Cannabis Culture V Alcohol Culture

A Shift in Cannabis Culture

All self-medication is not created equal.

Alcohol culture and cannabis culture come from two distinctly different places. Their hold on Americans are both distinctly different. One has always been incredibly unhealthy (fun as hell — make no mistake — but damned unhealthy). The other is cannabis culture. Both inspired prohibition but cannabis’ prohibition endured long beyond alcohol’s. That wasn’t a coincidence. It had to do with who, in the early days, was using cannabis — which was why the nascent Federal Bureau of Narcotics under its first Commissioner Harry Anslinger flip-flopped on “marihuana”; the FBN stopped seeing it as a very minor, innocuous Mexican habit brought across the border by Mexicans fleeing the Mexican Revolution and, instead (almost overnight, in fact) started seeing it as an invented crisis with racism at its core: “reefer madness”.

The very reason Harry Anslinger hated marijuana and declared war on it was because white people started to smoke it. The vector between Mexicans smoking it and white people smoking it was Black people smoking it. And the Black people who drove marijuana’s growing popularization — as it literally travelled up the Mississippi from New Orleans — were the musicians who’d invented jazz, many of them while smoking marijuana. Anslinger was both a die hard racist and a brilliant bureaucrat. Turns out, he also fancied himself a good pianist with a passion for European classical music. Jazz was anathema to Anslinger. He hated the musicians who created jazz. He hated the Blackness of their music. He hated the marijuana they smoked before and during their playing. But, he especially hated the fact that this Mexican and now Black habit was spreading from non-white usage to white usage.

Harry Anslinger personally invented “reefer madness” — that bizarre way of seeing and thinking about cannabis, divorced from any sort of practical cannabis experience. But Harry had a problem. He may have hated marijuana because of the people he saw smoking it in his mind’s eye, but no one else did. The law didn’t hate marijuana, quite the contrary. The law was rather pro-hemp. It didn’t care whether or not anyone smoked it. And the Constitution gave Harry no openings either. Nothing in our Constitution supports marijuana prohibition whatsoever.

That’s what everyone told Harry as he tried to formulate a law that would give him the power to arrest and prosecute people he hated because of racism.

But, as I said, Harry was also a great bureaucrat. Instead of quitting, he went bureaucratic. Our federal government didn’t nail Al Capone for being a gangster. It nailed Capone for being a tax cheat. That was Harry’s tack.

First, he seeded the ground with racist bullshit. Harry would go to the press and tell them — with all the gravity and authority of the Commissioner of the FBN — that Black men were smoking marijuana and then getting sexed up and raping white women. Or getting white women to smoke marijuana themselves — and then getting so sexed up that they’d give themselves to these Black men! Oh, the horror! The press — and in their defense, why would they doubt Harry? — printed Harry’s bullshit in their newspapers which Harry would then hold up as proof that what he was saying was absolutely true.

This collection of clippings grew quickly into what Harry called his “Gore files”. Slowly, but surely, Harry’s racist magic worked its way through Congress. Now, the law was still the law; no one was going to indulge Harry by writing law that would get them laughed at. But, being a clever bureaucrat who understood how to catch a mobster, Harry proposed a tax instead. Every time anyone bought or sold cannabis — and, just to be safe, Harry through hemp into the mix, too — they would have to pay a tax. In order to prove they’d both paid the tax, both would have to get a stamp designed just for this purpose. Here’s where it got complicated. No organ was set up to collect any such tax — and none was going to be created. And (the cherry on top), no actual stamp was ever created either. The stamp was literally unattainable.

Any time anyone bought or sold marijuana or hemp, they were going to violate the tax code. The Marijuana Tax Stamp Act of 1937 sailed through Congress (despite considerable opposition to it by organizations like the AMA who were keenly aware of marijuana’s considerable positives as a medication). Interesting story? Within twenty four hours, the Stamp Act had its first criminals. In Denver.

Samuel Caldwell got arrested on October 2, 1937 for possessing marijuana for which he could not provide the stamp as evidence that he’d paid the tax in order to possess that marijuana. Now, to be fair, Caldwell was no prince; he was a criminal with a fair-sized rap sheet. But that simply made it easier to prosecute Caldwell and establish a precedent.

For the record — a Mexican man named Moses Baca would have been the first arrestee except his arrest happened two weeks before the Tax Law was enacted. It was only after the law was enacted — and Baca couldn’t produce a stamp to prove he’d paid the tax — that he became a “drug criminal”.

Everything — literally everything — about cannabis prohibition was based on racist bullshit. For contrast, as stupid and doomed to failure as alcohol prohibition was, at least it was based on reality. While we think of the teetotalers and Temperance Society wackos who drove prohibition as old fashioned and repressive, in fact, they were being very progressive about a very real social problem: drinking. Then, as now, alcohol addiction ruined lives. Ruined whole families. Whole communities. Prohibition’s misguided aim was a better society. It used a sledge hammer when micro-surgery was in order.

When prohibition finally met its well-deserved end, America made damned sure such a thing could never, would n ever happen again. They put the liquor manufacturers in charge. And the distributors. They began the process of indoctrinating Americans from a very young age into thinking that alcohol is a right of passage. It’s the organizing principle around which most socializing revolves. A restaurant will almost never be profitable without alcohol sales to make it profitable. Bars are built on selling alcohol. The more, the better. Being big, corporate businesses now, alcohol manufacturers think globally. And they dutifully invest in keeping America’s youth fixated on that key rite of passage — legal drinking. That’s why alcohol manufacturers invest so much in creating products that make alcohol seem innocuous, fun, and candy-flavored.

No one reads a warning label on a beer bottle (or a packet of cigs) and thinks “Oh, wait — I hadn’t thought of that!” A better warning would be to point out something practical: “After consuming this alcoholic beverage, please wait at least twenty minutes before deciding you need another because you probably won’t”. It’s one of the weird things about alcohol and drinking. It’s like drinkers forget (after drinking) how alcohol works inside their own bodies. They drink — and keep drinking — like they’ve never had a drink before. Like they’re surprised to find themselves as over-the-limit as they are.

That’s a big part of our collective problem with alcohol: it screws with our memory. Screwing with our memory screws with our perspective. We keep forgetting all the dumb things we do when alcohol is inside us. We get it into our heads that they’re all isolated incidents rather than tiles in a mosaic that says: your relationship with alcohol isn’t what you think it is and alcohol’s the alpha.

I stopped drinking alcohol in early 2017. The mood stabilizer I started taking to deal with a decade long depression that was literally killing me gave alcohol a terrible, grapefruit skin-like aftertaste. That was heartbreaking at first. I loved the taste of a perfect gin martini (depending on the gin). I loved every aspect of a glass of big, dark, inky red — from first tentative sniff to last, satisfying swallow. An aversion to alcohol wasn’t one ofA the possible side effects the literature warned about. Lamotrigine was developed as an anti-seizure medication; its mood stabilizing effects were a ridealong. From the first moment that grapefruit skin aftertaste hit, I turned away from alcohol and never, really, looked back.

I’ve felt better since I stopped drinking. I sleep better. I work better. Let’s be clear however — alcohol was never my problem; I was. Now — to be fair — have I merely swapped one self-destructive bad habit for another? Isn’t cannabis just as bad in its way as alcohol is in its?

I’d answer it this way: there’s a very good reason we actually think of cannabis as a medicine while we only jokingly think of alcohol that way. It’s just a stone cold fact — alcohol and THC are entirely different chemicals that act in entirely different ways inside our bodies and especially our brains. Alcohol depresses our inhibitions by uniformly suppressing our motor skills and our ability to process information. Our reaction times slow and then our vague motor skills fudge the rest. THC, on the other hand, isn’t a depressant. Our thoughts are caused by electrical impulses flowing across our synapses. THC causes more of those synapses to be open (they’re a lot like digital circuits).

The reason everything seems a little more intense (colors, tastes, smells) is because our brains are literally processing more information than we’d be processing without the THC. That’s what some people experience as paranoia. They’re conflating that awareness of more information with someone outside of them. Because of cannabis’s bad boy past, that “someone” is inherently threatening because they “know”. That negative aside, for most cannabis users — especially those who recognize the difference between sativas, hybrids and indicas — the whole point of using cannabis is to achieve a particular effect. For instance, when I wake and bake every morning, I light up from a collection of sativas that I know will focus my brain and get it ready to write coherent thoughts. When I get to the end of my writing day and it’s time to chill, I’ll break out my hybrid collection (though some hybrids –Trainwreck especially — are excellent for work). When the evening is coming to its end and bedtime approaches, out come my indicas. I know that not only will indicas put me to sleep, they’ll give me a good, solid, restful night’s sleep from which I’ll awake the next day ready for battle.

Once I wake n bake, of course.

Alcohol culture isn’t going anywhere. There’s way too much money in it. And humans really like alcohol. But cannabis culture is on the come. The moment our government removes cannabis from schedule one — and the banks can finally invest their money in it? The cannabis business will boom like nothing before it. This is not a terrible thing except for the corruption that will ride shotgun alongside it. And it will suck when Big Cannabis becomes the power vortex and all the mom n pop operations get run out of business.

But, I believe, the culture cannabis will slowly impress upon us will be much more civilized than alcohol culture ever could be — because of alcohol’s nature. Think about it: if we stopped serving beer at sporting events and sold cannabis instead (hybrids, let’s say), violence would NEVER break out at sporting events ever again. Instead of screaming at each other at game’s end, opposing sides would be hugging, telling each other how well they played (regardless of the final score). Some fans might be dozing peacefully. No one would spill out into the streets ready to rumble.

People who smoke cannabis do not go home and beat their loved ones. They don’t get argumentative. They don’t get belligerent or combative. They do get funny though. And they do get the munchies.

Harry Anslinger hated jazz because Black people invented it. But — here’s the key — guys like Louis Armstrong and King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton all used cannabis as part of their creative process. These musicians were attempting to draw an abstract idea — jazz — out of their heads and into the air via their instruments. And they did this while ON CANNABIS. They knew from experience that no one can create music or play it well with a drink inside you. Heroin? Forget about it. Heroin turned the amazingly talented, handsome Chet Baker into a hollow shell of himself. It did not make him better at anything other than self-destruction. If only he’d been exclusively a dope fiend, he may have come to a happier ending.

Long before Big Alcohol turned to Big Advertising to improve its image, people had it in their heads that “in vino veritas” — that alcohol would lead to truth. I can only speak from personal experience. Alcohol, at best, leads to angry truthiness. That’s baked into its culture.

If I want real veritas? I’m tapping some Durban Poison into my Genius pipe and sparking it to life!

At No Point Was America’s “War On Drugs” EVER About Drugs; It was Always About Racism


Remember Prohibition? That was America’s attempt to wage war on the “drug of choice” of most white people: alcohol. Prohibition failed miserably as we know. Not only didn’t it stop anyone from drinking, it made drinking sexier. And, because legitimate providers couldn’t provide during Prohibition, illegitimate providers filled in the vacuum. It was Prohibition that gave organized crime its first real foothold in America. Prohibition gave them a product to sell, a public anxious to buy and no one to regulate what anyone was doing. America put up with Prohibition for thirteen years. But, to be fair to the prohibitionists — judgmental as they were — they weren’t wrong about the harm alcohol abuse was doing to America, Americans and their families. The prohibitionists weren’t conservatives, they were progressives! Prohibition was an attempt to force a moral choice upon a population that wanted a drink instead. Being as the population was mostly white, in the end, that population had its way. Prohibition ended relatively quickly.

We cannot say the same for marijuana prohibition though — even as decriminalization spreads with remarkable speed across the country. Marijuana was effectively “illegalized” by the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act of 1937. The law didn’t make marijuana illegal because, as first drug czar Harry Anslinger found out, there is literally NOTHING in the Constitution that makes any substance illegal. In order to make opiates or cannabis illegal, lawmakers had to perform a whole Olympics worth of gymnastics. None them completed a single routine successfully — except for the fact that they did illegalize the drugs they were going after.

When Harry Anslinger became the first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, he brought a couple of things with him. First was his skill as a bureaucrat. Whatever else Anslinger was (and we’ll get to what he really was momentarily), he was exceptionally skilled at working the bureaucracy to get what he wanted (even when the law wasn’t on his side — as the law wasn’t when Anslinger put a target on marijuana’s back). Anslinger began as a railroad cop for the Pennsylvania Railroad (where his father also worked). During World War I, Anslinger turned that success into a burgeoning diplomatic career. Working for the US government, Anslinger became deeply involved in the battle against international drug trafficking. Now, let’s be clear about something: in 1920, the “international drug trade” consisted of opium. That’s it.

But, if we dig a little into even that — our battle with the international opium trade — we find racism lurking. The opium wars of the 1840’s were fought because China (knowing opium smoking was problematic to peoples health and productivity), had made opium illegal while the British wanted to be able to trade in opium (in part to make up the massive trade balance they were experiencing with China). China wanted to end the trade in opium while Europe wanted it to continue — because it was enriching Europe. Jump forward a few years. When America wanted cheap (bordering on slave) labor after slavery was finally illegalized, we brought in thousands of Chinese men. We made them keep their families at home because heaven forbid we ever treat workers like human beings — especially when they’re “different”.

Had Europe not insisted on keeping the opium trade open, there wouldn’t have been anything for American racists to worry over when they saw communities of Chinese men — perhaps using opium, perhaps not — who would blame them; we left them with little to do in their off hours other than eat and sleep. The first anti-drug law in American popped up in San Francisco in 1875. It made smoking opium in opium dens illegal. Was that for a reason associated with anyone’s health? No. The law itself is pretty specific about WHY it exists because: “”Many women and young girls, as well as young men of a respectable family, were being induced to visit the Chinese opium-smoking dens, where they were ruined morally and otherwise.”

“Ruined morally or otherwise”. That’s the LEGAL underpinning. When Harry Anslinger started setting up shop in 1930 at the FBN, most drug laws (if there were any) were local not national. Though opium use was being limited at the local level, there was no national law giving Anslinger any comparable power. To go along with his minimal enforcement power, he had a small work force of bureaucrats and an even smaller one of field agents. He was competing at the time with J. Edgar Hoover who was much better at public relations at first than Anslinger was.

Anslinger didn’t care about marijuana when he started working at the FBN. Prior to 1910, marijuana doesn’t really register. It scores some notoriety after Hugh Ludlow publishes The Hashish Eater in 1857 but the whole experience is exotic and foreign. In 1910, the Mexican Revolution sends a gush of people fleeing the war Many settle north of the border and begin new lives in America. They bring with them their food, their religion, their cannabis. As they know culturally, at the end of a work day — or even going into one — cannabis is awesome.

So long as marijuana remained something Mexicans did among Mexicans, Anslinger didn’t care about it. Eventually, marijuana made it over to New Orleans where a bunch of Black musicians were in the process of inventing jazz. Guys like Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver and Louis Armstrong knew (perhaps from experience) that you couldn’t invent anything on opium. You couldn’t make music with heroin in your head. Ditto alcohol. That didn’t mean plenty of musicians (jazz or otherwise) didn’t try to combine music an alcohol. But, as the rest of us know, the person hopped up on hops has lost all perspective. In vino veritas? Not really. In vino lack of candor. In vino lack of judgment. In vino crap motor skills. That’s not the case with marijuana.

The Black musical artists who invented jazz loved cannabis because it opened up their creativity like nothing else. It allowed them to bridge all kinds of jumps they were making in their brains while creating jazz — while inventing music on the fly. Jazz was the first authentically American musical idiom. It couldn’t have come from anywhere else or have been produced by anyone other than the people who made it. And they made it, many of them, while using marijuana.

Among the people who hated jazz — and there were people who despised it because of who created it — was America’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger. In addition to being a very skilled bureaucrat, apparently Anslinger was a skilled musician, too. He played piano. Loved European classical music. Hated jazz and every single jazz musician for having helped create it But, even so, it wasn’t Anslinger’s hatred for jazz and jazz musicians that spurred him to finally go after marijuana.

When Anslinger heard reports of white people using dope? THAT was the bridge too far for Anslinger. White people using a drug that Black and brown people use? That’s white people being “perverted” by people of color. That, to a racist like Harry Anslinger, could not happen. It’s precisely why Anslinger decided that marijuana was a far worse threat to America than heroin.

For a very thorough telling of Harry Anslinger’s story, I suggest a few of the Blunt Truths pieces I wrote for Weedmaps News (when there was a Weedmaps News). Though a few chapters are missing (one got purloined by one of my editors at Weedmaps News — Nicolas Juarez — that effing scumbag!), the thirteen chapters and 25,000 words tell the only story one can truthfully tell about marijuana prohibition. It happened because of who, early on, was using it. No one ever cared about whether it was good or bad for anyone’s health. No research was ever commissioned to prove such a thing because health was never a factor.

One of the nicest things to experience is the slow, chillin’ demise of “Reefer Madness” as an idea of how people are when using cannabis. Think of how many more millions of Americans across the country are now using cannabis on a regular basis — integrating it into their lives — without their lives falling apart. Or Wester Civilization collapsing.

Frankly, if my young adult daughter quit drinking tomorrow and used cannabis exclusively for recreation and self-medicating? I’d be thrilled. I quit drinking because my mood stabilizer gives all alcohol a terrible, grapefruit skin-like aftertaste. As I was already using cannabis for sleeping, I upped my cannabis use — and discovered almost immediately that just by quitting alcohol, the quality of my sleep improved even more than it had when I quit over-the-counter sleeping meds for nightly indica. If sporting events sold cannabis instead of Budweiser, there would never be another drunken brawl at a soccer game that spills out into the streets. Instead, a crowd that just watched a sporting event while stoned would end up hugging each other even if they supported the other side. It’s just hard to feel that shitty with THC sprinkling you gently with euphoria.

The More You Repress People, The Angrier They Become At You For Repressing Them

Remember being a teenager? Remember how every time some lame adult told you NOT to do something, in a flash, the only thing you knew was “I HAVE TO DO THAT NOW!”? Donald Trump and the Republican Party have triggered America. That’s what 100 million early voters — 15% of them normally non-voters — says. Americans who never vote have come out in droves to vote. Trust me on this: almost none of those people is doing something this extraordinary — including standing in line for hours — in order to vote for Trump or any Republican. No one except racists and lunatics want this Trumpian nightmare to continue for two more seconds never mind four more years. Threaten to take something away from people, they will react. Threaten to repress them, they will get angry. And — take note, Republicans, America is deeply, DEEPLY angry at you.

Try to see it from our point of view. Here we are — the overwhelming majority of Americans — and there’s you: a teeny-tiny minority of rich, white, Christian men trying hard as hell to oppress us. Yo, assholes — the majority of Americans are done, done, DONE with you and that part of America’s history.

We’re moving on. Shame you won’t be joining us. Just kidding: it’s not a shame. No one’s going to miss you.

Repression, like prohibition, never seem to achieve its desired results over the long term. In the short term, it seems to, but that’s always an illusion. The ends aren’t being achieved at all. The only thing that’s really happening is repression for repression’s sake.

In the whole history of humankind, prohibition has never worked — not as intended. It may restrict and limit use of a controlled substance, but it won’t slake the thirst for it. In America, the urge to prohibit flows from two opposing sensibilities in constant dynamic tension with each other. First, there’s the Christian Moralist Sensibility. It loves judging other people. It doesn’t know from “Do unto others” because its mantra is “Do what I tell you to or else”. It’s pure, institutional, religionista judgment. Never mind whatever bad habits IT may have, we’re here to talk about YOUR bad habits because “Jesus hates them”.

The second opposing sensibility flows, ironically, from the same place. Except, it’s closer to the actual “Jesus sensibility”. It wants to help the meek to inherit the earth as quickly as possible. To that end, this progressive sensibility wants to save everyone from themselves and their own vices. Its heart is in the right place — it wants you to give up alcohol for the sake of your family — but its hands are frequently heavier than needed. Throwing people in jail for their bad habits (if those bad habits aren’t hurting anyone else) is soooooo right wing conservative. If the tables suddenly turned, they’d scream their heads off because you dared to punish them for, of all things, a “bad habit”.

Donald Trump is not going to “win” tomorrow. He did not “win” in 2016. We’ve got to get it into our heads that “cheating to win” is not “one way” to win. It’s the opposite of winning, it’s cheating. Our knee jerk reaction to cheating should be “You cheated? You CAN’T win” not “Oh, well, what can we do? They cheated!” The whole point of cheating in this election (and remember — Trump’s already been IMPEACHED for cheating in this election!) is to solidify the cheating from the 2016 election. The coup d’etat’s not finished yet.

If Trump and the GOP thought they could have cancelled this election and moved on to permanent minority rule, they’d have done it already. But they can’t. The Republicans feared the very thing rising up in front of them: the American electorate, woke and focused on them. Focused on their corruption and treachery.

People willing to stand in the cold and rain for HOURS in order to achieve their political ends will not accept having their votes denied, disenfranchised or uncounted. As triggered as they already are, they’ll get nuclear-triggered. Not just angry at the Republicans, what they’ve done and what they’re doing, LIVID. Out of our minds with rage and the desire not for revenge but justice.

To the Republicans — to Donald Trump — justice will feel like revenge. They’ll howl that we’re prosecuting them for political reasons. Bull-shit. We’ll be prosecuting every Republican because they stole political power we did not give them. That’s a crime. It won’t be Democrats investigating, prosecuting and punishing Republicans, it will be the rule of law.

It will be reason prosecuting them and throwing them in prison for life sentences.

It will be Justice.

The angry teenager that bumped on being told “turn down the music” still lives inside each and every one of us. Go one, admit it — the moment you read “turn down the music”, your first thought was “screw you, asshole — turn that music up to eleven!”

Anger’s in the air. It’s being channeled into our ballots and through the political system right to Donald Trump’s face.

Why Did We Ever Criminalize Drug Use To Begin With? Because Judging People Is Easier Than Helping Them…

The “war on drugs” was never a war on “drugs”. Like the drug laws it was meant to epitomize, the drug war was always entirely focused on drug users. And not just the users because they were using, but on their race.

First Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger spells it out: our drug laws are all about racism, racism & more racism.

The first drug law in America was written in 1875 in San Francisco — aimed at stopping the spread of opium dens. A noble idea. No one wants to live near an opium den. And, it’s a fact, opium is highly addictive. It needs to be approached with care; even doctor’s get prescribing it horribly wrong. But the law itself — as written — wasn’t concerned with anyone’s neighborhood getting ruined. It wasn’t concerned with anyone getting addicted. In fact, it had no data on hand to justify any concerns it might have about opium’s impact on its users’ health — if it had had any such concerns which it didn’t.

This is from the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy via Wikipedia

The reason cited was “many women and young girls, as well as young men of respectable family, were being induced to visit the Chinese opium-smoking dens, where they were ruined morally and otherwise.”

This law and virtually every opium law that followed drew an important distinction that would ripple through history.

“Though the laws affected the use and distribution of opium by Chinese immigrants, no action was taken against the producers of such products as laudanum, a tincture of opium and alcohol, commonly taken as a panacea by white Americans. The distinction between its use by white Americans and Chinese immigrants was thus based on the form in which it was ingested: Chinese immigrants tended to smoke it, while it was often included in various kinds of generally liquid medicines often (but not exclusively) used by people of European descent. The laws targeted opium smoking, but not other methods of ingestion.

Schaffer Library of Drug Policy

Sound familiar? Depending on whether you snorted cocaine as most white people did or smoked it as crack as lots of black people did, the drug laws treated you differently. The laws punished smoking coke far more harshly than snorting it. Same drug, same basic impact on the user — but different law and (especially) different, harsher penalty. And still not a single concern for the user him or herself and the drug’s impact on their well-being.

The very illegalization of drugs has always been about judging the drugs’ users. Let’s face it — white Europeans are the biggest bullies on the planet. They’re professional hegemonists — spreading their culture and “true faith” like an STD. But, even when the Europeans weren’t judging others because they were “others”, they were judging other Europeans for being “weak” and punishing them for their weakness.

In America, prior to enactment of the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act, there were no federal laws regulating drugs of any kind. The very real health concerns about opioids aside, the drug laws simply didn’t consider them or even refer to them in its legislation. It wasn’t the point. Here’s the key to the Harrison act: “The courts interpreted [it] to mean that physicians could prescribe narcotics to patients in the course of normal treatment, but not for the treatment of addiction.”

What that means for this highly addictive drug — doctors could prescribe it to relieve pain but once the cause of the pain stopped (and who is to say whether another person is feeling pain or not?), so did the opioid — regardless of what cutting it off did to the user. The law willfully condemned people to suffer. It denied their physical pain — and then wanted to punish them for ever experiencing pain to begin with.

Where does that come from?

Look to your bible. America has always had a strange love for religion — especially a twisted form of Christianity that perverts “Do unto others” to “Do what we say”. The Puritans may have been seeking religious freedom in the Massachusetts Colony, but that was only for themselves. There were reasons no one back in England liked them (and so made them feel despised): they were judgmental. And, while the Salem witch trials were an anomaly, they did reflect Puritanism’s witchcraft-fearing id running wild.

The witchcraft trials were to women what drug laws would later be to black and brown people.

Jesus taught simply “Do Unto Others”. He didn’t say “judge them” or “force your way on them”. The meek, Jesus said, shall inherit the earth. He didn’t say they’d have to do it drug-free. Just as well, as drugs go, there are few as terrible as religion.

Marx got it wrong. Religion isn’t the opiate of the people. If all it did was sedate them, that would be bad enough. It incites them — like angel dust or meth — to mean, dangerous, soulless behavior. Religion (vs spirituality — a very different thing) doesn’t care about what’s hurting them, what’s causing them pain. It’s got its own rules and regs to push. It’s followers are there to do what they’re told not be attended to. They’re a flock of sheep after all. And no one wants an “uppity” sheep.

The painful irony is that alcohol prohibition sprang from a very progressive ideal. It was Europeans judging how Europeans behaved when effected by a European-approved intoxicant: alcohol. And alcohol was a very real problem for a lot of Americans in the latter part of the 19th century when support for prohibition began to grow. But, as we know, in the whole history of human beings, prohibition has never worked — not as intended.

In America, alcohol prohibition criminalized virtually the entire adult population and turned organized crime from a local problem to a national one. Criminal syndicates suddenly had a product to sell — alcohol — that everyone wanted but only they had. We’re still dealing with the mess.

Prohibition may stop people from using a substance because getting it is hard — but it won’t stop them from wanting it. It won’t stop them from gerryrigging ways to either get it or craft a replacement of dubious safety. In general, prohibition wants a grey world to be black & white regardless of how grey it’s always been and always will be.

In America, there was a twist: prohibition wanted the world to be white only. The opium laws (first written in San Francisco) were meant to punish Chinese people brought to America to work — who dared relax in the way they liked. Using the same racist playbook, the first marijuana laws were written to first punish “Hindoos” who “…started quite a demand for cannabis indica; they are a very undesirable lot and the habit is growing in California very fast; the fear is now that it is not being confined to the Hindoos alone but that they are initiating our whites into this habit.”

“Initiating our whites into this habit”. There you have it. No one cared about the Hindoos as people — just as later laws wouldn’t care about individual Mexicans or blacks using marijuana. The laws cared about the white people — about white people doing something “black” or “brown” or “yellow” did. And that was entirely unacceptable.

America’s drug laws have never, ever, EVER been about anyone’s health and always about racism with a side of hatred for “the weak”. Our drug laws mirror something demented in our religious fervor. They speak for it.

Racism is fear. Drug laws are that fear’s manifestation in the law. They’re legalized forms of institutional racism. Period.

In America, Christianity was used more as a cudgel than as a sanctuary. Slavers pointed to the bible to justify their cruelty. Bible thumpers continued pointing at their “good book” to justify miscegenation laws that prevented black people from marrying white people. They used their book to justify all sorts of racist claptrap.

Imagine the audacity of judging love. It’s as stupid and heartless as judging another person’s pain.

No wonder everyone fleeing religion needs a drink.