Cannabis users have long been characterized in popular culture as lazy and unmotivated, or even as completely apathetic and unintelligent individuals. Some would make a distinction between a “pothead” and a “stoner,” noting that the word “Pothead is a derogatory term used to describe one who is essentially addicted to, and obsessed with, marijuana. This dependence manifests in their appearance, thought processes, behaviors, and speech.”
Though there are differences in classifications and others may argue that “A Stoner, however, is one who defies the ‘prototypical’ wastrel image proposed by mainstream society. These individuals enjoy cannabis on a daily basis, but are clandestine about its use, maintaining this sense of secrecy because of the stigma attached by the hegemonic majority,” as the two definitions are compared in the hilariously pertinent Urban Dictionary.
Then there are those who primarily utilize the cannabis plant for its medicinal qualities, and having concerns about their personal health, they probably care more about wellness than intoxication. And although these goals don’t necessarily need to be mutually exclusive, society seems more comfortable keeping them segregated as such. This is evident in how medicinal marijuana legislation typically comes before any other legalization efforts in the United States. First the general public accepts the idea of using cannabis as medicine, and when that proves to be socially and economically viable, then the use of recreational cannabis becomes much more palatable.
There are so many uses for cannabis, and it is a shame that America has suffered under the prohibition of this herb for so long. Aside from it’s purpose as a pleasant intoxicant, appetite stimulant, and remedy for a wide variety of ailments, the oil and seeds from hemp, a very close relative to cannabis, is a great source of nutrition, such as essential fatty acids, and protein. As many know, cannabis grown as industrial hemp can be sustainably utilized for fabric, textiles, paper, and even fuel, among many other things as. So, the fact that cannabis has been misnamed as marijuana and classified as a Schedule I drug by the DEA is not only a disservice to humanity, it is a social injustice.
The pathways we’ve taken to addressing the injustice of prohibition have taken various forms. Petition drives, ballot initiatives, legislative actions, protests and even pleas from patients and advocates alike have all been working together to inch toward decriminalizing cannabis. One strong ally in the fight and advocate for medical marijuana is the well known former talk show host Montel Williams. Recently, during the summer of 2015, he was promoting efforts for the legalization of medical cannabis in Pennsylvania, as he himself has been a MMJ patient ever since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999. Since then he’s been telling his story and working to help legalize medical marijuana all around the country.
Another focus that Montel Williams has taken to task as of late is a major issue of social justice. Being that Williams is a veteran of the Marine Corps and U.S. Navy, he’s been particularly outspoken about the imprisonment of detained Iranian American Marine, Amir Hekmati. According to the Washington Post, “Williams has advocated regularly for another one of the American prisoners released, Amir Hekmati, 32, a Marine Corps veteran who was taken prisoner in Iran while visiting the country in 2011. Iranian officials accused him of being a spy, but his family has maintained that he was there visiting his grandmother.”
Hekmati has since been released, but only very recently, and not without some political posturing by Republican critics such as New Jersey governor and presidential candidate, Chris Christie. Because Hekmati and three others were released in a “prisoner swap” deal that President Obama made, Christie took the opportunity to criticize the President’s decision, saying “This is not a guy I would let negotiate buying a car for me, let alone anything else. He makes bad deals and seems to become an expert at making bad deals with the Iranians.” To this, Mr. Williams could only say, “Sit the hell down and shut up!”
Though it’s not surprising that a man like Christie who thinks marijuana is a “gateway drug,” and seems doubtful of the legitimacy of medical marijuana all together, would criticize the deal that was made to free several American citizens in order to take the opportunity to play politics, it is still troubling. This seems to be the main mode of operation among many of the Republican presidential candidates and unfortunately it leads to a lot of time being wasted with not much of anything being accomplished among our governmental leadership. Perhaps they all could use a little dose of cannabis to open their minds up just a bit.
But it is heartening to see successful efforts being made to free political prisoners such as Amir Hekmati, and also recent actions that have been made to release prisoners incarcerated for drug offenses in our country. With a growing number of outspoken activists, some celebrities like Montel Williams, some not, who are vying for the legalization of medical marijuana and even the full decriminalization of cannabis, it seems as though the prohibition of the cannabis sativa plant is both inspiration for social justice action and a great cause for activism itself. As perceptions of those who partake in the herb evolve and progress, our presumptions about what it means to do so will be reformed as well. And out of that transmutation, we’re likely to see a new ethos emerge that is culturally sensitive, globally aware, locally active, and committed to social change and transformation.