For purposes of clarity the term ‘cannabis’ will be used in this post to mean marijuana, pot, hemp, weed or whatever you happen to call it.
Cannabis has not always been illegal in the US. The history of the plant and its uses can help us to understand why things are now the way they are.
Back in 1619, when the only English colony in the Americas was Virginia, the then King of England decreed that every colonist grow 100 cannabis plants. The harvested plants were to be exported to England and used primarily for the manufacturing of cloth and rope. For use on sailing vessels.
England has a long history of sending its representatives to distant parts of the globe for the purpose of conquering them. And one the earliest means of transportation was by sailboat.
Canvas, which is a sturdy fabric originally made from hemp, has qualities that make it excellent for sail making. The word canvas is derived from the 13th century Anglo-French canevaz and the Old French canevas. Both may be derivatives of the Vulgar Latin cannapaceus for “made of hemp,” originating from the Greek κάνναβις (cannabis). (From Wikipedia)
The American colony of Virginia, and later the rest of the English Colonies, produced cannabis to meet the demands of the Crown and for their own use. Rope and sturdy fabric being essential to early colonial life.
It was not until the mid 1800’s that cannabis began to play a role in pharmaceuticals. Although cannabis has been used ‘recreationally’ since around 3000 BC.
At about the same time the US government began to play an increased role in the lives of its citizens as the enforcement arm of Big Business.
Without human intervention, cannabis is a weed. Ideal conditions for maximum crop yields are narrow, however the plant will grow and thrive to the extent necessary to produce seed and ensure the survival of the species in a wide range of climates and soil conditions.
Even if you don’t take human intervention into consideration, cannabis has been through a lot and yet has managed to migrate and thrive far from its origins in Asia.
Which posed a problem for the early pharmaceutical industry. If people could grow, trade and consume a weed with medicinal benefits as well as being fun to use then why would they bother to purchase some concoction from a store?
Enter legislation restricting and eventually prohibiting the possession, trade and use of cannabis.
And to make their reasoning as convincing as possible rumors began to spread that cannabis was poison. Which resulted in it being classified as a Schedule One Substance. Along with peyote, psilocybin and mescaline.
War has a long history of fueling economic growth. In 1971 then US President Richard Nixon declared War on Drugs leading to a law enforcement frenzy and the arrest and imprisonment of millions of US citizens. As well as creating a shot in the arm for the US economy.
It is interesting to note that the use of natural substances has historically been associated with minority groups. Of interest is Latin America and cannabis. Between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn in the Americas lies an area well suited for the clandestin cultivation of illegal plants.
Rugged, mountainous terrain and a poorly developed infrastructure both lend themselves to hectares being dedicated to growing cannabis and coca. Coupled with a culture that keeps the vast majority of people in poverty, the cultivation of these plants has become a staple for many poor and rural people.
The criminalization of these plants has created an extensive black market. With exorbitant prices and a cash business policy, drug lords have and continue to fight to protect their investments and earnings. An estimated $320 billion USD in profits are realised by the illegal drug trade every year. Which is funneled into the mainstream economy.
And the pharmaceutical industry is left to its own devices to create and market concoctions that develop clients rather than cures. Worth another $300 billion USD a year. And you and I left to bear the resulting death, destruction and reduced health and wellness.
History has shown that government and big business can go against public opinion for only so long. While the naysayers continue to push their pot is poison rhetoric, John and Jane Q. Public have begun to voice their discontent.
As this is written the US states of Colorado and Washington have legalized cannabis for recreational use. And it is projected that other states will soon follow.
But there is the opinion of the US Federal Government. Cannabis is still considered to be a Schedule One substance and as such is illegal in all 50 US states.
‘They’ are now admitting that the sheer number of violators makes the enforcement of some laws unadvisable. Such would bog down the already slow wheels of justice.
So progress is being made – but there is a price.
Big Business has begun to study the plant and its effects in an effort to isolate and market some of the chemicals found in cannabis. And the government is inventing new ways of harassing users – other than outright prohibition.
Weed will eventually be legal. However we’re not there yet and many challenges have yet to be overcome.
It would be nice to sit back, fire up the bong and enjoy a smoke. And we can every once in a while. But complacency will bear disastrous fruit. There are petitions to sign, rallies to attend and emails to send. The work of pro weed organizations needs our support and donations. And our collective voice must be heard at the ballot box.
The powers that we have allowed to be can ignore us for only so long. Society will change. But remember, your effort is required. Your voice must be heard. The old adage ‘together we stand, divided we fall’ has never been truer.
I challenge you to take the money you would spend on weed for a day once a week and donate it to pro weed advocacy. I challenge you to donate a day a month to circulate a petition or in some other way further our cause.
Join an online forum or community and let your voice be heard. And above all let the politicians know that it is pointless to run for office IF they do not support the decriminalization of weed.
“United We Stand”