Thursday, September 3, 2015
The Height of Folly - by Citizen Jay Daily
It is a true scourge on our society. One that has plagued our cities for decades bequeathing death and destruction in its wake. Its association with what we’re trying to do with Cannabis is really hurting our movement. And it’s got to stop.
You know what I’m talking about: Synthetic Marijuana. The very name itself is an oxymoron. It’s also downright offensive.
Throughout the course of my dealings with the public, whether it’s through my writing, or videos, or any media—including simply talking to my peeps—I try to keep the term “marijuana” from my lips. I even dislike the term “medical marijuana.” We all know that the word “marijuana” was coopted by racist prohibitionists who would use our very language and culture to spread hate and fear; even taking it to the subliminal level, mining societal concern as coin for their corrupt rancor.
But that’s just the half of it. Because when you pair the term “synthetic” with what is reportedly the most useful naturally occurring substance known to humankind, you denigrate the meaning of the very thing itself. BOOM. DONE. That should suffice to end the argument on synthetic marijuana. I guess this piece is over…
If only it were so simple. People buy and use synthetic marijuana in those places where Cannabis is still forbidden. They are fooled by silly graphics and whispered promises on the street that the “incense” in that funky little package will get them “high.” Despite the clear warning labels admitting that the product is strictly NOT safe for human consumption, unsuspecting dupes purchase and smoke the stuff every day all over the USA.
You’d think that the newfound availability of quality Cannabis since several states have created retail markets would curtail the incidence of synthetic marijuana poisoning. To the contrary, 2015 has seen three times the amount of death from this scourge along with a 229% increase in poison control center phone calls related to its use across the country. Perhaps what we’re seeing is the result of jealousy? Maybe those people in prohibition territories wish so hard for access to the real thing that they’d risk their very lives for even a semblance of what Cannabis can offer? I dunno.
That the prohibition model is failed policy I’m pretty sure we can all agree. Especially when it leads to the development of something much worse that the very thing we’re attempting to be rid of in the first place. Synthetic marijuana was created by people looking to design a molecule similar to THC—the psychoactive wonder substance found in Cannabis. They wished to mimic the high associated with Cannabis and figured it was merely a matter of putting the right elements into the right order. Hubris, to say the least to figure something as complex and as divinely intricate as Cannabis could be reduced to a simple reproducible chemical formula.
But really that’s not the point. Think about it. These products have been on the market since at least the 1980s if not before. “Designer Drugs” with names like K2, Spice, and Black Mamba…their formulas constantly changing to skirt the laws. The people that make this stuff KNOW its poison. They KNOW the risk their product poses to the public. Hell, even with new laws specifically designed to prevent its import, the manufacturers simply tweak their formulas to evade them. The point is, they KNOW their products are killing people and they just don’t care. (You could maybe say the same for tobacco producers, eh?) This is ANATHEMA to the Cannabis Movement, whose members almost without exception lean towards kindness and a genuine concern for our fellow human beings.
I’d like to see synthetic marijuana just go away. In Colorado, there hasn’t been a death from this stuff since before Cannabis was made legal to the adult market. The last? In 2013, a young man bought a package of “Mr. Smiley” from a gas station convenience store in Colorado Springs—which I might add to this day does not allow recreational sales of Cannabis. The man died as a result of his mistake, and a lawsuit has since ensued. But that seems to be just about the last we’ve heard of synthetic marijuana in Colorado. 2014 saw Colorado law enforcement repeatedly bust convenience stores for selling designer drugs—forcing them to retreat from the product. This year, a U.S. District judge in Denver sentenced a man accused of “spice” distribution to FIVE whole years in federal prison—FIVE WHOLE YEARS! Imagine how many more years the man would have received had he been accused of distributing actual Cannabis…. Irony at its best: grow a non-toxic plant that can literally save the world? Life in prison. Spray poison on highway grass and sell it to unsuspecting dupes who are subsequently maimed and/or killed? Eh, five years ought to do… Absolutely boggles the mind.
You see, this is where synthetic marijuana is really hurting our movement. It’s the association of designer drugs with Cannabis. The two could not be more removed from each other except in the minds of the uniformed public. Over the course of the last 80 years or so, we have been made to believe that Cannabis is ruinous. False comparisons have been used like this before. Many people, for example, think the term “loco weed” refers to Cannabis. This conflation was purposefully perpetrated on the unsuspecting public by Henry Anslinger and his band of nasty corporate cohorts who originally contrived of Cannabis prohibition as a way to line their own pockets at the expense of us all. “Loco Weed” is actually a slang term for Jimson weed (sp. Datura stramonium), also known as “Devil’s Snare” or “Devil’s Weed.” It’s a flowering plant from the nightshade family that occurs ubiquitously across the Southwest and Mesoamerica. And it can seriously fuck you up. While it has been traditionally used as medicine to treat the symptoms of asthma and as an analgesic during medical procedures, it is the very same chemicals that give this plant its medicinal properties that can very easily kill as well. A useful conflation when you’re trying to scare the mainstream into compliance with a false narrative. But we all know that Cannabis has never killed anyone.
In much the same way, today’s prohibitionists would see the term “synthetic marijuana” be used to much the same effect. They know that in the mind of the uninformed public there is no real distinction between the two. “Synthetic Marijuana” and “Natural Marijuana” may as well be the same thing because they’re both “marijuana,” right? That’s the psychology underlying the public relations campaign—an appeal to the assumed (i.e., hegemony).
If we want Cannabis prohibition to end, we’ve got to start at the most basic level. Where our language meets our actions—this is culture. For the last almost century, our prohibition-culture has propagated a hatred for all things marijuana. It even went so far as the removal Cannabis from the American Medical Association’s Pharmacopeia in 1942 after it had spent almost 100 years listed in the publication as “Extractum Cannabis- Extract of Hemp—an alcoholic extract of the dried tops of Cannabis sativa-variety Indica.” The United States Pharmacopeia is the official document that sets public standards and authority for all prescription and over-the-counter medicines to be sold in the United States. Prior to 1942, it listed Cannabis as treatment for many conditions, including: neuralgia, tetanus, typhus, cholera, rabies, dysentery, alcoholism, opiate addiction, anthrax, leprosy, incontinence, gout, convulsive disorders, tonsillitis, insanity, and excessive menstrual cramps to name but a few. Some of the things on this list we’re still fighting hard to recognize as treatable with Cannabis therapy today—namely “harm reduction” programs tailored toward ending opiate/alcohol addiction and the use of Cannabis oil to treat epilepsy. We’ve literally had to relearn medical science that has since been lost to us (no, taken from us) on purpose.
Will ending Cannabis prohibition end the plague of destruction created by synthetic means? It’s very likely. People will keep searching for the “high” that comes with Cannabis use. In its natural state it can’t be beat. It’s unique, wonderful, and frankly more “human” than we give it credit for. It’s simple: Cannabis has been a part of human development from the very beginning as evidenced by our own internal endocannabinoid systems. If you’re a scientist, the very existence of the endocannabinoid system tells you Cannabis coevolved with humanity; if you’re a religionist, the same tells you that God put it here for us. To think that we could create something so divine by synthetic means is simply the height of folly.