Today is my birthday. I’ve seen 61 of them now, 45 of them as an activist in one cause or another, mostly the effort to relegalize Cannabis/Hemp/Marijuana. My first activism was being a teen volunteer for both Roger Branigin’s Indiana gubernatorial campaign and I signed up to work on Bobby Kennedy’s Indiana campaign. Ah, those innocent days of believing the system we live in actually works.
I started getting involved in politics because of my mother’s words: If you see something wrong, and you don’t do something to fix it, you’re part of the problem. Being born a rebel with a stubbornness that doesn’t stop, I have always been one to find causes and do my fair share, and then some.
On my 16th birthday, 45 years ago, a friend of mine who had just returned from his third tour of duty in Vietnam, brought a whole military duffel bag full of the world’s finest Marijuana, Black Vietnamese, back with him (they weren’t checking back then, especially from a three tour veteran). He happened to come by the house, and gave me a pound of it for my birthday.
Now bear in mind that the word “Marijuana” was just being heard in 1968 Indianapolis. I had heard of it, and it was associated with the Bohemian’s, aka “Hippies,” whom I rather admired in spite of my staunch feelings of extreme patriotism (I was even in Army R.O.T.C.). I had smelled Marijuana at a concert. I had also heard the “Reefer Madness” horror stories. But being curious by nature and rebellious as well, I sat down with some friends behind the garage, crumbling the sticky buds between my fingers. I already knew how to roll a tobacco cigarette, so my first joint was relatively good, humped up in the middle and lumpy as all get out, but it drew well inside the Zig Zag wheat straw papers my dad kept when he wanted to hand roll his smokes. It was a small joint, maybe a hair bigger than a “pinner,“ shared between four of us.
It was a perfect June day. Upper 70’s, an occasional cumulus cloud drifting by and just enough of a breeze to rustle the leaves and stir the grass. You could hear the buzzing of the bees as they hovered over flowers. My mind, taking all of this in, and still exploring a world I had not known existed, a world of amazing clarity and beauty. There was a tingling on my skin, and a vibration through my body. How could this be wrong? And my friends had similar feelings, and we got to talking, and laughing, and imagining out loud.
The high lasted for a couple of hours. And we wondered when and how we would go crazy, and whether we would turn into axe murderers, like the “Authorities” said we would. It didn’t happen. 45 years later, I remain active in life, articulate in words and caring in heart for the future of this planet.
Marijuana opened my mind to new frontiers. It made me question why a lot of my friends were coming home from Vietnam in boxes, or with blown minds. It made me wonder why the great American government was spying on its own people, and in spite of their words, imprisoning thousands for the crime of enjoying life. Why did this government prey on the people of color and the poor? Why were we destroying the only planet we have to live on?
It took me a few years of experience to find the path, but after a friend of mine got busted in Bloomington, I organized a rally in Dunn Meadow at Indiana University in 1972. What has come to be called the Shafer Commission Report had just been released, refuting most of the government’s claims about Marijuana and urging decriminalization. I knew within myself, and those I knew who smoked Marijuana felt the same, that it was a positive thing. Now that the government had an accurate, unbiased report on Cannabis, why were they denying us the right to the pursuit of happiness?
I discovered that Marijuana was a lynch-pin issue. Pull that pin, and the political house of cards comes tumbling down. How government and politicians are financed, the influence of the petro-chemical and pharmaceutical industries, and the runaway greed of an improperly regulated economy and how it depends on the suppression of renewable, sustainable Earth and creature-friendly plants, Cannabis/Hemp is very much a part of that. I decided to help pull that pin.
45 years later, the pin is finally coming out. It takes all of us to pull that pin. When I started, only 12% of Hoosiers thought Marijuana should be legal. Now it’s 56%. Soon it will be a super majority. We are winning, and it’s definitely a “When,” no longer an “If.”