« The Weeds

The Weeds’ weed episode

2022-11-15

Let’s be blunt: Weed policy is complicated. As with many elections in the past decade, recreational marijuana was on the ballot again during the 2022 midterm elections. After Colorado and Washington voted to legalize recreational use in 2012, more and more states have decided to ride the green wave. And recent moves by the Biden administration signal the federal government may finally come around to decriminalizing marijuana. But do these policies have any power? 

References:

Marijuana election results: Maryland and Missouri vote to legalize cannabis by ballot measure

President Biden’s pardons for marijuana possession, explained 

Federal marijuana legalization is stopped in its tracks

Hosts:

Jonquilyn Hill (@jonquilynhill)

Credits:

Sofi LaLonde, producer

Cristian Ayala, engineer

Libby Nelson, editorial adviser

A.M. Hall, deputy editorial director of talk podcasts

Want to support The Weeds? Please consider making a donation to Vox: bit.ly/givepodcasts

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
- Support for this podcast comes from Planned Parenthood. It's hard to imagine a world where we leave future generations with fewer rights and freedoms. Since the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, politicians in nearly every state have introduced bills aimed at blocking people from getting the essential sexual and reproductive care they need, including abortion. Planned Parenthood believes everyone deserves access to care and with supporters like you, they can reclaim our rights and protect and expand access to abortion care. Visit plannedparenthood.org/future to learn more and support their cause.
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Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Weeds. I'm John Glenn Hill. Last week, voters came out for the midterms. At the time of this recording, there are things that we know. Like that Democrats have kept their control of the Senate. And there are also things we don't know, like who will control the house. Once all the time has come, you can be a part of the family. The votes are counted, we'll get a sense of what the country's policy priorities will be over the next two years. But we did get a peek into how voters feel about one issue in particular. Marijuana. What's the attraction of smoking marijuana? What kind of sensation does it give you? Um, it makes me feel very nice, very warm. Five states put cannabis on their ballots this year, and the results are mixed. So we decided.
It's time for the Weeds weed episode. -It also gives me a sort of, I don't know, a sort of peace of mind. -We gave Mary Jane Gibson a call. She's a journalist and writes about cannabis for a lot of different places, including here at Vox.com. Mary Jane, so -- Prepping for this interview, I was listening to a lot of music about weed, and one of them was Mary Jane by Rick James. Is that like one of your go to jams? Are you like, No, I hate that song? Oh my god. No, I love that song. It's fantastic. It surprised me how far back that went. Like, there's this song called Let's Get Stoned.
And it was sung by Big Mama Thornton and the Coasters and Ray Charles. ♪♪ -Now, wait a minute. Got me kind of thinking, you know, before we jump into the current policy, can you briefly lay out for us kind of the history? history of marijuana in the US historically, where has it stood? So cannabis Has been sort of inextricably linked to almost every facet of American culture. It was widely available as a medicine and pharmacies around the country. You know, you could use weed as a tincture if you had a headache or a cramp. So it was a really common thing to just find weed in your medicine cabinet at home. But then after the Mexican Revolution, when Mexicans started migrating to the...
U.S. over the southern border, politicians who were against that immigration were trying to look for a way to vilify them, and so they started referring to their cannabis... Abuse as something that was negative. And that's really when it became referred to as marijuana, which was the Spanish... Before that. If you'd gone into a pharmacy in the late part of the 19th century, you would have found cannabis L-Citiva tincture on the shelf. And so marijuana became this name that was sort of used to demonize the plant because it sounded sort of... More foreign and that was sort of the beginning of the war against marijuana in the Americas. The movie Reefer Madness came out in 1936 and that's when like fear of the plant kind of reached the mainstream with like the devil's lettuce and oh no we're all gonna you know murder people if we smoke a joint. These high school boys and girls are having a hop at the local soda fountain.
And you... It was really like sort of the beginning of the drug war and the terrors of like, oh my God, what happens if my kid smokes weed? He's gonna go off the rails. In this film you will see the ease with which this vicious plant can be grown in your neighbor's yard. The harmless looking cigarettes. That was right before the marijuana tax act, which was enacted in 1937, after the plant had been sort of depicted. This drug that was going to cause everyone to commit crimes and it basically imposed a acts against anyone using the plant and failure to comply meant a fine of up to $2,000 and five--
Years in jail and the first marijuana arrest under that law was just like a low-level weed dealer in Denver Colorado so that was the beginning of criminalizing cannabis under federal law in America was that marijuana tax act in 1937 and then it was followed up in very robust ways. Ensuing administrations. -Another way, like, I think of marijuana is like the hippies of the '60s, you know, that kind of counterculture. How did we see -- marijuana kind of demonized during that period of time. So there was an aid to Nixon who actually came Out and admitted that the war on drugs was sort of manufactured in order to target Black people and hippies. He He admitted as much in an interview in Harper's Magazine about 25 years ago.
I think, and his name was John Ehrlichman and he said, We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the... Hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. It was an admission that the war on drugs was truly an invention in order to criminalize and control populations that the establishment wanted to keep down. We seen that kind of war on drug policy enacted, you know, through the years, especially when it comes to marijuana? You know, I think a lot of times When we think of the war on drugs, we think of, you know, crack cocaine, but weed is very much a part of it too. Hugely so, especially when it was, you know, referred to as a gateway drug starting in the 70s and 80s after it was introduced as a dangerous drug. Drug and listed on the Controlled Substances Act. Marijuana is an intoxicating, mind-muddling drug. Its use can be...
To abnormal behavior, to psychological dependence, and to abuse of other drugs. It was criminalized. As this sort of, you know, way into a life of crime and addiction and it was especially targeted, you know, racial arrests and the disparity of who was actually using weed and who was getting arrested for weed really became... In the 70s and 80s when the war on drugs ramped up. America's public enemy number one is drug abuse. In order to fight and defeat this enemy... It is necessary to wage a new all-out offensive. Can we talk about where... The government ranks marijuana as a drug. How does it compare to other drugs, like cocaine, for instance? So it's listed on the controlled substances. Act as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning that it has no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, and it's listed with heroin.
And LSD. Schedule II drugs include cocaine, methamphetamines, opioids, so weed is the as something that is way more dangerous than any of the drugs that have actually been proven to kill people. And there are no recorded fatalities for cannabis use. The fact that it's listed... Under this schedule where there's no medical use is so fascinating to me, especially because medicinal cannabis is very, very important. Very much a thing. And, you know, states regulate medicinal cannabis use. How did it come into its modern medicinal use, despite, you know, the schedule one classification? Was an American activist in San Francisco named Dennis Perrone, who is largely responsible for our having any legal cannabis in the United States today. He was a gay activist.
He was really involved in the community and seeking relief for the people who were suffering from the AIDS crisis. In the 70s and 80s. He founded the first medical dispensary in the nation and he brought medical to the gay community who were suffering during the AIDS crisis. He was jailed for it. He was criminalized for it. Was sort of the beginning, the beginnings of the modern marijuana movement can really trace their roots to the LGBTQ scene in San Francisco. In the 1980s. How did we get to states legalizing it for... Recreational use? Like how did we kind of make that transition? Well, the first medicinal marijuana bill was in California in 1996. It was Prop 215. After California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, the states that follow... The links to the upload included Maine, Hawaii, Maryland, Vermont, Rhode Island, California,
Connecticut, a whole bunch of states legalized medical use, but cannabis reform advocates were seeing that it wasn't purely medicinal use that was going to stop criminalizing the plant and that people were still going to prison for use and cultivation of a plant In many cases were using to sustain their communities. For instance, the movement in the Emerald Triangle after the birth of the movement in the 1960s and 70s. Created an entire network of communities who were sustaining their families and their infrastructure for their communities through use of this Plant, but they were being raided and put in prison and losing their livelihoods. So the move to not... Only have it as an accepted medical plant but to actually push to have it legalized entirely so that people would stop going to prison.
Started where we are now. And then in 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two to legalize the recreational use, soon followed by Massachusetts, and then Vermont and New Hampshire, sort of all traditionally pretty progressive states. And in 2014, we started seeing some decriminalization measures. For instance, Missouri was one of the states that decriminalized before it actually enacted a medical care. Cannabis program. So it's really been interesting, like a sort of hodgepodge of some would go medical, some would decide to go recreational. It's been a really state by state sort of situation as reform advocates have worked so hard to make this available to. Across the country. And then we found, you know, just recently in the midterms... We've got now 21 states because Maryland and Missouri both voted yes to legalize recreational
cannabis. So we now have 50% of Americans living in a state with access to legal cannabis. We've got 21 states with fully legal cannabis for adult use and 37 states with legalized medical cannabis in some form. Just for a quick clarification. What's the difference between legalization and decriminalization? decriminalism. Literally just means that it would become a low law enforcement priority and that people would not go to prison for Possession and or in some cases distribution of the plant, but it definitely refers to. Nonviolent low-level cannabis offenses. So if you're caught smoking a joint, you're just not going to go to jail. If you're caught with an ounce in your... When you're driving across state lines, they're not gonna tag you for it. It's a way of starting. The conversation around getting people out of prison and not putting more people in prison.
Without actually allowing any corporate entities to profit off of it. And a lot of cannabis advocates say that decriminalization is really the only way forward and that we shouldn't look to legalize it. Is at a federal level. -Next up, more about the ballot initiatives from the 2022 midterms and the tricky landscape of cannabis regulation. - Support for this podcast comes from Planned Parenthood. Your body is your own. That's why Planned Parenthood is committed to ensuring that everyone has the information and resources they need to make their own decisions about their bodies, including abortion care. - Parent makers who oppose abortion are challenging Planned Parenthood. Affordable, high quality, basic healthcare for more than two million people is at stake.
Planned Parenthood believes that healthcare is a basic human right. That's why they fight every day to push for common sense policies that protect our right to control our own bodies. They also work tirelessly to oppose the onslaught of new policies aimed at interfering with personal decisions, best left to patients and their doctors. They won't give up and they won't back down. You can join Planned Parenthood in the fight to help make sure that the next generation can decide their own futures. The organization needs your support now more than ever. With supporters like you, they can reclaim our rights and protect and expand access to abortion care. Visit plannedparenthood.org/future to learn more and support their cause. you - This broadcast comes from Planned Parenthood. Your body is your own. That's why Planned Parenthood is committed to ensuring that everyone has the information and resources they need to make their own decisions about their bodies, including abortion care.
- Parent makers who oppose abortion are challenging Planned Parenthood. Affordable, high quality, basic healthcare for more than two million people is at stake.
Planned Parenthood believes that healthcare is a basic human right. That's why they fight every day to push for common sense policies that protect our right to control our own bodies. They also work tirelessly to oppose the onslaught of new policies aimed at interfering with personal decisions, best left to patients and their doctors. They won't give up and they won't back down. You can join Planned Parenthood in the fight to help make sure that the next generation can decide their own futures. The organization needs your support now more than ever. With supporters like you, they can reclaim our rights and protect and expand access to abortion care. Visit plannedparenthood.org/future to learn more and support their cause. Welcome back to The Weeds. I'm John Gwen Hill. Today, we're talking about weed. Like Mary Jane was saying right before the break, we now have 50% of Americans living in a state with some form of legal cannabis. The midterms had five recreational use initiatives on the ballot this year, But they--
-Didn't all pass. Mary Jane, can you talk a little bit about those ballot initiatives in the midterms? What's happening at the state level as far as marijuana policy goes? So what was really notable about these midterms was that of the five states with cannabis on the ballot, four of them were red states, traditionally conservative, Saw Missouri and North and South Dakota all put initiatives in front of voters. It was just really interesting to see how people -- responded to them. So Maryland was widely expected to pass because voters have been in favor of Marijuana in Maryland for a very long time and it did pass and it was exciting to... See Missouri also say yes to amendment three which passed. Cannabis for adult use and that'll be legal in Missouri starting next year. Arkansas and the Dakotas, the initiatives failed and part of
What I'm hearing from reform advocates is that the initiatives in Arkansas and North and South Dakota largely failed because they didn't have provisions for social equity or home cultivation. Mmm. Interesting. I wonder, like, at the end of the day, what is the draw of the law? Are people like, Okay, yeah, like, too many people have... Been harmed by the way we've treated this drug? Or is it people like, I don't-- Want access to the devil's lettuce, you know, like it's hard to say. - Interesting because, you know, public opinion has really changed on marijuana. At this point, 91% of Americans are in favor of some form of legalization. According to a Pew Research study that was released last year. They either want it available for medical marijuana patients or just to entirely decriminalize it. And/or legalize it so people are no longer going to jail for it. And also they're largely seeing that it's just this huge economic boost.
So much money in legal cannabis. And especially as people are struggling with a tough economy, you know, being able to maybe start a small. Or get a job at a legal cannabis business is something that people are, you know, starting to change minds and the very successful propaganda. Of the drug war, I think is really starting to fade. - Are we in the middle of a green wave right now? I don't know if that's what it's called. I literally just made that up, but is that what's happening? The green wave. I like that so much. I've also heard it called a green rush. Ooh, okay. Yes, I think it is happening. You know, it was sort of a slow and steady trickle for a very long time with Colorado and Washington being the first to legalize and then a few years later Vermont and New Hampshire.
Came on board and about four or five years ago, states really started moving to enact legal cannabis laws. And it does feel like now that the tipping point has been reached, especially with red states putting It to voters fairly regularly. This was the second time that it was on the ballot in both North and South Dakota. And it actually passed in South Dakota two years ago. This time, strangely enough, voters declined to approve it. I'm also curious about what is considered weed. Like there are... States where weed is illegal. I was recently in Texas visiting friends where marijuana is very much illegal. And we We're driving by these shops and it was like Delta H sold here, HHC sold here. My friend I'm like what is that and she's like oh that's weed and I'm like wait why is it called that is this is this spice like what are they Selling to y'all down here. It's interesting because the distinction between cannabis and hemp.
Is what you're seeing there. And a lot of those products are using this loophole of hemp being made legal for cultivation and distribution under the 20th century. 18 Farm Bill to bring these products to market. So when you see a Delta 8 gummy or a CBD product for sale at a gas station, say, those are almost always sourced from hemp. And hemp is cannabis. It is the same plant. The only distinction is that hemp has less than 0.3% THC, which is the psychoactive substance in cannabis that gives us this. Euphoric, that sort of high feeling in conjunction with a bunch of other cannabinoids that you... Would hear about THC and CBD are the two that you hear the most about but then Delta 8 which is actually sort of just... One molecule bond off of the delta-9 THC cannabinoid. So there are so many different components of the cannabidiolide.
Plant that we really don't even know much. There's so much research still to be done because it's been not available for research, because it's been illegal. Pretty clever way around the federal Schedule 1 status of Canada. I mean, and you know, it's hard to get in their heads, but part of me is like, are lawmakers making these loopholes on purpose? Like, it's-- it's just kind of this weird thing. It is. It's such a-- a sort of like a-- Mindfuck, honestly. I mean, pardon my language, but it's, you know, really to like, it's Vox, we can say it to try. Hold in your head the idea that each state gets to decide what they want to do regarding cannabis policy, medical cannabis policy, or recreational cannabis policy, however they want to handle it. You know, Idaho has said... No way, never, not here, we're not doing anything. And then, you know, in California it's like a marijuana mecca. So it's so crazy to have... That be a state by state issue while at a federal level, federal lawmakers are saying this is a danger.
I mean, we still have elected officials in Congress and the Senate saying that there is absolutely no way Mitch McConnell, for instance, has come out hardcore against Kim and saying there is never any way that he would ever allow, you know, a vote to leave. At a federal level. And even Biden historically has been really anti-weed until his recent review federal cannabis policy. He was actually the architect of some of the policies that were You know, really hard on people who were convicted of cannabis crimes. I mean, largely, you know, some of his policies were the ones that put people in jail for a very long time. I want to talk a little bit about the Biden administration. Can you talk a little bit about the policy announcement he recently made and what it does and if it's as significant as it sounds? So it is significant because he is the first sitting U.S. president to issue any kind of proclamation on changing federal cannabis.
Policy. I think that is a big deal. And he also encouraged governors of states to follow His lead and pardon people at a state level. What he truly did-- though is a little less significant because he issued a statement saying that he was going to pardon federal prisoners convicted of simple possession and that's - Sounds great, but the reality is that there were very few prisoners who were convicted of a federal charge of simple possession. Simple possession just means that you... Have enough for your own use, you're not going to distribute it and you're not going to give it away. You're not going to sell it to kids or anything. So. It means that you were perhaps smoking a joint on federal land. Oh, there are probably lots of college kids in DC who have been caught at the...
Lincoln Memorial. Yeah, exactly. That sounds about right. - Exactly. So it really only is going to affect about 6,500 people who are convicted of simple marijuana possession under federal law, as well as like you say, people under DC code. So it's not nothing, but it does feel like a gesture People who are sitting in prison who are convicted of crimes like a conspiracy to distribute or cultivation or something you know like if you were arrested with cannabis while also in possession of a legal licensed handgun, for instance, that makes it a felony so you're not available for this legislation wouldn't affect you. Is there a likelihood that the Biden administration will reschedule marijuana? Like where does the Biden administration stand weed policy right now. So Biden didn't really promise anything other than to have the classification of marijuana.
As a Schedule I drug reviewed. But reform advocates are really concerned that he would move. Reschedule rather than de-schedule because rescheduling it as a schedule two drug would Purview of pharmaceutical companies. It would consider it medicine, and it wouldn't be de-scheduled. Which is what would allow the sale for adult use cannabis to happen across the country. And most reform advocates are calling for that, descheduling instead of rescheduling, because rescheduling would continue to keep it in the purse. View of pharmaceutical companies and the government in a way that doesn't really make sense for a fully legal plan to the national level. - I'm curious when we started to see this shift in federal. Policy. Like I think of Bill Clinton was very much like, I didn't inhale though. I experimented with marijuana a time or two and I didn't like it.
And didn't inhale and never tried it again. And Obama was like, I absolutely inhaled. I inhaled. Frequently. That was the point. When did we see this shi- in federal policy in particular? The first shift that I can really point to as far as-- Policy goes was the Cole memorandum, which was issued during the administration. And it was a memorandum from the United States Deputy Attorney that was sent to all US attorneys that basically said that the Justice Department shouldn't enforce federal marijuana prohibition in states that had legalized cannabis in some form. So Sort of just telling DAA agents to stand back if, you know, a cannabis business existed in a state where it was legal and it had permits and it was paying taxes and all that sort of stuff that they should hold off. And that Cole memorandum was a measure of relief, but not really protection because there's certainly...
Were still federal raids happening on quote-unquote legal businesses during that time. But then it was rescinded during the Trump presidency. Jeff Sessions, one of the first things he did was rescind the Cole memorandum. So since then... And a lot of cannabis advocates who were really hopeful that Trump would actually be their candidate He did pardon some cannabis prisoners on his way out of office before he left, but. Dichotomy, I think, when it comes to the law and marijuana. And I think--
But then it's illegal on the federal level. It really baffles me, like, how can something-- And it's even, you know, on a municipal level in some states that don't have state level laws. For instance, voters in five Texas cities just decided. Always has been, I mean pardon the pun grassroots, but it's like it's truly, you can't square it. Criminalized in the way that it is at the federal level. And the fact that we have US government.
To officials saying that it is a dangerous drug that kills people, while at the same time you have multimillion and billion dollar businesses profiting off of it and clear data that shows that it is beneficial. For communities and it's beneficial as a plant for people seeking relief as an alternative to opioids for instance and for some people it's just an alternative to something like a glass of wine. You really can't squirt in your head it's That exists around the issue of legal cannabis is absolutely infuriating You know, there was one woman I spoke to who was in jail. She had been convicted of conspiracy to distribute and she was given a 10-year federal sentence. And she was watching TV and the news was on and there was a woman on TV talking about how her cannabis business was booming and that doesn't square. You mentioned the grassroots movements.
-And, um, is that where these ballot initiatives are springing from? Like, I'm kind of curious, like, why is this popping up? Up on the ballot so often and in so many places now. Yeah, often they're citizen-led initiatives. You know, it's really pretty amazing. Often they're coalitions of voters who just want to get together and they go out and they collect signatures and they get it on the ballot and they, in many cases have to Fight to get it on the ballot. There was an attempt in Arkansas this year to get the language on the ballot and the. Signatures were collected and this campaign called the Responsible Growth Arkansas campaign turned in. Thing and then the board of elections denied certification saying the wording was insufficient. So then they had to file a lawsuit with the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court ruled in their favor and they were able to get it in front of voters. But it's largely a fight to even get these.
Measures on the ballot and often they are citizen-led, but in some cases they are funded by existing medical cannabis businesses who are sort of looking to monopolize an out-of-use They, you know, they see the sort of benefit of opening it up to adult use and they want to sort of grab up the whole pie for themselves before anyone else gets to come in and do business. So again, it's like state by state municipal. By municipality and in places like California, where cannabis was made legal with Prop 64. In 2016 and it started in 2018. It's legal, but almost 70% of municipalities have said no to having legal cannabis businesses in their cities. So there are several Counties in California where you can't get legal cannabis. What is this kind of patchwork? you know, way this is put together between, you know, localities, the federal government. What does this say?
About American policy in general. Is there something weird about weed policy in particular? Or is this indicative of how our country works? -Oh, I think it does-- Definitely says something weird about weed policy. I have learned in writing about cannabis, I have learned so much about states rights, not only applying to cannabis, but it's really fascinating that, you know, the 10th amendment was put in place to say that, you know, states Get to decide what they want to do as far as policy goes. And so, you know, as it applies to cannabis, it, it, does mean that this crazy patchwork exists where one state will put you in jail for it and another state will give you a million. In dollar loan to start your own business. It is really hard to understand. And you know, if we look to other places that have legalized cannabis, for instance, in Canada,
legalized just across the country and then put into place a regulatory system that was sort of designed to stamp out the What we now call the traditional of the legacy market, also known as the black market. And they've been relatively successful. In doing so, but that also means that all of the pieces of cannabis that a lot of people really love, And the amazing, the actual sort of like artisanal or craft cannabis coming from small growers. Get stamped out as well and you lose the sort of beauty of those aspects of the plant and the culture. I mean, we don't want a monoculture in the cannabis world any more than we want a monoculture in the agricultural world on any other level. We don't want just, you know, GMO tomatoes. We want to be able to have all of these beautiful, small... All growers bringing their products to market. And so the legalization at the federal.
Level is something that a lot of people look at as something that would really endanger the actual cannabis cultivators and cannabis culture that gave us the cannabis movement that we have now, which is now not just a movement, it's an industry. Next up, more on the exploding cannabis industry and why some activists don't want federal This episode is brought to you by Shopify, whether you're selling a little or a lot. Shopify helps you do your thing, however you ch-ching. From the Launch Your Online Shop stage, all the way to the We Just Hit a Million Orders stage. No matter what stage you're in, Shopify's there to help you grow. For a $1 per month trial period at Shopify.com/specialoffer, all lowercase. That's Shopify.com.
- Hi, this is Scott Galloway. - And I'm Ed Elson. - And we're the hosts, the co-hosts. It's kind of unfair to call us co-hosts. I'm really the host. He's my Robin Givens. Let's just be clear on what this is. But anyways, we're the hosts. Of Prodigy Markets, your go-to podcast for all things money. Every Monday, we provide brash, unfiltered analysis on market moving news, high-flying stocks, growing sectors, stupid boardroom decisions, and master of the universe CEOs. And on Thursdays, we speak with some of the world's greatest finance professors, Wall Street insiders, and industry experts to keep you informed without getting bored. So if you want to understand money and how you can get more of it, you have to talk about money and we're here to help you do that. Markets on YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts to automatically receive new episodes every Monday and every Thursday. That's right. The good news is we know how to get you economic security. The bad news is the answer is slowly.
We'll tell you how on property markets. Welcome back to the weeds. Okay. So as states are legalizing recreational use across the country, the cannabis industry has exploded. And you've covered weed business in California extensively. How is it played out there? And what are lessons that the rest of the country can take away from it? Wow, the California cannabis industry. Right now is in crisis. It's not the only state that's facing this kind of crisis, I think is thing is sort of happening in Oregon but I have written about it in California and when you look Happening which isn't getting a whole lot of media attention. It's pretty scary. There are cultivators who have been part of these communities.
Especially in the Emerald Triangle, which is that area north of San Francisco. It's the Trinity, Mendocino, and Humboldt counties that are sort of like the birthplace of American cannabis. On these farms that sustain their communities and they are being squeezed out by the regulations and taxation. That came online with Prop 64 being approved and being put into place in 2018. What's really heartbreaking is that... Lot of these growers and small businesses were promised that if they supported in order to legalize weed in California, they would be given this sort of grace period, this five-year period where they wouldn't have to compete with corporate cannabis. They were told that there would be this one-acre cap, so it would keep farming. Small and that they would not have to worry about like these big companies coming in and buying up huge greenhouses or anything like that and so they
actually voted in favor of it. And they voted in favor of the thing that has crushed them because very shortly after it passed, lobbyists... To Sacramento and lobbied to have that one acre cap removed and almost right away, all these big players were able to come in and snap up, you know, multiple licenses and then do what they call stacking them. So they would have, you know, several licenses at once and they would bundle them and then they would open up these huge cannabis cultivation facilities that can grow acres and acres and acres of cannabis. And not only were the small growers not able to compete with just, you know, big companies. Having the funding to be able to put out that much weed, but also the glut of now legally grown cannabis meant that the price of cannabis tanked.
When you're looking at what it costs to grow a pound of weed, you know, tilling your land and getting the permits and dealing with all of the agencies and fish and wildlife and all that sort of stuff, on top of that the taxation and regs... That was added onto it meant that it cost upwards of $500 a pound just to grow cannabis. The price was so driven down by this like glut of legally available, legally. Grown cannabis by the bigger players that they weren't even able to break even and in some cases they were losing money just to grow their crop. Is a lot of this money coming from. It seems like there's a lot of money in this. Who are Who are the players here? So it's really interesting to look at who is actually investing in cannabis and Was behind some of the, for instance, there's a policy group called the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Education and Regulation, which is working as a regulation advisory group in Washington, but it's largely funded by tobacco and alcohol companies.
Some of their funders are the tobacco giant Altria, the Molson Coors beverage company, Constellation Brands. Which is the conglomerate behind Corona and Modelo. So this is a really interesting group to keep an Because it's led by a roster of experts from the cannabis industry who are very trusted as people from in the industry who have worked as regulators and advisors to legal cannabis businesses, but the money that's funding the group is actually coming from businesses that, you know, potentially would Will want to dominate the cannabis industry and regulate it for their own purposes. - Are cannabis activists all in the same-- page about what kind of federal action they want? - So there are some cannabis activists who are actively opposed. To federal legalization, which I just thought was so interesting when I encountered the first person who said, No, we don't want federal legalization. That would be a bad thing.
Why, but it was explained to me and made very clear that big companies like Walmart and Amazon and CVS are just waiting in the wings. And the second that cannabis is made legal at a federal level for them to be able to profit off of it. They already have the infrastructure in place to dominate the market. They can ship from California. To New York. They will be able to use all of their networks across all of the states to just completely dominate the market and shove out all of the small cannabis businesses. So it is a really sort of... Interesting way to look at legalization to understand that state by state is the right way. Forward, and that federal legalization shouldn't happen until it has been decriminalized and de-scheduled at a federal level. And then we should take time to do some research and get some data on what's really working in order to, especially with the social justice components, give back to the community.
That have been most harmed by the war on drugs first and then look at what interstate commerce looks like. And, you know, as far as interstate commerce goes, there was also a really... Interesting bill that was introduced that would enable direct to consumer cannabis shipping and protect independent small farmers. Representative Jared Huffman has introduced legislation to allow small weed producers to ship and sell their products directly to consumers. It's called the SHIP Act. Which I love, it stands for small and homestead independent producers, and it would allow those small farmers to operate across state lines. So that's- That would be a very important piece of legislation that would support small family farmers and provide them a way to sustain their... Businesses under a federal legalization law. But, you know, such a big part of the worry about legalization. At a federal level comes from these huge companies that are waiting in the wings that would be able to...
Completely dominate the industry and really extinguish all of these small businesses that are the reason that we have the industry in the first place. About some of the legal gray areas when it comes to the cannabis business. I'm thinking like banking, you know, like some companies can't use banks. Like how would that? change the landscape, you know, if your weed guy's able to be like, Yeah, Wells Fargo, From, you know, selling like what's kind of a weird legality gray areas we're seeing. Legality is so tricky with banking because large banks and big credit card companies often won't do business with cannabis companies. At all because it's still illegal under federal law. So that means that all of these small cannabis businesses are a force.
To often deal largely in cash, which makes them sitting targets for robbery. They're not able to actually deposit their money. They're just, you know, they've got safes full of cash. So the safe banking app. Act is one of the pieces of legislation that is trying to change that federal regulation and it's largely got bipartisan support. And it's been passed by the House six times since it was first introduced in 20... And if it were signed into law, it would mean that federal regulators would be prohibited from penalizing banks doing business with cannabis companies. - In talking about this, I think it would be... For us to have this conversation and not talk about the racial disparities, the very real racial disparities about who gets punished for possession and who even-- has access to the legal, you know, marijuana business. Now, can you help us understand the landscape and, you know, is enough--
To create equity in the weed space right now. Racial equity. I don't think there's any... Reform advocate who would say that enough is being done and in many cases, nothing is being done. And the. Disparity in marijuana arrests is still just incredible. You know, there was a 2020 analysis by the ACLU that said that Black people are 3.64 times more likely than White people to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though they consume basically the the same amount of cannabis. And they reported that in every single state, Black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. And in some states they were up to six, eight, or 10 times more likely to be arrested. And as far as the social justice components go, You know, it's wonderful that Missouri, when they passed Amendment 3, had the social justice component baked in. Into the language of that law. There's a record expungement part of the measure that says.
That anyone who has a cannabis conviction in Missouri will have their record reviewed and expunged by next June. Amazing, but other states which are legalizing are not necessarily paying attention to this social justice component. And that may be a part of the Of why they're failing. There was a really interesting tweet from Tom Angel, who is a journalist who... Writes at marijuana moment and he wrote if you're trying to convince voters to legalize marijuana in 2022 you better damn include provisions to expunge past convictions and let their people Grow their own at home or you might end up getting told to GTFO. In conversation around weed is very different than it is from other controlled substances. Especially like tobacco and alcohol. You know, weed, even now when it's legalized. Still feels very counterculture and, you know, not corporate. Will legal--
And/or decriminalization, because you know there is a difference. Is that-- is that gonna-- impact the culture surrounding weed for a lot of people. Culture surrounding weed, the real culture that comes from cannabis consumers and people who grow cannabis and have cannabis businesses that support their families will be affected but not impacted to the point where they will disappear. I think that that always is going to exist. I mean, any party that I go to that's like a big corporate weed party, you know, is definitely full of a lot of people who don't even smoke weed and they're all just like VC guys standing around trying to Out how to make money off it. But then there's also always going to be that person in the corner who is there because they truly love cannabis and they just want to share the message of why and how it could be good for everyone. The fact that it is this new...
You know when I started writing about weed there was this great excitement around the fact that we would all get to build it together And because we didn't know what it would look like we could make it equitable and we could make it fair and we could make sure that of color were in positions of power and that it was really, you know, feeding money back into marginalized communities. And I think... 10 years on from the first states legalizing it for adult use. We've understood that that's not the case and largely it's going the way. Of any other big industry with a lot of money and it's being largely run by people who have the money. People who have money want to talk to other people who have money. And usually those people are white men and they come from Wall Street. But it's, I think, you know, know, really what what is very heartening in covering cannabis is that no matter how many stories you hear about, you know, a giant company You know, coming in and crushing everyone else out of business and then going tits up.
There are small businesses and, you know, in a lot of cases, businesses that have just chosen to go back to the traditional market that will always exist because cannabis is such a part... Their lives that they're not really concerned with whether it's legal or not. They're just going to make sure that it's a part of their lives anyway. And so I think that that is a big part of the culture that the corporate... Pieces of the industry maybe don't understand. It's really been funny to see people who are confused. They're like, Why does? Know, what what is a stoner? Like, what why does the stoner exists? Who is it? What is that anyway? And it's like, it's like, the demo of the stoner. Yeah. And I think that, you know, having spent a lot of time around people who proudly declare themselves stoners, they're They're here to stay. They're not going anywhere. And they're certainly not going to let anyone else tell them how their industry is going to unfold. What are we going to see in
regards to marijuana policy in the coming years. Like, what's on that green horizon? -I think the hope is that states will continue to... In you to legalize for adult use, and that as they continue to leave. For adult use will also make sure that they're baking in language for social justice reform into those initiatives. I mean, New York has done a really great job of this. California is full of lessons for any state. Who that wants to learn what not to do as far as regulation and taxation goes. So the green wave. Hopefully, or the green rush is sure to continue. There's definitely no putting the genie back in the bottle. And I think the things that we need. Continue to look out for as we monitor the industry and continue to cover it is who is funding these initiatives. So we're really looking to make sure that cannabis corporations If they are coming online as big players and big entities that they are devoting a lot of their time.
And money into making sure that it's giving back to the communities that have been disproportionately. Harmed by the war on drugs. Thanks so much for having me. That's all for now. For us today. Thank you to Mary Jane Gibson for joining us. Our producer is Sophie Lalonde. Christian Ayala engineered this episode. Libby Nelson is our editorial advisor. Our deputy editorial... Director is A.M. Hall. We got special help from our executive director of audio, Catherine Wells. And I'm your host, John Glenn Hill. The Weeds is part of the Vox Media Podcast Network.
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Transcript generated on 2024-05-26.