Article headline above, published in the Salt Lake City Telegram in 1949; alerting to help with epilepsy using cannabis.
Note: Sharon typically writes long form features. The following stories are current events. See the "Features" page for her long form work. The following articles have been previously published, as noted.
America’s Trusted Face of Cannabis Detained at Canadian Border
Farmer Tom Lauerman’s Jingle may have saved the farmer from deportation
By Sharon Letts
While the cannabis community in America applauds Canada’s move to legalize the recreational use of cannabis, Canadian immigration officials see trouble at the border; with Canadian attorney, Len Saunders, stating, “I see a wall on the northern border for Canadians because of marijuana,” per Canada’s CBC News.
Traveling from one state to another with cannabis products and plant material has never been legal in the U.S., no matter that Canada has now legalized, U.S. cannabis patients or otherwise are not allowed to import, export, or carry cannabis products across either border.
Recently, infamous Washington State cannabis farmer, Tom Lauerman, made the trek to Canada on the country’s first day of legalization out of coincidence, with an invitation to attend the Season 3 finale of “Expert Joints LIVE!,” an online streaming show on cannabis in Canada, when he was stopped and questioned about any affiliations with cannabis in the states.
Self-Profiling via Social Media
“While I was in the holding tank I watched Canadian news, and they were talking about legalization and how the border patrol was cracking down on cannabis tourists,” Tom shared in a social media post after the incident. “I was their test subject and they let me know they’d be looking at my website and my social media.”
Canada retains the right to check communication tools, using social media platforms as a profiling tool at its border.
Lauerman wasn’t concerned about being stopped, as he said he followed the rules and was not carrying any incriminating products, and added that he was thankful he purposefully left behind paraphernalia at a dispensary stateside before crossing; including a pair of trimming scissors, a grinder, and a few small samples of flower given to him for judging an upcoming competition in the states.
“With Canada celebrating legalization on that day, and me on my way to meet with Canadian cannabis community members and friends – bringing flower across the border would be like bringing sand to the beach,” Lauerman laughed. “My main concern was not getting thrown out of the country and missing appointments!”
Tricky questions were said to be asked, as Lauerman explained to the guards he was an “educator and farmer.”
“When she asked what kind of farmer I was, I honestly told her I farmed cannabis,” Lauerman shared. “That’s when they checked the internet, my website – and heard the jingle on my home page. I’m thinking my jingle may have saved me from being deported.”
Jingle as Influencer
A Jingle is that little tune within a commercial for a product or service that, once stuck in your head, is hard to get rid of. Sing it enough and you might even believe what it says – likened to branding hypnosis, in the world of marketing, if you will.
According to How Things Work.com, the beginnings of the first jingle ever written was said to come from a song recorded for Oldsmobile in 1905, “In My Merry Oldsmobile;” letting potential customers know they’d be happy while driving its merry sedan. The song superseded commercial radio, though, and in the 1920s the company shortened it for a kind of audio meme for radio, dubbing the little ditty a Jingle, becoming the first viral commercial influencer to the masses.
While perusing the farmer’s website or social media accounts, border guards could have been influenced merely by Farmer Tom’s prominent tag line, “The trusted face of cannabis.” But, having the Jingle pop up, with a singer’s soothing voice declaring trust within a market fraught with suspicion and misinformation, might have been an unassuming psychological win.
Carly first picked up a guitar at the age of 12, fine tuning her musical abilities in her twenties; while Schiff is known for mastering the Chapman Stick, a 12-string dual guitar and bass. The two have been professionally writing and recording music for film and television, jingles, musicals and more, for more than 20 years; just recently entering into the cannabis space, customizing said Jingle for the trusted farmer.
“The reason we chose Farmer Tom’s Organics for our first foray into the cannabis market, was due to his reputation in the industry and his positive presence on social media,” Carly explained. “Possibly influencing border guards was never our intention, but it’s an unusual affirmation of what the power of music can do. In this instance, the jingle may have transcended the situation from disbelief to validating Tom’s credibility.”
Changing Minds, One Jingle at a Time
“I’m thinking to myself, they must be on my website and must be listening to my Jingle!” he surmised. “I really got a good chuckle out of that. Social Media is an amazing tool to get the word out, normalizing cannabis – not just on a national level, but globally.”
The entire detainment took about an hour, including 20 minutes to search the car, with Lauerman on his merry way, ironically, into a celebratory cannabis climate with equally happy and grateful Canadians.
Mickey & Mommy
Disneyland bumps mom’s meds to the curb.
When a mom discovers cannabis as remedy, either accidentally or purposefully due to an ailment, there’s a layer of secrecy involved, due to the decades-long stigma created from misinformation on the plant.
If her child falls ill, cannabis is often the last resort, if traditional Western medicine runs its course and fails. When the plant works, a whole other conversation must ensue – how do you continue to incorporate the herb into your daily life without a) going to prison; or b) having your children taken away from Child Protective Services?
To protect the mom and subject of this feature, she will be called Jane. Hence the need for this little story to be written.
Jane medicates with a CBD (cannabinoid only) vaporizer pen for acute anxiety that bring on full-blown panic attacks. Her first attack came when she was 19, while working as a server in a diner. She shared that for years she would be off and on SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors: Prozac, Celexa, etc.), but replaced everything with cannabis – despite her husband’s initial complaints.
“My husband’s background and culture is more conservative, so it took him a while to get on board,” she explained. “His own health issues include anxiety, and he had heart palpitations that lasted a year. So, we learned about low-dose strains and CBD only that allowed him to stay focused at work, while helping him to relax at home.”
For a cannabis patient, in a legal state or not, finding your remedy is just half the good news. To live in the world, a cannabis patient knows his or her medicine is not welcome everywhere. Jane and hubby found that out the hard way.
Mickey Just Says NO
Recently Jane and her husband, with their small children in tow, attempted to enter Disneyland with their respective CBD vaporizer pens, honestly offering them up for inspection along with their phones and a few miscellaneous items.
With California legal for recreation (January, 2018), and the common knowledge (she thought) that CBD only concentrate has no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and therefore, no psychoactive properties, she and her husband believed the pens were a moot point.
“Once we placed the pens in the bucket the security guard immediately started rummaging through it,” Jane explained. “I walked through the detector and he pulls out the pen and questioned us on whether it was CBD or THC.”
The fact that the gatekeeper knew the difference between the two types of concentrates is encouraging, however, the guard responded with fine print, stating that Disneyland does not allow the possession of CBD products on the property.
“He said we could forfeit the pens to them or take them back to our car,” she continued. “This guy obviously had no idea how expensive CBD is, and I nervously chuckled. Mind you, there are families in line, passing us – and my poor little girl is just staring up at us, confused.”
In Jane’s home, children are educated on the benefits of the cannabis plant – so, her daughter didn’t understand why her parents were stopped, or why Dad had to walk their “medicine” back to the car.
“The most humiliating part of the experience was, the guard talked derogatorily to my husband – in front of our children – saying, ‘…and don’t smoke that on your way back to the car, if they catch you smoking in the parking lot, I can’t let you back in.’ To which we both exclaimed, ‘on CBD?
Ultimately, mom and kids were allowed inside the park to wait for dad to come back from the car.
“The thing I couldn’t shake all night was the fact that we were criminalized in public, in front of our children – at the ‘happiest place on earth,’” Jane said. “I was also praying I wouldn’t have a panic attack at Disneyland, because my meds were so far away from me in the Mickey and a Friend’s parking lot!”
A letter from this writer to Disney’s Public Relations Department, regarding restrictions of non-psychoactive CBD on park property went unanswered, as did follow-up phone calls.
Under “General Rules” on Disneyland’s website, the smoking of tobacco, including “other products that produce a vapor or smoke,” are allowed in designated smoking areas, but Jane said she was keenly aware of guests smoking all over the park, where they coul
Under “Prohibited Items,” “marijuana” is clearly listed along with alcohol or “any illegal substance.” The fact that California is now legal for recreational use of cannabis; or that both California and Florida (home to Disney World) are legal for cannabis as medicine appears to be a moot point.
Jane said the irony of the incident is, her rules at home with cannabis are similar to her rules with alcohol, she prefers that her kids do not see her consuming it – even though they are responsible with their alcohol intake, and understand that cannabis is mommy and daddy’s medicine.
“We live in an affluent community, and have a designated room in our house for medicating,” she concluded. “Our medicine is kept in a secure place. Which is why the whole Disneyland ordeal was so hard to take. We are responsible parents. I know I’m an excellent mom – that’s beside the point. If I would have had a prescription of OxyContin in my purse that would have been alright. And that’s not OK by me.”
420: Grown in Cali, Seeded Globally
The day that inspired a movement
Though the roots of “420” are firmly planted in California soil, the seeds quickly spread across the country and into the hearts of pot enthusiasts around the world.
What began as a tribal act to gather, exchange and enlighten on the herb became a worldwide protest for change, with events organized on social networking sites internationally.
Where’s Waldo’s Weed?
As the story goes, in 1971 “The Waldos” were a group of students who first hung out on “the wall,” then gathered at the base of a statue of Louis Pasteur on the campus of San Rafael High School, to partake and plot for pot.
A mainstream newshound (name withheld) who attended the high school just two years after The Waldos first gathered at the chemist’s feet said other groups soon followed.
“There were the Soccer field Frisbee-throwers, the parking lot muscle car stoners - I started a club called the Bullwinkle Club, which was another offshoot,” he added. “We used to watch ‘Rocky & Bullwinkle’ after school.”
Of all the countries to embrace the yearly, now daily event, Canada holds the most gatherings outside the States, with the first peaceful, puff-worthy protest staged in the mid-nineties in Vancouver by Canada’s own “Prince of Pot,” Marc Emery.
NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, now spans the globe with its sights on setting stoners free everywhere, with 420 a universally known calling card.
For the most part, the protests and celebrations worldwide are likened to any Cannabis event in a legal State here at home, with advocates on health, hemp, sustainability and reform speaking out; while live music is served up with good food, and, well, a lot of pot smoking.
New Zealand: Stonerville
Abe Gray of New Zealand’s NORML said the actual day of 420 didn’t really catch on due to the European juxtaposition of the month before the day, for example, "420" is written "204."
A “J-Day” for “joint” had already been established during the month of May, but by mid-2004 students at the University of Otago in Dunedin got wind of America’s afternoon obsession. With the Dunedin Police taking a step back stating, they had “better things to do,” students began gathering to light up on the main, or “Union,” quad at precisely 4:20 p.m. on Friday afternoon.
“New Zealand police hate to be seen clubbing protestors,” Gray informed. “So the students then began smoking-out weekly, rather than once a year on J-Day. Over the years Wednesday, then Monday was added to the weekly 4:20.”
Today, Gray said, 4:20 p.m. is celebrated throughout the country, regularly, with New Zealand garnering one of the highest rates per capita of Cannabis users in a “Western” country.
““It’s widely available and good quality, if you know the right people,” Gray said. “Probably about one eighth – no pun intended – of the population are regular tokers. This actually works against us, because it means Cannabis can be used as a classic, political football wedge issue, similar to how race and Gay marriage used to be in U.S. politics.”
Cannabis use is controlled by the “Misuse of Drugs Act 1975,” with possession of any amount illegal, resulting in fines up to $500 and/or a three month stint in prison. Lenient compared to the U.S. Federal Government’s mandatory five year prison sentence, but the general consensus from both sides of the proverbial fence is, no one should be punished for this plant.
Protest Across the Pond
For more than ten years organizers of “Legalize Cannabis Ireland” discussed public protests in hushed voices at the back of a pub. With monetary fines for any Cannabis use, cultivation, or distribution “unlimited,” and prison time upwards of 14 years, protest had its price.
“More than three thousand protestors came to the last event,” Kevin Higgins, Deputy Director, NORML Ireland said. “Many dozens were medical patients in wheelchairs. We all met at the ‘Garden of Remembrance’ and marched at a slow walking pace across the sunny Dublin city center to outside Dáil Éireann where our version of Congress sits.”
A Lineage of Protest
Newly elected Irish Independent politician, Luke “Ming” Flanagan, ran his 2011 campaign with a huge emphasis on Cannabis law reform, penning a Private Member’s Bill on the full legalization of cannabis
Distantly related to famed Vice-President of Sinn HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinn_F%C3%A9in"Féin, Michael O’Flanagan, the bud didn’t fall to far from the cola. The younger Flanagan is already an outlaw in his own right, convicted on several occasions of possession of Cannabis for personal use, he has openly admitted to using Cocaine, Ecstasy and Acid in the past.
The group of organizers who once spoke in whispers over pints has come a long way since Flanagan was elected. Higgins said he is now working with Flanagan on setting up a Chapter of NORML America, called “NORML Ireland.”
“We will now legitimately campaign for the reform of Cannabis laws in Ireland,” Higgins said proudly.
Four-twenty in the States has become something of a smoke-out to set your watch by. But on the day of April 20, in the legal State of California, San Francisco’s historic Golden Gate Park is transformed back to a ready and willing rebirth of the quintessential Sixties. And rightly so, for its where the culture began, and spread to points north after the “Summer of Love” in 1969.
Writer and resident Jack Rikess was in the park in 2012 when more than ten thousand Cannabis supporters protested, offering up peace, medicated grilled cheese sandwiches, and love.
“Drum beats are getting faster as the anticipation of twenty after four approaches,” Rikess reported for Toke of the Town. “Young men hit the ground in unabashed excitement, unable to control their exhilaration. The hippie girls twirl faster. More people get naked. Then the countdown begins… at 4:20 p.m., San Francisco time, the park is ablaze. Forget contact high; this is sub-dermal. I am bathed in blue smoke, the sun is shining and people are happy.”
Well said, Jack.
Maybe it’s just happiness that spread the word of 420 around the globe. Or maybe it’s just the bud. One thing is certain, the Cannabis culture is changing everything, one country at a time, with a contact high potent enough to change the world.
High End & Handcrafted
Cannabis cigars elevating the fine smoking experience
Made by hand by skilled craftspeople, the cigar became a trademark of celebrities and politicians, alike. A private club, a smoking jacket, and a pricey cigar are still considered status symbols, implying privilege and power.
According to Madehow.com, the earliest hand rolled cigars came from Cuba, with factories established in Spain, France, England, and Germany by the late 1700s. By the end of the 1800s, cigars were largely made by machine; with hand rolled versions pricey and rare; and fine Cuban cigars banned for import for decades, due to politics.
The skill can take up to a year to master, often being handed down through generations. Completely crafted hand, the process consists of layering one leaf over the next. Wrapping is said to be the most difficult task, with a special rounded knife called a “chaveta,” for trimming the filler leaves.
It’s interesting to note, that not all cigars made from tobacco are rolled in the same leaf they are filled with; with often a lower quality of plant material found inside. With the new trend in cannagars, the fan leaves that are typically tossed from the same crop are used as wrapping.
Leira Cannabis Cigars, of Washington State, includes a sampling of the flowers the cannagar is made from in its wax-sealed glass tube.
The recreational cannabis market has spawned a supply and demand situation not many could prepare for, with a need to automate in warehouse space.
In legal states, that medible previously handmade in a rented industrial kitchen for the medical market, is now a recreational edible, manufactured in bulk with automated machines; and a Sui Chef overseeing staff, with grandma’s recipe now increased for batches in the thousands.
We often think of the “Cottage Industry” as a small company, with the owner and extended family sitting around the kitchen table, garage, or a small rented space – all chipping in for the benefit of the family and town they live in.
The truth is, prior to the Industrial Revolution, small manufacturers were actually the norm around the world, keeping profits in the family and close to home. They were the backbone of rural America, keeping the family and community afloat, and Main Street USA prosperous.
According to How the Market Works.com, this type of industry was initially called the “Putting Out System,” with large orders filled, and many contractors producing the same product to specifications.
The Putting Out System ensured that many hands in many towns were employed, rather than one large manufacturing facility reaping all the funds and depleting resources in one region. It was a sharing of the wealth system that worked for decades.
Fine Cannabis Cottage Industry
Cannabis cigars, referred to as cannagars or magars, are just one example of a product that cannot be automated. Each cannagar can take up to one hour to make, by one person – one at a time.
Cannagars are filled with ground flower pressed around a thin wooden dowel for air passage, removed prior to packaging. Fan leaves are then wrapped around the ground material, secured with a string for curing, then removed prior to smoking or packaging. Variations include adding rosin, hash or concentrated oil to the ground plant material inside.
Depending on the size of the cannagar, the partaker could have up to four to five hours of enjoyment or medicating.
Of the many cannagar producers in many states, Acme 420 Magars are made in Denver, Colorado; Artisan Canna Cigars in Southern California; Leira, in Washington State; and Jean Carlos Magars, with both a cannagar and a fan leaf shell ready for filling, available from its base in Los Angeles.
Ariel Payopay, owner of Liera in Washington State, demonstrates the proper way to smoke one of its hand rolled cannagars, via You Tube, cutting off the end with a ‘double blade guillotine,” then lighting it with a “torch lighter.”
Cigar smoking has its own language, protocol, and tool set. The torch, Payopay implores, is not to be confused with a butane torch, used for smoking dabs or concentrates.
Leira currently offers two styles of cannagars on its website, $100 gets you a Cannarillo, filled with four grams of cannabis, with an estimated flight time of one hour; and its Corona, filled with 12 grams of cannabis, with an estimated four to five hours of smoking pleasure, at $420, retail value.
The Leira comes in a glass tube, sealed with wax; with a few samples of flower added inside, as an example of what it’s filled with.
Roger Hinkley and Nathan Zeeb met in December of 2016 during The Emerald Cup in Northern California, each showcasing their individual hand rolling skills in competition. The two fine-tuned their skillsets, inspired by past hand rolling guru, Afgoo Head; co-founding Southern California based, Artisan Canna Cigars in 2017.
Initially, Hinkley said, they had a tough time convincing retailers to carry its pricey, labor intensive product; until they were featured on Viceland’s premier episode of Bong Appetit in December of 2017.
“After that episode aired, everything changed, and our product is now available in 30 stores in California, in many regions,” Hinkley shared. “Everything we produce is small batch, averaging around 250 cannagars a month.”
The beauty of the cottage industry is the ability to source from equally small farms, or what Hinkley calls, boutique gardens.
“We both have an appreciation for handcrafted items – from woodworking to welding, something made by hand just has a certain feel to it, you can tell it was made with care,” Hinkley explained. “In the cannabis industry we have extremely talented small batch, craft cannabis farmers to work with; and we feel they bring a quality to our product not found in large-scale commercial grows.”
Philip Wolf is a cannabis sommelier, and founder of high-end event company, Cultivating Spirits, in Colorado. He pairs fine dining with fine flower and fine libations in beautiful settings. Wolf is extremely pleased to see the cannabis smoking experience elevated to a higher standard.
Wolf also co-founded the Cannabis Wedding Expo in Denver with Bec Koop, of Irie Weddings & Events. The two have revolutionized the use and presence of cannabis within a mainstream, multi-billion dollar wedding industry; and have witnessed the high-end weed accoutrements that now surround the occasion.
“It’s extremely satisfying to see fine cannabis products presented in this way,” Wolf said. “Cannagars would be a perfect fit for any number of parties surrounding a wedding – including the bachelorette party. It would also make a fine wedding present.”
High-end, handcrafted smoking was inevitable within the burgeoning recreational market. Thankfully, the process is being done by people who believe in quality over quantity, and will continue to provide the old-fashioned way – winning over patients and partakers alike, one painstakingly rolled cannagar at a time.
For more information on cannagar producers, visit:
Acme 420 Magars www.acme420.com
Jean Carlos Magar Shells: follow on Instagram, @jeancarlosmagars_2.0
Hand rolling art on Instagram, @afgoo_head
Leira Cannagars www.leiracannagars.com
Artisan CannaCigars www.artisancannacigars.com
For information on Cultivating Spirits, and Philip Wolf, visit www.cultivatingspirits.com
Police Dogs, Weed & Legalization
Police dogs get desensitized to cannabis in legal states
As voters in Illinois’ Cook County overwhelmingly approved its legalization ballot measure this month, the scare tactic of euphonizing its police dogs lingers.
Cook County is the country’s second most populated county, after Los Angeles in California. More than 40 percent of all Illinois residents reside there, with the City of Chicago the county seat.
During the campaign to get cannabis legalized, the usual rhetoric was used, “what about the children,” et al, with a new concern leading to so much propaganda, of euthanizing police dogs if the law is passed.
This unfounded concern was brought up by son of billionaire Warren Buffett, Macon County Sheriff, Howard Buffett, in an interview with The Pantagraph, stating that entire units of K-9 officers would have be replaced if voters approved legalizing cannabis in the state.
“The biggest thing for law enforcement is, you’re going to have to replace all of your dogs,” Buffett said. “So, to me, it’s a giant step forward for drug dealers, and it’s a giant step backward for law enforcement and the residents of the community.”
On the campaign train questionable statements are often made, then fact checked later – with the damage done. Campaign leaders rely on the populace’s short attention spans. Say it today, and they will remember it tomorrow – even when proven untrue.
The thought of having to euthanize police dogs in lieu of the acceptance of cannabis, is a frightening visual to voters.
Correspondence with Evan Anderson of the National Police Dog Foundation, told another story.
“Rather than retraining, the dogs are just desensitized to the odor of marijuana,” he explained in an email. “Almost all of the police dogs in California have been taught to ‘not alert’ to the odor of marijuana since recreational use was legalized.”
Basically, he said, they are “proofed off” indicating the odor. When asked why Howard Buffett would use such a scare tactic, that’s clearly not true, he replied, “I wish I knew – gave up trying to figure out why.”
Prior to the Adult Usage Act being passed in California, propaganda included the “what about the children” remarks, were easily dispelled with myriad testimonials from parents of children helped.
Senior citizens have also been targeted with scare tactics that cannabis will cause them to be “disoriented,” “forgetful, and worse. This campaign strategy is used in light of solid statistics, pegging the older sect as the fastest rising demographic to use cannabis as medicine for aches and pains, and more.
With the children and senior citizens no longer a viable target for propaganda, and police dogs are then threatened in an effort to scare voters from safe access to cannabis, it’s an easy guess the powers that be are running out of ways to dissuade voters.
Thankfully, Cook County voters of Illinois ignored the ploy, with legalization on the horizon this November; and the police dogs’ living happily ever after in the Land of Lincoln.