Written in the 6th century B.C., The Art of War remains the ultimate guide to combat strategy. Sun Tzu explains when and how to engage opponents in order to prevail in difficult situations. Instead of describing the logistics of warfare, he shows how to succeed by motivating and leveraging tactical advantages. In short, he explains how to win the battle of wits. This ancient text should be a must read for everyone in the cannabis reform movement. Let’s make no mistake about it, that is exactly what we are engaged in…war. A senseless war with far too many casualties already, a war that must come to an end.
We can even see from this text how we got here – how ‘they’ have been winning this war for the last 8 decades. This one line really sums it up simply and succinctly. “All warfare is based on deception.” We are all familiar with ‘Reefer Madness’ and the propaganda campaign that we all would think was hilarious in its ludicrousness had it not been so painfully effective. But as I’ve only recently come to realize, it wasn’t even as simple as that. In newspapers across the country there were countless articles warning about the dangers of marihuana. Attributing literally thousands of acts of murder and insanity to its use. They claimed using it a single time would end in irreversible insanity. In that light, you can almost understand the general public’s total fear. Without first hand experience to the contrary, of course they were going to believe the lies.
One of the main concepts in the Art of War is ‘Know Your Enemy’. This is where it is useful to understand why our fiercest opponents are so vehemently against what we all know to be common sense. We can see examples over and over again where people believe all kinds of things without ever understanding ‘why’ they ever believed it in the first place. In this scenario, we can see how this misconception came to be a widely held belief. It is almost forgivable considering the unrelenting misinformation being put out there. None of this truly explains the why the original people took on the crusade against cannabis in the first place. Although there are many theories out there, that is another discussion. Right now our focus is on where do we go from here.
If we look at the launch of the modern day war on drugs what we see is that it was actually more of a cultural war than a war on drugs. Older conservative people looked at the lifestyle of the ‘hippy’ with disgust and contempt. They felt that everything they stood for was destroying the moral fiber of the country. As I get older and watch clips from Woodstock, I can understand how huge crowds of young people rebelling against all social norms, promoting free love and embracing all kinds of drug use would be a little bit scary. We just watched a documentary last night about the seventies. While I was still too young to directly remember most of it, seeing the cults and out of control violence that permeated all of society gave me a new understanding of how the whole ‘Law and Order’ mindset came into full force in the 80’s. It seemed all too easy for them to use marijuana as the scapegoat and blame its use for the mess the country was facing.
With a deeper understanding of why the fear and opposition exists, we can use that understanding to change hearts and minds. That is what the mothers of the medical marijuana movement have been so successful at accomplishing. In Sun Tzu terms, that is becoming your enemy to understand and defeat them. Many, if not most, of the legislators are simply brainwashed and ignorant and never really had much cause or reason to investigate why they held their beliefs. In many ways they are victims of misinformation just like the rest of society has been. If we can meet them on their terms and educate them with facts many times that is all it takes for them to see the light and become reasonable.
Of course there will be those handful that aren’t simply ignorant, they are willfully ignorant. And for them there must be a different strategy.
All over the place we see countless ‘supporters’ who seemingly can do nothing but bitch and complain about the way things are, but have no idea what to do about it. It is safe to say that they are ‘the noise before defeat’. No matter what aspect of reform you advocate for, the first line of action always must be education. It is the simplest and most effective. We have to all show up when events are held. These events get press and help to educate the general public as well as the legislators. The press was instrumental in propagating the war, it is only right we now use it to our advantage.
For the willful ignorant, stronger measures are in order. Like the threatened sit-in to Gov. Corbett, the media campaign against Baker and Turzai or the civil disobedience in Philadelphia. All these tactics have merit and a time and place. But one thing is certain, screaming and yelling while basically doing nothing will never get us anywhere. It can actually be counter productive by reinforcing the stereotypes these ignorant people already hold. So that is why we all have to ‘become the enemy’ by dressing appropriately, speaking appropriately and most of all not being afraid to contact and speak to these people. They are not above us, they are not superior in any way but are just fellow human beings. But it is important to engage them in conversation because you cannot alleviate fear or clear up misunderstandings if you don’t know the mind of the person you are trying to persuade. And the MOST important thing all of us must do is pay attention and VOTE!
The Art of War teaches us that every battle is won before it is fought. So while many of us are already battle weary, we have to keep our chins up and know that ‘we have already won. We simply need to persevere, keep the pressure on and follow it through. Not just for any given battle, but until the entire war is over.
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What if you knew of an organization in Pennsylvania that promised to introduce a hemp bill and actually delivered and got not one but TWO hemp bills introduced – one in the State Senate and one in the House?
What if that same organization promised to lobby for joint hearings between the State Senate and House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committees and succeeded in making those hearings happen and even provided written testimony?
What if the leaders of the organization actually know the governor of Pennsylvania and have close ties with the right-hand-man of the governor?
Then you found out that same organization worked with the Bernville Grange and got them to adopt a pro-hemp resolution, then worked with the Berks County Grange to pass the same resolution that was affirmed at the Pa. State Grange level?
What if you knew that they worked with Lancaster City Council last year and persuaded them to pass a resolution and memorial to the Pa. General Assembly in favor of medical cannabis? Then you found out that they are right now, this moment, engaged in a dialogue with council again to persuade them to pass a decriminalization ordinance like the one that Philly passed?
Then you found out that they are also initiating a campaign to work with Reading City Council to pass a decriminalization ordinance there?
What if that organization organized six legalization rallies in Lancaster, two rallies in Reading, two rallies in York, two rallies in Wilkes Barre, a rally in West Chester and an epic rally in the Rotunda of the State Capitol in Harrisburg? Plus they organized a hempcrete workshop and a hemp conference?
What if you found out they have cultivated outstanding relationships with many state senators, state representatives, high ranking members in the Pa. Department of Agriculture, every other activist organization in the state and many individuals who are the movers and the shakers?
What if you knew the leaders of the organization were some of the most dedicated and effective activists in the state? That one is the foremost hemp historian in the state and author of the book Hempstone Heritage and the other is a person of tremendous intellect, skills and abilities and they have a super outstanding small team around them? And they have done many radio interviews, speeches, TV interviews and newspaper features?
What if you found out they have attended and helped document dozens of other town halls, panel discussion, debates, conferences, conventions and rallies, and many times trudged the halls of Harrisburg on the movement’s behalf?
Then what if after hearing all that you found out that’s only half the story and that they have been involved with and done so much that it simply takes too long to tell the whole story?
You’d want to help fund it, wouldn’t you?
Well, that organization is Keystone Cannabis Coalition. Everything that we have done so far was funded by the limited donations that we have received in the last couple years. In addition to all of these things we now have an impressive display when we set up our stand at rallies and events and great looking informational brochures.
We intended to raise $5,000 to fund everything that we wanted to do and accomplish for the summer season. We had some very generous individuals help us and we sold some t-shirts, pins, books and bracelets. When it was all added up though it was only about $2,000 – far below what we actually needed. We used almost all of those funds and now are running on fumes. We are hoping that t-shirt sales at the Wilkes Barre rally will at least get us a couple hundred.
We have high hopes that our hemp bill – either SB50 or HB967 – will pass this year and we are continuing to be a part of the movement to pass the medical cannabis bill, hopefully by this fall. Our decriminalization drives are about to kick into high gear in Lancaster and in Reading. We are pleased to be working also with Lancaster NORML and the Northeastern Pennsylvania Cannabis Network and we will be working with all reform groups to throw an epic rally in Harrisburg.
We are working for statewide decriminalization and full legalization and will be tripling our efforts in that campaign.
We have so much going on and great plans for the future but the lack of support is disheartening and we are actually in danger of being forced to a screeching halt because of lack of funds.
Folks, our mission is important. I often wonder why KCC can not even raise $5,000 when I see all sorts of bullshit organizations raising millions. Perhaps it is because we are too action oriented and concerned more with the cause of ending this insane drug war against the people than we are about raising funds.
Honestly, when we set out at the beginning of the year to raise the $5,000 I thought we would raise it easily. I was mistaken. Some of the people who gave the most money to us were the poorest who could not afford it but they gave anyway. Some gave hundreds of dollars but the rest just cheered us on, wished us luck and sat by as we came far short of our meager, modest goal.
Can you help us in our effort to keep fighting for sensible reform in Pennsylvania? We need funds to accomplish our goals. We need donations or someone who knows how to raise funds for us.
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In my last few blogs a recurring theme has been overcoming fear and last night proved another opportunity for me to do that.
In conjunction with Deb Guy from Lancaster NORML, Les and I went to a Lancaster city council meeting to present them with a proposed ordinance for decriminalization, for reducing possession of small amounts of marijuana to a summary offense similar to what Philadelphia has done. I wrote a resolution based on their model and modified it to reflect the crime statistics and monetary savings specific to Lancaster. As fate would have it, when we arrived there was a large group of kids there, a track team that was receiving a special recognition from council for their performance in the Junior Olympics.
What are the odds of that?!? My first thought was, Oh good Lord, this is awkward! I could see the headlines rolling across my eyes, “Advocates push for pot in front of a crowd of innocent school kids”. Even though I wasn’t going to be the one directly addressing council, every fiber of my being wanted to abandon the mission and just come back another day. I wondered how the message would be received in that context. I feared all eyes would spew condemnation for broaching such a topic in front of kids. After all, how many times have we heard the argument with decriminalization or legalization, what message are we sending the children? Luckily, after their presentation the kids all left before it was time to present the ordinance so my fear left with them. But it did make me think and solidify my position as both an activist and mother.
And as a mother I maintain it is absolutely the right thing to do.
I am constantly dumbfounded by the hypocrisy of those that are pushing for privatization of alcohol and increasing accessibility while acting liking cannabis is evil incarnate. Granted, my views on alcohol are a little bit jaded having lived with two alcoholics. I’ve seen firsthand its devastating effects and how it tears families apart all while being perfectly legal. Alcohol is glorified all the time. I mean come on, how can it be anything but great when the most interesting man in the world takes time away from busy schedule to promote it. I remember distinctly how disgusted I was the first time I went to the grocery store with my young daughter and had to parade her by mountainous stacks of six packs just to get to the milk and bread. Apparently that is ok, but god forbid your child sees a blunt or a bowl laying around, you’d have CPS knocking on your door in a New York minute.
After the council meeting the mayor shared how in his life as a defense attorney he dealt with thousands of cases of crime and violence associated with alcohol use…. and never a single one related to marijuana. Ya know, just like there has never been a case of someone overdosing and dying from cannabis use. The same certainly cannot be said about alcohol. Yet it is in your face everywhere you turn and all these ‘righteous’ politicians that scorn marijuana just don’t see a problem with that.
Not that I want to see alcohol prohibition return, I don’t. I just want these politicians to acknowledge their hypocrisy. As a parent it is my job to educate my children about the dangers of alcohol abuse. Likewise it is my job to educate them about responsible cannabis use. Sadly, until these archaic laws change, that education has to include – don’t get caught. To be perfectly honest, I’ve told both my teenage daughters flat out, while I would prefer to keep you locked up and safe at home, I’m not naïve and kids like to party. That being said I prefer you to hang out with your friends, get high and play video games or DND then to drink. If I catch you drinking underage you will be grounded for the rest of your life. If I catch you smoking you will also be grounded, but for more like two weeks. An unorthodox message to give your kids, perhaps, but one I wholeheartedly believe in.
I know it is going to be an uphill battle he in PA to get statewide decriminalization. For god’s sake, look how hard the struggle is to get medical cannabis and a little bit of compassion for the children and others suffering. But it is a worth fighting for. For so many reasons it’s worth fighting for, but especially for the children.
Those kids at the meeting last night had hopes for a bright future. Plans for continuing with track and plans for college. I do not want to see a single one of those kids lose their opportunities for a good life and future just because one of them might be unfortunate enough to get passed a joint at a party and get caught. What a waste of potential that would be.
Whether young or old, smoking pot does not make you a criminal or a bad person. Just like drinking a beer or a glass of wine does not make you one. So what message are we sending our children when we advocate for decriminalization or full legalization along with education and teaching responsibility?
The message is clear.
We love you and want you to have a bright future.
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Throughout history women have played a major role in shaping politics and policy, a major role in changing the world. Our Executive Director, Les Stark has been doing some pretty intensive and fascinating research into the history of marijuana prohibition. I’ve listened with interest as he’s read me articles from throughout the decades . It truly is revealing and fascinating to see how the bigger picture fits together and how we ended up in this nonsensical place. That complete story is his to tell, but one little piece he shared with me has been rolling around my head for a while. And as things usually happen, other pieces of synchronicity with other people and their experiences have made me look at it even closer.
Back in the late 30’s women played a very large role in prohibition and the over-all demonization of cannabis and those associated with it. The Pennsylvania Federation of Womens Clubs claimed responsibility for the introduction and lobbying for pieces of legislation to help eradicate the ‘evil’ marihuana curse.
No doubt these were well meaning women that truly believed that they were doing the right thing. Hearing all of the propaganda and fear mongering going around at the time it is relatively easy to understand why they felt motivated to unite to protect society. But right, wrong or indifferent, the inescapable truth is that women have power. Men know it. And when women can be corralled and organized to promote whatever is on the male dominated political agenda, these women are upheld as pillars of virtue and an important voice that needs to be heard and acted upon.
Yet when women come together to voice an opinion that is contrary to what is currently politically acceptable, what happens? We are labeled feminists, radicals, demeaned and basically told to ‘shut the ____ up’.
This is evident in all manner of causes that women have fought for over the years, but especially pronounced in the issue of cannabis reform. And the pressures and backlash that all activists face seems to be compounded if you are a woman. Especially if you are a woman that believes in full legalization.
The other sense that I’ve had in hearing the history is an incredible sense of déjà vu. This debate was raging 40 years ago and yet here in PA there has been little progress in those 4 decades. There was a push for at least a reduction in the penalties for possession, but there was no ground swelling of public support to help push it through. Again understandable when after all they didn’t have social media, instant communications and little way to unite and inform people of what is going on.
So finally now in PA with medical cannabis we have some real progress and some real hope. And while many people have fought for this, and that includes many good men, where we are now unquestionably can be boiled down to one word. Moms.
Even the staunchest prohibitionist has a hard time looking a mom with a suffering child in the eye and condemning her. But unfortunately, even that is not unheard of. I’ve heard of several ignorant politicians accusing these women of ‘parading’ their kids around and using them to further their own secret agenda of just wanting to ‘get high’. Luckily those clueless, uneducable people are in the minority and most do have compassion. But as fate would have it, those few lacking compassion also seem to be the ones that wield the most power. That has not stopped these amazing women from organizing, educating, persevering and bringing about some real hope for some real change right here in PA where everyone said change is impossible.
But what happens if you are a woman advocating for complete reform? If you don’t have a sick child or a compelling personal health issue to justify your advocacy? Upholding the age old tradition, you are told in very strong terms to simply ‘shut the ____ up’. Too often it’s not just the politicians trying to silence us, it’s also society as a whole and even friends and family. This is compounded if you also happen to be a mother. Ex’s use it as an open to attempt to manipulate and control using fear of loss of custody, the guilt trip that somehow we are harming our children by advocating and teaching the truth, that we are selfish and bad parents setting bad examples.
As I talked about in another blog, fear is a funny thing and is arguably the most powerful tool of control there is. Governments have been using it against the people since the dawn of time. And governments and men have used it against women to keep them bound in abusive relationships, keep them silent, keep them dependent and believing that they need protection from both themselves and the outside world.
Fear begets more fear and little rational thought or policies can come from blind fear. It becomes a round robin of insanity. Governments fear change so they use fear to stop change.
Women have power. Those that maintain the status quo know it. They fear it and will stop at nothing to stifle it. Too few women know their own innate power, fewer still embrace it and use it.
What I find so personally gratifying about this cause, aside from the obvious, is how it touches on so many larger social issues. Everything from justice, freedom, prejudice, morality, environmental concerns, jobs and really almost anything else you can think of is somehow touched by this issue. And again, while this particular rant is about how women are implored to shut up and maintain the staus quo, I do have huge respect for, and have been inspired by, the men who stand on the right side of history and are fighting valiantly for much needed change.
But to all the women out there – I personally know how challenging it is through my own experiences of others attempting to use fear to silence me. No matter what issue it is that you are passionate about, and even though it’s not always easy, please dig deep within yourself. Know that you have power. Know that you have a voice. Never let fear or social stigma silence that voice. Never let anyone or anything deter you from making a stand for what you know to be right.
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If you would have met me in the 70’s you would have labeled me the girl next door. In the 80’s you would have called me a rebellious teenager. The next two and a half decades brought a whole new set of labels: wife, mother, home owner, tax payer, secretary, book keeper, software support representative, computer programmer, business owner, administrative assistant, office manager.
When people met me I always just appeared to be your average, middle class All-American-Girl. I did manage to escape the label ‘soccer mom’ (my kids were into music and volleyball) but I did cave and accept the label ‘mini-van driver’.
But I have a confession to make. There is also another label. The one and only label that has been with me since 1985. I am a criminal.
That’s right, despite all appearances of living a good and productive life, despite raising two beautiful, loving and intelligent children and despite having only been unemployed a combined total of 8 months in 28 years – I am the one our government has warned you about.
As a teenager in the 80’s there was no escaping the propaganda of the ‘Just Say No’ campaign. In the land of the After School Special and limited media choices I ‘learned’ what they wanted me to learn. I was terrified of marijuana. I thought it was the most evil thing ever. Who could forget: ‘This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any Questions?’
If I would have been smart, I would indeed have had questions. But in my naiveté I believed the message. Believed that if the TV and First Lady were saying it, it must be true.
But when I was 15 and landed myself an 18 year old boyfriend, being cool and fitting in with older kids was more important than my fear. So I smoked my first joint….and I loved it.
After experiencing first hand how harmless marijuana was, how I much preferred hanging out with friends that were smoking rather than drinking and learned the bliss of Pink Floyd – there was no other conclusion to come to except that the government was lying . In all my teenaged-know-it-all glory – I reasoned that if they lied about pot, they were probably lying about all the other drugs too.
So I ended up trying many more. There was a period of about two years where, yeah I had a lot of fun, but I became selfish, irresponsible and unproductive. One time after a binge of what was popular in the 80’s, my heart started beating out of my chest and I thought I was going to die. After that I had the epiphany that I was ruining my life and I better get my shit together….fast. I never touched it again. And the point of this story is that if the government hadn’t lied to me about cannabis, they perhaps could have spared me a close call with self- destruction. The propaganda may have had a productive purpose in educating me on the drugs that do carry a real risk of addiction or death. Too many of my friends did not fare as well as I did.
But even as I matured and settled into adulthood and motherhood, I never gave up my love of marijuana. It relaxed me and simply made me happy. I don’t drink and I never saw any difference in relaxing this way than having a glass of wine. And far from making me the stoner on the couch in my parent’s basement with no life that I was told I would become, I lived a busy and productive life. So I was content to let how I lived my life speak for itself and leave the little tid bit of knowing I was a criminal to myself and those that shared the same secret.
Through the years , as I got older and as my kids got older, I became increasing more weary of having to live in fear. What would have happened to my kids if I would have ever gotten busted? Would I lose custody? Would other kids parents not let them play with mine? What if my girls did the same dumb shit I did because they aren’t being taught the truth? Would I lose my job? If at any time I would have gotten caught with weed, my entire life and everything I worked so hard for would have gone up in a puff of smoke. I never hurt anyone, its ridiculous. But I kept my mouth shut.
Two years ago I came out of the cannabis closet after meeting a man on a mission. A man whose passion and integrity made me re-evaluate being content with the status quo. (I love you Les Stark!)
Fear is a funny thing. The way it permeates everything we do, often below the surface of our everyday awareness. It’s difficult to overcome. I mean I quietly smoked my weed practically daily for decades, why should I risk everything now?
I’ve second guessed myself a million times since I started on this particular journey. I’ve been attacked and threatened by my ex and I still do have an awful lot to lose. I’ve been accused of ‘just wanting to get high’. That’s laughable; I’ve been able to get high whenever I want for 30 years. That is not what this is about.
It’s about having to watch other mothers beg for the lives of their children – friends and family suffering with medical conditions – vets and others with PTSD dealing with the side effects of traditional pharmaceutical – people overdosing and dying with opioid and heroin use. And more recently I’ve had to see a teenager I love get arrested for a couple of roaches and paraphernalia after being pulled over for a magnet on his car. Its about farmers being allowed to grow hemp and all the economic and environmental benefits that go with it.
And yes, its even about my right to get high in the privacy of my own home and listen to Pink Floyd.
It is about so, so much. But at the end of the day it can be reduced to one profound word……freedom.
I am no longer ashamed of being a criminal. I’m ashamed of the system that labels me one.
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