Angry Herds: Pot Smoker vs. Pot Smoker

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Worldwide Hippies

Commentary By Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town
Northern California Correspondent
About a month ago, in California, Assembly member Tom Ammiano removed a pro-cannabis bill he authored (AB2312) from proceeding in the State Senate after determining that he wouldn’t be able to gather enough support from his colleagues.
The pulling of Ammiano’s bill, and the Feds’ continued attacks on legitimate marijuana businesses, kick-started a very heated online debate among pot activists and other political cannabis factions. The issue: “Is marijuana strictly only medicinal?” and, I’m paraphrasing, “By calling it a recreational drug, does it undermine the purpose and objectives that the medical marijuana movement has been trying to achieve for these 20 years?”

From that jumping off point the original conversation thread then splintered off in a variety of directions. Soon the discussion escalated into wicked name-calling and anonymous personal threats made by braggarts using melodramatic pseudonyms. Many cases of, “You’ll never work in this town again,” were levied by local power mites and even threats of bodily harm by some extremists.

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Madame Noire

Servers were overloaded as these resin-coated telecommunications bounced back from person to person and groups to groups. While the cyber war was being waged, in the payloads of the emails were addresses of innocent bystanders added by well-meaning friends, who thought others might want in on this fervent discussion. I happen to have one of those well-meaning friends who knew I’d want to witness this Babel Tower of emails. 
 
At first there was a gentle give and take, a dialogue, as individuals stated their positions in brief, concise paragraphs, stating their opinion on the issue. One person, in their view, decreed it to be recreational. Soon the “Why can’t it be both?” question arose.
This became the dividing point for the two camps. Opinions raged into personal diatribes blaming anyone who didn’t share their beliefs as dissenters. Soon there were only two or three camps: and you had to pick one, even if you were just offering an opinion. If you weren’t absolute in your convictions; you’re labeled as “sitting on your hands.” For many it was, ‘Shit or get off the pot time’ or something like that.  
Once the veneer of good manners was removed the emails were basically, “Fuck you.” 
Countered with the thoughtfully conceived retort, “No, Fuck you.” You might receive 50 emails an hour with this kind of productive banter. These people were jamming their opinions down your throat.

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The University of Utah

The boiling point hit when a fundamentalist-inspired Medicinal Only faction called out the participants who believed that cannabis is recreational. The Recreates were being honest: they liked to get high, they liked their doobies, plain and simple. Part of the Recreates’ position is that if you want total legalization, might as well call it recreational. Leave the sticky politics behind.
The exchanges deteriorated to the ganja version of the Hatfields and McCoys. Neither side was seeing the other’s point of view while the cooler heads were hopelessly stuck in the middle, attempting to get the conversation to settle down.  
The last email I read, after reporting one of the groups as spam, was from a woman who claimed that by leaving her group — I wasn’t the only one — that we were censoring her. The conversation is still Spamming in hyperspace as we speak. 
When it comes to marijuana and where it is going, I have my own opinions, as most thoughtful people do. I know that when it comes to who we are as a marijuana culture, we’re as diverse and opinionated as any other newly hatching group. I’m just tired of the inability to accept a difference of views within the movement.  
It became exasperating trying to communicate to my colleagues and fellow activists. We don’t all have to agree but is it really the spirit of the movement to call someone else an asshole for having a different opinion?  That’s when they became spam to me, dead to me, if you will. I could no longer communicate with them as a group on a rational, adult level.

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The Weed Blog

If the message of the movement is becoming lost on me, a person who wants the plant to succeed, one can’t expect those that are suspicious of our motives, or are less educated about cannabis, to have an understanding of the issues at play. If we, as a group, cannot allow for the inclusiveness of other schools of thought, we don’t stand a chance at legalizing any of it.
So, the challenge for us marijuana advocates remains, how do we move forward and incorporate the competing goals within the movement? It becomes that much easier for the Federal Government to infiltrate and destroy the industry if we remain splintered into ideological subdivisions. 
So, back to the question: Is it heretical to see marijuana as anything else besides medicinal? 
Can the duality of the marijuana plant that clearly possesses both psychotropic and medicinal qualities ever be reconciled by a divided movement?  We still have a lot of work to do as nearly half of our society still claims to be unfamiliar with marijuana.
The paradox is the plant herself. She intoxicates the senses while simultaneously providing healing qualities and treatments for those in pain. There are compounds now found in pot that can be isolated without mood altering side-effects. Other treatments rely on the divine interaction that happens when THC and her nearly sober counterpart CBD work in tandem. 

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Last Gasp

The argument on the direction the plant should take might be answered in Clint Werner’s book, Marijuana: Gateway To Health. Werner brings up a very salient point that I feel gets overlooked much of the time in this debate. He cites the importance of CBDs and the hundreds of other compounds in marijuana that not only save lives, but could spark a new generation of scientific breakthroughs.   
“Research on its psychological effects led directly to the discovery of a new chemical signaling system in the human body which is now recognized as playing a crucial role in regulating our neurology and physiology,” Werner writes. “In the context of the last hundred years of propaganda and prohibition, it is both ironic and amusing that this system never would have been discovered had it not been for widespread ‘recreational’ use of marijuana. The discovery of this profoundly important biological regulatory system-arose from the search to find out how marijuana gets people high.”
As long as our fellow marijuana users are being arrested and sent to jail, doesn’t the debate over who’s right seems very elitist as we in California, and other states where medical marijuana is legally available, can go to a store to purchase our weed? Or do the 34 other states just need to wait their turn for their medicine?   

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Jack Rikess
Toke of the Town correspondent Jack Rikess blogs from the Haight in San Francisco

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Jack Rikess, a former stand-up comic, writes a regular column most directly found at jackrikess.com.

Jack delivers real-time coverage following the cannabis community, focusing on politics and culture.

His beat includes San Francisco, the Bay Area and Mendocino-Humboldt counties.

He has been quoted by the national media and is known for his unique view with thoughtful, insightful perspective.


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