Has COVID-19 contributed to reducing stigma surrounding cannabis use in the United states?
Trends in the record breaking sales of the drug during 2020 is proof that this could be somewhat true. Out of the 27 states facing the stay at home orders, 23 adjudicated cannabis as an essential item since March of 2020.
With this came the acceptance of the fact that cannabis is necessary for the well-being and healthcare of a large proportion of the American population. Prior to this, only industrialists, patients or medical professionals knew the actual figures that reflected this necessity. COVID-19 has brought this truth out in the open for everyone to see.
With most businesses forced to shutdown during this peak pandemic period, the contrasting success of the cannabis industry is suggesting that the cliched smirch attached to its use is finally clearing up.
Why has Cannabis been stigmatized for so long?
The Federal Law of the United States Of America still categorizes cannabis as a Schedule 1 drug, despite of widespread legalization in almost 33 states in the country. This federal intolerance towards the drug has given birth to some deep rooted stigma around cannabis use in the country.
Schedule 1 is the most stringent category of drug classification. Cataloging marijuana under it means implying that the drug has no accepted medical use and has a high potential of abuse.
Advocates of marijuana legalization have long argued this stratification. The widespread use of medicinal marijuana for treating epilepsy, cancer, Alzheimer’s etc. negate the stance that it has no accepted medicinal use. Similarly, as far as substance abuse and addiction is concerned, the repercussions are not much different than alcohol.
Why then is alcohol considered a legal form of recreation and marijuana has been denounced across the board for so many years?
How is COVID-19 reducing stigma around cannabis use?
A large proportion of the American society already supports legalization of cannabis in some form. According to a 2019 Pew Research Poll, the percentage of supporters stood at a staggering 91%.
Despite of this, paradoxes still surround cannabis use in the country. Shame and guilt have often forced many users to hide their ‘secret’, despite of being active users themselves.
According to Michele Norris, an award winning journalist. ” It’s hard for an individual—or a country—to evolve past discomfort if the source of the anxiety is only discussed in hushed tones.”
COVID-19 has brought people closer together than they were ever before. With this, cannabis users have found themselves sharing living spaces with others. Most of them have found themselves having open and difficult discussions with others.
These discussion can be catalytic in evolving opinions about cannabis use. This responsibility of changing the deductions of harsh judgement rests in part on the cannabis user.
Here is how this can be done.
How to deal with judgement surrounding cannabis use?
Rabbi James Kahn, Director of National Outreach at Holistic Industries has compiled some tips that can be helpful for cannabis users to tackle being judged.
1- Use facts to tackle myths.
This will require a cannabis users to be well aware of laws and drug facts associated with cannabis use. For example, it is important for the obscurrent to know that not all cannabis strains lead to intoxication. Some are excellent pain relievers and have medicinal properties.
2. Show them Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary, Weed.
This documentary covers the therapeutic effects of cannabis. It can change opinions.
3. Be sympathetic
Here Rabbi James Kahn suggests to start the conversation with the intent of love and care. The point of having the conversation is not winning a debate. This is why it is important to frame sentences using words that bring the listener closer to understanding rather than getting into a fight.
Nunica town of Michigan gets its first legal Weed Retailer this week
In the United States, the battle for legal cannabis remains an ongoing slow burn. In recent highlights, the state of Vermont finally gained a bill that decriminalizes recreational cannabis. Aside from that, encouraging news on this front seems few and far in between. The most notable recent exception goes to the town of Nunica in Ottawa County, Michigan.
In Nunica, a small town in Ottawa County (which, unlike the other Ottawa, never had legal recreational cannabis) a peculiar shop opened up. Settled in an area called Crockery Township, the store goes by the name of the ‘Exit 9 Provisionary’. While the name sounds spartan, this little shop holds the title of the first cannabis retailer in the whole county. This quirky designation only took effect just this Monday.
The dispensary, owned by a company called ‘Agri-Med‘, becomes a watershed monument
While the store itself comes off as simple and unassuming, visitors must know that they come across history. Michigan, subject to decades of repressive, Puritanical laws, repressive as they were, saw extreme measures like Prohibition take hold across the country. This meant that attitudes towards alcohol and cannabis suffered. Consequently, Michigan only gained legalization of recreational weed in 2018.
This Agri-Med owned store simply exists apart from the era it’s in. While the entire nation grapples with primitive laws that make cannabis federally illegal, Ottawa County thrives. The town of Nunica may have only a small population, with limited demand for cannabis, but the freedom to sell must feel exhilarating. The entire state has yet to properly embrace their cannabis-legal legislation. And furthermore, the cannabis industry as a whole is still in its nascent stages.
Setting up the store, and dealing with the government permits, took great effort
The CEO of Agri-Med, Greg Maki, recently expressed his enthusiasm for expanding operations in Nunica. He claims he felt a personal connection to Ottawa County, and recalls its staunch Prohibitionist stance until recently. In addition, he himself went to great lengths to install Exit 9 Provisionary.
The process took a great deal of negotiations, according to Maki. The local townspeople were persuaded and their concerns assuaged. Also, the local politicians and people of influence needed individual persuasion too. To achieve this, Maki says that he and his team collaborated with the local Health Department. Together, the two entities promoted cannabis awareness and education using fliers and posters across greater Ottawa County. Even still, he cautions that some work remains. This includes the official inauguration of the store and precautionary measures taken to combat the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite taking place in a small town, the pro-cannabis movement in Nunica accomplished something remarkable
Nunica gained overnight something a major metropolis like New York City still lacks, even after decades of campaigning. The freedom to sell, distribute, produce and consume legal cannabis remains an underappreciated boon. Many states vie for the title of the “most progressive”, but given the odds against them, it seems Michigan may have trumped California. Of course, the next step is to encourage and normalize recreational cannabis consumption. This will serve the movement by ensuring more and more people take part in the growing cannabis industry.
Speaking of the cannabis industry, it astounds economists just how well the ongoing pandemic impacted it. From increasing demand for weed to funding scholarships for marginalized communities, the benefits of the cannabis trade seem countless. Stay tuned for the latest on this!
New Vermont Bill Decriminalizes Recreational Cannabis And Pardons Related Convictions
Cannabis, over the past two decades, went from an almost universally banned substance to one with major acceptance. Across greater Europe, from Scandinavia to the Netherlands, the drug goes legal and regulated. In other developed nations, like Australia and Canada, the legalization of cannabis happened long ago. And now, the last, and toughest, hold out remains the United States of America. Few states permit recreational marijuana, which is why the state of Vermont finally has its turning point.
Just this week, official Senate meetings to discuss proposals yielded a victory for cannabis supporters. The new bill, S.54, sought decriminalization of recreational cannabis and amnesty for any convicted on cannabis related past charges. In addition, the bill allows the regulation, distribution and sale of cannabis across the entire state. All it needs is an official signature.
A vote to pass the bill this week resulted in a total bicameral compromise
The two-house system in state level Senate politics decides many of the laws passed. The bill, S.54, gained approval by the House of Representatives as a bicameral party compromise. This means that the bill had the backing of both parties after negotiations. The resultant vote, at 23 to 6 against, led to a landslide victory. Therefore, the pro-cannabis movement won the battle in Vermont.
All that remains to see the bill made into law is the governor’s signature. The governor of Vermont, Philip Scott, officially awaits the letter to reach his desk formally. Moreover, he still possesses the right to decline signing it. However, such a move would prove counter-intuitive and simply delay the inevitable. As such, experts agree that Scott, through various recent expressions of approval, already supports the decriminalization of cannabis. Hence, his signature comes all but guaranteed.
The Senate also discussed finer details about cannabis legalization and implementation, and expungement in the case of cannabis-related convictions
The adoption of cannabis as a legal item of sale will clearly not be anything but gradual. Great focus needs to go to the taxation, regulation, economic adaptation and safety before the roll-out. Luckily, this aspect of legalization already is pre-planned. The Senate meeting extended to the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) limits in products, which controls the “high”. In addition, they also went over safety precautions in users, recommended guidelines and established fixed tax levels.
The other aspect of the bill, the social equity program, also underwent expounding. This program aims to compensate those impacted by the disastrous War On Drugs, which led to widespread disproportionate convictions. Families and communities suffered because of these actions taken against those involved with illegal cannabis. Hence, the new bill hopes to ease the suffering of such families.
Other states could learn from Vermont’s example, and hopefully something will change across the United States
Cannabis, unfortunately, remains federally illegal across the United States of America. Try as they might, legalizing cannabis state by state is difficult. At the moment, most conservative states like Texas bear suspicious and intolerant biases towards cannabis. Hence, unless activism takes place in every state, and gradual decriminalization occurs, nothing can happen. Once enough states take to decriminalizing it, a federal level decision may finally occur.
Until the day comes where cannabis no longer is subject to prejudice and intolerance, work must continue to change perceptions. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the growing cannabis industry may just yet spark change. And it doesn’t hurt to have notable celebrities embracing the cause, either.
Patients Prescribed Cannabis In Georgia, USA, Can’t Legally Obtain It
The United States of America often astounds the rest of the world with just how ludicrous its laws seem. Take the example of recreational cannabis, which remains federally illegal since decades. However, a few select states, such as California, Colorado and Georgia, allow small quantities of legally purchased cannabis. Everywhere else, possession of cannabis remains a misdemeanor offense, and other disproportionately severe punitive measures.
In Georgia, in particular, the case of medicinal marijuana recently emerged as troubling. For many patients, medicinal weed simply is a lifesaver and experts agree that it packs unique therapeutic effects. However, in the state of Georgia in particular, it seems like a cruel joke that obtaining said weed becomes near impossible. And this is despite the fact that it’s been legal to possess since 2015.
Despite the usage of medicinal cannabis being legal in the state of Georgia, purchase or sale remains illegal
As far as ridiculous laws go, this one stands out as extremely cruel. With doctors able to prescribe doses of cannabis to ailing patients, the lack of any places to legally obtain it seems absurd. And no, buying cannabis from a shady back alley dealer is not a safe idea. Not just because of the chance of getting caught but because there’s no guarantee the product is what you pay for. Only a legal and regulated avenue available would help.
In 2019, at the behest of several concerned citizens, official government action started. The state governor set up the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission in 2019 to discuss this terrible issue. And yet, the problem still stands. This is because the panel only convened once, before the COVID-19 pandemic put the matter on hold indefinitely. Thus, millions of patients needing their drug have no one else to ask for help from.
For many patients with a variety of ailments, medicinal marijuana works wonders for their health
Medical science generally holds several consensuses on the health effects of different substances. No respectable doctor will ever claim that arsenic is good for your health. And when it comes to cannabis, the leading consensus after extensive studies and research holds opinions that cannabis may hold several cures. Weed, which consists primarily of CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), exerts effects on the body’s physiology. This leads to improvements in breathing, blood circulation, mood, and pain relief.
Various types of disorders that lead to seizures, such as West Syndrome, in all age groups exist. Fortunately, cannabis is also a known therapeutic agent for reducing the intensity of seizures. In many young individuals, such as a recent UK toddler, it offers marked improvements to health. Furthermore, cannabis offers health benefits to patients with PTSD, anxiety, extreme pain and even in certain cancers. However, there also exists evidence that in the smoked form, it can lead to cardiovascular issues in the long term. Hence, edibles or inhalables suit most users better, and offer better efficacy of the weed.
The United States sorely needs to fix its haphazard and primitive legislation regarding both recreational and medicinal cannabis use
Several conservative states, like Texas, where the most anti-cannabis attitudes prevail, reflect that in their legislation. From introducing ridiculous hemp regulation laws, to launching an entire War On Drugs, they’ve done it all. None of that changes the fact that cannabis stays, and will always do so.
The time comes now that lawmakers, urged by the people, reexamine the science. And then, hopefully change laws for the better. That remains to be seen, however.
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