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Long Story Short: Pot, weed, or cannabis—it's all green

4/8/19



 

Ganja for good

Flora Buffalo doesn’t even exist yet—not in any brick and mortar sense of the word—but the company is putting together a heavy-hitter supporter roster as they lay plans for a major start-up business in Buffalo.

 

What’s their business?

 

Reefer. Weed. Pot.

Call it what you want—Flora California Prime and developer Zephyr Partners are planning a huge cannabis factory, with an 850,000 square foot greenhouse and accompanying headquarters, research, and process facilities, in Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park.

 

Although it didn’t quite make it into the New York State budget last week, it’s all but certain that cannabis will be legalized for recreational use sooner rather than later. Flora Buffalo is laying down the PR groundwork to bring the community onboard. Buffalo Urban Development Corporation is already sold on it, with the promise of a $200 million high-tech campus, employing 500 to 1,000 people.

 

Big name support

Flora Buffalo is the brainchild of health and wellness marketer, Jim Cavacco, and Buffalo-bred developer Brad Termini (son of Rocco). At a meeting last month—in, of all places, a South Buffalo elementary school cafeteria—Flora Buffalo president and spokesperson Dasheeda Dawson, was joined by former Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello, who is acting as a lobbyist for the company. Dawson is also the president of MJM Strategy, which, the firm’s website describes as “the cannabis industry’s first minority-led, digital-focused strategy and management consulting firm.” “Minority-led” are welcome words to political leaders anxious to show concern over the city’s segregated history.  

 

Erie Community College (ECC) Provost, Doug Scheidt, and program coordinator at the Buffalo Urban League, Ken Colon, were also at the meeting in support. Topics included jobs, community investment, and career training.

 

Smart marketing

Though the business originates from California, Dawson and city leaders want the local community to take away real benefits from this new industry. To that end, the company plans to hire locally, train workers, and provide a campus incubator for aspiring pot entrepreneurs. ECC will create cannabis agricultural and business courses and Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center will conduct research on the effects of cannabis on cancer patients.

 

Even smarter marketing

Dawson recognizes that communities of color have been disproportionately negatively impacted by New York’s cannabis laws, so a $3 million education endowment to lend support to social justice organizations is included in the proposed plan. Dawson characterizes Flora Buffalo as a “corporate change agent” that will introduce “social equity initiatives to strengthen local communities ravaged by the war on drugs.” The goal is to ensure that these communities benefit from the coming pot boom, especially individuals convicted of cannabis crimes in past decades. All this brings social services provider, Community Action Organization, onboard.

 

The takeaway:

Flora Buffalo is part of a new wave of corporate pot dealers who understand the need to put a socially conscious face on an industry that is just emerging from the shadows and alleyways. Helping communities that have been most damaged by pot laws is not only ethical, but smart. (Not to be overly cynical, but how often does corporate America behave ethically, if it’s not profitable?) Check out the slick PR video Flora Buffalo produced to sell its plan to the region.  

 

Cannabis slang

You may have noticed that LSS and Buffalo Spree refrain from using the word marijuana, and maybe you’ve wondered why. The historic use of the term—but not the term itself—has racist roots.

 

As first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger led the charge for pot prohibition, he adopted the word instead of the more clinical-sounding cannabis, because it invoked foreignness in the minds of white America. Here’s a quote attributed to him: “There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.” Um, okay…

 

Xenophobia

Marijuana became Anslinger’s word of choice, as he made up wild tales of toking terror, which were gleefully circulated by media mogul and yellow journalist William Randolph Hearst, who had lost land during the Mexican Revolution. The goal of both was to incite anti-Mexican and other racism over this south-of-the-border drug that made people go loco.  Read more about this history in Bruce Eaton’s January 2018 article for Spree

 

More terms

But where did the word marijuana, and other terms for cannabis come from? Here’s a few of the 1000 names for the weed, and their derivations:

The oldest mention of cannabis is in 2700 BC, China.  It was called Ma, which by 1000 AD had evolved into Ta Ma, meaning "great hemp."

"Marijuana" likely comes from the Mexican “mariguano” or Panamanian “managuango,” both meaning intoxicant.

“Pot” comes from the word “Potiguaya,” Spanish for cannabis leaves.

“Dope” is a term whose meaning changed many times. It might have originally come from the Dutch word “doup” (sauce), or the English “daub” (wagon wheel grease). Then it became a medical term for drugs that put patients to sleep, then slang for non-prescribed drugs, and finally for illicit drugs, especially cannabis.

“Weed” also had several meanings, from tobacco, to cigar, to cigarette, then finally in 1904 to cannabis.  

"Ganja" is the Hindi word for hemp.

 

 

Legal wrangling, more than an innocence plea, is Collins’ ploy

Turns out, the Justice Department’s slam-dunk insider trading case against Congressman Chris Collins might not be as air-tight as once thought, due to a legal technicality. The House of Representatives’ general council, Douglas Letter, is buying Collin’s lawyers’ argument that investigators might have violated the Constitution’s “Speech or Debate Clause” when they searched Collins’ texts and emails, and then questioned people he contacted. It’s all about undue interference on the part of the executive or judicial branches on House members, which Letter—a Democratic appointee—must oppose, but he apparently also believes the protection extends to communications with staff and employees.

 

Two big buts

However, Letter makes it clear that this has nothing to do with guilt or innocence; it’s just a legal issue that could trip up the Justice Department’s court case. The other caveat is that the Speech or Debate Clause doesn’t pertain to communications unrelated to lawmaking. So, it would seem that most of the relevant evidence would be admissible. But wait! What if investigators got hold of legislative business emails while they were collecting evidence of a crime? Lawyers for the Justice Departments say they made sure not to violate the Speech or Debate Clause by separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. They want until April 19 to respond to Letter’s concerns. Collins’ lawyers object.

 

The takeaway:

If you can afford a high-paid legal team willing to expend enormous time and resources, even the most convincing cases can be found to have holes. That’s how O.J. got away with it.

 

Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.

 

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