27 | Box Brown, “Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America”
June 20, 2019
We've all heard that cannabis prohibition is about racism. But how did it really happen?
This is how: Government authorities systematically stoked fear of Mexicans and African Americans, and used that fear as a wedge to keep cannabis illegal, and minorities under control. For decades.
It's quite a story, and Box Brown did the research and put it all into his epic comic book “Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America.”
It's a fun episode as we explore the socio-economics of cannabis prohibition, with tangents on Box's books on Andre the Giant and Tetris. You'll also hear the story of how Box got busted for smoking weed at age 16, and how that fateful event changed the course of his life.
Hey, it's Tom. Welcome back to the Kannaboomers Podcast. You know, you've probably heard that our current cannabis laws are due to our racist policies in the past. And maybe you've accepted that as a bit of unconventional wisdom. Our guest this week, Box Brown, author of “Cannabis, the Illegalization of Weed in America,” has dug deep into that subject and put together a really nice readable graphic novel, although it's not a novel, it's nonfiction, but a very long comic book essentially about Harry Anslinger who had a decades-long obsession with making cannabis illegal in the United States. And it's a very thorough, comprehensive look at this and how it came about as well as the history that brought cannabis to America and many other aspects of it. I really enjoyed our conversation. We dug deep into the culture and economics and science of cannabis. And it was very interesting to hear Box's story, including, the story of his arrest as a young man and how that led him to write this book many years later as sort of a catharsis. So I hope you enjoy the episode and enjoy the book. And as always, thanks to Danny for setting us up and making us sound good, and come and see us at Kannaboomers.com. We've got transcripts if you don't feel like listening and lots of other good stuff. Enjoy the show.
This is, “Let's Talk About Weed”, the Kannaboomers Podcast, CBD, micro dosing, and all things related to medical cannabis for baby boomers from San Diego. Here's your host, Thomas J.
So with us is Box Brown out of Philadelphia, who has authored “Cannabis, the Illegalization of Weed in America” I read it. It's a great book. It's a new way to learn about cannabis and the history of it in this country, which a lot of us are unfamiliar with. So I really recommend it. Box, how did you get started on this journey?
Well, on this particular book, I would say that my first interest in cannabis was not. I mean, I, you know, I was, I was curious about it when I was a teenager and ended up getting arrested for a possession when I was 16. Well, yeah. Uh, I was not a in any kind of a cannabis expert at the time. It was probably like the, I dunno, 10th time I ever even smoked pot like in my life. And then, uh, so then I was arrested and um, uh, it was scary. You know, they handcuff you and throw you in the back of a police car going 100 miles an hour down these little, um, suburban streets. Um, you know, they're trying to scare you and then there's a whole. There was a whole court proceeding and I had a, I had a probation officer and I was drug tested and um, you know, they, they had a lot of, they would say, you know, hold a lot of things over your head. You know, if you get caught caught while you're on probation, you're going to juvenile detention center and all these different things. It left a big impression on me. Like I don't think, I don't even know if I would be as interested in cannabis at all as an adult if that hadn't happened to me as a teenager. You know?
Right. They made you into a criminal.
Yeah. They made me into a stoner for half. So I mean, uh, because it just became more a scare, you know, exciting. Because it was a tad more taboo.
Elicit. Yeah. Well, one of the facts in your book, I think you mentioned that there were in the early eighties there were about 400,000 arrests a year in the U.S. for cannabis.
Box Brown: (03:26)
Yeah. It still is happening in the U.S in states where it's not legal in a big way. I mean, you know, we've gone through 83 years of prohibition where, where hundreds of thousands of people were arrested each year. Uh, it's interesting because the year that I was arrested, a 1996 that was the year that cannabis arrests doubled in the U.S. under Bill Clinton. So, you know, I got wrapped up in the, in the Bill Clinton war on drugs of 1996 and it's still happening like in New Jersey where they all have medical cannabis and they are ostensibly trying to legalize, they've had a bunch of bills. Try to almost get to the governor's desk, but not all the way there. And uh, they're still arresting like something like 33,000 people per year and just in New Jersey for cannabis. So, you know, despite what we know about cannabis and how it's used as medicine and it's safe and all of these different things, we're still seeing people criminalized, people being stigmatized, use being stigmatized. Even in legalization laws, there's, there are things that continue the stigma for instance. And a lot of these east coast laws that are coming up, we see a language in there that keeps anyone that's ever been arrested for cannabis cannot even be a budtender in the cannabis legal cannabis business, which is preposterous. I mean, imagine if there were no, if restaurants were illegal and then suddenly they made restaurants legal, but anybody that had been being a chef for, for any amount of time, anyone with any experience was barred from legally being a chef. Yeah, it would make no sense.
Well, and I think you can also make the statement that people of color are disproportionately large in that number of being, being arrested. So this gets to one of the foundational things of your book where you, you know, we explain the origins of cannabis, um, and culture sort of in India and then how it came over to Mexico. And then the whole thing in the U.S. with Harry Anslinger who made a career out of demonizing cannabis. And we're feeling those effects 75 years later, you know, if those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. You know what, what can we learn from this whole multi-decade episode?
Box Brown: (05:56)
Well, reviewing it and looking over the history of how cannabis is treated by America. Because this is an American idea. I mean, this was something that we did here. We made it illegal here and then, um, forced the rest of the world to do it as well and treat this plant like contraband all over the world. So if you think about the millions of lives that have been incredibly impacted negatively by this idea that Harry Anslinger had and that he pushed for and in for the, for the purposes of careerism and created all these lies and narratives that people still buy into today, even people that people that are pro legalization still buy into a lot of the stigma and even some of the lies that are still being perpetuated every day.
And an incredible impact from one determined person.
Box Brown: (06:56)
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, he, um, he really, really affected a lot of people and, and in a way, you know, hurt the economy of the world, you know. I think there are a lot of the people that are for prohibition of cannabis are these people that are very pro anything that is going to grow the economy. And here we have a multi hundreds of billions of perhaps trillion dollar industry worldwide. It would be unknowable how big this is and, and the people, and there's still people in power pushing against it that don't want, don't want the biggest, the biggest new industry imaginable in their state or in their town or in their own backyard and that type of thing.
And that's not even considering hemp and everything you can make from hemp that we've denied for the same number of decades. You know, the Farm Bill passed last year and finally we're going to start being able to have hemp clothing and hempcrete and some of the other things.
Box Brown: (08:01)
It's just, you know, this is an easy to grow plentiful natural resource that we could take advantage of that we in a world where were constantly running out of natural resources. Here's a renewable one that we can take advantage of in every possible way and we're not.
And then something that's good for insomnia, arthritis, anxiety, pain has never killed anyone as opposed to the opioids that they've been shoving down our throats.
Box Brown: (08:29)
Sure. Everything in the pharmacy, if you took too much of it would make you sick or possibly kill you. You know everything over the counter, every one of them, even Tylenol, take the whole bottle and see how it see what happens, you know what I mean? Like so we hear something with, with no, you know, no deadly side effects and they're still, even with all that we know they're still fighting against it. I think at this point it's all money and there's people that make their money by supporting prohibition and there's people that are trying to make money on legalization for themselves, creating middlemen and red tape and all this type of stuff, unnecessary regulations and just endless stuff like this. What we really, really want to do, I need to do is legalize the black market essentially. If you want to be an importer or exporter of cannabis or cannabis salesperson or cannabis grower or cannabis producers anywhere in this country, you should be able to do that.
Yeah. The market as a good way of sorting things out.
Box Brown: (09:36)
If people want product that's tested, it'll show up and it'll be third-party tested for purity and pesticides and everything else, and they'll know exactly how much THC and all the cannabinoids are in it. Um, that's how the market would handle it.
Box Brown: (09:51)
If you think about the way we test food, right? This is food that we eat and ingest. You know, we don't get a molecular breakdown of every piece of lettuce that we buy. That just doesn't happen. We don't, every hamburger that we buy at a restaurant isn't tested down to the molecular level. They come in randomly and check stuff out and we are okay with that. But for some reason, cannabis, every single batch has to be tested down to the molecular level. And we have to track every gram down to from seed to the patient and all these different things. It's if you did it with any other products, even alcohol, you see the way that that's tracked and checked and things like that. Cannabis is so over-regulated.
One more thing before we leave the whole Harry Anslinger saga. You put your finger on it in the book, that racism was really the lever that he used to instigate fear of this substance in fear of other people. And there's parallels to that happening today. I think, you know, we, we still haven't gotten past that. And again, the effects are monumental. People being incarcerated, people not having access to the, uh, substance that can help them live better. It's just kind of astounding.
Box Brown: (11:08)
Yeah. When I started working on this book, you know, these what we see here today where there's more people of color being arrested and put in jail for cannabis, even though use rates are the same. We're seeing that in our daily lives. But it was surprising to me, I guess, or stunning that when I look through the history started researching the history of this, that that was the point from the beginning. You know, like that's not something that happened recently because we're, you know, the courts have become racist or something like that. Like this law was a racist law from day one and it was there to help crack down on Mexican immigration and to basically control the African-American population. There was all kinds of laws like this. This is just one of them, all are vagrancy laws and things like that. Laws against jay walking and things like this stuff that you could get arrested for, for doing basically nothing — walking. All of this is control for control of, um, of a certain population. And if you look at a lot of our laws, they are steeped in racism from the beginning. And this especially.
Yeah, I don't know that that is commonly known. You know, I encourage people to pick the book up and the way you lay it out is really fantastic.
Box Brown: (12:32)
You went from that very formative experience of being arrested and then hauled down the narrow streets to jail and turned it into something positive eventually. I mean, that percolated for quite awhile. You, you've written a few books in the interim, but I like the graphic novel aspect to it. Um, for, for people who are reluctant readers, it's easy to pick up and kind of immerse yourself in.
Box Brown: (12:56)
Yeah. Um, I got into comics, you know, I, I read comics when I was, you know, 12, 13, 14, and then stopped kind of doing anything for a while in my teens and early twenties, and then kind of got back into it later when I, I liked to draw a lot when I was a kid. And then I kind of quit because I wasn't really good at it or I wasn't the best in the school or whatever. And I lost confidence in myself and then got back into it later just because I liked doing it and I liked sitting quietly and drawing a lot and got into making comics. And um, I found a comic called, um, “American Elf“ by James Kochalka and a number of other, um, autobiographical comics. And these were the first time I saw comics that you, where you could make a comic that was just about everyday life and not about superheroes or robots or something like that.
Once I figured out you could make comics about any subject, it kind of like took off from there. And, um, then I got, you know, I was doing all kinds of different stuff, but I eventually did this biography of “Andre the Giant” cause I love pro wrestling and um, I love Andre and uh, and that ended up being doing well. And, um, and uh, I just really like nonfiction, doing nonfiction comics. I like, like teaching myself things and making comics is a way for me to do that. And then I, you know, and then when it's done, you've learned something. And then I got a, I have a whole book to book, you know, the, so that's kind of how I got into this. And then I did the book about Tetris, the video, the history of the video game, Tetris and, uh, a book about comedian Andy Kaufman.
Those are all really super-interesting topics. And, um, you know, you found a nice niche there where, you can tell a visual story. I mean, Andre the Giant who's not interested in that guy?
Box Brown: (14:46)
Sure. It's, I think of them kind of like documentary film where I get to do every aspect of the film, you know, write it and direct it and all of that stuff, but with no budget at all. It's just the drawings. So that's kind of how I think of them.
Yeah. Well, and I was looking at the bibliography in the back of the cannabis book and it's very well researched. I mean you obviously dug deep into the topic. How long did that take you to kind of get to a level where you felt you were ready to go?
Box Brown: (15:17)
Um, well what happens really is that, you know, you end up, I ended up collecting a lot of material and reading a lot of stuff and then kind of thinking about it for six months. You know, that's like a long process that happens very gradually and then sometimes very intensely and stuff while I'm working on other things, the book before that, that usually, uh, I'm researching the next one while I'm working on the drawing, the other ones. And then I kind of write out how I see the story. And then, um, while I'm working on that, I'm going back and researching each individual part to find more specific information as specific information as I could find. You know, that also involves like in Tetris book that's calling, you know, interviewing people and they, all of the, all of the books involves interviews with people and stuff like that too. So it's like a journalism thing.
Sure. I just heard the Tetris guy interviewed on NPR last week. Did they have some anniversary?
Box Brown: (16:19)
Yeah, it was the 35th anniversary. Um, I love Alexi. I mean he's a, I love Tetris because it was a game that was made of a piece of art that was made without any profit motive because Alexi lived in communist Russia and it was, was not even in his, in his understanding at all to sell the game. It was just to make it, uh, to make something that he thought it was cool and it became like this huge thing and uh, like the purity of it, it's so great. And then it ended up becoming this huge commercial success and exposing Alexi to, like some of the horrors of capitalism as well.
Yeah, it’s like the biggest video game of all time, isn't it?
Box Brown: (17:02)
Yeah, I mean, one of them, I mean, it's hard to say what's the biggest and what's not, but I mean, certainly it's in the canon of video games and at the time was like one of the biggest sellers for Nintendo and things like that.
And then he gradually came back and got the rights to it, didn't he?
Box Brown: (17:17)
Uh yeah, they ended up, he ended up getting the rights to it and, uh, you know, now since ‘96 or something like that, he's, he's owned a piece of Tetris again. So he eventually got paid, but not the big money when it was, you know, I think they sold like 80 million units or something like that. Like that's all gone.
Well, it's probably more addictive than cannabis, right?
Box Brown: (17:40)
Sure. Oh, for sure.
Just to bring it back around. So, another thing that jumped out at me from the book was, um, the story of Billie Holiday, who, a black woman that Harry Anslinger just had to go after. Yeah. She, I guess she hit all the buttons.
Box Brown: (17:58)
Yeah, he hated her. He was like obsessed with her and probably in a way like in love with her and he just hated black people and he hated jazz music. Um, he just saw it as like this embodiment of like evil or something like that where, where it was like offensive to him in this perverted way. And Billie Holiday, you know? Like you said, she hit all these buttons. She was a woman. She was black, she was a jazz musician. She was, she went against society's norms. She was a drug user and he, you know, he used every, uh, everything in his power to make her life hell. It's, it's absurd really. I mean, it's, it's, it's disgusting. It's awful. I mean, it's, it's, he contributed to her death.
She was arrested as she was dying of cirrhosis of the liver?
Box Brown: (18:48)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's just like she was being harassed constantly not to, not the, you know, she was, she is an extreme case, but it was not uncommon for jazz musicians to be harassed in this way. Right. Uh, Louie Armstrong getting arrested while the cops are saying that, telling him that they liked their music, they like his music.
And that's the legacy. I mean, this is our grandparents and great grandparents. Um, the baby boomers grew up in the sixties and seventies, and in our era was, well, eventually the Reagan Era, “just say no” you know what Nancy Reagan and all that stuff. So it was just stacked decade upon decade of these mistruths and outright lies that it's gonna take a while to undo.
Box Brown: (19:35)
Yeah, I mean, I think about it like the way, like the way people think about, um, like how, how men aren't supposed to cry or something like that. Like, um, it's these stereotypes about gender that are built in to every single aspect of culture and, and you know, cannabis, that being a bad drug is like baked into every aspect of culture. And it was for really, really, really, really, really long time. Like off all of everyone that is alive lifetimes, you know, uh, there's very few people that were adults when cannabis was legal that are still alive, if there are any. And so like it's, it's in every part of our culture. I mean I have read an interview with Bill Maher or it's on Howard Stern the other day. He was talking about when he was on and on his show, “Politically Incorrect.” That was the show on, on ABC before his HBO show. If they talked about cannabis in the 90s, they had to have somebody also come in to talk about how bad it is and say the entire do the entire government propaganda speech.
So like the Fairness Doctrine on the the opposing side. Right.
Box Brown: (20:53)
But there was no Fairness Doctrine at the time. Like they could have done whatever they wanted, but yet they still held to that for cannabis.
Yeah. This mythology that was the official government line for so long. And you know, it's not a binary state where you just flip and everybody recognizes that, oh no, this is actually an organic substance and we have an endocannabinoid system in our bodies. We have receptors for it. It's, it's, it's a legit medicine. That story needs to be told. And, and you're one of the people telling it. But how long do you think it's gonna take for it to be normalized?
Box Brown: (21:27)
I mean I think it's happening extremely rapidly. I think. Um, and there's certain things I feel like that, you know, the whole state by state thing is so slow and methodical and really unfair to the individual states. Like especially the east coast, we're seeing like these, not new England, but like the New York, New Jersey, PA, Delaware, Maryland, this area of the country is just getting absolutely tortured with high prices at Ohio too. Same thing, really, really high prices. The Midwest seems to be avoiding this in some way. New England seems to be avoiding this in some way, but then there's this whole large swath of the country that's still just getting their first medical laws now. So, but if we see movement at the federal level, like if there's de-scheduling that can pull the rug out from everybody and then we could see like Oregon just passed a state law already that as soon as anything like that happens, they are going to, they a state law says that they're allowed to import and export cannabis.
So they're like set up now to be the exporter for the entire country because if it gets scheduled and it's legal, one day there will be a shortage. Right? In the beginning there always is when all of these states where they legalize right in the beginning there's a shortage because everybody wants to go buy it. So Oregon is set up to ship to everybody across the country and that's what's really gonna make legalization feel like a real thing. When you can order it on Amazon, when you can get anything you want at a good price from all over the country, none of these little people people taking over states and charging. The cost for patients in New Jersey is just out of control, is out of control. It's like $600 an ounce. It's costing these people like one to five dollars an ounce to produce. I mean when you have that much of a profit margin, there's only room for corruption. And so we, what we need is this big national market. And you know, I think we could see that that could happen quickly. But the slow state by state things, if that's all we, if that's all we get, I mean we're looking at 20 to 50 years.
You know, it's very expensive in California, the taxes amount to probably 35%.
Box Brown: (23:56)
Right? The taxes in California are out of control, but the market in California is so robust that if you live in California, you can get decent prices if you shop around, you know what I mean? Whereas in Ohio, there's no shopping around. Like there's none. There's, they actually sell weed in tenths, not even eights. They sell tenths for $70 so, so that's a $700 ounce to looking at.
Well yeah, oregano doesn't go for that much.
Box Brown: (24:27)
I mean, think about it. I mean like this is, we're talking about something that like tomatoes is or something like that. Imagine if tomatoes are $5,000 right pound or something like that. Like what? Does that make sense?
Yeah, we would be growing around here for sure. Yeah. Well yeah, state by state, I think you're right. If there is a federal move to de-schedule, which there should be pretty soon. I mean we, we flirt with that. That could be the linchpin that really drives a sensible nationwide policy. I think the majority of people are behind that. It's just can we get the politicians to recognize it?
Box Brown: (25:01)
Yeah. Well I think we've got to get the right politicians in there. Yeah. Make it an issue. The people that are pro cannabis are more popular. I mean, and it's an, it's an easy, I think once politicians this and see how easy it is to go in and say, look, there's 70% of the people want this. And then you'd go in and say, all right, we're going to, I want to give it to you. That's a lot of people that are going to get behind you. And so I think a lot of politicians are now seeing dollar signs with it in these really specific ways, like ways that they can individually make the most money themselves, like enrich themselves is what I mean.
Um, well that's how stuff works. Right?
Box Brown: (25:38)
Right. But I mean if you think about it from the perspective of growing the economy, it's a way to do that by the same politicians own definition is not as to remove regulations and that's what increases jobs. That's what would build this business. And you allow a market to develop and, and we'd get real prices. We'd get the best stuff would come to the, would come to the top and the worst would go out of business. All of these things that happen in the capitalist market that we live in with every other product.
Yeah, you can talk about the science that again, we have an endocannabinoid system and we have receptors and it's legit medicine, you can talk about the cultural backstory. You know this, what happened over the last eighty years was not just or, right. And you can talk about the economic impact and all those together. It should be a slam dunk.
Box Brown: (26:32)
The problem is there's a lot of people profiting from prohibition. There's private prison systems, there's rehab places that get that where people get arrested for cannabis and then get sent to rehab that they have to pay for on their own dime. So those, those companies have, have a stake in cannabis being illegal. We see a lot of police that want cannabis to be illegal because it's another tool in their toolkit. When they pull somebody over, they could say they smelled cannabis, even if there was no cannabis, you know, all of these things. They want that tool. And so when there's these powerful moneyed interests behind prohibition, that's worth more than than um, uh, political. Someone's, it's worse. It's worth money is literally worth more than goodwill. And so, so we're fighting against that too. And so it's just a long, seemingly endless process. But you know what? Gay Marriage has passed. Um, that was a long, long process. And, um, change can come at the national level. I, you don't really get well one day…
And if you, if you set aside the logical and even emotional arguments and just go with the economic, then the forces that would profit from a legal market have to outweigh the vested interests and either the best interests get bought off or they become the losers in this game. But I think you're right, you follow the money and there's so much to be gained, even if this isn't ridiculously overpriced, it could become an economic juggernaut.
Box Brown: (28:12)
Absolutely. At a regular regular prices like, yeah, I like $50 ounces would still make a ton of people preposterously rich.
And you wouldn't be incarcerating people for really no reason.
Box Brown: (28:26)
Which is saving, saving government money and saving lives and keeping people employed instead of in jail instead of that's what you're allowing them to make money instead of paying for them to be tortured in jail basically. I mean like it defies all logic.
Let the invisible hand work.
Box Brown: (28:47)
Right, exactly. These are the people that are all about the invisible hand of the market and now they, now they don't believe in it suddenly.
Well, hopefully we're getting close to that point cause it's just state by state where it's like a teeter totter. We're at 32 states now for medical, I think 11 or 12 for “recreational adult use.”
Box Brown: (29:08)
Yeah, the Illinois law was big for me because they made, um, a lot of compromises that I think will work on the east coast and I want to see them do that. Like for instance, to big thing. Um, and, and uh, northeast that they don't want is this is home grow, which is a must have. And so, and the Illinois law, it's legal to home grow for if you're a medical patient and if you just are a recreational user and you get busted for home grow, it's like a $200 fine. So they like defacto legalized home, grow, it decriminalized home, grow. Um, and I think if that's the type of compromise that would move the levers for New York and New Jersey and PA, I feel like that is something that, that is agreeable instead of no home grow. Because you know, it's not just people hear homegrown, they're like, “oh everybody…” no one is going to grow, start growing weed. It's going to be a very small part of the cannabis consumers that grow their own cannabis. Just like it's a small part of beer consumers that brew their own beer.
But the important thing with home grown is that it keeps the producers honest about pricing. If someone knows how much it costs to grow an ounce of weed and you're charging $700 for it, it's not going to fly. They will grow their own weed at that point, you know, and you'll lose the customer. Uh, the other thing that's really important with home grow is that it pushes the recreational market to try new things and do new things. If you look at the Seattle market, uh, there's no home grow and there's also like almost no craft concentrate market there. It's a very small, whereas like in California, Colorado where there's home grow and people are experimenting and stuff like that, the craft concentrate market, it's huge and it's like super popular. Like a Hash Rosin is like enormously popular, uh, in those, in those places. And it's not in Seattle because of the way there are laws work. And I think also the fact that there's no home grow pushing for that. I mean there's no home producers pushing the market to do new things.
Right. Innovation kind of bubbles up from, from below. Right. Really the objection to home grow is probably coming from corporate growers who don't want the competition and were afraid that those interests…
Box Brown: (31:39)
Also, you hear the argument that home grow will, will continue the black market and make it easier for teens to get to get cannabis. Which is preposterous because teens — don't tell me a teen that's getting there, their beer from a home brewer every weekend like that is just not happening. And tell me a, a teen that's going to a party where it's everybody's drinking homemade wine, like that's just not happening. They're getting elicit kegs and cases of beer for finding somebody to buy it for them. It's not the home brew market that's, that's, it just makes no sense to me. I mean when those things stop making sense, I just assume it's a money to interest
And growing it is not that simple. I mean, it's a seed you put in the ground, you water it and it needs sunshine, but doing it right…
Box Brown: (32:28)
Yeah. Oh my God. I know. Forget it. I mean, listen, I've done an unbelievable amounts of research on how to even growing cannabis my first try doing it was awful. It did not go very well at all. And it was just like total absolute waste, uh, in every way. And that's what it's like gardening and you can't just sit down and, and grow the best weed in the world. And once like a house plant or like a, something like that, I mean, you really need to work on this. So, you know, yeah, just the idea that home grow is going to, is going to be where kids are getting their weed from. It's just silly.
You gotta be a total nerd just devoted to your plant, which is great. You're giving it compost and tea and making sure it doesn't mold and, and all that stuff. And again, like you say, the parallel is it's a lot easier to go buy a six pack then to brew it in your bathtub. Absolutely. We've talked about de-schedulization and states, hopefully they're getting smarter. Maybe Illinois looked at what happened, Canada and Colorado and California and had sort of an informed process. Do you have a guess as to when, when we might see de-schedulization?
Box Brown: (33:42)
That's the thing that makes me think that de-scheduling might be coming sooner than, than later. Is this bill going through that, um, federal bill banking bill that will allow banks to sell weed basically, um, and allow, you know, all these different dispensaries to take credit cards and things like that. I don't think there shouldn't be a special carve out for the banks. I mean, there shouldn't, we shouldn't suddenly at the federal level be like, okay, regular people can't deal with this substance, but the banks can. So because de scheduling would solve that problem with the banks and it would also be the fair thing to do and the right thing to do without making a special carve out just for banks. And I feel like there's people making the same argument and that is how we could see that bank banking bill end up.
You would think the banks would get behind it because you know there's a good reason for not allowing cartel money to be laundered through banks, but cannabis money is not like heroin money, you know. Let's separate the two and say this is an agricultural enterprise. It's just like people growing corn or soy, they need credit, they need to be able to do transactions and let's integrate that into the economy rather than forcing this weird sort of credit card transaction. But again, you're right, it goes back to the money. So you get the banks involved in, they see that this is good for their business. Then maybe that brick gets pulled out of the wall and we're on our way.
Box Brown: (35:14)
Yeah, I mean, I can't imagine, you know, banks get in and you can, you can see something like that. You see Wells Fargo is like a west coast bank right? I mean there are an awful bank that screws over their customers constantly, but they operate across the country. And if they start seeing what this is, this is doing for their business, they, but they should just know this and be lobbying for de-scheduling. Now instead of doing these little, this little carve out for the banks, I just makes me so furious because like, I know that the cannabis companies need banks and, I know that it would be helpful for them and I know that it would eventually knock down walls, but I just hate seeing the banks getting special treatment where the people are not.
Well, it's just another layer of unnecessary bureaucracy that just gums up the whole thing.
Box Brown: (36:07)
The whole system. You're right.
So I mean, I think we can look forward to rapid change once that de-scheduling happens. And like you said, you’ve got to vote smart, you've got to listen to the candidates, you've got to make it an issue. And, um, you know, a book like yours hopefully gets people talking. How have your sales been?
Box Brown: (36:26)
Yeah people always ask and, I don't know, I mean, um, you don't actually find out about sales until like a year over a year later. It's like insanely long tail. I haven't heard anything from my publisher about anything, so I have no idea. They used to have a New York Times bestseller list for comics and that's where my book, Andre the Giant ended up. And so you had a good shot of getting on the list because it was all comics. And now a comics are just kind of lumped in with miscellaneous books, including like “how to's” and a self-help books and things like that. So I mean, uh, the week my book came out, Oprah had a new book out, which I'm sure it took up most of that, all the money. So, um, did it make the bestseller list.
Good timing, good timing. Do you refer to it as a comic or as, as a graphic novel?
Box Brown: (37:18)
I don't know. I always say graphic nonfiction or I say like graphic novel, but it's not really a novel because as a nonfiction there's like no terminology, correct terminology really. If anything, I would say graphic novel just so people understand that that's a book. But amongst myself, I always call everything I do comics.
So there's no category at Amazon because a lot of people will go there and check on their sales.
Box Brown: (37:42)
Oh, perhaps, I don't know. I don't, I told like to do that because it just makes me, I don't want to think about it. I don't like to think about it at all.
Right. Yeah. You don't want to end up checking that every hour.
Box Brown: (37:51)
I don't like to read the reviews. I don't like do any of that stuff.
Well, has the book, opened doors for you? Have you had a lot of interviews?
Box Brown: (37:59)
Oh yeah. I did tons and tons of media. I was on, um, “Getting Doug with High” a few weeks ago. Yeah. Um, which was amazing with Larry Charles, which I, who, I didn't know it was going to be on the show until I got there, and I've been doing, started doing comics for Leafly recently. Oh yeah. Um, so, uh, yeah, all kinds of stuff like that. My ultimate thing that I would like to see one day is to be a judge at a Cannabis Fest.
Box Brown: (38:28)
That'd be cool. Like those, like on “The Voice” or whatever, you know? Yeah. So that would require you to sample product and stuff?
Box Brown: (38:36)
Yeah, that's what I, that's what I would love to.
Well let's put that out there. You know what the universe sometimes the universe delivers. Yeah. Well, um, I think we've had a pretty good interview here. I'm really glad we were able to get you in. I guess I'm kind of glad you got arrested so long ago.
Box Brown: (38:52)
Yeah it was a rough some years.
So what I'm just curious, were you walking on the street or?
Box Brown: (38:59)
Oh no. We were, if we a were, it was really stupid. We were in like a Little League ball field and uh, it was sitting in the dugout and a bunch of our friends are kind of like screwing around in the field and it was like a place, now I think about it that, that, that cops just like go every 15 minutes all night, you know, like it was just like a really stupid place to go.
Shooting fish in a barrel.
Box Brown: (39:22)
It's like, why would you go there? Like that's just where they would go. Like, that's my why. My, why don't you just go to the police station?
Well, you were kids being kids.
Box Brown: (39:33)
Yeah, we just did it. I was just like, well, there's no houses around here.
So did friends get nabbed with you or were you on your own?
Box Brown: (39:39)
Oh, one other friend did get arrested with me and then we all had to go down to the police station. There was like 10 of us, but only two of us were actually arrested. The other ones just have to have their parents come pick them up.
What a trauma.
Box Brown: (39:52)
Yeah it was scary. I was scared.
Well, I'm glad you were able to turn it into a positive after all these years. And again, I think the book is great. It's really easy to read and it's chock full of the kind of history that people need to know about. I'm worried sometimes that young people, we'll just take all this for granted and won't realize that as you say, millions of people have had their lives really disrupted in negative ways and we owe those people, a debt of gratitude and we owe it to them to get this right.
Box Brown: (40:20)
Yeah. I mean like they did the black market did everything. Like everything that we enjoy was like, um, absolutely created by the black market. You know, every, uh, the fact that we have these big, seedless, amazing buds is because of the black market. All of their innovation, those people that were taking all this huge risk for us to enjoy for soccer moms to get high in the 90's. And stuff like that. When they were taking this huge risk, doing amazing things, you know, working at the highest level really of botany and, and uh, development of product and all these different things. And then I'll, you know, now all these corporations are kind of taking the credit for and, and, and charging thinking that they are pharmaceutical companies and charging exorbitant prices because of research and development. But they didn't do any research and development. The black market did, the people that were in that were jailed and are in jail still and are paid huge fines and now can't even join the legal market. Those are the people that made those innovations.
Yeah, I hate it when people are on third base and think they hit a triple and they didn't.
Box Brown: (41:35)
They didn't do anything.
Yeah. And I, I think you're right on with its market forces. That's what we should pay attention to. You know? Ultimately it's the economy. It's the invisible hand of what people want and how you supply it. Right. A really eye-opening book. Thank you for writing it and sharing it with us and thanks for being a guest and hopefully we can, we can get you back on again.
Box Brown: (41:57)
Absolutely. Thanks so much for having me.
You've been listening to “Let's Talk About Weed” the Kannaboomers podcasts with Thomas J. For more on medicinal cannabis for baby boomers, visit us at kannaboomers.com