One perspective on cannabis prohibition

I write on March 16, 2015, 20 days since Alaska’s prohibition ended. As a Christian I am pondering biblical references to cannabis and persecution. After a persecution ends, a nation asks: What happened? Was I complicit? Did I cause harm? Was I harmed?

We persecuted know: innocent people were harmed. We who survived became a strong people. We became loyal, courageous, discreet, compassionate, and forgiving. We forgave — or we died of grief and anger. We are the cannabis nation. The war against us was a war against the American family, and historically, the American family farm.

Before the prohibition of cannabis, before 1933, we see a peaceable people, a nation powered by cannabis. Millions of physicians treated arthritis patients with cannabis oil (the concentrates some misguided Alaskan legislators are still trying to ban). Millions of peaceful agriculturists grew hemp for sails and mooring lines, fishing nets and sacks.  Millions of homesteaders went west with sacks of hempseed to provide medicine, home spun cloth and seed oil.  Henry Ford’s car was designed to run on hemp oil.

After 1933, prohibition began to ruin America’s popular economy: millions of farmers were forbidden to grow hemp, a vitally important crop. After that death blow, big chemical and petroleum interests increasingly dominated American agricultural colleges, and bankers and real estate developers moved in to take American farmland.  

In the 1960s and 1970s, my generation said yes to weed and no to war. Tens of millions of us recognized the good herb cannabis and chose to grow, possess, study, medicate and recreate with this useful herb. For refusing to obey an ignorant, greedy, destructive prohibition, we were persecuted.  

The holocaust continues to this day in unfortunate jurisdictions. Millions in prison, hundreds of thousands of growers ruined, farms confiscated, crops stolen, families torn, lives derailed.  

Our growers are our heroes. They risked their lives and lands to grow the herb for millions of smokers, including more than 50 percent of my class at Princeton, and sufferers from chemotherapy who used the herb to combat nausea.

Our growers are serving life sentences in prisons to this day eating a deathly industrial diet. They did nothing wrong. They harmed no one, intended no ill to anyone. All these innocents should be released, immediately. They resisted an unjust prohibition, and they should be honored, not treated like criminals.

Ah, but that would require federal and state governments to admit they were wrong, and ask forgiveness for the harms they caused. Seem unlikely? It could happen, if the nation’s Christians spoke in the name of Jesus to their legislators and judges and prosecutors.

If the government apologized, cannabis nation would say, we forgive you. There would be no talk of revenge.  There would be no lawsuits. We have spent enough time in your courts. Cannabis teaches compassion, tolerance and the peaceable way.  

It’s true that greedy people plundered the innocent.  Prison became big business. Corrupt courts, private prisons, cops’ wives grooming confiscated bud to sell on the black market: it was a dirty war carried out by self-righteous merciless personalities. Young prosecutors were hired right from law school and taught to make war on innocent civilians. Don’t arrest the Ivy Leaguers or the rich. Go after the poor, the brown, the black, and those strangely dressed hippies.

Cannabis nation says to law enforcement, legislators and government officials: We forgive you, but henceforth we expect you to leave us alone. Stop persecuting us. Get out of our homes, off our farms, away from our grows, out of our doctors’ offices, out of our schools, stop stealing our crop and selling it, let us all out of prison, stop bothering our youth on the roads.  

And when you get alone with Jesus or God, you might ask Him how you can make up for the harm you did. You would be amazed how much joy and relief can flow from saying, I’m sorry I hurt you, will you forgive me?

A persecution is a Biblical event. The Bible is full of persecutions, culminating in Jesus, who suffered persecution unto death. He said nothing to his accusers.  When the soldiers nailed him to the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The Alaska persecution is over. The federal persecution will soon end. It’s time for Alaskans  to reflect on mercy and compassion.  It’s time to free the innocent. Let them return to their families and communities. Let histories be written.

Homer author and composer Lindianne Sarno can be contacted at