About the Author
Michael is a journalist and filmmaker. His award-winning documentary, Sleeping with Siri is playing film festivals across the country. Stusser runs TechTimeout campaigns in high schools across the country, asking teenagers to give up their digital devices (for a little while) in order to find balance, and perhaps even make eye-contact with their parents.

Weed By the Numbers

This week, just some cold, hard stats.

Clearly I am in support of the legalization of marijuana. And I’m passionate about the subject not only because I enjoy smoking weed, but I’d also prefer not to be arrested for buying it. Regardless, I try to be objective on the matter, understanding that not everyone likes to get high (on cannabis, anyway), and that countering decades of Reefer Madness may take time. So in an effort to be more neutral and journalistic, I’d like to let the plethora of statistics I’ve gathered speak for itself. Although numbers, of course, cannot speak.

Legal cannabis sales last year were $2.7 billion, $1.55 billion in 2013. Estimates for this year are over $3.5 billion (not including ancillary products such as pipes, papers, grinders, vaporizers, etc.).

According to a Gallup poll taken last month, 58 percent of adults think cannabis should be legal, an all-time high (no pun intended). Last year only 51 percent were in support, and in 2010, only 48 percent. The first time the Gallup poll asked about ganja was in 1969, when it found only 12 percent in favor of legalizing marijuana (and four percent claiming to have ever tried it).

Among Americans born between 1981 and 1997 (i.e., whippersnappers, aka millennials), 71 percent support marijuana legalization. Thirty-five percent of senior citizens (65 or over) support cannabis reform, as do 58 percent of baby boomers. Only 29 percent of those aged 70 to 87 think weed should be legal.

Even though the majority support the right to smoke marijuana, they don’t necessarily want it in their faces. According to Pew Research, 62 percent of Americans don’t want weed smoked in public, even if legal, and 15 percent don’t want guests using it in their homes. As for opening a pot store in their hood? Fifty-seven percent have no problem with a legal cannabis business in their neighborhood.

Women hold 36 percent of the executive positions in the U.S. cannabis industry, as compared to 22 percent of business-executive positions in the nation as a whole.

Almost half of us have tried weed at some point (49 percent), and 12 percent—around 22 million Americans—have fired up (or eaten a brownie) in the past year. Over the past decade, the number of adults who say they used pot in the previous year has doubled. According to the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence, in 2013 40 percent of teens said they had used marijuana—down from 47 percent in 1999, but up from 37 percent in 2009.

According to a 2013 study by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, almost 20 million Americans are monthly marijuana users, and 33 million try it every year. Two-thirds of those who say they use pot on an annual basis also report that they don’t use any other (illegal) drugs. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one in every three users experiences abuse of or dependency on the substance, adding up to 6.8 million Americans.

It’s estimated by the United Nations that worldwide, 3.8 percent of the population—about 266 million adults—uses marijuana at least once per year, and 22.5 million smoke cannabis daily. The countries with the highest percentage of potheads? Papua New Guinea (29.5 percent), Palau (24 percent), and Ghana (21.2 percent). Italians like it a lot (15 percent), as do Nigerians (14 percent). Lowest on the list? Japan (0.1 percent) and Singapore (0.004 percent).

A nationwide survey conducted by the University of Michigan found that 5.9 percent of college kids smoke weed on a near-daily basis, and only 5 percent smoke cigarettes, marking the first time since the study was first conducted in 1980 that more college students smoked cannabis than cigarettes.

The average rolled joint contains half a gram of marijuana. Since an ounce is slightly more than 28 grams, you’ll get almost 60 joints in an ounce. (Unless of course you are Snoop Dogg.)

Fifty-nine percent of Americans say that weed is easy to get a hold of, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Among kids aged 12 to 17, 48.7 percent say it’s easy to obtain, and for those 18 to 25, 75 percent do. That’s an even higher percentage than the 26-to-34 age group; 69 percent of them said it was fairly or very easy to get. Among those 35 to 49, 60 percent had no trouble getting the ganja, while only half of those 50 or older could find a dealer.

According to the packaging, the serving size for Nacho Cheese Doritos is just 11 chips. Eleven.

That’s a lot to think about. Oh, and #LegalizeIt.

We Need to Build a Weed Wall!

With the election of a progressive Prime Minister, Canada jumps way out ahead on legalization.

Oh! Canada! Not only did our neighbors to the north elect a handsome, progressive, yoga-practicing Prime Minister, but they put into power a man who promises to legalize marijuana across the Great White North, from VanCity to Haligonia. The Liberal Party’s Justin Trudeau pledged during his campaign to legalize recreational cannabis use “right away,” and, unlike our legislative clusterfuck known as Congress, Canada’s parliament typically pays attention to the will of its people.

Canadian voters liked Trudeau’s reasoning for legalizing weed, including mega-tax revenues and eliminating the black market. Current laws were “making marijuana too easy to access for our kids,” Trudeau said, “and at the same time funding street crime, organized gangs, and gun-runners.”

According to a University of British Columbia study, more than seven and a half million people use cannabis in Canada, and legalization could bring in between five and 12 billion dollars. (Not sure if that’s Canadian or U.S. dollars. It’s so confusing!) The news of Trudeau’s victory has already helped established canna-businesses in Canada. Shares of listed companies such as Mettrum Health and Aphria, which currently produce for the medical system, have had major stock-price gains since Trudeau’s surprise win. The biggest current producer of Canuck chronic is called Canopy Growth Corp., and their shares are up more than 20 percent. “I think what you’ll see perhaps, after this election,” noted Canopy Growth CEO Bruce Linton, “is a recognition that there is an opportunity to collect taxes on something that is already being sold into the market illegally or illicitly.”

Justin Trudeau isn’t just providing lip service in regard to the legalization of ganja . . . well, he is, actually. The Prime Minister-designate admits to having smoked reefer, and not just in a “tried it and didn’t inhale” kinda way. “When the joint went around the room, I usually passed it around to the next person,” he told HuffPo a few years back. “But sometimes throughout my life, I’ve had a pull on it.” According to the tube-ripping Trudeau, the last time he was high was three years ago, which would mean he fired up after having been elected Montreal’s MP. “Sometimes, I guess, I have gotten a buzz, but other times no. I’m not really crazy about it.”

It’s a refreshing bit of candor from a politician in any country, really; Trudeau has said pot’s not his bag, but he doesn’t see a reason to bust the balls of adults who dig it. “I’m not someone who is particularly interested in altered states, but I certainly won’t judge someone else for it,” Trudeau stated, adding he’d only gotten baked five or six times. “I think that the prohibition that is currently on marijuana is unjustified.”

As in the United States, arrests for marijuana possession have been rising in Canada, but hopefully that trend will be reversed. Under the previous PM, conservative Stephen Harper, arrests soared by 30 percent (475,000 under his watch), and draconian mandatory minimum sentences were put in place. If Trudeau immediately allows for simple possession, those arrests will come grinding to a halt. He may also allow for home grows, currently not allowed under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Trudeau said on the campaign trail last month in Vancouver that he’d work to pardon those currently in jail for marijuana-related offenses. “There have been many situations over history when laws come in that overturn previous convictions. And there will be a process for that that we will set up in a responsible way.”

If Trudeau makes good on his legalization promise, Canada will be the first major (or “developed”) country to do so. (Sorry, Uruguay, you don’t count.) Even the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany, which have lax laws, haven’t fully legalized sale, cultivation, and recreational use.

National implementation, of course, is complicated, given taxation levels, potential home grows, and impaired driving rules, and could take up to a year to create. And of course there’s the possibility Trudeau’s plans might piss off the U.S. government. “The biggest concern I always had was the thickening of the border and being off-side with the United States,” Trudeau noted about his plans. “I do not see this as a slippery slope. . . . I see this as an issue of legislators slowly catching up to where public opinion and public behavior actually is.”

While America is taking a slow-but-not-so-sure state-by-state approach to legalization, there are myriad benefits to doing it at the national level. By listing cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic under federal law, the U.S. government maintains roadblocks related to interstate commerce, banking, insurance, and federal tax codes. It also is delaying scientific research on its medicinal uses, and leaving organic standards and oversight to individual states.

Given our 3,987-mile border with Canada, we can either build a wall to keep Canadian potheads out, or legalize it ourselves. The choice is quite clear.

Cannabis Correspondence

Tips and pointers for your Halloweed.

Time once again to answer Stoner Mail! Given the season, I’m going with a Halloween theme.

I’m worried about some idiot putting weed-laced candy in my kid’s stash-bag on Halloween. I know a lot of the urban legends about razor blades in apples were bunk, but this genuinely scares me. Should it? —Bryan, Bothell

There are plenty of things for parents to worry about, but having your child get his or her grubby hands on marijuana-laced candy should be low on your priority list. While I do despise cannabis edibles that look like kids’ candy (there’s no reason for ganja gummy bears or Reefer’s Peanut Butter Cups), we’ve now had three years of trick-or-treating in legal weed states—and not one incident involving THC-laden candy disguised as store-bought. There are, of course, plenty of items that can kill yer kid, but pot’s not one: Aspirin killed 7,500 Americans last year, peanuts another 100. Hell, since 2010, poison-control-center hotlines have seen a 400 percent increase in calls in which whippersnappers got drunk on hand sanitizer! Selfieskilled four people this year, vending machines another three! And those colorful laundry-detergent pods that actually look like candy have poisoned 17,200 children under the age of 6 in the past year—so I’d definitely check the Halloween bag for those suckers!

Speaking of suckers: Every Jolly Rancher, every Almond Joy, and every kernel of that disgusting caramel corn that your kids chow down is made from sugar—which not only increases cavities and weight gain, but is proven to raise blood pressure as well as increase the chances for cardiovascular mortality—which means death. Spooooky!

Finally, even if some idiot does spend a ton of money and hand out weed-laced lollipops, brownies, or gummy bears, let’s remember this: No one ever has died from marijuana. Not. One. Person. Happy Halloween. Enjoy it.

Very few kids ever come down our dark, scary alley to trick or treat on Halloween, so there’s always a massive amount of leftover candy. My girlfriend and me use the leftover stash for when we get the munchies the rest of the year. So the question is, what do we buy?Soon-to-Be-Gorging George, Georgetown

You do know you don’t have to eat all the leftover candy, right? HA! Just kidding! Of course you do! It’s an American tradition. Though my personal favorites are Twizzlers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and Twix bars, your smartest move might be something healthier. And no, I’m not talking about giving out kale chips; this isn’t Russia. They make mini-packs of tasty and healthy stuff like Pirate’s Booty, gluten-free kettle corn, string cheese, Goldfish crackers, even bags of Halloween-themed carrots (renamed Scarrots for the season!). You could also skip the sugar-laden bombs all together and hand out spooky stickers, glow sticks, spider rings, terrifying temporary tattoos, or skeleton-shaped Post-It notes. I’d go with the Twizzlers. God. I love Twizzlers . . . If you really want to be PC, participate in the Halloween Candy Buyback, an organization that buys excess candy from kids and ships it to our troops overseas (along with toothbrushes).

My 9-year-old daughter wants to be a giant marijuana leaf for Halloween. It’s legal now. What do you think? —Mary, Maple Leaf

I think you should think about whether you’d want your kid dressing up as a vodka bottle, Lotto ticket, RedBull can, AK-47, Viagra pill, or pack of Winston Lights. While marijuana is safer than all those, the point is that none are for kids; in addition, a child of 9 may not understand the larger implications of dressing like a plant that can get you stoned out of your mind and is not great for the developing brain. Same with Cheech & Chong costumes, bigger-than-life bongs, or giant overinflated bags of weed. No, no, and no.

You could have your girl dress up as Charlotte Figi, age 9, whose epileptic seizures were greatly reduced through the use of a high-CBD and low-THC cannabis extract (and who now has a famous strain, Charlotte’s Web, named after her), which led to new medical-marijuana laws across the land. But a better idea is to have a conversation with your daughter about how, while the marijuana plant is extremely beautiful (as are the opium poppy, coca, and agave plants), cannabis is for grown-ups. Then make her into a sunflower, a rose, or, if she’s still feeling badass, poison ivy, a black dahlia, or a Venus flytrap. Everyone loves those—and you won’t get her tossed out of school in case she wants to wear it to class.

Wacky Weed Wire

News that’s stranger than fiction.

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” That’s a Hunter S. Thompson quote, and absolutely applies to the latest news related to marijuana and its legalization. Much of it is so weird, in fact, ya just can’t make this shit up.

A group of Bigfoot hunters (seriously) were in search of their nonexistent furry friend in a Wildlife Management Area in Texas last month when they came across a giant crop of weeds in the woods. The hidden garden, northeast of Dallas, had almost 6,500 mature plants, worth around $6.5 million, on an acre of land. Turns out the Delta County Sheriff’s department had been scoping the ganja farm to bust the guerrilla growers, but when the Bigfoot team accidentally stumbled onto the scene, they ruined the police operation-in-progress. (Probably the same reason these buffoons haven’t nabbed Yeti yet.) Had the coppers been able to bust the black-market growers—who had set up generators, camouflaging tents, and watering systems—they would have faced felony charges with fines of up to $50,000 and 99 years in the slammer. Who knew Bigfoot has such a big green thumb!

It is possible, of course, that Bigfoot himself (herself?) was the giant sharecropper; after all, if the legend is true, there’s no creature on Earth quite so stealthy. Now that I think of it, someone should come up with Bigfoot Bud (Gigantopithecus OG ?): The stuff’s so powerful, it will make you disappear . . .

Hell, if Costco and Safeway can pair shopping with gas stations, why not a weed shop? This month a Colorado chain of pot stores, Native Roots, is trying out a new business model, opening a dispensary next to a gas station. The two are side by side with a separate entrance for the dispensary, which must follow all the rules and restrictions for cannabis businesses (21 and over, etc.). “It’s really just kind of pairing the convenience in one specific stop,” noted company spokesperson Tia Mattson.

Gas & Grass hopes eventually to have several locations, with a uniform look and common merchandise—kind of like a Quik Mart, but instead of 5-year-old hot dogs, hunting caps, and fingerless gloves, it will be stocked with prime dank. Of course, given the onset of the munchies, Gas & Grass outlets will be fully stocked with stoned supplies such as Doritos, lighters, Gatorade, BlowPops, and donuts galore. “I believe we’ll have lottery tickets, beverages, cigarettes, and similar things that you would pick up in a convenience store,” Mattson said. One thing that will not be allowed: gassing up while firing up. (Ka-boom!)

Last month the District of Columbia State Fair hosted the country’s first official Cannabis Competition at a fairgrounds. Showcased alongside blue-ribbon home brews, knitted sweaters, and longest vegetables was priceless pot! The display was sponsored by a group called Let’sGrowDC, which runs a retail garden-supply store and educational center for urban gardens.

The Best Bud contest was taken quite seriously by the panel of judges, who rated the pot on the growing process, aroma, snap of the stem, stickiness (I’m not kidding), and appearance. If you’re wondering why it wasn’t judged on potency, that may have had to do with the setting (family-friendly with kids and all) and the fact that 64 different strains were submitted. The winner? “Capital Chronic OG” from green thumb Kenneth Gore, who took home a blue ribbon (shoulda been green) and a $50 certificate to Mellow Mushroom pizza parlor.

The real reason it was so important for the DC State Fair to encourage cannabis agriculture had less to do with boasting rights for the prizewinners and more to do with logistics. Though marijuana was legalized in D.C. in February (with over 70 percent support), no recreational stores or sales of any kind are allowed; residents are allowed, however, to grow their own or “gift” weed to one another. And because it’s illegal to transport cannabis across state lines, any and all marijuana consumed in D.C. must be grown there. Any tips from green-ribbon ganja farmers, therefore, were greatly appreciated by the greensmen in attendance. Given the number of entrants, a gardening boom for bud has clearly taken place in our nation’s capital. After the fair, Let’sGrowDC gave out more than 30 clippings that attendees could use to grow prizewinning plants of their own. Now that’s what I call a shared economy!

Finally, in the craziest news item of all, new stats on marijuana arrests in 2014 were released last week by the FBI. Given the ever-growing support for legalization not only in the four legal states but across the land, you’d expect a huge reduction in pot arrests nationwide, right? Sadly, in 2014, more than 640,000 Americans were arrested for cannabis-related offenses. That breaks down to 1,700 people per day, meaning that someone in the U.S. is arrested for marijuana use or possession every 42 seconds.

Thankfully, here in Washington, arrests have dropped dramatically—which is fab until you look at nationwide numbers and see that, as a percentage of total arrests, the number of marijuana busts is going up, not down; more than one in 20 arrests overall are for the possession of ganja—a stat putting it near the all-time high. It would be one thing if cops had nothing better to do, but as thousands of officers take themselves off the streets each day to detain and book men and women for pot possession, serious crimes are back-burnered. According to the FBI’s own stats, over half the country’s violent crimes in 2014—such as murder, assault, and rape—are not being solved. So, big picture: As far as legalization goes, we’ve got a long, long way to go.

Marijuana, the Potformance-Enhancing Drug

Calling out cannabis testing in sports.

Mixed-martial-arts superstar Ronda Rousey is obviously, pound for pound, the most kick-ass fighter in the world, and not to be messed with. She has also ignited a firestorm with her articulate and accurate attack on the idiocy of marijuana testing in her sport. “Rowdy” Rousey made her argument when her friend and training partner, Nick Diaz, was suspended for five years by the Nevada Athletic Association after testing positive for pot.

“I’m sorry, but it’s so not right for him to be suspended five years for marijuana,” Rousey said at a UFC press conference in Melbourne last week. “If one person tests for steroids, that could actually hurt a person, and the other person smokes a plant that makes him happy, and he gets suspended for five years. Whereas a guy who could hurt someone gets a slap on the wrist.”

To make matters worse, UFC fighter Diaz, a popular star in his prime, has a valid medical-marijuana card (from California) and stated he was using medical marijuana for ADHD as well as pain management (of which there is plenty in his brutal full-contact sport). In an absurd side note, Diaz was suspended after a match with the great Anderson Silva, who also failed a drug test—for steroid use. Silva’s punishment? One year. Diaz was suspended for five for having weed in his system—though to be fair, it was the third time in his career Diaz had tested positive for marijuana, making him perhaps not the sharpest tool in the UFC shed. For Diaz, 32, a five-year penalty is essentially a lifetime ban in a sport that takes its toll (and, in my opinion, should be outlawed, along with boxing, NASCAR, motocross, and tackle football).

The whole idea of drug-testing athletes is to see if they’re using substances that may give them a competitive advantage in their chosen sport. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that cannabis is hardly a performance-enhancing drug (at least until couch-surfing becomes an Olympic sport). Diaz has claimed to use cannabis to heal his body between matches. The World Anti-Doping Agency—one of the many institutions drug-testing MMA athletes—states in its rules that marijuana may not be used “during competition”—and thus it’s quite possible Diaz was not in violation, but still had THC in his system from previous use. (A small amount of marijuana is allowed in the urine samples WADA tests, but one of the three samples taken from Diaz the day of the fight had more THC than is considered acceptable.)

Plenty of athletes over the years have admitted to using marijuana, not as a PED but to relax and unwind—including the world’s greatest runner, Usain Bolt; NBA stars Chris Weber and Allen Iverson; beefcake Arnold Schwarzenegger; and swimming god Michael Phelps.

As in martial arts and boxing, NFL players do a lot of head-banging, and use ganja to manage pain, stress relief, depression, and even help repair neurological damage. And they also get suspended for it. In addition to the dozens of players who have been sent to substance-abuse programs for testing positive for pot, long suspensions were recently given to receivers Josh Gordon (Cleveland Browns) and Martavis Bryant (Pittsburgh Steelers) for firing up. Funny thing about the NFL: They have two separate drug policies—one for PEDs and another for recreational drugs.

Since Washington state legalized cannabis for recreational purposes, our Seattle Seahawks should be able to fire up for fun and not be fined (or suspended) for it, right? Sorry—the commish isn’t going for that. (Though a nonprofit called the Gridiron Cannabis Coalition is working to allow medical marijuana to treat ailments for NFL players.) Thing is, if ganja can give professional athletes relief—from joint pain, headaches and concussions, lack of sleep, soreness, and muscle inflammation—they should have it available. If nothing else, it will give these athletes much-needed liver relief after being prescribed a plethora of addictive and highly toxic painkillers and sleep aids by team doctors.

The only organization that seems to be getting it right on marijuana is the Olympics! The World Anti-Doping Agency (good Lord, does everyone use the same lab?) is responsible for drug-testing athletes who are training and participating in Olympic competitions all over the globe. While cannabis is on the agency’s list of prohibited substances (though not explicitly banned by the International Olympic Committee), they recently upped the allowable amount of THC in an athlete’s system from 15 ng/mL to 150—most likely because they didn’t like the idea of suspending 90 percent of their prime snowboarders and skiers.

The WADA lists various competitive advantages of each drug on their Prohibition List. For cannabis, these include “better focus” and “diminished stress.” Now that I think of it, this may be an advantage in synchronized swimming, dressage, canoe slalom, racewalking, trampoline, and whatever the hell a steeplechase is.

Rules on cannabis and sporting should obviously be changed, and, like full legalization, this will ultimately need to take place at the national level. Nick Diaz had a valid and legal (in California) use for medical marijuana, but ran into a state (and a Commission) that invalidated his legitimate needs. We’ll give the great Rowdy Ronda Rousey the last word on the subject: ”I’m against testing for weed at all. It’s not a performance enhancing drug. And it has nothing to do with competition. It’s only tested for political reasons,” said the champ. “I think we should free Nick Diaz.”

The October 1 Buzzkill

Legal pot was supposed to bring Oregon some joy.

October 1 was supposed to be a day of historic joy in Oregon, as legal sales of marijuana were finally allowed, ending decades of Prohibition in one of the states leading the charge on the issue. Instead, the celebration was interrupted by a shooting at Umpqua Community College, where (yet another) mentally disturbed young man went on a mass killing spree with a semi-automatic weapon. Hard to stand in line for an ounce of primo weed, high-fiving budtenders, and fellow stoners at a recreational store when friends and neighbors next door are unsure if their own children are among the dead.

Now, not being able to celebrate legalized cannabis is hardly the point, but the crushing reality of gun violence and the number of dampened dreams it represents surely is. Family members and loved ones are hitting the airwaves, followed by mayors and clergy and those damn pundits, to grieve and vent and pass the blame. Eventually then the experts and advocates and peaceniks will speak clearly and articulately of the fact-based changes that surely should be made, including assault-rifle bans, waiting periods, gun safety training, and closing whatever the hell the fucking gun-show loophole is.

Those propping up Reefer Madness are full of hate and denial and lies which obscure not only the truth, but the will of the people. The four states thus far that have legalized cannabis have overcome odds, clichés, and a massive industry not willing to change—in this case the pharmaceutical companies that make billions off fixing our ailments with addictive, toxic substances that can’t be grown at home, and the prison-industrial complex that thrives on a War on Drugs and the 650,000 (mostly black) Americans who are arrested each year for marijuana-related offenses.

Gun control’s fierce and well-funded minority opponent is well-known: the National Rifle Association. No real reason to go into the litany of strategies and threats and bullying and buying-off of politicans that the organization employs; you’ve heard them all before—I’d be preaching to the masses. And yet . . .

Insanity is said to be doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. So. As of today, October 7, in the first 280 days of the year, we’ve had 294 mass shootings (in which four or more people are killed or injured by gunfire) in the United States. In all, 10,000 have been killed and 20,000 injured in almost 40,000 episodes of gun violence so far this year. And counting.

The President, who is, like all of us, to blame for inaction on the issue, got as pissed as you’ll ever see him when, for the 15th time in his presidency, he had to hold a press conference after a mass shooting.

“This is a political choice we make to allow this to happen every few months in America,” he said. “We are collectively answerable to those families, who lose their loved ones, because of our inaction.”

Democracy, related to any issue of concern, requires participation, and not in an “I vote every four years” kinda way. Each of the four states that have legalized recreational marijuana—Washington, Alaska, Colorado, Oregon—had to do so through citizens’ initiatives, as lawmakers saw no political advantage to taking the lead and lobbyists for Captains of Industry paid them handsomely to stay mute on the issue. Even among the 23 states with medical-marijuana laws—which more than 80 percent of the public now supports—all but 10 had to do so via ballot measures. And so it seems that may have to be the path forward on gun regulations, an issue in which a huge majority supports common-sense restrictions.

Until then, I urge joining the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. It also can’t hurt to directly contact your congressperson to demand she or he introduce and support strong gun-control laws. We can change the course of history, overcome corporate opposition, and win on the issue of gun violence—no, terrorism—that’s tearing our country apart. And when we do, then we can really celebrate, without interruption.

Stoned Success, AKA the Eggplant Theory

How weed enhances your imagination. Or mine, at least.

I’m clearly not as bright as Steve Jobs or Carl Sagan or Oprah, all of whom used weed at some point to energize their already wildly firing synapses. (As did President Obama, Stephen Jay Gould, Margaret Mead, Bill Gates, George Washington, Maya Angelou, Martha Stewart, et al.) But marijuana has helped spur my own creative process, or, if nothing else, helped me make connections I might otherwise have missed. I’ll give ya some examples.

In 1989, I went on a brainstorming weekend with my high-school pal Mike Schiller. Our idea was to hole up in the woods and try to come up with the greatest invention ever—something that might actually do some societal good. And, like Steve Jobs, we brought a ton of weed to our imagineering weekend. Between bong hits, we put hundreds of innovative ideas up on a whiteboard: a real-estate company for energy-efficient houses; a volunteer-recruitment and matchmaking firm; The Home-Eco Audit Kit; Organic Meals on Wheels. After running out of ideas (and cannabis), the two of us decided on a board game about ecology called EarthAlert: The Active Environmental Game. A combination of Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary, EarthAlert even had spots on the board where you could earn “oxygen units” by actually doing something then and there to help save the planet, such as turning off lights that didn’t need to be on, eliminating junk mail, or writing a letter to the president about an issue that concerned you. Our slogan: “Saving the Planet Has Never Been So Much Fun!” The game (printed on recycled paper, of course) was a mini-success, and led us to follow-ups including The Doonesbury Game (with cartoonist Garry Trudeau) and Hear Me Out, which was sold at Starbucks. Speaking of Starbucks, Mike and I should have gone with our second choice from that weeded weekend: A chain of sustainable eco-coffee shops. Woulda made us billionaires.

The Dead Guy Interviews
I’ve always loved history, but it’s an intimidating and often boring subject. Back in 2000 or so I got totally baked (see the theme emerging here?) and attended a play called Dirty Blonde at ACT Theatre about the legendary Mae West. It was full of wonderful dialogue and real-life characters, and gave me an idea to “interview” historical figures in a modern-day setting; how fun would it be to talk to Cleopatra about her keys to success (and fling with Caesar!), quiz Dr. Freud about his mommy issues, or ask Beethoven what was on his iPod? The editors of mental_floss magazine agreed to run my indica-induced idea as a regular column, and these oft-stoned sessions were turned into a book, The Dead Guy Interviews: Conversations With 45 of the Most Accomplished, Notorious, and Deceased Personalities in History (Penguin, 2007). As Churchill once said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”

Eggplant Theory
My final example is less entrepreneurial—or ganjapreneurial, I should say—but still an important stoned epiphany: Turns out I’m an Eggplantatarian. The concept came to me years ago when I found myself high as a kite in a Thriftway produce aisle; before me was a gleaming colony of Purple Brain Pods, also known as aubergine, garden eggs, or eggplants. As I gazed at the violet enclave of nightshade, I felt the hum of their consciousness; I could see the ages—some older with fine lines in their black skins, others smooth as a baby’s butt. I carefully grasped one of the purple perennials, and could sense its throbbing heart. Solanum melongena! It pulsed and wobbled. I felt like I could communicate with Eggie as it vibrated gently in my palm. “Don’t eat me, Human. I’m meant for greater things . . . ”

So now any time an eggplant (aka Guinea squash!) is present—at the store, in a home, or, God forbid, on a menu (murder via parmigiana di melanzane)—I share my clearly out-there theory about my mindful Eggplant friends. No doubt people think I’m insane on the subject, but they also feel that way about Tom Cruise and Scientology, 9-11 conspiracy theorists, and the UFO crowd, so I’m in good company.

“Sure,” I say with downtrodden eyes, “you can order the baba ghanoush, if you don’t mind beating and charring and eating an intelligent species for dinner. But I’ll have to pass, as I now need to live up to my cosmic awakening.” Luckily, I never did really like the taste of eggplant, anyway. So I got that goin’ for me . . .

I’m stoned now. Perhaps it’s time to come down from my high . . . and return to Earth. Or perhaps I’ll elevate once again, and attempt to come up with a new invention or book or—better yet—a device that allows humans to communicate with eggplants!


Fire Fears and Frankenbud

Answering questions from the mail baggie.

We asked you to send in your canna-questions, and now it’s time to answer some reader mail! (The Higher Ground legal staff has asked me to remind readers that answers provided herein should be taken with a grain of hempseed; I am, after all, a marijuana columnist.)

With wildfires all over the state, I’m worried a nearby marijuana field may catch on fire and get me and my family stoned. Can burning weed farms get people high? Lance, Chelan
Does Smokey the Bear crap in the woods? Yes! Look, if you are standing right next to a giant burning pile of ganja and you inhale the smoke, you will be stoned to the bejesus. A town in Indonesia got seriously baked after police there burned a three-ton mound of confiscated marijuana in March. Dozens of residents of Tangerang (about 20 miles from Jakarta) complained of severe headaches and dizziness after inhaling smoke from the bud barbecue.

In the event, however, you’re not standing right next to giant bales of burning herb, it’s unlikely your family will catch a contact high from wildfires of marijuana plants. According to a study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence (great centerfold last month, btw!), secondhand smoke can get people feeling stoned, but it takes a huge amount of THC for that to happen.

“We evaluated the conditions under which you’d need to be to get intoxicated from secondhand smoke exposure,” noted Ryan Vandrey, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University, “and it needs to be very extreme.” In their study, researchers put a dozen students in a small Plexiglas chamber without ventilation and gave three-quarters of them joints to smoke. “Enough smoke from the room filtered out so that the nonsmokers stuck in the ‘hot box’ didn’t experience a buzz,” Vandrey said. “Outside, where there is a constant circulation of air, it’s hard to imagine that a person could breathe in enough marijuana smoke to feel the effects of the drug.” (Bummer—though I am enrolling next semester at John Hopkins!)

Ultimately, if you’re worried about that kind of fire getting the wife and kids high, you’re worrying about the wrong thing: Get the hell outta Dodge, man! Smoke inhalation of any kind is serious in mega-quantities, and fumes from burning gas, plastics, pesticides, household products, and clouds of soot and ash can also do serious damage to your lungs.

I read somewhere that they’re starting to make GMO marijuana! Is that true, and how can I make sure I’m not smoking Frankenbud from Monsanto! Erin, Wallingford
While rumors of genetically modified weed have been around for decades, at least for the moment it’s a paranoid fantasy. “Genetic modification or genetic engineering involves altering a substance’s DNA at the molecular level,” the website PolitiFact explains. “Producers of marijuana on the illicit market don’t have the ability to pull off those kinds of lab-based modifications.”

Modern-day Reefer Madness proponents like Patrick Kennedy are also feeding the Frankenbud fires, claiming that GMO pot is being used to hard-wire megadoses of THC into the plant. While many growers (both legal and black-market) are selecting and breeding the best plants and coming up with high-potency strains of cannabis, thus far Big Ag players like Monsanto and company have yet to get their hands on seeds (one of the very few advantages of marijuana not being legal at the federal level).

Of course, given that cannabis is a cash cow (estimated to be a $15 billion market by 2020), the corporate agro-bastards at Monsanto will jump in at some point. It’s part of the reason the independent-grower model in early-legalization states like Washington, Oregon, and Colorado is so important—local, non-corporate farmers have got a headstart and a fighting chance!

You constantly mention how much in taxes legal pot is bringing in for the state, but obviously it also means there’s a ton more weed out there. So now all our kids are going to be getting their hands on the stuff and smoking up nonstop. Great job, Stoner-Dickwad . Derrick, Des Moines
I’m not sure there’s a question in there, Derrick, but I’d like to refute the statement.

According to data from the Washington Institute for Public Policy, the use of cannabis by youngsters in our state has remained unchanged over the past decade. “Cannabis use and access among students in sixth through 12th grades have changed little from 2002 through the most recent survey in 2014.” The report went on to state that all the groups surveyed—sixth graders, eighth graders, 10th graders, 12th graders—demonstrated static use over time, with the oldest group actually reporting slight declines in lifetime use since 2002.

Of course, Initiative 502 passed in 2012 and retail sales didn’t start until July 2014, so those numbers may change. However, eighth graders who were asked about their use of pot in the past month (as well as lifetime use) reported that they’d not only smoked less since legalization, but that it was harder to get. Unlike black-market dealers (who’ve been around for decades), our new crop of legal recreational cannabis stores actually checks IDs.

Last but not least, Derrick, I can tell you who is getting their hands on more reefer—full-grown adults. Since it became legal here, self-reported use is up 17 percent between 2012 and 2014. So yes, great job stoner-dickwads, indeed!

Even Cops Say It’s Time to Legalize Drugs

When thousands of police veterans agree it’s time to end the War on Drugs and legalize marijuana, you know it’s time. Our interview with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) staff Neill Franklin (Exec. Dir.) and Diane Goldstein (Sec.).

Weed Weddings, Republicannabis, and Buddie the Mascot

A roundup of pot news.


With legalization comes normalization, innovation, and marijuana bars at weddings. Ya heard that right. This summer, an Oregon couple had a “weed tent” at their nuptials, including a budtender to help answer questions (and moderate intake). The event, in West Linn, just south of Portland, was fully legal (Oregon Measure 91 passed with flying colors), as it was on a tree farm (private property) and did not also include a liquor license. (Heaven forbid we let budtenders and bartenders share a tent.) The CannaBar featured 13 hand-picked varietals and was fully enclosed so as not to offend guests not in the mood to partake. In case you’re wondering, munchies served included french fries and chocolate beignets.

Now I was thinking of mocking this over-the-top potbar until I remembered the giant ice-sculpture vodka luge that I paid for at my own wedding, allowing guests to pour Stoli down a long frozen slide and then directly down yer gullet. (Classy!) If I ever get married again (they say the fourth time’s a charm), we’ll mark the occasion with a towering double-bubbler ice bong.

The fact that marijuana could actually kill cancer cells has always sounded crazy even to a stoner like me. But now I can quote the National Cancer Institute on the matter. Last month the NCI officially revised its FAQ page to reflect that cannabis does indeed kill cancer.

“A laboratory study of cannabidiol (CBD) in estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells showed that it caused cancer-cell death while having little effect on normal breast cells,” noted the NCI. “Studies in mouse models of metastatic breast cancer showed that cannabinoids may lessen the growth, number, and spread of tumors.”

Here’s the most amazing part. While many drug cocktails (i.e., chemo) can kill cancer cells, they often also kill everything else nearby—including healthy cells. Not so with ganja. The government-backed institute cited a number of recent studies revealing how cannabinoids “may inhibit tumor growth by causing cell death, blocking cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels needed by tumors to grow, while at the same time protecting healthy cells from damage.” But ya didn’t hear it from me . . .

Even Republican voters, it turns out, want the feds to stay out of the marijuana-legalization battle. In a recent survey from Public Policy Polling, a majority of voters in early primary states Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina said they believe the federal government should not interfere with states that legalize weed.

In Iowa, 64 percent of GOP voters supported states’ rights on the issue, in New Hampshire it was 67 percent, and 65 percent in South Carolina agreed the government should step off and steer clear. Presidential candidates like Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Marco Rubio may want to take note, as the recycled and renewed Reefer Madness they’ve been spewing is clearly not gaining traction. “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it,” Christie bellowed recently at a New Hampshire town hall meeting. “As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.” Ya might want to change yer tune, Gov. A nationwide CBS poll just found 60 percent of voters think states should be able to do what they want on the issue.

While I support legalization efforts in other states, that doesn’t mean I support all of them. Take Ohio. Please. Ohioans will vote in November on legalizing marijuana for adults (and for parents to be able to administer to kids who have a doctor’s recommendation). The only problem? The group bankrolling the initiative, ResponsibleOhio, has crafted the law so that its members have a monopoly on grow operations. The initiative specifies only 10 locations in the entire Buckeye State where growing ganja would be allowed. Surprise, surprise—the 10 groups of investors who financed the initiative (to the tune of $20 million thus far) have claimed ownership of those sites. Investors include veteran Republican strategist Neil Clark, relatives of President William H. Taft, Nick Lachey (yep, the tool from boy band 98 Degrees), and NBA legend Oscar Robertson.

It also doesn’t help that promoters of the Ohio initiative are using a marijuana mascot called Buddie to hype the campaign. Buddie is—you guessed it—a huge marijuana bud. With a Superman-like-cape, six-pack abs, and a giant green bud-head, this Cannabis Cartoon is wrong on so many levels it makes my head spin (and not in a good way). Buddie has garnered press, all right—as well as a mega-backlash from children’s advocates and legalization supporters.

“This is at best, irresponsible. The superhero theme clearly appeals to a younger crowd,” commented Ohioans Against Marijuana Monopolies spokeswoman Jen Detwiler. “It’s a shameless attempt to entice young people.”

ResponsibleOhio says Buddie visits only college campuses—on the “Green Rush Bus Tour” —to promote “Buddie’s 21 and Up Club.” Personally, I think it’s a great idea. In fact, Buddie should hop in a BadHabit clown-car with Joe Camel, Spuds MacKenzie, and Ronald McDonald. And make room for newly minted mascots Pharmie (a giant benzodiazepine pill), Bang-Bang (a plush bullet mascot from the NRA), Nukey (our radiated pal from Hanford)—and throw in Duncan the Diabetes Donut while you’re at it! At least that way the dummies can use the car-pool lane.