It’s easy to find marijuana by the side of the road in America. There are wild stands of cannabis sativa growing in ditches all over the Midwest—this is why they call it “ditchweed”—and the highways leading out of Colorado, Oregon and Washington are absolutely littered with hastily discarded eighths, edibles and pipes, as well as energy-drink cans, fast-food wrappers, cigarette butts and other legal litter.
Roadside trash is a fact of life. There are millions of pounds of garbage along the nation’s highways, a problem so profound that “adopting a highway” (to do authorities’ jobs for them) is a familiar civic tradition all over the country.
Being civic-minded, the Pennsylvania Cannabis Festival recently applied for the privilege of cleaning up a rural stretch of road on the border with New York State. But as PennLive is reporting, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said no thanks—rejecting the application on the grounds that the word “cannabis” would then appear on an Adopt-a-Highway sign.
And that would never do.
Silly rules and ridiculous double standards follow marijuana everywhere the drug can be found.
Pennsylvania, for example, allows medical marijuana—and the Pennsylvania Cannabis Festival had already begun cleaning up state Route 106 in Susquehanna County, near Scranton, where the annual festival was held last month.
But in the run-up to the festival, PennDOT rejected the group’s application to “formally” adopt the highway (an honor that comes with the group’s name printed on a sign). As festival organizer Jeff Zick tells it, transit officials ran through several explanations before settling on a reason why a cannabis group could pick up trash but couldn’t get a sign.
First, the group was told it wasn’t a business. When the festival returned with information about its LLC status, it was told that it supported non-medicinal cannabis use. Finally, a lawmaker passed along information that the group was denied because cannabis is illegal.
James May, a PennDOT spokesman, said such decisions are made by the local district executive after an initial review by the county coordinator.
“Our district executive felt it would not be appropriate to allow the promotion of an illegal substance on a commonwealth-owned sign,” he said.
According to PennLive, the state received 228 applications to adopt stretches of highway for two-year periods. In addition to the name of the church group, school or other civic organization on the highway signs, adoptees also receive some help from the state in the form of safety equipment.
The cannabis festival was the only marijuana-related organization to apply to adopt a stretch of highway, and it was also the only group rejected for its name—leading Zick to surmise that state officials were making up rules as they went along. (Which, since this is the first time this has ever happened, is true.)
In the meantime, Zick and other pro-marijuana Pennsylvanians will keep picking up trash. They have another highway cleanup volunteer day scheduled for Saturday.