Drug Law

Is Marijuana Prohibition America’s Berlin Wall?

| by NORML

by George Rohrbacher, NORML board of directors member?& medical cannabis patient

[Note from NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre: This essay was originally published on March 1st, 2009. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's deconstruction and the fall of Communism being recognized around the world this week, and with the ever-falling support for cannabis prohibition in America, this essay from NORML board member George Rohrbacher seems even more apropos today than last March.]

It is said that almost everyone in the marijuana law reform movement has a seminal moment they can point to when their public activism started. My moment was in the fall, six years ago.

I’m a past president of our local Kiwanis Club. I’ve been a member for years; we meet for breakfast at 6:30am, every Wednesday morning. My fateful “activism moment” was meeting face-to-face with one morning’s Kiwanis Club program, our town’s newly acquired dope dog. Some rock-ribbed citizen had left money in his will for the city to buy a dope dog for our town of 3,000, in a county of 18,000 people. The dog’s handler and the police chief were up at the speaker’s table. I had to fight back the urge to turn around and run.

As I sat down at my usual spot, ordered breakfast and clipped on my Kiwanis Club nametag, my heart was just racing! Thank God, my neck pain had not been severe enough that morning that it had required some marijuana medication, because, I imagined, triggered by the smell of freshly consumed ganja, that huge German Shepard would have leaped from the podium to pin me down to the floor, the dog’s sharp white teeth snarling and snapping at my throat.

As we went through club business about our kid’s reading program, ate breakfast and conducted the normal chit-chat that makes Kiwanis Club so enjoyable, I slowly calmed myself. I had not been found out as a marijuana user, yet. There was no need for me to panic, because the likelihood that I would be found out now by this agent of the state, was growing smaller and smaller by the moment. But, as the primal fear drained away, it started to piss me off; this dope dog was invading my space.

The dog handler got up and spoke glowingly about his charge, the alpha male of his litter. This dog had been born of a long and impressive pedigree in Baden-something, formerly East Germany. Looking at me from across the room was the pride of the jack-booted police state, the purebred German Shepard—smart, vicious, relentless.

The dog handler went chirping on, to mostly nodding heads, about what a fantastic dog he had and how many pot busts he had already made with it. Suddenly, all I could think was: This dog was born in East Germany, it’s father could have pulled someone down off the Berlin Wall…this dog’s great-grandfather would have marched the Jews or Gypsies to the ovens at Buchenwald or Auschwitz… And now, my own little town had a new resident from the same police dog gene pool that serviced the two most brutal totalitarian regimes in the history of the mankind!

Scenes from my childhood of when German Shepards attacked the Civil Rights marchers at Selma floated before my eyes… This well-groomed dog was a tool of the modern police state in all its scariest manifestations. The more I thought about it, the madder and madder I got.

I paid my breakfast bill and left in the first wave. I drove back out to the ranch and fed our cows their daily ration of hay, all the while mulling over my close brush with the dope dog. By the time I got done with my chores and back to the house, I absolutely had to do something! I picked up my telephone and called NORML, and I volunteered for the fight that very day…our fight for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”

Marijuana prohibition is a corrupt and evil social institution, just like the Berlin Wall was. For generations both have been symbols of the ruthless and relentless oppression of the state. Then, one day, by the sheer weight of internal political rot and thousands of little hammers, the Berlin Wall came down, and it came down virtually overnight! Marijuana Prohibition is just as corrupt and evil as the Wall, and it, also, is rotting internally from seven decades of injustice. It, too, is ready for collapse.