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This newsletter is part of the Harry Potter generation
John Boehner and vapes
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The Kennedy trade
Here’s a trade:
Build a brand around prohibition. This is low cost to you, and shows you’re someone who gets things done.
As the tides of public opinion turn, switch sides. This is more costly, but you’re compensated for your risk.
Build a brand around the new ‘legal’ industry. This is again low cost because you and a few of your buddies are the only ones who can play.
Sell out at the top of the market; cut ties with all the people you made your brand on in number 1.
This is the Kennedy trade. Joseph Kennedy, elder statesman of the Kennedy political dynasty, built his reputation during Prohibition (fabricated or not). After, he had one of the few lucrative licenses for ‘medicinal’ alcohol. Once that frenzy topped out, he sold his franchise to turn to serious national politics.
John Boehner is currently at step 3. Interestingly, he is reversing the trade from the Kennedy scenario, as Boehner started in national politics; the economics are the same.
Boehner, former Speaker of the House and top Republican, built his brand in Congress during prohibition.1 Despite staunchly opposing legalization numerous times in the past, Boehner joined the Board of MSO Acreage Holdings in 2018.2 He’s now presumably advising Acreage on how to build their brand and squeeze every rent-seeking penny they can out of the U.S. market.
A group of businesses, hopeful cannabis entrepreneurs, and at least one medical marijuana-supporting physician has filed suit against the state of New York and its cannabis regulators, calling for recreational retail licensing to be opened up immediately to all stakeholders.
The suit accuses regulators of acting in contravention to state law, deliberately “turning a blind eye” to illicit market activity, and allowing “thousands of illicit retailers” to take control of the state marijuana market.
The lawsuit was filed by the Coalition for Access to Regulated and Safe Cannabis (CARSC), an “unincorporated trade association.”
The lawsuit, which had been hinted at more than once in recent months by business interests that have so far been largely shut out of New York’s adult-use market, alleges that the state Office of Cannabis Management and the Cannabis Control Board broke state law by awarding the 66 retail licenses issued to date only to social equity applicants.
The lawsuit also accuses regulators of having “waged a thinly veiled attack against the registered organizations” that comprise the 10 existing medical cannabis companies in New York. At least some of those companies are members of the coalition that filed the lawsuit, including Acreage Holdings, Curaleaf, Green Thumb Industries, and PharmaCann. Those companies currently are prohibited from participating in the adult-use market for three years.
The crucial part of step 3 is that only you and your buddies are supposed to be allowed to play in this legal sandbox. Acreage is allowed to sell medical cannabis in New York, but now that’s not the only game in town. They want in on the recreational market. Badly.
That’s because they want to sell out — Boehner probably helped meme them to an inflated valuation for a time, but the bubble has burst. At least they’re transparent about their motivations; I’m not yet sure what Michael Bloomberg gets out of his attacks.
I asked to write a response to that Bloomberg Opinion piece, but no reply. I’m not going to even acknowledge The Wall Street Journal on this topic.
But enough about Boomers! I am part of what economist Noah Smith would call the ‘Harry Potter generation’:
We can’t be claimed by the ‘older’ Millennials: we weren’t quite working age in the ‘08 financial crisis, and were admittedly more likely to be concerned with fantasy novels. But we can’t be claimed by Gen Z, either (if we would let them lay claim). We were alive during 9/11; I won’t get into lame excuses like Ryan’s (he never processed it), but there is no denying a stark contrast when answering a where were you?-type question with a physical place as opposed to ‘not born yet.'4
Our childhood was — comparatively — technology-free. I invite you to see it coming on in fits and starts, from the point of view of a Lost Zillennial. It’s whimsical, charming even; a wizard series spreads around the internet and takes over the world in elementary school; a phone with a sliding keyboard lets us text new friends in middle school; Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat give us instant access to everyone and anyone in high school.
So when we see how anxious kids these days are, we can’t help but agree with the Millennial Smith’s assessment that it’s the smartphones. Millennials increasingly see new technology as the boogeyman; Bo Burnham, a Millennial born on the cutoff in 1990, represented the internet as a huckster wearing dark sunglasses and shilling ‘a little bit of everything, all of the time.’5
While not the boogeyman, young millennials know the internet has not done any favors for the mental health of Gen Z. So when we hear they’re, say, vaping all the time, we get it. Older players in the cannabis industry often do not understand the trend, and balk at data that show vapes’ rapid rise. Let a Lost Zillennial demystify it for you.
A vape provides three things to the cannabis user: it is quick, it is portable, and it is discreet.
Neither the Millennial nor this Zillennial can blame a Gen Z’er for desiring numbers 1 and 2. It’s our fault. We demanded our tech faster, smaller, and were raised less on the Golden Rule than Moore’s Law. The vape is the apogee of those ethos — it even looks like a thumb drive.
But number 3 is where views start to diverge. Part of it is the analog/digital divide between generations. Millennials can still remember computers as hardware plus software; to make the weed metaphor, they want to mix and match both their pipe and their flower. But Gen Z has been raised in world of sleek APIs that allow for ‘no code.’ They’re fine buying the all-in-one vape package.
The fact that APIs obscure what’s really going on is a feature, not a bug. It allows a user to get up and running quickly, with few prerequisites. It also fuels the fear of vapes targeting kids. I mean, yeah, Juul was. But that’s probably not the number-one concern.
One more feature of the vape is that it allows the user to ‘consume cannabis’ a lot more frequently than if they were to smoke. This is because it is possible to take a small dose that emits little smell, even indoors. It’s discreet. If we are concerned about teen drug use, this seems to be the best place to focus.
I mean, teens do drugs, and will do drugs. I won’t go so far as to say the concern is unwarranted. David Foster Wallace understood the potential dangers with weed. Hal Incandenza from Infinite Jest — Wallace’s Magnum Opus, set in an addicts' halfway house and an elite high school tennis academy — voluntarily goes to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting his senior year.6 He is concerned about his frequent weed use, and the symptoms of withdrawal when he stops.
As the book notes, ‘Hal likes to get high in secret, but a bigger secret is that he’s as attracted to the secrecy as he is to getting high.’ Wallace was problematic, but also ahead of his time; you can apply his diagnoses of the digital age to the next generation following his writing in the ‘90s. Attraction to secrecy is a feature of Gen Z, or perhaps the lost generation that was just being born as Wallace saw into the future.
Millennials do not see the need for secrecy. As evidence, Millennials drove the crypto phenomenon, at least institutional adoption and big money trades. Absolute, immutable transparency is the very foundation upon which the whole ecosystem is built. Except, it wasn’t, because Lost boys and girls high on amphetamines had built secret backdoors.
See, Millennials turned their rage against the machine outward; they were told to move fast and ‘break stuff.’ A Millennial was just as likely to be raised on Limp Bizkit as the Silicon Valley ethos. Are Fred Durst and Travis Kalanick not one and the same?
The Lost Generation can claim Phoebe Bridgers; we know the end.7 In the end times, you can either shout doom from the rooftops — corny, for sure — or you can make the best of your situation and carry on. I'm not here to dunk on Taylor Lorenz, but she's a Millennial.8 Lost kids probably just want to vape and play Hogwarts Legacy.9
Smoking weed — real flower, that sticky icky — is a deliberate choice. Vaping is a discreet choice. A joint says ‘F you, man!’ A vape says, ‘leave me alone.’ Maybe I’m more a crotchety Millennial than I’m letting on, but I would be more concerned by the latter response. This newsletter prefers the joint — but don’t be surprised if the vape has staying power.
Of course, ‘get things done’ means something very different in Congress; often, the opposite.
He received a lot of backlash from Republicans, but we can assume he was fairly compensated.
You can’t ‘sell out’ before taking a crack at New York. Boehner likes to play in the biggest sandbox.
It’s also telling that the formative show of my generation was led by an irreverent (and offensive) office manager of a paper-supply company. What’s an office? (What’s paper?)
Though the masterpiece of that special was ‘That Funny Feeling.’
Fans of The Office will also note the connection with the character ‘David Wallace,’ Michael’s boss. Both DFW and The Office understood the ‘problem with irony.’
She also covered ‘That Funny Feeling’ and might be dating Bo Burnham.
Despite all the (justified) backlash against J.K. Rowling, there is no way anyone is going to take Harry Potter away from an entire generation of kids.