Since November, I’ve had some issues turning in this column every week. It’s not writer’s block, nor is it because there isn’t anything happening in the world of cannabis. In fact, most weeks I get more daily press releases and updates about new cannabis products, events, legislative activity, and research than I can keep track of.
No, it’s based more on feelings that many of you may share—that things in this country are on a very bad path for many of our neighbors and friends, and it makes writing about cannabis feel somewhat... futile. Example? Reading about heartbreaking ICE raids and subsequent deportation of DREAMers, and then trying to muster excitement over reviewing a new strain.
This has led me to think about the role cannabis has historically played in the resistance, and what it may be able to do as we move forward.
(First: Let’s agree that while consuming cannabis has been an anti-establishment action for years, it needs to be paired with action. So doing dab hits while pontificating “how things need to change, man, like, seriously” while not taking any action other than prepping your next dab is about as radical and revolutionary as stuffing your face with Arby’s. And no, taking action does not include posting “sign this petition!” on Facebook, or commenting with a :( on something upsetting you read. The revolution will not be televised, nor will it be live-streamed. To quote the Godfather of Soul, “Get up, get into it, get involved.”)
With some exceptions, conservatives have always hated cannabis. You can trace it back to racist human tire-fire Harry Anslinger, who made minorities’ use of cannabis his rallying cry to move America to criminalize it in the 1930s by hysterically insisting that smoking pot would lead to rape and worse.
Once those seeds of fear were sown, they grew up big and strong. Nixon stated on a 1971 White House recording, “On the marijuana thing, I have very strong convictions.... because of the people that are, frankly, promoting it. They’re not good people.”
This wasn’t a one-off comment. Nixon’s Domestic Affairs Advisor John Ehrlichman told Harper’s writer Dan Baum in 1994, “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and Black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Flash forward through the “Just Say No” years, when legislation was introduced that could land a cannabis growers and dealers life in prison without parole, to April 2016, when our future Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated during a Senate hearing, “This drug is dangerous, you cannot play with it, it is not funny, it’s not something to laugh about... and [law makers need] to send that message with clarity that good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
Except they do, and that’s where we need to step up. Here are some ideas:
• Grow your own? Give your extra to cannabis processors who can turn it into cannabis oil for the sick and dying. Replacing expensive and harmful pharmaceuticals with a plant anyone can grow enrages the right.
• If you don’t grow your own, buy through the dispensary system. The taxes help our neighbors and establish a measurable baseline of users and potential revenue. Demonstrating that cannabis consumers are an economic force could help us stave off changes in recreational cannabis laws.
• Sell cannabis? Choose an organization that’s under attack (e.g., Planned Parenthood) and chose a time frame to donate a portion of your profits or raise awareness among your customers.
• In the cannabis industry? Support a local nonprofit and make it clear than the money came from cannabis.
• News got you down? You know what’s good for that? Yup.
These are but small pieces of the resistance puzzle. They won’t solve all our problems, but they’re a start.