Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times
We have arrived at an inflection point in the decades-long redemptive struggle to legalize and normalize cannabis. Authorities formerly tasked with confiscating the property and incarcerating the bodies of users and growers now speak of “equity,” of restorative justice. They plan to give preferential access to licenses for sale and consumption to those once convicted of pot-related offenses. They are announcing provisions to advantage the disadvantaged defined in terms of income and race.
These are efforts by officialdom to address and redress what was official policy. They are an attempt to make good for the misguided illegalization of marijuana. In the course of that delegitimization, lives were destroyed along with families and futures. The policies of LA’s Department of Cannabis Regulation are a small attempt to make amends for a hundred years of legal repression, of making marijuana an evil plant, denying it many benefits, including medicinal, to all. This was in fact an abrogation of the basic right of a free people to makes choices for themselves.
Historical records, including transcripts of state and federal deliberations, reveal a profound racial animus, with frequent reference to Hispanic citizens and black musicians as lesser people, humans of inferior intelligence and moral worth.
The police loved the outlawing of pot. It opened the door for unlimited search and seizure. The cops could take property freely. The possessions of those who used or sold pot became loot, booty for police organizations across the country. Wealth was seized and then distributed to members of the law enforcement community – cash was captured, houses seized, vehicles grabbed and monetized.
It’s been a bad time. As it comes to an end, we now see clearly the scientific and medical proof that marijuana isn’t harmful, it’s beneficial in so many ways. Beyond its mundane uses it is divine; it has a sacramental essence.
As we witness the re-legalizing of this ancient herb we note that nothing dramatic is changing in society. Dogs don’t have kittens; cats don’t have puppies. And there is no measurable increase in traffic misbehavior or any other deleterious social consequence of the sudden legalization of cannabis.
Notwithstanding the law, ten percent of the population used to use marijuana, all through the years of its legal opprobrium. This despite the fact that it was evident that smokers were less apt to use alcohol, with its known detrimental impacts. Alcohol fuels hostility in many who imbibe. It can have fatal consequences when consumed in relatively low quantities by vehicle operators. We don’t see those behaviors among most cannabis consumers.
And now, amidst the opiate crisis, we see CBDs successfully used to address the emotional and physical needs of those who’ve become addicted to opioids. More and more we see the great benefits to society that cannabis can offer. In particular, cannabis obviates dramatic costs to society in the current opiate overdose cataclysm.
We’re on the verge of creating a new world of care and healing, using the sacred herb. We witness new forms of legal intervention, with PTSD and ADHD, among other common psychological maladies, addressed by compassionate and effective treatment, not by costly and counterproductive incarceration.
The courts are still struggling with these new concepts of diversion and treatment. It’s not completely clear how new treatment options will be implemented. But society in America is opening its heart and using its collective mind to see that previous concepts of crime were anything but just.
The costs of the previous regimen were staggering. And it was inefficient. Incarceration for cannabis “crimes” didn’t deter. Imprisonment had no causative impact. But it was stunningly expensive, a boon to prison guards and a mind-numbing drain on society, particularly upon the poor and vulnerable.
These ideas have been around for decades. I began my practice in 1967 and we knew the core truths then. But they weren’t embraced.
At the core of much so-called criminal behavior are issues of mental impairment. A mental state is hard to define. There is no simple test to assess a state of mind. But psychology is opening up as we gain deeper insights into post-traumatic stress reactions and bipolar disorder, to cite two common maladies. These are frequently the basis of acts or threats that have dramatic legal consequences. Marijuana is an antidote for many of these conditions. It’s a tool not just for getting high – though that goal should not be seen in a pejorative light. Why get high? Because you’re low. And this stuff works. It alters brain chemistry. Gently. Reliably. Positively.
Cannabis enlightens the Spirit. It’s an age old sacrament, for good reason. Its salubrious effects had been praised to the heavens, until the US decided on the basis of half-baked cryto-fascist social engineering notions in the 1920s to proscribe this helpful, healing, inspiring, naturally occurring plant, and to punish those who sought in its consumption insight, comfort, inspiration or healing.
Now at last we’re mending our ways. And when all the licenses are issued, all the taxes collected, all the lounges built, a new world of uplift and holy wholeness will emerge. Just by letting be what ought to have been allowed from the beginning.
“We come at last to where we began/ And know it for the first time.”
Here we are.