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Christmas Dinner

THC Pills

This is my supply of THC pills. I have just completed one year as a holder of one of Missouri’s Medical Marijuana cards provided to me through my doctor. I believe that in the past year, I have taken only six of these. I am not a cancer patient, I do not have Glaucoma, and, though I may be guilty of causing anxiety and panic attacks in others, I do not use marijuana for anxiety. 

I sometimes suffer from sleep disturbance and when a warm bath, a bowl of cereal, or music and meditation cannot help me to fight my way through insomnia, I have found that marijuana, specifically “indica” will gently help me to sleep.

Over the years I have tried several prescription sleep medications but all of them have side effects that have made me hesitant to ever use them. Medical marijuana has been a very happy solution for me that allows me to break up my insomnia with no noticeable side effects. 

I don’t smoke pot and, given a couple of tries over the past few years, so far as I am concerned, you can just dig a deep hole and put all of the bud in the world in it and cover it up. I don’t want to get high. I don’t like it. In the same way, while I sometimes drink a beer or enjoy a nice, aged rum, I don’t want to get drunk.

Alcohol is a potentially dangerous drug which has ruined the lives of millions upon millions of people. Perhaps as many as 35 million Americans are active alcoholics which translates into a lot of drunk driving, unemployment, destroyed families, and very serious health problems. Like fried chicken or salt cured country ham, alcohol can be an occasional treat but too much of it will kill you. 

With 40,000 Americans incarcerated for marijuana offenses, the cannabis industry needs to step up, activists said this week.

I did my master’s thesis on the treatment of alcoholism. I have worked in the VA’s addiction treatment program. I have done dozens of funerals for people who have died from alcohol abuse or alcohol related car accidents or suicides. I have gone into the homes of alcoholics to wrestle a gun away from an intoxicated and abusive spouse.

I have seen the seamy underbelly of alcohol and I always treat it with respect, just as I do my car . . . an automobile can be very useful, if not necessary, but it is also a dangerous machine that can easily kill me and others. . . especially when combining cars with drinking: about 28 people a day die from drunk driving automobile accidents, more than 10,000 per year.

Again, speaking only from personal experience, I have never done a funeral for someone who died from marijuana abuse. Still, it is possible to mess up your life or your family’s life with marijuana. I personally know people who are addicted to it, smoking, or eating it several times a day. The people I know who are addicted to marijuana are not simply forgetful or irresponsible, they are also not about to hold down a job and I will never again allow one of them to pick me up at the airport to give me a ride home. Heavy marijuana use makes people make bad decisions, it makes them easily distracted, and while being high is not the same thing as being intoxicated, it bears many similarities.

Racial Disparity In Marijuana Arrests

It does create some law enforcement headaches. For example: alcohol is the only drug that you can fairly reliably do a blood test on a driver and know almost exactly how impaired that they are. Not so with marijuana. THC stays in the blood for two days to a week, so that even a sophisticated blood analysis cannot tell you how high a user is at any given moment. In states that have legalized the use of cannabis, it forces the police to do field sobriety tests, leaving it up to the arresting officer to determine by their own judgement, how impaired the driver is.

Which is probably why more black and brown people are arrested for impaired driving from marijuana use than white people, even though, more white people use pot than do people of color. Still, last year in New York City, 90% of marijuana arrests were people of color. 

You may not want to believe that the police are harsher in their judgements of people of color than they are white folks but the math seems to suggest that they are. If you don’t believe it, may I suggest that you are not looking at the evidence, you are just choosing to not believe it, as a part of our built-in white privilege defense. I am not going to argue this point because, white folks, in your heart, you already know that I am right. 

If you are a regular listener, you know that I have talked before about how the Nixon administration turned Johnson’s “War on Poverty” into what he called, a “War on Drugs” which very quickly became a war on the poor if not, in very fact, an all-out war on people of color. The Nixon administration realized that there were drugs that were very specific to the Anti-war in Vietnam groups and the black civil rights movement and by ramping up arrests and incarceration, he was able to remove much of the leadership of both the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement. 

Christmas Dinner

Raymond P. Shafer

Still, 50 years ago, early in Nixon’s war on drugs, he commissioned an in-depth study of the drug. Nixon appointed Raymond P. Shafer, former Republican Governor of Pennsylvania to oversee the study. Gov. Shafer and eight other members of the Commission along with a staff of 76 researchers managed to produce a report that was nearly 4000 pages long. Mind you, this is a study commissioned by a very conservative Republican president, 50 years ago. 

In fact, a regular listener pointed out to me that I had not referenced this voluminous report in a talk I gave a few years ago about the War on Drugs and my initial reaction was admittedly a bit incredulous. Why would I consider a report commissioned by Richard Nixon 50 years ago when Nixon was the one who was using pot to jail Vietnam War protestors and leaders of the Civil Rights movement?

But 1971 was different from 2021 and, dare I say, Republicans were different in 1971 than they are in our day. The report, even 50 years ago, emphatically encouraged lesser punishments for marijuana charges. The Shafer Commission report said, even then, that once you start to fund a budget for keeping people in jail, the profit motive quickly takes over any judicial reasoning and it becomes nearly impossible to reduce the number of arrests and incarcerations.

The report points outDominant among the opponents of change who testify before legislative panels are the recipients of public funds - police chiefs, prosecutors, and drug abuse experts funded by government contracts and grants.

The commission reported that cannabis was as safe as alcohol and recommended that it be decriminalized for public health reasons. . . now, Nixon ignored the report, but it wasn’t far off from what I am saying today, except that I believe that alcohol is more dangerous than pot. Not harmless, but nowhere near as harmful as distilled spirits. And, as we used to say in the VA treatment center, if you drink a lot of beer you need to understand that you drink a lot. Beer is not a safe substitute for bourbon and vaping is not a safe substitute for cigarettes. Don’t believe the marketing. 

Long after Nixon left office, the war on drugs has continued to serve two vital purposes: it fuels the profits of incarceration, and it removes a portion of the excess labor in America and puts them into virtual slave manufacturing camps. I have often said that Victoria’s real secret is that those delicate female undergarments were, for years, sewn together by inmates. I’m not going down this rabbit hole today, but you simply would not believe how many American corporations are dependent upon nearly free labor from prisoners, including dozens of major clothing and food industries. If the label says, “made in the USA,” don’t assume that you are supporting American labor. You may be supporting the prison slavery industry which is funded by our tax dollars.

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We have 2 million people incarcerated in the United States, a larger percentage of our population than any other nation on earth and yet our drug problem is much worse than ever. This past month we crossed a horrifying Rubicon with more than 100,000 overdose deaths in America in the past 12 months. I realize that statistics can slide across the clean waxed floor of our minds without leaving any muddy footprints. I realize that we are in the midst of a global pandemic and that we had 400,000 deaths in 2020 from covid and even more in 2021, in spite of the availability of vaccines for most of this year. But we get covid reports in the news over and over every day when a fourth as many people die from drug overdoses as are dying from Covid-19 and it is rarely mentioned.

Somehow we have become inured to this death rate so that it isn’t even newsworthy. In fact, more people die of drug overdoses than the total number of Americans who die from gunshot wounds and car accidents combined. It is noticeable that this is 5x as many as when the War on Drugs started. 

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In fact, in the last 12 months, we have had more drug overdose deaths in America than we had combat related deaths in every war we have been in for the past 70 years, including Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Clearly, the War on Drugs has been a complete disaster, a waste of money and lives. 

But do you know how many of these deaths were from Marijuana overdoses? None. Zero. Do you hear me? It is nearly impossible to fatally overdose on cannabis. It is easy to die of an overdose of Tylenol, but not marijuana. Most of these 100,000 deaths this year were from Fentanyl, OxyContin, Meth, or other opioids including prescription drugs used by millions like Adderall and Desoxyn.

Again, as tempting as it is, I’m not going to fall into this rabbit hole, but we have about 90 million Americans taking Adderall for ADHD. About a third of our adult population, but Adderall is the legal prescription name for Methamphetamine. “Your kid is having difficulty focusing in school, here, give them some Meth and see how that works.” 

Only recently has there been research on the relationship between people taking Adderall during the day and then drinking alcoholically at night to try to go to sleep. I could have pointed out this relationship years ago. I’ve done funerals for people who have died from this combination, and I expect that I will be called upon to do more, and yet, this $11 billion dollar industry just keeps growing.

If this doesn’t make you mad then I can only conclude that you either are not listening or you should check your own moral indifference because this is a pharmaceutical nightmare.

Even though we have a huge problem with drug abuse in the USA, including a death rate that has doubled in just a couple of years but none of those deaths were from marijuana, but we still have 40,000 people incarcerated on marijuana related charges and another 70 million people have criminal records related to marijuana charges…. Criminal records that follow them for their whole lives, preventing them from getting many jobs, or starting some businesses, or obtaining decent business or home loans.

You know a lot of people who have criminal records from marijuana charges and most of the people that I know who are daily users have never even had a criminal charge for drugs. If one in four adult Americans have at least one arrest for marijuana related crimes, can we start to think of this as being a common part of the human condition and not a crime? 

American businesses are screaming for people to come back to work, and I could tell you where you could get 40,000 eager employees this morning, by just letting them out of jail! And millions more if only we would purge the criminal records of these people who have not, in any reasonable context, committed a crime. I hope that you are listening to me.

Christmas Dinner

Sawmills, veterinary clinics, psychologists offices and the other industries desperate for workers right now - The Washington Post

We have 100,000 overdose deaths in the USA in the past year, and we have an economy killing shortage of employees, while 70 million people are fighting against decades old marijuana charges and another 40,000 are languishing in jails for offenses with weed that has no casualty count and is many times less dangerous than your favorite beer or distilled spirits.

Politicians often disappoint me but, I must tell you, in 2016, in the closing weeks of Barak Obama’s term in office, I fully expected him to pardon the people in prison on marijuana charges. Obama had been a pot smoker himself, at least during his college years. He is a smart guy and has, at least, shown discernable signs of compassion . . . never enough to suit me, but still, why didn’t he hand out pot pardons like candy during his last months in office? 

40,000 families will have an empty chair at their Christmas dinner table because politicians can’t get their act together to stop pouring money into the prison system and keeping mostly dark-skinned people behind bars.

If this doesn’t make you mad as hell, then you must have a cold hard place where your heart was supposed to be. If politicians are determined to keep the prison population up, how about letting the people incarcerated for pot go free and replace them with the corporate managers at Kraft and Amazon who are criminally abusing their employees, or the doctors who shamelessly prescribed all of these opioids to people who didn’t need them so that they could take big pharma funded continuing education trips to Hawaii? There are people who are really dangerous to society who might need to be locked up while pot smokers are just trying to remember where they left their glasses. 

Where marijuana is legal

Where marijuana is legal

Now, just so you know, almost no one gets charged with simple possession. I used to visit an 80-year-old pot grower from Bolivar in our local jail. He got a ten-year sentence, not just for growing and selling a modest amount of pot but, because he had a shot gun in the trunk of his old car when they arrested him. That made him a gangster…. A gangster who was nearly blind and could hardly walk. We are still paying federal taxes to keep him in prison. Does anyone feel safer? 

And, folks, before you could go to any one of many dispensaries around town, how did you buy pot? Almost always from a friend, right? Among the people who use marijuana products, there is always sharing and trading going on which makes it look like commerce when, in fact, it is just the underground distribution system created by stupid laws that make it illegal.

So, even though prosecutors will try to tell you that these people are dangerous, like my old friend with a rusted out shot gun, it is the laws that make the crime, not the people who coping with the cancer meds by smoking some pot. 

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While these 40 thousand people languish in prison and 70 million still have criminal records on pot charges, 39 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana, and another 5 have legalized medical marijuana and I am one of those and I have to tell you, it just wasn’t that hard to get a medical marijuana card. So, basically, pot is legal in 44 states. Who are the hold outs? Where are the medical and jurisprudence geniuses filling state legislatures? Do you want to turn to Texas, Kentucky, Kansas, or Mississippi, for insight into best practices? Really? 

I have a two-step modest proposal to cut the federal budget, liberate prisoners, help solve the employment problem, and to stimulate the economy, reduce crime, and fill state and municipal coffers with tax income: 

I can only hope that President Biden is listening: We should immediately reclassify marijuana and regulate it and tax it the same way that we do alcohol. And secondly, pharaoh, let my people go!

Dr. Roger Ray

Release everyone in prison on pot charges and wipe the criminal history of the millions of other people who have been found guilty of a bogus criminal charge.

Or, to quote the prophet Amos: (Amos 5:24 NRSV)

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. 

Roger Ray
Emerging Church