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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Chuck Ream's Cuttings from Cannabis Classics: POT, A Handbook of Marijuana, by John Rosevear (1967)

  I have finished reviewing books that I consider the top “classics” about cannabis, but I’ll continue to review “almost classics” and new books until my editor “gongs me off”. This month’s review looks back to the momentous year of 1967, when the “summer of love” changed the world, and I finally found pot and sex. At that time “the movement” consisted of LEMAR (Legalize Marijuana), a few issues of the “Marijuana Review” - and Ed Sanders and Allen Ginsberg. 

        I was privileged to meet Mr. Rosevear. He is a member of the Ann Arbor Medical Marijuana Licensing Committee, which has tentatively awarded 10 dispensary licenses in Ann Arbor. He gave me his “POT” book; a blast from the past. Mr. Rosevear is an erudite, proper, outgoing gentleman. He stops smoking after a couple of tokes, and wonders why I don’t. His interests run from high tech to low: he has invented the “Skyclock” “ap” for the i-phone (which tells you when the sun will rise and set from anyplace on the earth). He makes “wind chimes” from a glittering variety of strings and threads, “so they don’t make that irritating noise”.
    When the new age began (January 14, 1967 – the Human Be In) lots of people fell in love with pot but knew little about it. Rosevear and his small book shed light into the darkness, but he “does not pretend to be impartial”. Throughout the book he sprinkles phrases of praise to the herb that seem to have come from ancient Chinese, Indian, Persian, or Arabic sources, like “heavenly guide”, “soother of grief”, “magic carpet”, and “poor man’s heaven”.  His own excellent descriptor of the pot experience is “fun-fulfilling”. The author shows that so much cannabis has been consumed for so long that “if the danger were true, then surely some catastrophe would have taken place long ago”. 

    “Marijuana is able to chase away a dreary winter day”, says Rosevear, “and so may be utilized as an ‘escape’ from boredom”.  Since an experienced user can function almost flawlessly he finds that “marijuana is hardly a restriction – but rather a companion”. He comments on the “mysterious safety valve” in marijuana users. Most pot smoking is not “abuse”, since pot smokers quit when they reach their “groove”. Potheads don’t get to the stage where they have to “blot out reality” or fall down.

     The effect of pot on sex cuts both ways. On one hand sex is better than ever and it is easier to get in the mood. “The five senses are more efficient” and “the smoker uses them to his pleasurable advantage”.  There is “no change in libido” caused by pot, but there is a lowering of inhibitions. Touch feels luxurious. “Ancient lore in China and India strongly recommends hemp to restore and invigorate sexual power, and in houses of ill repute hemp products are used”. It is hard for me to imagine sex without pot; they are a natural path to the most ecstasy you can get without hurting yourself.  

    Others “use hemp to help them suppress their sexual desires” like the impoverished wandering holy men (sadhu’s) of India. The French intellectuals in the “Hashish Club” ate so much hash they claimed they could not be erotically aroused if Venus and Aphrodite appeared before them. 

    Rosevear and his sources seek to exhaust superlatives in explaining that “being high is simply grand”, and “makes life seem terribly good”.  It is “one of the most pleasant sensations available”, “every day is Saturday. It is to be like a child; to look into the gates of Paradise; to completely enjoy whatever you might be doing; to smile so long and hard that your jaw muscles get tired”.

    Early reports of cannabis use had to do with medical, spiritual, or hedonistic effects. The connection between cannabis and crime didn’t happen until around the 9th century with stories of the religious leader Hassan-I Sabbah. His effective assassins were without fear, reputedly using hashish to “fortify themselves for murder”. 

     I was struck by the duplicity of prohibitionist Harry Anslinger. In 1937 he was asked if marijuana use leads to heroin. He replied “No Sir, I have not heard of a case of that kind”, “the marijuana addict does not go in that direction”. Asked again in 1955 he emphasized “That is the great problem…” 

    Fear was so pervasive in 1967 that “the practice of driving across town to purchase rolling papers is not unusual”. Every night, before sleep, I would hide my stash in the garage.  

    Still, Rosevear thought, “What a unique and wonderful thing” it would be “if smokers were to plant their own!” He grew some lovely tall plants beside his garage, and got busted.

     “It would be sensible”, wrote the author, to regulate and tax.

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