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The Times They Are a Changing… But Not for the Cannabis Lifers

As the wave of legalization continues to sweep the nation, many cannabis lifers are still rotting behind bars for non-violent offenses.

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Cannabis Lifers
PHOTO | Adobe Stock
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Antonio Bascaro, 84, holds the dubious honor of being the world’s longest-serving cannabis prisoner. After spending 39 years behind bars, Bascaro recently received the news he will be released from federal prison on May 1 of this year.

When I posted news of Bascaro’s upcoming freedom on social media, one commentator joyfully quoted Bob Dylan, Oh the times they are a changing!”

Except they’re not.

Not for people like Bascaro and others like him who are serving life and de-facto life sentences in federal prisons for nonviolent cannabis conspiracies.

Antonio Bascaro

Naturally, Bascaro, his family, and his supporters are thrilled at the news. After nearly four decades of incarceration, he will finally be allowed to go home. But the changing times and loosening cannabis laws had absolutely nothing to do with it.

Bascaro received no special treatment, despite the fact that he is a first time offender. Barack Obama’s clemency push, which did indeed free many prisoners, passed him by. Despite his advanced age and failing health, compassionate release was also denied.

Antonio Bascaro was simply fortunate enough to live long enough to see his de-facto life sentence come to an end. At 84 years old, he now gets to build a life all over again, in a world that looks very different from the one he left behind. Fortunately, Bascaro has a loving family waiting to help him make the transition.

Times may be changing, but the days in federal prison remain the same.

Crystal Munoz

Crystal Munoz, a young mother of two serving 19 years for drawing a map that circumvented a drug checkpoint says, “I deal with the same emotions each passing day, feeling helpless due to not being able to take care of my responsibilities, like my children. I find strength by seeing the things I have to be thankful for. But the time cannot be replaced. The moments that are missed, the milestones that can never be re-experienced.”

First-time offender Craig Cesal — serving a life sentence for cannabis — concurs. “In prison, all days are virtually the same. We awake at the same time, dress the same way, eat at the same time, and go to bed the same way.”

Craig Cesal

Like the Dylan quoting social media commentator, it would be logical for people to assume that with the dominoes of prohibition falling, prisoners incarcerated for cannabis would be released. And in fact, this is happening at the state level in some areas of the country. But the federal justice system, where cannabis remains a Schedule I drug, is an entirely different animal.

Short of Presidential clemency, these prisoners have little hope of ever having a second chance at life. But a little hope can go a long way in federal prison.

When I first began working with cannabis lifers about eight years ago, they too were certain the changing times would at long last provide their ticket to freedom. They were always excited to see photos from rallies where I was speaking or booths we had at Cannabis Cups and other events to bring awareness to their cause.

Back then every news story of cannabis about going mainstream, or every new state that legalized medical or recreational cannabis, was another reason to believe that surely, help would soon be on the way for those serving LIFE for cannabis.

Over the years, however, I have watched a lot of that enthusiastic hope slowly fade.

From federal prison rec rooms across the country, the lifers have continued to watch cannabis stories dominate the news. But it is never their stories.

They hear how celebrities, and even former politicians whose policies helped incarcerate them, are now cashing in on the weed game and making big profits. Yet they remain locked away.

They also hear how cannabis is helping people with health problems, including doing miraculous things for children.

John Knock

John Knock, a first-time offender sentenced to not one but two life sentences for a nonviolent cannabis conspiracy case, recently wrote to me from his prison in New Jersey about a news story he saw about seniors in Orange County, California being bussed to a local medical marijuana dispensary.

For Knock, who has been incarcerated since 1996, the story illustrated just how much the world, in relation to cannabis, has indeed moved on. He could understand how much it is now embracing cannabis and it made him happy to see that seniors now have access to this important medicine. But it also made him realize just how much that same world seems to have completely forgotten about the people like him, who remain rotting in prison for the same substance.

Despite the tireless work of a handful of activists, for the most part, cannabis lifers remain what they always have been, the dirty little secret of the American justice system.

Tell the average citizen that people are serving life sentences for cannabis in the United States and they will either be dumbfounded or not believe you at all.

Even prison staff find it hard to believe these guys are in for life for cannabis, as the lifers are regularly questioned about the absurdity of their sentences.

For federal cannabis prisoners serving endless sentences, hope may wax and hope may wane, depending on the political climate of the world outside. Yet hope always remains a most valuable commodity.

Edwin Rubis

Edwin Rubis, in the midst of serving a forty-year sentence for cannabis, says, “The only way that my prison experience has been somewhat sane is by remaining hopeful that one day I will be released and live a normal life. Without that hope, I do not know where I would be. Probably dead. Because these past 21 years that I have served in prison have been like a hellish nightmare day in day and day out. I try not to think about the next 19 years that I have left to serve.”

Parker Coleman, 33, will be in his 80s by the time his sentence is completed, much like Antonio Bascaro is now. Despite staring a living death sentence in the face every day, Coleman’s strength and optimism remain strong.

Parker Coleman

“I don’t have hope,” he says, “I BELIEVE, and I know the end result. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, I WILL be resurrected from this death one day.”

Coleman even made a personal and heartfelt appeal to the one person who can actually grant him a second chance, President Donald Trump. “There is power in thoughts and words. A system of actions, backed up by belief, always produces results,” he says.

In the meantime, Coleman and rest of the cannabis lifers hopefully await the next action from the White House and the office of the pardon attorney.

About the Author

Cheri Sicard is the author of Mary Jane: The Complete Cannabis Handbook for Women, The Easy Cannabis Cookbook, and more. Her “hobby” is helping prisoners serving life sentences for nonviolent cannabis offenses. Find her website at CannabisCheri.com and Cannademy.com.

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Culture

Ricky Williams Flips the Script with new Highsman Brand

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PHOTO | HIGHSMAN

Once scrutinized by sports pundits and fans alike for using cannabis, Ricky Williams, is flipping the script with Highsman — his new cannabis lifestyle brand line of personally curated products.

Created to empower professional and everyday athletes as well as sports enthusiasts alike, Highsman offers premium quality cannabis as well as a collection of apparel and accessories designed to compliment an active lifestyle on and off the field. 

“It is time we change the way we talk about cannabis,” says Williams. “Highsman is about an appreciation for greatness. There is a passionate and dedicated team behind the brand, and together we want to help all people inspire greatness in themselves.” 

Initially offered as pre-packaged eighths, three cultivars have been curated by Williams to compliment moments in the day. Pre-Game is a sativa for an energized boost; Half-Time is a hybrid for focused awareness; and the Post-Game Indica offers a relaxed mood. A line of pre-rolls is currently in development.

Williams brings a deep knowledge of herbs, sports and wellness to the brand. He studied the origins of cannabis in the foothills of the Himalayas and spent years learning about the healing properties of the plant. He credits smoking cannabis as a way of overcoming the challenges associated with being a professional athlete, from social anxiety to physical injuries. 

“Highsman is at the intersection of sports and cannabis and was created for fans and aficionados of both.” says Eric Hammond, CEO. “Years in the making, Highsman launches at a tipping point where sports and cannabis collide, and we are excited to continue to break boundaries between the two.” 

A supporting collection of sports-inspired streetwear varsity jackets and baseball tees and must-have smoking accoutrements — rolling trays, pelican cases, water bottles — are also available. that compliments the Highsman lifestyle.

Highsman cannabis is available at select retailers in California and Oregon and online

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Culture

Stevie Van Zandt Launches Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary, Grown By Iconic Cultivator Chemdog

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Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary
STEVIE VAN ZANDT

Stevie Van Zandt is a founding member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Silvio Dante of The Sopranos, a New York Times best selling author and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer — and he’s adding cannabis to his iconic credentials. Van Zandt is getting into the weed game with his eponymous line of pre-rolls under the name Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary. 

The pre-rolls contain high-CBD, low-THC craft cannabis grown by Smash Hits cannabis — Canna Provisions proprietary craft cannabis flower. Van Zandt is certainly in good hands as the Director of Cultivation of Canna Provisions is non-other than legendary grower Chemdog.

Meg Sanders, Canna Provisions CEO, said, “Little Steven wanted to be sure to have an approachable, low-THC and high-CBD cannabis that is less about the recreational high, and more for people seeking the benefits of cannabis and cannabinoids like high-CBD cannabis on the body and mind.”

Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary Pre-Rolls | PHOTO CREDIT

According to the website, “this cannabis is meant to provide a powerful feeling of well being and enriching your endocannabinoid system with high-CBD and low-THC flower, so it’s less of a stoned-high and more a full body balancing effect with uplifting pep.”

Like so many others, the pandemic gave the guitar hero and a wake up call on the importance of personal well-being, promting him to create his Underground Apothecary, which offers a range of holistic teas, lollipops, candles and now pre-rolls.

“I have always demanded the very best from myself and of everyone around me, and my new wellness brand Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary is no different,” says Van Zandt. “Products like Smash Hits cannabis are like my other partners for the Apothecary – the best I can find in the world. So enjoy, be well, and stay focused on the only part of our destinies we totally control – what we choose to put in our bodies.”

“We need to help spread cannabis education, destigmatization, and stop unjust criminalization for a plant that not only does a lot of good, but has proven during COVID to be almost as essential as art to people’s well being and quality of life,” says Van Zandt.

To that end, ten percent of all profits from Van Zandt’s Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary will be given to the National Organization for Marijuana Legalization (NORML).

Canna Provisions, home of Little Steven’s Underground Apothecary | PHOTO CREDIT

Available exclusively at Canna Provisions dispensaries in Lee and Holyoake, Massachusetts.

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Culture

Stuff & Puff Berner’s New Cali Pre-Roll

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Cali
PHOTO | VIBES

Cannabis mogul Berner has dropped the latest must-have pre-roll paper from his premium rolling paper brand, Vibes. A fresh alternative to the traditional cone, The Cali is a cylindrical pre-roll tube that’s been designed for optimum airflow for the optimal smoking experience.

In a press release, the Bay Area rapper says that he’s been rolling for over 20 years, and that over that time, he was constantly told by friends that they would smoke joints over blunts if they could roll them. So he partnered with Greenlane to develop this innovative alternative.

PHOTO: Vibes

“As passionate smokers, and connoisseurs, we are gonna continue to focus on quality papers and products that consumers are missing, such as The Cali,” said Berner in a press release.

“All you have to do is stuff and puff with The Cali.”

The Cali is dedicated to those of us who like a big-smoke experience. We found the papers to burn very evenly and smoothly. They are also easy to extinguish and relight,  and even burn evenly in areas where I packed it too tightly or too loose (deliberately, before y’all start commenting). 

Plus, The Cali pre-rolls are massive, so make sure you have plenty of herb on hand for your next session to fully enjoy the experience either with your homies or when you’re chilling alone.

The Cali Collection | PHOTO: Vibes

The Cali is offered in three sizes — one, two, and three gram — across all four signature Vibes paper collections: Ultra Thin, Rice, Hemp, and Organic Hemp

Look for Vibes papers at your local retailer nationwide.

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