Cultivated by Quentin X. "Doc" Wainwright

It was an urgent call from Darklady...

“Doc,” she said, “There are some very crucial issues facing people in America today. Issues of life, death, and life imprisonment. Issues concerning the comforting of those in pain. Issues centering around taxes and the profits gleaned thereof. Issues of political graft and corruption.”

“Um. What?” I retorted shrewdly.

She sighed. “Let me use smaller words. The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, a referendum to reduce the charges for possessing marijuana, and a proposal to make hemp cultivation legal are on the boards. Write something about them.”

I brilliantly replied, “Oh. Okay.”

I was given several telephone numbers of local pro-hemp activists. I felt some apprehension about actually speaking to these people. After all, anyone standing up in this brave new world of 1997 and demanding that the source material of such rich, informative films as Reefer Madness be legalized would have to be a little wonky, right? I envisioned smoke-filled rooms with psychohoovic blacklight posters and 40-year-old women who pathologically and maliciously use the word `dude’ as a noun, verb, adverb, adjective, conjunctive clause, and gerund. I even suspected profligate and unabashed use of (gasp) tie-dyed T-shirts.

These images are greatly popularized by the common news media. From the bias with which marijuana law reform is discussed on the TV, one might believe that 24 hours after any reform laws might pass, gargantuan Cheech & Chong look-a-likes would rampage through the NW 23rd area, destroying building after building on a fruitless quest for Ring Dings.

Instead, the first person I spoke to about medicinal marijuana was a serious man, dressed in the eye-searing color scheme of a button-down tan shirt, black pants, and penny-loafers. After I subtly indicated that I was curious about the sort of people who used medicinal marijuana (“Hey! Where are all the sickies?”), he chuckled nervously and replied, “It’s mostly crippled or semi-mobile people in wheelchairs. You got your occasional palsy victim; you got your chemotherapy victims/patients; you got your people trying to survive a multiple-pill AIDS treatment. We’re pretty tightly run as far as how medicinal hemp is released; you’ve got to be obviously ill to be taken seriously.”

My next stop was to find the offices of NORML, which stands for National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and not Nefarious Organization of Radioactive Male Lemmings, as I had suspected. (Which is a shame; if anyone could benefit from medicinal marijuana, I suspect it would be a psychotic, suicidal rodent with radiation burns.) After three telephone calls, two mutually paranoia-ridden face-to-face meetings, and six bus rides later, I managed to track down the offices of NORML. The face-to-face encounters were tense for two reasons. I made the interviewees nervous by being an extremely nervous person with a persistent stammer and they made me nervous because every time I’d stroll in and say “I’m here to ask you some questions about marijuana”, I was given the Hemp Activist X-Ray Gaze. That’s the piercing look designed to probe through clothes, skin, Kevlar, lead, and reinforced cement for a badge, gun, tape recorder, or midget film crew; anything to indicate I was a police officer come to engage in that popular All-American game, “Entrapment”.

They’ve got good reason to be paranoid. The “Entrapment” game is practiced regularly by local judges, City Hall, and Portland’s lovely, warm-hearted police department. Just as a casually chosen example, from our limited list of 5,746,901,753 possible entries, is The System’s reaction to the August 23, 1997 HempFest. The local police demanded that the HempFest organizers sign a contract. This contract would force the organizers to pay $2,600 for a half-dozen extra Potted Pork Meat Product Units (yes, Virginia, that means policepersons). It would also require the organizers to pay all legal (and other) costs for any lawsuit that might be filed against these unasked-for-and-unnecessary police.

That means Officer Friendly can see the marijuana leaf patch on your girlfriend Susie’s coat and suspect her of `generic hanky-panky and stuff.’ (This has happened in the past.) Officer Friendly can then seize Susie and toss her into the back of a paddywagon. Lieutenant Hurley can then engage in a violent body cavity search. You can sue Officer Friendly for being a trifle brusque and the local HempFest organizers, (the nice people who threw the festival in the first place) will then get to pay all the legal fees and fines accrued by our bucolic Bullies in Blue.

Siouxie Crawford, of "Bohemia After Dark" fame, had this to say:

“That’s a lot of money, but they say that if we don’t sign this, they won’t let the HempFest happen. We don’t think this is legal, and they won’t cite any city policies that allow them to do this. They’ve never required this of anyone else before, including the BrewerFest or The Bite. They say we need all this security because we’ve had problems at the previous HempFests we’ve organized, but when we asked to see the reports, they say they’re confidential police records and can’t show them to us. It’s like a kangaroo court.”

Despite mutual mistrust on both sides, I learned that NORML is conveniently located on the #15 bus line at 3125 SE Belmont, and overseen by the benevolent gaze of Floyd Landrath. I’ve met Floyd several times and found it intensely disconcerting each time. Most of you readers have met Floyd, too. For several years, he's stood with a cart labeled “FREE FOOD” in 18-inch letters each and every day along the side of the Fred Meyer’s on SE 39th & Hawthorne. Even more incredible than merely standing with this cart, Floyd did the unthinkable and distributed free food. Naturally, in this exciting decade we live in, this has resulted in an enormous amount of personal persecution for Floyd and his cart – after all, if someone’s giving away something for free, they’ve got to be up to something, right?

Landrath is a quiet, well-spoken, polite man with an extremely tired face. His main conversational gambit appears to be thinking very deeply, smiling a small lemon-wedge smile, and nodding convincingly. I find Floyd uncomfortable to talk to because every time I meet him, I become intensely aware that I’m standing near a man who has given every resource he has in life (food, money, and time) to help people. Not just people who aren’t doing very well in life, but people he doesn’t remotely know or even necessarily like.

“The most inane and insane argument I’ve had against what I’m trying to accomplish here is the line about `save our children.’ In the past year, under our current prohibition laws we’ve seen heroin use by 12-year-old children double. The public’s reaction to this idea has been more prohibition laws. We feel increased education combined with legalization of some substances would be more helpful.”

He gave me copies of the proposed referendum to make possession of less than ounce of marijuana a non-felony, the summary of this item (House Bill 3643) is really rather confusing, being worded as “Enhances penalty for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.” As one reads further, it becomes clear that “enhance” means “enhances the experience of being busted for less than one ounce of marijuana, as you’ll get something less than 10 years in prison for it.”

The proposed Oregon Cannabis Sales Tax ballot would make marijuana a substance to be regulated in almost exactly the same manner as tobacco and alcohol, but somewhat more stringently. This is a quite reasonable-sounding proposal, with tons of safeguards for the legalized sale of The Herb Superb, throws a strange curve ball, quoting the Bible to back up its position. “Whereas the people hold that cannabis prohibition is a sumptuary law of a nature repugnant to our Constitution’s framers and which is so unreasonable and liberticidal to... unnecessarily proscribe consumption of an `herb bearing seed’ given to humanity in Genesis 1:29, thereby violating their unqualified religious rights under Article 1, Section 3 and their natural rights under Article 1, Section 33 of the Oregon Constitution.”

The Oregon Drugs Control Amendment boldly states that “henceforth no law shall ever be passed by the State of Oregon to prohibit adult possession of any controlled substance, or to prohibit adult cultivation of any plant material containing any controlled substance, the provisions set forth by this...and its consequent legislation.” Anyone who can propose that baby to the current government absolutely has to have balls of solid rock.

Finally, I had the issues at hand right in front of my beady little eyes. As my brain processed column after column of tightly printed text, a visionary insight flashed into my mind: “This stuff’s damned near incomprehensible.” Yes, what was surprising to me was perfectly obvious to a stunned wombat: These people weren’t just going to stroll into the State Legislature wearing a beer-mug hat, scratch themselves, shuffle their feet, and say, “Um. Could you government people, well, lighten up a bit?”

Several hours and a magnifying glass later, something began to become clear to me. The profusion of verbiage in all of the proposals wasn’t because there were a lot of revolutionary ideas being proposed. The bulk of the legalese appeared to be there to overturn a vast labyrinth of pre-existing legal ridiculousness that our government has been dedicatedly cementing into place, both when the public was looking and when it was not, by fair means and by foul. Changing any gear or cog in The Combine of our government is something like playing Pick-Up-Sticks with bamboo shish-kebabs soaked in nitroglycerine; you can’t just grab on to the bit you don’t like and yank it out with all the grace and delicacy of a dentist on methamphetamines. It takes finesse and patience, which our dedicated hemp activists apparently purchase in bulk from Costco.

The following people are just a few of those who are crucial to the local movement to publicize and possibly eradicate outright illegal and unconstitutional acts by our federal, state, and local governments concerning marijuana issues in general. They are risking their jobs, their reputations, their ulcers, and their very lives by doing so; and they deserve our support and respect. Please contact them with offers of time, money, or publicity. Please listen to what they have to say carefully; and please remember that if the political weather shifts in any way, you could be next to be in the cold, unflinching gaze of Big Brother and his cohorts, the Weeniemen.

The American Anti-Prohibition League & NORML
c/o Floyd Ferris Landrath
3125 SE Belmont Street
Portland, OR 97214

Arthur H. Livermore, Jr.
PO Box 36
Arch Cape, OR 97102

Campaign for the Restoration & Regulation of Hemp
PO Box 86741
Portland, OR 97286

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