Tag: Rick Steves

PBS Travel Host Urges Illinois to Legalize Cannabis

CHICAGO (AP) — Television travel guide Rick Steves has made a stop in Chicago to advocate for legalizing marijuana in Illinois.

Steves is the host of the program “Rick Steves’ Europe” and a proponent of legalizing recreational cannabis. He spoke Tuesday at a hearing called by Illinois legislators to consider the issue.


Cannabis Ambassador Rick Steves Lands in Massachusetts to Support Question 4

Steves says “Marijuana is here to stay.” He says states can either build more prisons to lock up drug users or “figure out a better solution.”

Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans and state Rep. Kelly Cassidy are the lead sponsors of a measure to tax and regulate adult-use cannabis. They say doing so could generate hundreds of millions in new revenue.

Not everyone was sold on the idea. Republican state Sen. Dan McConchie says legalization could lead to other problems.

Our Top Canna-Crushes of 2017

As we celebrate this Valentine’s Day, it’s once again time to fan ourselves and send a little love to our favorite canna-cuties. These men and women are swoon-worthy advocates who have proven time and again that they’re willing to take a stand for cannabis, no matter the consequences. This year’s batch of canna-crushes are more than just easy on the eyes – they’re strong advocates with knowledge to boot. Don’t underestimate this group – they just might be the future of legalization.

Erin Goodwin

(Erin Goodwin/Twitter)(Erin Goodwin/Twitter)

You might not know her name, but if you’re familiar with cannabis, and particularly with cannabis in Canada, you’ll surely recognize this lady from the now-iconic photo taken of a smiling Goodwin, holding up a peace sign, even in handcuffs. A co-owner of Cannabis Culture in Toronto, Goodwin was on staff when the first of many raids occurred on Queen Street.

Cannabis Culture is part of a franchise owned by Marc and Jodie Emery, known the Prince and Princess of Pot, who have committed to selling cannabis to anyone who is of legal age, regardless of whether or not they carry a medical cannabis authorization. Their commitment is in response to the Canadian administration’s declaration to legalize cannabis – eventually. Legalization is presumed to be on the horizon for this spring, but Cannabis Culture, along with Ms. Goodwin, will continue to defy the law in protest until the government changes its ways.


Toronto Police Raiding Dispensaries in Citywide Crackdown

Stephanie Heart Viskovich

(Stephanie Heart Viskovich/Facebook)(Stephanie Heart Viskovich/Facebook)

Stephanie Viskovich is relatively new to the congressional scene, having run as a Libertarian candidate for Washington’s District 46a, but this media darling has been on the Washington cannabis scene for years. She was the Senior Founding Director for the Cannabis Action Coalition, co-founder of the Association for Safe Access Points, and a member of MJBA and WA NORML. Not only that, but this state-savvy cannabis activist was also the campaign manager for Initiative 1372, a measure designed to protect medical cannabis patients in the state of Washington during the transition from medical to adult-use. This tireless champion will continue to pursue cannabis rights – right into our cannabis-loving hearts.

Rick Steves

(Elaine Thompson/AP)(Elaine Thompson/AP)

Everyone’s favorite travel guru has been a vehement supporter of cannabis legalization, even going so far as to contribute his own hard-earned cash to not only help his home state of Washington legalize, he forked over $100,000 to help the legalization campaign in Massachusetts. This handsome devil also set out on the road in Maine to spread the good word on cannabis, and he matched donations in the state dollar for dollar up to $50,000. As a dashing and debonair cannabis connoisseur, Mr. Steves has helped paved the way for legalization with class and grace.


America’s Favorite Travel Guide is Moving Legalization Nationwide

Amanda Reiman

(Amanda Reiman/Facebook)(Amanda Reiman/Facebook)

Amanda Reiman is a pillar of the cannabis community in the best possible way. She worked for the Drug Policy Alliance as the California Policy Manager, and served as Medical Cannabis Commission for the City of Berkeley.

Aside from being high on our list of canna-crushes, Ms. Reiman is an incredibly intelligent and accomplished lady. She has studied racial disparities in cannabis arrests, social benefits of legalized cannabis, controlled studies on the effects of medical marijuana, and her findings have been presented at conferences worldwide. Ms. Reiman is now on the education circuit, spreading her wealth of knowledge at UC Berkeley on Substance Abuse and LGBTQ Studies.

Earl Blumenauer

(Rick Bowmer/AP)(Rick Bowmer/AP)

The squeaky-clean, Mr. Rogers-inspired look might not do it for everyone, but there’s no denying that this legislator is a champion for the cannabis cause. He has introduced countless bills to help shape cannabis policy in his home state of Oregon, and it was his influence that led the state to legalization. Clad in a bowtie and a bicycle pin, Blumenthal’s good-natured and inspired approach to sensible cannabis policy reform is enough to make any cannabis activist weak in the knees.


Batman in a Bow Tie: We Talk Cannabis Reform with Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Wanda James

(Wanda James/Women Gro)(Wanda James/Women Gro)

Wanda James seems an unlikely cannabis advocate. She is a former Navy Lieutenant and she served on President Obama’s 2008 Finance Committee. And then, in 2009, she and her husband opened the first-ever black-owned dispensary in Colorado.

James’ journey was inspired by a deeply personal motivation – her younger brother. She didn’t meet her brother until she was 35 years old, but discovered that he had been arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for the possession of 4.5 ounces of cannabis. He was just 17 years old, but he spent four long years picking cotton in Texas for the crime of cannabis possession. Ms. James was inspired to join the legalization fight and has already made history, and she’s definitely earned a place in our hearts.

George Zimmer

(Ben Margot/AP)(Ben Margot/AP)

George Zimmer is easily the most well-dressed canna-cutie on our list. He was the spokesmen for the Men’s Wearhouse for 40 years, and with a perfectly tailored suit, we listened to his gravelly, pitch-perfect voice as he guaranteed us that we’re gonna like the way we look.

After a split with the company, Zimmer came forward with the revelation that he has been a cannabis enthusiast since the 1960’s and that cannabis helped him beat his alcohol addiction. Now he has joined the legalization movement, speaking at cannabis conferences about his experiences and donating to help legalization initiatives. This is one dapper chap we’d love to chill with – we guarantee it.

Elizabeth Warren

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)(J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Elizabeth Warren has been all over the news lately, and while her political views might be far from your own, there’s no denying that she has been a true defender of cannabis. She maintains that cannabis could help end the opioid crisis in America, and has repeatedly urged Congress to reform federal banking laws to allow cannabis businesses access to banking services.


Elizabeth Warren Wants to Get the Cannabis Industry Out of Banking Limbo

With the new administration coming to town, Sen. Warren made it clear that she would not be backing down, asking tough questions of the new Head of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Tom Price. Her stance on cannabis legalization has evolved as well, from opposing outright legalization to recognizing the benefits and keeping an open mind. Considering this canna-crush may be a force to contend with in the coming years, it’s a good feeling having her on our side.

5 Rick Steves Videos to Share with Your Parents Before They Vote

Got parents?

Do they live in one of the nine states voting on cannabis legalization on Tuesday?

Are they fans of travel guru Rick Steves?

Here are some videos to send them this weekend.

Start with this one:

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Steves, the author of the Europe Through the Back Door guidebook series and host of the long-running PBS show Rick Steves’ Europe, is one of America’s friendliest and most powerful cannabis legalization advocates. In the early 2000s, he risked his career by daring to speak out in favor of legalization and openly advocate as a board member of NORML. In 2008, he teamed with the ACLU of Washington to produce “Marijuana: It’s Time for a Conversation,” a one-hour show that kick-started the movement that ultimately passed adult-use legalization in 2012. Here’s the full hour:

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Steves was a major player in the passage of adult-use legalization in 2012, and he’s reprising his role this year in Massachusetts and Maine. His trusted voice and rational arguments—and evidence from his home state of Washington—moved poll numbers in those states during a recent barnstorming tour of the Northeast.


Massachusetts Miracle? A Wicked-Close Race Breaks Wide Open

Here he is in Maine:

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And speaking to a group last month in Massachusetts:

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And here’s a 60 Minutes profile of Steves in action in Europe and his hometown of Edmonds, Washington:

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Steves has a unique ability to reach voters who are unfamiliar with the issue. For decades they’ve been taught to fear marijuana as a deadly scourge. With his trusted and experienced voice, Steves opens minds and turns votes. And he’s especially helpful with older Americans.

For voters 65 or older, chances are they’re probably against legalization. The Pew Research Center has tracked the dramatic generational divide on the issue. In a nutshell: The older you are, the more likely you’re against it. According to the latest Pew survey, 71 percent of millennials favor the legalization of adult-use cannabis. Only 33 percent of the silent generation (age 71 to 91 , born 1925-1945) favor it, while 56 percent of baby boomers want it. Here’s how Pew tracks it in one image:

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Those figures are trending up. One year ago, only 29 percent of those old-timers approved of legalization. So even members of the silent generation can change their minds. In fact, prohibitionists are far more likely to change in favor of legalization than for opinions to change the other way around:

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Rick Steves may not turn every vote overnight, but he provides a friendly, comfortable way to talk with an older generation about this issue.

Try it this weekend. Start the conversation.

Photo of Rick Steves by Don Ryan/AP

Massachusetts Miracle? A Wicked-Close Race Breaks Wide Open

Legalization proponents in Massachusetts woke up to a stunner this morning. The Boston Globe reported that Question 4, the state measure to legalize and regulate the adult use of cannabis, has jumped out to a 15-point lead in the latest poll.

A WBUR poll conducted last week found that 55 percent of voters now lean in favor of the measure, with 40 percent opposed. That’s a movement of 10 percentage points—an enormous shift in politics—from last month, when the same poll found the race split 50–45. 

A stunner: Legalization in Massachusetts now leads 55% to 40%.

The poll marks a momentous turnaround in the legalization race. Last spring, Question 4 advocates found themselves facing an electorate little interested in legalization. State officials including Gov. Charlie Baker, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and Attorney General Maura Healey came out strongly opposed to the measure. Their vocal opposition, laid out in a Globe op-ed, drove early negatives on the measure. “Kids in states that have legalized marijuana have easier access to the drug,” they claimed, contrary to the early data from Colorado and Washington.

Early polling had the measure losing, 50 percent to 40.

Then, just after Labor Day, something changed. The polls reversed themselves. One survey had the voters running 53–41 in favor of legalization. A September poll from WBUR found the split 50–45 in favor of passage.

What led to the turnaround?

“Two things,” says Jim Borghesani. He’s the communications director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Massachusetts, the Yes on 4 folks. “First, we never quite believed the early polls. We thought it was close, but we didn’t think we were underwater. Those early polls didn’t reach voters using cell phones, and our base is a younger base.” Polls show voters in their 20s and 30s tend to be the most supportive of legalization.

The second thing that’s happened, says Borghesani, is that political leaders and medical professionals have now come out to publicly support Question 4. That has gone a long way to help combat opponents’ misleading campaign claims.

In the past two months, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Seth Moulton, Rep. Michael Capuano, and former Gov. William Weld have all come forward to support the measure publicly. So has Boston City Council President Michelle Wu as well as former state troopers, police officers, and state assistant attorney generals. Retired Boston Police Lt. Tom Nolan, who looks like he plays a tough Boston cop on a TV show about tough Boston cops, called Question 4 “the smaht choice.”

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Widespread support from doctors and nurses has proven to be a powerful political signal. “We now have more than a hundred physicians supporting us,” Borghesani says. Those supporters include Dr. Alan Wartenberg, former president of the state chapter of the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and Dr. Susan Lucas, who taped this video for the campaign:

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Last week a third factor entered the race: Rick Steves.

The happy cannabis crusader

I happened to be on a three-day excursion across Massachusetts last week, accompanying my daughter on a tour of prospective colleges. Practically everywhere I went, I heard the warm, reassuring voice of the PBS travel show host. Steves was barnstorming across the state for Question 4. (Read more about the tour from Leafly correspondent Dan McCarthy.

Rick Steves Question 4In this 2012 photo, travel guide author and marijuana legalization supporter Rick Steves holds a plastic marijuana leaf necklace as he sits with a poster used to advertise his travel business in Edmonds, Wash. (Elaine Thompson/AP)

In the pages of the Boston Globe and the Daily Hampshire Gazette, Steves laid out many of the same arguments that helped pass Initiative 502 in his (and my) home state of Washington in 2012. But this time around, Steves had four years of positive experience and data to work with. “What we’ve found is no rise in crime, no increase in teen use, and our arrests for possession have gone to nearly zero,” I heard him tell morning host Bill Newman on WHMP in Northampton.

As he spoke, you could practically hear votes flip for Question 4. As a trusted icon reassuring wary Americans about cannabis legalization, Steves has no peer. He helped open my mind four years ago, and he did the same for untold numbers of voters in the Northeast.

On Friday, as Steves turned north toward Maine and its own legalization campaign, legalization opponents in Massachusetts announced that Sheldon Adelson, prohibition’s Daddy Warbucks, had given the No on 4 campaign a much-needed infusion of $1 million. The timing may have been a coincidence. But it sure felt like a rearguard action to shore up the losses inflicted by the gregarious travel guide.

Old fears die hard

It’s impossible to prove that Steves’s statewide tour bumped the new poll numbers, but it certainly didn’t hurt. And it’ll be interesting to see how Adelson’s $1 million donation plays out over the next three weeks. That money will buy a lot of TV advertising time. And ads like the one below, created by the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts, can be strong persuaders.

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For those of us living in legal states, it’s easy to forget how tough it can be to assure voters that legalization won’t unleash havoc in the streets. I gave two radio interviews in Boston last week, and the same questions came up again and again. What about the stories we hear about kids eating edibles and ending up in the ER? Why are drugged driving numbers spiking? (They aren’t.) Won’t Big Marijuana just steamroll the legislature once they start making a profit?

Of course, a billion-dollar cannabis industry already exists in Massachusetts. It’s simply underground, untaxed, and unregulated. But legalization opponents clearly see child-danger, impaired driving, and the specter of big marijuana as themes that will resonate with voters.

I’m confused. Isn’t this a reliably blue state?

Yes and no. When it comes to politics, there are two states of Massachusetts.

On the Electoral College map, the state runs so deeply liberal that Pantone could use it to define the color blue. Massachusetts has tipped red only twice—for Eisenhower and Reagan—since 1924.  Boston practically invented the liberal Democrat: the Kennedys, Tip O’Neil, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry, Elizabeth Warren.

Internally, Massachusetts is a different beast. Republican governors—William Weld, Mitt Romney, and current Gov. Charlie Baker—regularly find favor. “People assume Massachusetts is progressive in a uniform way, but that’s not the case,” says Dan Delaney, a former state official and current political consultant in Boston. “We’re a blue-blue-blue state, but we also have a strong working-class, Puritan ethos.” Delaney, by the way, is a firm believer in medical marijuana but came out opposed to Question 4. Massachusetts: It’s complicated.

A prim and proper thread is woven into the local culture. Shirts stay buttoned up. Skirts brush ankles. There’s a reason “banned in Boston” was once shorthand for prudish censorship.

The state, and Boston in particular, is also a global hub for health care practice and research. Questions of addiction and the public-health ramifications of legalization play a larger role here than in just about any other state.

IMG_3327Cannabis and opioids in the Daily Hampshire Gazette: How the gateway myth gets perpetuated. Bruce Barcott/Leafly

The opioid crisis has hit the Northeast like a winter storm. Heroin and fentanyl stories have become a staple of the Boston Globe. When I was in the city last May, the Globe ran a front-pager about condo owners bracing their front doors with two-by-fours against break-ins by addicts seeking drugs and cash.

If science swayed votes, this would be an issue for legalization advocates to emphasize. Studies have shown that opioid use and overdose deaths decrease markedly in states that legalize medical and adult-use marijuana. We’re talking hundreds of human lives. But science takes time to seep into public consciousness. Those are recent studies, and they have to become common knowledge before they can overturn decades of propaganda about cannabis as a “gateway drug.” The opioid crisis was used to defeat legalization earlier this year in Vermont, and it’s being used by the No on 4 folks to call undecided voters into their camp. (Maine, meanwhile, was so excited by the potential for cannabis to curb overdose deaths that the state legislature considered adding opioid addiction as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana.)

It’s a tough issue to overcome. One day last week, the front page of Northampton’s Daily Hampshire Gazette carried a story headlined “Travel guru Steves argues for legal weed”. Directly beneath it, in what might have been a local editor’s misguided attempt at balance, ran a story headlined, “Fentanyl eyed as leading cause of opioid overdoses.”

Old drug war tropes die hard. But if the latest WBUR poll is an indication, they can be broken by straight talk from trusted sources, such as Rick Steves, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and the doctors and nurses of Massachusetts.

Cannabis Ambassador Rick Steves Lands in Massachusetts to Support Question 4

Every few years, travel writer and PBS show host Rick Steves embarks on what he calls a “barnstorming tour,” traveling through the country to advocate for what he calls a “pragmatic” approach to cannabis. The events tend to be small and conversational, but they’ve made a big impact. On Wednesday night he was at Boston’s sleek UMass Club, addressing a crowd of several dozen.

Steves, a board member of NORML, has pushed for legalization for decades. But the cheery 51-year-old is quick to call out a distinction in his support: While he wants legalization for cannabis to move forward, he’s not what he calls “pro-pot.”

“I advocate for the civil liberty of smoking pot,” he told the room during his speech. “I’m driven by civil liberties … and you have to be committed to civil liberties if we’re going to enjoy the freedoms we often take for granted.”

Four years ago he was in Washington, encouraging voters to support I-502, the country’s first law, along with Colorado’s, to legalize adult-use cannabis at the state level. Two years later he showed up in Oregon, which would go on to pass its own adult-use measure. “This year, I talked to my friends at NORML and asked where I can spend my time and money best,” he told Leafly in an interview.

“They said Maine and Massachusetts, and so I’m here.”

“Your legislators don’t have the courage to learn about it.”

Rick Steves, PBS travel host

Steves is in town as part of a statewide canvassing effort in support of Question 4 in Massachusetts, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess and use cannabis. Individuals could cultivate the plant at home, and commercially grown marijuana would be regulated and taxed.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years, and anytime there’s an initiative to tax, regulate, and legalize marijuana in a public-safety way, I’m all over it,” Steves said.

He told the crowd that he’s noticed a disconnect between the cannabis conversation on the East Coast and what he’s used to where he’s from, in Washington state.

In Massachusetts, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Gov. Charlie Baker, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and Attorney General Maura Healey have been vocal opponents of legalization. They’ve argued that cannabis is a “gateway drug” and have warned that legalization would increase teen use of cannabis and could worsen the state’s opioid epidemic. None of those claims is supported by available evidence, and some are directly refuted by it.

“Your legislators don’t have the courage to learn about [cannabis],” Steves told the crowd, motioning to the golden dome of the Massachusetts State House, situated within eyeshot of the venue.


U.S. Attorney General Says Cannabis Is Not a Gateway Drug

Even securing a location for the event in Boston was difficult, Steves said, given how nervous mainstream organizations, legislators, and businesses have been about handling the topic. “On the West Coast, I talk to churches, Rotary clubs, and so on, and it’s great,” he said. In Massachusetts, on the other hand, “it’s hard to even get anyone to give us a venue.”

Talking to pro-cannabis votes, who made up the bulk of Wednesday night’s crowd, is “not going to accomplish as much as talking to a bunch of anti-cannabis people,” he told Leafly, “but anti-cannabis organizations don’t even want to let me in through the door.”

Much of Steves’s talk focused on undoing the prohibitionist propaganda still drives much of cannabis policy today. He said the key to moving the needle nationally is to take the crime out of the equation entirely. “My bottom line is, stop arresting pot smokers.”

A report released Wednesday by the ACLU and Human Rights Watch found that on any given day in the US, at least 137,000 people are in prison on simple cannabis and drug-possession charges. Antiquated laws ensuring cannabis possession or use will lead to jail time, it said, are one of the biggest blights on the criminal justice system—and one of the biggest obstacles to reform.

“It’s a great way to disenfranchise people, but also lock black people up,” he said to the crowd. “Rich white guys don’t get arrested.”


This One Chart Captures Everything Wrong With NYC Cannabis Arrests

Numerous times throughout the event, Steves described what he’s seen Washington and other legal states, such as Colorado. Lawmakers and voters, he said, need to think in terms of 2016—not 2010.

“In 2010, I could understand politicians being skeptical,” he told the crowd. “They were wired by all the government propaganda about how we’re supposed to think about legal cannabis,” namely that it would be an upredictable disaster, that legal markets had no established track record, and that supporters were just going on hunches.

“The hunches of those of us that pushed for legalization four years ago in Washington and Colorado have panned out the way we thought they would,” he went on, “and now we have a track record. But there’s still people saying, ‘But what’s going to happen if we legalize pot?’ We know what’s going to happen. Nothing! You’re just going to take a black market and legalize it and tax the hell out of it.

“Washington and Colorado are pulling in an extra $130 million a year in extra tax revenue, and it’s not coming out of people’s pockets,” he said, referring to the fact that retail prices are generally lower than illegal cannabis once was. “It’s coming from the black market, gangs, and organized crime.”


Here’s Why Cannabis Legalization Doesn’t Lead to Higher Teen Use Rates

“Once California goes, I think this whole prohibition conversation will come tumbling down,” he added, pointing to studies suggesting that tax revenues from fully legal cannabis could bring the state billions of dollars. Considering the state’s GDP is bigger than France’s, that’s not an outlandish prediction.

Preaching to a choir of supporters is par for the course when it comes to the slow-to-adopt East Coast mentality around cannabis legalization, Steves said, but that’s not all he’s doing in Massachusetts. “I’m preaching to the choir in my events, but I’m getting into the media, which is not the choir at all,” he said.

Coverage of his talks results in greater exposure, which allows him to reach ears and eyes even in a state where he has trouble finding an event space. “We couldn’t’ get any [non-cannabis] organizations to sponsor an educational event about cannabis,” he said, “but we’re getting a lot of earned media. Which makes it all worthwhile.”