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Why President Biden’s move to pardon all federal offences of cannabis possession smells fishy

On Thursday 6 October 2022, US President Joe Biden made a surprise announcement where he revealed that he was granting the country a mass marijuana possession pardon and initiating an administrative review of cannabis scheduling. De-scheduling weed would remove it from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) entirely, thus making it legal. It’s safe to say that the news set the internet ablaze in no time.

While many lawmakers, advocates and marijuana industry stakeholders are widely applauding the move, there has been some pushback from conservative members of Congress.

Biden’s decision fulfils a campaign promise—one that is likely to please members of his left-leaning political base ahead of the November midterm elections (in which the president’s fellow Democrats are defending control of the House of Representatives and Senate).

And boy did he manage to impress! Currently in the US, there are almost 40 states that have already legalised marijuana use in some form. That being said, it still remains completely illegal in some states as well as at the federal level.

Reclassification would be a first step towards wider legalisation, a move backed by a majority of Americans. It would also usher in sweeping changes for companies and law enforcement, impacting millions in the process.

As reported by Reuters, a senior administration official said more than 6,500 people with prior federal convictions could be affected by the pardons.

“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs,” Biden said during his announcement. Urging state governors to follow suit, he added: “Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either.”

But as shares of cannabis growers and sellers surged following Biden’s comments and many citizens rejoiced, party-pooper Republicans criticised the decision. “In the midst of a crime wave and on the brink of a recession, Joe Biden is giving blanket pardons to drug offenders—many of whom pled down from more serious charges,” Republican Senator Tom Cotton shared on Twitter.

“This is a desperate attempt to distract from failed leadership,” he added.

Obviously, this is politics, which means Biden’s strategy goes deeper than simply indulging stoners—the global cannabis industry is forecast to hit $55 billion in sales by 2026, with the US market growing to $40 billion by then. My TikTok FYP might be rampant with edits of the president talking nonsense and looking lost on stage but it’s clear his team of advisors know what they’re doing.

Don’t get it twisted though. Biden remains what he has always been, openly hostile to cannabis consumers and determined to ensure that if cannabis itself won’t destroy your life, cannabis policy surely will.

Have we all forgotten about the March 2021 reports that Biden’s White House had fired or reassigned multiple young staffers whose sole ‘indiscretion’ was prior cannabis use? Many of these individuals lived in states where cannabis use and sale is perfectly legal, casting doubt at the time on the president’s campaign pledge that states should be free to implement their own cannabis laws without federal intervention.

Biden’s record on marijuana, drugs and crime is arguably the worst and most punitive of any Democratic politician of the past 50 years—excluding Senator Dianne Feinstein. He was an author and champion of the 1994 Crime Bill that is largely responsible for the current mass incarceration crisis in the US. He was also the lead sponsor of the RAVE Act, a draconian drug policy legislation passed by Congress that punished concert venue owners and promoters if drugs were used or sold at their events, even if they had zero knowledge or involvement in the drug-related activity.

All the way back in 1974, the current commander-in-chief himself stated “I don’t think marijuana should be legalised,” and repeated that sentiment as recently as 2010 when he said “I think legalisation is a mistake.”

Keeping this in mind, it’s highly possible that the Biden administration—including the president and Vice President Kamala Harris—only supports decriminalisation and the use of medical marijuana, rather than a full-scale reform.

Politics, heh?

Inside the thriving world of weed NFTs, seeking to connect stoners in the metaverse

Remember NFTs? The craze may have died down slightly since it burst into mainstream discourse in the first quarter of 2021, but don’t let this fool you, the blockchain technology is far from over. In fact, it’s just getting started. Despite the downsides to crypto technology as a whole, there are some aspects worth raving about too. NFTs aren’t just limited to the mega-rich wanting to flaunt their Bored Ape Yacht Club profiles on their social media, they’re also a powerful tool for connecting communities.

And what better community to build an NFT project around than weed—an industry progressing almost as rapidly as the blockchain itself. Given the rate at which the stigma behind cannabis is diminishing, with countries across the globe slowly warming up to the idea of legalising weed, it was only a matter of time before crypto fanatics created a weed-based NFT of their own. Arguably the most successful, at least at the time of writing this, is Crypto Cannabis Cluba relatively new venture with the aim of connecting 10,000 stoners, smoking up in the metaverse.

What is the Crypto Cannabis Club?

So, how did this come about? And, more importantly, how can you join? According to its CEO Ryan Hunter, Crypto Cannabis Club “came from an idea to create a collection of NFTs that were cannabis-themed characters. That was the starting point, an idea we could anchor around.” But Hunter also added how it’s really “about creating a community experience. Our goal is to create a community of cannabis consumers that crosses into the real world as well as into the metaverse and virtual communities.”

In essence, it’s a social club for stonersbased partly in the real world and partly in the virtual one. This is done through creating “places for the community to gather and to come together in the metaverse” as well as “NFT games, which will allow people to earn cryptocurrency and prizes from playing the games.”

“In the real world side of things though is where we’re really expanding into the cannabis community that’s there today. We’ve already hosted a number of real-world events,” Hunter told SCREENSHOT, drawing upon events the project has already hostedfrom LA to New York City, Miami to a planned event in Mexico. “We also have communities forming their own chapters, across the US and across the world.”

A warm and welcoming community

So, in essence, purchasing the marijuana-themed NFT is a ticket to both real-world events and a vast online community of cannabis enthusiasts. But with a hefty price tag of at least $600 for a ticket, is it really worth it? Granted, I don’t have the funds myself to fork out for this project, but I was inquisitive of the community behind it, so I decided to plunge head-first into the Discord communityalbeit, without my own flashy, personalised NFT profile picture (a term abbreviated as ‘pfp’ on the platform).

Although I was unable to access the events, as well as a number of other features on the server, I was greeted with a hearty welcome. “Hey, welcome!” one user exclaimed.  “Good morning, good afternoon, good energy your way,” another echoed. The warmth I received from strangers was such a stark contrast from what I’ve experienced in London. So much that I had to double-take—had I accidentally ventured into a cult? No. It was just a group of legitimately hospitable people… or maybe they were just high?

Either way, it seems clear that the project has delivered on creating a thriving community. However, it’s hard to ignore the steep entrance price. Of course, this is the nature of NFTs (and capitalism as a whole). Demand drives up the priceit’s within the project’s best interest to keep a level of exclusivity within its members. But at what cost? Such exclusivity could shut out the very people who would benefit from Crypto Cannabis Club the most. Take medical cannabis patients in the UK as an example, who are often forced to pay for their own cannabis to self-medicate their symptoms.

In reply, Hunter mentioned that this is an issue “that really concerns me. I want this community to extend beyond NFT ownership. We have some specific plans of how we’re going to go about doing that but not quite ready to reveal them yet.” I guess for the time being we’ll have to wait and see. But with all things considered, it’s excitinga project at the “intersection of two emerging industries.”

Are NFTs actually legit? Or just a scam?

But aren’t NFTs just a scam? Despite their promising potential, classic rug pulls are common in the world of NFTs. For instance, in October 2021, a developer of the project Evolved Apes vanished with 798 Etheraround $2.7 million at the timewith nothing but a JPG file for investors to show for themselves. Given the wild West nature of NFTs, it’s understandable users could be sceptical. In response, Hunter advises anyone wishing to invest in the tokens to “do their homework.”

Likewise, this doesn’t mean all projects will fail. If you play your cards right, you could be in with a very lucrative investment. At face value, it seems that Crypto Cannabis Club could be one of the lucky few. In Hunter’s own words, what they’re doing is “very authentic”a claim which is honestly hard to deny. My experience with the community has been welcoming, even when lacking an NFT myself.

“Like any kind of financial instrument, there’s always going to be a market and the prices will always fluctuate over time,” Hunter continued, hinting that we may see market prices for NFT alter in the near future. “But really we have a long term vision: we’re focusing on building our community, not just on the price of the NFT. We believe that if we do a really good job of building a committed community, the price will follow. Or in other words, it’ll get the price it deserves.”

“If you look at NFTs in general, they’re easy to dismiss as just hype,” Hunter added. “However, if you take a closer look and analyse the evolving ways in which people communicate, the concept becomes much clearer.” He drew attention to how people are now using memes instead of verbal messages or texting. “That’s another example of using digital assets in a way that people haven’t used them before,” Hunter said. “Maybe older folks might not be involved with thisbut that doesn’t mean it’s something that will die out any time soon.”

It’s the very same reason why people fill their rooms with vinyl, stamps, or long Furbies. We like to collect things: it’s a trait that “we’ve seen across societies, across ethnicities, across cultures,” Hunter argued. “If you take one search on eBay for Beanie Babies, you’ll see they’re going for a lot of moneyeven though they were popular in the 1990s. It’s the same reason why children come home with pockets full of bottle caps and rocks. There’s an inherent nature in people to collect things. NFTs are just another example of a collectable.” Not every NFT project will survive the test of time but the interest in NFT will. It’s just human nature.