The most eye-opening and persuasive parts of the book explore the revenue and benefits to be had from cannabis without a single joint’s being lighted. Throughout human history, cultures from Mongolia to Peru have used the non-psychoactive cannabis plant for food, shelter, clothing and medicine. Early drafts of the Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper, and the covered pioneer wagons that took America westward were made of cannabis fiber. In 1942, cannabis prohibition was suspended because of a shortage in industrial supply during the war, and the government actually encouraged farmers to grow it, using a propaganda film, “Hemp for Victory.”
The place industrial cannabis is not found yet, Fine points out, is in the aboveÂground American economy, thanks to its listing as a Schedule I narcotic. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s official stance is that it has no medical value at all: “Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science ”” it is not medicine, and it is not safe.” O.K., Fine seems to say, but tell that to the doctors with evidence of its ability to shrink tumors and ease the effects of chemotherapy; or to the seniors of Orange County who depend on medical marijuana to treat their arthritis, and the doctor who uses it to treat his glaucoma; or to the 30-year-old Iraq war veteran with the shrapnel injuries who thanks God every day for this drug. It is prescription drugs that are now the leading cause of fatal drug overdoses ”” more than 26,000 each year. Also each year, over 23,000 Americans die of alcohol-related causes. None have died from cannabis alone.
As I said, the issue is loaded. And yet the side that has all the load never seems to win in America….