Written by Edward Knoll

"Do you ever notice in this country that when we have a problem with something, we always have to declare WAR on it? The War on Illiteracy, the War on AIDS, the War on Homelessness, the War on Drugs... We don't actually DO anything about it, but we've declared war on it...."
- George Carlin

"If cocaine is the Drug of War, than marijuana is the Drug of Peace."
-- Unknown

Drugs are bad. Anyone growing up since the Sixties has had this message branded across every possible orifice they could think to stick a needle up. Personally, I think my mother had the message tattooed across her uterus lining, just so I'd have a little something to keep me busy for about 9 months. Right, so drugs are bad. Tell me the story again - but wait, lemmie get you another Scotch there first. And if you have to smoke that thing, please do it outside.

In the last few years, the War on Drugs has developed two separate camps: the War on Drugs and the War on Marijuana. How marijuana got the dubious honour of getting its very own War declared on it we shall see in a minute. But first, I really have to question the intelligence of a society that would ban a substance having yet prove a single permanent physical effect, yet at the same time, sell bundles of Valium to depressed wives and insecure actresses to binge ` cry for help' suicide attempts, or maybe supply another 40 of Jack Daniels so Buddy Blue-Collar can go smack his wife around again. Or better yet, a society with a government who thinks its ok to slap a sticker on a product that basically says, "THIS IS A STICK OF CANCER THAT WILL MAKE YOUR TEETH ROT, DEFORM YOUR KIDS, AND MAKE YOUR LUNGS BLEED", and STILL sell it. What happened to the War on Raving Idiocy?

The sad thing is, when you bother to verse yourself in the facts before opening your mouth (like THAT has ever happened in American history), you see that the War on Marijuana is really The Piss Poor Excuse To Keep Money In Our Pockets.

First, let's look at `hemp', which usually comes from the `cannabis' plant, where `marijuana' also comes from (the word is Mexican slang for the leaves of cannabis you smoke to get high). Hemp has long been known to be the Jack-of-all-trades of the plant world. It can be used as food (hemp seeds are very easy to digest and used for patients with stomach problems), as a high-protein, UV resistant alternative to soy, as a fat-free vegetable oil, as a fiber for clothes more durable than cotton, as an acid-free, non-yellowing paper, as alcohol-based fuel for cars, as an alternative to tree wood, as a new form of plastic and lastly, as medicine.

Suffice to say, hemp is useful.

So if it's so great, then why doesn't the world revolve around hemp usage? I mentioned raving idiocy before, right? In addition to that very large factor, hemp usage basically got screwed when all the other drugs were made illegal.

This started with opium, which Chinese immigrants brought with them to induce a trance-like state, helping them cope with the long shifts of manual labour they were forced to do. White Americans got pissed because these stoned Chinese workers were much better than they were. So they banned opium.

Ditto cocaine, only this time it is Black Americans. Cocaine usage among Blacks was blamed for violent crimes, and combined with the US's usual tasty appetite for racist hatred, the drug got banned.

Now comes marijuana and the Mexicans (are we seeing a pattern here yet?). Mexican soliders smoked marijauna chronically (see the lyrics to `La Cucaracha', about a solider who won't march till he gets his joint). When the Mexicans started moving to the States and the Depression struck, the Whites bitched again about Mexican labour and marijuana took the fall.

Next comes the Great Depression, during which Prohibition is instated. Idiocy strikes again, and because of the increased mob crime during this period, more cops are hired. Of course, once Prohibition ended, you had a lot of unemployed cops around. In an attempt to convince everyone they were still needed, these cops spent their time scaring people about drug use.

What this all means is that in 1937, the Marijuana Tax Act was passed, banning the possession of marijuana. You can't grow hemp (the cannabis plant) without growing marijuana too (the leaves). It gets worse. Because hemp was such a great alternative to seemingly everything, it made a lot of enemies in the paper, cloth, and plastic companies. Billions of dollars for these companies depended on hemp not becoming popular, so when the political climate of the 1930's was all about being anti-drug, these companies pushed to get hemp made illegal.

Seventy years later, people are still dumb enough to accept a bill passed in a time of racism and greedy corporate interest. The American Way.

What bothers me about all this is that today, simply holding a little green leaf gets you four years, yet at the same time, it's perfectly legal for me to raid the liquor cabinet, drink down a fifth of Absolut, which destroys brain cells and my liver simultaneously, while being violently ill and irritable to the point that I beat down the neighbourhood kids, puke all over the sidewalk, then pass out in the middle of the road, waking up three hours with a pounding headache from dehydration and no idea where my pants are.

"All others considered, THC is the safest pharmaceutical drug in existence."

Let's talk about over the counter drugs like Valium. I can't sleep so I take a pill and sleep... but then the pill's effectiveness wears off and I can't sleep again, so I take more pills... then the effectiveness wears off again and I can't sleep so I take even more pills... finally, I die of overdoes. Who didn't see that coming? Despite the fact that the very USE of these drugs leads you hand-in-hand to overdose doesn't prevent it from being the #2 drug sold in America (a little blue pill is #1, popular with the old folks... you figure that one out).

Those against marijuana use claim that `smoking one joint is equal to 10 cigarettes'. False. The only reason the actual smoke is more damaging is because generally users smoke marijuana in self-rolled paper joints without filters or any other kind of health standard. But cigerrettes contain nicotine, tar, arsenic, and thousands of other chemicals which HAVE been proven to cause cancer. Not a single chemical in marijuana has been proven to cause cancer. Also, take in to account your typical user doesn't smoke a carton of joints everyday, unlike the chain-smoking latte junkie artiste that never seems to leave Starbucks.

And speaking of lattes, let's talk about coffee now. Caffeine is a legal drug millions of people consume gallons of each month. So you like your heart-rate, blood pressure and reflexes being strung out? Maybe the luxury of having to pee every sixteen minutes? How many of you `just can't get going in the morning' without your coffee?

Here's the kicker, kiddies: marijuana has NO lasting physical side-effects. The only effects you experience are those from BREATHING SMOKE, which you wouldn't have to do if a better, safer, healthier alternative were available. But bongs are illegal too. You get an extra fine for being caught toking up while being health conscious.

In fact, all of marijuana's "problems" are a direct cause of it being illegal. It's the same stupid effects as Prohibition in the 1930's. People are going to do it whether it is illegal or not, and whether its SAFE or not. Hundreds of people flat out DIED during Prohibition because of a certain type of alcohol poisoning brought on by bacteria in unsterilized keg barrels. This doesn't happen today simply because making it LEGAL means there are laws governing the quality of the substance.

Would you like to buy pot from some backalley crackhead drug dealer toked up on acid who's probably laced your stuff with coke, crystal meth, cat urine and god knows what else just to keep you coming back for more? Or would you rather walk into a government sanctioned `MCBO', and pick up an once of cleanly cut, FDA-approved, commercially packaged and sterilized marijuana to take to your party and enjoy using a well-manufactured, safe and healthy alternative to smoking in the same way that thousands of people already do with alcohol?

What about your kids? Do you want them sneaking off the schoolyard with some gangsta wannabe to `score some dope, yo'? Or would you rather be able to explain to your kids that marijuana is something that they should respect and use responsibly, like alcohol? How many kids do you know that phone up their parents Saturday night and say, "Mom, I'm not driving home tonight because I'm stoned out of my head." On the other side, how many parents tell their kids, "Now if you are going to be toking up, I want you to take a cab home." Or how about a "Don't Drink and Toke" poster? The awareness is simply NOT there, because the marijuana is illegal and thus must be hidden, and so as a result, kids get killed in car accidents while driving high. Wow, good thing the War on Drugs is saving the lives of our youth.

The problem with marijuana is for years it has been labeled `evil' by the anti-drug pressure and pointless War on Drugs mentality. Tell me, do you drink to escape your reality? Do you drink to purposely run over small children in your car and beat your wife? No, you drink for FUN. For recreation. For a good time. There's a reason why there's over 400 drinks you can order at any given bar. Alcohol isn't popular because it tastes good (anyone that tells you they drink straight vodka for the taste is probably the same guy that drinks gas so he can light his pee on fire). Yet we've got a holiday affectionately referred to as May Two Four.

The very minor percentage of people that abuse marijuana (which is not even physically addictive) do so for reasons other than the drug itself: family life, emotional problems, depression, etc. `Marijuana leads to harder drug use.' That's crap. Does coffee lead to alcoholism? It's a chicken-or-the-egg problem: does marijuana lead to harder drug use or the tendency to abuse drugs lead to marijuana abuse?

Alcohol is popular because it is fun. Ditto marijuana. The vast majority of people that use marijuana are simply having fun... the only difference being marijuana doesn't destroy brain cells, you don't need to do a lot of it to feel the effect, it's a hell of a lot cheaper, it doesn't destroy your liver, it is not physically addictive, it doesn't dehydrate you, you don't puke or get sick, food tastes better than it ever has before, and best of all, there's no hangover. Uh, definitely sounds like something only crackheads would like.

So although I'm much too passive to ever become an activist of any sort, I can still find the energy to raise my two favourite fingers in a salute to anyone ignorant enough to buy into the lies and misrepresentations the so-called `War on Marijuana' without reading the facts themselves.