Where were you when puff, puff, pass became puff, puff … nah, I’m good?
For me, it was a Saturday, March 21, 2020 to be exact. In Seattle, Washington. I was at the last house party I might ever attend, posted on the back patio with a stranger who had an immaculate ponytail. I lit a stogie mcnogie of some homegrown Durban x Tangie, took a few hits, then passed it to the left, only to receive a, “Hmm … nah, I’m good.”
My world collapsed. The first decree of the Weed Smoker’s Constitution has just been amended, and we didn’t even vote on it. Shit just happened. Not only was I hurt by the rules of weed being changed, but I was also judging myself for not adjusting to them.
It’s not like the changes aren’t for good reason. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. As I write this, John Hopkins’ COVID-19 dashboard reports nearly 7 million cases in the US and more than 200,000 COVID-19-related deaths. So, it makes sense why people wouldn’t want to put their lips on some stranger’s spit vessel. We now live in a world where people wear hazmat suits to buy groceries, drive-thrus pass your food on a tray like cops feeding Hannibal Lecter, and coffee shop managers might actually slapbox you for not wearing a face mask. Everyone so badly wants to get back to whatever “normal” used to be — before now. Anytime you violate social distancing rules, it feels like you’re resetting the world’s countdown by years.
I miss sharing weed. And so do you — I see it in your eyes (plus the fact that you’re reading this article). The coronavirus has changed everything in the world, and just because weed is essential doesn’t mean we’re untouched. Cannabis cafés have gone out of business, those fancy THC-infused dinners in Los Angeles are on hold, and Oregon dispensaries — where you could stick your nose into the jars — have shifted to a wafting model.
You can’t even let off a public weed cough without people side-eyeing you like you’re patient zero.
Even finding new weed is different. When’s the last time someone passed you a jar that made you do two claps and Ric Flair? It’s been a minute since you coughed, “Damn, what’s that?!” huh? COVID-19 stole that from us. We can’t even touch jars, let alone pass along what’s inside of them. Not sharing weed takes away from that feeling of discovering a new Pokémon in the wild. Not to mention, it’s way cheaper to find new weed through smoking with other people than trying every random strain to figure out the few that you love. Real ones know.
In the era of social distancing, fewer face-to-face interactions means fewer opportunities to have a stoney conversation with someone new. It’s not that the art of conversation is dead. You can talk, and to strangers, in person, with a mask and distancing enforced. But with reports that aerosolized COVID-19 particles can remain in the air for up to three hours, the weed conversation game of smoking with a person while y’all chop it up about something weird is in a lockout. No one is standing next to you long or close enough to blow smoke in each other’s faces, and if they are, you’re both silently wondering if it makes y’all assholes. I mean, kinda.
The dating game is all messed up now too. Not only does the absence of social gatherings force us into the hell of dating apps, you can’t even get off the link-and-smoke anymore. Fam, I hate alcohol (and dating apps). I’ll drink it socially, but if I never had to meet up with a woman over $12 cocktails just to make small talk about work and asking each other “do you like travelling?”, I would be so okay. But I participate in these social norms because, deep down, I’m hoping that she’s radical enough to see this Gelato joint I brought as a better way of connection. That’s gone now — my whole bag is gone. Picture Michael Jordan without the left shoulder fadeaway: that’s Danté Jordan without the, “You wanna just smoke instead?”
“But what about online smoking sessions?” you might point out. Let me tell you something: Online smoke sessions are trash. I’m sorry, but they are. Think about your latest Zoom call with a big group. What was the experience? It’s eight to a dozen people having one conversation. Either no one’s talking, because we don’t have the social queues of knowing when to, or everyone’s talking, because we don’t have the social queues of knowing when not to. And the more people added to the sesh, the harder it is to communicate, ultimately turning your chill time into a virtual panic room. Still, with the heightened risks of spreading the virus, sometimes a bad option like a WIFI smoke sesh is a better option than putting others and yourself at risk, or not seshing at all.
So, where do I go from here? Like all people with a passion for weed before me, you learn to adapt.
The first time I tried to smoke with friends post-quarantine was a real eye-opener. It was a parking lot post-up where everyone brought Bluetooth speakers, camp chairs, and flow toys. We’d all gone four months without seeing each other, so everyone hugged it out upon greeting. That body-to-body love was needed in a medicinal way. As ice breakers, we exchanged sarcastic remarks about how extreme the world was acting, but when it came time to spark one, the left arm extension was still met with, “Nah, I’m good.” Instead, everyone smoked solo dolos in our own lil’ bubbles. It was a sign that jokes are jokes, but sharing weed is the new character test amongst stoners, and your choice to not adapt speaks volumes.
What are the ethics of sharing weed moving forward? No clue. That really depends on your values when it comes to public health and the culture of weed. In a global pandemic, where almost 1 million total humans have died in relation to a virus that you can spread from just breathing too far, is smoking weed with the homies ever really okay? Again, no clue. Probably not.
I’ll come clean in saying that I’ve been burning with the people closest to me. As the months of worldwide disease, protests, and wildfires have passed, I’ve started to establish my new normal amidst the chaos, and with that has come a few exceptions. It’s like answering the age old question, “If you were stranded on a desert island, what would you bring and why?” I’ve never had a what, only a who; I’m cool on surviving alone. Nowadays, my four to five friends that I know have been masked up, chilling at the crib, and doing hand sanitizer facials on Self-care Sunday, are the only people I see, let alone smoke with, so we feel alright about it. But long gone are the days where anyone close enough to comment on how good my weed smells could hit the blunt.
I miss the hell out of them.
Featured illustration by David Lozada/Weedmaps
Jay-Z announces new line of cannabis products dubbed Monogram
Rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z is launching his own cannabis brand in partnership with Caliva, the California-based weed company that hired the star as its chief brand strategist last year.
Named Monogram, Jay-Z’s line of marijuana products launched its website and social media accounts on Friday.
“Monogram marks a new chapter in cannabis defined by dignity, care and consistency. It is a collective effort to bring you the best, and a humble pursuit to discover what the best truly means,” Monogram’s website highlights.
No further information on the specific products that will be sold under the Monogram brand has been released yet.
However, according to the website, the flower used in Monogram’s products is grown in small batches, with a board of “cannabis experts” tasked with grading and hand-selecting each flower that goes into the line.
The New York rapper joined Caliva in 2019 as a brand strategist, which entailed overseeing the creative direction of the company. Furthermore, Jay was focused on Caliva’s social equity efforts as he aimed to increase economic participation of people disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition in the newly legal industry.
As for when consumers can expect to try Jay-Z new products, a spokesperson told the New York Daily News Monogram still hasn’t set its dispensary release schedule. The line will “definitely be available across all of California,” according to the spokesperson.
In other news, basketball star Shawn Kemp who played for the Seattle SuperSonics is also showing his love of pot. Kemp is set to open Seattle’s first black-owned marijuana dispensary this Friday. The Sonics legend named his dispensary Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis and is hoping to serve as a model for others in the black community who might be interested in foraying into the legal marijuana business in the area.
“I’m looking forward to welcoming Sonics fans on a regular basis, starting with opening day. I hope that Shawn Kemp’s Cannabis will be an inspiration for people to get involved with the legal cannabis industry, especially people of color,” the Reign Man said in a press release.
Analysis: Legal weed in Texas would generate over $500 million in tax revenue per year
Legalizing marijuana in Texas could generate over half a billion dollars in tax revenue per year and create more than 40,000 new jobs, according to the results of a report released by Vicente Sederberg LLP earlier this month.
Legal cannabis sales in Texas would reach about $2.7 billion annually based on the fact that there are more than 1.5 million residents over the age of 21 that consume pot on a monthly basis, the analysis calculated.
The estimated tax revenue was calculated under the assumption Texas would tax marijuana sales at the same rate as Colorado at 20.6%. This would amount to $1.1 billion in taxes per biennium, while Texas could collect an additional $10 million per year through the issuing of marijuana business licenses.
The report notes Colorado has raised nearly $13 million on average per year just from license and application fees. Furthermore, the report indicated that current taxpayer dollars that go towards marijuana arrests and prosecutions amount to $311 million per year – money that Texas would save should it legalize pot.
“States across the country are seeing the benefits of legalizing and regulating cannabis. It is inspiring lawmakers in prohibition states to reexamine the efficacy and costs of their current policies and take a closer look at the alternatives,” said Shawn Hauser, a partner at Vicente Sederberg.
“The goal of this report is to provide a snapshot of the economic benefits Texas would experience if it started treating cannabis more like alcohol for adults 21 years of age and older,” he commented on the new report.
Aside from the tax revenue that legal weed in Texas could generate, the report highlighted marijuana’s job creation potential. An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 new jobs would be available in the newly legal industry, with tens of thousands of additional indirect positions, the report estimated.
Hauser also pointed out the added economic benefits of legalization in Texas given current uncertainties provoked by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Texas is leaving an enormous amount of money on the table by keeping cannabis illegal,” according to him.
Texas was once known for having the strictest drug laws in the U.S., but the state has softened its stance on cannabis in recent years. A very limited medical marijuana program was established in 2015, while, more recently, cannabis possession arrests in the state have been significantly declining after hemp became legal.
Cannabis Businesses Invest in Their Futures with Political Donations
Cannabis companies have been making political donations for years, and in 2020, those donations have continued to grow. In fact, some companies are investing aggressively to shape the future of the cannabis industry either by donating directly to campaigns and politicians or through political action committees (PACs) that support cannabis-friendly candidates and legislation.
So far in 2020, the Center for Responsive Politics reports that the leading cannabis companies, cannabis-related companies, and cannabis trade associations making donations to federal candidates, parties, and outside groups are (in order of 2020 donation amounts to date):
- Canty Ventures
- National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)
- Have A Heart
- Beyond Broadway LLC
- Sea Hunter Therapeutics
- Cannabis Trade Federation
- Dan Kopp & Co
- Acreage Holdings
Compare that list to the list of large cannabis company donors in 2019, which included Curaleaf, Parallel Brands (formerly Surterra Wellness), Tweed Inc. (part of Canopy Growth Corporation), Canndescent, and Trulieve. Even ancillary cannabis companies like Dama Financial, WeedMaps, and Acreage Holdings donate large sums of money in 2019 according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
State Donations in 2020
There are a number of legalization (adult-use and/or medical use) and decriminalization measures on state ballots in 2020, and cannabis companies, ancillary companies, and professional associations have been actively donating directly to related campaigns and initiatives at the state level.
In Arizona, Harvest is the biggest donor in support of legalization (Prop. 207) followed by Curaleaf, MedMen, Cresco Labs, Copperstate Farms, Arizona Dispensaries Association, Herbal Wellness Center, and Oasis Dispensaries.
Mississippi’s medical marijuana initiative on the November ballot (Initiative 65) has received donations from the CEO of Heritage Properties (George Walker III), Ghost Management Group (which owns Weedmaps), and the owner of ABKO Labs (Robert Lloyde II).
Ghost Management Group and its Weedmaps subsidiary also donated to support Montana’s and New Jersey’s legalization initiatives. In addition, New Jersey’s legalization Question 1 on the November ballot received donations directly from The Scotts Company (the maker of Scotts Miracle Gro), Pashman Stein Walder Hayden (a New Jersey cannabis law firm), and Compassionate Care Research Institute (a New Jersey dispensary).
Keep in mind, these donations don’t include the donations that cannabis companies and ancillary businesses donate to PACs or that they invest in lobbying. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that the biggest investments in lobbying from cannabis companies, ancillary companies, and trade associations in 2020 have come from the Cannabis Trade Federation, National Cannabis Roundtable, Canopy Growth Corp, Curaleaf, Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce, Parallel Brands, Cronos Group, Charlotte’s Web, NCIA, Acreage Holdings, Dama Financial, Trulieve, California Cannabis Association, and Oregon Cannabis Association.
Political Donations from Cannabis Interests Are Not New
One of the biggest political donation stories happened in California when cannabis businesses donated aggressively to former Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s campaign to become the state’s governor in the 2018 election. According to the Los Angeles Times, he secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from cannabis cultivators, processors, and retailers.
By May 2018, Newsom had raised nearly $500,000 from cannabis companies, but he wasn’t the only politician in California to receive money from cannabis interests. At the time, the state’s Treasurer, John Chiang, and Attorney General, Xavier Becerra, also secured donations from the cannabis industry
And of course, these donation numbers don’t even include the many donations from PACs that businesses and individuals working in the cannabis industry donate to. Many of these funds go directly to specific candidate’s fundraising efforts. For example, the Coastal Pacific Political Action Committee held a fundraiser in June 2017, and six days later, the PAC donated $50,000 to Newsom’s campaign.
Another noteworthy political donation happened in Florida over the course of multiple years. The Miami Herald reported that Surterra donated $1.1 million to Florida political candidates and committees between the summer of 2016 and March 2018. Trulieve donated $564,000 during the same period, and Curaleaf donated $469,000.
In Illinois, the doors for cannabis companies to make political donations opened in March 2017 when a federal judge ruled an Illinois provision that did not allow marijuana companies to make campaign contributions in the state was unconstitutional.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the provision prevented contributions to political committees that were established for the purpose of promoting candidates for public office. Since that decision was made, cannabis companies like PharmaCann and Cresco Labs have donated significant amounts to the state’s political candidates and committees.
Business and individual donations to marijuana-friendly political candidates have also become standard in Nevada and Colorado. During the 2016 elections, dozens of marijuana cultivators, processors, and dispensaries donated $75,000 to Nevada legislators according to the Nevada Independent.
Looking back further in history, Florida Senator Rob Bradley received his first donation from a cannabis company in 2015 when Costa Farms donated $10,000 to his political committee.
Similarly, cannabis businesses have actively contributed to Colorado political campaigns for years, and many of those businesses have been holding political fundraisers to support their preferred candidates. PBS reported back in 2014 that Colorado’s congressional delegation had received $20,000 during the first nine months of 2014 from marijuana businesses. Also in 2014, a fundraiser to support political candidates that was held by Tripp Keber of Denver, Colorado’s Dixie Elixirs & Edibles generated $40,000 in donations.
What’s Next for Political Campaign Donations from Cannabis Businesses?
As the cannabis industry continues to grow and more states legalize medical and/or recreational cannabis, laws will continue to evolve. Cannabis businesses and ancillary businesses should absolutely be concerned about which politicians are making those laws.
With that said, it’s safe to assume that political donations from the cannabis industry will get larger and more frequent in the coming years. Let’s put the donations from cannabis companies to political campaigns into perspective. During the first half of 2019, the cannabis industry gave more than $200,000 to members of Congress, which was up from $248,504 donated throughout all of 2018. Compare that to the $42 million that pharmaceutical companies donated to political campaigns across the United States in 2018.
With those numbers in mind, it’s guaranteed that political donations from cannabis and cannabis-related companies will continue to grow. Savvy businesses are paying attention and getting involved in an attempt to influence the regulations that could make or break their companies’ futures.
Originally published 8/24/17. Updated 10/23/20.
Susan Gunelius, Director of Email Marketing Strategy for Cannabiz Media, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her nearly 30-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. She has been working with clients in the cannabis industry since 2015. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing for Business, Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.
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