Who made marijuana? (the legend of 420)
Social justice baked into the laws regulating Massachusetts’s budding marijuana industry
As Massachusetts prepares the framework for legal marijuana businesses, the state is trying to address a disparity in the way authorities used to apply anti-drug laws. The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is acknowledging in its regulations that people of color and residents of poorer neighborhoods have been targeted for drug enforcement at higher rates than people who are white and of wealthier means. Cities with the most arrests and convictions under marijuana laws are being given a break. As part of the commission’s plan, marijuana business applicants who have been unfairly subjected to these disparities will become part of the commission’s Social Equity Program. The program offers people a variety of benefits, including employee training courses and help raising money to get their businesses off the ground.
First-year law students in the Legal Skills in Social Context program researched how existing legislation in other states has prohibited certain communities from participating in the newfound legal marijuana industry. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit organization whose mission includes decriminalizing responsible drug use, nearly 80 percent of people in federal prison for drug offences and almost 60 percent in state prisons are black or Latino, despite the fact these groups use and sell drugs at similar rates to whites. Allowing people with a record of marijuana-related violations to take part in the legal pot industry is a first for states that have legalized marijuana, according to Leo Beletsky, associate professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern. The commission identified 29 municipalities in the state that have had historically high rates of arrest, conviction, and incarceration related to marijuana crimes. Title, who this week served as a guest lecturer in Beletsky’s class, has been involved in the marijuana legalization movement for more than a decade.
She lauded the people who appointed the commission members, saying they brought a wide-range of expertise to the table. Her focus on social justice was the driving force behind the regulations that seek to level the playing field.
While 4/20 might be the official ‘unofficial stoner holiday,’ May 24th remains a significant date in marijuana lore in its own right-it’s 1/2 of the legendary comedy duo Cheech and Chong’s birthday. Today especially, is an extra special celebratory day for potheads and marijuana advocates alike, as the stoner comedy pioneer Tommy Chong turns 80. Chong, who has advocated for legal marijuana since his early stoner comedy days, is now beginning to see his dreams come to fruition. Chong’s career first started back in Calgary, where he began playing the guitar at 16 years-old. After releasing two additional singles, the group broke up after Chong and bandmate Wes Henderson were fired from Motown for failing to acquire green cards to become U.S.
citizens. After settling on the name ‘Cheech and Chong,’ the soon-to-be-infamous comedy team released their self-titled debut comedy album in 1971, which was nominated for a Grammy. The duo would go on to release four more Grammy-nominated comedy albums, including Big Bambu, Los Cochinos, Cheech & Chong’s Wedding Album and Sleeping Beauty. The pair’s first feature film, Cheech and Chong’s Up In Smoke, was released in 1978 and became an instant cult classic and staple of the burgeoning pro-cannabis counterculture. The film spawned two successful sequels: Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie in 1980, and Nice Dreams in 1981.
The pair then followed up with a trio of lesser-renowned films in Things Are Tough All Over, Still Smokin, and the non-stoner flick Cheech & Chong’s The Corsican Brothers. Now, Chong gets to enjoy the fruits of his, and so many other cannabis pioneers’ labors, through his own special brand of weed: Chong’s Choice, which is available in dispensaries throughout several weed-legal states. According to the AP, Chong’s Choice will be the pot of choice throughout his 80th birthday festivities.
Tommy Chong’s Here, Man! High Priest of Stoner Comedy Marks 80th Birthday
LOS ANGELES – Yeah man, Tommy Chong says he always knew he’d live to see the day marijuana legalization would be sweeping America. He even knew in 2003 when Chong was imprisoned for nine months for conspiring to distribute handcrafted artisanal bongs the government declared drug paraphernalia. So much so that when the High Priest of Stoner Comedy turned 80 on Thursday, May 24, 2018 – that’s right, 80 – he expects his Chong’s Choice brand of cannabis, available in legal dispensaries in several states, will be consumed in abundance at the parties his family is planning. Not that he was ever a heavy pot user, Chong says, just a consistent connoisseur. When no other hits followed, Motown dropped the group, and the Canadian-born Chong returned to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he ran a pair of strip clubs with his brother.
The pair began warming up audiences with stoner jokes, and a comedy team was born. Motown had helped Chong obtain a green card, and the two headed to fame and fortune in Los Angeles. On a recent early morning, Chong answered the door for a photo shoot at his longtime home in the hills overlooking L.A.’s wealthy Brentwood neighborhood, arriving in gray jeans, sandals, and a black T-shirt advertising the name of a Colorado cannabis dispensary he recently visited. As a photographer sets up, Chong polished off a breakfast of oatmeal topped with sliced banana. Chong, whose father emigrated from China before World War II, mostly identifies culturally as Chinese, although he’s equally proud of his Scottish, Irish, and Native American ancestry from his mother’s side.
Before the pair’s bitter 1980s breakup, Cheech and Chong dominated comedy for 15 years. Those efforts generally ended in angry, insult-laden exchanges until 10 years ago when Paris Chong intervened.