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Lester Grinspoon : The Kotori Interview Part 2 of 3

ROLLING WITH LESTER GRINSPOON PART II: THE PHARMACEUTICAL RAPE OF A SMOKEABLE PANACEA…THE PROHIBITION TARIFF AND THE SCHEDULE III DOUBLE STANDARD
by BOB FREVILLE
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I’m sitting under an umbrella in a dark green iron deckchair, taking pulls off a skunky spliff that will not stay lit. The contents of the joint are seedy and somewhat brown and each hit tears up the back of my throat with its dank harshness. But I’m okay with it because I know that weed is weed and smoke smells like freedom…as long as the wrong person ain’t around to smell it.

In my opposite hand I am holding a phone and as I take another weak hit, the raspy but reassuring voice of the person on the other end of the line hits an Operatic high as my Doctor recalls something that he hasn’t really forgotten since 1971. “I predicted that the Prohibition would be gone in ten years, he says. “It seemed to be that, having achieved this understanding of this drug, the Prohibition would be gone. Of course, here we are.

Lester is enjoying Emeritus status as a Harvard Professor and, as a result, he spends more time with his grandchildren than he does with the scenesters of the global marijuana circuit. “Flying used to be reasonably comfortable, but as I’ve gotten older I try to travel less. But he is quick to add that he was doing something in Rome during the month of September. By October we will had him back.

Grinspoon continues to write for the occasional newspaper or magazine, but the thing he is doing most for marijuana now focuses on his concerns for its future.

“What worries me about the future of the…Prohibition is that it’s going to get a big shot in the arm by the pharmaceutical industry. If it weren’t prohibited I don’t think they would be as interested in it because people would be able to grow it in their gardens or buy it on the streets. You’d be able to buy it quite inexpensively.

“They don’t want this. They will only be successful commercially as long as the Prohibition is in force.

Lester understands the importance of having legal alternatives available, but his bottom line is cut and dry and tokeable: “The gold standard is whole-smoked marijuana. That’s the real medicine.

He expounds on the origins of the alternatives with a baleful sense of the overall absurdity of the events. “By 1985 it was clear to those in authority that cannabis has some very remarkable medicinal qualities. They were beginning to experience some enormous pressure to make it accessible to people with a variety of symptoms and syndromes.

“A small company called UniMed supported this. The government supported this. It was put in an oil base, in a capsule, so that it couldn’t be smoked, and they sold it as Dronabinol. The proprietary name was Marinol.

“The hypocrisy? Marijuana is in Schedule I, along with Heroin and LSD and so forth. One of the criteria of Schedule I is that it has no medical utility whatsoever. Of course, with marijuana the most active cannabinoid is THC. This pure THC that they were now going to peddle was put in Schedule II. It’s the same stuff!

The double standards piss Lester off and they piss me off as I take another long drag off my dirt weed and tuck it away in my wallet, right behind the PBA badge I scored from a connected friend (Oh, yes! They won’t take me alive).

“In 1992, Lester tells me, “Since it wasn’t selling good they moved it from Schedule II to Schedule III.

There’s not much one can say about this kind of gross, deliberate malfeasance. But Lester’s got plenty. “There’s a lot of promotion for it and it’s nowhere near as useful as whole-smoked marijuana. They sold it to the home office in Britain by saying, ‘We have a way of making cannabinoids available to patients without exposing them to the two great risks—the pulmonary damage from smoking and the getting high.’ Both of those risks are absolutely silly, they’re so off the mark.

“The most harmful thing about marijuana was not any inherent psychopharmacological property of the drug, rather the way we as a society dealt with it—criminalizing, arresting about three-hundred thousand people at that time, most of them young, almost all for possession.

“You know what that figure is today? Seven hundred seventy thousand, that’s how much progress I’ve made on this.

He laughs again, but clearly it is to circumvent the pain or, in the very least, aggravation that comes with knowing that something just ain’t right.

“If you look at the scene around the world now, lots of people are getting into this act. The big pharmaceutical companies know there’s a vein of gold to tap. They are working on various analogues, various modifications of the marijuana molecule.

He adds, “We’re going to get an injection of a whole new energy…and lots of money from the pharmaceutical industry.

It doesn’t help that the country continues, as Grinspoon puts it, to “move Rightward.

“Hopefully there will be changes after the elections, but otherwise…we’re moving toward a real Authoritarian country and that’s bad…The facts that the government and The Partnership for a Drug Free America have promoted for so long are fiction.

In a world where Truth is in short supply and news is fed to us by publications with a political-economical agenda, it is the norm for a person’s entire opinion of something to be based not on personal experience but on what they have been told.

Fortunately for potheads and their progressive, aware counterparts, Lester is one of those cats who—even in his Golden Years—is still sticking around to carry the flame, to speak the Truth and to deliver a heartfelt opinion, even when nobody wants to hear it.

“I think it should be legalized and it should be taxed, he says. “It seemed to me in a really rational society where one had treatment available to everybody—we’re talking about something pretty far out there, health available to everybody—all drugs would be taxed in proportion to the cost for the health system to treat the casualties of these drugs.

“The tax on alcohol would go up quite a bit, as a consequence of this. This kind of tax should be adjusted as one gets more data on what it is costing. In that kind of situation the marijuana tax would be very little compared to alcohol, heroin, cocaine or what have you.

Lester’s proposition is so plausible, so pragmatic, that it couldn’t possibly ever work given the angles, agendas and posturing of the American governmental system. The great gaggle of concerned minds, from places like the Food & Drug Administration and The Secret Right Wing Board for the Advancement of Unlawful Adjudication and every cabinet that decides your taxes would be all over this and it would never be treated fairly. They would have to inflate the tariff in order to balance the loss they would feel on their herbal alternatives.

Maybe this will work in that perfect world Lester has mentioned, the one we haven’t quite arrived at just yet. And maybe he’ll be responsible for helping us to get there, if not with his actions then with his words.

“It’s a wonder drug, Grinspoon argues. “In the way Penicillin is a wonder drug. Marijuana wouldn’t be three hundred dollars an ounce if it was still on an economic scale. That’s a prohibition tariff.

“Any product that comes out like Sativex, Grinspoon says, “should have to compete, on the market and in the clinical laboratory, with whole-smoked marijuana, but of course, that’s not the way it’s going to be.

For now the Pharmaceutical complex continues to push to keep the substance illegal and to keep the public’s eyes ensconced by a veil of lies and hogwash propaganda. “The pressure is on.

Despite his observations to the contrary, Lester still holds out a modicum of Hope for the future of marijuana because he knows its strengths and he knows them well. “Marijuana is versatile, he says. “Everything from Premenstrual Syndrome to relief of nausea and vomiting…One of these days it will be recognized as a wonder drug, but I would be the last person to tell you when…


Follow Bob Freville’s Journey Through Fire & Vapors Under The Tutelage of Dr. Grinspoon in Kotori’s Next Issue

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