What Makes the Perfect Stoner Restaurant?

It is an age-old dilemma we have all faced: the clock has rolled over to 2:30 a.m., you and your friends are high as shit, and the hunger starts to creep in. It is the unmistakable temptation of the flower. Slow at first, it’s not long before the hunger consumes you and you realize that you would kill for a milkshake, a fist full of mozzarella sticks, like three tacos, and a slice of Hawaiian pizza. But where does one go to satisfy this appetite? How could you possibly address this range of desire?

Believe it or not, there was a brief time in Berkeley, California where a restaurant existed to serve this exact purpose. Munchy Munchy Hippos was the indisputably perfect stoner restaurant. It was a late night (open 6:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.) restaurant that served, as the name implies, food specifically designed to feed the cannabis cravings of old hippie burnouts and red-eyed college students alike. The menu ranged from mashed potato taquitos to deep-fried strawberry cheesecake bites, to brisket-covered french fries, to assorted candy, and much more. They had a section specifically for budget dining called the “I’m Broke” menu where you could order a single Otter Pop or a scoop of buttered corn. Munchy Munchy Hippos was a stoner oasis, but it was a star that burned too bright. It has since shut down, leaving a chili-cheeseburger-sized hole in all of our hearts.

However, Munchy did not die in vain. It has provided a blueprint for what makes an excellent stoner restaurant. We created a rating system using Munchy Munchy Hippos as a guide. For each of the four categories below, an eatery will be awarded points based on how well it meets qualifications. The points are then added up, with the highest possible score awarded being 50.

Menu – 20 Points

The most important and nuanced element here by a long shot. Yes, large portions are great, and obviously, greasy food reigns supreme, but consider the importance of customization. The more you are able to Frankenstein your meal, the better. The joy of adding bacon and eggs to a cheeseburger, or blending a slice of pie directly into a milkshake, cannot be overstated. Furthermore, while not a requirement, a value menu is a nice bonus; cheap eats are appreciated by everyone.

Convenience – 15 Points

Straightforward, but so essential. Walking distance is great, but easy access by public transportation is nice as well. Delivery can be clutch, but a long wait time is a slow kiss of death, and a sneaky fee or delivery minimum popping up at checkout after poring over a menu on Grubhub for 25 minutes is the single most frustrating experience in all of human existence.

Environment – 10 Points

All of the things you would normally expect to make up a good environment at any restaurant (clean, friendly service, etc.) apply here, with two crucial additions. First is the “chill” factor. Even if you aren’t someone who suffers from the occasional paranoia or anxiety when stoned, it’s important that people there (both staff and customers) aren’t prone to turning a judgemental eye towards you and your friends when you start laughing hysterically, or if you come in smelling a little… herbal. Second, the staff has to be tolerant of long or potentially confusing orders. It’s surprisingly disheartening when your request to replace the roast beef on your French Dip with a piece of fried chicken is met with a sigh or an eye roll.

Food Quality – 5 Points

Last, and definitely least, is the actual food quality. We would all like to pretend that our standards when stoned aren’t as low as they are, but there is a reason nobody eats Jack in the Box tacos sober. Of course the better the food is, the better the experience, but at a certain point, as long as it isn’t going to make you sick, the quality matters a lot less than it probably should.

Now that we have a proper scoring guide, let’s hold it up to a few old standbys and see how they fare.

Taco Bell

Menu: Some variety, but it’s essentially the same 8 ingredients re-packaged 100 times unless you are at a “Cantina” which adds weird booze options. Decent value across the board. (13/20)

Convenience: Almost all fast food has the benefit of many locations and rapid service with the caveat that delivery is rarely an option without the pricey aid of delivery services like Postmates. The Bell fits that mold. (13/15)

Environment: Taco Bell rarely has as much seating as, say, a Wendy’s, but it is often nicer than an average fast food restaurant. Also, basically everyone in a Taco Bell is either drunk or stoned, so no judgment shall be passed. (9/10)

Food Quality: What is the competition here? Chipotle? Del Taco? T-Bell is first in its class by a mile. (5/5)

Total: (40/50)

Denny’s

Menu: This is where Denny’s shines. All day breakfast goes a long way and milkshakes are an elite munchy treat. They also have very reasonable prices for all the food you’re getting. It doesn’t get much better than this. (19/20)

Convenience: Denny’s are rarely accessible by anything other than car, so unless you have a designated driver or want to throw down for a Lyft, you’re out of luck. Only points earned here come from being open 24 hours, 7 days a week. (5/15)

Environment: Standard diner, which is a solid vibe. Only issue here would be gruff, irritated truckers casting a critical gaze your way, or a family traveling through the night with kids that give you looks that make you feel guilty for being so high in public.  (7/10)

Food Quality: “Food” in name and appearance only. If you don’t know what to order (or what to stay away from) you could ruin a good night. (1/5)

Total: (32/50)

Little Caesars Pizza

Menu: Nothing special in terms of selection or customization, but a well-rounded lineup of pizza, wings, and assorted bread treats nonetheless. The cornerstone of their operation, the Hot-N-Ready, is lowkey one of the best value items in the fast food game. (14/20)

Convenience: Pizza spots are always going to get a boost here because of embedded delivery, and the Hot-N-Ready earns them big points for eliminating all possible wait time for pickup orders. Points deducted for far fewer locations than the competition (14/15)

Environment: Rarely a dine-in option, which might actually be a blessing. (3/10)

Food Quality: Sneaky good because of their garlic-powder-drenched crust. (4/5)

Total: (35/50)

Keep this ratings tool in your back pocket. Next time you find yourself with a late-night itch, use our trusty guide as your munchy compass. You won’t regret it.

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The Evolution of Marijuana in 22 Songs

From the darkest corners of America’s poorest neighborhoods to a symbol of wealth and status, it’s been quite the rags-to-riches story for Mary Jane—and the whole journey has been told in music, producing a seriously crunchy oral history. While this is in no way a complete canon, these 22 songs offer a glimpse into the changing attitudes about herb throughout the ages.

Light up Snoop Dogg’s strain or Blueberry Yum Yum and embark on this auditory time travel trip through the life and times of marijuana, music’s best muse.

“Muggles” Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five, 1928

When Louis Armstrong, an enthusiastic weed smoker, recorded this 12-bar blues song, cannabis was legal in most states. And pretty much a non-issue. In fact, the song is named after a commonly used slang term for weed among jazz musicians. You can imagine the entire band with joints lazily hanging from mouths in a smoky Chicago club—especially as drummer Zutty Singleton sets the pace with delicate brushes and Earl Hines takes a dreamy walk on the piano.

“When I Get Low I Get High” Ella Fitzgerald, 1936

Even Ella Fitzgerald, the sweetheart of Jazz who cultivated a squeaky-clean image, sang of the drug in a casual way, nodding to the nonchalant attitude of the time.

“That Funny, Funny Reefer Man” Cab Calloway, 1933

However, the 1930s also saw the use of cannabis come under increased scrutiny when the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, charged with eradicating recreational drug use, was formed. Its leader Harry J. Anslinger launched a campaign aligning cannabis use to societal ills and focused almost entirely on the “dangers of jazz.” The many, mostly African American musicians who referenced the drug in their art unwillingly provided the score for the racially motivated campaign that made weed and the African American community the scapegoat for America’s problems, while almost ignoring the effects of harder drugs, like heroin, used across communities.

“Let’s Go Get Stoned” Ray Charles, 1966

The political campaign against Mary Jane played its part in ushering in an era of innocent pop music through the ‘50s thanks to increased censorship, but in the ‘60s we hear cannabis re-enter popular music, as in this R&B hit covered by Ray Charles. The lyrics “let’s go get stoned” likely referred to drinking alcohol, but it may have inspired the following (alleged) weed anthem by Bob Dylan.

“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” Bob Dylan, 1966

While this song was definitely recorded high and some say that “rainy day women” was slang for joint, Dylan resists the notion that it’s a drug song though the cannabis references abound—including the sing-along refrain “everyone must get stoned.” A more nuanced interpretation of the lyrics as referring to unjust persecution and nodding to the civil rights movement puts this song into protest territory. Dylan didn’t want to put labels on it, but the multiple meanings of stoned throughout put Mary Jane in political context.

“Don’t Bogart Me” The Fraternity of Man, 1968

There’s nothing subtle or open for interpretation about this one. When they hold “roooooooooooolllllll another one” for longer than time itself, you know you’re hearing a true stoner anthem.

“Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam” Steppenwolf, 1968

While “Rainy Day Women” may have nodded at protest, this song offers a succinct and comprehensive teardown of the ways in which the government has used misinformation to criminalize and vilify marijuana for political gain: “Misinformation Sam and Joe / Are feeding to the nation / Well it’s evil, wicked, mean and nasty / (Don’t step on the grass, Sam).”

“One Toke Over the Line” Brewer & Shipley, 1970

Socially conscious lyrics regarding personal and political freedom were a hallmark for American folk artists Brewer & Shipley, but we’re pretty sure this became a hit (their one and only) because of one very relatable lyric. Who hasn’t been “one toke over the line, sweet Jesus”? They reportedly wrote the song while blazed; however, the otherwise wholesome lyrics landed it a spot on the Lawrence Welk show.

“Sweet Leaf” Black Sabbath, 1971

Black Sabbath may have been largely responsible for transitioning rock out of the flower power era into the harder screeches of heavy metal, but one thing remained constant: the love of the “sweet leaf.” This song, which coined the phrase, begins with coughing and transitions into a love song to weed. Like really all good, intense love, it’s delivered in yells.

“I Get Lifted” KC & The Sunshine Band, 1975

This song has been sampled by everyone from Madonna to Jay Z, blazing like a top-shelf strain of weed that’ll get you lifted hi-highhhhh.

“Legalize It” Peter Tosh, 1976

Tosh speaks truth to power in a mellow, yet powerful response to police persecuting Jamaican use of the drug. His plea to legalize it is paired with a prescient promise that he will advertise it. Tosh champions the medicinal benefits of the herb, as many Rastafarian artists do: “It’s good for the flu / Good for asthma / Good for tuberculosis / Even numara thrombosis.”

“Don’t Sniff Coke” Pato Banton, 1987

With Pato Banton’s chorus, “I do not sniff the coke, I only smoke sensimilla,” he draws a distinction between hard drugs and the healing plant, suggesting that sensimilla is the healing of the nation.

“Take Two and Pass” Gang Starr &  “How to Roll a Blunt” Redman, 1992

Early ‘90s hip-hop forgoes a legalization message in favor of lessons in smoking etiquette. Take two and pass teaches us how to make a blunt last, while Redman breaks down the art of the roll in detail.

“Brown Sugar” D’Angelo, 1995

D’Angelo turns the attention to Mary Jane’s sultry side in this ode to making love to her until his eyes are “a shade of blood burgundy.”

“Because I Got High” Afroman, 2000

While Rastafarian artists fight a battle to legitimize marijuana, tunes like this one from Afroman solidify the myth of the stoner as an ambition-less Peter Pan. The song may be catchy, but today’s smokers are still trying to shake the stoner stereotype.

“The Next Episode” Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, 2001

As the U.S. marches to legalization, hip-hop artists of the 2000s have heralded the herb as a status symbol and lucrative commodity. Rather than an escape, it’s a symbol of the good life—and lots of it—such as in “The Next Episode”…

“Pass that Dutch” Missy Elliott, 2003

… and Missy Elliot’s “Pass That Dutch”, among many others.

“Blueberry Yum Yum,” Ludacris, 2004

Ludacris penned an ode to a specific strain—perhaps the pot industry’s first review? He shot the video on location in a growroom in Amsterdam.

“Marijuana” Kid Cudi, 2015

Kid Cudi is a star cannabis connoisseur.

“James Joint,” Rihanna 2016

Weed smoking and branding go hand-in-hand for Rihanna.

“Young, Wild, and Free” Snoop Dogg, Whiz Khalifa, Bruno Mars, 2011

And finally, the weed O.G. Snoop Dogg is taking it to a whole new level. His empire is well underway, thanks in part to a VC firm, Casa Verda, that’s raised over $40 million in investment.

Did we miss your favorite weed song throughout history? Let us know in the comments and check out our complete playlist.

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Take the Twiddle Trip: the Band, the Bud, and their Bus

If you’re reading this website, suffice it to say that you love weed. A lot. So when you read about this band of dudes who hail from the green state of Vermont, it shouldn’t come as a surprise (though it did for me) that they know their way around a rig and can talk the cannabis talk. It’s rare that this interviewer feels inadequately prepared with enough weed, but lucky for me these guys came locked and loaded.

Sitting on the glass countertop of Twiddle’s backstage dressing room is a gleaming and gigantic slab of amber-colored concentrate. “We’ve gotten a lot more into concentrates these days,” says Mihali Savoulidis, the group’s guitarist and singer-songwriter. “I think it was Brook [Jordan] who got us into it”—he points in the direction of the band’s drummer. “We call it digital and analog—some of us still roll analog, but we’ve mainly switched to digital because it’s easier to travel with, doesn’t smell as much and you can keep more of it.”

For the Vermont quartet who average 100 live shows a year (plus their own music festival, Tumble Down), crisscrossing the country can be tricky, especially navigating nonlegal states in the Midwest and the South. “We have to be careful on tour—and having really beautiful stinky buds may not be the best thing for the tour bus,” says Savoulidis. “But going digital or hitting a pen lets you take a quick hit and go about your day.”

Savoulidis knows what he likes when it comes to weed: “I’ve always loved Sour Diesel, Strawberry Cough and some of the older strains I still love. Our buddy grows a really mean Blue Lotus, and Blue Dream has always been around us.”

As much as weed contributes to Twiddle’s day, music plays just as significant a role. The band shares what they’re listening to with one another, from funk to classical to reggae. Each member’s diverse taste informs the band’s unique sound.

Jordan credits his personal transition from skateboarding and listening to metal and punk to smoking weed, getting into bands like 311 and mellowing out. “311 was a nice segue from the harder stuff into some of the more groove-oriented and stoner-esque music,” he says, “but I was influenced by pretty much everything.”

Just like the music of fellow Vermonters Phish, Twiddle’s sound can be hard to define, and they can’t simply be labeled as a jam band. Their sound has a depth, and it also soars, always reaching for that musical high. For instance, “Dr. Remidi’s Melodium” takes fans on a sonic journey with danceable reggae grooves and shredding guitar licks that melt into classical compositions. “It’s a blessing and a curse,” says Savoulidis when asked how he describes Twiddle’s sound. “We stray in all directions. Funk. Disco. Latin. Classical. We have a lot of rhythm.”

As for being compared to Phish and the Grateful Dead, the only similarity the band sees is the scene: “It’s people with the same mind-set. And that’s the same we see with our fans—positivity and open-mindedness, and being part of a community.”

Enjoying being one with the green holds true for the Twiddle ethos. While on tour, they’re definitely conscious of how much plastic they use and accumulate. “We’re always trying to figure out how to make this tour or the next better for all of us, the environment, and eliminate [waste] and be better about it,” says Savoulidis.

Keep up with the guys at twiddlemusic.com for upcoming tour announcements.

This feature has been published in High Times magazine. Subscribe right here.

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Massachusetts Recreational Marijuana Retail Delayed Again

Retail sales of cannabis will not begin in Massachusetts on July 1 as planned, it was announced this week. Steven Hoffman, chairman of the state’s Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), told local media that regulators have not yet licensed an independent testing laboratory for recreational marijuana. He said the CCC has not received any completed applications for a testing lab and so far only one applicant has begun the process.

“We do have one lab application that’s in the queue,” Hoffman said. “We’ve talked to the labs, the four operators of the medical marijuana labs, and our expectation, I don’t have timing, but our expectation is that they’ll all apply,” Hoffman told reporters Tuesday.

To help expedite the process, Commissioner Britte McBride said the CCC voted unanimously to permit staff to review out of order any completed applications for independent testing labs submitted by August 1, “purely for the purposes of being able to get the independent testing labs to the front of the queue so that we can start to establish a supply chain that is consistent with the statute.”

Regulators Now Reviewing Applications

The CCC began accepting applications for cannabis business licenses on June 1 and had hoped to authorize the beginning of retail sales by July 1. But so far only one license, for a cultivator, has been issued. Hoffman apologized for the delay, but also noted that the July 1 date was a target of the CCC, not a requirement of Massachusetts’ recreational cannabis law.

“I understand those expectations and I’m sorry that people have expectations that were not met, I am truly sorry about that. That being said, our objective is to satisfy the will of the voters of the state of Massachusetts to build a fair and safe and equitable industry. We are doing so. There is nothing in the law that says it has to be July 1,” he said. “Again, I’m sorry people’s expectations were not met. On the other hand, I hope that people understand that we’re trying to build this industry consistent with the law and consistent with the will of the voters and we are committed to making that happen.”

The CCC currently has 61 applications for cannabis businesses from 31 applicants. Each application must be reviewed by the CCC, which must also conduct a background checkon the applicant. There is also a 60-day time period for local jurisdictions to verify that their regulations have been met by the applicants. Hoffman said that he expects the commission to approve additional license applications at its next meeting on July 1.

No New Predictions for Retail Rollout

When he was asked to predict when retail sales would begin in Massachusetts, Hoffman declined.

“I have resisted making a forecast and I will continue to resist making a forecast. We are going to issue licenses on an ongoing basis, they have to become final licenses, we have to get city and town approval; there are too many moving parts so I’m not making a forecast,” he said.

Hoffman added the lack of testing labs is “another reason why I’m just not making a forecast about timing, it’s another one of the moving parts that has to come together.”

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Snoop Dogg’s VC and Imperial Tobacco Investing in Cannabis Biotech

Snoop Dogg’s venture capital firm Casa Verde Capital and Imperial Tobacco will invest $10 million in U.K. research firm Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies, it was announced today. Snoop is founder and general partner of Casa Verde Capital, a cannabis-focused investment company that launched in 2015. Oxford Cannabis Technologies is a biomedical startup that is researching cannabinoids in a partnership with Oxford University in the U.K.

Karan Wadhera, managing partner for Casa Verde Capital, made the announcement during an interview with Bloomberg on Thursday.

“Today we’re announcing that we’re leading a series A investment, along with Imperial Brands, in Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies, a biotechnology firm that is going to be continuing to push research towards the medical applications of cannabis for a number of different conditions.”

Wadhera said that the “total investment is approaching $10 million” and will be used to fund research into cannabinoid therapies for pain, inflammation, cancer, gastrointestinal diseases, and other serious medical conditions.

Cannabis Industry Growth Strong

During the interview, Wadhera said that the legalization of cannabis in Canada will help fuel strong growth in the cannabis industry.

“It’s incredibly positive,” he said. “A G7 nation fully legalizing for recreational use is great for the industry, and I think great for the world at large. And I think this is why you’re seeing the advancements taking place and this sort of legalization wave sweeping everywhere. So, any enhancement there as we look to mainstream the use of cannabis and have it become more acceptable in society is a huge positive for the industry overall.”

And he was also encouraged by developments in the regulation of cannabis in the U.S.

“I think we’re actually making great progress and so much of that has happened even in this year,” Wadhera said. “We saw the bill from Senators Warren and Gardner called the STATES Act. And just today with Senator Chuck Schumer announcing the Marijuana Opportunities and Freedom Act, I think that there is certainly momentum in the House and the Senate. I believe it’s now reaching a place of bipartisan support so I think legalization, even here in the United States, is probably a lot closer than we anticipated.”

Wadhera forecasted the strong legalized marijuana market would continue to grow.

“We estimate the legal cannabis industry in the U.S. to be roughly around $10 billion at the moment. We think that can grow upwards of $75-$100 billion dollars in the coming years,” he said.

Banking Still an Issue

But, Wadhera added. the U.S. cannabis industry is still hampered by tight restrictions on financial institutions.

“We’re very hopeful that the federal government will start to make some changes,” he said. “Because the banking system at large is controlled by the fed, it’s incredibly important that we get real movement at that level. On the state side, we’ve seen some action. There are some state banks that are taking cannabis deposits and networks of credit unions. But until we see the government really act we won’t have full-scale banking capabilities in our industry.”

Whatever the challenges, Wadhera said the trend of legal marijuana is unstoppable.

“It’s becoming clear now that this is an inevitability and we will see full-scale legalization take place in the near future,” he said.

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New Regulations May Spark Canada’s Craft Cannabis Revolution

While legalization in Canada is delayed until October 17th, 2018, Canadians are celebrating as micro-licenses are finally coming out, ushering in the second wave of legalization. These micro-licenses are revolutionary for the industry, including smaller cultivators and processors more able to adapt to local consumer demand. Additionally, black-market genetics will finally be regulated, opening up the global floodgates.

Health Canada announced multiple classes of licenses including: processing (micro and standard), producers (micro and standard), nurseries, industrial hemp, research, and analytical testing, in addition to medical sales licenses. The regulations and application guide to apply for new licenses are available by request from Health Canada and will be public online soon. Most notably, there will be no restrictions on how many licenses an individual can possess, opening the door to cannabis co-ops with decentralized diverse distribution systems. While current licensed producers face very few changes as they transition, there are a few game-changing regulations.

With calls for cannabis amnesty reaching the mainstream news, Health Canada finally announced that they will not discriminate against those with previous non-violent cannabis convictions. “Historically anyone with any type of criminal activity in relation to controlled substances could face an automatic rejection from Health Canada,” said cannabis compliance consultant Mathew Columbro, president of Vindica Cannabis Corporation. “Security clearances will now be analyzed on a case-by-case basis to screen out organized crime pre-application.”

Outdoor cultivation is finally legal, and new industrial hemp regulations now permit the sale to processors to extract CBD. Advertising remains strict for recreational cannabis, and Canadian licensed producers continue to be disruptive in the space despite celebrity endorsements and event sponsorship being banned outright. This was par for the course for Health Canada, which previously forbade promoting cannabis using luxury or recreation, and now includes an outright ban on advertising to the general public. Several licensed producers have already been scolded to take down websites for recreational brands scheduled to be launched this fall.

Some of the top genetics companies in the world have already integrated into the existing medical program in Canada.

What no one expected from the new federal recreational cannabis regs was for black-market genetics to be able to register in the new legal recreational market. Similar to Jamaica, Canada is allowing black-market genetics to transfer into the new program through micro-producer licenses (1250 sq/ft max), which are allowed to sell seeds to nurseries and phenotype genetics to bring to market globally. While it’s currently illegal to sell seeds in Canada outside the medical system, the black market for genetics is ripe in Canada, as collectors swap and trade them as “novelty” items across borders. Through the previous designated grower system, some of the best cannabis genetics in the world were developed, but not licensed for commercial sale.

The majority of the original cannabis designated and personal grow licenses were in British Columbia, which is famous around the world for its “BC bud.” These licenses were grandfathered in, allowing designated growers to produce for up to 4 patients, but not sell to dispensaries. The new licensed producers were only able to genetics from the original medical growers for a short period of time in 2014, limiting the genetic pool for patients in the new medical program. This second wave of licensing for recreational will allow the top strains to finally be included in the new cannabis program after years of legal limbo.

According to cannabis lawyer Trina Fraser, “The ability of new cultivators to bring not only starting materials, but flowering plants as well, with them into the legal system shows the federal government’s commitment to encouraging compliance by reducing regulatory burdens.”

A huge barrier to licensed producers has been lifted, leading to the golden age of Canadian cannabis.

International award-winning Canadian master grower Jose Dominguez was elated by the new regulations. He told High Times, “I think the genetic transfer and new regulations for micro and nursery will greatly help the product diversity for the upcoming legalization. Unique strains and phenotypes will be available, and the more choice the better.”

When asked about the challenges of the new regs, Dominguez said, “Competition will be fiercer as lots of [companies] were growing and passing along the same strains. Breeders and expert growers will have more place in this new system that seems more inclusive for individuals that were before left behind. The new types of licenses will create a massive selection of flavors, products, quality, prices, innovations which will more than likely also help medical research.”

Some of the top genetics companies in the world have already integrated into the existing medical program in Canada, including Dinafem, DNA Genetics, Greenhouse Seeds, and as was recently announced, Canada’s international award-winning House of the Great Gardener. Most of the other genetics on the current legal market were imported through a short window in 2014 from designated growers to licensed producers, and the rest are either imported legally or smuggled in through swapping.

A huge barrier to licensed producers has been lifted, leading to the golden age of Canadian cannabis. This is not only monumental for Canadian growers, it’s huge for the world, as several countries, including the U.K., recently approved medical cannabis. Due to prohibition in the U.S., cannabis cannot be exported, but Canadian licensed producers and licensed dealers are allowed to import / export for medical and scientific purposes. It’s expected that many of the world’s top seed companies will relocate to Canada, where products have a global future as, like dominoes falling, countries open their borders to cannabis.

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Will the Mormon Church Embrace Legal Weed in Utah?

The medical marijuana initiative craze has officially reached one of the most conservative strongholds in the country. The Utah Patients Coalition released a proposal for The Utah Medical Cannabis Act, which will appear on voter ballots this fall. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints responded to the proposal in an official statement posted to their website last month.

In an effort to better understand the initiative, church leaders hired local law firm, Kirton McConkie, to decode the proposed act. The firm came back with a memorandum listing 31 potential red flags for Mormon voters. While the Church’s response encouraged members to read through it and “make their own judgment,” it also added that some of the content “raises grave concerns about this initiative and the serious adverse consequences that could follow if it were adopted.”

As an active member of the Mormon faith and a user of medicinal marijuana for anxiety and depression, my church’s clear opposition to the proposed bill has me in a strange predicament. It’s legal where I live—but is my choice of medication at odds with an official church position? Also, what in the proposed act gives leaders cause for “grave concern”?

I checked it out for myself as instructed. Here are a few of the red flags and my responses to them:

“The Marijuana Initiative Does Not Require a Prescription.”

When I found out doctors give recommendations instead of prescriptions and that it was unlikely my regular Kaiser-Permanente doctor would give that recommendation, I was bummed. I wanted it to feel as medical as possible so I wouldn’t have too much inner turmoil about whether or not my church would approve.

When I got my recommendation at an office called… something along the lines of Tinseltown EZ Clinic, I felt less than great when I learned the doctor wasn’t in town and would be Skyping in via an iPad rigged up to an office chair using a yardstick and duct tape. I told the man in the tablet/chair contraption my symptoms and he gave me the recommendation. Done. He never mentioned how much to take or which type or how often. While I appreciate the freedom to learn what works best for me, the part of me that craved the traditional doctor-patient experience was left wanting.

At the time I didn’t know that the reason a family practitioner most likely will not give a recommendation is that marijuana is listed as a Schedule I substance on a federal level. That classification means it has “no currently accepted medical use”. Until that is changed, a prescription isn’t possible, and most established doctors aren’t willing to risk their reputations while the legal weed world is still in its Wild West stages. Dr. iPad Chair and his recommendation will have to suffice for now.

“The Marijuana Initiative Requires Medical Marijuana to Be Sold Through Marijuana Dispensaries, Not Licensed Pharmacies.”

I can see the point of a more conservative thinker—if cannabis is a medicine, it should be sold at a pharmacy. I’ve been to dispensaries that didn’t seem totally aboveboard, places practically under the freeway with locked doors and glass partitions. On the flip side, there are sleek and pristine ones that look like Apple stores—but why do they need to exist at all? Shouldn’t you just be able to go to Rite Aid?

Pharmacies cannot carry a drug that is illegal on a federal level. Sound like a broken record? Legalizing marijuana could prove a nearly impossible task in conservative states until it is removed from the list of Schedule I substances. Its place on that list causes proposals to read as less legitimate for those on the fence about legalization, a fence the Church seemed to straddle prior to the memorandum. Otherwise, why pay for the proposed act to be taken apart by lawyers if their opinion is that pot is empirically bad? The Church is not opposed to the concept, just the proposal. Unfortunately, LDS leaders may never like any proposal so long as they’re wrapped in federal caution tape.

“The Marijuana Initiative Allows Dispensaries to Give Free Samples to Medical Cannabis Cardholders.”

Know your audience, bill proposers! Utah is one of the reddest states in the nation. Just this year the legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers decreased from .08 percent to .05 percent, the lowest in the nation. Utah does not mess when it comes to letting loose, which is what the concerned parties hear ‘free ganja’ to mean.

If the UPC wants to pass the act, they should stay away from anything that makes marijuana sound less like medicine and more like a blast. Advocates are more likely to get potential patients help by making some small sacrifices on their wish list.

What are the chances?

Mormons make up about 40% of Utah’s population, but they account for nearly 75% of all Utah voters. That means if members read between the lines of the Church’s “vote however you want, but this is bad” statement and choose to heed the warning, the bill is dead in the water.

However, many Utah Mormons are in favor of the initiative, even after reading the Church’s official statement. Rates of opioid overdoses in Utah are among the highest in the country. It’s an epidemic that plagues even the most devout Mormons, directly or otherwise, and people are troubled by it. One would hope leaders of any kind in the state might welcome a more innocuous method for pain relief, and many members do already. So it’s definitely possible the measure could pass.

The LDS church’s Word of Wisdom (a health code Mormons are asked to live by) includes the verses,

“And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the
constitution, nature, and use of man—Every herb in the season thereof, and every
fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving.”
(Doctrine and Covenants  89:10-11).

Hopefully, members of the faith in Utah will recognize that the season for this particular herb has arrived, even if their leaders don’t.

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Chuck Schumer Introduces Bill to Federally Decriminalize Marijuana

In the newest development on the cannabis legislation front, Chuck Schumer introduced a bill to federally decriminalize marijuana. Although his proposal would not make weed fully legal, it could be a significant step toward relaxing national prohibition laws.

Chuck Schumer’s New Bill

New York Senator Chuck Schumer introduced a new bill yesterday. The centerpiece of the bill is a proposal to remove cannabis from the DEA’s list of Schedule I controlled substances.

De-scheduling marijuana would effectively decriminalize weed by moving into a much less severe category. Cannabis would still technically be illegal, but moving it out of its current Schedule I classification would dramatically change the way federal prohibition laws would be enforced.

Interestingly, that’s not the only change Rep. Schumer’s bill would make. It would reportedly also introduce a handful of other changes. If the bill is passed into law it would:

  • Establish funds specifically for marijuana businesses owned by women and marijuana business owners of color.
  • Set aside $750 million for highway safety programs and other public health projects.
  • Allow the Treasury Department to regulate certain aspects of cannabis advertising and marketing.
  • Set up around $100 million in grants to help expunge criminal records of folks who have been convicted in the past for marijuana-related crimes.

As announced by Sen. Schumer, the bill is being co-sponsored by Sen. Bernie Sanders, from Vermont, Sen. Tim Kaine, from Virginia, and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, from Illinois.

For those involved with the bill, it’s all about addressing problems with how weed laws are enforced. More specifically, some lawmakers see it as a way to confront racial disparities in drug policing.

“Far too many Americans are currently incarcerated for marijuana-related offenses,” said Sen. Duckworth. “And they are disproportionally people of color, despite the fact that African Americans and Caucasians use marijuana at the same rates.”

The Bigger Picture

One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Bernie Sanders, has been a longtime supporter of legalization. In fact, his home state of Vermont legalized cannabis earlier this year. Now, the state’s new recreational laws are set to go into effect on July 1.

Recently, Vermont has taken additional legal steps. In particular, it is looking at the possibility of expunging prior marijuana convictions. All told, this could potentially clear around 3,000 people of misdemeanor charges.

While many states continue changing their own local laws, things are more complicated at the national level. For starters, the Trump administration has introduced a lot of confusion.

On the one hand, Trump himself has so far steered clear of directly interfering with state laws about weed. But Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been a longtime opponent of cannabis.

Sessions has a long history of making off-the-wall comments about the dangers of marijuana. And he’s repeatedly hinted at initiating a federal crackdown on weed-legal states.

At the beginning of the year, he rescinded an Obama-era directive that restricted federal agents from interfering with state laws regarding marijuana.

All in all, it remains unclear where the current administration stands. Certainly, nothing has been to move any closer toward federal legalization.

Sen. Schumer’s bill isn’t the only proposal to call for changes to federal marijuana laws. Earlier this year, Rep. Barbara Lee introduced to the House a bill calling for the national legalization of marijuana.

Her bill was a companion piece to similar legislation proposed last fall in the Senate by Sen. Cory Booker. That bill, called the Marijuana Justice Act, called for sweeping changes to federal prohibition laws.

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4 Cannabis-Infused Wines Worth Buying

That supposedly healthy glass of wine a day might now be even more appealing to those that stay away from alcohol. Late last year, a new trend started brewing in states where recreational bud is legal — Cannabis-infused wines hit the market, offering its consumers an alcohol-free, cannabis-potent alternative. It may be more costly than the convenient and cheap box o’ wine. But try something even more daring than the spout, something that won’t cost the wicked hangover one usually has to survive after a night of savoring red vino. No matter what, get to wherever you can legally buy these wines before the state you live in starts banning these bud-infused beverages. Stock up while it’s still possible, and then pop the cork on these 4 cannabis-infused wines worth buying.

4 Cannabis-Infused Wines Worth Buying

Courtesy of CannaVines

CannaVines in California, USA

Unfortunately, these delicious wines are not yet available outside of Cannabis Tours, a must-see wine and weed pairing tour there in the golden state. This tour takes millennials, wine-os, and the classiest of agro-tourists on a culinary and cannabis adventure, matching food and marijuana to wine. But luckily, soon CannaVines will offer up a diversity of wines all infused with classic favorite strains. Soon residents of California will be able to make an online purchase of a red blend infused with Headbead to alleviate stress. Or perhaps a Chardonnay combined with an uplifting Sour Diesel for a general euphoric feeling. Red and white don’t quite satisfy the tastebuds? Try on their rosé blended with CBD and Grand Daddy Purple to relieve stress and ease anxiety. Once these guys finally hit the market, their options can suit any mood or soirée.

4 Cannabis-Infused Wines Worth Buying

Courtesy of Rebel Coast Winery

Rebel Coast Winery in California, USA

Like CannaVines, this company offers an aromatic blend of THC and alcohol-free wine. In fact, Rebel Coast Winery began the hoopla when cannabis-infused wines became a new product in early 2018. Currently, you can only pre-order your $59.99 bottle of cannabis-infused Sauvignon Blanc. Even then, you must be a California resident. For those not in California, Rebel Coast hopes to keep consumers updated on when their worthwhile product will become available to other states with recreational marijuana. Nonetheless, they promise 20mg of THC in every bottle, roughly about 5mg of THC in each glass. Soon, they also plan to release a cannabis-infused rosé and a sparkling. And furthermore, their website advertises these cannabis-infused wines aim to make its drinkers just want to “get giggly and naked with someone.” Yes, please.

4 Cannabis-Infused Wines Worth Buying

Courtesy of Mary Jane’s/ Facebook

Mary Jane’s Magical Hemp Wines in Canada

Take a trip to the land of maple and poutine, and Mary Jane’s Hemp Wines becomes available. This hemp-infused wine comes in many tastes. Try Magic White, BC Buddy White, BC Buddy Red, and a traditional Canadian classic: a BP Hemp Ice Wine. Unlike the cannabis-infused wines in the USA, these luscious libations are hemp-infused and alcoholic. Feeling like you need something heavier than alcoholic hemp-infused wine? Try Mary Jane’s premium hemp-infused spirits, like this hemp-infused gin, which can be ordered online, through their website from Black Prince Winery.

4 Cannabis-Infused Wines Worth Buying

Courtesy of Greenway

Greenway “Know Label” Wine Tinctures in California, USA

Like most of the wines on this list, these cannabis concoctions are only available to cannabis card carriers in California. And like most of the other products on this list, you must add your name to a long waiting list of hopefuls yearning to swish and sip on these vinos. Unlike Rebel Coast Winery, these bottles look like they’ve come from someone’s backyard and each are completely unique. They have no label, like the punny name “Know Label” suggests, but each bottle comes with a small tag which notes the strain used, the year, and the type of wine. So each experience is different. Additionally, this wine is backed by cannabis advocate, cancer survivor, and singer Melissa Etheridge.

Cannabis-Infused Wines Abroad

Maybe instead of residing in North America, you live in the more relaxed European Union. Try CannaWine. With its choices of Spanish reds and whites, these options not only offer CBD-infused aromas and tastes, but they’re also alcoholic. If still holed up in a US state where these delectable bottles cannot be purchased, take a stab at a DIY approach and make your own. Or maybe you prefer suds laced with sativa instead? These beers infused with cannabis have made as much of a stir as cannabis-infused wines. And they also face new regulations and possible bans. Moral of the story? Get your cannabis-infused wines and beers wherever and whenever you can… and while the getting is still good.

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All the Obstacles to Marijuana Legalization in New York

Long a bastion of social progress and cultural experimentation, New York State — home to New York City and the birthplace of High Times — lags painfully behind when it comes to legalized weed. The winds of change are undoubtedly blowing in the right direction. The governor recently commissioned a study by the State Health Department, which endorsed full legalization when it reported its findings. Although that’s a seismic shift in the right direction, the Empire State still faces a maze of obstacles, challenges, and opposition as it slogs toward legalizing marijuana and reclaiming its status as a progressive blue state committed to social justice and common sense.

The Governor is a Wishy-Washy Opportunist

When it comes to legalization, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will have the final say in whether or not the Empire State finally catches up to the entire West Coast, Colorado, Alaska and its neighbors in the Northeast. The problem is, Gov. Mixed Signals has long been an opponent of legalization. The man who recently pretended that he suffered politically for boldly taking the just but unpopular move to codify marriage equality (he actually didn’t budge until gay marriage was widely popular and politically expedient) is apparently now experiencing a similar awakening on legalized weed — conveniently just as the bulk of the electorate is clamoring for it.

According to the New York Times, Cuomo recently stated that when it comes to pot, “facts have changed.” No, governor, the facts have not changed — and Cuomo’s position has not changed with nearly enough expediency or authenticity. As recently as 2017, the Democratic governor called weed a “gateway drug.”

New York City’s Mayor Wants it Both Ways

It’s true that New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio is just a lowly city official and not a state lawmaker. His city, however, happens to be the largest and one of the most important in America, and the beating heart of New York State — the mayor of the Five Boroughs wields heavy clout in Albany. Like fellow Democrat Gov. Cuomo, Mayor De Blasio’s positions and rhetoric are inconsistent and full of mixed messages. He took steps to reduce the number of low-level pot arrests in the city and — at least in his speeches — prioritized racial disparity as it pertains to pot enforcement.

He is now and has always been, however, a vocal opponent of full legalization. Out of step with the City Council and the majority of his constituents, De Blasio’s half-measures with law enforcement and progressive talk on the issue of racial targeting can’t be reconciled with the fact that, at the end of the day, he believes it should be illegal for law-abiding, tax-paying adults to smoke pot.

The State’s Medical Marijuana Law is a Smoldering Dumpster Fire

When it “legalized” marijuana for medical purposes in 2014, New York became the 23rd state to decriminalize medical use. That’s right, nearly half the country beat the home of Woodstock to the punch — and the authors of the law put on a clinic of how to write terrible, self-defeating legislation. The 2014 Compassionate Care Act was anything but what its name implies. One of the country’s most restrictive medical marijuana laws, the act was so narrow, so complicated, and excluded so many New Yorkers that opponents believed it was intentionally designed to fail.

To be fair, the law has evolved over time to include more ailments and loosen its original draconian restrictions. But its legacy is a labyrinth of state statutes would have to be amended in order for full legalization to proceed. Among the areas of Compassionate Care Act-related damage that would need to be undone include business, finance and human rights law, tax law, Alcoholic Beverages Control Law, penal law, vehicle traffic law, and public health law.

Locking Up Tokers is Big Business

Proponents of common-sense legalization often cite the prospect of hefty tax windfalls and full government coffers. The problem is, by altering the status quo the state would be trading a potential source of income for one that’s guaranteed. Since Mayor De Blasio instructed the NYPD to issue $100 tickets for most low-level possessions, arrests have dropped, but tickets and summonses — and the revenue they generate — skyrocketed by a whopping 58 percent. And that’s just in New York City.

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, the state has spent the last 20 years earning the title of the “marijuana arrest capital of the world.” Among the 800,000 pot arrests recorded in New York during that time, 23,000 were in 2016 alone. That’s an increase of 2,300 percent from 1990. For law enforcement, pot truly is a gateway drug — the gateway to inappropriate searches, seizures, and arrests. The process of arrest involves being handcuffed, booked, photographed, fingerprinted, arraigned, and forced to return to court — for multiple appearances, in many cases. Virtually every single one of these incidents concludes with the victim cutting a check to the state for their troubles.

Sheriff Barry Virts, the Human Embodiment of Drug War ‘Logic’

Barry Virts is the sheriff of Wayne County and president of the New York State Sheriff’s Association. He’s also a dyed-in-the-wool drug warrior who believes there are just a few degrees of separation between marijuana and all of society’s ills. In January 2018, he testified before the Assembly Health Committee, which, despite Virt’s best efforts to the contrary, recommended legalizing weed for recreational use.

Virt testified that the present is “an inappropriate time to consider any type of decriminalization of marijuana in New York State.” He went on to say that most of his department’s arrests are drug related and cited the country’s ongoing struggle with opioids, which are addictive, dangerous and deadly poisons that doctors are legally allowed to dole out like Advil while men like Virt make a living locking up otherwise law-abiding citizens for smoking pot. Without submitting any evidence to back up his claims, Virt tied marijuana use to opioid addiction, fretted about a hypothetical epidemic of pot-related DUIs, and worried that acceptance of pot could lead to hard drug use, “especially for our youth.”

Conservative Orthodoxy and Republican Power

In New York, Democrats, who are generally receptive to legalization, control the Assembly. Republicans, however, control the Senate, albeit by a fragile margin. Legalization is not high on the list of priorities for Republicans, particularly among the more conservative figures who hammer out the party’s platforms — even when they’re not members of the party.

The New York State Conservative Party wields considerable influence over state Republicans, and the group is chaired by an old man with old ideas named Michael Long. Long’s position on pot reflects the no-nonsense (or common sense) law-and-order orthodoxy espoused by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and harkens back to “Reefer Madness”-era paranoia. Like Sheriff Virt, Long claims to be driven by a not-at-all-disingenuous desire to protect the kids. A local news station, Pix11, reported that Long believes “… legalization is the wrong signal for our young people.” In the end, Long stated that, “We as a party will do everything in our power to oppose the legislation.”

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