High Quality: RI tests the waters of cannabis testing

Since the legalization of compassion centers for medical marijuana patients in Rhode Island in 2013, there has been a law on the books requiring that cannabis products be tested in state. That’s all the law says, leaving the hows, whens and wherefores up to the Department of Business Regulation (DBR) and Department of Health (DoH) to specify. Regulations were developed, but never required. That’s changing this year.

Previously, without any specifics about how to test or what to test for, the practice of testing was really on the honor code. The compassion centers were testing – although it’s unclear how often or for what – to satisfy their own internal quality control requirements. What’s changing is that they’ll now be held to a common standard and report to the DBR beginning on January 14 (any cannabis that flowers from Jan 14 onward will require testing). It’s good news for patients, and good news for the two RI labs approved by the state to run these tests.

Testing is used to confirm the potency that might be listed on any given product. It’s also important for detecting contaminants such as pesticides, metals that leech into grows through bad soil, and the most common contaminant in grown product, mold, which can reduce potency and be dangerous in its own right.

So far, there are only two labs that have passed the variety of requirements to be approved to test cannabis in RI, Green Peaks Analytical (GPA), the first to be certified, and East Coast Labs (ECL), both of Warwick. “Every state is different, so we go to our DoH with any questions. Regardless of what any other state is doing, RI wants it their way,” explains Melissa Manamon, technical director and quality assurance coordinator for GPA, a division of RI Analytical Laboratories.

Both labs have been testing at the request of growers and dispensaries for years, but without any formal mandate. Both were finally certified in the last quarter of 2020, after multi-year application processes. Both the DBR and the DoH need to approve each facility, and each agency has its own process and requirements. “Our main testing licensing is through the DoH, but we also report to the DBR. It’s been a two-year process,” says Manamon.

“It’s been a long, involved process,” says Kimberlee Witkop of ECL. “We’re very excited to have received our license and to move forward, helping the community put more faith in the quality of the products they’re getting.”

Marijuana is still a schedule 1 drug, a fact that seems more and more ridiculous with each passing year. As a result, the DBR’s requirements are mostly geared toward security — making sure there’s no point at which a sample (typically a very small amount) could be diverted or stolen. The DoH focuses on regulating the testing itself and determining criteria for what is acceptable. “It’s not pass/fail analysis,” says Manamon. “We test for potency — the result is a percentage. Just knowing the plant and the common problems one expects to see in these sorts of facilities, it will really be about the microbial purity – detecting heavy metals, mold, salmonella, e. Coli, things like that.”

While testing will be required for products sold in dispensaries, some dispensaries may push the testing requirements back onto growers. In either event, labs will be sending technicians on-site to do some of the testing in quarantine areas designated by the operation being tested. That will also provide the opportunity to inspect the facility and environment.

Paul Perrotti, president of GPA, has long had the vision of providing this sort of testing. “He is very excited about it. People have been using it [cannabis] for so many years now, and there’s never been any certification. He’s very excited to see that problem solved,” says Manamon.

“I am extremely proud of our team who really dug deep to make sure our facility is compliant to all regulations at the highest level. It was a tough and challenging process to finally obtain our license that has taken nearly a year of our time,” said Henry Mu, partner and CFO at ECL. “After years of providing cannabis testing services in RI, ECL is now officially a part of the cannabis community. That license represents years of working to forge a relationship with the DoH and DBR and lobbying for mandatory testing, which is now being implemented,” adds Matthew Madison, ECL founder and CEO. “We believe it’s not medical marijuana until it’s tested marijuana.”

The state expects to have a publicly accessible database of test results, a “Medical Marijuana Program Tracking System,” at an unspecified future date. For now, if you’d like to see the full rules and regulations around testing, you can find that here: rules.sos.ri.gov/regulations/part/230-80-05-1

Marijuana Makes Strides: The worst year in living memory was good for weed

2020 will go down in history as a good year for literally no one. The unimaginable combination of a global pandemic, resulting economic crisis, political mayhem and widespread panic have tested all of us more than we probably thought was possible. But as I reflected on the year through the lens of cannabis policy, I realized that even in the worst year in living memory, the legal cannabis movement made incredible strides forward.

In January, Illinois (the first state to fully legalize through the legislature — take notes, Rhode Island!) opened doors on a comprehensive legal cannabis industry and robust social equity program that set a new standard for state-legal marijuana models. In Vermont, the first state to legalize through the legislature possession, consumption and cultivation of cannabis by adults, lawmakers finally approved a framework for retail sales this September and included in it automatic expungement for low level marijuana offenders to boot. Even in Virginia, legislators decriminalized cannabis possession and laid the groundwork for legalization in the future. 

Despite an economic situation that threatened to shutter businesses of all shapes and sizes, legal marijuana sales soared amidst the coronavirus pandemic, with consumer spending up 72% in Colorado between August and October (New Frontier Data). Whether the increased demand was related to stress relief, working from home or doomsday prepping, Americans were definitely buying and consuming a lot of cannabis this year. It helped that many cannabis businesses were designated “essential,” allowing people to continue to access legal marijuana even during periods of strict isolation. 

During a tough year for most industries, legal cannabis sales amounted to $20 billion in 2020, a number expected to surpass $41.5 billion by 2025 (New Frontier Data). Furthermore, TechCrunch reports that “the legal cannabis market supports 243,700 full-time-equivalent American jobs, which are set to multiply by 250% between 2018 and 2028. This makes the cannabis industry America’s largest source for new jobs.” Amidst unprecedented unemployment, the future for the cannabis industry is bright, and public support remains higher than ever. According to the Pew Research Center, 67% of Americans support cannabis legalization at the federal level.

The 2020 election would prove to be monumental on several levels, but cannabis was certainly the most decisive winner of the day. Marijuana reform was one of the few bipartisan issues in an incredibly divisive election year, which, coupled with record-breaking voter turnout, resulted in a green sweep across America. All state initiatives where cannabis was on the ballot passed with generous margins, with four states (Arizona, New Jersey, Montana, South Dakota) approving cannabis for adult use, and two legalizing medical marijuana (Mississippi, South Dakota). The new reality is that two-thirds of Americans now have access to legal adult use cannabis, 36 states have medical marijuana programs in place and 15 states have now legalized cannabis for adult use — and that is a very big deal. 

As significant as all of these advancements are, none is more exciting to me than the MORE Act. Approved by the US House of Representatives in early December, the MORE Act is a comprehensive federal marijuana reform package — the first bill of its kind to even get to a vote in Congress. While far from perfect, the MORE Act offers an incredibly important step in the right direction. It completely removes cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, ostensibly legalizing marijuana at the federal level and allowing states to continue to regulate it as they see fit. Marijuana is currently considered a Schedule I substance, “highly addictive and with no medical value.” And yet here we are, the federal government finally poised to admit that the drug classification of cannabis has always been completely bogus, not based in reality or scientific fact. Alongside the MORE Act, the House also passed the Medical Marijuana Research Act, which would greatly improve the base of scientific evidence upon which we can build more sensible policies in the future.

Way back in 2020, my hopes of passing anything at all through the US Senate were nonexistent. Although there was bipartisan support for both bills, and President-Elect Biden has said he would sign them into law if they reached his desk, I wasn’t sure he would get the opportunity. But now, in January 2021, everything has changed. The Georgia runoff elections have flipped the Senate, making passage of progressive marijuana reform more likely than ever. I have a strange feeling (could it be hope?) that we might see the cannabis landscape change dramatically within the next few months. And if it does, we will have Stacey Abrams to thank for legal weed in the USA.

Merry-juana Gift Guide: Our expert’s top picks for the pot head in your life

We all know the concept of voting with our wallets, but how many of us end up heading straight for Amazon Prime free shipping and big box Black Friday sales when it comes time for holiday shopping? Of course we can’t be conscious consumers all the time, but our purchasing choices feel more important than ever as this disaster of a year comes to a close. If, like me, you’ve embraced the loungewear lifestyle of 2020 and the thought of crowded malls and long lines sounds more unappealing than a second helping of pie, you may be planning to stick to online shopping this holiday season, and with good reason. If this year made you realize the importance of supporting small businesses, working to dismantle systemic racism and putting your money where your mouth is, then this gift guide is for you: unique recommendations for the cannabis lover in your life, featuring black women-owned businesses that are changing the game in the cannabis space.

Based out of Brooklyn, NY, Jane Parade offers “apparel and accessories for the aesthetically inclined cannabis user.” It’s hard to choose between the hoodies, hats and totes emblazoned with phrases like “Plant-Based” and “Freelance Joint Roller,” but for a unique gift pick, I love the Inhale the Universe print. janeparade.com

Noirebud is a “fearlessly black female owned multidimensional CBD luxury product line” founded by Carolyn Gray with a philosophy that is as much political as it is pampering. Among the offerings in her online boutique, the CBD Herbal Tea Packs are a stand-out stocking stuffer, and with flavors like Lavanilla, G-Mint and Strawberry Immunity, is there a more delicious way to relax at the end of a cold winter’s day? noirebud.com

I can attest that the Ardent Nova Decarboxylator & Infuser (and its big sister, the ArdentX), is a game-changer when it comes to at-home cannabis infusions. A great option for any beginner or experienced maker of edibles, infused oils or homemade cannabis topicals, the Ardent system takes the guesswork out of decarboxylating raw cannabis material, and proper decarboxylation and infusion are possible with the touch of a button. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry — founder Shanel Lindsay and her team have put together some amazing educational materials that can help even the most novice cannabis user create great edibles. ardentcannabis.com

For a COVID-friendly cannabis gift, look no further than Just The Tip’s signature “chill stone,” a glass mouthpiece designed to make the communal cannabis experience a little more hygienic. “Share responsibly” is their slogan, and the chill stone makes it possible to share a joint with others without sharing a mouthpiece. Plus, it keeps fingertips cool, increases filtration and can be used as a one-hitter in a pinch. jttip.com

Lastly, if you are looking for the perfect soothing CBD experience for the self-care-loving stoner in your life, here are a few more of my top picks:

Whether you are keeping it super chill this holiday season, or going all out with gifts, I hope this guide helps you navigate the wonderful world of weed-related goodies to find something that any cannabis lover would enjoy. But most of all, I hope that this holiday season you are able to connect with your loved ones, remember what is truly important in life, and get blazed before dinner, just like you always do. 

Reform on the Ballot: We explain the legalization ballot measures five states are considering

Cannabis reform is certainly not the political issue on the top of everyone’s mind this election season, but in the five states considering some form of legalization for medical or adult use, there is even more at stake when they hit the polls on November 3. Without much movement happening in Rhode Island cannabis policy, the least we can do is look to the states that are taking action to make change, and learn something about how they are going about it. Here’s our breakdown of the key differences in upcoming state ballot measures, and why they are important:

Arizona — Smart & Safe Act (Proposition 207)

This ballot measure is a second attempt to legalize cannabis for adult use in Arizona, after a similar measure failed in 2016. With record voter turnout expected this year, and general support for legalization growing all the time, Arizona reform advocates are confident that this year will be different,

  • What it Does: Legalizes possession for adults 21+, creates and regulates legal state cannabis market (local governments can ban sales)
  • Home Grow: Yes — 6 plants per individual
  • Tax Structure: In addition to sales tax, revenue from a 16% tax rate will be divided amongst workforce development (33%), first responders (31%), a highway fund (25%), and justice reinvestment (10%)
  • Public Support: 55% support, 37% opposed, 7% undecided (OH Predictive Insights)
  • Expungement: Yes, for individuals with marijuana possession charges 

New Jersey — NJ Marijuana Legalization Amendment (Question 1)

This ballot measure is a “legislative referral,” meaning that that state legislature is bringing the question of legalization to the people of New Jersey, after the governing body was unable to successfully pass legislation last year that would tax and regulate cannabis for adults in the Garden State.

  • What it Does: Leaves it up to the legislature to work out the details of a regulated market
  • Home Grow: To be determined
  • Tax Structure: Cannabis-specific sales tax is prohibited, but local governments can implement a 2% sales tax in addition to the state sales tax
  • Public Support: 66% support, 23% opposed (Brach Eichler LLC)
  • Expungement: Yes — an online portal would be created to help expedite the process.

Montana — Initiative I90 and Constitutional Initiative 118

Dual ballot initiatives in Montana would, respectively, create a commercial market for cannabis, and set a minimum age for purchasing and consumption, which would likely be 21.  

  • What it Does: Legalizes possession, creates regulated cannabis industry (local governments can ban sales)
  • Home Grow: Yes — 4 plants and 4 seedlings
  • Tax Structure: 20% tax rate, with revenues divided between wildlife, parks and recreation (50%), the general fund (10.5%), and treatment, veteran support, Medicaid and cannabis regulation (40%)
  • Public Support: 49% support, 39% opposed (MSU)
  • Expungement: Yes — individuals can petition for expungement of record for newly legal activities

South Dakota — Recreational (Amendment A) and Medical (Measure 26)

These ballot measures will make South Dakota the first state to attempt to legalize cannabis for both medical and recreational use, in the same year. 

  • What it Does: Legalizes possession and creates regulated cannabis industry (local governments can ban sales)
  • Home Grow: Yes — up to 3 plants, and only if you live in an area with no commercial retailers
  • Tax Structure: 15% tax rate, with revenues used first to help implement and regulate the new cannabis industry, and then split 50/50 between public schools and the general fund.
  • Public Support: 60% support for recreational, 70% support for medical (NORML)
  • Expungement: No

Mississippi — Initiative 65, or Alternative 65A

In Mississippi, voters will have to choose between two initiatives on the 2020 ballot: one that will legalize medical marijuana, and one that will do the same, but in a much more restrictive manner. The former is a citizen initiative that establishes 20 qualifying conditions, while the latter is a legislative initiative that would only allow cannabis use by terminally ill patients. With 81% of Mississippi voters supporting medical marijuana for those with serious medical conditions, it will be interesting to see whether these competing ballot initiatives will split the yes vote, which may end up hampering the ability of either ballot measure to succeed at the polls (FM3 Research).

  • What it Does: Legalizes medical marijuana for those who qualify
  • Home Grow: No
  • Tax Structure: 7% sales tax (Initiative 65)
  • Public Support: 52% support for Initiative 65, 23% support for Alternative 65A (FM3 Research)
  • Expungement: No

So, the “laboratories of democracy” experiment continues when it comes to cannabis reform in the US. If all of these state ballot measures pass, 15 states would have some form of regulated market for adult use, and one third of Americans would have access to legal recreational marijuana (THCNet). Further, more than two-thirds of federal lawmakers would represent states with some form of legal cannabis (medical or recreational/adult use). We already know that a majority of Americans support legalization, including 78% of Democrats and 55% of Republicans (Pew), but with both major party candidates still opposed to federal legalization, it’s up to individual states to tip the scales with each election season, until the will of the people can no longer be ignored. 

The results of this election may also illustrate how differences in state ballot measures may affect the success of a legalization initiative, in the short or long term. We know that the allocation of tax revenue is critically important (general fund & police departments = bad, while funding public schools, treatment, and infrastructure improvements = good), but I am also paying close attention to whether home grow, automatic expungements and social equity measures will be implemented. 

No matter how we choose to do it, the benefits of legalizing cannabis will always outweigh the risks, and whatever happens on November 3, the landscape of cannabis legalization in the US will be changed, yet again. While I’m disappointed at the current status of cannabis legalization in my home state, I look forward to the opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of other states, in hopes that little Rhody can one day be an example of how to create a legal, taxed and regulated cannabis market that we can all be proud of.  

Pot Politics 2020: Biden/Harris and cannabis

In part one of my Pot Politics 2020 series, I covered Donald Trump’s unsurprising oscillations on US marijuana policy in recent years. This time, I turn the lens to examine the policies (past, present and future) and the people who are on the Democratic ticket in this election: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. 

“Architects of The War on Drugs”

Last issue, I mentioned that the Trump campaign was attempting to paint Joe Biden as an “architect of the war on drugs,” which is quite the statement coming from a supposed law and order lover who is known to have “the utmost respect and adoration” for Richard Nixon, an actual architect of the modern War on Drugs. Similar criticisms about the political past of Kamala Harris have been raised, especially in relation to her role as the District Attorney of California. Is there any truth to these assessments, and what kind of evolution on cannabis policies can we expect to see from the two top Democrats in 2020 and beyond?

The short answer is yes, there is truth to those criticisms, and I do believe that the past remains relevant when it comes to current political viewpoints. Biden was, in fact, one of the authors of  the 1994 Crime Bill, an infamous set of draconian drug laws that many believe helped fuel mass incarceration in this country, including harsh mandatory minimum sentences for first time nonviolent possession of small amounts of controlled substances. In the more recent past, he also opposed decriminalization of marijuana during the Obama administration, despite mounting evidence of success in other countries. Harris, in her days as a powerful prosecutor, was vocally dismissive of marijuana reform efforts, even co-authoring a voter guide opposing the legalization of cannabis in California in 2010, and has long been criticized for her role in convicting nonviolent marijuana offenders.

Where They Stand Now

“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.” – Kamala Harris. With words like that, I think it’s safe to say that both Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have wisened up when it comes to the realities of marijuana policy in the US. Kamala has said she now supports ending the War on Drugs, mass incarceration and private prisons, while Biden would like to expand rehabilitation efforts, eliminate mandatory minimums and abolish the death penalty. However, as major party nominees, they are also beholden to the Democratic Party platform, which is not known for its progressive stance on cannabis — or for even mentioning it at all.

This year, federal legalization was almost included as part of the Democratic Party platform, but it was voted down by committee, ironically because such a commitment would force Joe Biden to evolve more on the issue than he is comfortable with. Instead, the party adopted recommendations submitted by the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force, which include cannabis rescheduling, decriminalization, automatic expungement, federal medical legalization and a continuation of allowing states to be “laboratories of democracy” when it comes to adult-use cannabis.

Biden also addresses cannabis reforms in his Plan for Black America and his Plan for Strengthening America’s Commitment to Justice, although his proposals stay within the guidelines outlined by the task force. He also supports rescheduling marijuana as a Schedule II drug, which would open up more research opportunities, although that move is thought to be largely symbolic rather than substantive. While none of these reforms, in my opinion, go far enough on their own to right the wrongs of the modern War on Drugs that Biden is partially responsible for, I would be lying if I claimed that they wouldn’t amount to huge wins for our country when it comes to cannabis policy. 

As a US Senator, Kamala Harris has shown support for more forward-thinking proposals related to cannabis and criminal justice reform than her running mate. She has supported the Marijuana Justice Act and cosponsored the SAFE Banking Act, saying, “We shouldn’t do this without addressing the reality that people of color are being shut out of the legal marijuana industry… That means not only legalizing marijuana, but also expunging criminal records and providing a path for people of color to enter the industry.” She is also the lead sponsor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which would completely remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act (as opposed to rescheduling, as Biden wants to do), as well as provide a framework for expungements, protect immigrants’ rights and direct tax revenue toward building equity in the cannabis space through a Cannabis Justice Office within the Department of Justice.

What to Expect in 2020 and Beyond

As it stands, neither major party candidate supports federal legalization or the type of progressive cannabis reforms that would actually make a difference in the lives of everyday Americans. However, with a majority of Democratic (76%), Independent (68%) and even Republican (51%) voters now in support of marijuana legalization, I think it’s likely that we will see some kind of federal reform policies pushed through in the next four years. As Violet Cavindish of the Marijuana Policy Project noted, “It really depends on what the makeup of Congress looks like after the election, and who each candidate would choose to be on their staff … At the end of the day, Biden is more likely to choose people who are in favor of cannabis than Trump.”

Overall, I think that the apparent Biden/Harris evolution on cannabis reform is probably an accurate reflection of the gradual forward progression of the general public on this issue, and an example of how even the most progressive policy idea can be watered down into pragmatic incrementalism as it moves through the cogs of American democratic government. While I certainly believe in setting high policy standards for our political leaders, and holding them accountable for their past and present actions, ultimately what I want to see most in our elected officials, and in our fellow citizens as a whole, is a capacity for growth. If we don’t allow each other (and ourselves) the space to learn and grow from our past mistakes in pursuit of creating a better world, then how can we expect to make progress?

Pot Politics 2020 Edition: Trump and cannabis

Listen, I know that marijuana reform is not even close to the top of anyone’s political wishlist for the 2020 election. Which makes sense — in a political climate where every vote cast feels like a vote for critical issues like climate change, economic justice and human rights, who is really thinking about cannabis legalization? And judging by the current major party platforms, we aren’t likely to get it anytime soon. At least not at the federal level, despite the fact that two-thirds of Americans support legalization, according to a recent PEW study.

Still, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at the presidential frontrunners’ history, policies and opinions on cannabis, at the very least so we can have a sense of what to expect from them. In this issue, I will cover Trump’s wishy-washy history of “opinions” on cannabis policy, and in the next issue we will take a deep dive into the policy promises of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, as well as their checkered past on drug policy issues. 

Way back in 1990, long before he set his sights on the White House, Donald Trump apparently had some semblance of logic and reason when it came to cannabis: “We’re losing badly the war on drugs,” he said. “You have to legalize drugs to win that war. You have to take the profit away from these drug czars…” Which may literally be the only sentence this man has ever said that I agree with completely. It was because of this stance that many drug policy advocates, while dismayed at his election in 2016, thought (for better or for worse), that Trump might actually be the president to usher in a new era of legalization in America. Where Obama laid the groundwork with his justice department memos that deprioritized enforcement of marijuana prohibition in states experimenting with legalization, Trump could have been the one to take it one step further, by descheduling, decriminalizing or federally legalizing the plant during his first term in office.

On the campaign trail in 2016, most likely in an attempt to appeal to his conservative base, Trump’s opinion was apparently that he saw cannabis as a states’ rights issue. In a classic Trump quote in which he strings words together without saying anything, he stated, “We’re going to see what’s going on. It’s a very big subject and right now we are allowing states to make that decision. A lot of states are making that decision, but we’re allowing states to make that decision.” A seemingly promising sign for advocates of drug policy reform, many of whom would rather see imperfect progress than prohibitionist regression.

Alas, no one is really surprised when Trump’s statements vary wildly from moment to moment. Was anyone was surprised to hear Trump praise Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte in 2017 for doing “an unbelievable job on the drug problem” by sanctioning the extrajudicial killings of over 6,000 suspected drug dealers, with blatant disregard for due process or basic human rights? I am not sure, but I suspect not. Trump’s been a fan of the death penalty for decades (remember the Central Park Five?), and he has recently offered praise to China and Singapore for their willingness to turn to the “ultimate penalty” when it comes to dealing with drugs in society: “I don’t know that our country is ready for that, but if you look throughout the world, the countries with a powerful death penalty .. .with a fair but quick trial, they have very little if any drug problem.” Nevermind the premise of his argument is completely false, Trump is clearly fine with killing people in an attempt to solve complex social problems.

In 2018, long-time drug prohibitionist and Trump-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the first real policy change related to cannabis law enforcement when he rescinded the Cole Memo, one of the aforementioned federal recommendations remaining from the Obama administration, which were hugely important for the economic and legal security of the nascent cannabis industry. This move put advocates and industry professionals on high alert, afraid that the Trump administration would crack down on state-legal cannabis businesses at any moment. But then again, in June 2018, months before Sessions’ forced resignation in November, Trump stated that he “really” supported Republican senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, and that he would “probably support” the STATES Act, a bipartisan bill that would effectively end the federal prohibition on marijuana and leave the issue up to the states.

This year, cannabis initiatives will again be on the ballot in six states, and Trump is reportedly concerned about how that might affect his chances at re-election. And he’s not wrong to be worried — cannabis initiatives may have the ability to increase democratic voter turnout, and Trump can’t afford to lose in states like Arizona, where the polls are close and the margin for victory is already small. The Trump campaign has even taken to attacking Biden as an “architect” of the War on Drugs, and is framing Trump as the criminal justice reform candidate.

More on that in the next issue, but for now, remember that local elections impact cannabis policies, too! Whatever your political beliefs, make sure you educate yourself on the candidates and the issues that matter to you, and get out there to cast your vote in the RI Primary on Sep 8 and in the general election on Nov 3.

High There!

With a nod to the official beer of Rhode Island, this tee celebrates an alternate way of getting into a new headspace. Check out tenacioustee.shop for this and other designs.

Parenting on Pot: Our expert discusses the risks, rewards and recommendations

Cannabis is used by adults all over the world to take the edge off after a long day, to help ease debilitating medical conditions, or just to relax after putting the kids to bed. A 2017 survey of more than 10,000 cannabis users conducted by California cannabis company Eaze found that 1 in 5 respondents were parents, and 63% of them partake daily. These numbers certainly reflect a growing community of cannabis users in this new age of legalization for medical and recreational use in the US, but there is still a significant amount of stigma associated with cannabis consumption, especially when it comes to parenting.

Why is it that memes celebrating #winemom culture are seen as relatable, while many parents who use cannabis are still afraid to admit it to friends and other parents? It’s no secret that alcohol is by far the most glorified drug in American culture, but it’s pretty frustrating to realize that there are parents sitting in jail cells or fighting for custody of their children because of their medical cannabis use, while others drink alcohol in front of their kids every night, no questions asked.

“But what about the CHILDREN!?” (cue hand-wringing and Reefer Madness-esque paranoia) seems to be the last crumbling argument that proponents of the failed War on Drugs are using to support the continued prohibition of marijuana, a drug proven to be far safer than alcohol in spite of its
federal Schedule 1 status. Because of its longstanding illegality, the stigma against marijuana has been deeply implanted into the American psyche for generations, and it’s no surprise that parents feel that they would be judged or even vilified for their cannabis use. In fact, it’s justified — cannabis use continues to be levied against parents in custody battles, court cases and family disputes, even in states with legalized adult use.

Even before giving birth, mothers face scrutiny, and while the topic of cannabis use while pregnant is controversial and the research is minimal at best, it’s worth noting that an increased number of women are choosing to use cannabis medicine to ease some of the more challenging symptoms of
pregnancy; a recent survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network showed a doubling in the number of pregnant women who reported using marijuana in the previous month between 2007 and 2012 (4%), compared with just over 2% in 2002. When you consider that pregnant women are often given prescription drugs to combat morning sickness and pregnancy pain, it makes sense that they would seek out alternatives that they perceive to be safe, especially as cannabis culture and education are becoming more normalized and available.

When it comes to medical use of marijuana, many parents have found that they prefer the relief and cognitive presence offered by cannabis as opposed to opiates or other prescription drugs. While interviewing parents for a Leafly piece last year, writer Meg Hartley noted, “the thing that people don’t seem to realize is that having a chronic condition can severely and negatively impact one’s ability to parent, and pharmaceutical medications often come with side effects that exacerbate this problem. In many cases of chronic illness sufferers, cannabis is the option that yields the best ability to parent.”

Whether using it for medical or recreational purposes, many parents report appreciating the mindfulness, emotional availability and presence they experience when interacting with their children after consuming cannabis, in addition to the therapeutic effects.

I am certainly not suggesting that cannabis use in front of children is a good idea. In fact, there are a host of risks that should be assessed when navigating the waters of parenting on pot, but I would argue that parents should treat their cannabis like they would any other medicine or intoxicant in the home. We know that second-hand smoke is dangerous in any context, and it’s obvious that substances that could be harmful to children should always be kept locked away and securely out of the reach of children — including cannabis, alcohol, prescription drugs, and other chemicals. Similarly, parents’ first priority should always be the safety and wellbeing of their children, and any substance that could alter an adult’s reaction time or mental capacity in the case of an emergency should be carefully administered, and definitely not consumed prior to driving.

Most parents who consume cannabis do so after their children are asleep or in a discreet manner without their kids’ knowledge. When doing so, it’s important to know your effective dose, and to refrain from experimenting with new consumption methods or dosages when children may be present.
Many parents enjoy vaping or edibles as an inconspicuous way to consume cannabis, but should be wary of delayed or increased intoxicating effects of edibles, as strengths and reactions vary widely. It may be a good idea to start with edibles that come in 5mg (or less) “microdose” servings, but
regardless of strength, locking up cannabis edibles is critically important, especially since they often look like a treat kids might enjoy.

As cannabis becomes more ubiquitous among legal states and throughout the world, the stigma and misinformation surrounding the plant will surely diminish, and hopefully we can get to a place where drug education for children is actually science-based, unbiased, realistic and informative —
a far cry from the “Just Say No” messaging and DARE program scare tactics that were ingrained in so many of us. In the meantime, recreational or medical cannabis use presents a unique opportunity for parents to have honest, age-appropriate conversations with their kids about marijuana and other substances.

When talking to your kids about cannabis, it’s important to tell the truth about why people consume it, and to stick to the facts. Research shows that heavy cannabis use among adolescents can be detrimental to the developing brain, for example, but the gateway drug theory has been thoroughly debunked, so it’s wise to stay away from that message. Be honest about what you know and don’t know, and encourage your children to come to you with their questions about cannabis and other intoxicants – if you don’t know the answer, do the research and get back to them with your findings. It’s not your fault that you didn’t get a good drug education, but it’s your responsibility to ensure that your children have more reliable information than you did. Children are often capable of understanding more nuance than we give them credit for, and the simple fact is that they will most likely encounter cannabis at some point in their adolescent years, so it’s up to parents to make sure they are prepared with accurate and up-to-date information.

As the stigma fades and more parents come out of the cannabis closet, it is my hope that these important conversations will happen more and more frequently, and can complement improved drug education programs offered in schools. Sasha Simon, of the Drug Policy Alliance, is part of a pilot
program that seeks to make those improvements: “There’s been a lot of confusion societally, not just for children,” she says. “Most people have some type of drug in their life — alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine… The idea is to model it after sex ed,” she says. “We know abstinence doesn’t stop sex, and
[the same goes with drugs]. The majority try it before high school and the goal is to make sure they have realistic information and skills.” [Check out “Safety First: A Reality Based Approach to Teens and Drugs”, for more tools and resources to help with these conversations.]

Ultimately, we are still at a place where most adults don’t have all the information either, and all we can ask of parents is that they do the best they can when it comes to cannabis and their family, just as they do when they make decisions about their children’s food choices, health and extracurricular activities. At the very least, I think we can agree that parents deserve to be able to relax and live a balanced lifestyle at least as much as any other adult human, especially in a society as overworked, tense and anxiety-inducing as ours.

Cannabis and The Movement for Black Lives: The racist roots of the war on weed and the role of the cannabis industry now

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” So believed Harry Anslinger, founding commissioner of the Bureau of Narcotics and man of many terrible opinions, who did not even attempt to disguise his overt racism while crafting policies specifically meant to punish people of color. Much like policing, it is well known that the prohibition of marijuana, and the so-called War on Drugs as a whole, is rooted in a conscious, strategic effort to suppress and imprison people of color. Dubbed “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander in her book of the same name (if you haven’t read it, now would be a good time), modern mass incarceration acts as an extension of the oppression of Black communities made foundational to our nation through the institution of slavery, re-codified into law through the War on Drugs, and perpetuated by discriminatory policing to this day. 

Despite the legalization of cannabis for adult use gaining traction, more than 650,000 Americans, the majority of whom are people of color, are arrested annually for violating marijuana laws. In Rhode Island, Black people are 3.3 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana (in other states, they can be 6 to 10 times more likely). Once involved in a police encounter, Black individuals are 3.5 times as likely to be killed by the police than their white counterparts. 

While the War on Drugs is certainly the fuel that powers the school-to-prison pipeline, it is also used to defend brutal police killings of unarmed Black Americans — George Floyd’s murder was justified by a rumor that he may have been on meth, Philando Castile’s killer cited his use of marijuana as just cause, and Breonna Taylor was shot while asleep in a botched police drug raid (while the suspect was already in custody).

Here’s the thing: When it comes to race and cannabis, decriminalization is not enough. Legalization is not enough. And even state-sponsored cannabis equity programs in legal states don’t even come close to righting the wrongs of hundreds of years of systemic discrimination. Even ending the War on Drugs completely wouldn’t put an end to institutional racism, but it’s one important and long-overdue step in the right direction. The cannabis industry, predicted to be worth more than $1 billion in 2020, has a responsibility to prioritize anti-racism and reparative efforts to communities most impacted by cannabis criminalization. 

We need automatic expungement and clemency for non-violent drug offenders, and we need robust equity programs that effectively address the racial inequity that persists in the cannabis industry. We should also defund and demilitarize the police while reinvesting resources into communities where they are badly needed. At the very least, can we agree to stop using legal cannabis revenue to fund policing and drug enforcement? Instead of investing in research or equity programs, Portland, Oregon, imposes a 17% state-mandated tax on cannabis, 15% of which is allocated for the State Police, and an additional 3% tax that goes to the Portland Police department. In California, 20% of the state Marijuana Tax Fund goes to police budgets, and in many states, if tax revenue is destined for the general fund (ahem, Rhode Island), it often ends up in the hands of the police.

The way that legal cannabis markets are set up is critical to ensuring a safe and equitable industry for all, but the way that the cannabis industry responds to this now undeniable movement centering on Black lives will be very telling in terms of how white supremacy infiltrates every corner of this nation, even in an industry rooted in compassion, grassroots activism and civil rights. Where the money comes from and ends up is crucially important, but one of the most fundamental steps the industry should take is to elevate the voices of those most affected by the war on drugs, and ensure that the Black community has a seat at the table when it comes to industry oversight and decision-making. The cannabis industry is just one part of a hugely complex and intersectional movement towards anti-racism in all aspects of society, and the guiding principles of the BLM movement should be centered in any conversation around equity in the cannabis industry.

One can only hope that Steve DeAngelo, longtime cannabis activist and founder of the Last Prisoner Project, speaks for the entire industry when he says: “We have a debt of history we need to honor and need to pay. This industry would not exist without the efforts of generations of African Americans, who were the first people to bring cannabis to North America…Cannabis is a gift of the African American community to the rest of the country.” 

Namaste High: Try these yoga poses after partaking

Marijuana and yoga. Are these two things be combined or kept separate? Some people say that yoga is a pure practice that should not be tainted by the practitioner being under any kind of influence because it prevents you from achieving Samadhi (the 8th limb of yoga, representing oneness with self and the universe). But for those who love both, what happens when you mix warriors and weed?

Cannabis yoga is becoming more and more popular in states that have recreational legalization. In California last year, there were many studios that offered cannabis yoga. This concept intrigued me. As a yoga instructor, I believe using cannabis before a class can greatly enhance one’s practice. The studios that offer these classes start with yogis picking their method of consumption and dosing. The participants begin coming together as a community, engaging with each other before they embark on the physical yoga journey. When they have all reached their individual desired effect they take places on their mats to begin the flow. A gentle vinyasa with a yin focus at the end of class is usually the preferred sequence. 

A lot of yoga instructors like to incorporate essential oils into their classes. They go around the room with a rollerball and anoint the students on the wrist to aid in openness and relaxation during class. What happens if they use CBD oil instead? CBD oil usage has boomed the last few years and has brought healing relief to its users in various ways. Some use it in place of icy hot or lidocaine patches. During a yoga class, rubbing the oil on pressure points, joints or places you often feel tight can soothe your muscles and mind. 

Smoking or consuming weed before a yoga class should be reserved for the more experienced yogis or marijuana users. I do not recommend trying marijuana for the first time before your first yoga class. Doing a sequence while high helps bring peace and calm when using the proper methods and strains. Cannabis yoga should be customized by the instructor to meet the needs of the class experience level. Together, yoga and marijuana can set you up to feel your best!

Poses While High:

Forward Fold


Child’s Pose


Down Dog

Half Lift

Mountain Pose Variation

Warrior 1

Crescent Lunge

Eagle Pose


Goddess Pose