Denmark's a prison.
Then is the world one.
A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.
We think not so, my lord.
Why then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.
The United States, nominally a constitutional republic, has a population of roughly 300 million people. That figure represents a rounding error in trying to calculate the population of China, which is a nominally Communist nation. Yet the US has a larger prison population than China.
Granted, in China one can find himself thrown in prison for various ideological crimes that don't involve offenses against persons and property. But the same is true of the United States, as well, even if the specific list of such “offenses” is different.
Subjects of tyrannical governments are left in a state of perpetual insecurity, never certain how or when the “law” will change in such a way that something considered perfectly legal today may be regarded as a grave crime tomorrow. By that definition, the regime ruling the United States is at least as tyrannical as the one ruling China, and as we've observed, the rate of incarceration reflects that reality.
Ashley Epis, 8 years old, displays her support for her father, Bryan, who was sentenced to federal prison for the supposed crime of growing medicinal marijuana. "My daddy is not a criminal," Ashley explains. The purulent hypocrites who sent him there are, however.
It is difficult to tell how many of the 2,245,189 people held in prisons and jails as of June 2006 (the last year for which figures were available) had been locked up for driving under the influence of alcohol, or for DUI-related probation or parole violations. And of course, drug offenders of various kinds are well-represented in detention facilities of all kinds: By one recent estimate, the imprisonment of non-violent offenders – meaning, for the most part, substance abusers of some variety – accounted for 77% of the growth in the prison population between 1978 and 1996.
Such people are in prison not because they have committed crimes that are wrong in themselves (mala en se), but rather because the State has banned those acts (mala prohibita). A century ago, drug use was not considered a crime of any sort – much less a felony – in most American jurisdictions. Thanks to the “war on drugs,” it is now possible to be imprisoned for growing a non-narcotic that is arbitrarily banned by the same Federal Government that, a little more than a half-century ago, all but required its cultivation: Hemp.
Recently, a group of farmers from North Dakota (including state representative David Monson) filed suit against the Drug Enforcement Agency, seeking to lift the ban on the industrial production of hemp, an immensely profitable cash crop that can be used for food, fiber, and fuel. Oilseed and fiber hemp cannot be used to produce the narcotic commonly called marijuana. The State of North Dakota has licensed its production. And yet the farmers would find themselves subject to prosecution and imprisonment unless the DEA issues the appropriate permits, which the agency is unwilling to do.
Do my eyes deceive me, or is the battle-scarred sailor in this 1942 war propaganda poster seeking comfort in an elaborate water bong?
Seven decades ago, when FDR and his gang were in charge of the regime, cultivation of fiber hemp was encouraged as a “patriotic duty.” In 1938, Popular Mechanics published a feature story extolling hemp as a “billion-dollar crop” that could lift American farmers from the slough of the Great Depression. Ironically, at the time (as we'll shortly see) an effort was already underway to criminalize hemp production.
After FDR successfully maneuvered the US into World War II (albeit with the timely help of Imperial Japan), growing fiber hemp – for various naval applications -- was seen as vital to the war effort, as this 1942 federal propaganda film illustrates:
This dull but informative agitprop film depicts hemp as a splendidly useful – nay, miraculous – plant whose multifarious uses had blessed mankind since time immemorial. It also reported that, with Japan seizing control of vital hemp supplies overseas, the cultivation of American hemp was a major war priority. Accordingly, in 1942, 36,000 acres of seed hemp planted “by patriotic farmers at the government's request” who had received the appropriate federal registration and tax stamps.
In 1937, the Federal Government, working in collusion with the politically well-connected DuPont corporation (a military contractor that was developing synthetic plastics and wanted to beat down competition from hemp-based fiber products) covertly plotted to criminalize production of hemp through the use of suffocating taxation and regulation. This was exactly the same strategy, incidentally, that inspired the 1934 National Firearms Act, the first step in what was intended to be the disarmament of the American people.
The move to ban hemp through confiscatory taxation saved the career of Harry J. Anslinger, who prior to 1931 had been Assistant US Commissioner for Prohibition. Anslinger, notes Jack Herer in his fascinating study The Emperor Wears No Clothes, “was hand-picked to head the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics by his uncle-in-law, Andrew Mellon, Secretary of the Treasury under President Herbert Hoover. The same Andrew Mellon was also the owner and largest stockholder of the sixth largest bank (in 1937) in the United States, the Mellon Bank in Pittsburgh, one of only two bankers for DuPont from 1928 to the present.”
"Dude, that looks like some righteous weed!" exclaimed Harry Ansligner (left, affecting a casual pose in his overcoat) as his homiez took stock of their newly acquired stash.
Anslinger was hopelessly addicted to lurid stories – none of which was ever documented -- of marijuana-crazed people committing hideous crimes, including rape, murder, and “miscegenation.” (Oh, didn't I mention that Ansligner was particularly preoccupied with the idea that black people are particularly susceptible to marijuana, and that one particularly acute danger posed by the demon weed was its supposed role in breaking down the barriers against “race-mixing”?)
Following World War II, when it was documented that marijuana did not promote outbursts of violent, aggressive behavior, Anslinger – in a fashion worthy of Orwell's Ministry of Truth – reversed field entirely. By 1948, he insisted that the same drug that turned men into paranoid, predatory criminals and white women into aggressive sluts would somehow turn young people into weak-willed pacifists unwilling and unable to obey the muster call to take arms against the Communist Menace.
Clearly, marijuana – at least as described by Anslinger – was a uniquely versatile substance. In testimony under oath before Congress in 1937, Anslinger insisted: "Marijuana is the most violence-causing drug in the history of mankind." Eleven years later, once again under oath, he warned that Communist powers would flood the country with marijuana in order to leave our youth too torpid and blissful to pick up a gun.
Neither of these descriptions was truthful, of course. But each was useful in its time for Anslinger's objective, which was to create a pretext for expansion of federal power to regiment individual behavior.
Well, they had a point: A Canadian cartoon, circa 1931, ridicules the American experiment in social regimentation called "Prohibition."
Prior to 1937, marijuana consumption was neither good or bad from the State's point of view. The same was true of alcohol consumption before 1920, and after 1933 – an historical parenthesis during which Anslinger and his ilk wrought havoc in the name of Prohibition.
(In part II, we'll briefly examine the seminal role played by the OSS/CIA in creating the narcotics counter-culture).
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