Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, is Liberation Day in
. It marks the end of the brutal German occupation of The Netherlands during World War II, and the Dutch people celebrate their deliverance from the evil Nazi regime with festivals and gatherings throughout the country. Holland
Liberation Day is a jubilant affirmation of the inalienable human right to freedom and liberty and self-determination. And it keeps alive in the national consciousness the triumph of humanism and democracy over the insanely cruel system of oppression and exploitation imposed and enforced by Adolph Hitler and his psychotic Nazi regime. Liberation Day has big meaning for the Dutch people because they know what it was to be occupied and ruled by the Nazis. They know what freedom means because they were not free and then they were liberated. In turn, the
has helped pioneer the emergent European Union—now 27 member states including former bitter enemies in both World Wars and the Cold War as well—to try to prevent any further wars among themselves and secure enduring continental peace. Netherlands
The tiny nation’s experience with occupation and liberation seems also to have engendered an extraordinary spirit of tolerance and personal freedom amongst the populace. Dutch people tend to enjoy their freedom as individual citizens to live and comport themselves as they may wish as long as they are not harming others.
Professional sex activity is tolerated and even licensed and allowed to thrive in its own
district. Recreational drug users of every sort are not regarded as criminals, and possession of small amounts of one’s drug of choice is not regarded as a crime.
Most spectacularly, the Dutch allow free use of cannabis and provide for its retail sale over the counters of hundreds of licensed coffee shops around the country. There are nearly 250 operative coffeeshops in
itself, warmly and efficiently serving the cannabis-smoking community with top-quality Dutch-grown marijuana and imported hashish which may be smoked and enjoyed on the premises. Amsterdam
For an American, the situation in the
is as close to a condition of social freedom as one can imagine. In the Netherlands , cannabis users are legally defined as criminals and hounded and persecuted by the police all their lives as smokers. Citizens are subject to drug testing as a condition of steady employment or for the successful completion of a probationary sentence, and they live in constant fear of police raids on their homes and businesses and the incessant stops, searches and seizures of their personal stashes—even prescribed medical marijuana—when arrested in their cars or public places. United States
The burgeoning American police state has been built on the framework of the government’s 40-year War on Drugs, in which the preponderance of victims of the drug warriors are marijuana smokers. Hundreds of thousands of American pot smokers are incarcerated in federal and state prisons as we speak, but they represent only a mere fraction of the citizenry victimized by the police and courts simply for smoking marijuana.
A vast industry of punishment and social pain has been erected on the backs of American marijuana smokers. Legions of special narcotics police stalk the streets of our communities seeking to harass and arrest every marijuana user or supplier they can find. The arrestees are dragged before special drug courts and tried by special drug prosecutors in front of special drug judges armed with the most draconian set of drug laws imaginable.
Once convicted, usually following a guilty plea arranged by one of the thousands of lawyers who specialize in representinging drug law offenders, the smoker is fined, sentenced to a probationary term and ordered into a drug treatment. Their urine is assessed in drug testing labs and their conduct scrutinized by drug treatment professionals, drug probation officers and the ever-present drug police.
That’s a whole lot of people and facilities lined up against marijuana smokers and dedicated to our capture and punishment. Thousands and thousands and thousands of Americans are employed at taxpayers’ expense by the insane mechanism created by the War on Drugs, and this vast force of drug law enforcers prospers by delivering severe punishment to an entire national community of recreational—and even medicinal— marijuana smokers.
Since my release from prison as a marijuana law offender 40 years ago—and now as a licensed Medical Marijuana Patient in the State of Michigan—I’ve managed to avoid arrest while smoking quietly each day, but the shadow of the drug Gestapo is always hovering overhead no matter where you are. Carrying a small smoking stash in public or even toking in your home can bring serious grief if you’re apprehended, and the pothead lives in a continuous state of terror even if the police remain at bay.
Liberation for the marijuana smoker in
, sad to say, is not on the near horizon. The mammoth drug law enforcement industry built up around the War on Drugs channels billions of dollars each year to the worst segments of our society, and I’m afraid they’re so deeply entrenched that their overthrow will be particularly problematic. America
But liberation for the weedhead is real when one arrives in
. Purchasing and smoking cannabis is perfectly okay, and the police have no interest whatsoever in the individual smoker. All of a sudden one is no longer a criminal, and the veil of fear and trembling rises and floats away in the breeze. Life begins a new in liberated territory, and we are free to live our lives as marijuana smokers without fear at last. Amsterdam
Liberation from the Nazi oppressors, liberation from drug police terror—these are good things, and we will continue to celebrate them as long as we may live.