In a historic vote at the United Nations yesterday (12.2.2020), the democratic and developed world officially recognized the medicinal value of cannabis — a plant that has been used therapeutically for thousands of years. The vote passed after experts from the World Health Organization last year recommended the UN’s Commission for Narcotic Drugs remove cannabis from a list of drugs previously judged to have little medical benefit.
In December 2018, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal entity to recognize cannabis as a viable treatment for medical indications.
Veteran participation in state marijuana programs does not affect eligibility for VA care and services. VA providers can and do discuss marijuana use with Veterans as part of comprehensive care planning, and adjust treatment plans as necessary.
U.S., Canada, Mexico, U.K., France, Germany, Australia and 20 other nations voted for change. Authoritarian nations, such as Russia headed a bloc of countries – including China, Brazil, Pakistan, Iraq and Nigeria in opposition.
The original decision [in 1961] to prohibit cannabis lacked scientific basis and was rooted in colonial prejudice and racism. It disregarded the rights and traditions of communities that have been growing and using cannabis for medicinal, therapeutic, religious and cultural purposes for centuries, and has led to millions being criminalised and incarcerated across the globe.”
Anna Fordham, executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced official clarification and guidance to defer to state laws and regulations regarding medical cannabis beginning in 2009. Although Presidents Obama and Trump rarely agreed on policy, both followed the DOJ’s lead on cannabis:
As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.
The State of Nevada passed comprehensive employment legislation over a year ago protecting recreational and medical cannabis users. A positive test for cannabis in pre-employment drug screenings won’t cost the applicant their job.
Similar to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which explicitly adheres to DOJ guidance, there are exceptions to the Nevada law for safety-sensitive employees. These protections do not apply to:
- Emergency personnel
- Workers who, “in the determination of the employer, could adversely affect the safety of others.”
New York City may soon follow Nevada exempting most prospective job applicants from being penalized for cannabis use. The City Council passed legislation by a 40–4 vote this week that affects both public and private employers in the city, including companies with headquarters outside city limits.
In Chicago, as Illinois recently passed recreational cannabis legislation, some companies simply forgo drug testing altogether. Relativity, a Chicago-based legal tech company, doesn’t conduct screenings. They trust their employees to be professional:
“We don’t do drug screenings for two main reasons. First, the jobs within our organization do not require a pre-employment drug test and second we trust that our team members will make the appropriate decisions in order to be a productive member of our teams while adhering to local laws.”
Matt Garvey, director of talent acquisition, Relativity
In February 2019, Hawaiian Electric CEO & President Constance Hee Lau’s executive team fired me for being a legal medical cannabis patient. I was employed in a non-safety sensitive position serving as DBA and data analyst. My manager and the IT department loved my work. They offered me an internal position after servicing successfully for over six months as a contracted employee.
Not only did I check policy guidelines (above) to be sure my medication was permitted, I specifically asked my HR rep. She told me I would be fine. Connie Lau would not have fired me had I used an opioid.
Hawaiian Electric has some 127 years of racist and colonial interference in the islands. Top executives led the overthrow of the Hawai’i Kingdom in 1893 by pushing Queen Lili’uokalani off the thrown in an illegal and immoral coup. The Hawaiian queen had agreed to grant a franchise for electric generation to a local company. A few days later, a group of men that included Hawaiian Electric leaders betrayed the monarchy. [source]
Connie Lau continues racist and colonial discrimination in Hawai’i. Cannabis prohibition has punished men and Native Hawaiians (Kanaka Maoli) harshly. About 60% of registered patients in Hawaii’s program are male.
Elderly women in Hawai’i, such as privileged 68-year-old Connie Lau, and Texas-transplant, 74-year-old state Senator Roz Baker (below), block progress. Gallup’s survey research (2019) shows older Americans are the least likely to support legalization. We used to look up to our kupuna for wisdom. Now, we’re anxiously waiting for them to retire or die. How sad is that?
Younger, more dynamic and compassionate female leaders, such as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and Hawaii’s U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard support full legalization of cannabis. It’s time for the Old Guard to step down. Just Say Go!
Institutional Racism of Cannabis Prohibition
In 1970, Republican president Richard Nixon overruled his own select panel, Shafer Commission, and classified marihuana (cannabis, marijuana) illegal in the most stringent schedule of the Controlled Substance Act, which claims these drugs have no currently accepted medical indication and high potential for abuse. Nixon sought ways to discriminate against Blacks and anti-war protestors.
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news.”
John Erlichmann, Nixon’s Domestic Policy Chief, 1994
In 1996, voters (56%) in the state of California were the first in the nation to legalize cannabis for medical purposes. Millions of people felt there were legitimate medical purposes. The legislature in the state of Hawai’i led the nation authorizing medical cannabis in 2000. These leaders believed there were accepted medical applications.
Today, Gallup research shows there are essentially no meaningful differences in support for legal cannabis by gender, education, income, region and urban/suburban/rural residence — between 60% and 70% of subgroup members within those categories favor legalization.
State senator Roz Baker claims to be a Democrat. She’s a DINO — Democrat In Name Only. Gallup points out twenty-five points separate Democrat (76%) and Republican (51%) support for making cannabis legal, with independents (68%) near the national average. In addition, 82% of liberals versus 48% of conservatives want to see cannabis legalized, a 34-point difference.
After our recent election, four more states legalized all use; Mississippi legalized medical cannabis. The nation of Canada has legalized all use. Mexico will be fully legal later this month. Only six (6) U.S. states maintain cannabis fully illegal (Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina. Kentucky only permits CBD products). The illustration below shows the status of states. [source]
Americans and the world have rapidly shifted to backing legal cannabis in the past decade after consistently expressing opposition for 40 years. Albert Einstein seems to have said it best, “Once you stop learning, you start dying.” There’s a lot of dying people in political office and senior positions in Hawai’i.
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