Discover the Wonderful World of Cannabis


Lee Bridges, Cannabis Poet

By: skip

Lee Bridges, The Cannabis Poet

Hip Profile: Lee Bridges,
The Cannabis Poet

by Skip Stone

No one believes Amsterdam
Will ever stop swinging when
So much real freedom is truly
Felt, especially in the smoking
Coffeeshops where tensions and
Hostilities melt and
What a beautiful scene

The Scene (Part C)
Copyright 2000 by Lee Bridges

Hip Trip: Philosopher, poet, cannabis activist, former soft drug smuggler.

Grooves on: fine clothes, good company, red wine & black hash.

Amsterdam has always been a refuge for those whose politically incorrect ideas have exiled them from their home country. A few of these include Rene Descartes, Voltaire and Karl Marx. Today, Amsterdam is awash with a new wave of ex-patriat artists and writers seeking literary and creative freedom in the aftermath of 9/11. The scene here is reminiscent of Paris in the 30’s and 40’s when Hemingway and Gertrude Stein held court in cafes and private salons.

Today’s refugees seek solace and fellowship in Amsterdam’s numerous brown pubs and smoke filled coffeeshops, where Alice B. Toklas would’ve felt at home. So it was no surprise when I finally met Lee Bridges, a man whose life and art revolves around such establishments, at the Greenhouse Coffeeshop. Here I found a soul brother. A man who feels the inspiration and creative energy permeating Amsterdam’s more famous cannabis hangouts. Lee, dubbed the "Cannabis Poet" by those who recognize his unique contribution to both poetry and cannabis activism, is quite a character.

On the Amsterdam scene since the early ’60s, Lee "bridges" the gap between the last great wave of writers, philosophers and artists with the new wave, recently arrived. At age 74, he is well respected by much of this younger generation.

Born in Georgia, Lee took off to the big city, New York, in the 1940s, as soon as he could, to dig the scene happening there in those Post WWII days. He hungout in jazz venues occasionally playing sax & clarinet in jam sessions around Harlem. Later, Lee traveled around with a big carnival band.

Lee went to night school to study English & creative writing. He found himself broke in Amsterdam in 1963, so he started doing poetry readings in the cafes. Later, in Paris, he formed a group called "Contacts" which combined Lee’s poetry with background music and a folksinger who sang during the breaks.

Lee loves to talk story and will tell you about his vagabond youth and his drug smuggling days back in the 70s, with tales from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan that harken back to the golden age of hashish dens along the famous hippie trail. Lee has been caught smuggling hashish into Europe and spent time in a French jail as a result.

With those days far behind him, he can now recall them without fear or worry that he might get into trouble. He’s a man who’s paid his dues, and now demands respect and tolerance. And living in Amsterdam, surrounded by friends he gets plenty!

Lee is an elderstatesman among the cannabis set. His 55 years of cannabis consumption haven’t dulled his wit nor his sense of humor at all. In fact, his regular use of the substance keeps him focused on the beauty of the "moment". Like a skinny, black buddha, Lee’s presence has a subtle influence on those around him. His beautiful resonant voice draws you in then whisks you away on an exotic, mesmerizing journey.

His stories easily capture the imagination of the stoned, while his poetry reaches into every soul’s sense of wonderment and revelation. Lee is fond of saying " WWWHHHOOOoooeee!", which pretty much sums up his perceptions of life’s dark alleyways as well as it’s breathtaking beauty.

Like Allen Ginsberg (his contemporary in NYC), Lee Bridges sees life as a stark reality of desire and despair occasionally mitigated by peace and contentment. Yet, like Buddha, he knows it’s all in your head.

In fact
I don’t even want
To stop hanging out
Looking out for new
Smoke and, new folk
And, just plain old
Having fun, because
Every day you wake
Up, means that every
Day is won

A Sure Thing
Copyright 2000 by Lee Bridges

His outspoken opinions on cannabis use, as a social and spiritual phenomenon, makes him an activist if not an outright promoter of the plant. Lee sees cannabis as a bridge to finding your true self, and as a non-aggressive alternative to alcohol consumption. His strongly held convictions are echoed in his poetry.

And you might be wondering if
You are, in fact, smoking enough

K.O. Koffieshop
Copyright 2000 by Lee Bridges

His Amsterdam poetry is evocative, yet gritty. Lee plays with the city’s urban contrasts like sinful pleasures and junkie despair. Yet his love of the city and it’s people comes blazing through the wet and gray.

WWWHHHOOOoooeee! What wonder!
The ladies of love reposing in
Rose hued windows of innumerable
Quickie retreats of pleasure and
A mere stroll thru the good time
District is a real treat, altho
Many find it too offbeat, saying
There’re too many whores, too
Much drinking, too much smoking
Of cannabis, in fact, far too
Much of everything for a normal
Soul to endure

From: Tourist Guide
Copyright 2000 by Lee Bridges

The Cannabis Poet is that rare combination of artist, activist, humanitarian and philosopher who finds inspiration and beauty even in life’s darkest corners.

Lee’s books of Poetry include:
1. The Cannabis Poet (photo above)
2. Oh Amsterdammers! Oh Amsterdammers!
3. Whew!
4. Wwwwwwoooweee!

Note: This 74 year old poet delights many a coffeeshop visitor with tales of Amsterdam, it’s people and of course, marijuana!

UPDATE: Mr. Lee Bridges, the Cannabis Poet, has now sadly passed away.

Lee’s Autobiography, "Me, Two" was published just prior to his passing. All Lee’s books are now out-of-print.

Views: 5959

Tom Cruise Purple – Latest Cannabis Strain!

By: skip

Tom Cruise isn’t getting any giggles from a new strain of medical marijuana being marketed as "Tom Cruise Purple."

Word is that the actor’s lawyers are taking a serious look at the strong brand of bud after we brought it to their attention.

One of Cruise’s friends found it "outrageous" that licensed cannabis clubs in Northern California are selling vials of pot featuring a picture of Cruise laughing hysterically.

Like other followers of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, Cruise is opposed to the use of psychotropic drugs.

Staffers at several California clinics we called said they were forbidden to discuss any of the herbal varieties in their "inventory."

But one weed devotee said, "I heard it’s the kind of pot that makes you hallucinate."

Source: NY Daily News

Views: 6215

John Sinclair Once Again Calls for Legalization of Marijuana

By: skip

ANN ARBOR, Mich., April 6 (UPI) — Noted poet John Sinclair, speaking at the annual Hash Bash at the University of Michigan, called for the legalization of marijuana.

While the annual pro-marijuana event on the university was minimized to a mere half-hour this year due to a conflict with another student group’s program, Sinclair used that time to promote the drug’s legalization, The Ann Arbor (Mich.) News reported Saturday.

"People want drugs," Sinclair told the assembled crowd of as many as 2,000 students. "They want to get high … Because it’s all good."

Sinclair gained notoriety at the university for a 1971 "Free John Sinclair" rally held on campus following a marijuana conviction by the poet. He was immortalized in the John Lennon song, "John Sinclair". Sinclair is also noted as being the manager for the breakthru band, MC5.

The newspaper said there was one arrest for disorderly conduct and no tickets were issued for marijuana use during this year’s gathering.

Views: 6306

Interview With Ed Rosenthal

By: skip

UPDATE: June 5, 2003 – Ed is FREE!

Ed Rosenthal was sentenced yesterday to ONE DAY in prison and was released on time served already. He was also fined $1300. This is a HUGE victory for Ed and pot smokers & growers & medical marijuana users everywhere!

Please note: On Jan. 31, 2003, Ed was convicted of marijuana cultivation despite the fact that he was granted permission by the City of Oakland to do just that (a fact that was witheld from the jury). Read more about Ed’s Trial

Please support Ed in his fight for Medical Marijuana Rights!

Interview with Ed Rosenthal
by Skip Stone

This is the first in a series of interviews with fascinating people who live in or frequently visit Amsterdam and Holland.

SS: Ed, how long have you been studying and writing about growing marijuana?
ER: I’ve been studying about plants since I was 11 years old and about marijuana since I was 21 (about 35 years ago).

SS: How has the science of growing advanced over the years? What are the hot new technologies and where are they being tested and employed?
ER: It went from growing large plants in soil outdoors, to the "Sea of Green" methods growing smaller plants indoors, using special plant soil mixes and hydroponically and that’s a major change. Using CO2 with sensors and sodium lamps is ten-year old technology and there has been no real advances in growing since then. The new technology is not so much in growing right now as in using the plant material and by-products, like hash production from the leaf, vaporizers and sublingual methods rather than smoking. Before people would throw away their leaf. Now they realize it’s a valuable product."

SS: Do you favor legalization or decriminalization?
ER: I’m for total legalization, but it won’t happen until 2005, after the Bush presidency.

SS: Have you ever felt persecuted for your marijuana advocacy?
ER: Every marijuana user is persecuted, in every country in the world.

SS: Do you believe that pot is stronger now than before (more THC content), or is it just that we’re more selective about what we are willing to smoke?
ER: There are cultivation techniques that can give you a higher percentage of THC in a plant, but nobody’s using it. (Ed hints that this is one of his upcoming projects along with marketing his custom designed soil mixtures).

SS: Is smoking the more concentrated forms of cannabis like hashish healthier?
ER: The purer the form of THC, and the less vegetative material you smoke the better off you are. That’s why vaporizers are so important!

SS: Vaporizers are cleaner, but I feel there’s something missing when you use a vaporizer.
ER: What’s missing is your learned behavior. Because you have certain signals that indicate to you that you’re about to get high. Like Pavlov’s dog, you’ve been trained that when you get a hit in your lungs, you recognize that that’s the first step to getting high. And you’re missing those indications when you’re dealing with the vaporizer. Because you don’t get that heavy smoke into your lungs that gives you the signal "time to get high.
SS: Are you sure it’s not just the usual oxygen depravation which occurs when you smoke weed the normal way that is missing from vaporizing?
ED: It could be that or the fact that some vaporizers don’t work very well.

Note: Vaporizers are supposed to heat cannabis only until the point at which the THC vaporizes, without burning the plant itself. This is supposed to be healthier with far less tars and other toxic gases being released.

Ed is impressed with a new method of water extraction that yields more hash than just bubble bags alone. Ed and I had recently visited Mila Jansen, the inventor of the Pollinator, a machine resembling a tumble dryer that knocks the THC off the plant and onto a screen for producing hashish. She demonstrated a new technique using an old style Dutch washing machine, the kind with a top lid that opens onto a rotating steel drum with another door inside. She explained her technique which is similar to using just bubble bags, but once she’s done adding water and ice, she just sets it to program "B". That’s it. Just push a button on the washer and eventually you have Ice-o-Lator hashish! And very pure I might add. Mila says this yields 30% more product than the bubble bags.

SS: I love this bubble (Ice-o-Lator) hash. (I’m waving the bag in front of Ed). I’m a hash connoseiur from way back!
ER: Um… I’d be willing to smoke some, by the way…
SS: Oh, I’m soooo sorry! I’m such a bad host. We’re a half hour into this interview and I haven’t even offered you a bowl! Here you go Ed. (I hand Ed my stash of Mila’s Ice-o-Lator hash and a waterpipe.) We laugh and continue to discuss this new Ice-o-Lator hash technology as Ed takes a deep hit and coughs.
ER: Soon washing machines are going to be illegal! (laughter). I wanna see the new Maytag Ads!

We chuckle as we each picture the lonely Maytag repair man getting stoned on Ice-o-Lator hash waiting for the phone to ring….

SS: They’re gonna have to put a new setting on the machine.
ER: Yeah, ice!
SS: And they should have a special rinse cycle for cannabis!

SS: Do you think this is now the most potent hash available?
ER: Not really. When you get just the glands, it forms into a hard hash ball. When you put fire to it, it liquifies and doesn’t reharden. You can refine this further.
SS: And you can also remove any mold present in the pot.
ER: Yes, the mold is water soluable so it goes out.

SS: In the states, an extract like this, legally it’s not considered the same as marijuana anymore. It comes under much heavier penalties.
ER: You know it’s much, much more dangerous! You know 10 times as many people have died from hash as from marijuana last year. (he says with a knowing smile).
SS: Yeah, Zero! It’s horrible stuff! (laughter).

SS: Do your kids smoke?
ER: My son told me many times that he’ll never use pot. He’s graduating as president of his senior class and is going to an Ivy League college.
SS: So why doesn’t he smoke?
ER: He says ‘Just look at you and your friends!’ (We look at each other and crack up laughing!).

SS: So do you recommend that parents get involved with cannabis to ensure that their kids go to Ivy league schools? (more laughter).
ER: I know people who say ‘I used to hide it from my parents, now I hide it from my kids’. If you’re hypocritical or lie to your kids, they’ll know it. So you might as well be upfront with them and share your knowledge and experience. When they know you’re going to be honest with them, they will seek your guidance.

SS: Do you find the pot industry to be dominated by men?
ER: Pot is especially dominated by men. Something like 70% of all pot smokers are male. The percentage of (male) growers in even higher. I think I would’ve been better off as a rock and roll star! I would’ve still had drugs but much more sex! (laughter). "I’m real popular with high school guys," Ed laments.

SS: If you could have it your way, how would you integrate marijuana with an enlightened society?
ER: It’s a soporific. It will lose it’s cult appeal when it’s legal. Marijuana makes people feel more individualistic.

Ed is very active in seeking to raise awareness of the medical uses of cannabis. I asked Ed about the case now before the Supreme Court, that pits the Oakland Cannabis Club against the U.S. government. Ed was there for the presentation of the oral arguments by the lawyers for the club and the government. The main issue being considered is whether a Club can distribute marijuana based upon medical necessity despite it being against federal law. If the court rules in favor of the Club, or allows the appeals court decision (in favor) to stand, it could remove the primary obstacle against medical marijuana in the U.S., the federal law which states that marijuana is not a medicine.

Note: This case has now been decided against the Oakland Cannabis Club, but the ruling was narrowly applied to growing and distributing, as not being justified by medical necessity (this doesn’t apply to possessing and using). So while it didn’t provide the breakthrough many were hoping, it still has had virtually no effect on the situation in California. According to Ed, there are now 35 medical marijuana clubs or more in the Bay area.

Referring to the California situation, Ed says "The state is between a rock and a hard place. It must try to enforce an unenforcible law (prop. 215), which is very unpopular. A couple of jury trials going for the defendent could crash those walls down."

When asked about the European scene, Ed sees Switzerland’s relatively lax laws on growing as being a boon to growers there. Already Switzerland is supplying a good portion of Europe’s cannabis. This year has seen laws decriminalizing the use and possession of marijuana take effect in Belgium and Portugal, with enforcement of existing laws declining in the U.K and Germany. And now Canada has acted to legalize the use of medical marijuana.

I asked Ed if he thought marijuana could replace alcohol’s role in society. He pointed out that the Dutch experiment proved that cannabis results in less aggression and criminal activity than alcohol. Marijuana is far less harmful to society than currently acceptable social drugs like alcohol and tobacco. But is society ready to accept it as a legal recreational activity?

Ed Rosenthal, the Guru of Ganja, has been teaching the ins and outs of marijuana cultivation for over 18 years through columns in magazines like High Times and now Cannabis Culture. He’s the author of many books (over 1 million sold) on marijuana growing, including the Marijuana Grower’s Handbook.

Click Image for more info.

Ed is a member of the ICRS, the International Cannabis Research Society. It meets this year in Barcelona, Spain.

Click Image for more info.

Ed hosts the ‘420 Report,’ a radio show on KPFA, a SF bay area station that’s part of the Pacifica group (you can listen on the internet at It airs the last Wednesday of every month and includes news, a discussion of the issues, a calendar of events and an Ask Ed segment where Ed answers questions about growing.

Ed’s current project is ‘The Big Book of Buds’ A collection of outstanding photos from the world’s great seed breeders. Look for his new book around Christmas.

Click Image for more info.

Views: 2913

Interview with Joop the Crystalman

By: skip

Mr. Trip and I recently had the pleasure of meeting Joop the Crystalman, whose incredible macro-photographs of cannabis THC tricomes adorn many a wall in the Cannabis College, grow shops, headshops and coffeeshops in Amsterdam. His work has also appeared in many cannabis magazines. Joop is a very engaging fellow, who approaches his advocation with great enthusiasm.

To view more of his wonderful work, please visit his website at

MT: What made you interested in taking pictures of marijuana so close up and tiny?

Joop: In 1983 I was a roadie with musicians, making a 6 week tour through Holland. One of the boys, he smoked pot. I was 35 years old and that was my first time. I had a good night’s sleep. Then I buy a small packet of marijuana. There were 30-35 seeds in there. So I put it in the ground. And it was good marijuana. And I made pictures of the seeds as they grew. I can show you the first photo I took…

(Joop proceeds to find the photo of his first seeds sprouting in 1983)

And when the plant grows and makes flowers, I take some more photos. I take a loupe, and I look at the crystals and I wonder, what is that? I don’t know what it is. It was so pretty, that I want to LIVE in the crystals! It’s a different world.

So that’s how I started the photos.

Skip: Were you a photographer before you took these photos?

Joop: No, I only took photos of my wife and children.

(he shows us more close-up photos of the inside of the female flower with resin just beginning to form.)

MT: So you have fun playing with colored filters?

Joop: I play with colors, with mirrors.

Skip: Are you developing these yourself?

Joop: No, it’s too much for me.

MT: Do you shoot slide film?

Joop: Yes, I shoot slides, then I take an inter-negative. Then you can make prints from that.

Skip: So you have a microscope that you’re using? Your camera fits on the microscope or you have a special lens that fits on the camera?

Joop: No, I have a projection microscope. (he shows us an amazing device that is part microscope, part projector.) It has a 250 watt bulb. The image comes out onto the screen.

Skip: So you take a picture of the projection?

Joop: Yes.

Skip: This is very sophisticated. Can I take a picture of this? Unless you don’t want to give up your secrets. After all you’re probably the only person doing this! The projector must be old, about 30 years or so, no?

Joop: I don’t know how old it is.

(Joop shows us his website, which has his close up photos, but also some very colorful abstract paintings)

See I make paintings using oil paint. I make a little painting, then I take a photo with the microscope.

Skip: So you’re taking a photo, then you’re painting over it?

MT: No he’s painting on the slide! Then he takes a close-up picture of the paint itself!

Joop: It’s as big as a pinprick! It’s magnified 1200xs.

Skip: And when you take a picture it looks like an abstract painting.

Joop: Yes.

MT: Fabulous.

Skip: So at that magnification, just what are you looking at?

MT: Just the chips of color suspended in the paint.

Skip: So those are the pigments of color in the paint. That IS amazing. It takes a bit of explaining to understand!

(Joop shows us a big blowup of one of his photos on canvas)

Skip: So where have your photos appeared?

Joop: They are published in Germany, in High life and Blast magazines in the Netherlands, and last year in High Times magazine in the August 2000 issue. (Soon it will be in Jorge Cervantes’ Marijuana Indoor Horticulture, the bible of marijuana growing).

MT: You can also see his photos in the Cannabis College.

Joop: Also Canamo magazine from Spain will soon be publishing more pictures of mine.

Skip: Can I take a picture of you?

Joop: With my pipe!

Skip: Oh, I see you smoke it pure! I have some hashish here…

Joop: I make my own! (Joop proceeds to unwrap a small but very sticky piece of black hash). It’s not hard, it’s soft. It’s isolator hash. It’s made with the screen in the bag and then you add ice.

Skip: Oh, we call that bubble hash.

Skip: Do you think there is an intimate relationship between humans and cannabis? Isn’t it like an antidote to the stress of society? It slows us down, and helps us get back in touch with nature, and keep us from killing each other. It’s impossible to be violent while stoned on cannabis.

Joop: My first joint made me understand what is happening around me with my family. It expanded my awareness, and helped me understand what happened to me growing up in my big family with 14 children! When I listened to music I heard EVERYTHING!

Skip: It’s like opening your inner eye for the first time. In our society we don’t have a way of opening it. In primitive societies it was part of a shamanic ritual.

(we all toke up here!).

We are viewing some of Joop’s photos. We start seeing all sorts of objects in the microscopic images.

Skip: That looks like an egg!

MT: It looks like an ovum.

Joop: Can you see the dodo?

Skip: Yes, a Dodo bird with long legs.

Joop: Yes, and you’re looking at pure crystals of THC. Look at this one.

Skip: Is that Jesus in the crystals?

Joop: Jesus? Yes, that’s possible. I see a woman.

Skip: Oh, I see the tits. But I was looking at this and saw long hair and a mustache!

Joop: I’m only thinking about females…

Skip: And I’m not even Christian, so I’m surprised I came up with that.

Joop: If you want to see Jesus, you’ve got to smoke these crystals!

Skip: Yeah, then you’ll see Jesus everywhere! (I’m looking at some great photos of individual tricomes) I love these photos. They’re so clear, you can see right through them, they’re still in their natural state, they haven’t fallen off yet. Their so shiny and alive!

(Joop shows us some more of his microscopic paintings)

Joop: When I make these paintings, I don’t even know what I’m making! I must search under the microscope to see what I’ve made.

Skip: You’re blowing my mind Joop! Are you doing any image manipulation on computer yet?

Joop: No

Skip: Oh you’re missing out on a lot of fun!

Joop: I have this computer from last year. I’m an old man. I use it only for email and browsing the web, and I made my own website. I don’t understand the language used in the graphic programs.

(we’re looking at more photos now)

Skip: These look like another world. I can see why you’d like to live on this level!

Joop: It’s amazing to live in that world.

Skip: I think it would be very sticky! (we laugh). I think these are the alien worlds. They’re what we can’t see because they’re too small. Yet we interact with them. We affect them, they affect us. Are you taking picture of other things?

Joop: Yes, I have taken such pictures. Would you like to see some?

Skip: You’ve just whetted my appetite to see what else there is in this world that is just beyond our vision.

Joop: Here’s a close-up of bread and here’s my blood. Here is some pure hashish.

Skip: This one is flower pollen! Oh, I hate this shit, it looks like diamonds. They’re sharp! No wonder they bother me.

Joop: Here’s a metal screen from a pipe.

Skip: It looks like a cyclone fence! Hey Joop, how about a taste of that isolator hash? (Joop provides a piece and a pipe I inhale). Oh wow! It bubbles. That’s amazing. So pure. (Joop shows me another microphoto). That looks like a bug! Stuck on something.

Joop: On the crystal.

MT: It’s a fly.

Joop: A very small fly!

MT: He’s stoned!

Joop shows us more photos.

Skip: This photo looks like something out of Hieronymous Bosch!

MT: This looks like crystal balls, and that looks like little people walking around! (we all laugh).

Joop: This one looks like a storm.

MT: This looks like Jupiter. Here’s monumental building of some sort.

Skip: I see a face in this one.

MT: I see a face in the clouds, is it Abraham Lincoln?

Skip: Joop is still seeing girls in these!

MT: He sees chicks everywhere!

Skip: I see one lying down.

Joop: Another person said he sees a uterus. I said maybe this is a baby here.

Skip: Yes, well you ARE taking pictures of female plant parts.

MT: This looks like a bird flying, or the Loch Ness monster.

Joop: I see a gypsy woman here. Here’s a family. This one’s an alien encounter. These pictures are part of an exhibition in the Princenhof, a museum here in town. Next I will have an exhibition in a coffeeshop.

Skip: Your stuff should be hanging in a gallery.

MT: You seem to be having fun with your artwork.

Skip: And success!

Joop: It’s like candy for me.

Skip: It’s good to see an artist at work.

MT: Yes you are an artist!

Joop: I don’t see it. When I was a little boy 2 or 3 years old, I played with blocks. Now I play with color, with mirrors, with crystals, with a camera and projector. I have a lot fun. I usually work in the night, starting at 8pm, finishing at 4am. There’s not so much noise around.

MT: What about your kids don’t they make noise?

Joop: Grand kids!

Skip: Oh you have grandchildren! Congratulations! Did you have a career before you started this photography?

Joop: When I was 15, I became a sailor and went all around the world, South America, Denmark and Sweden, Morocco, the Mediterranean.

Skip: When did you go to Morocco?

Joop: In 1963. I also worked as a truck driver, as a welder, for the post office in Delft for 10 years. I think different and feel different from the other people who work there. The same with my family. I’m the only one who thinks different, feels different, and wants different. What I want is not in my ass, but in my brain, and I do it. Some day I’ll make my own book with crystal pictures.

MT: I think you’d make a beautiful book with your pictures.

Joop: I’m saving now for that.

Views: 4964

Obama and Marijuana

By: skip

New York — Of all the presidential contenders, Barack Obama has been the most forthcoming about his past drug use.

In his biography, he admits to having smoked marijuana, using some cocaine, briefly flirting with the idea of trying heroin (although he never used any) and imbibing a fair amount of alcohol when he was in high school and college.

Quizzed about his past drug use, he confessed to having inhaled the marijuana smoke, unlike Bill Clinton, who when faced with a similar question years ago, claimed that while he had smoked marijuana, he didn’t inhale.

"I inhaled. … That was the point," Obama told New Yorker editor David Remnick.

Obama’s honesty about what he and many other baby boomers did in the ’60s and ’70s, and which some continue to do today, was refreshing, given the general hypocrisy most of our politicians exhibit on the subject. We haven’t heard a peep about marijuana use from Hillary Clinton, though it’s a rare woman her age who hasn’t taken a few tokes. But then Clinton is so cautious that you rarely hear anything real coming from her.

While he’s considerably older than the other candidates, given that John McCain served in Vietnam and spent five years as a prisoner of war, it’s hard to believe that throughout that war and the added strain of his internment, when marijuana and much harder drugs were a favorite balm of U.S. soldiers, that no illegal substances ever touched his lips.

Nor can we expect any admissions from Mike Huckabee, the most avid Christian of the bunch, who has said that illegal drug use is not due to a failure of education, but to a failure of righteousness.

So having Obama admit to his past drug use is a kind of progress. It makes me wonder, should he wind up being our next president, if he would be the one to move this country out of its current drug policy rut. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, in 2005 police arrested almost 800,000 people for marijuana violations, the highest number ever recorded by the FBI. The overwhelming majority of these arrests were for possession only. Nor do the experts I’ve talked to suggest that the increase is in any way related to an increase in marijuana use. It is simply the result of greater harassment, usually of young people, and especially of young blacks, even though the research shows that whites use marijuana at a higher rate.

Queens College sociologist Harry Levine has done research that found that New York City police went on a marijuana arrest binge between 1997 and 2004, when marijuana arrests in the city increased twelvefold. During that time, marijuana use and availability remained largely unchanged. Police are subjecting young blacks and Latinos to arrest and overnight stays in jail, and introducing many who are without criminal records to the criminal justice system for offenses so minor that they don’t even rise to the level of crimes.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission recently approved a slight reduction in the sentencing disparity between powder cocaine-related crimes versus crack-related crimes, but eliminating the remaining disparity is up to Congress. And with a federal ban on the use of marijuana for medical purposes having been upheld by a conservative Supreme Court, federal drug agents continue to harass doctors and patients in the 12 states that have declared such use legal.

Politicians, pandering to public fears, continue to denounce marijuana with the fervor of the 1930s film "Reefer Madness," which claimed that smoking marijuana drove young people crazy, and led to violent crime and promiscuity.

How much of a departure from that outdated, erroneous thinking could we expect from the four front-runners? Not much from McCain, who is as militant about the war on drugs as he is about the war in Iraq. He favors increasing the penalties for selling drugs, the death penalty for drug kingpins, and even restricting the availability of methadone to heroin addicts. While he supports expanding federal education and treatment programs, he opposes making marijuana available for medical reasons.

To his credit, Huckabee, while calling for better patrolling of borders against drug smugglers, also supports drug courts and alternatives to prison for low-level drug offenders and drug addicts.

Clinton has said that, if elected, she would end federal raids on medical marijuana providers, eliminate the sentencing disparity between crack and powered cocaine, and oppose hard time for nonviolent drug offenders.

During one of the debates, Obama raised his hand with the other Democratic candidates when asked if they oppose the decriminalization of marijuana, but his campaign has since said that he supports decriminalization. And he has gone on record as opposing federal raids on medical marijuana providers.

Given his relative youth and his greater distance from older politicians who for years have obsessed over the most minor drug infractions like dogs picking over a bone, Obama may offer the greatest potential for a more enlightened drug policy. But even he has described his youthful dalliance with drugs in an apologetic way, as being a "mistake" during a time of youthful confusion.

It would be interesting, as he campaigns on college campuses, among the young people who have become the rising face of his campaign, if someone asked him:

"Mr. Obama, what exactly are you apologizing for?"

Source: Newsday

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