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Ben & Jerry’s Uses 4/20 To Promote Marijuana Reform While Other Brands Market Off The Holiday

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This year, the marijuana holiday 4/20 is being disrupted across the board due to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting social distancing measures.

But while public gatherings and scheduled events are being cancelled—with some organizers offering virtual alternatives—some major businesses are continuing to leverage the occasion to promote cannabis causes and products.

The ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s stands out. As in past years, the brand is using 4/20 to highlight the harms of federal marijuana prohibition, particularly for communities of color. In concert with the ACLU, Ben & Jerry’s announced on Saturday that it is formally endorsing congressional legislation to deschedule cannabis and push restorative justice.

The company said in a blog post that the era of legalization means that people in an increasing number of states do not have to fear being prosecuted over cannabis-related activities—as long as “you’re a white person,” at least.

“Legalization must have equity at its heart. That’s why we’re calling on Congress to support the [Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement] Act, which would make cannabis legal and (it’s an important “and”!) expunge prior cannabis convictions,” the post states. “Want to feel really really good this 4/20? Then let’s make sure that legalization benefits all of us. That’ll turn 4/20 into a day that we all can celebrate.”

Ben & Jerry’s stressed that while legalization has enabled certain individuals to profit off a burgeoning industry, people continue to be criminalized across the country over marijuana—and even in legal states, racial disparities have persisted. To that end, they will be supporting efforts to federally reform cannabis laws, in part by launching content initiatives and encouraging people to take action individually.

“We have to do more than trade on quirky hippie stoner culture,” Christopher Miller, the head of global activism strategy at Ben & Jerry’s, told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview. “I think particularly now as there’s a lot more money being made as the industry becomes legalized and real, it’s incumbent upon all of us—individuals and companies who are trading on this—to step up and ensure that the damage that’s been done over the years around the drug is somewhat ameliorated as we move to this phase around marijuana.”

The company made a similar point as part of a 4/20 campaign last year, and it emphasized that all of this is part of a multi-year project to support criminal justice reform.

Asked why other private companies decline to take positions on policy issues like legalization, Miller said it’s “because it’s just not something most companies do.”

“Most companies, to the degree that they are involved in policy—and the truth is, most are—they are focused on policies that are in their own narrow self-interest.”

While it’s rare for businesses outside the marijuana industry to take a public stance on legalization legislation, an increasing number of mainstream companies are leveraging the 4/20 holiday to promote their products. Take BarkBox, for example.

The company got a rave response from the marijuana community after launching a set of doggie joint, bong and cannabis leaf chew toys. In fact, while they planned to keep the campaign going through the 4/20 holiday, they’re already sold out.

Via BarkBox.

BarkBox, which is known for cheekily pushing the boundaries of pet products, said they will meet the high demand and have ordered more. In a blog post on Thursday, the company said it was taken aback by the positive reception.

“It’s no secret that we at BARK are not afraid to make some weird dog toys… And TRULY we don’t always make these toys on purpose,” BarkBox editor Stacie Grissom wrote. “But yesterday’s toys? YEAH we did these on purpose… But we didn’t know if you all would think they are as hilarious as we find them.”

“We started our promotion of a free oregano tug / spinach burrito / science beaker for your dog on 4/15, intending the promotion to hold out until April 20th,” she continued. “You know, April 20th– a normal day in which your dog should get to play with normal toys, made by normal people. Have a good, normal day.”

Two national restaurant chains—Del Taco and Blaze Pizza—are offering promotions to mark the cannabis occasion. Del Taco is selling 10 tacos for $4.20 and Blaze will be upgrading orders to the thicker “High-Rise” dough, according to a press release.

&pizza also promoted a 4/20 deal on pies.

The coconut water company Vita Coco joked that “today supposed to be about being chill” and asked followers to reply with stories about their experiences working from home during a time of social distancing due to the pandemic. People who reply with the hashtag “#letsbeblunt” will get “a free case of Vita Coco Infused with Hemp to help you… escape.”

White Castle is urging people to host virtual watch parties with the cannabis cult classic “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” and the company said it will try to participate in as many as possible if they’re sent an invite.

The bakery company Insomnia Cookies is offering a pack of six cookies for $4.20.

Panda Express is selling four lunch bowls for $20.

All single burgers and sandwiches are $4.20 at Smashburger on Monday.

Boston Market said people kept on buying chicken.

Vegan food producer Impossible Foods tweeted some plant-based solidarity with cannabis enthusiasts.

The Canadian branches of TurboTax and H&R Block both posted about cannabis and taxes.

FYE wants people to buy marijuana-themed movies.

Over at Netflix, the streaming service released a cannabis-themed cooking show to mark the holiday. “Cooked with Cannabis” features chefs competing to “get the hosts and special guests high on elevated cannabis cuisine with their artful use of leafy herb, THC infusions and CBD sauces,” Netflix said.

The music streaming company Tidal created a 4/20 playlist, featuring classics like Afroman’s “Because I Got High.”

After spending four years reviewing about 50 different cannabis vaporizers, The New York Times’s Wirecutter blog released its top picks in a post on Monday.

But while entertainment and discounts will inevitably abound on 4/20 now that marijuana is mainstream, it seems as though Ben & Jerry’s is again the outlier in treating the holiday as an opportunity for activism, rather than just consumerism.

“What we know is that consumers, citizens are looking for companies to take a stand on issues and to be agents of change at a time when there’s not a lot of trust in government,” Miller said. “People are looking for companies to step up in this way.”

On 4/20, ACLU Highlights Racist Marijuana Enforcement In New Report

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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Colorado Is Auctioning Marijuana-Themed License Plates To Raise Money For People With Disabilities

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Colorado is really leaning into its reputation as the marijuana state—for a good cause. Officials are taking the unique step of auctioning off cannabis-themed license plates to help raise money for a disability fund.

From April 1 to April 20, residents can bid on the vanity plates with terms like “BONG,” “GANJA,” “GOTWAX,” “HEMP,” “ISIT420” and even “TEGRIDY,” a nod to the fictional South Park marijuana farm.

Via Colorado Disability Funding Committee.

Bids on several of the plates start at $420, of course.

“The Colorado Disability Funding Committee had the TEGRIDY to STASH away some great HERB related license plate configurations and is making them available to you,” a Facebook post states. “Don’t be GREEN with envy because your neighbor GOTWAX and HONEY, bid on a plate and support people with disabilities!”

“Colorado GANJA themed license plates could make you as HAPPY as your 100% HEMP t-shirt,” the post, which was uploaded on April 1 but is not an April Fool’s joke, continues. “Leave ya SATIVA and INDICA, put down the BONG, use our HASHtags to follow along.”

Via Colorado Disability Funding Committee.

The page for each license plate up for auction includes a disclaimer not to drive while impaired and to use cannabis responsibly.

The proceeds of the auction will go to the Colorado Disability Funding Committee, which issues grants to organizations that “have new and innovative ideas that benefit the disability community.”

Given the popularity of Colorado’s marijuana market, which exceeded $2 billion in sales last year alone, it stands to reason that the plates will be a hit.

People who don’t live in Colorado can also bid. If they win, they will be sent a novelty plate without the security features that come on a normal plate.

Despite being one of the first states to legalize for adult use, Colorado’s cannabis program is continually evolving.

Last month, for example, the state House passed a bill to increase the lawful possession limit for marijuana and the governor signed legislation to create a social equity fund for the marijuana industry.

Gov. Jared Polis (D) visited a marijuana dispensary in Denver to sign the measure, which will establish a program within the state Office of Economic Development and International Trade that’s intended to support cannabis businesses owned by people who qualify as social equity licensees, primarily people most impacted by the drug war.

The program will receive an initial infusion of $4 million from the state’s marijuana tax fund—about $1 million short of what the governor had requested in January. The legislation was created in consultation with Black Brown and Red Badged (BBRB), a coalition of minority-owned cannabis businesses.

Last year, Polis signed a separate bill that creates a statewide definition of cannabis social equity licensees. Those businesses are now the ones that will primarily benefit from the new legislation.

This kind of funding is largely made possible from tax revenue derived by the state’s robust cannabis market. Data from the state’s Department of Revenue shows that more than $10 billion of marijuana has been sold since the adult-use program launched in 2014.

Another piece of cannabis reform legislation that cleared the Senate last month would require schools and school district to institute policies permitting employees to store and administer marijuana products for students who are registered medical cannabis patients.

Marijuana Legalization Framed As Inevitability At Rhode Island Senate Joint Hearing

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Seth Rogen’s Marijuana Biz Expands To U.S. While Jay-Z Gets Political With Cannabis Ad Campaign

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Monday was a big day in the celebrity marijuana space, with actor Seth Rogen announcing the U.S. launch of his cannabis brand and rapper Jay-Z revealing an ad campaign for his company that’s meant to highlight the absurdity of the war on drugs by pointing out that some states are more lax on cousin marriage, cannibalism or sex with farm animals than they are on weed.

Rogen’s elation in bringing his business, Houseplant, to the U.S. market was evident in a one-minute video he shared on social media.

After showcasing the tins his line of sativa and indica strains come in—as well a “table lighter” that’s part of the Houseplant collection—the actor of Pineapple Express and Superbad fame said that this is “honestly my life’s work and I’ve never been more excited about anything.”

The company also produced vinyl records with playlists that are meant to complement the effects of the various marijuana varieties like Pancake Ice.

Rogen has also leveraged his marijuana stardom for philanthropic purposes, putting on an adult carnival last year where the plant was featured to raise money for research into Alzheimer’s disease.

He appeared at a congressional hearing in 2014 and joked that while people might expect him to advocate for marijuana reform before the Senate committee, he was actually there to promote research into the disease, which his mother-in-law suffers from.

The actor also appeared in a PSA for National Expungement Week, an effort to help people free themselves from the burdens of prior marijuana convictions.

Meanwhile, JAY-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, has his cannabis business, MONOGRAM. And on Monday, the company started a “national awareness campaign that draws attention to the hypocrisy of current regulations governing cannabis” in the U.S., a press release states.

Via Monogram.

Billboards and murals featuring text that compare laws prohibiting marijuana and other state and federal statutes have been posted in cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York.

Here are a few examples of the campaign messages: 

“Weed is a federal crime. Even in the states where sex with farm animals isn’t.”

“You can marry your first cousin in more states than you can buy recreational weed.”

“The war on drugs worked. If systemic racism was the goal.”

Via Monogram.

“Cannabis laws are out of date and disproportionately cruel and punishing when compared to the rest of the legal code,” Carter said. “I created this campaign to amplify the voices of those who have been penalized for the very same thing that venture capitalists are now prospering from with the emerging legal cannabis market.”

 

Earlier this year, the artist announced that he was putting $10 million toward a fund to promote participation in state-legal marijuana markets by communities most impacted by prohibition—an action that earned the praise of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

“I led the effort to decriminalize & legalize cannabis because the war on drugs has been an abject failure—with disproportionate & devastating impacts on communities of color,” the governor said. “These are the types of entrepreneurial opportunities we dreamed of—thanks Jay-Z!”

Top Washington, D.C. Lawmaker Files Competing Legal Marijuana Bill Days After Mayor Unveils Her Plan

Photo courtesy of Monogram.

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NFL Explores How Marijuana And CBD Can Be Used As Opioid Alternatives For Players

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The National Football League and NFL Players Association are launching an effort to learn about the potential of marijuana and its components like CBD as alternative treatment options for pain.

They’re also more generally interested in discovering how cannabis use affects athletic performance.

A request for information that was published on Tuesday states that the league’s goal is “to identify investigators who have the current capability to carry out studies aimed at supplementing the NFL-NFLPA Pain Management Committee’s (‘PMC’) knowledge about pain management and athletic performance in NFL players.”

The notice lists three areas of interest:

1. The potential therapeutic role of medications and non-pharmacological interventions that are considered to be alternatives to opioids in routine pain management of NFL players. Medications may include, but are not limited to, cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (“CBD”).

2. The impact of cannabis or cannabinoids on athletic performance in NFL players.

3. The potential therapeutic role of medications and non-pharmacological interventions that are considered adjunctive to routine post-surgical orthopedic pain management in NFL football players.

The joint NFL-NFLPA committee also noted that, in 2020, it held two informational forums on CBD “to learn about the current state of CBD science and manufacturing in North America.”

The findings of those forums weren’t definitive, as PMC found that while the non-intoxicating cannabis compound shows promise in the treatment of some forms of pain, the science doesn’t currently live up to the “hype.”

“CBD is a promising compound, but the level of its use in the United States outpaces the level of research at this point,” the committee wrote in a white paper for players. “Most of the hype about CBD is based upon results from animal studies.”

This new request for information stresses that NFL is not committing to funding any particular studies but is more generally meant to help the league find qualified scientists if it does move forward with research projects on these issues. Interested parties have until March 31 to submit relevant information.

Meanwhile, the league’s drug testing policy changed demonstrably last year as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Under the new policy, NFL players will not face the possibility of being suspended from games over positive tests for any drug—not just marijuana.

The decision reflects a significant shift in the league’s approach to drug use by players, with the agreement emphasizing the need to focus on “ensuring evaluation and treatment” rather than punishment. Now those who test positive for drugs, exhibit behaviors that indicate drug misuse or self-refer themselves will be required to enter an “intervention program” where they would receive an evaluation and treatment plan.

Testing positive for prohibited substances after that point would result in a half-week salary loss for first violations, a one-week salary loss for second violations, a two-week salary loss for third violations and a three-week salary loss for fourth and subsequent violations. The threat of suspensions would be removed.

In a similar vein, the MLB decided in 2019 to remove cannabis from the league’s list of banned substances. Baseball players can consume marijuana without risk of discipline, but officials clarified last year that they can’t work while under the influence and can’t enter into sponsorship contracts with cannabis businesses, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, a temporary NBA policy not to randomly drug test players for marijuana amid the coronavirus pandemic may soon become permanent, the league’s top official said in December. Rather than mandate blanket tests, Commissioner Adam Silver said the league would be reaching out to players who show signs of problematic dependency, not those who are “using marijuana casually.”

37 Members Of Congress Ask Biden To Issue Mass Marijuana Pardons Ahead Of Legalization

Image element courtesy of Marco Verch.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
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