Lesser Of Two

Essays and Various Rants

This commentary appeared in one of Lesser Of Two's local newspapers.

Legalize Marijuana Now!

The “war on drugs” is a failure. It has succeeded in wasting our tax dollars without making any progress in halting the drug trade. One of this war’s targets is marijuana which also happens to be one of the most widely used illegal drugs in America. One will find marijuana smokers in all walks of life, all age groups, and all income brackets. There is no stereotypical marijuana smoker so in essence this war on marijuana is a war on the average American citizen.
Some believe this justified due to marijuana’s harmful nature. I argue that those with this belief are misinformed. Marijuana has been proven statistically and scientifically to be less harmful than many legal substances. It is less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, aspirin, and even caffeine. There has never been a marijuana overdose in recorded medical history.
Marijuana was, also, legal in America for a much longer time than it’s been illegal. Our forefathers grew it as one of our first cash crops, and the paper it produced was used to write the constitution as well as their Bibles. The first American flags and the first pairs of Levi jeans were woven from hemp. It’s undeniably a part of our American heritage.
This prohibition of marijuana makes even less sense when you consider the many uses of hemp. Marijuana seeds are high in complete vegetable protein making it a very popular ingredient in soups up until this century. All of the best paints, varnishes, and shellacs were made from hemp seed oil until marijuana prohibition forced manufacturers to make them out of petroleum products. Hemp produces the strongest, longest lasting, and most durable natural fiber, and hemp can be used as a renewable source of fuel and paper products making it capable of having a tremendous positive effect on our environment. How many plants can you think of that have as many uses as hemp?
With all of this in mind one begins to wonder why our government has enacted this prohibition and spent sixty years misinforming the public. We have been lied to and manipulated in an attempt to make us believe hemp is an evil destructive drug which it is not. Marijuana simply stated is an extremely useful plant that just happens to produce intoxicating buds. Its prohibition only increases crime and clogs our courts and prisons with marijuana offenders. We are setting thieves, murderers, and rapists free to make room for what should be law abiding American citizens. This insanity must stop, and we must legalize marijuana now!
Steve DeCaprio
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
This next essay was a letter Steve DeCaprio sent to Changezine.

Dear Changezine,

I want to know the specific reason aside from “straight edge” dogma that states that smoking marijuana is bad for you. For example aspirin kills anywhere from 180 to over a thousand people a year (numbers vary from one study to the next) and caffeine kills somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 people a year. I don’t hear any straight edgers telling kids at shows how they’re fucked up for drinking sodas and popping aspirin. As a matter of fact most who consider themselves straight edge consume such DRUGS on a regular basis. Marijuana on the other hand has never in all of documented history been attributed to anyones death (unless they’re killed by police or black marketeers).
Marijuana in effect is non toxic unless you believe government studies; why any smart punk would ever believe that crap is beyond me. For example the government “proved” marijuana use causes brain damage by asphyxiating rhesus monkeys with 63 Colombian grade cigarettes in “five minutes, through gas masks,” losing no smoke once a day for 90 days. Any doctor knows that asphyxiation causes brain damage, and that is all they proved. I’ve also read literature that says a marijuana cigarette is like smoking one and a half tobacco cigarettes, 3 tobacco cigarettes, 10 tobacco cigarettes, a 100 tobacco cigarettes, or any number of variations; but the fact is not one case of marijuana related cancer or emphysema has ever occurred. As a matter of fact the only studies that exist criticizing marijuana usage are ones funded by the government. The rest of the studies that exist say it’s safer than eating apple pie (especially that McDonalds shit). In 1988 the D.E.A. administrative law judge Francis L. Young said, “in strict medical terms, marijuana is far safer than many foods we commonly consume... marijuana in it’s natural form is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man”
With this in mind I begin to wonder about the subjectivity of the term “straight” itself. There is no such thing as complete abstinence from drugs because the line between drugs, chemicals, and food are very vague. A nurse once told me that if it were possible to raise a person free of caffeine (which is realistically impossible) and give that person a chocolate bar that he or she would get a high equivalent to cocaine. After the high would wear off that person would come down hard and feel very ill. If what she said was true I can’t imagine what would happen if you gave that person a cola. For what it’s worth Coca Cola at one time used cocaine leaves in their recipe. I’m pretty sure caffeine was it’s replacement because of tighter American drug laws.
Is “straight edge” then merely abstinence from “mind altering” substances? If so how do you determine what’s mind altering? Sure, marijuana, alcohol, and psychedelics are mind altering; but what about speed, barbituates, and pain killers? These things don’t truly seem to be any more mind altering than many day to day things. Sure, when you use speed your mind is altered from possibly being drowsy to being wide awake, but so does jumping out of an airplane, getting in a fight, playing guitar in front of a lot of people, or playing a really intense basketball game. Supposedly the most mind altering drugs are found within our own bodies. These hormones merely wait for the proper circumstances to be unleashed. So it would seem that the “mind altering” aspect is not the criteria. Isn’t life itself a process of constant mind alteration where the individual must continually struggle out of uncomfortable states of mind. For example if one refuses to consume anything that person will first become dizzy and than gasp for air. The person will then become thirsty and drink liquid, then he/she will hunger and subsequently consume food, and then tire and sleep. Our minds are in a state of constant flux. Our actions are not an attempt to stop the flux and thus fight mind alteration, but they are the attempt to avoid painful mind alteration. This is merely a drive to live.
So what is the criteria for being “straight edge”? It is not the abstinence from all drugs. It is not abstinence based on what is unhealthy since marijuana is healthier than many things we commonly consume. It is also not abstinence from things that are mind altering otherwise cocaine would be acceptable for straight edgers to use. I can only think of one last criteria, and that is that straight edge means abstinence from drugs that are illegal. This would make some sense. It seems to be the simplest explanation for selective drug use among straight edgers (caffeine, over the counter drugs, and prescription medicine). The term “straight” itself implys obedience to a sense of propriety rather than abstinence from any specific drugs or activities. For example many people use the term straight to refer to one who’s heterosexual. Didn’t straight edge at one time mean abstinence from sex? Why else wouldn’t the Minor Threat guys let girls into their house? I’m sure social obedience can’t be the reason because I’ve met many straight edgers who feel a great deal of contempt towards our governmnet and society.
The only other possible explanation is that being straight edge uses a rather complex set of criterias that just happen to parallel U.S. drug laws. If this is so could you have some one explain them because I’m sure people ignorant on the subject, such as me, would appreciate being edified. I would also like to understand the compulsion of some straight edgers to “spread the word”. With this in mind I’ll quote Steve’s letter from issue 6, “there were these two kids smoking pot right behind us... my friend was about to kick their heads in until I grabbed him. The poor kids looked at us and didn’t even know what they were doing was wrong, it was so obvious they didn’t know what sXe meant.”
I can appreciate Steve stopping his knucklehead friend. Why he would be friends with such idiots is something I do not understand. Another thing that disturbs me is the use of the word “wrong”. Steve seems to believe that using marijuana is “wrong” in some kind of moralistic sense. I cannot grasp how such reasoning is even remotely justified. I think it’s great if someone wants to live a drug free life or a chemical free life. Such choices could bring beneficial results for many people, but when ones choices don’t affect others such as drug use I don’t believe anyone has the right to say that what someone else is doing is “wrong”. That kind of mentality goes against everything punk and hard core stand for. Freedom and liberty are the highest of ideals. Any moral authority outside of The Golden Rule is tyrrany. A lofty goal such as anarchy can never be achieved unless we respect everyone’s individuality.
The other thing I don’t understand is the use of the term “edge” in straight edge. As Ian Mckay said, “I’ve got the straight edge”. This simple statement implies that since he is straight he’s got the edge. I don’t believe this to be true as a general rule. I actually find it somewhat offensive. I’m not straight so does that mean that one who is straight is justified in believing they’re better than me, stronger than me, smarter than me, more sexually potent than me, better at basketball than me. I don’t think so. Steve’s knucklehead friend proves that wrong. Maybe the term “edge” refers to an inward edge an “I’ve got an edge over myself (if I used drugs)” mentality. I can accept this. I think many people would be better off if they abstained from drugs, but I do not believe this applies to everyone. It seems to me that straight edgers should just call themselves straight and treat their decision to not do certain drugs as a personal choice. If that choice makes them happy and productive than it is worthy of respect. Also, by merely calling yourself straight you are not categorizing yourself.
I would now like to touch on another subject which many of my straight friends don’t think about... drug legalization. I believe drug prohibition is an immoral act. It is “WRONG”. It is wrong for peaceful citizens to be put in jail merely because they ingest some socially unacceptable drug. The use of drugs is a personal choice which government has no right to scrutinize and penalize. I think it is important for the straight portion of the punk community to think about this because when an injustice occurs everyone suffers. It’s easy for someone who’s straight and therefore safe (or so they think) to overlook these issues, but then again it was easy for whites to overlook the issue of slavery before the Civil War; it was easy for many Germans to overlook racism in Nazi Germany. We must all fight injustice whatever form it takes whether we beleive it to affect us or not. We must fight all government intrusion into our lives or the lives of others.
It is also false for people who are straight to believe the “War On Drugs” does not affect them. Right now it is legal for police to confiscate and sell your property before you go to trial on drug charges. No compensation is available to those found innocent. This in essence means the government can steal any property it wishes through the mere accusation of a crime. We are also seeing more and more legislation giving police increasing authority to search ones property and monitor communications. We hire more police, build more prisons, make more arrests with fewer trials, and move closer and closer to becoming a police state every day. All of this is done in “the best interests of the American people”... BULLSHIT! Freedom is what’s in our best interest. Don’t let them fool you. The choice to be straight is yours not theirs. Your property is yours not theirs; they have no right to steal it or search it at random. Your private communications is just that...private. We all have a right to privacy even drug users. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that what I’m saying doesn’t affect you because it does.
The most ludicrous example of drug prohibition is marijuana prohibition. Paper, rope, twine, cordage, paints, varnishes, shellacs, lamp oils, beams, pressed board, particle board, and carpet. Could all be made from hemp (aka marijuana) easily and economically. This would reduce by vast quantities our use of virgin wood and petrochemicals whose industries are the leading threats to our environment. The only reason this isn’t being done is because of U.S. drug policy. For every 16 acres of forest we clear a year we could easily harvest one acre of hemp and still be able to harvest that same acre the next year? Greed and corruption are the reason for this and nothing else. Legalization of marijuana could have more of a positive impact on our environment than the destruction of the meat industry, so why haven’t we taken up the cause collectively. There are tons of vegan straight edge bands out there who want to change the world. Why aren’t they singing about legalizing marijuana? Isn’t that cause at least as important to our liberty and environment as any other cause.
I believe we shouldn’t accept ideologies lightly, but that we must analyze our entire belief systems and incorporate new ideas we find to be true. We must constantly reevaluate ourselves otherwise we may let injustice slide by while we read our favorite ‘zines and listen to our favorite records. Freedom, liberty, equality, and a healthy environment are all things worth struggling toward, but as we struggle we must constantly reassess ourselves to make sure we’re struggling forward and not back.
Thank you for your time. I hope someone out there can help answer my questions about straight edge, and I hope that people who are straight will join the effort to legalize drugs or at least marijuana.

Steve DeCaprio

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