As we round the corner past Christmas and head into the new year, there is no doubt that most of us are ready to put 2020 in the rearview mirror with confidence that better days lie ahead. Let’s face it, though, none of us are going to forget this chaotic calendar year anytime soon, especially if you are an advocate of the cannabis plant which went from controversial to ‘essential’ real quick.
In a Coronavirus-restricted year where days have felt like weeks and weeks have felt like months, it should come as no surprise that even the results of our November election will not be finalized until a runoff in Georgia in January.
The makeup of our federal government in 2021 will absolutely determine the future of cannabis reform at the highest level, but with those results still a bit hazy we figured now is a great opportunity to look back at this unforgettable window in time and appreciate the strides our movement took and how that relates to the bigger picture.
HINDSIGHT ON 2020
This year began much like the ones that led up to it – a nation diving deeper into a division formed by politics, with the November election looming over us all before the ball even dropped on New Year’s Eve in 2019.
Sensible cannabis reform legislation addressing the federal prohibition of the plant advanced further through the lawmaking process than any such bills had before, but ultimately stalled on the desks of old, uneducated men in power.
Meanwhile, states that had grown tired of waiting for federal cannabis reform were raking in millions of dollars in tax revenue from legalized medical and recreational use markets from coast to coast. Illinois, for example, launched its adult-use recreational cannabis market in January of this year and saw $3.2 million in sales on the first day that dispensaries opened to the public.
In February, the news began to report more widely on COVID-19 spreading, and by March, vast swaths of the nation were “locked down”, with all but “essential” services being put on pause, and millions of Americans being told to stay home unless absolutely necessary.
Examples of businesses deemed to be “essential”, and therefore able to remain in operation, included hospitals, grocery stores, and gas stations. Bars, restaurants, beauty salons, and even most schools on the other hand were forced to close their doors throughout the spring.
From Day 1 of these so-called lockdowns, however, cannabis was granted that “essential” status, allowing dispensaries and deliveries to stay in operation, as well as allowing the entire supply chain from seed to sale to remain intact.
It would be nice to believe that local governments did this out of compassion, realizing the efficacy of the cannabis plant as an ingredient for overall wellness, but the reality is that they were happy raking in those fat tax revenues and did not want to interrupt those streams.
Either way, cannabis consumers and producers benefitted from those decisions and in the process grabbed the attention of a lot of curious Americans who were suddenly seeking nature’s ingenuity.
CANNABIS IS COMPASSION
‘Compassion’ is used far too often as a marketing buzzword in this industry, but its roots run much deeper than that in the cannabis culture.
It is the care for others and the respect for those who came before you that endear people to this grassroots culture – two ideals that have hit home for a lot of people during this pandemic.
At any point during the decades-long War on Weed, if you look at who has been fighting on the front lines on behalf of this plant, you will without a doubt find people of color and military veterans in the proverbial foxholes.
For their effort, they have remained the most oppressed by our society when it comes to cannabis use.
It should be common knowledge and cause for mass outrage by now, but it bears repeating that Black people are arrested and incarcerated at exponentially higher rates on cannabis-related charges than their Caucasian counterparts, even though we all consume it in relatively equal ratios.
This isn’t some decades-old statistic. A 2020 report from the American Civil Liberties Union stated, “Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates.” It concludes, “In every single state, Black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, and in some states, Black people were up to six, eight, or almost ten times more likely to be arrested. In 31 states, racial disparities were actually larger in 2018 than they were in 2010.”
This year we witnessed the inevitable result of such systemic racism in a criminal (in)justice system in the wake of the murder of George Floyd under the oppressive knee of law enforcement officers in Milwaukee.
Millions of fed-up Americans of all races and walks of life took to the streets in cities across the country to protest police violence and demand reform.
The cannabis community was already working on a blueprint to address such inequality by way of mandatory social equity programs aimed at ensuring that the folks most negatively impacted by these racist law enforcement tactics be allowed to benefit from the new multi-million-dollar industry.
Also on the battleline of criminal justice reform, 2020 saw the levee begin to break on the 40,000+ prisoners still serving time on petty cannabis charges while dudes in suits are allowed to make millions from selling the same plant. The passage of new recreational cannabis use laws not only protects those 21 and up from catching future charges, these laws can now retroactively help to make right what they once got so very wrong. Expungement efforts from coast to coast have seen hundreds of thousands of past cannabis charges either reduced from felonies down to misdemeanors or expunged entirely from one’s permanent record.
Additionally, due to the frighteningly high occurrence of COVID-19 infections in our nations’ prison system, several high-profile, long-serving, non-violent cannabis warriors were finally freed from behind bars and allowed to return home to their families. You can bet that they will never forget this year.
OUR MILITARY VETERANS DESERVE BETTER
Post-Election Day, we witnessed as the United States House of Representatives passed the MORE Act, a multi-faceted piece of cannabis legislation that would, at its core, completely remove the cannabis plant from the Controlled Substances Act, thereby ending the blanket prohibition currently employed by the federal government.
The Senate still needs to co-sign the passage of the MORE Act, and if they were to do so, the positive impact it would have on our nation’s military veteran community cannot be overstated.
2020 will always be the year that hundreds of our elected officials occupying the most powerful positions in our government went on the record in favor of cannabis reform for our nation’s vets… finally!
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has reliably blamed the prohibition of cannabis by the feds for their own ignorance of the plant and for their reluctance to offer medical cannabis as a potential treatment option to their patients.
Instead, too many of our vets are laced with pharmaceutical cocktails with a myriad of side effects that is undoubtedly contributing to the unacceptable suicide rate that we see in our veteran community.
While that will not come to an end in 2020, the efforts made this year by cannabis advocates may mean that 2020 is the last year that those who served this country will be neglected by it when it comes to safe access to this plant.
Our military veterans have always led the way on cannabis reform and 2021 must be the year that the nation returns that favor to them.
CHOP WOOD. CARRY WATER.
On Election Day in November, voters in Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, New Jersey, and even Louisiana all cast their ballots in favor of cannabis reform, leaving the plant undefeated everywhere it “ran”. This overwhelming support came, in part, because even voters who may have no interest in consuming cannabis still saw how it can have a positive impact on their communities, without the alleged risks that they had been warned about for so many years.
It may seem like 2020 was nothing but wins for weed, there is a saying in politics that after you win, you still must chop wood and carry water.
All that means is that there is always more work to do.
When it comes to social equity in emerging cannabis markets, there is still more work to do.
When it comes to compassion for those left behind by those markets, there is still more work to do.
2021 will be the time to build on all of the positive aspects that can be extracted from 2020.
At Sky Blue Vapor, the focus all year has been on continuing to provide safe, reliable products to the vaping and cannabis communities. It was intriguing to watch the entire #VapeGate scandal go down in 2019, then watch the industry ‘essentially’ self-regulate and kick those bad actors to the curb, restoring the public’s faith that vaporizing is a safe, reliable form of consumption.
Putting our money where our mouth is, we are proud to offer multi-use discounts to all military veterans and medical patients.
It has been a good year over here, but not everyone can say that. Until they can, let’s chop wood and carry water, together.