Pot. Grass. Weed. Herb. Marijuana. Don't act like you've never heard of it, because you know you have. Whether it be because you smoke it, sell it, grow it, hate it, were LIED by the government, television and schools about it, or because you saw a Cheech and Chong at your friend's house once, you know that pot exists.

And it's HORRIBLE! Absolutely terrifying! Isn't it?

Let me just say blatantly: FUCK NO.

But it's a dangerous drug, isn't it?

But it kills brain cells, doesn't it?

But it permanently damages your memory, doesn't it?

But it's a gateway substance to harder drugs, isn't it?

Then if all these things aren't true, why is it still illegal?
I am fully prepared to answer that...

For those of you who are among my generation, born in the 80's, you may think marijuana was not popular or wasn't even recognized until the 60's. Very wrong. Cannabis usage dates back to over 5000 years ago. Oh yeah, that's right, Jesus may have been a pothead. Explorers from Europe to the New World were ORDERED to grow cannabis, mainly because of the hemp fiber. We'll get into hemp vs. marijuana later in this essay. Right now, let me educate you on how pot became illegal in the first place...

It all started with one man. This man was William Randolph Hearst. Allow me to quote a good friend of mine, Mike, about Mr. Hearst:

Who is William Randolph Hearst? Mr. Hearst was a publishing tycoon and the chief culprit in the battle to ban hemp. Hearst was the father of "yellow journalism," a practice that used reporting techniques from sensationalism all the way to outright lying. He was also a well-documented racist, using his chain of papers to aggravate racial tensions and push his issues and opinions. Hearst also owned vast amounts of timberland, which he used to control the paper trade. The industry had been using wood pulp processes up to that time, but hemp's emergence promised to reduce the value of Hearst's assets almost overnight. Something had to be done.

Hearst used his chain of papers to fan a flame of rhetoric. He started running headlines with horrifying stories of rape and murder by "negroes, mexicans and orientals" who were supposedly under the influence of the terrible drug "marihuana".''MARIHUANA MAKES FIENDS OF BOYS IN 30 DAYS: HASHEESH GOADS USERSTO BLOODLUST,'' read a typical Hearst headline. According to a Hearst editorial: ''The marihuana cigarette is one of the most INSIDIOUS of all forms of dope, largely because of the failure of the public to understand its fatal qualities. The nation is almost defenseless against it, having no Federal laws to cope with it and virtually no organized campaign for combating it.'' Hearst used the term marihuana, an obscure slang name, so that people would not make the connection to Cannabis, which was one of the most popular prescribed medicines at the time. This term was also used to make the plant sound more ethnic and mysterious, and was also an insight to Hearst's racist undertones. Today, these headlines would look silly and made-up, but in 1936, they seemed all too real and frightening to a nation who was still undereducated on such matters.

Hearst's newspapers were not nearly powerful enough to create the amount of hysteria needed to ban hemp. He needed someone inside the government to help. He found his man in Harry Anslinger. Anslinger was the head of the recently formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the predecessor to the D.E.A. His uncle also happened to be Andrew Mellon, the current Secretary of the Treasury and one of the richest men in America. Mellon owned Mellon Bank, which was the chief backer of the DuPont petrochemical business, a company that had patents on a wide range of processes for making paper and plastics from wood pulp and petroleum. Mellon used his influence to get his nephew his position, and used him to influence public opinion regarding hemp.

Anslinger testified to Congress in 1937, warning, "Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug known to Mankind," (By the way, I have so far not yet met one person high that has tried to beat me up) backing his claims with cuttings from Hearst's since-discredited newspaper stories. He described it as a Jeckyll and Hyde personality capable of inducing criminal behavior if ingested. The specific reason given by Anslinger for the outlawing of the hemp plant was its supposed violent "effect on the degenerate races."

Now, what did the American Medical Association have to say about all of this? The only legitimate medical testimony came from a man named Dr. William C. Woodward. Dr. Woodward was a lawyer, doctor and the Chief Counsel to the A.M.A.. Dr. Woodward came to testify on behalf of the American Medical Association saying, "The American Medical Association knows of no evidence that marihuana is a dangerous drug." The Congressman's reply: "Doctor, if you can't say something good about what we are trying to do, why don't you go home?". The next Congressman followed by saying, "Doctor, if you haven't got something better to say than that, we are sick of hearing you." If any of this happened today in our modern society, we would obviously see right through all this as a stupid witch hunt, but I guess they didn't have C-SPAN in the 30's. I guess that's the same reason McCarthyism came around 20 years later.

Shortly thereafter, Congress passed the 1937 Marihuana Transfer Tax Act, which imposed restrictions on medical and industrial use, and made the flowering tops of the plant a narcotic subject to strict control. It also made the rate equal to its selling price--a dollar an ounce at the time--and required all hemp farmers to register with the government.This made growing hemp economically unfeasible and forced farmers to cancel their crop plans. Hearst had won.

This Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 eventually, and quickly, evolved into an all-out ban on the product. Propaganda was spread to this very day, condemning the usage of marijuana at all costs. Throughout the 60's and 70's, laws on marijuana became stricter and stricter. This is a strategy I call "tightening the belt". The federal government assumes that if the laws are made harder, less people will break them. This may be true, but considering millions break these laws every DAY, it proves that marijuana prohibition was never meant to be.

During Nixon's presidency, good ol' Dick himself declared a "War on Drugs". Yeah! Hooray for Nixon! However, there was a problem...
Marijuana was the primary target.
Drugs ran rampant through the 60's and 70's anyway. No law could be placed on them that could stop it. But, with Nixon's scandal and resignation, his War on Drugs didn't last very long. Or so it seemed.

Next president on the scene was Jimmy Carter, who admitted he was in favor of lightening up marijuana crimes. Good for you Jimmy! Unfortunately, Mr. Carter could not singlehandedly change a law, he'd have to go through the Congress machine in order to. Marijuana decriminalization was also, to the nation's disadvantage, not his top priority.

The 70's had ended. The disco's were disappearing. Drugs weren't going anywhere. However, a washed-up actor by the name of Ronald Reagan took the coveted Presidency position in Washinton at the turn of the 80's decade. Ronnie decided it would be a benefit to the nation to resurrect Mr. Nixon's War On Drugs, and so it was done. With Nancy Reagan's "Just Say NO!" campaign to the government and organizations such as D.A.R.E. spreading false and misleading propaganda, marijuana was headed for trouble. Laws were made stricter and marijuana was made even more untouchable by our nation's leaders. Well, thanks a lot, Reagan. Because of you making marijuana possession/cultivation/manufacture an even harder felony, people were looking for a new way to get high. And crack/cocaine is born.

Throughout the Reagan and Bush administration, marijuana-related arrests were rising steadily. Whether you are for or against marijuana, you must recognize that this is not a favorable statistic. If you favor prohibition, you want arrests to go DOWN, which in your case would mean less and less people are dealing with pot. If you favor legalization, like myself, you want arrests to decline as well, which would mean the laws are lightening up and people are less and less being wrongfully arrested and incarcerated. But, even today, this is not the case. The Clinton Administration has arrested more marijuana-related citizens then any other president in United States history. It has got to stop.

The National Institute of Medicine released a report March of 1999, which had SOLID SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE that marijuana was indeed a MEDICINE. Not the horrendous drug it is sought out to be, but a human enhancing medicine. The positive effects and qualities far outnumbered any negative aspects of cannabis. It told how marijuana helped nausea, glaucoma, appetite disorders, anxiety, the AIDS wasting syndrome, insomnia and several other diseases in which other current treatments are either minimally effective or have high-risks, some of which can even be fatal. Proposition 215 of California allows medics to prescribe marijuana to patients who need it without persecution. We need more propositions like this one.
Actually, we need to decriminalize marijuana altogether.

I.O.M. report on medical marijuana

One of the greatest arguments is how marijuana is a gateway drug. Well, it is. But, it isn't...

Let me clear up, smoking pot does not make you want to move on to harder drugs. There's no chemical in pot that gives you a craving for heroin. Smoking marijuana does not give you the mindset that you need MORE drugs. There are 2 ways in which marijuana is considered a gateway:
1.) Pot is sold by drug dealers. Drug dealers have other drugs, much more dangerous drugs. Thus, the marijuana consumer has a more various selection. Hmmm...guess what we can do to stop this? That's right, LEGALIZE IT!
2.) Marijuana is preached to be very dangerous and harmful by organizations such as the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and D.A.R.E. When someone, especially in their teens, experiences marijuana for the first time they realize it's not bad, not bad at all. This creates a distrust for D.A.R.E. and such, because they told them pot was bad, but it really isn't. What else did they lie about? If they lied about pot, hey, I guess other drugs aren't that bad either! Yeah, nice job, D.A.R.E.

Another issue is hemp. Hemp is not marijuana, let me clear that up. Hemp is very efficient fiber that comes from the cannabis plant, and smoking or ingesting it will not get you high, unless you smoke a joint of hemp the size of a telephone pole. Frankly, I don't think anyone will be trying that soon. Marijuana is the flowering buds on top of the cannabis plant, which contain the most Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive chemical that makes one "high". But because of the cannabis plant in general being illegal, hemp is also illegal to cultivate. Hemp is a needed product for this nation and as long as marijuana stays illegal, hemp will be harder and harder to manufacture.

Here's some statistics for you:
An average of 640,000 marijuana-related arrests are made each year, 80% for simple possession.
Over $30 BILLION a year in tax dollars are wasted in keeping marijuana illegal, including cost of police resources, throwing marijuana "criminals" in jail, anti-marijuana organizations and several other expenses.
There are well over 20,000,000 smokers, dealers and cultivators in this nation right now.
The 2 biggest killers in this country right now are nicotine and alcohol. Wait, aren't they LEGAL?
More people die each year from getting hit in the head with a UFO tailpipe than smoking pot.

With this in mind, it only makes sense that marijuana should be legalized. It's slowly getting there, but we need your help. Who's we? People like me, who fight the War on Drugs, which is actually a War on Marijuana. Closet smokers, step on out! Contact your congressmen, vote, join rallies and protests, speak out against marijuana prohibition. Doctors? Scientists? Step on up and DEFEND marijuana! The government has no constitutional right to control what otherwise law-abiding citizens do in the privacy of their own home. Excluding marijuana, all illicit drugs should not be treated as a crime, but as a problem. Less jails and more help. Instead of wasting billions of dollars on keeping drugs illegal, let's put that money into helping people who have any sort of substance abuse problem. There's a difference between drug use and abuse. Even marijuana can be abused. Hell, Country Crock margarine can be abused.

Wake the fuck up, America...