Recently I read A New Leaf: The End of Cannabis Prohibition by Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian. I was initially puzzled by the title. To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the death of cannabis prohibition have been greatly exaggerated. During a recent trip to several of the states that have legalized cannabis for medical purposes I heard plenty of reports that confirmed to me the cannabis prohibition is still alive and very well in the U.S.A. But title nit-picking aside this is really an excellent book that every cannabis activist should read.
I’ve been involved in the cannabis reform issue for almost forty years. I am not unique in that regard. There are many fine people who have been slogging away at this issue for quite some time. Martin and Rashidian do an excellent job of paying homage to the “pioneers” while skillfully taking the reader rather quickly to the current scene, a period of time that covers the past fifteen years. It has been a terrifically exciting time as more than twenty states enacted medical marijuana laws and two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized adult, social use of cannabis.
But legalizing cannabis—either for medical or social use—is not a simple matter of clicking your ruby heels and making the bad old prohibition disappear. It has taken a tremendous amount of hard work, lots of money and there have been some failures. The authors do a fine job of dissecting the failures as well as the victories. For anyone even remotely involved in cannabis reform this information is critical. Just as the ruby heels do not make prohibition disappear neither will Andy-Hardy-enthusiasm and a-barn-for-the-play make the ballot initiatives pass. Everyone knows the prohibition violates numerous civil liberties but screaming as much on a street corner doesn’t cut it. Meticulously learning the issue, being ready to compromise, and creating a well-thought out plan are the essentials. And passing a law is only the first step. The real trick is implementing the will of the people. The result may be a utopia like Colorado or a political quagmire like New Jersey.
There are twenty-two state laws recognizing marijuana’s medical value. The genie is way out of the bottle at this point but the issue is far from being resolved. The patchwork of different approaches in each state is unsettling, offering an erratic level of patient care. The maddening interference of the federal government is particularly well characterized in The New Leaf. The refusal of federal officials to honestly confront the legitimacy of cannabis as medicine is a particularly dark blight on our government. Explaining the duplicity is not an easy task but Martin and Rashidian do a commendable job.
I recommend this book to anyone with the slightest interest in the cannabis issue. For those already engaged it is mandatory reading.