Immediate and strong disclaimer: I don’t mean to say or imply or insinuate that everybody who Occupies is stoned. The extraordinary young men and women who are inspiring this demonstration of and call for real, authentic democracy may not even need to get stoned the way we did back then.
But I do find it interesting that the two phenomena are arising at the same time. At first, I wondered if the marijuana uptick is some kind of false flag to distract us from our national fascination with the Occupy movement. But the more I think about it, the more I feel that the two are arising from the same radical shift in the zeitgeist.
There is not even a smidgen of doubt in my mind that, “back in the ’60s,” marijuana helped free my rigid, rule-bound mind from the strong ’50s conditioning of my strict German Catholic background. In fact, I can remember smoking it for the first time — relaxing, feeling at ease, senses tuned and alert to every nuance, responding spontaneously and intuitively to whatever life offered, flowing in the current of the Now.
Even more clearly, I remember my fervent vow to myself, during that first “high,” that I would someday be able to relax and feel at ease without marijuana. For the first time in conscious memory, marijuana had melted my persona, to reveal the real me. I was entranced — by the flow of life within me, by my capacity to move in harmony with all that is, by the utter and surprising originality of my essential nature.
Of course, there were times, back then, when marijuana stimulated paranoia, the feeling that the whole world concealed a sinister trap that would swallow me whole. It all depended on my “set” in getting stoned. Was I in wild nature — attuned to mysteries of ocean, mountains, desert, or forest — or was I caught inside a confined human-made structure with unfamiliar, uncomfortable, or incompatible people. Was I expecting to free myself up, or was I expecting to be overwhelmed by an external power over which I had no control.
I like to compare the Occupy movement now to marijuana then. Either it frees us to relax into our original essential selves, below politics, below needing to think we’re “special”; or it scares the hell out of us. What might this unpredictable, unprecedented supernova of a movement lead to? It’s so freeform, so organic, so full of life; my God, it might just sprout up from ragtag democratic street encampments to transform the carefully cushioned and well-ordered lives and plans of the 1%!
Of course, back then, the BTB had to enact draconian laws to squash marijuana and other mind-expanding drugs before they melted the clockwork mechanisms of our increasingly hierarchical, militaristic, monetized, privatized, consumer society. Of course, the U.S. now has the highest rate of incarceration of any nation in the world, and nearly 1 in 8 prisoners are incarcerated for pot. And of course, the pushback has also been relentless: since 1996, sixteen states have now passed laws legalizing medical marijuana.
That being so, I think it wonderfully synchronous that marijuana is once again in the news, on many fronts:
1) the Feds have suddenly decided to shut down California medical marijuana dispensaries.
2) California physicians are now calling for full legalization of marijuana.
2) Ralph Nader is calling for hemp to be legalized so that farmers can grow this wonderfully versatile and productive crop.
3) A recent Gallop poll shows that a record 50% of Americans want marijuana legalized. And now this, thanks to alternet.org.
In his call for the United States to accept – and change – reality, former Mexican President Vicente Fox pointed to the history of prohibition and shifting popular opinion.
October 22, 2011 |
by Tony Newman
Fox explains that the United States should learn from the history of alcohol prohibition and that the answer to today’s violence is to legalize drugs and treat them as a health issue, rather than a criminal issue.
When the BBC reporter implies that he is naïve to think the US will legalize drugs, Fox points out that public opinion is changing rapidly. He mentions that a Gallup poll this week showed for the first time that 50 percent of Americans support making marijuana legal.
President Fox is part of a growing choir of world leaders speaking out against the drug war. This summer, the Global Commission on Drug Policy made worldwide news when they called for far-reaching changes in the global drug prohibition regime – including not just alternatives to incarceration and greater emphasis on public health approaches to drug use but also decriminalization and experiments in legal regulation. The Commission is comprised of former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan; Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group; four former presidents, including the commission’s chairman, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil; George P. Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State; Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve; and several other distinguished world leaders.
Building on the Global Commission, there will be a major event on November 15th, organized by the libertarian CATO Institute, called “Ending the Global War,” featuring heavy hitters like former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs Jorge Castaneda, Wall Street Journal editorial board member Mary Anastasia O’Grady and others.
The voices rising up against the failed drug war are not only at the “grasstops” level. Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was killed earlier this year in drug war violence, has mobilized tens of thousands of people across Mexico to demand an end to the war. Sicilia is participating in the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Los Angeles, where more than 1,000 people from around the world – including many formerly incarcerated people and other victims of the drug war – are going to meet on November 2nd- 5th.
President Fox and Javier Sicilia are pointing out the obvious: the war on drugs has failed. We need to join them. We need to find an exit strategy from this un-winnable war.