Due in large part to the propaganda efforts of the United States government, and the blind loyalty of the American press, smoking marijuana has long had the stigmata of promoting a life of wasteful laziness and intellectual devolution. This, perhaps more than the generally worthless prohibition, has created a sort of proverbial closet for the more intellectual members of the Cannabis Enthusiast Community, or users of other government-prohibited substances. To come out as a ‘user’ can lead to the branding of any of your work as simply the product of a ‘drug-addled’ mind, particularly anything that breaks with convention. Consequently, a surprisingly large percentage of the world’s scientists remain quiet about not only their own personal marijuana use but, more importantly, the fact that it isn’t just useless hippies and college kids that smoke pot.
As the bumper-sticker worthy (truly the guage by which modern language must be judged) quotation goes, ‘the greater the mind, the greater the need for recreation’. This recreation may take many forms, frequently alcoholism, or whoring around (I’m looking at you, Ben Franklin) but also very frequently the form of ‘illicit drugs’. I think it is worth noting that drugs, and cannabis in particular, would seem to end less in suicide than liquor, and also isn’t very likely to get you STDs. I think you can probably disregard both of those things in terms of heroin though, which is so bad for you it is almost like the ‘alcohol’ of the illegal drugs. Unfortunately, in many cultures cannabis usage carries a more negative stigma than alcoholism, whoring, or sometimes even heroin.
Here in the United States, this negative stigma is fed by two main fires. Foremost of these is the government, on all levels, which works tirelessly to ensure that cannabis remain criminalized, to prevent legitimate research into the medicinal benefits of cannabis, and to spread propaghanda about cannabis that has no scientific merit. The next contributor is the media, which is unflinching in their support of the government’s arguments in their ‘informational’ programming, and works to portray the stereotype of the cannabis enthusiast as a criminal, layabout, or thug with their entertainment programming. At best, the cannabis user can hope to be portrayed as either a lovable and harmless oaf; or as a radical (but still harmless) activist usually made harmless by their cannabis usage. While most cannabis users don’t do much to combat these stereotypes, my personal experiences would indicate that if proper research were done on the subject we would find that, much like alcohol usage, cannabis usage is present in some percentage of every conceivable sovial or cultural classification. Well, you know, probably less among law enforcement. Unfortunately, to openly admit to cannabis use of any frequency or amount can often lead to job loss, loss of standing or respect in one’s community, or be used as ammunition against the victim in any number of ways. All these factors are usually enough to convince people to keep quiet abour their fondness for cannabis, and for the advocation of issues pertaining to cannabis legalization. This is a large part of why ‘doctors’ and other ‘professionals’ (liars, the lot of them) in the US are able to continue to claim that cannabis has no beneficial effects, or continue to re-use long discredited studies to spread their propaganda lines with minimal resistance from the proper scientific community.
The point of all this being that at some point this vicious cycle has got to stop, and a great place to break the cycle would be for the cannabis using members of the intellectual populace to begin coming out of the cannabis closet. Haha, if that is not a term I am coining it now. Nomenclature aside, Carl Sagan is not the only person with both an above average IQ and a desire to use it. Once more of the anti-drug people realize this and begin to understand that occaisional cannabis usage doesn’t affect your intellectual capacity, I think we would see at least a little erosion of the social stigma against cannabis usage, and that can’t be anything but a good thing. Remember, a sizable amount of the initial anti-marijuana hysteria was fueled by claims that it led to that most terrible crime, race mixing. The people opposed to legalization may have updated their justifications to suit the times, but they have no more intellectual heft now than they did then. Cannabis prohibition makes no sense, and the best way to expose something that makes no sense is with reasonable people making a case for something that does make sense.