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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

John Sinclair - Free the Weed 100 - July 2019

By John Sinclair

Hi everybody, and welcome to my 100th consecutive column for MMReport, until quite recently known as MMMReport. My contribution started with the Hash Bash issue for 2011, which my publisher says was the third—rather than the first—issue of the magazine, correcting my mistake in my last column.

In any case, I’ve kicked out about 1200 words every 30 days for the past 99 months, talking about whatever strikes my fancy and focusing on the concern voiced in the title: FREE THE WEED. 

Since I started writing here we’ve seen hundreds of grass-roots dispensaries open and close, we’ve brought about the legalization of marijuana for personal use of whatever sort, and we’ve witnessed the construction of a vast state bureaucracy and shakedown system to contain and stymie the marijuana community.

To enlarge on something I said last month, when we started the marijuana legalization movement in Michigan more than 50 years ago, our dream was that we would be able to get high wherever and whenever we might want to with whomever might care to join us. 

In those days you could get a “lid” of grass—roughly, an ounce—for $10, and we thought that was a pretty reasonable price. Now, of course, a $10 gram represents 28 times as much as we paid then. Everything else costs about 28 times as much now as well, so that doesn’t really say much about marijuana prices as it happens.

Our original weed dreams are still quite a way from realization, and the state authorities remain an unwavering obstacle to freedom despite the stated wishes of the voting public with respect to marijuana legalization. Although they’re now prohibited from arresting and imprisoning us for simple possession of the weed, the same people who were putting us in prison are now charging marijuana purveyors thousands and thousands of dollars to operate under the color of the new laws and earmarking the proceeds for expansion of the police state anti-marijuana apparatus. 

How many police officers will it take to keep track of every marijuana seed introduced into the state of Michigan? That’s how many they will hire, using funds from the proceeds of the exorbitant licensing schemes they’ve put into effect since 2016. How much worse will it get when the marijuana marketplace expands from medically certified patients to every adult in the state who wants to get high?

And in the second place there’s the inevitable takeover of the marijuana marketplace by the big corporations, from those chartered specifically to exploit the commercial marijuana market to those who are already huge from other areas of business that are now reaching out into the marijuana industry for more massive profits.
So it’s not like we’re going to be able to lean back in our big chairs and relax with a big joint in celebration of our progress. Vigilance is still required, and we must remain ready to keep fighting in any area that starts to turn bad. For example, the whole question of the continuing federal criminalization of weed is almost too huge to contemplate, yet nothing happens for real until this situation is fully addressed and overcome.

The American establishment has embedded its twisted concept of marijuana and its uses so deeply in the very tissue of our mainstream culture that it’s impossible to say how long it will take to dig it out and dispose of it once and for all. It’s going to be a long time before the square American who believes in the bullshit teachings of the War on Drugs will be able to regard the marijuana smoker as anything but a bad citizen who is abusing drugs for a sinful purpose.

These sick beliefs are ingrained in our country’s social outlook to an extent equaled only by the organized religion sector, which has the same sort of unshakeable faith in things for which there is no objective evidence or proof but which are considered the very stuff of life and death. How to combat this situation is really quite far beyond me—all I know how to do is tell the truth and hope for the best.

I read something very much like this recently from my friend and vigorous legalization activist Rick Thompson, who was commenting on the need for federal legislation to end the national war of marijuana. Rick says, “Prohibition is a cloak difficult to shed.”

“As the United States modernizes cannabis laws there are some who resist the change. Some have claimed cannabis is a danger for so long that, to change their beliefs now would require a change in their own personality. Those people use gilded hands to drape the prohibitionist’s cloak on the shoulders of each new person who ascends to power, in the hope of maintaining the illusion of evil cannabis for just a bit longer.
“Like a favorite piece of clothing, the American ban on cannabis has protected those who sought an easy excuse to justify fear and hate. ‘Marijuana is bad!’ those wearing the prohibition cloak say, to scientists who prove otherwise.’It is bad!’ they yell, to mothers whose ill children have found relief through the use of cannabis medicines. ‘It is bad! they insist, even when government tells them there are no illnesses, deaths or dangers associated with the use of cannabis.
“That cloak is a comfortable protector for some. Wearing the cloak absolves one of the dual responsibilities of education and personal evolution; there is nothing to know beyond the three-word response and there is no reason to change opinion, either. The cloak has become a shield against the elements of truth and justice, which are both raining down and cleansing our long-suffering society of an illness we should have cured long ago.”
Amen, Rick. That’s what I’m talking about, rooting out this ugly virus that’s been endemic in our culture for going on a hundred years. There’s no calculating how much harm has been done by the American ban on cannabis, but it hasn’t ended yet and we’ve still got a long way to go to FREE THE WEED. The good thing is that there ain’t no stopping us now, and it’s becoming simply a matter of time and more effort on our part before we can wipe the slate clean.
In closing, I think I should report that the lawsuit against the State of Michigan for continuing to classify marijuana as a “controlled substance” under the law, titled John Sinclair et al. v. Michigan Board of Pharmacy, and Nichole Cover, on which I reported here in a recent column, has been dismissed by the Michigan Court of Claims Judge Colleen O’Brien on procedural grounds. Our attorney Matt Abel of Cannabis Counsel and Michigan NORML says: “It’s being appealed, but it continues that we really need a legislative solution because the courts have not the courage to do the right thing.” Sound familiar?
June 20, 2019

© 2019 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.

An Interview with "Q" - July 2019

By: Ben Horner

As a former reporter for NBC and eventually, Fox News Detroit, Anqunette Sarof knows what it is like to be in the spotlight. Mrs. Sarof was faced with a set back to her broadcasting career when she was diagnosed with MS. Turning to medical marijuana to help with the new health challenges, Anqunette found relief and a new purpose.

Anqunette, also known as “Q”, met the MM Report at her recently licensed Medical Marijuana Provisioning Center in Detroit:

When did you first try Marijuana?

Q- “Of course I had tried it (cannabis) before, but it really wasn’t my thing. Cannabis is the only thing I’m using to treat my MS. I was on nine medications, and still suffering when my husband, Richard said, “you should smoke a joint,” so I did. My family and friends were very supportive. “

How did Fox react to you leaving the station and your use of medical marijuana?

Q- “My doctor told me that I had to leave my job in television unless I wanted to be in a wheelchair. I was able to retire from the station, due to the MS disability. The people at Fox were very supportive. I then made MI Legalize my priority. I felt that if I could use marijuana safely and legally, no one should go to jail for being a cannabis user.”  

How did it feel when Michigan legalized marijuana in 2018?

Q- “I felt like MI legalize was robbed in 2016. We had spent all that time to be denied. In 2018 there was a sense of vindication. It was good to be on the right side of history, because many didn’t believe it was possible.”

When did you open your Dispensary?

Q- “We first opened last year on election day. (11-7-19) My husband and I worked together and other professionals to open BonatiQ. Our group has the provisioning center here in Detroit and a cultivation facility. We are working on a processor license too.

How do you feel about the restrictions on Caregiver products in the “Provisioning Centers?”

Q- “I know that patients want caregiver products, they need the variety that caregivers provide. I thought that part of the impetus of legalization is that growers should be able to bring their products into the retail space and legitimize those people. So I don’t know how they came to not be included in this new process. Michigan has some of the best growers. I think they should be included.”

 What does being part of this Detroit Revival mean to BotaniQ, and does gentrification have an impact?

Q- “What I love about Detroit is the people. I think that no matter where you are it’s important to be connected to your community and their needs. The issue of gentrification in Detroit is real. I can understand how people that have lived for more than fifty years in Detroit, see their community contract and resources diverted to downtown can be a problem. If you come into BotaniQ, you can see the community represented here. We make it a point to support community events.” 

What makes BotaniQ special?

Q- “Our motto is Alleviate, Elevate and Educate.  We want to alleviate pain and suffering from people in our community. Not only are people hurting, but also communities are hurting too. We realize that the war on drugs has disproportionately impacted people of color. We elevate patients by employing them; all of our budtenders are patients. We educate our communities and try to breakdown the stereotypes. We have lots more planned for the future.  BotaniQ is just the beginning.” 

Do You Consider yourself a role model?

Q- “I don’t know. I think everyone is, or should be. I guess I am a role model for some for sure.  As a woman of color, being a patient and activist for legalization, I have tried to do the right thing. It helps to talk to people that are going through what you are going through. As you can see there are a lot of women here, and we have tried to make this a place where women feel comfortable.  People approached me because of my story. I think my job is to help people live a healthier life, and not just with cannabis. I want people to know they have been lied to, and here is one of the ways you can help the body heal itself.”

What are your plans for the future?

Q- “Soon we will have some announcements. Richard and myself are exploring options. Maybe more locations, Michigan is our oyster. We shall see.”

VGIP - Return of the Empire - July 2019

Written By: Ben Horner

The Vote Green Initiative Project (VGIP) was started as an education program to promote being active in the election process.  In the years past, dozens of meetings were held around the state to educate and advocate for individual cannabis rights, safe access to medical marijuana, as well as local petition drives. Thousands of iconic Vote Green tee shirts were distributed to eager participants to wear as a badge of honor.

Many cities around the State used the VGIP platform to assemble petition teams, led by the Godfather of cannabis law, Tim Beck of the Safer Michigan Coalition. Several petition styles were drafted, to tackle the nuances of each municipality. Sometimes amending a cities code to remove penalties was the simplest way to produce a victory. Chuck Ream used a different technique in Ypsilanti called Lowest Law Enforcement Priority (LLEP), which used money spent and annual reports to curb marijuana prosecutions.  Grand Rapids, working independently took a play from Ann Arbor and made possession a small fine, to decriminalize pot to a certain degree.

These small victories in Detroit, Ypsilanti, Flint, Ferndale, Grand Rapids, Port Huron, Saginaw, and several others, demonstrated solid support for legalization. Thus, a statewide campaign was started and has now come to fruition. For many this is a lifetime achievement culminated by years of hard work in the face of reefer madness, but is the fight over? 

The VGIP has a process of hosting educational meetings to educate folks about this petitioning strategy and getting involved in the politics of cannabis law reform. Now that we have achieved legalization, the political machine in Lansing is swinging its pendulum legal correction. This happens every time a people’s initiative is passed that favors citizen’s rights over the powers of the legislators. 

Stoned Driving Limits:

State senator Betty Jean Alexander has proposed a new “stoned driving” law, SB 347, to amend the Michigan vehicle code that would set that level at 5 ng/ml for active THC in a driver’s blood system. Although a recent Michigan advisory opinion issued suggests fundamental flaws in establishing a per se limit, Alexander doesn’t take heed.

New Labeling Requirements:

Representative Thomas Albert introduced House bill HB 4126, which would require licensed cannabis products to say the following:
“Use by pregnant or breastfeeding women, or by women planning to become pregnant, may result in fetal injury, preterm birth, low birth weight, or developmental problems for the child.”

Marijuana activists question the science referenced in support of this bill.

Not in My Park:

Introduced by Representative Mike Mueller, House bill HB 4963 would add legal marijuana to the list of banned substances in parks and recreational facilities in Michigan. Alcohol is not allowed in state parks as well as controlled substances. 

Lansing has till the end of the year to pass legislation to impact the regulations for the adult use of marijuana under the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.  Several more related clean up bills are anticipated to enter the mix. The VGIP will work to keep citizens informed of these bills and encourage participation in the legislative process.

Michigan News - July 2019

Cannabis Businesses Are In Short Supply In The Upper Peninsula 

The Upper Peninsula is the place to be if you want to get a proper cannabis education, Northern Michigan University in Marquette and Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste Marie are among the few schools in the nation that offer cannabis degrees and education programs. However if you are looking for a licensed facility to purchase products from, there is only one option; Northern Specialty Health of Houghton. There are 7,081 card holders in the Upper Peninsula, and some of those patients have to drive upwards of 5 hours to get to the provisioning center. There were multiple unlicensed dispensaries operating around the U.P, however they have all shut down to await the State’s plans to regulate the new market.

Most of the larger municipalities in the U.P. have opted out of Cannabis businesses until the state releases the official rules and regulations surrounding the recreational market. “Marquette opted out, but we did that with a very clear understanding that we would, in all likelihood, be opting in once we had the rules and regulations from the state of Michigan,” Marquette Mayor Fred Stonehouse said. “From a leadership perspective, we tend to be conservative. But that doesn’t mean we’re against it. We’re just trying to be very careful. It took the state years to come up with licensing and rules for medical marijuana, so we decided to opt out of recreational simply because we didn’t want to go first until the state had their rules in place,” he said. “It comes down to what does the community want and who do we want to be. This is something that has far-reaching effects. It’s going to take a lot of thought for our council.”

Gov Whitmer Joins The Fight To Lift Cannabis Banking Restrictions

The Michigan Governor joined forces with 18 other Governors to call for legislation to remove legal banking restrictions and allow for financial institutions to bank with state licensed cannabis based businesses. As the law currently stands, financial institutions are prohibited from accepting cash, check or electronic payments from cannabis businesses under the Controlled Substances Act. which leaves 34 states with medical marijuana businesses, and 10 states with recreational marijuana businesses with little option as far as banking. The bipartisan group comprised of 19 Governors have recently called on congressional leadership to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE).

“Michiganders turned out in historic numbers in this last election to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, and we must respect the will of the voters,” Whitmer said. “There is an inherent danger for businesses operating in an all-cash business because financial institutions are unable to accept the risks and penalties associated with providing service to this industry under current law. This letter sends a clear message to Congress that our states are looking for a real solution to a real problem, and we support them to get this done.”

New Warning Labels On Cannabis Products

Legislators in Michigan may vote to enforce a warning label pertaining to pregnancy and nursing mothers. While many Doctors discourage the use of cannabis during pregnancy, many women are opting to utilize cannabis to help relieve their morning sickness during pregnancy. The decision to require the warning labels comes after 2 studies showed a possible correlation to low birth weight and preterm labor, however there has just not been enough research done yet to say whether or not this is a valid concern. While the Michigan Marijuana community does not oppose the addition of the label, there is some concern regarding covering products with too many labels. Robin Schneider, the executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, has stated that she would like to see one condensed label to include all of the concerns as “There’s just not a lot of room left (on packaging) for warning labels”.

First Provisioning Center In Muskegon Opens Its Doors 

Park Place Provisionary recently became the very first provisioning center on the west lakeshore to open its doors, thanks to a special city ordinance geared towards rehabbing old buildings.  The city is working with Marijuana businesses in an attempt to flip dilapidated buildings within the industrial part of town. Their goal is to clean up the area, while also spurring new business life. There were 20 buildings up for grabs, Park Place snagged one of the first, a former truck freight terminal that was built back in the early 1940’s. The goal is to turn the ugly boarded up buildings in that area into thriving businesses. Owner Greg Maki said he knew right away that this was the building he wanted, and has given it a total face lift including all new windows, a new parking lot, over 40 security cameras, and new paint and landscaping. There are approximately 5,500 medical card holders in Muskegon County, so there is definitely a market for it in the area. 

Record Turn Out For First Recreational Cannabis Cup In Clio

The first High Times Cannabis Cup following the passing of recreational cannabis laws here in Michigan was a hit. The number of attendees more than doubled from previous card holder only events as tens of thousands of people filled the Auto City Speedway in Clio. The sheer abundance of patrons flocking to the event created a few struggles. Parking especially was a significant issue, with some local residents charging $15 to patrons to park in their private yards over a half mile away from the venue. Lines at the gate in some cases exceeded well over 2 hours in wait time. The sheer number of people that turned out is an indication of the potential of the recreational market in Michigan. 

National News - July 2019

Congress Takes Steps To Protect Legal States From The Feds

The democratic controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted recently to block the Federal Justice Department from interfering with states that have passed adult use marijuana laws. The 267-165 bipartisan vote is a relief to Cannabis Advocates who had attempted, unsuccessfully, to press the idea to the previous GOP controlled House. Lawmakers had previously enacted similar protections for the 47 states with legal medical cannabis laws, However this is a first for the 11 states with recreational laws. During his confirmation hearing in January, Attorney General William Barr stated that the Justice Department would not be pursuing any marijuana businesses within states with legal cannabis laws, despite the federal prohibition. Vowing that he will not use the already limited resources of the federal government to target legally ran and operated cannabis businesses.

Illinois Becomes The 11th State To Pass Recreational Marijuana

Illinois recently passed a bill for adult use recreational marijuana, becoming the 11th state in the nation, and 2nd in the midwest to do so. The bill allows for Illinois residents 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of cannabis, allows tourists to possess up to 15 grams, and those with any past convictions for possession of up to 30 grams can have their record expunged. “Cannabis criminalization in Illinois is coming to an end. While this bill isn’t perfect, it does provide a pathway for adults to legally obtain and consume cannabis. It also expands access and rights for qualified medical patients. Importantly, the bill provides much needed relief to those most harmed by the legacy of prohibition and emphasizes giving those who have been most harmed by cannabis criminalization preference in establishing a foothold in this new industry,” said Illinois NORML Executive Director Dan Linn. “We are confident that this is the best bill we could get through the legislature at this time, but are adamant that Illinois must enact additional protections in the future, in particular the right of adults to home grow personal use amounts of cannabis,” he added.

U.S Cannabis Jobs Expected To Increase By 34% By The End of 2019

The number of full time cannabis employees in the United States is expected to skyrocket by 34% with a potential to reach well over 200,000 workers by the end of 2019. That is more than the number of U.S. Flight Attendants, and more than double the amount of veterinarians. The newly released 2019 Marijuana Business Factbook estimated that the number of full time cannabis workers in the U.S. was between 130,000 and 160,000 in 2018, and is expected to increase anywhere between 175,000 to 215,000 by the end of 2019. Wages have also begun to increase as well due to supply and demand trends, more and more emerging companies are offering competitive wages for experienced cannabis workers.

Black Market Cannabis Continues To Thrive In The U.S. 

Despite the sweeping legalization trends and advocating efforts for federal legalization the black market continues to thrive throughout the United States.  Even though they have access to legal, and tested products it seems that some people are equally as likely to obtain their cannabis through black market means as they are to obtain it through a legally ran business. This trend is becoming a significant problem to those that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain the right to own a legal business. A U.S. company which specializes in data for the cannabis market, Consumer Research Around Cannabis, recently released data that tracked where consumers were obtaining their products from. Here are a few trends that were noted in recreational markets;
  • Denver, Colorado: In Summer, 2018, 9.4% of survey respondents were still purchasing cannabis non-legally, a small incline from 9.2% the previous year. In comparison, 28.4% were purchasing from legal markets in 2018, up from 26.6% the previous year.

  • Las Vegas, Nevada: Illicit market purchases rose from 9.7% to 12.8% from Spring to Fall 2018. At the same time, legal purchases rose from 21.5% to 29%.

  • Seattle, Washington: Purchases in the illegal market rose from 7.8% to 10.3% from Winter 2018 to Winter 2019. Purchases in the legal markets rose from 25.6% to 28.6% during this time period.

New York Decriminalizes Cannabis After Legalization Efforts Failed

The New York State Senate recently passed a bill to decriminalize the possession of less than 2 ounces of cannabis after full legalization efforts failed. The bill will also help to establish procedures to expunge the records of most misdemeanor non violent cannabis convictions. As many as 600,000 people, mostly african american and latino, could benefit from the bill. State Senator Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), who sponsored the bill, said “In New York State, people of color are disproportionately arrested for marijuana possession, The misdemeanor charge for public view of marijuana possession gives those people convicted a criminal record that will follow them throughout their lives, potentially limiting their access to housing, access to education, affecting their ability to obtain employment, all leading to a potential inability to provide for their families.” Legalization would have allowed for the framework of a legal cannabis market, which would have allowed for tax revenue within the state, however the bill did not receive enough votes to pass, so lawmakers decided that decriminalization would be the next best thing. Bailey called decriminalization a “step in the right direction in finally ending the heavy-handed war on drugs that has decimated communities of color.”

World News - July 2019

Church Of England Explores Possibly Investing In Medical Cannabis 

The Church of England is the largest, most influential religious organization in Great Britain. Recently they announced that they intend to lift the long standing prohibition of medical cannabis and will begin to explore the possibility of investing in the fast-growing industry. The organization’s Church Commissioners are in charge of the £8.3 billion investment portfolio, which includes real estate, cash, and stakes in a variety of companies that meet “ethical and responsible” criteria. The commissioners have long avoided any stakes in what they consider to be “sin stocks”  such as alcohol or tobacco, however pharmaceutical drug companies were fair game, which in Great Britain now includes medical cannabis. While physicians are now able to write cannabis prescriptions to qualifying patients, access to those medications is still mostly theoretical at this point however, as they have not really set any type of infrastructure into place as of yet. Church commissioners announced that they are looking into possible investment opportunities for medical cannabis only. Edward Mason, the Church’s chief of responsible investment stated “We make a distinction between recreational cannabis and medicinal cannabis, We are content with it being used for proper medicinal purposes.”

As for patients? The church will issue a “formal stance” on medical cannabis sometime “soon.”

U.K. Cannabis Oil Company Reaches High Profile Shelves

One of the world’s most high profile luxury department stores, Harold’s, will begin to stock CBD oil on their shelves, supplied by a London based cannabis company. Dragonfly Biosciences, is one of the leading European producers of CBD extracts, controlling the farming, extraction and producing. The company supplies products to companies such as Tesco, Boots and also supplies bulk oil to multiple different pharmacies. Following the rescheduling of Cannabis for medical use last October, the Company announced a joint venture with a leading cGMP pharmaceutical company in Malta. The product will be manufactured in a cGMP facility and distributed to European territories within which legal cannabis is permitted to be sold in pharmacies.

China Blames U.S and Canada For An Increase In Cannabis Access

At a recent press conference in Beijing, Liu Yuejin, deputy director of the China National Narcotics Control Commission blamed Canada and the U.S. for the increase in cannabis coming into the country. According to Liu, the number of cannabis users in China skyrocketed by 25% describing it as a “new threat to China” stating “In two years, we have found increasing cannabis trafficked from North America to China,” though he further elaborated that there are “few cannabis abusers in China” relative to the total population. Punishments for possession in China are severe, anyone that is found in possession of more than 50 grams of any controlled substance could face the death penalty. Authorities have even been known to do random on the spot drug tests at bars and nightclubs. 

Zimbabwe Government Approves First Cannabis Farm

Government officials recently approved plans for the country’s first Cannabis farm and production farm. Ivory Medical, a Harare-based company has secured a 10-hectare (roughly 24.7 acres) piece of land at the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services’ Buffalo Range prison in Chiredzi due to the high security it will provide. The African nation which generally has a harsh stance on drug use, legalized the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal and scientific use last year. Recreational drug use is still illegal in the country, and previously the possession of cannabis could result in a 12 year prison sentence. 

What Nation Smokes The Most Cannabis?

Have you ever wondered what nation consumes the most cannabis? The answer may surprise you. You may think that the distinction would go to Canada or America based on the sweeping legalization trends, however you would be wrong. The Nation with the highest percentage of cannabis users is the African nation of Nigeria which has a surprisingly vibrant cannabis culture despite the harsh punishment. Cannabis is still illegal in Nigeria, however the sheer amount of people using it shows significant need for reform. A recent report shows 19.4 percent of Nigerians over the age of 15 have consumed cannabis or cannabis based products in the past year. That is approximately 39 million people that contribute to the illicit industry, which bolsters an estimated  value of $15.3 billion. The second place distinction goes to Canada with 15.8 percent of the population over 15 reporting cannabis use in the past year, and the third place distinction goes to America with a solid 15 percent of the population over 15 reporting cannabis use in the past year. However, If you look at the sheer numbers vs the percentage of the population then you would get a different answer, America would fall at number 1 with approximately 49 million regular consumers, Nigeria would be second with a whopping 39 million, and Canada would be trailing behind with only 6 million. 

France Holding Firm On No Recreational Cannabis 

While government officials in France are holding firm on their no tolerance policy for recreational cannabis, they are considering authorizing the medical market. In a recent statement, Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne said “The position of the French state is clear. We are against legalizing cannabis for recreational use. There is an ongoing discussion about a medical use,” Borne’s comments follow the publication of a report by French Think-tank the Conseil d’Analyse Economique which recommended the legalization of cannabis recreationally. While several countries, including Italy, Germany, and Denmark already allow for medical cannabis, and both Uruguay and Canada have already passed recreational laws, France is still holding firm. Greenleaf, a french hemp-based and cannabis healthcare company recently said that they agreed to be bought out by EMMAC Life Sciences Ltd as the legal medical market appears to be expanding.

Herbert Huncke's America - Edited By Jerome Poynton Literary Executor - July 2019


Mardi Gras just passed in New Orleans—thinking of it recalls to mind Don Castle, the tattooed man I met one evening on Oak Street beach in Chicago—later running into him in New Orleans. He was a rather strange man—an ex-junkie freak-show worker and poet—tattooed from a line circling his neck, like a collar, to his wrists on both arms and his ankles on both legs. There was a large red rose tattooed on his penis he delighted in telling about—describing in detail the discomfort and pain he had suffered at the time of the actual tattooing. He lived alone and claimed kindredship with spirits from another world.  He was something of a mystic—talking for hours on end about God—what is God—what God wants for mankind—and how after death God absorbs into his being—representative of central life force—the entity we know as ourselves. He said that he had seen God and talked with him.

He was a lonely man and often spoke lovingly of his days as the tattooed man in a side-show—when he knew the India-rubber-man—the fat woman—the bearded lady—the sword swallower—the snake charmer— geeks—midgets—circus people—roustabouts—clowns—animal trainers— tightrope walkers—trapeze artists—all kinds of people connected with the side-shows and big tops. For some reason he had gotten away from all that —no longer in touch with the only element he felt comfortable in. He was vague about what had happened but I gathered, from conversational bits, he had started using junk—finally getting hooked and eventually having a run- in with the police—having served time. At any rate he felt he could no longer go back.

Editor’s Note:

Tattooed Man is one of Herbert Huncke’s shorter pieces and I wish it was longer. In the late 1920s talkies -- sound -- was introduced into cinema and the Vaudeville actors -- and circus sideshow people -- were sidelined as audience moved to the modern entertainment of moving pictures with sound.

Tattooed Man is from the late 1930s. Ward Hall, the last remaining showmen of freaks and circus sideshows in America -- did not begin in business until 1947, nearly ten years later – yet the winds of change was in the air and the audience for sideshow freak shows was in decline.

That show was over.

100s of traveling sideshow performers peaked and Ward Hall well chronicles its history and demise.

Many years ago I spoke with Ward, asking him if he knew sideshow hermaphrodite Elsie-John, (MMMR Report, December 2018).

Ward did not know Elsie but he knew of her.  He knew which sideshow she travelled with. There were several “half and halfs” is how he called hermaphrodites. He had one or two in his stable of human oddities.

Ward discovered the Penguin Boy -- or the Penguin Boy discovered Ward.  As I remember him telling me as his side show travelled from town to town, human oddities would come to the show to meet Ward Hall.  On one such occasion, Ward met Dick Brisbane, a young man whose feet extended from his hips, without benefit of legs, and he waddled when he walked.

Ward named him The Penguin Boy. As Ward explained it to me Penguin Boy did quite a good business and retired wealthy, living out west, with two homes in two different states. 

Tattooed Man was a 1930s cross-over -- creating his life in a world of exile -- as a self-chosen freak.

More on Ward Hall and the history of American sideshows, freaks and circus performers.

Great interviews with Ward Hall:

“Ward Hall spearheaded a campaign against a 1921 Florida statute banning the exhibition of malformed, deformed or disfigured humans. He was successful: three years later, judges held the sideshow prohibition ‘unconstitutional’ – because people with deviating bodies have the right to work.”