July 21, 2016
Highest greetings from Amsterdam, where I’m enjoying one of the finest summers ever with lots of sunshine and not so much rain. As a Flint native, I’m accustomed to long hot summers with plenty of heat, and as a former resident of New Orleans, I know what heat and humidity are all about.
There’s nothing like that here, and it stays kind of chilly most of the time even after the sunniest days, but it’s great to have more sun than rain in one’s life here in Amsterdam, and I’ll take it!
I had a great experience the other night when I went with my friend Leslie Lopez to the Nord to visit his little recording studio. I used to spend a lot of time with Lopez in the basement of Café the Zen, where his studio used to be, and we made an album together down there several years ago. It’s called Let’s Go Get ’Em if you ever want to hear it, and you can download it at CD-Baby for a modest payment.
Speaking of payment, the economics of marijuana consumption has been a hot topic in the mainstream media and among internet commentators. Of course, those of us who came to the marijuana liberation struggle from a spiritual perspective, with a special interest in the medicinal uses of the sacrament, have always known that marijuana would turn into big business once people got a chance to use it without punishment. But it’s really booming now.
For example, A story published by the Cannabis Law Group looks forward to the “all-but-inevitable legalization for recreational use” of marijuana in California this fall and reports that “investors are preparing for the day when legalization comes.
“In fact, such explosive growth is expected in the cannabis business and so much profit is expected to be generated, the situation is being described as ‘a new California gold rush’ as new businesses open, new products come into the marketplace, and new investor money comes in.”
The story explains that “the cannabis industry is an underground industry which is tremendously profitable. It’s now becoming investible for the first time. As cannabis businesses come out of the shadows, industry revenue is expected to leap from $2.7 billion in 2014 to around $11 billion by 2019.
“New and innovative products are being developed every day, including a whole new product category consisting of the world’s first cannabis distillery, as well as new vaporizer and accessories products.“
On a smaller but not insignificant scale, the state of Louisiana is looking into growing and selling medicinal marijuana products now that the Louisiana Legislature has approved a bill that legalizes the use of marijuana for people suffering from a specific list of debilitating diseases.
“The so-called medical marijuana legislation authorizes LSU and Southern University to grow and produce cannabis to be consumed in a liquid form,” Tyler Bridges reports in The New Orleans Advocate, asking in a headline: “How Much Might LSU, Southern, Companies Profit? How Will It Be Distributed?”
And what about the private companies that are now “emerging to try to profit from the new industry by partnering with the universities”? LSU and Southern both report getting calls from representatives of companies that want to rent or sell land or provide a growing facility, while others are inquiring about financing the entire venture with the expectation of earning a profit. “It’s a money-making venture,” Bridges quotes a Southern University official.
On an even deeper level, Karen Turner writes in the Washington Post that “Microsoft Becomes The First Big Tech Company To Get Into The Legal Weed Industry” by “partnering with a cannabis industry-focused software company called Kind Financial to provide ‘seed to sale’ services for cannabis growers that allow them to track inventory, navigate laws and handle transactions—all through Kind’s software systems.“
Tunrer notes that “the partnership marks the first major tech company to attach its name to the burgeoning industry of legal marijuana,” but I’m sure it won’t be the last. Wait until the big pharmaceutical companies get their hands on cannabis!
In fact, one of my favorite sources, Wonkblog, just published a piece by Christopher Ingraham about “Why Pharma Companies Are Fighting Legal Marijuana.” They’re fighting now but, so far as I can see, it’s basically a holding action to keep down progress toward legalization of weed while they figure out how to coopt our natural medicine and bring it into their own highly profitable domain.
But there’s a lot of fascinating information in Ingraham’s story, which points to “a body of research showing that painkiller abuse and overdose are lower in states with medical marijuana laws.
“In the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law.
“In medical-marijuana states,” Ingraham reports, “the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication.” That’s a lotta missing doses!
“But most strikingly,” he concludes, “the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year.”
For many of us this is great cause for celebration. But guess what? “These companies have long been at the forefront of opposition to marijuana reform,” Ingraham reveals, ”funding research by anti-pot academics and funneling dollars to groups, such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, that oppose marijuana legalization. Pharmaceutical companies have also lobbied federal agencies directly to prevent the liberalization of marijuana laws.”
Big Pharma makes a strange bedfellow for the law enforcement and prison guard unions that typically lead the charge against marijuana legalization, but when the pharmaceutical industry adjusts its chops to the taste of selling lega cannabis medication, they stand to make big profits while their allies will lose their ill-gotten powers for good.
In closing, It may be kind of a sick thing to say, but the War On Drugs, like legally-enforced racial segregation—with full recognition of their evil intent and inhuman effect—actually resulted in the creation of some beautiful lifeways and cultural constructs developed outside of and in opposition to the Americo-Puritan paradigm that in many ways were far superior to the ones we have now.
Under legal segregation black business and entertainment districts thrived, and there was a palpable sense of community among the citizens of the black ghettoes that hasn’t existed since the one-way street of integration was bulldozed through the black communities of our nation.
By the same token, the culture of interdependence, cooperative farming, underground economics and spiritual sharing that grew up in the wake of the insane marijuana laws created a life for many of us that no longer exists, even though we can buy our weed over the counter now in many locations. But the cost of freedom from imprisonment has been to surrender our identities and become mindless consumers of whatever the pot industry wants us to purchase.
On a personal note, my friend Maryjane Bunker has recently left the Grannies For Grass group to pursue a pair of initiatives of her own: Cannabis Information & Education, an on-line service she writes me “is reaching 3.8 million this a.m.,” and Puff, Puff, Paint, an organization set up to integrate puffing and painting in the process of art therapy. I had some great times when she brought me to Grannies For Grass events, she’s an accomplished and very generous grower, and I wish her every possible success in this next stage of her adventure.
P.S. I started out to say that when I visited Leslie Lopez’s studio in the Noord, it was in an abandoned police station! And we had quite a few laughs sharing a joint and listening to music where the police used to do their ugly business. FREE THE WEED!
July 21, 2016
© 2016 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
June 24, 2016
Highest greetings from Amsterdam, where I’m spending the summer in a very interesting section of the city called the Bijlmer that used to be a terrible fear-ridden slum on the outskirts of town but has been redeveloped by the government as a sort of art-centered multi-cultural neighborhood populated by people of many descriptions, from dark-skinned immigrants to young white urban professionals with real jobs and a certain quotient of bohemians both black and white.
The interesting thing is that, unlike in the States, the immigrant population of the former ghetto was not expelled to make the renovated area “safe’ for white people but was included in the redevelopment plans and rehoused as an integral component of the upgraded neighborhood. The oppressive 1950s-style Stalinistic eight-storey project dwellings were razed and replaced with buildings of no more than four floors and the whole thing painted in bright colors marked by diagonal stripes of orange, yellow, green, bright blue, and lots of third-world murals.
I’m staying in the spacious apartment of a new friend named Tariq Khan, a Dutch Rastafarian with big dreads who started out as a rapper called MC Lazy but now is an energetic artistic and cultural activist with his own recording studio in the building around the corner that also houses a hip-hop radio station called Hot Twenty that’s staffed by local youths. Tariq also produces and directs video shoots for many purposes and conducts youth workshops for community groups, but his day job is working for the Sensi Seeds empire at the Hash, Marijuana & Hemp Museum one day, the Cannabis College the next and the Sensi Museum Gallery on Thursdays, where he joins my old friend Joseph who mans the vaporizer and gets people high all day.
What a job! Joseph has been around for a long time and knows everybody who’s into anything in terms of the cannabis culture—he’s even regarded as a spiritual leader in some advanced quarters—so I turned to him when I was desperate to find a place to lodge for the summer after my week-long residency in the Sensi guest quarters was up at the end of May. He hooked me up with Tariq, and Tariq took me straight to his place in the Bijlmer and set me up like a champ.
Sensi Seeds is a remarkable enterprise started by a guy named Ben Dronkers in Rotterdam a long time ago, first as one of Rotterdam’s initial coffeeshops and then as a way to get marijuana growing in Holland by supplying top-quality seeds and encouraging local growers to plant and harvest them. Over the past 30 years Sensi has grown into a mammoth operation known as “the most comprehensive cannabis seed bank in the world,” dispensing millions of seeds to funky farmers all over the world and then pioneering the revitalization of the hemp industry as well.
As the Sensi Seeds website explains, Ben Dronkers started growing marijuana in 1975 and began saving the seeds he found in good quality weed, eventually collecting and categorizing all the cannabis seeds he could find. From the end of the 70s until the mid-80s Ben travelled the world from Central Asia and the Hindu Kush to the Himalayas, down through the subcontinent to Southeast Asia and around the tropics, seeking out the best genetics and focusing on regions famous for their ancient cannabis traditions.
Around 1984 Ben began several cross-breeding programs in order to develop new cannabis hybrids. He gained access to the first examples of the new stabilized hybrids from the US—including Haze and Skunk—and took the final step required for the creation of new, world-class hybrids in Europe. By 1985 he had founded the Sensi Seed Club, expanding and centralizing the process of creating hybrids and keeping meticulous records of plant genealogy and interrelations.
In 1991, Ben bought another seed company from a breeder who had also been working with the US hybrids since the 80s and merged the two companies to form the Sensi Seed Bank. In 1994 he founded HempFlax, a company dedicated to growing and processing industrial hemp, and successfully revived the once-thriving Dutch hemp industry. in 2006 Ben acquired the Flying Dutchmen seed company when his friend the owner decided to retire, and he consolidated its venerable stock with the existing Sensi Seed Bank to make an even more comprehensive collection of cannabis strains.
The great thing about Ben Dronkers and Sensi Seeds is that it isn’t just about raking in the profits like most of the people in this great industry of ours. Sensi has garnered millions of dollars in sales over the years, but—aided and abetted by his friend Ed Rosenthal, the great American cannabis activist—Ben has dedicated a significant portion of his earnings to the creation of public benefit institutions like the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum, the Sensi Museum Gallery, and the Cannabis College, which was initially a project of Flying Dutchmen. Among many other things, The Gallery displays Old Masters painted hundreds of years ago which depict ordinary men and women enjoying the smoking of cannabis.
Now these institutions are lined up on the Achterburgwhal in the Red Light District in the center of town, making up a sort of Green Light District of their own along with the Sensi Seed Bank itself and the Sensi Corner Store, formerly the Sensi coffeeshop where I used to hang out and got to know all these incredible people that make up the Sensi empire.
One of my fondest memories of the Sensi coffeeshop was the day I sat down with Ben Dronkers at a table inside and listened while he carried on an intense conversation with a South American man who turned out to be a minister in the new government of Bolivia led by the former coca famer and now head of state, Evo Morales. Evidently Ben and Evo had met and even toked down together on Morales’ visit to Amsterdam before the Bolivian election, and Ben was making a impassioned plea that the new government consider completely legalizing marijuana and establish Bolivia as the world center of cannabis enlightenment.
Dronkers promised that he would move his entire cannabis empire to Bolivia and encourage the international growing community to do likewise, bringing incredible amounts of new revenue to the small South American nation and transforming it into a haven for the worldwide cannabis community of suppliers, growers and consumers.
I listened with rapt attention as Ben’s argument unfolded, but the Bolivian minister calmly explained that there was no chance that the church and moral authorities would let them get away with it, no matter how great an idea it might be. Ben was visibly dejected, but I guessed he was accustomed to official rejection of his visionary ideas and the conversation passed on to more mundane topics.
Well, there were several other topics I’d meant to discuss in this month’s column, but I got carried away thinking about the greatness of Sensi Seeds and now I’m out of space for this time. Of course I continue to feel that one day cannabis will be granted its rightful place in our world of oppression, but it’s never going to be an easy proposition and we’ll just have to keep on fighting every way we can until that happy day. FREE THE WEED!
June 24, 2016
© 2016 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
May 22, 2016
Highest greetings from Amsterdam, where I’ve just returned for the summer (if all goes well) to continue my efforts to set up my personal foundation called Stichting John Sinclair in order to make a proper repository for my life’s work, my intellectual properties, copyrighted writings and albums, and artifacts of my creative endeavors including my poetry and book manuscripts, master recordings, and related materials.
I’ve always preserved the materials created by my work as an artist and activist with an eye to the future when I’m no longer here, and in the past I’ve created an archive at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan for most of the materials and artifacts I’ve amassed over more than 50 years of activity so far. When I moved from Detroit to New Orleans 25 years ago, I left my Detroit jazz archives with the Museum of African American History so they would be available to Detroiters into posterity.
Now I want to create something that’s more than an archive and also more directly under my intellectual control so I can preserve my works in poetry, music, journalism, recording, performance and broadcasting in perpetuity and in a single digital realm. This has been my dream for years, to gather all my things together in one place and make them available long after I’m gone. You can call it an ego trip if you want to, but any sort of artistry is a true ego trip in the sense of following the mental trips one’s self takes and follows in the course of making something in art and of one’s life.
There’s also the evidence of my work outside the art and music world as a cultural and political activist, a relentless opponent of the War On Drugs and a zealous proponent of marijuana legalization all my adult life. I had the honor and the pleasure of kicking off the marijuana movement in Michigan 50 years ago, and in my old age I’m trying to hang on long enough to see the battle won once and for all.
I helped campaign for the first marijuana ballot initiative in California in 1972 and returned to Ann Arbor to make the first feeble attempt to launch a Michigan Marijuana Initiative, beginning a trajectory that hopefully will culminate as a result of the current efforts of MILegalize in full legalization in our state following the November elections this year. At the same time I had the privilege of assisting in the institution of the $5 marijuana law in Ann Arbor, and I was on the Diag for the first Hash Bash and helped for several years to make sure it continued to take place on the first Saturday in April every year.
In more recent years I’ve appeared in support of marijuana legalization at MassCann in Boston, in Seattle and Oregon and Denver and Maine, and frequently in Michigan in many diverse settings. Now, since I first came to Amsterdam as High Priest of the Cannabis Cup in 1998, I’m part of the cannabis culture here in the long-time marijuana capitol of the world, and I’m striving to unite all these strains of my life in one location under the aegis of the John Sinclair Foundation.
I’ve been blessed in my work and my widespread travels over half a century to make legions of friends all over America and Europe, and I’m calling on them now to help me build my foundation. My friend and long-time supporter Sidney Kuijer of the Ceres Seed Company and the Hempshopper stores has backed my internet radio station at RadioFreeAmsterdam.com, my own website at johnsinclair.us and my FaceBook page for most of the present century, and he’s agreed to serve as the head of the Stichting John Sinclair.
My friend and roommate in Amsterdam for the past several years, drummer, deejay, webmaster and producer Steve “Fly Agaric 23” Pratt, now in Bristol, is playing a key role in the organizational effort and is creating a new website for the Foundation that will integrate the several sites I work from now, including the site he maintains for us called Fattening Blogs For Snakes.
The Fly is also going to direct our crowd-funding project on Indie-Go-Go that launches this month and will run for the next 60 days, working with another friend and Stichting board member in Bristol, guitarist, nightclub manager and former charitable fund-raiser Dylan Harding. Another board member, Jerry Poynton, now in Athens, organized and maintains the literary estate of his late friend Herbert Huncke, the original literary character who helped bring together and inspire Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs to create what became known as the Beat Generation, to which we all owe our present existence—including the central place of marijuana in our lives.
In Amsterdam we’ve just gained the valuable participation of Kai van Bentham, an ex-Canadian community arts organizer and web specialist, and Marianna Lebrun, bassist, translator and activist. Finally, my long-time friend Hank Botwinik, mime, actor, and veteran media manipulator, has agreed to join our board of directors and help us reach our organizational goals. Hank and I started Radio Free Amsterdam together with our late comrade Larry Hayden on January 1, 2005, and he sponsors our programming stream at streema.com.
For the past ten years Radio Free Amsterdam has been my central passion in life, and I’ve spent thousands of hours creating original programming for the John Sinclair Radio Show and other series, gathering original radio programs from fellow deejays Bruce Pingree, Leslie Keros, George Klein, Steve The Fly, Elisa Mancini, Tom Morgan, Cary Wolfson, David Kunian and others, editing these shows into one-hour episodes, annotating and attaching playlists for each show, posting the episodes on the Radio Free Amsterdam site, archiving every program posted for perpetual access, and reposting each episode to our live stream server at streema.com.
This is a lot of work for one old guy, but I derive so much pleasure from this activity and it serves both artistic and educational purposes: I believe I’m creating a serious, carefully organized, fully accessible archive of American roots music programming—blues, jazz, gospel, soul, funk, Afro-fusion, reggae and other classic forms—and presenting the music in the classic radio format that gave me my life in music, with knowledgeable deejays sequencing the music and commenting on it from their own unique viewpoints.
First of all it’s something you can listen to as an alternative to the horseshit radio and media programming of today, and my pledge is that if you listen regularly to Radio Free Amsterdam for a year, you’ll have a whole different perception of what good music is about, where it came from, how it developed, and why we should always give it a central place in our lives.
Radio Free Amsterdam is on-going as the central focus of the John Sinclair Foundation, and our fund drive, if successful, will allow us to secure proper licensing for the music we play, upgrade our delivery system and our website, and provide for continuous promotion of the station so we can turn more people on to our mix of Blues, Jazz & Reefer at RadioFreeAmsterdam.com
That’s the end of my sermon for today, but I hope I can convince you, my readers, to check out the John Sinclair Foundation fund drive at Indie-Go-Go and our new website at TheJohnSinclairFoundation.org. We’re seeking people who will join the Foundation as members and support us in our efforts to develop and grow into a self-sustaining alternative institution. And, by the way, FREE THE WEED!
May 22, 2016
© 2016 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
May 10, 2016
Highest greetings from Detroit, where I’m spending my last week before crossing the ocean to appear at a Detroit Artists Workshop exhibition in London and then on to Amsterdam for as long as I can get away with it.
April is always a great time for me to be in Michigan, and except for the day-long snowfall at the Hash Bash in Ann Arbor at the top of the month, which didn’t really seem to dampen too many spirits out on the Diag and on Monroe Street for the festivities, I’ve had a great time celebrating the sacred weed in various settings all month.
Following the Monroe Street Fair there was the annual Hash Bash celebration at the Blind Pig where I get to perform with Brennan Andes and Ross Huff from the Macpodz and their musical comrades for the occasion. Oh yeah, and there was the before party hosted by the Third Coast people from Ypsilanti at a big house in the country where I had the pleasure of hanging out with Dan Skye, editor of High Times, listening to music by an impromptu ensemble headed by my old pal Muruga, and then spending the night in one of their splendid guest rooms so I could make it to the Diag on time the next morning.
On April 16 I had the privilege of attending a water purification ceremony organized by Native Americans from the area and conducted by elders and spirit leaders of the Potawatomie nation. This beautiful ritual culminated with the passing of the sacred pipe among all the participants and the offering of traditional Potawatomie prayers for the cleansing of the river and all waters.
As the pipe was offered to each person and passed from the pipe carriers to the people one by one, I was reminded that this is where our practice of toking and passing the joint came from in the first place and how toking and smoking together have their origins in spiritual communion with all our relations and the universe itself.
The sharing of marijuana has become farther and farther removed from its spiritual roots as the cannabis culture has become more and more commodified and commercilaized over the past half century since we were first introduced to weed by our brothers in the ghetto and supplied with our sacrament by growers in Mexico and our intrepid comrades who brought it to us despite the incredible obstacles in their path—particularly their relentless pursuit by the drug police every step of the way.
Now that the police are gradually but inexorably being removed from our lives as marijuana smokers (or whatever delivery system one may choose), I’d say that it’s a good time to return to our roots and embrace the concepts of spirituality and ritual celebration that once served as the underpinnings of our relationship with the weed.
The coffeeshop concept that prevails in Amsterdam and the Netherlands is much closer to the traditional practice of marijuana smokers than what we are seeing now in Michigan and elsewhere weed is being permitted to be bought and sold in public. I’ve spent some delightful hours in compassion centers like GC3 in Flint and The Herbal Centre in Mt. Morris, where I just spent the 4/20 holiday, because along with the availability of multiple locally-grown strains of great weed offered by the producers themselves in a cooperative, “farmers market” sort of environment, these establishments also provide smokers with a special room where we can sit with fellow patients and smoke our weed in peace and fellowship.
My experience with the modern dispensaries of Michigan is fairly limited since I have a care-giver who supplies me with my medicine and other caring growers who make me gifts of their produce, so I rarely have to pay over the counter while I’m here. But what I’ve experienced almost invariably is that, despite the fact that their product is marijuana in immediately usable form, the provisioning centers want you to make your choice, buy your medicine and beat it without delay
Frankly, this is the opposite of what I’m looking for in a marijuana provisioning center. What I’m looking for is the opportunity to get together in a congenial setting with other smokers like myself and get high together, share our herb and our experiences, listen to music together, engage in relaxed conversation and, when we move on, take some weed home with us. I submit that this is a more civilized and humane system for taking care of the needs of medical marijuana patients, or humans of any stripe for that matter, than we are afforded here under their present scheme.
The proliferation of provisioning centers throughout Michigan and particularly in Detroit should have led to a superior form of organization for the dispensaries that would include the on-site ingestion of weed in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere, but this prospective organic development has been stymied by the attack on the compassion centers by the Detroit City Council and the DPD. Instead of allowing these innovative installations to evolve and flower into more perfect entities, the City is trying to make sure that regression will be the only course allowed.
In the first place, instead of being ecstatic that over 200 new businesses have opened in the city, many in seriously dilapidated areas, in response to the legalization of medical marijuana several years ago, the City administration is trying to reduce the number of care centers to what Detroit Corporation Counsel Melvin “Butch” Hollowell claims will be “approximately 50 Medical Marihuana Caregiver Centers in various locations in the city.”
As Chris Feretti reports in the Detroit News, Butch holds that “the city’s medical marihuana regulations are lawful, fair and reasonable. We will continue to enforce compliance in the courts, while concurrently processing the applications submitted for medical marihuana caregiver center licenses.”
About 195 applications overall have been submitted. Of those, 74 are seeking to operate in what the city calls “drug-free zones,” Hollowell said. A group of caregiver centers brought suit against the City in March when their applications were turned down outright when the City claimed each of the dispensaries was located in a so-called “Drug Free School Zone.” The lawsuit was filed because the City provided the appplicants no means to appeal, but the suit was dropped before it could be heard.
As Peretti reports, “The federal Drug Free School Zone Act prevents the drug from being delivered, sold or manufactured within 1,000 feet of a school. State law also factors libraries into the rule. The city’s zoning regulations cover educational institutions and goes beyond that, prohibiting shops from operating near child care centers, arcades and outdoor recreation facilities.”
I’m leaving Detroit this week so I’ll have to follow this issue from afar, but while I’ve been here I couldn’t help but notice the many green outlets and how good they looked against the desolate landscape of Detroit. Comrade suppliers, you’ll be in my thoughts and prayers until my return. FREE THE WEED!
April 25, 2016
© 2016 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
May 5, 2016
Highest greetings from New Orleans, where I was greeted for Mardi Gras with the splendid news that the New Orleans City Council is about to pass an ordinance virtually decriminalizing marijuana possession in the Crescent City, largely due to the work of Kevin Caldwell and the organization called Legalize New Orleans and to Council member Susan Guidry, who introduced the measure.
“Under the proposed municipal law change,” nola.com reports, “a first-time offender could get off with a verbal warning. A second-time offender could get a written warning, then a $50 fine the third time” and a $100 fine any time after that. “Police will now be able to use their discretion,” the report continues, either issuing a summons under the municipal code or making a custodial arrest using state marijuana possession laws.
Since Council member Guidry introduced the original ordinance in 2010 that redefined first offense simple possession, “We have found that the police officers 70% of the time are writing out a summons rather than taking someone to jail,” Guidry said. “Most importantly,” nola.com adds, “research shows that the NOPD’s discretionary use of summonses has been applied evenly by race.”
But according to New Orleans Municipal Court and NOPD records cited by nola.com, African-Americans still account for 75% of all misdemeanor marijuana arrests and 92% of all felony marijuana arrests (whether by summons or custodial arrest). “This is unacceptable and not in line with the demographics of our city or the reported demographics of marijuana users,” Council member Guidry said.
Guidry says she hopes the ordinance will “free up police, save money and make application of marijuana laws more fair and just across ethnic and economic backgrounds.” She wants police on the street investigating murders, rapes and armed robberies, “rather than at the station spending countless hours booking individuals on victimless, non-violent crime.
“These marijuana arrests clog our already overburdened court systems and public defender’s office. Also, when indigent defendants cannot afford the hefty state law fines for possession offenses, they end up clogging our jail for failure to pay. Those offenders then struggle to get back on track once released. They can’t bond out and they wind up losing their job, then they get out and they are really in desperate circumstances, and really it makes the severity of the punishment much more than the severity of the crime,” Guidry said.
That’s some of the most sensible municipal wisdom to be encountered today, and this grizzled veteran of the marijuana legalization wars would like to commend and thank Ms. Susan Guidry for leading the way to common sense in New Orleans.
In Detroit, however, the City Council is gallopoing off in the opposite direction, even though the citizenry has voted to legalize marijuana for medical (2008) and recreational (2012) use and the cannabis community has opened up more than 200 public dispensaries to serve the needs of local smokers.
This has happened in the most natural fashion and absent any supervision or regulatory system devised by the city government. Now they want to corral the dispensaries and impose stringent post-facto legal strictures that are based in the usual idiocy of War On Drugs policies.
The Detroit City Council has adopted a report pretentiously titled “Medical Marihuana Caregiver Center Application Process Status Report For Detroit City Council” and identified 211 dispensary locations in the city.
According to Rick Thompson of The Compassion Chronicles, the new medical marijuana rules will begin on March 1 and any dispensary now open in the city has only until March 31 to apply for a business license. Most of the applicants will also have to apply for a zoning variance, Thompson adds, ”as the city was extremely stingy on the number of locations properly zoned for the inappropriately-named caregiver centers.”
There isn’t enough space in this column to go into every detail of the Detroit dispensary ordinance, but Richard Clement, Marijuana Policy Analyst for Council Member George Cushingberry, suggests that anyone interested in viewing the relevant documents visit www.detroitmi.gov/Government/City-Council/George-Cushingberry/Newsletters-and-Documents
Let it suffice to say that the ordinance is full of tricks and traps that are designed to deprive as many people as possible of access to their medicine. First off, all operational dispensaries must apply for their licenses in the month of March—period. Up-front costs include a Site Plan Review for $160, an initial Conditional Hearing for $1000, a Board of Zoning Appeals Hearing for $1200, and, as Rick Thompson points out, the price of the business license itself is yet to be determined.
Once the licensing fee is established, the businesses will have to purchase the initial license in the spring and will be forced to renew their license and pay the fee again in September.
The whole thing is based in the kind of backwards, police-state ideology so assiduously developed in the service of the War On Drugs. For instance, anyone who cultivates marijuana in a residence will be required to register with the city of Detroit as a home-based business. The registration process involves inspection and approval by numerous city agencies.
Further, dispensaries cannot be less than 1000 feet from another such business, from a park recognized by the Recreation Department, from a religious institution that has received a tax exemption from the city, or from a business identified as a controlled use (topless clubs and liquor stores). The City has specified a few industrial districts where dispensaries may be less than 1000 feet from each other to allow for clustering of similar businesses.
What happens if you don’t follow the rules? Rick Thompson asks. “Any premises, building or structure in which a medical marihuana caregiver center is regularly operated or maintained in violation of the standard included and incorporated in this Code shall constitute a public nuisance and shall be subject to a civil abatement proceeding initiated by the City of Detroit.”
What’s even worse, Thompson reports in a follow-up piece, the Detroit Police Department raided more than a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries in February despite assurances that businesses of that type will begin licensing procedures on March 1.
“The Detroit Police raids are a tortious interference with a business expectancy,” Royal Oak attorney Barton Morris told Thompson. “The recent Detroit Police raids are unlawful and unconstitutional. The city should be legally estopped from taking any action to an issue they created and allowed.”
“The current policy to shut down, raid and deny safe access is a losing hand to play,” said Michael Komorn, an attorney from Southfield. “Medical cannabis is a public health issue, not a public safety issue.”
“The City has not only allowed dispensaries to operate by providing them certificates of occupancy, they enacted an ordinance to license and zone them,” Barton Morris pointed out. “At the same time, they send the Detroit police to raid select dispensaries purporting to enforce state law. That is the ultimate hypocrisy.”
“These raids are discriminatory in nature and further persecute caregivers and the patients who need safe access to their medicine,” said Bruce Leach of Kirsch Leach PLC of Birmingham. “So many people will be negatively impacted by these raids; many will be thrown into the criminal justice system.”
It will be interesting to see what happens in March, and we’ll be following this procedure very carefully. Incidentally, this is my 60th column for MMM Report—one every month for the past five years. If all goes well, the column will continue here for at least another five. FREE THE WEED!
February 20-21, 2016
© 2016 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
May 2, 2016
Highest greetings from Amsterdam, former marijuana capitol of the world, although I intend to be in New Orleans for the Mardi Gras by the time you’re reading this column. Sad to say, Louisiana is one of the most backward sectors of the USA in terms of its marijuana laws, and I’ll go back to a life of full-time criminality as a toker during my up-coming six weeks in the Crescent City.
Here in Amsterdam the attack on the cannabis culture by the Dutch authorities continues to rage, with another round of forced coffeeshop closings completed in the busy Warmoestraat on January 1, including the mammoth Grasshopper shop and the popular Baba.
Across the Damrak—the main drag—the 420 Café (my own headquarters in Amsterdam since the turn of the century) was slated to be closed on New Year’s day along with the Kroon across the street, but the local government granted a 6-month extension which may or may not be extended even further. Who knows? All of these restrictive moves are totally without sense and represent a radical restructuring of a local social construct which has worked very effectively for more than 40 years.
If it weren’t so sickening and stupid it would be funny: Now that 52% of Americans clearly favor legalized marijuana in the United States, the Dutch government—after nearly half a century of permitted public smoking and copping although never actually legalizing marijuana—now wants to try to shrink the cannabis culture and drive it back out of the public eye in order more fully to commercialize and commodify the Dutch tourist industry.
The YouGov.com poll cited above, as reported in NORML News, concludes that “a majority of Americans, including two-thirds of Democrats, believe that marijuana should be legal [and] only 34 percent of respondents opposed the idea.” NORML News adds that “66% of respondents agreed that government efforts to enforce marijuana laws cost more than they are worth…while 62% said that the government should no longer enforce federal law in states that have legalized and regulated the plant’s use.”
The story concludes: “53% of those surveyed, including 68% of respondents between the ages of 45 and 64, acknowledged having tried cannabis.” Wow! It would seem that experiential knowledge in Americans is finally outweighing the horseshit propaganda and outright lies of the authorities. Try it! You’ll like it!
And speaking of exploding bullshit myths about marijuana use propagated by the unholy alliance of whiskey drinkers and religious nuts in power, Christopher Ingraham recently pointed out in Wonkblog that, duh, smoking weed does not make you stupid after all.
It turns out that a popular study released by Duke University in 2012 which found that persistent, heavy marijuana use through adolescence and young adulthood was associated with declines in IQ failed to account for a number of confounding factors that could also affect cognitive development, such as cigarette and alcohol use, mental illness and socioeconomic status.
Ingraham reports that two new studies this month examine the relationship between marijuana use and intelligence from two very different angles: one looks at 2,235 British teenagers between ages 8 and 16, and the other looks at the differences between American identical twin pairs in which one twin uses marijuana and the other does not.
Despite vastly different methods, Ingraham says, the studies reach the same conclusion: They found no evidence that adolescent marijuana use leads to a decline in intelligence; in fact, they found that those who used marijuana didn’t experience consistently greater cognitive deficits than the others.
The twin data “fails to support the implication by the authors of the Duke study that marijuana exposure in adolescence causes neurocognitive decline,” the study concludes. “On the contrary, children who are predisposed to intellectual stagnation in middle school are on a trajectory for future marijuana use.” In other words, Ingraham summarizes, “rather than marijuana making kids less intelligent, it may be that kids who are not as smart or who perform poorly in school are more inclined to try marijuana at some point in their lives.”
This is really quite a provocative story, and the author makes some very interesting speculations. “If marijuana use were responsible for cognitive decline,” Ingraham wonders, “you might expect to find that the more marijuana a person smokes, the less intelligent they become. But this paper found that heavier marijuana use was not associated with greater decreases in IQ.
“Marijuana is a drug,” Ingraham reasons, “and just like any other drug—alcohol, nicotine, caffeine—there are risks and benefits associated with use. But exaggerating the extent of those risks and benefits won’t help create smarter policies. For proof of this,” he adds, “simply review the history of the drug war.”
Well, yeah. Let me call on my own experiential knowledge gained from smoking marijuana virtually daily since early in 1962: Weed can make you smarter, more aware of what’s happening around you, more sensitive to your environment and your fellow humans, more receptive to visual arts, music, poetry, arts activity of all kinds. It can help you open your mind to new experiences, new companions, new cultures, new perceptions of reality.
These are things I know from my own experience and from observing others who are daily tokers like myself. With the current drive by the burgeoning marijuana industry to sell their products to squares and as many people as possible, someone should warn the potential smokers that they are in for a whole new ride and about to enter a significantly different mental universe than the one to which they’re accustomed.
Don’t get me wrong—this is a good thing, something I’ve looked forward to for more than 50 years of turning on my friends and colleagues, and my belief is that people should be able to get as much of the finest weed available as often as they may want to have it, and as conveniently as possible. And this leads me exactly to where I wanted to end up this column: spending my final 200 words on expressing my disgust for the recent “Medical Pot Shop Law” introduced by the Detroit City Council.
As Christine Ferretti has pointed out in The Detroit News, medical marijuana dispensaries do not exist under current state laws, but the experiential reality is that something like 150 such dispensaries have opened up within the Detroit city limits since the City legalized marijuana use in 2012. (Detroit legalized medical marijuana in 2005.) As Ms. Ferretti put it, “Some have opened and have been operating with strict standards to monitor products and treat patients; others are not.”
The demand for licensing of these outlets by the city—despite their lack of legal existence—has been spearheaded by the Metropolitan Detroit Community Action Coalition, a group of community, block club and faith-based groups who have come together to combat medical pot shops.
“Right now what we have going on makes absolutely no sense,” city councilman James Tate remarked. “We have no regulations whatsoever.” So he proposes to set strict licensing requirements for dispensary operators and specify where marijuana access facilities can legally locate within the city, establish required distances between each of the potential dispensaries and specify a distance between the shops and other controlled uses, including party stores and adult cabarets as well as the city’s parks, schools and churches.
I’ve got an instant solution for them: Let the merchants sell the weed to the people who want it. If you don’t want any, don’t buy any! Don’t smoke it! Relax! You don’t have to do this. Let it go! Free The Weed!
January 20-23, 2016
© 2016 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
May 1, 2016
Highest greetings from the south of England at the end of 2015 and highest wishes for the New Year, which may indeed be the one that brings us legalized marijuana in Michigan and takes us closer to our goal on the national level: FREE THE WEED!
Dear friends, let us pray that 2016 will be the year that begins to blow away the web of distorted myth from the topic of marijuana and starts the process of according full recognition and respect to the reality of marijuana and its many beneficial uses in our sick social order.
This whole process of demonizing marijuana and its users in order to forge a police state around us is only about 80 years old, originating in the demented propaganda and ugly mythology spewed forth by Harry Anslinger, America’s first “drug czar,” in order to convince Congress to criminalize marijuana by means of the Harrison Tax Act of 1937.
The War On Drugs itself was initiated by Richard M. Nixon and his henchmen, Attorney General John N. Mitchell, future Supreme Court Chief Justice Wiilliam Rehnquist, chief of staff Bob Haldeman and counsel to the president John Ehrlichman, who explains:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar Left, and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” [Emphases in original text, courtesy of Citizens for Peace, Prosperity and Justice, 2015]
But the reality of marijuana use goes back thousands of years, as I just read in the Cannabis News Network bulletin published by Sensi Seeds in Amsterdam:
“Cannabis has a long history in India, veiled in legends and religion. The earliest mention of cannabis has been found in The Vedas, or sacred Hindu texts. These writings may have been compiled as early as 2000 B.C. ”
“According to The Vedas, cannabis was one of five sacred plants. The Vedas call cannabis a source of happiness, joy-giver, liberator that was compassionately given to humans to help us attain delight and lose fear. It releases us from anxiety. The god, Shiva is frequently associated with cannabis, called bhang in India.
“According to legend, Shiva wandered off into the fields after an angry discourse with his family. Drained from the family conflict and the hot sun, he fell asleep under a leafy plant. When he awoke, his curiosity led him to sample the leaves of the plant. Instantly rejuvenated, Shiva made the plant his favorite food and he became known as the Lord of Bhang.”
This is more like it! But after about 4,000 years of blissful, healthful, revelatory, pleasurable and harmless use of marijuana by people in the Old World and the New, U.S. authorities spearheaded by Jpseph Anslinger created a whole new identity for marijuana as a dangerous narcotic and of marijuana smokers as vicious dope fiends.
Anslinger’s agency underwent several changes of identity as well. According to Wikipedia, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was established by Richard Nixon in 1973 as a single federal agency to enforce the federal drug laws as well as consolidate and coordinate all the government’s drug control activities. As a result, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE), approximately 600 Special Agents of the Bureau of Customs, the Customs Agency Service and other federal offices merged to create the DEA.
Whew! That’s a lot of law enforcement to be directed for the past 42 years against people who like to get high on marijuana and other recreational drugs! And the whole apparatus was erected atop a foundation of outright lies and deliberate misrepresentations generated by the highest law enforcement agencies in the nation and backed by the armed forces of federal, state, county and local governments everywhere in the country.
Isn’t it time that we demobilized these armed forces of the War On Drugs and eliminated them from the law enforcement community? Isn’t it time for the emperor to go back in the dressing room and put some clothes on and come back out to confess his sins and begin to make reparations?
Here’s a tiny start: As I began work today I read an Associated Press dispatch from Sari Horwitz reporting that President Obama had just commuted the sentences of 95 drug offenders, saying they have “served their debt to society.” Ms. Horwitz adds that “It is the third time this year that the president has used his unique clemency power to release federal drug offenders”—22 in March and another 46 in July.
But one in 100 adults is behind bars in America, according to the Coalition for Public Safety, and more than 33,000 federal drug prisoners have filed applications for clemency, A total of 163, or about ½ of 1% have been granted. That’s not very many, but as Ms. Horwitz points out, “The latest round of clemencies come as lawmakers in Congress are debating several bipartisan bills to change sentencing laws.”
Another positive sign popped up, as reported by NORML, in the depths of the Omnibus Spending Bill recently passed by Congress that includes provisions which will continue to limit the federal government from taking punitive action against state-licensed individuals or operations that are acting are in full compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their states. To wit: “None of the funds made available in this act to the Department of Justice may be used … to prevent … states … from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”
Unhappily, Senate-backed amendments seeking to permit military veterans access to medical cannabis and to permit state-licensed marijuana business greater access to banking services were not included in the final version of the spending bill.
An unexpected breath of fresh air came last month from the venerable Detroit News, which editorialized as follows under the headline Protect Access to Medical Marijuana: “The Senate failed to pass legislation again this year that would legalize non-smokable forms of marijuana under the state’s medical pot program. That means nearly 180,000 medical marijuana patients in Michigan remain in limbo, as do their caregivers and suppliers.
“It’s unfair to patients working within the law, adopted by a 2008 ballot initiative, to continue withholding safe access to their legal medicine. The Legislature must legalize edible, topical and other forms of the drug, and approve a regulatory structure in which the industry can operate….”
“It’s unfair to declare medical marijuana legal, but then not provide the regulatory framework to assure that patients and their caregivers don’t become accidental criminals.”
Somebody say Amen! Free The Weed!
December 17-19, 2015
© 2016 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
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 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.
July 4, 2015
Highest greetings from Amsterdam, where I’ve just returned for the summer until it’s time to come back to Michigan in August for the Michigan Medical Cannabis Cup festivities in Clio and around the Flint area.
As a native of Flint I take great pride in the long strides made there by the medical marijuana community to establish itself and secure its existence under the law, and in the citizens of the city itself for voting to enjoy legalized recreational marijuana in their community.
When I smoked my first joint in Flint sometime in 1961, I could barely comprehend that weed was illegal. It seemed like such a good thing—how could anyone possibly have anything against it? But it soon became apparent that the authorities claimed that marijuana was a narcotic and those who might possess it would be committing a serious Violation of the State Narcotics Laws (VSNL) subject to imprisonment for up to ten years.
For those who were committed to supplying their fellow smokers with small amounts of marijuana for personal use, charges of sales or dispensing the herb—no matter the quantity—carried a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence with a maximum of life imprisonment.
I suffered my first arrest for VSNL—Sales of Marijuana in October 1964, six months after I moved from Flint to Detroit to attend graduate school at Wayne State University. I had been an habitué of the Detroit jazz scene for three or four years before I moved to the city and I had some pretty good weed connections already, so when I settled near the WSU campus I was able to establish a nice little bag and take care of my friends and fellow students who liked to get high.
I sold a $10 bag to a friend of a friend in Jackson, Michigan who had gotten busted on a sales charge and got hooked up in an elaborate scheme directed by the Michigan State Police to find someone who would sell him some weed. I met this guy at a jazz club in Lansing, Sonny Adams’ Tropicana Lounge, and made the mistake of telling him I could help him with some weed if he ever came to Detroit.
In December 1964 I pled guilty in Detroit Recorders Court to a reduced count of possession of marijuana and was given a sentence of three years’ probation. But now that I was a known narcotics offender, my troubles with the Detroit Narcotics Squad were just beginning, and I drew a bigger target on my back for the police when I formed Detroit LEMAR in January of 1965 and began to agitate publically for the legalization of marijuana.
As I rarely tire of saying, that was 50 years ago and we’ve spent half a century struggling to legalize marijuana in the State of Michigan. For most of this period we’ve had to concentrate on getting the police out of our lives, and since the people of the State of Michigan had the good sense to pass the Medical Marihuana Act in 2008, those of us who qualify as patients can get our medicine from a friend-caregiver or across the counter at a compassionate care center.
The medical marijuana legislation we passed seven years ago is especially valuable in its concentration on growing for self or being taken care of by a grower who is licensed to serve up to five patients. Other forms of distribution are not mentioned in the Act, which would seem to leave the door open to all sorts of solutions from public dispensaries to traditional grass-roots distribution systems.
Since the institution of medical marijuana in Michigan, events have proved incontestably that there is absolutely no public danger from the sanctioned widespread smoking of the benevolent herb. Thus the public is ready to move on to the logical solution to the marijuana problem, which is to make it completely legal and available to all who desire to smoke it without legal or societal consequence, whether they want to grow it themselves or acquire it from others.
Marijuana smokers in Michigan have long devised effective means of obtaining and enjoying our medicine. We have taken care of it ourselves despite the insane efforts of the so-called law enforcement community to stop us from getting high. We have suffered their many forms of punishment and persevered none the less, emerging triumphant on the medical marijuana front and now making marijuana available to patients over the counter.
When marijuana is finally legalized in Michigan—hopefully in 2016, if all goes well—it is in the overwhelming interest of the entire marijuana community that current provisions for growing and distributing the weed remain within the exclusive purview of the marijuana community itself. Medical growers must be allowed to continue growing and distributing their herb as they see fit, devising whatever methodology that proves effective in terms of getting the weed to the smokers.
Medical marijuana patients must be allowed to continue the programs they are currently utilizing to take care of their needs. Recreational smokers must have a way legally to acquire their herb from individual providers or from public dispensaries. There must be no interference with these systems beyond some reasonable form of taxation as with all other products, and the police must be completely and totally removed from the cannabis community in all its manifestations.
The present situation is a smoker’s nightmare. So far there are three distinct groups agitating for their own form of marijuana legalization and ready to put their solutions up to the voters through the initiative process, potentially creating mass confusion and possibly causing the issue to fail to gain enough votes to insure legalization.
The traditional smoker’s interest is best served by the language contained in the proposition advanced by the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Law Reform Committee (MILegalize or MCCLRC), whose petition has been approved as to form by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers. Organizers expect to begin collecting signatures in late June, launching their drive on the steps of the State Capitol on June 25.
MILegalize maintains that anyone over the age of 21 would be allowed to purchase, possess or use marijuana without fear of prosecution at the state or local level. The law would also apply to marijuana products, such as edibles. A person could transfer up to 2.5 ounces and consume on private property “or on public property as otherwise allowed by law.”
Residents 21 years or older could grow up to 12 marijuana plants each, “in a manner so as to reasonably prevent unauthorized access to or harvesting of the plants.” Home grown marijuana could not be made available for sale.
The proposal would not affect Michigan’s medical marijuana law. Medical marijuana would not be subject to the proposed excise tax.
Under this plan retail marijuana sales would be subject to a 10 percent excise tax in addition to the existing state sales tax. Marijuana manufacturing, testing and retail sales establishments would be licensed by local governments, which would be responsible for establishing licensing rules, security requirements, and other regulations.
The MILegalize initiative is directed by Atty. Jeffrey Hank and other prominent marijuana activists and attorneys including Matthew Abel, Chuck Ream, and Steven Sharpe.
When someone asks you to sign a petition to legalize weed, make sure it’s from the MILegalize group and not the other two outfits, both of which are Republican Trojan horses for large-scale agricultural and pharmaceutical interests who have no history of advancing the cause of legalized marijuana. Accept no substitutes! Free The Weed!
—Amsterdam June 22, 2015
© 2015 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.
January 20, 2015
As my readers will remember, last November marked the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Detroit Artists Workshop, a seminal collective of cultural workers I’m proud to have been a part of.
This coming June will mark the 50th anniversary of the Artists Workshop Press, which published my first books of poetry. And to celebrate my half a century as a poet and writer I have collected 25 poems & 25 writings for Its All Good: A John Sinclair Reader, which I hope to see published in an American edition this year, and hopefully by the publisher of this magazine for which I’ve written a column each month for the past four years.
Now I’m in the process of presenting excerpts from It’s All Good in this column, and this week’s episode is a look at the Detroit Artists Workshop by two of the founding members several months after its creation. This article has been edited from its original appearance in a magazine called New University Thought.
In the context of this column, it’s worth while to note that the Detroit Artists Workshop was a hotbed of weed smoking. We were breathing together to forge a creative conspiracy in the decrepit city of Detroit.
As we’ve seen in a previous installment of this column, the Detroit Narcotics Squad pinpointed the Artists Workshop and this writer as dangerous factors opposed to their utter control of the life of the city, and they caused us a world of pain but we continued to make our art and organize ourselves for effective cultural action.
Finally, I gave the two joints in my famous marijuana case to an undercover policewoman—at the Artists Workshop.
* * * * *
GETTING OUT FROM UNDER
The Detroit Artists’ Workshop Society
By Robin Eichele and John Sinclair
Detroit, despite all its pretensions, has been artistically “dead” for longer than most people here want to admit. Young artists of all disciplines have made it a necessary point in the past generation or two to get out of Detroit as soon as possible for the vital centers of U.S. kulchur—New York, San Francisco, even Chicago.
Detroit has really been nowhere, as the saying goes: one halfway decent theater, one museum, a decaying jazz scene, no community of poets, painters, writers, anything.
A group of young Detroit artists—at first primarily poets and musicians, most of us students at Wayne State University—got together in the late summer of 1964 and decided to do something to make Detroit a viable and vital place to live and work.
A number of us, having found Detroit an inhabitable urban environment, had made various efforts to provide a focal point for Detroit artistic activity in the past: poet George Tysh’s “Touchstone” was a storefront gallery and meeting place that failed to survive due to lack of strong support, and more recently Tysh and painter Carl Shurer operated the Red Door gallery, a center of avant-garde film showings, exhibitions of paintings, and general “hanging out” that ceased operation with Shurer’s departure for Greece in June 1964.
The people who had been active in these ventures formed the nucleus of a new group, the Artists Workshop Society, a totally cooperative organization designed and structured to draw upon the resources of every participating individual in order to perpetuate itself—and promote community thinking on an artistic and personal level—through its own cohesive community nature.
Two artists who would play a key role in the establishment of the Artists Workshop met in June of 1964 and immediately began looking for ways to draw the artistic community together into an effective working group. Charles Moore, a musician, and John Sinclair, a poet and writer involved in the Detroit jazz scene, were at first concerned with providing a place for musicians to rehearse and present formal concerts of the new jazz music.
As the members of the core group talked to more and more people about our concept of a Detroit Artists Workshop, we found a large (although rather cynical) interest, and our original conception grew broader as more of our friends and associates offered ideas and support for its implementation.
On the 1st of November, 1964 the Artists Workshop Society presented the first in what has become a series of free weekly open Sunday afternoon “events” that integrate jazz, poetry readings, and exhibitions of visual arts.
Moore’s group, the Detroit Contemporary 5, donates its time and talent for free concerts, the readings are done by Workshop members and supporters, and Detroit artists and photographers display their work—all for the benefit of the community rather than financial remuneration.
The group wanted more than this surface unity, however: Our goal was (and is) to pull together the active and potential artists in the Detroit area into a working, cooperative community of human beings that would offer to each individual an open, supportive artistic environment.
We saw Detroit as essentially virgin ground—there was everything to be done, the raw material was at hand, and we started working to exploit the situation in what we saw as the best interests of every artistically-oriented individual in the community.
With the physical forces in operation, a spiritual focal point quickly evolved. The Sunday programs began to draw upwards of 100 people weekly, almost wholly from the peripheral student-“beatnik”-artist community that already loosely existed.
No “outside” advertising was done: people were informed of the Workshop’s doings by mimeographed flyers announcing each week’s program, passed out hand to hand by Workshop members to likely looking persons in the immediate vicinity.
Our intention was to attract like-minded people to the Workshop, which we regarded as an emergency measure to help salvage the salvageable; “outsiders,” e.g. entertainment-seekers and “culture-vultures,” would have defeated the group’s purposes.
Cooperative “self-education” classes in jazz history and music appreciation, practical film-making, and contemporary poetry were organized and “taught” by Workshop members to supplement the WSU’s meager programs in these areas and as a means of educating members in the community in the artistic disciplines in which they were involved.
Soon the Artists Workshop Press was organized to mimeograph weekly bulletins and other propaganda, with the ultimate goal (soon to be realized) of printing books of poetry and prose by Workshop members for local and national distribution.
We are operating on what is truly a “grass-roots” level—dealing with people, people who still can be saved—and the success, however large or small, of such a venture depends entirely on personal, individual, immediate direct action in the radical sense of cutting to the root of the problem and working from there.
We have come from nowhere—powerless, no money, with only our personal visions and energies to keep us working at what we believe is useful—and we have made a dent in the huge mountain of ignorance and greed looming high before us in the dark.
We at the Artists Workshop believe that if enough of us are willing to start at the bottom, stop beating our heads against the walls that society has put up for us, organize, and GET TO WORK, to avert the “total disaster now on tracks.”
We don’t claim to have the “only way,” or the “true way”—these labels are not relevant—but we do have a way, and we are following it. And we do mean business.
You can buy John Sinclair books and music in the Iron Man Shop
December 18, 2014
Highest holiday greetings from Amsterdam and Happy New Year to everybody. I’m writing from my favorite spot, the 420 Café, where I landed a month ago from New Orleans to find that the 27th Annual High Times Cannabis Cup has been seriously disrupted by the local authorities who claimed that the Cup’s organizers had failed to obtain the proper permits for its five-day exposition of cannabis and weed-related products and shut down the affair.
It’s no secret that the Netherlands and its business partners in America and the European Union have been increasingly unhappy with the relatively wide-open public availability, vendition and smoking of weed in Amsterdam and in towns and cities all over the country. Nothing is more repulsive to these powers-that-be than the dread Cannabis Cup and its unbridled flaunting of cannabis freedom for more than a quarter of a century.
Three years ago the Cannabis Cup expo was raided by more than a hundred Amsterdam police officers and the event was severely curtailed. Since then the Dutch government has attempted to bar tourists from the coffeeshops and to convert the cannabis cafes to private clubs whose members would have to be registered with the government.
The latest communiqué from the Ministry of Health mandates a maximum THC content of 15% in all weed sold over the counter in The Netherlands starting January 1. The highest THC content I’ve seen reported was 29%, so that’s like cutting the available potency of your weed in half.
If I understood this shit I’d try to explain it to you, but it makes no sense to me at all. I just know I’ll continue in this new year to take full advantage of any liberties they allow the weed smoker wherever I might be, and if they aren’t allowed I’ll continue to take the liberties just the same. Free The Weed!
* * * * *
When I was in Flint in November to play at the Golden Leaf Social Club I enjoyed a very productive conversation with my publisher, Ben Horner, host of this column for the past 46 episodes since MMMR was established almost four years ago.
I knew Ben was interested in publishing books as well as this magazine and I proposed that he bring out the American edition of my collection called It’s All Good: A John Sinclair Reader, issued by Headpress in London six years ago.
This book started its life in Italy when the publisher Stampa Alternative translated a selection of my poems and prose into Italian and issued it as a book called Va Tutto Bene. Then Headpress wanted to publish the work in English (or American, as I prefer to think of it) in 2008, I expanded the text to 22 poems and 22 stories in honor of my 44 years as a poet and journalist.
This coming June it’ll be 50 years since the printing of my first book of poems, This Is Our Music, by the Artists Workshop Press, and I’ve added six more poems & stories for the American edition of It’s All Good, plus a bonus poem at the end and an opening essay to make 52 pieces so we’ll be playing with a full deck.
With your permission, I’m going to preview the collection over the next several months until its release by presenting excerpts from It’s All Good: A John Sinclair Reader in this column, starting with the introductory essay:
YOU HAD TO BE THERE
You had to be there. The stiff crust of the American social order was cracking open. Black people were moving for social and political equality in a big, inspirational way. The Cuban Revolution was taking place. The President of the United States was gunned down by a hellish collective of CIA agents and Mafiosi. Artists and academics were beginning to speak out forcefully for nuclear disarmament and against the ever-burgeoning war in Vietnam.
You had to be there. White people were discovering the blues. Hippies refused to cut their hair or get a job, smoked dope and dropped acid, resisted the military draft, dropped out of the consumer society and lived together in urban and rural communes, plugged in their guitars and played rock & roll music. American poetry and creative music and art were at an all-time high point and giants of every artistic discipline walked the earth.
You had to be there. Soul music was on the radio. Black people were on the move. Martin Luther King was leading massive civil rights marches and demonstrations and sit-ins all around the country. Students were rebelling. Draft resistance was on the rise. The government was on the defensive. Malcolm X was assassinated in the middle of a sermon. Four little black girls were blown up by white racist bombs placed in a church in Alabama. Voter registration workers from SNCC and CORE were murdered in Mississippi and elsewhere in the South.
You had to be there. The music was everywhere, fresh and exciting and charged with the moment. Freedom Suite by Sonny Rollins. “Haitian Fight Song” and “Better Get It in Yo’ Soul” by Charles Mingus. Freedom Now by Max Roach & Abbey Lincoln. Let Freedom Ring by Jackie McLean. Change of the Century by Ornette Coleman. Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra. Giant Steps and Africa/Brass and “Out of This World” and A Love Supreme by John Coltrane.
You had to be there. You had to be there when the records came out. You had to be there in the little nightclubs and coffeehouses where the music was made. You had to be there where the music was, and the musicians, and the people whose lives were illuminated and reshaped by the music in action. You had to be there to see and hear what was going to happen, and when it happened, and how you could be a part of it.
You had to be there. If you were looking for a way out of the American stasis and a stake in the immediate future, you had to be there. It was all there in the music, spelled out in fiery notes and relentless rhythms with ceaseless intelligence and spontaneous improvisation, and you had to be there to stand under the music and understand what it was telling you.
You had to be there. There was no other place you would want to be. You had to be there to hear and see and feel the message of freedom and immense human possibility blazed across your mental sky by the music of John Coltrane & his compatriots made in America between 1959 and 1967. There was nothing like it then, and there’s nothing like it now.
You had to be there. But since you couldn’t be there, maybe this book of verse and prose will help give you a tiny idea of what it was about, and how it reached us, and what it made us feel and think and do as we received it and figured out how to act on it, and how we acted on it from there well into the 21st century.
You had to be there. I was there. I had to be there. That was exactly where it was at, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
—New Orleans, February 21, 2009 >
London, December 16, 2013
Amsterdam, December 18, 2014
© 2014 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.