FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Holy Herb

by JOHN SINCLAIR

420 Cafe, Amsterdam

I’m crossing the English Channel on the Stena Line steamship as I write this, moving on from London to Amsterdam for the next 10 days, and then on to Italy. It was a rough April in the Motor City with one cold, gray day after another and the Tigers foundering until I left, but London was bright and sunny almost every day, and the weather should just get better from here.

England is a rough place to cop good medicine, and marijuana is considered illegal in every application ? not at all what you’d call smoker-friendly. I ventured outside the city one day to visit my religious leader, the Rev. Ferre (as we’ll call him) of the THC Ministry, and he made sure my medicinal needs were well taken care of.

In fact, I just sneaked my last smoke from that stash in my little cabin on the ship so I could write this column, and soon after I arrive at the Hook of Holland in the morning I’ll be back at my regular stand at the 420 Caf? in Amsterdam, where you can always buy your weed over the counter whether you’re sick or well and the price is always the same.

The THC Ministry is based in Holland and operates under the slogan, “We use cannabis religiously ? and so can you!” I’m proud to be a member of the ministry, and it takes me back before the advent of socialized medicinal marijuana, when we thought perhaps the solution was to highlight the spiritual and indeed religious aspects of the sacrament as a way to escape the heavy hand of the narcotics police.

The brilliant hallucinogen called peyote had been established as a religious sacrament used for spiritual purposes by several Southwestern Native American nations, and many beatniks, hippies and fellow seekers had gained experiential knowledge of its potency as a spiritual force.

Many of us felt the same way about marijuana: that its spiritual properties and potentialities qualified weed as a religious sacrament for ritual use and equally beneficial in navigating the vicissitudes of daily life as well, much as prayer itself seems to work for the Christians and other faithful. Our daily marijuana use went well beyond the concept of recreational drugs ? it was integral to our work and play in equal measure, and helped us keep our minds to the mental grindstone at all times.

Eventually, we sought to register an entirely different definition of marijuana from the orthodoxy enshrined and promoted by the forces of law and order. Not only were marijuana and associated psychedelic or euphoriant substances neither narcotics nor “dangerous drugs,” they were in fact benevolent and had manifestly evident healing powers and could serve to help bring their adherents into alignment and closer harmony with the natural forces of the universe.

I can’t remember exactly when, but at some point in 1969-1972 we formed the First Zenta Church of Ann Arbor, a nonprofit ecclesiastical corporation chartered by the state of Michigan that held marijuana, hashish, peyote, psilocybin and other psychoactive natural substances as sacraments central to the church and the religious and spiritual lives of the congregation.

Now these tenets we held true, plain and simple, but the underlying social idea was that members of the Church of Zenta could thenceforth rely on the constitutional doctrine of freedom of religion as their protection against conviction for possession and use of narcotics ? or later, “controlled substances” ? under the state’s marijuana laws. Zenta members used marijuana religiously, as the THC Ministry puts it today, and were entitled to protection as religious practitioners following the basic tenets of their creed.

There were other benefits of ecclesiastical corporation: Organized religious bodies didn’t pay sales or income taxes; their real estate transactions were exempt from taxation as well; and their forms of worship, however diverse or divergent from the Christian norm, were given wide latitude by the temporal government. Churches were churches, another order of being from the rest of the social order, and our church was determined to join their number and enjoy equal protection under the law of the land.

Like our other efforts to combat the narcotics laws and the incipient War on Drugs based in their idiotic assumptions ? for example, as I’ve said many times before, marijuana was never a narcotic ? the establishment of the First Church of Zenta was meant to deny and counteract the demonization of recreational drug users by the dominant social order as the first line of offense against us.

If you can create a mythology centered on the demonization of illicit drug use and the characterization of illicit drug users as dangerous criminals and enemies of conventional society, deploying ever-increasing numbers of narcotics police to stomp out this evil seems to follow.

When this tissue of horseshit (to quote William Burroughs) is stripped away and the stigma of evilness is removed, the marijuana smoker is revealed instead as a harmless seeker of spiritual truth or a suffering patient in need of medicine. These are not reasonable targets for prosecution as criminals, and the police must move back at least a few steps and sheathe the dreaded nightstick of drug law prosecution.

Now that we have legalized medical marijuana as a potential source of relief for a whole panoply of aches and pains, both physical and mental, and recommends that the state of Michigan certify the applicant as a registered medical marijuana patient, we’ve taken a big first step away from the reviled War on Drugs. Perhaps it’s time to renew the religious argument as well.
Briefly put, we need all the help we can get i to wrest the jackboot of the War on Drugs off the necks of marijuana smokers in our society.

In closing I’d like to point out that I’ve completed this column upon my arrival in Amsterdam, working my way through my various obligatory stops ? the 420 Caf?, the Cannabis College, the Hempshopper on the Singel Canal ? checking in with my peeps around the Centrum and trying to honor my commitment to the paper and my readers at the same time. At the end of the month, I’ll be on my way to Florence, Italy, on a personal mission, and I’ll file the next column from there. Happy trails!

John Sinclair, founder of the White Panthers, is a poet. His latest book is It’s All Good.

 

More articles by:
May 24, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
The Financial Invasion of Greece
Jonathan Cook
Religious Zealots Ready for Takeover of Israeli Army
Ted Rall
Why I Am #NeverHillary
Mari Jo Buhle – Paul Buhle
Television Meets History
Robert Hunziker
Troika Heat-Seeking Missile Destroys Greece
Judy Gumbo
May Day Road Trip: 1968 – 2016
Colin Todhunter
Cheerleader for US Aggression, Pushing the World to the Nuclear Brink
Jeremy Brecher
This is What Insurgency Looks Like
Jonathan Latham
Unsafe at Any Dose: Chemical Safety Failures from DDT to Glyphosate to BPA
Binoy Kampmark
Suing Russia: Litigating over MH17
Dave Lindorff
Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed
Matt Peppe
Cashing In at the Race Track While Facing Charges of “Abusive” Lending Practices
Gilbert Mercier
If Bernie Sanders Is Real, He Will Run as an Independent
Peter Bohmer
A Year Later! The Struggle for Justice Continues!
Dave Welsh
Police Chief Fired in Victory for the Frisco 500
May 23, 2016
Conn Hallinan
European Union: a House Divided
Paul Buhle
Labor’s Sell-Out and the Sanders Campaign
Uri Avnery
Israeli Weimar: It Can Happen Here
John Stauber
Why Bernie was Busted From the Beginning
James Bovard
Obama’s Biggest Corruption Charade
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
Indian Point Nuclear Plant: It Doesn’t Take a Meltdown to Harm Local Residents
Desiree Hellegers
“Energy Without Injury”: From Redwood Summer to Break Free via Occupy Wall Street
Lawrence Davidson
The Unraveling of Zionism?
Patrick Cockburn
Why Visa Waivers are Dangerous for Turks
Robert Koehler
Rethinking Criminal Justice
Lawrence Wittner
The Return of Democratic Socialism
Ha-Joon Chang
What Britain Forgot: Making Things Matters
John V. Walsh
Only Donald Trump Raises Five “Fundamental and Urgent” Foreign Policy Questions: Stephen F. Cohen Bemoans MSM’s Dismissal of Trump’s Queries
Andrew Stewart
The Occupation of the American Mind: a Film That Palestinians Deserve
Nyla Ali Khan
The Vulnerable Repositories of Honor in Kashmir
Weekend Edition
May 20, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Hillary Clinton and Political Violence
Andrew Levine
Why Not Hillary?
Paul Street
Hillary Clinton’s Neocon Resumé
Chris Floyd
Twilight of the Grifter: Bill Clinton’s Fading Powers
Eric Mann
How We Got the Tanks and M-16s Out of LA Schools
Jason Hirthler
The West’s Needless Aggression
Dan Arel
Why Hillary Clinton’s Camp Should Be Scared
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima Flunks Decontamination
David Rosen
The Privatization of the Public Sphere
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Civil Rights Hypocrisy
Pete Dolack
We Can Dream, or We Can Organize
Chris Gilbert
Corruption in Latin American Governments
Dan Kovalik
Colombia: the Displaced & Invisible Nation
Jeffrey St. Clair
Fat Man Earrings: a Nuclear Parable
Medea Benjamin
Israel and Saudi Arabia: Strange Bedfellows in the New Middle East
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail