As I watch the hoped-for legalization of cannabis wend through Mexico’s legislature, I look back to when I was a reporter covering the legalization of the plant in other parts of North America.
It was the fall of 2014, and the issue of legalizing and regulating the recreational and medicinal use of marijuana was on the ballot in dozens of U.S. states.
It was an exciting time with large swathes of the country on the precipice of blunting decades of archaic laws enacted under the darkest and racist of times and themes. Indeed, the 20th-century history of cannabis in the U.S. is an ugly and racist one targeting primarily Hispanics and blacks.
One bad actor, in particular, Henry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, in 1930 claimed before the U.S. Congress: “Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind… Most marijuana smokers are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos, and entertainers. Their satanic music, jazz and swing, result from marijuana usage.”
Ugh. It was just a way of demonizing many Mexicans who had legally immigrated to the U.S. during the Revolución Mexicana, and who brought the recreational use of cannabis in a smokeable form with them to el Norte.
The so-called “war on drugs” hit a peak in 1970 when the Nixon administration declared cannabis a Schedule I drug, with “a high potential for abuse; no currently accepted medical use; and a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug.”
This despite the fact that in prior decades, the plant had been widely used in medicines, including by the predecessors of pharmaceutical giants, Eli Lilly and Pfizer. Lies, lies, and more lies.
But finally, by 2014, the tide in the U.S. was turning. In November of that year, I went to Las Vegas as a staff writer for Marijuana Business Daily to cover the largest gathering of legal marijuana participants in the U.S., ever.
Spending hours traversing the huge show floor with its A-Z display of pot-related products was fascinating. No actual marijuana was allowed in the hotel, well except for one guy I met – Irvin Rosenfeld. (Nevada had not yet legalized either medicinal or recreational marijuana.)
Rosenfeld, who has a medical condition in which tumors grow on the outside of his bones since 1982, has received tins packed with perfectly rolled joints, all courtesy of the U.S. government, and a federal pot farm in, of all places, Mississippi, a very red, ultra-conservative state. This, the same federal government that still declares pot has no medical use…
(I calculated that Rosenfeld, since 1982, has smoked over 135,000 joints.)
Meanwhile, by the end of 2014, at least 11 states in the U.S. had approved of the use of marijuana for the treatment of PTSD among military veterans. The complete disconnect between policy and reality continued unabated.
In December 2014, I traveled to Denver to interview industry players. One of them, Tim Cullen, is the chief executive officer of Colorado Harvest, a soup-to-nuts provider of legal cannabis.
Cullen, a former high school biology teacher, turned to cannabis as a possible solution for him and his father, both suffering from Crohn’s disease. Legal pharmaceuticals left them with debilitating side effects, worse off than before. Cannabis concoctions gave them relief and a life.
So let’s hope Mexico finds a sane path to legalization, perhaps following the lead of Canada, which last year legalized cannabis in one fell swoop.
After all, as Dr. Sebastián Marincolo, a philosopher and author with a deep interest in cannabis, said: “The legalization of marijuana is not the dangerous experiment – the prohibition is the experiment, and it has failed dramatically…”