Sadiq Khan’s pledge to decriminalise cannabis will have to overcome the Boris Johnson curve – Screen Shot
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Sadiq Khan’s pledge to decriminalise cannabis will have to overcome the Boris Johnson curve

In an exclusive report by The Telegraph, it was announced that London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan is set to begin the decriminalisation of Class B drugs in some select boroughs of the city—with the pilot scheme due to be released this month. The new plan aims to put an end to the mass prosecution of young people caught with drugs like cannabis, ketamine or speed. The select boroughs a part of this new drive are Lewisham, Bexley and Greenwich. So, how will this work?

While the possession of such drugs will still remain illegal, the Metropolitan Police will no longer have its officers push drug-related charges against those caught in the above south London boroughs. Instead of being arrested, the pilot scheme will offer those under the age of 25 a process described as “diversion” as well as being taken back to their family homes rather than into police custody.

The “diversion” method will additionally provide young people with courses focused on educating them on the dangers that come with drug use—much like those offered to speeding motorists. It seems like the latest push away from police intervention towards a more community-based approach to drug prosecutions. Those who may find themselves in such a rehabilitation process will be surrounded by youth workers rather than police officers—with the option of counselling available if needed.

For many, this is a positive sign on the road to real reforms in how certain crimes are treated. As The Telegraph noted, “Between 2016 and 2020, nine in ten drug proceedings brought against young people in Lewisham were for cannabis possession, while young black men in the borough were 2.4 times more likely to be stopped and searched for drugs in the same period.” Such tactics proposed by Khan could improve the lives of black communities disproportionately affected by police intervention.

However, it seems not everyone agrees as the mayor will likely face resistance from both the Boris Johnson-led Conservative government as well as his own party’s leadership. Sir Keir Starmer—Labour’s Leader—has cited his experience as a prosecutor for his opposition to relaxing drug laws and following Scotland’s own drug decriminalising scheme, does not believe the same should occur in England.

Khan’s direction is also, of course, at odds with the rhetorics displayed by the government as the Prime Minister pledged a crackdown on ‘country lines’ drug operations in early December 2021—even going as far as to claim that those caught in possession of Class A substances could have their passports removed.

Boris Johnson has previously stated, “Drugs are a scourge on our society, fuelling violence on our streets which communities across the country are forced to endure. That’s why, to cut crime and truly level up across the country, we must step up efforts to wipe out the vile country lines gangs who are blighting our neighbourhoods, exploiting children and ruining lives.” The Prime Minister also added that, ”those who break the law will have nowhere to hide”—ironic considering how his comments came after the infamous report by The Sunday Times that found several lavatories in Parliament showed signs of cocaine use.

Meet the weedfluencers, the conscious influencers cropping up with the legalisation of cannabis

Last week, New Mexico legalised the recreational use of cannabis—seeking to create a brand new industry with retail sales set to begin early 2022. With more than 900 cannabis, psychedelic and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress underway, many brands and pharmaceuticals are bracing themselves to welcome the incoming ‘friendlier regulatory environment’. In the mix are a new wave of conscious influencers, cropping up with the growing rates of legalisation. Introducing: the Pinterest-worthy, Slytherin-green world of weedfluencers.

Who are weedfluencers?

Weedfluencers are enthusiasts who are leveraging various digital platforms to engage with an audience on the A to Zs of cannabis. Ranging from chefs and podcast hosts to workout fanatics, this fairly recent genre of influencers is backed with the mission of educating, reviewing and normalising cannabis usage among the public.

Now, one thing to be kept in mind here is the clear distinction between a ‘weedfluencer’ and the traditional stereotype of a ‘stoner’. Working with the aim of getting rid of this label altogether, weedfluencers incorporate ‘conscious curation’ when it comes to expressing their cannabis use online. Simply put, they don’t just post selfies of themselves smoking up on Instagram, but they go as far as to embody a positive movement—by normalising weed as a conscious lifestyle choice.

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A movement previously rooted in industry distrust

The rise of weedfluencers is much-needed proof of the influencer culture adapting to the recent 420-friendlier changes. However, this group is relatively new in the cannabis space.

Earlier influencers in the segment included celebrities such as Tommy Chong, Roseanne Barr and Martha Stewart who were then linked to the appearance of an industry distrust. Flocking towards weed to “enhance their brands,” they had come under scrutiny for “putting their names on products they are unfamiliar with” and “hawking them” to their big social-media following.

Weedfluencers, though leaning towards positivity rather than over-consumption have also garnered criticisms on their way. Similar to most influencers, they have come under fire for allegedly spreading “marketing messages” rather than their independent, objective advice. Given the legal restrictions and media regulations faced by many weed companies—in some cases they can’t even create a print or radio advertisement—doesn’t seem to help their case either.

Although these influencers are on a bid to cleanse the ‘stoner’ label that goes hand in hand with the lifestyle choice, the stigma still seems to dominate their online personas. Anjela, better known by her ‘weed-sona’, Koala Puffs, highlighted how her family was reluctant to accept her ‘pro-bud rebranding’. “Nobody changed their minds until I was 200,000 followers deep,” she said in an interview with Mashable, adding that her mother still thinks she’s just outgrowing her “college phase.”

Brittany Tatiana, a cannabis beauty and wellness influencer, admitted to having lost jobs and contracts because of her 420-friendly Instagram account. “It’s been hard for me to represent my full self and not have people judge me based on what they see in one post,” she said, outlining how straddling the commercial beauty industry along with the cannabis-friendly world is “like walking a tight rope.”

Arend Richard, who went from being a banned 420 YouTuber to a cannabis CEO with the launch of a separate platform called The Weedtube, admitted to having gone back to delete over 200 Instagram posts after taking on the business side of the segment. “Legitimate cannabis businessmen also need to avoid the stereotypes associated with the stoner label, which seems to stick like glue in an age when social media signifiers define so much of how other people perceive you,” Mashable added in the interview with Richard.

According to Tatiana, self-reflection is the ultimate tool that helps weedfluencers overcome the personal conflict that comes along with their daily schedule of Instagram posts. “It comes down to what cannabis means to you and choosing how you’re gonna show it,” she added.

Is it okay to post and promote weed on social platforms in the first place?

In early 2018, YouTube went on what appeared to be a ‘weed purge’—systematically shutting down cannabis-centric channels without an explanation. Instagram was the next to follow suit—disabling accounts that violated the platform’s marijuana policy, which also pertains to influencers.

“Instagram doesn’t allow people or organisations to use the platform to advertise or sell marijuana, regardless of the seller’s state or country,” the policy reads. The platform prohibits marijuana sellers—including dispensaries—from promoting their business by providing contact information like phone numbers, email and street addresses, or by using the ‘contact us’ tab on Instagram Business accounts.

Keep in mind that this is neither the case nor the intent behind weedfluencers. With studies linking the positive use of social media to the overarching support for legalisation, these influencers ultimately aim at changing public perception in a socio-conscious way—a sign of being ‘Instagram friendly’ all the way.

With that being said, we’ve listed the top 5 weedfluencers for you to follow for your ‘weedly’ inspirations:

1. The Dank Duchess

Based in California, @thedankduchess is an internationally recognised cannabis cultivator, hashmaker and writer. Believing that “intentional and mindful cannabis use will indeed change our society,” the weedfluencer shares her own experiences and breaks stigmas while promoting self-care practices, workouts and micro-dosing advice on her platform.

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2. Shonitria Anthony

Shonitria Anthony, also known as @bluntblowinmama, is on a mission to normalise the concept of mothers medicating themselves with cannabis products. A former editor for both ABC News and the Huffington Post, her Instagram account radiates positivity through comedic and engaging posts. Host of the podcast, Blunt Blowin’ Mama, the weedfluencer shares mutual experiences of other newly-minted mothers who have used cannabis to aid various walks of life including anxiety control.

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Une publication partagée par Blunt Blowin’ Mama (@bluntblowinmama)

3. Jeff

Recognised as ‘The Julia Child of Weed’ by The Daily Beast, @Jeffthe420chef is a ‘cannabis chef’ incorporating cannabis oil and cannabutter into his impressive list of recipes. Posting intricate plates of food infused with cannabis flowers, the chef creates recipes that are free of the odour with tastes masked by the complexities of added flavouring. Not only does Jeff manage his digital platform, he has also developed his own cookbook for others to try at home. These recipes include infused quesadillas, salads, potato chips, walnuts, tarts, french toast, his own cannasugar, and more.

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Une publication partagée par JeffThe420Chef🏳️‍🌈 (@jeffthe420chef)

4. Alice & Clark

“In love with weed and each other,” Alice and Clark are a married couple living in Hollywood with a deep appreciation for “all things dank.” Showcasing innovative cannabis products and building a community around the benefits of cannabis, the couple are well-known for their vlogs of exclusive events in the cannabis business which shares a glimpse of the evolving industry.

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Une publication partagée par That High Couple (@thathighcouple)

5. Anna

Based in Toronto, Anna, known as @thecannabinista, utilises social platforms such as Instagram and Tiktok to share her passion for cannabis products. Often found reviewing the latest products within the industry, the weedfluencer experiments by creating her own THC-infused recipes while embarking on her own personal journey of growing and documenting the medicinal plant.

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Une publication partagée par anna 🪴 diy cannabis infusions (@thecannabinista)