Thanks to the ongoing global pandemic and the profit-driven pageantry created in its wake, the last few years have been some of the most difficult in modern human history.

During these dark days of distraction, deception, and deceit, the cogs and gears of the neo-liberalistic machine have been ferociously working overtime. 


The capitalist cash-crazed contraption has now grown so large that it can openly, overtly, and systematically exploit every facet of an international emergency for corporate and personal profit unabated. While the establishment that facilitated the rise of this monstrosity has used this time of great uncertainty and chaos to plunder and profiteer at every turn, consolidate their vast political power, and fatally increase their stranglehold upon humanity. 


The violence and vindictive tactics utilized by their cannibalistic corporate contraption have coerced conformity, invalidated individuality, and reshaped the very landscape of our lives in no time at all. This indicates the future the fledgling global cannabis industry now faces if this mutated monetary mechanism remains unchecked.


While the minds and eyes of the world were distracted by domestic issues such as rampant corruption, cronyism, and calamity, the establishment finally turned its attention to the nascent cannabis industry. 


Most prominent peripheral industry players such as 'big' tobacco, alcohol, agriculture, energy, construction, pharmaceuticals, and logistics have circulated the industry for decades. However, it is two rather large business deals in 2021, that in my opinion, mark the end of this current era of prohibition 2.0. The Irish pharmaceutical firm Jazz acquired GW Pharmaceutical for $7 billion in August, and Pfizer bought out Arena for $6.7 billion in December.


Over the last century, we have moved through several distinct phases in our history with cannabis. The first is the entirety of human history until about the late 17th century and the start of what I am terming here 'the antecedent pre-prohibition era' (the 1700s – 1922), When the British began regulating, restricting, and taxing cannabis in its Indian colonies. 


The second era I would term here 'Pre-Prohibition' (1922 -1971) commencing in the early part of the twentieth century with the start of the global criminalization and eradication of cannabis under various international treaties and conventions. Racist and classist hysteria led to the creation of 'Reefer madness' anti-cannabis propaganda and the penning and implementation of the US' Marihuana tax' in 1934. as well as the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961 and UN Convention on Psychotropic drugs 1971. 


The third period I'm calling modern 'Prohibition 1.0' (1971 – 1996) began in the early 1970s as various national laws came into effect worldwide. Bringing the racist, bigoted, and unscientific legacy of the 1961 and 1971 UN Conventions.


'Prohibition 1.5' (1996 – 2012) is marked by the first modern acceptance of raw cannabis as a therapeutic medicine thanks to the passionate and powerful work of the late great Jack Herer, Dennis Peron, and OG Eddy Lepp, to name but a few. They laid the foundations of compassionate access and medical necessity. At least for a short while, compassion and community trounced capitalism and corporate greed with the passing of prop 215 in California in 1996.


A short time later, Portugal's compassionate response to its overdose crisis in 2001 ushered in a new wave of global decriminalization activism. The establishment deemed two movements far too dangerous to proliferate and hold society. Thus, began the second wave of anti-cannabis hysteria as 'skunk psychosis' scare stories appeared in the British red-top press. 


This era of compassion, dispensation, and sympathy was ended by creating the first cannabis 'legalization' models in 2012. When Colorado and Washington voted to become the first US states to 'legalize' the adult use of cannabis. A year later, Uruguay became the first country to 'legalize' cannabis nationally, albeit through a somewhat limited, non-commercial, and state-regulated system.


Their arrival pronounced the beginning of prohibition 2.0 (2012 -2021) and the age of the multi-national corporate conglomerate taking over the cannabis industry. The prohibition 2.0 period is most notably marked by wholesale white label cowboys, vertically integrative business models, speculative merger and acquisition deals, influencers, and celebrity brand endorsements. Many in the legacy market/industry believe that this era epitomizes the establishment's attempts to whitewash, gentrify, and co-option our culture.


Initially, the legacy market was excited at the prospect of being able to do what they've spent decades doing illegally anyway legally. At first, they'd been told the law would allow for their legitimate participation, afford them legal protections, and guarantee them a place under social equity rules. However, those hopes were soon dashed as the finer details of 'legalization' became more widely known. 


In reality, the vast majority simply fell through the ever-widening gaps, grey areas, and legalese loopholes intentionally written into the legislation to reduce and prevent legacy participation in the newly legal industry. It is disgusting how few individuals who sacrificed their freedom, health, and lives to build this industry are now legally not permitted to operate within it. 


While there have been benefits from the creation of prohibition 2.0 policies, such as a reduction in racial disparity and youth consumption in states that have 'legalized' cannabis.1 Ultimately, it appears that decriminalization, not legalization, seems to benefit the victims and not the perpetrator most.


Under current decriminalization models, there are no real tax revenue incentives for the authorities to target marginal rule-breakers, such as over possession, petty dealing, or cultivating above arbitrarily imposed limits. Unlike legalization 2.0 models currently employed across the US that heavily rely on the force of police and civil authorities to reduce and control unlawful competition.


The same thing happened in the great white north in 2018, when Canada nationally 'legalized' cannabis. It did so with some rather restrictive and counterintuitive initiatives to control, curtail, and handicap the development of the industry before it had even begun. This resulted in the effective collapse of its medical program and the continual strengthening of its legacy market.


Canada became the largest economy to 'legalize' created a lot of hype on various stock markets as retail investors and hedge-fund 'FOMO' greatly overinflated the value of the northern market. A few weeks later, the UK' legalized' prescription cannabis with suspected help from prohibition 2.0 lobbyists. 


Similarly, it caused many investors and companies to pile into the UK industry prematurely, only for most to lose a lot of money and market share as savvy investors pumped and dumped. That initial excitement in the stock market from 2018 has mainly quietened down now. Well, minus the odd flurry of heavy investment activity caused by Reddit traders, US federal legalization news, or the latest' big' industry player announcing that it is entering the industry. 


Recent news from California, Oregon, and Colorado also suggests that this current incarnation of 'legalization' under 'Prohibition 2.0' begins to fall apart. In the San Francisco area, the legal industry seeks a temporary cessation of taxation and increasing the raids and policing of unlicensed farms, dispensaries, and compassion groups - 'To help save the industry.'


However, with the authorities tied up raiding 1000's unlicensed grows, there's no one left to protect the licensed farms, legal dispensaries, and industry players from being the victims of violent robberies and burglaries in California. 


Last month the Oregon legislature committed $25million to help 'combat illegal cannabis grows' in the state after Jackson county declared a state of emergency. This was triggered when the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission (OLCC) found that over half the licensed low-THC cannabis ('hemp') farms in the south of the state were 'illegally' growing THC-rich cannabis.2


Although Colorado set a new record for total yearly sales at $2.19billion in 20203, the last three months of 2021 saw its overall sales decline 12% year on year.4 Given that Croptober has just passed, it's somewhat predictable that sales might dip. However, I assert that new reductions on medical patients will push them along with adult consumers back to the legacy market and good old-fashioned criminalized self-sufficiency. 


We have already seen many of the hallmarks of Prohibition 3.0 emerging from the eras that preceded it. Celebrity endorsements will abound as mergers, acquisitions, and brand consolidation will continue to accelerate in this new era. Patented synthetic cannabinoid isomers, analogs, novel extraction processes, and intellectual property and R&D advances are going to play a large part under the 3.0 paradigm too.


Novel biosynthesized, chemically converted cannabinoids and SCRA's will dominate during this time after a niche and nascent sub-industry was inadvertently and consequentially created during the latter part of the 2.0 days. Their importance is evident in the cat and mouse game currently being played out between cannabinoid wholesalers and the US state and federal government regulators.


After passing the 2018 US Farm Bill, they created an exceptional abundance of the bulk CBD isolate. A few companies and chemists discovered various methods of converting and synthesizing their cheap CBD-rich biomass into other profitable and quasi-legal branch cannabinoids such as Delta-8, Delta-10, or HCC. 


This loophole means that cannabinoids extracted from low-THC industrial cannabis cultivars (hemp) that have been converted by an unregulated chemical conversion process and have no research of safety or efficacy are legal in the majority of the US today. While THC, the most widely studied cannabinoid on the planet, remains criminalized and demonized despite decades of research and active consumption confirming its safety. 


I fear that the detrimental health risks of these novel synthetics and synthesized cannabinoid isomers and analogs will be used as a justification for the continued criminalization of raw cannabis and THC. Perhaps the proliferation of these unregulated and unknown cannabinoid-based products has led to a resurgence in the 'skunk psychosis' narrative from the establishment's legacy media in the western world. 


There have been calls for potency caps in several US states in recent years, including the OG's Washington and Colorado. The re-emergence of this narrative and framing of the debate as a way to protect the young and neurologically vulnerable will be a cornerstone of prohibition 3.0.


This nu-reefer madness comes in many forms, from politicians' complex socio-economic issues blamed on cannabis consumption. To those new pamphlets being handed out in Colorado that warn that "consuming cannabis concentrates can result in psychotic symptoms, uncontrolled and repetitive vomiting, and physical and psychological dependence." However, we know better than to trust official state advice. After all, California believes that cannabis causes cancer. 


Alongside issuing these new pamphlets in Colorado, there will now be restrictions on advertising of MMJ to under 21's, despite the fact they can be legally prescribed it under state law. This is, in my opinion, in line with the prohibition 3.0 'belief' that THC is dangerous and should be restricted and replaced with highly profitable, patented, synthetic/synthesized, cannabis-based medications.


Legalization, after all, in its current guise, is arguably more about social control, classism, cultural and literal colonization than it is creating access to one of the safest and most medicinal plants on Earth. 


So then, prohibition 3.0 is simply the same established financial and political order that has owned and operated this world for generations exercising its collective fiscal and political might in lieu of physical judicial and legislative aggression. The desired outcome for this cabal is to ensure its continued global commercial, industrial, and political dominance. The protection of its odious opulence and to maintain the status quo, it has fought for decades to forge. 

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Written and Published by Simpa in Weed World Magazine Issue 156

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