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More Than 150 Proposed SXSW Marijuana Panels Are Being Voted On For Next Year’s Festival

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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.

Young Americans Are More Likely To Smoke Marijuana Than Cigarettes, Poll Finds

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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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Americans Want Medical Marijuana Dispensaries To Stay Open As ‘Essential Services,’ Poll Finds

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A majority of Americans believe that medical cannabis dispensaries should be kept open as “essential services” amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll.

The survey asked simply: “Do you believe medical marijuana dispensaries should or should not be considered essential services?”

Fifty-three percent said the cannabis providers should be regarded as essential, 26 percent said they shouldn’t and 21 percent said they didn’t know.

YouGov.

As state governments across the country grapple with the COVID-19 outbreak, officials have had to make difficult decisions about which businesses are critical enough to remain open and which should be forced to temporarily shut down. In many states with legal cannabis—including California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey—officials have determined that medical marijuana dispensaries are, in fact, essential services that can continue to operate.

Many states have also given the “essential” designation to recreational marijuana stores, though some have enacted policies stipulating that consumers can only obtain cannabis products through curbside pickup or delivery services to encourage social distancing.

It’s a trend that has reflected the mainstreaming of marijuana in U.S. society, with governments increasingly recognizing that the medicine is valuable and that dispensaries should be treated like other necessary businesses like pharmacies.

YouGov conducted the new online poll, which involved nearly 5,400 people on Wednesday.

A breakdown of demographics shows that, as in generally the case with cannabis reform issues, Democratic respondents were more likely (62 percent) than Republicans (43 percent) to agree that dispensaries should be considered essential services exempt from business closure requirements. Fifty-two percent of those who identify as independent said the shops should stay open for patients.

A majority of people across all age groups except those 55 and older said dispensaries are essential.

YouGov.

But while dispensaries in many states can continue to serve patients, COVID-19 has had a deleterious impact on drug policy reform efforts across the country.

In California, campaigns to amend the state’s cannabis program and legalize psilocybin mushrooms are suspending in-person activities and asking the state to allow for electronic signature gathering. Activists in Washington, D.C. similarly requested that officials allow alternative signature collection for a measure to decriminalize a broad range of psychedelics.

More recently, a campaign to legalize medical cannabis in Nebraska put a temporary pause on its activities in accordance with guidance from health officials. In neighboring South Dakota, activists are urging voters to consider requesting absentee ballots to ensure that measures to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational purposes are successful.

In New York, plans to legalize cannabis through the budget appear to have been derailed as the state prioritizes a coronavirus response. And in Oregon, activists working to legalize psilocybin for therapeutic purposes said their signature collection efforts have hit a snag amid the pandemic.

GOP Senator Says Marijuana Industry Is Stepping Up To Help With Coronavirus Response

Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.

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Stop Passing That Joint, Top Marijuana Reform Group Says Amid Coronavirus

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As the new coronavirus continues to spread through the U.S., one of the country’s leading advocacy groups for marijuana legalization is warning consumers to stop passing joints and to beware of online misinformation, including “any claims cannabis or CBD can help cure or protect against this virus.”

“As long as cultures have consumed cannabis, the practice of sharing a joint among friends has been a common social practice,” NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri wrote in a message posted Monday to the group’s blog. “But given what we know about COVID-19 and its transmission, it would be mindful during this time to halt this behavior.”

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is transmitted through person-to-person contact and particles that remain in the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That makes it risky to pass joints, glassware, vape pens or other devices used to consume marijuana—or even to be too close to someone who coughs after smoking or vaping.

“We all know a large part of what binds us together as cannabis consumers is community and sharing,” Altieri wrote in the NORML post. “However, while we are living through the current pandemic we should all be more mindful of our day-to-day consumption practices, and how the choices we make impact not only ourselves, but also those we care about.”

For cleaning, NORML said on Twitter that isopropyl alcohol of at least 90 percent strength “is an effective and affordable way to clear any germs or pathogens off your pieces.”

NORML is also advising patients and consumers that they may want to limit smoking and vaping, as COVID-19 can cause severe, sometimes fatal, respiratory distress.

And amid unfounded claims that cannabinoids such as CBD can treat or cure coronavirus infections, NORML warned consumers to beware of such information as well as “potential scammers promoting similar claims.”

The organization also advised patients and consumers to be careful where their marijuana comes from:

“Cannabis from the unregulated market may potentially possess molds, pesticides, or other unwanted adulterants that could hamper one’s immune system. Whenever possible, try to obtain a lab-tested, regulated product – though we fully understand that most people in our country still live in a state that enforces prohibition and this is not a realistic option. This advice is especially pertinent for portable vaping devices, as unregulated products have been known to contain vitamin E and other dangerous additives that can harm the lungs.”

For now, most medical and adult-use marijuana jurisdictions in the U.S. have allowed licensed stores to remain open. Many have declared legal cannabis retailers “essential” businesses, noting the need among some patients for a consistent supply of medicine and the public health risks of sending consumers flocking to the unregulated market. Some, including Michigan, have allowed stores to begin offering curbside pickups in order to encourage social distancing.

In a follow-up statement released on Wednesday, NORML’s Altieri said the group “commends the decision of various state governments and local jurisdictions during this pandemic to designate medical cannabis facilities as ‘essential’ to the community. This designation permits them to continue to provide important services to patients who rely on them.”

“There are several million state-licensed medical cannabis patients in America. Because many of these patients are among our more vulnerable populations, it is essential that they maintain uninterrupted, regulated access to lab-tested products during this time,” he said. “Policymakers must not push these patients to the illicit marketplace because unregulated products may contain contaminants, adulterants, molds, pesticides, or other components that could potentially endanger their health.”

Americans for Safe Access, a nonprofit group that supports access to medical marijuana, sent an open letter on Tuesday to governors across the country, urging them to keep stores open for medical patients and to adopt policies aimed at limiting customer interactions.

Policies in some areas have turned on a dime. San Francisco announced the closure of all storefront cannabis retailers as part of a shelter-in-place announcement, but hours later the city reversed that decision. For now, the local Department of Public Health said on Tuesday that the shops can remain open.

NORML on Wednesday also asked followers on Twitter to let the organization know if they were “arrested / prosecuted for simple marijuana possession during the COVID crisis.”

Meanwhile, coronavirus concerns and quarantines have forced drug policy reform activists to find new ways of organizing ballot campaigns that require in-person signature gathering. An effort to amend California cannabis law and a separate push to decriminalize some psychedelic drugs in Washington, D.C., have both asked officials within the past week to allow them to gather signatures online instead.

The public health response has also muddied New York’s path to legalization, supported by many legislators and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Last week, lawmakers introduced revised legislation in an attempt to legalize adult-use marijuana. But while the governor has insisted that the policies be enacted through the budget ahead of an April deadline, some are skeptical about that prospect as state officials prioritize a COVID-19 response.

Whether or not legalization happens in New York this year, Cuomo said Monday that talks with nearby states about the need to coordinate marijuana policies have helped enable a better regional response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The best way is for me not only to have a uniform policy within the state of New York, but to the extent you can, cooperate with surrounding states so you all have a common set of practices,” Cuomo said. “I don’t want to close down bars in New York, but Connecticut leaves the bars open. Why? Because then many people will get in their car and they’ll drive to Connecticut to go to a bar, which is the last thing we want.”

Regional Marijuana Talks Are Helping Coronavirus Response, New York Governor Says

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Filmmaker Kevin Smith Requests Digital Signatures For Marijuana Initiative Due To Coronavirus

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As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread, filmmaker Kevin Smith and actor Jason Mewes are asking California officials to allow digital signature gathering for a marijuana initiative that a campaign is hoping to qualify for the November ballot.

The initiative, called the “California Cannabis Hemp Heritage Act,” seeks to improve access to cannabis in the state by changing licensing and tax policies under the existing regulatory model. Various similar measures have been introduced by the organizers behind the effort over the years, though none have been successful.

Smith and Mewes, of “Jay and Silent Bob” fame, published a video on Facebook on Saturday, imploring the state government to temporarily revise the signature gathering process to allow petitions to be signed online, rather than in person.

While the voter approval of Proposition 64 in 2016 legalized marijuana for adult-use, Smith argued that “it has kind of rolled back some of the rights and the access the people had to the plant prior to that” when only medical cannabis was allowed.

“In legalizing weed recreationally, it kind of took a step back and now there are people that don’t have access to it,” Smith, whose pilot for a cannabis-themed web series “Hollyweed” aired last year but wasn’t picked up, said. “Worse, there are some people being criminalized again.”

The pair argued that the initiative they’re supporting would resolve those problems. Among other things, the measure would impose a 10 percent cap on the excise tax for marijuana sales, eliminate the tax for medical cannabis and require 50 percent of tax revenue to go toward the development and promotion of the industry.

However, “with the coronavirus striking, that means that our canvassers are not going to be able to get out and get signatures anymore.”

“So what we’re asking—please, the state—will you this one time accept digital signatures?” Smith said. “Being that we are in the middle of a pandemic and that it would be irresponsible to send people out to get signatures, will digital signatures be enough?”

Some advocates have raised concerns that California’s current recreational marijuana law has impeded access, particularly for medical cannabis patients.

“We hear many complaints about lack of affordable access by medical patients,” Dale Gieringer of California NORML told Marijuana Moment. “Free samples and giveaways to needy patients are hard to come by. I don’t know any consumers who think the post-64 regime is preferable from the standpoint of product choice, cost, or access.”

However, this particular campaign hasn’t been taken very seriously by the broader reform community, which has cast doubts that its signature gathering drive would be successful regardless of the current health crisis. The campaign has tried multiple times to qualify for the ballot, yet the results have been fruitless.

Even so, their request for an alternative signature gathering process under the coronavirus pandemic is shared by other drug reform campaigns.

For example, Washington, D.C. activists working on a measure to decriminalize psychedelics recently sent a letter to the mayor and local lawmakers, urging them to accept online signatures given that it would put the public and petitioners at risk if they had to collect them in person.

It remains to be seen whether legislators in D.C. or California would be willing to make the adjustment, but there are growing concerns about how the coronavirus may impact elections across the country.

“The implementation of such measures would be unprecedented; however, this is the farthest the Jack Herer campaign has ever come,” the Facebook post with the Smith and Mewes video states. ” Even if we were to meet our funding goals, at this stage it is now impossible for people to collect signatures.”

Regional Marijuana Talks Are Helping Coronavirus Response, New York Governor Says

Photo courtesy of Facebook.

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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