The Insider 100: Cannabis Power List

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Welcome to InsiderNJ’s inaugural Cannabis Power List, a tribute to 100 politically influential voices in the cannabis debate. The journey that led me to chronicle this impressive roster of committed, principled people began quite a while ago in a little town called Washington DC.

“I’m not political,” I told my friend Greg when he invited (21-year-old) me to a protest at the White House. “I’ll go to your rally, but I don’t consider myself a political person.”

Greg wasn’t having it.

“You’re an HIV+ queer who smokes pot. Your very existence is political,” Greg replied, only slightly annoyed at my lack of self-awareness.

“Besides, there will be lots of pot.”

It was 1993 and Greg was an organizer for ACT-UP, the militant AIDS charity taking the US Government to task for its deliberately cruel approach to HIV/AIDS policy. There were no laws protecting gay people back then and HIV felt like a death sentence.

And nowhere in these United States was it legal to use cannabis for any reason whatsoever.

The fear and paranoia surrounding HIV/AIDS was crippling, even if you were totally asymptotic like I was. Greg had AIDS and you could tell. He used cannabis to manage his deadly illness and later, the ghastly effects of those early HIV meds.

It’s hard to fight for your rights when you’re sick or dying. And yet, there was a frantic, fatalistic urgency animating us. Going to funerals on a weekly basis does that.

I’m convinced that AIDS set the table for the current movement to reform our nation’s ill-conceived cannabis laws. It’s no coincidence that the first medical marijuana dispensaries in America popped up in San Francisco way back in 1994.

My HIV meds come with negligible side effects nowadays. I’m so healthy that when I smoke cannabis, it’s almost always because I want to. And that’s ok.

I’m 47 years old and I like to smoke pot and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I wish more people would come out of the pot closet but I understand why they can’t: 1) it’s not legal and 2) there’s still an awful lot of stigma associated with cannabis.

I hope InsiderNJ’s Cannabis Power List helps dispel some of that stigma. You’ll find names on both sides of the debate, but most are pro-cannabis because that’s where this debate is headed and everyone knows it.

The biggest criteria for making this list is longevity in the game. Elected officials aren’t on this list, even though many are deep into the issue (Nick Scutari, Ron Rice, Jamel Holley, etc.) – otherwise it would be half elected officials.

Placement came down to longevity and overall effect on NJ’s culture. Some people changed our laws, while others changed hearts and minds.

Many on this list did all those things.

And those who did it longest wound up on top.

With cannabis legalization apparently headed to the ballot in November 2020, and with New Jersey’s medical cannabis program still very much imperfect, there’s still time to jump into the lively debate about the direction of our state’s marijuana laws.

Download the Insider 100: Cannabis Power List or view it below:

 

The Insider 100: Cannabis Power List

Published on May 30th, 2019

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  • 1Prop

    Your listed is discredited at the start with #1. He’s a felon who outed a police confidential informant. He should have rotted in prison.

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