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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Free the Weed 80 - by John Sinclair

     Highest greetings from Detroit, where I’m installed at Radio Free Amsterdam headquarters in the Cass Corridor right above the Carl Lundgren Art Studio for the fall, And, by the time you read this, I’ll be celebrating my 76th birthday, which is a lot of years on this wretched planet.

     Speaking of fall, I’m here recovering from a terrible spill I suffered last month in Amsterdam. A bike rammed into my back while I was walking down the street and knocked me flat on my face on the pavement, battering my left eye socket where I hit the ground and twisting my back around when the rest of my body struck the street.

     Thanks to timely care from the Dutch hospital system my eye came out alright, but my back is still killing me. I’m stuck in healing mode where all I can do is sit around and wait for things to get better. Concurrently, I’m undergoing a series of tests at the Detroit Medical Center concerning bronchial and cardiovascular issues, and trying to figure out how to improve my health while I’ve still got some.

      My mother used to tell me as she entered her late 80s, “Getting old isn’t for sissies.” I know what she was talking about, and one thing I can tell you is that life is not going to get easier as you get older. It’s going to get harder, and there’s no getting around it. But if you’re like me, you’ll be happy to be alive and ready to enter another miraculous year of life on Earth.

     I’ve been a marijuana legalization activist all of my adult life and have never felt closer to an ultimate solution to the problem of the War On Drugs and its effects in the State of Michigan than now. I take great pride in claiming victory in my war against the state’s marijuana laws. Although it cost me two and a half years in prison and five years of intensive struggle in the state’s court system, simply to establish legally that marijuana is not a narcotic.

     That was 45 years ago, in 1972, and it wasn’t until 2008 that the next step was taken. The citizens of Michigan voted to legalize medical marijuana and provide for its production by smokers and care-givers in the amount of six plants per person. Ten years later, in the 2018 election,  voters will be given the opportunity to legalize marijuana for recreational and all other purposes, by voting for the MILegalize initiative that’s bound to appear on the ballot next year.

     A lot of terrible things have happened since the 2016 initiative by MILegalize, failed to make the ballot. In the absence of leadership on this issue traditionally provided by the voting public, the State legislature jumped into the breach and enacted a series of statutes. These statutes aim to transform the advances made toward legalization into a new form of serious state interference in the process of growing, distributing, transferring, and, ultimately, purchasing and smoking the sacred herb.

     Now the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, the state agency in charge of implementing the new marijuana laws, has announced that any dispensary that wants to apply for one of five new types of licenses to be issued next year should shut down by Dec. 15 or face a “potential impediment” to getting a license.

     As I’ve reported repeatedly in this column, the City of Detroit has adopted the same goofy approach to regulation, and forced almost 200 shops to close since instituting a long-delayed licensing process. Now the State is threatening to do the same to compassion centers all over the state that have opened, and generally thrived, since medical marijuana legalization was passed in 2008.

     While we appreciate the fact that we are finally talking about true legalization of marijuana once and for all, we must never forget that it’s the same people seeking to regulate legal marijuana on every level who made it illegal in the first place. The same people who persecuted smokers for so many years under their ridiculous, vicious and totally unscientific legal system.

     In a singular demonstration of the genuine democratic process, the citizens of Michigan, and of many cities and municipalities within the state, have overwhelmingly voted to allow the smoking and procurement of marijuana as medicine. For almost ten years the state and city governments ignored the entire question of disseminating legal medical marijuana and allowed hundreds of independent dispensaries to open and operate publicly.

     This process was a beautiful example of small-scale economic democracy at work: patients established the fact that they needed to secure their medicine, care centers sprang up to take care of them. There were just as many outlets as needed, and everything operated more or less smoothly, with marijuana passing over the counter from compassionate care-giver to licensed medical marijuana patient.

     I’m not one to say that the state has no business regulating or licensing such premises, but other than collecting sales taxes and other levies there’s not much need for strict regulation of marijuana. Certainly not for seed-to-sale tracking of each seed of marijuana sold for cultivation purposes.These are measures meant to preserve the vast law-enforcement bureaucracy that’s been built up on the backs of marijuana smokers and subsists on our flesh and blood.

     Marijuana dispensing needs about as much supervison as a carrot stand by the side of the road. Establishing and collecting sales and use taxes from suppliers as legislated, is about as far as the law should extend into the world of marijuana smoking.

     I’m not trying to make this too simple, but for me it’s always been a series of simple questions: What’s wrong with marijuana? What harm has it ever done? Where can I get some right now? Why does it cost so much? What business do the police and other authorities have interfering on our use of the herb? How can we get them out of our lives completely on this issue?

     Now that marijuana is about to become fully legal, the question seems to be about who gets to grow it, how much can they grow, and how much do they have to pay to grow it? These questions are well over my head, I’m just a guy who wants to have his little stash of marijuana, at the lowest possible cost, and smoke it within the privacy  of his everyday life.

     I will continue to support all efforts to free the weed forever, whether or not I agree with every particular, because we can’t be satisfied until the deed is finally done. Right now I’m a little touchy about the concept of regulating marijuana like alcohol, which seems like an entirely ridiculous and backwards idea to me. But if that’s what they want to call it in order to get it passed, I’ll be casting my vote in favor when the time comes, and you can count on that. Free The Weed!

September 24-25, 2017

© 2017 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.

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