Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Not Just Reefer Madness, but Reefer Stupidity, too!

Despite the best efforts of the pro-legalization movement, nearly two-thirds of the American public still believes the government’s negative propaganda regarding marijuana. But please, let’s not call it marijuana. That’s a Mexican slang term, made popular in the 1920’s by yellow journalism’s founding father, William Randolph Hearst, that characterizes a relatively small part of one of the most amazing and useful plants ever to grow upon planet Gaia—cannabis hemp.

Marijuana, pot, reefer, ganja, weed, hay, and many lesser-known terms all refer to the flower tops (buds) of cannabis sativa and/or cannabis indica, both of which are known to possess numerous medicinal properties. A close cousin, cannabis ruderalis, is too low in THC content to be useful for smoking purposes, but it excels as a renewable industrial resource for users of fiber (rope, cordage, textiles, paper), cellulose (building materials, biofuels, bio-degradable plastics), and seeds (food, oil). At the time it was banned in 1937, there were known to be some 25,000 different uses for cannabis hemp. How many more might be discovered, today, using modern technologies and processes?

Why, then, does the government persist in maligning such a valuable plant, in disseminating false information about it, in criminalizing its use, when all credible scientific evidence suggests that the world would be a saner, safer, healthier place were it legalized and put into widespread use? As it turns out, there are a multitude of answers to that question, none of which agree with the government’s publicly stated reasons for banning cannabis hemp.

Government agencies responsible for fostering the current climate of anti-cannabis ignorance and hysteria include the ONDCP, the FDA, and the DEA, all of which regurgitate a litany of false premises in order to defend and promote a cannabis prohibition agenda. These agencies have long argued that marijuana (their term, not mine) contains no known medicinal properties, that it’s a gateway drug, that it’s an addictive drug, that it’s a dangerous drug, that it’s a health hazard, yada, yada, yada, despite thousands of university studies conducted over a ten-year period between the mid-sixties and the mid-seventies that reached opposite conclusions on every point. Add to that anecdotal evidence based on the personal experiences of millions of cannabis users and the government’s case for cannabis prohibition falls apart. Still, the government persists.

The feds claim that marijuana lacks enough research to determine its relative safety and medical efficacy. Of course, the feds have, for nearly 30 years, used every means available to block legitimate cannabis research by denying legitimate researchers the necessary permits and access to cannabis they need in order to do the research. The government’s lack of credibility on this issue further erodes its case for cannabis prohibition.

Nor do cannabis foes gain any traction for their cause in the way they demonize their nemesis. A recent anti-marijuana ad, which played on one of the cable channels a few weeks ago, was no better conceived than any of its predecessors; stupidity is stupidity, no matter how you package and present it.

In one segment of the ad, a supposedly stoned teenager (or he could simply be a disgruntled environmental activist who’s incensed over global climate change) sets fire to a car in a driveway. None of the stoners I have known—and I’ve known many—would behave in this way, so this specious bit of nonsense flunks the straight face test.

A second segment depicts another teenager, also supposedly stoned, piling his broken-to-pieces guitar onto a barbeque. Give me a break! While a stoner might strum his guitar until it’s a-smokin’, no music-loving stoner I’ve ever known would mistake a guitar for a hamburger, not even in a worst-case scenario of the munchies. Once again, government-inspired lunacy gets a failing grade.

Archaic laws, and the draconian criminal penalties meted out for breaking them, also undermine the government’s case for cannabis prohibition. The public is growing weary of invasions of privacy, of no-knock raids gone awry, of wrongful deaths, of low-level non-violent marijuana offender emerging from lengthy prison sentences as hardened criminals. Eventually, even the politicians who could hasten real change are bound to get a clue.

If the government agencies responsible for waging a war against (some) drugs told the truth about cannabis, that truth would look something like this:

• If marijuana were legalized, millions of Americans would turn to low-cost, high-efficacy marijuana-based remedies, thus depriving the pharmaceutical industry of billions of dollars in annual profits. Doctors and hospitals would also lose billions.

• If marijuana were legalized, it would go a long way toward ending America’s dependence on foreign oil, thus costing Big Oil billions of dollars in annual profits.

• If marijuana were legalized, the rationale for waging war in the Middle East would collapse, and the Pentagon would lose billions of dollars in annual funding.

• If marijuana were legalized, law enforcement and the private prison industry would lose billions of dollars in annual funding and profits.

• If marijuana were legalized, the annual timber harvest decline would cost timber companies billions of dollars in profits.

• If marijuana were legalized, family farms might find it possible to stay in business, thus threatening the ongoing expansion and industry dominance enjoyed by Big Ag factory farms.

• If marijuana were legalized, certain petrochemical companies would suffer huge losses (potentially billions of dollars) when their poisonous products suddenly become irrelevant.

• If marijuana were legalized, it would cost the tobacco and alcohol beverage industries billions of dollars in lost profits.

• If marijuana were legalized, it would upset entrenched economic interests and rearrange the status quo by opening new windows of opportunity for the millions of workers and would-be entrepreneurs who now cling to the economic ladder’s lowest rungs.

Faux patriots and hardcore capitalists will be comforted to know that the federal government values corporate profits over the global environment, civil liberties, public health, and human life. The federal government’s anti-cannabis bias has never been about protecting the public’s health and safety; it couldn’t care less about these things. From its inception, cannabis prohibition has been all about protecting corporate profits, the public be damned. The demon drug marijuana has always been the excuse for—but never the reason behind—cannabis prohibition.

Gradually, the public’s perception of cannabis is changing as true knowledge and understanding of this remarkable plant’s potential to revolutionize and revitalize the nation’s economy infuse themselves into the national consciousness. Although much remains to be done, there are now some clearly defined blueprints to aid in bringing about the necessary changes.

Time, logic, and necessity favor cannabis legalization; the public mindset is shifting from ignorance, fear, denial and skepticism to fearless acceptance and informed optimism. When human needs and environmental degradation reach critical tipping points, cannabis legalization will be a done deal.