It’s been a little over a year since singer, activist and marijuana entrepreneur Melissa Etheridge was arrested for cannabis possession by federal agents in North Dakota near the U.S.-Canada border. Her tour bus was stopped and searched shortly after touring in Alberta, and agents discovered a vape pen containing cannabis oil.
Etheridge, who’s become an outspoken advocate for legalization in the years since she started using the plant medicinally after being diagnosed with breast cancer in her 40s, told Marijuana Moment in a new interview that the experience of being busted did not deter her.
Rather, it has motivated her to continue advocating for patients and spreading the word about marijuana’s therapeutic potential.
Later this month, the singer plans to continue that mission, giving a keynote talk on how art and culture can help bring cannabis into the mainstream at the California Cannabis Business Conference in Anaheim. In the interview below, which has been lightly edited for length and clarity, she speaks about what the audience can expect and the role of celebrities in the legalization movement.
Marijuana Moment: Let’s start by talking about your upcoming speech. How exactly can art and culture “mainstream” cannabis?
Melissa Etheridge: I know that I have lived my life in art. I have made my life art, and my art is my life. I write music and I have experience—when I went through my breast cancer experience, and I used cannabis as medicine for the first time, it was inspiring. It made sense to me on so many levels. Artists, we spend a lot of time in our right brain. We get inspiration—which means “in spirt”—from nothing and make something of it. So it’s easy for us to understand plant medicine. Why shouldn’t we be the ones to help bridge that gap?
MM: Inversely, I wonder how using marijuana has influenced your artistic career?
ME: Oh my goodness, well if you hear everything from after my cancer on, you can hear it. The difference in the work, the depth of my soul-searching, the depth of my spiritual journey. It changed my understanding of parenting. To be more balanced in one’s consciousness, to understand that we have a problem-solving consciousness—the left side, and that gets everything done—yet we need a balance of the oneness, the all there is that’s in the right side.
MM: Where do you see the role of celebrities when it comes to advancing marijuana reform?
ME: Celebrities have a funny role in our world, you know? We keep saying, we’re just people, people. And sometimes we’re just people who have done one thing really well for a long time and that’s what you become a “genius” at—that’s all that that is. So all of a sudden, people are interested in that, so you get this currency, this energy, that is celebrity. Then it’s up to each of us.
I went through this with the LGBT community. I proudly came out and said ‘yes!’ and I’ve heard from, and know that I’ve inspired, many, and that makes me just so happy in my life. Yet I’ve made some mistakes, you know? And we’re all just walking through this. Celebrities, if they choose to, can do a lot. My hope is that I can help others look at cannabis as medicine, as an alternative, when the choice that they’re given is a painkiller, an opioid, to say, “Hey, let’s try to put the stigma away and really get into this plant medicine that won’t harm us as much.” I hope my celebrity can help there.
MM: Do you think there’s a greater need for celebrities who are profiting from the marijuana industry to contribute to the movement in terms of grassroots organizing or contributing to national advocacy groups, for example?
ME: I think that’s a natural byproduct of the movement. I think that the majority of people in the cannabis industry understand it is as a social game-changer on so many levels—on justice reform, on racial inequality, it goes deep. This is a movement.
MM: You also run a marijuana business based in California. What has your experience been like since Proposition 64 went into effect?
ME: We all agree that legalization is a good thing. Prop. 64 is full of almost impossible criteria to me, and it’s causing undue financial burdens. No other industry has ever had to meet these regulation requirements—not even the food industry and certainly not the pharmaceutical industry.
MM: The anniversary of your arrest near the border recently passed. I wonder what you make of the progress we’re seeing in Canada, which is set to launch its legal cannabis system next week, compared to the United States.
ME: Oh, Canada. Again, there are parallels with the LGBT movement. I remember Canada went completely federal—we’re doing gay marriage, bam, same-sex marriage, equality. I don’t know what it is, unless it’s just that anybody who would come to Canada to live—because it’s so darn cold—that they really believe in rights for all, this great thing. I think they also jumped on cannabis pretty early and have seen what it can do for communities, what it can do medicinally, what it can do for businesses and that’s what’s going to just kill us. We are missing out on the opportunity to be the international leaders on cannabis. And it’s these beautiful people up in Canada who are doing it so well. It’s like when the Japanese started making better cars than us.
MM: As a longtime activist, what message would you send to our elected official in Congress, where cannabis reform has stalled for decades?
ME: I’d say, I understand the fear. It has been many decades of misinformation telling us that cannabis is evil. I get it. I’ve heard that also. These are different times and it’s possible to think differently about this medicine. This is an answer for you. Really give it a chance.
Dave Chappelle Ate Magic Mushrooms Gifted By A Stranger, Joe Rogan Says
Comedian Dave Chappelle recently rented out a movie theater at 1:00 AM and took psilocybin mushrooms that a stranger handed him.
That’s according to Joe Rogan, who also attended the private screening of Quentin Tarantino’s new film with Chappelle after the pair performed a stand-up show in Tacoma, Washington.
“I’m pretty sure he ate mushrooms from a fan the other day,” Rogan said on his podcast last week.
“We have a private screening of Once Upon a Time In Hollywood at one o’clock in morning. Dave is eating mushrooms that some fucking guy gave him in the crowd,” he said.
Rogan, no stranger to tripping, said he did not partake in the psychedelic festivities this time.
“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me,” he joked.
That said, Chappelle did gift a bag of unlabeled cannabis edibles to Rogan, he said.
“I don’t know where the fuck they came from,” Rogan said. “They were in a bag.”
While Chappelle has incorporated marijuana and magic mushrooms in his comedy routines (like this 1998 bit where he also talked about taking shrooms he got from a stranger and then hallucinating during a haircut), he’s also seriously advocated for reforming cannabis policy.
Former NAACP President Ben Jealous, who ran for governor of Maryland in 2018 on a pro-legalization platform, credited Chappelle for first putting the idea or marijuana reform in his head.
The two had an “ongoing conversation about the history of marijuana enforcement—the way it was targeted at our community and Latino communities—and that just sort of opened my eyes,” Jealous told Marijuana Moment last year.
Whether Chappelle will go on to become a vocal advocate for psychedelics reform is yet to be seen.
Photo courtesy of YouTube/Joe Rogan Experience.
Here Are The Top 20 Most And Least Marijuana-Friendly U.S. Colleges
It’s back-to-school season, and as college students get ready to move into their dorms, some might be wondering about campus culture—including whether their school is marijuana friendly.
The Princeton Review is here to help. Besides ranking colleges overall each year, it also includes breakout sections offering ratings on a wide range of college features. For this year’s issue, the review guide looked at the top 20 universities where students use cannabis the most and least.
To compile the list, released earlier this week, Princeton Review asked 140,000 students at 385 schools a simple question: “How widely is marijuana used at your school?”
The results, for the most part, aren’t especially shocking. In general, marijuana is consumed most frequently at colleges located in states with looser cannabis laws, or more libertarian climates. Students are least likely to consume cannabis, according to the rankings, if they attend religious or military schools, or if the campuses are located in states with more restrictive cannabis policies.
Here are the most marijuana-friendly colleges:
1. University of Vermont (Burlington, Vermont)
2. Pitzer College (Claremont, California)
3. University of Rhode Island (Kingston, Rhode Island)
4. Wesleyan University (Middletown, Connecticut)
5. Skidmore College (Saratoga Springs, New York)
6. Reed College (Portland, Oregon)
7. University of Maine (Orono, Maine)
8. Bard College (Annandale-on-Hudson, New York)
9. Marlboro College (Marlboro, Vermont)
10. University of California at Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, California)
11. Warren Wilson College (Asheville, North Carolina)
12. Sarah Lawrence College (Bronxville, New York)
13. State University of New York, Purchase College (Purchase, New York)
14. Champlain College (Burlington, Vermont)
15. Colorado College (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
16. University of Colorado at Boulder (Boulder, Colorado)
17. Ithaca College (Ithaca, New York)
18. University of Wisconsin at Madison (Madison, Wisconsin)
19. Syracuse University (Syracuse, New York)
20. Hamilton College (Clinton, New York)
Here are the least cannabis-friendly colleges:
1. United States Air Force Academy (USAF Academy, Colorado)
2. United States Military Academy (West Point, New York)
3. United States Naval Academy (Annapolis, Maryland)
4. College of the Ozarks (Point Lookout, Missouri)
5. Thomas Aquinas College (Santa Paula, California)
6. Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah)
7. Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois)
8. City University of New York, Baruch College (New York, New York)
9. Calvin University (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
10. Grove City College (Grove City, Pennsylvania)
11. City University of New York, Hunter College (New York, New York)
12. Baylor University (Waco, Texas)
13. Gordon College (Wenham, Massachusetts)
14. Hillsdale College (Hillsdale, Michigan)
15. Illinois Institute of Technology (Chicago, Illinois)
16. Stephens College (Columbia, Missouri)
17. University of Dallas (Irving, Texas)
18. Pepperdine University (Malibu, California)
19. Agnes Scott College (Decatur, Georgia)
20. Simmons University (Boston, Massachusetts)
Regardless of how much or little students at a given college consume marijuana, those who choose to partake could be at risk of losing the means by which they pay for their tuition. Drug convictions can lead to the loss of federal financial aid, which is why some lawmakers are pushing for legislation to protect such students from being denied access to education over a substance that is becoming legal in more and more places.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
More Than 150 Proposed SXSW Marijuana Panels Are Being Voted On For Next Year’s Festival
More than 150 different marijuana-focused panels are up for consideration to be featured at next year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) festival and its related SWSW EDU event.
SXSW solicited the submissions last month, urging individuals to help them fill out the lineup for its “Cannabusiness Track.” The collection of panels are meant to explore the “technological, cultural, financial, legal and political ecosystems that are defining the cannabis-focused enterprises of both today and tomorrow.”
But not all of the suggested panels are going to make the cut. An online vote opened on Monday for people to support the proposals they want to see, and that voting period closes on August 23. Proposed discussions touch on everything from social equity in the industry to protecting intellectual property to setting CBD product safety standards.
Here are some examples of what could appear at SXSW next March:
—Frenemies: Cannabis Activists & Cannabis Industry. Kris Krane, president of 4Front Ventures and former executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, explores the growing tension between the marijuana industry and activists, as debate intensifies over how to create a legal cannabis market that’s socially equitable.
—Cannabis Restorative Justice. Members of the Last Prisoner Project, including Harborside co-founder Steve DeAngelo, discuss the long-term impacts of marijuana criminalization and their experience being incarcerated over cannabis. The panel will also touch on ways “the cannabis industry can work together to repair these past and continuing injustices.”
—Is Cannabis Media Coverage Fair Or Biased? Journalists on the marijuana beat talk about the evolution in cannabis coverage and biases in how mainstream media outlets report on marijuana.
—Cannabis As A Catalyst For Change. A panel of experts, including representatives from the Drug Policy Alliance, will seek to inform the audience about “policy positions they can support to ensure the cannabis industry is operating in a socially responsible manner,” ensuring diversity in marijuana businesses and how to invest in communities disproportionately impacted by prohibition.
—IP Rights And Threats In The Cannabis Industry. Intellectual property attorney Larry Sandell will share his expertise on making sure that cannabis companies protect their innovations and branding. He will offer a “primer on utility patents, design patents, plant patents, trademarks, trade secrets, plant variety protection certificates, and copyrights—all from the cannabis perspective.”
—Full Recovery: Mixing Cannabis With Sobriety. Medicine Box CEO Brian Chaplin will answer questions about incorporating marijuana into a “sober, mindful lifestyle,” drawing from his own experience using cannabis to wean off an anti-depressant.
—The United States Of Cannabis. Experts at the Marijuana Policy Project will give the audience a status update on cannabis reform efforts throughout the country and offer perspective on how reform advances through ballot initiative and state legislatures. The panel will also provide a preview of how MPP plans to allocate resources to continue changing cannabis laws in the coming years.
—Descheduling Cannabis: Be Careful What You Wish. Market analysts will dive into the debate over potential industry changes that could occur if marijuana is federally descheduled. Panelists will raise questions about how descheduling could lend to a market model that favors established corporations like Walmart over marijuana businesses.
—Can The South Rise To End Pot Prohibition? This panel will take a look at obstacles that southern states have faced in legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana. Entrepreneurs from the region discuss what it will take for “the South to ultimately rise above prohibition” and answer questions about how to ensure that the industry that emerges will be inclusive.
—Reporting On The Corporatization Of Psychedelics. Staff at the psychedelics publication DoubleBlind will explore the rapidly changing politics of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA. Conversations will concern the potential corporatization of psychedelics and “accessibility of psychedelic medicine” today.
—Cannabusiness In Africa: Is There A Future? As several African countries weigh getting into the cannabis export business, panelists will go over how the industry can be “developed responsibly and help support broad based economic growth in some of the world’s poorest countries.”
—The Corporatization Of Marijuana. Panelists including former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) will talk about just how much the government—at the state and local level—should be regulating cannabis as well as concerns about underage consumption and impaired driving.
This isn’t the first time that SXSW has featured marijuana panels. This year’s SXSW festival involved more than 20 cannabis events, including discussions that covered female entrepreneurship in the cannabis market and the prospect of marijuana reform in Texas.
Former Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who joined the board of a major cannabis firm after leaving office, delivered a keynote address at one panel, which drew protests from social justice advocates who argued that restorative justice needs to be a critical component of legal cannabis systems that profit-minded “Big Marijuana” companies are currently benefiting from.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.