Editor’s note: This editorial is reprinted with permission from the Lovely County Citizen, a weekly newspaper based in Eureka Springs. It was first published Sept. 1, and was written by Bill King.
In the latest front/affront in the war on a medicinal herb, the U.S. government, with help from the Arkansas National Guard, state police and the sheriff, invaded the gardens of Carroll County residents, terrorizing citizens, endangering lives and wasting resources. Shame on all those participating in these unconstitutional, tyrannical, police state tactics.
Greedy billionaires created the war on marijuana, and more than 70 years later their sham continues to ruin countless lives and make criminals out of productive citizens.
The history of marijuana prohibition is a sordid tale indeed. It wasn't really about cannabis the "drug," but rather the financial impact of hemp on the timber and plastics industries. It was about money for rich people. Some things never change.
Back in the 1930s, new processing technology made hemp a far superior alternative to timber for paper and pulp — cheaper, better quality and much more environmentally friendly.
William Randolph Hearst, for whom the term "yellow journalism" was coined, owned much of the timber industry. He used his newspaper empire to gin up a bogus, and racist, case against cannabis to protect his timber holdings.
At the same time, Dupont had just patented plastic formulas using petroleum products, and hemp oil threatened the enormous profits those patents would reap. Dupont's banker, Andrew Mellon, was also Secretary of the Treasury, and he appointed a nephew to head the new anti-narcotics bureau and the crusade to demonize cannabis. Think Reefer Madness.
In the years since, the government has religiously suppressed the truth about cannabis, and money remains the motivation. Marijuana prohibition brings billions to the police/justice industry; it's a huge boon for lawyers, jail builders and jailers, police forces, probation officers, organized crime and laboratories.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, there were 9.5 million marijuana arrests in the U.S. between 1995 and 2008, 89% for possession. Growing even one plant is a felony. With a 2006 study showing nearly 15 million U.S. residents admitting to using marijuana in the previous month, the economic futures of lawyers, prosecutors, jailers and police look very bright.
Fifteen states now allow cannabis for medical use and the Veterans' Administration acknowledges its medicinal benefits, so it's hard to fathom that this war continues with such ferocity. The evidence of the herb's medicinal value is unquestionable, even with the government suppressing most of the research, including its own.
But, keeping cannabis outlawed benefits wealthy and influential competitors like the paper, pharmaceutical and liquor industries, and exploiting fear and lies helps get politicians elected.
Cannabis is probably the most beneficial and potentially profitable plant on the planet. It grows almost everywhere, is renewable and biodegradable, and requires little irrigation and few, if any, pesticides.
It can be used for fuel, building materials, plastics, paper and clothing. It's a nutritious food source and a safe and effective medicine. Those are the truths the government doesn't want you to know.
Among the tens of millions of marijuana users in this country are doctors, lawyers, law enforcement officials, politicians and every other type of professional. Many long-term, regular users are healthy, productive members of society and pillars of their communities, people who don't buy the government's lies and have embraced a safe herb that relaxes them and helps tap into their creativity.
Alcohol, tobacco and prescription drugs, all legal, account for hundreds of thousands of deaths each year, yet there's no evidence of marijuana killing anyone. Just listen to any commercial to hear the long lists of prescription drugs' side effects; makes mild euphoria and the munchies seem pretty benign.
So why does the government condone the use of far more dangerous drugs while continuing this sham war on marijuana? Follow the money.
Proponents of prohibition cling to the debunked "gateway drug" theory — that marijuana use leads to harder drugs. Because of prohibition, marijuana users are forced to deal in the same black market that sells hard drugs, but saying that hard drug users started with marijuana is like saying children who shoplift candy become serial killers.
Cannabis doesn't harm society, cannabis prohibition does — it ruins lives and bankrupts poor people. In many places, possession is treated as a minor offense, while growing for personal use remains a felony. This encourages consumers to buy on the black market and enriches the drug cartels the government is purportedly fighting. The best way to fight drug cartels is to allow cultivation for personal use.
Marijuana use is accepted by our society with a nod and a wink, presidents and senators have used it and comedians often make reference to their partaking. It's all kind of a joke — until the laws are enforced. Then lives are ruined.
Government intimidation to stay quiet is intense, but if people don't stand up, this will become even more of a police state than it already is. It's time to declare war on the war on cannibas.