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Let The Good Times Roll: Uplifting Conversations About Marijuana (Part I)

Tuesday, November 8, was an important day in American history.  After a very polarizing election process, most notably between the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and businessman Donald Trump  to become the 45th president of the United States, Americans had the option to cast their vote in order to have a say in the future of this country.

One of the many issues that came up was the legalization of marijuana.  While cannabis had been legal for medicinal purposes under various state laws for decades, the issue became quite a talking point again in 2012 when Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana use for adults 21 years of age or older.

Since then, the discussion surrounding pot laws has been re-opened considerably and a variety ofamerican-flag-975095_960_720 things have come to the forefront, both pros and cons, regarding the idea of continuing to make the plant legal in other areas.  But where does it all currently stand?

In this exclusive two-part report, over the past few weeks, I spoke with a lawyer, two Hip-Hop stars, and an executive at merryjane.com, and about marijuana in pop culture, the laws currently in place and ones on 11/8’s ballot, and where the future of the legal marijuana business is poised to go.

Mr. Robert Hendricks is a business lawyer in the West Michigan area who specializes in marijuana business laws and has a great understanding of how the federal marijuana laws differ from the state ones, and the challenges that lie ahead with getting changes made on a national platform, as opposed to just ones at the state level.  My interview with him took place on 10/18/2016.

AllHipHop: Why is this a subject that you’re passionate about?

Robert: I was listening to an article on public radio one afternoon and they were talking about the new legalization phenomena in Colorado and how the business there who trying to be compliant with state law were finding it very hard to get a bank account because the federal banking laws made it very restrictive in terms of providing banking services to any marijuana businesses even if those businesses were lawful under state law.  So I thought that was interesting and I began to do some reading and general research and I thought there has got to be a solution to this.  Well, there doesn’t appear to be a solution at this point unless congress acts to change the federal law.

As a business lawyer, I thought this could be very interesting.  I bet clients, as they begin to get involved in marijuana businesses that are lawful under state law will need some advice.  Not criminal defense advice, but business advice.  So I went to my partners about three years ago and suggested that we might want to do this and they were very enthusiastic.  And we just began to study it and develop this marijuana business law practice and that is where we are today.

Under the law right now, federal laws makes virtually all marijuana-related activity a crime.  Now the states can adopt their own laws, but under the constitution’s structure there’s a phrase called the “supremacy clause” that basically means federal law is supreme when there’s a conflict between state laws and federal laws.

So federal law trumps state law?

Robert: Yes.  Federal law trumps state law, so what you have then is this overlying illegality in marijuana-related activity in places like Colorado or Oregon or even in the 27 states that allow some kind of medical marijuana.  That activity is lawful under state, but the federal law enforcement folks could still enforce federal law and arrest people, put them in jail, fine them or do all types of things.

What do you think the legal system has been so misinformed about?

Robert: That’s a good question.  From what I’ve read, there are a number of reasons why marijuana became unlawful in the beginning of the 20th century.  Historically, marijuana was an herbal medicine.  Back in the 19th century, the late 1800s, there were dozens if not hundreds of medications that included cannabis. They had oils and derivatives and that sort of thing, but there was some fear about marijuana in the early part of the 20th century ultimately into the 1960s and then into the 1970s, marijuana became perceived as this really bad thing.  So congress decided that they would declare this war on drugs and just lumped marijuana in with heroin, LSD, and everything else.

The other thing we have in the United  States is a very significant portion of our population who uses marijuana pretty regularly.  The statistics are hard to be precise about because, again, it’s illegal, but the statistics I’ve read recently are that up to 30 million citizens of the United States, which is almost 1 in 10, admits to using marijuana in the past year.  So you’ve got a significant amount of the population using the product and saying, “Hey, a lot of this doom and gloom I hear about marijuana, I know it isn’t true from personal experience.”

How do you foresee the future of the legal marijuana industry going?

Robert: Everyday I read an article, I see a blog, or the actions of a legislative body somewhere that raises a new facet of this legalization phenomena that I hadn’t thought of before.  As an experienced business lawyer, these last three years of really digging into this new and emerging area of the law has just been a daily challenge, but also a delight.  I love to learn new things and see how they all fit together.  And I will tell you as a business lawyer, it’s really been exciting and interesting.  I’ve met a lot of wonderful colleagues who are also lawyers here in Michigan or other places around the nation and who also have an interest in this area and it has been just a great experience.

As a lawyer, I believe that the activity we’ve undertaken here in Michigan and in a lot of other states to first of all recognize that there is large portion of our population that is interested in and uses marijuana.  And at the present, many of those people are engaged in illegal activity.  They’re criminals under our law.  And it seems to be under our law, the appropriate thing to do is to decriminalize it, recognize its power and its force, and therefore regulate it to make sure it doesn’t get into the hands of kids or is used by drivers who become dangerous on the roads of our cities and states.  But to also recognize that it does appear that there is a real place for it in our system with regulated, licensed, and legalized marijuana activity.

B-Real is a rapper best known for his work as a member of the ground-breaking California rap group, Cypress Hill.  The group’s pro-marijuana stance played a pivotal role, beginning with their 1991 debut, in bringing awareness on the subject to masses by way of lyrics, videos, and even some of the music itself.  My interview with him took place on 11/02/2016.

How do you think Hip-Hop has helped marijuana culture progress differently than say Rock and Roll from the original Woodstock era?

B-Real: Much like Reggae, marijuana lends itself to the Hip-Hop culture in terms of being more open about using it.  Not necessarily in a spiritual realm, but more – this is what we do, this is how we relax, this how we get creative, [or] whatever standpoint.  And Hip-Hop was able to hit the mainstream through various artists that talk about marijuana as well, so I think the awareness of the marijuana broadened a little bit through these artists and made it more okay rather than taboo.

In the booklet for Cypress Hill’s Black Sunday, you guys included facts about cannabis.  What was the thought process behind that?  It was definitely ahead of its time.

B-Real: We were all big fans of (author) Jack Herer and had read The Emperor Wears No Clothes and felt that we needed to take that information he was providing to the masses and expand it and put it out there where we were effective with the music aspect of it.  And it would teach others who were maybe on the fence about it.  We were basically taking a cue from Jack Herer who was a good friend and taught me a lot about the movement.  It was due to his influence that we put that up there.

What would you say the most valuable piece of information he gave you was?

B-Real: As far as the history [of marijuana], that was laid out in the books.  But it was just his passion for the fight.  I think it would be interesting to see what he thought of what’s going on now. {Mr. Herer passed away in April 2010}  He was a great guy, very humble, and he was very passionate about getting people involved and educated about cannabis and all its aspects.  Meaning not just casual use, but medical and industrial and all that.  There’s a lack of that.  Through Jack’s teachings, it still continues on and people learn about it and the history and whatnot.  And that’s a great thing.

How come it took so long for people to catch on?

B-Real: For many, many years the information has been suppressed and pretty much swept under the rug by the federal government and pharmaceutical companies because when you start getting into the healing properties of marijuana it starts putting up red flags for some of the corporations who stand to lose.  For that reason, you didn’t hear about it.  But now with the Internet and information being so freely available, people have learned and experienced for themselves or through family members their own stories and how it does have healing properties for cancer patients, and epileptic patients.  And the list goes on.  That’s something you can’t hide anymore.  The people have gotten engaged, and even the people who don’t smoke understand that it could help a family member depending on what the illness is.  It’s all progressed and stepped up another level.

Please share your thoughts on Prop 64 (A law to be voted on in California on 11/8 that, if passed, legalizes recreational marijuana use for people 21 years or older under state law and establishes taxes for both cultivation and sales).

B-Real: I know that a lot of people are on the fence.  There are people for and against it and both sides definitely have valid arguments.  For me, I’m trying to wrap my head around it.  I’ve been leaning against it because the legislation in there seems a bit contradictory to me.  At this point, I can’t really get behind it.  We all want legalization, but you know the side that’s maybe not voting for it or voting at all, whatever it is, they feel that this legislation ain’t fair.  And the people that are for it, they’re looking at it like we’ve got legalization, we’re going to be keeping people out of jail.  They’re both very valid points, but I think people that look deeper in, and people got to look for themselves.  I’m not here to say vote “Yes” or vote “No;” I’m just hear to say for me, I can’t back it because there’s just some things in there for me that are a little weird.

Also be sure to check out breal.tv, a streaming site which includes original content from the Cypress Hill frontman himself such as “The Smoke Box” and “The Dr. Greenthumb Show.”

In Part Two of this story, among other things, Devin the Dude talks about how weed helped him record his classic collaboration with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, “F··k You,” and an executive at merryjane.com shares how the site will continue to play an important role in the cannabis conversation.

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