Tokin’ Okies: 42 Years Later, Muskogee Paper Says Med Pot OK


Album, Song, and Male Artist of the Year, 1969

‚ÄčBack in 1969, the battle lines between straight society and the potheads were bright and clear, and Merle Haggard drew one of the clearest lines of all when he wrote his iconic country hit “Okie From Muskogee” and an album of the same name.

Loved by the Right and hated by the Left, the aggressively patriotic album won the Academy of Country Music award for Album of the Year, the song won Single of the Year, and Hag himself was named Top Male Vocalist.

We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee;
We don’t take our trips on LSD
We don’t burn our draft cards down on Main Street;
We like livin’ right, and bein’ free.
I’m proud to be an Okie from Muskogee,
A place where even squares can have a ball
We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse,
And white lightnin’s still the biggest thrill of all.
We don’t make a party out of lovin’;
We like holdin’ hands and pitchin’ woo;
We don’t let our hair grow long and shaggy,
Like the hippies out in San Francisco do.
As a kid of nine, I devoutly hated the song when it came out. I even felt compelled to write a rebuttal song (which was itself pretty awful). Like most of Haggard’s listeners, I initially missed the subtle hint of satire in the song’s ultra-right-wing lyrics and chest-thumping conservatism — despite the fact that Merle himself pointed out as much.

Instead, the right wing adopted it as the theme song of hippie-haters everywhere. Muskogee itself became a working class symbol of backwards intolerance and narrow-eyed ignorance. Most of those who loved the song’s seeming message without realizing it was a satire never knew that Merle himself is something of a pothead and a defender of civil liberties; he also struggled with cocaine addiction for a time.
Anyway, in one of those full-circle turnarounds that only become obvious once you’ve inhabited the planet a good long while, I gained a new grasp of the cannabis cultural earthquake shaking American culture right now when I saw that the Phoenix, the Muskogee, Oklahoma newspaper, has endorsed the right of states to legalize marijuana.
In an editorial headlined “Medical marijuana a state’s right,” the paper puts forth a spirited defense of California’s compassionate cannabis law.
“California voters had the right to approve medical marijuana,” the paper writes on its October 18 editorial page. “They did.
“And when Obama first took office, his administration did not take open offense to California’s law,” the paper noted. “Now, it seems that this administration feels unscrupulous types are taking advantage of California’s law to profit from selling an illegal drug out in the open.
“California’s law does not allow for-profit sales,” the editorial says. “It seems some are just taking their business from underground to store-front.
“Obama should not flip-flop on his approach,” the paper remonstrated. “California should decide whether the law is being abused and put a stop to it.
“It is California’s law,” the paper rightly said. “It is California’s problem if anyone is violating its law.
“It’s California’s business.”