Emily Hobelmann / @ 7:52 a.m. / On the Pot

LoCO On The Pot: No Pets, No Smoking, No 215


In this era of quasi-legalization, marijuana business potential seems solid. Colorado is killin’ it. The City of Los Angeles made $8.6 million in taxes in the past three years from medical marijuana dispensaries. The Emerald Triangle has plenty of its own career cannabis types that do just fine.

Entrepreneurs are organizing. Marijuana Business Daily is presenting its sold out “CannaBusiness Money Show” conference on April 7th down in SF. A mere $399 buys admission to this intellectual and opportunity-oriented discussion of marijuana business in these changing times. (Their Boston and Chicago events still have seats available.)

Pot-biz is climbing high, like as high as the crop in my neighbor’s yard last summer. (Those were some 12’+ cannabis trees). The cannabis-as-medicine scene is taking off, too. And of course the medical and money facets of the cannabis industry are intertwined. This is the United States of America.

And hey, look at that… The federal government just gave the green light to a study on the use of marijuana as a treatment for veterans with PTSD. (It’s a wonder that the federal government, of all institutions, gets the say on what is and isn’t medicinal. Just one sizable quandary of our times.)

More and more people across the nation are voicing grounded, reality-based viewpoints on cannabis. The domino-effect is happening. But marijuana users still have a significant stigma to overcome. It’s not just high-level politicians that still insist on bashing cannabis fans, there is active anti-marijuana-user sentiment from Joe Schmo Humboldt citizens too.

A ready example of discrimination against marijuana users at the local level is the “apartments/housing for rent” ads on ye olde Humboldt Craigslist. If you peruse rental ads, you’re likely to come across variations on this kind of language:

“NO PETS
NO SMOKING
NO ‘215’”

“No Smoking, No 215, No dogs, Cats OK.”

“No smoking, No 215, Inside cats and small dogs OK”

“NO PETS, SMOKINGS, AND 215 GROWINGS”

“NO PETS, NO SMOKE, NO GROW/215”

“No pets, no smokers, no 215 or drugs and no laundry. Need to be employed.”

“No 215 please.”

“No Smoking, no growing, no 215 cards”

“NO 215, no smoking.”

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That’s just a copy-and-paste sampling from rental ads posted in the last few days.

Yes, marijuana is illegal under federal law. So why not say, “No illegal drugs” instead of “No 215”? That’s a catch-all phrase that doesn’t betray prejudice against medical marijuana users. There are landlords in Humboldt that have had bummer tenants involved in the cannabis industry, of course. But why does having a doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana makes someone an undesirable tenant?

“No grow” or “no 215 grows” are more reasonable phrases than “No 215.” Indoor grows can get crazy, but that’s not unequivocally true. There are low-impact ways to grow indoors, like those self-contained grow tents. A couple cannabis plants in the backyard never hurt anyone. But to straight up say, “no drugs,” “no smoking” or “no 215” when advertising a rental… That’s some bullshit.

Just that phrase, “No drugs” … What about Xanax or Prozac or Lipitor or Viagra or mescaline or cocaine or Vicodin or aspirin? The landlord that only invites people that don’t use any drugs at all is trippin’. Who doesn’t take drugs? And no smoking? Smokers of all stripes have long faced discrimination in California. Just look at Arcata. Why can’t people smoke outside in well-ventilated areas? Anyway, the cool thing to do now is to vaporize, so that “no smoking” language is becoming obsolete.

You can imagine that in places like Denver, a similar brand of anti-marijuana sentiment is very much alive. Airbnb.com is a popular web service where people rent out their private residences as an alternative to hotel stay. The other day I saw an advertisement for an airbnb.com rental in Denver with part of its description reading:

“PLEASE NOTE: Although Medical & Recreational Marijuana is legal in the city of Denver, we strictly forbid it in our home! If you are visiting Denver for this reason or plan to smoke it while you are here, please do not send us a reservation request…”

A quick scan of residential rentals on Denver Craigslist yields similar language:

“NO SMOKING INSIDE OR OUTSIDE. NO GROWING OF MARIJUANA.”

“No smoking, including marijuana”

No smoking of any kind, including marijuana.

“smoke and marijuana (both medicinal and recreational) free facility”

“This is a non-smoking, no marijuana unit and pets are not allowed”

“Non smoking of cannabis or tobacco inside or outside on the premises.”

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Are Denver folks prepared for the stoner-tourist invasion that they are going to face come 420?

Cannabis plants can have psychoactive qualities, a trait not uncommon in the plant kingdom. But the illegality of cannabis didn’t come about because cannabis can get you high. It was all about the hemp. And still, the illegality of cannabis (and other drugs) has nothing to do with its pharmacology. The perception of cannabis as the devil weed persists. Prohibition of cannabis is socioeconomic and political phenomenon that is not grounded in reality or evidence.

Dr. Carl Hart articulates the many layers of this phenomenon better than I can. He is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Columbia University and he is the Director of the Residential Studies and Methamphetamine Research Laboratories at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. Hart wrote High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society” (2013).

I can’t speak to the book because I haven’t read it yet, but I did catch Hart discussing drugs and society at length on the March 17th version of the Joe Rogan podcast. Hart editorialized about issues of drugs and society in the New York Times this past week too. He was on Democracy Now! back in January in a segment called “Drugs Aren’t the Problem.”

Hart’s all up in the media-cycle offering an intellectualized perspective of drugs and society that is grounded in personal experience and extensive research. He advocates for the decriminalization of all drugs, but he says we need a massive educational campaign first. Otherwise, people would continue to blame societal ills on drugs even though drugs in-and-of themselves don’t cause problems. (The D.A.R.E. program isn’t going to cut it.) Ignorance about drugs causes problems. Lack of access to clean, quality drugs causes problems. Criminalization of drug users causes problems. Massive campaigns of misinformation cause problems.

Back to the rentals: When people advertise their rentals as “No 215,” it demonstrates a lack of understanding or shortsightedness about medicinal marijuana and marijuana issues in general. There’s been a lot of misinformation about marijuana and other drugs circulating for a long time. But with changing public opinion and marijuana activists keep at it, how much longer can the criminalization of and stigma against marijuana-users persist?


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