Pot and Copernicus: See You in Court!

By Bear Jack Gebhardt

I don’t smoke a lot of weed these days, though I have old time friends and young time family who make it a regular thing. Can’t blame ’em. Life’s short. Grab a grin where you can. (As the iconic Wavy Gravy once said, “only the jailers are against escape.”)

Bear Jack Gebhardt is the author of eight books and articles that have appeared in Reader’s Digest, The Columbia Journalism Review, Modern Maturity, and other national magazines.

Bear Jack Gebhardt is the author of eight books and articles that have appeared in Reader’s Digest, The Columbia Journalism Review, Modern Maturity, and other national magazines. Visit his website to learn more about him.

I also don’t carry a green card, though again, old friends and new relatives carry their green as a daily obligation. But just because I don’t personally smoke a lot of pot, or carry a green card, doesn’t mean that I’m not locking arms and standing strong with friends and family who do.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer recently suggested that the new administration may be more aggressive in trying to enforce the scientifically baseless, ever-unenforceable, never-appropriate, violently disruptive and blatantly unjust federal regulations against recreational marijuana, though probably not medicinal marijuana. (Let’s don’t make silly distinctions: As all old timers know, “all use of marijuana is medicinal.”)

As with most of the other fear-based, backward-looking proposals coming out of this administration, I say, great, bring it on, let’s test it. As this prez once succinctly put it, “see you in court.”

Seeking the divine: Here’s how I think we should proceed: I’m active, here in Colorado, with the New Buddhist Methodist Church, Satsang and Art Studio. As Buddhist Methodists (but mostly artists) we recognize marijuana use as one of the legitimate “methods” for artistically seeking the divine, e.g., for exploring, integrating and expanding this miracle of consciousness that we all share. Like all methods, including prayer and meditation, pot smoking has its advantages and disadvantages for such explorations. (see “A warning about methods” where we recognize that “Methods make good servants, but terrible masters.” )

As an artistically religious community, we would not hesitate to go to court over any attempt by this administration to restrict our religious freedom. For many years now, (long before smoking pot was legal here in Colorado) members of our communion referred to the imbibing of weed as “taking sacrament.” Many of us, ex-Catholics and fallen Baptists and a few rogue Jews, have directly experienced the uplifting effects of this sacrament much more immediately, much more directly than our childhood experiences of the wine and wafers or unleavened bread.

With the sacramental bud we just felt holier, more open and reverential, more mystical than we generally did with the officially “approved” wafers and bread from our childhood. Is the state now going to tell us what is a “real” sacramental experience and what is not? Does the state have the right to tell us what feels holy and what doesn’t?  Hmm…  What would the courts say?

Hear ye, hear ye: On a purely secular level  (some of us doubt that such a level even exists, but that’s another story) . . . on a purely secular level, we’d love to have the evidence weighed in court by an impartial judge or jury. As a plethora of both physiological and sociological research has consistently proven over the last half century, the current Federal regulations classifying marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance are scientifically baseless. We welcome the opportunity to bring into an impartial forum the scientific evidence for and against. We’re grinning even before the bailiff says, “Hear ye, hear ye…”

To site only one ironic case: As far back as The Shafer Commission, formally known as the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, appointed by U.S. President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, the scientific evidence has been overwhelming in favor of decriminalization of marijuana possession.

Nixon appointed the Shafer Commission because he wanted scientific evidence against marijuana. They couldn’t find it. So Nixon ignored the evidence, and started the war on drugs,  and more particularly the war on marijuana. Inarguably, the laws against marijuana have proven much more damaging, more costly and socially disruptive than any perceived physical or moral dangers of its use.

I’m not naive about the downsides of regular pot use. I even wrote a book in which I detailed many of the problems as well as its advantages.  (See The Potless Pot High: How to Get High, Clear and Spunky without Weed.) I spent many years as a drug education and treatment counselor. But as I wrote at the start of my book, “the two biggest problems with pot are: 1.) you keep coming down; and 2.) it’s mostly illegal.” There are other problems with pot, but they are relatively minor compared to these two.

Back to the secular: For an administration trying to turn back advancements in environmental regulations, social programs and sexual equality under the guise of “states’ rights,”  the suggestion that states should be able to determine their own environmental pollution regulations but not their own pot laws is comically hypocritical and patently ludicrous. Again, see you in court.

As Victor Hugo famously observed, “All the forces in the world are not so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”  The basic idea “whose time has come” is not that marijuana should be legal—though that’s a powerful idea in itself. No, the more fundamental idea is that we have the right, and duty, and opportunity to explore new ideas, to develop new ways of seeing ourselves and the world. Pot sometimes helps us do that—to think in new ways (and yes, sometimes pot just makes things fuzzy.)  But whether we use it or not is not a decision that the guy from Oklahoma—the new Attorney General—has the power to make.

“Good people don’t smoke pot,” the Oklahoman said here recently. “And it’s obvious the sun goes around the earth,” he would have told Galileo and Copernicus.

If the Attorney General wants to make regulations about the inalienable rights and free uses of mother nature’s wonderful weed, okay, “See you in court.” Copernicus and Galileo are anxious to present their evidence, for our grinning side.

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