January 31, 2018

The Future of CBD Oil after DEA and FDA Move to Enforce more Stringent Regulation

The United States Department of Health and Human services has owned the patent to use cannabinoids as nueroprotectants and antioxidants since October 2003. Scientists from the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), a smaller division of The National Institute of Health (NIH) applied for the patent 4 years prior for the purpose of awarding exclusive rights to create a new class of antioxidants significant for the role cannabinoids serve as nueroprotectants. 

Patent #6,630,507 excludesTetrahydrocannabidiol (THC) as a qualifying cannabinoid citing the medicinal benefits of Cannabidiol (CBD) with no psychotropic effects allowing patients to ingest high doses with "no toxicity or side effects."  It is important to consider this patent when analyzing recent actions taken by the FDA and DEA with regards to clarifying CBD Oil extracts being introduced in emerging medical and recreational markets.  

The two Federal Regulatory agencies working to regulate Hemp and Marijuana are the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The purpose of the FDA is to promote public health by regulating food, dietary supplements,  over the counter medications not prescribed by a doctor and vaccines among others. The purpose of the DEA is to classify and enforce laws for substances considered to have a potential for abuse,  medical or pharmaceutical benefit or pose risk to the general public in accordance with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Both agencies are extensions of the US Department of Health and Human Services.  

Agricultural Hemp Foods and Extracts containing only trace amounts of THC are regulated by the FDA after a concerted effort on the part of the Hemp Industries Association (HIA),  the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and several Hemp food and body product companies who spent more than $200,000 fighting the DEA to exempt these products from definition in the Controlled Substances Act and won in 2004. Hemp CBD Oil was not an issue during this time as these products were marketed as food items and were not tested for the cannabinoid, only for THC.  Hemp producers wouldn't realize their products contained high amounts of CBD until many years later when analytical testing became available in emerging State regulated Medical Marijuana Markets.  

Currently Marijuana is considered a Schedule 1 substance in the DEA's Drug Diversion Program considered harmful to society and highly addictive with no medicinal benefit in spite of scientific research depicting the opposite.  Extracts from the marijuana plant, like Charlottes Web falls under the regulation of the DEA. The Controlled Substance Act of 1970 defines Marijuana as, "all parts of the plant Cannabis Sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds thereof; the resin extracted from any part of such plant; and every compound,  manufacture,  salt, derivative,  mixture,  or preparation of such plant, its seeds or resin. Such term does not include the mature stalks of such plant,  fiber produced from such stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of such plant,  any other compound,  manufacture,  salt,  derivative,  mixture or preparation of such mature stalks (except the resin extracted therefrom), fiber, oil, cake, or the sterilized seed of such a plant which is incapable of germination." Resins and oils from the Marijuana plant had always been included in the definition of Marijuana in the Drug Diversion Program if they were derived from the flowers of a mature plant.   

In 2017 the DEA created a new drug code for Marijuana extracts to better comply with the United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs enacted in 1961. Drug Code 7350 Marihuana Extract defines oil extracts as such: "Meaning an extract containing one or more of the cannabinoids that has been from derived from any plant of the genus Cannabis, other than the separated resin (whether crude or purified) obtained from the plant." This new drug code goes into effect January 13, 2018. The intent behind this action is for the DEA to better track extracts derived from the Marijuana plant,  however,  this same action caused confusion and misunderstanding with leaders in both medical marijuana and agricultural hemp communities. 

Back in 2004, the technical act achieved by HIA allowing for Agricultural Hemp Foods and body products to be sold in stores was exempting Agricultural Hemp Products with only trace amounts of THC from the definition of Marijuana in the Controlled Substance Act. That was before Hemp Processors understood their products contain high levels of CBD and therefore could be used as medicine just like oils and resins extracted from the Marijuana plant.  Very quickly, CBD Hemp Oils began flooding National Markets with online sales and appeared on the shelves of several health food stores claiming the oil helps alleviate medical problems,  not just provide nutritional benefits.  

This began the concerted effort on the parts of both agencies to quickly clarify. As the DEA's new drug code goes into effect,  the FDA is sending warning letters to online distributors of CBD Hemp Oil Companies who claim their products are medicinal for the nueroprotectant and antioxidant qualities of the CBD's contained.  Meanwhile,  the DEA issued a clarifying statement ensuring Hemp food and body products are still exempt from inclusion in the definition of Marijuana in the Controlled Substance Act. 

One such letter was sent to That's Natural! Marketing and Consulting in Pueblo, CO. Specific products referenced in the letter were CBD All Natural Hemp Oil, Bosom Lotion Potion and CBD Rich Healing Creme sold on the Company's website www.cbdoil.life. The letter informed the Company the aforementioned products are classified as a drug and not a dietary supplement according to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act because product claims on the website show intent for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease.  Referenced from the Company's Website, the FDA listed claims the products "kill cancer cells" and "provide a protective coating around our brain cells" among others as violations. The Company Website also made claims the products are anti-tumor, effective against MRSA (antibiotic- resistant bug), lowers blood sugar,  regulates blood pressure and heart rate and alleviates cancer related pain, among others.  The FDA gave the Company 15 days to respond to the letter with actions taken to correct violations. 

In spite of the DEA's actions to move CBD Oil into classification with Marijuana CBD Oil,  grocery stores and independent health food stores are pushing the conversation by stocking CBD Oil products on their shelves.  Kroger backed Lucky's Market announced plans in October 2017 to offer these products to their customers, the first National brand to do so.  Independent health food stores like Corner Store Apothocary in Grand Rapids, IA, know they are operating in a legal gray area,  but are willing to assume the risk.  Without clarification in the Federal Laws, these businesses are most certainly assuming great risk. 

In December of 2017, The United States Patent and Trademark Office revised its stance announcing patent and trademark applications involving CBD products would no longer be accepted and pending applications would be rejected based on the Office's Lawful Use Rule.  This rule applies after the DEA'S new drug code categorizes CBD Oil derived from the tops of flowering plants as a schedule 1 drug and therefore its use considered unlawful.  Prominent attorneys in the industry are advising their clients they can no longer expect protection from the trademark office,  at least not while the DEA's new drug code remains in place.  Theories on the purpose and status of patent #6,630,507 for the use of Cannabinoids as antioxidants and nueroprotectants owned by the US Department of Health and Human Services are speculative.  

The Hemp Industries Association (HIA), along with two other parties responded in January of 2017 moving to block implementation of the DEA's Drug Code filing a lawsuit in the 9th District Court questioning the legality of the code. Attorneys involved in the case claim products derived from Hemp lawfully under section 7606 of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (farm bill) remain exempt from the definition of Marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act.

"The DEA's attempt to regulate hemp-derived products containing cannabinoids lawfully sourced under the CSA, and farmed and produced under the Farm Bill in States like Kentucky and Colorado,  is not only outside the scope of their power,  it's an attempt to rob us of hemp' s economic opportunity, " said Colleen Keahy,  executive director of HIA, in a statement.  Oral arguments in the case are scheduled to be heard in February of 2018. The DEA's Drug Code went into effect mid January,  2018. 

Attorneys, Activist Organizations and Industry Business Leaders make up the think tank around all of these issues. Course of action proposals vary greatly and often cause discourse in the grassroots movement to regulate Cannabis in all forms.  Most agree the fundamentals of the laws are intricately integrated in the language used to market products vs. the language in the law,  whether it's food or medicine.  Below are listed some of the more prominent theories.  


Currently,  Marijuana is classified as a Schedule 1 substance, considered to have no medicinal value, a high potential for abuse and harmful to society along with heroin, LSD, ecstasy, methaqualone and peyote. Some believe placing Marijuana in a less stringent category would open the doors for research and development of Cannabinoids as medicine.  Opinions on which category Marijuana should be placed vary greatly in the community.  It is important to note the drugs falling into these categories must be obtained by a prescription from a doctor or are illegal under Federal Law. Anything outside of these schedules but still considered medicinal are regulated by the FDA as an over the counter drug.  

Schedule ll drugs have a high potential for abuse and are considered dangerous,  but also have applied medical applications.  Drugs in this category include Vicodin, Dilauded, oxycodone (Oxicotin), Fentanyl, Adderall and Ritalin, to name a few.  More illicit drugs in this category are cocaine and methamphetamine.  Most of the groups pushing for this category are connected to pharmaceutical companies with patents pending for use of cannabinoids as medicine.  Opposing groups believe this move will push out the small business farmer considered to be the very backbone of the medical cannabis movement.  

Schedule lll contains drugs with a moderate to low potential of abuse.  Drugs in this category include Tylenol with Codeine, steroids, testosterone, ketamine and anabolic steroids. 

Schedule lV drugs are considered to have a lower potential for abuse or risk of dependence than Schedule lll and include Xanax, Soma, Darvon, Valium and Ambien to name a few.  

Schedule V drugs have low potential for abuse,  but also contain limited amounts of narcotics and are generally used for antidiarrheal, antitusive and analgesic purposes like cough medicine with Codeine. Lyrica and Motofen are also included in this category.  

The conversation surrounding scheduling is controversial to say the least.  Some activists believe Schedule lll to be destructive to local medical cannabis markets and would like to see Marijuana fall into Schedule lV or V believing small farmers could exist in a competitive environment with pharmaceutical companies.  Many take the whole plant approach believing all of the cannabinoids in the plant work together to produce medicinal effects and isolating cannabinoids while adding terpenes back in makes the plant less effective.  They believe allowing patents for these procedures to be issued would also be devastating to everyone involved,  grower to patient. 


Removing Marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act, thereby descheduling it altogether is another proposal for Federal clarification.  These activists believe Marijuana to be a plant, not a drug and would like products derived from the plant to be considered a nuetracuetical.  Nuetracueticals are loosely regulated by the FDA which doesn't interfere in research and production,  however products must be labeled as not intended for medicinal use.  Nuetracueticals exist because there is currently no official definition in current law unlike Marijuana, defined by the Controlled Substance Act,  however as recent as January 2018, the FDA launched an effort to impose more stringent regulations for homeopathic products.  

Announcing a new "risk based enforcement approach" the FDA declared any and all homeopathic medicines currently on the market as being sold illegally and any drug which has not been considered "generally recognized as safe and effective" to be classified as a "new drug" and go through the FDA Approval Process. Products intended to be used for the prevention or treatment of serious life threatening illnesses were specifically listed, which makes CBD Oil as a target for enforcement.  

No matter where one falls on the spectrum of belief,  everyone having the conversation agrees action to counteract the US Department of Health and Human Services must be well thought out and presented as a United Front.  Attorneys and organizations are preparing themselves for an extensive, very expensive legal battle to protect well established businesses and communities.  Anyone inspired to join the conversation can find activist groups representing all aspects of the spectrum who desperately need time and financial support from volunteers and businesses. It's time to advance to conversation if the movement wants to maintain their voice in the legal and political battles ahead.  

July 06, 2016

Economic Impact Study: How Cannabis Saved The Emerald Triangle

It was two days before Christmas, 1964. Most of the United States were enjoying Holiday festivities and completing tasks on 
their last minute to do lists. The residents of Northern California and Southern Oregon were evacuating their homes threatened by record high flood waters in conditions meteorologists deemed "The Perfect Storm". The weather events effecting the Eel and Kalamath Rivers and all of their tributaries began December 14 when a cold front brought several feet of snow. Immediately after, a pineapple connection dropped more than 30 inches of rain in less than a week. In the end, the highest tide of the year coming in as the flooded rivers reached their peaks would cause the most destruction. 

Residents recall the sound of the violent waters as a deep and unsettling roar not unlike an earthquake. This was the sound of giant redwoods and rocks pounding down the mountains in what experts estimate as much 750,000 cubic feet of water pumping per second. Logging was the major industry in the area at the time. Loggers created log jams in front of mills to collect the trees just cut from the mountains. The rushing water and debris knocked most of these loose and these giant trees took out everything in its path. 

When the flood waters receded, most residents found all of their possessions to be destroyed or washed away. Debris from the event was later found to have traveled all the way to the shores of Japan's islands. The coastlines in California and Oregon were littered with personal items washed out to sea only to be returned with the shifting tides. Entire communities had been washed away. 

Very few residents decided to rebuild after this event. Most logging companies abandoned any effort to reestablish themselves, the damage having been to much a burden to bear. Clean up efforts were slow as most roadways were blocked with debris or damaged by flood waters. The area was devastated economically, the people damaged morally having lost everything. What is now lovingly referred to as the Emerald Triangle was nothing more than sad remnants of life once lived and ghosts. 

The Flood left something else people at the time did not see as valuable. Layers and layers of fertile river silt which would eventually provide the perfect conditions for growing cannabis. It turns out, the Eel River has one of the heaviest sediment loads, second only to the Yellow River in China. The sediment and low land prices would be contributing factors to the economic boom enjoyed by this region more than a decade later. 

Hippies and The Vietnam War

In January of 1969, Richard Nixon took office as United States President. The Vietnam War waged on with US Casualties exceeding those lost in the Korean War and a new movement opposing the war in the US gaining ground. This new movement of people believed in living communally in harmony with nature. They believed peace could be achieved through artistic experimentation and engaged in civil acts of disobedience in opposition to the war. 

Hippies were spreading awareness through music, producing the Woodstock Concert in August of 1969 and another concert in Alamont CA in December. Berkely CA housed the highest population of hippies at the time, but 1970 saw a waning in the popularity of the movement. After the National Guard opened fire on student protesters at Jackson State and Kent State Universities, Hippies became recluse searching for ways to live off the grid away from a society shunning them. 

Hippies were attracted to Humboldt and adjacent c
ounties because the forest was so dense and the population diminished after the flood. Land had been split by this time into 5 and 10 acre parcels and was very affordable. By 1970, the hippies from San Francisco's Haight Ashbury were migrating north in large numbers. Several communes were established in the area and still thrive there today. 

The first Hippies realized within a few years, communes were not profitable. By 1972, most communes were experiencing financial difficulties. Livelihood strategies included growing enough food for everyone living on the commune, profits from artistic endeavors and sporadic odd jobs. Up to this point, cannabis was just another plant in the garden offering communal residents enough for personal use. Eventually, with few other economic avenues to pursue, the hippies turned to a burgeoning, but illegal marijuana black market. Remote locations, very fertile soil and the ability to redirect water from river tributaries and mountain springs provided everything necessary for successful gardens. Local law enforcement, violence against hippies and backlash from local loggers made maintaining successful gardens very risky business. 

The War on Drugs

Growing Cannabis as a livelihood strategy in a zero tolerance county led by politicians simultaneously declaring a "War on Drugs" and tightening penalties and restrictions is not an easy endeavor. Police forces were being militarized, arming themselves with military grade weapons. These municipalities were using these weapons to raid communes with force and often, without probably cause. Police Search Helicopters littered the skies above these Cannabis Growers resulting in a healthy paranoia and sense of distrust.

Distrust was warranted. Cannabis Growers can loose their crop at any time during the cultivation process in any number of circumstances. Bad weather, such as floods or droughts can kill an entire crop. Farmers loose their crops to insects, deer and elk, law enforcement, thieves or circumstances beyond ones control. The cost of doing business is high before one sees a return on investment. Most of the money earned goes back into the next crop. 

The War on Drugs created a judicial system incapable of handling business disputes like normal businesses. Altercations were handled behind closed doors and with tight lips. Calling the police in the case of a home invasion was not an option, services were not made available to women in violent domestic situations. If the other party took off with product without paying for it, there was nothing to do about it. An army of police officers trained to believe the Marijuana Plant to be evil and those involved in the business no better than the violent drug cartels of Mexico were hell bent on eradicating the plant altogether and evicting the hippies from the area. These municipalities wreaked havoc on everyone, even residents not engaged in growing Cannabis.  

The penalties for growing, processing and distributing Cannabis were always high. Growers could face decades in Federal Prison and loose their property, assets, children and any money accumulating in the bank. Regardless of the risks,  Cannabis Farmers persisted and are now considered pioneers as States across the Nation have repealed prohibition by establishing new legislature for an industry growing at lightning speed.  It appears the Federal Government is not far behind recently considering rescheduling cannabis to a less restrictive category in the DEA's drug diversion program.  

Today,  when one travels through the Emerald Triangle,  signs of a burgeoning cannabis industry are everywhere. The grocery stores have elaborate displays of turkey bags in the front of the store all year.  Hair salons double as trim supply stores offering any pruning scissors currently available on the market next to aprons,  hand solutions and gallon containers of isopropyl. Every business in the area benefits from the cannabis industry from the restaurants to the thrift stores. 

The State of California is still trying to interpret voter approved initiatives allowing for medical Marijuana as new legislature is being introduced for adult recreational use. Growers well established in this area are ready for whatever the future has in store for them,  breeding organic, artisan strains one can only find growing amongst the giant redwoods. This region was saved by Cannabis and continues to enjoy the economic benefits of a healthy marijuana industry. These growers aren't going anywhere.

*The Emerald Triangle covers all of Trinity, Humboldt and Mendocino Counties.

September 09, 2015

The United Nations and Cannabis: Evolving Policy to meet increasing demands for Medical Marijuana Patients Globally

In 1961, Representatives from 185 Nation States convened and signed an International Treaty designed to control and regulate the production and use of several drugs (mainly Narcotics) considered to have scientific or medicinal value and prohibit the use of others considered addictive and harmful to society. The United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs has served as the basis for standardization of National drug control laws since. The United States enacted the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 to fulfill treaty obligations.

At the time the treaty was executed, two regulatory agencies were assigned to move specified narcotic drugs through the four stages of schedules, The Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) were commissioned to serve as administrators and compliance monitors. 

Countries Party to the UN Conventions: Green
Non Parties: Red
Treaties Do Not Apply: Gold
Inclusion of a controlled substance in the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs depends on its agreed placement in the scheduling system. Where a drug lands in the International Control Framework determines the type and intensity of controls. Currently Cannabis is scheduled as one of the most dangerous to society next to Heroin, Ecstasy, LSD, Benzodiazepines, GHB and Cocaine. Recent independent studies by the Global Commission on Drug Policy recommend Cannabis be moved to a low risk category.

Adjusting where Cannabis is scheduled in the International Framework is not complicated. The UN Conventions on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, amendments in 1971 and the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1972 all contain provisional scheduling measures available to initiate in response to urgent problems.

Voter approved initiatives in the United States in Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Washington DC establishing recreational markets moves outside conformity to the UN Drug Conventions because the nature of the documents limits use of controlled substances to medical and scientific purposes only. Advances in Medical Research and changes in Public Opinion creates an environment which necessitates immediate change. 

Congress moved to clarify the US Government's position on the UN Drug Convention in October 2014 when Bill Brownsfield, The Assistant Secretary of State for Drugs and Law Enforcement at a press conference clarified. He outlined to members of the media how US Policy is centered around four pillars of thought: 1) Respect the integrity of the UN Drug Conventions. 2) Accept flexible interpretation of UN Drug Conventions with regards to how Nation States have changed since 1961. The Conventions should be updated to reflect current culture. 3) Tolerance of differing perspectives and enforcement methods of each Nation State. 4) No matter the difference, each Nation State works to combat criminal organizations.

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes issued a statement expressing concerns new US laws are not compatible with current conventions. 
Congress responds in January 2015 when Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) call for the Obama Administration to address the disparity between US Policy and the boundaries necessary to conform to the standards laid out in the UN Drug Accord. Concerned about protecting the United State's long standing position as leader in the "War on Drugs", these Senators requested the Administration to account for remarks sending the message of tolerance for illegal drugs. (AKA Ogden Memos) The Senators also pointed out how recreational laws deviate from US commitments to confine production of cannabis to research and medical purposes only. Since the Senators letter to then Attorney General Eric Holder, was delivered, a new Attorney General has been assigned and the issue is still under review. 

Reforms are necessary as International Trade is already happening between Nation States. Jamaica is setting up small farmers to export cannabis products such as infused lotions and body oils to Countries like Canada already set up to import these goods. Canadian Company FLOR whose Shareholders are mostly Jamaicans living in Canada is currently laying the groundwork for developing a supply industry. In addition, A Bob Marley Brand of such products has been announced to be available late 2015.  Increasingly, Nation States are moving to regulate Cannabis use for both recreational and medical use. Countries like Germany, The Netherlands, Uruguay and Canada have established medical marijuana programs, while countries like Costa Rica are moving to establish similar programs through legislative action now. 

Recently, at a Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoids Conference held in Prague, former deputy secretary of the INCB, Pavel Pachta told attendees the WHO would need to update their stance on Medical Marijuana to match current scientific findings soon. Many UN Representatives believing the current drug control system to be a failure are urging UN drug agencies to replace prohibition of Marijuana with legal regulation. Non Governmental Organizations working to reform International Drug Policy weighed in on the issue in a letter published through StopTheDrugWar.com. The letter represented more then 100 agencies and sited human rights violations as an immediate need for reform in global drug policy. 

Convention may shift April 2016, during the United Nations Special Sessions on World Drug Problems (UNGASS 2016) where members of the international community will present recommended amendments based on shifting trends in current Nation societies. Although some Nation States still wish to use corporal punishment including the death penalty for drug related charges, most nations are relaxing drug user laws, allocating resources to prosecute manufacturers and traffickers over users. Many of these Nations choose harm reduction policies meant to reduce incarceration over more stringent prison terms. Attendees expect contention between the Nations with hard line policies like Russia, China and more liberal countries like Uruguay and the US.

In March 2015, an International Coalition of Medical Cannabis Patients from 13 Countries led by Americans for Safe Access delivered a declaration urging the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs to either reschedule Cannabis to a less restrictive category or remove the plant from the schedule all together. Coalition member countries include Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom, and United States.

"Current international policy makes it extremely difficult for many countries to establish laws that will meet the needs of their citizens," said IMCPC co-founder, ASA Executive Director, and longtime medical cannabis patient Steph Sherer. "The International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition is uniting patient organizations as a common voice in the effort to change these policies."

Considering the International Commerce already being established for Cannabis, changes need to be made if Nation States are able to meet the needs of their Citizens. All eyes will be on the UN Special Committee in 2016. 

Research Links: 

1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs Wiki
United Nations Drug Control: Scheduling in the International Drug Control System
U.S. states' pot legalization not in line with international law: U.N. agency
Bob Marley: The First Global Weed Brand
Jamaican Small Farmers included in the Medical Marijuana Industry
Canadian Company Taps into Jamaican Medical Marijuana Industry
Legality of Cannabis by Country Wiki
United Nations Convention on Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
Huffington Post It's Time For The UN To Reform Its Global Drug Policies, Human Rights Groups Say
Groups from Thirteen Countries Form New "International Medical Cannabis Patient Coalition" to Reform UN Policy

August 05, 2013

Modern Day Morocco prepares to Regulate Cannabis Production for Foreign Investors

Cannabis fields in the Rif Mountains
Source: the-misadventures-of-luciengrey.blogspot.nl
The People of Morrocco have always known the medicinal and economic value of the Cannabis Plant. For centuries. Farmers have been growing and processing Cannabis to be exported to markets throughout Europe. Although it is illegal to smoke hashish in Morocco, most of the men in the country smoke openly in cafes out of water pipes while drinking mint tea enthralled in card games and conversation with friends and family. The word ‘kif’ stems from the Arabic word for pleasure. Most of the Cannabis is grown and processed in the RIF Mountains in the North Eastern portion of Morocco. The region covers more than 11,000 square miles and supplies 70% of the European Hash Markets.

A bowl containing beaten kif.
Cannabis has been growing here since the 15th century. In the 60's and 70's people considered Morocco part of the Hippie Revolution, making the Country a popular travel spot. Back then, "kif" was produced for domestic use and fields of Cannabis were believed to cover only 5,000 hectres. Morocco obtained Pop Culture fame when legendary hashish producer  Akmed (Hole in the Head) smoked white hashish with Timothy Leary at the base of Mt Tidiquin in the highest part of the Rif Mountains. There is the inexpensive commercial product and then the good stuff, which the locals call Oro Negro, or Black Gold.  The quality hash from this region goes by many names including Ketama, Sputnik, Zero Zero, and King Hassan. Ketema Gold is the leading seller in Europe. Today, Moroccon Cannabis plants are estimated to cover more than 200,000 hectres.

The growing season here begins in March. Fields of sprouts are easily visible from the road.  Farmers use rudimentary, labor intensive processes to create hash in stone houses built into the mountainsides. The plants are harvested from the fields anywhere from July to August and bunched together. The cannabis bunches are placed in drying rooms to cure before being made into hash using several different extraction techniques for a variety of end user products. The Hashish created ranges in color and texture, some sandy in consistency, some moist like clay. Many of the hashish produced ends up the same rusty color as the clay dirt found in the land here.

It's too dry in this region to grow regular vegetables. If this region of the World did not have Cannabis, they would be forced to work in cities for salaries, only a small portion of what they receive now. For many of these families, Cannabis is the only source of sustainable income available for food, shelter and other meager living expenses.

Recently, the European Union offered Farmers other options for livelihood strategies in an attempt to curb production. They realized quickly the farmers here are not willing to do anything but grow Cannabis for the purpose of  Hashish.

An estimated one million people are thought to benefit annually on the cultivation of cannabis on more than 200,000 farms. For these poverty stricken families, Cannabis is their only option as a livelihood strategy and Hashish production techniques have been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years.

Morocco exports more than 3,000 tons of processed Hashish with estimated values of more than $10 billion. making Cannabis 10% of the Country’s economy.

Local officials have traditionally protected Cannabis Farmers from becoming a part of the larger War on Drugs with only a few scattered stories of corruption, bribery and failed attempts by the European Union to offer subsidies to farmers willing to grow other agricultural commodities. For the most part Cannabis is accepted in society as a way of life and it’s not changing any time soon.

It comes as no surprise as more countries relax Cannabis prohibition laws, Morrocco’s Parliament is considering draft legislation allowing farmers a legal system of regulation and distribution of Cannabis products. Leaders in the country see Cannabis as a way to draw foreign investment as pharmaceutical companies show more interest in distributing Cannabis medicines in global markets. Over the next three years, Governor Mohamed Boudra of Huciema-Taounate, the Country’s Northern region will be working with Parliament to enact a program designed to build confidence and strengthen ties between farmers and Morrocco’s ruling Monarchy under King Mohammad VI.

“We have to ensure that any legalization is done in an optimal fashion,”Abdelhalim Allaoui, a lawmaker with the ruling Justice and Development Party, told Business Week.“We need to establish what the medicinal virtues of the plant are and then think of exports, pharmaceutical industry developments, and how to draw foreign investment. This is a promising sector for the economy.” Business Week Article

For the families using Cannabis as a livelihood strategy and for the end user in the European Markets, this is all very good news highlighting the economic benefits of a plant known to sustain life in this region for centuries.

May 01, 2013

Reefer Madness Jazz: A candid look at Political Dissent and Propaganda

Poster from Reefer Madness

Reefer Madness was a propaganda campaign executed by Harry Anslinger, newly appointed head of the US Narcotics Bureau who targeted marijuana as a way to oppress what he considered inferior races, mainly Latinos and African Americans. Their efforts included a movie showing young men and women smoking marijuana just before engaging in lewd and vicious acts including rape, manslaughter, suicide and decent into madness. The mayhem was blamed on Marijuana and the movie shown in local theater houses nationwide. Production of the movie was paid for by a church group with the intent of teaching parents the dangers of cannabis use. The results of the efforts manifested in the form of The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 marking the beginning of Marijuana prohibition, still in effect today. 

Jazz Music, along with Marijuana was popular with young Americans in the years leading up to prohibition.  For this reason, Jazz plays an intricate part in the history of Marijuana Prohibition in America and Jazz Musicians have long been targets for Federal Enforcement Agents looking to set examples of Cannabis users for the sake of justifying their unsubstantiated claims regarding the safety of its use. The relationship, however, between Marijuana and Jazz music goes far beyond the justification of a newly formed Federal agency or that of a single man’s political career. Marijuana Smoke and Jazz beats have done more than just intermingled above the heads of students in the tea houses of Harlem or followed a slowly moving horn section through the night air down a New Orleans side street. The relationship between Marijuana and Jazz music represents the discontent of citizens beginning to feel the oppression of a Government overstepping its bounds by working to create laws prohibiting the use of a plant meant to serve the people as a source of medicine, food, fuel and fiber. 

Most cultures use music as a way to express political dissent or record history from the People’s perspective, not just that of those enjoying the most power over the recording of historical facts at the time. One song mentioning Marijuana, or ‘Marihuana’ is the Jazz Score La Cucaracha, whose lyrics originate from the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Mexican war refugees migrated North crossing the border into United States Territories singing La Cucaracha which roughly translates as follows: 

La cucaracha, la cucaracha,
The cockroach, the cockroach,
ya no puede caminar
can't walk anymore
porque le falta, porque no tiene
because it's lacking, because it doesn't have
marihuana pa' fumar.
marijuana to smoke.

Ya murió la cucaracha
The cockroach just died
ya la llevan a enterrar
now they take her to be buried
entre cuatro zopilotes
among four buzzards
y un ratón de sacristán.
and a mouse as the sexton.

The refugees were called ‘Villists’ following Pancho Villa, a commander of the North Division. He was considered the Robin Hood of the Mexican Revolution leading his people to commandeer trains and steal from the rich. Whatever was confiscated was distributed to the poorest peasants and villagers. The cockroach was President Victoriano Huerta, notorious for his heavy consumption of alcohol. He had established a harsh and military dictatorship in Mexico. Pancho, executing military campaigns until his death, was assassinated on May 21, 1920. Huerta resigned the Presidency on July 15, 1914 and went into exile. He traveled to the United States by way of Jamaica arriving in 1915 where he was convicted on conspiracy charges for violating US Neutrality Laws and imprisoned. He died in prison of sclerosis of the liver in 1916. 

President Victoriano Huerta
Pancho Villa, Wanted Poster

It is unclear whether the lyrics are insinuating that had Huerta had marihuana he wouldn’t have chosen alcohol or the addiction was his eventual downfall, but considering the refugees who had the song on their tongues crossing the border did so with large suitcases full of the plant, it may be safe to assume the former. This exodus represents Anslinger’s reason for including Mexicans in his Reefer Madness campaign in the first place. Reefer Madness Jazz Musician Louis Armstrong remade the song in 1935, two years before The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.  

 Harlem, New York 

Mezz Mezzrow
Reefer Madness Jazz Musician Mezz Mezzrow moved to Harlem in 1929. He began selling marijuana enjoying instant success is both the white and black Jazz communities. Back then, folks came together in "Tea Houses" to obtain and smoke marijuana. Located in apartments all over Harlem, Tea Houses served as the backdrop for many moments in Reefer Madness History. At one point, historians note more than 500 of these speakeasy establishments in operation.  Mezz was so popular, he had a marijuana cigarette rolling style named after him called the "Mezz-Role". These Marijuana cigarettes were packed heavy and rolled tight. 

Photo from the Making Friends Jazz Tribute
When Mezz moved to Harlem, he began performing with another popular Jazz Musician, Eddie Condon.  Condon had only just arrived in New York himself the previous year from Chicago where he spent most of his 20's playing banjo, guitar and served as band leader on multiple occasions. The two made a good team, Mezzrow having denounced white society during a period of history where segregation was a large part of every day life and Condon was known for forming racially integrated musical groups. Although white, they managed to become the largest marijuana dealers in Harlem at the time.
Mezzrow married a black woman and declared himself a voluntary negro. In 1940, when he was sent to prison for possession with intent to distribute 40 marijuana cigarettes, he demanded to be sent to the segregated negro prison. In his biography Really the Blues, he writes: "Just as we were having our pictures taken for the rogues' gallery, along came Mr. Slattery the deputy and I nailed him and began to talk fast. 'Mr. Slattery,' I said, 'I'm colored, even if I don't look it, and I don't think I'd get along in the white blocks, and besides, there might be some friends of mine in Block Six and they'd keep me out of trouble'. Mr. Slattery jumped back, astounded, and studied my features real hard. He seemed a little relieved when he saw my nappy head. 'I guess we can arrange that,' he said. 'Well, well, so you're Mezzrow. I read about you in the papers long ago and I've been wondering when you'd get here. We need a good leader for our band and I think you're just the man for the job'. He slipped me a card with 'Block Six' written on it. I felt like I'd got a reprieve."

Stuff Smith's song "You's a Viper" referenced Mezz Mezzrow directly, "Dreamed about a reefer five foot long, The mighty Mezz, but not too strong, You'll be high, but not for long, If you're a Viper." Vipers even had a slogan. "Light up and be Somebody." in spite of general public consensus being in favor of prohibitionists. Jazz music was rebelling the propaganda by showing social acceptance in closed 'members only' clubs where those who weren't cool were not allowed.

Ella Fitzgerald being booked in Houston
Jazz artists paid a hefty price for their pro marijuana lyrics and culture. For the next several decades, Jazz musicians would be the target of law enforcement as they sought to validate the need for a Federal Narcotics Unit and the tax payer dollars being allocated to the Department through congress. Raids were not always about Marijuana. Law Enforcement officers looked for anything and everything they could use to vilify Jazz Musicians.

Singer Ellie Fitzgerald who often toured and played with Reefer Madness Jazz Musicians like Dizzy Gillespie, Houstonian Illinois Jacquet, jazz impresario Norman Granz and Georgiana Henry. Ellie was arrested for throwing dice in her dressing room with these musicians in 1955 just before a performance at the Houston Music Hall. Fitzgerald dabbed tears from her eyes as she was being booked.
“I have nothing to say,” she told reporters. “What is there to say? I was only having a piece of pie and a cup of coffee.” Ella wrote and sang the popular Reefer Madness Tune "When I get Low, I get High".

San Francisco

Gene Krupa being arrested.

Reefer Madness Jazz Musician Gene Kruba was arrested in San Francisco on January 21, 1943 for contributing to the delinquency of a minor when Law Enforcement Agents intercepted the 17 year old sent back to Gene's hotel to retrieve his marijuana cigarettes as he was returning to the theater.

Gene Kruba's account of his arrest: "By then I was the glamour boy-15 camel hair coats, three trunks around me all the time-and he couldn't think what to get me. Finally he thought, 'Gee I'll get Gene some grass.' At that time California was hot as a pistol, you could park your car for a bottle of beer and get arrested. So he had a rough time getting the stuff. He probably shot his mouth off a little-'I'm getting this for the greatest guy in the world, Gene Krupa.' Gene decided to leave the marijuana at his hotel. The police, being tipped off, began searching the theater where Gene's band was currently playing. "I suddenly remembered the stuff's at the hotel where they're going next. So I call up my new valet and say, 'Send my laundry out. In one of my coats you'll find some cigarettes. Throw them down the toilet.' But the kid puts them in his pocket and the police nail him on the way out, so I get arrested." "The ridiculous thing was that I was such a boozer I never thought about grass. I'd take grass, and it would put me to sleep. I was an out-and-out lush. Oh, sure, I was mad. But how long can you stay mad? So long you break out in rashes? Besides, the shock of the whole thing probably helped me. I might have gone to much worse things. It brought me back to religion."

During this time, Jazz was all the rage in San Francisco's Fillmore District where clubs lined the streets jazz beats lingering in the foggy night air. During the 40's and 50's Fillmore became known as the "Harlem of the West" attracting the same musicians who frequented the clubs of New York.

Some of the early clubs include The New Orleans Swing Club, Club Alabama, Jackson's Nook and The California Theater Club. Bop City, the most popular of the neighborhood venues, opens in 1950. The area has since been revitalized, museums holding remnants of the area's deep African American Jazz Culture. Clubs remain open to this day and the area serves as a tourist spot for San Francisco attracting millions of visitors annually. 

Jazz music from the 20's through the 60's was about more than social acceptance with regards to Marijuana use, but also contained deep emotional tones as African Americans dealt with segregation and blatant racism on a daily basis. Jazz music served as an avenue for expressing dissent with the oppressive laws forcing African Americans to see themselves as an inferior race. Reefer Madness songs consistently displayed characteristics of a counter propaganda campaign meant to repair the collective self esteem of a race of people being crippled in its attempts to feel validated and equal in the Civil Rights Movement. Just as the Mexican refugees crossing the border with suitcases of marijuana singing songs of their dissent record their history with music, the Jazz movement would forever crystallize the emotions of those oppressed, so future generations are able to consider when creating higher reality for themselves.