The Points Interview: Lina Britto

Editor’s Note: Today we’re excited to feature a Points Interview with Dr. Lina Britto. Britto is a Colombian journalist and historian who teaches Latin American and Caribbean History at Northwestern University. She received a PhD in History from New York University, and was a postdoctoral and faculty fellow at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Harvard University. Her work was been published in the Hispanic American Historical Review, the Social History of Alcohol and Drugs, NACLA, and El Espectador (Colombia), among others. Her book Marijuana Boom: The Rise and Fall of Colombia’s First Drug Paradise came out in spring 2020 with University of California Press. She’s currently working on her second book project on the role of medicine, science and technology in the violent transition that her hometown Medellin, Colombia, underwent during the second half of the twentieth century, when it became one of the murder capitals of the world.

Describe your book in terms your bartender could understand.

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Dr. Lina Britto

Having worked as a waitress in NYC before I went to graduate school, I know how incredibly hard is to get the full attention of your bartender. I think my best chance would be to mention the most recognized pop culture icons of global drug history, namely Pablo Escobar and Scarface. I’d say my book tells the story of the Colombian smugglers and American hippies who flooded the United States with marijuana a decade before suppliers like Escobar in Medellín and wholesalers like Scarface in Florida did the same with cocaine. It’s a forgotten story of how small-scale smugglers, during the golden years of the counterculture, paved the way for a more entrepreneurial and violent approach to the international commerce of drugs, and why such a transition wreaked havoc in the Americas.

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The NJWEEDMAN Saga Part 2: The bittersweet triumphs of Ed Forchion, Activist

Editor’s Note: Today’s post finishes a series from contributing editor Bob Beach. Beach is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Albany, SUNY. 

In my last post, I covered the 1997 arrest and subsequent conviction and imprisonment of Robert Ed Forchion, also known as NJWeedman. As I write, we remain in the midst of sustained nationwide protests and an emerging public discussion about policing in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Watching a police officer callously assault and eventually kill a man while being filmed has led to a sea change (though still severely limited) in public acknowledgement and critique of poor police behavior. But watching the subsequent coverage of the police response to this critique (which has been to double down on their brutality) keeps bringing me back to Ed Forchion, whose post-release story (though not as tragic as George Floyd’s) highlights the depths of the systemic problems of modern policing.

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How People Find Pot: A Global Perspective

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Stefano Tijerina, a lecturer in management and Chris Kobrack Research Fellow in Canandian Business History at the University’s of Maine’s Business School. He continues our exploration of drugs under quarantine, exploring how the marijuana market functions in the US and abroad during a global pandemic. 

The news is bleak, and the media’s propaganda war against, and in favor of, the current administration, coupled with the lockdown resulting from COVID-19, makes it difficult for all Americans to stay home and comply with their social duty.  But unlike in 1918, the last time a debilitating illness swept the globe, today’s America has the luxury of enjoying a wider array of leisure activities under lockdown.

In many states this includes the legal right to consume marijuana in all its forms.  Indica, sativa, and hybrid “flower” are now accessible to hundreds of thousands of American consumers, who are incorporating it into their lockdown routine.  This new social experience isn’t limited to Americans, either.  The laws in Canada and Uruguay allow citizens to partake in this newly-legal form of recreation, and the same practice takes place in other countries too, though it’s criminalized there. Global consumers seeking the joy of the herb have found their own ways of securing a share of the market in order to navigate the new realities of life under the pandemic. 

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How Evergreen, Vancouver’s First Legal Cannabis Store, is Coping with Coronavirus

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Dr. Jeremy Milloy, who teaches in the Canadian Studies Program at Mount Allison University. He discusses the impact coronavirus is having on Canada’s legal cannabis system. 

Vancouver is the epicentre of Canadian marijuana culture. It’s also the city where drug user activism is most visible, and where Canada’s first legal safe consumption site opened. Points checked in with Mike Babins, proprietor of Evergreen, Vancouver’s first legal cannabis store, to see how he, his staff, and his clients were handling this extraordinary situation. 

Tell me about your store. 

We’ve always been known as Vancouver’s “Mom N’ Pop Pot Shop”. We opened September 2015 as a medical dispensary. We were the only shop in the city that tested everything before it went on the shelf. When legalization came, we liquidated all our product and stayed open selling accessories as a way to keep paying our staff. We got our license on Christmas Eve 2018 and opened on January 4th, 2019, as Vancouver’s First Retail Cannabis Store.

When did you first start thinking that COVID-19 would impact what you do? 

We were watching the news daily, figuring out what we would do in all the possible scenarios. In the end we’ve been making it up as we go along, tweaking our system regularly. From the customer feedback and positive social media posts it seems like we’re doing a good job!

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Cannabis in the Time of Coronavirus

Editor’s Note: Today we’re continuing our investigation of drugs under quarantine. Contributing editor Bob Beach reports on the impact of the coronavirus on cannabis’s biggest holiday, 4/20, and the marijuana marketplace as a whole. 

We are more than a week removed from what was to be the greatest 4/20 party ever. It came and went and hardly anyone noticed. Of course, that’s because most of us were either stuck at home, subject to various lock-down orders and social distancing recommendations or working (as newly designated “essential” workers), all during a global pandemic. 

This was perhaps a result of the combined efforts of the pot industry, pot advocacy groups, and famous pot rebels like Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg advocating widespread compliance with lockdown orders and offering alternative celebrations via the suddenly-ubiquitous Zoom (check out the list on Billboard.com, and RollingStone.com). With a few exceptions, 4/20 celebrants largely remained at home.

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From California, With Love: Buying Marijuana Under Quarantine

Editor’s Note: COVID-19 has killed over 40,000 Americans, and is expected to kill tens of thousands more before this pandemic subsides. It has generated a nearly-nationwide lockdown, with many states and communities encouraging those who are able to stay home and avoid public spaces. This has caused delivery services for everything—from standard items like groceries, take-out and medications, to other, less-than-legal, substances—to thrive.

Over the next few weeks, Points is going to explore the effect of the quarantine on drugs and drug use in the United States and abroad. Today’s post was submitted by a guest blogger who chose to remain anonymous, given the illegal status of marijuana in their state, but who wanted to capture a sense of history in action, reporting on what buying cannabis was like during the lockdown.

If you’re interested in reporting on drug and alcohol use under quarantine where you are, get in touch. We believe it’s important to record history as it happens, especially as it involves substances and behaviors that rarely elicit front-page coverage. Email managing editor Emily Dufton at emily (dot) dufton (at) gmail (dot) com to suggest an article idea or for more information.

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I had almost forgotten that delivery was an option. Though the state I live in hasn’t legalized marijuana, I can go across the border into Washington, DC, and find a “CBD store” where, after they scare kids away by asking to check ID, customers can go past the CBD lotions and tinctures to a case in the back where THC products are for sale. It’s fun; because DC legalized in a backward way where cannabis possession is legal but sales are not, you have to talk in code, like at a speakeasy. The customer says, “I’ll take this $80 sticker, please,” and in return, they’ll get a sticker that just happens to come with two pot-infused chocolate bars. Other “stickers” include gifts of infused candy, loose flower, or pre-rolled joints. I always enjoyed shopping for my pot in Washington because the whole experience felt like a knowing charade, where everyone was in on the joke. A wink and a nod, and I had enough pot to last me a couple of months, purchased in an actual store where I was treated like a beloved customer. Still, if asked by a cop, I can honestly say I’ve technically never bought weed in DC. I do, however, have quite a few stickers.

But now I was stuck at home, my stockpile of weed was drying up, and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Riding the metro into the city seemed like a foolish way to potentially expose myself to the virus, and besides, I wasn’t sure if my CBD store was considered an “essential business.” Medical marijuana dispensaries and liquor stores had the mayor’s approval to stay open, but a place that sold “stickers” and CBD? Probably not.

So, in a moment of desperation, I texted a friend, who offered to put me in touch with their “guy.” “He’s reliable and nice,” my friend said. “I’ll tell him you’ll get in touch.” They did, and the following day, I had weed delivered to my front door, just like Amazon or groceries.

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Cannabis in South Africa: the duplicity of colonial authorities

Editor’s Note: Over the next few weeks, we’re going to feature a series of articles discussing drug use in Africa. These articles originally appeared on The Conversation, but we’re republishing them here as well. Today’s article comes from Assistant Professor of History, University of California, Santa Barbara.

The history of cannabis in South Africa contains two particular trajectories that were sometimes in direct contradiction with one another.

The one, the 100-year-old effort to prohibit its use. The other, a history of colonial governments and administrators trying to develop cannabis in order to make money out of it.

These two paths began to develop in earnest after 1916.

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The Experiment of the Canadian Marijuana Market

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Stefano Tijerina, a lecturer in management and the Chris Kobrack Research Fellow in Canandian Business History at the University’s of Maine’s Business School. 

The Canadian marijuana experiment is intertwined with the global market system, the international financial system, the investment world, the entrepreneur, the small business owner, the government regulators, the occasional recreational consumer, and the habitual consumer.  It is at the heart of an incrementally sophisticated world of business, impacting the livelihoods of indirect and direct social, economic, political, and environmental stakeholders, locally and internationally. It is a world of Research and Development, of science, of policy making, and more recently of higher and technical education.  It could be the future miracle of the stock market, of the pharmaceutical world, even of the global market system. Uruguay jumped on the recreational and medical legalization wagon in 2017, but mostly to decriminalize the issue and resolve an internal social problem. Canada, on other hand, acted as a first-mover in 2018 with the intention of developing domestic and international capabilities around the potential rise of a global market.  

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Maine and its Marijuana Market

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from contributing editor Dr. Stefano Tijerina, a lecturer in management and the Chris Kobrack Research Fellow in Canandian Business History at the University’s of Maine’s Business School. 

Back in November of 2016 the people of Maine voted in favor of a referendum that legalized medical and recreational marijuana.  The medical marijuana market took off quickly, but recreational marijuana regulatory structures slowed down the process for those interested in the Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).  It is now January 2020 and finally the state started accepting applications for recreational retailers.  

Cities across the state have now become competitors in a new and potentially lucrative market that will be up for grabs, and that will ultimately change the local economies across the state.  Like Colorado, California, Nevada, and numerous others states that have legalized medical and recreational marijuana, Maine is positioning itself as a competitor in this emerging market.[1]

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Cannabis and Sugar: A Bittersweet History Makes Reparative Legalization a Must

Editor’s Note: Today’s post comes from Nick Johnson. Johnson is a historian based in Fort Collins, Colorado. He is the author of Grass Roots: A History of Cannabis in the American West (Oregon State University Press, 2017) and associate editor of the Colorado Encyclopedia. He blogs about all things cannabis at HempiricalEvidence.com.

Whether it’s gummies, cookies, brownies, or even soda, it is hard to imagine today’s cannabis culture without edibles. Many of these stony treats offer the delectable pairing of cannabis and sugar, two of the world’s most popular indulgences. Yet most people do not know that the two commodities share a historical relationship as well as a culinary one—and that historical relationship is rooted in oppressive labor regimes.

Over the last two decades, changing cannabis laws around the world have brought renewed scholarly attention to the plant. Together with older work, recent books have helped us piece together the bigger picture of cannabis history, giving us a better idea of how the plant traveled the world, for instance, or how large-scale cannabis cultivation affects the environment. Research on the plant’s history in previously overlooked areas, such as Mexico and Africa, help us see the true depth and extent of trends that earlier scholarship only partly exposed.

One of the most significant of these trends is that cannabis traveled across the Americas within oppressive systems of agricultural labor—in particular, the sugar industries that developed across the Atlantic World after 1492.

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