People who love cannabis are chill AF! Everyone who smokes weed is suuuper laid back. And if you work in the weed industry, you’re lucky to be following your passion surrounded by like-minded, easy-going folks. Mellow, tolerant, inclusive, live-and-let-live, that’s the vibe of our stoney, happy world, right?
Merp. If you work in cannabis or you’re involved in any advocacy or activism around the plant, you know the deal: it’s a total shitshow. The cannabis community is splintering as legalization leaves many communities behind while falling prices and an overabundance of legally-grown cannabis have triggered an industry-wide scramble for companies to stay afloat. People are mad as hell in every sector of the weed world — and as Jon Cappetta pointed out in his recent WEIRDOS entry, there’s a hater around every corner. (I riled a bunch of ’em up when I wrote about sexism in the weed industry. Just look at some of the comments on the IG post — so, so mad. Ahahaha.)
I wrote two stories about the announcement — an explainer of Biden’s policies for Vox and a timeline of his evolution from “Drug War Joe” to “Dank Brandon” for Rolling Stone. And, wow, guess what? People were mad. Sigh. The timeline article was “lame-ass,” according to someone who was incensed that I highlighted that Biden was the architect of some of the most harmful drug war policies of the last 40 years. Somehow, I was “trying to get Democrats to not vote in a month,” they complained. What?! I just… ugh.
Everyone’s tired and furious about everything right now, I get it. And people on Twitter really love to bitch. But what struck me as I was reporting those two stories was that just about everyone I interviewed, from activists to industry leaders, said that Biden’s action was a good thing. Even if it was an attempt to drum up support for Democrats ahead of the midterms, it’s a leap forward in federal cannabis policy. As Kris Krane wrote in Forbes, “For the first time ever, a sitting United States President has acknowledged the failure of cannabis criminalization and pledged to take bold action to address it.”
Attorney David Holland, a partner with Prince Lobel Tye LLP and executive director of Empire State NORML, thinks Biden’s move is a paradigm shift: “He’s setting the stage for future action,” Holland said. Stephanie Shepard, who was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison as a first-time, non-violent offender and now works as partnerships manager with the non-profit Last Prisoner Project, also had a positive take on the news, even though her record won’t be affected. “Any time someone receives any type of relief from the collateral consequences of the war on the plant, I’m happy,” Shepard said.
Shepard added that Biden’s next step should be pardoning people like her who have been convicted of other non-violent cannabis offenses, including conspiracy to distribute: “He has the power with the stroke of a pen to bring home thousands who are prisoners of this war.” There’s no doubt that Biden needs to do a lot more to get people out of prison and decriminalize cannabis under federal law; his announcement was “a drop in the ocean of injustice,” said Udi Ofer, the former deputy national political director of the American Civil Liberties Union, speaking to The New York Times.
But it is a step forward. Even if you think it’s lip service, a calculated move to drum up votes, anemic, useless, toothless — can you honestly say that it’s not a move in the right direction? So here’s my plea: let’s all celebrate this win together, no matter how far apart many of us are on so many things. There’s plenty of time to fight over the price of weed, whether or not the marijuana movement has lost its way, how we’re failing the communities most impacted by the drug war, why Biden is terrible; the list goes on and on.
When you’re living in crisis, and everything feels like shit, it’s exceedingly important to celebrate the good stuff. Maybe you’re struggling and feeling angry and hopeless; I know I feel that way a lot of the time right now. And perhaps you and I think differently about politics, religion, and economics. But I bet we both want the same basic things when it comes to cannabis: we want it removed from the Controlled Substances Act, decriminalized at a federal level, and available without criminal penalty to anyone who wants to benefit from it. Those are the fundamentals that you and I agree on. We can fight about the rest later.
Biden moved us forward a square on the big ol’ government chess board, and I’m counting it as a win for weed. Spark one if you agree! Then, come November 8, make sure you vote for the folks who will keep pushing the conversation forward. You can check to make sure you’re registered to vote at Headcount.org. And, hey — you’re doing a great fucking job.