USA -- I was watching Fox News the other night (because I'm a thinker) when I came across a commercial for the drug war. Perhaps you've seen it. It's the one that says "If you buy drugs, even pot, your money may go to fund terrorists.
Now this was really an eye opener for me. I grew up in America's public schools, with all the traditional fear-mongering propaganda about Pot. You know what I'm talking about - all the horror stories they feed you about the evil things pot will do to your brain? I can't recall any of it right now, but you get the idea.
They always told us "Pot makes you violent. And Lazy." Which never scared any kids I knew. I always thought if the violent people were lazy, we'd have a lot less crime. Imagine the thug who threatens, "I'm gonna kill you, man. Right after this burrito."
And this is why so many kids have a hard time taking the drug war seriously. We're always changing the reasons, but the message stays the same. We keep telling them "drugs are bad! Drugs are bad! Drugs are bad!" and that, my friends, is not the problem.
The problem is not that drugs are bad. The problem is that drugs are great. That's the problem.
Addiction is bad. Overdosing is bad. Making stupid choices when you're high is bad, and all you potheads who paid to see "I Robot" know what I'm talking about.
But now the White House is saying that if you buy pot, your money will go to terrorists. Clearly, the message George Bush is sending? Grow your own.
I actually find it funny that the government is now actively linking the war on drugs to the current war on terror. You see, the Drug War as we know it began in that bastion of morality, San Francisco, back in 1873.
Back then, Chinese immigrants were the group everybody was allowed to hate, and people really didn't like the thought of good Christian folks going to smoke in the opium dens of "the heathen Chinese." . White people took opium too, but they usually ate it, or shot it up. You know, the wholesome way.
So they passed a law taxing imported smokable opium. This is noteworthy, since besides the obvious racism, it was the first time the government used taxes not to raise money (as the founders intended), but to punish and control private behavior. Thus began a long tradition of drug laws that work about as well as British toothpaste.
The well regulated, law abiding opium houses shut down, the Chinese underworld grew stronger: violence erupted; lives disrupted; police and politicians corrupted; America interrupted.
So it's extra ironic they'd link the drug war to the terror war. Because now that the Taliban is out of power, people can finally get decent opium again.
The Drug war's been around so long it seems like it's part of our heritage. But cannabis hemp was a major American crop from the earliest colonial days. The US census of 1850 counted 8000 hemp plantations.
I'm going to repeat that, because I think it's worth noting. The 1850 US Census counted 8000 cannabis hemp plantations. Growing cannabis was as American as apple pie. And everyone knew that if you smoked the flowery top of the plant, you'd want to eat a lot of apple pies. But it was never a concern. Then, as now, the biggest drug problem was alcohol.
When the government made Marijuana illegal in 1937, the American Medical Association officially protested. Because for hundreds of years, it's medicinal and industrial uses were well documented.
Washington grew hemp at Mount Vernon. Thomas Jefferson grew it at Monticello, and actually helped smuggle rare hemp seeds out of China. Nowadays, they'd go to jail for it. That is, if we ever started locking up the rich white guys.
Benjamin Franklin started a colonial paper mill that made paper from hemp fiber. I'm not suggesting Ben ever smoked any - I'm sure lots of sober guys fly kites during thunderstorms.
And since it's April, it's worth mentioning that from the 1600s to the 1800s, cannabis hemp was used as a currency - legal tender. In fact for over 200 years you could pay your taxes in cannabis hemp. So next April 15th, try to send the IRS a few loose marijuana cigarettes. I'm sure they'll appreciate your knowledge of our history, and you can even file it as a "joint return."
The point is, Cannabis has been in America for hundreds of years - even longer than white people. But it's only been illegal for the past 70. So technically, decriminalizing it is the true Conservative point of view...
And it's the issue of medical marijuana that makes this a moral battle. I grew up in a Catholic family. An extremely Catholic family. We used to have open casket reunions. Now I'm not anti-Christian at all. My Mother is an ex-nun and my Father an ex-Franciscan brother. I just view Jesus the way I view Elvis. I love the guy, but some of the fan clubs scare me.
Because what I learned from the bible as a child was that Jesus was a radical nonviolent revolutionary; a man who hung around with lepers, hookers and crooks; who never spoke English and wasn't an American citizen; was anti-death penalty, anti-capitalist, anti public prayer (Matthew 6:5, please remind them) but Never anti gay; and was a long haired, brown skinned (yes, it's in there), homeless, middle eastern Jew. And all he wants us to do is love people - especially the people we don't like.
So I have a hard time believing that JC would advocate locking up sick people.
In 1996 the voters of California approved a medical marijuana proposal. The Clinton White House promptly put the kibosh on it. George W. Bush is also opposed to medical marijuana. Now both of these presidents have been vague, at best, about their drug histories. But they've had no problem locking up others for the same behaviors. Which I take as a sign that neither of them truly believes in the drug war.
Because if they really felt at their core that illegal drug use was evil, they'd confess their crimes and ask forgiveness. Remember - if they thought it was a sin, they'd turn themselves in. Imagine Johnnie Cochran saying it - it'll sound better.
I'm not saying that these two presidents are evil men. It's just part of why the drug war makes no sense. It's a thousand piece jigsaw puzzle where the pieces don't fit - and it's never going to look like what they promised you on the box..
The drug war violates civil liberties, privacy rights, rights against search and seizure. It's led to out of control crime, corrupted law enforcement & business officials, and shown that the wealthy can get away with what the poor cannot - in short, it makes a mockery of any claim to be a free country.
The war on drugs is a war on Americans. It's not even about race anymore , but class - and the only color that matters is lack of green.
But we can't stop? You know why? We as a nation, a people, a tribe, are hooked.
Like Caffeine, Oxycontin, fructose or Vicodin - we are addicted to the drug war.
We know it doesn't work - we can't stop.
We know it's too expensive and we can't afford it - we can't stop.
We know there are a million people in prison and every year we pay 40 grand apiece to keep them in jail; when they could be out working, paying taxes and contributing to the economy - but we cannot stop.
There are two types of people who keep repeating the same behaviors over and over, always expecting different outcome. Addicts, and crazy people.
So we'd better hope we're addicts. Because I don't' want to believe the country I love is this insane. And the good news is this : if we are addicted, we can get treatment.
I've had the pleasure of being on 2 different episodes of Politically InCorrect with Arianna Huffington, and to me she's a shining example of how an opened heart and an opened mind can enrich any community. My respect goes out to everyone intervening to help America break this ill-natured addiction.
Thank you all for doing the Lord's work.
Author: John Fugelsang
Published: April 13, 2006