Pubdate: Thu, 05 Oct 2006
Source: Colorado Springs Independent (CO)
Copyright: 2006 Colorado Springs Independent
Author: Paul Dougan
Cited: Amendment 44


Possession of an ounce of marijuana by adults will be legal if
Colorado's Amendment 44 wins. On one side are legalization activists
fresh from a victory in Denver; on the other is the federal Drug
Enforcement Agency, mobilizing Coloradoans to resist. The voters stand
between in what may be the most important issue on this fall's ballot.

Amendment 44 is about more than marijuana: It's about civil rights and
America's future.

"Yeah, the '60s are over with," the man growls, "but they forgot to
tell them that up in Boulder." Or, apparently, in a good portion of
Colorado. Today, hippies aren't supposed to exist; yet, look around,
and there they are, the majority of whom had yet to be born when the
'60s ended. I'd estimate that nationally, hippies comprise about 10
percent of the population; in Colorado, that figure is probably higher.

We tend to recite the cliche that hippies no longer exist because
powerful forces in America want us to think just that. They consider
the counterculture a menace to Western civilization, something with no
rightful place in today's America.

Well, particular drugs have always had ethnic identifications. And
historically in America, if the powers-that-be wanted to persecute an
ethnic group, they went after their drugs. America's first anti-drug
laws, according to John Helmer's Drugs and Minority Oppression,
targeted opium as a way of persecuting Chinese immigrants. In the
1930s, our first marijuana laws were imposed to harass
Mexican-Americans; an Alamosa newspaper editor's pleas were made
congressional testimony: "I wish I could show you what a small
marijuana cigarette can do to one of our degenerate Spanish-speaking
residents." Early cocaine laws were fueled by racist stereotypes of
intoxicated black men raping white women.

And today, marijuana laws are aimed primarily at the counterculture --
we're filling our prisons with hippies. But hippies aren't criminals:
they're a people criminalized as part of a drive to, as drug warrior
and former Attorney General John Mitchell put it, "take the country so
far to the right you won"t recognize it."

So, it's not just hippies getting hurt; it's all of America. To the
extent a society has an official pariah group, it tends to become ugly
and repressive -- could Hitler have come to power, for instance,
without widespread and institutionalized anti-Semitism?

For 40 years, America has treated hippie-Americans as illegitimate,
second-class citizens. The results have been catastrophic: The Bill of
Rights, particularly the Fourth Amendment, has been shredded. Often,
our elections have been driven by hippie-hating, and they've been
tainted by hippie-baiting (Newt Gingrich, for example, returned the
GOP to Congressional power in 1996 largely by branding the Clintons
"counterculture McGoverniks"). Neoconservatives blame hippies for
everything from urban decay to abortion to our loss in Vietnam; when a
minority is scapegoated, a nation turns from the true source of its
problems and thus from solving them.

A sober look at today's counterculture, by the way, shows not an
overdosed junkie but a cultural dynamo. Its contributions range from
the personal computer to a thriving natural-foods industry to the
Muppets to winning a slew of U.S. medals in the 2006 Winter Olympics,
among many others. We stereotype hippies as losers and parasites, but
like all stereotypes, this accentuates the negative, eliminates the
positive and forgets Mr. In-Between. What about star entrepreneur Sir
Richard Branson? What about Dr. Andrew Weil, increasingly the nation's
most trusted source on health and healing?

Coloradoans will hear manipulative appeals about "protecting our
children from drugs," but it's alcohol that's killing our kids;
pot-is-dangerous arguments are pretexts for repression. No, not all
hippies are pot smokers, and not all pot smokers are countercultural,
but essentially, Amendment 44 is part of a struggle by a relatively
new ethnicity, the counterculture, for social equality.

Only the most bigoted still doubt the African-American Civil Rights
Movement made America a better place; ultimately, civil rights
movements help societies. As part of a movement to secure the civil
rights of hippie-Americans, Amendment 44 is something Colorado and
this nation needs.
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