June 25, 2010

The Metaphysics of Pot Prohibition

By David Brannon
Part 1

Each day I make it a point to speak, casually, to people about drug policy, the truth about cannabis, and the ancient use of cannabis as medicine. I don’t care to speak with the enlightened. I’m looking for the undecided and the opposed. Now, here’s the weird part: even with my slanted and prejudiced audience, no one tells me I’m crazy; almost everyone agrees regulating and taxing pot makes more sense than prohibition; and you’d be surprised how many people don’t oppose the idea of responsible cannabis use.

Still, the law is proving damn difficult to change. And, while the law remains as is, our world loses the many and varied contributions of the hemp plant. One of the earliest plants domesticated by man, hemp once provided society with food, fuel, textiles, medicine and relaxation. Who needs any of that stuff?

The drug prohibition which denies us the use of the cannabis plant was crafted out of fear and is maintained through fear. In our world fear trumps facts. What we must challenge, what we must change is the unseen but very real fear underpinning this bad law. That fear had a father named Harry J. Anslinger. His time was the 1930’s, and if you don’t know his story it’s worth a google. But here’s the nickel bag version:

Harry was a federal bureaucrat. His principle competition for government funds, fame and attention from the press was J. Edgar Hoover over at the FBI. Hoover battled dangerous public enemies, bank robbers and machine-gun wielding

killers. Harry’s assignment was to battle a weed. To draw attention to his cause Harry told lies about the weed, hoping fear would make people shun cannabis.

In one whopper Harry told the nation about a man in Tampa, Florida, named Victor Licata. Licata had murdered his entire family with an ax. Anslinger declared this crime was caused by Licata’s marijuana addiction, while failing to inform his listeners that, at an earlier time, the Tampa police had tried, unsuccessfully, to have Mr. Licata committed as insane. The paperwork which accompanied Mr. Licata to the mental institution made no mention of marijuana. Anslinger’s version of fair and balanced.

Harry A. would assert a connection between pot and violence every chance he got, and he got a lot of chances thanks to William Randolph Hearst, the publisher. Anslinger’s stories were sensational. Sensational stories sell newspapers. Hearst newspapers. What actually happened was (i) Anslinger’s lies were reported as news in Hearst newspapers, then (ii) Anslinger would read the reports from the Hearst papers as if he were relaying new information. Hollywood then took these fictions and brought them to the silver screen. The cannabis plant didn’t stand a chance. Neither did the truth.

People believed the government lies, the newspaper’s sensationalism, and the movie’s fictions. People who knew absolutely nothing about cannabis were taught to fear the plant.

To Be Continued In: Part 2

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