by LaWann Stribling
The National Cannabis Festival truly did its thing AGAIN! As a 1st timer to the Policy Summit to a returning Advocacy Vendor to a Ticket Holder to enjoy the festivities the entire showcase was set up for everyone’s enjoyment that’s 21 and over. If you didn’t get a chance to attend the Summit this year, be sure to sign up for next year when it is available. The Amphitheater at the Ronald Reagan Building gave off a natural flowy intimate vibe for these one on ones and panelist discussions. You missed the opportunity to hear from amazing Women in Advocacy like Toi Hutchinson President & Founder MPP to US Senate Candidate Gary Chambers Jr Gary Chambers for Louisiana | Do Good. Seek Justice. Did I mention the matter of water retention? It is always a great place to be when you get to learn new things. I find it peculiar that this summit was held at the Ronald Reagan Building “Just Say No”!
Now that 420 is out the way let's get back to focusing on ACTION!
That action being advocating, educating and lobbying for Parents, Adults and Children Patients to have #cannabisfreedom. Cannabis Freedom should be a birth right for every individual born. Are you aware that prior to the introduction of hypodermic needles cannabis was medicine for everyone? I recall opening the medicine cabinet in our family home in NWDC growing up and seeing tincture bottles. Cannabis as medicine can be traced back 6000 years. You can find many references in medical journals from China, India & Egypt. These journals document the uses of hemp for its protein rich fibers, oils and seeds to produce cloths, paper and rope. India lists cannabis as 1 of the five sacred plants of Hinduism. Cannabis was integral in worship. People started using it to alleviate epilepsy, rabies, rheumatism, anxiety, and even bronchitis and asthma. To this date cannabis is an essential ingredient to a popular drink called bhang.
Historical evidence suggests China was the 1st culture to use cannabis to alleviate pain and other various treatments. Even with the medicinal benefits, back in 4000 B.C. Physicians warned their patients that using the plant excessively could cause them to see demons.
In Medieval Times a Persian Physician lists cannabis as one of the most effective drugs for curing edema, gout, headaches, severe wounds, as well as epilepsy. In the 1300s Africa is recorded for using cannabis to treat asthma, fever, malaria, and dysentery. Europeans relied on cannabis as a means of treating various conditions such as cough, tumors, and jaundice. In the 1600s Spanish Conquistadors brought hemp cannabis to North and South America. It took another 200 to 300 years before Cannabis therapeutic benefits were discovered in America. In the 1830s to 1840s an Irish Physician named William O'Shaughnessy advocated the use of cannabis for treating rheumatism and nausea both in England and America. He discovered that the drug was completely safe, so he began prescribing it to his patients, which brought him a fair deal of success. One of his biggest achievements came when he managed to successfully treat muscle spasms caused by rabies and tetanus. Dr O’Shaughnessy introduced Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica to England and America. In the 19th Century Marihuana became mainstream medicine in the west. Pharmacies sold cannabis-based cures and more than 100 papers were published on the therapeutic uses of cannabis.
Learning about the foundations of Cannabis around the world makes you wonder how this amazing plant became a prohibited schedule 1 drug. Dr. O’Shaughnessy’s research also led to the development of intravenous therapy. The hypodermic needles were also invented around this time. This discovery pushed the treatment of medical marihuana to the beginning of extinction. Vaccinations were invented like the tetanus that put cannabis in the redundant category along with the invention of synthetic painkillers like aspirin. In 1937 The Marihuana Tax Act completely terminated the use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes. This is the foundation of our profitable criminal justice system and failed mental healthcare programs.
Drafted by the Founding Father of Cannabis Prohibition Harry Anslinger. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 is a U.S. federal law that imposed tax on the sale of cannabis, hemp, or marijuana.
According to Wikipedia: The total production of hemp fiber in the United States in 1933 decreased to around 500 tons per year. Cultivation of hemp began to increase in 1934 and 1935, but production remained low compared with other fibers. Interested parties note the aim of the Act was to reduce the hemp industry through excessive taxation largely as an effort of businessmen Andrew Mellon, Randolph Hearst, and the Du Pont family. The same parties argue with the invention of the decorticator, hemp was an economical replacement for paper pulp in the newspaper industry. Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst realized cheap, sustainable, and easily-grown hemp threatened his extensive timber holdings. Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury and the wealthiest man in the US, invested heavily in the Du Pont family's new synthetic fiber, nylon, to compete with hemp.
The American Medical Association (AMA) opposed the taxation because the tax was imposed on physicians prescribing cannabis, retail pharmacists selling cannabis, and medical cannabis cultivation/manufacturing. The AMA proposed cannabis instead be added to the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act. The taxation 'law' was passed despite objections of the American Medical Association. Dr. William Creighton Woodward, legislative counsel for the AMA, objected to the taxation on the grounds the bill was written by Du Pont lawyers without the legally-binding time to prepare their opposition to the bill. He doubted their claims about marijuana addiction, violence, and overdosage; he further asserted that because the Spanish word Marihuana was largely unknown at the time, the medical profession did not realize they were losing cannabis. "Marijuana is not the correct term ... Yet the burden of this bill is placed heavily on the doctors and pharmacists of this country."
After hearings with lawyers from Du Pont Chemicals and the Hearst Newspapers Group, the taxation was passed on the grounds of 'differing' reports and hearings. Anslinger also referred to the International Opium Convention from 1928 included cannabis as a drug not a medicine. All state legislators approved identical 'laws' against improper use of cannabis (for ex. the Uniform State Narcotic Act). By 1951, however, spokespeople from Du Pont, Hearst and others came up with new improved rationalizations, and the Boggs Act superseded the Marihuana Taxation Act of 1937. In August 1954, the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 was enacted, and the Marihuana Taxation Act was included in Subchapter A of Chapter 39 of the 1954 Code.
Now that we got some history behind Cannabis Prohibition, are you aware the State of Maryland is 1 of the last states to decide if they will legalize cannabis? Are you aware that Maryland is still arresting residents for cannabis even though we have a legal medical program? In 2020 91% of arrests in Baltimore, MD were cannabis related. In Maryland, cannabis ownership of fewer than 10 grams is legalized and punishable by a civil fine of up to $100. It is a crime to have any amount of marijuana in your possession with the intent to sell it. The maximum penalty is five years in jail and a fine of $15,000 if the quantity is less than 50 pounds. The penalties are the same with weights larger than 50 pounds, except that a five-year obligatory minimum jail sentence is applied.
Maryland has a "drug kingpin" legislation that punishes elevated smugglers with at least 20 years in jail and up to 40 years in jail, as well as penalties of up to $1 million. In addition, transporting marijuana is a crime in Maryland, with any cannabis violation involving five kilos or more being deemed smuggling. The maximum penalty is 10 years in jail plus $10,000 in penalties if the amount is between five and 45 kg. The maximum penalty for trafficking is 25 years in jail and $50,000 in fines for amounts higher than 45 kilos. For drug trafficking while in possession of a handgun, a term of at least five years and up to twenty years is imposed.
According to the Maryland Reporter, medical marijuana boosted tax revenue. The “drug” injected $10,371,437 into the state revenue in the 2019 financial year. The figure was more than what the entire state spent, which was to the tune of $5,608,806. Proceeds from medical marijuana sales could have funded the state expenditure that year. This figure marked a magical leap from about $3.5M in the previous year. Maryland companies earned a whopping $96 million altogether.
I ask again, why is this amazing plant being used to criminalize citizens that choose to medicate naturally? It is our responsibility as residents to correct the racist wrongs of the past. We don’t need another study or report to show you the conditions melanted individuals have been living under with the Cannabis Prohibition. As an advocate for justice, I try to donate and bring awareness to matters of importance. When it comes to criminal injustices our state is complicit in many falsified facts to make the case stick and win in the court of law. It is our duty to speak against these injustices and to fight for the power of the people. Martin Mitchell and Stanford Fraser recently held an expungement clinic in Laurel MD. From their event I was introduced to Quiana Johnson, Founder of Life After Release Organization. I was overcome with excitement because I was not aware that we had a local organization for formerly incarcerated, especially woman owned. Life After Release (LAR) is a formerly incarcerated women-led organization in the DMV area (DC-Maryland-Virginia). We are organizing to build a post-conviction movement where we have the right to challenge our convictions and the system responsible for convicting us in the first place. Our work is grounded in a vision of self-determination for directly-impacted communities and has four main pillars….
With Cannabis Freedom Day upon us it was essential for me to have a sit down with Quiana Johnson.
Qiana Johnson is the founder of Life After Release Inc, a formerly incarcerated women-led organization supporting a system involving people in the DMV (DC-Maryland-Virginia). She is also a Co Conductor of Harriet’s Wildest Dreams. Qiana is organizing to build a post-conviction movement challenging the integrity of convictions and the system responsible for convicting us in the first place. Qiana is a dedicated mother of 2 sons. She is also a national trainer with Silicon Valley Debug, Participatory Defense, a proud member of the National Council for Incarcerated, and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls.
Here is our Q&A Session:
Q: I'd like to know what brought you here to build the organization Life After Release?
A: My incarceration is what brought me here, seeing the injustice from the prosecutor. The prosecutor was presenting his cause unjustly by being blatant in breaking the law. The current criminal justice system is a partnership of who knows who and not the actual legal process of practicing law.
Q: Can you tell me about your history with the Criminal Justice System?
A: I served 2.5 years out of an 8 years sentence for me 1st and only offense. After my release from prison on August 21, 2017 I immediately started doing work around prison abolition, prosecutor accountability, and ensuring that formerly incarcerated individuals get what they need to succeed.
Q: Were you a mother when you had to serve time? What was it like having to be away from your sons?
A: Yes, I had 2 sons and this was probably the hardest part. The criminal justice system gave no consideration for me being a single parent. My children were separated for 2.5 years. 1 was in Texas and the youngest was in Maryland. It’s a very difficult time to behind bars and navigate the criminal justice and child welfare system. My judge wasn't very considerate in allowing me time to properly prepare the transfer of care. Left my family and myself with an unimaginable burden. Luckily, I had a family that could care for my sons. I am the exception to the rule when it comes to this because most women won't have this support system and dealing with other more serious issues like homelessness, abuse, addiction and mental instability.
Q: What reasons would you give to encourage more residents to get involved with advocacy work in criminal justice?
A: I believe in ensuring public safety without the criminalization of a particular race or social class. Public safety is the duty of everyone. If we are not working for us all to be safe we could all be in danger.
Q: Do you plan on becoming a politician?
A: The jury is still out on this. I have been thinking about running for County Council District 9. I would like to effect changes from a different position. I am tired of asking my county council to care about the issues that are near and dear to me.
Q: What are the ways we can support you?
A: You can support by volunteering your time or you can provide a monetary donation to https://secure.actblue.com/donate/life-after-release-2
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
― Ida B. Wells-Barnett
Life After Release
The focus is Cannabis Freedom! As most of you are aware Jonathan Wall's trial begins today in Baltimore, MD. The action for this month is to support cannabis freedom in Maryland, The Country and World by advocating to free Jonathan Wall and all other non violent residents incarcerated by the Intentional War of Drugs. Jonathan's support team is requesting you show up at the court house to show your support throughout the duration of this trial. Click the link for more details.
Deputy Director MDNORML