimacum, WA-based business, Magnum PI is a citrus-heavy sativa cross of Blue Hawaiian and Agent Orange. According to Olsen, the strain has become quite popular with local consumers looking for a functional, daytime high.
“If I’m going to a [Seattle] Seahawks’ game, or if we’re going to sit down and have a cup of coffee, I’d be smoking Magnum,” Olsen says. “It gives you that ‘happy day’ feeling, like the sun’s out. It’s a euphoric, stimulating sativa high, which a lot of people love.”
Proof of Magnum PI’s popularity in Washington is evidenced by the fact that Olsen and his small staff of ten are constantly seeking to restock supply of the strain to the 30 or so stores within the state that currently carry TreeHawk’s products. A holdover from Washington’s days as a medical-only market, Magnum PI is believed to have originated with Seahorse Gardens, a breeder near Puget Sound.
For the past five-and-a-half years, however, consumers eager to taste this explosion of orange-centric terpenes and enjoy the ensuing, energizing high, have had only one option: Olsen. In truth, it was his great-grandfather and grandfather who first put his family on their current path when they bought the property that’s now TreeHawk Farms back in the 1950s and started a dairy farm. Eventually, diminishing returns and deaths in the family left Olsen, 38, to determine what course to pursue next.
“Small dairies had started to go out of business,” Olsen says. “There were eight dairies in this little valley that all shared a milk truck. We were all land-rich and money poor. Once my uncle passed away, and with costs around the business going up, it just didn’t seem like it could be profitable going forward, so we closed down.”
From Patient to Producer
As a lifelong cannabis consumer, Olsen says he applied for and received a medical card with the state as soon as the opportunity first arose. During his time as a medical patient, Olsen recalls observing the potential for a retail cannabis market and quickly realizing that if he wanted to act, the time was fast approaching. Seeing cannabis as a viable way to reinvent his family’s property with a new agricultural slant, Olsen and his wife made the decision to use their life savings to start TreeHawk Farms.
Despite a lengthy application process, battles over water usage and a spate of other bureaucratic hurdles, their efforts would ultimately prove highly successful.
Today, Olsen oversees an indoor production flow that yields about 60 pounds of cannabis each month. In addition to perennial favorite Magnum PI, the farm’s also renowned for their Candyland Cookies strain, which combines two classics in the form of Granddaddy Purple and Bay Platinum Cookies. Other notable strains on the TreeHawk menu include Chocolate Thai and The Wills, although Olsen acknowledges that his Magnum PI is likely a cut above the rest.
“It has the bag appeal,” he says. “It’s covered in sugar. It’s just a really beautiful plant. It really liked our feeding regimen and everything just fell into place.”
Room to Grow
Currently encompassing a trio of 600-square-foot grow rooms, each with 21 lights, TreeHawk Farms will soon expand its operations to include a fourth room, which Olsen confirms will include a whole row of what amounts to a third of the room’s potential production—to growing Magnum. The reasoning is simple: people just can’t get enough of it.
“A lot of people get strain-tired,” Olsen says. “With Candyland, I’m probably going to back off on that a little bit because people just want something different after a while. I haven’t had to do that at all with Magnum. I sell out, so I have to divvy up our harvest to spread it out to our stores as best we can, but everyone will take twice as much Magnum as any other strain, without blinking. The demand is still there.”
What is it about this tropically flavored, funk-forward blast of cerebral stimulation that makes it such a mainstay for Washington State cannabis regulars? Perhaps it’s the cut, maybe it’s the care that goes into cultivating it but most likely it’s a potent combination of both. After all, beyond the caché that comes with growing rarer, more exotic strains, there’s a family legacy inherent to TreeHawk Farms that clearly informs not only its craft approach but the quality of the finished product.
And for now, Olsen is proud to say that the reputation of Magnum PI can be directly traced to his efforts to bring his family’s farm back to life under the auspices of his new cannabis enterprise and its star strain.
“Honestly, there’s no one else that has this particular strain,” Olsen says, “So, if you’ve smoked Magnum PI in the last five years, you got it through TreeHawk Farms.”
Strain: According to Olson, the name is a play on the strain’s lineage: Blue Hawaiian x Agent Orange. It reminded him of a Hawaiian private investigator, like Tom Selleck from the TV show Magnum P.I.
Breeder: Seahorse Gardens in Seattle, Washington.
Type: Sativa Hybrid
Genetics: Blue Hawaiian x Agent Orange
Taste: A citrusy orange-lemon flavor with a little tropical earthy funk on the back end.
People living in homeless conditions in Seattle, Washington are dropping dead left and right, mostly thanks to fentanyl and its knack for causing sudden death by overdose.
Seattle Timesreports that according to medical examiner records, a record-setting 310 people died while homeless in Seattle and throughout King County, Washington during 2022. Over half of those deaths, or 160 of them, are fentanyl overdose-related.
That means that fentanyl-related deaths amounted to more than accidents, natural deaths, homicide, suicide, pending, and undetermined deaths combined.
The number reflects a 65% jump over 2021 and an increase of over 100 people from the previous record set in 2018, with 195 deaths. The shocking numbers are alarming public health officials in the area. REACH is an organization in Seattle battling homelessness, providing people with meals, healthcare, and drug addiction tools.
“That’s just appalling,” Chloe Gale, policy and strategy vice president for REACH, told Seattle Times. An estimate of the scope of homelessness in the County last year found that 13,368 people were living outside.
Previously, in December 2020 the area set a recent record for the most people dying without housing in a single month, with 29 deaths. In 2021, 188 people experiencing homelessness died.
Usually, it isn’t the cold that kills people who are living in homeless conditions. Examiners frequently found a combination of fentanyl and other drugs in the system of people who have overdoses, according to the King County Medical Examiner’s Office.
The end is nowhere in sight for public health officials. “Maybe we’re plateauing at a really bad rate and maybe it’s going to get worse,” said Brad Finegood, who heads an opioid and overdose response for Public Health, “I don’t know when it’s going to stop.”
Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said despite the rise in overdoses, his administration is pushing to get more people indoors, working in collaboration with the King County Regional Homelessness Authority.
King County officials said they have recently directed Public Health – Seattle & King County to work with the county’s Department of Community and Human Services and the King County Regional Homeless Authority to help homeless service providers learn more about what’s working and what’s not working to lower the risk of fatal overdoses among people living in homeless conditions.
Last year, Public Health – Seattle & King County distributed over 10,000 naloxone kits, and about 100,000 fentanyl test strips in an effort to reduce deaths. The agency is continuing to promote public awareness campaigns for similar efforts regarding people experiencing homelessness.
Homeless Drug Addiction Efforts
The cannabis industry has gotten creative through the years with ways to do its part to help combat drug addiction involving powerful narcotics such as fentanyl.
Commissioners in Clark County, Nevada passed a resolution in 2019 allocating almost $1.8 million from the local commercial cannabis industry to help subsidize programs dedicated to providing assistance to the homeless. A little more than $930,000 of the earmarked money was provided to HELP of Southern Nevada’s rehousing services.
A California homeless shelter gained 100 new beds in 2019 thanks to donations from cannabis dispensaries in the Ventura County, California community. The five licensed dispensaries that contributed to the cause were Emerald Perspective, Hueneme Patient Collective, SafePort, Tradecraft Ventures, and SkunkMasters, which donated $17,500 of the $25,000 in donations that were raised.