Cannabis Reform in NYS: A conversation with Buffalonian of the Week, Anthony Baney

If I had to pinpoint a community activist who has been dedicated to Cannabis legalization in New York State, it would definitely be Anthony Baney. He is one of the co-founders of the Buffalo Cannabis Movement (BCM), a local organization dedicated to reforming Cannabis laws in Buffalo, Erie County, NYS and the United States. Baney has been active in the community since Occupy Buffalo, when he started to see the problems within, as well as the resources for change. Karibu talked to Baney about the stigmas towards marijuana, about the BCM, and his current endeavors.

Tell us about your current project?

I’m running for Assembly in District 140 under the Green Party. Right now, I’m collecting signatures to get on the ballot. I have to get 5% of registered greens that are in my district. I have a three-platform campaign which is 1) Legalize Cannabis on a state level, 2) fully fund public schools, and 3) 100% community based alternative energy.

I think the federal law should be changed, but that’s not something that would be worked on by the state legislator. The second part of my campaign is, I think that money should go to public schools, and beyond that any money that we can allocate to schools should be funding the public schools and not the charter schools. They don’t need public money. I’m also concerned about environmental sustainability. We need to make sure that we have a clean environment locally. We have a lot of manufacturing facilities that are processing coal and heavy metals, and we need to make sure that it is contained. We should come up with an alternative way for means of production, especially in terms of energy production, and it should be community based. If we’re going to have solar panels, it shouldn’t be National Grid or National Fuel taking that industry over and monopolizing on that.

What do you think of the medical marijuana program we currently have in place?

A lot of people don’t have access to finding doctors. If they do find a doctor and get on to the states registered Medical Cannabis Program, it’s hard to find a local dispensary to go to. They might not have the exact recommendation they need. You need to have a certain ratio, depending on which illness you have. The other problem is the price. It’s very expensive, you have to pay out of pocket and insurance won’t cover it because it is a Schedule I drug [Ed note. Schedule I drugs are those that have specific characteristics as categorized by the United States Controlled Substances Act. They are considered to be “the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.” Others drugs on this list include LSD and heroin.]  That is not going to change unless the federal laws are changed.

What needs to be done on a state level?

The first and foremost thing they should do, which is an easy solution, is release the list of public doctors that are allowed to recommend it.

They could go full legalization and that would solve a lot of the problems. That’s not going to necessarily solve the insurance problem, but if you were allowed to grow your medicine in your home you won’t be worried about insurance payments. Can the average patient grow a plant and convert the oil to the ratio they need? Probably not. But, depending on their illness they might be able to grow whatever strain they feel best serves their needs. I don’t think it’s any right of the government to say that you can’t do that as long as you’re not harming anyone else.

Another solution would be to open up more registered organizations, which would allow more facilities for the grow houses. There is definitely a lot that goes into the medical side due to the fact that you are dealing with patients.

Where do you think the taboo of marijuana come from?

I would say that it originated from government propaganda. There are a lot of well sourced theories that show competition in the paper, wood, timber, fiber, synthetic, and plastic industry versus the hemp industry because hemp can make a lot of those materials cheaper and more efficiently

Hemp is very hard to pick with your hands. It is very fibrous and durable, making it hard to work with. With the agricultural revolution, they invented a machine that picked hemp a lot faster. When that happened, these industries saw big competition coming.

You can see the coincidence. In 1936, DuPont synthesized plastic. In 1937, there was the Marijuana Taxation Act. It wasn’t even a year later. If you look at the committee hearings for the Marijuana Taxation Act in 1937, you’ll see the pusher for that was the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger. He wrote to 40 scientist about their experience with Cannabis. He chose the one out of 40 that had something negative to say. If you think of the 30s, they were trying to find the vaccination to polio and to figure out all these other problems in society. They probably didn’t have time to go to congress and talk about a plant they didn’t know too much about. We didn’t know about the full benefits of the plant. We were new in science and especially pharmacology. They had cannabis within the U.S. pharmacopoeia [Ed. note a publication including “a list of medicinal drugs with their effects and directions for their use.”] up until 1942.

Even after the law was passed in 1937, they still didn’t take it out of the pharmacopoeia for having medical benefits until the 40s. It took a while for science to catch up with the law, even though the science shows it is not fair for them to target the plants. After the government established that marijuana was dangerous through these hearings they set up, William Randolph Hearst ran articles saying Mexicans were coming, getting high on marijuana, and killing people. There was one case in Florida where a teenager had killed his family and they said he was high on marijuana, but if you look at the autopsy you don’t see marijuana in his system. What happened was the family was supposed to institutionalize this kid and they chose not to. Hearst used this case to scare people from this new drug.

What makes you so passionate about this?

Honestly, when this issue is addressed, the majority of people say we need to do something about it. When you look at the cannabis issue, there is really no rational argument. Obviously if you’re talking about allowing recreational sales, there is definitely an argument there. If you’re arguing that somebody should be put into jail, lose their freedom and their potential opportunities over a plant that doesn’t cause any harm, that doesn’t make any sense. I don’t think the majority of people think that is rational. Even if you look at the White House petitions people can create, that petition is always on there and it gets the most support, even Obama admitted that in an interview. I just don’t see why there hasn’t been progress. It is really frustrating. I think people feel they can’t make any changes on this issue, but we are going to see the changes and I think we can really encourage the community to share their input and see this come to fruition. Then, on other issues they’ll say ‘maybe if I use my voice I can see change too.’ If you gather 100 people, and go to your City Hall, you can really make some changes. We saw that through Occupy, when we asked the city not to invest money out of JPMorgan Chase. If you keep having hearings, keep talking about the issue in the media, eventually people will be on the same page and you will see results.

The BCM meets on the first Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. at Ashkers Juice Bar.

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