Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities: Cannabis business summit on legal cannabis industry in RI

As I clipped on my name tag and walked into the Cannabis Business Summit on a recent crisp September morning, every table seemed to be filled to capacity with business professionals, hot coffees in hand and pockest full of business cards at the ready. Alongside the networking opportunity, those in attendance were surely hoping to get the latest scoop on the state of legal cannabis in RI, and what that might mean for their professional lives.

One panel focused on the emerging adult-use cannabis industry in RI, featuring local legal and financial experts in the space, as well as familiar faces like Senator Josh Miller, one of the foremost legislative champions of cannabis policy at the State House. Among the issues facing cannabis businesses in RI, it seems that complications related to banking, zoning, and business insurance remain the foremost concerns for cannabis entrepreneurs. Beyond raising capital, Miller said, “security was the biggest priority” for the stakeholders he met with, including the many “private security” services offered by retired law enforcement professionals looking to make a second career out of creating and managing security protocols for legal cannabis facilities. 

All irony aside, there are very detailed regulations for security when it comes to medical marijuana facilities in RI, according to Matthew Santacroce of the Department of Business Regulation, and those requirements will remain the starting point for the adult-use industry, due to the hybrid licensing approach that will allow existing medical dispensaries to be the first to serve both the medical and adult-use markets. 

While strict regulations can certainly be costly for business owners, it doesn’t help that the RI cannabis market has been shrinking, at least according to those who spoke on the second panel, addressing challenges and opportunities in the nascent industry. Spencer Blier, CEO and Co-Founder of Mammoth, Inc. echoed the frustrations of many cultivators in the state, who have watched helplessly as wholesale flower prices in our state have fallen to less than half of those in neighboring Massachusetts, where more retailers and fewer cultivators create a market dynamic that is much different than in RI. According to Blier, advertising restrictions as well as packaging and labeling requirements can make it difficult for a small business to develop brand recognition in traditional ways, and social media marketing has been critical for companies like Mammoth, even in smaller markets such as RI.

Cannabis is really “an agricultural industry at heart,” according to Dr. Jonathan Martin of Pure Vita labs, who compared  it to that of traditional wine production — so building a strong brand identity is even more important for small businesses that hope to stand out among corporate competition and out-of-state operators. Senator Miller shared a similar sentiment during his panel, advising that “[to] preserve the personality and vitality of the industry… smaller is better.” The future cannabis commissioners “will have a lot of work to do,” he said, “[in order to] avoid takeover from big finance.”

While “a well-funded group could easily control the entire market,” Santacroce admits, the new adult-use industry also presents an “opportunity to bring a diverse and competitive market array” to the table, and he, too, will be looking to the Cannabis Commission to create a solid framework for licensing — one that deals with any loopholes that favor corporate competitors, as well as designates new and innovative license types that will help create a diverse and competitive industry in our state. 

While I always welcome increased and ongoing public discourse around these issues, as I looked around the event I couldn’t help but wonder what (or whom) it was all for. Perhaps it was a combination of the $65 ticket price (hot continental breakfast included, don’t worry), the overwhelming lack of demographic diversity in both the panelists and audience alike, and the noticeable absence of any substantial dialogue around cannabis equity issues, but the event felt like more of the same old tropes when it comes to business, the cannabis industry, and RI in general – it is more about money, connections, and “who you know” than anything else. As it happens, the Business of Cannabis Summit was actually reflecting the present and future of the RI cannabis industry – if we don’t commit to doing better, that is. 

Ed note: There is also a Cannabis Entrepreneurial Workshop by the Cannabis Career Institute coming up, either Sat, Oct 8 or Sun, Oct 9 for $299 for a full day of tips, strategies and tactics. cannabiscareeninstitute.com

The Wonderful Women of Weed: Locals defy gender trends

While national figures show that the number of women in leadership positions within the cannabis industry is on the decline as the industry expands, some locals have defied this trend, becoming trailblazers in the Ocean State’s newest (legal) industry. Here are the stories of just a few of the wonderful women of weed in Rhode Island:

Emily Cotter, Lovewell Farms

A lifelong Rhode Islander, Emily got her start in the cannabis space as President of the University of Rhode Island’s chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy, a youth-led network dedicated to ending the War on Drugs. During her time at URI, she was involved in the campaign to decriminalize cannabis in Rhode Island, and also helped organize Hempfest, a yearly musical festival on the University Quad that helped raise awareness about the damages caused by marijuana prohibition. 

Since leaving college, Emily has stayed heavily involved in the RI cannabis space. In addition to her work with Yes We Cannabis RI – where she helped encourage the legislature to pass cannabis legalization and automatic expungement of cannabis-related offenses – Emily is also Co-Founder and COO of Lovewell Farms, a hemp farm and wellness company based in Hope Valley that uses sustainably grown CBD to make high-quality products. Despite the intense competition in the CBD space, Lovewell’s use of locally grown cannabis and commitment to using only the best ingredients has allowed the company to gain a dedicated customer base. [ed note – Cotter is also a regular contributor to Motif]

Tanya Luongo, Cannalytics RI

As a strong believer in the benefits of medical cannabis and as someone who previously spent 15 years as the director of an environmental lab, Tanya Luongo was the perfect person to help start a cannabis testing laboratory in Rhode Island. Unhappy with the quality of the cannabis testing lab she previously worked at, Tanya and co-founder Mike Pytell fled to start Cannalytics RI in 2021.

As one of the three licensed cannabis labs in the state, Cannalytics RI helps ensure that medical cannabis used by patients is free of contamination and properly marked for potency. 

Rhode Island only implemented mandatory third-party testing for medical cannabis in 2021, so Cannalytics RI has been a key player in helping the state’s testing scene get caught up with cannabis markets in other states, including the implementation of low-level beverage extraction procedures and analysis methods that had not been previously available at other labs in the state. 

Despite the fact that the company was founded only a year ago, Cannalytics RI has already become an important player in improving the quality of RI’s cannabis industry. 

Jessica Gorman, Seawitch Medicinals

In the early days of the medical cannabis program in RI, Jessica Gorman and her friends were constantly lamenting the lack of available products on dispensary shelves. Determined to rectify this situation herself, she founded SeaWitch Medicinals in 2014. The company has since grown into one of the leading providers of cannabis infused products in the state.

The Newport-based company makes a variety of tinctures, topicals, teas, and other non-smokable cannabis products in small batches, using only the finest ingredients. SeaWitch has even gotten into the cannabis beverage game, releasing a line of infused tonics that come in tantalizing flavors such as white grape and spiced apple. 

Medical patients can currently find SeaWitch products at Greenleaf, Summit and Sweetspot Dispensaries.

Adina & Sasha Birnbaum, Talaria

Talaria is a Providence-based cannabis cultivator that specializes in growing small-batch, craft flower, and is one of the few women-owned licensed cultivators in Rhode Island. After spending some time in the Pennsylvania cannabis industry, Adina Birnbaum moved to Rhode Island and started Talaria with the help of Brent VanZile, a local cannabis grower and consultant. The business is truly a family affair: Adina’s daughter Sasha also works for Talaria. 

When asked if she had any advice for women looking to get into the cannabis industry, Adina told me, “GO FOR IT!  Women are needed in this industry and there are very few of us in Rhode Island. The percentage of women cannabis consumers is growing significantly, but the number of women in C-level positions in cannabis is falling. In Rhode Island Talaria is one of the only women-owned cultivation businesses. We make up less than five percent of the industry here.”

Talaria flower is available at all four of the medical dispensaries that are currently open in the state, and Adina is excited for the opportunity to sell their products to recreational consumers once sales begin in the state.

Embrace the Offensive: PVD’s Tara Morris finds catharsis through hot power yoga

On a cold December morning, Tara Morris opened her hot power yoga class with the words, “Today’s my mom’s birthday; she would’ve been 81.” Morris’ mother Maryann passed away in September 2020 after battling Parkinson’s for 27 years. 

“It was so brutal,” says Morris. “So fucking brutal to watch a big, strong woman lose all dignity like that.” 

Morris shares these painful truths and goes on teaching, holding Instagramable poses, telling us not to focus on where it hurts but to focus on where it feels good, to admit to ourselves we aren’t “total pieces of shit.”

The Love Offensive takes place in Olneyville, in a room adorned with floor-to-ceiling Aaron Santos murals. Composed of broad yet precisely layered brushstrokes, the murals bolster Morris’ energy – they are vibrant yet calming, depicting black-and-white snapshots set against sprawling scenic spaces; they are disparate and apart until seen from a new angle, and then what seemed at odds morphs into a harmonious blanket of time. The murals engage you, they make you think, just like Morris.

“Every single class, everything that comes out of my mouth, I’m just talking to myself,” says Morris. “I’m not saying anything I know for certain and have a leg up on someone, I’m literally trying to save my own life. I’ve got ruminating thoughts and this ridiculous absolute lack of self-worth… I’m a rage-fest, ya know, and I’m trying to spin it positively. It’s the hand I was dealt. This is what I look like. This is what my life looks like.”

Morris opened The Love Offensive in 2020 after quitting her job and running a successful GoFundMe campaign that raised $54k in 45 days from 175 unique donors. Now she teaches the class she always wanted to take: really hot, really hard yoga.

On special occasions Morris uses cannabis tincture as part of her personal practice – important detail here: her personal practice, not her studio teachings; for her teachings, she is fully caffeinated. She bounces around the room, stopping here and there to demonstrate intricate poses with ease. She flits from side to side, back to front cursing, pushing you, not letting you off the hook. Her teachings are a challenge, an interrogation; they dare you to trust yourself. There’s no try, only do. She says, “You can do it but you have to make the choice.” She believes in you. 

“We’re so fucking lucky, that’s the lesson I learned from my mom. She wasn’t like Yoda, she wasn’t like, ‘Tara, you see I am the Buddhist tradition of non-self…’ no, she just knew she had to split Parkinson’s in her mind, she had to make it a mountain to climb every day rather than a defeat. She didn’t have a career or anything, she was a manager at a storage unit place and this is what she did with her life: actively meet the worst fate with balls, just absolute fucking balls. And that’s what I teach in my class, because of her, with her really.” 

“The artist fire is who I am. Sometimes it makes me so fuckin sideways but it’s my fuel. I’m not content and I never will be and I never have been. I have a fucking rage inside of me and sometimes I appreciate it and sometimes I don’t and at the end of the day I think I like it more than I hate it, so it’s staying, which is wonderful news for self-acceptance.”

Morris began integrating cannabis into her personal practice when she found herself in the grips of a debilitating anxiety attack and the thought occurred to her, “I could smoke pot and go to yoga, I know people who do that.” So she did. Opting for whole plant infusion tincture because it’s healthier than smoking, Morris found cannabis gave her the space to ease her anxiety and settle her mind, it gave her the breath she needed to find the present moment and recall her good fortune: her able body and the supportive community that made her dream her reality. 

“Whatever chemistry is happening [with cannabis], the sensations are enhanced and it makes the practice come alive… like how music and food sound and taste better, it’s more interesting in that way, it’s more emotional, more of a release; it takes everything that’s good about yoga and dials it up.”

At the end of class, everyone is red-faced and dripping with sweat and Tara wants to know how we feel. We say we are not losers. We did it. We worked hard. We gave. We dug. We faced ourselves. We are thankful.

It’s easy to hate on yoga: its ubiquity, those rubber mats, that neon lycra. But if you need the comfort of a challenge, embrace The Love Offensive. Or don’t. As Morris says, “Everyone who’s not in on doing yoga, they’re sick of hearing it, just like anyone would be. And the people who love it – who’ve found emotional freedom from the habits of the mind, from the suffering of the mind – we can’t say enough good things about it.”

For more information on The Love Offensive, including Morris’ upcoming yoga retreats, visit theloveoffensive.com. For more information on cannabis tincture, speak to a retail associate at your preferred cannabis dispensary.

Medical Marijuana Update: The Long-Awaited Lottery

We’re finally here folks, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – and I seriously hope none of you were holding your breath. 

It’s been two and a half long years since a major expansion of the medical marijuana program was approved, and almost a full year since the lottery was expected to take place, but Rhode Island finally has six new compassion centers! 

Oh wait, no, sorry, that’s five new centers – as it turns out, all is still not said and done. If you’ve been following along with the lottery to expand retail access to medical marijuana in our state, you know it’s been a really long, drawn-out train wreck in super slow motion. 

For laughs and embarrassment, let’s take a look at how it all went down, what took so long, and who stands to benefit.

Why do a lottery to begin with? 

When deciding amongst the qualified applicants (whatever that means), how the state attempted to ensure a fair, unbiased selection process was critical. Proponents of the lottery argued that it was a more equitable process than the typical merit-based selection method, while those opposed said that “leaving it all to chance” could be risky business when it comes to the health and safety of medical marijuana patients in RI. 

Among the seventy plus licensed cultivators in RI, many of whom applied for one of the coveted new retail licenses, opinions lay on both sides of the fence. 

Unsurprisingly, some are now bitter at losing their chance at the first green rush to hit RI since medical marijuana was legalized back in 2006. 

Many others, even some of those who didn’t get lucky in the lottery, are welcoming the changes, because none of the new dispensaries will be permitted to cultivate their own cannabis, thereby increasing the pool of potential buyers for the existing cultivators’ product nearly threefold.

This whole lottery thing started when former Governor Raimondo insisted on moving forward with the process, much to the chagrin of lawmakers, who were used to getting their way and wanted to manipulate… er, have a say in … the selection. 

Gina’s goal, and I can’t fault her for it, was to create an appearance of fairness in the process, sans the typical RI political cronyism we’ve come to expect from Smith Hill. 

After literal years of delays due to issues with the company contracted to run the lottery (lowest bidder, most likely — typical RI), disqualifications, appeals, and the like, the state took matters into its own hands and decided to conduct the lottery itself.  So it’s fitting that after all this, the conclusion of the lottery saga (for now) was just as much, if not more so, about creating the appearance of an unbiased selection process.

So, at 10am on a Fridayin late October, live streamed on Zoom for all to witness: 

  • One clear acrylic tumbler borrowed from Twin River Casino, an apparent symbol of the state’s commitment to transparency throughout the process.
  • 23 bouncing yellow plastic RI Lottery balls, each representing a “qualified” company. 
  • Two men of great power and responsibility, standing sheepishly at the helm of the ship they have been desperately trying to keep afloat. 
  • One (an FBI agent!) wears a pale short sleeved button-up and a blindfold, looking like a math teacher ready to smash a pinata
  • And both seem acutely aware of the seriousness of their duty, despite the absolute joke of a process. 

I wasn’t in the room, but I can only imagine the high fives and bro hugs shared by the lucky winners and their lawyers. 

Now that they’ve received their preliminary licenses, they have nine months to meet the requirements for a final license and open their doors – AKA blow any money they have left to make sure that the wheels don’t fall off this close to the finish line. 

Each company had invested $10,000 just for the application fee. Then add on the costs of real estate, legal fees, and everything else that must be done to appear on paper as a “qualified” candidate. One company (a multi-state operator out of Massachusetts, no surprise there) submitted three separate applications! And that was all just to get in the door

The winners get to kick back … er, pay … $500,000 PER YEAR in licensing fees to the state. This pay-to-play scenario is not only the highest in the nation, but an impossible barrier to entry for any RI entrepreneur who doesn’t have significant financial backing.

That kind of money wrecked any chance of awarding licenses that prioritized socioeconomic equity, small business support, and reparative justice for those harmed by the war on cannabis.

We are going to see large, corporate, multi-state operators coming into RI to take advantage of both our insatiable demand for marijuana and our status as an “island of prohibition” among the rest of the New England states that have already moved to legalize cannabis for recreational use. 

I suppose we can be grateful that the nearly 20,000 medical marijuana patients in Rhode Island, plus the 18,000 out-of-state patients who rely on our medical program, will now have more than three options when purchasing their medicine. Not that this change will even begin to address the accessibility issues that patients face when it comes to medical marijuana. But that’s another topic for another day… For now, we’ll watch the winners of THC Bingo unfurl their business plans over the coming year.

Stoner Stocking Stuffers: Pot-entially excellent gifts

Getting gifts for the cannabis lover in your life can be quite an undertaking. With an ever-growing list of options and the average stoner’s taste becoming more sophisticated, you can easily rack your brain trying to nail down the perfect gift. Thankfully, I’ve done a lot of the legwork for you and narrowed down some of the best items for anyone who enjoys cannabis.

For the Classic Smoker:

Flower is probably the product we all know the best, but can often be the hardest to decide on. If you’re looking for something with a little more pep, look out for White Nightmare, a sativa-hybrid from Cultivate in MA. The name might sound intimidating, but it delivers that classic head-high without leaving you too dazed. You can find this strain at Cultivate’s own dispensaries scattered throughout the state or at many of the other dispensaries. (I originally found these guys at Apotho Therapeautics in Plainville, but I’ve seen it at several other locations).

Now if you’re like me, and prefer a more relaxed sensation from your flower, you have to check out the Member Berry indica-hybrid strain. The best part about this strain is that it’s grown by several different growers throughout RI and MA, and they all deliver that euphoric sensation that’s perfect to help prep for bed or relax before a long movie. 

If the person you’re buying for is always looking for something new, check out the slew of new strains coming out at Greenleaf in Portsmouth (medical only). These include Layer Cake (hybrid), Mr Clean (sativa-hybrid), Purple Drank Breath (indica dom), Tangie & Cream (sativa dom). Each of these unique hybrids deliver pungent terpenes with a smooth smoke. No matter which one you pick, it’s sure to be fresh and full of flavor.

For the One who likes to “Eat Green:”

I’ve always been a lover of edibles, and I appreciate seeing new brands become available. For the chocaholic in your life, grab a delicious laced-candybar from Incredibles. They have a ton of different flavors, such as the “Peanut Buddha Bar” and the “Bay State Bar,” and every one is packed with flavor. At 100mg per bar, they’re easy to break up to get the perfect dosage.

If the person you’re gifting is into something a little more fruity, keep an eye out for Betty’s Eddies. These vegan taffies come in a variety of flavors, without the earthy aftertaste. My personal favorites are the lemon-flavored “Bedtime Betties,” which also contain melatonin to send you off to sweet dreams as you drift into blissful slumber.

For the Experienced User:

Cannabis extracts can be a little intense for some, but we’ve come a long way from seeing someone bust out a blow-torch at a frat party. If you’re able to visit a medical dispensary in Rhode Island, I highly recommend the array of concentrates made by Mammoth RI. From their Glue Cheese Live Rosin to their Scooby Snacks THC Diamonds, they deliver that heavy impact with robust flavors that are perfect for the cannabis lover who isn’t afraid to take it to the next level.

I must also give an honorable mention to Northeast Alternatives in Fall River for their wide selection of extracts, many which are made in-house. Between the great selection and knowledgeable staff, you’re sure to walk out with a great extract to give (and hopefully a little something for you).

For the Dabbler:

We all have someone in our lives that likes to dabble in the dank. They enjoy the occasional party puff or a gummy before a concert, and generally prefer a lighter touch when it comes to cannabis. For this particular giftee, you should definitely look for Cann Social Tonics. These 8oz canned tonics contain 2mg of THC and 4mg of CBD giving you a balanced and relaxed sensation. They also come in several great flavors like Lemon-Lavender and Grapefruit-Rosemary.

Now if they’re someone who has a little more experience, but still prefers to only occasionally partake, you should definitely grab them some Howl’s Tincture. These tinctures make it easy to give yourself the perfectly measured dose, and they even categorize them by Daytime, Nighttime, and Anytime. It’s great for the person who likes a specific feeling at a specific time. They’re available at Summit Compassion Center in Warwick (for medical patients only) as well as many of the recreational dispensaries in Mass.

Greenleaf Compassion Center: 1637 W Main Rd, Portsmouth, RI 02871

Summit Medical Compassion Center: 380 Jefferson Blvd, Warwick, RI 02886

Cultivate: Locations in Leicester, Framingham, and Worcester

Apotho Therapeautics: 119 Washington St, Plainville, MA 02762

Northeast Alternatives: 999 William S Canning Blvd, Fall River, MA 02721

Cannabis Gift Guide 2021: For Those On-the-Go

Whether your upcoming travel plans include heading to Grandma’s house for the holidays, hiking in the wintery woods, or finally getting on a plane again, here’s hoping this winter will offer the “booster” that we need, so more Americans can continue to maintain the go-go-go lifestyles we so love to hate. In that festive spirit, I’ve put together a gift guide for the cannabis lover in your life that is always on the move – clever, affordable, and convenient ways to take your ganja on the go, so you can “stay grinding” in style. 

Green Jay Rechargeable Windproof Electric Lighter – $20

I mean, it’s all in the name, isn’t it? This little device may look like it came out of a galaxy far away, but it just may be the ticket to a winter free from cold, wet, dead lighters. Safe, subtle, and completely wind-proof, this lighter is fossil fuel-free and can last up to 30 hours before recharging.

Verde Grinder Card – $20

Leave the bulky, sticky metal grinder at home, and slip this sleek little number into your wallet for convenient and effective herb grinding on-the-go. You may be skeptical at first (I know I was), but at only $20, you’ll be amazed at how well it does the job!

Stay On the Grass” Water Bottle – $21

Black woman-owned business Jane Parade always nails it with unique cannabis-themed gifts, and this 16oz Nalgene is no exception — a great choice for the subtle stoner in your life who takes their hydration seriously. Or, who really needs to start carrying a reusable water bottle…

The Battpack by Octave – $79

Is it a universal charger? A travel safe? It’s BATTPACK! This multitasker combines the convenience of a portable charger with the security of a secret stash container accessed by an “adult-proof” button. Now you can charge your device and store your valuables in one safe spot, and it even includes a sleek stainless steel magnetic tray for a clean, contained surface for… whatever….

PenSimple – $59.99

Another multitasker, PenSimple is advertised as “a revolutionary herb grinder and portable storage vault” that allows you to grind, store, and dispense up to 3 grams of ground cannabis (or any other herb, like dried basil) on-the-go. In a world where clean hands are more important than ever, I can definitely see the appeal of a tool like this.

Higher Standards x Revelry Companion – $55

Stylish and sturdy, this black-on-black fanny pack is durable, water-resistant and odor absorbing, complete with a carbon filtration system and secret stash pocket to keep it discrete. Form meets function to make the perfect gift for your cannabis-loving friend who rocks a fanny pack.

Oaksterdam University: The Future of the Cannabis Industry

oaksterdamSLIDEOn August 15th through 17th, the RI Convention Center will be home to a rare three-day seminar presented by Oaksterdam University and hosted by the legendary Todd McCormick. During this program, Grow Medicine, Todd will discuss his personal history in the industry, commercial cultivation and the future of the cannabis industry. This event promises to be both informative and entertaining. Visit the Oaksterdam University website: oaksterdamuniversity.com or Todd’s site at hemp.xxx for event specifics and registration information.

To truly comprehend the significance of this event, however, one must first understand the two major players bringing this presentation to the East Coast. Oaksterdam University is the first university of its kind formed in the US. Founded in 2007 by Richard Lee, OU was modeled after Cannabis College in Amsterdam, where the primary focus of the curriculum was horticulture. Unlike Cannabis College, Richard recognized the potential for a booming industry that expanded beyond growing cannabis. When Oaksterdam was founded, Richard introduced courses in cannabis trade, politics, history and legal issues to offer students a broader scale of knowledge and a better chance to succeed in what could be the next big industry in our country.

Since 2007, Oaksterdam University has provided quality training about cannabis and marijuana policy reform for over 17,000 students at several US campuses. “The institution offers the chance to learn about this controversial plant, and creates an interesting blend of individuals and opportunity,” said Dale Sky Jones, Executive Chancellor. “OU welcomes diverse students who are looking to change careers; some simply want to brush up on their horticulture skills. OU also attracts business owners who want to train their staff, folks who want to open their own business, and patients simply trying to understand the law and their rights. More and more baby boomers are discovering they would rather smoke pot than reach for pharmaceuticals.”

Seven years later, OU has become the pioneer in addressing the growing needs of the marijuana movement — from patients to regulators — and has compiled an impressive academic staff, that includes some of the most recognized names in the cannabis industry. Their goal is to remove the stigma associated with the cannabis industry and provide the necessary knowledge and training to make it a respected and acceptable career path.

The second major player to participate in this event is presenter Todd McCormick. Todd started growing marijuana in 1984 to combat the side effects of cancer treatments. Between the ages of 2 and 10, Todd underwent long-term chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, and had nine major operations in his fight against a rare disease called Histiocytosis X. When his mother feared that he would not survive a new tumor in the soft tissue next to his heart, she decided to give him some marijuana medicinally. Todd was 9 years old at the time, and his mother’s decision saved and changed his life.

Since 1994, Todd has been an activist, publicist and researcher of cannabis. He collaborated with Jack Herer on the ground-breaking book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. In the mid-90s he lived in Amsterdam, where he became one of the first 10 patients in The Netherlands to receive a prescription for medicinal marijuana. Best-selling author Peter McWilliams brought McCormick back to California in 1997 in order to write his first book: How to Grow Medical Marijuana. That summer, the DEA raided Todd’s Bel Air home and destroyed all the legal plants on the premises; years of work and rare genetics were lost forever. After a three-year-long legal battle, Todd was denied a medical necessity defense in federal court and imprisoned for five years. His only crime was growing and studying the medicine that saved his life.

There is no blueprint for what these pioneers of the cannabis industry are trying to accomplish in our country. Every day is a new learning experience where we must conquer new hurdles. We must master the art of not only growing and cultivating the marijuana plant, but also the art of regulating and refining the distribution and sale of these products. The best way to approach this industry is to set up for success but prepare for the worst. With people like Todd McCormick and organizations like Oaksterdam University, opportunities to do so are becoming more plentiful.

Providence Prohibition Party Brings Entertainment and Raises Awareness

prohibitionProvidence’s first ever official hemp festival was held on July 12 at Simon’s 667, hosted by Mike Liberty and Dave Death. Called the Providence Prohibition Party, the event drew a fun-loving and diverse crowd throughout its course, which spanned from early afternoon to the wee hours of the morning, transitioning from local indie and rock bands at the outdoor stage to an indoor EDM party. As well as music, there were beer tastings, artists and vendors selling posters and glass pipes.

While all in good fun, there was also a political undercurrent to the event – 10% of the proceeds from the day went to Regulate RI, an organization founded on the premise that marijuana prohibition has led to class and sex discrimination and does far more harm than good for the people of this state. They look forward to introducing a change to the legislation in 2015, but claim that legalizing and regulating marijuana is only the tip of the iceberg.

During one of the speeches given in between musical acts, Anne Armstrong, who is running for governor of Rhode Island, stated that pot “cures every illness” and that there is no reason why people should not have free and easy access to it. Although perhaps hyperbolic, her message was agreed with by the majority of people in attendance. Phrases such as “hemp is a beautiful product” and “what harm does it cause?!” were popular statements from party-goers. For those who support the cause, there were petitions and all the information on hemp and marijuana laws you could need available.

The first Providence Prohibition Party was a great success, and hopefully 2015 will bring some movement in the cause!

A History of Revolution Leads to the Providence Prohibition Party

Progressive Change with Providence Prohibition Party

hempfestIn 1972, one of the first documented hemp festivals in the US took place in Ann Arbor, Mich. It was a response to new Michigan legislation that reduced the penalty for marijuana possession from 10 years to 1 year and the penalty for marijuana sale from a life sentence to a 4-year sentence. Though these changes seemed a great victory to those against marijuana prohibition, some felt that they didn’t do enough. And so was born the Hash Bash. Shortly thereafter, Michigan made even greater strides toward reform, practically decriminalizing marijuana use by replacing prison sentences for possession with a $5 fine (now $25).

Hundreds of other cannabis-related events take place each year. In 1989, the Boston Freedom Rally began and has become one of the largest hemp festivals in the world. In 1991 the first Seattle Hemp Fest took place and has become the world’s largest public gathering to advocate for marijuana decriminalization. Even under the scrutiny of federal law, these events continue to sprout up and grow each year, defiant of the unjust laws that bind them. In states such as Colorado and Washington, rallies have led to massive changes in laws and regulations. Decriminalization and medical marijuana laws now are recognized in over 23 states with many others, including Rhode Island, seeking full legalization and regulation.

In Rhode Island, a bill to regulate and tax marijuana was completely discarded by the house judiciary committee this year. In response to the legislature’s refusal to acknowledge a shift in public opinion, Rhode Islanders will make their own statement. 13 Folds Magazine is hosting Providence’s first hemp festival, dubbed the Providence Prohibition Party and sponsored by Motif, MBS, Green Side Up, Regulate RI and a variety of  other organizations that want to end RI’s failed war on drugs. This event will feature local celebrities, political activists, vendors and performers as well as some of the very best local and national bands, including Boo City and Atlantic Thrills. There will be an indoor dance party running all night for those who like to travel with glow sticks, and a beer tasting sponsored by New England breweries, such as Fool Proof and Bucket Brewery, will take place between 4 and 7pm.

Though it may not carry the same recognition as other festivals, this event is just as relevant. It represents a challenge to unjust laws and a desire for progressive change. Decriminalization and medical acceptance are a step forward in the fight to end prohibition, yet they are not enough. Too many families, communities and futures have been destroyed by the authority’s actions toward a substance less harmful than tobacco, alcohol or even sugar. Too many tax dollars have been spent and too many lives have been lost in an attempt to eradicate a substance that was once considered this country’s number one cash crop. Too many lies and misconceptions have been perpetrated for us to accept anything less than a complete overhaul in our marijuana laws and reparation toward those unjustly prosecuted. In order to fully right the wrongs that this war against marijuana has caused, we must follow the lead of those who pioneered the historical Hash Bash and push for full legalization and regulation … and nothing less.

Please join the Providence Prohibition Party on Saturday, July 12, at Simon’s on 677 Valley St., Providence, to support the movement. Ten percent of all proceeds will go to Regulate RI to help fund the mission to reeducate society on the truths behind the war on drugs, its effects on our community and its negative impact on cultural and industrial progress. This event will also provide local artists and musicians the opportunity to gain exposure and support themselves. The Providence Prohibition Party will allow our community to come together in support of one another and demonstrate our commitment to bringing about change to archaic regulations.

To learn more, visit 13 Folds Magazine‘s events page on Facebook: facebook.com/13FoldsMagazine/events

Phenomenons in Politics — Tri-Partisan Support in RI? The Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act

Bill: H-7506 “Held For Further Study”


On May 16, a RI House Judiciary Committee recommended that the Marijuana Regulation, Control & Taxation Act (Bill: H-7506) be “held for further study” along with six other marijuana-related bills. What this means is that they will wait for those who proposed the bill to come back with more convincing research that would warrant an actual vote. What this really means is that the committee most likely will not vote on the bill during this session and it will be pushed aside, never to be spoken of again. Many people involved with the movement to end prohibition in our fine state consider this recommendation to be a defeat of the new bill. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

There is tri-partisan support for H-7506, which is a phenomenon in itself, and this is the second year in a row that such legislation has been presented to the house. Over 53 percent of Rhode Islanders support legalization. Bob Plain, Editor/Publisher of Rhode Island’s Future, writes, “Legalizing marijuana could mean $82 million in annual revenue for RI.” The statistics from Colorado and Washington have all been encouraging in matters concerning revenue, crime and adolescent use. The same can be said for those states with decriminalization and medical marijuana laws. What more convincing research could this committee need?

You have to ask what the true motivation behind such a decision could be. With any politician, it is essentially votes, is it not? Morals and values definitely play a huge part in any politically held position, but in order to get to that position — and stay there — you ultimately need to win the popularity contest. This means listening to the constituents in your district and representing their popular views. Therefore, one can assume that those who are opposed to legalization are being more vocal about their views in all of the right places.

To counteract this type of influence, be more vocal about your personal views and make them known, not only to your local politicians but to the people in your community. Those who oppose an end to prohibition are often just misinformed or influenced by the stigma associated with marijuana use. Present those who are unaware of the facts with sources and research that prove an end to prohibition is a move toward progress. Become active in local politics, contribute to your community and present yourself in a responsible manner. Lead by example and others will follow, especially when the example is just.

Here are a few great resources for anyone interested in the legalization movement:

Contact Regulate RI and join the coalition to end prohibition in RI. regulateri.com
The Marijuana Policy Project (mpp.org) is a invaluable resource to the movement. They have a vast database of reports, studies, bills and other cannabis-related news and information.
The Drug Policy Alliance has an impressive blog, as well as a plethora of facts concerning individual rights, drug war statistics and more. drugpolicyalliance.org
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is an organization that has front line experience in the war on drugs and seeks to stop it. leap.cc