CANNABIS CULTURE – In 2007, over 870 thousand people were arrested for cannabis possession in the United States, and more than 100 thousand people have been arrested so far this year. On January 10, 2009, I became one of those 100 thousand when I was arrested for possessing marijuana in Keene, New Hampshire – an act I intentionally performed as a protest against the immorality of the Drug War, and as a demonstration of the absurdity of incarcerating someone for such a harmless “crime”.
That morning, hours before the protest was to take place, I took out my copy of Walter Kaufman’s The Portable Nietzsche and turned it to a random page (watch the protest video). I happened to open to a section of Thus Spoke Zarathustra entitled “On the New Idol”, in which the title character speaks of the delegation of one’s own power and responsibility for value-creation to some external entity – in this case, the State. “The New Idol,” or the State, is seen by her idolaters as the power which grants them rights, as the authority which grants permission to act, as this almost omniscient, omnipotent entity which can solve their problems. Rather than fight to protect the self-determination that is innate to them as human beings, they seek to deny it through the externalization of their power, their rights, their freedom, and their humanity to the State.
Those of you who live day-to-day wishing only to ingest cannabis without having to concern yourselves with the mindless hobbies of the State know exactly what I mean. The State is not your idol; you do not worship the State or derive your moral values from it. Instead, you see it – and rightfully so – as the ever-intrusive, ever-meddlesome entity that it is. Your instinct is to react against the State and know it, intuitively, to be wrong; and, like the strong people you are, you embrace that instinct and continue living your own life in the manner you see fit, despite the State’s campaign against you. You struggle on, even as the State destroys so many of you each year, locking you in prisons and treating you like criminals – you struggle on.
It is this struggle that you and I share: the perpetual struggle of the individual and the community, of the person who knows he is good and free, and the State, whose opposing view is much more misanthropic. It is this struggle that I have now dedicated my life to, seeing it as the most pervasive and challenging of our times. The State’s coercive habits must be eradicated, its validity questioned, its power kept in check; and the importance and sovereignty of the individual must be embraced now more than ever.
For this reason I, and over 600 other liberty-loving people from all over the country (and the rest of the world), have moved to New Hampshire as members of the Free State Project. The FSP is an organization committed to encouraging as many freedom activists as possible to move to one state. For me (as I can only speak for myself and not others involved in the FSP), it is a chance to aid in the fight to reduce the government’s tyrannical nature and, in the process, create a peaceful, free society based on the principle of self-ownership: the part of your condition that relates you to yourself – you are responsible for your own actions, bound by your weaknesses, enabled by your strengths, and sovereign in all matters concerning your own being – you, quite literally, own yourself.
This basic principle of self-ownership leads many to see government intervention in individual affairs to be exactly what it is: blatant authoritarianism in the quest for moral and social conformity. But what business is it of the State to create and enforce laws regarding how the individual ought best treat himself? What business is it of the State to tell you what you can and can not do with your own body? You, me, and millions of other Americans agree in a more and more resounding manner each day: it is none of the State’s business at all. I, and many others who have moved to New Hampshire, simply believe it is time that we did something about it.
Thus, in mid-August of 2008, two weeks after my 18th birthday, I moved to the Granite State from my native city of Whittier, California. It was quite a change. Most notably, California is notorious for its year-round sunshine and New Hampshire for its cold winters. But getting past the superficial aspects and on to the more meaningful realities of contemporary social and economic situations, New Hampshire both enlightened and astonished me with its vibrant political atmosphere.
New Hampshire’s 425-member legislature is the third largest in the English-speaking world – a stark contrast to California’s 120-member legislature, which supposedly provides an accurate representation of the values of a population 28 times the size of New Hampshire’s. California’s culture is rampant with apathy and cynicism from the social, economic, and pure class disparity between the representative’s and their constituents. New Hampshire, however, is filled with people who call their legislator’s home phone (yes, an actual home phone) and might even talk to a representative’s husband or wife about how their day went while waiting for their representative to reach the phone (try that in California). Also, the cost to run for office in New Hampshire is so low that most running at the state level spend less than $500 on a campaign, and even go door-to-door and talk to voters in person – again, try running for state office in California with $500, and then go knock on every one of your constituents’ doors ($500 won’t even cover the gas).
The legislature in New Hampshire is so accessible and localized that it creates an environment of more accountability and far less corruption. The only way the people of California will ever escape the over-abundance of lobbyists, media monopolies, and corrupt politicians that accompany their government (aside from moving out of the state) is if it collapses. The path to change in the “Live Free or Die” state is much more peaceful and adaptable to individual needs and pursuits – the best government truly is one closest to home, and the one closest to home is the individual’s government of himself.
It is that exact idea that I demonstrated with my protest. The State is not my idol and I do not worship it. I do not look to it for moral guidance or to govern my actions. Instead, I look to myself.
So when January 10, 2009, finally came, I had already sent press releases to local and national media, informing them of my plan to openly possess marijuana to incite my own arrest. I had even sent word to local law enforcement agencies, telling them exactly when and where I would be conducting this illegal act. At 1 P.M., gathering with over 40 other liberty activists, I waited in public for the cops to arrive. After holding the marijuana in my hand for almost half an hour, displaying it openly without guilt or fear, members of the Keene police force finally came to arrest me – with a dozen video cameras glued to their every move.
“Is that marijuana?” one of them asked. “It sure is,” I replied. Thus one of them lifted it from my open palm, put me in handcuffs, and walked me away. Videos of the arrest, as well as the entirety of the protest, hit YouTube later that day and were streamed live as well. As I later watched myself get arrested the whole scene seemed quite surreal, and I even chuckled at the raw silliness of them treating me like a criminal – combined with the irony of the fact that I don’t even smoke pot! Any drug test conducted on me would have turned out negative.
Regardless, I found it odd that they arrested me for an act that harmed absolutely no one. They put me in handcuffs for doing nothing but holding a plant in my hand; and yet this happens every single day to good, kind people all across this country. Who was hurt by my possession of marijuana? Who had their property damaged? Who had their rights violated? No one. No one, that is, except me.
I was kidnapped, had my property – the marijuana – stolen from me, left with a minor bruise on my left hand from the handcuffs, and faced a fine of up to $2,000 and a jail sentence of up to one year. The immorality of all this is so blatant as to warrant utter outrage on behalf of the American people. And the question is not: will the government become worse? More intrusive? More authoritarian? The question is: when? And the answer is: now, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, and the day after that – unless we take it upon ourselves to draw a line in the sand and say, “Enough is enough!” That is the reason I moved to New Hampshire, that is the reason I am dedicating my life to the cause of liberty, that is the reason I protested the Drug War and had myself arrested – to demonstrate the absurdity and inhumanity of it all. I am the ruler of myself – not the government. I am the king of my own castle – not the government. And it’s about damn time someone told the government exactly that.
Watch the video of Andrew Carroll’s Pot Protest.
Visit FreeStateProject.org for more about the Free State Project.