Publix Billionaire Donates $800,000 to Fight Against Cannabis Legalization

Publix Billionaire Donates $800,000 to Fight Against Cannabis Legalization

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The Carol Jenkins Barnett Family Trust donated $800,000 to an anti-cannabis group in Florida earlier this month. Jenkins Barnett was, until very recently, the chairwoman and president of Publix – a popular Florida grocery and pharmaceutical store chain. This is not the first donation Jenkins Barnett has made to Drug Free Florida, a conservative lobby group that is fighting to prevent the expansion of medical cannabis in the state.

Florida’s Current Cannabis Laws

Under Florida’s current “compassionate use” statute, qualified physicians may order low-THC cannabis for patients suffering from a very select set of conditions – namely cancer, muscle spasms, seizures, and terminal illnesses (where the patient is deemed to have 12 months or less to live).

These patients may possess strains containing 10% or more of CBD, and no more than 0.8% THC, although terminally ill patients may possess slightly higher THC strains. Patients may not cultivate their own cannabis, although there are only six state-licensed dispensaries operating in the entire state.

However, the Florida Right to Medical Marijuana Initiative, Amendment 2 will be on the ballot this November. If voted in, Amendment 2 would allow medical cannabis access to patients with “debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician.” The proposed initiative would require the Department of Health to register and regulate the production and distribution centers, and to issue patients and caregivers with identification cards.

Detrimental Donations

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Drug Free Florida is an anti-cannabis PAC with big backers. Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino magnate and right-wing financier, donated $5 million to the lobby back in 2014. Another prominent donor, Mel Sembler – a former US ambassador, real-estate magnate, and businessman – established a controversial drug treatment program for teens, which was terminated after allegations of abuse emerged and numerous patients won lawsuits against the program or settled out of court.

In 2014, Drug Free Florida shut down a similar ballot initiative, which failed at the voting booths by only 2.38% (Florida requires a supermajority vote of 60%). Jenkins Barnett donated $500,000 to the lobby at that time. Her current contribution, then, is simply a continuation of her already conservative stance on cannabis reform.

Publix released a statement to Time, stating that Jenkins Barnett “has long supported efforts to protect Florida’s families and children against the perils of drug abuse. As such, she feels that Amendment 2 would usher in an unprecedented era of legalized marijuana in Florida as opposed to only helping those who suffer from debilitating illnesses.” While Drug Free Florida argues that Amendment 2 is the same as its 2014 predecessor, the updated initiative actually clarifies the requirements for parental consent when prescribing medical cannabis to minors – directly addressing the oppositional concerns raised in 2014.

While the donation was a personal one, and not made from Publix’s finances, some have speculated that perhaps Jenkins Barnett – who remains the largest shareholder in the company – does not want to see the pharmaceutical chain competing with medical cannabis.

Jenkins Barnett recently had to step down from her position at Publix due to the early onset of Alzheimer’s – which is ironic and tragic considering a recent study suggesting that cannabis may be an effective treatment for the disease itself, and not only its secondary symptoms.

“Just Say No”: How Cannabis Became Illegal in America (Part 3)

“Just Say No”: How Cannabis Became Illegal in America (Part 3)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles poster design, typical of the “Just Say No” era (Source)

In parts 1 and 2 of this series, we covered cannabis’ history in the US, from the Mayflower to Nixon’s declaration of war against “public enemy number one” – drugs. Now, in this final installation, we’ll look at how the War on Drugs – and cannabis policies – progressed throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Concerned Parents

A still from Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue (1990), an anti-drug TV special featuring popular animated characters. In the film, 14-year-old Michael steals his sister’s piggy bank to satiate his cannabis habit (Source)

In 1976, in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA, Martha and Ron Schuchard discovered that their thirteen-year-old daughter was smoking cannabis. After finding roaches and rolling papers in the garden after her birthday party[i], the concerned parents began their own grassroots movement. Together with Robert DuPont, who was head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the time, they wrote and published Parents, Peers, and Pot – a guide for parents on how to prevent their children from taking drugs. The movement slowly gathered momentum as more concerned parents joined the ranks, and other similar groups were formed – Families in Action and the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth, for example.[ii]

Across the country, predominantly white, suburban parents across the party lines were united in their fear. The term ‘amotivational syndrome’ was coined: a “scientific-sounding phrase”[iii] to describe the lethargy supposedly caused by long-term cannabis use. Moreover, parents were scared that cannabis would lead their children to try harder drugs. The ‘tough love’ approach was widely accepted as the best way to deal with teens-gone-wild, advocating harsh punishments and torturous rehab programs. While the movement didn’t have a significant impact on policy during the 70s, it would become politically amplified during the next decade.

Reagan’s Legacy

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Ronald Reagan was elected as president in 1980, marking a turn towards conservative values after Jimmy Carter’s presidency. While cannabis use was actually in decline in the 80s (with cocaine and heroin use increasing, unfortunately), Reagan declared another War on Drugs in 1982, stating that “[w]e’re making no excuses for drugs, hard, soft, or otherwise. Drugs are bad and we’re going after them.”[iv] Sadly, after years of talk about decriminalization under Carter, cannabis was once again demonized.

Reagan’s administration enacted some particularly significant policies that would have a substantial and long-lasting impact on cannabis legislation. In 1982, he pushed Congress to amend the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878: an act that explicitly limited the federal government from using the military to enforce civilian or domestic law. By amending the act, Reagan essentially militarized the War on Drugs. Social programs were cut, and the funds were diverted to “military hardware” and “paramilitary training for SWAT teams and other police units.”[v] Drug offenders were no longer citizens in need of treatment, but dangerous enemies who needed to be neutralized. In order to counter the “exceedingly small number” of domestic growers, Reagan also ordered the DEA to spray forests in southern states with the deadly herbicide paraquat – a “direct contravention of federal environmental legislation.”[vi]

Then, in 1984, he passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which allowed assets seized in drug busts to be reinvested into the War on Drugs. Local law enforcement agencies could also now receive a cut of the profits from seized assets, resulting in a significant increase in civil forfeiture. While the act was aimed at organized crime and drug traffickers, innocent citizens – many of whom were only suspected of drug-related crimes, and were not charged or found guilty – lost thousands of dollars’ worth of property and assets.

Furthermore, Congress also enacted the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 that enforced strict mandatory minimums for drug charges – including those for cannabis possession, cultivation, and transportation.  This act targeted mostly working class and African American communities: the minimum sentence for possession of 5 grams (0.17 ounces) of crack cocaine was 5 years without parole, whereas the same sentencing for powder cocaine would require possession of 500 grams (17 ounces)!

Dare to Say No

Nancy Reagan Just Say No
Nancy Reagan with school children at one of her “Just Say No” rallies (Source)

At the same time that President Reagan was enacting harsh policies that would destroy many communities, the burgeoning parents movement was bolstered by the First Lady’s social project. Nancy Reagan’s anti-drug campaign was launched in 1980, but only took on the famous moniker “Just Say No” in 1982 when a school girl asked Nancy what she should do if offered drugs. This thoroughly banal and ignorant response to the very real problem of addiction did little to address drug abuse in the US, but “the refrain became the mantra of the anti-drug movement”[vii]; across the country, students formed “Just Say No” clubs at their schools and pledged to stay drug-free.

Similarly, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (or D.A.R.E.) began in 1983, enlisting trained police officers to educate children about the dangers of drugs. Unfortunately, cannabis was purported to be a ‘gateway drug’ once again, and D.A.R.E. still maintains that marijuana is a dangerous, addictive substance that can apparently “trigger acute psychotic episodes.”

One of the most interesting aspects of these youth-targeted campaigns was how they employed popular culture to reach their target audience. From the infamous after-school specials and public service announcements to celebrities like Clint Eastwood, Magic Johnson, and Michael Jackson speaking out against drug use, the anti-drug movements of the 1980s reshaped the national dialogue around addiction – focusing more intimately on children and the domestic sphere than drug abuse’s socioeconomic basis.

Puff, Puff, Pass…But Don’t Inhale

The impact of both Ronald and Nancy’s campaigns would set back cannabis research and reform for decades. The public hysteria around drug abuse positioned cannabis as equal to hard drugs, and “transform[ed] marijuana into a dangerous threat to the future of America’s children and the nation itself.”[viii] Ironically, the Reagans’ own daughter developed a cocaine addiction (but did not serve a mandatory minimum sentence for her habit).

Unfortunately, when George H.W. Bush became president in 1989 – after serving as Director of the CIA and Reagan’s Vice President – he continued the militarized War on Drugs both at home and abroad.

In 1992, Bill Clinton ran for office on a progressive campaign advocating for treatment instead of incarceration, and admitted to trying cannabis but ‘not inhaling’ as a college student. However, in an effort to curb gang violence and drug-related crime, Clinton simply furthered the problematic policies of his Republican predecessors by passing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 – once again targeting primarily African American, urban communities. This act instituted more mandatory minimums and increased prison sentences, expanded the use of the death penalty, and led to mass incarceration. Moreover, much like Nancy Reagan, First Lady Hillary Clinton promoted this legislation, lobbying Congress to pass the bill.

Lessons Learned?

Looking back at the history of cannabis’ criminalization in the US, it’s tragic to see how the delirious fear surrounding marijuana was driven and maintained by bigotry. From Anslinger’s Gore Files to the on-going War on Drugs, it is most often marginalized groups who are affected by these policies: people of color, immigrants, anti-war and civil rights activists, and the working class.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, and things are changing. For as long as cannabis prohibition has existed, there have been dissenting voices – doctors, activists, patients, journalists, artists, veterans, and citizens who continuously questioned and critiqued the paranoia and prejudice they saw around them. With the formation of groups like NORML and the Drug Policy Alliance, we’ve seen the tide of cannabis reform slowly take root and grow in the United States. Last year, for example, a national poll revealed that 58% of US citizens support legalizing cannabis – a record high for the country. While more research needs to be done to determine cannabis’ long-term effects (both positive and negative), we are finally facing the exciting possibility of wide-scale legalization in our lifetime.

Infographic

why is weed illegal part 3


[i] Martin Booth, Cannabis: A History (New York: Picador, 2003), 306.

[ii] Ibid, 306.

[iii] Ibid, 306.

[iv] Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian, A New Leaf: The End of Cannabis Prohibition (New York: The New Press, 2014), 52.

[v] Martin A. Lee, Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational, and Scientific (New York: Scribner, 2012), 160.

[vi] Booth, 308.

[vii] Joe Mozingo, Sonali Kohli and Zahira Torres, “’Just Say No’ anti-drug campaign helped define Nancy Reagan’s legacy,” The LA Times, March 7, 2016. http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-nancy-reagan-drugs-20160307-story.html

[viii] Emily Dufton, “Parents, Peers, and Pot: The Rise of the Drug Culture and the Birth of the Parent Movement, 1976 – 1980,” Trans-Scripts: An Interdisciplinary Online Journal in the Humanities and Social Sciences at UC Irvine Vol. 3: Thinking Activism (Spring 2013), 232.

High Speed Delivery: Juice Delivered with a Side of Cannabis

High Speed Delivery: Juice Delivered with a Side of Cannabis

Most people won’t pay $55 for a bottle of fruit juice – no matter how organic, fair trade, or gluten-free it is. But what if that juice was delivered to your door and came with a cannabis “gift” on the side?

That’s how one innovative company, HighSpeed Delivery, is using decriminalization laws to its advantage in the Washington D.C. area. According to the District of Columbia’s Initiative 71, adults over the age of 21 may possess up to two ounces of cannabis. And, while the “distribution” of weed is still illegal, adults may “transfer (but not sell)” up to one ounce of cannabis to other adults without facing any penalties.

It’s this loophole that allows HighSpeed Delivery to deliver cannabis (and juice, of course) to customers. With flavors like Rose Water and Charcoal Lemonade, the company offers three payment options: $11 for “just juice,” $55 for juice and a donation to “show love,” or $150 for juice and a “lots of love” donation. All options include a gift of cannabis, although the amount of “love” donated determines how big your gift will be. Most customers opt for the $55 option, which earns them an eighth of an ounce alongside their beverage.

Is it Really Legal?

A similar business initiative, Kush Gods, tried to make use of the same loophole: for a “donation,” D.C. residents could receive edibles or cannabis from a luxury vehicle emblazoned with images of buds. Nicholas Cunningham, Kush Gods’ owner and operator, claimed that his endeavour was legal, but after a few transactions with undercover officers, Cunningham’s cars and “gifts” were seized in December last year. In court, Cunningham pleaded guilty to two counts of selling cannabis to an undercover officer; he was sentenced to 180 days in jail, which was suspended, and received a 2-year probation instead.

In Cunningham’s case, two main issues led to his arrest: a mandatory donation essentially amounts to a payment for goods, and Kush Gods had no system in place to prevent sales to minors. So, while the laws may be ambiguous, law-makers and -enforcers are not so lenient in their interpretation of Initiative 71.

HighSpeed Delivery, however, does offer products that are separate from the cannabis gifts that customers receive. According to their website, they “sell niche foods and drinks” and “give cannabis as a gift.” Furthermore, HighSpeed’s deliveryperson checks the buyer’s driver’s license, which must match the billing information for the purchase – ensuring that all sales are to adults over 21. This could aid the company’s case should they be taken to court. HighSpeed’s CEO, David Umeh, had also apparently consulted a team of lawyers before the company’s launch, although expansion plans are on hold for the time being.

Is It Any Good?

HighSpeed Delivery began in Oakland, CA, but kicked off their D.C. branch in January this year. They’ve experienced exponential growth, which has led to some issues with service and customer satisfaction.

One customer I spoke, Vincent, purchased two $55 donations as the $150 option was sold out. He was excited to receive his products – “especially since they’ve made a big deal about how good the juices are” – but was disappointed when the order arrived with a bag of chickpea crackers and a juice from Pret A Manger, instead of the two juices he ordered. He admits that the cannabis was the “real” product, and was satisfied with the quality and strain he received. Nonetheless, Vincent felt that the delivery service could be better: his order arrived 30 minutes after the expected arrival time, and customer service has yet to reply to his calls or emails about the delivery error.

However, with the alternatives of finding a dealer, “jump[ing] through whatever hoops necessary to obtain a medical license,” or growing your own cannabis, HighSpeed Delivery does have its perks, and may inspire other similar businesses to start gifting cannabis along with other services and products.

Colorado Town Warns of THC in Water Supply

Colorado Town Warns of THC in Water Supply

colorado thc water
Michael Reaves, The Denver Post

There’s something “dank” in the water of Hugo, Colorado. On Thursday afternoon this week, Lincoln County officials notified residents of the small town that there is THC in the town’s water supply.

An Accidental Discovery

colorado thc water well
Michael Reaves, The Denver Post

Despite Colorado’s state laws legalizing medicinal and recreational cannabis, both Lincoln County and Hugo have local regulations prohibiting the operation of dispensaries and cannabis businesses in the area.

The reported “contamination” was discovered after an unidentified company found inconsistencies in their drug testing to check employees for THC. According to Captain Michael Yowell of the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department, due to these concerns about inconsistent testing, “a vial of tap water was used to demonstrate what should have been an absolute negative result. However, when that tap water was tested, a positive indicator for THC was detected.”

The Hugo Public Works then began testing the local water system. County officials conducted ten field tests, with six showing a positive result. Apparently, the source of the contamination was isolated to one specific well. When authorities arrived at Well #1, they found signs of tampering and forced entry – although it’s unclear when this may have occurred. The well has since been secured, and agents from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the FBI are involved in the ongoing investigation.  

Health Warnings

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued a statement warning Hugo’s residents to avoid drinking or cooking with the water for the next 48 hours. While the water is considered safe for bathing, laundry, and other domestic uses, officials are taking a precautionary stance by trucking in water for residents.

The statement also warns that “worst-case possible effects from short-term ingestion” may include “impaired coordination” that could affect one’s ability to drive, increased anxiety and heart rate, and “psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, or delusional beliefs.”

While long-term effects are not expected, screening stations are apparently being set up, and the department has provided a telephone number for concerned residents to call with their health-related queries.

At the time of writing, the concentration levels of the THC have not been established, and the local hospital has not seen any patients reporting symptoms.

Much Ado About Nothing?

colorado thc water

The Denver Post has quoted the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Mark Salley as saying that “as with marijuana edibles and other products,” the effects of the contaminated water “would likely vary based on the amount of water consumed and the concentration.”

“I wouldn’t be doing my job for my community if we just wrote this off,” Capt. Yowell has also stated.

But, as many cannabis enthusiasts will already know, THC is not water soluble. Cannabinoids are lipophyllic, which means that they are attracted to fat molecules. This is why cannabis products –edibles, soft drinks, tinctures, and so on – are made using oils, fats, or alcohol to extract the THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. In MassRoots’ video tutorial on how to make cannabis tea, Uncle Buck even mentions that adding honey will give the cannabinoids something to bind with, as the hot water alone will not release or activate them.

Furthermore, as Lincoln County’s health officer – Dr. John Fox – pointed out: “It would take more product than any of us could afford to contaminate a city water supply to the extent that people would suffer any effects.” What’s more likely is that the toxicology tests are showing a “false positive” result, and will require more rigorous testing to resolve the issue.

What do you think MassRoots readers? Elaborate and expensive hoax, or shoddy drug testing? Leave a comment below to weigh in on this story.

Willie’s Reserve: Willie Nelson’s Cannabis Line Set to Launch Soon

Willie’s Reserve: Willie Nelson’s Cannabis Line Set to Launch Soon

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For cannabis enthusiasts, the news that Willie Nelson is launching his own cannabis product line is reason enough for excitement. But it’s also good news for experienced professionals looking for job opportunities in the cannabis industry.

Nelson’s new company, Willie’s Reserve, will be launching in Colorado in the near future. According to the website, consumers can look forward to a selection of whole flower products, ready-rolls (pre-rolled joints), and vaping pens and cartridges. There have also been rumors of branded edibles and smoking equipment, but nothing has been confirmed on that front yet.

Job Opportunities

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Willie’s Reserve is currently looking to fill three positions in Denver: Compliance Officer, Production Manager, and Bookkeeper/Admin/Office Assistant.

The necessary qualifications and skills for each position differ, but all three require that applicants hold or are qualified to hold a Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED) badge. The Compliance Officer must have a valid MED badge to apply, whereas the Production Manager must have their MED badge by the first day of work. This restricts applications to Colorado residents, and assumedly those who already work in the cannabis industry. In the case of the Compliance Officer position, two years of experience working in the industry is preferred (although not required).

Similarly, knowledge of cannabis products is a must – particularly for the Compliance Officer and Production Manager. Cannabis knowledge isn’t specified as a requirement for the Bookkeeper position, but if you’re a weed-smoking accountant, then it probably wouldn’t hurt to mention that in your application.

It seems that the positions of Extractor and Sales Director have already been filled since the job listings were posted last month.

More about Willie’s Reserve

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At this point in time, it’s unclear when the company will have its official launch, and whether or not Willie’s Reserve will have stand-alone stores, or sell their products at established dispensaries throughout Colorado.

At last year’s South by Southwest festival, Nelson revealed his plans to launch his own brand of cannabis products. However, in an interview with The Daily Beast, it was spokesperson Michael Bowman who shed more light on the company’s plans. “He wants it to be something that’s reflective of his passion,” Bowman said. “But it was developed by his family, and their focus on environmental and social issues, and in particular this crazy war on drugs, and trying to be a bright light amongst this trail as we’re trying to extract ourselves from the goo of prohibition.”

According to the company’s website, Willie’s Reserve “pays tribute to the tradition of sharing, caring and toking.” Bowman indicated that the company would operate with a ‘small business’ mentality: “Let’s call it the anti-Walmart model […] A certain standard by which growers have to account for carbon and such, in a way that empowers small growers who are doing the right thing.” The company also promises that all its cannabis will be sourced from independent growers.

To find out more about the upcoming Willie’s Reserve, you can follow the company on Instagram and Twitter, or apply for one of the remaining job positions here

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