“The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to the full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.” — Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan is right; the illegality of cannabis is outrageous!
But thanks to the efforts of William Randolph Hearst, who did everything in his power to stop the expansion and use of the cannabis (AKA hemp) plant, we continue today to suffer from misconceptions, lies, and distortions about the generous hemp plant.
In the early 1930′s, Hearst owned a good deal of timber acreage; one might say that he had the monopoly. The threatened advent of mass hemp production proved a considerable threat to his massive paper-mill holdings — he stood to lose many, many millions of dollars to the lowly hemp plant. Hearst cleverly utilized his immense national network of newspapers and magazines to spread wildly inaccurate and sensational stories of the evils of cannabis or “marihuana,” a phrase brought into the common parlance in part due to frequent mentions in his publications.
The sheer number of newspapers, tabloids, magazines and film reels that Hearst controlled enabled him to quickly and to effectively inundate American media with this propaganda. Hearst preyed on existing prejudices by associating cannabis with Mexican workers who threatened to steal American jobs and African-Americans who had long been the subject of white American venom. (An ironic side-note: much of this racism had already been perpetrated by the propaganda of Hearst, an unabashed racist. The American people had already developed an irrational hatred for these racial groups and readily accepted the ridiculous stories of their crazed crimes incited by marihuana use.)
The fate of cannabis was sealed when President Nixon who in 1972, against the recommendation of a blue-ribbon Presidential Commission on “Marijuana and Substance Abuse,” had cannabis listed as a Schedule I drug in the Controlled Substances Act, joining such notorious drugs as LSD and Heroin.
The battle to reschedule cannabis began on May 18, 1972 when the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) petitioned the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (now the Drug Enforcement Administration) to transfer cannabis to Schedule II so that it could be legally prescribed by physicians. The battle continues to this day.
Currently, 20 states (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington) and the District of Columbia have enacted medical marijuana laws allowing physicians to prescribe cannabis to patients with certain medical conditions.
Last year Coloradans and Washingtonians voted to decriminalize the plant for recreational use.
These medical marijuana laws show great compassion for many individuals suffering with chronic illnesses like glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, ALS, cancer, and HIV/AIDS to name just a few.
Those of us in the community that are concerned for the well-being of our brothers and sisters who are living with HIV or AIDS should take note now of the following. Research has shown that THC, the main psychoactive component in marijuana, was associated with decreased viral load and lower risk of death in monkeys infected with a virus related to HIV.
Not only does cannabis help with nausea, pain, anxiety and depression, among other benefits, it may also help lower the viral load in HIV or AIDS patients. For a great many, it simply and effectively gives us the desire to eat when medications take away that natural instinct.
The cannabis plant has a long history of use as a medicine, with historical evidence dating back to 2737 BCE to the Emperor of China, Shen Nun, who wrote of the therapeutic uses of cannabis.
Cannabis is one of the 50 “fundamental” herbs of traditional Chinese medicine and is prescribed for a broad range of indications.
In1839, William O’Shaughnessy, a British physician and surgeon working in India, discovered the use as an analgesic, appetite stimulant, muscle relaxant, and anticonvulsant. The publication of his observations quickly led to the expansion of the medical use of cannabis.
It is long time overdue to move past the lies of William Randolph Hearst and the paranoia of Richard Nixon and for the federal government to reclassify cannabis immediately to a Schedule II drug so that it may be prescribed by a doctor in the best interest of his or her patient.
Until then, we must be willing to lobby our local and state legislators to move forward with the much needed relief for patients suffering.
The time has come to allow us the freedom to light up for the sake of our own health without having to hide in the shadows of illegal activity.