By Jim Cleveland
A firefight in Oxford is blurring the lines between villains and victims, sharpening perceptions of a Drug War gone horribly wrong, and laying bare hearts of darkness who demonize a medical plant and flood us with dangerous pharmaceuticals.
True reality is often obscured by false ones, erected to serve the wishes of their perpetrators.
The disturbing news of a dark underbelly of Drug War cruelty in Oxford swept over me and brought a rush of memories from my own marijuana bust in 1990. I have never seen some of the true reality — even after more than 25 years. It just hit me. It was a surprise.
The college kid who set me up for a felony and cost me my position as director of public information at Ole Miss might well be one of the students who have suffered a tortured reality because of the cold-hearted agents of a war against marijuana that has utterly failed. It is considered more ridiculous every day. But it still claims its victims.
I was able to overcome any victimhood. But over the years I was doing well in the Midwest, Oxford was in the grip of a steadily growing marijuana prohibition cancer. If these are bold words, let’s see how they play out.
Medicines from the plant are being authorized by doctors in 37 states. It is proving to be the cancer fighter we’ve all been looking for. It shrinks tumors. It overwhelms diseases of the central nervous system. It is the safest, most effective analgesic known to man, used safely for at least 13,000 years. It elevates the mood, stimulates the senses, energizes the body and opens the mind to creative thoughts of peace and love. Canada’s Prime Minister will smoke a bowl with you.
We are on the threshold of unleashing a multi-million dollar business — medical marijuana smokes, oils, extracts, waxes, candies, vaporizers, and paraphernalia. Colorado is rolling in new business money, tax dollars, start-up growing operations, dispensaries with experts trained in the medicinal values of the various strains, medical clinics. Painkiller reliance is way down, so is crime, alcohol abuse and car wrecks. Schools are getting a massive dose of new money; couldn’t our Mississippi schools use some?
Cannabis legalization will also unleash agricultural hemp farming again. In an epic episode of foolishness, it was banned right along with the medicinal varieties. Do you suppose the petroleum industry and its derivatives of rubber, plastic, nylon, vinyl, polyester and other synthetics had any hand in the destruction of the hemp industry? (My tongue chokes my cheek). Hemp farming is destined for a comeback, with even Kentucky Republicans smelling the money. It was a major source of wealth there in the 1940s.
So what are these new realities? Natural products from renewable crops and sustainable agriculture are asserting themselves strongly against the world of synthetics. Medical marijuana is overcoming its Big Pharma adversaries to provide a safe, natural alternative to dangerous and addictive drugs like Oxycontin and Xanex, which are responsible for thousands of deaths every year.
I saw 60 Minutes last night and it said 120 per day. The nation’s new ‘drug czar’ disdained the title as a relic of an utterly failed War On Drugs and laid out a whole new approach. You don’t jail addicts; you help them.
Some narcotics agents apparently have no interest in any of this, and little regard for common decency. Their self-induced myopia and cold-heartedness will one day be issues of the soul which they will have to deal with. In the meantime, these predators need to be put out of business because the end (so dubious) does not justify the means.
There is coming a new political reality as well. The Justice Department is poised to reclassify the cannabis plant and toss out the idiotic phrase of “no medicinal value,” with a massive trove of medical research findings to back it up. When, at long last, researchers got their hands on the material after years of obstinate refusals from the government, knowledge of the health benefits began piling up.
They could also mention that four blue ribbon Presidential commissions have recommended decriminalization, starting with Herbert Hoover, but they won’t. No politician has ever had the guts to support this. I am convinced that the opposite of ‘rational’ is ‘political.’
To disprove the statement of ‘no medicinal value,’ one only has to contact the federal government itself, and the four patent applications they have actually filed for cannabinoids. Here are statements from one of them.
Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants
US 6630507 B1 Abstract
“Cannabinoids have been found to have antioxidant properties, unrelated to NMDA receptor antagonism. This new found property makes cannabinoids useful in the treatment and prophylaxis of wide variety of oxidation associated diseases, such as ischemic, age-related, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. The cannabinoids are found to have particular application as neuroprotectants, for example in limiting neurological damage following ischemic insults, such as stroke and trauma, or in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and HIV dementia. Nonpsychoactive cannabinoids, such as cannabidoil, are particularly advantageous to use because they avoid toxicity that is encountered with psychoactive cannabinoids at high doses useful in the method of the present invention.”
Since they can no longer get by with criminalizing an herb, Big Pharma plans to embark on its usual plan — tear the natural plant to shreds and develop proprietary drugs for patent and profit from what they call the ‘active’ components. Studies are showing that they work better in cohesion. The pharmaceuticals are likely to be less effective and much more expensive.
What will be Mississippi’s role in these new realities? Can we see the true reality right now, even as the players in this tragedy try to create facades of righteousness that has never truly existed in this dirty drama. There will never be any righteousness in making youngsters who smoke pot into felons and force them into dangerous situations wearing a wire. What would their parents think? Wouldn’t they prefer just about any punishment at all compared to them wiring up and busting drug dealers, having no training and no aptitude for the task?
So what is the immediate truth? What is reality? Cue it up. Knock down the scenery. Open up the bare stage and stand on your own spot. Speak.
An unholy quartet of cold-blooded narcs have long intimidated, coerced, manipulated and threatened students and other young people who have done no more than share their herb stash.
They offer deals that the Godfather couldn’t match. On the one hand, get your college career and your future dashed, drench your family with pain and suffering and go to the notorious Parchman prison. Or else become one of the tortured young souls who have taken on the impossible task of busting 10 of their friends and acquaintances who trust them. Since they likely know only one or two possible friends to betray, they are effectively in fearful legal bondage to their puppeteers while they search out more victims or suffer the grave (often over-exaggerated) consequences.
There are moral questions here which must confound young minds. How does one serve justice by becoming a deceitful liar, a coward, one who betrays all who trust him — to get arrest numbers and to be delivered into the jaws of nagging and constant fear.? Even as the herb is harmless.
Are there professors on campus who could help students with their moral dilemmas? Have they?
With scores of these predatory amateur narcs on campus, the aura turns to fear, loathing, suspicion, acrimony. Who can concentrate on an education when they’re being pressured to find and incriminate 10 fellow students? Wearing a wire can be very dangerous when everybody expects you may be wearing one, but the kids are made to wear one anyway. The puppeteers are up on the catwalk, pulling the strings, as safe as can be.
As these moral and legal issues fester like a boil in this beautiful and desirable city, I feel like someone who actually saw the Holocaust happening but never recognized the horror of it, and didn’t speak out. Even with my bust, I was thinking in terms of a handful of confidential informants and a few cases, not a bloated army of students in bondage.
A Drug War over marijuana? The true reality to be realized in the future is that it’s a nonsensical medical herb oppression. History will record it as a blight on our national consciousness.
The real drug problem is pharmaceuticals; marijuana prohibition is a massive distraction. Who put it there? And how many students have been victimized during my decades away? Why didn’t I speak up then? Well … I would have no credibility. And maybe because I was literally run out of town.
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When Jimmy came to me in in 1990, I saw him as a friend of my daughter since junior high school. He had come over to study with her. I didn’t mind that he said he bought quarter-pounds of weed and shared them with his friends. When he later persuaded me to open my freezer and let him have an ounce since he was out, I considered it a favor and would have been callous and rude to refuse. I bought a false reality.
They wired the transaction and waited most of a year until my daughter graduated. Jimmy was there at the ceremonies, but didn’t want to be in any pictures.
I had called him looking for weed twice over these weeks but he said he had none. Perhaps this indicated to the authorities that I wasn’t a drug dealer, but they had a false reality to maintain. The five-column headlines in the Clarion Ledger must have pleased them. It showed they were getting results with a really big bust which illustrates the seriousness of the problem. They likely got more money and authority based on this one case. It would be laughable if it all didn’t stink so bad.
It was a fact that I had made the transfer. And it was indeed a felony. So I was soon gone from Oxford, living in Cincinnati and ironically getting a pay increase for writing corporate speeches and marketing copy and staging multi-media shows. Just a writer, for clients such as P&G, Lenscrafters, Cintas, RCA and General Electric.
False reality: Life is ruined. True reality: I’ve had years of great experiences in the Midwest, including five years as public relations director at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
I’m no victim and I think victimhood can be a false reality perpetrated upon oneself. I was, in fact, inspired to action by my bust. It was the threshold to a new and rewarding life. Go figure.
I was a legalization fighter in the 1990s, and vice president of Cincinnati NORML. I gave fiery speeches at rallies. I carried Joe, our AIDS stricken president to Frankfurt, where we had Dr. Lester Grinspoon, dean of the Harvard Medical School, deliver facts at a medical marijuana symposium. I saw sick people like Joe disdain their plethora of reviled pharmaceuticals with deleterious side effects, and maintain that marijuana, and a couple more prescriptions was all they needed. Overmedication is a serious problem, believe it or not.
Joe finally wasted away and died at his parents’ home in Indiana, but marijuana eased his suffering, quelled his nausea, stimulated his appetite and kept his mood courageous and hopeful.
I also worked for Gatewood Galbraith when he ran for governor in Kentucky, lobbied the legislature on behalf of agricultural hemp and celebrated the effort with the incomparable Willie Nelson at a Lexington concert. He and Gatewood traveled about in an automobile fueled by hemp oil.
Today, Willie is poised to open a nationwide chain of dispensaries that will sell organic marijuana — guaranteed free of the pesticides with which business interests will no doubt plan to use on their crops. Starbuck’s and others are already setting up national chains. CostCo has it bagged up for sale, like salad greens.
Of course, any modicum of optimism we had in Kentucky was shattered as a false reality by a real one. Money may be the ultimate reality. Gatewood got only about 21,000 votes in his second Gubernatorial race, and many marijuana growers did not support him.
This may seem ironic, but the implied reality of a government regulated crop was not desirable. In rural Kentucky counties, hometown growers and hometown police want to bring money into the area and absolutely don’t want the government in their business with taxes and regulations. They don’t want their friends and neighbors arrested; they want them to be successful. They care about their communities much more than national drug laws and the often reviled and mistrusted federal government. Busting family marijuana farmers with military helicopters has given much of rural America just one more reason to despise the feds.
Common sense is often your best tool to find true reality beyond the imposters. Most people’s realities are tied closely to their profits and their power, no matter which side of the onerous Drug War they’re on. It can be arrest numbers to get more funding, or it can be income to finally buy that fishing boat.
My probation officer in Oxford was taciturn. He took it all in stride, and got paid. It’ll be legal, he said, when they figure out how to make money on it.
With that now done, legalization is on the way at a rapid pace. Now comes a greater battle — to master the mass production, whip the market competition, drive out the small operators, get your operation on the Fortune 500 — the massive stench of competitive capitalism.
Medical science is now enthralled and excited about the miracle plant that has been under our noses for so many years, vilified while countless people suffered and died, demonized by a conspiracy during the Nixon-Ford administrations that gave exclusive rights to the pharmaceutical giants, denied research assistance to universities wanting to study it, and launched a War On Drugs to stamp out the plant and arrest its users who could grow it for free.
The strategy was simple. Keep it from the public by law. Develop proprietary products and get rich. It was all reportedly launched out of a University of Virginia research project to determine the extent of lung damage from marijuana smoke. Surprise! Instead, they found that it actually shrinks lung tumors. It required a whole new strategy for the elite.
Why did Big Pharma fail to produce anything of great value? For one thing, the natural plant has long proven to be the most reliable and safest form, with self-regulating doses, and the cannabinoids within all working together. Expect Big Pharma to battle that truth vehemently with the same lies they used for years in their misguided Drug War fiasco.
They will want to make something safe that’s been safe for at least 13,000 years. They will want to sell you synthetic imitations they’ve parsed for profit, and squeeze out the family farmers and merchants just like they’ve always done. They had just as soon you indulge in such as Oxycontin and Xanax instead, the addictive and dangerous drugs they developed while they were sitting on cannabis all these years.
This all plays out right down the community level in Mississippi too.
These bootlegged prescription drugs, and especially crystal meth, have been a scourge in Calhoun County. I wonder if the other 81 counties are like this one — with plenty of product availability, plenty of busts, jails filled up, the same hapless and broke people being recycled endlessly through the courts where the county extracts money from them. Law enforcement is the county’s money maker and the Drug War is its cash cow.
There are reportedly 42,000 arrests a year in Mississippi for marijuana offenses alone. Meantime, the state is awash in pills and powders and a multi-million dollar source of law enforcement income for the counties. The tab goes mostly to the county’s most forlorn and miserable people. Arguably, when you arrest 42,000 people you’re likely turning many of them from taxpayers into welfare recipients.
Three races live together here, each with their own trafficking. The Mexican cartels bring in weed called ‘reggie’ or regular. More potent varieties have come onto the scene, called “loud.” The first is maybe $100 or less an ounce; the latter runs maybe $100 per quarter-ounce, and a lot of it is sold in eighths and less.
There are and will be drug busts of all kinds in all of our counties. Alcohol is still illegal in Calhoun, as well, but there are county-line stores which put drinkers out on the road. None of this will go away. And now I am hearing that heroin is making its way strongly into rural America as well.
I don’t see any fair and sensible program to make it all go away, as long as most people ignore it, and law enforcement is operating it like a business. I hope the revelations that shame us today will lead to more enlightened policies and wise administrators going forward. I doubt that it will; the facade builders are incessant and devious.
At this point as the issue boils on, I was disappointed to hear the Oxford mayor’s initial defense of the narcotics unit’s excesses. He seemed to believe that these tactics were necessary to keep Oxford from turning into a hellhole drug den. On the contrary, there are college towns across the country where marijuana use has become prevalent. The quality of living is high and they are listed among our most desirable cities — Bloomington, Indiana; Boulder, Eugene, Seattle, Portland, Asheville, the charming Yellow Springs, Ohio, and up and down California. Many smoke weed; who cares? Peace. Thankfully, the Mayor is now taking a ‘harder look.’
Oxford could become a much more desirable community if we can get rid of these overzealous drug warriors who corrupt our young people and fight dragons that exist mostly in their minds. They need to be repudiated and closed down. And Mississippi needs to move forward to give its children and young people a better future. With the immediate concerns, here are some ideas.
* Take the high road and disdain the C.I. practice completely. Our leaders bought false realities and didn’t see the true reality of this cruel and heartless operation. Admit it and do something about it. Close it down and brace yourself for some legal repercussions in the months and years ahead. Clean up your act before the courts do.
Then, let’s turn chicken crap into chicken salad. Use our righteous indignation energy to do something positive — give our young people in the state a reason to stay here, an economic future. They have never had this. And they’re not going to tolerate this grievous and ill-advised persecution when opportunities abound elsewhere and not here.
• Join the parade of states decriminalizing marijuana and developing medical marijuana programs. Our College of Pharmacy and the University Medical Center could establish a new and different donor base which is focused on curing illnesses and not prohibiting medicines. If they are based on finding plant medicines and they ignore this one, they’re going to look pretty silly.
• Develop hemp farming operations to rejuvenate the Delta and make it prosperous again.
• Medical marijuana will include both outdoor and greenhouse operations. Help them be profitable and produce clean crops. County Extension Service agents can lend a hand . Seek export opportunities in time.
• Mississippi State University agricultural researchers can pursue funding for studies in crop cultivation, pesticide use, variations in strains and their properties. We are behind on all of this but can catch up.
• Use business tax revenues to put in treatment centers for crystal meth and pharmaceutical addicts. Set up a compassionate care program for old folks with chronic pain and nervous disorders to get what they need without being embroiled in the Drug War.
• Establish a state-owned growing facility that provides medical marijuana for elderly citizens who can’t afford it. Develop research studies on cannabis medicines for the elderly.
• Use displaced narcotics agents in a new task force to determine why there are hardcore drugs and illegal guns in every Mississippi county. They can send in their own trained and hardened undercover agents and leave our kids out of it. This would be a better use of their time.
• Simultaneously, with marijuana tax revenues, set up a task force to investigate corruption in the 82 county sheriff’s offices. With the drug situation worsening rather than improving, hundreds of rumors and reports of complicity need to be investigated. Officers caught in corruption should be coerced into going to distant counties to work undercover. They have been mentoring our children into the quagmire for years. I’m sure they know how to do it themselves and that they consider it a useful tactic. This could be a productive use of Karma.
As we watch all this unfold, I see this as true: Some people think reality is just what they assume. In response, assumptions can be deadly. I would always suggest looking for a deeper reality in a world where people are self-centered, self-serving and self-absorbed, and anxious to make some money.
I believe that reality evolves like everyone and everything else. Deeper insights will replace old ones when we’re ready for them — if we are open to them. I finally learned that snitches are victims too.
I learned that 45 years of constant marijuana smoking has left me, at 77, with good health and no prescription medications. My doctor uses his new hand-held palm gadget to plug in my figures and announce that my heart is actually 14 years younger than I am.
He and several other Florida doctors I know are okay with legalization and 58 percent of Floridians voted for it last year. It fell short of the 60 percent needed to actually change the Constitution, which was the legal strategy used by Tea Party Governor Rick Scott to beat it with only 42 percent of the vote.
My optician is okay with my not taking a glaucoma test since I smoke weed. She says it’s true that it releases ocular pressure and is a strong glaucoma preventive. It’s only temporary, she warns, but she adds “just keep doing what you’re doing.” It seems I would have to smoke it every day or so to prevent glaucoma, but I would simply have to rise to the task. That’s how you take medicines at any rate.
History will record that the era of marijuana prohibition was a corrupt and dismal failure, shattering many lives. It will be prescribed by doctors across the country. This will be the new reality and we need to be ready for it.
These thoughts were still ringing in my head when I walked down to my driveway to confront a few young men. I rent one of them a room.
Call him Studmuffin. He is handsome and well muscled, with broad shoulders. His pants are appropriately hanging an inch or two below his plaid undershorts. He has hard and direct eyes. He commands his role. He still looks like the Calhoun City Wildcats football star from a few years back.
He has a beautiful black woman friend, well-dressed, employed in some kind of professional office, a graduate of Ole Miss with a lovely little daughter. She smiles coyly in her pink ribbons and likes to play with toy cars with flashing lights. He is helping her get an apartment in Oxford.
There is a .38 automatic lying of all places in my monkey grass. Symbolic or what?
“Don’t you need to put a wrapper on that piece?”
“Naw, it ain’t against the law to carry in Mississippi.” He was going on and on about that dubious assertion but I wasn’t listening.
“You’re smoking weed right out here in my front yard.”
“Naw, they can’t tell. See …. I got it rolled just like a cigarillo. See … you can’t tell the difference.” He takes a hit. “Looks just like a cigar,” he announced.
He thinks he’s smarter than my advice. He proudly shows off the laser scope on his piece. You better watch your ass, I recommend.
“Naw, it’s (so-and-so) that better watch his ass.” Comes a stream of vulgarity, words best unreported. “They had him for all kinds of shit and suddenly he’s right back on the streets. That don’t make no sense.” “Yeah, (so-and-so) is another one — lying scumbag piece of shit.” “That black motherfucker gonna wind up toes-up.”
I thought about it some more. Narcs turn young pot smokers into the most despicable players in the game, objects of hate. They wear a wire like an albatross around their necks, in the company of people who despise snitches and are always suspicious of wires. This is insanity. I’m even more convinced of it.
And the atmosphere on any college campus is benign compared to the underbelly of culture that permeates Mississippi. It’s meaner out on these dirt roads. There are more guns, more hard drugs, more racists, a huge“fuck it” attitude toward society and plenty of alienation and violence to go around. Most college kids would be innocent babes in these woods.
What should you do if arrested then? “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime,” said another guy at another time. “Stand up like a man and don’t rat out your friends. If you don’t, then fuck your ass. You get what’s coming to you.”
The underworld code is clear and simple, unlike the tortured confusion of a young man who is trying to save himself from ruin by being a deceitful betrayer of friends. There are now reports of a C.I. who didn’t manage to stay out of Parchman. He was raped and beaten and is now dead.
Another got all his teeth knocked out. Another got shot flush in the face and his killer is now in Parchman. Another sinks into depression and commits suicide. Others run from the state and won’t come back. Revelations continue. Revulsion rises.
Within two days, my young renter friend is busted. Somehow, he was stopped for a broken taillight. That was either dumb or — sabotage. No, don’t laugh at that.
Seems the roach in the ashtray looked like weed, not a cigar at all. They always say they smell it anyway. Cops found a gun with a red laser scope, some weed, some crystal meth, some paraphernalia.
“Damned!” I said. “He’s really a good kid, trying to make ends meet. Will they try to make him a C.I. to stay out of prison?”
I am assured that on this first offense he’ll be eligible to join the Drug Court program. All he has to do is say he’s an ‘addict’ to qualify. This avoids prison.
It’s a foregone lie. It’s a false reality. It’s a Godfather proposition you can’t refuse.
But like other false realities, it can work very well for you, especially when a large majority of the people just aren’t paying attention.
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Editor’s note: JIM CLEVELAND is retired from a wide ranging career in journalism, public relations and marketing and has since written and published 10 books of fiction, new spirituality and lyrical poetry. He and the Mark Austin Band have recorded 11 CDs of music and spiritual poetry.
His latest books are a collection of serio-comic, satirical and spiritual writings called Sauntering Through Apocalypse and a sci-fi philosophical novel, Lucifer’s Gardens. He is working on South of Yoknapawpha, a photographic and poetic memoir of the Mississippi Flatwoods.
He owns and manages the new Mississippi Mushroom Quest, a farm and research center which grows gourmet Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms. He is a student of new spirituality and chairs the Teaching Mission Network, which promotes daily Stillness practice and celestial upreach in relation to Urantia Book spirituality.
He maintains residences in Calhoun City, Mississippi, and in Deerfield Beach, Florida.