Cannabis culture is, needless to say, taking center stage as we grow enveloped in America 4.0.
Our collective national trauma is urging us to accept the flaming doobie of hope that we might one day be able to freely and publicly skunk up and slunk down without normies looking at us like its the 1960s and we’re the long-haired cafeteria communists and they’re desperately trying to keep out of Disneyland.
Why marijuana grew to become such a taboo may seem mysterious, considering its benign effects on the human body and mind. This grows even more confusing when you take into consideration that alcohol has a legitimately tragic history of abuse, both in terms of consumption and in regard to its Western Christian political weaponization and its social weaponization by the aristocracy.
Alcohol consumption is a tradition that evidence suggests a history stretching back to the beginnings of human civilization. Marijuana, on the other hand, wasn’t really an issue, nor did anyone really know about it, (in the U.S. at least) until after the Civil War. In 1619, Virginia passed a state law that required every farm in the colony to grow hemp: it was a valuable material fundamental to the development of the colonies. In the mid-19th century, when hemp farms were established and sufficiently widespread, it’s no wonder that people got curious because boy, they really, really loved to smoke.
After Virginia faced the consequences of the half-baked decision to establish hemp as a critical cash-crop in the area, it was only a matter of time before this new and subtle intoxicant made its way into the circles of cultural connoisseurs one generation later. At the beginning of the 20th century, weed was coming into the country through Mexican refugees escaping the Revolution, and one generation later, the hep cats were smoking jazz cigarettes to Cab Calloway was singing about the “Reefer Man.” I think it’s fair to say that these anecdotes may loosely provide us with some context as to why the current social stratification in the United States enforces such inhumane treatment of citizens.
Why are Mexican immigrants locked up in ICE cages, endlessly, based on the presumption that they are somehow evidence of Trump’s theory that they bring in drugs, crime, and extra bodies, and should be kept out with a wall. The same goes for those lucky enough to live through the Golden Age of Jazz. Certainly marijuana, though oftentimes combined with heroin and alcohol, was the choice intoxicant of jazz musicians who didn’t mind the way that the substance could free their minds up for more dynamic improvisation with other players.
Though, can we really say it’s just a coincidence that it’s Black people, more than anyone else, that get locked up for the most minor of drug infractions. Even just a tiny nugget or the end of a roach that someone didn’t want to litter is enough to land black people faced with cranky and/or racist New York City cops, i.e. most if not all of them, right in jail with no money to pay bail and god willing no previous record from similar racial profiling.
Meanwhile, as a white female, I can pretty much get away with anything. In fact, ever since decriminalization of marijuana in New York City, I’ve been pushing my boundaries to see how far I can take it. I walked up to a hot cop the other day (not actually hot but decent-looking which means he thought he was super hot which means I would totally be able control the situation if I got my flirt on), and I had a king-size spliff hanging out of my mouth, smoke billowing up like a little chimney, obscuring my vision behind my large glasses—the same pair that Andrew Cunanan wore in American True Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace. Ever since I realized we have the same glasses, I’ve felt like challenging authority so it is of importance that you know I was channelling Andrew in that moment, not my more sensible, kind, non-confrontational self. I asked the cop, “Hey, is it okay if I smoke this? Like, you’re not going to arrest me? Not even search me? Not even if you feel like it?”
He looked me up and down, which was gross, and then he said, “Nah. I have better things to do.”
At first I was thrilled, and then I was insulted because I’m pretty sure that means that he didn’t find me attractive so in fact, the situation is even worse than we originally imagined.
I don’t even need to be a flirting white girl to get away with anything; I just have to be a white female.
After the repeal of the Prohibition in the 1930s, our favorite, proselytizing, sober NARCs gave up on booze. Searching frantically for a new target before their closeted homosexuality could betray them in public, these bored gentlemen settled on marijuana, the choice poison of the browns and the blacks and an all-around easy fight to pick. These self-proclaimed white messiahs who almost certainly got bullied as children used the opportunity to launch a political smear campaign, claiming that marijuana should be made illegal because the people ingesting it were posing a threat to an already crippling country. Needless to say, this is incredibly ironic because our crippling country would have crippled long, long ago, if it weren’t for the services provided to us by both the working class and the population of immigrants who are stealing nothing, but rather more often than not being forced into modern day slavery with little to no access to the social benefits that make America a better place to live, in the first place.
Things didn’t necessarily get better for weed’s rep when the Beats began co-opting aspects of African-American and Mexican (sub)cultures. Now that white people were seduced by this “othered” danger—or, at least were perceived as such—conventional, white America began to weaponize yet another substance for the purpose of controlling the masses.
Our true Machiavelli emerged in the tall and willowy countenance of Robert C. Bonner, who was elected Administrator of the DEA by President Bush in 1990. This guy really put the final nail in the coffin. Sure, this badass single-handedly took down Pablo Escober. Like, seriously.
Even crazier, in 2001, little Bush W. Tapped him for Commissioner of United States Customs and Border Protection. I can say a lot of things about this guy, many of them not good at all. But I will say, it takes some damn chutzpah to decimate an entire country’s drug trade and to them agree to go guard the border between American and Mexico, the main nation to suffer due to his wildly insane Medellin meltdown. While Bonner was the head of the DEA, just after closing his Escobar case (and I can only imagine kicking his feet up on the table, pouring himself a glass of Scotch, actually no…pouring out one glass of Scotch for Pablo and drinking the rest straight out of the bottle), thinking about how gloriously peaceful his life is. For this one day, he was really a hero. We can all fetishize Pablo through Narcos and the absurdly touristic immersion into his former haunts, but he was like…a really bad guy. Super bad guy. Maybe fun once in a while but definitely not worth it because he’d probably be really bad at some point during the fun. So yeah, Rob was a hero, just for one day. That’s actually where Bowie got inspiration for the song.
But sometimes the hero’s journey is too much for some. Aye, some of us actually feel more comfortable being the bad guy. I know that I’ve always assumed I was a Slytherin, but as it turns out, I’m actually a Ravenclaw. Rob, however, fancied himself a Gryffindor, after the Escobar take-down.
Arguably, what got him the position of Commissioner for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in the first place, was his Nixon-inspired decision to classify marijuana as a Schedule I high-risk recreational substance. Because there were no conclusive reports stating that marijuana could be used as an acceptable medical treatment, and more likely because, like the crack-cocaine that was released into the streets of Los Angeles by the police department, the illegality of cheap drugs and their maintained prevalence on the streets ensures that the police will always have a way to imprison minorities, “Others,” and those we generally see as a threat to American sovereignty.
Fast forward to the early 2000s, when medical marijuana is starting to pick up in popularity, and dispensaries are getting shut down left and right by teams of DEA agents who claim the federal law supersedes the state law. This strange contradiction, a legal paradox, if you will, is the root of the problem. The discord makes it impossible to establish legislation and policy that is harmonious across all channels of law enforcement. It is for this reason that dispensaries are unable to store their income in banks. As per federal law, the business of selling medical marijuana is considered illegal, criminal activity. Therefore, no bank will accept money from cannabis businesses. As a result, these dispensaries and related companies have been forced to come up with alternative money storage systems. Some use vaults, while others store their cash in off-site facilities designed for use by members of the cannabis industry, and still others have developed alternative strategies for safe-guarding their earnings.
Recently, legislation was presented to congress challenging this issue in favor of dispensaries being allowed to use banks, especially considering they are now paying state taxes in states that have approved recreational use. But perhaps this isn’t really a desirable solution at all. Why not turn to something like bitcoin to encrypt earnings?