The year 2002 started with 911’s terrorist attacks still reverberating in individual and collective consciousness.
Members of the cannabis culture uniquely feel these reverberations. Cannabists are in general more politically aware than regular folk, and a bit more skeptical as well.
They know that governments that demonize a healing herb are inherently dishonest and dangerous. When pot users see politicians and police officers telling lies about cannabis and threatening them with imprisonment, they know that their leaders, laws and law enforcers are dishonest, power-hungry and cruel. And this realization causes them to be skeptical about other government actions and assertions. It causes them to generally question and resist authority.
Since 9-11-01, war and rumors of war have dominated the world. Pot people started 2002 year wondering how the American Empire would stomp them. Canadians worried that American militarization of the US-Canadian border would make it harder for them to export cannabis seeds and Canadian marijuana to the US. America announced plans to radiate all mail and close land, sea and air borders, which resulted in frenzied purchases of cannabis seeds from vaunted Marc Emery Seed Sales, as cultivators sought to stockpile cannabis genetics. Border wars escalated the price of Mexican, Jamaican and Canadian weed; many American pot consumers started growing their own.
For American members of the cannabis culture, 2002 was mostly a year of bad news. The Bush administration nullified the Bill of Rights this year. Warrantless searches, secret detentions, bans on free speech, assembly and non-violent civil disobedience, domestic spy and surveillance agencies, recruitment of civilians as unofficial narks and police lackeys, cessation of attorney-client privilege, ethnic profiling, government and corporate secrecy, and other anti-democratic policies, laws and bureaucracies were created by President Bush and other US officials.
During the 2000 election campaign, Bush promised he’d respect “state’s rights” by not interfering with medpot users in California and other states where voters or lawmakers had legalized medical cannabis.
In 2002, however, federal agents routinely invaded California and other medpot states, arresting sick and dying people, as well as growers and providers such as Cannabis Culture grow guru Ed Rosenthal.
The feds also created and sponsored nationally-broadcast media propaganda that depicted money from a small-time pot deal between high school kids ending up a few hours later in Osama bin Laden’s bank account. A continuing series of government ads bluntly asserts that pot use equals terrorism; the US government has also generically labeled environmentalists, animal rights advocates, civil libertarians, anti-globalization protesters, minorities and other target groups as terrorists.
This has resulted in open warfare against progressive citizens. In Southern California, for example, non-violent protesters opposed to the torture of animals were beaten by police, arrested and given one year jail sentences. The animal torturer they were protesting, a lab tech who cut out the eyes of a living beagle and sent them to his girlfriend along with a note saying, “I only have eyes for you,” was sentenced to 100 hours of community service.
Similar injustices have been visited upon peaceful protesters opposed to the US war machine, and almost every pot festival in the US this year was plagued by police actions.
In November, voters in several locales rejected pro-marijuana proposals. Marc Emery spent $25,000 of his seed sales money to back an initiative in Nevada that would have legalized possession of three ounces or less of marijuana. The initiative was on its way to passage until White House drug czar John Walters, DEA Chief Asa Hutchinson, and the military-police-prison-drug testing industrial complex stepped in to brainwash undecided voters and defeat the proposal.
Across the Atlantic in Europe, times were tough for the pot culture as well. In England, cannabis coffeeshop pioneer Colin Davies and his Dutch friend Bart Meekel were imprisoned without trial. Davies is now serving a three year sentence because he ran a Dutch-style coffeeshop near Manchester. Meekel was held for five months and then released. He returned to his home in Haarlem, Holland, where he works with Dutch cannabusinessman Nol Van Schaik, who had helped Davies start the Dutch Experience.
A few weeks later, however, two British pot activists achieved major victories in London courtrooms. Free Rob Cannabis, who had been arrested while auctioning pot and giving it away in Hyde Park in September, 2001, was freed by a hung jury in a trial notable for Cannabis’s honesty.
Instead of hiding behind medpot, lying, plea bargaining, narking or running away from the charges against him, Cannabis went into court unrepresented by a lawyer, told the judge, prosecutor and jury that cannabis was his sacrament and that he would not stop providing it to others, and won.
Tony Taylor, a hempy holistic health advocate who runs a medpot healing center in London and had been charged with serious crimes of possession and importation, also won a court victory when police lost evidence and then failed to show up at his trial!
Following Davies’ lead, courageous Brits have more quietly opened cannabis coffeeshops, with scattered success; some shops have been open for almost a year, selling cannabis as if England is Holland.
But is Holland still Holland? Earlier this year, a right-wing conservative Catholic political party, called CDA, won majority control of the Dutch government, vowing to close all cannabis shops and implement American-style drug war policies.
CDA representatives told me they intended to shut potshops by bureaucratic harassment, location restrictions, narks, intensely aggressive police actions against growers and seed producers, and by convincing people not to use marijuana.
Since then, CDA’s ruling coalition has collapsed and the Netherlands is being run by a caretaker interim government. While nobody’s watching, the CDA is violating long-held Dutch environmental and social policies by authorizing massive road and development projects. Holland has long been known for its land use genius and its freedom-loving social customs, but if CDA has its way, the orderly, cannabis-infused beautiful bike-friendly country may gradually become like the USA, where pollution-spewing SUV’s, urban sprawl and Papism ruin quality of life.
Elsewhere in Europe, Switzerland joined the United Nations and promptly began cracking down on the country’s outdoor “hemp” growers, many of whom were Americans, Dutch and Canadians.
Politicians in Sweden cheered the crackdown. The Swedes have a history of mental illness, alcoholism and suicide but opposition to marijuana has been their primary contribution to the European Union.
In Australia, the Nimbin Mardi Grass celebrated its tenth anniversary but sniffer dogs, helicopter pot garden raids, continuing persecution of pot coffeeshops and the outlawing of psychedelic herb “salvia” indicates the drug war is alive and well down under.
Looking for good news? Cannabis Culture founder Marc Emery had fun running for mayor of Vancouver after successfully hosting CC’s first annual Toker’s Bowl, a weekend party and pot competition that is already fully booked for 2003.
In Holland, the High Times Cannabis Cup was mellow, cheerful and refreshingly free of Manhattanite influence. Nol van Schaik celebrated the 30th anniversary of the founding of the first Dutch coffeeshop with an after-Cup party in Haarlem that featured the reunion of coffeeshop pioneers with the American pot farmer who introduced sinsemilla to Holland (more about these events in issue 43 of Cannabis Culture).
In Germany and Switzerland, CannaBusiness and CannaTrade exhibitions highlighted the worldwide cannabis culture’s vibrancy, while heads buzzed with news that the world’s best marijuana magazine was now being published in German, called “Cannabis Kultur.”
For those seeking insight into the stupidity and cruelty that causes the drug war and other wars, documentary filmmaker and author Michael Moore’s new film “Bowling for Columbine” will provide much enlightenment.
Moore manages to pack more history, journalism, anthropology, sociology and truth into his two hour film than most people will see or hear in a year.
Critics have praised the film but deliberately managed to miss its main points, which have more to do with American Empire and character. In one segment, Moore looks at gun murders in Detroit and in a comparable city directly across the border in Canada. He shows that although America and Canada share the same continent, multi-cultural population, gun availability, economic problems, and language, Americans are far more likely to fear and kill each other. American kids fight with guns, but when Moore asks a trio of Goth Canadian kids what they do when they have conflicts, a Canadian boy says that they’re likely to only “ridicule” each other.
Moore’s film is scary because it shows that the world’s most powerful country, the country that created the war on marijuana and has a long history of fomenting wars, terrorism, assassinations, uprisings, atomic bomb attacks and other horror, is also one of the world’s sickest countries- its citizens brainwashed by corporate media, consumerism, racism, fear, alcohol, fundamentalism, and anger.
As 2002 fades into 2003 and some wonder how a president who professes to have been “saved” by Jesus the “Prince of Peace” can so eagerly embrace war, it’s helpful to smoke a joint and absorb Bowling for Columbine’s searing message, to internalize it, and then to go into the new year ready to do whatever it takes to make the world a better place.
Have a merry-juana Christmas and a hempy new year!