Marihuana was invented in Switzerland on April 20th, 1922, by Albert Hoffman’s older and less motivated brother, Klaus. He was trying to make a dessert topping, but screwed up somewhere in the process and found that the results were a green and leafy substance. When a miniscule amount made contact with Klaus’ hand, it did nothing at all, so Klaus rolled that shit up and blasted some Hawkwind.
Cannabis is a trick of the Jew to enslave–
–the working man and rouse the passions of the Negro.
Either be normal or stop writing.
If I was normal, I could stop writing.
Good point, yeah. Still, though: stop being foolish.
Oh, fine. The cannabis plant originated in Central Asia and chose a winning survival strategy, which was being useful to humans, and out of all the plants that adopted this method–wheat, rice, barley–cannabis may have them beat: certain cultures eat wheat, others eat rice, but everybody smokes dope. Evidence of human use goes back just about as far as evidence of human existence. It was a religious sacrament, it was medicine, it was a cash crop. Same as now. Plus, the stalk of the cannabis plant can be turned into paper or rope or trousers; this is called hemp.
But how did we meet, marijuana and humanity, not just a casual glance at a bright green leaf with five serrated shoots; I’m talking about getting stoned. They must have thrown it in the fire, right? Smelled good, so why not?
“You feel weird?”
“I feel lovely.”
“Right? Like, super-lovely and good?”
“Have we invented ovens yet?”
“Okay, cool. Then I won’t say I’m baked.”
“The concept of baking doesn’t exist yet.”
“Did we do something different today? Maybe we invented something without realizing it.”
“Then we gathered.”
“Now we’re sitting by the fire. Same ol’, same ol’.”
“We should travel.”
“Take a trip somewhere.”
“What’s a ‘dude?'”
“I dunno. I just felt compelled to call you that.”
“It just sounds right, right?”
“I love it. I’m in.”
“The smelly plants.”
“Is that gonna be the name of our band?”
“No, but it should be.”
“The plants we threw in the fire. Doesn’t the smoke smell all weird?”
“I thought it smelled pretty good, man.”
“Right, but weird.”
“Dude, I think we found magic plants.”
“Yup. We’re shamans.”
“We’re totally fucking shamans, bro.”
“Y’know who would love this? Moochie.”
“Oh, no, dude: Moochie got eaten by a sabre-toothed duck.”
“Why are we the only animals without sabres for teeth?”
“Excellent question. Throw some more magic on the fire.”
And so on.
The next morning, Thog and Og went back to the spot where they found the plants, picked more, and began experimenting. (Always keep in mind that the so-called “caveman” was your genetic equal, absolutely identical to a modern-day human and capable of the same mental theatrics. A baby from 20,000 years ago, snatched via Time Sheath, could be raised in 2017 with no problem. Our ancestors weren’t dumb, they just hadn’t invented anything yet.) The boys learned some things. For example, cannabis plants are like mosquitoes: only the females will fuck you up; males contain none of the psychoactive ingredient THC that makes smoking doobies a worthwhile pursuit. Evidence shows that farmers in China and the Middle East were separating their crop by sex long before the birth of the Christ.
The Greeks and the Romans and the ancient Indians enjoyed marijuana–let’s just say all of Asia–and Africa, too. Europeans brought it to the New World, and I think that might be the only fair trade that this hemisphere got in the whole sordid history of Colonialism: potatoes for pot. George Washington grew hemp, although I think stories of his toking up are as apocryphal as the tales of him chopping trees down.
Actual pot smoking started in the early part of the 20th century; there had been cannabis-based medicines available for quite a while, but doobies? We’re talking doobies? 1910 or so. After the Mexican Revolution, there was a flood of immigration our way, but the Mexicans were the best kind of guest in that they brought weed. Smokable cannabis had been brought to Brazil by the Portuguese; they found it useful in keeping their slaves mellow.
Never forget: the past was terrible.
So, the pot starts flowing in 1910 or so. Completely legal, but not for long. 1914 saw El Paso pass a ban; other towns followed. Marihuana is grown, sold, and used all over the West Coast, mostly by Mexican-American communities. Meanwhile, reefer is being shipped into New Orleans, where it catches on with the nascent jazz scene and thus propagates throughout African-American communities. Can you tell how this is going to end?
Right: poorly. Prohibition ends in 1933, but there’s a problem: the failed societal experiment had created two opposing, but intertwining, systems. Prohibition created organized crime, so there were markets and delivery routes already in place. But Prohibition also swelled the number of cops and agencies and law enforcement dedicated to, well, prohibiting things. One of those organizations was called the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (later the Drug Enforcement Agency) and was led by a guy named Harry Anslinger, the pothead’s Voldemort. A bunch of states had outlawed pot, but he got congress to pass the Marihuana Stamp Act in 1937. Instead of an outright ban, which the federal government was not seen as having the power to do, it levied a tax on the sale of pot. Thus, if you were caught holding, you could be thrown in jail for not paying your taxes.
(Those of you noting that the strategy is the same kind of sneaky bullshit the government pulled on Al Capone are correct, and should reward yourself with a treat of your choosing.)
And that was it for a long while. The substance was forbidden from use, sale, or possession and banned from all 50 states. Pot was stupidly illegal; they’d throw you in jail for a decade for one or two jazz cigarettes. Naturally, people kept getting high. Organized crime had something to do, the prohibitors had something to do; everyone was happy except the poor schmuck who just wanted to smoke a joint.
Weed began to go mainstream in the 60’s; by “mainstream,” I mean middle-class white people found out about it. The rock and rollers wrote songs praising the sweet leaf, and the college kids who went to their shows ate that shit up. You could buy a lid of Maui Wowie, or perhaps some Thai Stick. You could also, still, go to jail for a million years.
Then, it got worse. At the federal level, the government ramped up the War on Drugs, which has gone as well as the Wars on Poverty or Terrorism. Maybe we should stop declaring wars on concepts. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws were passed. Millions were spent on scare campaigns; billions for law enforcement.
But it also got a little better, slowly. States began decriminalizing possession of personal-use weights. (“Yes, officer, all ten pounds are for my personal use.”) Then, one by one and also slowly, states started to allow prescriptions of medical marijuana with varying levels of strictness. Some places require patients to have one of a set list of ailments, and limit the number of dispensaries in each county; and then there was California, where the medical marijuana law was blatantly a de facto legalization.
And now, to the subtle and lasting shock of any Enthusiast over a certain age, a couple states have legalized recreational marihuana. You have to pay your tax on it, too, just like Harry Anslinger wanted.
And here’s where it gets stupid. Marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, so the DEA could shut down the whole industry–multi-billion dollar industry, by the way–tomorrow. Plus, the laws vary wildly from state to state. The Four Corners. Where the square states meet? Stand in Colorado with a duffel bag full of the sticky icky, and you’re good. Walk ten feet to the west, and you’re in Utah; they only legalized trousers for women last year, so it might take a while for pot to become hunky-dory in Utah. Oh, and since the laws are so conflicting, banks won’t do business with the dispensaries so you have an entire industry–multi-billion dollar industry–being run on cash. I told you it was stupid.
This leads us to the current situation: in seven states, marijuana is legal for adults to enjoy for no reason other than it being an enjoyable pastime; in 19 others, it is obtainable under certain conditions. In 24 states, marijuana is still the devil’s weed. The federal government’s current view on pot is, to be charitable, uncharitable. Marijuana’s future, as always, is hazy.
Smoke ’em if you got ’em.