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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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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Marijuana: From “Acceptable” to a Protected Commodity

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 The Lethbridge Herald published the article “Marijuana Smoking will Become Acceptable” on December 3, 1970, as a means to lay down the foundations for the future legalization of marijuana.[1]  Forty-nine years later, the federal legalization of marijuana, for both medical and recreational purposes, is a reality in countries such as Canada and Uruguay. 

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The policy in the South American country was designed to deal with criminal organizations, but the policy in Canada was designed to build a lucrative global capitalist market. Canada’s highly regulated and government-driven sale of cannabis showed that federal and provincial governments envisioned legalization as a lucrative means of taxation, building protectionist measures around the commodity in order to secure the inflow of corporate and personal taxes.  In comparison, the 1970s’ vision of legalization did not include a fiscal agenda, and much less a protectionist agenda.

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Enhanced Confections: Then and Now

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

I recently had occasion to think about an interesting diversion in my very early dissertation research. I was reading Martin Booth’s history of cannabis, and he mentioned “The Arabian Gunje of Enchantment,” produced by the Gunjah Wallah Company of New York. While the focus of my dissertation has slowly moved the research out of the 19th century, my deep personal interest in candy, coupled with a recent trip to a Massachusetts dispensary, gave me reason to revisit this mysterious “hasheesh candy.”

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