The Ups & Downs of Being an Activist
By Andrew Looney


I wrote an essay this week in response to an email I got from a student named Jerri. She wrote:

"I am in a grade twelve law class and I am using you for an assignment. We are discussing unjust laws in society and I came across your story about you fighting to legalize marijuana use. A couple questions I have are: What sacrifices did you have to make for this fight if any? And how were the results? Thank you and please get back to me soon as this is an assignment."

Since I found these to be interesting questions, I wrote a pretty long response; and when I heard back from Jerri that her teacher had loved my e-mail so much she'd had Jerri read it to the class, I decided I should slap it up here on my website. So, here it is.

On the whole, I would have to say we've been pretty lucky so far. We've had webpages stating our views on this up for over 5 years, and I'm actually rather surprised at how little we have been harassed about it. I do get the occasional bit of hatemail, but even that has been rare. In fact, I can't think of the last time we got one. However, there have been some costs:

As for the results, I may just be an optimist, but I think our movement is making outstanding progress. I see it even in setbacks, like the recent attempt to legalize in Nevada, where 40% of the voters said yes. The drug warriors called that a victory for them, but looking at the way support for our side has grown from nothing to 40% gives me great hope. Next time, it'll be 44%, then 47%, and finally, 51%. And that's all we need... we don't have to convince everyone (which is good, since some people will never be convinced).

While the Bush administration may think it necessary and wise to arrest sick and dying cancer patients in states like California where the voters approved medical marijuana, I think those actions are increasingly sending voters over to our side. Here in Maryland, we're particularly pleased about the fact that our state legislature moved to ease the penalties for the medical use of marijuana in advance of voter initiatives, with the bill being signed in law by a Republican governor! As an Independent, I see increased recognition of this issue in both parties, though Dennis Kucinich is the only major Presidential candidate with sensible views on this issue, and really only the third parties (like the Greens and in particular the Libertarians) have the guts to say what needs to be said: that the drug war is a disaster and must end.

I see wonderful progress unfolding up in Canada, which is proving to be the real Land of the Free. I think it's gonna be a major kick in the pants for the US government when Canada reforms their laws, as they are currently talking about doing. I believe it's just a matter of time before they fully legalize, and I think when it happens it will be a watershed event down here.

I see progress too in the way the issue is treated by popular culture. Where it was once taboo to have any sort of even remotely pro-drug message in a movie or TV show, such references are now common-place. They may still bleep the words and blur the pot leaves on some channels, but the truth is becoming harder and harder to conceal, said truth being that many, many Americans see nothing wrong with marijuana use. "That 70s Show", now in daily syndication, routinely features characters smoking pot, usually with no ill consequences whatsoever. Have they been boycotted, harassed, censored, or shut down? No, they've become a big hit.

Most of all, I see progress simply in the fact that people are finally asking the questions, having the discussions, and bringing up the fact that drug prohibition is just as bad, if not worse, than alcohol prohibition. Only by talking about it honestly can we ever hope to change things, and the more we talk about it, the more obvious it is to everyone that the Emperor has no clothes.

OK, that's enough ranting. I hope this was helpful!

Andrew Looney

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