April 30, 2016
Highest greetings from Amsterdam at the beginning of the traditional Cannabis Cup week, where for the first time since 1988 there will be no High Times Cannabis Cup in the marijuana capitol of the world and no Thanksgiving Day awards for the best weed grown in Holland.
I first came to Amsterdam for the 11th Cannabis Cup in 1998, where I served as High Priest and performed at the Melkweg club nightly with my band of Blues Scholars from New Orleans. I had such a good time that I begged High Times to bring me back the next year, and that’s when I fell in with Michael Veling of the 420 Café. He sponsored my visits to the Cannabis Cup for the next three years and convinced me to relocate from New Orleans to Amsterdam after the 16th Cup in 2003, offering me a more or less permanent base of operations at his coffeeshop ever since.
So I’ve been on hand for the past 16 Cannabis Cups in Amsterdam, long before the legalization of medical marijuana in America and the establishment of what are now several Medical Cannabis Cups in the U.S., plus full-scale Cannabis Cups celebrating legalized marijuana in the states of Colorado, Washington and Oregon. They even have a Medical Cannabis Cup in Clio, Michigan that has caused quite a bit of excitement for smokers in the Flint area for the past two years
But there’s no more Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, the home of its origin. The International Cannabis Cup was moved to Jamaica this year, where weed has finally found official acceptance, and was held in conjunction with the local ganja community as “Rastafari Rootzfest” last month at a space, the magazine says, “just a few yards from Negril’s gorgeous Seven Mile Beach where warm sunshine and spliffs ruled the day.”
High Times reports that “several thousand” persons attended the “Rastafari Rootzfest” last month, certainly netting the sponsors a tidy sum in admission (or “judges”) fees. And the money-making aspects of the original Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam have been shifted to the ever-growing number of medical and recreational Cups in the U.S.A., where the costs don’t involve shipping a staff of people across the ocean every November and dealing with the transportation arrangements of 1200 or more so-called “judges” in a foreign country each fall.
So it’s very interesting to be in the coffeeshops of Amsterdam this week in the absence of the Cannabis Cup and the hundreds of eager marijuana tourists it has brought from the U.S.A. and around the world every Thanksgiving week for the past 27 years. Business in the shops doesn’t seem to be suffering per se, but it’s quite a different vibe from that generated by the smokers on a mission who’ve been attracted by the High Times event every year since I’ve been coming here.
But now it seems to be back to normal, which is pretty hip to begin with, and several local coffeeshops have banded together to initiate their own festivities this year under the name of the Amsterdam Unity Cup, held at the Melkweg the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I attended the Tuesday event last night but there wasn’t anything happening at all except for a deejay in the Oude Zaal playing a lot of corny records at high volume to an audience of none.
My friend William, long-time cannabis manager at the 420 Café and its Dutch Flowers annex, explained that the group of coffeeshop people were taking an exploratory approach this year to see if they could make it happen in the absence of the traditional organizers, the High Times collective from New York City.
If all went well logistically, William surmised, the local cofffeeshop veterans would make a better publicized effort next year at this time to deliver on their promise to “bring you the people’s choice of the finest strains from the best coffee shops Amsterdam has to offer” while claiming that “The traditional dates have been taken over for the new annual Cup event in & aromund Amsterdam.” You can get more information at amsterdam-unity-cup.com.
The evacuation of Amsterdam by High Times represents an ugly victory for the city and the federal government in their lengthening campaign to shrink the cannabis business community in the Netherlands and try to shed the image of the world’s hot spot for drug tourism in the hope of attracting the more lucrative family-oriented tourist trade enjoyed by most western destinations.
Unlike the western United States, where the newly legalized cannabis industry is beginning a concerted effort to introduce normal Americans to the pleasures and benefits of marijuana in an effort to increase sales, the Dutch authorities want to drive the cannabis tourists away and shun their voluminous business which is said to amount to 25% of all tourism dollars spent here.
The present government seems to feel that the Netherlands have suffered for more than 40 years under the stigma of being the number one destination for marijuana smokers all over the world. The unique Dutch tolerance of the marijuana smoker as a full citizen is regarded with scorn and apprehension by virtually every western nation save Spain and Portugal. The highly civilized approach to marijuana smoking adopted by the Dutch hasn’t even begun to penetrate the thick skulls of the American authorities, who remain loath to allow smoking the sacrament on the premises where it may be traded.
I’ve related these facts before in this space, but the Dutch system allows the purchase and consumption of cannabis products on the premises of specialized cafes called coffeeshops, which are allowed to stock 500 grams of marijuana and hashish for sale over the counter. Consumers may purchase up to 5 grams of cannabis in a coffeeshop and take it with them—as in a Michigan dispensary—or enjoy the great local custom of taking a seat, sipping a coffee or juice drink, rolling up joints and smoking them alone or with friends, reveling in the companionship of fellow smokers in a warm and relaxed atmosphere.
This system has worked without fail for the marijuana smoker in the Netherlands since 1972 or so. Free-style marijuana coffeeshops were established and proliferated throughout Amsterdam without restraint (numbering 750 at the highest point) until the government decided the cannabis explosion had gone too far without the guiding hand of the authorities and began the process of registering and regulating the coffeeshpp industry about 20 years ago.
They’ve tightened things up considerably ever since, as I’ve reported in this column, until now there are probably les than 200 coffeeshops in Amsterdam itself. Tourists have been barred from frequenting coffeeshops and buying weed in quite a few smaller towns along the eastern border, and there’s even been an attempt to force Dutch smokers to register with the government.
When I left Detroit last month they were talking a lot of crazy shit about registering and regulating the 150 to 200 marijuana dispensaries that have sprung up in the city. What they need to do is convert the dispensaries to coffeeshops where people may gather peacefully and enjoy their weed and each other in peace. The City should enable as many shops to operate as possible, establish a modest licensing fee and tax the sales of products in the shops.
Otherwise, let us alone and let us have our smoke. FREE THE WEED!
November 23-24, 2015
© 2015 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
April 29, 2016
Hi everybody and highest greetings from the northeast sector of Detroit where I’m recovering from foot surgery with my daughters and granddaughter waiting on me hand and foot to keep me from going stir crazy while I sit here and heal.
While in Detroit for the past two months I’ve been delighted to read page after page of coverage in the daily papers of the proliferation of medical marijuana outlets in the city and several serious think pieces about the burgeoning of the cannabis industry and the imminence of legalization for recreational use as well.
My position is clear: For those like myself who spent 40 or 50 years copping in the shadows from fellow criminals (if you could locate the ones who had the bag), the quick, easy and regular availability of our medicine is a beautiful thing and should be as widespread as possible.
There’s nothing wrong with smoking weed. We should be able to smoke weed wherever we are—in our homes, in our cars, with our friends, in private and in public. There’s nothing wrong with it. The second-hand smoke is not toxic. It doesn’t hurt anybody.
Marijuana is an herb, a simple weed that grows profusely when properly guided and tended. If you smoke it, the smoke will get you high when you take it inside. It won’t get the person next to you high. Sometimes there’s the “contact high” effect where the spectator derives a few giggles from the immediate atmosphere, but it’s usually a pretty pleasant thing.
The alleged dangers of marijuana were entirely fabricated in the 1930s by law enforcement radicals led by Commissioner of Narcotics Harry Anslinger, who created a vast new field of endeavor for police forces, courts and prisons based on the outright lies and deliberate mistruths that were advanced in support of draconic legal strictures against marijuana use and distribution.
Everything they said about marijuana was untrue. It was all a bunch of lies made up in order to give law enforcement total control over marijuana and marijuana users. It was an unmitigated tissue of horseshit swallowed whole by lawmakers, law enforcers, courts, prisons, churches, parents and authorities of every stripe. None of them wanted anyone to be able to get high on marijuana, and they committed every perverse deed they could think of in order to try to prevent the spread of the insidious weed.
Law enforcement bogarted its way into the world of marijuana and prevailed through brutality and sheer force of will until the past 20 years when citizens voted them out of power by legalizing medical marijuana and now recreational use through the ballot initiative process—the backbone of democracy.
The fact is clear that law enforcement has absolutely no business with marijuana and must be completely removed from the marijuana equation. What business is it of the police or state legislators to trace the growing and distribution of marijuana from seed to consumer? To maintain a state registry of marijuana patients and their caregivers? What business of theirs is where we get our marijuana?
With respect to the licensing and regulation of marijuana provisioning centers, it makes sense that a dispensary should be required to have a business license like any other business and to pay sales tax and other taxes assessed on all retail businesses. On the other hand, sales of medical marijuana to marijuana patients should not be taxed at all unless sales of any type of medicine are similarly taxable.
As to where a dispensary may or may not be located, how many feet or yards from a church or school, what hours it may be or must not be open, whether or not there is a drive-in window—these issues don’t have anything to do with the proper provisioning of marijuana. The number of available provisioning sites, their proximity to one another, their profusion or scarcity in a given neighborhood—none of these are legitimate concerns for the authorities.
My favorite bugaboo is the proscription against smoking weed on the premises of a dispensary. This is totally backwards. The Dutch model, which has worked well now for more than 40 years, allows weed and hash to be sold over the counter in amounts of five grams or less to anyone over 18. You buy the weed at the counter, take it to your table and smoke it using the delivery system of your choice. This may go on, depending on the whims of the proprietors with respect to working hours, from 7:00 am to 1:00 am, seven days a week.
The major imperfection in the Dutch scheme is that although cannabis sale and use is tolerated in the coffeeshops, weed is not legal per se. It remains illegal to grow, harvest, distribute and sell cannabis products in bulk to the coffeeshops or any other sort of customers.
So the government must waste law enforcement resources on marijuana growers and distributors, waive the substantial tax revenues that would result from legalizing and taxing such activity, and content itself with accepting the tax filings of the coffeeshops which are, of course, prohibited from keeping accurate sales records because their principal form of sales activity is officially illegal.
What we need in Michigan is not a maze of state and municipal regulations limiting access to marijuana and subjecting smokers to undue scrutiny. We need free and clear access to marijuana without any more restrictions on its use and availability than on a cup of coffee. There’s nothing wrong with it. It can be good for you. It doesn’t hurt anyone. There’s nothing wrong with smoking it.
I hate to be a spoilsport with respect to eliminating the police presence from the marijuana issue altogether, but it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, as they say. Why not eliminate the prospect of years of bitter litigation and struggle over the question of public access to marijuana and simply adopt a rational, socially efficient distribution system constructed to best serve the cannabis constituency?
I’m impressed by the proliferation of provisioning centers in the city of Detroit, but I miss the Dutch custom of relaxing at a table with your friends and a cup of coffee and smoking a joint together after you cop. Presently you’re guided to the counter, make your selection, pay, and split. This takes all the fun out of the transaction and reduces the experience to a fairly crass consumer episode.
To me the very basis of the marijuana experience is getting high with your friends and sharing warmth and smoke in an intimate setting while listening to some good music of one’s choice. I’ll always be looking for a place where we can do this in Detroit and throughout Michigan.
I’m also a fervent believer in the caregiver system that was voted in by Michigan citizens several years ago. Grow it yourself if you want to, get someone to grow it for you if you wish, or cop at a provisioning center if that’s how you want to roll. But forget about the much-vaunted liquor control model—marijuana is nothing like liquor, and the public has no similar interest in regulating its availability.
Okay, these views don’t respect the popular wisdom but they’re my beliefs and they’re based on my own long experience as a marijuana smoker and they’re based in the facts as known to millions of marijuana smokers in Michigan and around the world. End the War On Drugs once and for all. Free The Weed!
October 20-22, 2015
© 2015 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
April 28, 2016
Highest greetings from the northeast side of Detroit, where I’m visiting with my daughter Sunny and granddaughter Beyonce and waiting right now to schedule a required foot operation that promises to restore much of my personal mobility that’s been shackled for most of the present year by a diabetic wound on my left foot that has refused to heal.
My several doctors say that portions of infected bones in my foot—sadly including my small toe—must be removed so that the flesh may heal, and then I’ll be off my feet for another month of recovery time. I’ve had to cancel all my potential performance work and my entire trip to Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans in order to attend to this problem.
I’m hoping to be healed up enough by the middle of November to get back to Amsterdam for what will be the city’s first year without a Cannabis Cup for more than three decades. The High Times entrepreneurs seem to have given up on the Dam after suffering several years of problems with local authorities on venue and licensing issues. One year the site of the exposition was raided by a force of 150 police—a veritable army by Dutch standards—and last year the expo site was shut down completely before the event could open.
Thus the High Times international Cannabis Cup will be staged earlier in November this year in Jamaica instead of Amsterdam. The magazine’s wildly popular Medical Cannabis Cups in California, Michigan and elsewhere, and its new Cannabis Cup festivities with legalized weed in Colorado, Washington and Oregon have replaced the Amsterdam event as profit centers.
With the Cannabis Cup, as with the cannabis culture as a whole, what began as a lark in the face of severe oppression by the authorities has now become Big Business. What was all about getting high and having a ball and being creative and innovative is now about contests between products and how many people will pay how much to attend a cannabis exposition of products after products to be sold to a maximum number of consumers.
My view is not the popular one, but that’s not what they pay me for. I’m an old curmudgeon and an elder who was there at the beginning of our movement, and my job is to point out what’s gone right or wrong as our long grass-roots movement is now beginning to emerge triumphant.
What’s absolutely right, of course, is that very soon we won’t be getting arrested or harassed in any way by the police for smoking marijuana. The hated drug police will be removed from our lives and we’ll be left to deal with the people standing behind them and propping them up—the vicious office-holding politicians who have used the phony issue of marijuana illegalization to create an incredible power base in the law enforcement community and the relentless engine for the War On Drugs.
The dismantling of the machinery of the War On Drugs is a formidable task at the very forefront of our agenda, and as we have seen here in Michigan the legislators and the law enforcement community will drag their heels and resist legal changes mandated by the voters with all their might for as long as they can get away with it. They’ve had a good thing going for themselves ever since they dreamed up the marijuana illegalization mythology some 80 years ago, and they’re not going to give it up until they have absolutely no further choice.
How good is this thing they’ve had? I hate to sound like a broken record, but it’s all been sleight-of-hand and smoke-and-mirrors from the beginning. As first instituted by Commissioner of Narcotics Harry Anslinger in the 1930s and then as upgraded by Richard M. Nixon and his gang in the 1970s, the war on marijuana and then the War On Drugs have been conceived and executed as a precise form of attack on people outside the mainstream of American culture: African-Americans, Mexicans, jazz musicians, poets and outsiders of every stripe—exactly the people who introduced us to the joys of marijuana and kept the pipe lit until it could get to us.
Marijuana was targeted as the standard bearer for the next generation of prohibition because that’s what these particular people smoked, and a case had to be made against this practice in order to turn these people into criminals and give the police forces the right and duty to harass and hound them without mercy. Commissioner Anslinger came up with a bunch of non-scientific horseshit to declare that marijuana was a narcotic and its users to be punished under the nation’s draconian narcotics laws.
But Anslinger was just making up shit to serve his agenda. Science had nothing to do with it. Physical harm from smoking marijuana was not even alleged. Here are excerpts from Anslinger’s testimony to law-makers in Congress:
“There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz, and swing, result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers, and any others.”
“Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind…. the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races…. Marijuana is an addictive drug which produces in its users insanity, criminality, and death…. You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother…. Marihuana leads to pacifism and communist brainwashing…. Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
There was never a word of truth in the claim that marijuana was a narcotic. It is not a narcotic. It is not toxic. It has no narcotic properties. It is simply not a narcotic. Yet ever successive groups of lawmakers have created intricate systems of laws and punishments predicated on the myth that marijuana is a narcotic, or if no longer a narcotic then a “controlled substance” the use of which must be severely restricted and its users brutally punished by the forces of law and order.
Now that these asinine laws are being stripped away and a brighter future begins to dawn from the west, we must remain ever vigilant until our rights and freedoms are fully restored and the police completely removed from the cannabis equation. There is a new petition drive shaping up that aims to strip all language about marijuana from the state statutes and start with a clean slate.
This is an excellent idea, but in the meantime the state and local authorities across the state of Michigan are enacting new measures to restrict and stringently regulate the grass-roots marijuana dispensaries that have grown up like weeds in our communities.
Instead of introducing legal medical marijuana with a well-thought-out, comprehensive regulatory scheme that would insure that patients get the best weed for the lowest price, they stalled and hemmed and hawed until the people took care of the question for themselves, and now they want to transform it into something completely different from what the voters called for when they passed the citizens’ initiative to legalize medical marijuana several years ago.
My time has run out for this month but I’ll keep this issue in mind until it’s time to write again next month. Meanwhile I’ll be passing my 74th birthday on October 2 and celebrating the release of my new book, IT’S ALL GOOD—A john Sinclair Reader from Horner Books in my home town, Flint Michigan. FREE THE WEED!
September 24, 2015
© 2015 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
April 25, 2016
NIGHTINGALES + Ted Chippington
UK Tour May 2016
Thu 12 – BRIGHTON, Green Door Store
Fri 13 – BRISTOL, Thunderbolt
Sat 14 – BIRMINGHAM, Flapper & Firkin
Mon 16 – LONDON, Birthdays (Dalston)
Tue 17 – MARGATE, Tom Thumb Theatre SOLD OUT
Wed 18 – MARGATE, Tom Thumb Theatre
Thu 19 – CARDIFF, Moon Club
Fri 20 – OXFORD, Cellar Bar
Sat 21 – DERBY, Hairy Dog
Tue 24 – LEICESTER, Firebug
Thu 26 – MANCHESTER, Gullivers
Fri 27 – BRADFORD, 1 In 12 Club
Sat 28 – EDINBURGH, Leith Depot
Sun 29 – NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, Cluny 2
Buy Nightingales stuff: http://ironmanrecords.bigcartel.com/artist/nightingales
Buy Ted Chippington Vinyl: http://ironmanrecords.bigcartel.com/artist/ted-chippington
Read all about it: www.thenightingales.org.uk
April 21, 2016
Dr Marshmallow Cubicle – Occupy – Released on Iron Man Records, 23rd April, 2016.
All songs written and composed by Dr Marshmallow Cubicle (Pino and Pratt) lyrics by Steve Fly. All music recorded by Kasper at Kasper Studios 2010. Additional vocals, scratches and overdubs recorded and mixed by Tim Egmond at Ei-Complex studios, 2011/2012. Mastered by Simon Reeves at Framework Studios, Birmingham, March, 2016.
Vicente Pino – Guitars, Bass and Vocals
Steve Fly Pratt – Drums, Scratches
Miss Marshmallow – Vocals
Creature of Rebelmatic – Vocals (Let’s Go Get Em’)
Mark Sampson – Executive Producer
All Rights Reversed – Iron Man Records 2016
The band formed in Amsterdam 2007 and played at local venues and festivals, including The Nieuwe Anita, Cafe’ Batavia, The Buurvrouw, Magneet Festival, Queens Day, Pacific Parc West, The Pick Up Club, CCC, The Oki, Cafe Zen, Eddie The Eagle Museum, Blijburg.
Vicente Pino has played guitar since a young age coming up in Venezuela playing everything from thrash to Django Reinhardt. Since moving to settle in the Netherlands, Pino has played in dozens of bands, performing many hundreds of shows. As the co-founder of the beloved band ‘Supercity’, he has helped write and produce 2 albums, and remains the central axis of energy for the band. Another project, ‘Pino and the Bluebirds’ is well worth tracking down, and playing at high volume.
Steve Fly Pratt is a drummer and DJ, who met up with Vicente after moving to Amsterdam in 2007, thanks to a mutual friend. Fly wrote the lyrics to all the songs on this album, while the music was teased out between both of them, together with the priceless feedback from Tim Egmond at the controls.
Vicente and Steve Fly have worked together with their friend and poet John Sinclair, and initiated into the prestigious open ended ‘Blues Scholars’ an international collective of musicians who play together with John. The Amsterdam Blues Scholars recorded an album together in 2010. And they both joined with New Orleans pianist and composer Tom Worrel, and virtuoso bassist and composer Leslie Lopez to record ‘Let’s Go Get Em’ in 2011. In 2011 and 2012 The Blues Scholars performed as a part of the 24th and 25th High Times Cannabis Cup celebrations. All of which can be found on youtube.
Occupy is the first studio album by Steve Fly and Vicente Pino a.k.a Dr Marshmallow Cubicle. In 2009 DMC joined with vocalist Miss Marshmallow for live shows, and this Occupy album. She can be heard singing on Stop The Cuts, Bluezero and Thoughts.
The DMC duo follow an improvisational framework, always inventing and moving the music in perpetually new directions. Polyrhythmic drums kick out a scatter shot across the layers of analogue feedback, loops and roughneck guitar playing. A species of experimental breakbeat punk, DMC explore many tempos and harmonic environments on the fly.
Occupy captures the various influences in the band, noticeably drum and bass, funk metal, blues and jazz. Plus the name of the album captures the brief period in 2011 when for just a moment, seemingly, global citizens united under a movement to stand up the the big bully banks, major corporations and corrupt government. “Occupy your mind” encourages you to owning your own thoughts.
Special thanks: Vicente Pino, Tim Egmond, Mark Sampson, Miss Marshmallow, John Sinclair, Creature, Kasper, Chu, Saskia Smitt, Ivo Sprey, Leah Blits, Prop Anon, William Sutton, Daniel Bruggman, Dan Dewitte, Janne Svensson, Pim, Oscar Jan, Simon Reeves at Framework Studios.
DR MARSHMALLOW CUBICLE – OCCUPY
Total Running time (68.00 mins) 10 album tracks and 9 extras
2. Stop The Cuts
4. Law Of Acceleration
7. Let’s Go Get ‘Em [feat. Creature of Rebelmatic]
11. Occupy [Instrumental]
12. Stop The Cuts [Instrumental]
13. Banksterdem [Instrumental]
14. Silhouette Taka
15. Let’s Go Get ‘Em
16. Thoughts [Instrumental]
17. Bluzero [Instrumental]
18. Lovebox [Instrumental]
19. The Law Of Acceleration
DMC Youtube Playlist
April 21, 2016
I’ve been talking in this space all year about my forthcoming book from the MMM Publishing Company called IT’S ALL GOOD—A John Sinclair Reader, and our hope was to have it available for the Cannabis Cup in Clio. But that proved impossible, and now it’ll hit the streets right around the first of September. I’ve been running excerpts from the book to try to pique your interest in what’s coming, and here’s an excerpt from the lead number in the book: On The Road….
Although this writer has followed faithfully the bardic path for fifty years, I waited a long time to hit the road as a poet. There were so many other things to do along the way, and I did them.
As a cultural activist I directed the Detroit Artists Workshop, the Allied Artists Association, Jazz Research Institute and Detroit Jaz Center. I managed the MC-5, Mitch Ryder & Detroit and other bands. I produced dance concerts at the Grande Ballroom, free concerts in the parks, the Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festivals, and countless left-wing benefits, community cultural events, jazz concerts and poetry readings.
I’ve booked bands, bought talent and done publicity for nightclubs, bars and concert halls, developed programs, written grants and raised funds for jazz artists and community arts organizations, and produced records by artists from the MC-5, Little Sonny and Deacon John to Sun Ra, Victoria Spivey and Roosevelt Sykes. I’ve been a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, a professor of Blues History at Wayne State University, director of the City Arts Gallery for the City of Detroit, an award-winniing community radio programmer and producer of WWOZ’s live broadcast from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
As a professional journalist I’ve written columns, features and reviews centered on jazz and blues, rock & roll and poetry for publications of all sorts, from obscure local papers to downbeat and Playboy magazine. I’ve published poetry books and journals, edited underground newspapers, arts quarterlies and blues magazines, and written liner notes for albums by artists from Louis Armstrong to Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.
As a political activist I fought the marijuana laws through Detroit LEMAR, the Amorphia organization (“We want free legal backyard marijuana!”) and a five-year struggle in the courts of Michigan that cost me 2-1/2 years in prison before I won my case and got the old laws thrown out. I was the chairman of the White Panther Party and its successor, the Rainbow Peoples Party, battling Richard M. Nixon and his goons from the beginning of his administration to the bitter end.
It was my court case challenging Nixon’s “national security” wiretap program that produced the historic Supreme Court decision in U.S. vs. U.S. District Court that warrantless wiretaps would no longer be allowed.
There’s much too much more to mention, but let it suffice to say that I’ve enjoyed a full and productive life in the arts and community affairs for fifty years … and helped raise four terrific daughters in the process.
But I started my adult life as a poet, setting my verses to music and performing them with jazz musicians and blues guitarists, and it was always my intention one day to take my own show on the road and pursue my performing arts career in earnest.
So for the past twenty years I’ve criss-crossed the United States and western Europe, working through a vast time-tested network of old friends and new comrades to assemble myriad bands of Blues Scholars and book myself into funky nightclubs, blues bars, art galleries, coffeehouses, churches, cultural centers, college auditoriums and music and poetry festivals from coast to coast to coast….
The great thing about travelling the bardic path is the incredible community of people who light up the way and see to the poet’s modest needs while I’m in their town.
These are the people who pick me up at the train station and take me to the airport, bring me into their homes, put me up in their spare bedroom or let me sleep on their couch, feed me and get me high. They help me set up my gigs, drive me there, introduce me to all the cool people they know, take me out to dinner afterwards and help see to my recreational needs.
They’re the amazingly sweetest of friends, but they’re also fellow artists and journalists and educators and broadcasters and producers, and their lives pulsate within the nexus of creative activity and social consciousness which obtains in the places they live. They’re always doing things themselves, making things happen, and they know what’s going on around them as well.
And all this activity takes place well beneath the radar of popular culture and the entertainment industry, in locations only people like ourselves know about, involving music the likes of which is only rarely heard on the radio today, never played or seen on TV or even given notice by the daily press.
We used to call it the underground, because we were so far down out of sight that they couldn’t even see us, and as mainstream culture narrows and tightens the boundaries of what kind of life is acceptable in this country, the underground world continues to grow in size and scope and to encompass an ever greater diversity of denizens.
The downside to underground life in America is the relentless economic terrorism that grips our existence and very rarely lets up, even for a week or a month at a time. Nothing ever pays enough to cover the costs of everyday life in an appropriate time frame: we’re behind on the rent, out of groceries, always trying to keep them from turning off the electricity or the phone. Our cars break down, we don’t have any insurance and god help us if we get sick.
If we get high we’ve got to worry about the police, and pay too much for our supplies, and go through a maze of incredible changes just to secure the substances we require. If we make music we’ve got to find people who will let us play and give us enough money to pay for what it cost us to get there.
If we’re poets or writers or painters or dancers or fine artists of any sort, we are never allowed to forget that our work is not valued and will not be properly compensated no matter how good it may become. If we publish our magazines or produce our recordings and books we will never solve the incessant problem of effective distribution and thus will always fail to reach our intended audience.
But as an artist in America, I always say, once a person takes the vow of poverty, one may be as creative and productive as one is capable, and it is possible to do many great things despite the ever-present shortage of sufficient funds to provide for the necessities of daily life.
And if we can continue to have easy access to our medicine, our creativity and productiveness can continue to bloom. Free The Weed!
August 20, 2015
©2015 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
April 19, 2016
Highest greetings from Amsterdam, where I’ve been spending my summer so far working with my pals Steve The Fly and Sidney Daniels to try to open up a temporary autonomous zone of our own called the Bohemian Embassy somewhere in the city of Amsterdam this fall.
At the same time I’m working on completing the final stages of production so my new book, IT’S ALL GOOD—A John Sinclair Reader, can go to the printer under the careful hands of my publisher, Ben Horner.
My daughter Celia, who’s designed and produced the book for me, was in Detroit working with me on making the book and now is back in New Orleans finishing up. She’s done a beautiful job from the front cover photograph of the author in front of the Hempshopper on the Singel canal (snapped by the proprietor, Sidney Daniels) to the back cover reproduction of a painting by my friend Frenchy made here in Amsterdam at Café The Zen during the recoding of my album Let’s Go Get ’Em.
I’ve been previewing the book in this column by running selected pieces from the 25 essays and 25 poems that make up the John Sinclair Reader, and I’ve got a short essay and a poem from IT’S ALL GOOD to contribute to this month’s entry here. Already available through CD-Baby is the album I’ve made of the 25 poems in the book set to music and performed by a variety of musical ensembles I’ve collaborated with over the years.
This is a big moment for me as a poet and writer of 50 years standing, to collect some of my favorite works in one volume and include the musical versions of the poems as a download card that will; be inserted into the book itself. I’m proud of this work and very thankful to Ben Horner for having the nerve to make it his first book publishing venture.
This column coincides with two important dates in my life: August 5, the day I was released from the Detroit House of Correction in 1966 after serving a six-month sentence for possession of marijuana; and August 6, the day the United States government sent the airship Enola Gay to drop atomic bombs on Japan—the only instance in human history where one country has used a weapon of mass destruction on another.
For me this atrocity represents an awful turning point in the history of civilization and the beginning of the end of our illusions about the actual nature of our country. Everything has been downhill morally and culturally since that terrible day of August 6, 1945, and the really horrible thing is that it could happen again at any moment that a government in possession of nuclear weapons decides that one of its enemies must perish.
It’s long been something of a truism that marijuana smokers are peace-loving people. We don’t hurt anyone, and we aren’t about trying to do away with our enemies through the use of weapons of mass destruction. Many of us feel that all nuclear weapons should be destroyed and the possibility of further use of weapons of mass destruction be forever abandoned.
That’s certainly the way I feel as a citizen and a marijuana smoker, and I’d like to offer the following selections from IT’S ALL GOOD in the spirit in which they were written.
MASTERS OF WAR
War is never something to be proud of, but an unprovoked war of brutal aggression to seize and control the resources of a small, defenseless nation halfway around the world from the United States is particularly shameful.
While it was extremely painful to witness the merciless bombing of Afghanistan to drive out of power our former allies, the Taliban government (remember the “heroic Islamic freedom fighters” of the 1980s?), our nation’s blitzkrieg assault on Iraq heralds a new era of American imperial atrocities of frightening proportions.
But of course our populace doesn’t remember the heroic Islamic freedom fighters of Afghanistan. Allen Ginsberg said, “the name of yesterday’s newspaper is amnesia,” and the war in Iraq revealed that nearly three of every four Americans had come to believe that Saddam Hussein had ordered the airstrikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon just a short year and a half ago.
Forgotten also has been the fact that our military establishment supported and helped arm Iraq in its eight-year war against Iran not so long ago.
This is madness, for sure, but it is also a precise measurement of the degree to which our citizenry has been successfully dummied down by the relentless, decades-long attack of the wholly compromised news media and the mass entertainment corporations that own them.
Now it’s “America At War,” “Operation Iraqi Freedom,” “Homeland Security,” “Shock and Awe,” page after page and hour after hour of disgusting pro-war propaganda building public support for the bully-boy adventures of our illegitimate president.
With its ducks all lined up in a row following the Bush putsch of November 2000 and the Republican Party takeover of the House and Senate in the disgraceful 2002 elections, the ugly cabal of unbridled greedheads who rule our social order is now determined to install its long-anticipated New World Order.
The regime change in the United States engineered by Karl Rove, Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Chief Justice William Renquist and their henchmen proceeded so smoothly and with so little protest from the electorate that foreign conquest by their smash-and-grab tactics seems easy—and they’re going for it in a big way.
So pay close attention, ladies and g’s, because the nightmare has only started. The meanness and unmitigated greed which for so many people around the world have for so long characterized the American spirit are now unleashed and will soon be functioning at full force.
It’s time to stand up and be counted in opposition or stand by and watch the imperial juggernaut steamroller everything we hold sacred.
April 20, 2003
for Charles Moore
There is something
about the American
set on de-
eager to bomb.
There is the hatred
that fuels the A-
with the urge
to crush & destroy—
This is where
they built Fat Man, Mr. U-
& they sent
& Little Boy
to level Hiroshima
& Nagasaki —
They love Fat Boy
They feed him the sweets
of their hearts
singing their filthy songs
into Fat Boy’s u-
& let the rest of us
eat the shit
of their hatred
that is not them—
Ah! Fat Boy
so round & ugly
so full of hate
with the dead spirits
of the Americans
in the deserts of Iraq
Thanks for listening, and I hope to see many of my readers at the festivities at and around the Cannabis Cup in Clio. I’ll also be taking part in an event staged by the Grannies For Grass organization at Fried Eggs Productions, 15426 Harper on Detroit’s east side on August 30 at High Noon. Free The Weed!
July 16-18, 2015
© 2015 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
April 11, 2016
“In the early hours of 10th April 2016, Howard Marks died peacefully in his sleep surrounded by his four loving children.
The best-selling author, life time campaigner, raconteur, stand-up comedian and counterculture hero died after battling bowel cancer that was diagnosed at a terminal stage in August 2014.
He fought the illness with grace and humour.
His death was 21 years to the day since his release from prison in the United States, his second bout of imprisonment for cannabis smuggling since his miraculous acquittal at the Old Bailey in 1980.
One of his last acts was to set up the Mr Nice foundation, to ensure the causes dear to him continue to receive his support.”
“I have tried every way I can think of to accelerate the day of Cannabis legalisation, thereby ceasing the torture of Cannabis smokers. I’ve flooded the country with the good herb, I’ve stood for Parliament, and I’ve skinned up in police stations. None of it has worked. I needed help. I got it from P.A.I.N., the best guys in the world” – Howard Marks (2000)
Iron Man Records had the pleasure of meeting, working with and listening to Howard Marks. He really was exactly as you would hope. A truly decent bloke, funny, humble and just Mr Nice. His life and work will live on…..
“You might control a lot of things Drugs Tsar, but you’ll never control my mind…..” Howard Marks from the song Let Me Grow More Weed he recorded with P.A.I.N
It is with great sadness I have to post news of his passing. Love to all his family and those who knew him.
Mark, Iron Man Records 11th April 2016