Only the thinnest sheet of synthetic fabric lay over the ground. The electronic pound of amplified guitar smoothed over the blood-brain barrier, welcoming the nicotine, alcohol, THC, psilocybin, and fresh forest oxygen. Suddenly, other music, sweet, angelic, melodic, as intoxicating as the high, quelled thought, emotion, reason. As from the pluck of metallic ore transformed to the strings of an underground instrument, the Earth sang.
Harry’s Hill is a spiritual breeding ground, where earthbound relations are rekindled before an ongoing fire. In the center of a sound stage, and countless vendors, people were warmed morning and night for the tri-annual Harvest Ball. The October harvest was the very last of the year, when people glowed with the strength of the season, and readied themselves for the enduring months ahead, as people have immemorially.
Since the late ‘80s, Harry’s Hill (the colloquial slogan for the farm of Harry Brown) has also been thoroughly immersed in worldly affairs, such as fighting for the legalization of a plant that grows on the land. After twenty-four years, and going strong, the social air is no less redolent of political action. As festivalgoers drove, and walked to the wood-carved signage welcoming them onto the farm, they could read: “If you intend to use or sell drugs… turn around.”
Cannabis is a plant. The Father of Chinese Medicine, Shen Nung (literally translating as “Divine Farmer”), is said to have discovered the medicinal use of cannabis, and also tea, some five thousand years ago. Medicine, fiber, and oil are among the indigenous, and historical applications of cannabis. Recreationally speaking, one of the very first cultivars in the world was tobacco. Though, originally, its consumption was most often for curative, hallucinogenic, and spiritual guidance.
Today, recreation and medicine are constantly balanced along a fine line, one that grows finer with the spreading legalization of marijuana across the fifty states. The issues involved are not only of economic, social, cultural, or even legal importance, while each implication requires urgent attention. The core issue is about the freedom to choose what, and how, to consume.
Virtual consumerism, as by multimedia, displaces the immediacy of material consumerism, often inflating both to malign proportions. Deceptively simple, material consumerism simply means breathing, drinking, ingesting, clothing and sheltering.
Air, water, food, medicine, plants and earth are the natural resources required for the sustenance and fulfillment of a meaningful human life. These basic ingredients, however, are at the center of a struggle to reclaim the human right to live on Earth, in peace, in health, and united.
“The right to grow your own medicine, the right to grow your own food is part of the same movement,” said David Marshall, Portland City Councilor and member of the Maine Green Independent Party. “The Green Party in Maine, and the U.S. started in 1984. From the beginning, part of the position of the party was to work for the legalization of marijuana.”
As an individual, the right to grow food and medicine is also bound to a societal conflict founded on the consumptive abuse of natural resources. The choice to consume differently, alternatively, and without the shackles of economic dependence is an essential ingredient to the cannabis liberation movement.
Cannabis liberation is founded in the most immediate source of direct action, resource consumption. Truly, this is a shared struggle, as American hegemony, casts its political and economic shadow domestically, as in Afghanistan, Vietnam, and globally. Clearly, cannabis liberation is a public health issue. In this way, so is poverty. As with the stigmatized image of war, poverty has also sailed off into the American imagination with often blinding disregard for the shocking prevalence of its lived reality. Following the War on Poverty, absolute poverty, as in destitute starvation, was practically eradicated from the face of the nation. Still, relative poverty, as in the constant want of basic needs, and measured according to subsistence within current economic demands, remains as one of the longest-standing traditions of American life. The dominant American version of wealth simply does not apply to Americans, nor does the myth of "America" that was created by a colonial, settler consciousness.
In contrast, Americans, as largely an immigrant society, are more culturally apt for a more substantial value system than the ideals espoused by the prevailing economic order. Ideals such as perpetual economic growth are promoted aggressively around the world, and are institutionalized domestically. In actuality, American culture, from the perspective of people, is not averse to poverty in the sense of living within one's means.
The proverbial wisdom of the late 19th century and early 20th century European immigrants, and also African-American communities who lived in the South prior to the “Great Migration” exemplify this wisdom. “We were poor, but we were happy, because we were together,” says the first American son of early 20th century Greek-Jewish immigrants born on the Lower East Side of New York City in 1915.
Further, wealth, as defined by poverty, is an imposed socioeconomic order that ultimately exploits, and deceives masses of immigrants, youth and others marginalized by economic, political or social vulnerability. Susceptible to political manipulation, marginalized communities are acculturated into believing in a way of life that is not sustainable, and that is, in practice, characterized by chaotic and sociopathic behavior.
At the height of European immigration into America, approximately 15 million people arrived at the shores of lower Manhattan from 1903 to 1924. During this time, Mexican immigrants also arrived, purportedly with marijuana, following the Mexican Revolution of 1910.
Successive American invasions into Mexico backed by President Woodrow Wilson in compliance with domestic business and political interests, as well as immigrant racism and underclass economics are the origins of marijuana prohibition. This continues to manifest as immigration hysteria, and the ongoing drug war at the southern border.
“It's important to realize the overwhelming number of drugs that are confiscated by the DEA is marijuana. When you're talking about marijuana legalization you're talking about the end of the drug wars as we know it,” said Marshall. “Over 90% of drugs used in the country are marijuana. Federal legalization of marijuana would be a complete change of drug policy in the country. There is no better time to work towards that than now.”
Whereas the grinding cycle of poverty is perpetuated by possession, as in the settler-colonial meaning of land-grabbing exploitation, cannabis liberation also speaks to freeing the land, and the people of monoculture, and monopoly. Cannabis liberation in the example of Maine implies biodiversity, and the welcome vitalization of small business opportunities.
Furthermore, the rural poverty of farmers across America also gives way to the rise of monopolizing, monocultures on the land. Family farms, and young farmers are displaced by multinational interests, impacting local communities with such negative intensity as the suicidal horrors seen among farmers in India. Cannabis liberation, on the other hand, is enticing young farmers to reclaim the land, by growing food and medicine for their communities.
“In Maine it’s largely been a cottage industry with caregivers. There are a lot of small businesses that are in place that make a lot income, enough to support a family here,” said Marshall. “The large-scale mono crop, mono stream system is not going to have the diversity of the marketplace that you really need. If you have an E. coli outbreak you see everything from beans to broccoli being pulled off the shelf.”