White Castle is a hamburger chain (in)famous for selling very small burgers in very great abundance for a relatively small amount of money.
White Castle — and an unquenchable desire for those burgers — is also the plot device in a very successful stoner film that has become a cultural milestone. This is all to say that without trying very hard, White Castle has become near-synonymous with marijuana, a fact that was mostly true before John Cho and Kal Penn made Harold and Kumar.
One might think a strong association with an industry so popular that even the tan-in-a-tube Marlboro man John Boehner is getting on board would be a good thing. (The “power of the crave,” be it the result of cannabis use or not, has also become central to White Castle’s brand strategy.)
Judged by the company’s contribution to a campaign seeking to defeat a measure that includes marijuana decriminalization in its home state, this is not an outlook that White Castle shares.
Next week, voters in Ohio will decide on Issue 1, a ballot proposition that, if approved, would decriminalize possession of marijuana as well as other drugs. White Castle and its ownership, the Ingram family, have evidently decided what they think of the measure. They think it stinks, and have donated $15,000 to the “Vote No Protect Ohio” campaign that’s seeking to defeat drug-policy reform. In so doing, White Castle joins insurance giant Western Southern and state police, prosecutors, and judges in attempting to keep marijuana laws punitive.
A White Castle spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company’s normally active social media accounts did not respond to a request for comment. We’ll update this post if we hear back.
Like other Trump-supporting states in the Rust Belt, Ohio has been hit hard by the opiate-overdose epidemic. State officials have filed suit against pharmaceutical companies for flooding struggling communities with habit-forming, potentially deadly pain pills.
Issue 1 isn’t entirely related — it’s more of a general prison and drug-policy reform effort — but removing penalties for cannabis, thus making the opiate alternative easier to access, could absolutely reduce the opiate epidemic, as multiple studies have shown.
It could also pave the way for marijuana legalization. The state’s medical-marijuana era is just beginning, but Issue 1 would at least nudge the state towards legalization by reducing marijuana possession, purchase, and consumption to a misdemeanor punishable by probation only.
A misdemeanor is still a crime and probation is still a criminal penalty, so calling Issue 1 “decriminalization” is a bit of a stretch. It also bears mentioning that Ohio’s marijuana laws, while far from perfect, are not terrible, at least by the U.S.’s abject standards: Simple possession is punishable only by an $150 fine, though gifting of sales of any amount can carry a jail term on second offense.
Beyond its insistence to send American citizens to jail for nonviolent drug crimes, there are other reasons why Vote No! Protect Ohio leaves a foul taste. The campaign plays up fentanyl fears and refers to nonviolent drug offenders as “hardened criminals.” Their campaign website mentions Issue 1’s funders — billionaire philanthropist George Soros and billionaire-not-quite-yet-a-philanthropist Mark Zuckerberg — front and center.
Intentional or not (and we suspect it is the former) this plays off of and feeds from the Soros-centered anti-Semitic conspiracy theories repeated on Fox News that have poisoned the internet over the last week.
It also begs a question — what does any of this have to do with small cheap hamburgers? Why is White Castle anti-decriminalization and pro-prison? Whatever the reason, if John Cho and Kal Penn ever make another sequel, Harold and Kumar will probably switch to In-n-Out.
TELL US, are you surprised White Castle is against potentially decriminalizing cannabis in Ohio?