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Dragon Teeth

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It seems strange to still be talking about the marijuana laws after all these years, but I'm stlll here in the penitentiary and so are thousands of other people doing time for getting high on weed, even though conditions have changed a lot since I was busted the first time in October 1964. At that time not very many people were smoking grass - at least not very many young white people were - and even fewer were getting busted. Those of us who were getting high didn't know anything about "the law" and the way it works, and we got our first taste of repression from the various narcotics bureaus which ferreted us out and dragged us into court to set an example for the rest of our comrades. Fortunately, things didn't turn out quite the way those snakes thought they would, and their whole strategy of repression and terror backfired oo them before they even knew what was happening. DIFFERENT Snee a lot of people who are reading this right now were only 7 or 8 or 10 or 12 years old back in 1964 it might be worthwhile to talk about what things were like back then so you can get an idea of what all of us have gone through to get where we are today. See, things were really different in those days - there was no mass vouth movement. no war movement, no rock and roll culture, no mass marijuana use, and acid was just starting to slip onto the scène. A tit niimrity of white college students was involved in the "civil rights" movement, spending their summer vacations as "freedom riders" in the south, working in voter registration drives so "negroes" could get the right to vote for people like Lyndon Johnson, whowas considered a "peace candidate" in those days. The Just-us Department was looked upon as the champion oí "civil rights, " and the same marshalls who were gagging and beating Bobby Seale in the Chicago Conspiracy trial were being sent into the south to profeet the "civil rights" workers from the mad dogs and amerikans who ran the racist system down there. HEADS The people who smoked weed in those days were mostly neo-beatniks and far-out campus types who holed out around orban universities like Wayne State, listcned to weird (jazz) music, wrate poetry, made strange little films, or jist hung around on the set digging everything that was going down. A lot of us ere already in our twenties and had either graduated or dropped out of college - there were a few totally crazed high school beatniks around too, but they were really weird, especially to the kids they went to school with. And not eren all this tiny group of f reeks smafced weed then--it was hard to cop, cost more than it does now ($10 for a mitchboat, $25 a lid), and to become a head meant taking a f airly big step outside the spectrum of what was considered "acceptable" at the time. Heads were like a visible elite in both major senses of the term: there weren't very maay of us, and we were a lot more like an exclusive conspiracy or clique than a movement, if you can relate to that. HIPPIES It wasn't until 1966, when LSD and rock and roll carne together in San Francisco and exploded in waves that washed back across the country, that the mass youth movement was born, and by that time I was already doing my first bit for possession of - six months in the Detroit House of Correcöon. When the "hippie movement" became "news" for the first time by virtue of a cover story in the February 14, 1967 issue of Newsweek, I had taken my third bust (the one Tm doing 9 12 to 10 years on now) and marijuana was a public issue of a whole new magnitude. Those of us who had been around for some time were regarded as evil dope f iends responsible for leading thousands of kids away from the straight and narnow path their parents had mapped out for them, and our bust in Detroit was meant to serve as an object lesson in depravity and punishment for everybody who would have f ollowed our example in turning on, tuning in, and dropping out of the insanity that "normal" lif e in Amerika had become. NARCS This might sound pretty far out now, but that's the way it was - the Detroit Narcotics Bureau swooped down on our whole neighborhood and arrested 56 of us in one night - January 24, 1967 - issuing press releases about "campus dope rings" and "marijuana addicts" and that whole paranoid fantasy scène. The headlines in the Detroit Free Press screamed "56 ARRESTED IN LIGHTENING DOPE RAID, " and although the largest quantity of "narcotics" captured was one ounce of weed (I had given two joints to an undercover team), the work of the Bureau was done - or so they thought. The next morning 43 of the "suspects" were released without being charged, everyone else except ray partner Leni and myself copped to probation (she had her case thrown out by Judge Crockett), and the whole hip community was trembling in fear and terror just as the snakes had intended. They had struck fear into the hearts of all the kids in the suburbs who were thinking about trying the evil weed, and now all the straight people in town could relax secure in the knowledge that the problem was under control. PEACE AND LOVE Except it didn't quite work that way, as you can teil by looking around you or even in the mirror, if you know what I mean. Weed was a phenomenon whose time had come, and it didn't have anything to do with individuals or dope rings or anything like that at all--people were ready for it, and nothing anybody would try to do could stop it f rom spreading across Amerika. Right on! I mean it really s a weed, and it grew wild in the super-fertile soil of millions of post-western minds and bodies, lighting up Amïrika and smoking out all the people who had been hiding in their schools and bedrooms and apartments waiting for something to happen. This was it ! Rock and roll, reef er, and tons of raw energy set f ree at last ! Nothing could stop it, and when all that righteous acid was stirred into the mixture there were thousands of us who feit - despite all the evidence to the contrary - that nobody would even try_ to stop it. It was so beautiful, this thing we had, so righteous and so mellow that everyone would join us in our celebration of Life and Energy and Peace and Love once they got a chance to check it out for themselves. LESSONS Sure. It didn't work that way either - what happened was that we tried to spread it, and the pólice tried to stop it, and although they weren 't able to stop the movement of our culture they were able to arrest the movement of a whole lot of individuals, which didn't really slow things down much but er added a whole new dimensión to the scène - those of us who thought we could just drop out and do our own thing found out that the people who run this country couldn't afford to let that happen. They came to where we were trying to live on our own and dragged us back into madness, throwing a lot of us into their jails and penitentiaries and teaching the rest of us a few lessons on how far they would go to preserve their control over our lives. FIGHT This repression had two unexpected effects: it brought kids to the realization that weed is a political as well as a cultural phenomenon, that the same government which oppresses black people, Asian and African and Latin American people would also oppress us if we refused to go along with their dëalh program, and that "if we wanna get high we're gonna have to fight"; and, it began to undermine the credibility and the almost unquestioned support which had formerly been enj oyed by the pólice and other state forces among their own people, who found it very hard to understand why the pólice were spending so much time and energy--and so much of the taxpayer's -trying to catch young people in possession of two joints of grass or som e other ridiculous amount of reefer, and then giving those crimináis (who were often their own sons and daughters) mindblowing prison sentences like 3 or 5 or 7 or 9 12 to 10 years. GOVERNMENT CRIMDiALITY Of course it wasn't just the repression of marijuana smokers which brought about that effectit was the intersection of that repression with the escalating pólice violence against war demonstrators and black people, the steadily increasing mass awareness of the criminality of the government's foreign and domestic policies, and the simultaneous heightening of all the blatant contradictions inherent in western society which could no longer be glossed over by televisión and newspaper reporters and their doubles in the government- but for a whole lot of people both in the youth colony and in the mother country the marijuana repression was the major politicizing agent in their lives. And because it was such a seemingly trilling matter to begin with, it had an even greater effect than the other, more serious issues-it was just too weird to believe, that the government was reacting so viciously to the spread of this innocuous weed, and it made people really start questioning the sanity of a system which could get so up tight about people getting high. There was simply no rational explanation for the government's position on marijuana, and the harder it tried to rationalize its behavior the crazier it sounded. It's like marijuana burned the mask off the ugly face oí Euro-Amerikan culture and exposed the naked fear and control it had been hiding behind that facade of reason and the myth of the "melting pot. " And once exposed, who would be able to believe it again ? Again, I don 't want to claim too much for marijuana, but on the other hand I want to insist that grass and the repression it has drawn from the established state have had a much greater politica! effect then most people realize. ff weed really was as innocuous as a lot of people would have you believe than the government certainly wouldn't bother persecuting people the way it has for toking down. Weed is at once the cornerstone (I mean even rock and roll wasn't the force it is now until weed and acid hit the scène) and the symbol of our new culture, and it strikes directly at the roots of western civilization in such a way as to threaten its very survival. But that's something I'll have to talk about later. All [ can say right now is that the established order somehow understands the power of the righteous weed and has lone everything it could to stop reefer from working its magie on us. That its repression campaign hasn't worked is in itself proof of the disruptive power of marijuana, and now that the government sees that the marijuana revolution can't be stopped it's trying to undermine that power by altering its assult and changing the marijuana laws in order to "regain the confidence of young people. " But that won't work eitherthe repressive nature of the capitalist state has already been exposed, and nothing can cover it back up again. So where does this put us now ? I'm still in the penitentiary with almost two years behind me, the governor is calling for the removal of marijuana from the narcotics lists and a reduction in penalties from 10 years to 90 days, Ann Arbor and other cities have already made this move, and straight newspapers like the Detroit Free Press are editorializing in favor of legalized marijuana, a proposal they told us was utterly absurd when we offered it as a solution five years ago. Millions of people are begining to realize that we aren't as crazy as we were supposed to be, and they're starting to listen to us when we try to teil them about this system of treachery and greed which is being perpetrated in their name by the control addicts who run this country. That's certainly a step in the right direction--maybe it we could sit down with these people over a few joints we would really get somewhere ! LETITGROW! FREE THE MARIJUANA 250 000' AMNESTYü ' Chairman Rainbow People's Party Jackson Prison, May 1, 1971