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John Sinclair - Free the Weed 102 - September 2019


A Column By John Sinclair


Hi everybody, highest greetings from Detroit in the dog days of August where the latest civic folly is the authorization of elaborate beer wagons peddled by squares down the streets of the inner city, like my street, Peterboro, former dope capital of the Cass Corridor, located just five or six blocks above downtown Detroit. 

At a time when marijuana use has been legalized in Michigan but actually proscribed by the petitioners from being smoked in public, and the attorney general’s office is trying to ascertain as we speak what exactly shall be the penalties for smoking a joint on the street or in another public place, idiots from the suburbs can come into the heart of Detroit, rent a beer wagon, and cram up to 16 people peddling themselves around downtown and its environs while chugging alcoholic beverages and making a lot of offensive noise.

If Michigan is going to regulate marijuana like alcohol, as the Marijuana Policy Project has insisted we do and the voters approved, why don’t we have wagons full of marijuana smokers peddling around Livonia and Sterling Heights singing reefer songs and passing joints around?

How could it possibly be illegal to smoke a joint in public when alcohol consumption is allowed at every turn? Why is it that the City of Detroit, which I never tire of informing you has shut down 282 grass-roots medical marijuana dispensaries rather than simply license and tax them like any other business, can allow alcohol imbibers to parade around in the city’s neighborhoods on noisy beer wagons? What kind of dumb shit is this?

It’s becoming clearer and clearer that under Mayor Duggan and the former police officers, ministers and social workers who make up the Detroit City Council, the Motor City will do literally anything to bring new white people into downtown Detroit, and I guess the beer wagons are just the latest ploy to attract squares into the city for other than sports contests and pop concerts.

Why am I so offended by these fucking beer wagons? Not only because I can still be arrested for smoking a joint in public, which is something I do virtually every day that I’m alive, but because they are so utterly disrespectful of where they are going and what they are doing.

In my neighborhood, for example, except for the new white people who get the newly renovated housing and the newly opened restaurants and bars for their exclusive use, most of the residents are old and disabled to some extent and not of the Caucasian persuasion. Walkers and motorized carts abound on Woodward and the side streets, now intermixed with those idiotic little rental scooters and brand-new bicycles for rent on a big rack by the bus stop. 

Peterboro winds west from Woodward Avenue across Cass to Second Avenue, passing a popular yuppie eating installation called the Detroit Shipping Company where the beer wagons from downtown land as their ultimate destination, loading their patrons off into the bar for a proper land-based drink before climbing back aboard for the noisy trip back downtown.

As I write this, looking out my second-floor window down onto Peterboro Street on a sunny Sunday afternoon, a steady stream of these beer wagons continues to make its way up to the Detroit Shipping Company and back downtown. That’s quite a few dozen squares passing by my house making a lot of ugly noise on beer wagons, something I could never have imagined.

In fact, for the past 40 or 50 year it’s been hard to imagine any white people whatsoever walking down Woodward or venturing onto Peterboro unless they were looking to score drugs or purchase some sort of sex acts from the local residents and those from other parts of town who plied their nefarious trades in the tenderloin district known as the Cass Corridor. There just weren’t any white people to be seen in this vicinity for days and months and years.

Now they’re riding bikes and little scooters and walking around and riding on beer wagons all over the place. Maybe this is a good thing, but I’d hate to think that this is the sum total of our city’s leadership vision in terms of bringing this once-great city back from the whirlpool of the toilet bowl where the million white people who abandoned Detroit 50 years ago flushed it behind them.

I can’t help but obsess about the 282 medical marijuana dispensaries that were shut down by the city starting in 2016, and the grand total of 50 functioning dispensaries the city’s leaders envision, and the $6000 application fee each must file with the City, and the $6000 in application fees to the State of Michigan, and then the $60,000 the State intends to extract from each successful license seeker, and it makes my head spin.

Now the State is attempting to determine how much of this booty they can extract from the purported operators of recreational marijuana outlets under the legalization measure passed by the citizens in open vote last November. The powers that be, basically completely ignorant of the culture and practice of marijuana use and distribution among weed smokers and users, seem to draw a big line between “medical” and “recreational” marijuana even though any fool knows that it’s the same fucking weed!
I hate to pose so many rhetorical questions in one humble little column, but for the love of truth and beauty, why can’t the authorities respond to our changing the marijuana laws by going around to the places that exist and the people who have been distributing marijuana so successfully for the past 80 years and ask them what should be done under the newly legalized system to make sure that people can get their weed—whatever they may use it for.

I don’t think it’s wrong to conclude that the reason the marijuana laws continue to be such a mess is that the authorities have been doing everything in their power to prevent a new system from being established in workable form. Certainly that was the case under the tough nerd governor Snyder and the staunchly Republican legislature, and it remains to be seen if the new powers in charge will make really meaningful alterations to this policy.

From day to day the situation continues to vary, looking good when more sensible regulations are drawn up and looking bad when the same old shit continues to hold sway. The whole process needs to be turned on its head and started over with the marijuana consumer, grower and distributor placed in the primary position with their needs carefully studied, assessed and addressed in terms of how the weed will be regulated and made available to the people who want and need it. 

Why does this seem so simple to me? What about you? Let’s get these people to turn their shit around and fix the laws so they serve us and not the other way around. FREE THE WEED!

—Detroit
August 25, 2019


© 2019 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.

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