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.
Killer Mike Explains Why Rappers Deserve More Credit For Marijuana Legalization
Rapper and social justice advocate Killer Mike said on Monday that it’s important for Americans to recognize that rap artists helped pave the path to marijuana reform in a way that isn’t often discussed in the media.
Speaking at a panel on freedom of speech, Mike pointed to societal double standards when it comes to different musical genres such as rap and country. And he emphasized the importance of ensuring that free speech is protected for artists whose music might be controversial but whose contributions can have significant policy implications.
Cannabis has been featured prominently in rap music, and Mike said that’s often overlooked when people talk about how marijuana reform entered the mainstream.
“We know that with national decriminalization of marijuana now, a lot of people are going to get credit for it—a lot of activists, a lot of workers,” he said. “But I can show you a line that leads straight back to Cyprus Hill, that leads straight back to Snoop Dogg, that leads straight back to people like Rick James.”
“If it’s not duly acknowledged publicly—if the media isn’t pushing the line of that narrative, if the media isn’t giving us that freedom, if the media treats rappers differently than they do country artists—then you’re going to see a galvanization of what the prejudices that we already see” in terms of racial discrimination, he said.
Mike, along with artists including Chance the Rapper and Meek Mill, made a similar point in a brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court in March, defending another artist who was convicted because a song of his was interpreted as a threat against Pittsburgh police officers.
In that brief, the coalition explained that war on drugs fueled protest art that gave a voice to those disproportionately impacted by aggressive, anti-drug enforcement efforts and shed light on how the drug war impacted disadvantaged communities across the country.
It should be noted, however, that while Mike sees a straight line between cannabis reform and Cyprus Hill, that specific line isn’t so cut and dry.
Cypress Hill member B-Real campaigned against California’s marijuana legalization measure in 2016, citing concerns with how it was specifically drafted, only to open up a dispensary himself two years after it passed. If he’d gotten his way, the nation’s most populous state would have continued prohibiting cannabis for several more years and the measure’s defeat—in California of all places—could have had devastating implications for the legalization movement in Congress and around the country.
Photo courtesy of C-SPAN.
Americans Want CBD Available Over-The-Counter, Poll Finds
A majority of Americans familiar with cannabidiol (CBD) say it should be available as an over-the-counter drug and that the compound has multiple health benefits, according to a Gallup survey released on Friday.
The CBD craze emerged from the marijuana reform movement and escalated following the passage of the 2018 farm bill, which federally legalized hemp and its derivatives including CBD. The survey, which involved 1,017 phone interviews conducted from May 15-30, offers some insight into the substance’s widespread appeal.
Thirty-nine percent of Americans overall said that people should be able to access CBD as an over-the-counter drug, with 21 percent saying a prescription should be required. Thirty-six percent of respondents said they weren’t familiar with the non-intoxicating compound.
But when Gallup asked people who said they were familiar with CBD the same question, 61 percent said that CBD should be over-the counter and 33 percent said it should be available for those with a prescription.
Participants were also asked to rate their familiarity with CBD. Fourteen percent said they were “very familiar,” 33 percent said they were “somewhat familiar,” 17 percent said they were “not too familiar” and 36 percent said they were “not familiar at all.”
Again zeroing in on those who said they were familiar with CBD, Gallup asked what they thought about its therapeutic value.
Nine-out-of-ten respondents agreed that CBD does have health benefits. Breaking that down, 33 percent said it has “a lot of benefits,” 45 percent said it has “some benefits” and 14 percent said it has “only a few benefits.” Only four percent said it has “no benefits” and three percent didn’t have an opinion.
“The CBD-oil arena is extremely active right now, including medical research into its benefits, state legislation governing its sale, federal legislation encouraging its production and corporate investment growing in the business,” Gallup wrote. “Although medical research has a long way to go to investigate all of the claims made about CBD, half of Americans already believe it has at least some medical value, and that percentage is likely to grow as more become familiar with the product.”
The commercial interest in CBD is explosive, with lawmakers and industry stakeholders putting pressure on federal agencies like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to streamline the regulatory process to provide for the compound’s lawful marketing in the food supply and as health supplements.
But even as the government develops those regulations, companies are wasting no time, flouting the FDA and putting CBD in everything from pricey lattes to Carl’s Jr. burgers. At the same time, CBD’s medical value has been strongly established; the FDA approved a CBD drug last year for the treatment of certain forms of epilepsy.
Gallup also released a separate survey on Thursday that explored the various reasons Americans support or opposed broader marijuana legalization.
Photo courtesy of Kimzy Nanney/Unsplash.
Oakland Marijuana Shop Flooded With Questions About Psilocybin Mushrooms After Decriminalization Vote
A vote to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms and other psychedelics in Oakland has left some residents confused about whether the substances have become commercially available.
Debby Goldsberry, CEO of Magnolia Wellness, told Marijuana Moment that her licensed marijuana shop has been “receiving calls from our members and interested community members, wondering if the dispensary was or would carry these products.”
While the City Council voted unanimously last week in favor of a resolution that bars the use of “any city funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of laws imposing criminal penalties” against adults who using and possessing the plants and fungi, the measure specifically does not allow for their legal sale.
“Selling mushrooms would violate both our local and state licenses, and it would put us squarely in the crossfire of federal laws that treat these plant medicines as felonies,” Goldsberry said. “Magnolia Wellness, while appreciating their medicinal value, would never put our company, our member base or those in the community who depend on us for support at risk in order to provide medicinal mushrooms.”
Further, the shop’s staff doesn’t “have the experience of expertise to advise people on the use of psychedelic plant medicines,” she said.
Confusion over the distinction between decriminalization and commercial legalization isn’t confined to Oakland, or psychedelics laws for that matter.
A separate successful campaign to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms in Denver last month was complicated by voters conflating the policy change with broader legalization. Kevin Matthews, campaign director of Decriminalize Denver, made education about the difference between the two policy reforms a cornerstone of the group’s outreach efforts.
“We spent a lot of time talking to people on the ground and letting them know that in terms of decriminalization, this is the kind of thing that’s simply going to keep people out of jail for using substances,” Matthews told Marijuana Moment. “I think it’s one thing we did a decent thing of was really letting people that you can’t go buy this at a dispensary.”
But whereas Decriminalize Denver spent months educating the public about their proposal as they collected signatures to place the measure on the ballot, the Oakland resolution was introduced and voted on in relatively short order.
That, Matthews said, likely contributed to misunderstandings about the policy implications. Another factor may be that the resolution’s sponsor in Oakland indicated just before the vote that legalization and regulated sales could follow.
“Now we have to agree on what’s being regulated and identify a pathway for distribution and sales,” Councilmember Noel Gallo told Marijuana Moment on the day his measure was approved. “Like with marijuana, we have to establish a process.”
But that plan may run up against resistance, including from reform-minded allies.
“I think that in terms of Oakland, it’s up to them to make it very clear that people can’t go buy this right now,” Matthews said. “And I don’t think anyone should be able to in a recreational setting like that.”
“I think it’s important for people to keep in mind that this is a people-powered movement, not a profit-powered movement. We have some time before we should even start considering any kind of recreational sales,” he said. “That could derail the whole damn movement.”
Decriminalize Nature, the campaign behind Oakland’s decriminalization victory, told Marijuana Moment that it does not support commercializing the plant-and fungi-based substances.
As an amendment attached to the resolution itself states, the measure “does not authorize or enable any of the following activities: commercial sale or manufacturing of these plants and fungi.”
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia/Mädi.