Battling the Prohibitionists



The excellent reporting in the Metro Times by my colleagues Larry Gabriel and Curt Guyette has kept me up to date on the hope for a greener future in Michigan by means of the marijuana legalization initiative. I’m far away from home this month, trying to make sense of the repressive measures presently being championed and soon to be implemented by the Dutch government.

It’d be a beautiful thing if some of the rich people who back these petition drives — or even some of the millionaires among us who’ve never backed one before — would cough up some funds to help Matt Abel and the organizers of the citizens initiative take their battle against the forces of evil in this issue over the top this year in Michigan.

Whether or not someone gallops to the financial rescue of the struggle to end marijuana prohibition in 2012, however, it’s essential to remember that the issue will finally be decided not by money but by the majority of the citizens who support legalization and will sign the petition and go to the polls and cast their votes against prohibition once and for all.

Almost two-thirds of the voting population of Michigan favored the legalization of medical marijuana four years ago. Now there’s a bigger political base than ever in support of the issue, starting with the 131,308 patient registrants certified by the state of Michigan by the end of 2011.

Even those medical marijuana patients who have little sympathy for recreational use per se will surely perceive the essential fact that the best way to get the police and the state’s attorney general out of their medical affairs is to get them out of the marijuana world altogether.

Once legalization is effected and marijuana prohibition joins alcohol prohibition on the fetid dust heap of history, anyone who uses marijuana for any reason will be free from state intervention in their personal lives — on that issue, at least.

Americans have been so brainwashed about weed by the authorities that have profited so immeasurably from marijuana prohibition for so long that it’s hard to grasp the immensity of the change in the life of the marijuana smoker when the police are no longer authorized to interfere with his or her activity — recreational, medicinal or otherwise.

The first time I came to Amsterdam for the 1998 Cannabis Cup, I remained whacked out of my gourd for every waking minute of an entire week. As the High Priest of the Cannabis Cup, I was gifted with enormous quantities of the best weed I’d ever smoked, and I felt it was incumbent on me to ingest each of the 42 strains of indica and sativa entered into the competition that year. So I did — no problem.

After a couple days of this exhilarating existence, I began to notice that my shoulders seemed to be lowering and my anxiety levels rapidly diminishing. Of course, some of this may be attributable to the medicinal effect of the weed itself, but even more so it was the gradual realization that I would not be accosted by the local authorities and treated as a criminal while I was in Holland.

When I first started smoking weed 50 years ago in the north end of Flint, I was taught extreme caution by my mentors when venturing into the outside world. They would roll up two joints and wrap them in a paper tissue and carry them in their hand for sudden disposal at any sign of police interference. There weren’t so many people who smoked weed then, and we were fairly easy to spot.

Ever since then, I’ve spent my life carefully guarding my stash and devising effective means of transporting it from place to place in the course of daily life. I had some problems involving sharing the sacrament with strangers for a few years, but I’ve been “clean” with the law on this issue since late in 1971. And now that I’m a medical marijuana patient registered with the state of Michigan, I don’t feel quite so threatened in my regular activities.

Still, there’s that cloud of oppression that always hovers overhead, and the person with you may well not suffer from medical conditions that qualify him or her as a marijuana patient exempt from search, seizure and arrest.

Further, as in the case of our state’s leading law enforcement officer, perhaps the copper in question does not adhere to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in its fullness and decides to ignore my own medical qualifications to give me some grief for having my medicine in my pocket.

The dread question, “Where’d ya get it?” is no longer pertinent, since my caregiver’s name and address are listed on the back of my card, but there could likely be some sort of irregularity the copper may wish to pursue and then I’m back in the shit again.

There’s been nothing like this in Holland for about four decades — ever since personal use of recreational drugs was removed from the criminal ledger and hundreds of coffee shops selling, serving and providing for the smoking of marijuana on the premises were allowed to insinuate themselves into the Dutch social order.

The coffee shop scene went basically unregulated until the mid-1990s, when the government decided that it was time to institute a system of oversight and control to rein in the unbridled growth of the cannabis industry.

First the purveyors of cannabis across the counter were required to register with local authorities and apply for a license to continue operating. They were made subject to taxation on their profits, and their employees were brought into the official employment scheme.

Since cannabis remained illegal per se under the existing drug laws, the world of recreational use and commerce was considered a “gray area” that was allowed to exist without legal sanction through the grace of the queen and her government.

But now, as decriminalization and outright legalization of marijuana continue to gain significant numbers of supporters in America and the Western world, the current right-wing government of the Netherlands has for some reason decided that cannabis is bad and “drug tourism” is even worse.

In the past few years since the ascension of the current political ruling coalition (within which the “anti-Islam” party is a driving force), the Dutch government and Parliament have dropped all pretense of reasonableness — sort of like the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives — and begun to attack the cannabis culture as morally questionable and quite possibly a source of social degeneration.

Particularly scurrilous in their view are the people who come to Holland from other countries around the world to partake in the openness, convenience and relative social freedom of the coffee shop culture in Amsterdam, or those from neighboring EU states such as Germany, France, Belgium and the UK, who come to Holland to cop and take their purchases back home with them.

I had meant to report here on several revolting developments now under way in The Netherlands but got carried away thinking of how great it would be to legalize marijuana in Michigan in 2012. Now I’ve come to the end of my space and time for this installment so, as my editor frequently says, stay out there, and I’ll add, help end marijuana prohibition.

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



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