DESCHEDULING CANNABIS TO TURN A PROFIT
BY TODD MCCORMICK
BOB DYLAN ONCE sang that “the answer is blowin’ in the wind.” What he meant by that is anybody’s guess, but these days, what is unmistakably blowing in the wind, is definitely the scent of legally burning cannabis. When Dylan released the song in 1962, he gave a short explanation that had a part in it that once I read, always stayed with me: “I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it’s wrong.”
After hearing him state that, I knew I could never be that hypocrite, as perhaps it was Dylan’s subtle way of indoctrinating me into a life of activism. Cannabis has been a lot of things to a lot of people. For cops and prosecutors, it has been a source of revenue and justification for pursuing some of the lowest hanging fruit in our community. Instead of going after harder to solve criminal cases, like rape and murder, many politicians, police departments, and prosecutorial teams in the ‘70s decided that a benign flower was justification to lock people up and destroy lives. So, they went after what was easy, and criminalized otherwise law-abiding citizens simply because they used a common flower for relaxation, inspiration, and medical relief. A substance so safe and peaceable, that groups of people, sometimes even strangers, would pass a joint, hand-to-hand, mouth-to-mouth, sharing a moment of organic bliss, for which they were deemed criminals, and hunted down and often locked up.
Enter Bill Weld, an aristocrat who has heritage going back to the Atlantic crossing of the Mayflower, or as Weld stated it: “Actually, they weren’t on the Mayflower. They sent the servants over first to get the cottage ready.” By servants, I am pretty sure historically that would mean slaves; you know, the people deemed expendable in case the Mayflower didn’t make it.
As you would expect, Weld grew up and attended both Harvard and Oxford, then went on to a career in law enforcement. Specifically, becoming the United States attorney for Massachusetts in 1981, only leaving that job to become the United States assistant attorney general for the criminal division under Ronald Reagan in 1986.
Weld was one of the esteemed gentlemen in the department of Ronald Reagan, who brought us all the very racist War on Drugs, which was mostly, a war on marijuana and its users. Because, if you go back and look at the drug war statistics from the ‘80s (and I implore you to do so) you will clearly see that marijuana arrests accounted for a majority of all drug-related criminal activity. More disproportionately and egregious, people that weren’t so white, were being arrested at four and eight times that of whites.
Most of us are well aware that the very term “marihuana” was used as a racist ploy to confuse Americans away from the fact that “marihuana”, was really cannabis/hemp, a plant that had been responsible for producing the fibers that created the canvas for every covered wagon that ever went West.
A plant that was so intertwined into the very fabric of American society, that it’s very own declaration of independence from Britain, was printed on paper made from the same plant, now illegal and associated with Mexicans. Ignoring the fact that cannabis actually came over on the Mayflower and, without cannabis, the ship would not have had ropes, sails, paints, varnishes, maps, bibles, nor would the sailors have been clothed, as the cotton gin wouldn’t be invented for another few hundred years.
The Spaniards were clearly to blame for bringing cannabis over in order to settle the new country, as the plant is not indigenous to this continent. But, racist agendas triumphed and, by blaming the Mexicans for the importation of this proclaimed hazardous drug, they were able to arrest our neighbors from the south at an alarming rate.
Weld was on the team of people raking up these numbers of arrests through the ‘80s, and in their vulgar abuses against society, they declared that they were winning the “war on drugs,” which was really a war on us. As they toasted martinis and smoked cigarettes, they very hypocritically filled up our prisons, not with dangerous criminals, but with the users of those other drugs–you know, your brothers, fathers, mothers and sisters–for possessing and cultivating the marijuana and the drugs they supposedly didn’t do, or at least publicly didn’t do, as we’ve all heard of hypocritical politicians getting caught with cannabis or other drugs after voting against legalization.
FAST-FORWARD TO APRIL 2018
One of the larger announcements to come out of the cannabis industry happened a few weeks ago when a company known as High Street Capital partners rebranded themselves as Acreage Holdings and held a press conference where they announced that Bill Weld and no less than the former speaker of the house of representatives, John Boehner, were both joining their board of advisors. As I listened in on the phone, I got the opportunity to ask a question:
“Hello gentlemen, thank you for taking my question. My question is: Do you fear any of the consequences of federal prosecution with the conflict of state and federal laws? Bill Weld replies “Of course, if cannabis is de-scheduled as a class one narcotic, that conflict goes away.”
After he said that, he left me wondering if he knew something I did not.
IS DE-SCHEDULING CANNABIS EMINENT?
The most interesting element of this is that both Boehner and Weld are talking about something relatively unheard of within the beltway: removing cannabis from the Schedule I classification it has now, or “de-scheduling” as they are calling it.
Dr. Tod Mikuriya was the first doctor I heard present the idea that cannabis did not fit into any of the five schedules and should be removed completely from the Controlled Substances Act through a grandfather clause, simply because cannabis has been a medicine to humanity for millennia. His argument made great sense, but to hear politicians make the same argument now is pretty incredible.
Even more incredible is the news that came out on April 20, that New York Senator Chuck Schumer is introducing legislation that will completely remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act. Schumer’s new bill contains four main points:
• Remove cannabis from the DEA’s list of controlled substances (this would end federal prohibition and leave the regulation of cannabis up to individual states) • Create funding for minority and women-owned cannabis businesses
• Provide money for research into cannabis, with a focus on its effect on driving impairment
• Maintain federal authority over cannabis advertising, in the same way the federal government regulates alcohol and tobacco ads.
This is nothing short of incredible legislation that would completely change the face of cannabis culture in America. Even more incredible is the fact that another ardent drug war supporter is coming around and supporting cannabis law reform, and in many respects, this is the best time to be a cannabis activist because your politicians are not scorning you, they are listening to you. So, if you have ever had the desire to speak truth to power, do it now, contact your local politician, and ask them for a few minutes of their time so you can explain why cannabis law reform is important to you.
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