Millions of disenchanted youths from all over the globe are leading the charge in the battle to reform misapplied Draconian drug policies that have cost taxpayers billions of dollars and an unfathomable number of jobs, homes and families. That the miserable failure of Nixon-era political posturing known as the “War on Drugs” remains nearly unchanged since its inception has only further ignited today’s youth movement to seek meaningful change and start the conversation on how to create national and global cannabis policy reform that no longer criminalizes responsible adults for using marijuana.
This November will bring numerous ballot initiatives to the forefront of America’s voters to determine the course of the medical and recreational marijuana legalization movement and pro-cannabis organizations like NORML and ENCOD – along with scores of progressive youths – are sensing the urgency of getting voters onboard while they still have time.
One such organization shepherding the grassroots drug policy reform movement is called Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). Founded in 1998, SSDP is the only student-led international movement focused on ending the failed war on drugs. With thousands of members spanning hundreds of campuses all over the world, SSDP is one of the largest and most influential authorities raising red flags.
This weekend (April 15-17th, 2016), more than 500 students and allies from over 16 countries will convene in Washington, D.C., to discuss how to end the abysmal failure known as the “War on Drugs”. Afterwards, buses will take students and supporters to demonstrate at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) in New York City where world leaders will convene to discuss current international drug policies.
To find out what SSDP and its allies plan to focus on during this weekend’s gathering, I spoke with Sarah Merrigan – a political science major at the University of Nebraska Omaha and chapter founder and member of the student board of directors for Students for Sensible Drug Policy:
Sarah, what is the role of young people today in shaping national and global cannabis policies, and why is it important for them to get involved right now?
I think particularly with cannabis reform and with drug policy as a whole, too often policies are implemented and justified in the name of young people. We’re tokenized, but we’re not welcome to come to the table to speak up and make our minds and make our voices heard when these policies are supposed to be protecting us.
It’s important for us to actually be involved and have a seat at the table because if they’re going to be affecting us… then we should be allowed to speak about what we think the best practices are and the future that we want to see because we’re the ones who are going to be around to watch this play out and we’re the ones who are directly impacted by this and are going to be around to see it the longest.
Sarah, along with millions of other marginalized youths, are tired of playing victim to oppressive drug laws that are aimed not to educate, but to incarcerate people for using marijuana and other drugs. Her and SSDPs message is clear- end the war on drugs and create meaningful change by bringing young people together to develop our future. In the “land of the free” where a minor possession charge can easily derail one’s chances at going to college or landing a decent-paying job, it’s no wonder that today’s youths are speaking out and speaking loudly to get their voices heard.
Although Colorado may be the most cannabis-friendly state in the nation, try lighting up in front of the state capitol and you might find out the hard way that you can’t smoke everywhere. Regardless of where you like to do your toking, there are still some places you can definitely get into hot water by consuming publicly.
Check out this list of 6 places you still can’t smoke marijuana in the Centennial State:
Although you can legally purchase anything and everything under the sun related to cannabis, you still can’t smoke in-store. This might come to a surprise to many of you whom have yet to visit an actual dispensary. According to my friend Dan (whom has never touched a joint in his life): “Aren’t dispensaries just a place to hang out and smoke marijuana all day?”
No Dan. You’re thinking of my house.
2. Personal Vehicles
The only puff-puff-passing you should be doing in your car is getting around slow out-of-state drivers hogging up the left lane. Toking up in your car is still a big no-no and getting caught could land you that three-lettered acronym nobody wants: DUI.
Your safest course of action is to wait to partake until you get home or somewhere private. After all, it would definitely suck to have to walk 10 miles to the dispensary because you lost your license.
This one has a huge gray area surrounding the use of marijuana in public spaces because in some cases it is tolerated (like concerts at the gorgeous Red Rocks Amphitheater), but in others (like your kid’s playground) you will definitely get the cops called. Public consumption is banned and citations are imminent if you feel like pushing your luck on this one.
4. Ski Slopes
Despite the aroma of dead skunks saturating the lift lines at ski resorts like Breckenridge and Vail, smoking on federal land (which most of the resorts are considered) could stick you with a hefty fine and up to 6 months in jail.
5. National Parks
You might think that nothing pairs better with visiting jaw-dropping national treasures like Colorado National Monument or Garden of the Gods than a sensory-enhancing sativa or three, and I’d definitely have to agree with you. However, if you act upon your dank desires in the park, there are plenty of officers and concerned visitors ready to put an abrasive end to your sight-seeing smoke sesh.
Many hotels in Colorado have outright banned the use of marijuana in their facilities and will fine the crap out of you if you get caught, even if the room has a “private” balcony. However, word of mouth says that some hotels are okay with it but unless you know for sure, don’t expect to hot-box your room like it’s a one-man Cypress Hill concert.
With the recent success of the recreational marijuana legalization movement in states like Colorado, Washington and Oregon, people often wonder whether anyone in these fortunate places would ever go back to getting their ganja via the “black market”.
As a native Coloradan, I’ve stood in utter amazement over the last two years as marijuana dispensaries have quickly outnumbered Starbucks. Nowadays, if I crack open my nug jar and find nothing but a trichome-covered void staring back at me, all I have to do in order to get a “refill” is drive about seven minutes to the nearest dispensary and purchase more. No dark alley meetings with sketchy dealers or calling friends-of-friends at 8 p.m. on a weekend to find someone that might be holding.
I just get in my car, head to the trusty greenery, and that’s all she wrote. I can be home and wrist-deep in munchies in less than fifteen minutes.
So why would I – or anyone for that matter – even consider going back to the black market when we have the ease and convenience of dispensaries right at our front doors?
To be honest, the answers might surprise you.
A Friend with Weed is a Friend Indeed
To find someone that still purchases marijuana “illegally” on the black market in a state where recreational marijuana is legal, I reached out to a dear friend of mine, whom we’ll call Allie.
Allie lives on the outer fringe of Colorado in a town that is both small and scenic. It has numerous charms and conveniences, but a nearby dispensary is not one of them. For her to legally get cannabis through a dispensary, she has to travel 40 minutes by highway to the nearest one. Since there is a lack of competition in this part of the state, this particular dispensary can get away with charging an arm and a leg for their products.
One of the main reasons someone like Allie purchases marijuana on the black market instead of at a dispensary comes down to time and mileage. Would you rather drive an hour to get overpriced and overtaxed “legal” marijuana, or simply walk over to your buddy’s house and pick up an eighth of homegrown for $20?
What it boils down to is simple economics. If you can get it for less, why pay more? On top of being able to save time and money, there are plenty of other reasons to avoid the dispensaries and just get it from “that guy” you know.
Take my friend Boris for example. Boris has a wife, two kids and a high profile job that would terminate him immediately if they ever found out he smokes marijuana. In other words, he’s a teacher.
To keep his name off of Big Brother’s naughty list, Boris purchases his cannabis on the black market through a friend-of-a-friend that grows it for personal use. This way Boris never has to show his ID or provide any kind of paper trail connecting his name to the marijuana industry. Marijuana, as Boris described to me, is “the best way to relax and unwind after a long day of teaching half-awake and wholly disinterested kids.”
Whether you like the anonymity, savings or convenience the list of reasons to remain a “black market” client seems reasonable. If the grass is green on this side of the fence, what might the other side look like?
“Terpenes by Tony”
According to Allie, she gets her marijuana from a friend, whom we’ll call Tony, that grown tons of it. When I say tons, I literally mean tons.
You see, Tony is what’s known as a caregiver and therefore legally licensed to grow hundreds of plants and provide medicinal marijuana for hordes of clients and dispensaries throughout the state. Where a typical top-shelf eighth of marijuana might go for $30 to 50 in a dispensary before taxes, Tony only charges his customers $20. Since he grows all of the product himself, he doesn’t have a middleman to pay and can therefore charge less than your typical street dealer of olden days.
Tony was courteous enough to give me some details on what he pulls in during a typical week of his black market business dealings. Assuming his regular steady clientele of around 50 people purchase an eighth of marijuana per week at $20 each, he’s looking at $1,000 income each week. Conservatively, this number is significantly lower than what he actually makes, he tells me. Including the various dispensaries he does business with that number easily reaches upwards of $2,500-3,000 a week at peak production.
If you have wondered whether it still pays to sell marijuana on the black market, the answer is yes. Although the average price of the non-dispensary marijuana purchase has come down since legalization, Tony assures me that business is just as good as ever.