Saturday, February 1, 2014

Free The Weed 35 and 36 by John Sinclair


A Column by John Sinclair

Highest greetings from Amsterdam, where people in the cannabis community are looking on in wonder as the United States takes its first tentative steps toward legalizing marijuana for use by all thinking persons over 18 years of age.

Like they say in New Orleans, a lotta people don’t know that marijuana is not actually legal in the Netherlands, although over-the-counter sales of cannabis has been allowed under what they call a “gray area” in the law which amounts to a sort of super-decriminalization policy that not only eliminates arrest but lets smokers buy and ingest the sacrament in designated coffeeshops without police interference.

But growing, distribution, wholesale transfer and delivery are still fully illegal, growers are tracked down and arrested, distributors are intercepted, delivery remains fully clandestine, shopowners are prohibited from stocking more than 500 grams of cannabis products on the premises at any one time, and even the consumer is limited to purchases of no more than 5 grams per trip. 

So the mouths of the men and women in the Netherlands cannabis industry water with envy while they watch the people of the states of Colorado and Washington provide for full legalization of marijuana and its open distribution in dispensaries and other licensed public outlets.

Dutch tokers have enjoyed and taken great pride in their peculiar form of cannabis decriminalization for more than 40 years, but the Dutch government has always refused to move the rest of the way toward legalization and now the pioneering role of the coffeeshop culture is being usurped by two of the United States, with several more sure to follow soon.

For example, in an historic new development in America, the General Assembly of the state of New Hampshire recently voted in favor of House Bill 492, which calls for the legalization of personal use and home cultivation of marijuana by persons 21 years of age or older and the establishment of regulations for the retail production and sale of cannabis.

This makes the New Hampshire House the first state legislative chamber ever to vote in favor of regulating cannabis and, as a NORML report hopefully speculates, “signal[s] that politicians are finally beginning to acknowledge the will of their constituents." Democrat Governor Maggie Hassan, however, has already voiced her opposition to House Bill 492 and intends to veto it if it reaches her desk.

But she’s just following the bad example of her party’s leader, President Barack Obama, who told The New Yorker recently that he is “troubled at the disproportionate number of arrests and imprisonments of minorities for marijuana use” but has no plans to rescind the nation’s idiotic marijuana laws which trigger those arrests.
The President admitted that he doesn’t think marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol, “in terms of its impact on the individual consumer… [but] I think it’s a bad idea, a waste of time, not very healthy.

“As has been well documented,” the President said, “I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life.”

The New Yorker points out that the Obama administration “has given states permission to experiment with marijuana regulation…. The president said it was important for the legalization of marijuana to go forward in those states to avoid a situation in which only a few are punished while a large portion of people have broken the law at one time or another.”

Obama said in the interview that users shouldn’t be locked up for “long stretches of time” when people writing drug laws “have probably done the same thing.”

“The experiment that’s going to be taking place in Colorado and Washington is going to be, I think, a challenge,” the president said. Yeah, a challenge to the federal government to dare to ignore the expressed will of the electorate and keep on harassing, arresting, prosecuting and imprisoning people for smoking pot and trying to get their heads right.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Once public approval of marijuana legalization moves over 60%—it’s reached 58% now—legislators and elected officials will start falling all over each other to move legalization into reality, and it’ll be a whole new day not only in the U.S.A. but all over the western world. 

In line with the thoughts expressed in this particular column, I’ll be traveling from Amsterdam to Denver, Colorado to gain some experiential knowledge into how the new law is working out for people like ourselves. I’ll be playing at the Neal Cassady Birthday Party at the Mercury Café and then nosing around Denver and environs for a couple of weeks, and I’m looking forward to reporting from there for my next column.

I’ll be getting into Colorado just two days after the Denver Broncos play the Seattle Seahawks for the National Football League championship in the Super Bowl, which some pundits are calling the first ever Marijuana Bowl—since, as NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre points out, it features "the two most pro-cannabis-legalization cities in the U.S." He suggests that the game should be renamed "The Super Oobie Doobie Bowl.
Bob Troutman reports (courtesy of my pal Michael Donnelly, a Flint native and long-time resident of Portland, Oregon) that “Super Bowl bets between Denver and Seattle mayors are in. If the Seahawks win the game, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray will get a quarter pound of ‘Hickenlooper Mile High OG Kush.’ Should the Broncos win, Mayor Michael Hancock will receive an equal amount of ‘Seattle Armageddon Space Needle G-Force Indica.’”

Talk of the Marijuana Bowl inspired Nick Creegan of FOX Sports to write a thoughtful piece exploring some of the contradictions inherent in the present scheme of state-by-state legalization under the dark ugly cloud of the federal prohibition of cannabis. 

For one thing, Creegan writes, “It is still illegal for NFL players who live in the state to use marijuana because it violates the drug policy under the current collective bargaining agreement. The same will go for Washington when their pot doors open this spring.

“The NFL is getting pressured by lobbyists to stop penalizing players for smoking pot, saying it could be helpful for getting through concussions and other injuries.

“The lobbyists are also calling attention to the fact the league is fond of the alcohol industry, such as their relationship with Anheuser-Busch. They pitch Bud Light as the ‘proud sponsor of the NFL’ and even had some ads in rotation showing Budweiser and Bud Light bottles going head-to-head in what they called a ‘Bud Bowl’ game.”

Creegan says that last September the Marijuana Policy Project in Denver put up a 48-foot-wide billboard next to the city's Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium, insisting that the NFL needs to "stop driving players to drink" and the "safer choice" for athletes was actually pot. A petition was launched by the group in efforts to get NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to change the league's marijuana policy.

Finally, Creegan ponders whether “pot legalization in a state [is] making teams more successful” and points out that “For the states where marijuana is outlawed completely, they've actually had a difficult time in the postseason. The Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints and Cincinnati Bengals all come from states that have not decriminalized pot. Go figure.

"If you noticed, the more marijuana-friendly localities really kicked butt," he concludes. "I don't know what it really means in the grand scheme of things, but it's a nice bit of karma if nothing else."

January 21-22, 2014

© 2014 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.

Highest greetings from New Orleans, where I’m visiting my daughter Celia, staying with my friend Frenchy, the great New Orleans action painter & his family, and getting ready for the Mardi Gras, which I’ve attended faithfully every year since 1982 to renew my commitment to Big Chief Bo Dollis of the Wild Magnolias, who I started following in 1976 on my first trip to New Orleans.

I flew first from Amsterdam to Denver, Colorado to perform at the 5th annual Neal Cassady Birthday Party at the Mercury Café, where I was joined by Tom Worrell, my pianist from New Orleans, for a few days of fun and creativity. You can hear some of the results on The John Sinclair Radio Show #535 and 536 at

There was also the great thrill of seeing one of my idols and mentors, the great musician, composer and writer David Amram, and having him sit in with Tom Worrell and my band on “Blue Monk,” a song Amram used to play with Monk himself back in the 1950s in New York City.
Neal Cassady and David Amram are two of the amazing characters who helped shape my world view as a young man in Flint, Michigan seeking an attractive and intellectually challenging path through life in America that was not at all immediately apparent.

Both were central figures in the life and legend of Jack Kerouac, who fashioned his revolutionary novel On The Road around the gleeful brilliance, ceaseless curiosity, immense daring, and insatiable conversation of Dean Moriarty, Kerouac’s literary version of his close friend and role model from Denver, Neal Cassady, who also appeared prominently in the Kerouac oeuvre as Cody Pomeroy, hero of the novel Visions Of Cody.

Against the pale backdrop of American life in the Eisenhower era, these guys got high on marijuana, freaked out on modern jazz, tore across the country in buses, beat-up cars and sleek driveaways, chased women and had as much fun as it was possible to have as young white men in that time and place.
Kerouac and Cassady hooked up in 1946 along with their friends Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke and William Burroughs, and for the next ten years they labored through their writings and personal comportment to create a new way to approach life in these United States. They were ultimately hailed as “The Beat Generation” and propelled into public consciousness with the publication of Ginsberg’s book called Howl And Other Poems (1956)—tried for and acquitted of obscenity—and Kerouac’s smash literary hit On The Road.

Shortly after the release of On The Road in September 1957 Kerouac teamed up with a pianist and French horn player named David Amram to initiate the first series of public jazz-and-poetry performances in New York City, initially in a series of small art galleries and coffeeshops and then in jazz clubs like the Village Vanguard. Jazz and poetry had been spearheaded by Poet Bob “Rainey” Cass and saxophonist Bruce Lippincott in New Orleans in the early 1950s and by Lippincott with Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Kenneth Rexroth in San Francisco a couple of years later, but Kerouac, Amram, and poets Philip Lamantia and Howard Hart established the idiom in New York City under the spotlight that followed Kerouac after the success of On The Road and before his recordings with Steve Allen for Hanover Records and Blues & Haikus with saxophonists Al Cohn & Zoot Sims.

In 1959 Amram improvised the soundtrack and Kerouac improvised the dialogue for the pioneering Robert Frank independent film Pull My Daisy, starring Kerouac, Ginsberg, Amram (as “Mezz McGillicuddy”), poet Gregory Corso and painter-saxophonist Larry Rivers in farcical acting roles. Fifty-five years later, and now 83, Amram continues to travel the world to converse and perform, make music, compose and conduct symphonies, and write books like his three memoirs: Vibrations, OffBeat: Collaborations with Jack Kerouac, and UpBeat: Nine Lives of a Musical Cat.

David Amram is just about the sweetest, most perceptive, most sympathetic individual I’ve ever known, and it’s always a joy to be in his presence. We met in 1996 shortly after he unexpectedly climbed on the bandstand and graced my band the Blues Scholars with his French horn and penny whistles in the middle of our set at the Insomniac-A-Thon at the Creative Arts Center in New Orleans, and we’ve subsequently performed together several times at the annual Lowell Celebrates Kerouac festival in Jack’s home town of Lowell, Massachusetts, including just last October. Being on stage with David Amram for me is like performing in the Olympics with the guy who threw the first discus or ran the first Marathon—what I do, he started it all, and he’s still doing it to death every chance he gets.
Neal Cassady went on from his days with Kerouac and Ginsberg to raise a family in California and work as a brakeman on the railroad. He did time for marijuana possession in the early 1960s and resurfaced in public life with another marijuana felon, the novelist Ken Kesey, as principal accomplice and partner in cultural crime when Kesey and his Merry Pranksters staged the Acid Test events in California and clomped across the country in their psychedelic bus called Further, with Cassady behind the wheel on the road again in a whole new way.

It’s always a thrill to be in Lowell for the Kerouac festival in October, not just because he’s my literary idol who turned me on to the concept of marijuana and poetry-&-jazz and opened up the path I’ve followed in life ever since I first read On The Road, but because his home town has come to recognize him as an important writer and a great American and continues to honor him with a beautiful memorial park as well as the annual festival in his name.
Now Denver is taking pride in its native son, Neal Cassady, and keeping his memory alive with a yearly birthday party as well as with its recent legalization of marijuana, a cause first championed by Kerouac and Cassady almost 70 years ago. I had intended to stay in Colorado for a couple of weeks following the party to investigate the new reality of legalized marijuana in the U.S.A. but changed my plans and came to New Orleans as quickly as I could to escape the incredibly cold weather that had greeted me in Denver.

I did have the incredible pleasure of buying some top-notch weed over the counter at the Healing House in Denver: two 1/8-oz. packages of White Fire at $45.00 apiece, plus $9.50 tax for each transaction. I’d been waiting 50 years for this moment and enjoyed it to the max. As in Amsterdam there were many outstanding varieties of first-class weed available on the menu at prices ranging up to about $70 per 1/8th oz. but I was happy with my White Fire and went back for another bag two days later.

That’s as good as it gets so far in the United States, and the dominoes are continuing to fall as the War On Drugs sputters toward its ultimate demise. Let’s keep up the good work and FREE THE WEED once and for all.

—New Orleans
February 18, 2014

© 2014 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.

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