The season of the roll and burn is upon us once again, and every year we’re excited to report on new landmarks for cannabis activism, stylish stoner merch launches, and cheeky seasonal bops. Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would decriminalize marihuana on a federal level — a likely inevitability considering 18 states have already legalized and regulated consumption. Meanwhile, the current, alarming detainment of WNBA star Brittney Griner after Russian authorities found cannabis oil vape cartridges in her luggage is a sobering reminder of the stigma and legal grey areas surrounding drug prohibition around the world.
“Cannabis consumers and producers in the U.S. and Canada aren’t fighting a different fight to make weed equitable than their peers in Latin America. They’re tackling the same global issue from different flanks,” says Mexico City-based cannabis journalist Caitlin Donohue, whose popular radio show Crónica documents the many intersections between weed, politics, sexuality, art, and queer culture. Donohue highlights how the fight for legalization is usually framed within the economic — read, capitalist — impact of “the cannabis industry,” which often ignores ancestral medicinal techniques and the historical oppression of communities of color and lower-income.
“In places like the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Morelos, campesinos from Drug War-wracked communities demand their right to participate in the forever-coming-soon legal recreational market,” she adds. “In Brazil (site of the world’s first cannabis prohibition in 1830), activists from groups like the Rede Nacional de Feministas Antiproibicionistas fight to raise awareness that despite the violence the Bolsonaro administration has shown against small scale dealers and users, making weed illegal has always been about policing Black people. Colombia, which legalized marijuana around the rhetoric that it would give options to cannabis farmers in conflict-torn areas, has become one of the world’s starkest examples of cannabis neo-colonialism, with its legal weed being largely grown for export by international corporations.”
While cannabis legalization and ending prohibition instead of regulation are long-term goals, it’s essential to remain vigilant as a wealthy few are always the most likely to reap the benefits. “Billion-dollar international corporations are chewing up the market while the social equity programs meant to support Black and Brown cannabis entrepreneurs are just straight-up failing,” warns Donohue. “In the United States, we’re closer to seeing cannabis banking federally legalized than possession of small amounts of the drug. The ways cannabis is used to systemically oppress Black and Brown people are evolving, not ending, with legalization.”
Music remains a powerful vehicle for resistance and advocacy, so to get your 4/20 bumping consciously, we’ve curated a playlist nodding to the plethora of weed experiences manifesting across Latin America. You’ll find impassioned pleas for decriminalization in La Morra de la Vihuela’s twangy “Es Mi Derecho” and Yoss Bones’ slinky “No Soy Criminal.” Niños del Cerro’s “Flores, Labios Dedos,” Luisa Almaguer’s “Azotea,” and Macha Kiddo’s “Cripi” reflect on the romantic intimacy that can blossom after sparking a joint. And keeping things vibey and genre diverse, we’ve also featured the likes of corridos verdes trailblazers T3R Elemento, baile funk superstar LUDMILLA, electronic agitator Arca, dembow queen Tokischa, and many more.
So light up, press play, and fly responsibly!