To the Editor:

Your recent (The Oaklland Tribune, May 24, 2003) page two story,

"Science against pot, says doctor" was depressing. It seems that the Bush

Administration is still trying to wage war on pot-smokers, be they recreational users

or medicinal users. The only dangerous part of smoking marijuana is that your

career, your education and your free time may be interrupted by some hard time in

a county jail or state prison if you are caught smoking, selling or cultivating

marijuana (cannabis sativa). Tis a truly sad state of affairs when some

out-of-touch, uptight federal legislators and federal officials decide for you and me

what plant materials we will "be allowed" to ingest. Sounds like a police

state mentality to me. Marijuana use is certainly much safer than using any of the

big two legal drugs: alcohol and tobacco.

Marijuana, Cannabis sativa, has been cultivated for thousands of years in

cultures that ranged from eastern Asia to Western Europe. The psychoactive resin

from the female flower buds has long been used both medicinally and as a

recreational intoxicant. Its possession, cultivation, sale and use were perfectly

legal in the United States from 1776 to 1937, a period of some one hundred and

sixty years. In fact, Marijuana was listed as a drug having medicinal value

in the United States Pharmocopeia from 1860 to 1930. Even George Washington,

our first President, was reputed to grow and use "hemp" to help alleviate the

pain caused by his ill-fitting wooden false teeth.


However, just after the end of our disastrous national fourteen-year

experiment of Prohibition of the use of alcohol in 1933, the possession, use,

cultivation and sale of Marijuana was banned in 1937, with the passage

of the federal Marihuana Stamp Act. This banning was effected after a heavy-duty

scare campaign about the supposed evils of marijuana, how it would lead to the

use of "hard drugs" and how its use was associated with jazz musicians and other

supposedly marginal folks.


In the 1960s the hippies took up the bohemian and beatnik use of marijuana

and its use spread through universities and colleges across the land during the

Vietnam war protests. In the last decade, there has been a softening of public

attitudes about the use of "pot," especially as a legal remedy for pain, nausea

and other human ailments. Its use as "medical marijuana" has been decriminalized

by popular voter initiatives in several states, including Alaska, Arizona, California,

Colorado, Hawaii (by Hawaiian State Legislature), Maine, Nevada, Oregon, and



There has been traditional European and Asian folk use of Marijuana as a

remedy for depression, gout, pain, hysteria, insomnia, nervousness, nausea and

poor appetite. In addition, there is modern American folk medicinal use of

Marijuana as a remedy for anorexia, arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, constipation,

epilepsy, glaucoma, headaches, hepatitis, menstrual cramps, multiple sclerosis,

tinnitus and vomiting. It is also being used to lessen the side effects of

chemotherapy. And Asa Hutchinson, the former head of the Drug Enforcement

Agency, had the gall to assert that there were no known medical uses for Marijuana.


The federal "war on drugs," which began officially some thirty years ago under

President Nixon, has been a total failure. Its prohibition of traditional agricultural

commodities, i. e., plants with drug effects, has resulting in the corruption of the

governments of Mexico, Columbia, and Peru amongothers. It has resulted in the

jailing of thousands of Americans for crimes, which are essentially

victimless. It is time for America to end its preoccupation with "illegal drugs" and

time to treat drug addiction and drug abuse as medical problems, not

legal problems. Since criminalizing the cultivation and distribution of plant materials

makes their value exceedingly high, the human tradition of capitalism and free

enterprise will always find those who are willing to take risks to make large profits

on the distribution of these materials. The decriminalization

of plant material drugs will drop their value to its true level, close to zero dollars per

pound, like corn, wheat, rice or sugar. The criminal involvement will also disappear

at the same time. The real problem is that the "conservative," right-wing politicians

and their camp followers cannot face up to the fact that the hippies were right about

ending the Marijuana prohibition, ending the Vietnam War, ending racial

segregation and cleaning up the environment. The truth can be very a bitter pill.


Yours truly,


James K. Sayre,


author, Ancient Herbs and Modern Herbs: A

Comprehensive Reference Guide to Medicinal Herbs,

Human Ailments and Possible Herbal Remedies (

Bottlebrush Press, 2001).


Bottlebrush Press

25 May 2003