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Cannabis Orthodoxies

The end of prohibition is just around the corner. You know how I know that? The increasing presence of Cannabis Orthodoxies in the discussion of cannabis legalization is all the proof I need. You can’t say “marijuana”; you have to say “cannabis”. You should toke pure, never mix with tobacco, because you might not have heard tobacco is harmful. Instead of smoking you should use a vaporizer, or an e-joint, or make cannabutter cookies. You should do it this way; never do it that way. You should subscribe to the orthodoxy of the day, because what is now is what is right and deviations from such are heresy.

cannabis orthodoxies campaignWhen I was just a kid marijuana was a drug of rebellion. It was the drug of the non-conformists. It was a litmus test for social acceptability. Did you give up drugs after college, or are you still a long-haired pot smoker? There was no orthodoxy to it. You didn’t have to use the right kind of bong. You couldn’t buy paraphernalia at the local 7-11, you had to make your own bongs out of whatever materials you adapted to the purpose in a moment of stoned clarity. Pot wasn’t about orthodoxy of any kind; it was the denial of orthodoxy. Weed was, in and of itself, a form of rebellion. It was the antithesis of conformity.

Skip ahead 20 years past the point when I was getting into pot smoking quite regularly, and there is an entire culture built up around cannabis. There are legal organizations and political parties and advocacy groups in Washington D.C. Celebrities openly admit to consuming cannabis, often thinly veiled under the rubric of medicinal use. There is an open discussion of possible decriminalization and even legal recreational use in some places. More than that though, there are new Cannabis Orthodoxies. There is “The Way” now, as before, the way was to have no way at all. It was like Jeet Kune Do, the art founded by Bruce Lee. The form of formlessness. Now cannabis has a shape, a face, and a growing set of rules.

It is disturbing to me to see the growing divisions amongst cannabis advocates, false binaries that have been embraced as marginalized groups attempt to separate themselves from the riff-raff of street sellers and cartel warlords. They have created infighting and pettiness. They have created a culture of pot snobbery which generally revolves around why, where, when and how one “should” consume cannabis. People take sides and stare down their noses at those outside of their particular micro-demographic.

If you’re a “medicinal user” you can look down on people who are just using it for recreational purposes. I think that’s absurd. Cannabis relieves discomfort. Be that mental stress, physical pain, nerve spasms from disease, or nausea from conventional medicine. All of those are perfectly good reasons to use cannabis. Everyone on Earth can lay claim to one of those ailments. Life generally sucks. If you’re stuck in a wheelchair, or chained to an assembly line, or jammed into a cubicle like veal staring at a spreadsheet and crunching numbers all day. In any case you are a prisoner of your circumstance, and as such I would say you have a right to a little relief. Why must everyone look for enemies amongst their peers? We’re all in the same sinking ship together here, people. Let’s stop fighting over who is going to drown first.

The fight against prohibition is the fight against state intervention in the daily lives of the average citizen. It is about our right to choose what to do with our bodies. It is about the fact that using cannabis does not violate the social covenant we have all entered into not to swing our arms past the point other peoples noses begin. Law is about providing safety and comfort to everyone. Denying people the right to relieve stress, or pain, or just the doldrums of daily life in post-industrial society where over-specialization turns us all into mindless turnkey automatons lacking any sense of individual humanity, is not consistent with a free society. If I get baked and drive my car through the local gas station, the state has every right to bring the hammer down on me. If I get baked and play computer games for six hours, the state has no right to question that I might do that, or what my motivations are.

The most effective way to destroy your enemy is to turn them against each other. It seems to me that introduction of orthodoxy into cannabis culture has created false divisions which serve the prohibitionists more than anything else. We don’t need to help them spread anti-tobacco campaigns, or tell people when to use cannabis, or compare this drug to that. We already pay a fortune in taxes to facilitate exactly that. The government is already telling us how bad everything is, I can’t imagine what would possess people to waste their own time bolstering those efforts. We need to focus on the idea that everyone, however they use drugs or whoever they are, has equal rights over their own mind and body. That’s it. That’s the whole issue at hand. Medicinal users, and recreational users, and growers and hippies and stoners and wasters and losers and winners alike, they are all just people. People have a right to do with themselves as they wish. Somebody once said that truth was self-evident. Isn’t it?

I don’t want to put on the proverbial tinfoil hat and start speculating where all this “them and us” rhetoric is actually sourced. Plenty of news coverage has exposed the fact that state entities are using the Internet to interfere with the public discussion, interjecting memes that suit their own long-term goals. The cannabis community is no less subject to this than supporters of major political parties or viewers of Fox News. A lot of people think that possession of a bong insulates you against the powers of propaganda; not so. I see a lot of people falling victim to ideologies which seem manufactured to a specific agenda, and it doesn’t really matter who is behind it. The effect is the same regardless of the origin.

The next time you think about scolding someone for violating your particular Cannabis Orthodoxy, consider what the implication of that division is. You are placing yourself on a pedestal above somebody else. You are saying that your methodology is superior and by extension, theirs is inferior. This sense of separation creates borders within a community, the human race, which needs to be united against the pitifully tiny number of bastards that have us all dancing so eloquently on their puppet strings. When you play “us and them” with anyone but the shadowy overlords of finance and politics, you are playing “The Game”. You know what game that is, we’re all watching it play out on the news every day. Castigating your fellow counterculturalists for failing to conform to some preconception is a waste of energy better spent rooting out the real problem. Who would want you to do that?

By JJ McDubie

Dedicated to Dean Marshall

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  • Derek Williams

    What a depressingly daft article, sorry but it was, it’s no surprise the writer used a Pseudonym.

    What has happened over the past 20-odd years is the cannabis law reform debate has grown up. Cannabis isn’t – as you say – any longer a rebellious thing for young people to do, it’s now widespread across the whole of society; all ages, all backgrounds.

    But more importantly the debate about drugs has grown up a lot. Cannabis users always used to argue – correctly – the alcohol and tobacco were drugs as well as cannabis. Of course they are and regarding them as such means talking about cannabis in the same way as we talk about them. So is it any surprise that the smoking issues around tobacco are now a part of the cannabis debate? Of course not, again its a sign of growing up, a maturing debate.

    What has really damaged the law reform campaign has been the refusal by some people to allow the debate to mature. There have been some who argued that any form of regulation of the commercial cannabis trade is no more than “partial prohibition”.

    The same people argued against “Toke Pure” because any campaign against tobacco use was against the “freedom of choice”. As they did this tobacco use and smoking was being ever more mariginalsed and rightly so, tobacco use kills.

    It’s so sad to see articles like this still claiming the way forward is to bury your head ever deeper in the sand. The reasons to support cannabis law reform are many and varied and our cause has to appeal to a much wider section of society than a few rebellious stoners.

    • Dan Bontio

      I think the point was that we simply can’t afford to be divided. Everyone in favor of marijuana, whatever their reasoning, is an ally.

      I personally don’t subscribe to the “call it cannabis” doctrine, but in the big picture, I stand together with those who do. For me to lob bombs at them (or them at me) would be foolish for all of us.

      United we stand, and all that…

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