Do you know what "marijuana" is? "Marijuana" is one name for the leaves and flowers of a kind of plant called hemp, or "cannabis" in Latin.
Hemp is one of the oldest and most useful plants known to the human race. 2,000 years ago, the first paper was invented in China. It was made out of hemp and mulberry bark.
For many, many years, almost all the paper in the world was made of hemp fibers. Only about 100 years ago did they start to make paper mainly from wood pulp. Nowadays, millions of trees are cut down every year to make paper. That is wasteful, because hemp would be a better plant to use to make paper.
The stalk or stem of hemp plants is used to make cloth and rope.
CANVAS is a kind of heavy cloth, used for sails, tents, knapsacks, and so forth. The word "canvas" sounds like the word "cannabis," because that is where it comes from. Canvas was made from marijuana plants (cannabis, or hemp), for thousands of years.
When Columbus sailed to America, the sails on his ships were made from marijuana plants. The rigging (ropes) on his ships came from marijuana plants. Stuff called oakum was used to seal the cracks in the hulls of his wooden ships, so they wouldn't leak. Oakum was made from marijuana plants.
Today, canvas is made from cotton, but it isn't as strong as the old canvas made from hemp.
The seeds of the marijuana plant are a good food for birds. In some countries, they are ground up and used as food for people, too.
The seeds can also be crushed by machinery to squeeze out the oil in them. This hemp-seed oil used to be used to make paint, varnish, soap, and many other things.
The flowers and leaves of hemp are sometimes called marijuana. All over the world, people use these flowers and leaves for medicine.
When it is used for medicine, marijuana can often help people who are sick with serious diseases, like cancer, multiple sclerosis, and glaucoma. Some people who have epilepsy use marijuana. It is safer than many other medicines.
When hemp or marijuana is used for medicine, it is smoked or else made into tea or a kind of drink called Bhang, or it may be baked in cookies or brownies.
Hundreds of millions of people also use hemp for fun. In America, hemp is called marijuana, or pot. In other countries it has other nicknames, like GANJA (in India and Jamaica) or DAGGA (in South Africa.) When people smoke or eat or drink marijuana, they usually feel happy and relaxed.
Have you ever seen cats eating catnip? It makes them playful and silly. That is sort of what hemp flowers do to people. It is kind of like catnip for people.
Some people don't know how to act when they take hemp. They might get confused, or they might forget what they are supposed to be doing. If they are not careful, they could accidentally hurt themselves or other people. Most adults agree that children should not take hemp, just as they should not drink alcohol.
In America, many people are afraid of hemp.
Many lies and scare stories are told about marijuana, especially on television. You shouldn't believe anything you see on T.V. about marijuana. If you want to learn what the truth is, you have to go to a library and read a lot of books. Most of these books are written for adults, and they are sometimes hard to read.
But even if the truth is hard to learn and hard to understand, it is worth it. Lies are worthless. No matter how many times someone tells a lie, it still isn't true.
If you are a student in school, your teachers are told to teach you about marijuana. Sometimes your teachers don't know everything.
Your teacher will tell you that marijuana is illegal. This means people who have marijuana or people who grow it can be arrested and sent to jail. (Except in Alaska, where it IS legal.)
George Washington grew marijuana. He was the first President and the Father of Our Country, but today he would be put in jail.
Thomas Jefferson grew marijuana. He wrote the Declaration of Independence, and he was our third President, but today he would be put in jail.
Sometimes the people who make our laws make bad laws instead of good laws.
Did you know there used to be a law that women were not allowed to vote?
Did you know there used to be a law that said people could be kidnaped from Africa and forced to be slaves? And if they tried to escape, there was another law that said you could not help them to freedom and safety. In fact, the law said you had to give them back to slavery!
History is full of such bad laws.
About 70 years ago, there was a law that said no one could sell beer, wine, or whiskey--because these drinks had alcohol in them. Alcohol can make people get drunk or sick. People can die from it. It seemed like a good idea to pass a law against alcohol. It was called "Prohibition."
It didn't work. People drank alcohol anyway. Criminals smuggled and sold alcohol. There was a lot of crime. Some people got shot by gangs.
It turned out to be a bad law.
Finally, the lawmakers gave up. It was the end of Prohibition. People could drink beer and wine and liquor again, if they wanted to.
The crime stopped. The gangs stopped shooting people.
But the police who used to arrest people for breaking the Prohibition law were afraid they wouldn't have any work to do anymore.
They wanted a new law so they would still have their police jobs!
They decided to make a law against hemp. Lots of people in America still grew hemp 50 years ago, but not very many people smoked it. Most Americans 50 years ago smoked tobacco cigarettes. Smoking tobacco was very popular. Lawmakers didn't want to pass laws against cigarettes.
But only a few people then were smoking hemp in the U.S.A. Mostly they were poor workers from Mexico, or African-American musicians.
Lawmakers didn't care about Mexicans or African-Americans. They were not allowed to vote. They were treated very badly, because of prejudice.
So a law against hemp was passed. The police kept their jobs.
Well, this is supposed to be a free country.
But if the police have to watch what you drink or what you eat or what you smoke, then it isn't a free country, anymore.
A free country means you will decide for yourself what you want to do in your own life.
When you're a young person, you have to live by the rules your parents make for you. You aren't really free to do what you want. It has to be that way, because they are responsible for helping you grow up.
But once you are grown up, you do not need someone to give orders to you and tell you how to run your life. What you do is your own business, as long as you do not hurt somebody else.
When the schools try to teach about marijuana, they always try to make you think that marijuana is bad, because it is against the law.
But history tells us that sometimes it is the law itself that is bad.
The truth is, the hemp plant is useful and important. If farmers could grow hemp again, then we could make paper from hemp--and save millions of trees every year. We could make clothes from hemp again--did you know that the first Levi's jeans were made from hemp? Medicine, food, and many other things could be made from hemp.
The truth is, the law against hemp is unjust, stupid, and wrong.
Licit & Illicit Drugs, by Edward Brecher and editors of Consumer Reports. Little, Brown, & Co. Boston, 1972.
Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants, by Richard Evans Schultes. Western Publishing Co., WI, 1976.
Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years, by Ernest Abel, McGraw-Hill Publishers, New York, 1982.
THE EMPEROR WEARS NO CLOTHES by Jack Herer, available at HEMPware, etc, 5410 W. Alameda, Next to Bowlero or at The Tattered Cover Bookstore.