Sunday, July 19, 2015

An Investigation into Relaxants, Opiates, Alcohol, and Ultimately Cannabis - Part I

Arguably it has been quite a while since my last entry here and, for reasons that may become more clear once the haze and fog lifts, I've been involved in a caper so vast and so intertwined that it required nearly all of my faculties - and nearly compromised those faculties on many an occassion!

Now, it is widely documented that a vastly acute intellect (such as my own some would say) sometimes requires (no - demands!) an opportunity to disassociate itself from the intensely boring minutia of its everyday existence and simply cleanse out the flotsam and jetsam enjoined in its own gray matter - regardless of whatever advanced preventative measures have been taken towards its avoidance.

I would further postulate then that this mental respite would be a certified requirement for any 'advanced' mind to operate at its highest levels, a venture that this investigator is keenly allineated with for, as the good Dr. Watson has keenly reported in his copious journal entries, my predilection towards a variety of mental 'calming agents' is well and even over-documented, if my opinion is regarded at all. 

[Also, see cerebral compatriots Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Francis Crick, as well as the punctuated equilibrium of Stephen Jay Gould, among others for similarly comparative traits.]

Arguably then, with laws suddenly allowing for the recreational use of what was commonly referred to as "Cannabis" now lawfully passed in the territories of both Colorado and Washington, with near half a dozen more in planning, a thoroughly discriminating and (ahem!) 'personal' investigation seemed to be in order!

Yet, upon this investigator's inaugural inspection, it immediately surfaced that the beguiling positioning of today's laws on cannabis nationally coupled with the rise and fall of alcohol prohibition in this country's early 20th Century proved at once to be an intriguing legal meander thru the past 100 or so years all its own, with much of this jurisprudence originating from domains no one could imagine in the present day!

Withal, it was just such a level of investigation then that truly peeled back the machinated layers from this obfuscated onion and released the very pungency of its utter malfeasance. And, once this ground level review had been secured, we were then entirely comfortable with a second further in depth analysis of the very retail dispensaries offering legally procured strains of cannabis and its brethren, the purview of which will follow along soon enough in Part II of this treatise.

Thusly, herein will be the first of my three investigations where ultimately the conjoining of the three may allow a fuller vision of the issues to waft lazily into one's consciousness and allow the reader a greater understanding of the issues before us and perhaps outline a clearer path forward.

Straight away, it is not presently celebrated nowadays that opiates and other such 'relaxants' as morphine and heroin were termed fully medicinal in London (as I am only too well aware) as well as in these United States near the late 19th century - fully legal by the barristers record and as easy to acquire as aspirin is today at a Boots and Coots Apothecary (or as you Americans call it - Walgreen's).

Likewise 'Cannabis' (as it was known until 1937 - more on that in a bit), and it's various strains had been broadly used in a medicinal manner to treat all form of ailments such as cramps, stomach maladies, and other such general misery by peoples throughout history including the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, and the ancient Chinese - with it's first recorded use in Asia as far back as 7000 BC.

If you will allow, briefly, a quick traipse thru this byzantine history of how strains of Cannabis first made their way to North America will then set us forward to review its present status before us more robustly.

Prevailing wisdom augers towards the plant's first arrival in Europe from the first lengthy latitudinal expeditions to the Far East (arguably stashed away in a caravan dashboard alongside Marco Polo's returning pasta horde). With the follow on expansive Spanish Conquest of the New World in the 1500's, the subsequent transport of cannabis by settlers into Mexico and Central and South America was thereby made certain. 

Further, once ensconced in Mexico its otiose travel was an easy (albeit uncomfortable) mule trek north with its subsequent societal usage in the newly formed United States enjoying organic growth for over 200 years until the subtle winds began to change with the passage of what is known as the Harrison Act of 1914 - the very first attempts by the hidebound electorate to criminalize narcotics and opiates in any way (including the ubiquitous 'coca' leaf, which had already been emulated on the iconic bottles of a new beverage from the South called Coca-Cola, giving it an iconic reverence only hinted at today).

These 'Opiate' tightening developments discernibly then required of us a slightly further peeling of the onion layers to get at a 'parallel dynamic' at work in many portions of the U.S.

Growing immigration from Europe - Britain, Ireland, Italy, Germany, and others - countries which all enjoyed a long history with the joys of 'brewing' and of 'spirits', brought with them that love with many enterprising Germans conjuring up and delivering millions upon millions of gallons of beer, ale, and other distilled spirits to satisfy the thirst of this increasing Immigrant population (emphasis fully intended mind you).

The suddenly expanding retail saloons, now selling beer by the glass (Oh, the horror!) begot fierce competition amongst themselves and forced many to further proffer the public with other legerdemain 'enticements' to win business amongst the populace - enticements that included gambling and even direct introductions to the world's oldest profession - prostitution. (Truth be told, the more astute know that 'sales' is the worlds oldest profession with, prostitution properly positioned as just a subset of the primary.)

It was this burgeoning alcohol culture then that had brewed up the earliest hints of the Prohibition Movement, with it's beginnings found in America's Protestant Churches and a further sympathetic ear lent via groups such as the 'Anti-Saloon League' and the 'Women's Christian Temperance Union' whose steadfast beliefs (it was then hoped) would lead to a more 'pure and sober nation'. (And as in the world political tome "Lysistrata", it was the women again who took the matters of unruly male heads of households into their own hands for the perceived betterment of society.)

Interstitially, there also existed a strong preponderance of prejudicial tendencies towards immigrants in many throughout the land, including a large count already voting members of the U.S. Congress. With the further not so subtle assistance of openly avowed racists such as newspaperman William Randolph Hearst, devout proponents of the Harrison Act slyly played upon the fears of the general populace with widely distributed stories of 'drug-crazed, sex-mad negroes', of Chinese immigrants enticing and seducing women with the use of their opiates, and other incendiary direct ethnic references to instill fear in the U.S. citizenry - even moving so far as changing the name of the formerly considered medicinal plant itself from 'Cannabis' to a more 'Mexican' sounding term -  Marihuana.

Racism was so thoroughly engrained in this mien that it's been fully documented of puffed testimony with one medical 'professional', Dr. Christopher Koch of the State Pharmacy Board of Pennsylvania, brazenly testifying at a Congressional hearing that "most of the attacks upon the white women of the south are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain." (A scientific Point-Counterpoint that continues to this day on many issues of the day, regardless of the veracity of the inherent facts or science of the findings. An inexcusable violation of the laws of the righteous and the just.)

With the anti-alcohol Temperance Movement and the Anti-Opiates forces working in conjunction, the Harrison Act of 1914 and then Prohibition itself enacted via the passage of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1919 (thus banning the sale, manufacture, and even the very transportation of alcohol), the usage of 'Marijuana' quickly rose in these parts as the preferred stimulant of choice (and something I was only tangentially aware of at the time, being more medicinally predisposed).

Many will point to Prohibition as the very syzygy for the rapidity of Organized Crime growth as well for it was this nefarious enterprise, with it's comfortable meanderings in the shadows, and with the derring do of a funambulist, that IT was perhaps best suited towards the successful (yet illegal) operation of bootlegging, distribution, speakeasy management, and the necessary ancillary related corrupt practices required for the success of these operations. This incidentally also included the 'hiring' of the constabulary to allow these distribution channels and operations to remain open and trouble free and, with the addition of the sotto-voce backing of the politicians in attendance to continue Prohibition as the law of the land... the success of the entire highly profitable criminal enterprise was thereby assured.

Correspondently, along with the passage of Prohibition was the commensurate increase in general law enforcement to ensure the acts compliance - Police, U.S. Marshals, and Customs Agents to keep citizens protected from the evils of the 'demon alcohol'.

In one regard, Prohibition 'worked' as it had been intended for U.S. alcohol consumption in the 10+ years after it's passage dropped to 30% of previous levels. However, compliance in the early 1930's began to wane considerably and plans were ultimately drawn up and laid to pass the 21st Amendment repealing the prohibition of alcohol in December of nineteen hundred and thirty three. (Intriguingly, Confederate state South Carolina was the only state to vote AGAINST the 21st Amendment and the repeal of prohibition).

A dynamic not easily wasn't seen at the time however was the expansive role that law enforcement had become In Toto and the need to find another 'Ill' to police or the many facets of this expanded force would soon be out looking for work.

With extensive help of the aforementioned Mr. Hearst with his virulent hatred of blacks and Hispanics, newspapers across the country began running falsified and exaggerated stories demonizing the effect of marijuana and its effects on the children of, predominantly, white parents. 

Still more intriguingly, the DuPont Corporation had a desire as well to outlaw the continued use of Hemp, a strain of Cannabis, with it's strong tensile strength which had long been used over the centuries for its strong, sinewy qualities and which had a history of usage in the development of ropes, twines, and other woven products. Indeed, the term 'canvas' has its very linguistic derivations in the Latin word 'cannapaceus' meaning 'made of hemp'. 

Sails in whilom vessels used 'canvas sheets made of hemp' for they withstood extended exposure to saltwater and were much better than those of cotton composition; such was their use by American settlers as well with covered wagons all across the plains.

This plant, this hemp,  posed a major threat to Dupont's newly patented and designed products using plastics and petroleum based formulas and they too worked to ban and prohibit its use. Such is the continued practice by Business in the interests of 'free enterprise"....Indeed!

With the appointment of the former director of the Department of Prohibition to the head of the newly formed Federal Bureau of Narcotics, this triumvirate alliance served as the force necessary to move the country towards what would become the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, effectively outlawing the sale and possession of marijuana without a 'Marijuana Tax Stamp'. No stamps were ever issued of course and this ingenious manner to make marijuana illegal became the law of the land and shifted both organized crime and the enforcement of the laws towards this new ill towards the American citizenry.

Elementary! For this then also served to target itinerate minorities as both blacks and Mexicans were heavy users of Cannabis (er, marijuana) and this served as the additional gambit that newspaperman Hearst had ultimately sought.

Which, in circumlocuitous fashion, brings us to the present day and the recent relaxation of attitudes towards the medicinal use of cannabis, with first the passage of laws in California towards its usage with a prescription from a medical professional, and then the eventual personal and recreational use of marijuana with legislation passed in both Washington and Colorado domains.

Of course, it was under the guise of "Investigation" towards this legal relaxation of laws in Colorado that brought me to the almost antiseptic marijuana dispensary "Euflora" on the famed 16th Street Mall in the heart of touristy downtown Denver, Colorado, an affair I shall document wholeheartedly in Part II of this worthwhile case!