History of Marijuana


November 29, 2009 – Marijuana used for medicinal purposes has a history that dates back all the way until 2737 BC. The issue of Marijuana being used as medicine has been a long debated topic where people have been fighting for both sides and very little has been accomplished. People such as politicians have been fighting to say that marijuana is an illegal drug no matter the benefits. Marijuana offers a remedy to medications and treatments that have extremely painful and long lasting side effects.

Some states have taken action on the matter and voted to decriminalize the use of medicinal marijuana for people with serious illness’ that would benefit from the drug. With this came serious regulations dealing with the distribution, possession, and who can receive the product. Medications with side effects such as loss of appetite and vomiting leave patients with more pain and potentially additional health problems than the disease its self causes. With all of the advantages that Marijuana offers medically, and how enormously effective the drug works with reducing pain, it should be obvious that medicinal marijuana should be legalized for the purpose of treating patients that are unable to deal with their pain.

Cannabis, commonly known as marijuana, has a history that dates back to ancient times. The first recorded use of marijuana came in 2737 BC, when Emperor Shen-Nung of China prescribed cannabis to people to help treat illnesses such as constipation, gout, and malaria. Marijuana was used quite frequently in ancient times for uses in medicine, and it is believed that Gautama Buddha survived by eating nothing but cannabis seeds. Medical Marijuana in the United States of America is not a new discovery. In 1850, Marijuana was added into United States Pharmacopeia, a publication that contains legally recognized standards of every aspect of a drug, and was prescribed for numerous medical conditions including labor pains, nausea, and rheumatism until 1941 when it was removed from the publication.

During the time period between 1850- 1930, cannabis was beginning to lose its image of a medicine and was starting to be viewed as an intoxicant and was looked down upon. In the mid 1930’s, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Narcotics started an initiative to depict marijuana as a controlling addicting substance that could possibly lead to addiction.

With the gaining support of the people, along with the encouragement from the press, the federal government passed the marijuana tax act in 1937, which federally prohibited the smoking of marijuana for any purpose. In 1970, the government passed an additional bill known as the controlled substance act, which created five categories based on drugs usefulness. Marijuana was considered as a Schedule 1 drug which said that cannabis had a high potential for abuse, and no medicinal purposes. (Booth)

As states began to legalize medicinal marijuana, conflicts between federal and state laws became evident. Although marijuana was legal in the state of California, patients that were prescribed the drug were being arrested because medicinal marijuana conflicted with both the controlled substance act, and the marijuana tax act, and federal law always overrides state law. Not until the court case of Gonzales v. Raich did users of medical marijuana have protection against being arrested for breaking federal law.

The issue presented to the court asked, is the Controlled Substances Act a constitutional use of the Commerce Clause? The court voted 6-3 in favor of the defendant and stated that, “the Controlled Substances Act is an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’ Commerce Clause authority,” and finally users of medical marijuana were protected under law from being arrested for breaking federal law. (Gonzales v. Raich)

Marijuana is widely known as one of the safest, low risk active substances if used properly. To this day, there have been no recorded deaths due to an overdose, and there are very few dangerous side effects. In addition, there is no evidence to show that marijuana carries a risk of true addiction to the body.(Gottfried) The same cannot be said for other medications that are used to treat diseases such as AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, and epilepsy.

Serious life threatening diseases require extreme amounts of medication on a daily basis that have the potential of causing the body extreme harm and great amounts of pain. For example, when an individual is diagnosed with cancer, one of the only effective treatments for the drug is known as chemotherapy. The drug is delivered to the patient through an IV causing symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and extreme pain are all side effects of the drug and coping with the pain can put a person through hell. (McMahon) The main chemical in marijuana known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or TCH, is known to stimulate a person’s appetite when the drug is broken down by the body. Not only does TCH stimulate the body’s appetite, but it also helps alleviate the symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and pain that come along with the chemotherapy treatment.

Additionally, marijuana serves as an effective and long lasting treatment for glaucoma. Glaucoma is a disease when excessive pressure builds up on the eyeball, and almost always leads to loss of vision completely. Treatments for the disease include several different eye drops and oral medications, but with time the body builds an immunity to the drugs and they become ineffective. It has been proven that when smoked; marijuana reduces pressure on the eyeball making cannabis an excellent and long lasting way for glaucoma patients to deal with their pain. (Williams)

Similar to the treatment of cancer, hepatitis C also requires a long term treatment with medications that have very similar side effects to that of chemotherapy. Treatment for hepatitis C requires six months of therapy with the combination of two extremely potent drugs identified as interferon and ribavirin. Side effects of the treatment leave patients with severe fatigue, nausea, muscle aches, loss of appetite and depression. A recent study was conducted with the combined efforts of scientists at the University of California at San Francisco, and the Oakland substance abuse center. Researchers closely monitored the progress of 71 patients who were taking interferon and ribavirin to watch their progress. Out of the 71 patients, 22 of them smoked marijuana on a consistent basis to help ease the pain caused by the treatment. At the end of the six months, 19 of the 22 patients that used marijuana to help manage the effects of the treatment successfully completed the agonizing treatment while only 29 of the 49 people who chose not to use marijuana successfully completed the course. Months after the treatment, researchers went back to follow up and found that 54 percent of the group that were using marijuana during the treatment had no signs of the virus while only 18 percent of the non smokers achieved the same result. Although there was no documented evidence that shows the marijuana acted as a medicine itself to cure the illness, it appears that the people that chose to use marijuana were able to deal with the side effects and complete the treatment that many people are unable to endure. (Weiss)

Today in the United States of America, there are hundreds of laws prohibiting the use, possession, and distribution of marijuana. In the State of New Hampshire, possession of any useable amount is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to one year in jail, and a fine of no more than 2,000 dollars. To this date, there have been 12 states that have decriminalized marijuana strictly for medicinal use. These states include Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Although medicinal marijuana has been decriminalized in these states, laws have been put into effect to strictly regulate when a person can be prescribed and how much of the drug they will receive. In state of California, you must obtain written permission from a physician stating that you have a disease or illness that would benefit you from the use of marijuana. Under the law, eligible patients or their personal care givers are able to possess up to eight ounces of marijuana and no more than six marijuana plants. Patients are allowed to obtain more than state law allows under special circumstances if a physician decides that their patient would benefit from it. Frequent conditions that allow a physician to prescribe medicinal pot include cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, glaucoma, arthritis, and migraines. (Akhavan)

Medical Marijuana is a largely debated topic that brings serious questions up. There have been thousands of studies conducted over the past century to find out if indeed marijuana has medicinal values. Marijuana has been shown to greatly reduce effects of medications that are given to patients with serious illnesses. Effects such as loss of appetite, nausea, and even depression are quite often side effects of treatments that could decide the fate of an individual’s life. Legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes leave some people thinking that the drug will be available to anyone who wants to get their hands on it. These views that people seem to have are completely irrational because such regulations have been placed on the drug that it is still almost impossible for people who are suffering to obtain medicinal marijuana legally.

Often times, people become so desperate because they have been suffering for so long, that individuals risk being arrested and take matters into their own hands and search out the drug illegally. People that need medical marijuana didn’t chose to have an illness that they are suffering from, it came upon them and there is nothing that anyone can do to cure it a lot of times. The fact that people are being arrested and punished because they are despite enough to risk going to jail to obtain medicinal marijuana saddens many people. Many states have realized how they are preventing their own citizens from obtaining medication that is only going to help, and have decriminalized the use of medicinal marijuana. With all the evidence that has been presented by world renown scientists that show the positive medical uses of marijuana, you would think that all 50 states would allows their citizens to obtain medical marijuana if they were suffering enough, not just 12. Source.

November 16, 2009 – Medicinal use of cannabis is being discussed more actively than ever. Although prior to its prohibition in 1937 cannabis was used widely in conditionsmap_340pharmacies, there was little debate about its usefulness to treat various symptoms such as inflammatory pain. Cannabis remedies were well known, publicly advertised and widely prescribed.

“Marijuana,” on the other hand, was virtually unknown Mexican jargon before becoming the “assassin of youth” in propaganda films. Such depictions led to an unceremonious vote by Congress to effectively criminalize Cannabis sativa in all of its forms. The strongest opposition came not from the public (which did not equate the new “scourge” with cannabis remedies) but from the American Medical Association, whose congressional liaison decried the legislation as speciously motivated by “indirect hearsay evidence.”

Over the next 72 years, the image of the American cannabis user morphed from the immigrant madman and criminal deviant of the ’40s, to the counter-culture crowd of the ’60s to the unmotivated slacker of the ’80s. In the ’90s, a “new” image arose: the medical marijuana patient, who is driven not to get high but to get well. It is linguistically ironic that “medical marijuana” may usher in a new chapter in the ancient relationship between human society and the cannabis plant.

Now the American Medical Association has turned heads by again weighing in on cannabis policy. After extensive review of scientific and clinical evidence regarding the harms and benefits of cannabinoids (molecules found in cannabis) as well as recent legal precedence regarding medical marijuana, the AMA announced that the federal Schedule I status of marijuana (most prohibited) should be reconsidered in order to advance clinical research with botanical cannabinoid medicines. The AMA report furthermore expresses that “physicians who comply with their ethical obligations to ‘first do no harm’ and to ‘relieve pain and suffering’ should be protected in their endeavors, including advising and counseling their patients on the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes.”

The emphasis on research is important. There is a future for botanical cannabis-based medicines, but patients and physicians should be empowered to base health care decisions on real evidence rather than hyperbolic claims of marijuana’s dangers or virtues. Not surprisingly, the AMA does not support legalizing medical marijuana through state ballot initiatives, such as the one Floridians could vote on next year if a petition by the group People United for Medical Marijuana gains traction. Cannabis is a plant and modern standards for purity, packaging and delivery of drugs play an important part in assuring reliable predictability. Also at play is the arena of pharmaceutical development — new drugs are being pioneered to enhance the body’s THC-like “endocannabinoid system,” intended to achieve therapeutic effect with improved specificity and minimal psychoactivity. Research is clearly needed to ensure efficacy and safety of these new drugs.

Nonetheless, the perceived promise of such drugs highlights a need for greater maturity in social discussion of medical use for cannabis and/or its constituent molecules. Whatever else might be said about the apparent sea change of public opinion about cannabis, the oft-repeated claims by federal drug czars that medical marijuana is a “smoke screen” or lacks even a “shred of evidence” must be laid to rest as a relic of socially juvenile, 20th century reefer madness. Public policy should be based on sound scientific evidence — not a roadblock to it. Cannabis has been used safely as a folkloric remedy for thousands of years, but in modern America inappropriate Schedule I listing of marijuana has obstructed research to find promising therapies for debilitating human conditions. This is a paramount reason why the scheduling should be changed. By Gregory L. Gerdeman and Juan Sanchez-Ramos. Source.

Gregory L. Gerdeman, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of biology at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg. Juan Sanchez-Ramos, Ph.D./M.D., is the Helen Ellis Professor of Neurology and chair for Parkinson’s Disease Research at the University of South Florida College of Medicine in Tampa.

Sanchez-Ramos was a physician involved in the “Compassionate Use Protocol for Marijuana” sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and approved by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Administration. In this study, marijuana was prepared and shipped by NIDA to patients with various medical conditions. His patient suffered from muscle spasms and pain caused by a rare disease, successfully treated with cannabis.

October 18, 2009 – Marijuana has been used by people around the globe for thousands of years – here is a brief overview:

2737 B.C.: A Chinese medical treatise discusses medical uses of marijuana.Picture 24

2000-70 B.C.: People in Egypt, Greece, India and Rome use marijuana to treat everything from sore eyes to pain.

1621: British clergyman Robert Burton promotes marijuana as a treatment for depression.

1799: Scientific members of Napoleon’s army investigate marijuana’s pain-relieving and sedative effects.

1839: William O’Shaughnessy writes the first modern medical article about marijuana.

1850-1937: Medical professionals turn to other medications and marijuana loses favor as a remedy, although individual researchers continue writing about its favorable effects on mental and physical illnesses.

1923: Louisiana outlaws marijuana.

1937: Congress passes the Marijuana Tax Act, which effectively shuts down the marijuana trade without specifically making the drug illegal.

1941: Marijuana is removed from the U.S. Pharmacopeia, the standards-setting authority for all prescription and over-the-counter medications.

1970: The U.S. Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a narcotic with no medical value. It replaces the Marijuana Tax Act.

1971-96: Research into the medical uses of marijuana continues. Defendants in a handful of drug cases throughout the United States successfully argue that their marijuana us is a medical necessity.

1996: California voters legalize marijuana for medical use. The state’s Health Department develops rules and a structure for marijuana prescriptions and dispensaries. Federal authorities continue drug busts at the dispensaries and other organizations that handle medical marijuana.

2008: Michigan voters approve medical marijuana.

February 2009: Newly confirmed U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder indicates the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency no longer will raid California medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with California law.

Source.

October 16, 2009 – A nine-block section of downtown Oakland, Calif., has become a modern marijuana mecca—and a model for what a legalized-drug America could look like. Why the stars are aligning for Picture 22the pro-weed movement.

On the corner of Broadway and 17th Street in downtown Oakland, nudged between a Chinese restaurant and a hat shop, Oaksterdam University greets passersby with a life-sized cutout of Barack Obama and the sweet smell of fresh marijuana drifting from a back room. Inside, dutiful students flip through thick plastic binders of the day’s lessons, which, on a recent Saturday began with “Pot Politics 101,” taught by a ponytailed legal consultant who has authored a number of books on hemp. The class breaks for lunch around noon, and resumes an hour later, with classes on “budtending,” horticulture and cooking, which includes a recipe for “a beautiful pot pesto.” There are 50 students in this class, the majority of them Californians, but some have come all the way from Kansas. In between lectures, the university’s founder, Richard Lee, 47, rolls in and out on his wheelchair greeting students, looking the part of a pot school dean in Converse sneaker, aviator glasses, and a green “Oaksterdam” T-shirt.

Locals refer to the nine-block area surrounding the university as Oaksterdam—a hybrid of “Oakland” and the drug-friendly “Amsterdam,” where marijuana has been effectively legal since 1976. Nestled among what was once a rash of vacant storefronts, Lee has created a kind of urban pot utopia, where everything moves just a little bit more slowly than the outside world. Among the businesses he owns are the Blue Sky Coffeeshop, a coffee house and pot dispensary where getting an actual cup of Joe takes 20 minutes but picking up a sack of Purple Kush wrapped neatly in a brown lunch bag takes about five. There’s Lee’s Bulldog Café, a student lounge with a not-so-secret back room where the haze-induced sounds of “Dark Side of the Moon” seep through thick smoke, and a glass blowing shop where bongs are the art of choice. Around the corner is a taco stand (Lee doesn’t own this one) that has benefitted mightily from the university’s hungry students.

An education at Oaksterdam means learning how to grow, sell, market, and consume weed—all of which has been legal in California, for medicinal use only, since 1996. For the price of an ounce of pot and a couple of batches of brownies (about $250), pot lovers can enroll in a variety of weekend cannabis seminars all focused on medicinal use. But “medicinal” is something of an open joke in the state, where anyone over age 18 with a doctor’s note—easy to get for ailments like anxiety or cramps, if you’re willing to pay—can obtain an ID card allowing access to any of the state’s hundreds of dispensaries, or pot shops. (“You can basically get a doctor’s recommendation for anything,” said one dispensary worker.) Not all of those dispensaries are legally recognized, however: there’s a growing discrepancy over how California’s laws mesh (or don’t mesh) with local and federal regulations. But Oakland is unique in that it has four licensed and regulated dispensaries, each taxed directly by the city government. This past summer, Oakland voters became the first in the nation to enact a special cannabis excise tax—$18 for every $1,000 grossed—that the city believes will generate up to $1 million in the first year. Approved by 80 percent of voters, and unopposed by any organization, including law enforcement, the tax was pushed by the dispensary owners themselves, who hope the model will prove to the rest of California that a regulated marijuana industry can be both profitable and responsible. “The reality is we’re creating jobs, improving the city, filling empty store spaces, and when people come down here to Oakland they can see that,” says Lee, who smokes both recreationally and for his health, to ease muscle spasms caused by a spinal chord injury.

The arguments against this kind of operation are easy to tick off: that it glamourizes marijuana, promotes a gateway drug, leads to abuse. Compared to more serious drugs like heroine, cocaine or even alcohol, studies have shown the health effects of marijuana are fairly mild. But there are still risks to its consumption: heavy pot users are more likely to be in car accidents; there have been some reports of it causing problems in respiration and fetal development. And, as the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, put it recently, there are a number of medical professionals, and many parents, who worry that the drug’s increased potency over the years has heightened the risk of addiction. “It’s certainly true that this is not your grandfather’s pot,” says Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Nevertheless, like much of the country, Oakland is suffering economically. The city faced an $83 million budget deficit this year, and California, of course, is billions in the red. So from a public coffers perspective, if ever there were a time to rethink pot policy, that time is now. Already in Sacramento, there is a legalization measure before the state assembly that the author claims could generate $1.3 billion in tax revenue. And while analysts say it has little hope of passing (it faces strong opposition from law enforcement), the figures prompted even Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger—who’s vetoed every marijuana-related bill to come across his desk—to proclaimed that “It’s time for a debate.” On a federal level, marijuana is still illegal—it was outlawed, over the objections of the American Medical Association, in 1937. But in February, Attorney General Eric Holder stunned critics when he announced that the feds would cease raiding medical marijuana dispensaries that are authorized under state law. “People are no longer outraged by the idea of legalization,” wrote former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown in a recent op-ed. “And truth be told, there is just too much money to be made both by the people who grow marijuana and the cities and counties that would be able to tax it.”

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron has estimated that the cost of cannabis prohibition is $13 billion annually, with an additional $7 billion lost in potential tax revenue. Even the students at Lee’s Oaksterdam cite the job market as a reason for showing up: one man, there with his 21-year-old son, told NEWSWEEK he’d lost his business in the housing bust; another was looking for a way to supplement his income as a contractor. “Alcohol prohibition, the result of a century-long anti-alcohol crusade, was fairly quickly repealed in part because of the onset of the Great Depression,” says Craig Reinarman, a sociologist at UC Santa Cruz and the coauthor of Crack in America. “I think we’re in a similar situation now, where states are so strapped for money that any source of new revenue is going to be welcomed.”

Oakland has become a kind of test lab for what legalized marijuana might look like. City Council member Rebecca Kaplan tells NEWSWEEK that the new tax revenue will help save libraries, parks, and other public services, and that the once-destitute area where Oaksterdam now thrives has seen a clear boost. Over the past six years, 160 new businesses have moved into downtown Oakland, and the area’s vacancy rate has dropped from 25 percent to less than 5, according to Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency. And while that can’t be attributed to Oaksterdam directly, some local business owners believe it’s played a key role—particularly as it relates to local tourism. Lee hosts 500 students at Oaksterdam University each month—about 20 percent of them from out of state—and has graduated nearly 4,000 since he opened the school in late 2007, inspired by a “cannabis college” he discovered on a trip to Amsterdam. The Blue Sky Coffeeshop serves about 1,000 visitors a day, half of them from out of town, and neighboring stores say the traffic has helped drive business their way. Regulation, say advocates, has also made consumption safer. They say it gets rid of hazardous strains of the drug, and eliminates the crime that can accompany underground dealing.

Presently, 13 states allow medical marijuana, with similar legalization campaigns underway in more than a dozen others. And a number of cities, such as Oakland and Seattle, have passed measures making prosecution of adult pot use the lowest law enforcement priority. Now Lee, along with an army of volunteers, has begun collecting signatures for a statewide legalization measure (for Californians 21 and over) that he plans to place on the November 2010 ballot. Backed by former state Senate president Don Perata, he’s already collected a fourth of the needed 434,000 signatures, and pledged to spend $1 million of his own funds to support the effort.

In California, where voters rule, getting an amendment on the ballot doesn’t take much more than a fat wallet, but the amount of attention Lee’s campaign has received has drawn attention to just how far American attitudes have changed over the past decade. In April, an ABC/Washington Post survey showed that 46 percent of Americans support legalization measures, up from 22 percent in 1997. And in California, a recent Field Poll showed that 56 percent are already on board to legalize and tax the drug. “This is a new world,” says Robert MacCoun, a professor of law and public policy at UC Berkeley and the coauthor of Drug War Heresies. “If you’d have asked me four years ago whether we’d be having this debate today, I can’t say I would have predicted it.”

The fact that we now are debating it—at least in some parts of the country—is the result of a number of forces that, as MacCoun puts it, have created the perfect pot storm: the failure of the War on Drugs; the growing death toll of murderous drug cartels; pop culture; the economy; and a generation of voters that have simply grown up around the stuff. Today there are pot television shows and frequent references to the drug in film, music, and books. And everyone from the president to the most successful athlete in modern history has talked about smoking it at one point or another. “Whether it’s the economy or Obama or Michael Phelps, I think all of these things have really worked to galvanize the public,” says Paul Armentano, the deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and the coauthor of a new book, Marijuana Is Safer; So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?”At the very least, it’s started a national conversation.”

That conversation, in some sense, has always existed. In 1972—a year after President Nixon declared his “War on Drugs”—the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse urged Congress to decriminalize possession of marijuana for personal use. That never happened, in part because marijuana regulation has always been more about politics than actual science, say advocates. But these days, the masses, at least in California, seem to be heading toward greener, shall we say, pastures. “This is sort of the trendy thing to do right now, but I also think there’s an expectation that the time has come to simply acknowledge the reality,” says Armentano. “Hundreds of thousands of Californians use marijuana, and we should regulate this commodity like we do others.” It’s a fight that’s heating up. And the pro-pot crowd in Oakland is ready to light the way. By Jessica Bennett. Source.

On the one hand, marijuana is practically legal—more mainstream, accessorized, and taken for granted than ever before. On the other, kids are getting busted in the city in record numbers. Guess which kids.

September 14, 2009 – New York City, New York – Any righteous cannabisalista knows the timeline, the grand saga of humanity’s interface with the vegetable mind of the planet. Back in ewnc8000 B.C., before Genesis in Sarah Palin’s book, the sentient were weaving hemp plant into loincloths. The Chinese had it in their pharmacopoeia by 2700 B.C. The Founding Fathers used pot processed into paper stock to write a draft of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, which made sense, since Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, along with their slaves, of course, had been raising the crop for decades. There are other, darker dates, too, like June 14, 1937, when Congress, four years after repealing alcohol prohibition, passed the “Marihuana Tax Act,” which essentially outlawed the use of “all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L.,” including the “growing,” “the seeds thereof,” and “the resin extracted from any part of such plant.”

As far as yours truly is concerned, however, the most important date in pot history took place on a chilly early-December night shortly after the Great Blackout of 1965, when, seated on the pitcher’s mound of a frost-covered baseball diamond in Alley Pond Park, Queens, I first got high on the stuff. That means I’ve been a pothead for going on 44 years now, or approximately 72.1 percent of my current life. Should I live to be 100, that percentage will increase to 83 percent, since, as Fats Waller implied when he sang “If You’re a Viper,” you’re always a viper.

I mention this so you know where I’m coming from, but even if I once knew a guy who claimed to have been the dealer to several members of the Knickerbocker championship teams, I make no claim to being a weed savant. For me, grass is simply the right tool for the job, a semi-reliable skeleton key to the such-as-it-is creative, an enabler of brainwork. Outside of continuing to smoke it, sometimes every day, sometimes not for months, or years, I pretty much stopped thinking about marijuana as a cosmologic/shamanic/political entity around 1980, that insufficiently repressed beginning of the somnambulant Reagan time tunnel, when grass came with seeds and stems and zombies still skulked Washington Square Park reciting their “loose joints” mantra: “Smoke, smoke … try before buy, never die … smoke, smoke … ”

Back then, despite the occasional shouting in the street and polite libertarian proselytizing by William F. Buckley on Firing Line, there was not much thought that pot would ever be legal. Illegality was key to its ethos, central to the outlaw romance. All over the U.S. of A., people were tanking up, driving drunk, killing themselves and others, and still those hot Coors girls were on the TV selling beer at halftime. The whole country was strung out on Prozac. But get caught smoking a joint while reading a Thomas Merton book in the park and it was the Big House for you. What could be more emblematic of the rapaciousness of the culture? That’s how it was until … maybe now.

Could it be that, at long last, the Great Pot Moment is upon us?

The planets are aligning. First and foremost is the recession; there’s nothing like a little cash-flow problem to make societies reconsider supposed core values. The balance sheet couldn’t be clearer. We have the so-called War on Drugs, the yawning money pit that used to send its mirror-shade warriors to far-flung corners of the globe, like the Golden Triangle of Burma and the Colombian Amazon, where they’d confront evil kingpins. Now, after 40 years, the front lines have moved to the streets of Juárez, where stray bullets can easily pick off old ladies in the Wal-Mart parking in El Paso, Texas, even as Mexico itself has decriminalized pot possession as well as a devil’s medicine cabinet of other drugs. At the current $40 billion per annum, even General Westmoreland would have trouble calling this progress.

Compare that with the phantasmagoria currently going on in California, where the legal medical-marijuana dispensaries ask only a driver’s license and a medical letter attesting to some vague ailment—insomnia will do—to begin running a tab at a state-sanctioned, 31-flavor dispensary. Somehow, even with many medical-marijuana outfits advertising “validated parking” and “happy-hour specials,” Western civilization as we know it has not tumbled into the sea. In November 2010, initiatives are expected to be on the California ballot to “tax and regulate” (i.e., legalize) marijuana altogether. Taxing the state’s estimated annual 8.6 million–pound, $14 billion pot crop (more than any amber wave of grain, high-fructose corn syrup included) could bring as much as $3 billion to $4 billion in revenue, enough to buy a couple of B-2 bombers or, failing that, keep a few libraries open an hour more a day.

The silent majority of pot smokers.
Pot hasn’t been the preserve of the Birkenstock wearer for years. At least the last three American presidents have been tokers, and you know Bush inhaled, for all the good it did the Incarcerationrest of us. Obama will no doubt tread lightly with the health-care loonies on his neck, not to mention the conservative black clergy he doesn’t want to alienate, but he’s already presided over curtailing federal busts of medical-marijuana dealers who are in compliance with state laws. A lively blogosphere debate ensued over whether Obama could really afford to expend any of his political capital on a bud-in-every-bong policy, as the legalize-it forces were hoping. But the move confirmed officially what many had long known. Pot smoking simply does not carry the stigma it once did, even in the straightest society.

As it turns out, not all those bong-using college students gave up the stuff when they graduated. The other day, I was scanning Andrew Sullivan’s blog, reading posts from salarymen, think-tankers, and Big Board watchers, baring their souls over their continued pot use, long after they were supposed to have put aside such childish things and switched to single-malt scotch. The drug of the counterculture now belongs to a hitherto unglimpsed silent majority, one that knows how to get things done, even legislatively.

The real engine of this is the pot itself. In the old days, there were two basic varieties of grass, the shit that got you fucked up and the shit that didn’t. But now, as is known to any stoner not still searching the skies for that last DC-3 full of Panama Red, pot has been gourmandized. You got your indicas, your sativas, your indoor-grown, outdoor-grown, your feminized, your Kushes, your Hazes, with a new, horticulturally hot number rolling down the gene-spliced pike every day. Historically speaking, a good deal of this flowering comes courtesy of our friendly drug warriors over at the DEA, whose G-man interdiction/kill-at-the-source policy did much to wipe out (anyone remember Jimmy Carter’s paraquat crop-dusters?) international shipments, thereby mobilizing ex-Berkeley botany majors and other supposedly lazy Mendocino/Humboldt County hippies to grow their own.

Beyond this is a budding secondary market. With upmarket pot prices holding at $60 to $70 for an eighth of an ounce, what high-end toker can be satisfied with an intake system based on a 75-cent pack of Zig-Zag when, for a mere $600, you can have a sleekly designed ashless Volcano “vaporizer” to place next to the Bialetti cappuccino-maker? For those about to be drug-tested, there is the Whizzinator, a strap-on extra prick containing “clean” body-temperature piss that you deftly whip out any time your employer/coach/drug counselor hands you a plastic cup. All of this is available in the Internet’s seemingly infinite gray market, where grass-centric URLs offer capsule commentary on the myriad pot strains, including breeding-lineage descriptions right out of the Racing Form (e.g., “Blueberry strain—blue haze X Aussie Duck, from Azura and award-winning Jack Herrer”), date and place of incept, maturation times, buzz properties, etc.

On a recent sweltering afternoon, in lieu of downloading a few seasons of Weeds, I made my way to a top-secret mid-Manhattan location for a little remedial “tasting” administered by the esteemed senior cultivation editor of High Times magazine, known by the nom de guerre Danny Danko. Along with a mini-minyan of like-minded devotees, we hovered over a small but mighty collection of strains: the Chem Dog, the Purps (so named for its red-blue neonish hue), and an assortment of Kush (OG and Bubba) from medical-marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles and the city by the Bay now referred to as Oaksterdam.

While preparing the samples, Danny Danko, 37, a self-confessed “pot nerd” with a seemingly bottomless capacity for THC ingestion, explained his ethic. A green thumb is not enough to assure the creation of meaningful marijuana, Danko said. “Just because you can grow a tomato that might win a prize at the 4-H club, or a summer squash that’ll knock the socks off the Iron Chef, doesn’t mean you can grow good weed. Give two growers the same seeds and the same conditions, and you can get two completely different qualities of pot. There’s nutrients and care, but there’s an intuitive factor, too—a deep understanding of the physical, mental, and spiritual benefits of cannabis. This isn’t a geranium, it is an art, an act of alchemy.”

We started out on the Purps but soon hit the harder stuff. With the lexicon of winespeak now lapping over into pot punditry, kindgreenbuds.com describes the Purps as possessing “hints of buttery caramel coffee and woodsy floral pine.” Couldn’t say I understood all that from a couple of hits, but the Purps, a spicy little thing, did provide a gleeful cheap amusement-park high not unlike chubby Orson Welles’s tumbling down the fun-house chute in The Lady From Shanghai.

The contradictory state of marijuana use in the city today.
This playland was soon bulldozed by the Kush. An ancient indica strain supposedly dating back Picture 33to the Hindu Kush, where the stubby plant is used mostly to make hashish, the Kush in its multi-variegations has long been the rage among suburban and ghetto youth who gravitate toward the strain’s stinky olfactory properties and Romilar-esque “couch-lock” stone.

It was here that I learned something about pot, then and now. Prime in the canon of present-day prohibitionists is the claim that today’s pot is so much stronger that it bears no relation to the stuff nostalgic baby-boom parents might have smoked. The message: Forget your personal experience, the devil weed currently being peddled to your children is a study-habit-destroying beast of a wholly other stripe. No doubt, there is merit to this argument (after decades of some of the most obsessive R&D on the planet, you wouldn’t think the pot would be weaker), but I couldn’t fully buy it. This was because the fancy weed I was smoking, and paying twenty times as much for, wasn’t getting me more smashed, at least not in the way I wanted to be.

“I hear this a lot, because back then, you were probably smoking sativas imported from Jamaica, Vietnam, and Mexico,” Danko informed me. Sativas imparted “a head high,” as opposed to the largely “body high” of indicas. The problem with this, he went on, was that tropical sativas, being a large (some as high as fourteen feet!) and difficult plant to grow (the Kush has bigger yields and a shorter flowering time), especially under surreptitious conditions, were rare in today’s market. My lament was a common one among older heads, Danko said, adding that “the good sativa is the grail of the modern smoker.”

Luckily, following the various Kushes, I was able to cleanse the mind-body palate with the mighty Chem Dog, a notable indica-sativa hybrid, reputedly first grown by a lapsed military man—the Chemdog—who came into the possession of a number of seeds following a 1991 Grateful Dead concert.

It was after some moments of communing with this puissant plant life that I was in the proper state to confront the conundrum of the day, i.e., “The Existential State of Weed in Its Various Manifestations in the Five-Borough Area of New York City, circa 2009.”

Race has always been the driving wheel of reefer madness.

And what a woolly hairball of contradiction it is!

There is all of the above, the whole Mendelian cornucopia of the New Pot with its dizzying array of botanical choice and intake gizmos. Yet the cold, hard fact is, New York City, which first banned pot in 1914 under the Board of Health “Sanitary Code” (the Times story of the day described cannabis as having “practically the same effect as morphine and cocaine”), has always been a backwater when it comes to reefer.

The Big Apple viper may gain some small comfort from the fact that getting stoned in California usually leads to being surrounded by stoned Californians, but this does little to mitigate the envy. Here, in the alleged intellectual capital of the world, where we have no medical marijuana (even borderline-red states like Nevada and Colorado do), at the end of the day, you know you’re going to be calling that same old delivery service that comes an hour late and won’t do walk-ups above the third floor.

In this day and age, nearly 30 years after the AMA began flirting with decriminalizing marijuana, you might think New York City marijuana-possession arrests would be in deep decline. You might even figure that Charlie Rangel, the four-decade congressman from Harlem and longtime leader of the Select Committee on Narcotics, had his finger on the pulse when he told a House subcommittee that “I don’t remember the last time anyone was arrested in the city of New York for marijuana.”

Uh … wrong!

The fact is, New York City is the marijuana-arrest capital of the country and maybe the world. Since 1997, according to statistics complied by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, 430,000 people age 16 and older have been pinched in the city for possession of marijuana, often for quantities as little as a joint, a reign of “broken window” terror-policing that kicked off in the nasty Giuliani years and has only escalated under Bloomberg and Ray Kelly. More than 40,000 were busted last year, and at least another 40,000, or more than the entire population of Elmira, will be busted this year. Somehow, it comes as no shell-shocker that, again according to the state figures, more than 80 percent of those arrested on pot charges are either black or Hispanic.

From the days of Harry Anslinger—who, as the more or less permanent head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (J. Edgar Hoover–like, he served for 32 years, appointed by the Hoover, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy administrations), raved about how most pot smokers were “Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers” whose “Satanic music, jazz and swing” was driving white women into a sexual frenzy—race has always been the driving wheel of reefer madness. It was no fun to find this dynamic still at work in the beloved hometown.

Why cops prefer pot busts.

But there they were, down in night court at 100 Centre Street, one marijuana arrestee of color after another, standing before the judge to have their class-B misdemeanor possession case Arrestheard.

Legal Aid lawyers defend most of these people. Said one lawyer, “The cops have their areas of concentration when it comes to these violations. Sometimes we’ll get a lot of arrests for so-called trespassing, which often means a person was caught hanging out in front of a project; it doesn’t matter if they live right across the street. But marijuana is very constant, a hardy perennial, you might say, rolling in regularly like the tide. The amounts are almost always tiny, which shows that for all the talk about going after the big guys, cops are mostly arresting low-end users. A lot of people say they were nabbed only minutes after they got the stuff, so it seems as if the cops are just sitting on known spots and busting whoever comes out. Most arrestees will receive an ACD, or ‘adjournment contemplating dismissal,’ a kind of probation. It is rare, but repeaters could get time. At the very least, it messes up your night riding around handcuffed in a paddy wagon.”

Harry Levine, a Queens College sociology professor who has been compiling marijuana arrest figures for years, says, “The cops prefer pot busts. They’re easy, because the people are almost never violent and, as opposed to drunks, hardly ever throw up in the car. Some of this has to do with the reduction in crime over the years. Pot arrests are great for keeping the quota numbers up. These kind of arrests toss people into the system, get their fingerprints on file. The bias of these arrests is in the statistics.”

The NYPD (good luck on getting the Public Information department to respond to your phone calls or e-mails on this particular topic) belittles these charges, saying the arrest stats are “absurdly inflated.”

The kicker in this is the apparently almost unknown fact that possession of 25 grams, or seven-eighths of an ounce—much more than the few joints that are getting people arrested—is not a crime in New York State and has not been since the passage of the Marijuana Reform Act of 1977, or 32 years ago. (Right here add sound of potheads slapping their foreheads, like, how come they didn’t know that?) There are exceptions, however. If the pot is “burning or open to public view,” then the 25-gram deal is off. It is this provision that has been the basis for the arrest outbreak, many civil libertarians contend.

The scenario of what happens on the street, as told to me by several arrestees, is remarkably similar. It goes like this: You’re black, or Spanish, or some white-boy fellow traveler with a cockeyed Bulls cap and falling-down pants. The cops come up to you, usually while you’re in a car, and ask you if you’re doing anything you shouldn’t. You say, “No, officer,” and they say, “You don’t have anything in your pocket you’re not supposed to have, do you, because if you do and I find it, it’ll be a lot worse for you.” It is at that point, because you are young, nervous, possibly simple, and ignorant of the law, you might comply and take the joint you’d been saving out of your pocket. Then, zam: Suddenly, your protection under the Marijuana Reform Act vanishes because the weed is now in “public view.” The handcuffs, the paddy wagon, and the aforementioned court date soon follow.

Now that he is ahead of Rudy’s numbers, Mike Bloomberg, who once famously answered a question from this magazine about his pot use by saying “you bet I did, and I enjoyed it,” has presided over more marijuana busts than any mayor anywhere. This could be compared with the record of another New York City mayor, Fiorello La Guardia, who, in response to the 1937 federal ban on pot, requested a report by the New York Academy of Medicine, which concluded that, contrary to Harry Anslinger’s claim that pot was an “assassin of youth,” marijuana was not medically addictive; not under the control of a single organized group; did not lead to morphine, heroin, or cocaine addiction; and was not the determining factor in the commission of major crimes, and that “publicity concerning the catastrophic effects of marihuana smoking in New York is unfounded.”

Once upon a mid-seventies time, the Yippies, then fronted by downtown immortals Dana Beal and the garbologist A. J. Weberman, staged a pot-legalization march up Fifth Avenue that ended in a rally at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park. The big attraction was a giant glass jar filled with joints; anyone picking the number of reefers in the jar would win it. The winner, some shambling longhair troglodyte, broke open the jar and threw the joints into the crowd, prompting a crush toward the stage. Alarmed, Weberman took the microphone and started screaming, “It is only crappy Mexican! Don’t kill yourself for crappy Mexican!”

Could New York pass a medical marijuana law?
“Ah, the good old days,” says Richard Gottfried, sitting in his state-assemblyman office on lower Broadway. Gottfried, who was a 23-year-old Columbia Law student when he was first elected as assemblyman from Manhattan’s West Side in 1970 (he’s been there ever since), is the author of the 1977 Reform Act. Hearing what people were saying about alleged police use of the “public view” phrase of the law, Gottfried rubbed at his still red-flecked professorial beard and said, “Why, if these searches are being conducted in this way … that would be a textbook example of entrapment, wouldn’t it?” He seemed shocked, absolutely shocked, that such practices were going on right here in New York City.

In 1997, Gottfried, a largely unsung hero of sane drug policy, wrote New York State’s first medical-marijuana legislation. “It stayed in committee a while,” says Gottfried. “With things like this, politicians tend to be very, very timid.” Nonetheless, Gottfried is confident medical marijuana is on the immediate horizon. It was passed by the Assembly in 2007, and Gottfried says it would have gotten through the Senate this past spring “if June 8th hadn’t happened.”

“Strange as it sounds, I think this is one issue that might actually be nonideological,” says Gottfried. “During the floor debate, these legislators, liberal and conservative, were almost in tears as they told their personal stories about how they and their loved ones had been helped by marijuana, how it brought relief from chronic pain, how it aided family members in last days of terminal diseases. It was quite moving.”

This doesn’t mean we should expect Californication 2 here, Gottfried says. “Medical-marijuana laws differ radically from state to state. There’s California and everywhere else.” In Maryland, you can’t be jailed for medical marijuana, but there’s no provision for obtaining it, which leaves elderly M.S. sufferers in the bizarre situation of having to potentially go out and score like a randy teenager. The New York version of the law will be “modest,” Gottfried says. As opposed to the “doctor’s letter” mills in Cali, permissions will be very carefully monitored, with legal possession limited to two and a half ounces. “The penalties for violating the medical-marijuana laws will be stiffer than regular possession,” Gottfried says.

What really mattered was that my kids understood that just because I used it didn’t mean they should.

If this was the best that could be done at this time, so be it. But why not simply be aboveboard about it? How many medical-marijuana patients are there really, at least compared with those who use the stuff for mental and emotional well-being, not to mention flat-out potheads?

You’re talking about recreational users?” Gottfried asked. “You’re talking about tax-and-regulate legalization?”

“Well … yeah. How do you feel about that?”

Gottfried smiled. “If marijuana had a similar status to liquor in this country, a locally controlled system of distribution, the way some states allow booze in the supermarket and some states are dry—I wouldn’t have a problem with that.” But I shouldn’t hold my breath, the assemblyman said. “We are in a period of transition. It could be a long transition.”

“I’m functioning in the shadow of something that is bound to change, except no one knows when or how,” says Francis R., who has been in the pot-delivery business for almost twenty years.

Mostly a painter “with some music thrown in,” Francis started off as a “runner” for a large Manhattan delivery service during the late eighties, in the wake of the massive drug sweeps like “Operation Pressure Point” that successfully ended the hard-drug street scene in many parts of New York. A gentrifying city had no place for such violence-prone local color. The delivery services, like the bar-based cocaine trade and the banishment of prostitutes from street corners and into “escort services,” where everything is done quietly and by appointment, proved to be a pragmatic compromise between law enforcement, human nature, and the need to keep the nightlife industry going.

In business for himself since shortly after 9/11, Francis has about 180 clients, of which 50 or so are “regular reorderers.” Employing an easy-to-park 250-cc. Japanese bike, Francis works “like 35 to 40 hours six days a week,” starting at around one in the afternoon. For this, he clears an average of about $150,000 a year, or about $1,000 “retail” on a crappy day and up to three grand on “a great day.”

Up until about 2004, Francis got much of his supply from Canada. “It was mostly indicas trucked across the country from Vancouver, then across the St. Lawrence Seaway, or Lake Erie. The first time I did this, I couldn’t believe it. It is totally dark, you couldn’t see ten feet. Then out of fog come these Indians … Indians, in canoes, paddling, like right out of the fucking Last of the Mohicans, bringing in the weed.” Eventually, however, the connection dried up. Some busts were made, but mostly the quality decreased.

What Francis thinks about legalization.
Now everything Francis sells is from California. He recently made one of his regular trips to Mendocino County. “I had $25,000 in my suitcase, and some friends tell me to drive up toward Ukiah, to the Million Dollar Corner, which is called that because like a million dollars is changing hands there in pot sales like every other day. High as an elephant’s eye, dude.”

I took a pinch of Francis’s new stuff to Danny Danko’s “tasting,” as sort of a blindfold test to see if the experts would be able to identify the strain. This got kind of funny, these half-dozen pot gourmets investigating the inch-and-a-half-high bud, smoking it, poking it, checking out its tricombs under a magnifying glass like a no-shit Sherlock Holmes CSI team. Someone thought it was a clone of the original Skunk No. 1, others were certain it was in the Sour Diesel family. One gentleman, who referred to himself as a “pot snob,” put Francis’s high-priced spread down after a few tokes, declaring it “standard product … nothing to write home about.” He based this opinion primarily on the extreme “tightness” of the bud structure, which he characterized as “your typical ass pellet.” This was a sign of “insufficient curing,” the pot snob said, a giveaway that someone had rushed the crop. He also objected to the blackness of the ash and the fact that it had taken three match strokes to get the smoke going.

Francis was much put out by this assessment. “Everyone’s a fucking critic,” he protested, defending his weed. “Got you stoned, didn’t it?”

Francis said the cops weren’t all that much of a factor. “For the most part, I walk through the town unopposed.” But what about the busts?

“What busts?”

I showed Francis a copy of the New York State marijuana-arrest stats. He couldn’t believe it. He didn’t know a soul who had been pinched. He was not, however, surprised by the ethnic breakdown. “I hate to say it, but there’s no way I’m hiring a black guy to work for me. The chances of a black guy getting stopped is about 50 times more than a white guy. I can’t afford that. Fact is, pot is legal for white people but not for black people, which is total bullshit.”

Francis spends “a lot of time” thinking about legalization. “It is coming, not tomorrow or the next day, but it is coming,” he says. This is the general opinion among his colleagues, Francis says. “I’ve heard of guys buying liquor licenses, you know, to stay on the inebriation side of things.

“Can’t say I don’t have mixed feelings about it,” Francis went on. “I like this job. It’s served me well. Everyone is happy to see me when I come around. Can’t say that for a dentist. Still, it’ll be a great day if they legalize it. Because pot should be legal. You know what would really bother me, though? If gangster corporations like Philip Morris or Seagram’s got a big piece of the action. That would really chap my ass. Because, basically, with a couple scumbags here and there, this is an honorable business, a little-guy business. It should stay that way.”

Then Francis, being a swell fellow, told me he happened to have run across “a little something” just the other night, something sweet.

“You got sativa?”

Francis shook his head. “October … maybe late September. Maybe. But this Dog ain’t no bad dog.” He’d let it go for like maybe a nickel off, because I was putting him in a magazine article.

So I went down the road, to the F train, thinking about how I’d never drawn a legal puff of marijuana in my life. The scenic overlook of the paradigm shift shimmied before my eyes. I could already see the YouTubes of the near future, the debates raging over government versus corporate private-sector control, when every right-minded left-libertarian pothead knows either would be a disaster, a slo-mo shakedown to the Big Bud-weiser versus earnest microbrewers. No, it wasn’t going to be a total picnic when legalization came and people started scoring inside 7-Elevens instead of behind them.

And there was another issue. I’m not one of those potheads who wax on about the first time they got stoned with their kids. Sounds like a landmine from every angle. I mean, why make some moron hippie ceremony out of it? They knew I smoked, I knew they smoked, unless it was some burglar who stole my stash that night. Still, it is a crossroads, when you smell the smoke coming from their room. You feel obligated to tell both sides, even the D.A.R.E. side, citing all sorts of facts and figures, including how, according to a 2008 Australian study, men who smoked at least five joints a day for twenty years had smaller hippocampuses and amygdalas than nonusers. What really mattered was that kids understood pot wasn’t for everyone, that just because I used it didn’t mean they should. Young brains didn’t need that extra noise, I said, happy to set the legal pot-smoking age at 21, like booze, or at the very least the day a high-school diploma is attained. Beyond that, there is nothing left to do but to pray none of them has the addictive chip that makes people lose their good sense.

The DEA’s suggested alternative to medical marijuana.
And, despite the best advice (“Whatever you do, don’t get fucking caught!”), kids sometimes can, and do, lose their good sense, if only temporarily. Really, pinched with a gram, in the middle of a celebratory smoke toast in honor of 420, the equivalent of pothead New Year. How does that even happen? So then, there you are, the pot dad and the newly crowned pot kid, sitting in the office of a court-mandated drug professional who is explaining why this two-month, four-nights-a-week, $10,000 program is actually the right thing, because “marijuana is a gateway drug.” At this point, the temptation is to cover your ears like a Munch painting and shout that mutual back-scratching between the criminal-justice system and high-priced treatment centers is one more reason that idiot drug laws have to go. But it is not that easy, because no matter how much you want the kid to get the same benefits from the mighty weed that it has given you, there is a deep conviction that it would be better if he didn’t smoke at all, at least until he gets his act together, which might take a lot longer than it has to if he keeps smoking. Still, it wasn’t like he needed some cop to participate in that decision-making process.

You can feel it, the war is on. A couple of months ago, the Times ran a big piece (“Marijuana Is Gateway Drug for Two Debates,” July 17, 2009) with updated Harry Anslinger–style quotes from poor souls made homeless by their marijuana problem. Words like dependence and habitual were prominently featured. The DEA is on record as being against the legalization of “smoked” marijuana for medical purposes. They say if people feel sick, they should take Marinol, a nice pharmaceutical that is THC without the fun.

Liquor was against the law for fourteen years. Pot’s been banned for 72. Neither the cartels nor the prohibitionists are going to just fold up and go away.

Not that I can worry about that. If I never smoke pot again, I’m cool. I appreciate what the stuff’s done for me already. I ask only one thing: Should I contract an illness that even grass, in its alleged miracle-drug mode, can’t cure, then just wheel me over to that guy sneaking a toke on the corner. I’ll breathe deep and, like the whiff of a just-baked madeleine, be transported to the place inside my head that’s always been home.

By Mark Jacobson. Source.

September 9, 2009 – It’s too early to say that there is a general revolt against the “war on drugs” that the United States has been waging for the past 39 years, but something significant is richardnixon4601happening. European countries have been quietly defecting from the war for years, decriminalizing personal consumption of some or all of the banned drugs in order to minimize harm to their own people, but it’s different when countries like Argentina and Mexico do it.

Latin American countries are much more in the firing line. The United States can hurt them a lot if it is angered by their actions, and it has a long history of doing just that. But from Argentina to Mexico, they are fed up to the back teeth with the violent and dogmatic U.S. policy on drugs, and they are starting to do something about it.

In mid-August, the Mexican government declared that it will no longer be a punishable offense to possess up to half a gram of cocaine (about four lines), 5 grams of marijuana (around four joints), 50 milligrams of heroin or 40 mg of methamphetamine.

At the end of August, Argentina’s supreme court did something even bolder: It ruled that, under the Argentine constitution, “Each adult is free to make lifestyle decisions without the intervention of the state,” and dismissed a case against youths who had been arrested for possessing a few joints.

In an ideal world, this ruling would have a powerful resonance in the United States, whose constitution also restricts the right of the federal government to meddle in citizens’ private affairs. It took a constitutional amendment to enable the U.S. Congress to prohibit alcohol in 1919 (and another amendment to end alcohol Prohibition in 1933), so who gave Congress the right to criminalize other recreational drugs nationwide by the Controlled Substances Act of 1970? Nobody — and the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to rule on the issue.

A million Americans a year go to jail for “crimes” that hurt nobody but themselves. A vast criminal empire has grown up to service the American demand for drugs. Over the decades hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the turf wars between the gangs, the police-dealer shootouts and the daily thousands of muggings and burglaries committed by addicts trying to raise money to pay the hugely inflated prices that prohibition makes possible.

Most users of illegal drugs are not addicts, let alone dangerous criminals. Legalization and regulation, on the pattern of alcohol and tobacco, would avoid thousands of violent deaths each month and millions of needlessly ruined lives each year, although psychoactive drug use would still take its toll from the vulnerable and the unlucky, just as alcohol and tobacco do.

But there is little chance that American voters will choose to end this longest of all American wars any time soon, even though its casualties far exceed those of any other American war since 1945. The “War on Drugs” will not end in the United States until a very different generation comes to power.

Elsewhere, however, it is coming to an end much sooner, and one can imagine a time when the job of the history books will be to explain how this berserk aberration ever came about. A large part of the explanation will then focus on the man who started the war, Richard Nixon — so let us get ahead of the mob and focus on him now.

We can do that because of the famous Nixon tapes that recorded almost every word of his presidency. It turns out that he started the war on drugs because he believed that they were a Jewish plot. We know this because researcher Doug McVay from Common Sense on Drug Policy, a Washington-based NGO, went through the last batch of tapes when they became available in 2002 and found Nixon speaking to his aides as follows:

“You know, it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them? I suppose it is because most of them are psychiatrists.”

Nixon had much more to say about this, but one should not conclude that he was a single-minded anti-Semite. He was an equal-opportunity paranoid who believed that homosexuals, Communists and Catholics were also plotting to undermine America by pushing drugs at it.

“Dope? Do you think the Russians allow dope? Hell no… . You see, homosexuality, dope, uh, immorality in general: These are the enemies of strong societies. That’s why the Communists and the left-wingers are pushing it. They’re trying to destroy us.”

The reason for this 39-year war, in other words, is that President Richard Nixon believed that he was facing a “Jew-homo-doper-Commie-shrink-lefty-pope” conspiracy, as Washington Post writer Gene Weingarten put it in a gloriously deadpan article in 2002. But that is just plain wrong. As subsequent developments have shown, it is actually a Jew-homo-doper-Commie-shrink-lefty-pope-LATINO conspiracy. Source.

August 27, 2009 – People have used marijuana since before the beginning of recorded history. It is known to have been used thousands of years before the birth of Christ and NORML_Remember_Prohibition_its use was legal for the vast majority of that time. It was legal in the United States until the early 1900’s, when a campaign of lies and propaganda brought about its prohibition. Recently many prominent people, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo have advocated the legalization of marijuana, or at the very least having a national discussion on that possibility.

Many people have come to realize that if marijuana were legalized, regulated, and taxed many of the problems caused by its prohibition could be erased, and tens of billions in revenue could be generated. Thousands die yearly in accidents or due to health related problems resulting from the use of alcohol, yet it is legal, and it should be. It is the responsibilty of those who choose to use it to do so responsibly. Shouldn’t the same common sense rules apply to marijuana?

This is the first article in a series which will expose the truth behind the passage of our nation’s foolish laws governing the use of marijuana, the harm those laws cause, and why it should be legalized. In this article I’m going to look at the reasons marijuana was outlawed in the U.S. One might imagine that solid scientific evidence was used, or that factual accounts of criminal activity attributed to its use and a legitimate concern for public safety may have compelled our government to criminalize marijuana. Not so. In fact much of the so called evidence that was used had no basis whatsoever in fact. Racist propaganda was used to stir up anger. Incompetent and corrupt politicians and government officials spurred by greed, the prospect of personal gain, and the hope of career advancement were a major force behind the movement to ban its use, possession and cultivation. Horrible tales of ruthless violence, including brutal murders and vicious gang rapes were totally fabricated in order to frighten the public and gain support for anti-marijuana laws.

The first marijuana law in America was passed more than 150 years before we declared our independence, but it wasn’t intended to restrict marijuana. In 1619 a law was enacted at the Jamestown Colony in Virginia that actually required farmers to grow Indian hempseed. Over the next 200 years there were several laws passed making its cultivation mandatory. In fact between 1763 and 1767 you could be jailed in Virginia for not growing it.

Of course it was not being grown just so early settlers could get high. Hemp had many uses at the time. It was used for rope, clothing, and food, among other things. The census of 1850 showed there were more than 8,000 hemp plantations in the country that grew a minimum of 2,000 acres of the plant.

It was the early 1900’s before marijuana began to be seen as a problem. California was the first state to pass a law outlawing the “preparations of marijuana, or loco weed.” At the time there was tension near the Mexican border due to the revolution in that country. Violence as a result of the revolution sometimes spilled over the border. Many people in the American west were also angry that large farms were using cheap Mexican labor which hurt smaller farms. The fact that many Mexicans smoked marijuana was used to help pass the law in California, not based on facts or science, but on the anti-Mexican sentiment that existed among many people at the time. The law was intended more to target Mexicans than to protect the public from marijuana’s “harmful” effects.

At around the same time Utah also outlawed marijuana. According to Charles Whitebread, a Professor of Law at the University of Southern California Law School, Mormons returned to Salt Lake City from Mexico with marijuana in 1910. Church leaders were not at all happy with its use by members of the Mormon Church. Whitebread speculates that may be one of the reasons Utah outlawed marijuana, althought some members of the Mormon community dispute his theory.

Several other states used the racial prejudice towards Mexicans to help pass laws against marijuana. Wyoming was first in 1915, followed by Texas in 1919, Iowa, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, and Arkansas in 1923, and Nebraska and Montana in 1927. In Texas a State Senator promoted the outlawing of marijuana by saying, “All Mexicans are crazy, and this stuff is what makes them crazy.” The Butte Montana Standard quoted a Montana lawmaker’s statement on the floor of the Montana Legislature: “When some beet field peon takes a few traces of this stuff… he thinks he has just been elected president of Mexico, so he starts out to execute all his political enemies.”

In the eastern states racist statements were also used to turn public sentiment in favor of making marijuana illegal. It was said by one newspaper editorialist to “influence black men to actually look into the eyes of white men, and look twice at white women.” Oh, the travesty!

In the 1931 New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal, Dr. A. E. Fossier wrote that “Under the influence of hashish those fanatics would madly rush at their enemies, and ruthlessly massacre every one within their grasp.” Within a very short time, marijuana started to be linked to insanely violent behavior.

In 1930 the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was established as a new division of the Treasury Department. Harry J. Anslinger was named as its first director. Anslinger’s ambition rather than facts was behind his campaign to outlaw marijuana. He saw it as an issue that could be seized upon to further his own career. Anslinger knew he could create a national crisis by using racism and claims of brutally violent crimes to draw national attention to the “horrific problems” caused by using marijuana.

“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US,” said Anslinger, “and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.” This wasn’t Anslinger’s only completely ludicrous statement. He also claimed that “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind.” If you do a little research into Anslinger you will find many such ridiculous statements.

As late as 1961 Anslinger spoke about his efforts to outlaw marijuana, and still used propaganda and completely false stories to justify them:

“Much of the most irrational juvenile violence and that has written a new chapter of shame and tragedy is traceable directly to this hemp intoxication. A gang of boys tear the clothes from two school girls and rape the screaming girls, one boy after the other. A sixteen-year-old kills his entire family of five in Florida, a man in Minnesota puts a bullet through the head of a stranger on the road; in Colorado a husband tries to shoot his wife, kills her grandmother instead and then kills himself. Every one of these crimes had been proceeded by the smoking of one or more marijuana “reefers.” As the marijuana situation grew worse, I knew action had to be taken to get the proper legislation passed. By 1937 under my direction, the Bureau launched two important steps. First, a legislative plan to seek from Congress a new law that would place marijuana and its distribution directly under federal control. Second, on radio and at major forums, such that presented annually by the New York Herald Tribune, I told the story of this evil weed of the fields and river beds and roadsides. I wrote articles for magazines; our agents gave hundreds of lectures to parents, educators, social and civic leaders. In network broadcasts I reported on the growing list of crimes, including murder and rape. I described the nature of marijuana and its close kinship to hashish. I continued to hammer at the facts. I believe we did a thorough job, for the public was alerted and the laws to protect them were passed, both nationally and at the state level. We also brought under control the wild growing marijuana in this country. Working with local authorities, we cleaned up hundreds of acres of marijuana and we uprooted plants sprouting along the roadsides.”

Randolf Hearst, owner of chain of newspapers, also campaigned against marijuana. While Anslinger’s motive was ambition, Hearst’s was profit and bigotry. It is fairly well known that Hearst held strong anti-Mexican views. This was probably due to his loss of more than 800,000 acres of timberland to Pancho Villa during the Mexican revolution. He had also invested heavily in the timber industry to support his newspaper chain and wanted to stop the development of hemp paper. Spreading terrible lies about Mexicans, and claiming marijuana caused extreme acts of violence sold newspapers. That not only made him money, but helped insure that hemp production would be halted.

Some of Hearst’s newspapers made ridiculous claims about marijuana. One column in the San Francisco Examiner said that “Marihuana makes fiends of boys in thirty days, Hashish goads users to bloodlust. By the tons it is coming into this country, the deadly, dreadful poison that racks and tears not only the body, but the very heart and soul of every human being who once becomes a slave to it in any of its cruel and devastating forms…. Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters. Hasheesh makes a murderer who kills for the love of killing out of the mildest mannered man who ever laughed at the idea that any habit could ever get him….”

Anyone with an ounce of common sense knows that the claims made by Anslinger and Hearst are far more dangerous than marijuana could ever be. Such statements themselves encourage racist views and could have easily incited acts of violence against blacks and Mexicans. Since it is impossible to overdose on marijuana, and not a single death has ever been cited as the medical cause of any person’s death, there is one absolute and undeniable certainty. More violence has been caused, and more lives have been destroyed by the campaign against marijuana, and the laws that came about as a result of it, than by the drug itself.

If you want to point to the crime and violence surrounding the drug trade in America, you can trace it all right back to the beginning of the war on marijuana that was started during the first half of the 20th century by dishonest politicians, corrupt government officials, and the greed and racism of figures in the corporate world.

I will publish part two of this article within the next few days. By Darren Pope. Source.

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