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Feds Cite Marijuana Comments By Seth Rogen, Joe Rogan And Other Celebs In COVID PSA Database

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The Trump administration appears to have considered celebrities’ views on marijuana legalization and drug use to be relevant factors when selecting spokespeople to participate in a public education campaign on coronavirus prevention, internal documents show.

From Seth Rogen to Kim Kardashian to Joe Rogan, drug policy views or experiences were apparently considered in the vetting process.

The House Oversight Committee late last month released a “PSA Celebrity Tracker” database that was maintained by a campaign headed by Trump aide Michael Caputo. It listed nearly 300 celebrities that contractors vetted as potential spokespersons for a “Helping the President will Help the Country” ad campaign to promote public safety amid the pandemic.

That list—which was obtained as part of a congressional committee inquiry into COVID-related spending by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—contains brief notes on each prospective participant that flag political affiliations and policy positions on a number of “liberal” issues, including cannabis reform and same-sex marriage. It also notes prior convictions for drug and other offenses.

Marijuana specifically came up in the notes section for four would-be celebrity spokespersons: Seth Rogen, Seth McFarlane, Kelly Clarkson and Armie Hammer. Others were flagged more broadly for drug reform stances or past drug crimes.

For comedian and actor Rogen, one of the most outspoken celebrity advocates for cannabis policy reform and a marijuana culture icon, the note states: “Describes himself as ‘left wing’; has been outspoken about marijuana legalization.” Rogen already offered some coronavirus advice to young people in August, urging against public gatherings and telling followers to instead “hang out alone and smoke weed and watch movies and TV shows.”

McFarlane, the creator of the TV show Family Guy, “supports the legalization of cannabis,” the spreadsheet says.

Clarkson, a singer, has “voiced her liberal opinions including legalizing marijuana” and NFL protests against police brutality.

And a 2011 cannabis possession conviction for the actor Hammer evidently came up during the PSA vetting.

Kim Kardashian, Kelsey Grammer, Tito Ortiz, Andrew Zimmern and Jason Bateman each were noted as having discussed using drugs or struggling with addiction.

Podcaster Joe Rogan, meanwhile, was flagged for his more wide-ranging “pro-drug legalization views.”

While it does not necessarily seem that these notes on each celebrity’s backgrounds indicated they would be disqualified from participating in the COVID-focused PSA that never ultimately materialized, it indicates that political ideologies such as support for marijuana legalization were areas of interest to the administration, or at least to Caputo, who serves as HHS’s spokesman.

Democratic lawmakers took exception to the overall plan, which was first reported by Politico.

“It is critical that HHS provide accurate, nonpolitical public health information to the American people that encourages mask wearing, social distancing, and other science-backed public health recommendations,” the chairs of the Oversight Committee, Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis and Oversight’s Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee said in a joint press release.

“Yet, the documents we have obtained indicate that HHS political appointees sought to use taxpayer dollars to advance a partisan political agenda and direct taxpayer money to their friends and allies,” they said.

None of the celebrities with drug-related notes on the tracker list seem to have agreed to participate. Of the select few public figures who did agree, they all later declined the opportunity.

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Photo courtesy of YouTube/Jimmy Kimmel Live.

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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Sierra Club Gives Tips On Using Marijuana In An Environmentally Friendly Way

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A leading environmental conservationist group wants to help you sustainably and safely consume marijuana.

The Sierra Club, which has not historically weighed in on cannabis issues, released a guide last week that makes a series of recommendations about how to source marijuana in a way that’s healthy and good for the environment.

They said that, absent regulations from federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture, consumers are left in the dark when it comes to best practices. And the 129-year-old environmental nonprofit is here to help.

“The majority of Americans now live in states where they can legally consume medicinal or recreational cannabis,” the new guide published this month in the Sierra Club’s print magazine says. “As more ways to lawfully partake become available, the choices can be confusing.”

The article lists five tips for marijuana enthusiasts during a time when more and more state-legal markets are coming online.

Buy organic—or “organic-ish.” Because marijuana remains federally illegal, there isn’t an opportunity for cannabis companies to obtain a standard organic certification. But consumers should look for a Clean Green or Sun+Earth label, as these third-party organizations also maintain strong standards and help businesses gain formal certification.

Buy outdoor-grown marijuana. The carbon footprint for indoor-cultivated cannabis can be significant, as the process relies heavily on electronic lighting. That’s not the case for outdoor-grown flower. Sierra Club said “the production of one kilogram of indoor-grown cannabis results in 4,600 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of driving the United States from coast to coast 11 times.”

Familiarize yourself with the marijuana producer. The illicit market doesn’t disappear when a state launches a legal cannabis market. And because illicit sellers are unregulated, they may be using harmful pesticides, or cultivating their products on public lands in ways that can hurt surrounding wildlife. That said, a 2019 study did find that illegal cultivation in national forests declined post-legalization in Oregon and Washington State.

The guide also notes that certain states encourage cannabis companies to enroll in energy-saving programs. Colorado has taken it a step further, with the governor announcing last year that the state was rolling out pilot programs to promote sustainability cooperation between the cannabis and alcohol markets by using carbon dioxide from the brewing process to stimulate marijuana plant growth.

Look for a Certificate of Analysis. That’s easier said than done in states where marijuana remains prohibited, but for consumers in legal states, it’s an important component, as it means the products have been tested for heavy metals, mold and other potentially dangerous substances.

Be wary of packaging. As in other industries, plastic and packaging is an environmental problem. Seeking out products with low-waste packages can help mitigate that issue, Sierra Club said. For example, there are some companies that use recycled plastics recovered from the ocean. Alternatively, consumers could try to find hemp-based packaging.

The guide also offers tips for specific types of cannabis products.

For example, when it comes to edibles, consumers should seek out vegan goodies. Beyond arguments that a plant-based diet represents a humane alternative, it’s also the case that animal agriculture is overly polluting and resource intensive.

For smoking, the group says that glass pipes are “inherently earth-friendlier” than rolling papers, as they cut down on waste and production. The environmentally conscious cannabis consumer should also buy flowers in jars instead of as single pre-rolls, “to reduce throwaway packaging.”

As far as vaping goes, Sierra Club recommends spending your money with companies that offer recycling programs for used cartridges.

Meanwhile, activists in Montana are also seeing a link between environmentalism and marijuana. A voter-approved initiative to legalize cannabis in the state calls for a significant amount of tax revenue from marijuana sales to be allocated to conservation programs.

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Killer Mike Challenges Joe Biden To Adopt Bernie Sanders’s Marijuana Legalization Plan

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Rapper and activist Killer Mike is challenging President-elect Joe Biden to take a note from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and use executive authority to broadly reform federal marijuana laws as soon as he takes office.

In an interview with TMZ that was released on Wednesday, the artist stressed the need to legalize cannabis and do it in a way that lifts up communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. He said Biden can help facilitate that by federally descheduling marijuana through executive action on day one—a proposal Sanders pitched during his presidential run.

“I want to challenge Joe Biden to do what Bernie Sanders did,” Killer Mike, who served as a campaign surrogate for the senator, said. “He would have descheduled it the first day of his presidency. You have the power of that pen to invoke things like gun laws. You should have the power of that pen to take it off the Schedule I list so that, if nothing else, it is decriminalized to the point that kids’ lives aren’t being ruined today.”

But Biden has not indicated that marijuana reform would be an immediate priority for his administration. In fact, he remains opposed to adult-use legalization despite supermajority support within his party.

The president-elect has only gone so far as to back modest cannabis rescheduling, decriminalizing possession, expunging past records, legalizing medical marijuana and protecting states’ rights to enact their own policies. Biden did select a head of a major federal health agency who is amenable to reform, however, and in his role he could help facilitate rescheduling.

As far as Biden in concerned, he feels marijuana should be placed in Schedule II, the second most restrictive category under the Controlled Substances Act, along with cocaine. But advocates argue that does not go far enough and could have an inadvertent, adverse impact on state-legal markets. They’re pushing him to adopt a policy of complete descheduling, which would be accomplished if a bill approved by the House earlier this month makes it through the Senate and onto the president’s desk.

With respect to executive action, it should be noted that experts have raised questions about the feasibility of unilaterally ending prohibition through that process, much less on the first day of a presidency.

In the TMZ interview, Killer Mike also talked about local reform in his home state state of Georgia, stating that he will be pushing the governor and legislature to enact legalization. The policy change is inevitable, he said, but lawmakers must ensure that there’s “a presence of African-American ownership in Georgia for marijuana.”

“We have had young men serve 10, 20, 30, 40 years and then they get out and they cannot participate in the trade that they help build,” he said. “That’s like a moonshiner who moonshined through prohibition not getting the chance to have a liquor license. We’ve done that mistake before so I want to demand NORML and other marijuana organizations out there to get people of color on the forefront.”

“I’m going to be frank and say Black folks deserve it. We deserve at least 25 percent of the marijuana industry because it has truly been built on our backs, and we need more MedMen that are owned by men that look like me,” he added. “I want to demand that progressives, and especially Black Democrats that are out there, start to demand locally marijuana policy on a state level that is inclusive of the people.”

Georgia is at the center of national attention right now, as two Democratic Senate hopefuls enter into a runoff election next week. And the outcome of those races could determine the fate of federal marijuana policy because if both Democrats win, the party will retake the Senate and would be in a much better position to advance reform.

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NBA Could Permanently End Marijuana Tests So It Doesn’t Become ‘Big Brother,’ Commissioner Says

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A temporary NBA policy not to randomly drug test players for marijuana may well become permanent, the league’s commissioner said this week.

“We decided that, given all the things that were happening in society, given all the pressures and stress that players were under, that we didn’t need to act as Big Brother right now,” Commissioner Adam Silver told NBC’s Today. “I think society’s views around marijuana has changed to a certain extent.”

Rather than mandate blanket tests, he said the league would be reaching out to players who show signs of problematic dependency, not those who are “using marijuana casually.”

“I’d say the same thing about alcohol or any other substance,” Silver said.

He made similar remarks in a recent interview with The Sports Daily, stating that he’s “not sure whether marijuana should be treated differently than other substances, including alcohol, that are otherwise legal that players could be using and creating issues around.”

“I recognize that society’s views around marijuana use have changed dramatically since these rules were put in place, and in many ways the suspension of random testing this season is a recognition of that,” he said. “If our players are traveling from jurisdiction to jurisdiction—from jurisdictions that do not have prohibitions to jurisdictions where there’s still criminal penalties for possession and use of marijuana—we want to make sure we’re not creating a trap for our players and putting in place rules that will put them in the crosshairs of the law.”

“It doesn’t mean there isn’t still a concern from the league that marijuana, no different than alcohol, can be abused,” he added. “It’s something that we want to play close attention to, especially given the incredible stress that our players are often under, and particularly given the stress of playing in a pandemic.”

NBA initially announced a temporary suspension of cannabis drug testing earlier this year, as players finished out their season in the so-called “bubble” arena in Orlando. That was later extended to the entire 2020-2021 season following an agreement between the league and the players’ union

Michele Roberts, the head of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) who also joined the board of the major cannabis company Cresco Labs this year, predicted in a recent interview that a formal change to codify the policy indefinitely could come as early as “next season.”

While NBA won’t be subjecting players to random drug testing for THC, they will continue to test “for cause” cases where players have histories of substance use, for example.

If NBA does ultimately end marijuana testing, it would be another example of evolving drug policies within national sports leagues. Earlier this year, the MLB announced that players would not longer be tested for cannabis, though they’re barred from being sponsored by marijuana companies.

The NFL also made the decision to end suspensions for positive drug tests as well as limiting the testing window.

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