In Maine, where farming is a mainstay, marijuana is the largest cash crop. Cannabis plants grow back every year, and are used for everything from construction materials to clothing fabrics and tree-free paper. Building a community from the ground up, sustained culturally, and adequately fed by local economic activity is the greatest line of defense that Americans can maintain in the ongoing, popular independence struggle.
The “Father of the Constitution” and fourth president of the U.S., James Madison, was one of the first American voices to emerge from that very struggle. In 1787, during the Constitutional Convention, he is attributed with the words: “The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home.”
Within the context of the Convention, his quote is surrounded with equally applicable statements, such as: “Constant apprehension of War, has the same tendency to render the head too large for the body. A standing military force, with an overgrown Executive will not long be safe companions to liberty…Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”
In this context of insight, it becomes all the more apparent that U.S. citizens are at equal peril with their subjugated brothers and sisters overseas who daily face the brunt of American military occupation. No less is this seen in the continuing surveillance and security dilemmas over the legalization of a medicinal plant that simply offers farmers, and young people a means to support their families.
“In Maine there's over a thousand caregivers, but they’re smaller operations, nothing you can get rich on, but something to help a farm going. Arguably, it’s more legal in Maine than in Washington and Colorado,” says Hillary Lister, director of Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine. “We're trying to figure out legalization without prices soaring and registration becoming mandatory.”
According to Lister, up to a third of the medical marijuana caregivers in Maine are farmers, and it is very well the only reason why many farms are still active. Even prior to the 1920s, the hemp industry was strong in Maine. Four decades later, back-to-the-land enthusiasts flocked to Maine, bringing marijuana agriculture with them.
Today, the difference between Maine, and Washington and Colorado, which have become the icons of state legalization, is that caregivers can grow up to 99 plants, and for themselves. While in Washington, the government cracks down on people growing for themselves, and in Colorado there is a six-plant limit. More, Colorado required growers to install a costly 24-hour video surveillance, and radio frequency tracking system.
Mainstream culture has vilified marijuana culture as an inherently self-destructive, addict-oriented consumerism. The truth is the exact opposite. Consumerism is an essential foundation of existence. People must exploit, and consume resources in order to survive. Death, or more precisely, the harvest, renews life.
The freedom to choose what to consume and how to consume is the crux of an ongoing struggle towards economic decentralization, thereby demilitarizing governance, and disarming the status quo. In which case, the vivification of community-based marijuana consumerism in America has also transformed the climate of substance abuse.
“Maine had the highest OxyContin addiction in the country for a while, and a flood of heroin and sex trafficking,” said Lister. “Maine’s overdose rates for opiates have dropped significantly as medical marijuana laws have expanded. Many medical marijuana patients were addicted to opiates five years ago. That is a major change in an addiction problem across the board. People can safely, legally use cannabis.”
On the way to Harry’s Hill for the final harvest festival of the year, the brilliant vibrancy was awe-inspiring, as the enlightened cerise and ginger arborescence expounded of a seasonal embrace never so harmonious as along the Northeastern seaboard. Inviting with sun, people shared of their horticultural abundance freely, and with a smile.
One young, wispy-bearded veteran strode from his vehicle to greet friends standing before the entrance, having packed a high bowl of fresh buds. Treetops were alit with the realization of a generation, who slowly bears witness to the dream of freedom, legalization and a forest of new economic opportunity.
“Local agriculture”, says a traveling saleswoman to a group pitching their tents in the rocky, sloped soil. The carbon footprint, miles from its origin on Harry Brown’s Farm, from the Hill itself, is glowingly fragrant. There are free grilled cheese sandwiches, four-dollar bombers, and baked goods aplenty. Not a cell phone ring can be heard. No one stands time-tested in front of a laptop-screen glare.
Meanwhile, at the soundstage, Taina Asili raised her fist proudly beside La Banda Rebelde. Her wild melodies charged home, as she spoke of the uplifting march for climate justice in New York City. Her husband, of La Banda Rebelde, carried a strong rhythm guitar to her right, as they greeted the human family with a sonic embrace.
“I’ve been going since 1999. The Festival has dramatically changed. It started off on a smaller scale. Then it got really big. It became a Mad Max party scene, and was not able to be really effective politically,” said Lister. “Three years ago the family on the land took over the organizing. It's become focused politically. Now you have two to three generations of families coming together to camp.”
The political convergence focus of the Harvest Ball at Harry Brown’s Farm has been politically effective not only in terms of marijuana legislation, but towards a wider nexus of action. Political action sourced from Harry’s Hill had an integral role in electing District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, who was the first woman DA for her constituency, winning by 28 votes. She also does not work for a politically monopolizing law firm.
Harry’s Hill prompted the Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine into becoming the effective political lobbyist group that they are today, maintaining a solid reputation with state house legislators. For example, after a number of festivalgoers formed an affirmative action committee in 2010, a number of felony cases were dropped, as pertains to the law restricting possession to 2.5 ounces, even for caregivers. The committee has also protected citizens from changes to the initial 1999 legalization reforms.
Wars are often fought over legal reform, and have historically been purposed for the acquisition of spoils. Land is the spoil of all spoils. The importance of land, as with the freedom to use it for the purposes of community generation, and popular independence remains a point of contention in America.
At the same time, despite community economic decentralization and independence efforts by legal means, the business community is uniform, ready to jump on international loopholes, and burgeoning markets with all the artless guile of a fat check. In this way, the struggle for cannabis liberation is an apt metaphor for the postcolonial hemorrhaging of American-occupied countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
As with blacklisted and failed states, so with black markets, and informal economies, big business seeks to overtake, seize, and thereby legitimize. Cannabis liberation is another target on the map of capitalist investiture, and all with the same heavy-handedness by which a terrorist state is democratized. For example, the American military and government deals arms as economic incentivizing, and imposed national security, in return for holding stake in the natural resources of the occupied country. At the end of the day, the importation of saleable American “democracy” becomes little more than a media stunt for the taxpaying American public who would approve and justify the spoils of war, convinced of the moral economic intent.
“The trick to state legalization is that there are those who would bank on taking the black market down. It would then be run by people with large-scale grow operations,” said Marshall. “That model doesn't fit with medical marijuana in Maine. It's largely been a cottage industry.”
In fact, Maine is often banished from concerted discussion about the economic direction of cannabis liberation in the U.S., as there are simply so many thriving caregivers. This poses a threat to the few caregivers who have monopolized the legal market, such as in Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. In Washington, and Colorado, this issue is shared, and further complicated by costly regulatory systems.
In Massachusetts, virtually anyone can go to Swansea, see a doctor, complain of insomnia, headaches, anxiety, etc., and then pay $200 to be able to receive medical marijuana prescriptions. The trick, as Marshall, says, is that legal medical marijuana is limited to a very short supply of caregiver products.
“People who have gotten funding have pushed for Washington and Colorado-style legalization. Maine has received good press locally and bad press regionally, as others see us as trying to control the market,” said Lister. “In Massachusetts and New York, everyone I talk to seems to think tax it as high as you can. In Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, it’s all a few people who can get one of the very few licenses. They are the ones shaping the laws. For them, Washington-style is ideal to make sure they don't have competition. In Maine they have all this competition.”