Highest greetings from the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, where I'm enjoying the heady ambience of this society where they just don't care if you want to get high and where a couple thousand American youths are staggering around this week flashing their judge's badges and sampling the wares of the city's 250 coffee shops.
About 10 percent of Amsterdam's coffee shops pony up the entrance fees required to be showcased by High Times in its growing and consuming competition and thus gain the patronage of the American weed tourists during the week of the cup — and indeed all year round. The winning coffee shops get the business when the drug tourists come to town, the winning strains get purchased over the counter, and the winning seeds are prized by the international growing community.
Cannabis is a booming business in the Netherlands, and the High Times Cannabis Cup is its annual trade fair and exposition. But it's a world of good, clean fun too — after all, we're dealing with marijuana here! — and the businesspeople derive a lot more pleasure from their commercial activity than, say, their fellow merchants who are selling Buicks and Chevrolets.
Until fairly recently, the cannabis business has been allowed to grow and prosper, although the orthodox Christian convictions of the Queen and the governing class have conspired to keep marijuana from being declared fully "legal." Instead cannabis exists in what they call a "gray area" where it is perfectly OK for the consumer to possess and smoke weed and hashish in reasonable amounts and for the retailer to sell amounts of as much as 5 grams per customer over the counter in the coffee shops.
But it's strictly illegal to grow marijuana for commercial consumption, to deliver the weed to commercial outlets for profit, or to possess more than 500 grams at one time — the legal limit allowed for coffee shops to have on their premises. The individual smoker may grow as many as five plants at home for personal consumption, but commercial growing is strictly verboten.
As in America and throughout the world, the legal justifications for such proscription are just so much mumbo-jumbo in service of a social order wherein pleasurable bodily sensations and intense mental stimulation are ruled immoral and out of bounds even to the detriment of their principal god, Mammon.
They could be making a whole lot more money from cannabis commerce, but fear of God or burning eternally in hell seems to put a damper on that particular avenue of exploitation, even where turning widows and children out of their homes, making millions of honest toilers "redundant" and without jobs, bombing innocent civilians or depriving whole segments of the population of their inalienable human rights are deemed acceptable.
With respect to the United States, the dollar figures are staggering to contemplate. Of course it all happens off the charts, without direct social benefit to the governmental bodies that could use the money to help underwrite public services. Like their Dutch counterparts, a significant proportion of Americans are engaged in cannabis consumption and the concomitant growing, distribution and sales involved with servicing their smoking needs.
It never ceases to amaze me that in a society in which everything else — intelligence, beauty, creativity, quality of daily life — has been sacrificed to Mammon, the crusading forces draw the line at the pursuit of happiness through consciousness expansion.
You can buy (or manufacture and sell) all the liquor you want, all the pills of whatever potency, all the pornography, all the instruments of bondage and torture, all the weapons of destruction, all the idiotic mammoth automobiles, all the ugliest movies and recordings and television programs imaginable, but you have to risk going to prison or into treatment if you want to get high on a harmless little weed or some other mind-altering product of organic origin.
And instead of legalizing drugs, regulating and taxing their manufacture and sale, and utilizing the revenues in a socially useful manner, the modern crusaders have elected to exact their tribute through the machinery of the War on Drugs, financing dizzying levels of law enforcement employment, the proliferation of courts and their attendant personnel, jail and prison construction and the ever-increasing number of persons required to operate them.
Dear readers, let's step forward and bring this godawful state of affairs to a merciful end. Free the Weed. Let it grow.
Bits & pieces: Ben Horner of Michigan Medical Marijuana Report magazine announces that the Vote Green Initiative Project (VGIP) will host a conference in Ann Arbor on Jan. 27-29, with medical marijuana speakers, vendors, doctor certifications, grow classes and more. In the meantime, VGIP is circulating the Recall Bill Schuette petition via its website at mmmrmag.com/elections.
Michigan legalization activist Tim Beck had some fun recently with U.S. Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra at a meeting of the Grosse Pointe Eastside Republican Club when he posed the question to the candidate: "Would you be willing to support Congress rescheduling marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act from Schedule 1 to a different level?"
Hoekstra: "Um, I just can't tell you. I don't know the answer to that."
At that point, Beck reports, "A man in the audience ... stood up and declared in a loud voice: 'What's your problem, Hoekstra? Why won't you answer the man's question? My brother almost died [from] prostate cancer and medical marijuana saved his life... How dare you say this is not medicine.' He refused to shut up when urged by the moderator and a melee came close to breaking out."
DAVID BORDEN REPORTS in Stop the Drug War Speakeasy that it's smart kids, not dumb kids, who use drugs as adults. Duh! Ever hearda Steve Jobs? "So much of what we've been told about drugs and drug users turns out to be the opposite of the truth," Borden says, "it's amazing that the anti-drug fanatics are able to find any audience at all anymore.
"News like this comes as a surprise only if you understand remarkably little about what drugs actually are and why people use them."
In a recent British study cited by Borden, "Researchers discovered men with high childhood IQs were up to two times more likely to use illegal drugs than their lower-scoring counterparts. Girls with high IQs were up to three times more likely to use drugs as adults."
"It ought to be intuitive," Borden concludes, "that the curiosity which comes along with above-average intelligence would also be correlated with a heightened interest in experiencing altered states of consciousness. No doubt, a little extra brain-power also serves to inoculate against believing a lot of the BS we're fed about how certain substances will turn your brain into a turnip."
No show: At the end of my last column I mentioned that there were plans afoot to mount a 40th Anniversary Reunion of the 1971 John Sinclair Freedom Rally on December 10 at Masonic Temple. Despite our best efforts we were unable to realize our plans and the concert is not happening. Sorry! It would've been a blast!
Nov. 19-20, 2011