Marijuana » Higher Ground

Politics and marijuana intertwine in 2020

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Celebrities, musicians, sports figures, and even politicians have had their careers attached to marijuana in numerous ways, both good and bad. It was once big news when anyone of note came out in support of the stuff. Now the leader of the pack in the Democratic presidential primaries flat-out says that he'll make marijuana legal. Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders would put a lot of capitalists into business with that pronouncement.

These days, coming out in support of marijuana legalization is a little less revolutionary than it once was. Frankly, we've seen a steady stream of notable names coming through Michigan banging the gong for marijuana for several years now, some of them promoting their own brands. Rapper Berner partnered with Gage to open the Cookies provisioning center in Detroit last month.

Of course, rappers and weed have always been closely associated. That has played out in the High Times Cannabis Cup events. Just this past August, Wu Tang Clan, 2 Chainz, and Warren G performed at the High Time Cannabis Cup in Detroit. But then again, the Cup folks have always brought through high-profile rappers for their groundbreaking events. Snoop Dogg visited the Green Buddha provisioning center in Ferndale while here for a show in January.

Professional sports figures are becoming fixtures in the cannabis crowd too — at least retired sports figures. Boxer Tommy Hearns appeared at LIV in Ferndale for that store's grand opening. Retired Red Wing Darren McCarty has been a fixture as a legalization activist. Lion Calvin Johnson has a Michigan provisioning center license. Mike James came out as a marijuana supporter just days before the Lions released him and his playing career ended. Former Detroit Piston John Salley spoke at last year's Hash Bash.

"Salley was [a] pretty beloved figure on behalf of the Pistons," says Nick Zettell, a Hash Bash organizer. "I doubt that back then any of his fans thought in 30 years this guy is going to be an advocate for the cannabis cause."

Comedian-actor Tommy Chong has been a cannabis advocate for, like, forever, and has made Michigan one of his regular haunts this past decade. Expect his Chong's Choice products to show up around here as recreational marijuana spreads across the state.

Politicians are taking their whacks with weed too. Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson announced his 2012 candidacy for president as a libertarian at the 2011 Hash Bash. Last year, Rep. Debbie Dingell became the first sitting national politician to speak at the event. With the Democratic primaries upon us and much of the field in support of legalization, could we see a high-level surrogate for a presidential candidate pop up at the Bash? Zettell's not naming names but says it's possible there will be a national politician at this year's bash April 4.

"It will be interesting to see how much the Democratic nomination may evolve between now and the Hash Bash," Zettell says.

It will evolve, and with Hash Bash in five weeks, we'll be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of this nominating process. We'll be past Super Tuesday on March 3, and the less-super Tuesday, March 10 the following week that six states, including Michigan, vote in. By then the field will be whittled down from the near 30 candidates we once had to the two or three headed for the finish line. Hash Bash attendees will have a sense of whether we're looking at a Democratic presidential candidate who supports marijuana legalization at the federal level or not.

We've had three former presidents, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, who used marijuana in their past but stopped using. Now we need a president who sees marijuana in the future. Maybe that's a little homework for the marijuana gang as we rev up for Hash Bash — in March, get out and vote for a candidate who will work to legalize marijuana across the country.

If you're Michigan-centric, there's more work to normalize weed and get the system straight here. That's another angle of the looming Hash Bash.

"We're continuing to keep the focus on cannabis and the issues that we face," says Zettell of Bash organizers. "People want to see a more equitable market — to improve this beyond simple legalization and possession of cannabis. There are issues that are really pertinent right now and cross over to cannabis. Fighting for prison abolition and fighting for justice in climate change — these are really important issues that you might have thought don't have an immediate relevance to cannabis."

It seems that the tendrils of cannabis influence travel everywhere. Let's keep influencing the growth.

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