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Thursday, June 1, 2017

Free The Weed 74 - by John Sinclair


     Looking through some pages of the old Fifth Estate newspaper on-line the other day, I was reminded that the War on Drugs celebrated its 50th birthday on May 25. On that day in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a treaty known as the Single Convention, ratified by the U.S. Senate with virtually no opposition during hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

     The Single Convention bound all signatory nations to prevent the legalization of recreational drugs, prominently including marijuana, and provided for extradition for crimes involving marijuana. The treaty was ratified by all nations except China, North Vietnam, East Germany, and North Korea, where they had their own bizarre and draconic concepts about what to do with marijuana smokers.

     Fifty years later we’re still fighting against the Single Drug Convention of 1967, although its drastic parameters have long been stretched by the “gray-area” policy of the Netherlands that allows citizens and visitors to purchase recreational marijuana over the counter in what are called cogffeeshops and smoke it pretty much wherever they want.

     Portugal has removed the legal hammer from against the heads of local weed smokers and recreational drug users in general, Spain is removing its strictures against marijuana use, and Barcelona is now reputed to be the home of more than 250 public marijuana smoking establishments.

     In South America, Uruguay has legalized weed and soon the government itself will grow and dispense marijuana through licensed dispensaries at a fixed rate of approximately $1 per gram. Mexico is changing its disastrous course and

permitting marijuana use, and other Central and South American nations are coming around to a more rational course of action with regard to marijuana use, cultivation and distribution.

     All of this action is basically in defiance of the vaunted Single Convention, so later for this disgusting, trumped-up instrument of international bullyism. It’s already lost its force in its country of origin where citizens in state after state have vividly defied this piece of dictatorial horseshit by voting again and again to legalize first medical marijuana use and now recreational use for all adult smokers.

     The marijuana legalization movement represents one of the last vestiges of actual, direct democracy that exists in our troubled nation. Despite the Single Convention and the federal drug laws that continue to classify marijuana as a dangerous drug equal in destructive potential to heroin and cocaine, and despite the fact that not a single state has legalized marijuana in the normal way—by passing bills in the state legislature—a majority of voters in almost half of the united states has moved on its own initiative first to place the issue on the state-wide ballot and then to amass enough votes to pass the initiatives and thwart the former marijuana laws and the goons who enforce them.

     The lone exception is the state of Vermont, where the legislature in 2017 has passed a marijuana legalization bill but the governor has just refused to sign it. In Michigan the legislature has responded, eight years later, to the legalization of medical marijuana by initiative in 2008 by passing restrictive statutes designed to put into place a vast new state bureaucracy charged with tracking every seed of marijuana sold in the state through every phase of its journey from the seed store to the consumer.

     Now, the great thing about marijuana decriminalization is that it takes away from the vast police state law enforcement apparatus the power to harass, persecute and prosecute marijuana smokers, if only those who are medical marijuana patients registered with the appropriate state regulatory agency. This in turn should result in a huge reduction in the number of police and law enforcement personnel previously charged with punishing the smoker. At least they’ll be replaced by unarmed pencil-pushing coppers kept out of trouble by tracing the course of seed after seed through the marijuana growing, distribution, retail sales and consumption cycle. 

     As one of the first people in the state of Michigan to call for the legalization of marijuana, I’ve witnessed a lot of changes in the marijuana laws and helped bring about some of them myself.

     Fifty years ago, when I joined the tiny national movement to legalize marijuana spearheaded by the poets Allen Ginsberg and Edward Sanders, weed was classified as a narcotic drug in Michigan with prison sentences of 10 years for possession and 20-to-life for sales or distribution.
     Three times between 1964 and 1967 I faced charges of sales of narcotics as a result of supplying small amounts of weed to friends who got in trouble with the law or were undercover police officers themselves. Twice I escaped the 20-year mandatory minimum sentence for sales of marijuana by pleading guilty to the lesser charge of possession—with a maximum possible 10-year sentence—and accepting probationary sentences in Detroit Recorders Court.

     Charged a third time with Violation of State Narcotics Laws-Sales of Marijuana for giving away two joints to an undercover policewoman, and once again facing a possible mandatory 20-year prison sentence, I decided to challenge the constitutionality of the Michigan marijuana laws and fought for five years—including 29 months in prison—until the Michigan Supreme Court accepted my argument that marijuana is not a narcotic and threw out the state law in March 1972.

     Now, as we tremble on the precipice of full legalization at last, I say all this once again to remind us of how far we’ve come in the last 50 years. Here in Michigan the national organization called Marijuana Policy Project and the statewide coalition called MILegalize have teamed up to bring the question to its ultimate test.

     Operating under the strange rubric Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which also includes the ACLU of Michigan, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Patients Rights Association, Michigan NORML, the Michigan Cannabis Coalition, and the State Bar of Michigan Marijuana Law Section, the Coalition drafted petition language that has been approved by the Board of State Canvassers and means that if the CRMLA can gather 252,523 valid signatures in a six-month period, the question will be posed on the 2018 November ballot for voters to decide.

     Larry Gabriel summed up the initiative quite succinctly in a recent Metro Times column: {1] Legalize possession, cultivation, and use of marijuana for adults; [2] Legalize growing industrial hemp; [3] License businesses to grow, process, test, transport, and sell marijuana; [4] Call for testing and safety regulations for retail sales; and [5] Set up a 10 percent excise tax and six percent sales tax for education, roads, and local governments.

     I can’t help but agree, but for the life of me I can’t figure out where they got that name, one I’ve never heard before in Michigan before 2017. Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol? Why? Marijuana is nothing like alcohol and needs no stringent regulation whatsoever. What do you have to do to grow, sell, and consume carrots or apples? Are cabbages traced from seed to table?

     Well, I’m not going to quibble: I want marijuana legalized in Michigan. I’ve worked for this result all my adult life, I’ve sacrificed for it, written reams of propaganda in its behalf, traveled from coast to coast to espouse marijuana legalization, and I’m with the current effort all the way to ultimate success in November of next year. Let’s keep it nice and simple: Free The Weed!

—Amsterdam
May 25, 2017

© 2017 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.

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