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A Guide to Using Cannabis to Celebrate Juneteenth: ‘It’s How You Free Yourself’ 

When it comes to hosting a full spectrum Juneteenth celebration, here's how to lessen tensions over “contact highs” at a gathering filled with older generations' who lived through the anti-pot D.A.R.E. propaganda Reagan Era.

We found ourselves freed slowly.

You need not have familiarity with Harry Anslinger’s evil anti-cannabis crusades to know why your weed use is bound to be an issue at this weekend’s Juneteenth barbecue. Just look back to D.A.R.E., a program from the Reagan Era that took notes from Aslinger’s decades-old playbook.

All over America, D.A.R.E. brought cops into schools with anti-pot propaganda, equating weed with heroin and other hard drugs but never offering any factual background for this fear-mongering correlation. “A bunch of 10-year-olds in an auditorium on a Friday afternoon, snitching on their parents,” was the vibe, recalls Los Angeles entrepreneur and founder of Kind Cannabis Consulting, Jenny Dills.

The weaponized incarceration machine is why some older Black people continue to think contact highs are way easier to catch than they are. From their perspective, weed got your cousin fired, divorced, arrested, and hooked on meth.

But back to Juneteenth, a holiday that slowly rose in popularity each year, culminating in Federal Holiday status in 2021; a holiday that celebrates the slow revelation that we were freed from slavery. This fact alone is so elegant and aesthetically canna-friendly that the existence of a weed schism feels out of place. But that’s slavery for ya.’ The fault lies not just with the prohibition holdovers. The problem is us. It’s tincture-loving, heavy dabbin’, twenty-nine-percent-THC-or-nothin us.

“A lot of us smoke,” observed Matthew Stockard, better known as Chef Matt, “and don’t even understand why.” Chef Matt is an American Culinary Federation-accredited chef and doesn’t smoke weed. His vision is all about edible cannabis, especially infused into savory cuisine. 

Matt, Jenny Dills, and experts like them understand that it’s on us this year to be the best version of our stoner selves possible. The plant is a timeless part of Black herbal and agricultural traditions—hidden history. You’re less likely to see documented the innovations and achievements of our nation’s Black hemp farmers’ than you are to seriously consider weed stigmatization’s cultural impacts in any form of mainstream media.

Philadelphia entrepreneur Cherron Perry-Thomas hails from Tennessee and grew up with Juneteenth, which Texas made a holiday in 1980. Back then, it played only as a festival. She now throws cannabis legalization rallies on Juneteenth in Pennsylvania. For some revelers, meeting with their legislators in the state’s capitol is their first trip. The holiday could not be more full of meaning.

Perry-Thomas coined the expression “A Juneteenth Moment.” That’s when you’re the last person to know a thing of real significance. Like, that you’re freed from slavery. Or that the cannabis industry needs to create equitable opportunities for prime victims of the drug war paradigm.

Smoking in ignorance of these facts is adjacent to smoking stupid. So when it comes to hosting a full spectrum Juneteenth celebration, Perry-Thomas points out that lessening tension over “contact highs” and being spotted burning one in front of the young uns can be achieved by setting aside a lounge area or a tent for smokers. But if you want to be so bold as to walk into Auntie’s inaugural Juneteenth party alongside the extended guest list of church ladies with a lit blunt in your mouth, do you? Attitudes are diverse, though, so don’t expect to be welcomed with universally open arms.

“Make it cute,” suggests Dills, “Make mocktails.”

And on that note, make sure to break out the tinctures, too.

The beloved L.A. cannabis treats purveyor Chef Mav points out that mixed events don't typically feature neat cleavage between cannabis fans and sober people; “cross-fading” is bound to be a feature of your function. 

“Sure, it can enhance your experience in a way. However, it's important that it be done in moderation,” the Los Angeles-based culinary specialist emailed me. “I can say that I'm definitely guilty of having my cross-faded moments when I could drink more. At this time of my life, a good cross-fade is less likely for me, but I don't judge anyone who can do it in a safe way and have a great time without affecting others.”

With a diversity of attitudes comes a variety of experience levels. Our experts remind us that caution is a must in dealing with edibles. Start low; go slow. To sidestep spectacle and temporary chaos, spread that good word among the guests. If possible, find out whether any infused food is made with flowers or distillate. Matt’s Ganja Eats service offers dishes infused with flower and claims that his meals are “more of an escalator ride than an elevator.” 

Another party hack for your intergenerational (and inter-canna experienced) Juneteenth is to set up separate stations for different levels of THC potency. For example, infused pasta sauce at 5mg a scoop could be flanked by another station with the next-level ten or even 20 mg per scoop sauce nearby. And make sure everything is clearly marked as intended for “adults-only,” as well.

Younger generations like to get hella lit—to cope with their trauma, of course—but for an optimized Juneteenth, all served products should be titrated to the point of functionality. Overdosing at a party is, according to Chef Matt, “tacky.” 

So, don’t.

And keep plenty of CBD on hand, just in case.

Because weed really does need to be inside Juneteenth. 

“It’s how you free yourself,” Perry-Thomas reminds us while adding that weed pioneer Louis Armstrong wanted to discuss his love affair with cannabis in his autobiography. But his publishers put the kibosh on that idea. Would older generations’ attitudes be more open today had Stachmo been permitted to tell his most profound truths back then?

Because speaking truths is always the recommended route, and as a case in point: Ask your budtender, before the barbeque, whether the strain they’re selling you suppresses your appetite. Pro tip: don’t buy that one.

If you’ve considered all of these considerations, the chances are you’re on the path to a good time. But what if you’ve done all of these things, and your peeps are still acting funky?

“Maybe they aren’t your people,” concludes Dills, “on this day.”

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