Cannabis: Hemper Fidelis

Our special issue on pot, “Dope and Change” [Nov. 18], despite occasioning some canceled subscriptions, epithets (“childish,” “deplorable,” “dishonest,” “irresponsible”) and a cry of outrage (“a whole issue on marijuana? This is not news”), was highly popular: “makes good sense,” “long overdue,” “appreciated,” “thank you for your excellent issue on the marijuana law insanity.” Said “Don Quixokie” of Tulsa, “I am pleased with the way society is moving on the marijuana issue, but I fear the government won’t be joining us for another generation. Don’t hold your breath—unless you’ve taken a big drag.” Your letters and comments follow. —The editors

What were your editorial writers smoking when they wrote that pot-smoker George W. Bush was “elected” president?  

Rick Baum
oakland, calif.

Thank you for finally printing the words “endocannabinoid system” (ECS). This remarkable medical discovery has been ignored for twenty years by journalists and the medical establishment to their discredit. All the medicinal cannabis laws and regulations have been designed by folks with no medical education. Absurd. See for an ECS briefing.

Al Byrne, USN, ret. Founder and director, Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access
howardsville, va.

I am amused that taxation and control are considered the answer to the marijuana legalization conundrum. What pleasure will we tax next? Spinning with our arms out until we fall over from dizziness—one of our earliest experiments as children in altered consciousness?


I’m disappointed by Carl L. Hart’s assertion that organizations like the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and NORML are dismissive of the racial injustice inherent in marijuana prohibition. Just because an advocacy group does not discuss only a single aspect of an issue does not mean it is dismissive of that issue. There are many reasons to repeal prohibition. MPP has long made the case about racial injustice stemming from prohibition. Here are just a couple examples:

When the ACLU released its report earlier this year on marijuana arrests and the stark racial disparities in each state, MPP coordinated with it to ensure the report received news coverage nationwide. For example, U.S. News & World Report quoted me: “Marijuana prohibition laws are not only irrational, but also unfair. Discrimination against communities of color played a role in their creation and it continues to play a role in their enforcement.”

The campaign in support of Amendment 64 in Colorado—largely coordinated and funded by MPP—sought to highlight racial injustice. It secured endorsements from the NAACP, the Colorado Latino Forum, the ACLU and the Colorado Progressive Coalition.

We also coordinated with the Drug Policy Alliance, which commissioned a major study on racial disparities in Colorado, to generate a major media hit around it, then publicized the information throughout the campaign. In fact, it was the first report ever to document arrests among Latinos, as all other studies had only specified the differences between blacks and whites. 

So, will MPP drop everything to focus 100 percent of its efforts on highlighting the racial injustice of marijuana prohibition? No, we will not. Will we incorporate that into the broader discussion about the need to end marijuana prohibition? Yes, we will.

Mason Tvert
Director of communications, MPP

You asked, “Why is pot still classified as a dangerous drug?” The answer is that Harry Anslinger committed racist perjury on May 11, 1937, when he told the House Ways and Means Committee during hearings on the Marijuana Tax Act (over the opposition of the AMA’s lobbyist, Dr. William Woodward) that “marijuana…is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind,” and was “smoked by Hispanics, Filipinos, Negroes and entertainers; their satanic music, jazz and swing, is caused from smoking marijuana. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes.” The horror of miscegenation trumped medical science. His “dangerous drug” lie lives on. Dr. Woodward called cannabis a “harmless medicine” that “was available in pharmacies” and “had appeared in the pharmacopoeia of approved medicines since 1870.” 

Robert W. Holdenvenzon
san diego

When our children were teens, my wife and I became aware that they were smoking pot. I consulted the medical library where I was a professor of surgery and found an article from Harvard that detailed the psycho-physiological effects of marijuana. It concluded that marijuana was no more dangerous than an aspirin tablet.

In those days, some of my cancer patients were being treated with chemotherapy, which caused them to vomit and lose their appetite. I knew marijuana suppressed nausea, but I could not let them smoke a joint in the hospital setting.

I was familiar with Alice B. Toklas’s recipe for brownies, which I baked and gave to my patients. They were able to eat, and many actually gained weight while on chemotherapy.

Cliff Straehley, MD, FACS
walnut creek, calif.

In 1965, we lowered the shades in the living room and for the first time partook of the weed while Bob Dylan or Ravi Shankar filled out the ambience. It was “street weed,” roughly $10 an ounce and not bad. The whole experience was clandestine and almost scary. Later, having got hold of a few seeds, we managed to grow a scraggly little plant and produce some smokable stuff—mainly the leaves. As time passed we graduated to sinsemilla, bought by the kilo, and smoked the buds. Just a couple of hits lasted a very long time, time to make a fresh peach taste like ambrosia. There was a ritual of clearing out the stems. I can still see it, piled up on the bedroom floor, awaiting distribution into baggies—not for sale, just for pleasure—stuffing the baggies was part of the ritual. 

Nature is full of great surprises—some of them as much fun and innocent as potatoes or chocolate, or as medicinally beneficial as aspirin. Put on a good Earl Gardner album and lean back and take a hit. It’s good; it’s smooth; it’s desirable; it’s nature.

Miguel Rostov
santa rosa, calif.