Dream catchers, succulents and joints: a visit to an LA cannabis shop
By Alex Halperin // February 12, 2018
On one wall of 99 High Tide Collective in Malibu, mosses and succulents are nestled in a frame of locally procured driftwood. Native American dream catchers dripping with feathers and sea shells hang from the pot dispensary’s ceilings. Vases of white lilies perfume the air. In a side room, visitors can lie on a heated crystal blanket and receive reiki, sound treatments and other ministrations.
It’s a world apart from the pot shops Green encountered years ago when she was shopping for medical marijuana with her mother, who had received a breast cancer diagnosis. At the time, dispensaries were cramped, dingy spaces, with bars over the windows. “You felt you were doing something wrong, like a criminal,” Green said. “There were no rules that said you had to do it in this hideous manner.”
Upscale dispensaries tend to aim for Apple Store minimalism rather than High Tide’s new age baroque. Either way, the idea is to nudge affluent customers, especially women, to think of weed as part of a healthy, active life, rather than an impediment to one.
For many years, cannabis users have largely had to settle for whatever they could find. The products available at High Tide show how companies operating in a legal market have taken a raw material – cannabis – and with design and marketing savvy created products targeting a far broader range of consumers than an illegal product ever could.
Marijuana: is it time to stop using a word with racist roots?
By Alex Halperin // January 29, 2018
It’s been known as dope, grass, herb, gage, tea, reefer, chronic. But the most familiar name for the dried buds of the cannabis plant, and one of the few older terms still in use today, is “marijuana”.
For the prohibitionists of nearly a century ago, the exotic-sounding word emphasized the drug’s foreignness to white Americans and appealed to the xenophobia of the time. As with other racist memes, a common refrain was that marijuana would lead to miscegenation.
Harry Anslinger, the bureaucrat who led the prohibition effort, is credited as saying back then: “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”
Today “cannabis” and “marijuana” are terms used more or less interchangeably in the industry, but a vocal contingent prefers the less historically fraught “cannabis”. At a time of intense interest in past injustices, some say “marijuana” is a racist word that should fall out of use.
Harborside, which is among the oldest and largest dispensaries in California, says on its website: “‘Marijuana’ has come to be associated with the idea that cannabis is a dangerous and addictive intoxicant, not a holistic, herbal medicine ... This stigma has played a big part in stymying cannabis legalization efforts throughout the US.”
Is marijuana a medical miracle? The truth is, we still don't know
By Alex Halperin // January 15, 2018
The movement to legalize medical marijuana has its roots in the 1980s and early 1990s, the worst days of the US Aids epidemic. The disease was a death sentence, and stricken young men sought out marijuana for relief and solace. In San Francisco’s Castro District, a gay Vietnam veteran named Dennis Peron ran an illegal dispensary to supply them. Peron went on to co-write Proposition 215, which California passed in 1996, becoming the first state to allow medical marijuana – med for short.
Among all the things med is touted as doing, relief from wasting illnesses like Aids and cancer (especially during chemotherapy) is among the respectable. A reader in the UK writes that when his wife was dying of breast cancer, “I purchased a vaporiser for her, it quickly became invaluable for both pain relief and as a mood enhancer”. Though research is limited, a recent study found a quarter of cancer patients in Seattle use marijuana.
The concept of med is easy to mock, since so many users don’t have an urgent medical need. But while very sick people taking it to improve their quality of life isn’t medicine in the conventional sense, it doesn’t seem silly either. Thirty US states and a numerous countries have legalized med on the basis of anecdotal evidence that it can help.
High time: introducing the Guardian's new cannabis column for grownups
By Alex Halperin // January 1, 2018
Today, California becomes the world’s largest legal marijuana market. It’s not the first American state to go fully legal, but with its outsized cultural influence and economy larger than France, it’s about to do for cannabis what Hollywood did for celluloid and Silicon Valley did for the semi-conductor.
Already, 30 US states have legalized medical marijuana (Med). Next year, Canada is likely to become the first large industrialized nation to legalize recreational (Rec), with support from the prime minister, Justin Trudeau. Germany, Israel and Australia have the beginnings of Med industries. Legal marijuana is coming to your neighborhood, maybe a lot sooner than you think.
For decades the plant has been stigmatized, at best, as a time waster for malodorous and unproductive men, with the disapproval factor steepening after age 30. But here in Los Angeles, the world’s most important cannabis market, a rebranding is under way. Marketers are positioning marijuana as a mainstream “wellness” product, a calorie-free alternative to an after-work cocktail. In short, it’s on the brink of global conquest.