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Reefer Madness

Blythe as a Gateway City

The Desert Independent

November 28, 2016

BLYTHE, Calif – With the passage of Prop 64, the voters of California made a bold step in legalizing the use of marijuana for recreational use. Marijuana became street-legal upon the day of its passage, November 8, and aficionados were given permission to grow six plants in their homes for personal use. Past convictions for possession are to be downgraded or expunged.

What does this mean for Blythe? As reported in USA Today and the Arizona Republic, Blythe is the midway point between Phoenix, Arizona – were voters turned down a similar measure – and the medical dispensaries in the Palm Springs area. This presents some interesting dilemmas.

Police Chief Jeff Wade was videotaped for USA Today stating the he does not favor local legal dispensaries as they would bring an influx of criminal elements to Blythe. He further stated that another problem was in determining if a driver would be judged impaired from any amount of marijuana as there is no reliable test for upper limits of the central ingredient – Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in determining a DUI. He further added that the people in Phoenix can get marijuana easily enough without having to drive to Blythe.

Marijuana or Hemp, as it is known in agriculture, has a long history in the United States. Hemp has been used for centuries in the manufacture of paper, rope and canvas. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew Hemp as a cash crop. The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence were written on Hemp paper as well. If you were to look at a newspaper from the 1920s printed on Hemp paper, it would appear as bright as the day it was printed, not yellowed at all from paper made with acidic wood pulp.

This is the principal reason that marijuana was made illegal in the 1930s.

It all because of one man – William Randolph Hearst – a newspaper magnate and Yellow Journalist who owned vast holdings of timber in the northwest that was being threaten by a new machine. It was called the "decorticator" and this invention allowed for the removal of the stringy material for the bole of the hemp plant. This made possible the mass production of hemp for newsprint in a way that was cheaper and cleaner than processing wood pulp.

W. Randolph Hearst wanted none of this. He wanted to profit off his timber holdings and pushed to move the country away from the Hemp standard. He arranged for the appointment of one Harry. J. Anslinger as head of the Federal Narcotics Bureau. Anslinger was a rabid little man with marching orders to criminalize the use of Marijuana. Until this time, smoking marijuana was quite legal. During prohibition, marijuana was smoked in "Tea Rooms" as an alternative to the speakeasies that provided illegal booze.

Nothing moves the American people like fear. Anslinger constantly put forth propaganda portraying marijuana as addictive, a gateway drug that led to insanity, incarceration and death. His most galling piece of propaganda was the movie "Reefer Madness" which showed teenagers doing all sorts of nefarious stuff under the influence. Notably a young man smoking a joint and then taking an axe to his entire family.

By 1939, Marijuana was considered a narcotic. Hemp was taken out of production and Hearst was able to capitalize on his timber holdings. Such was the situation until this past election.

There are arguments pro and con for usage. Unlike cigarettes and tobacco, no one has ever died as a result of direct usage. It can be used to ease chemotherapy side effects, treatment of glaucoma and high blood pressure as well. There is no addiction, no gateway effect, no detox and no overdosing. Ask any policeman, if he had a choice, if he would rather break up a rowdy beer bust or intrude on some lethargic dopers.

On the other hand, it makes you paranoid and stupid. Check out any Cheech and Chong record.

In no way should anyone under the age of 21 be allowed to become a user. Brain cells and personalities are still developing and could have livelong effects. Adult brains are fully formed and set for life.

So what does this mean for Blythe? It could be an economic boom to the hospitality industry as appetites are stimulated. Long distance travelers could hole up in the local motels. Will this bring a criminal influx to Blythe? It’s possible, but doubtful. Street marijuana may well be cheaper than the overtaxed version and they might just stay home.

The Blythe City Council turned down an effort by a medical dispensary to open doors several years ago. No doubt there will be heated debates at the next several convocations of this august group.

A possible compromise could well be affected. The council could approve the establishment of legal dispensaries, but hold sales to California residents only.

Along with providing proof of age on their driver's licenses, the dispensary would also have to establish proof of residency as well.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

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