TLBTV Editors Note: Welcome another episode of CannaTalk. This weekly presentation endeavors to inform and educate on the topic of Cannabis. The objective of Eleanor’s series is to present the history of, recently past actions (AG Sessions had not quite been fired at time of this original recording) concerning, and current standing of, Cannabis in America as it relates to health and liberty issues. Knowing your rights as well as the powerful healing properties of Cannabis puts us one step closer to the total decriminalization of this phenomenal plant. So let’s start today’s ball rolling with the following quote:
CannaTalk – “Good People Don’t Smoke Marijuana” … Wait … What ??
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By TLB Contributing Author & Show Narrator: Eleanor Cooney
“Good People Don’t Smoke Marijuana” … So said Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III during a Senate drug hearing in April of 2016. In the recent past, that very same Sessions was our Attorney General … and the poor fellow had to be feeling … well, beleaguered. Despite his fancy ruffles-and-flourishes name, no doubt designed to inspire awe and credulity, we were just not, and did not bow to his authority. In state after state, the voice of the voters roars loud and clear as a great tide rises: we, the good people of the United States, reject your regressive, insulting, ridiculously easily-disproved mouthful of malarkey. The latest surveys (as of Oct. 17, 2017 anyway) show something like 64% of Americans (and that includes a majority of Republicans, not just lefties, hipsters, Libertarians and Independents) are in favor of legalization—especially when it comes to its use as medicine. Not far behind is public approval of its use for what is arguably also good medicine—plain old fun.
Sessions’ words neatly encapsulated the carefully propagandized fear planted and cultivated in the American public mind since early in the 20th century. The stigmatization of cannabis—which has been serving humanity for quite literally thousands of years and was in fact a comfy, familiar and highly effective component of countless patent medicines in the US for a couple of centuries—is a testament to the power of semantics coupled with xenophobia.
We all know how simple it is to change the name of a thing or concept so that people suddenly have a different perception of it. We are easily manipulated. When it’s calculated to make us see a negative thing in a less harsh light, it’s a euphemism: “Grandma passed away ” instead of “Grandma died” is the classic example. Then there’s the opposite, designed to make us see something in a scary, upsetting, resentment/anger-inducing light. Like calling the “inheritance tax” the “death tax.”
In exactly this premeditated way, cannabis was renamed soon after the violent and protracted Mexican revolution (1910-20) brought a big wave of immigrants and refugees from south of the border into states like Texas and Louisiana. Along with their food, music and customs, they brought along the plant they used for medicinal and social purposes. Only they called it “marihuana” instead of “cannabis.” The media and lawmakers, playing on public fears of this “invasion” of brown people, with their exotic ways, appearance and language, and looking for a means to justify detention and deportation of such people, seized on the name, and made sure it was indelibly and negatively associated with Mexicans. They even carried it a step further, re-spelling it “marijuana,” conjuring two of the most common Mexican names—Maria and Juan. Ooh! What is this scary and foreign-sounding “marijuana” creeping into our placid Protestant land?
Never mind that it was exactly what Americans already relied on to relieve everything from menstrual cramps to chronic pain to loss of appetite to dipsomania to inflammation to seizures to insomnia, and on and on; sensational stories in the papers led the public to believe that this “marihuana,” which the Mexicans used not just for aches and pains but for pleasure and relaxation, was a one-way ticket to societal disintegration—rape, lunacy, degeneracy! We bought it, and we paid a high price: gradually, state by state, “marijuana,” our beloved “cannabis,” was illegalized, banned, besmirched and lumped in with genuinely dangerous substances like cocaine and heroin. All those marvelous patent medicines vanished from the shelves, and the madness of “Reefer Madness” commenced, and though surely and steadily diminishing, lasts to this very day. If you doubt it, just look into the eyes of Jeff Sessions, burning bright with conviction. He is the living 21st century torch-bearer of Harry J. Anslinger, director of the newly-formed (in 1930), Bureau of Narcotics. We have to give Anslinger credit—he was a genius of propaganda, who came up with such pearls as:
“The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races…Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men…Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality and death.”
Then, contradictorily enough, he says what’s sort of true and reflects what I believe gets at the actual core anxiety around the effects of marijuana, i.e., the way it might make a person want to share his/her earthly possessions and to swear off war, violence and boot-licking fealty to authority, making it, in effect, seditious to the status quo:
“Marijuana,” said Anslinger, “leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing.”
Fear of marijuana is fear of the “other.” Tangential to that fear is the puritan fear of fun. Even today, I hear people arguing against legalization of medical cannabis on the grounds that some people “just want to get high.” Get high! Well, we can’t have that, can we? Heaven forbid!
Think of what they’re expressing when they say that: they would deprive us of the proven, no-doubt-about-it benefits of cannabis (recent discoveries include its ability to reduce chronic seizures in children by at least half and to manage symptoms of opioid withdrawal) because some people might use it to get all silly and giggly and then devour every last stale Vanilla Wafer in the refrigerator and get transported by Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony even though they’ve heard it a thousand times before.
And then get a great night’s sleep. And wake up without a hangover…
Watch this dynamic presentation …
Coming soon to CannaTalk:
Just who are these “not good” people who smoke marijuana?
Cannabis throughout history. Refuting the tired old “there’s not enough evidence” argument.
About the Author/Narrator: Eleanor Cooney is a writer and a connoisseur of the absurd, the macabre, the bizarre and subterfuge, but chokes up over “brave dog” stories. She wrote three novels set in T’ang Dynasty China. Her nonfiction memoir DEATH IN SLOW MOTION was published by HarperCollins in 2004. She recently completed a novel called THE DEVIL YOU KNOW, a sly, dark, eclectic thriller for literate readers.
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