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The US is easing restrictions on cannabis. What could it mean for San Diego?

 May 21, 2024 at 1:22 PM PDT

S1: It's time for Midday Edition on KPBS. The government is moving to reclassify marijuana. So on today's show , we're talking about it and what it means for research. I'm Jade Hindman. Here's to conversations that keep you informed , inspired , and make you think. And after a review of drug policy , the DEA is moving to reclassify marijuana as a less dangerous drug.

S2: I look at this as the federal government catching up with literally everything else science and popular opinion.

S1: We'll discuss what this means for medical research and reform in San Diego. That's ahead on Midday Edition. The Biden administration announced Thursday that it would officially move to reclassify marijuana. That means shifting it from a schedule one drug to schedule three. The announcement comes just weeks after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration loosened federal restrictions on the drugs. Here to talk more about what that shift could mean is Jackie Bryant. She's a cannabis lifestyle reporter. She also handles content strategy for San Diego Magazine. Jackie , it's good to have you back. Thanks.

S2: I'm happy to be here.


S2: Levels one , two and three that denote different types of drugs and intoxicating substances and whether or not they have medical value or not and whether or not they have medical value. So schedule one is considered a drug that has the least medical value. Schedule two is something that may have some limited value and can be legalized partially or not. If it is a scheduled substance , it is a federally illegal substance. Period. The end. It's just whether or not the federal government can allow that substance to be researched , be allowed to the public in a very regulated way. It's not like alcohol , for example , which is not scheduled and completely legal for sale and consumption over a certain age. So cannabis up until well , presently , it's still schedule one , which means it has no medical value and it's in the same level as drugs like heroin and methamphetamines and stuff like that. Schedule three or drugs like Tylenol with codeine , ketamine , for example , which we now know has a lot of mental health and behavioral health and therapeutic properties. So we're rescheduling from schedule 1 to 3. So it's still illegal , but it loosens up a lot. There's a lot of differences between those schedules. Um , and just a note I would like to make is that again , schedule one means that there is no medical value for this substance , which is kind of interesting because at least in California , we'll use this as one example. Cannabis has been legal for medical use since 1996 , when prop 215 was ratified on the backs of many Aids activists who who were instrumental in in getting that law passed as caregivers. Because cannabis is very instrumental in palliative care for for symptoms of HIV and Aids , that was really the bedrock of that legalization movement. So it's interesting to me that the federal government has always said that , you know , there is no medical value when obviously it's been proven in research and otherwise. So it's a it's an interesting shift. The government is catching up with the states , and it's also catching up with public awareness. If you look at polling throughout the country , cannabis legalization is popular across the aisle. So I look at this as the federal government catching up with literally everything else , science and popular opinion.

S1: So , you know , medical researchers in particular , for years have been pushing to get marijuana , cannabis moved to a schedule three classification , and it's always been met with barricades or barriers , rather.

S2: Uh , cannabis is very popular on both sides of the aisle. If you look at polling numbers , and it has obviously been proved to be valuable for medical use , not just in state legislatures and obviously here in California in 1996 with prop 215 , but also plenty of research. And there are already FDA approved drugs like Marinol and Epidiolex that are used and have been used for for years. In normal prescription , you can get a meta pharmacy. Um , so it's it's political. Biden is up for reelection. He's a Democrat. Um , like I said , cannabis is popular on both sides of the aisle. It's even more so with with more liberal type folks , even though kind of everyone uses it in private. But that's another story. And Biden's , you know , his campaign's not doing amazingly right now. And there's a lot of issues. And obviously the Israel-Palestine war is , is , is , is chief among that. So if you ask me , which you are , and you ask a lot of activists and you ask a lot of those in a lot of lawmakers , you're you're going to hear the same refrain. And that is that it's politically expedient for the Democrats for the fall election. And the reason why it hasn't gotten through until now is because even though it is popular with the public on both sides of the aisles within government , it is still for some reason , a very big political issue. I think it's been rolled up into what we are calling the culture war. And so you have Republicans mainly staunchly against it , against those except for those who maybe lean a little bit more libertarian and more states rights and , you know , are more pro-gun. People tend to be pro. Marijuana legalization just because of the freedom aspect. So but generally more liberal or more blue politicians tend to be in favor of cannabis legalization. So it's a different political reality than what's actually happening in in the United States. Everyone's pretty cool about weed , but the politicians aren't and they're way behind. So really , it's just been political logjam. If you follow cannabis news , cannabis financial news , stock news at all , that's basically what it's been for years , trying to get banking regulations through , trying to get incremental revenue at the at the at the federal level , you have a group of bankers and activists who are actually banding together right now and trying to get certain things overturned by the Supreme Court that may force the government's hand to legalization. There's a movement for that now. So it just kind of underscores for me that this , you know , this is happening now because it's political. And also it has not happened until now because it's political. Interesting.

S1: Interesting. Like I've always heard that , oh , the reason they won't legalize cannabis is because they hadn't figured out how to tax it right yet.

S2: Oh , I completely believe that. And they actually haven't. There's a reason why. Again , you can check the news , do a quick Google can of California's cannabis industry is not doing well and none of the legal industries anywhere in the country , which are all siloed by state , they have to be , you know , there is no national industry because it's still federally illegal. They're not doing well. They are hampered by tax regulations , including 280 , which prevents cannabis companies because cannabis is a scheduled substance , from making , you know , a number of tax deductions that normal businesses can , um , that goes away with schedule three , actually. So , you know , I'm sitting here saying it's not legalization , it's it's not. And personally , as someone who advocates for cannabis legalization , I do not personally think it's enough and neither do a lot of people. However , it's undeniable that there's a lot of good that will come from this , namely , more access to federal research. We haven't been able to do that in at all in the history of cannabis , only in incremental , very limited ways and with with very bad samples that that honestly don't represent the type of cannabis that is out there on the market being consumed there. Like I said , tax regulations , those go away. That's really meaningful for for the health and future of all of these state industries. And it it does hand over some , uh , a lot of access to the pharmaceutical industry who can now take the molecule THC , which is the molecule in question here , the intoxicating molecule that makes you feel funny and giggly. And now pharmaceutical companies can harness that for their own use.


S2: So it's going to take away a lot of tax barriers. Again , it will give more research to to medical institutions and also private institutions that can now develop their own products in different ways and , and do all this stuff. And it also eliminates a variety of banking regulations that that were in place before. And it also allows more cannabis companies to be publicly traded on the stock market. So this basically opens up the cannabis business world in a way that had been severely hampered. I mentioned that two 8280 thing earlier. I mean , if you look at the balance sheets of cannabis companies , they can claim about 50 to 60% fewer business taxes than normal businesses can. That's a lot of money that's make or break it money. Who can operate on those margins. And that's what they've been doing. And in cash businesses no less. So now they can bank more easily. And now , you know , they can , uh , they can write off more on their taxes and improve their balance sheets. And since every day for everyday people , they may not work in the cannabis industry , obviously , but how they access legal cannabis is through the industry. A dispensary is part of the legal industry , growers , distributors , etc. so it's important for the everyday person that that industry is healthy because if it's not , it goes away and then you can't get your legal weed.


S2: Um , yes. I mean , it could certainly I , I would think in a , in a , in a , you know , market economy that yes. Take removing tax barriers and creating favorable , more favorable business conditions , removing , you know , barriers to banking is only going to be good. And it's one of the barriers obviously , being able to list cannabis companies on the stock exchange is more than that had been able to do before through the Toronto Stock Exchange. But now in the United States , that's going to be a huge , huge deal capitalization opportunity for companies. So yeah , one of the big problems for the cannabis industry is that it has been unable to become fully capitalized. Removing the barriers I just mentioned obviously makes the money flow more easily , and it also makes investors more willing to spend money. It makes these investments a lot safer. And so yeah , it does mean that there's going to be money flowing into the industry.

S1: You are a big advocate for cannabis.

S2: Why I am um oh , um , I'll try to condense this. Um , I am 38 years old , I have. And using it on and off since I was 14. And , you know , it was just always the the substance for me that I enjoyed to use and kick back and relax. And , um , it was , you know , something my father had used his whole life. It was very normalized in my home. And so I never really grew up with the stigma that it was a bad thing. And in fact , when I was a teenager and I started drinking , my my father said to me specifically , I would honestly rather you smoke weed than drink it and , you know , nothing's great for you. But if we have to choose and that's why I do that. And so that was kind of a big influence on me , honestly. It's always been a part of my life , if I'm being totally honest. When I was in college , I even I sold weed. Um , it's I've always been part of the movement , the culture. I was always part of activism because to me , it's always been a helpful , fun and benign substance. And I feel it's been maligned in politics and maligned in the media and popular culture , and I've never really understood why I understand it. It can be detrimental for some people , but I do believe that if we have proper education and regulation and use it , that that would not be the case if we knew , you know , why we use these substances. And to that point , I continue to be an advocate because I've realized my own medical use in it. You know , I have I , I have level one autism and ADHD , and I also suffer from anxiety. And those things are all very heavily related. And until I was diagnosed with those conditions , it and in tandem with my therapist and and other doctors , we've all worked together. And I have compassionate , you know , cannabis friendly practitioners , which is very like required for me in my life. And we've worked together to figure out , based on medical studies , how using the substance and my chronic use of it was actually a form of beneficial self-medicating , because the molecule does help neurodivergent people in myriad ways. And there's a lot of studies being done by this. So to bring it all back , um , clearly I have ADHD , right ? That's why I'm an advocate. Like it is. It is meant so much to me in my life. I like it , it's fun. I think it helps people. And I also am deeply against the government telling people what to do with their bodies on any level , in any way , though I do believe we can certainly be involved in helping them use it happily and healthily. I think. I think happy , legal and safe cannabis use is absolutely a public health issue , and legalizing it is a good thing for public health.


S2: But I'm always a little scared. Like , what if it's worse than I thought all of these years and it really is bad ? And that's the stigma everybody puts in in your head , right ? Even though I've lived for so many years using it more than most people and I , you know , I help run a media company and I went to a good college. I'm in grad school and my mother , like , I think I'm all right. I think I've done okay. Despite my cannabis use or maybe in , you know , benefit of it. Right. So I'm excited just to see what we don't know. Is it safe to use during pregnancy ? When I was pregnant , I chose not to use it , but a lot of people do. And that's a huge debate right now , and I certainly feel a way about it. But we don't know. We also just don't know. We don't know if , if and how and to what level it's harmful for the teenage brain. We don't know , you know , it helps THC helps anxiety at a certain dose. It's biphasic though , and it can hurt at another dose. So if you smoke a little bit of weed it can help. But if you smoke too much , you can spin out and become paranoid. We just don't. We only know a little bit about these things. We only know how much it can help in palliative care. And oh , I mean also shrinking cancer molecules. I mean , there's research being done on that , on injecting THC into cancer molecules and it helps shrink them. The universe is wide and big. And and cannabis researchers know what to look at and where to target , but they just haven't had the access yet because it hasn't been legal enough.

S1: Now , is there pushback against this ? Yeah.

S2: So there has been a lot of debate since the DEA came out with this recommendation a few weeks ago. It was by no means a done deal. There's been a lot of speculation. I've heard from my sources on the Hill that Republicans are trying to block this in various ways. There are some Democrats who are , too , because they know that their constituencies may not really be be okay with it and , you know , in more purple states and stuff like that , or , you know , Democratic politicians in red states , for example. So there's been a lot of quiet pushback because not everyone's on board with this. And that's why Biden is going above all of that and saying , now I'm doing it.

S1: So what's the next step ? I mean , when can we expect marijuana to be reclassified ? Okay.

S2: So it's it's coming. Um , it could take however long they wanted to , but there is a comment period in June. And from that comment period from the public , there will be a. To 90 day period where , you know , they kind of get everything in line , a waiting period. They do all the documentation , get everything going. And so if you do the math , which everyone's doing , the earliest this could likely happen is September. And if you ask me , I'm a little bit cynical , but I we could check back in September to see.

S3: If this is how it. Happens.

S2: Happens.

S3: Like I said , this could.

S2: Take very long , but I do believe Biden has a reason to get this done as fast as possible. So I would not be surprised if we saw cannabis reclassified. Um , schedule three by September.

S1: I've been speaking with Jackie Bryant , cannabis lifestyle reporter and content strategist for San Diego Magazine. Jackie , thanks as always.

S2: Thank you so much. I always love coming in.

S1: Coming up , we'll talk to you , a cannabis researcher , about what loosening restrictions on marijuana means for medical studies.

S4: The biggest boom , I think , will be for new investigators or people who are interested in getting involved in this research. It will be much easier to initiate studies than it is right now if it switches from schedule one.

S1: More on that when Midday Edition returns. Welcome back. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. As you just heard , the Biden administration is working on reclassifying marijuana from schedule one to schedule three. That means relabeling it as a less dangerous drug with medical and therapeutic benefits. It's a move that could have a huge impact on cannabis research. I'm here now with Doctor Thomas Marcotte. He's the co-director of UC San Diego's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. And Doctor Marcotte , welcome.

S4: Thank you. I'm happy to be able to join you today.

S1: So glad to have you in studio with me. So first of all , tell us about the research you do at the center.

S4: So our center has been around since the year 2000 , when the people of California passed the Compassionate Use Act. In 1996 , the state legislature decided that it would be good to have good scientific backup regarding any benefits of cannabis. They funded our center at that point. Doctor Igor Grant is the director of the program , and since then , we've been serving somewhat as a mini NIH , where we provide funding to California institutions to research both the potential medicinal benefits of cannabis , but also perhaps negative consequences. So in the last few years , we funded 16 studies looking at a variety of outcomes , such as the effects of CBD on early psychosis and whether it might serve as a good adjunct therapy or whether cannabinoids are useful in rheumatoid arthritis. And so , in addition to these potential medicinal benefits , we also look at public safety consequences. So we've done a number of studies looking at the effects of cannabis on cognition and driving performance.

S1: Well , were there any findings that surprised you.

S4: Particularly in our early studies , we were the first to do smoked cannabis studies in many decades. This was in the early 2000 and demonstrated in very small sample sizes that smoked cannabis with low concentrations of THC was beneficial in people who had spasticity associated with multiple sclerosis and neuropathic pain , and found even in small samples that THC was beneficial. So we have then subsequently started a number of other studies where we're looking at different outcomes. The most recently concluded study was my study looking at driving performance , which we could get into , but perhaps that's for another day.



S4: Worse under the influence of cannabis , but not everybody. So only about half the people who received cannabis , uh , did worse than those people who were in the placebo condition. This was the largest randomized clinical trial to look at that. And we also found that there were some challenges in law enforcement identifying who is or is not impaired by cannabis , as well as the fact that people who regularly use cannabis show tolerance. They can have greater THC concentrations in their blood and do just as well as someone who has less THC in their blood. On the other hand , they adapted to this tolerance by getting more into their system , so they did just as poorly as people who were less experienced users.

S1: Well , as we mentioned , marijuana is currently classified as schedule one , and that category of drugs includes , you know , a high risk for abuse like heroin , methamphetamine.

S4: One is the level of security you must maintain. So when we do research , there needs to be a heavy , weighted safe bolted to the floor. There needs to be close security monitoring what is taken in and out of that safe. You need to very carefully track what product is used and what is returned. So that's a significant burden financially. When you deal with the schedule one drug , you need to get a DEA license for a schedule one drug that can be time consuming , sometimes taking up to a year to get that. And it also comes with a lot of challenges in terms of not being able to use many of the products that are already out there and on the market , certainly in the field right now. The other thing that happens with schedule one in the state of California is anything that is schedule one or schedule two requires an extra review by the Research Advisory Panel of California. So once you've already gone through the FDA and the DEA and your subjects committee at the university , the state of California wants to look at your protocol and evaluate both the design and the consenting forms in addition to those reviews , and that can take an additional six months. So all of these schedule one requirements are quite burdensome. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , would the move to schedule three lift some of those barriers you just mentioned.

S4: It would. And that will be a significant benefit. So we would now be looking at getting a schedule. Three license , you would still need a DEA license , but hopefully that would go more quickly. The wrap C is only review as required only for schedule 1 or 2 or so. That would go away as well. And the security requirements will be much less than involved in a schedule one. While there may be some benefits for experienced or existing investigators like we have at our center , the biggest boom I think will be for new investigators. So people who are interested in getting involved in this research , it will be much easier to initiate studies than it is right now if it switches from schedule one. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , and I know that one of the the bigger problems with researching cannabis is that you can't really study how much to titrate , right ? I mean , is that an issue.

S5: It is difficult to work with.

S4: So depending on how you administer it , if a person smokes it , they will automatically start self titrating whether or not you tell them to do so. We told people to smoke as you would at home to get high , because we did not want people to reach a designated level of highness and then say they would never drive in that condition. So why did you do the study even when you administered orally ? The bioavailability can vary a lot from person to person , so it's somewhat hard to control even with oral administration. The other way we administer cannabis is sometimes through vaporizing. This is not vaping oil , but rather taking the plant material , heating it up , not having it combust , but still get the fumes off of it and people will still get THC or CBD out of it. But even then , while it's more controlled , you still end up with different levels in the person's body.

S1: Well , there are many observational studies on marijuana.

S4: So people who start using cannabis at a young age may be different from people who don't start at a young age. So when you try to look at the downstream effects , sometimes it's not so clear whether this is the consequence of repeated exposures and particular exposures at vulnerable times , or whether part of it was also a baseline effect that people were already different to start with that. So in observational studies , you also end up with people who typically are finding benefits from it. So when you ask , is it helping you ? And then try to do a comparison to find people who may have used it and dropped out , those are hard to track. It's much stronger design. If you can do a randomized clinical trial for an extended period of time , and there are just not many of those that have occurred yet.

S1: Well , what are the the biggest gaps in marijuana research currently.

S4: Pertinent to what I just commented on ? Most studies , including ours , have been typically short course treatments , either for a month or two. Really , what you want to know is what happens over time. Does the benefit go away ? Do people need to start taking higher doses and we just don't know how that stands right now. We also don't know about negative side effects over a prolonged period of time when people use it , perhaps medicinally. So that's another crying need out there that we could use more research on.


S4: In part , it's not going to take away a lot of the things that serve as barriers or challenges when you try to evaluate cannabis and different forms of cannabis , for example , when you try to do a randomized clinical trial , the Food and Drug Administration needs to review that. And they are very concerned about safety and want to know that the products that you're using have no toxicities associated with them , have been manufactured under strict guidelines. Those will probably still stay in place if you want to do a randomized clinical trial. That manufacturing process can be expensive , and it's not clear what companies might jump in to fill the void and start creating some products that provide a variety of chemo vars or different cannabinoids that we can then research. You know , one cautionary tale is what recently happened with the expansion of manufacturers approved by the DEA to grow and create cannabis products as a schedule one product. Seven companies were approved , but it's still many years down the line , and not many products have come to market yet or come to researchers. And it's it's an expensive proposition , and it's not clear how these companies will be able to develop a business model that has them both provide products. But what you also need to do research is a placebo , and that also comes with expenses.

S1: Well , there's been a lot of debate over the medical and. Therapeutic value of the drug. I'd love to get your thoughts on that.

S4: I think increasingly people are understanding the benefits , at least of constituents of cannabis. There's a strong group of people who believe in the entourage effect. And there are some evidence. There is some evidence that THC in combination with CBD or other , either what you call minor cannabinoids , which are not the top two , or there are other constituents known as terpene voids in cannabis , that various combination of those may have different effects on the human body. Hopefully that research will keep expanding , but I think there's a strong interest in both not only the entourage effect , but the individual components as well , and see what would be the best targeted cannabinoid for a targeted symptom.


S4: First of all , the belief that it may have no medicinal value. We clearly see from this ruling that , at least at the federal level , HHS and FDA , that there are some benefits believed to come from cannabis. But as I commented , we really need longer term studies. There's also a misconception that people need to get high or stoned to get the benefits. Our studies and others have shown that you can use low dose , for example THC , without getting very high and still get benefit for conditions such as neuropathic pain. There is also the misconception that more is always better. So if someone experiences some benefit from THC , they may say , hey , I want to add additional THC to my regimen. Well , studies from our group , including Mark Wallace here at UCSD , have shown that perhaps that worsens pain to go to high level. And then the last one I'll comment on is the belief that perhaps there are no risks associated with cannabis. So clearly , we know that there are a lot of concerns about early exposure to the developing brain. And our research and others have also shown there are risks associated with public safety.


S4: We are taking it with caution. We'll see what evolves. When you talk to most researchers , they'll say that really we need to see the final statement , the final decision , before we then decide whether or not we're going to change our approach. For right now , we will continue to treat THC and other components as schedule one. As you're probably aware , CBD , if particularly if it comes from hemp , is no longer scheduled. So we can do that research. But even in that research , you have to understand that the FDA once again wants you to be using products that have been carefully manufactured , and that remains a challenge. Interesting.

S1: Interesting. Okay. Well , hopefully it makes this less cumbersome. The research process at least. I've been speaking with Doctor Thomas Marcotte , co-director for UC San Diego Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research. Doctor Marcotte , thank you so much.

S4: Thank you. My pleasure to join you.

S1: Still ahead , an activist tells us what rescheduling marijuana could mean for reform in San Diego as the city moves to cut its cannabis equity program.

S6: They are having something held against them that they did when they were 18 or 19 years old , which it seems black and brown people always have to carry things they've done as teenagers for the rest of their life.

S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. Welcome back. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. In a statement Thursday , President Biden said that rescheduling marijuana is one step towards , quote , reversing longstanding inequities. But many people are still feeling the devastation from the country's war on drugs , which fueled a system of overpolicing and mass incarceration. Black and brown communities are still feeling the harm 50 years later. We're also seeing efforts to repair that harm across the country and in California. One city program could create opportunities to enter the industry , but now it's at risk of being cut. Meaghan McCall is a cannabis equity advocate and spokesperson for the Roll Up for equity campaign. She joins us to discuss these changes. Meghan , welcome to midday.

S6: Thank you.

S1: So glad to have you here.



S6: So we started to roll up for equity campaign , to physically canvass the neighborhoods and ask the people if they mind cannabis in their neighborhood. We have a three by five index cards with questions on them , such as , are you a veteran , a voter ? How do you feel about cannabis ? Or are you a cannabis patient yourself ? And how do you feel about social equity and things of that nature ? We collect these cards and we take them to city council , to the perspective. Councilman , whichever area it was from , so that they know directly that their constituents are for cannabis in their neighborhoods.



S1: Well , this city's , you know , cannabis social equity program has been in the works for some years now , but now it's at risk of being cut. You were involved in the start.

S6: So if you are a person who has a cannabis charge , obviously it's a nonviolent charge. The issue was that snowballed into a lot of things. If you had government assistance , it was taken away from you. Um , if you had government housing , you were evicted. You had a hard time getting employment as well , and most always served time in prison for these actions. And now people are getting very wealthy off of it. And I know countless individuals whose only charge in their entire life was a cannabis charge , never any violent crime whatsoever. And they have spent four and five years in prison for it.

S1: Um , and the way the system is set up currently , a lot of the wealth being made off of this industry doesn't is not being made by black and brown people who have who were the targets of this war on drugs.

S6: Um , the way that it is written currently , you have to already have acquired a space and been paying rent for that space for almost a year. The fees are hundreds of thousands of dollars , with no guaranteed , no guaranteed license after paying these monies. And if you are denied the license , you do not get your money back. So Major League capital , um , also , most black and brown people would like to set up shop in their own area. For some reason , San Diego has very tough zoning laws on where you can operate , and they're actually tougher than the state's requirements. So we wanted to we're looking for equity , which is more of a leg up , not necessarily equality. So for the past five years , we've been trying to set up people who have been suffering these past 30. 40 years. Trying to build a life for themselves because they are having something held against them that they did when they were 18 or 19 years old , which it seems black and brown. People always have to carry things they've done as teenagers for the rest of their life. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , is there a difference between how the city and the county's equity programs operate ? Yes.

S6: I'm glad you said that. County has been a dream in their the way they've been developing their social equity program. So much light. I was just saying the other day , so much light has been shed on blocking the city's social equity program that they did not pay attention to the county developing theirs. And it and it went right through , went right through. So , um , it's not the people that are that are , you know , dragging their feet or don't want it. Someone else doesn't want it. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , like so , you know , we've talked about the barriers to , um , creating wealth within the industry for black and brown communities.

S6: I hope that more auxiliary businesses will come to light. A lot of people , the first thing you think of when you think of the cannabis license is a dispensary , which obviously that's what you see all the time. But cannabis has to be shipped. Cannabis has to be grown. There are people who are just of the culture. You know , your cannabis license may afford you capital to start a cannabis clothing brand. It doesn't have to be a dispensary. It's the thing I want to push , and with the rescheduling , I think will open up even more opportunities because now people will need labs to work in to test , test the cannabis. Certain jobs and opportunities that weren't allowed before. Being that it was scheduled. One will open up now that it's scheduled. Three. Hmm.


S6: Um , the way that I see the cannabis social equity licenses is if you take one license for me , for instance , I'm , I'm not eligible. But if I was , I would take a license , I would open a warehouse and I would hire people from my community to work and said warehouse , and also give certain people the opportunity to brand themselves using my warehouse with social equity licensing. It comes with , um , business education and also startup capital , and also zoning laws would be a little loosened so that we can get in. Right now , we can't get in because of the way the current laws are. So right now we can't get in. But it is fact that our laws are harsher than what the state is asking. So that's another barrier that's completely unnecessary. It's just to keep us out.


S6: They have gone through great lengths to slow us down. For the first three years , no one even knew where we're doing this. We're very quiet. And the fourth year came around and they caught wind and all of a sudden stuff started to slow. So I do blame them , you know , for someone to sit across the table from me and try to convince me that I am fighting a fight , not worth fighting and making comments as if , you know , you guys don't know business , you're going to fail. Tell me that there's not as much money as it in it as we think it is , which none of these things are deterring me. They're telling me it's hard. I am black in San Diego. Female , lesbian. Everything is hard for me. So that did not deter what I'm looking for. I'm looking for generational wealth for my people. Um , almost everyone I know has a cannabis charge. I know people who were fantastic citizens until they went to jail for cannabis , and then they were corrupted by what happens in prison , you know , like that happens , um , certain things like if when they got out of prison and they're on probation and they have to give your analysis test , you know , no one wants to smoke weed when they're on probation. We doesn't leave your system for 30 days. Harsher drugs leave your system faster. So they chose to do harsher drugs to counteract their mental instabilities. Also , the tax revenue will go to the general fund. I'm constantly at City hall begging them for money. They. Already promised me. They've already voted on it and promised it to us. And I'm next to a fellow community advocate who is fighting for a teen drop off center and the Climate Equity Fund. More things that we were promised that we were getting that now they're saying we may not get and I don't want to fight them for one pot of money. I want to create a bigger pot of money so that we are in City Hall trying to discuss what we're going to do with the extra funds , not how we're going to take away from something to move it to the next. I don't want to choose between generational wealth and mental health services and , and and affordable housing. I want all of those things. We deserve all of those things. Now that mental health in the black and brown community is an accepted thing because it wasn't forever. We want that and need that. Um , our the fathers. It's always been said that our fathers leave. They were taken. Um , everybody didn't get a phone call , you know , um , they just went to jail , and that was it. Yeah.


S6: I personally have a cannabis charge. It's just in another state. So that disqualifies me for this program. But , um , I have friends that have helped me. I know without them , my life would be different. My life would be totally different. I am a person who has gone to prison and war. So , um.

S1: You're a veteran ? Yes.

S6: Yeah , I am a Navy veteran. I joined the Navy November 2001 and two months after nine over 11. And , um , came back to nothing , really. But I'm. I'm a person who always wants to help my people no matter what I. And this is , I see this help being a lot if , if , if I'm pushing a program that's adding to the general fund and that general fund money funds a teen drop off center , that means a lot to me because I had it. I used to work for a nonprofit. I had a participant , my mentee , who passed away from a fentanyl overdose at 14 years old. So it means a lot to me. You know , my two older brothers , they were in and out of prison. It means a lot to me , my friends , all of my closest friends , even the one that pulled me into this , went to prison for five years and was in like nine institutions for marijuana only , and other people who went to 15 to 18 years for marijuana is crazy.

S1: These charges have wrecked a lot of lives , it seems. Well , what needs to be done to achieve true equity and repair that harm that's been done to black and brown communities.

S6: That's why I'm so into the cannabis social equity program , because we've seen the tax revenue that cannabis can bring. If we look at Colorado and these other places , it brings plenty of revenue. So it doesn't make sense to return money and cancel something that's going to bring us money to take care of everything else. We need solutions that tie in together like one big advocacy for all of us. It shouldn't be one person coming to the mic for teen drop in one person , come into the mic for cannabis , social equity , one person coming to them. I want all of us to be at the mic and say , we want all of these things , and here is cannabis social equity that we have put together ourselves to pay for it.

S1: All right.

S6: We've all been shoulder to shoulder these past couple of months , and I just want us to get louder , get loud.

S1: I've been speaking with Meagan McCall , one of the spokespeople for the Roll Up for Equity campaign. Meghan , thank you so much for joining us.

S6: Thank you for having me.

S1: That's our show for today. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. Thanks for tuning in to Midday Edition. Be sure to have a great day on purpose , everyone.

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A pile of dried cannabis buds is seen here, Aug. 31, 2017.
Andrew Bowen
A pile of dried cannabis buds is seen here, Aug. 31, 2017.

The Biden administration announced Thursday that it would officially move to reclassify cannabis as a less dangerous drug. That means shifting it from a Schedule I drug to Schedule III.

On Midday Edition Tuesday, we dive into what that could mean for the cannabis industry, medical research and cannabis policy moving forward.

Plus, many people are still feeling the devastation from the country’s war on drugs, which fueled a system of over-policing and mass incarceration in communities of color.

One city program could create opportunities for people criminalized for cannabis to enter the industry, but it’s currently at risk of being cut. (According to the Mayor's office, the annual cost of the program is $1.2 million. The cut would save $400,000.) We talk to an advocate about what the future holds for cannabis equity.


  • Jackie Bryant, cannabis lifestyle reporter and content strategist for San Diego Magazine
  • Dr. Thomas Marcotte, professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego and co-director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research
  • Megain McCall, spokesperson for Roll Up for Equity