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Feds Call Out Religious Discrimination Against Marijuana Consumers

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The U.S. government is again highlighting religious discrimination against people who consume marijuana, but is only shining a spotlight on such anti-cannabis bias that occurs in other countries.

In Guyana, for example, “representatives of the Rastafarian community said that a law criminalizing the possession of 15 grams or more of marijuana infringed on their religious practices,” a new U.S. State Department report says. “A representative of the Rastafari Council said some members of his community faced extra scrutiny from law enforcement officials who believed Rastafaris carried marijuana on their person.”

“The council petitioned the government to legalize the use of small amounts of marijuana for religious purposes, but authorities reportedly did not consider the proposal, saying that reviewing drug legislation was not a state priority at that time.”

In Sierra Leone, “Rastafarians reported this [cannabis] prohibition restricted their ability to use cannabis as a core component of their religious practices.” A community elder told the State Department that “there were 15 incidents of police harassment during the year, often tied to…use of cannabis.”

“The alleged harassment included beatings and confiscation of property found on their persons.”

Also in Sierra Leone, government officials still have not held nine police officers accountable for a 2016 incident in which they damaged a temple as part of a marijuana enforcement operation.

The findings are among several included State Department’s 2017 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom, released on Tuesday.

In Barbados, “Rastafarians continued to state their objection to the government’s enforcement of the prohibition on marijuana for any use, which they said made it impossible to fully perform their religious rituals,” the U.S. report says. “Rastafarian activists continued to say that police and immigration officials required Rastafarians to remove head coverings and gave extra scrutiny to Rastafarian women at checkpoints, which they said was a pretext for searching for marijuana.”

In Saint Kitts and Nevis, “Rastafarians continued to face police harassment, particularly for the use of marijuana for religious purposes. Rastafarian representatives continued to state that marijuana, banned by law, was integral to their religious rituals.”

In the Czech Republic, the government suspended a registration application for the Cannabis Church.

“Members of the Rastafarian community said police and immigration officials continued to subject them to scrutiny because of the use of marijuana in the Rastafarian community,” in Dominica. “According to reports by both the police and members of the Rastafarian community, persons of other religious groups were not subject to such scrutiny.”

Anti-cannabis religious discrimination was also reported in Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados and Saint Lucia.

Despite the ongoing hardships across the world for people who use marijuana for spiritual reasons, Rastafarians in several countries noted that discrimination seems to be ebbing, at least somewhat.

In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, for example, despite continued “societal discrimination” against cannabis consumption, some Rastafarians said they “were increasingly accepted in society, and society was becoming more tolerant of their way of life,” citing a “perceived reduction in police harassment as proof of increased societal acceptance.”

In Jamaica, advocates said a 2015 law legalizing spiritual cannabis use “allowed them to practice their religion according to their beliefs.”

“Rastafarians said law enforcement officials on rare occasions still profiled, stopped, and searched Rastafarians for possession of marijuana over the decriminalized limit, but they were no longer concerned about being detained for carrying marijuana to religious ceremonies for use as a sacrament,” the report says.

Another hopeful sign came from South Africa, where Rastafarians cheered a High Court ruling that declared a ban on marijuana use by adults in private homes to be unconstitutional.

Although U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the new report “is a testament to the United States’s historic role in preserving and advocating for religious freedom around the world,” legal arguments for the use of marijuana in accordance with various religions have repeatedly been rejected by U.S. courts.

The 2016 and 2015 and 2014 versions of the State Department’s religious freedom report also spotlighted anti-marijuana bias in other nations, but not at home.

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.

Tom Angell is the editor of Marijuana Moment. A 20-year veteran in the cannabis law reform movement, he covers the policy and politics of marijuana. Separately, he founded the nonprofit Marijuana Majority. Previously he reported for Marijuana.com and MassRoots, and handled media relations and campaigns for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. (Organization citations are for identification only and do not constitute an endorsement or partnership.)

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How Politicians Are Celebrating The Marijuana Holiday 4/20 This Year

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The country has come a long way since the days of politicians dismissing or shying away from marijuana issues. And a good example of that shift is the ever-growing number of lawmakers who are leaning into the cannabis holiday 4/20 with calls for reform.

For example, to kick of Tuesday’s Senate session, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) spoke on the floor about the need to end federal marijuana prohibition, saying that “hopefully the next time this unofficial holiday 4/20 rolls around, our country will have made progress.”

Then there are the tweets—so many tweets—from state and congressional lawmakers, office seekers and regulators marking the occasion. It’s become a theme each year, and as more states pursue legalization, it seems more elected officials have grown comfortable embracing the holiday in their own ways.

Here’s what politicians are saying about cannabis this 4/20: 

Members of Congress

Congressional candidates

State officials and parties

Local officials

Former federal officials

International lawmakers

Meanwhile, dozens of brands and organizations are also celebrating 4/20 with a variety of promotions, events and calls to action.

Schumer Worries Senate Marijuana Banking Vote Could Undermine Broader Legalization Push

Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.

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Free Marijuana For Vaccinations And Cannabis Dog Toys: How Brands Are Celebrating 4/20 This Year

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Marijuana advocates and enthusiasts have a lot to celebrate on this year’s unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20.

State-level legalization has continued to spread in 2021—adding New York, Virginia and New Mexico to the list of adult-use states within the span of weeks. Congressional leaders are on the verge of introducing legislation to end federal prohibition, and Democrats are in control of both chambers plus the White House, raising hopes that comprehensive reform will be enacted this session.

But one thing hasn’t changed in 2021: companies and organizations are still doing their most to promote brands and products with marijuana-themed promotions and events on April 20.

And it makes sense. Cannabis reform is popular, with a new national poll finding a record 69 percent of Americans in favor of legalization. Plus, more adults have access to marijuana products to safely and legally enjoy the festivities, even if things still look a little different amid the pandemic.

The result of all of this is a lot of businesses and organizations trying to get in on the action, including those that aren’t necessarily tied directly to the cannabis industry.

Here’s a rundown of major brands that are celebrating 4/20:

Ben & Jerry’s

Keeping with a theme it set out last year, ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s is using its platform to promote federal marijuana reform. Digital billboards and a van covered in advertising promoting the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act could be seen in the nation’s capitol, paid for by the activist-minded business.

And in partnership with the ACLU, Ben & Jerry’s is launching a call-to-action, asking Americans to text “MORE” to 40456 “to show their support of the MORE Act.”

Jimmy John’s

The sandwich company is inviting enthusiasts to engage with its social media feeds on 4/20 for a chance to win limited-edition merchandise—a bean bag chair modeled after its signature jalepeno chips.

They will also be streaming a “wake & bake” session on their Instagram live account that features actor and comedian Rob Huebel taking viewers through a “guided breaditation” that involves “vibe-filled, euphemism-filled, bread-science-filled words of introspection.”

Hotels.com

Up until 4:20am on 4/20, people who book hotel reservations through Hotels.com can send an email with their confirmation receipt to [email protected] for a chance to win a $200 room service credit… or “munchie money.”

“The perks included as part of this Munchie Money deal are truly the culmination of all the best aspects of being a Hotels.com rewards member,” Jennifer Dohm, head of PR, said. “From late checkout to a bonus night stay, onlyHotels.com allows you to get rewarded just for reserving a stay. Getting your massive room service spread covered doesn’t hurt either!”

Nuggs

The plant-based food company is getting in on the holiday as well, offering a $420 giveaway to select Instagram followers who send them a message showing a receipt for any product that ends in $4.20.

“You can buy literally anything from anywhere, and any variation of $4.20 counts (ex: $64.20, $114.20, etc),” Nuggs said. “Remember, we said we MIGHT send you $420… winners will be randomly selected over the next few days and notified via IG DM.”

BarkBox

The dog toy and treat business is back at it again with another round of 4/20 themed dog goodies. Get a “spinach burrito,” “spice grinder” or a “single maple leaf” for your furry friend.

“In honor of the upcoming very normal April 20th in this very normal month, we would like to direct your attention to these very normal toys available for a limited time,” BarkBox said in a blog post. “We sourced these toys from a totally normal farm owned by a totally normal Jared, a farmer.”

Slim Jim

Slim Jim is latching onto the converging 4/20 and DogeCoin trends to raise money for World Central Kitchen.

Snickers

Snickers is also trying to ride the Doge and cannabis wave.

discovery+

The TV station is launching a new marijuana-themed version of the cooking competition show Chopped.

Paramount+

Paramount+ also wants you to stay home and watch TV today.

Grand Theft Auto

Rockstar Games is offering free virtual gifts and bonuses in GTA Online.

Call of Duty

Cannabis-themed items launched in Black Ops Cold War and Warzone.

White Castle

The burger joint with a reputation for attracting cannabis enthusiasts is promoting its $4.20 Muncheese meal and offering free deliveries through UberEats for orders of $15 or more.

Lagunitas Brewing Co.

The beer company launched a new ale to commemorate the Waldos, the group California teens who began the 420 craze in the 1970s.

Weedmaps

Weedmaps is hosting a 4/20 livestream event, with musical performances by artists like Snoop Dogg and A$AP. There will also be a panel led by the Last Prisoner Project to discuss the need for social equity in legalization legislation.

Musicians are also taking a moment to celebrate 4/20:

Wiz Khalifa

The Flaming Lips

Advocacy organizations are also marking the cannabis occasion:

ACLU

The civil rights group is promoting its cannabis-themed products such as a marijuana stress ball.

NORML

The pro-legalization organization put out a call-to-action ahead of 4/20 to encourage supporters to hemp them “Finish the Fight” to end prohibition.

“While we have undoubtedly made immense progress in recent years, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are still arrested each year for simple possession of a plant,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri said. “That is why we are calling on all legalization supporters to take time out of their 4/20 celebrations this year to help us finish the fight, both at the federal level and in those states that still are living under the dark ages of prohibition.”

DC Marijuana Justice (DCMJ)

On 4/20, DCMJ is organizing an event where members will give away free marijuana at COVID-19 vaccination centers across the nation’s capital.

Other organization are using the holiday for public education purposes around cannabis laws:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

The federal agency is urging people not to drive while impaired, using the hashtag #420 in a tweet.

U.S. Department of Agriculture

USDA’s Risk Management Agency saw 4/20 as an opportunity to educate hemp growers about crop insurance.

Colorado Department of Transportation

The department is raising awareness about the dangers of driving while impaired by alcohol or marijuana.

MADD

MADD is also reminding people not to drive while impaired.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

TSA says it wants to “clear the smoke when it comes to traveling with medical marijuana.”

“Marijuana remains illegal federally unless it’s less than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis,” it said. “This means you can’t travel with it, even if going from one legalized state to another.”

Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

While not explicitly tied to 4/20, the federal agency did tweet on Tuesday a link to a blog post about the rules around adding cannabis ingredients to cosmetics.

Even prohibitionists are trying to take advantage of the occasion:

Smart Approaches to Marijuana

Smart Approaches To Marijuana’s Kevin Sabet released a book on 4/20 that attempts to lay out reasons not to pursue legalization and offers insights into the man behind the anti-reform movement.

Drug Enforcement Administration

Even the DEA wanted to join in on the 4/20 fun.

In other words: no matter where people stand on marijuana, it seems everyone has something to say about it at least once a year.

Schumer Celebrates 4/20 Marijuana Holiday On Senate Floor

Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.

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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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

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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