What’s so special about cannabis? What is it about this plant that arouses such passion and ire? Why is it some people want to punish and abuse those who grow this plant, while others are willing to risk great odds and harsh sanctions so they can use and enjoy it?
Is it really just about psychoactive effects of cannabinoids and the debateable health risks of using marijuana? Or is it all about money, the petro-pharmacetical conspiracy to keep us dependent upon their sythetic, patented and profitable products?
Although I think the above factors play a role in prohibition, I believe that the roots of the pot/prohibition conflict go much deeper than that. The drug war is a culture war, a religious war, an ideological conflict which has been going on in various forms for thousands of years.
The conflict between prohibition and tolerance, homogeneity and diversity, domination and partnership, has been ongoing in various forms throughout most of human history. I believe that this battle can also be summarized in terms of competition between Love and Fear.
In my mind, love acts from a playful, selfconfident centre, solving problems with intelligence and creativity, aiming for sofactualization and consensus. Fear is reactive, producing hate, spams of violence and aggressive intolerence. Fear tries to solve problems without thinking or learning, with fight or flight – force or revulsion.
Ultimately, prohibitionist ideology is a mainfestation of fear. The prohibitionist does not trust himself, fearing his own desires and self-restraint, and so forcefully imposes that lackof self-confidence onto society. The prohibitionist tries to control others to compensate for his own fear of lost self-control.
This isn’t to say that marijuana use is a prerequisite to being self confident and loving, but rather that those who exhibit these traits are far less likely to restrict themselves from experimenting with all enjoyable things life has to offer, and far less likely to judge others for their personal choices. Also, marijuana and other drugs can serve as learning tools, and often help people to better understand and accept cetain aspects of themselves.
Many people who use maujuana and other enlightening drugs report that they experience varing defrees of “ego loss.” which involves a breakdown of the sense of self, and a perception of “one-ness” with other people and the universe in general. Those who appreciate marijuana recognize this as a beneficial experience, which can lead to tolerance of diversity and increased individual acceptance and self-understanding.
Yet to those who who act from fear, this kind of experience is seen as dangerous and negative. Ego loss and one-ness are considered mental aberrations, leading to breakdown of social structure, class and race mixing, and lack of respect for authority and social mores.
Cannabis has become a symbol for many things, and part of the reason the marijuana movement has had the successes it has had, is because we have made cannabis more than just a symbol for counter-culture and hippiedom. The areas where cannabis activism have had the most success are those that resonate most strongly with public fears and social concerns. Cannabis has become a symbol for natural medicine, herbal healing, and resistance to pharmaceutical dominance. It has also become a symbol for non-toxic farming, tree-free paper, and general environmentalism.
Cannabis has always has these attributes, but the common perception of cannabis was dominated by the negative symbols created by fear. The more positive associations we can produce, the more acceptable cannabis will become.
The strategies we are using are sound. We must make cannabis and cannabis information as widely available as possible, and counter prohibitionist propaganda at every turn. Fear rest on ignorance, and ignorance can be educated. It’s impossible to hate something that you understand and are familiar with, especially when it’s useful, beneficial and enjoyable. And as we all know about cannabis, to know her is to love her.
“This isn’t about pot; it’s about love.”
– Dennis Peron
Editor, Cannabis Culture
This issue is the last one produced under the steady hand of art director Mike Butts. Mike joined us back in ’97 at issue #10, and over the past nine issues has brought our production values and overall qualities to new heights. We’ll miss his keen sensibilities and wish him great success. We welcome Gord Smedley on board as our new art director.