Dangerous Ideas

Every so often, a book comes along that rocks my world.  I’ve mentioned a few, but here’s a new one:

Smoke Signals   A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational, and Scientific by Martin A. Lee.

If you have any respect left for the United States government, you won’t after reading this.

If you have any faith in either party, you won’t after reading this.

If you have any doubt about whom politicians serve, you won’t after reading this.

If you thought you were well informed on the topic of marijuana, you’ll realize how much is still being censored, after reading this.

The author is clearly a fan of the herb and takes that a little overboard at times.  It is also, almost exclusively, focused on California.  Other states, like Michigan that also have “legal” medical marijuana, only get a couple of paragraphs.  But these are minor quibbles.

Mr. Lee offers anecdotes along with facts, humor along with rage.  His style reminds me very much of Randy Shilts, another writer I greatly admired, and whom I miss, though we never met.

He tells us the story of Jonathan Magbie, a 27 year old man who became a quadriplegic after being hit by a drunk driver.  He got his picture taken with Ronald Reagan (mayheroast) and got busted for possessing a small amount of pot.

Magbie was sentenced to ten days in jail by D.C. Superior Court Judge Judith Retchin, even though he was a wheelchair-bound (sic) first- time offender who needed round-the-clock nursing assistance.  Retchin was angered by Magbie’s refusal to swear off pot.  She could have given him probation; instead she chose to punish Magbie because he answered honestly when asked if he intended to smoke marijuana  again.  Yes, he said – it was the only thing that made him feel better.  So off he went to jail.  He died four days later, unable to breathe without a ventilator.  Only a country caught in the grip of a deep psychosis, a full-blown outbreak of reefer madness, would imprison a quadriplegic for using cannabis as a medicine. (pg.276, emphasis mine)


In any kind of just world, Judith Retchin would be in jail for murder. Instead, she still serves as a judge. You would be (or at least I was) surprised by the pages and pages and pages of those kinds of stories.  Paralyzed people, held at gunpoint, handcuffed on the ground, by “law enforcement officers”.  The old, “we don’t make the laws, ma’am, we just enforce them and lobby for harsher ones, too.”

I said somewhere in an earlier post that America has become a horror show.  Let me amend that.  America has always been a horror show. 

Marijuana, cannabis, reefer, pot, weed, Maryjane, the good shuzzit…it is classified as a Schedule 1 drug:  Having no medicinal value.


We have receptors in our brains that match with this plant, clear evidence that we co-evolved with it.  Homo sapiens has been using this plant since before we wrote.  I’m not alone in suspecting that the caves in France and Spain were painted by early humans under the influence.

It’s probably one of the safest substances in the world.  That is not hyperbole, that is the truth.

A country, a world, that denies relief to sick people didn’t get that way overnight.  We’re here by design.

A country that accepts a government that punitive, that vindictive, that venial and amoral tacitly accepts drone strikes, police that tase, pepper spray and otherwise torture the people who pay their salaries, accepts industry that pollutes and kills, accepts mentally ill people being treated like garbage, accepts the assaults on the Constitution, and on and on and on.

No wonder people shut down their emotions.

“Don’t worry, be happy” wasn’t just a hit song.  It’s become our national anthem.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Dangerous Ideas

  1. Public Enemy’s classic song “Fight the Power” had a line about “Don’t worry, be happy” that matched your political sentiments, along with much of Chuck D’s politics. Thank you for spittin’ your lyrics with the rest of us.

  2. Gail says:

    Into The Panic Room.

  3. One toke over the line says:

    “Don’t worry be happy” as long as it’s taxable, legal, and used openly by the elite.

  4. Bev says:

    We don’t have quite the same “drug war” culture here in Canada (although the federal gov’t would love to stick more people in jail), but recent events (crack smoking mayor of Toronto and other things probably of no broader interest) have proved that rich white dudes (especially ones who call themselves conservative) can do whatever the hell they want, and everyone else must toe the line. Fuck ’em.

    • igotsomethin says:

      Yes, it’s interesting that he, unlike Marion Berry, hasn’t been busted. Think skin color has anything to do with that?

      • Bev says:

        Well, there’s that, but I strongly suspect police are going to charge him with something far more serious like putting a hit on someone. A lot of the info that has come out is from documents supporting warrant requests for the ongoing investigation – into what we haven’t been told. It’s not done yet.

      • igotsomethin says:

        Cool. It’s always interesting to watch the powerful melt down. Bread and circuses to keep us amused.

Thanks for reading!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s