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Supreme Court Vs. Medical Marijuana Users

By Paul Dougan

By a six-to-three margin, the Supreme Court proclaims sick Americans easing
their pain with pot are criminal. So, an 85-year-old grandmother trying to
deal with the nausea caused by her chemotherapy, seeking, perhaps, to follow
the advice of her physician, is an enemy of the state. Yes, here in America,
that noble fountain of decency, democracy, and human rights, that light of
the world, Grandma can be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Sounds
insane, doesn’t it?

I, however, understand the decision perfectly: The Court is a political
institution; currently, it’s particularly sensitive to the needs of the
right-wing of the Republican Party, the so-called neoconservatives. And that
conservative Court is functioning in a political environment that sees the
War on Drugs as a national crusade, where being against drugs in any form
is a patriotic duty. Now, the problem with both medicinal marijuana and
industrial hemp is that they involve cannabis; as the necocons will warn
you, both of those issues are just stalking horses for the legalization of
all marijuana. To some extent, they’re right: the issues are interconnected,
and politically, the legalization of either medicinal marijuana or
industrial hemp would strengthen the movement to legalize it. So, the
Court’s decision wasn’t really about the specious connection between Grandma’s
medicine and the federal government’s right to regulate interstate commerce;
it was about the larger battle to legalize marijuana in general.

So, why not legalize it–all marijuana? It’s never caused a single
documented death. The recent sensational drug overdoses of students at
various colleges in Colorado were caused by alcohol, not reefer–theirs was
the drug of the young George W. Bush, not Jerry Garcia. If our concern is
public health, we certainly don’t improve it by jailing people. And the
gateway objection is laughable. A massive cause-effect fallacy, gateway’s
only basis in fact turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy: what little
gateway effect pot does pose is due precisely to its illegality. Marijuana
prohibition and the Court’s decision also fly in the face of the
neoconservatives own rhetoric about the horrors of big government–too
much intrusion into the lives of individuals, too much regulation, too many
tax dollars spent. And for decades, the thinking behind that prohibition has
violated basic American values: the notion that one man’s freedom ends where
another’s nose begins, that those not crossing that line have the right to
be left alone. No, the flimsy, contradictory arguments against legalizing
recreational marijuana make no sense either.

But there is method to the madness: to legalize marijuana would be to
legalize marijuana users; in particular, to legalize hippies, the
counterculture, whatever term you prefer. Now, of course, we tell ourselves
hippies no longer exist, that the counterculture is just a faded memory, but
at another level, we all know that’s nonsense. In most areas of the nation,
it’s about impossible to go out on any given day and not see overtly hippie
people; you watch the World Series, you see hippie baseball players; you
pick up a newspaper or listen to talk radio, and there are the commentators
clucking about a wicked counterculture that’s allegedly ruining America.

What we have in hippies is a new (forty-year old) ethnicity–a cultural
formation that displays virtually every aspect of ethnicity save for the
usual origins (and even those unusual origins pertain to only a portion of
hippies: we now see second- and even third-generation counterculturalists
who’ve inherited their ethnicity). The reason we’ve come to believe that
hippies no longer exist is because the powers that be are engaged in
ethnocide: they don’t believe hippies have the right to exist, they don’t
want hippies around. For as long as there’s been a counterculture, that’s
the message they’ve been sending, those are the policies they’ve been
enforcing–Hippies have no rightful place in this nation; America must be
drug free. Zero tolerance is code for intolerance.

America’s powerful, then, are reacting to and treating hippies much like
they’ve traditionally reacted to and treated other ethnic minorities,
especially those just off the boat and ethnicities of color. Hippies have
been stereotyped and turned into a social pariah; the counterculture has
become a boogey-man in the public mind, the stuff of demagoguery. Just, for
example, as anti-Semitic Germans believed their loss in the First World War
was due to Jews, many Americans have come to believe our loss in Vietnam was
due to hippies. And just as for decades American politicians race-baited
rivals, today’s politicians regularly hippie-bait opponents; thus, we’re
supposed to believe the Clintons secretly sport tie-dyes under their
business suits, that former anti-war activist John Kerry was and is just
another hippie protestor wearing flip-flops, that the Democratic Party is in
league with what Rush Limbaugh calls the Birkenstock crowd.

In addition to the political rewards of scapegoating and hippie-baiting, the
neoconservatives have another reason for persecuting hippies: they believe
the counterculture is a mortal danger to Western Civilization. No, I’m not
exaggerating. A video currently in vogue among neoconservatives is entitled
The Siege of Western Civilization; its maker, former Reagan aide Herb
Meyer, identifies three major threats to Western Civilization. One is the
counterculture. Then again, for centuries the privileged in America had
themselves and others convinced that any move towards equality by
African-Americans meant the end of Western Civilization, that the
negrification of society would lead to its downfall.

There’s something happening here; what it is is exactly clear: prejudice
towards and discrimination against the counterculture have become
institutionalized, become a central factor in modern American life in much
the way that racism and other forms of ethnic chauvinism have long been an
ugly mainspring of American history.

As such, any issues in any way related to the counterculture are seen as
part of a life-and-death struggle between light and darkness, between good
and evil, between a healthy, vibrant America and a once-great nation broken
by the permissiveness and moral relativism bigots believe to be the
hallmarks of hippie culture–Forrest Gump, please come home: the
counterculture is up to all kinds of no good, and Mama needs you. And that’s
the real reason some cancer-ridden grandma–who likely as not isn’t
hippie–will be forced to make a sick choice: suffer or risk jail.

Bio: Paul Dougan is a college English teacher writing a book: Happily
Hippie: Understanding, Celebrating and Defending Forty Years of
Countercultural Ethnicity. He may be reached at pgdougan@netscape.com.

Posted by: skip
Views: 12938

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