Joe Biden’s Good News On Cannabis

Indeed, I am late to the presses with this one. But nonetheless, in the long and dark tunnel that is the path to drug reform, there is finally a bright spot from a somewhat unexpected source. Good ole boy Joe Biden.

Having come across the initial tweet of the thread whilst sitting in front of a campfire on the cool fall evening of the 6th of October, I was certainly surprised. I had to make sure I wasn’t reading a parody POTUS account in fact. Though this is a good measure in all situations, I admit that cynicism was the biggest driver here. As much as I truly love progression and change for the better, can be a real drag to overcome.

Nonetheless, here we are. Though this is something that arguably should have been done a long time ago (Obama? Clinton? Carter?!), it’s a good step. Considering the damage done in the area by past democrats (Biden included), I’ll take the win.

Moving on from the POTUS evolution, I happened upon an article from a staunchly anti-cannabis figurehead that seemed interesting to touch on. Having written a couple scathing pieces on Kevin Sabet (President of Smart Approaches To Marijuana), it seemed a good time to check how the opposition was reacting to the changing trade winds.

The article was written by Susan Arbetter and published by Spectrum News 1‘s central New York State-focused feed.

According to the DEA, marijuana is a schedule 1 drug like heroin, LSD, ecstasy and peyote. Schedule 1 drugs are defined as “drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.”

The president’s tweet spurred hope among legalization advocates.

Others expressed hope for a more measured approach to rescheduling marijuana.

Capital Tonight spoke with Dr. Kevin Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, about the issue. Sabet served as an advisor in the National Drug Control Policy Office in the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. 

“Scheduling is not a harm index,” Sabet explained. 

When asked why it’s on a higher schedule than either fentanyl or cocaine, Sabet explained it’s because those drugs have some accepted medical use. Marijuana, said Sabet, currently has no accepted medical use because it comes it so many different forms.–rescheduling–of-marijuana

This is the first time I’m hearing about the accepted medicinal uses of cocaine. But as it turns out, cocaine is indeed approved for medicinal use as a nasal anesthetic (if my comprehension is correct). It even has a Pharmacological name and packaging to go with it.

Of all the things I thought I would never see, this is one of them. But I had to see it for myself. Amazing the benefits one gets when allowing the research of substances to gain traction. I’m almost willing to overlook “Marijuana currently has no accepted medical use because it comes it so many different forms“, but not quite. Considering the many forms that opium has taken over the years, and how these many legally pushed derivatives have destroyed many lives over the past 3 presidential administrations this idiot (Sabet) occupied a very influential role in the administration (as far as this issue is concerned).

When it was pointed out that medical marijuana is an over $52 billion industry in the United States, Sabet said, “There are forms that have some accepted medical use, but not the raw marijuana plant.”

Sabet said he is against opening the door to legalization, but would like to see marijuana in a research schedule.–rescheduling–of-marijuana

I wonder, who was in a position that could have made that happen? Who occupied a highly influential position longer than any President Of the United States, yet still failed to bring this logic up at any time then?

It’s great to play the hindsight is 20/20 game from the safety of the sidelines, isn’t it?

“I’d put it in a schedule called 1R or 1A where we acknowledge the potential for abuse. Remember, today’s marijuana is not the marijuana of the past. It’s so much more potent than it used to be. It’s linked to psychosis, suicide, schizophrenia, all kinds of things, but we do we need to do more research,” he said.

Specifically, Sabet is interested in researching high-potency marijuana in order to learn what happens to the body when it’s absorbed.–rescheduling–of-marijuana

While I am in favour of the careful handling of cannabis as a substance (particularly its modern forms that have been altered for strength and potency by decades of underground cultivation aimed at increasingly tolerant chronic users), I won’t allow Kevin to present this picture as though this is just how the cookie crumbles.

The reason why marijuana is this strong is prohibition. The reason why more and more medical abnormalities are starting to show up in people (particularly in woefully unprepared youngsters) IS because of the financial incentives of the underground peddlers. Their money isn’t made from recreational users, it’s made from heavy (increasingly tolerant) users. While strictly regulated legal markets have ended up largely reversing this status quo, you wouldn’t have the wild west of the cannabis industry without the prohibitionist delusion of “a drug-free world” enabling these forces. The same goes whenever I hear about yet another instance of the horrors of synthetic marijuana showing up somewhere in the world . . . people wouldn’t be so easily tempted to get easily obtainable fakes if the real thing were available.

I agree that more research on all aspects of marijuana should in fact be researched. But I take issue with prohibitionists taking the “We NEED to have more research so we can understand the harm caused by potent marijuana!” only now when this research should have been in progress decades ago. Instead of being stuck in limbo due to the idiotic racially driven drug policy of many decades past.

“What I wouldn’t do is commercialize it, legalize it on the federal level and open this up to institutional investors and big tobacco,” he said. “That’s my worry.”–rescheduling–of-marijuana

While that aspect has been indeed been one of the disappointing realities of legalization in Canada (corporations dominating the industry, most of them having shitty leadership (if indeed reviews are to be believed), a big reason for this consolidation is the high price to jump in the cannabis licit market. You need a minimum of millions in upfront capital to start growing along, let alone the headache of running shops (or of getting into the edibles and drinkables space).

Maybe this will change with time as people slowly lose old biases they have always had towards the substance (or as old generations are replaced by more factually driven up-and-comers). But either way, I would love to see smaller (and more niche-focused businesses) be allowed the lee-way to thrive in the newly emerging cannabis marketplace. Though a majority will almost always be happy with mass-produced fare like Budweiser, there ought to be a place for little players like Farmery (Manitoba) and others like it.

The more options you bring to the licit market, the fewer reasons people have to turn (or operate in) the illicit market.

When asked about New York’s new recreational marijuana law in which applicants who have been convicted of marijuana-related offenses are at the front of the line for retail licenses, Sabet said he was skeptical. 

“Listen, I don’t think it should be white guys from Wall Street. I don’t think it should be big tobacco. But I’m very skeptical of what New York is doing for a couple of reasons,” he said. “For one, I’m worried about saying if you were a felon in the past, come over you’re front in line to sell what’s a federally-illegal drug. There is so much potential for mixing with the illegal market and foreign cartels that are taking over the illegal market.”

Secondly, Sabet claims there has been very little enforcement on illegal operators.

“I’m in Manhattan. I see it. I smell it. You all do. It’s not like we’re cracking down on them either,” he said.–rescheduling–of-marijuana

There is a fairly simple way in which one can ensure that these felons are not subsidizing their legal businesses with tax-free illicit offshoots. You can ensure that the inside of these facilities (from greenhouse to retailer) are covered by security cameras, with plants tracked from seed to sale. As is the case in other states, and I suspect here in Canada. While I am unsure of this, these mysterious non-UPC barcodes scream tracking (much like many products one would find in the Amazon walk-in store).

Also worth noting is Sabet’s specific mention of not wanting “white guys from wall street” running the industry, nor “felons” because of the risk of recidivistic behaviour. While it is entirely possible that there is nothing to see here, given the racist roots of the war on drugs itself, the statement is AT BEST, very disturbing. Considering the demographic makeup of the majority of this said group, I think the statement is AT THE LEAST, a demonstration of the ignorance of Kevin Sabet. So worried about stamping out the marijuana menace he is, he doesn’t see the menace that he himself has made himself a part of.

As for foreign cartels taking over the illegal market, they will only have a business if the retail side of the coin isn’t covering a given niche. As far as cannabis is concerned, legalization is actually making cannabis a less desirable substance in many areas. The problem with this is it is being replaced with things like amphetamines and fentanyl.

This brings us to the next issue. Getting cannabis out of the way should be the first step, the final one being either legalization or decriminalization of all other substances. Though that is indeed a HUGE leap, it is what is likely required to get substance abuse back under some form of control. Decades of throwing money at prohibition has been a massive failure. It’s time to shift that funding into healthcare and wellness instead.

The situation will not change overnight, and may well take years to even begin to reverse the damage of the Nixon Administration. But we have to start sometime, and in my opinion, that time is now.

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