Higher Ground Hits The Ballot Box

We’ve Turned Our Attention to Voting

By Michael A. Stusser

When we started Higher Ground in 2010, our mission was to Elevate the Dialogue on Cannabis Culture. While we supported the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana (no states at that time had legalized recreational weed), we were intentionally non-partisan when it came to politicians themselves: There were candidates from all parties in support of legalization: Most Democrats liked the progressive nature of ending the War on Drugs, many Republicans supported States rights (and eliminating the black market), the Green Party liked growing weed (apparently), and Libertarians, of course, liked the idea of the government staying the hell out of our damned business.

Fast forward to 2020 (in hindsight?), and there are eleven States that have legalized recreational cannabis, a total of 33 States that have made medical marijuana available, and SEVENTY PERCENT of Americans say it’s morally permissible for adults to “smoke marijuana,” regardless of the plant’s legal status (Gallup poll). In addition, for the first time, a majority of Republicans (56%) ALSO favor legal marijuana.(Hell, even that fool Kanye, a vocal Trump supporter, has become a strong campaigner for criminal justice and prison reform.) Point is, people want legal cannabis federally, and it’s going to happen in the very near future. (Sadly, the vast majority of Americans ALSO want gun control and single payer health care, which will probably take even more time to come about…)

Here at Higher Ground, we are NOT single-issue voters. There are plenty of candidates who support cannabis legalization who we would not vote for in a million years. (Take Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida. Please. And, while Sen. Mitch McConnell helped pass the farm bill last year which legalized hemp, he’s the worst asshat in the entire Congress.) Our values of equality and justice and peace and fairness override any single issue. Like most of you we’ll research an individual’s platform and let their actions and beliefs guide our electoral choices. Unfortunately, the United States of America, is still in shambles. The pandemic rages, millions are out of work, and racial inequality and police brutality, primarily against people of color, have come to the forefront via the inspirational Black Lives Matter movement.
ONE HUNDRED MILLION Americans who were eligible to vote in the 2016 election did not vote. Let’s repeat that: ONE HUNDRED MILLION Americans who were eligible to vote in the last presidential election (43% of the total) did not vote.
It is our belief that, if the majority of Americans participate in our democracy, we will have a more inclusive, just set of politicians and policies. We’ll also have legal cannabis, an administration that believes in science and global warming, and more people of color and women in positions of power. Which is why we’re devoting the next five months to the Ballot Box.
In a collaboration with the amazing cannabis brand Saints Joints, we have created The Higher Ground Ballot Box, a high-end box of cannabis joints designed to smash stoner stereotypes by registering people to vote. In addition to five premium pre-rolls, the Ballot Box contains a code that immediately registers voters, a mini version of the Bill of Rights, and non-partisan information about voting and elections. With the Ballot Box, we’re using a new platform as an entry point to spark engagement, and register new voters.
The Ballot Box includes a special QR code that directs to the Cannabis Voter Project – and registers individuals to vote. Established in 2018 as an initiative from HeadCount, the nonprofit and non-partisan Cannabis Voter Project is focused on educating, registering and turning out voters. HeadCount has registered half a million voters since 2004 at concerts and events. The Ballot Box link includes an easy-to-use online registration page and news to keep voters informed on election deadlines and voting locations.
We’re not the only ones laser-focused on voting this election.  LeBron James has partnered with other black athletes and entertainers to protect the voting rights of African Americans. The organization, called More Than A Vote, will pair up with other voting organizations and is even working for NBA arenas to be used as polling places for the coming 2020 election.
When We All Vote is another wonderful nonpartisan organization trying to increase participation. Launched in 2018 by co-chairs Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, Michelle Obama and Tim McGraw, When We All Vote is working to close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting, and harnessing grassroots energy.
We understand that legalization is a small but important step toward fixing discriminatory policing and racial inequality. But for those who ARE single-issue voters, and cannabis is your main priority, there are plenty of reasons to make sure you’re part of the democratic process. Obviously, the issue is hardly just about smoking weed. The War on Drugs and prohibition continues to be disproportionately applied. Every year over 650,000 Americans are arrested for violating cannabis laws – and not surprisingly, in every single state, black people are more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, even though white people use cannabis at the same rates. Cannabis is always on the ballot: The War on Drugs and DEA policies have been used as a tactic to target, harass, assault, criminalize, and incarcerate communities of color for a hundred years.
Currently, only 23 states allow citizen-initiated ballot initiatives, meaning in most states the only way to reform cannabis laws is through the legislature. Dozens of cannabis policy reform bills have also been introduced in state legislatures across the nation, and supporting pro-cannabis candidates at the local level has real impact. Clemency campaigns and releasing prisoners for pot is also something where the needle can be moved at the local level by electing progressive governors and attorney generals.
Sadly, there are still a lot of silly stereotypes about stoners. We’re lazy. We’re couch potatoes. We wake and bake. We’re vegetables. Well here at Higher Ground, we’re working to counter all those outdated cliches-because we know cannabis consumers are as active, involved and civic as any other community. So do us a favor – VOTE in November. Join our Joint Effort. It’s the most important election in our lifetime, and we’d like your voice to be heard. (We’d also like you to be legally stoned….)

Photo: Lamar Alexander; Styling: Malina Lopez

Introducing the Higher Ground Legal Stash Box! A Highly Curated Cannabis Collection

By Michael A. Stusser

Curated from legal markets across the country, the Higher Ground Legal Stash Box highlights the most amazing products and packaging in the burgeoning cannabis industry. Hand selected by Michael Stusser, host of Higher Ground TV, the items in each anthology represent the gold standard of legal offerings for cannabis connoisseurs!

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Notable selections in this month’s Higher Ground Legal Stash Box include:

The Leira Cannagar: CannaGars are small-batch cannabis cigars, using the finest flower from grower Gold Leaf Gardens. Each cigar is hand-rolled, and cured. The 6” Corona is full of 10 ounces of primo ganja, then covered in 3 grams of rosin oil – then wrapped in at least two layers of gorgeous, pure cannabis leaves, making it the most luxurious cigar on the market.

1964 Suppy Co. 1964 Supply Co. is collaborating with some of today’s most influential and emerging visual artists to create unique, limited-release collections of cannabis that celebrates craftsmanship, authenticity and innovation. The strain featured here is Grape OG (a cerebral high!) and was designed by muralist Tristan Eaton.

Beboe Sativa Vaporizer. Beboe is a luxury cannabis brand, and has been called the Hermes of Marijuana. The gorgeous rose gold pen comes in a glass test tube, with a letterpresses label in gold foil. The Beboe sativa blend vaporizer (“designed for social consumption”) has a terpene profile of pink grapefruit, making life…a bit warmer.

The Nuggy. The Nuggy is the Swiss Army Knife for potheads. The “Original Smoker’s Multi-Tool” includes scissors, a tamper, a pick/poker, and most importantly, a roach clip! (Now available in pink and blue!)

The Dose Pen. Dosist (previously hmbldt) gets as much hype as Tesla (and is barely less expensive). Their innovative delivery devices (aka pens) are scientifically designed and dialed in for consumers to get controlled and accurate doses. Best of all, the pen’s vibrates when you’ve gotten a premeasured dose. Formulas include Arouse, Calm, Bliss, Sleep, and our fav, Passion.

Bloom Farms PreRoll. Some of the most beautiful designs in cannabis come from Bloom Farms. Their strain-specific full-flower pre-roll cases could fit into an Art Deco coffee table book. It’s also cool that the company puts social responsibility in their mission statement, and pledges a meal for someone in need with every purchase.

Saints Joints. The Artist’s Series Pack is a five joint multi-strain sampler collection of all-organic first-rate flower. Each joint is specifically labeled (with strain names, THC/CBD levels) in the event you find a favorite for the future. The boxes were designed by Jeremy Fish, famous for his work with Upper Playground. Doesn’t hurt that their well-built boxes are printed on hemp and proceeds for their Limited Edition Pride Packs go to Equal Rights Washington.

Shine Gold Papers. The Shine Gold woven blunt is the most luxurious on the market, and makes you the hit of any party. Also perfect for damn fine Instagram pics. (Rhianna not included.) The edible 24K gold in this gorgeous blunt wrap actually stays in the ashes, fyi.

HiFi Farms. Named “The Coolest Cannabis Farm In Oregon” by Esquire Magazine, HiFi’s all-natural, Clean Green Certified growing methods result in products and experiences that create a lifting of the mind, body, and soul. Established in 2014, HiFi Farms is devoted to all things high fidelity – true, artistic expression, pure cultivation methods, and authentic flavors of all kinds. No doubt they grow the happiest, healthiest plants in the Universe.

While the Higher Ground Legal Stash Box is not available for purchase, there are several high end curated delivery boxes for sale, including Club M and PotBox.

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Stay tuned to MJ News Network where we will continue to curate the best in legal cannabis, and highlight the most innovative and elegant brands in upcoming Higher Ground Legal Stash Boxes.

Higher Ground is the World’s first talk show highlighting cannabis culture. Think of it as “The Daily Show” meets “Good Morning America”…but with a giant bong on the desk. For more on Higher Ground and host Michael Stusser, visit www.highergroundtv.com  or www.michaelstusser.com

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Higher Ground TV Crashes Adweek With Irreverent Cannabis Campaign

Hollyweed, CA: Higher Ground TV launched a “Marijuana vs. Cannabis” campaign at AdWeek to bring awareness of the benefits of legalization. Parodying Rolling Stone’s acclaimed “Perception vs. Reality” campaign of the 1980s (Fallon McElligott agency), the new ads instead use the words “marijuana” and “cannabis” to juxtapose the past history of Reefer Madness with the new era of legalization.

Each ad highlights a different aspect of the evolution of legal cannabis; the first ad shows a dirty bong opposite a modern vaporizer (a CannaCloud, the Keurig for Cannabis), with statistics on changing attitudes – and intake methods. The second ad compares headshops to recreational cannabis stores, emphasizing tax revenue, and the fact legal stores check IDs.

“While support for legalization is at an all-time high (65%), the vast majority of people haven’t really experienced what legal cannabis looks like,” stated Higher Ground Editor-in-Chief Michael A. Stusser. “These ads highlight safer growing methods, the millions raised in tax revenues and the medical benefits of pot. Our goal? National legalization – and decriminalization. Oh, and to promote our new talk show…”

Higher Ground is a new web series that spotlights the emerging canna-culture through humorous clip-show monologues, celebrity interviews, on-the-street field pieces (with periodically stoned correspondents), and parodies. “It’s The Daily Show meets Good Morning America….” says Stusser, “just with a giant bong on the desk.”

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Previous Higher Ground projects have included a “Comedians in Cars Smoking Cannabis” parody, an ad that ran in states voting on legalization last November (“Cannabis Clicker”), a weedWatch campaign, and a re-mix of Cheech & Chong’s famous hitchhiking scene from “Up in Smoke.”

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“We’re using traditional formats like talk shows and ad campaigns and parodies to highlight modern cannabis culture,” said Stusser. “I think it’s important to explore marijuana with a sense of humor to truly reach, inform and move the masses.”

Five “Marijuana vs. Cannabis” ads were released this week for AdWeek, with another five to run for AdWeek London and AdWeek Latin America and AdWeek Europe. The ads are running on Facebook and other social media sites, as well as MJ Channel One and in print in the MJ Green Pages and alternative weeklies.

Cannabis isn’t just about getting as high as a kite. In additional to the legalization taking place across the country, cannabis is leading to mind-boggling medical breakthroughs, innovative products and inventions, as well as celebrity brands involving health, lifestyle and beauty. From gourmet edibles to Marijuana Moms to a growing number of seniors embracing cannabis for arthritis, pot culture is becoming pop culture. Rather than shy away from this emerging movement, Higher Ground explores it with an entertaining- and professional – attitude.

From Reefer Madness to Cannabis Connoisseur: Support at all All-time High.
Fifty-five million Americans currently use marijuana (22% of the population), and over half of all adults have tried it. Support for legalization is at an all-time high (nearly 65%) – as is the support for medical marijuana (88%). Of the 55 million cannabis users, a majority of those (52%) are millennials. Surprisingly, 54% of the adults who use pot are parents. The hard-hitting and topical Jon Stewart-brand of journalism is also more popular than ever (including The Daily Show, and alumni Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee and John Oliver). Higher Ground embraces this approach – using advocacy journalism along with a sense of humor to bring the cannabis culture to the masses.

Ninety-five percent of the U.S. population currently lives in a state with some form of legal access to marijuana. Recreationally legal in nine States (including California, the sixth-largest economy in the World), another 29 states (plus D.C.) have laws on the books for medical marijuana. This cultural zeitgeist is not only increasing viewing limits, it’s bringing it audiences in key demographics who want smart, informative and entertaining programming about the people and products behind modern-day cannabis.

Cannabis is the fastest growing industry in the country. 
Marijuana sales in North America reached $7 billion in 2016, and is expected to jump to $21 billion by 2021. Higher Ground highlights the innovations, trends, and ganjapreneurs involved in this Green Rush. Whether it’s breaking political news on legalization initiatives, innovations in cannabis health, or talking to the artists and entertainers inspired by the wacky weed, Higher Ground has cannabis content covered. And, of course, Higher Ground explores and embraces the elevated aspects of getting high. Whether it’s Stoned Symphony Nights, demonstrating the Keurig for Cannabis, or highlighting the World’s 1st Marijuana Drive-Through, we hit the high-lights.


Higher Ground’s “Cannabis Clicker” Turns The Channel On Reefer Madness

WASHINGTON: Seattle-based multi-media company Higher Ground has created a new ad to support legalization reform efforts across the country. “Cannabis Clicker” will air in the five States with recreational legalization ballots: California, Maine, Nevada, Arizona and Massachusetts. The ad will also run in States with medical marijuana votes – including Oklahoma, Florida, Arkansas, North Dakota and Montana. All told, nine states will be voting on ballot initiatives related to legalizing and regulating cannabis on November 8th.

“We wanted to use the old reefer madness propaganda as part of our ad,” noted Editor-in-Chief Michael A. Stusser, “and juxtapose it with what’s really going on.” The ad, titled “Cannabis Clicker,” shows side-by-side living rooms, one playing anti-drug commercials and films from a now by-gone era, while the set in the modern living room plays news stories about legalization from the past few years. “Sometimes it’s best just to let the story tell itself,” Stusser notes. “Teen drug use has actually gone down since legalization, massive taxes have been raised, there has been no increase in traffic fatalities – and the sky has not fallen.”

The Cannabis Clicker ad uses clips from the original Reefer Madness movie, the infamous “Your Brain on Drugs” PSA, as well as modern day news clips featuring studies and research related to the legalization of marijuana. 

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Based out of Seattle, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012, Higher Ground is attempting to “Elevate the Dialogue” and broaden the movement nationally. While legal in Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Oregon, the use, sale or distribution of cannabis is still a felony at the federal level, and over 700,000 Americans are arrested every year for marijuana-related offenses. The parody ad has been provided to all the pro-legalization campaigns, and is being used both on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and VIMEO) as well as paid television in selected markets in California and Nevada.

“Comedians in Cars Smoking Cannabis” A 4/20 Parody

WASHINGTON: Just in time for 4/20, comes Comedians in Cars Smoking Cannabis – a parody of Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Created by award-winning filmmaker Michael Stusser (“Sleeping with Siri”) – who hosts the web series Higher Ground – the spoof features comedian Lauren Weedman (The Daily Show, HBO’s Hung and LookingCurb Your Enthusiasm) along with a fabulous 1965 VW Bus.

In Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Seinfeld introduces a vintage car, and then picks up his guest comedian, and drives to a cafe or restaurant for coffee. Comedians in Cars Smoking Cannabis also introduces a vintage vehicle (a very beat-up Volkswagon Bus – identical to the one featured in Fast Times at Ridgemont High), but instead of getting jacked up on coffee, these comedians get stoned out of their minds on legal marijuana. 

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Higher Ground: Call Me Cannabis

By Michael Stusser

WASHINGTON: Before I launch into this analogy, I would like to say that I understand how many will find it inappropriate, and that I came up with the notion while stoned out of my mind.

I’m starting to think about cannabis as having a similar journey and backstory to Olympic gold medalist and transgender reality star Caitlyn Jenner.

Until recently, like Jenner, trailblazers on the weed front have organized in secret closets and basements, hoping one day to live safely, truthfully, and freely in the great wide open.

And, like Jenner, marijuana—aka Mary Jane—has been an accomplished, harmless, and friendly sexpot all along . . . but has recently undergone a full makeover and is beginning to dress things up with PR campaigns, professional packaging, couture oils, and all-important accessories.


Michael Stusser Goes “Up In Smoke” With Cheech Marin

Journalist Michael Stusser (host of Higher Ground) pops in the passenger seat to discuss the new era of marijuana with Cheech Marin. The results are hilarious and surprisingly informative in this “Up in Smoke” Re-Mix.

And don’t worry, the great Tommy Chong doesn’t get left out! Watch till the end for a special shout-out.
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