Cannabis has been on this planet virtually unchanged for possibly millions of years. But at one point in its history a cataclysmic event took place that would change the plant forever.
This event would prove to be the absolute worst thing that could have ever happened to cannabis and at the same time it is the very best. It is called Prohibition.
After the Prohibition of alcohol proved to be a disastrous failure in the 1930s, everybody must have been drunk when The Bureau of Prohibition was simply replaced by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (precursor drug to the DEA). At it’s head, driven by racism and greed, Harry Anslinger introduced marijuana to every American citizen when he started his scare and smear campaign against the plant. He fabricated fantastic lies warning parents that this evil weed would ravage their children and that ruthless drug dealers were waiting to pounce. This may well have been the first time where targeting children to advance a prohibition against an adult issue was ever used. If not, it was the most vigorous, misleading and long lasting. In partnership with the newspapers Anslinger spewed his Reefer Madness for more than thirty years, pounding his message into parents and more importantly kids heads. That couldn’t possibly backfire could it?
His little program went pretty well in the 30s and 40s, what with recovering from the great depression and the war and all, and hey nobody smoked pot anyway, but by the time the 50s rolled around, north America was fat, prosperous and so were their kids. The baby boom had produced so many kids, they were now a market to exploit. The thing these kids would spend their money on was rock and roll music. Music that was driving their parents crazy.
It’s not like girls of the day weren’t swooning over Sinatra and Martin, but this new, wild and energetic rock and roll was something the parents and establishment didn’t like, which of course made the kids like it more. Addicted to prohibition the establishment pretty much wiped out this sexual scourge and replaced it with a watered down Pat Boone version, more akin to the booze laden Rat Pack of the kids’ parents. Having little choice, the youth of the late fifties had to embraced the music of Frankie and Annette but the chasm created between them and their parents could never be repaired. Add to that the symbolic finger given to “the man” in Rebel Without A Cause and The Wild One and you got yourself the makings of a down right revolution.
Throughout all of this, the Anslinger onslaught against marijuana continued. But still, if you weren’t a sailor, musician or living along the Mexican border you probably never saw or heard about marijuana except from him. As the 1960’s dawned, little could Harry imagine the chain of events about to take place that would rock his peaceful prohibition world. And, that the air around him was about to become thick with a green hazy smoke.
Anslinger retired in 1962, just as America was ramping up involvement in Vietnam and kids were listening to just terrible music, Brenda Lee, Bobbie Vinton, Connie Francis and the like. Alvin and The Chipmunks even had a hit that year. A few months later a president embraced by the youth would be taken from them in a disillusioned heartbeat. Kennedy’s successor, Lydon Johnson would make getting drafted a frightening reality, giving kids a stronger reason to revolt and set themselves further apart from their parents ideals. And at about that very moment The Beatles appeared with their rebel long hair and cocky attitudes playing melodies that had risen from the ghost of American rock and roll. The music was back, it was like a marriage made in heaven. America’s sweetheart was knocked up instantly and gave birth to a screaming, kicking generation gap. An offspring that was very soon going to want its own intoxicant.
There’s no way the cultural revolution of the sixties could have taken place on booze. It would have ended in about nine days with fistfights. Perhaps thanks to LSD, when we opened the doors of perception we found a big bag of weed. Anslinger’s campaigns had guaranteed that everybody now knew what the stuff was, including every kid. More importantly every kid knew their parents were afraid of it. This was perfect. Meanwhile, soldiers were returning from Vietnam (the living ones) with tales and flowers of sweet Southeast Asian sativas and very quickly an unbelievable supply was realized just across the Rio Grande. Don’t bogart that joint my friend. As usage spread, the kids instantly realized they had been lied to about the dangers of marijuana, furthering their resolve that the establishment was evil and magnifying their desire to use this particular substance. Plus they weren’t all messed up on pot and had the energy and clear thought to organize and rise up along with a healthy appetite. Without it, I’m not sure the revolution would have even happened. Hey Harry, want a hit?
Not only did prohibition cause an entire generation to start smoking pot, it also is the reason for every change that marijuana has experienced since then. In the 60s, pure sativas dominated the North American market. Prohibition made it hard to get and expensive, so it wasn’t long before hippies started sprouting the seeds they found in the buds. Problem was, the sativas didn’t want to mature very far north of Mexico and almost everyone ended up with nothing but leaves and a headache. It wouldn’t be until the seeds of the hash making variety of cannabis from Afghanistan would be brought into the mix that prohibition would cause an explosion resulting in every hybrid we know today. When the indica seeds hit the ground, stoners everywhere began to grow the dankest, skunkiest buds we had ever seen. Thanks to prohibition, not only were more people smoking it, everybody was now growing it too. Legendary strains like Alaska Thunderfuck and G13 were born. But, it wouldn’t be long before we realized the indica just wasn’t as strong as the Mexican and Thai we had been smoking. So construction on the hybrid highway began in the all out quest to get a sativa high from a the quicker maturing indica.
Prohibition inherently can never wipe out the substance it seeks to eliminate. It can only shuffle it along from one park bench to another. Marijuana migrated from equatorial regions, landed in North American backyards and more and more, was being pushed inside under artificial lights creating a brand new market for instruction and providing equipment. But as always, prohibition’s voracious appetite could not be quelled and in the early 70s Operation Green Merchant swept down on the burgeoning cannabis culture. The result drove marijuana cultivation further underground and sent many of the genetics to Holland where this plant could survive amidst some bizarre tolerant commerce.
Strains like Haze, Northern Lights, Silver Pearl, Big Sur Holyweed and others made their way across the ocean and were all the result of this indica/sativa hybridization quest. All of which had unknown percentages of indica and sativa comprised of land race genetics of now unknown origin. From this soup the Dutch continue breeding programs crossing all of those genetics back and forth and around and around. Others saw the market potential and bought those seeds, produced more, opened their own store and called that strain something different. Over time new genetics have been injected but only to be crossed into the already murky mix. As seeds found their way back to the Americas the mishmash results in a buffet of flavors and nuances the numbers perhaps unrivaled in any other plant family.
In North America prohibition continued to rage, with arrests arising to astronomical numbers, while millions of people continued smoke and grow. From this horrible oppression would grow a new type of marijuana, one that had never existed before. This new type wasn’t being smoked by everybody, it was just being smoked by sick people. Pretty tough to ignore sick people so the prohibition addicts figured out a scheme to straddle the fence by inventing one marijuana that helps you and the other one hurts you. They would call this new marijuana Medicinal, and paint the black market a slightly greener shade.
Don’t tell anyone, but recreational and medicinal marijuana are the same marijuana, except one makes you feel well and the other gets you arrested. From a medicinal point the strains that are being used have all come from the recreational market that has been totally abused by prohibition. Indicas have become the preferred chemotype to grow because of stealth, yield and speed. Sativas have become scarce for the opposite reasons, effectively eliminating the very type that has been smoked medicinally for a few thousand years. Prohibition causes the bait and switch.
Dispensing medicinal marijuana is a tricky prospect under prohibition. It is being grown using the same methods, and understanding, using genetics produced under prohibition. Even the misguided notion of testing for potency comes only from prohibition’s attempt to present marijuana as dangerous. Pot isn’t whiskey where you can hold up a bottle and know that it is 40% alcohol by volume. It is manufactured that way and the “potency” can be measured. Marijuana on the other hand is a plant that produces THC, and a bunch of other cannabinoids, with the environment ultimately determining the quality. It is not manufactured to exact standards, it is grown under the extreme limits of harsh prohibition in lands that it is not native. It is not clearly understood what the relationship between all of the known chemicals is or even why it makes us feel good. Nor does it take into account the notable difference between a very potent indica and a very potent sativa.
What if marijuana was never made illegal in first place? There would be no reason for Harry Anslinger. He wouldn’t have demonized it, giving the youth a substance that pissed off their parents. Maybe it would have still fueled the 60s, but it would have been over the counter culture. Your parents may have even used it….yuck! Returning Vietnam soldiers (the living ones) would have popularized marijuana a bit but then a ready legal supply of sativas and hash would have been met by those countries already producing it. The need to grow your own would be no greater than growing tomatoes, although the lack of success with the sativa would have discouraged much of that. Perhaps the indica genetics would get involved to create hybrids and people would have gained a taste for weaker pot…..not! More likely the hybrids would be between sativas if anything. Thai x Colombian, Mexican x Cambodian….wow, we should be so lucky.
There would be no such thing as medicinal or recreational marijuana, there would just be marijuana. Those who gained therapeutically from it would do so as they always had. Pharmaceutical companies would have long since come up with a pill from marijuana that has horrid side effects that you could get if you wanted. Indoor gardening would be left to the same kind of people who brew their own beer, we would respect the police and live in a peaceful low crime society.
Instead, well you pretty much know what we’ve had, a cruel persecution of millions of people world wide. All because Harry Anslinger wanted a job. But if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have White Widow, Jack Herer, New York City Diesel or OG Kush. We wouldn’t have the vast knowledge we know about cultivating this plant or made the tremendous advancements in hydroponics. Nor would we have the grass roots desire to advance the wondrous medicinal aspects.
So, I don’t know Harry its kind of a love/hate thing. I want to erect a statue to you…..and then tear it down.
Peace and Pot!