Should Marijuana be Legalized?


I wrote this essay in 1988 and it won 1st Prize in a local news magazine contest for writers writing on the topic of legalization of marijuana.


Should marijuana be legalized or not? For people living in our community, this question actually masks other more basic questions—should we condone genocide of our Mateel Community or should we organize and fight to survive? Let’s be real here. Our community’s entire socio-economic structure is thoroughly infused with marijuana production, consumption and marketing. Some of us think supporting the existing marijuana prohibition keeps the price up for our very lucrative cash crop which provides the support for living in this area of beautiful scenery but few legitimate jobs. But I believe most of us are wondering if the price we have to pay for playing this increasingly destructive cops, robbers, and growers game is really worth it now. Supporting criminalization of marijuana now means we are giving approval for the destruction of our community and our way of life. What is hidden behind the anti-marijuana policies of national, state, and local conservative politicians and police agencies is genocide and we are the target.

The dictionary defines "genocide" as the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial or political or cultural group. Our Mateel Community is unique in that the majority of the people living here are long-term veterans of the counterculture revolution begun in the 1960’s. Unlike the rest of America in the 1980’s, the counterculture isn’t dead here but still very much alive, producing activists and culture at odds with the rest of the nation. Of course, our counterculture characteristics have gone through many changes since the ‘60’s, but many of our basic values and lifestyles remain intact here because, unlike urban hippies, we secured a land base and incomes allowing us independence from the American rat race.

It has been reported that our community produces, per capita, more funds and more activists for social change struggles of all sorts than any other American community, including Berkeley. We still pose a threat to right wing politicians and their corporate sponsors, so therefore our community becomes another target for genocide.  Rightwing politicians, law enforcement agencies, and the courts believe that wiping out our primary source of income will break our community and they could be right. Our community is highly vulnerable unless we do not take all avenues open to us to protect ourselves. Keeping low profiles for fear of arrest has meant the anti-marijuana propaganda of the right is heavily publicized and rarely countered with the truths we know. Backing a few lawyers attempting to convince the courts that our civil rights are being violated isn’t enough either because judges and juries are representative of public disinformation about marijuana. Also, huge profits made and flashed by large-scale growers, plus he exorbitant price of our product, alienates not only the general public but our own customers as well. Sympathy for our plight is not widespread. I see several avenues open to us for protecting our very special community.

The first avenue is finding alternative income work that is economically viable in our rural area without direct or indirect reliance on marijuana generated money. It is essential that we free ourselves from the threat of our primary source of income being cut off. To do that we must get serious again about developing cottage industries and alternative businesses that do not owe their existence to the marijuana cash flow in our community. A few years ago, I was involved with the Small Business Council, promoting alternative income projects. Many of us have ideas and plans for those pet income projects and now is the time we need to do something about them. I and others on the SBC and in our multi-talented community have amassed ideas and literature for starting up and operating a large number of new businesses that could be successfully run from a rural base. I would be pleased to share this information with others here. Our community has an unusually high percentage of bright, creative people, and there is no reason to doubt that we can diversify our income producing work projects. However, it is also true that some of us are born farmers and it would be a waste to let that talent die, especially when we have proven we can grow a quality crop on marginal land. So here is the second avenue: a new marijuana legalization initiative. This new initiative differs from previous unsuccessful initiatives in that it presents a way that marijuana growers can continue to earn decent incomes despite legalization. Marijuana growers didn’t really support previous legalization efforts for obvious reasons and without their support the pro-legalization people could not convince the voting public. This new legalization initiative would:

1) Mount a statewide public relations campaign to counter the public’s misinformation about this herb and our real lives as socially responsible citizens even though we are branded felons by the law; and

2) Present a reasonable program for keeping small rural homestead marijuana farms economically viable even with the unavoidable drop in prices legalization will bring.

Countering the public’s misconceptions about marijuana means we have to counter lies put out by the anti-marijuana cartel of right-wingers and big corporations that stand to lose a lot of money if marijuana were made legal. The lies begin with the anti-marijuana people’s totally unscientific and unsupportable claims that marijuana use is so dangerous to health that it belongs in the dangerous drugs criminal class, and that growers and sellers of this herb deserve increasingly stiff sentences being given out these days by the courts.

Many people in our anachronistic and notorious community have used and abused marijuana for 20 years or more, and therefore know this herb’s effects on one’s consciousness and physical health better than the very vocal anti-marijuana campaigners claiming such knowledge. From so many years of personal experience, from common knowledge of medical studies of long-term users of this herb (clinical statistics as opposed to government and drug company funded rat research studies) most of us here know our homegrown intoxicant is no more addictive, no more physically or mentally damaging to one’s health than such commonly used and abused drugs and chemicals as aspirin, caffeine, sugar or salt. Rat studies prove only that a great many substances can be harmful to rats. It is clinical statistics that will show the real results of drug harm. How many people do you know who have been sent to the hospital for marijuana intoxication or marijuana-induced disease?

Our community population consumes more high potency marijuana than any other similar sized group in America, yet do you see most of us turned into zombies with destroyed brains, or flocking in droves to hospitals with pot-induced illnesses, or dying prematurely with marijuana-ruined bodies, or producing an excessive number of retarded children? If the anti-marijuana propaganda held any truth, our community would be so disabled that it would be a wonder if anyone here could function well enough to handle the work of growing the herb, let alone doing all the other work of building and maintaining homesteads. The reality that anyone can see is that most people here are as energetic and ambitious as any other American community, if not more so, building their own homes, developing their land, starting up and operating businesses, creating finest quality arts and crafts, creating new schools and new community service organizations, and generally building a prosperous and culturally diversified community comparable to any in the U.S. And the beauty, health and brightness of our children is open for anyone to see or verify from the school records.

Now, how do we legalize pot and still earn a living growing it? Some years back one of Willie Brown’s political aides proposed a marijuana legalization bill that both growers and the general public might accept. The proposed Bill would include acceptable health and safety regulations similar to alcoholic beverage controls, and also, a progressive marijuana production taxation formula that was based on quantities produced so that small farm operations would benefit while large farms or corporate agribusiness could not because their taxes would make large-scale farms unprofitable. This taxation plan, plus a possible price support government subsidy program similar to many existing farm subsidy programs for other crops, would help keep a needed source of income for small farms in rural areas and not contribute to the already overpowering economic advantage that large corporate-owned farms are using to force out family farms throughout the nation. Taxes from legal marijuana production and sales could be earmarked for California’s education and new schools, Medi-Cal costs, alternative energy production, wilderness and park land acquisition, and in poetic justice, welfare costs, since we have so often been accused of abusing this aid program.

The third avenue for saving our community may be our last hope if all else fails and the police forces of anti-marijuana politicians are allowed to wreak havoc on our lives unchecked by either the courts or public outcry. This avenue is politically separating our community from the rest of Humboldt County, which, so far, has sided with the anti-marijuana war effort against us. We could incorporate the Mateel Community as a city and set our own policies with our own city management, our own planning department, our own school district administration, our own water and power district, and most important, our own police department and judicial court system enforcing the laws in ways we would want them enforced. In California, you only need a minimum population of 500 to form a city. The size or make-up of you city is open and the Mateel City would cover all of southern Humboldt county as long as the majority of residents agreed to such incorporation.

The fourth and last avenue I will present here for the saving our Mateel Community* is really aimed at those of us who consider marijuana a sacrament essential to religious beliefs. There is a long historic tradition in several countries of the world that legitimizes marijuana as a sacramental tool for reaching God consciousness. I know for my own spiritual development marijuana has played a key role. If those of us who consider the herb sacred medicine would organize ourselves into a legally recognized religious society I believe we could stop interference with our lives by anti-marijuana authorities. The First Amendment of the Constitution still carries power and we should never forget just why the Founders of our nation were determined to end religious persecution in the new Land of the Free. I would gladly join a religious rights organization here and will offer whatever spiritual/legal support others can use out my own "Biomystical" belief system. But whatever our beliefs, it is time for all of us here in the Mateel to take a stand on marijuana because the hand of destruction will be in our skies and in our lives every day again this year.


1989 Update:

A New County initiative was begun this year to separate Southern Humboldt County (= our Mateel Community*) from the rest of Humboldt Co. I was part of this New County group and gave the name for the new County: Sequoia County. Our initiative failed to gain enough votes to qualify for the ballot. Now in 2003 we have a controversial District Attorney who is sympathetic to pot growers so now only large scale pot growing operations are being targeted by the police which is actually OK with most everyone here. Also, California enacted Prop 215 which legalizes individual growing and usage rights for medical marijuana patients of which I am one.

* See the Gospel of the Mateel page.


2017 Update

California enacted legislation that legalizes recreational cannabis usage and cultivation under stringent rules and taxation. It had to happen although the right-wing conservatives are still trying their best to overturn the states changing their former anti-marijuana laws to legalization to help state economies and to do the right thing finally. Pot turns out to be one of nature's best real panaceas, good for many ailments in human beings, pets too.