Posted on | April 29, 2013 | No Comments
A week or two before the now annual 420 Rally in Toronto my good friend Matt Mernagh, rally organizer, asked me if I’d like to take five minutes on stage at Yonge & Dundas Square to speak. My first inclination was to say, “Thanks, but no thanks”. Stand in front of hundreds or thousands of people, with a huge booming sound system, and… talk? Knowing myself that sounds like merely an opportunity for embarrassment as I stammer and trip over my own tongue and words, if I’m lucky enough to keep my mind focused and my memory in-gear, that is.
Yet it only took a moment of reconsideration before I admitted it was an opportunity I couldn’t possibly allow to slip by. Not for the least of reasons being that I am an activist. The next question became my subject matter… Truth be told, if you sat me down one-on-one I feel I can carry on about cannabis and prohibition for hours quite easily, but knowing my memory would be playing games with me under the anxiety of being centre-stage, I decided I ought to attempt to pick a specific topic so as to make a coherent point in the time provided.
Many of the ideas that passed through my cranium that day may make for good blogs (if/when), but what I settled-on was attempting to introduce myself, and thereby the topic of Jack Herer. I haven’t seen a recording of my speech, but I know it was probably inadequate in one or both of those regards, so what the heck… here’s a different angle on my ‘introduction’ and how I came to know of Jack Herer:
In 1985 I was sixteen years old. I had my learner’s permit to drive a white 1967 Ford Fairlane that had been handed down from my brother. I was working part-time at the local theatre chain as an usher. I didn’t ‘fit-in’ at my high-school… after having done grades 4-8 at a small private school with ~100 students between K-8, I was plopped back into the public school system at San Rafael High School which had closer to 1500 students at the time… I was shell-shocked, and puberty only helped to highlight the ways in which I was different from everybody around me. Nevertheless, I did eventually find my way into a small group of friends, most of whom also were odd, in their own way.
Going to a public high school in the USA in the 80′s meant there were drugs everywhere. Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Alcohol, LSD, mushrooms, cannabis & tobacco were prevalent, and other drugs were here and there as well… I suppose being in Marin county it might have been a bit more extreme than some other places, but this wasn’t (isn’t) just a metropolitan issue – prohibition helps to make this an issue everywhere you might be.
Being a bit of an outcast, I didn’t have much concern about the social implications of experimenting with such substances, but I was also very keen to know the physical and mental implications before I did anything I might later wish I hadn’t… There is a history of substance abuse in my family, and I didn’t want to open doors I would come to regret opening, among other concerns. So, I did research.
When I decided to research cannabis, I found that Jack Herer had just published the first version of “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”. I read his book. [purchase and/or read the latest version here] It is described as the authoritative historical record of cannabis and the conspiracy against marijuana, and it is not a hollow boast. Once I’d read this book, I knew far more about cannabis than I’d expected to learn. To summarize, however, the most simple lesson was to learn to recognize the Reefer Madness propaganda that was being force-fed to us by the government and mega-corporations and that there was no real danger posed by cannabis.
Having learnt all of this, and bearing the knowledge that Jack’s book still had wet ink, I considered that prohibition must certainly soon come to an end…. after-all, the flower-children of the 60′s were now becoming the politicians and business leaders of the 80′s and 90′s and here was this newly published, clear and concise evidence that prohibition was done without evidence and for the purposes of racism and corporate greed; furthermore that hemp and cannabis are not only harmless but possibly the single most valuable resource to humanity. Well, thought I, this senseless prohibition will certain end soon.
That was nearly 30 years ago.
In that time, the ‘cannabis issue’ has certainly been evolving, but at a dreadful pace, frankly. There does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak; In 2012 the states of Colorado & Washington had popular referendums pass which mandated the legislature create a legal framework to allow for the cultivation and distribution of cannabis as a product for recreational use by adults. Don’t get me wrong, this is a HUGE step forward for the cannabis culture (and humanity, frankly) but allow me also to counsel rationality. Here are some facts: most people, in both Canada and the USA, think cannabis should be legalized for recreational use. At the same time, politicians remain reticent, if they will discuss the issue at all. The sad fact is that in our representative democracy “the people” have lost their representation to the interests of any players with deep pockets who can lobby the politicians and gain exclusive access to their ears and eyes.
Most or all of my readers are well-informed activists themselves, I presume, and therefore have a good understanding of the breadth of impact that prohibition has. Many other people, however, hear talk of cannabis and tune-out; their minds were made up long ago that ‘potheads are lazy’ and ‘so-called medical users just want to get high’. This marks some success of the prohibitionists, but the fact remains they do seem to be losing the war of public opinion.
What remains? Sadly, generations of the War on Drugs has left us with an industrial complex of prisons, law enforcement and bureaucrats whose livelihood depends on their continued ability to freely persecute people for a choice like cultivating or possessing cannabis. This need to feed off of the marginalized creates a cognitive dissonance within their minds; a pain that most will do their best to avoid and they do so by living in their little bubble where cannabis is bad and prison is appropriate. We need to pop these bubbles.
The final point I’d hoped to make with my speech is that while it does appear the war may soon end, we must remain vigilant. Look to gay-marriage as an example of a right that once won, battles must continue to wage, lest the right be stolen away once again. By my calculations, we’ll need 4-5 generations of freedom to wash 90% of the stigma and ignorance away. Please help me, and help yourself and all of humanity, by educating yourself about: cannabis & prohibition, then educate your family, friends and co-workers!
Thank you, again, Matt, for the fantastic opportunity to speak to the crowd you gathered for the 420 Toronto 2013 Rally!
Posted on | February 27, 2013 | No Comments
Currently, fear-mongers are having a good time getting people to listen to them by using the fear of “diversion”. Let me spell it out with an example:
I have a Health Canada Personal Use Production License to grow 30 cannabis plants indoors at my residence. If I were to trade, barter or sell my cannabis, this would be considered diversion – specifically, DIVERTing ostensibly dangerous controlled substances from known/approved channels (my cannabis, my use) to “the black market”. As a side-note, it’s even considered illegal diversion to trade, barter or sell my cannabis to other persons who are legal to grow and/or possess cannabis themselves.
So, the fact that I (and anyone else) can do this, is frightening to some power brokers. Never fear, however – they have a plan to solve that problem! Starting April Fools Day 2014 (proposed, as of this writing) my ability to grow cannabis for myself legally will be stripped from me. Then I won’t be able to divert any cannabis to the black market! Right?
Well, maybe not… perhaps this view is somewhat… myopic, yes? If we expand our view and try to picture a functional open-model system, what would happen with this dynamic shift?
Fact One: Costs Will Increase
Health Canada themselves have made it clear that their initial findings are that perhaps the most dramatic effect (aside from stripping people of their right to care for themselves) will be an increase in the cost of cannabis; let me be clear, we’re not talking about 2%, 5% or even 10 or 15% rise here… their figures show a minimum four-fold increase in cost in only a few short years.
Fact Two: The Users Are Already Broke
Canada has a pathetic adoption-pace for medicinal cannabis… less than 1 in 1000 Canadians are recognized by Health Canada to possess cannabis legally, while other parts of North America with medicinal access seem to be more in the ballpark of 15/1000 medicinal cannabis users. 20 times as much saturation. While there is a strong case that Canadian doctors, by and large, boycott the MMAP (and it’s step-children) there are still nearly 25,000 Canadians in the program; who are these people? Well, you have to basically be on your death-bed to get a ‘prescription’ for it, so many of these people are living on government assistance, unable to maintain gainful employment.
Conclusion: Diversion Will Increase
I’ll be frank with you. At my current dispensaries (illegal cannabis for-profit ‘non-profit co-ops’, because Health Canada refuses to legitimize Compassion Clubs) the cost for dried cannabis flowers (i.e. marijuana) is typically more than $10/gram. Anyone who thinks that prices 3-5 years from now will be lower than this under the new system need to re-evaluate their position, in my humble opinion. I expect the metro prices to be about $15/gram and rural to go up to double that. I hope I’m wrong, but moreso I hope we never have to learn the truth of that potential future. Still, I’ll give the nay-sayers the benefit of a doubt and use the numbers from Health Canada themselves, proposing that I’m likely to be paying $8.80/gram in the not too distant future.
If I crunch the numbers, that means that to fill my current (and inadequate*) prescription under the new system it would cost me in excess of $1600 each month just for dried herb. How can I possibly pay for that? I’m already in-debt from having a mid-life health-collapse and presently see no potential for full gainful employment… even if they take away my therapeutic garden (yes, it would free me the time I used to garden, but it would simultaneously strip me of that essential healing work of tending to my medicine: a net loss in my ability to be productive).
At the end of 2013 I calculate I will have spent approximately 500 hours (a 1/4 time job) and $4000.00 producing my medicine while directly benefiting from the task. At the end of 2014 I can reasonably expect to have spent $20,000.00, or five times as much if I should require the same amount of cannabis.
Essentially, there will be some black market shuffling, because where there is a market a product will find it. With fewer diversions from legal grows (assuming the accuracy of the assertions of Health Canada, which is taking a leap of faith, if you ask me) then the black market will discover the resource becomes more and more scarce. This is, after-all, exactly the intention of these changes. Well, in most markets of scarcity, you see prices rise. Just sayin’. Now, to bring it all together:
A Civics Lesson: Laissez-Faire capitalism is something that literally everybody participates in. If I have a need I can’t fulfill for myself, I find somebody who can provide me those goods or services. If I need cash because the only way for me to get my medicine is from multi-national corporations (and they’re not known for accepting barter and trade, due to complexity and cost-overhead, I presume…. they hardly ever let anything stop them from making a buck, right?) but I lack the ability to earn cash through traditional means, then I’m likely to find an un-traditional means of gaining the funds I need to keep myself alive [no, this is not hyperbole - for many medicinal cannabis patients it literally keeps us alive].
I expect all of my readers are on the same page as me by now, so let’s say it together, shall we? I just might consider diverting some of my prescription to that ever-ripening black market so that I can afford to pay for some to use myself.
It’s as plain as day, really. If you aren’t wearing blinkers then you already can see that there is a massive problem in this country with diversion of prescription drugs into the black market. Is this problem caused by medical patients who grow their own Oxycontin and Percocet at home? Obviously, no. If you really open your eyes, you can see that the problem is rooted in the fact that most people who are seriously ill don’t tend to have a lot of money… but money is vital in our society. So, the sick person sells their pain meds to help pay for their pain meds, or maybe just to help pay the rent or put food on the table.
Honestly, I have trouble taking a person to task for an act like that; For those who would, well, I’m biting my tongue…. it’s the result of the system we live in that it’s easier to hate the individuals than the institutions – ironic really, because you can’t force people to change but you can force institutions to change; we seem to have misaligned priorities.
[*The doctor who finally signed me insisted that if anyone is using more than 5g/day "then they are using the wrong strain"; still she fill-out my forms for 6 grams a day. Because the quality of this natural product varies, however, measuring use in grams is almost entirely arbitrary. If I were forced to give a number for what I think I need each day (which varies, obviously) I might be inclined to say something more like "15 grams" because it would give me access to enough raw cannabis to use for non-psychoactive juicing and other health benefits; as it stands, I'm forced to ration my intake - only using enough to relieve symptoms just enough to get through the day, but not enough to get back on-track to genuine health.]keep looking »