Higher Ground: Ahead of schedule

Apr 13, 2016 at 1:00 am

Will the marijuana game change this year?

There has been a good bit of speculation that President Obama will reschedule marijuana before he leaves office. I first heard that concept a couple of years ago from somebody at one of the national marijuana policy organizations. I took it for wishful thinking. We can wish Obama reschedules marijuana, but that doesn't make it true.

But maybe we can stop holding our breath about that. Last week the Washington Post reported that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sent out a memo to lawmakers that it plans to decide in the first half of 2016 if it will reschedule marijuana. I'm assuming that the "first half of 2016" means by the end of June.

Cannabis, the scientific name for marijuana, is listed as a Schedule 1 drug by the DEA. Schedule 1 drugs are, by definition, those "with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse." Schedule 1 drugs are considered the most dangerous drugs of all. In addition to marijuana, heroin and LSD are in the same category.

Rescheduling marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug, probably the most likely scenario, would put it in the same category as morphine, cocaine, and oxycodone — drugs that are considered to have a high potential for abuse but have a currently accepted medical use in the United States. There are some who advocate descheduling marijuana entirely, but I don't think that's going to occur.

Rescheduling the plant will at least open the door to access for scientific researchers. Many of the prohibition forces are using the "we don't know enough about it" argument to oppose loosening the laws. Personally, I think that's a pile of crap. There have been a few government-funded studies that had the results shelved after they had little to complain about when it comes to marijuana. President Nixon's 1972 National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse called for decriminalization. Nixon ignored that and kicked off the War on Drugs.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law Deputy Director Paul Armentano has pointed out that a search of the PubMed database of biomedical literature shows results for more than 20,000 published studies or reviews referencing cannabis, including more than 100 controlled clinical trials. Add to that the thousands of years of its medical use, and I think we know plenty about marijuana. More than we know about a lot of drugs that are currently prescribed to children.

The problem is that the prohibitionists can't find enough things wrong with marijuana, so they hide behind a feigned ignorance. Marijuana prohibition has been a massive disinformation and criminalization campaign aimed mostly at blacks and Hispanics, as any look at statistics will show. Numerous people have had their lives destroyed, not by marijuana, but by the prohibition and criminalization of a mostly benevolent plant.

There is another shoe to fall soon beyond rescheduling marijuana. The United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs will take place in New York April 19-21 in order to reassess international drug policy. The general environment of this discussion is better for advocates of policy reform than any other time in the past 30 or more years. The United States, the chief architect and enforcer of worldwide drug policy, has grown a bit weary of its role in this unsuccessful endeavor. In addition, legalization and the legalization movement have made this country look pretty lame when it presses other nations to fight against marijuana use.

UNGASS (yes, it sounds like a product offering relief for flatulence) watchers are predicting that the days of a unified, worldwide policy are over, as various, mostly Western, countries are beginning to change to harm reduction over prohibition.

While we have plenty of action on the issue going on in Michigan, with various bills in the legislature, a legalization initiative, and Detroit's move to shut 'em down, these federal and international polices have a ripple effect that could make local policies less onerous. And folks who want to point at the feds as trumping local laws will have one less argument to throw at you.

Hash Bash rear view

I've been to several Hash Bash rallies over the years, but this year was the first time I ever spoke at one. I've written about how the marijuana legalization movement has a mostly white face because dark-skinned folks are, understandably, reluctant to put themselves in the crosshairs. So when I was asked this year, I decided to stand up and speak on the subject that black, brown, and red folks get arrested for marijuana use at vastly higher proportions than white and yellow people.

I was one of a stream of a couple dozen speakers at the rally to speak up for marijuana. Comedian Tommy Chong and longtime activist John Sinclair were there, but I was surprised that the guy in a hoodie and Red Wings hat that I stood near for a while was retired hockey pro Darren McCarty. The four-time Stanley Cup winner, who has a history of struggling with alcoholism, told the crowd that with the help of marijuana, he hasn't had a drink in nearly six months.

He referred to marijuana as "medicine" and told the crowd: "Get educated. It'll save your life."

After I spoke I went into the crowd — estimated at 8,000 strong — to ask folks what strains they preferred to use. There was a real generation gap here. Younger folks knew their strains. The older gang had a basic answer of, "Whatever my dealer has," or, "The kind that gets you high."

Among those who knew their strains, Cookie Dough, White Widow and various permutations of Kush got a lot of mentions. I've never had any of these strains that I know of. I guess I could have asked somebody for some, but I'm kind of a do-your-business-at-home guy who prefers to not give police extra reasons to arrest me (hey, I'm black) by smoking in public and getting behind the wheel of a car.

One woman told me she likes Cookie Dough because, "It gets you stupid high."

I checked out the strain on the allbud.com website. It lists Cookie Dough as a sativa-indica hybrid with a 25 percent THC level, with CBD and CBN that ranges from zero to 10 percent. That's a pretty high THC level, which probably accounts for that "stupid high" feeling. Allbud claims that the main medical effect of Cookie Dough is "analgesic." That means it's a good painkiller. It is also considered a good stress reliever and has a sweet, minty flavor.

The high THC content also indicates that it would be a good strain to make Simpson Oil with, if you are trying to treat cancerous tumors.

I've been hearing about White Widow a lot lately. A few weeks ago, Sinclair told me that White Widow is his favorite. He said that his favorite supplier in Amsterdam always has it. The social event that I ran into Sinclair at trended toward an older crowd, and John was the only person who knew a specific strain that he liked. Yep, I'm asking a lot of folks what strains they like these days.

Leafly.com, a website that assesses strains, points out that White Widow was first developed in the Netherlands from a Brazilian sativa and a South Indian indica. No wonder Amsterdam has plenty of it — although Leafly lists it as very popular in Detroit. It's a sativa-indica hybrid (I believe the majority of what is out there are hybrids) one reviewer described as good, "pretty much anytime you're not trying to sleep or get locked. Very cerebral head high with enough body buzz to relieve a little pain."

Another reviewer wrote, "They call it White Widow because after three hits, you're going to want to clean your house."

Well that doesn't sound like couch potato stuff to me. I'd like to know about what kind of cannabis you prefer. Drop me a message and tell me what strain(s) you prefer and tell me why. I want to dig into this subject a lot more.