The first of our 3 Ps is Pot.
Pot — marijuana, cannabis, grass, weed, call it what you like, has been used by humans since the beginning of recorded history. It is likely that we have been using it for tens of thousands of years.
While there are risks associated with the use of pot, these are vastly overstated and much less than those of using alcohol or tobacco, both of which cause huge numbers of deaths and human suffering and by the way, cost society a vast amount of money. Marijuana prohibition is one of the greatest misuses of state resources and taxpayers’ money in the world today.
Until the 1930s pot use was legal and largely unremarked. William Randolph Hearst, the American media tycoon, changed that. Hearst was the inventor of ‘yellow journalism’ the sensationalising of factually incorrect and often invented stories for political purposes. He was a fanatical right-winger and a friend of Adolph Hitler. Up until the engagement of the United Sates in World War 2, Hearst remained in close contact with Nazi authorities in Germany regularly had his newspapers run anti-Russian, anti-Communist and pro-German articles, which were provided by the Gestapo’s propaganda services.
Hearst was anti-British and a fervent ‘isolationist’ who used his media to discourage American entry into the European war. He repeatedly attacked Roosevelt’s attempts to help European states, especially the UK, against the Nazis through schemes like lend-lease and severely restricted the President’s ability to assist in the disaster. Amongst his other crimes, therefore, Hearst may be indicted for being accessory to the murders of millions of Europeans, especially Jews and other minorities like homosexuals. It was only at the point of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that he was forced to backtrack.
At home, Hearst had invested hugely in forestry and other resources to produce wood-based paper. However, making wood-based paper is very damaging to the environment and relatively expensive. Paper made from hemp (the male pot plant) is cheaper, a better product and less damaging. Hearst risked being undercut.
Hearst, as well as being a Nazi and fascist sympathiser and more, was a virulent racist who particularly detested Mexicans. Marijuana use was popular amongst them and, never being one to waste an effort, Hearst saw a way to make sure his investment in wood-based paper production paid off, and to make as many Mexicans as miserable as he could: he used his media to persuade the US government to make hemp illegal either for paper production or for consumption.
He was greatly assisted in this by Henry J. Anslinger, a career civil servant in the recently-formed Bureau of Narcotics, who was also a white supremacist racist. Like Hearst, Anslinger despised blacks, Mexicans, Asians and Filipinos. He also hated Jazz and Blues music, which, here revealing his profound misogyny, he thought caused white women to become ‘immoral’. Since marijuana was popular amongst Jazz and Blues musicians, Anslinger was presented with another easy target, which Hearst lost no time in demonising.
The sick mentality at the heart of the USA was revealed in the attitudes of these two evil men.
Using its usual combination of threats and bullying, the US, again motivated by Hearst’s media empire, ‘persuaded’ its trading partners to do the same. So the fact is, ladies and gentlemen, that smoking pot is illegal because it suited the business ends of a Nazi-sympathising media tycoon with no respect for truth, and the career of a bureaucrat. That is why countless billions have been wasted and innumerable lives lost and ruined in the entirely specious ‘War on Drugs’. There is no other reason.
Smoking pot is a victimless crime. Even if it were proven that it was as damaging as other, legal, recreational drugs, the only person being harmed is the person consuming it. Any other harm comes simply from the fact of its prohibition. As country star Willie Nelson said. ‘the most dangerous thing you can do with marijuana is get caught with it.’
A little personal history. I began smoking pot when I was 15, while I was a young musician playing in bands. I loved it. I didn’t drink alcohol. I smoked pretty much every day for the next six years, and then toned it down, only because my life changed a bit. When I did so, I had no difficulty. I didn’t become an addict. I took my degree and entered journalism as a photographer. I was headhunted for the launch of Scotland on Sunday, and soon became the youngest, ever, Executive Picture Editor in Scotland. I ran a very successful photography business for decades, I have beautiful children who all took or are taking degrees, I took my own Master’s degree and I own my home outright. Does it sound like pot ruined my life? Don’t be a blithering idiot. And I still enjoy a blast, believe me.
And it’s not just me. I know countless people who would say the same — who run good little businesses, some good big businesses, who, for years, every time you saw them, had smoke coming out of their ears. Doctors, lawyers, university professors (a lot of them, actually) journalists, you name it. Reeking for years and you’re telling me it hurt them? Away, what utter garbage.
Did any of us succumb to the draw of stronger drugs? No. We just looked at that and said, ‘that shit ain’t for me bud, don’t bogart that joint.’
And while I was smoking a lot I hardly ever drank. My friends and I would go weeks at a time without even a pint. Can you believe that?
Which should tell you why pot is still illegal, so long after Hearst’s death. Yes folks, it has nothing to do with the paltry harm it can do. It has nothing to do with the (now discredited) suggestion that it can cause mental instability. It has nothing to do with utter nonsense about ‘gateway drugs’ or non-existent ‘social consequences.’
The main reason pot is still so widely illegal is that the alcohol producing companies spend fortunes hiring sharp-suited little shits to persuade politicians to keep it so, because they think that way, we’ll buy more alcohol. They are aided and abetted by career bean-pushers like Anslinger who populate police and regulatory bureaux across the globe, whose only interest is their next pay cheque.
A wise man once told me, ‘When you see people doing something there’s no reasonable explanation for, the answer is always money.’ Case in point.
Pot is important and it’s the first of the 3Ps because in the first place, its use is a crime that is in itself utterly victimless. Its victims stem from a specious attempt to prohibit it, either through lives and livelihoods lost to government agencies like the American DEA, or amongst the criminals to whom the business has been ceded by politicians. The persecution of consumers has ruined the lives of countless otherwise hardworking, ordinary people. They were victimised for smoking a plant that will happily grow in your garden. Is that a fair use of the power of the state?
Criminalising the use of pot criminalises pot consumers. Even if you are never caught, criminalising a relatively harmless natural substance makes consumers reconsider the relationship of individual to state. Now while most pot consumers are probably by nature non-conformists, knowing that the state holds you to be criminal for doing something that does you no harm, makes you rethink your perspective on the law. It makes you ask, ‘How many other laws are as absurd as this one?’
It tells you that obeying the law is a matter of choice, because if the law is wrong about pot, then what else is it wrong about? It means we have to look at each and every law and decide, one by one, whether or not we think it should be obeyed.
In the absence of moral authority, which law abandons the instance it criminalises people for doing something that harms no-one else, why should we obey any law? Out of fear. Is that the relationship we want to have between state and people, one of obedience enforced by fear? I don’t want a society like that.
I do not think it is helpful for the law to be considered an ass, but for the law not to be considered so, all the ass-like laws — and this is one — have to be repealed.
Prohibition didn’t work with alcohol in the 1920s in America, and it hasn’t worked with pot. The so-called ‘war on drugs’ has been an unmitigated disaster. It has destabilised large parts of the world and led to untold death and suffering; yet it has not impacted one iota on the availability of pot. Face it, that war is lost. It’s over. If you want to do some good, maybe — just maybe — you could divert resources from the failed attempt to prohibit a substance that dos no harm to really working on one that does, like meth — and not through prohibition, but rehabilitation. Hell, give them pot instead — it might work.
Prohibition of pot has poured billions directly into the pockets of organised crime families all over the world. Not only is that money then used to fund far more nefarious operations, it has other consequences. Today, in the UK, thousands of Vietnamese have been smuggled in to work inn marijuana-growing factories — as SLAVES. That is right, prohibition of marijuana has directly led to the re-establishment of a slave economy actually inside the UK. And the same is true across Europe.
Does anyone imagine for one second that this atrocity would be permitted in a legal business? Are you nuts? There would be inspections, Health and Safety, minimum wage, working hours… the people who now are working as slaves would actually be making a living. And they would be PAYING TAX. Just as the business owners would.
The alcohol business generates huge amounts of revenue that goes directly to the exchequers of the countries where it exists. This comes through duty, through point of sale taxes, through income tax paid by workers and corporation tax paid by the companies.
Not ONE PENNY of this potential fortune goes to any government where marijuana is prohibited and instead ALL of it goes into the pockets of the crime bosses and, further back the chain, is used to fund terrorism, killing, extortion, people trafficking, smuggling and the panoply of criminal activities.
The only way to stop this is to legalise the consumption, trade and sale of marijuana and control its production — which is exactly what we do with alcohol, so we have the mechanisms and the personnel already in place.
In the UK, according to a 2014 survey, 29% of the population had used an illegal substance — and so are criminalised under this absurd law — while 52% of voters favour legalisation. In the light of that, is continuing with a failed attempt to outlaw something that almost a third of the population has used — with no ill effect — an intelligent use of the power of the state? Is that a reasonable use of taxpayers’ money? Yet the politicians, ever in the pockets of business, continue to throw taxpayers money at prohibition, when simple legalisation would save all that, put an end to the crime barons and their slave trade and raise huge amounts of revenue for the Exchequer.
In recent years, chinks of light have begun to appear. At time of writing, just under half (24) of all American states have either decriminalised or fully legalised pot, with absolutely no ill effects to public health and, in some case, considerable benefit to their exchequers. Colorado, with a population the size of Scotland, 5 million, raised $76m (£48m) in marijuana tax revenues during its first year of legalisation.
In Europe, improvement is slow but only today we read that several English police forces have decided to stop prosecuting for growing or consuming the plant. In Spain, you can both grow and smoke in your own home. The Czech Republic has legalised cannabis, one more reason to go there. And despite pressure from France and Germany, the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, remains a toker’s refuge.
Nevertheless we would have to consider that, on this measure of our freedom, we are not doing well. Government authority is being used in an unreasonable way, damaging the lives of huge numbers of otherwise law-abiding, taxpaying citizens and turning them into criminals. Doing so debases both the notion of criminality and the justice system itself. It makes legislatures a laughing-stock and plays into the hands of crime barons. On this ‘P’ we need to do much better.
I think imma smoke me a spliff now.
Also published on Medium.