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Jay Lauren's Weed, Blood, and Money - May 2019

Jay Lauren's

Hello, reader. Whatcha smokin’ these days?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act officially went into effect around 5 months before this issue hits print. For anyone over 21, the act legalized the cultivation, possession, and use of “marijuana”, a certain annual herbaceous plant found nearly everywhere on Earth, generally in close association with humans. Good news for Michigan’s human population.

I prefer weed, but I’m a product of my environment. Others may have called it “bud”, or “green”, or “smoke”. My mom called it “pot”. I learned this over lobsters once, when my auntie Barbra pointed to a pair of those little crab tongs and asked my mother to “pass the roach clip”. When mom picked up the tongs, I laughed. “The seventies were a different time!”, exclaimed Mom. “This doesn’t mean you can smoke pot.” My dad offered that “dope-smokers” don’t have real jobs. Barbra just shot me a wink. I was 21 and working night shifts at a hotel at the time. Fair enough, dad.

The only people who really called it “marijuana” were the hopelessly uncool. Teachers, cops, hall monitors, a President or two, the haircuts who read the news on TV. (Protip: never share your weed with a President. Those guys don’t even inhale.) I never saw the word “Marihuana” spelled with an h until I watched Reefer Madness. With a couple of friends, a cat, and a quarter sack of weed, that movie is a laugh riot. Maybe the most underrated dry comedy of all time. What the fuck even happened in that movie. That ain’t weed. Four stars.

For users of the dread “marihuana”, I have bad news: that plant is still illegal. It’s been illegal under Federal law since the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, and voters in Michigan don’t seem likely to do anything about it. For those not “hip” to “the lingo”, marihuana refers to a certain annual herbaceous plant found nearly everywhere on Earth, generally in close association with humans. Michigan has recently taken steps to allow medical use via the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008, but there does not appear to be any concerted effort to legalize the plant for recreational use in Michigan. Readers: DO NOT BE FOOLED BY ANY SUPERFICIAL SIMILARITIES IN SPELLING. Marijuana is okey dokey, but marihuana no es bueno. When in doubt, throw it out.

I hope you’re with me so far, because this is where it gets weird. In addition to marijuana, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act also legalizes “hemp”, a certain annual herbaceous plant found nearly everywhere on Earth, generally in close association with humans. I believe that hemp is used to make hand creams and uncomfortable clothing. Hemp users, get your own Regulation and Taxation Act. The Marijuana Act is for saving lives, not making them itchier. And how do y’all just get a gimme when we had to twist the State’s arm to legalize marijuana? This doesn’t make sense. Google?

Okay. Forget all of that. Forget it, and then hold onto your ass. Here’s what it is: whoever writes the statutes in this state is an idiot. I googled “Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act” and it brought me to the Michigan Legislature page for the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act. Read it for yourself:


An initiation of legislation to allow under state law the personal possession and use of marihuana by persons 21 years of age or older; to provide for the lawful cultivation and sale of marihuana and industrial hemp by persons 21 years of age or older; to permit the taxation of revenue derived from commercial marihuana facilities [...]”

Same date. Did these morons accidentally legalize marihuana instead of marijuana? Never put anything past the State of Michigan. Or maybe I put a typo in the search bar. Even my text editor won’t stop suggesting that “marihuana” is misspelled. Google may have burnt me once, but there’s an old saying in Texas; “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me … you can’t get fooled again.” Okay Google, what is weed?

As it happens, the scientific term for the marijuana genus is “cannabis”, borrowed from the Greek k├ínnabis, meaning “marijuana”. From the Greek, the word passed through the hands of the Swedish arch-taxonomer Carl Linnaeus, whose universal framework still governs the naming of every organism known to Biology and whose holy relics are the type specimen for Homo Sapien, another species that he named. Carl Linnaeus was educated, published, studied, cited, ennobled, immortalized, buried in a cathedral, and above all else, impeccably credentialed as a namer of things. His work Species Plantarum brought “cannabis” into Latin. That exposure carried the word “cannabis” forward into languages across the world. “Cannabis” first appeared in English in the late 18th century.

That works for me! Cannabis. One universal word for one universal plant. From Santa’s workshop to the south pole, one might approach a stranger anywhere in the world and obtain some much-needed relief, however far from home. Finally, everybody can just be cool. Thanks, Greeks!

Unfortunately, the English weren’t going to take a scientific consensus lying down. You see, the English already knew the plant as “hemp”. The word “hemp” has very deep roots in English, predating Shakespeare, a hemp user himself, by half a millennium at least. Like a good swear word, “hemp” is four letters, easy to pronounce, audibly distinctive, one syllable. Unable to shift the incumbent word, the weaker newcomer “cannabis” found a smaller niche in the lexicon, mostly as a fancy advertising word for medical preparations. This isn’t sweaty old dread sack hemp, this is cannabis. It’s medicine. Queen Victoria uses it for her menstrual cramps.

So, two words then. Cannabis and hemp. Seems a little unnecessary, but as language goes this solution still makes sense. Okay. But how, then, did I manage to grow up two centuries later without ever referring to cannabis by its scientific or its native English name? Is cannabis technically a weed? Where do the pots factor in? And what’s in “dope”, exactly? Willie Nelson seems to think dope is cannabis, and he’s famous for his cannabis advocacy. A close reading of Marilyn Manson, however, would indicate otherwise. I don’t think my dad would have bought all of those records if Willie was promoting heroin. He may not be philosophically opposed to a “dope-smoker” on his CD player, but he never got into Manson. What happened?

By the early 21st century, our collective grammaws and great granddads were being terrorized with a new word. A longer word, scarier, more foreign-y. The Marihuana Menace was here, and it was making the kids listen to music and have sex. A borrowing from Mexican Spanish, “marihuana” has no clear etymology. Sorry, y’all, the myth of a Mary Jane cleaning her weed and tossing seeds out of her covered wagon like Johnny Appleseed is completely made up. And it looks like the substituted j in “marijuana” was also an American invention.

“Marijuana” was presented to white America as a brown menace, a tide of ravenous “Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers”, who brought with them “Satanic music”, like jazz and swing. Not coincidentally, the first jurisdictions to criminalize marijuana were all along the Mexican border. Also not a coincidence, all of those towns were a part of Mexico as recently as 60 years beforehand. Having successfully scared white America shitless, professional liars then used the momentum to criminalize “marijuana” all across the country. Sorry, Queen Vicky. Go fuck yourself, Shakespeare.

None of it makes any sense. Although funny, Reefer Madness should not be a source of Federal law. This is just some plain old stupid American racism. The word “Marijuana” doesn’t belong in 21st century legislation. Alcohol laws make no mention of “dutch courage”. Tobacco legislation doesn’t say “coffin nails”.

Fuck all of that. I smoke weed.

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