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according to SAIC, weed is an art material

do what you will with that information.

By Featured, SAIC

Boxes in form a gridded, asymmetrical frame. Each box is filled with graphic illustration of content alluded to in the article. One shows blueberries; one hemp threads; one a closeup of lips, smoking; one the state of Illinois against a marbled background.

Illustration by Anna Cai

hi everyone, hope you’ve had a good start to your semester & a restorative long weekend,

i’m emailing to touch base about another cannabis-related research project. i’d like to see what my options are for framing my medicine as an art material in my studio classes. i’ve cc’d my professors and ta’s for this semester : mindy schwartz (she/hers) & nour malas (she/hers) from extreme craft (sculpture), and alexandria eregbu (she/hers) & nelly agassi (she/hers) from the advanced fibers and materials studies studio. i’ll also be sending a voice memo dictating this email for accessibility. 

after some reflection on the hemp material research project, i decided to start incorporating weed more transparently in my practice. i’ve curated a few research posts on my instagram (linked later) which document the different strains i’ve been using to treat my pain while navigating the residual layers of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and ancestral trauma that have gotten me to this moment.

through curating language used in white-owned cannabis publications; song lyrics from pro-cannabis activists from across the black diaspora (including my contemporary jaefkae (no pronouns), who is playing in the background); memes; images & videos of weed; and images & videos depicting & alluding to my own consumption in these posts, my intention was to show that we are all talking about the same thing : weed. there are simply forms which operate with regard for colonially constructed moralities & respectability politics, and forms which don’t. 

these were exercises in preparation for my fall publication called “n***** crops,” a slang term of white american origin from chattel slavery to describe cotton (which i’ve been researching this summer) and cannabis (weed and hemp). this research project will in part document how both legalized and illegalized cannabis has been used as a cash crop to fund the american empire since before its conception (pre-1776) to our present day “post racial democracy.” this work will also document the therapeutic parallels between the fibers i spin and the strains i smoke as they support me in my daily practice of self & communal care (wool : indica :: cotton : cbg & cbd :: hemp : sativa).

a significant part of this work is to understand what forms are tolerable to the institutions i operate within. for saic, i’d like to be able to bring in my medicine along with the materials & tools i use to prepare to smoke (blunts, papers, filters, grinders, glassware, etc) as art materials, art-objects, & to be documented in photos & videos. however, the different strains of weed i smoke function in different modes of legality based on their ratios of cannabinoids (the chemical compounds in weed). as we’ve seen with the last project, the fda established threshold for weed to be considered psychoactive is .3% thc. anything above that limit is still categorized as schedule 1. schedule 1 is for ‘drugs with no medical benefit,’ even though [over] half the states in the country— including illinois—provide medical licensing (which i have). the strains that i smoke— which i almost always blend for maximum relief—lie both in and out of federal legality, like cbg and blue dream respectively. 

this framework of federal legality which manifests in the outdated and misinformed 1989 drug free schools and communities act (dfsca) is deeply rooted in racism and xenophobia toward black peoples and mexican peoples respectively. if you’d like more clarification , i recommend the documentary grass is greener (dir. fab five freddy, 2019). i would prefer not to perform the emotional labor of explaining the foundations of racism to any members of an institution which has still not addressed the blk@saic and black futures groups demands for institutional accountability from martin berger (a white man), who said n***** and was then promoted to his current status as dean. if an explanation is absolutely necessary for the success of this proposal, please let me know.

with all of this considered, i’d like to ask a variety of questions about my ability to document weed as art. with all of these inquiries, i’m considering the contexts of classroom critiques and school gallery exhibitions :

can i show images & videos of weed ?

[continued below, in response.]

Hi j,

Thank you for contacting Art School Considerations.

In reference to marijuana and medical marijuana, the SAIC Student Handbook states:


In order to comply with federal laws such as the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act, SAIC prohibits the use, manufacture, sale, distribution, and possession of all marijuana, including medical marijuana, on campus and at any SAIC-sponsored event or activity off campus. 

Effective January 1, 2020, the state of Illinois has passed the Illinois Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act (state 410 ILCS 705), legislation legalizing small amounts of marijuana for recreational use for those over the age of 21. Additionally, Illinois had previously passed legislation regarding medical cannabis that allows people with certain conditions to use marijuana and other cannabis derivatives for treatment. However, federal law prohibits the use of drugs including marijuana. If SAIC fails to comply with federal law, it could become ineligible for federal funding and financial aid programs for its students.

In directly answering the questions you asked, we will reply inline, noting that all conduct remains subject to applicable SAIC policies, including the Rules of Conduct and the policy stated above:

can i show images & videos of weed ? yes

can i show images & videos of blunts, joints, filters, grinders, glassware, etc. ? yes

can i share audio recordings of me smoking ? yes

can i show footage of me smoking ? yes

can i bring blunts, papers, filters, grinders, glassware, etc. to campus ? yes

can i bring psychoactive weed in a container ? no

can i bring non psychoactive weed in a container ? yes, but only if it has a legally allowed THC concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry-weight basis

can i take either out of their container ? yes, if it is within the 0.3% THC limit

can people touch a container that holds psychoactive weed ? no

can people touch a container that holds non psychoactive weed ? yes, if it is within the 0.3% THC limit

can people hold, touch, or otherwise feel either kinds of flower ? yes, if it is within the 0.3% THC limit

can i bring pre-rolled blunts and joints in a container ?  yes, if it is within the 0.3% THC limit

can i take those out of their container ? yes, if it is within the 0.3% THC limit

can i roll a cone (the paper and filter with no weed) in a prerecorded video and/or live interactive work ? yes

can i roll up with only non psychoactive weed in a prerecorded video and/or live interactive work ? yes, if it is within the 0.3% THC limit

can i roll up with psychoactive weed in a prerecorded video and/or live interactive work ? video prerecorded off-campus, yes. live on campus, no.

can i teach others to roll in a prerecorded video and/or live interactive work ? yes

can i invite others to roll in a live interactive work ? yes

can i light a blunt and/or joint in an outdoor area on school premises (i.e. the 280 courtyard) & not smoke it, letting it burn out in a prerecorded video and/or live interactive work ? Yes, if it is within the 0.3% THC limit. Refer to SAIC’s smoking policy under “Rules of Conduct” in the Student Handbook.

are there any other places where this may be possible ?  Refer to SAIC’s smoking policy under “Rules of Conduct” in the Student Handbook.

what other potentials exist to use weed (framed in this socially engaged research art practice) as a prompt for change in the school’s policies on cannabis ? Refer to the “Marijuana, Medical Marijuana, and Illinois Law” quoted above.

We hope the above responses to your questions are helpful.

*redactions by F Newsmagazine

QR code linking to j's website version of this article.

More of j’s project can be found by scanning the QR code or clicking this link.

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