Reefer Madness Redux


You gotta love Hot Fingers Pirelli, that wild piano man from Reefer Madness. Watching him sneak off to a closet so he can fire up one of his "marihuana cigarettes," and consequently break out into twitches of frightening giddiness, is reason enough to buy a copy of this film. After all, "he ain?t no paper man!" No, Pirelli was an Artist, and taking that "violent narcotic" was probably the best way he had found to ease the pain of Genius.

This movie was a ridiculous instrument of propaganda that was unleashed in 1936, and while it almost instantly became a comedic classic of sorts, one that parents laugh at with their children more than 65 years later, its intent was very serious. On August 2 of the following year, the U.S. Treasury Department introduced a piece of legislation to the 75th Congress, an article called "The Marihuana Tax Act Of 1937." Thus began a nationwide prohibition of cannabis sativa, the plant species that produces marijuana and hemp.

America, the world, and Humanity have all grown and matured since then, with incredible advances in medicine, thinking, and technology, among other things. Diseases that were fatal in 1937 are easily remedied today, space travel has shown how comparatively small our planet is, and families can enjoy hours upon hours of entertainment by watching Reefer Madness on DVD, a video format far superior to VHS.

That said, the mentality behind this ludicrous film remains practically untouched. John Walters, the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), runs across the nation making fallacious claims that echo the scare tactics employed in Reefer Madness. On October 9, 2002, Walters warned citizens gathered at a town hall in Phoenix, Arizona, of the foreboding consequences of the state?s Proposition 203, a ballot initiative aimed at decriminalizing possession of up to two ounces of marijuana. Calling the Proposition a "stupid, insulting con," Walters elaborated on the mythical horrors of marijuana, an evil menace he refers to as "the single largest source of dependency." No time to consider nicotine, cocaine, and heroin, he had to be in Reno, Nevada two days later to oppose yet another civic effort. What?s known as Question 9 is, according to Walters, "a con" being pushed by "misguided people with a lot of money." This allegation was maintained by Gary Booker who, as spokesman for the Nevadans Against Legalizing Marijuana (NALM), accused the initiative of being funded by South American drug cartels. It turned out that Booker?s scoop came from Lydon LaRouche, a lunatic who?s also claimed that Britain is to blame for both the Oklahoma City bombing of 1995 and the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. It?s suffice to say that the NALM quickly replaced Booker.

The fact is that Question 9 was introduced by Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement (NRLE), a branch of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). This initiative is similar to Arizona?s, but it takes an extra step to opening the doors to an entire revolution of Life as we know it. "We support policies based on harm reduction," says Bruce Mirken, Director of Comunications for the MPP. "In short, we believe moral judgements about drug use belong in church; the law should be about preventing harm." Basically, Question 9 would eliminate penalties for anyone over 21 found with 3 or less ounces of the Good stuff. It establishes provisions for penalties for driving under the influence, distribution to minors, smoking pot in a public place and/or vehicle, and even parameters for developing a market in which adults can buy marijuana in a safe environment.

This is not only a good thing for marijuana aficionados, but for the national economy as well, not to mention the AMERICAN SOCIETY. It is only a matter of circumventing those lousy bastards in the White House who can?t come to terms with the fact that green is a better color than red.

Since the dawn of human existence, cannabis has proven helpful in almost every facet of Life. Recent years have seen an explosion of evidence for the plant?s medicinal benefits, but that is not the only defense in this argument. It?s been established as an incredible source for a plethora of materials, and it?s even possible to ingest marijuana, either by smoking or eating parts of the plant, and achieving what?s known as a "buzz." This last aspect has kept cannabis illegal in the U.S., but that hasn?t thwarted Americans from discovering this result.

Webster?s Dictionary defines a buzz as "a feeling of intense enthusiasm, excitement, or exhilaration," and that seems to fit what happens from smoking pot. It also describes the sensation of being in love, enjoying food, and scoring a touchdown. However, marijuana?s draw is not nearly as powerful as these or many other Joys that people legally engage in every day. When a person falls in love, their stomach can flutter, their speech can become impaired, and their heart rate usually increases. Marijuana relaxes users, and even calms their stomach down. On the other hand, rape is far more common than marijuana-related violence.

Those who enjoy a nice, juicy steak will often experience their mouth watering when a tasty filet mignon is laid before them. Even a magazine or TV ad can inflict this response. This rarely happens with marijuana. Likewise, playing football is an activity that has for years produced a sense of well being, especially when an opponent is defeated. At the same time, football and other well-accepted sports can be extremely dangerous, to the point of paralysis and/or death in the worst mishaps. To date, marijuana alone has not caused even one death.

Meanwhile, on September 20, the wacky tobacky and the NY Mets made front page of Newsday, as a result of the media?s scrutiny of seven "culpable" pro-baseball players suspected of smoking up. If open bottles of cognac, vodka, or any other hard liquor the president?s heart desires are not verboten in the oval office, then why can?t a relief pitcher like Grant Roberts get a little Relief off a nice bong? Hell, why can?t the field the major leaguers play ball on be a field of Grass?

Demonizing such pastimes is a repressive atrocity, and when it comes down to cannabis, it makes no sense whatsoever. Economically, cannabis prohibition is one of the most costly drains on the national Wallet, as "drug czar" Walters blows around $9 billion each year on this crusade alone. In itself, that amount would be greatly beneficial if put to more constructive use. Furthermore, marijuana is already the #1 cash crop in the U.S., with annual sales of $32 billion. By establishing a regulated market, as suggested in Question 9, our society as a whole would reap the benefits.

Since the genesis of the U.S., this has been understood, as in 1619, one of the first laws passed in the "New World" required farmers in Jamestown to grow cannabis, for the production of hemp was deemed "necessary for the wealth and protection of the country." Unlike marijuana, hemp contains practically no delta-0-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical constituent in marijuana. While marijuana tends to have about 15% (or less) THC, hemp usually holds no more than 0.3%.

History had already expressed the incredible advantages of hemp, as its can be used in everything from textiles, paper, paints, plastics and clothing, to fuel, cosmetics, cooking oil, and detergents. It also yields a crop that is not only plentiful, but also fairly simple to maintain. It can grow just about anywhere, and according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), "hemp provides an excellent rotation crop for traditional crops to avoid the outbreaks of insect and disease problems?hemp rebuilds and conditions soil by replacing organic matter and providing aeration through its extensive root system." Even after it was banned in 1937, the U.S. Government partially lifted the prohibition in 1942, as World War II brought a shortage of imported materials to this land. For 15 years, the government even funded hemp cultivation, but once the War ended, so did this spree.

Even so, Americans were reminded of how useful hemp truly is, and in turn began to buy it from other countries across the globe. Now, according to the USDA, Americans import more than 2 million pounds of raw hemp fiber each year. In its evaluation released in January 2000, the USDA explained "assuming a potential U.S. yield of 1,550 pounds of fiber per acre and using linen yarn and fabric conversions factors, the estimated import quantity of hemp, fiber, yarn, and fabric in 1999 could have been produced on less than 2,000 acres of land. Given the average size of farms in the United States (near 500 acres), just a few farms could have supplied the hemp fiber equivalent of 1999 import levels."

Considering the growing demand in the U.S. for hemp, along with the dwindling of American farms, it?s no surprise that the American Farm Bureau has joined the other voices screaming across the nation for an end to this oppressive and unjust embargo. Also among those cries are those of America?s sick and dying, who have found relief from their various ailments through cannabis.

As more time passes, the proof solidifies on the medicinal benefits of marijuana, and extensive research on THC has revealed a myriad of groundbreaking results. In 1974, researchers at the Medical College of Virginia concluded that THC slowed the growth of lung and breast cancer, and this study has been reinforced several times over. In February 2000, doctors in Madrid were able to destroy incurable brain tumors in rats by injecting them with THC. The July 2002 edition of the medical journal Blood reported that THC produced "programmed cell death" in different varieties of human leukemia, thereby destroying the cancerous cells, but leaving the other cells unharmed.

As of today, there is no officially sanctioned cure for leukemia, but victims of the cancer have for decades resorted to marijuana as an effective form of treatment. In speaking with those afflicted with the disease, we were told that marijuana "helps incredibly with nausea, and gives me a break from the day to day pain. It helps me sleep and relax as well." This particular acquaintance doesn?t use "conventional western medicines," adding that marijuana is "the only pain killer I use."

This evidence is not just based on some random account. In 1999, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) corroborated with the above experience, declaring that marijuana proved a useful "treatment of pain, particularly in instances where opiates are ineffective." Their report cited marijuana?s role in "pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting, and appetite stimulation." In 1997, the National Institute of Health also provided support for marijuana as "supportive care for cancer patients," and in 1998, the NAS found that THC works as a "potent antioxidant." The National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Institute Of Medicine (IOM) repeatedly provide data to support these findings.

It appeared that some ground was broken in 1985, when Marinol, a synthetic form of THC, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, while it has proved somewhat effective, it?s fairly expensive, and it does not work as well as natural marijuana. The IOM determined that THC is more quickly absorbed from marijuana smoke that oral preparation, and adverse side effects (which they say "are within the range of effects tolerated for other medications") are "generally more severe for oral THC than for smoked marijuana."

Unfortunately, Walters, in the legacy of Prohibition, continues to insist that no scientific data proves marijuana is effective as medicine, and therefore citizens who use it solely for that purpose must face the threat of prison. It isn?t enough that weed makes manic-depressives happy, curves chemo-patients' nausea, or reduces certain types of malignant tumors in size. It?s just plain Evil! Besides, it blew Fabian?s mind in the 1950?s anti-drug flick Mary Jane. We wouldn?t want people to lose their heads, now would we?

Thankfully, groups like the MPP have been stepping in over the past few years, defending these innocent bystanders from the fury of the government. As Mirken says, "the Drug War will not end overnight, but we should at least remove the sick and wounded from the battlefield."

Still, the lies and myths about the "dangerous and deleterious" controlled substance causing sterility, memory loss, inhibition of coordination, and cancer, continue unabated. Walters claims that "we know that marijuana is responsible for 20 percent of accidents on the road today," but an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed otherwise, adding that alcohol was by far the dominant problem in drug-related accidents. However, the oldest and most deplorable lie that Walters propagates is the moniker of "Gateway Drug," which says that marijuana leads to harder drugs. This is a completely unsubstantiated castigation, when the fact is that the only "gateway" relating to marijuana was established by the government itself, in 1972 with the Controlled Substance Act. In that document, marijuana (as well as THC, named separately) was listed under "Schedule I," the most restrictive level of the five therein. This is the same group that heroin is in, and therefore marijuana is designated as more dangerous than cocaine and methamphetamine.

Because of this absurd regulation, folks looking for a joint either have to grow it themselves, or seek a source within the black market. Those maneuvering outside of the law are by definition associated with those who engage in other illicit substances, and therefore it?s only a matter of time for someone to be introduced to narcotics.

Otherwise, if there is a "Gateway Drug," most doctors and scientists agree that it?s either nicotine or alcohol. In contrast, when the Dutch first legalized marijuana in the 70?s, heroin and cocaine use declined substantially. That apparently makes no difference to the Ogre of Prohibition, who has continued to lie to the American public about marijuana.

Yet another example of this is a television ad from the Partnership for Drug-Free America that aired in 1987. The commercial showed the brainwaves of a sober human, and then displayed what it claimed were those of a person with THC in their system. The graph was remarkably different than the first, showing hardly any brain activity at all. However, it turned out that the second demonstration was actually from a COMA PATIENT, and the ad was quickly pulled from the air.

It is to these unethical lengths that tyrants like Walters will go to keep cannabis illegal. Another ridiculous argument given to support Prohibition is that the criminals involved in dealing narcotics will be the ones to profit, should cannabis be legalized. On the other hand, just like the alcohol prohibition of the 1920?s showed, the likes of organize crime benefit only if the ban remains. It?s common sense that people would much rather buy marijuana at a store, rather than pay inflated prices for something of lesser value, all the while risking incarceration.

"I had gotten caught with a shopping bag full of weed, a shopping bag full of love -- I was in love with the weed and I did not for one minute think that anything was wrong with getting high. I had been getting high for four or five years and was convinced, with the zeal of a crusader, that marijuana was superior to lush -- yet the rulers of the land seemed all to be lushes. I could not see how they were more justified in drinking than I was in blowing the gage. I was a grasshopper, and it was natural that I felt myself to be unjustly imprisoned."

Black Panther Minister of Information Eldridge Cleaver said that. That was in June of 1965. Alas, nothing much has changed in the past 36 years or so. The grasshoppers are still belabored and reviled for their lifestyles, and marijuana remains illegal.

Amid all this chaos, Americans have started to stand up for what they believe in. Groups like NORML and MPP have organized people to fight the true scourge here: the corrupt denial of citizens? rights. More and more people are realizing that cannabis is not a detriment to society; rather, it would be a great benefit. If the bill in the "Fear and Loathing" state gets passed, it will surely mean a helluva baby step in the direction of national tolerance.

Even the religious community has come forward in support of Legalization. Referring to mandatory sentencing for drug offenders, Howard Hubbard, bishop of the Albany Roman Catholic diocese, declared that "history has proven this strategy fatally flawed," in a speech delivered at a news conference on May 10, 2002. Others, from Muslim to Jewish, spoke as well, calling on the federal government to reform their stance, one that subjects American citizen to the cruel environment found behind bars. Not long ago, an acquaintance was sentenced to a year in Nassau County for carrying two dimebags(!) in his wallet. First-time offender. No history of drug abuse. No tickets. No reputation. 365 days in lock-up.

Until victory has been gained, and Mary Jane has been freed from her captivity of Prohibition, the struggle must continue. It?s High time that cannabis proponents stop trying to cajole the stubborn and treacherous by way of futile stand-ins that put money in the pockets of the constabulary (for reasons of security), and just dump the facts on everybody responsible. Imagine the stand-still when these guttersnipes have to peruse documents stacked to the ceiling, and every American receives marijuana newsletters in the mail. Will those shoddy alki-philanderers in Congress think twice about repealing cannabis prohibition when every Tom, Dick, and Harry wants to know why the doctors couldn?t give their deceased loved ones the Kind Bud when they were atrophying from cancer or HIV?

"Well, if you could spend two million on a study for cancer-stricken rats in ?94, only to prove that you were wrong about large doses of THC producing cancer in those guinea pigs, then why couldn?t you afford to spring for my brother to smoke a little ganj for his stomach cancer?!"

Just think of all the stonewalling the gov?t would do to get out of that one. "Well, see ... those were rats. Your brother is a person. That explains it all ... " or does it? As the popular Fox TV series The X Files declared, "The Truth Is Out There."

It shouldn?t be too hard to procure a decriminalization amendment in the very least, once every patriotic Head from here to the once-great San Francisco comes forward with a handful of essays that corroborate what people like the MPP and NORML, along with the scientific and medical communities, have been saying for what seems like eons.

This article originally appeared on

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