DEA, Customs and Border Patrol Seek Contractors to Incinerate Narcotics

The DEA and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol are seeking contractors to incinerate drugs seized during criminal investigations and from smuggling operations, according to government notices posted online. In one Federal Business Opportunities posting, the DEA says that it needs a company to destroy evidence located in the Texas cities of Houston, Galveston, Beaumont, McAllen, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Laredo, Eagle Pass, Del Rio, San Antonio, Austin, and Waco. Apparently, the DEA has a lot of pot to burn and needs “an incinerator with the capability of destroying marijuana to a point where there are no detectable levels, as measured by standard analytical methods, of byproduct from the destruction process.” The listing notes that the “DEA shall inspect the incinerator to ensure no drug residue remains.”

Strict Requirements for Contractors

A “Statement of Work” goes into greater detail on the Feds’ needs, noting that the incinerator must be capable of processing at least 1,000 pounds of bulk marijuana per hour for a minimum of eight hours in a day and that the drugs are usually composed of tightly compressed bricks or bales. The DEA notes that it is not able to anticipate all the different packaging materials that may accompany the weed to be destroyed, so the facility must have the capability and proper permits to destroy a specified list of items including “cardboard, wrapping paper, Saran Wrap, aluminum foil, duct tape and derivatives, Scotch tape and derivatives, packing tape and derivatives, plastic evidence bags, grease/oil, etc.”

The chosen contractor will be required to provide a site with security cameras and a fence high enough to shield the incineration operations from public view. Each burn of marijuana will be carried out in the presence of armed DEA personnel and will be video recorded from start to finish with a video feed of the process provided for remote surveillance of the destruction. The contractor must ensure that “the integrity of the destruction process shall be such that the material to be destroyed cannot be redirected or retrieved once it is committed to destruction.” The incineration must be carried out by employees who have been given an annual drug test and gone through a background check.

The contract will be fulfilled through September by Tucson Iron & Metal in Arizona, which is the only vendor in close proximity to Texas DEA offices with the capability of providing the necessary services, according to government research.

More Drugs to Burn in Georgia

In Atlanta, Customs and Border Protection is also looking for a contractor to incinerate drugs. They’ll have more than weed to burn though, with the notice listing marijuana, hashish, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, steroids, opiates, and khat on the destruction menu. Officials are looking for an incinerator able to destroy 1,500 to 5,000 pounds of drugs at a time and will need the service eight to 12 times per year. “Hard narcotics” including cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine require incineration at 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, while “soft narcotics” including marijuana, hashish, steroids, opiates, and khat can be burned at temperatures less than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. CBP is requesting that interested companies provide a quote for their services.

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Virginia General Assembly Strikes Down Cannabis Law Reform Bills

At the start of 2019, it looked like Virginia was finally ready to gain ground on the issue of cannabis legalization. On the agenda for the first legislative session were two bills to legalize and decriminalize cannabis. But the lawmaker who introduced them has admitted defeat. Virginia House Delegate Stephen Heretick, a Democrat representing the state’s 79th District, has vowed to continue the fight for adult-use legalization in Virginia. Meanwhile, other pro-legalization lawmakers are turning their attention to expanding access to the state’s legal medical cannabis products.

Pro-Legalization Lawmakers Keep the Pressure On in the Virginia House

Virginia House Delegates in favor of legalizing cannabis for adults have vowed to continue introducing adult-use bills. But so far, 2019’s reform efforts have failed to garner enough support to pass the Virginia legislature. Lawmakers have tried multiple approaches. Delegate Stephen Heretick’s HB 2371 aimed high, proposing to establish a regulated cultivation, distribution and retail industry. HB 2371 would have set broad personal limits for personal possession and use, including authorizations for home cultivation. It also proposed a “seed-to-sale” tracking system, a 15 percent tax rate and a public consumption ban.

Other proposals represented a smaller departure from the norm. HB 2079, for example, may have appeared more “pragmatic” for lawmakers hesitant to embrace full legalization. That bill would have decriminalized simple possession, reducing offenses to civil infractions carrying a $50 fee for first-timers.

Although House committees roundly rejected both bills, Virginia lawmakers almost unanimously passed an important bill for the state’s medical cannabis patients. The bill allows school nurses to administer authorized medical cannabis products to students on campus and at school events. It also protects students against disciplinary measures like suspension or expulsion for possessing THC-A or CBD oil.

Virginia Lawmaker’s Powerful Statement Cuts Through the Fog of Legalization Debates

In a powerful video statement posted to YouTube, Delegate Heretick expressed his frustration at Virginia lawmakers’ inability and unwillingness to pass meaningful marijuana reform. Delegate Heretick has been here before, a point he stressed in his statement: “Once again, the House Courts of Justice Committee has decided that it is not your decision or mine whether to use marijuana as we do alcohol and other substances.”

“Once again, the committee listened to the same outmoded, outdated stereotypes in opposition to this bill,” Heretick said in the video. Later on in the video, Heretick goes even further. He says adult-use cannabis is and remains “an issue about personal choice, not about public safety or any of those other things we hear so much about.”

Heretick’s words fly in the face of many of the most common points of contention and compromise in debates about legalization. Advocates of legalization and decriminalization argue that a regulated industry improves public safety. On the other hand, opponents of marijuana reform view legalization as a grave threat to public safety. But Heretick sweeps those debates to the side, arguing that cannabis use comes down to the simple question of individual liberty.

Heretick’s blunt rhetoric was matched by the speed with which Virginia House committees rejected his bills. And November’s upcoming election could be a reason why. Despite growing public support for adult-use legalization, and a wide majority supporting medical use, some Delegates may feel that vocal support for full legalization could hurt their chances for re-election.

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Smokable Cannabis Now Officially Available in Florida

Medical marijuana patients in Florida have a new option for medicating as smokable marijuana went on sale in dispensaries for the first time last Thursday. Voters in Florida passed a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana in 2016, but regulations banning smokable cannabis were passed by the legislature and signed into law by former Gov. Rick Scott.

Cannabis advocates sued, claiming the ban violated the amendment passed by voters. A state court agreed and declared the rule invalid, but it remained in place as an appeal from Scott’s administration made its way through the courts. However, when the new governor, Rick DeSantis, took office at the beginning of this year, he told the legislature if the ban was not repealed his administration would abandon the appeal of the court ruling. The legislature passed a repeal bill last week and DeSantis signed it last Monday.

Registered adult medical marijuana patients who receive a doctor’s recommendation for smokable marijuana may now purchase up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis every 35 days and possess up to four ounces at any time. Terminally ill children will be able to smoke medical marijuana only with the consent of two doctors including a pediatrician.

Smokable Flower Sales Begin

Medical marijuana company Trulieve, which operates 26 dispensaries in Florida, took quick advantage of the repeal and began selling smokable marijuana including cannabis flower and pre-rolled joints on Thursday morning. The company had pre-submitted an application to sell smokable marijuana to state regulators and received approval on Wednesday.

“We are excited about the opportunity to sell whole flower smokable products to patients in Florida and honored to be the first company in Florida to do so,” said Kim Rivers, the CEO of Trulieve.

“Offering these whole flower products to our patients in their purest, most-effective form is something we — and patients — have been looking forward to since we opened the doors of the state’s first dispensary,” Rivers added.

Medical marijuana patient Douglas Dixon was the first person to purchase smokable cannabis in Florida at a Trulieve dispensary in Tallahassee. Since beginning the medicinal use of cannabis two years ago, he has been able to stop taking 15 prescription medications including pain killers, Xanax, and a medicine for his heart.

“It’s a total transformation,” said Dixon, who has also been able to gain 35 pounds with cannabis. “I’m not in pain anymore. My appetite is back. I have no anxiety. I can sleep at night.”

Dixon received his recommendation for medical marijuana from Dr. Cheryl Fee, whose practice Doc MJ is two doors away from the Trulieve dispensary.

“It’s an honor to be a part of the first sale and provide patients that need this smokable whole-flower option,” Fee said.

Medical marijuana firm Curaleaf has also received approval to sell smokable marijuana in its dispensaries, according to company spokeswoman Lauren Garcia-Velez.

“The company is currently making final preparations to transport smokable medical marijuana products within the next couple of days,” Garcia-Velez said.

David Weisbrot, another registered medical marijuana patient, was happy with his first purchase of smokable cannabis from a Trulieve dispensary.

“Considering what’s on the black market on the streets, this is very comparable in price,” said Weisbrot. “You’re getting a much better product. You know where it’s coming from. It’s tested by the state.”

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Vice Media Has Linked With Philip Morris to Promote Tobacco Vaping in the UK

Vice’s questionable relationship with the world’s largest vendor of tobacco has entered its newest phase. The media conglomerate has inked an advertising deal worth 5 million British pounds with Philip Morris International to promote vaping in England, The Financial Times reported on Thursday. The information was confirmed by two anonymous sources and a Financial Times reporter was also approached on LinkedIn to work on a new channel created expressly for the campaign that will “cover the broad theme of ‘change,’” according to recruitment messages.

Across the world, tobacco corporations have embarked on a shift to such “reduced-risk” products, responding to falling rates of cigarette usage. PMI, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes, is the world’s largest tobacco company, and has announced that such “reduced-risk” products will comprise 40 percent of its revenues by 2025.

International media conglomerate Vice is a pioneer in native advertising, or advertisements that are created by the publication on which they run, and are often indistinguishable from editorial content. The media company, as well as Philip Morris, declined to comment when contacted by the Financial Times.

Tobacco vaping products may not be the only site of expansion for the Philip Morris brand. Philip Morris USA parent company Altria is contemplating investment opportunities with Canadian cannabis firm Cronos Group, a move that could have dramatic implications for the global marijuana industry.

The famously youth-oriented Vice Media, however, should have an interesting time navigating United Kingdom law, which says that e-cigarette marketing “must not be likely to appeal particularly to people under 18, especially by reflecting or being associated with youth culture.” Vice’s stated target market is adults aged 18 to 34.

This is not the first time that Vice has teamed up with Philip Morris. In 2016, the media corporation’s ad production company Edition Worldwide was discovered creating content for the tobacco giant. “It is highly irresponsible of Vice to use its expertise to help Philip Morris find new ways to reach young people and sell more of its deadly products, especially in low and middle income countries,” commented Caroline Renzulli of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids at the time.

This time around, Vice is recruiting journalists to develop a new online channel sponsored by PMI and set to launch in April that will “tackle some of the biggest issues facing the world in areas such as health, environment, energy and technology among many others,” according to a LinkedIn message received by a reporter for the Financial Times. In a piece for Medium, writer Daniel Voshart reports the channel will be called Change Incorporated.

Currently, the UK does not see youth vaping as a major concern. Last year’s House of Commons report found that negligible amounts of the country’s secondary (high school) kids where vaping — less than one percent.

But the UK has not yet been subject to the barrage of e-cigarette advertising that has swept the United States, and only last year saw the national launch of Juul vape pens, which a recent analysis found has been marketing to children since the product launched in 2015.

Last year, US Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared vaping among teens “an epidemic”. In the US, 3.6 million teenagers are estimated to be using e-cigarrettes regularly — the rate is at 20 percent among high school students. One study showed that teens are now more likely to vape substances than smoke cigarettes, cannabis, or consume drugs via any other method.

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Alabama Lawmakers Pushing to Legalize Medical Marijuana

A bi-partisan coalition of 20 Alabama House lawmakers, including Republican House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, have co-sponsored a bill to legalize and regulate medical cannabis. Republican State Rep. Mike Ball introduced the bill, HB 243, on Wednesday. But Ball, who is a former agent with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, also wants lawmakers to re-up a pair of laws authorizing cannabidiol research and permitting patients with severe seizure disorders to access certain medical cannabis products.

Politician Behind CBD Laws Proposes Bill to Legalize, Regulate Medical Cannabis Industry

In 2014, Alabama took its first steps toward the broader legalization of medical cannabis by passing Carly’s Law. Carly’s Law, which Rep. Ball sponsored, authorized a University of Alabama, Birmingham study on the use of cannabidiol (CBD) oil as a treatment for seizures. “The research is paying off,” Ball said. The UAB study focused exclusively on conducting clinical trials on children suffering from debilitating seizures. So while Carly’s Law did not include any wider legalization of CBD oil or cannabis, it did provide children participating in the study with access to non-psychoactive CBD oil.

In 2016, after some failed attempts to legalize medical cannabis the previous year, Alabama passed Leni’s Law. Leni’s Law decriminalized cannabis-derived CBD (as opposed to hemp-derived) for patients with a limited set of medical conditions. The bill, named after an Alabama child whose family moved to Oregon to access legal CBD oil, came on the heels of data UAB reported in March 2016 showing 50 percent of the Carly’s Law study participants saw improvement in seizure control.

House Bill 243, introduced Wednesday, would extend Carly’s Law, which expires in July, to Jan. 1, 2021. It would also revise Leni’s Law to include anyone over age 19 who is diagnosed with a qualifying condition.

Prohibition Hurts People With Legitimate Medical Needs, AL Lawmaker Says

Beyond renewing the state’s existing medical cannabis legislation, House Bill 243 would flesh out Alabama’s nascent industry with a regulatory and licensing program similar to those in other medical-use states. Rep. Ball says he has received input from doctors who want Alabama to adopt a medical card approach. HB 243 would do exactly that, while also making sure physicians have a key role in the patient registration process. “We want to give doctors latitude on this,” Ball said.

Accordingly, HB 243 would set up the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commissions. The Commission would establish and oversee a patient registry for those with qualifying medical conditions diagnosed by their doctor. In addition to issuing cards to registered patients, the commission would begin the process of licensing a production industry in Alabama. The bill specifies the commission would handle licenses for cultivators, processors, transporters, manufacturers and dispensary operators.

Given it’s 20 bi-partisan co-sponsors, Rep. Ball’s bill hit the House floor with significant momentum. But there are still some lawmakers who worry any cannabis-friendly stance jeopardizes their political careers. For those legislators, Rep. Ball has a clear message: “We don’t need to let fear stop us from helping people.”

Ball said it was “a shame” that Alabama has moved so slowly to provide patients with effective medicine. He also said that failing to act because of concerns about the risk of drug abuse—CBD, of course, is non-psychoactive and non-addictive—does nothing to prevent abuse and everything to hurt patients. “The only people we’re hurting is people who have legitimate medical needs,” Ball said.

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Survey Finds Majority of Montana Residents Want Legal Marijuana

A new survey has found that a majority of Montana residents favors the legalization of marijuana in their state. Results of the Big Sky Poll were released by the University of Montana on Thursday. A bare-bones majority of 51 percent of registered voters replied “yes” when asked the question, “Do you think marijuana should be legalized in Montana?” Only 37 percent of respondents said that they were opposed to the legalization of cannabis.

Support for legalization by political affiliation varied widely, with 80 percent of Democrats but only 33 percent of Republicans saying that pot should be legal. Responses also differed markedly by age. 67 percent of voters aged 18-26 and 64 percent of 27-46-year-olds favoring legalization; for those aged 47-66, support dropped to 56 percent, while only 29 percent of those 67 and older favored the legalization of cannabis in Montana.

Cannabis Has Montana Residents Seeing Green

Andrea Effertz of Kalispell, Montana told local media that she supported the legalization of marijuana because cannabis sales could be a source of new tax revenue for the state.

“I think it could be really helpful for our roads, maybe, our school systems, whatever it could go toward,” she said.

Another Montana resident, Karen Nichols, also cited the funds that could be raised from taxes on marijuana sales as a reason to support legalization.

“The state needs tax revenue,” said Nichols. “We’ve made huge cuts in social services, and any way we can restore some of that funding I think is great.”

She added that she is in favor of legalization provided that tight regulations are enacted to ensure public safety.

“I do support it, if it’s done well,” Nichols said.

The UM Big Sky Poll was conducted online between February 21 and March 1 with 293 Montana registered voters. The poll collects and reports the views of Montana residents on a variety of local, state, and federal issues. It is commissioned with the support of the University of Montana Social Research Laboratory. The ongoing survey will next be conducted in the fall of 2019. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.72 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

National Support for Legalization Rising

Another poll released this week showed that support for the legalization of cannabis continues to grow nationwide. The 2018 General Social Survey found that 61 percent of Americans now favor the legalization of marijuana. That figure is the highest ever in the history of the survey, which has been following the views on cannabis legalization in the United States since 1973. Support for legalization today is almost four times higher than the lowest level of 16 percent, recorded in 1987 and 1990.

Support for cannabis legalization in the 2018 survey was also the highest level recorded for all age groups, U.S. regions, and political affiliations. For young adults aged 18-34, 72 percent favored the legalization of marijuana.

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What It Was Like Doing Mushrooms With Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir

Bob Weir was a founding member of legendary rock band the Grateful Dead. I ran into Bob the other night at an eatery in Northern California. A mutual friend had e-troduced us about a year ago, and we’d been exchanging emails about getting together ever since. But we could never manage to get our schedules to line up. I had already eaten, but he was just starting so I introduced myself and he invited me to join him for a chat while he ate.

Bob was everything I hoped he’d be: curious, engaged, and interesting. We talked about the Perseids meteor shower, the tastiness of the food at the restaurant, new immunotherapy developments in cancer, world music. We also talked about the Redwood trees surrounding us, and the Native Americans who lived on the land before us. Unlike other rock stars I’ve met, he wasn’t trying to posture — he was just being himself. And his self is very likable.

When his steak arrived, he asked me if I wanted some. “I just had it,” I said, “it’s delicious.”

“What’s your next book?” he asked.

“I’m writing about the aging brain. The neuroscience of it, and what we can do to stay mentally active and healthy.”

“That’s an important topic,” he said.  

Given his well-known hearty ingestion of hallucinogenic drugs for the past fifty years, I was curious to know what he was doing to stay mentally fit, He described some medicinal mushrooms that he’d been taking. “They contain a neurotropic growth factor. After dinner, come back to my place and we can take some if you want to.”

I’ve never been a big drug user. While the people around me were experimenting with all kinds of chemical substances, I was learning to play the guitar, and working hard to become a neuroscientist. I’ve spent my life around people who were smarter than me, and I wanted to be sure I could keep up.

I did smoke marijuana with Joni Mitchell a few years ago when I was helping her put together her Shine CD. For one warm L.A. evening, I put my apprehensions aside and just enjoyed the ride. Taking mushrooms with Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead? Hmmm. He seemed intelligent and rational. I decided this might be an experience I could look back on and savor. I said yes.

We began the fifteen minute walk back to his place. “You know, I kind of worked for you about 30 years ago,” I said.

“Really?”

“I had a job in 1977 at A. Brown Electronics.”

“In San Rafael…”

“Right, repairing speakers that you and the Dead had blown out.”

“There was no shortage of those.” he said.

What It Was Like Doing Mushrooms With Bob Weir

Shutterstock

We both laughed. A. Brown Electronics had been a small-time hi-fi repair shop that barely eked by until the Dead discovered them. Re-coning speakers became about 95 percent of the company’s business. In those days, a concert stage speaker consisted of a powerful magnet with a thick, black cone-shaped paper radiating outwards, held in a metal frame. The output of an amplifier — an AC electrical signal — modulated the magnet, which caused the paper to vibrate and create sound. Send in too much power and the paper would blow apart under the strain. Re-coning involved shaping and inserting new paper between the magnet and metal frame. It was an eco-friendly alternative to buying new ones.

“You play guitar, don’t you?” he asked me.

“Yes.”

“Maybe we can play together later.”

I worked to control my exuberance. I tried to sound cool — like sitting in with Bob Weir was the kind of thing I did every day.

“Sure,” I said.

But if I get really high on mushrooms, I wondered, would I be able to play the guitar? Would my fingers do what I wanted them to do?

We got to Bob’s place and he started rummaging around a drawer in the kitchen. Was I really going to do this? What if I got too disconnected from reality? Quiet, I told myself. If anyone has experience with drugs, it’s Bob Weir. He’ll know what to do. Trust him.

He took out a plastic bag of a very fine brown powder, and a small bamboo spoon. He angled the spoon at about 45 degrees, put it in the powder, and carefully withdrew a large mound of the stuff. He then expertly tapped the side of the spoon with his index finger, letting some of the powder fall back in the bag. Realizing he had tapped too much,  he put the spoon back in for just a little bit more. With his other hand, Bob lifted a cup, and put the powder in it, then repeated the same measurement for a second cup.

“Here,” he said, “I’m going to give you a few days’ supply so that if you like it you can take it until you have a chance to get your own.” He measured out eight more portions and put them into a sealable plastic sandwich bag. Eight?! I wondered. What if I never came down?

He picked up the two cups with mushroom powder in them and brought them to the stove. “We’ll use hot water,” he said. “It dissolves better and doesn’t get clumpy.”

“Cool,” I said. He seemed to be thinking very clearly. Bob boiled the water, mixed the powder carefully with the bamboo spoon, handed me a cup, and together we brought the cups to our lips and took our first sip. It tasted like mushroom soup.

I felt a strange sensation on my tongue. Must be the umami receptors, I thought. In addition to the four basic taste receptor cells located on the human tongue (salty, sweet, sour, and bitter), Japanese scientists have discovered that we have a fifth group — umami receptors — that are stimulated by certain meat broths, soy sauce, and mushrooms. The western diet is lighter on these flavors than the Asian or Native American diet, and we rarely get a pure umami flavor in the food we eat. The inside of my cheeks, the roof of my mouth, and the sides of my tongue were tingling as these rarely used receptors woke up and started signaling the gustatory cortex in my brain. Either that or I was hallucinating.

Bob started talking about consciousness and meditation, and I found myself discussing neural synchrony. I noticed that patterns on the wall seemed to dance about. Not vividly, not cartoon-like, no images from Fantasia, just a mild impression, a kind of imagination. I knew the patterns weren’t really dancing.

Bob spoke about the shamanic tradition. “Much of the wisdom of the Native Americans has been lost,” he said. “Plant-based medicines, conservation practices. And the understanding that we really are all one.”

“Like mushrooms,” I added. “Fungi are connected underground via a subterranean web of mycelium.”

“Yes,” he said. “And they help other plants communicate with each other by attaching themselves to their roots — especially trees like these.” He gestured with his hands towards the Redwoods out his window.

What It Was Like Doing Mushrooms With Bob Weir

Shutterstock

In my mind’s eye, I could see the vast fungal internet underneath the ground below us. I felt connected— to Bob, to the trees, to plants in general, and to myself. Yes! Here I was in me. Happy. Secure.

Time seemed like a circle rather than a line; as though part of my consciousness experienced this feeling long ago, and I was just remembering it now. Bob’s voice sounded far away for a moment, and then very close. My education as a neuroscientist seemed to be circling my consciousness, as if I stood in the middle of a merry-go-round of different research findings, gently moving up and down, up and down.

Mushrooms are a mixture of proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, carbohydrates, and a variety of trace elements. One of the active ingredients in the mushrooms we took is called Hericium Erinaceus Polysaccharides, commonly referred to as HEP. HEP leads to the secretion of neurotropic growth factor. That, in turn, increases levels of acetylcholine in the brain, which is normally secreted in great quantities during Stage IV sleep. The dreamy quality we associate with sleep, or being in certain altered states, is mediated by this neurochemical. HEP rapidly increases gene expression of neurotropic growth factor in the hippocampus–the seat of memory. This could simultaneously improve the storage of new memories, and the retrieval of old ones, even long lost memories that heretofore seemed to be forgotten.

HEP also has neuroprotective and neuroregenerative qualities, allowing for the repair of damaged nerves and the growth of new ones. It has been shown to improve overall cognitive performance and is even effective in people up to 80-years-old who are suffering from mild cognitive impairment. Some studies have shown that it reduces depression and anxiety. At that moment, I was certainly feeling contented and unstressed.

Another ingredient in the mushrooms we took is Cordyceps Militaris, which has been shown to diminish anxiety while boosting energy levels. Think about that for a moment: more energy but also less anxious. Coffee tends to boost energy levels but at the cost of increased nervousness and anxiety.

We grew quiet. I couldn’t say how much time had passed. We looked at the bottom of our empty cups and then at each other.

“The effect is subtle,” Bob said, “but I feels like it makes my day a little bit lighter and my focus a little bit better.”

My mouth was still tingling with stimulation of the umami sensors. I was filled with the overwhelming sense of my connection to nature, to Bob, to an ant that was moving across the floor. I was one with the insects. My tongue seemed to be vibrating at the spiritual frequency of the universe.

Bob turned to me as I was studying the wood grain in the table. “You realize of course that these are not hallucinogenic mushrooms — they’re purely medicinal, perfectly legal. I bought them on Amazon.com.”

I looked up. “What?”

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Meet Your New Instagram Crush: 420 Old Fat Lesbians

Are these your cannabis internet heroines? Instagram has answered with a resounding yes when it comes to Lee and Sue, a.k.a. the 420 Old Fat Lesbians. The retired duo started their account on March 3 on a lark, a fun way to entertain themselves, having moved from Florida to Maine after 10 years of coupledom. On the power of around 30 short, goofy, majority cannabis-themed clips, their follower count has swelled to 71 thousand in under a month. Lee and Sue now field their followers’ admiration and occasional adoption requests with grace and aplomb as they navigate their newfound virality.

“We are humbled and have nothing but gratitude for the kind words coming our way,” the pair told High Times.

What’s the secret to this wild popularity? Some may chalk it up to the pleasure of sharing the couple’s small moments of queer love, woefully lacking in the hetero-centric world of online marijuana personality. Take for example, a March 5th post from when Lee was in the hospital (recovering from a heart attack, it would be explained to a worried fan). Sue stole her away for a cannabis break in the hospital bathroom. The pair set up their phone’s camera, readied their medicated cannabis lollipops, and queued a Chicken Dance Elmo doll positioned between them on a windowsill. The doll flaps his arms and Sue and Lee follow his lead, sucking away happily on the canna-pops in what seems like a moment of real tenderness. Cue viral swoon.

But trust that the pair are hardly one-dimensional love bugs. Sue has a talent for fashioning smoking instruments from the unexpected — a mermaid doll’s crotch, a plastic unicorn, KY jelly container, and a green transparent gas mask have all been fodder for her cannabis creativity.

And of course, there’s the account’s light choreography to classic queer party tracks. A post featuring Friday night Sister Sledge session makes it impossible not to bop along. One shot of the two swaying to Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”, in which hard hat-clad Sue hoists said accoutrement, is a deadpan dream.

Not to mention their sweetly and clunky scripted lesbian puns. “About to tap this sweet lady,” Sue says, lighting up a DIY bowl-equipped Mrs. Butterworth’s maple syrup container. A certain self awareness runs throughout the bits. Not for nothing have the woman chosen an IG handle perfectly constructed to elicit both guffaws and a knee-jerk follow for queer marijuana consumers starved for relatable content (their IG profile’s subtitle: “The Likes of Dykes”).

We’re thrilled to witness the birth of two LGBT cannabis icons in their pre-blue check flush. Such was the ocean of our affection that High Times had to reach out to the pair to learn more about their thoughts on life, love, and dank herb. By the way, potential sponsors, Lee and Sue await your DM.

Meet Your New Instagram Crush: 420 Old Fat Lesbians

Courtesy of Sue and Lee

HT: Hi, friends. First things first — what are your favorite strains? Preferred ways to consume cannabis?

420 Old Fat Lesbians: White Widow, Blueberry Kush, Northern Lights, Purple Train Wreck … too many to list. We both like vaping and edibles, but alternate with bong rips and joints. Seems to work for us.

HT: Will weed will lose its outlaw cache should it become legalized on a federal level in the United States?

420 Old Fat Lesbians: We think it depends on the permit fees, taxes, etc. behind all of it! Smaller businesses may not be able to afford filling the government’s pockets, so we’re sure there will still be a black market.

HT: What has been the reaction among your friends and family to your newfound cannabis fame?

420 Old Fat Lesbians: Some of our friends and family are surprised, maybe a little shocked, but all care for us deeply and want the best for us.

HT: You’re both medical marijuana users who gave you followers the chance to check in with the two of you on Lee’s recent hospital stay. Has cannabis been aiding in her recovery process?

420 Old Fat Lesbians: Yes, some forms of indica keep Lee relaxed and we both use it for pain. It’s so much better than opioids that don’t work as well and cause addiction. No one has ever overdosed on marijuana.

HT: If I’m not mistaken, a lot of your fans are reacting to a queer relationship that seems to be thriving. What are your tips for reaching old fat lesbian status with a loved one?

420 Old Fat Lesbians: Accept each other without trying to change them, and if you’re lucky enough to find your twin soul like we have, the journey is just that much sweeter.

HT: Love is great, but sex … that KY jelly smoke sesh, I hear, was a fan favorite. Does cannabis plays a role in your sexual relationship? (When doctor’s orders allow, of course.)

420 Old Fat Lesbians: It helps relax our minds.

HT: What are your plans and goals for the future of 420 Old Fat Lesbians? Will you be doing more product reviews? DIY paraphernalia inspo posts?

420 Old Fat Lesbians: We will keep our options open. We are new to this and our minds welcome whatever possibilities come our way.

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Nebraska Lawmaker Justin Wayne Pushes for Reform of Drug Laws

A Nebraska lawmaker is pushing for a change in the state’s drug laws that he says are outdated, according to a report in the Lincoln Journal Star. Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha has introduced two bills that would adjust penalties for some drug possession and distribution offenses. At a meeting of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Wayne said current laws were putting people who were not involved in the distribution of drugs in prison for trafficking and creating overcrowding in state prisons and county jails.

The first measure, LB89, was introduced by Wayne in January and would reduce penalties for possession of marijuana and possession with intent to deliver. Wayne told his colleagues on the committee that the state’s current laws are resulting in defendants being sentenced unfairly.

“We have arbitrary numbers in the marijuana statutes that presume a person is a distributor,” Wayne said. “Our law needs to be nuanced because if not … we are prosecuting people who simply may have a habit, although illegal, but are not considered drug manufacturers or distributors.”

Under LB89, possession with intent to deliver five pounds or less of marijuana would be reduced to a Class lV felony. Quantities greater than five pounds would continue to be a Class llA felony, with penalties of up to 20 years in prison.

For simple possession charges, more than one pound up to five pounds of marijuana would be a Class l misdemeanor. More than three ounces to one pound would be a Class lll misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of three months in jail.

Legalization ‘Inevitable’

In testimony at the hearing, Lancaster County Public Defender Joe Nigro said that the War on Drugs was a failure, just like Prohibition before it.

“Legalization of marijuana across the country is inevitable,” Nigro said. “Use of marijuana runs across racial and socioeconomic lines, yet African-Americans are four times as likely to be arrested and charged for marijuana offenses.”

ACLU of Nebraska Attorney Spike Eickholt told the lawmakers that he’s seen people with less than an ounce of marijuana facing the same penalties as if they’d been caught smuggling 500 pounds of pot down the highway.

“Prosecutors do charge, and in my opinion overcharge, those kinds of cases,” said Eickholt.

The second bill by Wayne, LB652, would make it a Class l misdemeanor to possess a residual or very small amount of a controlled substance, with a punishment of not more than one year in prison, a $1,000 fine, or both.

Wayne said that residue can’t get anyone high, but is still treated as a Class lV felony with a penalty of up to two years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

“Right now there’s no basic distinction and no protection from prosecutors for someone simply caught with a pipe that has residue, versus someone caught with actual measurable amounts (of a drug),” Wayne told the committee.

Nigro said that half of the cases handled by his office were drug cases, 70 percent of which were for possession. Of those, 39 percent were for charges of possessing residue. Changing the law would save the county resources, he said.

“It would be one thing if all of this was reducing drug use and making our communities safer. It isn’t,” said Nigro.

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Black Lawmakers Threaten Block of New York Legalization Sans Racial Justice Measures

In New York, the process of getting marijuana legalized has uncovered some deep divides in the cannabis movement. Some of the state’s Black lawmakers say that unless racial justice is prioritized, they will withdraw their support of Governor Mario Cuomo’s legalization bill, which has also raised alarm over what some see as its over-reaching influence of medicinal marijuana conglomerates.

An article published by the New York Times on March 11 outlined the concerns of Black elected officials. “They thought we were going to trust that at the end of the day, these communities would be invested in,” commented Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the state’s first Black female Assembly majority leader. “But that’s not something I want to trust. If it’s not required in the statute, then it won’t happen.”

The Governor’s office holds that adding the allowances for correcting the racial disparities of the War on Drugs would be best added in after the passage of the bill. “We have to be careful about how we implement the legislation so we don’t have to change it every few years,” said Cuomo’s counsel Alphonso David to the Times.

That reasoning may not be good enough if the Governor plans on retaining the support of the state’s lawmakers of color for his bill, which he originally pledged to pass within the first 100 days of his current term and encouraged by included in April’s state budget. Some of the politicians involved in the criticism of the bill have been some of legalization’s most passionate activists.

Various proposals have been raised to make sure that the legalization of marijuana and any windfall it brings to the state will include measures to correct the racially biased negative effects of the drug’s prohibition. Many hold that the legislation must explicitly set up an economic equity program that would designate a certain number of cannabis business licenses be given to entrepreneurs of color. Others have called for investments in communities adversely affected by the War on Drugs. People-Stokes has introduced a separate legalization bill that would earmark half of the state’s cannabis tax revenue for job training programs.

Lack of racial justice measures is not the only criticism the mayor’s bill has faced. Its requirement that licensees start the process with the requisite property and equipment already in place presents a serious boundary to lower income entrepreneurs.

Others have raised concern over the influence on the bill held by already-established cannabis business interests. In January, the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association sent a memo to the Governor calling for a ban on home grow operations. That communique stated that allowing individuals to grow their own cannabis would “make it impossible for the state to eliminate the black market.”

In February, that same group found it necessary to kick out one of its members, the nationwide dispensary chain MedMen, over charges of racist and sexist remarks uttered by its executives.

In New York city, efforts are being made by the City Council’s Progressive Caucus and the Black Latino and Asian Caucus to save space in the cannabis industry to come for smaller business. They’ve proposed that the city retain control over delivery and cultivation of weed.

“Not arresting people is not good enough,” said Donovan Richards, a Queens councilperson. “Economic justice must be served.”

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