In hindsight, Kamala Harris’ infamous 2019 radio interview with New York’s hit morning show, “The Breakfast Club,” told us everything.
During the discussion she spoke of her belief that cannabis should be legalized, the need for better research on the plant’s impact on brain development, its undeniable medical efficacy, concern about cannabis-impaired drivers, and that illegal cannabis has incarcerated too many young men of color.
This interview raised a few eyebrows when she admitted to have once smoked cannabis (“a long time ago”) which provided fodder for late night jokes. Others noted that she built a career using cannabis to put people in jail, and then joked about enjoying it herself.
One thing is certain: Kamala Harris, shaped by growing up with a Jamaican/South Asian lineage and a career shaped by the law and order world of the plant, seems comfortable talking about cannabis.
Now, she’s been tapped to be Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s running mate in the 2020 presidential election. For many, she is the ideal running mate for Biden.
But while many believe Harris is a smart and safe choice for Biden, others, particularly those in the criminal justice and cannabis communities, are conflicted. Some view Harris’ prosecutorial past as someone simply carrying out the duties of her job while navigating the complexities of being a woman of color in law enforcement and politics. Others see her as an engaged general of the War on Drugs and a tough-on-crime prosecutor responsible for sending non-violent drug offenders to prison.
Similar to the examination of what could potentially change Biden’s views on legalization, we took a close look at Harris’ record on cannabis to try to illustrate a cautious picture of what her potential role in the future of cannabis legalization will be.
A complicated past: from “top cop” to the MORE Act
Harris’ political career began in 2004 when she was elected to be San Francisco’s district attorney. Once in office, Harris attempted to cultivate a reputation as a progressive prosecutor who was “smart on crime.” However, throughout her time as the DA, the felony conviction rate rose from 52% to 67%, and Harris became notorious for cracking down on gangs and drug dealers. At the time, Harris opposed cannabis legalization, and her office oversaw more than 1,900 cannabis convictions.
In 2011, Harris became the highest-ranking law enforcement official in California when she was elected attorney general. Preceding her victory was a contentious election that focused heavily on her refusal as a district attorney to pursue the death penalty for a man convicted of killing a police officer. This decision followed her for years and almost ruined her political career. Her precarious position entering her new role can help explain her mixed bag of both reformist policies and a pattern of upholding the status quo during her tenure as attorney general.
In 2010, Harris opposed Proposition 19, a ballot measure that would have legalized cannabis for adults over 21. For the next five years, she opposed cannabis legalization. Between the years of 2011 and 2016, at least 1,560 people were sent to prison for cannabis-related offenses, a fact that her debate opponents used against her, derailed momentum in her campaign, further confused her cannabis record, and became one of the most provocative, watchable, and dramatic moments of all the debates. In 2019, in the midst of a crowded, heated Democratic primary, Harris’ past in the criminalization of cannabis while serving as attorney general was continually put on full display.
But Harris came out in support of decriminalization in 2015 during her second term as attorney general. While this marked a significant change in her position on cannabis, she still refused to support adult-use legalization. Critics argued that her position did not go far enough, since, at the time, a handful of states already had adult-use markets, and the majority of Americans supported legalization.
In a 2017 speech, she said “While I don’t believe in legalizing all drugs, as a career prosecutor I just don’t, we need to do the smart thing, the right thing, and finally decriminalize marijuana.”
In 2016, Kamala Harris won her Senate race and became California’s first Black senator and the first South Asian American to serve in the U.S. Senate — the same election California voted to legalize adult-use cannabis.
Since she took office in 2017, Harris has generally aligned herself with the Senate’s progressive members, voting alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders 93% of the time. As a district attorney and attorney general, Harris’ role was to uphold and enforce the law. As a U.S. senator, her job duties shifted from law-enforcing to law-making.
Harris supported adult-use cannabis legalization in 2018 when she cosponsored Sen. Cory Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, which would legalize cannabis at the federal level. The same year, Harris, along with Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions demanding he stop blocking medical cannabis research efforts.
“Right now in this country people are being arrested, being prosecuted, and end up spending time in jail or prison all because of their use of a drug that otherwise should be considered legal,” Harris said in a 2018 press release. “Making marijuana legal at the federal level is the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do. I know this as a former prosecutor and I know it as a senator.”
In her 2019 book, The Truths We Hold, Harris details her support for cannabis legalization and the need to expunge all non-violent cannabis-related records. She wrote “We need to expunge non-violent marijuana-related offenses from the records of the millions of people who have been arrested and incarcerated so they can get on with their lives.”
That same year, alongside Rep. Jerrold Nadler, Harris introduced the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act. The MORE Act decriminalizes cannabis at the federal level, expunges cannabis-related convictions, invests resources into communities most disproportionately impacted by cannabis criminalization, and establishes a 5% federal cannabis tax. The bill is just beginning to move through the legislative process.
With each new role Harris occupied, from district attorney to U.S. senator, her position on cannabis evolved. Far removed from her days as a prosecutor, Harris is now a full-blown supporter of cannabis legalization and a vocal proponent of ending the failed War on Drugs. Whether her shift is the result of listening to her critics, personal growth, political opportunism, or some combination of the three, Harris’ views on cannabis reflect a major shift in her approach to criminal justice. Harris is now in touch with the vast majority of Americans who support legalization.
Not debatable: Harris vs. Pence
No analysis of Harris’ positions on cannabis would be complete without a comparison to the policy positions of her opponent. In this case, it is impossible to do an apples-to-apples comparison since incumbent Vice President Mike Pence doesn’t even consider the issue.
The former governor of Indiana is a longtime and fierce opponent of cannabis legalization and an apostle of the “pot is a gateway drug” theory. While leading the Hoosier state, Pence opposed a provision in a criminal justice reform bill that lowered the penalties for cannabis possession charges. During his time in Congress, from 2001 to 2013, he was a reliable “no” vote on any meaningful cannabis legislation.
Pence does, at times, pick peculiar and inappropriate opportunities to express his opposition to legalization. This propensity was on full display, when, at the height of contentious negotiations regarding the recent Covid-19 relief funding, he went on television and falsely stated that the Democrats bill “mentions marijuana more than it mentions jobs.”
When Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his Vice President, he chose someone who he aligned with politically but was willing to push him on issues where he has been historically weak. As someone of Jamaican and South Asian descent, a woman, and over two decades younger, Harris fills in crucial gaps that have previously been points of criticism of Biden’s candidacy.
As people contemplate Harris’ potential influence in a Biden administration, legalization advocates cannot help but wonder if she can chip away at his seemingly intractable, anti-legalization stance. Compared to President Donald Trump’s confusing and dismal cannabis policy positions, Biden, while not supporting full adult-use legalization, does champion federal decriminalization, automatic expungement of cannabis-related convictions, and medical legalization.
In the end, nobody really knows how and when Harris might launch an internal campaign to change the boss’s mind should they make it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. In July, when the “veepstakes” was in full throttle, Harris indicated that she had no intention to push the candidate on cannabis legalization. But when he had the job, Biden forced the shift of the Obama administration policy on gay marriage with just one appearance on Meet the Press.
Featured image by Michael F. Hiatt/Shutterstock
5 weed products Tommy Chong can’t live without
Tommy Chong exceeds the status of cannabis celebrity. Though he and Cheech were technically the stoner celebs, rising to international stardom in the 1970s by pioneering the genre with their Cheech and Chong franchise, they’ve since surpassed such worldly roles.
50 years later, Chong functions more as a cultural monolith in the weed world and beyond. Like Jesus, Santa Claus, or Jerry Garcia, the mere mention of his name evokes something magical, mythical, and in his case, super stoned. This kind of ascension can only be achieved through a lifetime of hard work, good vibes, and above all else, being a cool fucking dude.
In addition to his Tommy Chong’s line of tinctures, sublingual strips, energy potions, and more, he’s slated to pair back up with Cheech — who’s been busy building his own weed brand, Cheech’s Stash — to open a chain of Cheech and Chong dispensaries in California, starting with San Francisco, then on to Los Angeles.
“On the West Coast, Cheech and Chong are semi-gods,” Chong told Weedmaps. “We’re not fully gods, but we’re semi. So we’re just going to provide the best product we know is out there, and a delivery service in every one of our dispensaries. And we’re also going to provide a fun location to go to. It’s not going to be as, you know, weird as some of them are.”
Ideas for the dispensaries include television screens playing Cheech and Chong movies, “as well as other stoner movies,” nonstop, appearances by the duo, and virtual art shows.
“Cheech is a world-renowned collector of Chicano art,” said Chong. “They’re building a museum in Riverside just for Cheech’s art. So we’re going to have virtual art shows on the screens too,” he paused, “and I’ve got a killer bong collection to display.”
In honor of his new venture(s) in a market he helped create, here are the weed products Tommy Chong can’t live without — straight from the Godfather himself.
“My preferred method of smoking is to use a Chong Bong,” said Chong. “It’s one of my vintage bongs from the nineties. Jason Harris made it for me.”
Jason Harris, famed glass blower and founder of Jerome Baker Designs, got his start apprenticing with glass blowing god Bob Snodgrass in 1991. Since then, Harris has worked with numerous celebrities to create outlandish and wildly high priced smoking creations. For example, the $18,000 nug jar capable of holding a full pound of flower that he blew for Snoop Dogg. “The Chong Bong retails for about $5000 dollars,” said Chong.
“I have this wooden pipe from Germany, and I actually just did a little commercial for it,” said Chong. “It’s a one-hander. There’s a built in lighter and a bowl, you can light it up and smoke and everything all with one hand.”
Tommy Chong’s PurePipes are handcrafted in Erfurt, Germany. Not only can users light and smoke all with one hand, they’re designed specifically for smoking cannabis, with an attention to drawing resistance and volume of the packing chamber.
Chong continued, “It’s great for me, because a lot of time when I’m doing cameos they’ll want to light up. So I just grab my little solo pipe and away I go!”
Tommy Chong’s Infused Strips
“I love my breath strips,” said Chong. “They don’t carry that telltale odor, so you can do them anywhere, in church, in prison, or in court! And the best part is, you can function. You can function all day.”
Tommy Chong’s Infused Strips come in three flavors: Strawnana, Blueberry, and Chocolate Mint. Each sublingual strip hits in about 15 minutes, and packs 10 milligrams THC.
Tommy Chong’s CBD Good Vibes Energy Shot
Though this product hasn’t hit the shelves just yet, I tried one of these little shots and they really work. I felt alert, focused, and not jittery or anxious like I often do after coffee. And the ingredients are even approved by Chong’s uber healthy wife.
“Oh my wife, she’s my tester,” he said. “She is so fussy and so healthy. But she loves that energy drink! She takes ballet, and she’ll do a bottle before she does that. I should be doing it more.”
All weed, literally.
When I asked if there were any strains he was particularly into right now, Chong replied, “Honestly, I’ve lost track of all the strains. When people ask me, I tell them my favorite strain is cannabis. It’s crazy because in the government, people try to treat cannabis like alcohol, or some kind of weird drug, and you can’t. It’s not a drug. It’s a medicine that’s an herb. It grows wild in the forest. The animals love it. It’s a plant that should be respected.”
He continued, “And the people who say it’s a gateway drug, well, those gates can be phenomenal. They can swing you into becoming an artist, or a rapper, or an author, or a conductor. Those gates open to all the creative outlets that exist on this planet. So, as we go along with our dispensaries, we’re going to really educate the people. It’s going to be so much fun. Then, we’re going to make so much money that we’re just going to retire and never have to work again. You’ll see.”
Graphic by David Lozada/Weedmaps
French Committee Pushes for Cannabis Legalization
Throughout all the major cannabis news that has been making headlines in Europe, the U.S., and across the globe over the past ten or so years, France has been almost nowhere in the mix.
A parliamentary committee wants to change that as soon as possible and the members are urging the government to initiate a medical cannabis experiment and figure out the best way to address medical cannabis concerns.
An Urgent Call To Action
The committee made this demand in a document, asking for a budget that would support some kind of experiment surrounding medical cannabis and its potential for legalization.
“It’s very important that funding for the medical cannabis experiment is now integrated into this process,” said Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy, CEO of Augur Associates in Paris, back in 2019 regarding the importance of moving forward and making something happen. While France has technically approved such an experiment a year ago through legal channels, there needs to be actual implementation to get something off the ground and into the trial stage so that progress can be monitored.
Robin Reda of the French National Assembly and president of the committee claims that she believes France “has fallen alarmingly behind its European neighbors” in terms of cannabis reform overall. “The bulk of the technical work was done before the health crisis,” Reda added, explaining that she doesn’t believe this delay is due to COVID alone, as there has been plenty of time. She instead blames “bureaucratic blockage” and wonders why the government is not moving forward.
Under the new, experimental program, if it is allowed to get started, as many as 3,000 people could be enrolled to try medical cannabis as treatment. At first, the program would probably be dependent on North American cannabis grows until the government can set up its own grow structure for patients. Advocates would like to see this program get started as early as 2021.
In addition to those on the committee supporting cannabis, 50 doctors, scientists, and patients expressed these same concerns earlier this month in an op-ed published in Le Parisien. They argued that because of the lengthy delay on medical cannabis programs, there is no access for patients, causing those who need medical cannabis to look outside legal channels and turn to the black market. They also argue that the framework has already been laid.
“Two years ago, this officially began within the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) at the request of the previous Minister of Health, Agnès Buzyn,” they stated (originally in French) in their op-ed. “Since September 2018, work has then been initiated within a multidisciplinary, scientific committee of the ANSM. They assessed the scientific relevance of providing access to cannabis-based, pharmaceutical standard products for chronically ill patients with little or no relief from their suffering by their treatments.”
While this would only be a small step towards legal cannabis in France, it would definitely be the biggest step that has been taken since a medical cannabis experiment was approved. If this experiment goes forward, it truly could be the start of both medical and recreational cannabis in the European country.
Cannabis During Breast Cancer Treatment: What Are The Benefits?
A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event. From the confusion of understanding the road ahead to the hectic schedule of treatment protocols and never-ending appointments, many individuals struggle through treatment and beyond.
Amy S., a native of Milwaukee, shared that her breast cancer treatment took a toll not only on her body, but relationships as well. “Exhaustion was an understatement. I didn’t have the brain power or the patience to give to my children, or my husband.” Amy went on to explain that during particularly difficult chemotherapy sessions, while they were targeting her left breast, she had continuous nausea and insomnia. One bright spot, Amy shared, was that a friend passed her some CBD oil.
After discussing combining the oil with her other treatment, she found relief in small doses. “It didn’t fix the fear, but it gave me a little bit of my life back, between vomiting and overthinking.” Amy credits CBD oil with helping her deal with anxiety and pain during treatment. And, she’s not alone.
Well-known organizations like the American Cancer Society have already had frank discussions about the benefits of CBD and cannabis during cancer treatment.
There have been some early clinical trials of cannabinoids in treating cancer in humans and more studies are planned. While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show that they help control or cure the disease.
Here are five ways cancer patients may use cannabis or CBD oil to alleviate symptoms during cancer treatment:
Anxiety: A cancer diagnosis can bring feelings of uncertainty and tension within the mind and soul. From second-guessing to understanding larger questions around the disease, many patients can experience anxiety and depression. According to Harvard Health, CBD is commonly used to address anxiety. In a 2015 study and analysis, researchers found that CBD oil offered promising treatment for individuals with various anxiety disorders.
Pain: Men and women experiencing cancer treatment often experience pain at injection sites as well as pain after surgery. In a piece for Doximity, Dr. Johnathan Kaplan shared that Marijuana and CBD offered a myriad of after-surgery benefits, including stopping eliminating opioid addiction, increasing appetite, and decreasing pain and side effects such as constipation.
As patients take more opioids for pain, the resulting constipation can cause more pain and the cycle begins anew. That is not an issue with marijuana.
Nausea: The American Cancer Society cites a study where individuals felt relief from symptoms of nausea and vomiting during treatment. In the study, individuals felt that smoking cannabis helped ease episodes of vomiting and nausea brought on by chemotherapy.
Insomnia: Often caused by anxiety or chronic pain that comes with a cancer diagnosis, insomnia can cause patients, a large CBD study from the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that of the 72 patients sampled, anxiety decreased in the first month of introducing CBD in a bedtime routine. Additionally, sleep scores also improved in the first 30 days in over 66.7% of patients.
Overall unease: From helping to balance stress and mood to reducing episodes of depression, Linda A. Parker found in writing her book, Cannabinoids and the Brain, found, “in a survey of nearly 4500 people revealed fewer depressive symptoms in cannabis users than in non-users.”
Even better? Research recently found that cannabinoids (CBs) offered relief for tumor-related symptoms in not just nausea, vomiting and pain for cancer patients, but in attacking the actual tumors.
An April 2019 abstract in the U.S. National Library of Medicine found that CBs may slow tumor growth in breast cancer patients because they are active against estrogen-positive breast cancers, but non estrogen breast cancers as well, (as well as triple-negative breast cancer.) Often given to breast cancer patients in the advanced stages of the disease to slow growth, CBs may also offer relief in earlier stages of cancer as well.
For those experiencing a cancer diagnosis, it’s always best to discuss CBD or cannabis use with your doctor to ensure they have all the up-to-date information of your lifestyle and medicines — especially since CBD or cannabis can interact with medications you may be taking.
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