_By Andrea Fasoli
"When everyone flows in one direction, the current will attempt to push you the same way... few will stand still, resist and with time diverge others into a new stream"
Someone needs to tell others what they need to hear and NOT what they want. We live in a repetitive cycle throughout history and times may change, but the essence remains the same. Observe the course of humanity's journey and you will find in many circumstances a similar trend:
New idea --> resistance to the idea --> few fight for the idea --> many begin to understand the idea --> the idea is implemented --> the idea grows to become mainstream --> a new idea comes along --> resistance to the idea.... and it goes over and over and over again.
A very simple explanation, though I hope I got the point across: how any paradigm that we as a society have constructed upon ourselves, originally stemmed from an unpopular and criticized new idea. We all, as human beings, naturally feel a sense of discomfort from something new, something we do not know. This particular behavioral trait has accompanied our specie since its inception and during the first steps of our evolution it most likely served a benevolent purpose: Our ancestors had to grow up in a harsh environment, needing to survive against natural cataclysms as well as other creatures roaming the earth. When you look at the way people instinctively behave we shouldn't be surprised when this psychological factor is placed in the context of millennia! Back then many things we were not aware of had a big chance of hurting or even killing us; thus we quickly learned that new phenomenons were to be taken very seriously and with extreme caution before accepting them as a group.
Surpassing a few thousand years and we see how external forces permanently shaped the way humans perceived the world around them. Where it gets really interesting is when a few individuals, supposedly with either greater knowledge, resources and ultimately influence on others, would condemn any new idea or concept because they were afraid that it would undermine their legitimacy and control. A new idea has never been the real problem, its the inevitable change that comes with such novelty is what many powerful individuals have always been terrified of.
This crucial concept that has persisted throughout time can be traced all the way to the 20th century and how such behavioral construct played a decisive role after the demonization and subsequent criminalization of the Cannabis Sativa specie. With so many wonderful things someone could produce with this natural resource, it is obvious that certain people and organizations had a direct interest in subverting the use of Cannabis, its vast applicability into the economy and its newly discovered uses in the early decades of the century: Like bioplastics and biofuels as an example.
After the reefer madness movement ensued and took the United States by storm, virtually every state of the union, by the end of the 1930's, had established some sort of ban or limitation for the cultivation, sale and distribution of cannabis derived products. For decades only a few voices echoed in the vast sea of disbelief and ignorance, due to the fear of social exclusion and prosecution from what we imposed on ourselves as a new cultural paradigm. Collectively we are able to achieve the greatest endeavors and inflict the worst tragedies on ourselves, simply because we let the fear of the unknown dictate drastic measures to make us feel safe in the short term. A vast majority of the public would rather live in its own lies, while condemning others for trying to find the truth and break free, because they believe that if more people depart from the status quo, that they too will need to change and adapt sooner or later. The greatest tragedy of all is that Cannabis was never something new, though the power of language and ideological manipulation allowed thousands of years of history to be erased; allowing powerful interests to rewrite a new reality for this plant.
For decades the public simply agreed on the lies originally propagated by a select number of individuals and once the seed of Marijuana demonization was planted, it took a life of its own and the original drafters of the criminalization movement just had to sit back and watch as people took their idea, became ambassadors for such cause and spread it like wildfire. During the 1st half of the 20th century very few people publicly expressed support for Cannabis, or commonly misrepresented as "Marijuana". During the late 1950's and throughout the 60's you can witness the first signs of rebellion, the rejection of conventional values imparted by society as a whole, stemming from the Beat generation as well as the more popular and universally recognized "Hippie movement". More people were waking up to the lies and manipulation of information from their own government and that was an early sign of a distinctive crack in the wall... the light was seeping through and some had caught on the brightness of the other side.
We can list many historical figures and organizations that were of great importance to the origins of the Cannabis legalization movement, such as: LeMar (aka Legalize Marijuana) founded in 1964 by Allen Ginsberg and Amorphia, which was founded in 1967 by Blair Newman. Nonetheless these groups shy in comparison to the pivotal role that the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, NORML, played in the success of the legalization movement. The founder of NORML, Keith Stroup, started the organization in 1970 and since then it has grown to become a monumental grassroots movement with 150 chapters across the US and now expanding internationally. For many it is easy to accept the success of NORML in the 21st century, however the true courage, determination and vision resided in the almost 2 decades, from the late 1970's all the way to the mid 90's, where the legalization movement saw virtually no real progress due to the backlash of prohibitionist groups and proponents of harsh drug laws that managed to control the narrative and successfully lobbied to maintain and expand the war on drugs.
NORML took a stand to conserve its legitimacy and keep up the good fight to advocate for the rights of all marijuana consumers! Many people now a days often forget the heavy lifters and are now constantly amused by new organizations that have sprung from the rapidly growing support of legalizing Cannabis.... but what about the past? What about the years of loss, constant discrimination and down right discrediting of marijuana activists all across the country? The original freedom fighters belonged to a rare culture of society, often times standing alone in the crowd, because others were too afraid to speak up or just couldn't believe that change was possible. We owe NORML and its countless grassroots activist this brave new world we live in and the civil liberties we are able enjoy...... such liberties originated from struggle, determination, unwillingness to give up, a true sense of leadership to stand your ground and not allow dissidents and skeptics to stop someone from doing the right thing.
We live in a reality that is dictated by predetermined rules, a constant fear of change and a convergence towards a faulty status quo. In 1970 someone became the catalyst, the genesis of a revolution: Whom strongly believed in an objective truth, dictated important principles of personal freedom, by being morally inflexible throughout time, while constantly portraying great resilience and courage. Such individual managed to create its own gravitational force to where lies and deception found no escape and after many, many years people saw in him an objective truth.