Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Some thoughts on a snowy morning.
The cannabis question has been with us for over a century, now. From the earliest days of the colonies, hemp was a prime crop, one which George Washington planted not only as a textile, but in hopes of supplanting tobacco as a recreational smoke. Extracts of hemp oils and flowers were used by physicians in the Royal Court and in the New World, its properties had been explored by the early rulers and scientists of China and one would have to have a completely unrealistic view of mankind to believe that no one on Earth had ever taken the time to select and crossbreed the frost and drought-resistant plants for stronger resin and larger flowers. We’re curious little monkeys. Gregor Mendel was just the first one to write notes about it.
Cannabis is relatively benign, but let us be honest, very little on this world is beyond abuse. No doubt over the centuries, people who have lacked motivation or fallen on hard times or suffered from underlying depression have taken to smoking too much hemp at too young an age for too long, and wound up roughly as smart as a football bat.
Fact is, people have ruined their lives with just about everything possible, cradle to the grave, since there were two of us here, according to most of the stories that have been going around since fire was new.
None of those stories ever goes on to tell how making rules ever actually stopped people from doing those things. The long list of punishments for breaking the rules suggests that, human nature being what it is, maybe the whole rule thing never worked out any better for them than it has for the United States and her once again tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to be free.
Prohibition, the bastard stepchild of conspiracy theory, corporate manipulation and racism, has wandered a strange and checkered road to the present, where it once again rises before us in all its complexity of ignored facts, generations of institutional prejudice and billions in federal salaries and private-sector profit, emerging scientific understanding suppressed by the minority of sharply divided opinions for a variety of political agendas, a struggle of cultures and values in which almost every voice of science, compassion and reason has been ignored. Even with the example of one failure glaring from less than a century in the past, the United States Government continues to pursue a path of interdiction, instead of innovation.
And the fault does not fall at any single doorstep.
Too many of the spokespeople for both sides have too much invested personally to truly see the big picture; ego, an addiction to the limelight, or a bulldog-vicious determination to win at all costs, even the loss of allies and friends and at the price of bloodshed and destruction. Conversely, too many on both sides see and care solely about the big picture- at the cost of any awareness of the individuals involved, save a tactical awareness of their value as images, either for vilification or promotion, distraction or filler.
Let’s be clear from the start; like Samuel Clemens’ friend Mark Twain, I wouldn’t belong to any group that would have me. A critical thinker in the tradition of Mister Twain, Cummings, Asimov, and Heinlein, I find no contradiction between being an outspoken advocate of absolute freedom and equality for cannabis and hemp users, providers and growers, and my beliefs in maintaining a strong intelligent military, reducing the cost and intrusion of government, reforming campaign contributions , putting an end to the welfare-poverty treadmill, preserving the Second Amendment, enforcing the death penalty, and reducing taxes.
I am an American with personal reasons for wanting this plant returned to our use above and beyond the simple fact that the Government has no right to prohibit it.
I am not some welfare daddy trying to score free government weed without losing any of my SNAP benefits or having to actually pay the rent in the apartment where I neglect my kids while dealing crack and bath salts.
Oops… sorry, did I drop a stereotype?
Guess what? They don’t exist without examples.
Sell your PC crap to someone who hasn’t slept in their vehicle inside the urban blight of a major metropolis for the better part of a month.
I am also not some “let’s all go save the planet” fan who has a signed copy of “An Inconvenient Truth”. I personally think Algore is a full of shit as the rest of the talking heads pimping a cause. He flew around in a huge jet and traveled in a limo, he lives in a mansion and his wife was the genius that decided outlawing Judas Priest would end teen suicide, remember? If George W. Bush did a decent thing in his career, it was keeping Gore out of the White House. No one was ever delusional enough to think that Dubya was a genius, maybe because, for as many stupid things as he said, he never claimed to invent the Internet.
I know that cannabis oil doesn't cure cancer, although it has a devastating ffect on some cells and tumors some of the time. And I know that it will take a lot more than this "seed-bearing plant" to aaccomplish the "healing of the nations" or even the restart of the American economy.
So I’m a contradiction. In the end, the only thing I have in common with 95% of the people in the movement to end Prohibition is a desire to consume and possess the byproducts of a simple plant in a responsible fashion without fear of fine, citation, arrest, seizure or invasion of my property. We share a common goal. I don’t have to like them or invite them over for lunch. Many of them are zealots as bad as if not worse than the opposition.
As a group, we have achieved some stumbling steps, in much the same fashion that the buffalo once migrated in vast numbers, traveling in a generally east-west direction across the Great Plains. Calling it a concerted effort would have been stretching things a bit, indicating a directing will where there was only instinct and appetite.
I have watched as the “leaders” (really the spokespersons) have led this fight, mainly from the rear or the conference hall or the buffet line, in much the same way that the rutting bulls contested for dominance among those ancient wandering herds and steered their direction.
I’ve seen them online, in pics and clips, seen podcasts and TV spots, watched hours of YouTube, seen them hobnob with famous musicians and actors, representatives and senators, film makers and glass blowers, hot chicks and tattoo artists and horticulture experts from across the globe.
I’ve seen pics of them at the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, at the Hard Rock Cafe and Colorado smoke shops, at festivals and gatherings, rallies and benefit concerts.
I haven’t seen any of them in handcuffs.
Maybe I expect too much.
Maybe I’ve read enough history to recall that very few people have ever managed a major shift in consciousness signing petitions, appearing on their own TV show online, or playing by the rules.
But in the end I am ronin.
I would like to say that I bow to no man, or creed, or banner, but I’m too cynical for that. I have folded down like an abject slave in the face of necessity and hunger and despair, surrendered courtesy and grace to anger and self-righteousness, and broken every vow of honor I ever took on my name.
I have no honor, nothing to lose, no shame left.
I stand to gain nothing by my honesty, except to reclaim maybe just a shadow of that honor.
Always a fair trade.
We are being led by fools.
On both sides.
While Moms for Marijuana walked the halls of Congress and retired LEOs LEAPed, the checks and balances system has been further dismantled around us amid the smoke and mirrors of market instabilities, the start-up of Obamacare, budget battles and disingenuously-manufactured terrorist attacks.
While Congressmen and gubernatorial candidates smiled and made promises, corporate patents on seed stock and genetic information have placed much of the potential benefit of legalization forever beyond our reach, without a word from advocacy groups or the Department charged with protecting your right to fair Commerce practices.
Your President and mine took the occasion of his re-election to sign the Indefinite Detention and Detainment Act into law on New Year’s Eve of that same year, while continuing to raid dispensaries, seize property, arrest seniors and kill veterans, keeping the troops in the Middle East, detaining innocent people in Gitmo, losing diplomatic personnel in Benghazi.
While attempting by every means possible to separate Americans and especially patients from their right to keep and bear arms, the Attorney General’s office and assorted law enforcement agencies lost track of hundreds of weapons. Almost fifty of then were later linked to shootings, in some cases the deaths of federal officers. Despite rallies following Newtown and Aurora, the National Rifle Association remains silent about Illinois legislation to remove the handgun rights of medical cannabis users.
They does this because supporters of legalization who are members allow them to, and because the leaders of the cannabis advocacy groups do not call for activists to speak out on their websites and at their rallies, to demand that they truly defend the rights of ALL gun owners.
The Supreme Court has been busy defending the rights of Monsanto (the folks with the patent rights to you future crops of cannabis and hemp) to grow and sell genetically manipulated organisms without labeling, with no idea what the long-term effects of consumption or environmental impact may be.
During the same period, the SCOTUS continued to deny American citizens the right to grow and possess a plant with a proven history of over 5,000 years of nutritional and medicinal applications; denied simple cultivation and personal consumption to law-abiding U.S. citizens, including those with pressing medical needs and chronic or terminal ailments.
Exemptions have been granted in the case of Washington State and Colorado, but how can there geographically-defined freedom or exclusion from those freedoms inside anything that can honestly be called The United States? And yet the advocates are happily, busily taking the longest possible path to challenge this absurdity; endlessly submitting petitions and chatting on live streaming podcasts, between demonstrations on the best way to clean your glassware and a showcase of that mad Tahoe Kush.
Our government will relent and allow experiments to crossbreed the avian flu virus into humans, a potential weapon and a contagion nightmare, but North American research into the uses and true effects of the multiple components of cannabis proceed at a snail’s pace, regaining lost information in microscopic steps, while advocates judge the best pot brownies in Denver.
The Federal government placed the plant and its byproducts in the Schedule of Control Substances as a dangerous narcotic with no medical value despite the findings and recommendations of a Presidential Commission, the same Federal Government that holds two medical patents on cannabis derivative medicines, Sativex and Marinol.
And while all this has happened, we have been endlessly distracted by polls and petitions, and the breathless reporting of yet another court case. We have smiling statements made by people in Brooks Brothers suits but nothing about a rally on the Capitol Mall, or a serious, media-covered, large-scale protest outside a Supreme Court trial, led by the people who travel around the country assuring us we are making progress when down here on the ground, evidence of that progress is pretty thin.
Why does it seem as if NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp and most of the rest of the advocacy groups are competing with each other? Why fight for the spotlight?
What does it matter if Steve Elliott interviews someone on the other end of the country from the Capitol Building, the only place where anything that truly matters is going to happen now that Colorado and Washington have managed to vote in legal cannabis, albeit in much different forms?
We have half a dozen advocacy groups, most founded around and by lawyers, and yet no one in them seems able to read a government text, or sort out the legalese of the Acts in question. We are asked to ask congress to ask the President to sign an Executive Order in direct contravention to the checks and balances system, then asked to tell the President to tell a Congress (who should have been listening to we, the People for the last three decades and have clearly not been) that they need to ignore the short-term millions from pharmaceutical and faith-based super PACs and private prison contractors and vote for us, the folks who have no choice but to pay them for ignoring us.
We attack the office and person of the Attorney General, and alternately demand and plead for him to show us mercy, as soon as he is done firing the head of the DEA, changing the rules for the OCNDP, freeing the cannabis prisoners and expunging all their records, reforming immigration, arresting and charging his boss with treason and pulling monkeys out of his butt.
No, not really. I made up the part about the monkeys.
We’ve had a Constitutional, bi-cameral, capitalist government for quite a while now. It functions in a limited number of ways, when it comes to making and repealing laws, adding and removing things from lists, etc. It is a maze, but it is a maze with a limited number of entrances and two possible exits, winners and losers.
Inexplicable is the fact that it has so thoroughly baffled the people who claim to be “working for change from the inside”, who have been admired and celebrated for “fighting the good fight” since the day Nixon’s ink dried, but none of whom seem to have a clue how to get from Point A (Prohibition) to Point B (Legalization) without creating a mountain of paper, a mass of online traffic, and a massive top-heavy lobbying machine with twelve million drivers and no clear map.
Why is this?
Marx had a simple way of breaking down most social questions, and it was a fairly valid one.
What happens if government simply surrenders?
Yes, we all know that it won’t happen, but what if?
What if tomorrow you were free to walk out on your front porch and light up the fattest joint you could roll?
What would happen if you could walk over to your girlfriend’s house and spend the afternoon watching “Bones” completely baked on brownies?
What would really change in the world if you could grow your own tomatoes and cucumbers and cannabis right there in your garden, for yourself, or to trade to your 18-yr-old-or older neighbor for some cucumbers or melons or carrots? What if you paid for a simple vendors’ license and a spot at the farmer’s market and sold it as-is, let the buyer beware, and if caught, let the illegitimate seller beware as well? What if big growers could sell and ship their products under the same tax codes as alcohol and tobacco, or, in the case of hemp, the same rules and protections as corn and soybeans? What if every insurance company agreed to accept cannabis as a legit medicine? If bars could once again offer smoking sections that for the first time included a tasteful selection of cannabis?
What if the intoxication levels and penalties for cannabis DUI were the same as alcohol? If bars, convenience and liquor stores, tobacco sales and adult novelty sales all had to be 1,000 feet from schools just like bud bars and dispensaries?
What would the people who spend their days and nights making speeches and standing in front of cameras and making up the news any way they want do for a living then? What would they be without the identity of advocates?
What benefit is it to them if the rest of the world is free?
Free to forget them?
Because face it, we aren’t talking about inspiring people here. Mason Tvert is a smart guy, he writes good copy, but he looks like one of his favorite lines is “Super-size it!” Mister T wasn’t exactly leading the charge, nor was Steve Elliott bellowing a call to war while waving a copy of Hemp News and a slice of pepperoni at his side, when Obama failed to even mention cannabis in the State of the Union Address, despite early predictions and broad hints on the MPP page and Hemp News that the Choom Boss would do so.
Let’s face it, once the big bang of legalization is over, working through the smaller stuff like how we are going to regulate quality and chemicals and certify organic is going to be B-O-R-I-N-G. No one is going to read the last Weedblog post about how determined delegates hammered out acceptable levels of nitrogen in shake, loose, outdoor grown, Kush (to be used for baking only) or which company failed to win an organic certification, except the kind of people who still read Mother Jones or the Christian Science Monitor.
Not the people who are going to invite you to smoke some badass Lebanese with their stripper girlfriend, or get you kick-ass seats to a game or concert.
So things get dragged out, just a little longer than they might necessarily need to be.
More petitions, more rallies, more fundraisers and podcasts.
Just a little more of that sweet fame, the most addictive and ephemeral rush of all, made all the more sweet by how little most of the bigger names truly deserve to be famous or admired. They may have shaken a lot of hands and kissed a lot of ass, raised a lot of money, and hosted a lot of dinners, but who are they, and where have they been?
Even those who have done great things tend to lose sight of the goal, to begin mistaking themselves for the cause. Maybe because they have nothing truly invested.
I bet less than a hundred members of NORML could name the President, or CEO, or whatever it is you have over there… I don’t pay much attention myself, in truth. But he looks good in a polo shirt and sweater. Bet he plays a mean game of golf, or tennis…
Bet he never met arranged to meet someone from a bulletin board business card and a phone call, with his heart in his mouth and a fistful of wrinkled twenties in hand for a bag of unknown buds.
Or wondered if his truck was being broken into by the crack whores outside as he watched his wife walk through a door into another room with a guy carrying two Glocks and a handful of prison tats that said bad things about his past, with two more guys who could have been his brothers riding shotgun (literally) at the bullet-scarred street door to the dispensary, while a meth head muttered and raved to your left and a tinfoiler on your right tried to explain the connection between fluoride, HAARP, chemtrails, 9/11, the Jews, the Vatican, the Borgias and the World Health Organization.
Bet he’s never assumed the position.
No, most of these guys look like the guys who acquired Microsoft stock about the time it got to be worth something, who couldn’t or didn’t get a foot in the door with lobbies and PACs, who wanted something a little edgy, a little different from a stint as a public defender, with all the legalese but with no real risk. Like one day, fresh back from Cancun or South Padre, they looked around and said “Hey, the trust fund is running a little low… but I hear advocacy pays pretty well!” With that decided, they probably put the game on the flat screen, cracked another microbrew and called their escort service to have her deliver a quarter of whatever sounded funky and cost the most, that week.
I know that’s judging by appearances, but that’s the impression these guys give; a little hipper, a little smoother, with a little more on the ball than you and me, and in no particular hurry to take the fight to the wall.
Imagine what working-class Joe thinks, watching people who don’t have the conviction to actually put themselves on the line, preaching to him about rights he sees slipping away every day as he tries to earn enough to eat and pay the bills, while they fly from convention to interviews to TV spot.
Think of the curious people who surf through our discussions and comment sections online, who read the illiterate frenzy and fantastic stream-of-consciousness ravings, the scam or sting ads to order drugs through the mail or internet, the profanity and the posing thug-lovers and the hundred other forms of human trash on display. Why do these things stay up on websites for days? The users no longer care about the integrity of the movement, because the leaders have no true personal involvement, and integrity is a luxury in the age of the backroom deal.
How can we be accepted as being any better, when so little of what we show the world is any better?
Try to see us through the eyes of a church-going grandparent, living in what was once a small town now overrun by spoiled college kids and arrogant money, filled with lies but confronted again and again by people who seem bent on becoming the embodiment of every drug stereotype.
What of the veteran, on the fence, living on a pittance from a government that would rather forget, just another forgotten face who sees just how little the talking heads at the top actually give a damn, be it the top of the Veterans’ Administration or of the reform movement, about the brothers and sisters in arms slain and incarcerated in this lost war. Once the rally ends and the petition is signed, how many legalization crowds give a thought to the plight of those same veterans? How many offer a word, a meal or a ride?
Think of the hundreds of thousands who have not spoken, yet.
There are so many applications for hemp, and so many uses for cannabis and its extracts. Let us not allow those potentials to be stolen by blind trust in our representatives, or by ignoring the eternal greed and treachery of Prohibition’s offspring, the pills-punishment-incarceration-and-rehabilitation complex.
The polls predict success and increasing acceptance, among people who cared to respond.
That headline was true a week before Reagan won the election. Two years later, Nancy and her celluloid cowboy rode into history by restarting a billion dollar drug war, while Oliver North was arming twelve-year-olds and establishing coke routes into the United States from South America.
Victory is a certainty when it is written into both law and history books. Until then, it is just a convenience of perspective.
Look at how the herd moves. Decide if the direction we are headed is correct, and if the speed at which we move is satisfactory.
If not, do something.
Write a real email, not a form letter, to your state and federal representatives. If you are in D.C., go look up your congressman or woman and tell them what you care about.
Emotional social media posts change nothing in the real world, and waiting for someone else to look after your best interests is accepting that someone else will decide what those best interests are and where they lay.
For every victory, there is a cost. Count on it. Your enemy does.
Time to grow up and accept the terms of this fight, even if the smiling faces online don’t want to see the storm ahead.
The tide is turning, according to the people who get paid to tell you exactly that.
I still say, Question authority. Any authority.
Even the cannabureaucracy.
But remember who has been there, on the line, and who has not.
Tides go in and out, and a wise person does not build too close to the sea on the advice of those who have never sailed deep waters.