CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
Note to the Department of Justice: all references to the author’s use of illegal drugs in this essay are purely satirical in nature. The author has never used drugs of any kind, although he once became high as the result of using PVC cement in a confined space.
Medical marijuana is one of those concepts like ‘friendly fire’ or ‘military intelligence’ that just doesn’t sound right- but who cares? Back in my day, when we smoked weed (my parents’ generation smoked ‘grass’ or ‘pot’) we didn’t have medical marijuana, and we would have laughed at the idea, our eyes as glassy and red as glazed hams. After all, dope or hemp was partially responsible for our low standing in academics, athletics, and achievements; we were the first generation of teens more short-winded than our own grandparents. But we got laid like nobody’s business.
We didn’t need a note from the doctor. Little did we know, those were the good old days. The crumbly, brownish cannabis sativa inferioris we grew amongst the blueberry bushes on Mount Monadnock and similar eminences in southern New Hampshire was so inferior in quality you had to smoke the equivalent of fifty packs of unfiltered Marlboroughs to get properly stoned on the stuff. We didn’t call it weed for nothing; you could eat it like salad and experience little more than a faint tingling in the molars. We’d have been better off smoking endive lettuce, but we only had iceberg. The local police would occasionally pull up the plants they stumbled upon whilst having sex with minors in the bushes, and if you got caught with a ‘bud bag’ on you, they would ‘lift your stash’ and maybe fine you $25. And then smoke the stuff themselves.
It was a reasonable system and everybody was a winner, staggering around in an acrid, reeking haze with cottonmouth and a soul-deep yearning for Cheetos. Was it worth it? Sure it was. Ganja took the sting out of acne, algebra, and angst. It made us feel confident when we were not. It made our parents vaguely amusing, which they were otherwise not; and it made the interminable presidency of Ronald Reagan seem like a distant, unpleasant dream from which we would wake refreshed but dying for a quart of Mountain Dew. As long as we had a steady supply of wacky tobbaccy, those crappy jobs at Bradlees, McDonald’s, and Aubuchon’s Hardware were tolerable and we felt like we were earning money for a purpose, even if that purpose was to analyze the Ted Nugent Double Live Gonzo album for hidden metaphors. And with double albums you could use the fold in the record jacket to shake the seeds out of your latest dime-bag of Indian oregano.
They claim that marijuana is a ‘gateway’ drug that leads to the use of more harmful and addictive substances; this is hokum. The eternal gateway drug is boredom. Is beer a gateway drug to drinking Aqua Velva? I quit the loco weed while George Bush Sr. was in office. I was in love with a woman who found me annoying when I was stoned, and I had other things to do with my time. Sometimes I miss it a little, usually right around election time, but I’ve never seriously considered lighting up again. It’s been ages since I smoked anything more potent than a stale Cuban cigar.
Meanwhile, bud has been demonized, criminalized, and the drug war has been industrialized. There’s more money to be made busting herb smokers than there is in arresting drunk drivers, which is ironic, because drunk drivers kill thousands every year, while the only confirmed death from marijuana use was the result of a guy in Maui falling off a cliff while tending his crop of chronic green. The authorities have made a fortune fighting marijuana, classified since 1937 as an illegal substance in a bill signed by President Roosevelt, who seldom lit up himself. This was largely a formality, as nobody much cared and the government wasn’t inclined to do much about this new law, but enforcement became popular by the 1950’s as a way of busting Negro jazz musicians, white lefties, Mexicans, and other undesirable types. In addition, defense lawyers had figured out they could get their clients out of trouble by claiming devil weed made the defendant go crazy. So as time passed, hemp got a bad name with the Establishment. Of course this meant that during the 1960’s, everybody had to smoke it. You figure when the stoned youth of the 60’s grew up, they’d decriminalize the doob, right? That’s what my generation assumed would happen.
When Bill Clinton said he tried marijuana but never inhaled, he was, as often happened, stretching the truth. I guarantee you Bill didn’t just inhale. Here was a man who could blaze a fattie and suck it down from fore to aft in a single, Homeric drag until his eyeballs were as red as jawbreaker candies. Sinking back on the sofa, gripping the smoke in his lungs until the heart-crushing plumes were reduced to the faintest vapor upon exhalation to the applause of onlooking loose-breasted hippie chicks, he was stoned again. But Clinton in maturity became emblematic of the ex-radical’s failure to reform the atavistic anti-marijuana stance of our government. To this day, a handful of dank nugs is considered as dangerous a narcotic as cocaine, heroin, or morphine, and the sentences for possession or dealing are draconian and vigorously applied. Yet every single individual in power knows damn well the schmoke is mostly harmless, and most of them have enjoyed a toke or two themselves.
And why not? The days when you had to smoke an entire plant to get high are over; now a couple of tokes will take care of business for four hours of solid housecleaning or tax preparation. You don’t need to smoke as much, so you’re not getting all the tar and insecticide we inhaled in the good old days. Delivery systems have improved as well. We used to make pipes out of aluminum foil and a toilet paper tube, which would inevitably catch fire after a dozen hits; now there are filtered triple-chamber bongs and stainless steel micro-mesh one-hitters which guarantee a degree of smoking comfort unknown in previous times. In addition, the supply system is streamlined, so your average high school student or corporate CEO can purchase the stuff without recourse to dark alleys and unsavory characters. Buying dope these days is more like a visit from the Avon Lady than anything else. Smoking it is a middle-class experience- and yet there is an entire population of stoners languishing in prison.
It makes no sense. Despite the brutal penalties against its use, marijuana is one of the mildest drugs –even the hairy, resinous super-breeds available today. And in recent times, the medical applications of this venerable herb known severally as grass, weed, pot, cannabis, dope, jay, skunk, kif, or ganja have been documented by reputable professionals. Aside from the obvious effects such as inducing relaxation, improving social behavior, and making Gilligan’s Island seem funny, Marijuana also helps people taking medications such as the AIDS cocktail or cancer drugs keep food in their stomachs. It has been found to ease the pain and symptoms of many diseases, such as epilepsy, MS, glaucoma, and holiday gatherings. Yet the folks who self-medicate, or even take the stuff as allowed under local or state law, are suffering stormtrooper raids by the Feds. These people are spending the last few precious months of their lives in prison or awaiting trial- as cruel and unusual as a punishment gets. Recent advertisements suggesting a causal link between the casual user and international terrorists just show how tenuous the case against cheeba really is.
I entirely support the idea that the herb, and its helpful cannabinoids, should be legal to take for medical conditions. But is that what this is really about? I hope not. Let’s call medical marijuana the gateway legislation, and pray that eventually we can drop the clinical side of the subject and acknowledge what this should really be about: everybody can get stoned. Can you really say that marijuana is dangerous? Have you ever had a problem with a stoned driver? Remember the old joke: a drunk speeds through the stop sign; somebody equally stoned waits for the sign to turn green. Are our hospitals filled with raving pot smokers, insane from reefer madness? Is it worth the money to have our government bust the kid who mows your lawn or serves you Slurpees? And what if a seed gets into your carpet and the Feds raid your house for some other reason, as they are increasingly likely to do? You might hate the stuff, but it also might be growing wild behind your house, and that might be good enough to get you thrown in jail for life. Hell, your kid could have a nickel bag hidden in his room, and you’ll go to jail, and so will your kid, and maybe the neighbor on the side of your house closest to your kid’s room. None of this is your kid’s fault: it’s crazy laws, enforced for profit.
The situation is out of hand. We are a nation of quiet stoners, blazing up and smoking out in peace and harmony. Not everybody does it, but lots of people do; and a vast majority of Americans have done it at some point in the past. If marijuana was masturbation, the laws would have to change, or the entire nation would be behind bars. Marijuana smoking is not really all that different, and certainly little more harmful, than the time-honored practice of Onanism; the next time you revile pot smokers, try thinking of it that way. Just as wanking doesn’t require a doctor’s note, neither should pot smoking. If we have to get medical exceptions first, and then dismantle the laws from there, that’s dandy, but let’s not fool ourselves. The best thing about marijuana is it’s fun. And if you find masturbation disgusting and that analogy doesn’t work for you at all, remember it’s easier to get laid if everybody’s a little high, and then we can all stop fondling our privates. Who knows, maybe that’s the medical excuse we’ve been waiting for.
BEN TRIPP is a screenwriter and cartoonist. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org