By "Radical" Russ Belville
Last night’s “Explorer” documentary on the National Geographic channel entitled “Marijuana Nation” did a decent job of exploring the issue of cannabis in North America. However, it did leave unchallenged some drug war assertions about cannabis.
Drug warriors in the film, as well as Lisa Ling’s own narration, sounded the alarms about the “Not Your Father’s Woodstock Weed” we’re using today. One figure cited was that the pot most people smoked in the ’60s was about 3-4% THC while what we smoke today can be up to 20%. That’s kind of like saying the alcohol of the beer we drank in the ’60s was 3.2% while the rum we drink today can be up to 75%. There was potent pot back in the ’60s and there is schwag around today. The government’s own figures on THC levels of seized cannabis show the average has only doubled.
The question never answered about the potency is “So?” It was obliquely referenced by the Canadian grower who responded to Lisa Ling’s question, “So this bud would get you very high?” by asking “Sure, but what is ‘high’?” He pointed out that it could never kill you, you can’t overdose on it, and that you could eat lots of it and you’d just go to sleep.
That’s a start. But people who’ve never used cannabis, and especially those who’ve used alcohol, have a misperception about what being high is. They compare it to alcohol, which has different stages of intoxication, leading from happy and fun through aggressive and belligerent and on to puking and hangovers. So they may attach that same frame to cannabis, figuring that with the new “super-pot”, it must somehow be different, differently intoxicating, differently addictive, and will affect personality differently. They don’t understand that Cheech & Chong smoked a whole joint to get high while we today smoke a couple of puffs to get high. High is high. If Cheech & Chong smoked six joints, they’d go to sleep. If we smoke one joint, we go to sleep. The pot is no different, it just takes less of it to get high, which is better for your lungs. It’s like that concentrated laundry detergent - it doesn’t clean your clothes any better, it just takes less of it to do laundry.
Another issue I have is with the selection of interview subjects. We had drug warriors telling the prohibitionist’s side, medical growers and dispensary owners telling the medical side, but where were the stories from the activist side? Where were Keith Stroup, Rob Kampia, Ethan Nadelmann, etc.? I would trade any one of the many shots of Marc Emery with his four-foot bong and attendant “pretty ladies” for just one activist.
As a result, the harms from the prohibition of cannabis get the short shrift. Brief mentions were made about the prison population and marijuana arrests, but never were any of the other nasty effects of prohibition mentioned. No mention of transplant patients being denied for the medical marijuana use. No mention of college girls murdered in drug stings gone bad. No mention of college kids losing financial aid. No mention of losing child custody over pot use. No mention of drug raids gone bad and the people who die from them.