[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Saturday KCRW broadcast.]
If the spread of marriage equality wasn't enough good news for you, recreational use of marijuana by those 21 and older now is legal in the states of Washington and Colorado. So far, they seem to be surviving quite well. Perhaps these two beautiful states have concluded that the war on drugs is, for the most part, a racket, and they want to be on the right side of history as this new century rolls out.
See also: Henry Rollins: Gay Marriage Is Punk Rock
Many of us don't think of marijuana and its psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (aka THC), as anything particularly dangerous, at least not more harmful than having too much to drink. The Drug Enforcement Administration sees things quite differently, however.
The DEA, started in 1973 by everyone's favorite, Richard Nixon, has five "schedules" of classification for certain drugs. The higher the number, the less the potential for abuse. Schedule I substances include heroin, LSD, ecstasy and marijuana. That might not mean much to you, but when you drop down to Schedule II, it gets a little harder to wrap your head around, as, amazingly, that's where you find cocaine, meth and oxycodone! By the time you get to Schedule V, it's Robitussin AC and Lyrica. Looks like the DEA has some hatred for the weed.
The DEA answers to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Washington and Colorado's legalization of recreational marijuana use is in opposition to federal law. At the time of this writing, Holder had not weighed in and former DEA heads were urging him to come down on this pronto. This makes for a fascinating bit of state-versus-federal friction.
I don't think the two states can hold up the 10th Amendment to protect them. Holder can't stay quiet on this forever. I can't see his boss, the president, being cool about legalizing marijuana in any state.
It could get very complicated when you consider that jails might have to release convicts who would be innocent retroactively.
But for now, Washington and Colorado potentially can look forward to millions in revenue, and pizza places will be hiring. The gun stores will see sales jump as nervous citizens arm themselves to the teeth in anticipation of placid zombie stoners sitting around, not getting anything done (like Congress), or walking the streets like hordes of Lebowski acolytes ... abiding, man.
Like millions of Americans, I have no interest in smoking marijuana but can't see any reason to keep someone of age from lighting up.
I don't think it is a "gateway" drug any more than alcohol. The behavior one has to engage in when utilizing a controlled substance -- the sneaking around, the hiding of the stash, etc. -- that could be a gateway to more devious activity, fueled by the resentment of authority that is potentially engendered.
State governors might say that legalization of marijuana will heighten crime levels. States will experience increases in crime as long as they keep defunding education, treating teachers like dirt and putting fewer police on the street. Marijuana never was and never will be the problem.
One upside of marijuana use for me is that it gave us one of the greatest musical subgenres, stoner rock. From this strain of music came one of my favorite bands, Sleep, from California. Start with Sleep's Holy Mountain album. Once you have acclimated, then prepare yourself for one of the greatest achievements of all humankind, Sleep's 100-ton album Dopesmoker.
Dopesmoker is a single song that comes in at a little over 63 minutes. It is a metal masterpiece. The excellent Southern Lord label has remastered the album, out of print for quite a while, for both CD and double LP, and pressed it on 180-gram vinyl in a few different colors. I usually don't bother with reissues, but the new cover is so great and to be able to get the album in green was just too much for me to resist. I suggest also getting the CD if you're anticipating being too baked to get up to deal with a song that stretches over three album sides.
"Drop out of life with bong in hand...
"Follow the smoke toward the riff-filled land..."
You really need this album.
Sleep, a three-piece, eventually split up. The guitar player, Matt Pike, went on to form High on Fire, who have released one earth-incinerating album after another. Their first work, The Art of Self Defense, has just been reissued by Southern Lord with three extra demo tracks on side four. Their new album, De Vermis Mysteriis, is in my top five for this year. Sleep's bass player, Al Cisneros, and drummer, Chris Hakius, went on to form OM and made some really great music; their album Conference of the Birds is my favorite. Hakius left in 2008, but the band is still going strong, and its new album on Drag City, Advaitic Songs, is excellent. Occasionally, the members reconvene to perform Dopesmoker live.
Another great band that sometimes finds itself in the stoner category is Bong, from England. Ritual Productions has issued a few of its albums: Bong, Beyond Ancient Space and Mana-Yood-Sushai. More limited-edition titles like Novum Castellum and Bethmoora are harder to find but are out there and totally worth the search.
The president and the attorney general could turn over a new leaf in America and leave all matters mary jane to the states as they see fit. Again, it gets complicated with supply potentially going over state lines from one that's legal to one that's not -- plus myriad other challenges with regulation, taxation, private grows, appeals, etc.
It would be a lot of work, but America loves marijuana and freedom, so perhaps it's time to get the work started. At least there would be a great soundtrack for all those long sessions of legislative wrangling.
Oh, and Tommy Chong and Cheech Marin sure would look cool accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.
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