IF, AS LENNY BRUCE ONCE SAID, marihuana will soon be legal because the law students are now smoking it, its abrupt legal integration into the present American culture may be a severe shock. Preparations for its peaceful acceptance should be undertaken as soon as possible.
After all, to receive pot smokers without their disguises is going to be a bit disquieting. What disguises? That of respectability, for one thing. When he is allowed to consume his drug freely, in full view of an American mother and her child, the respectable drug taker may lose all restraint, and go so far as to put off some trivial errand, lie in a hammock for an entire afternoon, not mow the lawn or rake the leaves, stare at a candle for long periods of time, or simply sit, thinking, being nonproductive. It could bring a quick end to a part of the American Way for once and for all.
Whether or not some parts of the American Way need an injection of pot to cure it will be discussed later in the book. Meanwhile, the reprogramming might be discussed.
After the public has seen the word "marihuana" a thousand times, and the words "killer" or "sex crime" or "teen-age moral decay" are not seen along with it, and after the pot smokers gather together into an economic force, and after the word is heard in popular songs a few thousand times, and when young people are seen walking down the street apparently high and having a marvelous time ( it would help immeasurably if they were well-dressed and recently bathed), and if automobile accidents are not attributed to the drug, then the time will be ripe for some legislative reexamination. Other drugs might make the headlines and become the subject of Senate hearings, but marihuana has been an unjustly punished child, an ugly duckling, that no one seems to want to bother with or investigate. Perhaps the situation will soon be corrected.
Even if that happens, there will still be a worried undercurrent who will refuse to see anything but certain doom. At the present time opinions range from five years for partial legislative reform to never for anything. Probing questions must, to be sure, be asked. Some of the questions and their answers will appear in this book.
The situation might be looked at this way: today, if a son or daughter announces going out for the evening to "smoke some pot," the parental reaction would probably dwarf a 50-megaton bomb. However, millions of young adults under twenty-five, frequently from the middle class and college educated, have smoked pot, gotten high, and decided that was that. Soon they will be parents, and their offspring will grow up and one night announce going out to smoke some pot. This time the reaction might well be "All right, dear. Have a nice time and be home early." Vividly, the times they are a-changing.
Why is this so? What is there about marihuana? And why the sudden and widespread interest in a drug that has been around for thousands of years?
Part of the present answer might be called the generation gap. Because of a wide-spread campaign in the thirties to outlaw marihuana, the use of the drug has particularly evil connotations for the older generations. So while the young adults think it's all right, few of their parents do. It seems that either marihuana is perfectly harmless or it is a deadly drug, like heroin. Either it should be accepted casually or its users should be put into prison. Either it is good or it is bad. Either it causes crime, rape, murder and drug-escalation, or it doesn't. What is the truth? One can seek out those who smoke it and ask them, or one can refer to the statutes.
Is there, really, such a lot to worry about? John Wilcock has suggested that if and when marihuana is legalized, the Americans will make it bland, as they have done to bread. In time, the packet of marihuana that may be purchased in a "drug" store will bring about the same madness as a quart of 3.2 beer.
Wilcock gives bread as an example, but an examination of the American scene with respect to another intoxicant substantiates his theory. Take, for instance, alcohol. A bottle of whiskey is rarely stronger than 80 proof, or 40 per cent alcohol. When consumed, it is seldom taken straight. When it is the shot is usually followed by a diluter, or "chaser." More often the alcohol is accompanied by mixers and ice. In other words, we are "sissies" when it comes to drink, and wr will probably be sissies when it comes to marihuana.
But marihuana need not be watered down. It doesn't have to be. That is, pure marihuana is a blend of ripe and/or unripe hemp leaves, some of which may have lots of resin ( the substance believed to intoxicate) on them, while others have very little, or no resin at all. Wilcock believes that eventually the consumer will prefer leaves with little resin on them, rather than the "higher proof" blend. Further, the mature smoker often comes to enjoy the taste and smell of hemp in itself, and uses the drug as he might use tobacco—for its flavor, and not for its intoxicating property. Pipeful after pipeful can be turned to smoke and nary a high will be known. There seems to be, in other words, a trend to avoid extremism with either alcohol or marihuana.
Marihuana is like liquor in one important respect: it is a pressure-reliever. That is, both can relieve pressures, whether they be social, racial, domestic, military, political, by lowering inhibitions, and by supplying a carefreeness and artificial ( or drug-induced)
happiness. But there the similarity ends, for marihuana is a hallucinogen—a drug that "turns you on"—while alcohol is a depressant on the central nervous system—it "turns you off." Alcohol can kill. But one can "turn on" daily with marihuana, experience all the throes and banquets of daily living, and never be in any physical danger. And when smoking desire tapers off, or stops, one can still experience great happiness, great passion, great thoughts, great whatsoever. No, the drug does not "rot away" a brain.
Nor is marihuana smoking an all-consuming passion, as is opiate-taking, which leads to addiction. The high is not a bottomless abyss, but a pleasant valley. One can, and does, master his relationship with the drug. Most people still do not understand that there is no physical need for marihuana, nor any psychological dependence. Man is the master in charge, and will remain so in spite of the attractive world that he sees when high on the drug. It is sometimes difficult for a man to accept that responsibility.
Marihuana is smoked in every country of the world, and that is a difficult fact to ignore. And if the drug is as fun-fulfilling and harmless as millions believe it to be, and if scientific evidence can back these claims, then the harsh laws, adhered to by the diligent ( and usually nonsmoking) law enforcement agencies, seem a bid odd. By the spirit of all that is fair to all equal men, the time to examine these laws seems to have arrived.
Napoleon's invasion of Egypt at the very end of the 18th century might be partially to blame for the current statutes on the lawbooks concerning hashish, for he banned the dens from trade and traffic, and severely punished violators. He no doubt felt justified, simply because the places were mysterious, non-European, and quite pagan. But hashish is as different from marihuana as whiskey is from beer. What Napoleon may have done, without realizing it, was to start a purge. Thus, every relative to hashish is thought to be of the same strength of blood, and therefore as guilty. Such associative meandering has created the present legal muddle.*
Whether or not the blame can actually be thrown to Napoleon is rhetorical. The point is that the situation is fouled by emotion, confused by conflicting scientific reports, and fused with a ban that is highly unreasonable. The law has become a giant scab, unable to grow a complete skin of time over its mistake.
The issue is clearly not as important as foreign aid, or poverty, or education. But the time has come for the legislators to give marihuana more than a passing frown: the use of marihuana is growing, and it is growing not in the lower class usually associated with drug use; rather, it is the white, middle-class, college-educated youth now breaking the law and risking long prison terms. It is conceivably the sons and daughters of the men who have made the laws who are breaking them.
* At the present time most state laws governing the sale, possession or use of drugs are based on federal legislation, but the laws differ widely from state to state. Further, marihuana is linked on the law books not only with hashish (which is estimated to be at least five times as strong as marihuana) but with the opiates such as heroin, as well. Recently, due to widespread adverse publicity, LSD and other psychedelics have been made illegal in many states. The irony of the latter legislation points to the haste with which drug laws have been passed in this country: LSD, the most potent hallucinogen known to man, carries penalties often more than fifty per cent less than those for an identical marihuana charge—while marihuana is one of the mildest hallucinogens known to man; in some states conviction for the possession of marihuana on a first offense can carry a penalty of up to ten years' imprisonment, while LSD possession might not even be illegal according to the existing state law.