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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Free the Weed 71 - by John Sinclair

Highest greetings from Amsterdam at the end of January, where I’m now happily ensconced in the Sensi Seed guest apartment above the Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum and the Sensi Seed Bank in the Red Light District in the heart of the city. Ben Dronkers, the great visionary of the Sensi Seeds empire, and his compassionate staff have taken me in once again in an hour of need and, as always, I remain deeply appreciative of their most crucial support.

     Last month I was writing about my residency in 2016 at the Tariq Khan Studios in the Heesterveld Creative Community in the outlying Bijlmer district and reporting that we hoped to rent office space in the complex for the John Sinclair Foundation so we could base our operations and our radio station there. Unhappily the complex turned down our application and went ahead with its plan to end Tariq’s residency there after a seven-year occupancy.

     But another non-profit housing group reached out to us and offered to rent us a small office space in their building, Fenix Diemen, symbolically rising from the ashes in the neighboring community of Diemen just north and east from where we were, so now we’re enjoying our first month in our new location and continuing our work on organizing my foundation.

     The Foundation has now established a working board of directors with Steve “The Fly” Pratt as project director and Tariq Khan, Hank Botwinik, Christian Greer and Sidney Kuijer working together on our projects. Kai van Benthem has created a new unified website that we will launch soon, followed by the launch of our new Radio Free Amsterdam site and illustrated program guide. Soon come! And all of this has been made possible by the donations of our friends at my birthday party in Ann Arbor last October. Thanks a million!

     I also wrote last month about the early days of the cannabis coffeeshop culture in Amsterdam and then found this sad commentary in my daily DutchNews.nl news feed: “An Amsterdam cannabis coffeeshop which can trace its roots back to 1973 is scheduled to close because of city rules banning coffee shops from being within 250 metres of a school.

     “Mellow Yellow was first under threat because of a nearby secondary school but that has since closed. However, the hairdressers’ academy is 230 metres away and that too is a reason for closure even though most pupils are over 18, council officials say. Eleven coffee shops [in the vicinity] have already closed down and eight more will go in January.”

     Mellow Yellow first opened in a squatted bakery on the Weesperzijde. It was named after the Donovan song “Mellow Yellow” and was “code for the fact you could buy weed there,” founder Wernard Bruining told the Volkskrant newspaper. Bruining’s concept involved serving clients a cup of tea so they could then buy marijuana from the house dealer. Now, 44 years of continuous operation later, Mellow Yellow is suddenly a menace and must be closed down. What are these people smoking?

     And speaking of smoking, who knows what‘s going to happen in the new United States of Trumpville with its attorney general designate from hell…oops, I meant to say Alabama? A guy with such a finely tuned sense of humor that he joked, “I used to like the Ku Klux Klan until I found out they were smoking marijuana.” And, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.” We thought Bill
Schuette was a backwards blowhard and bully, but what about the new president and his vicious minions?

     While the citizens across the nation have spoken quite eloquently in support of marijuana use and availability, to the extent that 63% of Americans now live in states where they can get their medicine or even their kicks without interference from the authorities, the federal government continues to hold the hammer against our heads and may well decide to drop it. One thing is certain, as Richard Pryor used to say: “We Will See.”

     I wanted to throw in my own two cents’ worth of congratulations to the MMMR’s Man Of The Year for 2016, the great Michigan marijuana legalization activist Mr. Tim Beck, who led the way to medical marijuana in 2008 and spearheaded the subsequent drive to legalize marijuana in city after city across the state.

     The other heroes of the past year were the organizers of the MILegalize petition drive, who gathered over 300,000 signatures in support of a ballot measure purporting to legalize marijuana for any and all purposes.  Despite MILegalize’s strict adherence to the existing model for such initiatives and amassing of the required signatures within a 180-day time frame, the right-wing state legislature changed the rules in the middle of the campaign and declared half the MILegalize signatures invalid due to the new time constraints.

     MILegalize began immediately after election day to build momentum for a successful legalization campaign in 2018, raising money and support for next year’s drive without even pausing for a break. At the same time the powerful national legalization organization called the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) announced its interest in backing a 2018 initiative in Michigan and began a series of conversations with Michigan activists around the state.

    MMP drafted and bankrolled the citizens’ initiative legalizing medical marijuana in Michigan that passed with 62% of the popular vote in 2008. They’ve since stayed out of the Michigan wars while concentrating their support in other states where legalization has succeeded: Colorado in 2012; Alaska in 2014; and Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada in 2016. MPP also assisted on the winning California campaign in 2016.

     I’ve been privileged to be able to follow the dialogue between MILegalize and other Michigan activists with the MPP organizers through the postings on the Safer Michigan Coalition website curated by Tim Beck, and while it’s always thrilling to witness the democratic process unfolding in action in matters that concern oneself, there’s always the fear that—political coalitions being what they always are—there will be some sort of terrible communications breakdown over matters of relatively small importance and the issue may be lost despite the overwhelming support of the electorate for legalization on a statewide basis.

     As an advocate of marijuana legalization and a daily smoker all of my adult life, my constant prayer is for a complete and total end to marijuana criminalization in any form, easy access to our medicine at a reasonable price (or less!) wherever we may live, and freedom from police scrutiny in any form just because we smoke marijuana.

     This is not too much to ask after all these years of persecution and punishment of marijuana smokers as a matter of public policy. We can change this policy now, and we need all the help we can get. MILegalize founder Chuck Ream has called for the creation of a Unity Caucus to make sure everyone in Michigan’s activist community gets a fair hearing and subsequently agrees to a single conclusion in terms of language and goals of the proposed citizens’ legislation, and I think that’s a good idea.

Unity of Purpose! Unity of Commitment! Unity of Results: Free The Weed!
 
—Amsterdam
January 24-25, 2017
© 2017 The John Sinclair Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

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