Excuse the pun but Illinois and most of the U.S. and Canada are all abuzz about legalizing marijuana. The financials are off the chart. The tax revenue is staggering. We’re not just talking medical marijuana or as the Illinois draft law states, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. We’re talking legalizing pot smoking for fun and profit. Most Americans like the idea even if they have no reason for the medical marijuana and don’t contemplate taking a toke with their friends. Yep I know lingo like “toke”. I was a teenager in the sixties. The Beatles were hanging out with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds and a lot of people were taking the “everybody smoke dope” advice. Frankly it was easier to accept than your friends going off to Viet Nam. Dope, hemp, weed, blunts whatever, all of it was illegal. This wasn’t always the case.
As early as 2900 B.C. the Chinese were well aware of the possible benefits of cannabis. The Hebrew bible (Exodus 30: 22-23) describes a mixture of olive oil and herbs one of which kaneh-bosem (according to researchers in linguistics, etymology, etc. is cannabis) was used to anoint the holy. I think even Bill Maher might have liked that church. The history of cannabis use is long in deed and covers many civilizations including the Egyptians. Early settlers to the new America carried hemp plants and were encouraged to cultivate it for export. The father of our country, good old George Washington grew hemp on his farm or so the ledgers state and he was fond of the medicinal results. I just bet he was especially since the variety he preferred was high in THC, the chemical that produces the “high”.
The Wiley Act of 1906 created the legislation to label products containing alcohol, opium and cannabis but it wasn’t until the 1910’s that the Prohibitionists movement socked alcohol and cannabis use in the eye. Believe it or not oral sex went into the legislation. History tells us how well that went. The illegal liquor business made a lot of now prominent families prominent and created lots of corruption and crime. If I had to bet I would bet that the sex trade probably did a booming business supplying the naughty that bible toting, law abiding wives wouldn’t.
Before the mid 1900’s we got cannabis from India but the U. S. Department of Agriculture got busy developing a strain that would grow in U.S. pharmaceutical farms to substitute for the loss of supplies during WWI. So how did Mary Jane get such a bad name? It seems money was the root. William Randolph Hurst of newspaper fame not only printed the news but owned a lot of trees that went into making paper. He had a very vertical business going and hemp, also used in paper making, was not in the portfolio. In 1936 some church people made a film demonizing marijuana. The rights to the film were purchased and the now cult film Reefer Madness was born. (Link to film Reefer Madness on You Tube). Got to wonder if some Hurst funds didn’t get filtered into the film industry.
Now the circle has come full round. Marijuana and hemp mean money. We all know money talks. Of course there are people out there who still believe the old time brain washing, smoking pot is a gateway to heavy drug use. No matter what actual data say they will choose to believe Pat Robertson or some other wing nut that also believes the earth was created in seven days and evolution is Satanism. It really is inconsequential what is believed. Illinois like so many other states will have cultivators, dispensaries and doctors will prescribe marijuana to address illnesses of many varieties. We may even get “coffee shops” like those in the Netherlands. I just hope our legislators give native Illinoisans the ability to apply and get the licenses needed to get on the gravy train and exclude out of state big money. I hope jobs are created and businesses develop that bring wealth to the many and not just more money to the top 10%. Yes, Illinois has to be careful that not just anyone with a plot of land can grow medicinal cannabis. There have to be safeguards for health and security but don’t forget to spread the wealth and don’t just tax the hell out of the users!
For more information on the history of marijuana visit: http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org.