It was billed as an elite, members-only marijuana social club. But the advertisements for Country Club Cannabis, which popped up on social media feeds and in advertisements across New York City this week, were all part of a deliberately provocative campaign launched by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).
As New York lawmakers continue to work on legislation to legalize marijuana for adult use in the state, advocates are ramping up efforts to ensure that social equity and restorative justice are key components of any legal cannabis system that eventually emerges. DPA teamed up with creative agency Virtue to make that point by creating the fake cannabis club.
Country Club Cannabis was supposed to represent the moneyed, exclusive marijuana market that develops when cannabis is legalized without a focus on social equity. Members could pay for special access to different services—spa access for basic membership and access to “legal counsel” for premium members, for example. And joining the club also meant adhering to a dress code that prohibits members from wearing sneakers or having visible tattoos.
“Country Club Cannabis was created with traditional values in mind,” a mission statement on the website reads. “Join us in a celebration of our heritage to ensure an elevated, clean experience. We are founded on the belief that you should have a space where your reputation and influence can be recognized among others who share your values.”
— Country Club Cannabis (@cannabisclubny) March 25, 2019
The ploy even included a fake physical storefront in Manhattan.
— Country Club Cannabis (@cannabisclubny) March 25, 2019
The ad campaign elicited some outrage and some intrigue. But on Thursday, DPA announced that it was all a hoax meant to highlight policy proposals that advocates want included in New York’s legalization plan. That includes automatic expungements for individuals with prior cannabis convictions, an equity programs to support small businesses and using revenue from marijuana sales to reinvest in communities that are disproportionately harmed by the drug war.
Marijuana use is roughly equal among Black people & white people, yet Black people are 3.73 times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. #LegalizeItRight by helping those that will still be incarcerated post-legalization. Sign the petition – link in bio. pic.twitter.com/cGgwEcqNSL
— Drug Policy Alliance (@DrugPolicyOrg) March 28, 2019
“Legalization creates opportunities for places like Country Club Cannabis to exist, but the framework of legalization in New York should not reinforce a culture of exclusion and othering,” Kassandra Frederique, DPA’s New York State director, said in a press release. “A legalization model that creates exclusive spaces like CCC but does not reinvest in communities, does not create space for other people to participate meaningfully in the market, and does not clear records, should not be the legalization framework here in New York.”
“This fight is about more than marijuana and about more than having the privilege to indulge,” she said. “It’s about people and about investing in the dignity and humanity of all New Yorkers.”
A 2013 ACLU report examining marijuana arrests found that in New York State, more than $675 million was devoted to marijuana possession enforcement in 2010. #LegalizeItRight pic.twitter.com/NgvjIVoR4P
— Drug Policy Alliance (@DrugPolicyOrg) March 27, 2019
The pressure is on to get legalization passed sooner rather than later, with an April 1 budget deadline looming just days away. But advocates remain determined to get Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and leading lawmakers in agreement on the details of a legalization plan for 2019. The governor said on Monday that they are still “working to try to get marijuana done,” but that “the devil is in the details.”
“And I don’t know that it is done for the budget, but if it’s not done after the budget, I believe we get it done after the budget,” Cuomo said.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who has cosponsored legislation to end cannabis prohibition, also voiced support for DPA’s #LegalizeItRight campaign in a tweet.
Legalizing marijuana is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. But it can't end there. We need to invest in communities that have been impacted by the failed War on Drugs & expunge nonviolent marijuana-related convictions. #LegalizeItRight
— Kamala Harris (@SenKamalaHarris) March 28, 2019
DPA also launched an online petition that people can sign to show their support for social equity in the cannabis industry.
“We, the undersigned, call for an end to the ineffective, racially biased, and unjust enforcement of marijuana prohibition,” the petition states. “We support the emergence of a new, well-regulated, and inclusive marijuana industry that is rooted in providing safe access to an already widely-used substance that is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco and has been proven to have substantial medicinal uses.”
Photo courtesy of Max Pixel.
Dr. Oz Claims DEA And FDA Blame Each Other For Keeping Marijuana Illegal
According to celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz—or Dr. Oz—representatives from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have each told him they’re on board with legalizing marijuana. And the agencies blame each other for blocking efforts to end prohibition.
In a recent interview, Oz was asked about his professional opinion on cannabis. The host of the popular daytime program of his namesake called marijuana “one of the most underused tools in America” and went on to say that he’s had conversations with individuals from both DEA and FDA who generally share his views about the plant.
“We ought to completely change our policy on marijuana. It absolutely works,” he told interviewer Fatman Scoop, adding that another daytime TV host Montel Williams, who has multiple sclerosis, convinced him of the medical utility of cannabis. “Now I’ve seen this helping people with sleep issues, with pain issues for sure, and a lot of people who have serious medical problems getting relief—and here’s the thing, you can’t die from it. I’m unaware of any case when anyone has overdosed.”
“It’s a lot safer than alcohol. It’s safer than narcotics. It ought to be used more widely and we can’t even study it that easily because of the way it’s regulated,” he said. “You know what, I called the DEA—they said, ‘we don’t want this to be illegal. Your government ought to change that. But we got to enforce the law.’ I call the FDA that regulates the drugs, they say, ‘we think it ought to be used, but until the DEA says it’s allowed, we can’t let people prescribe it everywhere.”
While Oz didn’t disclose specifics about his conversations, such as who he spoke to or when the phone calls happened, it is the case that federal marijuana reform outside of Congress falls largely within the jurisdictions of both agencies. And DEA has denied multiple rescheduling requests, justifying the inaction by stating that FDA has determined that cannabis doesn’t have proven medical value and carries a risk of abuse.
Oz, who previously asserted that marijuana could represent a tool to combat the opioid epidemic and has made other public comments about the plant’s therapeutic potential, said “I’m hoping the federal government at some point—someone’s going to say, ‘come on, this is a farce, open it up for the entire country.’ That way, the right people can begin to prescribe it.”
Although Oz advocate for marijuana reform, he also clarified earlier this year that, despite rumors, he is not involved in a CBD company that falsely attributed an endorsement to him.
Could not agree more with @tomhanks. This is a fake and misleading advertisement intended to take advantage of consumers using false claims and our likenesses illegally. I am not involved with any cannabis companies. https://t.co/EBNvnh0jdM
— Dr. Mehmet Oz (@DrOz) January 21, 2020
“I have never smoked pot in my life, never gotten high, and I only bring that up because I’m not someone who’s saying this because I personally would use it,” he said in this latest interview. “I just as a doctor think it make sense.”
Don’t Drive High On Marijuana Even If You’re Being Chased By An Axe Murderer, Federal PSA Says
The latest push by the federal government to deter marijuana-impaired driving is coming to TV, radio and the web. Its message? Even if you’re being chased by an axe-wielding psychopath, it’s not worth driving high.
The ad, a partnership between the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Ad Council, is the first TV spot developed by Vox Creative, the advertising arm of Vox Media. In it, two men run for their lives from a would-be murderer, dodging axe blows while reciting reasons not to drive stoned.
The men ultimately find a vehicle to escape the scene, but the driver pauses before he turns the key in the ignition. “Wait wait wait,” he says. “I can’t drive. I’m high.”
(Don’t worry. The two would-be murder victims swap seats and end up getting away safely while the sober one mans the wheel.)
“The rules around marijuana use can be confusing. But when it comes to marijuana use and driving, all you need to remember is one rule: Driving impaired is illegal everywhere.”
The Ad Council campaign also includes radio and online advertisements. A 30-second version of the video will run on TV, while a longer, 80-second version (embedded above) will reportedly run on Vox.com and the brand’s ad marketplace, Concert.
“Many marijuana users don’t see a problem with driving after use, but research shows marijuana can slow reaction time, impair judgment of distance, and decrease coordination – all skills necessary for the safe operating of a vehicle,” the Ad Council said in a statement accompanying the new video. “Our campaign targets young men aged 18 to 35, many of whom reject the common stereotypes of marijuana users.”
Stereotypes or no, the campaign reminds consumers that driving under the influence of marijuana is illegal in all 50 U.S. states—even if cannabis itself is legal in a growing number of them.
“The rules around marijuana use can be confusing,” its website says. “But when it comes to marijuana use and driving, all you need to remember is one rule: Driving impaired is illegal everywhere.”
Beyond the video and radio ads, the awareness push also includes a number of self-aware signage with messages such as “This is an ad that says you shouldn’t drive high.”
As more states have considered legalizing marijuana in recent years, highway safety has become a major focus. Opponents often contend that increased roadway risks themselves are enough to tap the brakes on reform.
In a typical example, the Washington Post’s editorial board in 2014 came out against legalization in Washington, D.C., citing “negative consequences, including increased instances of impaired driving.”
While being impaired no doubt increases drivers’ danger to themselves and others, some critics have complained that the risks of marijuana-impaired driving have been overblown, used as a fear tactic to chill cannabis reform. They argue that research on cannabis and driving is still thin and conflicted, and that the drug’s effect on driving pales in comparison to alcohol and some prescription drugs.
A report commissioned by Congress and published last year cast doubt on the dire warnings of THC-impaired driving. “Although laboratory studies have shown that marijuana consumption can affect a person’s response times and motor performance, studies of the impact of marijuana consumption on a driver’s risk of being involved as a crash have produced conflicting results, with some studies finding little or no increased risk of a crash from marijuana usage,” the Congressional Research Service wrote.
NHTSA, part of the Department of Transportation, has long acknowledged that THC concentration in drivers’ blood levels does not correlate with driver impairment. (The campaign even includes that fact on its website. “Unlike alcohol, there is no correlation between rising THC level and driver impairment,” it says. But that doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive high: “Some research studies have found that peak performance deficits are observed long after peak THC level occurs.”)
The lack of a clear correlation between marijuana and impaired driving has been enough to push some jurisdictions to reconsider per-se THC limits, under which drivers can be charged with a DUI based on the amount of THC in their blood regardless of any evidence of actual impairment.
In Pennsylvania, lawmakers last month introduced a bill that would force police instead to prove impairment. The legislation would exempt medical marijuana patients from the state’s existing DUI law, and police would instead have to demonstrate that a patient’s driving was actually impaired by the drug.
Meanwhile, Congress is taking steps to require states to study the impacts of marijuana-impaired driving. Legislation introduced last month would force states that have legalized cannabis, and only those states, to consider how to educate and discourage people from driving while high. Advocates have questioned that approach, noting that while impaired driving is an important issue, it’s not limited to states with legal cannabis.
Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to take a number of steps related to marijuana-impaired driving, including directing federal agencies to prepare a report on “the establishment of a national clearinghouse for purposes of facilitating research on marijuana-impaired driving.” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), a sponsor of the bill, also wants the report to outline how researchers in states that haven’t legalized marijuana can still access cannabis from dispensaries to study the drug’s effects on driving.
Congress rejected another amendment, however, that would have required NHTSA “carry out a collaborative research effort to study the effect that marijuana has on driving and research ways to detect and reduce incidences of driving under the influences of marijuana.”
Photo courtesy of Carlos Gracia
HBO Teams Up With Marijuana Companies To Sell THC Gummies Promoting New TV Series
HBO is partnering up with major marijuana businesses to market a line of promotional cannabis edible gummies meant to bring attention to an animated series premiering next week, the entertainment giant announced on Monday.
The 10mg THC gummies are made by the marijuana company Kanha and will be available at select California dispensaries as well as via delivery from Eaze. Each blend was developed to produces effects the network says reflect the personalities of the four main characters from “Close Enough,” which will be streaming on HBO Max starting July 9.
“It has been so thrilling for my team and I to create a campaign that feels so authentic to Close Enough,” Peter Sherman, senior vice president of program marketing at HBO Max, said in a press release. “When crafting any campaign, our aim is always to create an experience for the audience that feels genuine and exciting, and this partnership with Kanha hits the nail on the head. We’re so excited about this one and we can’t wait to see how fans react.”
What’s interesting about the promotion—beside the fact that a major, international media company is working with the cannabis industry—is that the series doesn’t even seem to have much to do with marijuana. It’s an adult-themed comedic animated show that touches on themes like raising children and navigating careers. The trailer doesn’t even mention cannabis.
So instead, it seems HBO is simply embracing the culture of consuming marijuana while enjoying TV.
“Kanha’s partnership with HBO Max is an exciting opportunity to showcase our delicious, award-winning gummies to a brand new audience,” Cameron Clarke, CEO of the parent company Sunderstorm, said. “We can’t think of a more playful, fun collaboration to announce to our fiercely loyal fans. We’re thrilled to partner with one of entertainment’s biggest media giants to help bring the adult characters in their new show to life through our gummy flavors and profiles.”
In celebration of the new series #CloseEnoughMax, @HBOMax releases limited edition cannabis-infused edible gummies in partnership with @bySunderstorm's @KanhaEdibles: https://t.co/J2REn3EPHj pic.twitter.com/I1u3JffGwk
— HBO Max PR (@HBOMaxPR) June 29, 2020
Here’s how HBO described each of the flavors that are based on the show’s characters:
JOSH: Cool dad, husband, and future world-famous video-game designer, Josh likes to chill with his Indica Strawberry Gummies.
EMILY: Emily is logical, organized, a planner — everything her husband Josh is not. She’s a loving mother and a strong working woman who tries to have it all. Busy mom Emily gets it done with her Sativa Pineapple Gummies.
ALEX: Alex is Josh’s neurotic best friend from high school. He lives in the walk-in closet of the apartment he shares with Josh, Emily, Candice, and Bridgette (his ex-wife, but it’s not a big deal). When Alex wants to get lost in thought, he stays cool and carries on with his Hybrid Watermelon Gummies.
BRIDGETTE: Bridgette is a glamorous social media influencer — at least in her mind. ‘Working’ is more of a hobby she squeezes in between partying. Bridgette stays on top of partying and her social game with her 1:1 Pink Lemonade Gummies.
Eaze CEO Ro Choy said that the partnership with HBO Max “is so exciting and it’s a great way to connect with audiences.”
“Eaze is all about high product standards and the best value for customers, and we’re pleased to align with one of the biggest and most respected names in entertainment,” he said.
The promotion begins on Monday and extends through the end of July, or until supplies run out. There are 20 California dispensaries that carry the products, and Eaze will offer them through deliveries in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.
Photo courtesy of Flickr/JasonParis.