The Enemy You Know & the Enemy You Don't When it Comes to Cannabis Reform

At this turning point in history, it sometimes feels as though cannabis reform is blazing a new trail at rocket speed, and yet sometimes it feels like the changes we truly need and have fought for are being bogged down in the mud.

It’s pretty remarkable to see our nation’s lawmakers one-by-one doing an about face on the issue while they still hold the reins of power at the highest levels of our government, and it is no shock to see them flock to the exciting and potentially lucrative new market much like former GOP Speaker of the House and staunch Conservative John Boehner did once he left D.C.

With so much turnover in opinions and ideologies these days when it comes to weed, it can be hard to accurately identify who is an ally and who is an enemy and who is just a carpetbagging corporate cuck looking for the next big buck.

Sometimes the opposition to the cannabis movement is obvious, like the time that Arizona-based Insys Therapeutics Inc. tossed a cool $500k into the pot in an effort to stifle pro-cannabis reform in the state.

Insys, you may be aware, is currently facing major legal problems surrounding their production and marketing of a highly addictive and potentially deadly Fentanyl-based sublingual spray called Subsys. Court documents from their trial that is going on right now reveal that, among a trove of other improprieties, Insys had a former stripper for a marketing director that was giving lap dances to doctors to close sales of the poison product.

So they market their drug as relief for struggling cancer patients, then they jam fake titties in doctors’ faces to encourage them to write scripts left and right for anyone with a minor ailment, leading to unknown amounts of pain, suffering, and death.

Honestly, though, it came as no surprise when they did it – we expect that from Big Pharma. Cannabis can relieve or even cure countless conditions whose code synthetic pharmaceuticals just cannot crack. Not to mention, you can grow your own in a closet, garden, or garage without needing to rely on exploitative outfits like Insys.

Big Pharma, the For-Profit Prison System, crooked law enforcement organizations… these are common opponents to cannabis reform. Their arguments are weak and easily debunked by decades of anecdotal evidence which is now being backed more and more by hard science, but their pocketbooks are deep and that makes them as formidable as they are.

But the opposition doesn’t end there, and it isn’t always so obvious.

Recent polling in the state of New York shows that 65% of residents in the Empire State are in favor of having Gov. Cuomo put the pieces in place to legalize the adult recreational use of cannabis as soon as possible.

The hesitant Gov spent a good portion of 2018 allegedly studying all sides of the issue and holding listening seshes to try to wrap his head around the best way to implement such a program in the population-dense state.

Today, he is pointing to his newest proposed budget plan which he is proud to point out includes his version of statewide weed legalization. But upon closer review, a lot of grassroots cannabis advocates are concerned that although the Democratic governor may have heard from a lot of voices in the past 12 months, he may only be listening to a very select few.

In the fine print of the new budget deal is language that will, if passed, completely prohibit the home cultivation of cannabis even once it is legal to smoke and sell.

The right to grow your own is an essential plank in any state or federal level cannabis reform. To exclude it is ignorant, cruel, counterproductive and counter to the cannabis culture. So why then would Gov. Cuomo try to wedge it into law?

Just like in Arizona a couple years ago, just follow the money.

It turns out, just one month before the Gov released his proposed budget plan he received a letter from the highly influential New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association (NYMCIA) which is made up of bigwigs from the state’s major licensed medical cannabis providers.

In that letter, in a section ominously titled “The Fallacy of the Home Grow”, they advised the governor in no uncertain terms that allowing home cultivation “creates a significant public safety and black market risk.”

They gave five claims that they hoped would sway the naïve governor, and it seems they worked.

  1. Home cultivation only fuels the black market

  2. Home cultivation makes it impossible for regulators and law enforcement to know the source of suspect weed

  3. Home cultivation will lead to unsafe cannabis production as it will not be regulated for pesticides, mold, etc

  4. Home cultivated weed will never be tested, packaged, or labeled properly

  5. Home cultivated cannabis escapes the web of taxation that will surely be put in place to make pot more palatable to fence-sitting lawmakers

The NYMCIA is made up of companies like Columbia Care, Etain, PharmaCann, The Botanist and Acreage NY (hi, Mr. Boehner!), Vireo Health and MedMen, most or all of whom have given maxed out political donations to the governor to help grease the skids for decisions like this one.

From the shallowest of perspectives, maybe it makes some sense that those in the uniquely lucrative position to soon slang legal weed in New York don’t want anyone grabbing a sack from anyone but them, but these are some dirty tactics for sure.

To claim to represent the cannabis industry while openly shitting on the cannabis culture in broad daylight is shameful, but we all know that soulless corporations like MedMen have zero shame or moral compass to begin with.

So the lesson becomes, know who you are supporting and standing behind as we march toward federal cannabis reform in this country. Not everyone pushing for legal weed should be invited to the sesh.

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