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Life After Prohibition IIJeff Kaye Salem-News.com
Plant Saves Planet!
(SAN ANTONIO, TX) - These are some of the headlines we might see, if things continue the way they've been going - with the increasingly global movement towards a more rational policy regarding the use of a naturally occurring, yet chemically compelling plant/substance called Cannabis. Cannabis Sativa, and its sister, Cannabis Indica, otherwise know as Pot, Marijuana, Mary Jane, Herb, Grass, Weed, Reefer, Gage, Kind, Ganja, et cetera (the list goes on and on) is the world's most popular social relaxant, but simultaneously most controversial "narcotic" drug. The terminology is debatable, as many don't consider it a drug at all. Many find it just helps them unwind.
Although its effects, especially from the Indica strains such as Afghan and cross-bred hybrids such as White Widow can be a bit narcotizing, in that they can make you sleepy (good for insomnia), Cannabis in its various forms such as "Bud", the dried flowers of the plant, and "Hash" or Hashish or "Kief", the concentrated resin glands of the plant, cannot credibly continue to be classified by the US DEA, NIDA, FDA, ONDCP et al, as a dangerous "Schedule I" narcotic lumped in with the likes of LSD, PCP, Heroin etc. as having a high potential for abuse and having no medical applications.
As California's current governor once said "It's not a drug, it's a leaf!" More recently he added "It's time for a debate" about whether we should consider the ramifications of legalization of the herb by examining those countries (Portugal has over seven years of success with decriminalization of most drugs) that've implemented drug reforms such as decriminalization and legalization. He could make a tremendous difference to the forward movement of this thinking by signing such legislation into law before he leaves office. That just might happen.
Mankind has a symbiotic (mutually helpful) history with marijuana, or cannabis, going back many thousands of years - no one knows for sure how long, but medical uses in China have been documented as far back as 5,000 BC. Modern medicine was just beginning to understand this unique plant's potential protective, anti-emetic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, and psychopharmacological properties when the US Government took drastic steps to ban its use and study.
The plant and hominids have happily coexisted in harmony for many millenia, as evidenced by the fact that humans have developed an "endocannabinoid" system which mimics the cannabinoids (active elements) in Cannabis itself. The human brain and nervous system has evolved with specific receptor sites that match cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, thus enhancing the existence of both man and plant.
This coming year should prove very interesting indeed with respect to developments on the medical cannabis front. With the AMA's recent reversal of its 70-some year boycott on the beneficial herb, maybe congress or the President himself will see fit to remove this incredibly medicinally useful plant from the Schedule I, paradoxical purgatory it has languished in for decades. The stars (movie and cosmological) are aligning in support of this potentially earth-shaking plant. By 'earthshaking' I mean it can literally save lives, economies and the overall ecology of the planet on which we have but a tenuous hold.
The non-psychoactive form of Cannabis, known as Hemp, has a long history of providing us with materials for making cloth (strong, yet soft), paper of all grades, rope (hemp stalks provide the longest and strongest fibers in nature), and one of, if not THE most nutritionally complete plant-based foods on Earth; its seeds. Hempseed has virtually every nutrient we need within it to nourish us indefinitely - just ask the birds! Birds that eat seeds almost invariably prefer hempseed to other types. Birds are smart; maybe smarter than we are in that respect.
Yet the US government has banned the growing of even the easily distinguishable tall, reedy, non-psychoactive hemp plant (therapeutically active strains of cannabis containing THC are typically shorter and bushier) which can replace trees as sources of both building material and paper (an acre of hemp produces four times the paper pulp as an acre of trees).
We (US Gov) have even gone so far as to discourage other nations from producing cannabis/hemp. Cannabis/hemp requires very little fertilizer, and NO insecticides! Well, maybe a little neem oil in certain locales for spider mites. I can envision the day, when the government comes to its senses - when vast fields of hemp clean our air of excessive CO2 and other noxious substances, and sustain the soil and we human sowers of seeds.
In the words of George Washington, our first president "Make the most of the hempseed; sow it everywhere." I think it's high time we took his advice. (Yes, pun and reference to popular mag intended) No other plant has such a potential to change so many aspects of our world, just by growing it. And it will grow just about anywhere.
Due to a need for jobs for the basically out-of-work (not-yet-named) DEA Agents circa the mid to late 1930's, and under the oversight and due mainly to the influential ties of Harry J. Anslinger, our nation's first drug czar, before the term was even coined, (See the masterwork "The Emperor Wears No Clothes" by Jack Herer for more info on all aspects of this plant's history and uses) a new scapegoat was needed.
After the lifting of the nation's first prohibition (alcohol) which was as much an abject failure as the modern prohibition of marijuana, and a host of other reasons none of which have any moral merit, i.e. racism, greed and fear of the unknown properties of cannabis fueled by the release of the comical yet effective "Reefer Madness" movie released in 1936, Congress passed The Cannabis Tax Act in 1937, thereby making the farming/production of marijuana/hemp virtually impossible.
Large business interests such as Dupont, Dow Chemical, W. R. Hearst and others also played a key role in criminalizing an incredibly useful plant, due to its potential to compete with them in the marketplace. Many products which could be produced from the cannabis plant, such as fuel oil, foods, clothing, paints, plastics, rope, etc. could be made more cheaply and without the drastic negative impacts on our environment from the production of their synthetic counterparts using fossil fuels and a multitude of man-made chemical solvents, toxic fuels, and poisonous fertilizers and pesticides, to name but a few.
Congress criminalized cannabis cultivation and even the medical use of many tinctures, salves, ointments etc. that could be made from its flowers and leaves, under the strong protest of the American Medical Association at the time, who knew we would lose a veritable pharmacopeia from a single plant. The AMA ironically later flip-flopped under political pressure, maintaining that the "drug" marijuana had no medical efficacy, until just recently when their "young guard" medical student contingent, convinced the "Old Guard" to lighten up and admit the potential for medicinal value, and even go so far as to recommend rescheduling so that it could at least be studied.
The legalization of cannabis is still fought tooth and nail today, by a myriad of interests, such as the prison-industrial complex, which thrives on arrest and incarceration of otherwise law-abiding citizens who happen to prefer the safer social relaxant, as opposed to alcohol.
Alcohol is far more harmful, yet legal, which leads us to another of the opponents of the RE-legalization of marijuana (it had been legal for a multitude of uses, most notably medicines marketed by Eli Lily and most other big pharmaceutical companies prior to 1937) - the Alcoholic beverage lobby, which of course strongly opposes the reintroduction of this, the world's (next) most popular recreational substance, as it would markedly cut into their profits.
I say: "So what?" They can easily grow cannabis instead of hops, barley, etc. So many other facets of our society would benefit, that it is utterly ridiculous to keep cannabis illegal. The list of jobs a legal cannabis/hemp market would create is hard to imagine, but let's try: Farming, harvesting, processing of raw fiber for manufacturing of homes, paper production and thousands of other products, seed for food, flowers for medicinal and recreational applications, etc.
This would provide a much-needed boost to our economy, while simultaneously dealing a well-deserved blow (by removing up to 70 percent or more of their profits) to the drug gangs and cartels which are becoming more and more pervasive not only in Mexico and other "trafficking" nations, but right here at home in the US of A. Drug gangs are literally taking over neighborhoods and towns and cities at an alarming rate.
Phoenix, Arizona has become the nation's number one "kidnapping capital" due to this insidious encroachment of criminal enterprises competing with each other for sales territory. Law enforcement's attempts to curb this drug activity have been counterproductive - driving up the profit margins for dealers and traffickers, costing us billions of taxpayers' dollars incarcerating good people guilty of no "real" crime, while having NO impact on usage rates.
I'm writing this from my home in a small town in South Texas, where 10 years ago, heroin use was literally unheard of. Today, there are over 50 known heroin users/addicts in a town of less than 3,000 people. I've had my lawnmower stolen from my open garage twice, in broad daylight. Mexican "schwag" or "brickweed" marijuana is readily and cheaply available, but "home-grown" quality medicinal grade cannabis is very expensive and hard to come by.
It is more difficult and expensive to grow it indoors, not to mention dangerous, what with the draconian laws against it here where "W" hangs his hat. The illegality of it is the most dangerous thing about cannabis. Otherwise, it is quite beneficial. Sure, it can be abused, just like anything, but it has so many useful applications, it's becoming comical to see law-enforcement and lawmakers' efforts to defend the continued persecution and prosecution of persons merely possessing a natural plant substance.
If you've stayed with me thus far in my tirade, you're obviously interested in the outcome of this pressing issue. Like it or not, decisions will have to be made in the near future, to protect our economy, ecology and communities by simply controlling and regulating a plant that through no fault of its own has been harshly stigmatized and banned by most countries on Earth, due largely to questionable policies of the United States Government.
That's us. We citizens are the critical factor; the key component required is our involvement in our government. We have the power to move our government to change its idiotic stance on some pretty valuable plants --- While this is still a democracy, that is, before the Narco-Cops completely take over, as the radical right would have it. They appear intent upon turning us into literally a police state, as was apparently the intent of every president from Nixon to "W". With the exception of Jimmy Carter, who actually recommended legalizing marijuana. The timing wasn't right...he had virtually no support in that endeavor. Things have changed. Current polls say more than half of Americans believe marijuana should be legal for adults. We have and must make the most of this opportunity before the window closes. The fickle pendulum of public opinion could swing back the other way.
We have this power bestowed upon us by our founding fathers - States Rights, which President Obama wisely indicates and advocates as the true way to get things done in this country, a literal "grass roots" ground-up movement by advocating at the community level to push ever upward in our governmental bodies to make the sensible choice; to do the right thing.
Please take ten minutes of your time, since you've invested a few minutes of your precious time already, and watch this video clip from a recent conference in New Mexico where domestic and international drug policies are discussed by some of the most knowledgeable people on the planet with respect to "what's next" after the Drug War.
There's a brief glimpse of a website referenced near the end; TDPF.org.uk which outlines a sensible plan for controlling and regulating all drugs, not just marijuana. You can watch a video on there too, and also download a blueprint for regulation that makes a whole lot more sense than the prohibition we've endured for our whole lives, most of us. Personally, I think we should just concentrate on controlling and regulating Cannabis/Hemp/Marijuana, as that will make it more difficult for our kids to get their hands on than it is now, just ask them... they can more easily get a bag of weed than any type of alcoholic beverage. Even cigarettes are more difficult for our kids to get than cannabis. What does that tell you?
Control and regulation works. When the naysayers are confounded by the success of a sensible policy re marijuana, THEN maybe we can progress to treatment vs confinement solutions for users of harder drugs. We can't just shoot for across-the-board drug legalization in a nation that could swing back to a conservative majority at the drop of a hatful of heroin. Our politicians are (with a few exceptions) deathly afraid of the "L word" - legalization. I think if we push for control and regulation, instead of scaring them with that "radical left-wing L-word", then we can all begin to agree that prohibition hasn't ever worked, for anything, anytime, anywhere. (the Garden of Eden comes to mind; God prohibited knowledge - how did that work out?
Common ground can be found on the basis of harm reduction strategies rather than the senseless incarceration of hundreds of thousands of people each year for having a plant in their possession demonstrably less harmful than tobacco or alcohol. President Obama has opened the door, and given us the broadest of hints: "Leave legal medical marijuana states alone"... He's no fool - he can't do it himself. Taking it upon himself, utterance of the "L-word" is political suicide. This is something that really has to begin at the bottom - from the political base. We, the people.
When we start with us, as in you and me, and we promote the idea upward through our local councilpersons, boardmembers, Mayors, local and State Representatives, pushing relentlessly for sensible policy and reform for the common good, change can and will come.
Then our senators and congressmen can see that the will of the people is a force to be reckoned with, a clarion call demanding to be answered with an honest and rational response... (The World is watching us, hoping we do the right thing)... Then the bills can get through committees and reach the floor to be voted upon, with each member knowing that a "NO" vote to reform, or abstaining from voting at all, will have the consequences previously feared by the mention of that dreaded "L word". Then the bills that make sense, that we all had a hand or a voice in implementing, can find their way to the President's desk... Then we can focus on what's next.
Jeff Kaye is a former firearms, driving and Spanish instructor and Air Force Veteran, with 15 years experience in law enforcement.
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