Last month I headed to Austin, Texas for SXSW to discover a lot more than one expected, but was ready for the adventure. Sit back, roll one and prepare to venture with me as I take you to Texas, where the weed is illegal on any level.
Imagine if you will: traveling to a place beyond sight and sound in a state that in some parts will put you in jail for less than a gram of cannabis…you’ve entered The Prohibition Zone.
As soon as the plane landed in the Lone Star State, the adventure began with a big “how ya’ll doing?” from my Lyft driver. My hotel is in a town called Round Rock, where it just so happens that if you are caught with so much as a joint, you could spend some time in jail — the Lyft driver was very informative on these matters. The fear was starting to set in, so I took a few TetraLabs Gold caps to keep my cool. Just as the Lyft arrived at the hotel, my host pulls up in his vehicle and this was is no ordinary car or truck on the downlow — it was a freakin’ weed ambulance!
My host, Pete Marrero, is a passionate supporter of the cannabis movement in Texas, and he’s invited The 420 Times to be part of the show that he has organized for the last day of SXSW. Pete has to be one of the most interesting guys I’ve met over the years working for The 420 Times. An entrepreneur in his own right, his journey in cannabis activism started off like many throughout the country, he enjoyed cannabis in his younger years, but then he had a cancer scare. He began using cannabis and related products for medicinal purposes and once the scare had passed, he decided to make it his mission to educate others.
For several years, he has been involved with NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws) in his home state of Texas, as well as on the national level. Somewhere along the way in his activism journey, he discovered a company that makes CBD lollipops called Weed World Candies. He recognized the opportunity to stay working in his long-time music business while at the same time support the movement that he is so passionate about. Now he spreads the word about cannabis throughout the country in this weed ambulance offering up CBD lollipops wherever he goes. The stories that he shared about his experiences driving a “weed ambulance” are epic as one could imagine. It takes guts and glory to drive around the country in states that may have zero medical cannabis laws, including his home state.
In the music industry, Pete is well known for being passionate about the artists that he works with and the music they produce. With over 20 years of experience in the music business, Pete has worked with major record labels and started his own business in 1999 called PVM Entertainment — so I am very excited to see what Pete has planned for tonight’s show.
Planning a gig on the closing night of SXSW in the thick of 6th Street is no easy feat, considering there are literally over a hundred different events going on at the same time. Show time and the lights go up for a band from Pasadena called The Letters Home; they volunteered to start up the audience with their own brand of funk, soul, and rock stylings. They certainly have a sound all their own and worth checking out. Next up happens to be another Southern California artist by the name of Semi, who has her own style of hip-hop, a strong female voice. Gangsta Boo from the hip-hop band Three 6 Mafia lit up the stage with her unique and powerful female hip-hop perspective. The night continued with a variety of hip-hop artists that are staking a claim on their music career as well as some well-known old school artists. The line-up included Nappy Roots, Killah Priest from the infamous WuTang Clan, Devin The Dude, Lil Cas, Grim Nasty, Sterling, Dirty Wormz, and IlliZem. The night wrapped up with hip-hop legend, Keith Murray.
The next day we had a chance to talk about some of Pete’s experiences driving the weed ambulance all over the country. Stories of police pulling him over for no reason, or more often, the police just want to take a picture next to the ambulance. Pete explains it this way: “It’s all about your approach and how you communicate with law enforcement, generally curiosity is the biggest reason I get pulled over and often I get excited at the opportunity to interact with them and ultimately give them some knowledge about the non-psychoactive part of the plant that helps so many people — and yes, it is legal.”
Most interactions he has with the police are positive. However, about a year ago, Pete’s trip to a car show that one of his friends was producing in Waco turned into a fiasco. The Weed World ambulance would soon have an entire city of law enforcement along with the DEA swarming the convention center parking lot surrounding him. They immediately accused him of selling narcotics in the city, he explained to Commander Crook (yes, that is her real name!), “This product has CBD inside which is completely legal, so how could I sell a THC product in Texas knowing that it is against the law, I live in Texas.”
He proceeded to explain to her what CBD is and how it is not illegal to sell products with CBD only. He proceeds to show her pictures of other law enforcement officers next to the ambulance and explains that the truck is flashy for a reason, it is a moving billboard, but the only products he sells are these completely legal CBD lollipops. Again, it doesn’t compute with the commander as she looks around the situation of over 50 law enforcement officers and DEA agents all looking to her for direction. She puts her arm around Pete and tells him that she wants to field test the products and search the truck; she explains that he should expect that law enforcement is going to have questions when there is a vehicle with marijuana all over it and that it would cause concern. He explains to her that he normally contacts the cities prior to coming into town just to give them a heads up; however this was a spur of the moment trip to his friend’s car show. He knows that driving through small towns quickly generates chatter about this weed ambulance that drove through and the controversy and attention it brings — that’s the point.
Pete completely complies with her demand, and after some time, the officers come back puzzled that they can’t find any THC in the lollipops. This of course is not good enough for their efforts, so the commander decided to seize all of the lollipops as well as his cash, which ultimately got returned to him the next day. They did, however, confiscate his large supply of lollipops for further testing. The lollipops would stay with the DEA for 5 months and 29 days, just one day short of the DEA having to pay him for what they took, since he wasn’t arrested or charged with anything.
Through it all, Pete stays calm and cooperative with the police, and quite often they are a bit taken aback by how calm and respectful he is with them. There have been other occasions of being harassed and threatened with jail simply because many law enforcement officers are not educated about CBD — and in one case in Corpus Christi they thought the lollipops had synthetic THC inside and were ready to arrest Pete, but after several hours of being detained, and again the DEA was called, they released him. Pete’s attitude is very positive and he explains “these adventures are mainly an opportunity to spark the conversation with law enforcement, it’s not just about making money or going to fun events, I see it as a chance to create a forum for education. I don’t mind being detained; I don’t mind being questioned because I’m not doing anything wrong. At the end of the day, if I have had an opportunity to make an impact for the movement and educate the public and law enforcement, my job is done.”
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Fear and Loathing at SXSW With the CBD Lollipop Truck
The 420 Times Medical Marijuana News Magazine