Vic Mensa Pays It Forward

Victor Kwesi Mensah—known professionally as Vic Mensa—is a man who fully embodies what it means to be an artist. He’s got the drive, the spirituality, the sound, and most of all, the confidence. But how does one attain the knowhow to be a successful artist, let alone be successful at anything?

The answer lies in a strong support system. Mensa has been surrounded by supportive people for most of his life, dating back to high school where his band Kids These Days was drawing the eye of major record labels and prominent record producers. It was during these formative years that Mensa realized he had talent, honed his craft, and was propelled by the love and support of family and friends to tap into his potential. That potential is now culminating with a second full-length album, a record that’s sonically rooted in hip-hop, jazz, and African music.

When we connect over Zoom, Mensa reveals more about his upbringing and how it helped shape the man he is today. He lays bare his longtime relationship with cannabis, morphing from a teen trying to sell pot he didn’t possess, to owning a socially conscious weed company—93 Boyz—Chicago’s first Black-owned cannabis brand, and how the intersection of weed, fashion, art, and music provided the bedrock for his ascension from a Chicago fresh kid to an inspiring artist kids can look up to.

High Times Magazine: Growing up in Chicago, did you always know you wanted to pursue music?

Vic Mensa: I was a skateboarder first from age 6. By the time I was in third or fourth grade, I was starting to choose my own music, and was more interested in rock and roll. So I started playing guitar when I was 10. After that, I started writing graffiti, and that was really my introduction to hip-hop.

I was climbing 15-story fire escapes, painting rooftops and jumping on train tracks to paint trains before I was technically in my teens. Zoo York was a big influence of mine and there was a Zoo York video—I think they called it the Zoo York Mixtape—that had some KRS-One in there, which was probably the first hip-hop that really resonated with me.

Did you have a particular style of graffiti art and/or skateboarding, and did that style evolve into what you were doing early on with music?

I think all of those things are intertwined because they’re street culture and counterculture. As far as a particular style of graffiti art, in Chicago, we have a lot of styles but I think we’re most known for straight letters, and I was influenced primarily by the Chicago graffiti legends. Straight, block letters, a kind of straight letter tag style. But I was also a student of the game from my earliest days. I was studying Los Angeles graffiti crews like MSK and New York guys like SKUF and Cope—all the OGs.

When I started to release and promote music, I was already familiar with traveling across the city promoting my name [through graffiti], even though at first it wasn’t my real name. I’d do my own wheatpaste posters and shit like that when I was in high school. I mean, I’ll still do a wheatpaste poster to this day, don’t get it fucked up, but off top, I’d definitely be out on a street corner with the bucket and the posters, treating it like graffiti. Because in a way, graffiti is street marketing. A lot of the people that do street marketing for record labels are graffiti guys. So graffiti and skateboarding are my two primary stylistic inspirations.

Photo by Gabe Oviawe

So you’re immersed in the graffiti world. Was there a moment when music suddenly became the primary focus?

Probably around freshman year of high school when I started to record. Just receiving positive feedback and reinforcement from people around me—not everybody, obviously, but from some people that I respected—did a lot for me. I recognized that I had a particular talent for writing rhymes, but you know man, honestly, I think one of the reasons why I focus myself on doing so much for the youth is because in the dawn of my youth, I know how much those votes of confidence did for me.

Like my big brother Dare who I have tatted on my wrist and who I’ve written a bunch of songs about—may he rest in peace. He was older than me—near my age now when I was a kid—and he brought me into Jam Crew, which was the primary southside Black graffiti crew and took me under his wing. He was like, “This my shorty, he’s dope. He’s dope in general.” Nobody knew I could rap, but they were just showing me love, boosting my confidence, and giving me opportunity. As I found my own path in what I really wanted to do, I already had that network of older guys in the city who supported me and would let me rock stages when they’d have shows and stuff like that.

So your brother helped you see that you were dope in a particular way—just as a human—and then from that, you were able to grow into yourself musically from that sort of base.

One-hundred percent. Those same people who showed me love when I was a kid trying to dress cool and do graffiti and all of that shit—those same people when I picked up a mic or released music to this day still give me opportunities.

In Chicago, one of our primary forms of cultural currency and a hub of creativity came from the boutiques and sneaker stores. We had a shop called Leaders that’s still around that was incredibly impactful to all of our upbringings, a place called Sir & Madame, which is also still in existence, and a place called PHLI. All of those places were these centers of inspiration, creativity, sneaker culture, art, hip-hip, and graffiti all at once.

Some of the first guys I knew who were heavy with weed, who were cutting edge, having the best weed and the most knowledge and information—all played into our existence as fresh kids from Chicago. We’ve always been involved with art, we’ve always been involved with fashion, we’ve always been involved with music, and we’ve always been involved with weed.

How did your relationship with the plant start and how did it evolve as you evolved as a human?

My relationship with cannabis began when I was 11. I was just like any other kid living in the city, sneaking out of my mom’s basement to smoke in the middle of the night, before school, or after school. In those ways, I became very familiar with weed and trying to sell it. But the problem was, I didn’t have any weed to sell!

So I was trying to sell all types of shit. I was trying to sell blunt guts in a bag to the kids at the private school down the street. I remember the first time I tried to sell some weed I was in seventh grade and had a dime of Reggie. I tried to take it across the way to the high school in the area and tried to sell it to one of my friends. He was like, “Damn, man. You ain’t even got no mids?” I was like, “Man, this is all I got right now. You gonna buy it or not?”

As I got into high school, a lot of my big homies sold weed and I caught a couple plugs and became the guy with the specialty product. It was me and my boy Joey Purp—we had the best weed in the school and we’d pride ourselves on having cutting edge strains at the time. I really thought I was the man when I had Jack Frost, which was a Jack Herer cross strain. I’d be having the OG Kush, the Master Kush, some OG Master Kush. That was our thing, being at the cutting edge of our community as far as weed was concerned.

I used to go as far as bagging up my weed in Nike SB lace bags. For somebody I was trying to impress, I’d bag up an eighth of Jack Frost in the Nike SB lace bag and they’d be like, “Oh, this thing’s fresh.”

I honestly learned so much from selling weed. Selling weed was my first entrepreneurial pursuit. Before I was selling a mixtape or anything like that, I was selling weed. To make it to school on time, I had to get up and bag up mad early. Sometimes people would want to shop super late, so I’d need to stay awake. I had to be punctual—or as punctual as a weed man is—but I’m just a punctual person in general. In those ways, selling weed provided the building blocks for my understanding of work ethic, and through selling weed, I funded all of my first music projects, purchased all of my studio time, paid for all of my music videos—everything. Cannabis enabled me to be in the studio and to express myself.

Photo by Gabe Oviawe

When it got you into the studio, was there a moment or set of experiences where it became clear that music had taken over and was going to be your main path?

The moment when I sort of stopped everything else was when I got robbed, as a high schooler selling weed inevitably does. I was hustling serving guys who were way older than me—guys in their 20s who had newborn babies but were shopping with me buying quarters and halves daily—and I’m just a little ass kid. Eventually, I did get set up and robbed and lost a laptop with a bunch of important music on it. But around that same time, my father was really supportive of my music shit and was sometimes giving me money to go to the studio. So I just kind of fell back, you know?

It was the same way with graffiti. We kept getting arrested and eventually that was just in the way because music was starting to support itself. Everything else became ancillary—graffiti, hustling—things that were not my primary focus anymore—and I dove into music headfirst.

As you started to hit a certain level professionally, was there a “good omen” like in the Alchemist book that made you feel entrenched in music?

I was in a band in high school and we were performing at SXSW and different festivals courting all of the major record labels. In fairness, a lot of that was people reaching out to me, but I was loyal to the band. People loved the band as well, don’t get me wrong, but No I.D. reached out early on and was rocking with me so much that he was like, “I’ll check the band out.” The real life attrition was there, and this was the blog era, too, so we were getting love on all the blogs—2DopeBoyz, iLLRoots—and building relationships with all of those people. Even before music was paying anything, it was already real in high school and we were building a grassroots fanbase. We were selling out 1,500-person venues in Chicago when we were 16 and 17, so pretty quickly, the music became real.

I personally already had an understanding of grassroots marketing and communication from graffiti and hustling, so I’m selling tickets in the hallway the same way I’m selling dope, you know? Maybe at the same time. I’m putting up posters and stickers all over the city the same way I was just busting tags. On top of that, we were just making good music. The music became a clearly viable pathway pretty quickly.

Throughout your career, you’ve been outspoken about psychedelics and mental health. When did you start to understand the benefits of psychedelics and did they play a role in your success?

I got into psychedelics when I was 18 or 19. The first day I ever took shrooms I was sleeping on my manager-at-the-time’s couch and Chance [The Rapper] came over and he had a hook and a verse for a song that would become Cocoa Butter Kisses. I took the mushrooms, went into the other room, started writing my verse, and just caught a spirit. It was like, “Whoa, this is different.”

From there, I was taking mushrooms constantly in the making of that album called the INNANETAPE and [mushrooms] became a real part of my lifestyle. Throughout my life, plant medicine has been important to me and has played a big role in my different journeys as a human being. I chilled out on shrooms for a while after [INNANETAPE] because I had just overdone it.

The ways in which I’ve used mushrooms in recent years have been in a microdosing capacity and in a much more healing capacity. I started taking antidepressants when I was 15. I started seeing psychiatrists at that same age—therapists shortly after—and in the last 14 years, I’ve taken over 10 antidepressant medications. In that same time period, I’d probably had one year when they were effective, which is a dismal efficacy rate.

I’ve found that plant medicine has just been far more impactful to me in addressing my mental health than pharmaceuticals have, and I think the pharmaceutical industry is scared shitless about the potential for disruption that all of these different medicines present.

It’s like you start taking [pharmaceuticals] and you think that it’s helping because if you miss a couple of days you’re like, “Oh shit, I’m really bad, I’m suicidal now.” Then you remember you were never suicidal when you started taking the medication! The medicine is making me dependent on it. I was struggling when I first started taking it, but I wasn’t trying to kill myself. When you’re dealing with some of these plant medicines, you’re getting a more straight deal.

In the best moments, I think [plant medicine] can help move inhibition. Creativity is not of man in its purest form. It’s given to us from whatever you believe is above us. If it’s God or it’s Allah or the universe or the ancestors—at the end of the day—I believe we’re all just a vessel for a more powerful, divine energy. In the best moments of our creativity, we’re the most uninterrupted sacral. It’s like a radio, and [plant medicine] can help you pick up [the frequency]. They can help pick up the signal.

I’m learning more how to harness things as tools, but to train myself to be the primary influence. These days, I stray away from relying on being under the influence of anything other than myself. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever have external influences, but I work on my meditation a lot. Meditation has been the most powerful tool for me in addressing my mental health.

I’ve been meditating since I was 16, and in recent years, my meditation has become far more consistent and more extensive. I’ve learned more techniques, I’ve been on five-day silent meditation retreats, and I’ve studied different meditations from different places in the world. In terms of cannabis, some of its traditional uses were as a meditative tool. People think of Rastafarianism as a happy-go-lucky “by the beach, mon,” lackadaisical idea. In reality, those Rastas are vegan, deeply spiritual, deeply meditative, deeply revolutionary, and they meditate with the ganja. Meditation is my medicine above all.

If I haven’t meditated in a day, I find myself getting aggravated over little things I can’t control. Meditation is my first line of defense.

The paradox is that sometimes you’ll need a plant medicine experience to understand that you don’t need plant medicine to get to an elevated place.

There are breathing exercises and meditations you can do that will get you as high as any weed or psychedelic spirit medicine. One of my favorite things these days is to microdose mushrooms and complete an hour-and-15-minute-long meditation from a book by Dr. Joe Dispenza. I usually don’t do guided meditations because I like the practice of disciplining myself, but the meditation in this book Breaking The Habit of Being Yourself is so wicked that it’s like being on an astral plane. When I microdose, I’m taking non-psychoactive doses, which helps me tap into my internal power.

Photo by Gabe Oviawe

In January, you had an incident with psychedelics that made headlines. How did it go down?

I was headed to Ghana for about a month and I’d decided to get off my antidepressant medication. For the past few years, I’ve been dabbling with microdosing, but not really in the most consistent way. I had that experience that I mentioned previously where I had recently started taking a new antidepressant, took a few days off and started to feel suicidal. But I then realized I wasn’t suicidal when I’d started taking the medication, and decided to get off of it.

So I was off to Ghana and was going to quit the antidepressant cold turkey. I was going to get on a real microdosing regimen, not have a drink when I got there, and take this step for my mental health. I reached out to a couple different companies just to get the right microdose of shrooms and they sent me a bunch of shit. Pretty carelessly, I threw it all in my bag and took off.

I had a great experience there, no issues getting off of the antidepressants. All of the microdosing was cool and I just put all the shit back in the bag, wasn’t thinking too hard about it, and then I ended up going to jail.

In all honesty, what I had on me probably added up to an eighth of shrooms and a single tab of acid—which was an LSD microdose—so the entire bottle was one dose. It was a very miniscule amount of psychedelics in big packaging. But I was in such a cool place in my mind, had been meditating a ton, and was in such spiritual alignment that I wasn’t stressed.

I’ve been working with a lot of folks recently in the prison release space and was actually able to help a friend of mine come home 12 years early on a 25 year sentence in 2020. So at the end of the day, being involved in clemency processes and legal processes for bringing other guys home made being in jail for a couple days—especially with the perspective that I have of these friends who are living years of their life in prison—a miniscule experience.

My meditations also gave me a brilliant edge in there, to the point where I was just meditating the whole time to avoid thinking negatively. I’d come in front of the bail court and she was like, “Yeah, we’re going to move your court date to three months from now.” It’s those things that will make your mind want to freak out, but I was in a place of real alignment, so I wasn’t stressed and decided to see things as a blessing in the form of a lesson, and was like, “I’m going to get into the psychedelic game, too!”

Photo by Gabe Oviawe

At this point, the medical and health benefits are undeniable.

The actual, tangible, biochemical serotonin levels in your mind are boosted. It’s like the laws of this nation are proven time and time again to be ineffective at meeting the needs of the people. The people are sick, are in constant fear and danger of gun violence, are poorly fed nutritionally, and the laws of this nation are incapable of addressing any solution to those many needs. So sometimes, you gotta go to jail for some shit that’s stupid.

In May, I launched the first black-owned cannabis brand in Chicago, Illinois—93 Boyz. We’re in quite a few dispensaries and are rapidly expanding. We all know what the War on Drugs has done to Black and brown communities, but it still stands that our representation in the industry is miniscule. So we’re taking steps to change that.

Our brand is standing on high quality and cutting edge genetics in a market that doesn’t really have that yet. Also baked into our ethos is that a portion of all of our proceeds are going to community-driven efforts. And that’s what 93 Boyz is all about: Tastemaker weed mixed with socially-minded initiatives.

Our first project that we’re launching in August with the release of our full strain portfolio is a project called Books Before Bars. We’re putting over one-thousand books into Illinois jails and prisons. This is an idea I had from my own experience sending literature to people in prison and seeing how their entire life experience can be—and has been—shifted by reading the right books. If you can’t attain freedom yet in the physical, you can get it in the mental while you’re still in the cage. 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

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Conocé Cómo se Fabrican las Gafas Argentinas de Cáñamo

Nota por Ulises Román Rodríguez publicada originalmente en El Planteo. Más artículos por El Planteo en High Times en Español.

Síguenos en Instagram (@El.Planteo) y Twitter (@ElPlanteo).

Chanvre es el segundo movimiento dentro del mercado del cáñamo del diseñador industrial Mariano Percivale. 

Luego de haber trabajado por un período acotado de tiempo bajo el nombre de Gaia Eyewear, comenzó a fabricar lentes de cáñamo en busca de un producto sustentable y un proyecto innovador.

La sustentabilidad fue algo que, desde chico, desveló a este egresado de la Universidad Nacional de La Plata (UNLP) cuando en la agenda argentina comenzó a aparecer como tema el cuidado del medioambiente.

Contenido relacionado: Jáuregui: Viaje al Corazón de la Historia del Cáñamo en Argentina

En ese proceso de búsqueda, Percivale tenía a su favor la familiaridad con la planta, al estar en contacto con ella y al haberla cultivado.

“Fue instantáneo, se me ocurrió de la nada. En ese momento venía con la idea de hacer lentes de madera, pero en realidad utilizar madera no termina siendo sustentable”, cuenta desde el taller de Chanvre, donde reciben a El Planteo, en la ciudad de Quilmes.

Querido cáñamo

Al ver las fibras de cáñamo que colgaban de sus manos pensó en los lentes y en un segundo se dio cuenta cómo los iba a hacer.

“Fue en 2012 y toda la información que conseguía estaba en inglés o en francés, porque se hacían sólo en esos lugares. Así que me puse a traducir papers, estudiar hasta sacar el primer modelo”.

Una de las mayores dificultades con las que se encontró a la hora de impulsar el proyecto fue el de la materia prima del producto, que no se produce en el país. 

Un primer paso post investigación fue hacer artesanalmente el enfriado con agua y el separado de las fibras.

El siguiente fue descubrir que en algunas ferreterías podía conseguir las fibras de manera micro, en pequeñas escalas.

Contenido relacionado: Conocé a Frida y Juana: Las Máquinas Argentinas que Optimizan los Tiempos de Cosecha

Pero hubo un momento en el que necesitó acceder en mayor escala al producto y ahí fue cuando comenzó a indagar cómo importarlas en grandes cantidades y desde dónde.

Entonces aparecieron en sus radares países como China, India y Europa del Este.

El paso a paso de las gafas de cáñamo de Chanvre

La fibra de cáñamo que importan y lavan llega en paquetes de un kilo y cada kilo está dividido de a 200 gramos. 

Con la materia prima en su poder comienza el proceso que desemboca en el producto final: los lentes.

chanvre gafas cáñamo argentina

¿Pero cuáles son los pasos para hacer las gafas?

Una vez que se seca, se procesa, se corta y se transforma en una microfibra, la cual, con un ligante orgánico y a través de una matriz que tiene dibujado el diseño de los lentes, se genera una mezcla que se agrega a la matriz.

Después se cierra con presión y ese material pasa a un horno donde se seca durante media hora.

Se la deja enfriar porque levanta mucha temperatura, se hace el desmolde y una vez que se desmolda ese marco pasa por un proceso de lijado y mecanizado y en la matriz sobre el dibujo de la bisagra se los apoya, pega y se le ponen los tornillos.

Contenido relacionado: Rompiendo Prejuicios: Dos Equipos de Fútbol Femenino Son Sponsoreados por Emprendimientos Cannábicos

“Para poder comercializarlos sin problemas en nuestro país o exportarlos, una parte del proceso lo tercerizamos con una óptica que nos aporta los cristales con todas las certificaciones necesarias, tanto la del ANMAT como la de la comunidad europea”, dice Thomás Pelaye a El Planteo, cofundador de Chanvre.

Con el producto terminado llega la etapa del despacho que se realiza a través de un correo privado y prolijamente envasado con paños en cajas y bolsas biodegradables que llevan el logo de la empresa.

Cáñamo argentino ¡ya!

Otro paso para el crecimiento de Chanvre sería que el cáñamo comenzará a producirse en Argentina, en lo que respecta a la logística, al hecho de poder conseguir el insumo más barato y en un menor tiempo.

Aunque no es algo que por el momento los desvele, tanto Thomás como Mariano creen que, de realizarse la producción de la fibra en Argentina, ellos podrían aportar ideas sobre qué productos trabajar o producir que salga del “cáñamo de textil, que es una industria que ya está establecida”. 

chanvre gafas cáñamo argentina

“Creo que fue la primera industria del mundo de la tela. En cambio, el material que creamos nosotros es algo único. Partiendo de eso, a gran escala considero que el cáñamo industrial va a ayudar un monton en todo a nivel económico, a nivel social”, asegura Percivale.

A esta altura está comprobado que la producción a gran escala colaboraría a seguir derribando mitos y prejuicios que aún persisten alrededor de la planta. 

Contenido relacionado: Gabriel Lucero de Gente Rota: ‘Como No Me Quería Deprimir, Me Puse a Animar Audios de WhatsApp’

Pelaye recuerda que “cuando se hablaba de cannabis y no a nivel recreacional, la gente ya lo hilvanaba con el miedo”.

El emprendedor cuenta que, en su caso personal, sus padres -un tanto conservadores- estaban en contra de su trabajo.

“Cuando vieron que en realidad es algo que sale de la tierra, que se procesa y que le podemos dar trabajo a otras personas, comenzaron a pensarlo de otra manera”, afirma.

Más contenido de El Planteo: 

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Oklahoma Activists Prepare for Recreational Pot Legalization Vote

Voters in Oklahoma will head to the polls on Tuesday to decide on State Question 820, a ballot measure that would legalize recreational marijuana statewide. If passed, the initiative would legalize the possession of cannabis for adults 21 and older and establish a framework to govern the recreational marijuana industry in the state.

Cannabis activists had hoped that State Question 820 (SQ 820) would appear before voters during the 2022 general election, but delays in certifying the measure prevented the initiative from appearing on the ballot last November. In October, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced that voters would go to the polls on March 7 to decide the fate of the measure.

As activists prepare for Tuesday’s election, Michelle Tilley, campaign director for the Yes on 820 campaign, says that the cannabis legalization measure gives voters “a chance to reject the ‘Reefer Madness’ style scare tactics being pushed by our opponents and choose instead to support a reform that will make our state more prosperous, more just and more safe.”

“We are working down to the wire to get every last ‘yes’ vote in the state on the phone, on the doorstep, or in the media,” Tilley wrote in an email to High Times. “We are confident that, if Oklahomans turn out to vote, the majority supporting commonsense legalization will prevail.” 

Vote On SQ 820 Delayed By Oklahoma Supreme Court

In July, the group Oklahomans for Sensible Marijuana Laws submitted petitions with signatures from more than 164,000 voters in favor of the legalization initiative, far exceeding the number required to qualify for the ballot. But the secretary of state’s office, which used a new system to verify signatures, took far longer to certify the signatures than in previous elections, leaving too little time to include the question on the November ballot, according to election officials.

The campaign for SQ 820 challenged the decision to delay the vote on the initiative, arguing the group had met all guidance from the government and complied with deadlines for submitting the proposal to state officials. But last month, the state Supreme Court affirmed the decision by election officials and ruled that the measure would not be included on the ballot for the midterm election next month.

“There is no way to mandate the inclusion of SQ820 on the November 2022 general election ballot,” Justice Douglas Combs wrote in the majority opinion. “SQ820 will be voted upon by the people of Oklahoma, albeit either at the next general election following November 8, 2022, or at a special election set by the Governor or the Legislature.”

Special Election Announced In October

In October, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt announced that he was calling a special election for SQ 820 to be held on March 7, setting the stage to finally give the state’s voters the opportunity to decide on the recreational marijuana legalization measure. Since that time, activists have been busy preparing for the vote with public appeals to gain support for the measure. On February 27, retired Army officer Jay Williams asked voters to approve the ballot initiative, saying that SQ 820 would help military veterans cope with the persistent negative effects of their service.

“I proudly served this country to protect our freedom,” Williams said in an ad for the campaign. “But for many veterans, that pride comes with a cost: PTSD. Oklahoma veterans can’t access medical marijuana through the VA, so they suffer or risk harsh punishment, even jail. That’s wrong. Yes on 820 means improved access to medical marijuana for Oklahoma veterans and it reduces punishment for minor marijuana offenses and increases drug treatment to turn lives around.”

If voters approve SQ 820 on Tuesday, the ballot measure would legalize cannabis for adults 21 and older. The initiative would task the state’s existing Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority with drafting and implementing rules to regulate the new recreational cannabis industry. The measure also includes provisions to allow those with past convictions for some marijuana offenses to petition the courts to have their criminal record expunged.

SQ 820 would set a 15% tax on sales of recreational marijuana, more than double the 7% tax rate levied on sales of medical cannabis. Taxes generated by the sale of recreational pot would be divided among the state’s General Revenue Fund, local governments that allow licensed adult-use cannabis businesses to operate in their jurisdiction, the state court system, school districts, and drug treatment programs.

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From the Archives: The Ibogaine Factor (1995)

By Paul Derienzo

Top-level federal researchers and bureaucrats, as well as grass-roots activists in drug-ravaged urban communities, have discovered ibogaine, the controversial drug that advocates tout as an “addiction interrupter” and one scientist calls a “probe into the inner workings of the human brain.”

Derived from iboga, an hallucinogenic plant of the West African rainforests, ibogaine is illegal in the USA. But addicts have been successfully treated with the drug in programs run overseas by private outfits, which are now pressuring the federal government to legalize the treatment.

The ibogaine controversy was aired at a March 8 conference in the Washington suburbs called by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Amidst heated debate between pro and anti-ibogaine factions, Frank Vocci, deputy director of NIDA’s Medications Development Division, expressed misgivings over human ibogaine testing conducted in Europe, Israel and Panama, and the reliance on “anecdotal evidence” of its efficacy in interrupting heroin and cocaine withdrawal symptoms. He concluded, however, that ibogaine research is “here to stay.”

Dr. Carlo Contoreggi of NIDA’s Division of Intramural Research said “even if ibogaine is slowed down, it’s too late to stop it. They know it works. NIDA views it as a fascinating window into the human brain, a probe to the farthest reaches of addictive behavior.”

Howard Lotsof, who heads NDA International, the company that holds the ibogaine-therapy patents, summarized the 60 treatments his group has performed, mostly in Holland. Lotsof characterized the drug’s effectiveness as “15 percent success, 15 percent failure, with the length of interruption in everyone else falling somewhere in between on a bell curve.”

Among the strongest ibogaine advocates at the conference was Dr. Deborah Mash of the University of Miami Medicine School’s Neurology Department, who is conducting the first FDA-sanctioned human testing (“FDA Approves Ibogaine Research on Humans,” Jan. ’94 HT). Mash has identified an ibogaine metabolite, 12-hydroxy-ibogamine, which is active at opiate receptor sites in the cerebellum.

According to one high-level NIDA official, her discovery is among the most significant in the study of addiction.

But drug-research consultant Dr. Peter Hoyle, who was involved in the controversial approval of the AIDS drug AZT, is an adamant ibogaine critic. He said he doesn’t think enough preclinical work has been done to support human trials. He said the mechanism of ibogaine’s action is still unclear, and raised the specter of ibogaine toxicity, based on massive overdosing of laboratory dogs and rats.

Others countered that despite the high doses—far greater than the doses used on humans—only one of the laboratory animals died. Dr. Mark Molliver of Johns Hopkins University, who first published results showing brain damage in rats given massive doses of ibogaine, said studies in monkeys showed only minor evidence of cell damage.

Mash dismissed reports of cell damage. Her own primate studies show absolutely no cell damage. In the conference’s most dramatic moment, she presented an actual human brain, of a heroin addict who died a month after she had received an ibogaine treatment in Panama. The patient died in Miami, where she had gone for a medical exam after experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. The local medical examiner who did the autopsy was an associate of Mash. According to the autopsy report, the brain showed no damage to the cerebellum area where ibogaine is active.

One source close to federal researchers says there are powerful forces arrayed against ibogaine inside the drug-policy bureaucracy. These forces are said to be centered around the methadone establishment.

Methadone is a heroin substitute invented in 1930s Germany and initially called Dolophine after Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Government-funded clinics coast-to-coast dispense it to addicts in “maintenance” programs aimed at controlling addiction. According to the source, there are some scientists who have built their careers on methadone research and are fighting tooth-and-nail against ibogaine. A “methadone mafia” is said to be entrenched in the drug policy bureaucracy.

On March 4, mere days before the Washington conference, 400 people jammed a forum on ibogaine in New York City’s African American community of Harlem. The forum, jointly organized by the Black Coalition on Drugs and the African Descendants Awareness Movement, was held at a community center near the mosque where Malcolm X was once minister. Among the scheduled speakers were two former Black Panther political prisoners.

After 19 years in prison, Dhoruba bin Wahad was recently cleared of charges linking him to the shooting of two police officers in 1971. Dhoruba had been raiding South Bronx drug locations that operated with the connivance of corrupt officers and then publicly dumping the drugs into sewers.

Dhoruba couldn’t make the forum because of a delay in his flight from Ghana, but speaking in his place was Eddie Ellis, also a former Panther and a veteran of 25 years incarceration.

Through a letter from Dhoruba, the Black Coalition on Drugs voiced full support of ibogaine, stating that the drug should be made available to the estimated 800,000 heroin and cocaine addicts in the USA. Rommel Washington, a Harlem Hospital social worker who has observed several ibogaine treatments, led the audience in chanting “Ibogaine is life!”

Questions about ibogaine’s pharmacological properties were fielded by Dr. John Morgan of City College of New York, who recounted reports from nearly 80 addicts who have received ibogaine treatments in Holland, Panama and other countries. He says it has been shown to alleviate morphine withdrawal in preclinical tests and anecdotal evidence. But the doctor also cautioned the gathering that some scientists were actively trying to halt human ibogaine testing.

Howard Lotsof called on the forum participants to increase the pressure on NIDA and local elected officials such as Rep. Charles Rangel, a hard-line Drug Warrior who once chaired a congressional subcommittee on narcotics.

Natural-healing advocate John Harris, who appears regularly on local radio, spoke on iboga’s historic use in African rite-of-passage ceremonies. Drawing a parallel, he advocated involvement of the addict’s family and friends in ibogaine treatment.

Longtime organizer Dana Beal, veteran Yippie and fixture on the marijuana-activist scene, spoke in support of a “harm reduction” approach combining ibogaine with medical marijuana and long-term counseling as a holistic anti-addiction strategy. Beal says ibogaine is best understood through study of West Africa’s Bwiti spiritual tradition, in which practitioners under the influence of iboga are said to meet with their ancestors in a life-transforming experience.

Despite the hope many participants held for ibogaine, the impassioned question-and-answer session indicated that many saw a contradiction between the white medical establishment’s control of drug policy and an African-American community determined to explore an addiction treatment derived from an African rainforest plant.

Organizer Brother Shine asked rhetorically if black Americans can depend on the medical establishment to treat ibogaine research fairly—and answered his own question by urging grass-roots involvement to ensure that the drug ultimately comes under the control of the local communities hardest hit by addiction. 

High Times Magazine, August 1995

Read the full issue here.

The post From the Archives: The Ibogaine Factor (1995) appeared first on High Times.

Australian Activists Face Charges for 4/20 Sydney Opera House Projection Protest

Two activists in Australia are facing criminal charges for projecting pro-cannabis messages on the Sydney Opera House, one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. The activists, Alec Zammitt and Will Stolk, projected a dancing pot leaf and other images on the famed venue on April 20, 2022, timing their protest against the continued prohibition of marijuana in Australia to coincide with the cannabis community’s 4/20 high holiday.

A month before the 4/20 demonstration, Zammitt had conducted a trial run of the protest in which he projected images for a short time onto the Sydney Opera House from the Park Hyatt Hotel, a location with sweeping views of the iconic landmark and nearby Sydney Harbour Bridge. The images, which left no permanent mark on the structure, included cannabis leaves and the numeral 420, among others, and the phrase “Who are we hurting?” a primary theme of the activists’ protest.

Zammitt was contacted by police detectives, who visited his home the following day to conduct an interview. Before concluding the interview, the detectives told him that they were not sure if what he had done was an offense and said they would seek internal legal advice and contact him after a day’s time. When that didn’t happen, the activists believed they were in the clear and planned their next demonstration for 4/20. 

4/20 Demonstration Interrupted By Police

After returning to the Park Hyatt Hotel early on the morning of April 20, Zammitt and Stolk, who freely admit their actions, used laser projectors to again project the pro-cannabis imagery onto the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Before long, however, the protest was shut down by the authorities.

“The police ended up raiding the hotel suite where the projectors were set up. They issued me with an offense relating to the month prior as well as a new offense for the 4/20 projections,” Zammitt wrote in an email to High Times. “They also charged Will with the same offense under section 9 G of the Opera House Trust By-Laws.”

Zammitt went on to explain that the offense relates to “Distribution of advertisement etc. on Opera House Premises,” noting that there is similar legislation relating to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, on which the activists also projected pro-cannabis messages. So far, police have chosen not to pursue charges in relation to that part of the demonstration, however.

Stolk and Zammitt are fighting the charges against them, arguing that their actions did not constitute a commercial advertisement but were instead a constitutionally protected protest of Australia’s prohibition of cannabis and a message of support for reform legislation being debated in the New South Wales (NSW) Parliament. 

After being informed by the activists’ legal counsel that they would bring constitutional challenges to the charges against them, prosecutors changed their approach and agreed that rather than a commercial advertisement, Zammitt and Stolk’s actions were a political protest. However, they are continuing the proceedings and requiring the pair to present their constitutional defense in court.

Activists Appear In Court Next Week

On January 31, Stolk and Zammitt face a hearing in the case, where the NSW attorney general’s office will indicate if it will oppose the activists’ defense based on political expression or communication. If the attorney general opposes the defense, the matter will be set for a constitutional hearing.

If the case goes to trial and the activists are convicted of the charges against them, Stolk faces a fine of up to $1,100, while Zammitt’s penalty could be twice that due to the second charge for the trial run. Zammitt hopes the court proceedings bring attention to the continued prohibition of cannabis in Australia and amplify their “Who are we hurting?” message. He added that he has retained an attorney renowned for his work with constitutional defenses related to political expression and expects prosecutors to drop the charges before the case goes to the Australian High Court.

Stolk said he is tempted to pay the fine and be finished with the matter, but the case’s constitutional implications and his desire to continue spreading a pro-cannabis message keep him in the fight.

“We did this for a reason, and the reason was to firmly express our opinion and political belief that we should legally be allowed to consume and sell recreational cannabis just like we do alcohol and just like our brothers and sisters get to do in numerous legal states in the USA, in countries like Canada, Holland and Thailand, and soon even Germany,” Stolk wrote in an email. “We believe that the current Australian laws are stuck in the 1800s and we believe that it’s our constitutional right to be able to protest and express our political opinions.”

He also notes that the basis of the protest is the desire of many Australians to be able to smoke a joint without fear of reprisal from the government. He adds that it is a matter of personal freedom, something his grandfather fought for in World War 2, spending five years in a Nazi POW camp.

“I personally feel that if we give these corrupt politicians an inch they will take a mile,” Stolk asserts. “So as we are now in the position to take one for the team and stand up for our constitutional rights I think that no matter what the outcome it’s our duty as Australians to defend our freedoms that our ancestors fought so hard to protect.” 

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Joe Stefanolo: ¿En qué Anda Hoy el Abogado del Rock?

Nota por Ulises Román Rodríguez publicada originalmente en El Planteo. Más artículos por El Planteo en High Times en Español.

Síguenos en Instagram (@El.Planteo) y Twitter (@ElPlanteo).

Buenos Aires. Calle Tucumán, a metros de Tribunales. Recorrer las escaleras que llevan al estudio de “Joe” Stefanolo es transitar una parte importante de la historia del rock argentino.

Porque cuando el rock de esta parte del mundo creció -como le pasa a todo el que crece- necesitó de un abogado. 

Hizo falta un leguleyo que defendiera sus contratos con las compañías discográficas, que los sacara de la comisaría después de una razzia (redada policial) y que diera la cara y pusiera el pecho cuando alguna sustancia prohibida aparecía en un allanamiento.

Contenido relacionado: Andy Chango sobre Amigos, Drogas y la Hipocresía del Mundo Cannábico: ‘A mí me Aburre Soberanamente Hablar de Porro’

Por suerte para los músicos de Argentina ese señor existe y se llama Albino Stefanolo: “Joe, para los amigos”, dice ante la presentación para El Planteo. 

O -mejor dicho- el abogado del rock.

Una marca registrada

Su barba -que bien puede remitir a uno de los hermanos Macana- y su pelo largo y suelto son una marca registrada de este hombre que ya llegó -aunque no se note- a los 69 años.

Un muchacho que entró a la Facultad de Derecho sin tener una vocación cierta de querer recibirse pero que se fue con el título bajo el brazo en 1975.

Joe Stefanolo, el abogado que en el año 1986 marcó un precedente con el fallo “Bazterrica” (Gustavo, guitarrista de Los Abuelos de la Nada en aquel entonces).

Con su astucia y sabiduría, Stefanolo logró que la Corte Suprema de Justicia declarara la inconstitucionalidad de la persecución del delito de tenencia de estupefacientes para consumo personal. 

Tras la sentencia que marcó un antes y un después en los fallos sobre tenencia y consumo, este caso comenzó a estudiarse en las facultades de derecho, comunicación y otras carreras universitarias de la Argentina.

Desde allí y para siempre, el nombre Stefanolo quedó asociado a rockeros como Andrés Calamaro, Fito Páez, Luca Prodan, Pappo, Pipo Cipollati y la mediatización definitiva la alcanzó en 1996 con caso de “El jarrón de Cóppola”: el mánager y amigo personal de Diego Armando Maradona.

Derecho a ser libres

La vocación por la abogacía en Albino fue apareciendo con el devenir de las materias, en la medida que fue avanzando con la carrera.

Antes de eso, este joven del barrio porteño de Belgrano no tenía demasiado en claro lo que quería ser -“pude haber sido cualquier cosa”-, dice aunque sí sabía que le gustaba escribir y -sobre todo- la música.

Contenido relacionado: Las Psicodélicas Aventuras de Luis Alberto Spinetta, o Cómo Ir y Volver por Amor al Arte

Para lo segundo era “muy malo”. Para lo primero es difícil saberlo por su elevada autocrítica, pero escribía para él y para alguna novia circunstancial pero consciente de que “no podía compararse con los grandes poetas que leía”.

Su adolescencia estuvo marcada a fuego, estuvo tocada “por la varita mágica” como le gusta decir a él, ya que transcurrió en el Instituto San Román.

El colegio del Flaco Spinetta, Emilio del Guercio, Edelmiro Molinari, de casi toda Almendra, que era “la banda del colegio”. 

Recuerda Stefanolo que “tenerlos ahí era un sueño. Siempre digo que para mí era el Liverpool de los chicos que amaban a los Beatles”.

Para los pibes del barrio, el Bajo Belgrano era Liverpool y Almendra eran los Beatles.

“Ese era mi sueño. Yo tenía mi bandita y mi cable de la guitarra era el mismo que le hacían al Flaco o sea solamente el cable. Teníamos el mismo cable, suficiente para mí”.

Los años de la adolescencia y post adolescencia los atravesó durante el Onganiato (dictadura militar) con la policía montada acechando a la salida de los recitales y un primer pensamiento de lo necesario que sería un abogado para esos abusos.

La carrera la cursó en el “veranito democrático”, egresó con Isabel Martínez de Perón como presidenta y recibió el título en febrero de 1976, un mes antes del golpe militar que significó la dictadura más sangrienta de la historia Argentina.

“Tenía un título en la mano y tuve que salir a pelearla porque era poco lo que se podía en Dictadura. Siempre digo que fue una noche larguísima”.

Sabú, el puntapié inicial

El primer caso que termina definiendo el camino que luego transitó Stefanolo fue en 1978 con la defensa del cantante Sabú, “El Príncipe”.

En plena Dictadura, Sabú -cantante que había alcanzado el éxito a comienzos de los ‘70- fue detenido con marihuana y ácidos y Joe Stefanolo fue convocado para su defensa. 

De ese caso recuerda un detalle, un pequeño logro en aquellos años de plomo.

Contenido relacionado: El Mago Tras la Cortina: Mario Breuer Habla de Rock Argentino, Marihuana y Aprendizaje

“Cuando lo están por mandar a Devoto, le remarco al juez que lo envíe a un lugar tranquilo, con seguridad, a un lugar en el que no corriera riesgos”.

Allí usó por primera vez una frase que le gusta usar y que le parece importante.

“El responsable de la seguridad es usted, señor juez. Él depende de usted, usted es el responsable. Hoy suena muy fácil decirlo, pero en esa época, a un juez de la dictadura, decirle que me oponía que vaya a cualquier lado y señalarle con el dedo que él era responsable no lo era”.

El caso Bazterrica

Hubo algunos casos intermedios con la carátula de tenencias de sustancias con fallos en contra “con la corte todavía militar” hasta que en 1986 llegó el caso Bazterrica: el caso que marcó su carrera profesional. 

En aquel entonces al guitarrista de Los Abuelos de la Nada, que había tocado anteriormente con Charly García y Luis Alberto Spinetta, le hallaron “muy pocas cantidades de sustancias: marihuana, un poquito de cocaína, pero por suerte no queda detenido y queda a la espera de la condena”.

Stefanolo, que venía de varias derrotas en el tema, vislumbró una posibilidad distinta al existir una Corte democrática.

“Fue tanta la sorpresa que un viernes a las dos de la tarde me golpean la puerta y me notifican que habíamos ganado 3 a 2”, recuerda y se le iluminan los ojos.

El fallo decía que era inconstitucional reprimir la tenencia para consumo porque era afectar la vida privada. 

“Ese argumento que está en la Constitución y que es tan sencillo de entender, nunca había sido entendido. Hasta ese día”, dice Joe.

Calamaro y más rock and roll

Al caso Bazterrica le siguieron su asesoramiento legal a Fito Páez, luego de que asesinaran a su abuela y a su tía en Rosario mientras él estaba por primera vez en Brasil grabando con Caetano Veloso.

Fue el abogado de Luca Prodan, que no podía cobrar en SADAIC los derechos de sus canciones. 

“La coincidencia marca que su primer cobro era al día siguiente de su muerte, entonces nos acercamos a SADAIC para dar aviso fundamental de que no iba a cobrar porque acababa de fallecer y que íbamos a hacer la sucesión para que cobre su familia, cosa que hicimos y la familia cobró”, cuenta lamentándose.

En los ’90, otro caso emblemático. La noche en que Andrés Calamaro dijo ante más de cincuenta mil personas durante un show aniversario de la ciudad de La Plata: “Que linda noche para fumarse un porrito”.

La frase le valió un proceso que se extendió diez años y del que terminó absuelto.

Contenido relacionado: 71 años de Joey Ramone, el Dios del Punk que Pidió por la Legalización de la Marihuana

Aquella -recuerda Joe- fue una noche marcada por la violencia del público hacia los distintos músicos del evento y que no terminó en un descalabro gracias a Andrés.

“Las autoridades querían suspender el show y Andrés les dice: están locos no suspendan que esto termina en una masacre’ y ahí entró con la frase con el porrito, con el sexo, droga y rock and roll, todo lo que se le ocurría lo decía”.

Así la gente se calmó y se fue en paz. Pero lo denunciaron por apología y se comió una causa de 10 años.

“Finalmente el fiscal, antes de absolverlo, le pidió perdón. Fue todo un papelón”, afirma el abogado.

¿Hoy los músicos más jóvenes te siguen llamando?

—Tenemos fundamentalmente contacto con bandas que son under, hay gente que todavía está y eso es bueno. Tengo la suerte también de estar con Toto Ferro (actor que encarnó a Robledo Puch en el film El Ángel), que tiene su parte musical en la cual a fin de año pasado le hicimos su primer contrato.

¿Con quiénes trabajaste más años? 

—Con Litto Nebia trabajamos muchos años. Para mí fue un orgullo porque Litto es mi admirado de toda la vida. También hicimos el primer contrato de Los Violadores, ese contrato lo hicimos acá -dice señalando su escritorio.

El jarrón de Coppola

En el año 1996, cuando la frivolidad de la época alcanzaba su pico máximo, Joe Stefanolo tuvo su momento de mayor exposición mediática con el caso Coppola.

Todas las tardes en el programa de Mauro Viale se hablaba del jarrón del representante de Diego Maradona en el que supuestamente habían encontrado cocaína.

“Sacando la cosa de tanta exposición y tanta historia alrededor, lo bueno es que se demostró que existía un poder judicial que fraguaba causas y un juez terminó preso”, dice.

Joe cree que “todo eso sirvió” pero “la exposición desmedida no, porque a veces te hace daño aunque ayudó a descubrir algo que por ahí no se hubiese descubierto”.

Por una nueva ley

Durante el Congreso de Derecho Cannábico que se realizó en la UBA en noviembre de 2022, Stefanolo instó y pidió luchar para lograr una nueva ley de drogas en Argentina.

“Además de estar vieja por nacimiento, hoy está combatiendo con la marihuana medicinal, con el cannabis industrial, dos modificaciones y dos variables del tema cannabis”.

Contenido relacionado: Recordando los Primeros Porros del Rock Argentino con Ciro Fogliatta de Los Gatos

Joe lo explica sencillo: “Por una plantita un tipo puede ir preso 4 años y el otro señor con la plantación puede ganar millones de dólares”.

El abogado dice que hoy “es el autocultivo lo que hay que tratar, el autocultivo no debe estar penado porque es una forma de consumo personal o de generar bases para hacer aceite o de generar industria”.

Y cierra: “Entonces, si la base es esa, no podés penar el autocultivo y la ley lo pena además con 4 años de cárcel. Con la reforma que hizo Macri en 2017, no hay condicional para esa figura. Es absurdo, una locura”.

Foto de portada: Ariel García

Más contenido de El Planteo:

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Damian Marley Feeds You the Medicine of Music

Damian Marley continues to honor the Marley legacy in his own way as an artist carving his own path. The Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and producer remains at the forefront of the reggae genre for his music, collaborations, producing of other artists, and his very own reggae cruise.

The Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise set sail last month for its seventh installment, the first annual voyage since the cruise was put on hiatus due to the worldwide COVID pandemic.

In advance of the ship’s departure, we were able to catch up with Marley via Zoom and learn more about his music creation process, his relationship with cannabis—cannabis consumption, cannabis activism, and cannabis reform—and the inspiration behind creating a reggae festival on water.

High Times: You’ve been performing music for most of your life. Do you remember the starting point?

Damian Marley: We started off doing performances in my aunt’s living room until my aunt decided to take us on the road. We then started doing things like Mother’s Day shows and Valentine’s Day shows, little girls’ birthday parties—things like that in Jamaica.

High Times: Did you ever imagine you’d one day go from that to headlining your own festival cruise?

Damian Marley: We weren’t the first people to come up with a musical cruise but there had never really been a successful reggae cruise. It’s something my manager, Dan [Dalton], brought to my attention—that there’ve been other genres doing cruises. The whole culture of a cruise—going to an island, being out in the sun, out on the sea and all that stuff—lends itself very well to the culture of reggae music. However, there was hesitation if our fanbase was financially able to go on a cruise, and of course we ended up proving that we do have the market to be able to do that.

The idea of the Caribbean sea, sun, and weather, going to Jamaica, the music, and all these things—it goes hand in hand [with reggae] and it’s kind of surprising that it actually hadn’t been done before. But here we are, the ones who actually executed the idea.

High Times: In terms of ideas, what role does cannabis play in your creative process?

Damian Marley: Cannabis plays a really big role in my life in general. I’m burning a spliff as I’m speaking to you now, so what role does it not play? It’s kind of hard to say. It’s a part of my day-to-day regimen. Most of the things I’m doing are under the influence of cannabis [laughs].

High Times: Is there a specific method of consumption or specific strain you prefer?

Damian Marley: Ocean Grown OG Kush tends to be one of my favorites, but we still enjoy other strains, too. Variety is the spice of life in that way.

I also usually smoke, I don’t really do many edibles or that kind of stuff. It’s mostly smoking, although I would encourage people not to smoke and instead consume edibles because smoking in itself is not a healthy habit—but that’s just what I do.

High Times: Do you feel that the act of consumption opens you up to other ways of thinking or other spiritual activity?

Damian Marley: It puts you in a space where you have time for your own thoughts, where you can hear your thoughts a bit more clearly. It helps you focus less on the busyness around you and you get more exclusive to your own thoughts.

High Times: As in putting your own thoughts under your own sort of microscope?

Damian Marley: More so that you get to hear your own voice more clearly by silencing some of the other voices around you.

High Times: So it’s more that it helps you block out distractions and other external factors and tune you in to you.

Damian Marley: Especially when I was younger. Now, of course, [smoking] is part of my life so I don’t have the kind of jolt and effect from when you just start smoking. But after high school when I was smoking and reading the bible and learning about my faith as a Rastafari, you really get to meditate and zone in on your own voice and certain topics in a different way.

High Times: From a music standpoint, what can we be on the lookout for from you in the coming months?

Damian Marley: I’m about to start making some music for myself right now, so it’s a bit difficult to say specifically what to look for, but you can look for some music from me this year. I would think we’ll probably start with a few singles leading up into an album. We also recently released an album I produced for an artist by the name of Kabaka Pyramid, where myself and the team produced the entire album, and we’re really proud of that.

High Times: Is it the same creative input that you provide when producing a record for someone else that you provide for yourself?

Damian Marley: We give one-hundred percent when making music, regardless of what we’re doing, you know what I mean?

Photo by Tizzy Tokyo

High Times: Whether you’re creating music for yourself or someone else, is there something you hope the audience takes from it?

Damian Marley: Yeah, something that they need. So it’s not for me to say what they must take, but we want them to take something that they need, something that will benefit their life in some kind of way.

Something I always find very interesting and such a joy is in how people interpret songs and what they take from them. Sometimes with certain songs and certain lyrics, someone might find a completely different meaning from what I was trying to say in the conversation of the lyrics. They interpreted it completely differently, and that’s always very interesting to see. So, it’s not for me to say what people take away from it, but we want them to take something that brings substance to their life and somehow impacts their life in a positive way.

High Times: So you’re creating the substance from which other people can have an experience, but you’re not here to dictate what that experience is.

Damian Marley: We’re not telling you how to take the dosage, we’re just making the medicine.

High Times: In terms of the medicine, what types of cannabis endeavors are you currently involved in?

Damian Marley: Right now, the brand that we’re working on and supporting is called Evidence, but the overall brand that I and Dan are a part of is called Ocean Grown. The product that Ocean Grown is now presenting is called Evidence, which is obviously herb that you buy and smoke. But the great thing about Evidence is the work that we’re doing to help people who have been locked up for herb become free.

With Evidence, we’re also partnered with the organization Last Prisoner Project (LPP), and the whole aim of this organization is to help people who are locked up for marijuana and help them gain their freedom now that the cannabis laws have changed. So we have a greater purpose other than trying to just sell herb and make money. We want to do that—don’t get me wrong—but we’re doing some great work within the community through this Evidence brand and through LPP and through what the whole movement stands for. We’re encouraging people to check out that part to fully understand what the movement is all about, while also enjoying the cannabis.

High Times: So the brand has that social impact element, which is really important.

Damian Marley: Yeah, really important. Cannabis users tend to be good people who want to do good, so it goes hand in hand.  

Follow @damianmarley and check out for tickets, tour dates, and the latest on the Welcome To Jamrock Reggae Cruise.

The post Damian Marley Feeds You the Medicine of Music appeared first on High Times.

Higher Profile: Dr. Tod Mikuriya (1933-2007)

Many may be familiar with the late Dr. Tod Mikuriya as one of the architects and co-authors of Proposition 215, making California the first state to legalize cannabis as medicine. 

But many more aren’t aware that he was once hired by the U.S. government to discredit cannabis in a political move, as the psychoactive properties within the plant promoted critical thinking at a time in history when the people were rising up.

The year was 1967 and Mikuriya had been hired by the National Institute of Mental Health Center for Narcotics and Drug Abuse Studies to research marijuana for negative outcomes. The National Center for Drug Abuse would be created in 1974, solely funding studies on cannabis and other drugs for abuse, while shelving positive findings.

One such infamous study on pregnancy from the 1970s in Jamaica was slated to last 20 years, but was shut down after the five-year-olds given cannabis tea since birth were shown to excel in every area. This was after their mothers were monitored drinking the tea while pregnant, with positive outcomes noted.

“One of my assignments was to spy on the communes in California because at the height of the fear of the Vietnam War, the year of the Tet Offensive, and the total embroilment in the conflict in the United States, as well as Vietnam,” he shared. “They were fearing the fall of civilization as manifested by certain rebellious behaviors, principally on the West Coast.”

The Tet Offensive was an escalation of military campaigns during the Vietnam War against forces in South Vietnam, at a time when our failure to excel in the conflict was kept from the people, until The Pentagon Papers revealed the deceit.

The powers that be understood that psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin mushrooms, along with cannabis, were being used socially, and became a big part of the anti-war movement. The more Mikuriya learned of the campaigns against what he found to be beneficial and useful compounds, the more he rebelled.

“Frankly I was aghast at being part of this machine back in D.C. that could be so blind and mean-spirited,” he continued. “Their take on marijuana was, ‘how can we suppress it and prevent it,’ because this is something that promotes that dangerous trait of critical thinking. Because it was linked with the rebellion of the anti-war movement against the military machine, the military industrial complex.”

Third Eye Open

Dr. Mikuriya didn’t linger on the theories of demonizing hemp for industry or the plant’s potential competition with big pharma. He was trained in psychology and understood completely the government’s fear of psychedelics opening up the third eye, with critical thinking a threat to being a good soldier, being led into the jungle for a war that was little understood.

The same year Mikuriya was hired by the government to demonize the plant, Timothy Leary shouted out to 30,000 hippies in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, “Turn on, tune in, drop out,” further cementing the theory that psychoactive plants and compounds don’t make good foot soldiers.

Interesting to note, in 1974, alleged MK Ultra survivor, Cathy O’Brien, was asked at a lecture podium what she knew about cannabis and why the government opposes the plant. Without a beat, she responded, “Because it blocks mind control.” This is poignant, as MK Ultra was said to have been a covert government mind control project.

“So, basically, I defected,” he said of his post that lasted less than a year.

At this point in the interview, von Hartman interjected, “Excuse me for interrupting, but you were told not to find any positive result in your research, is that true?”

“Correct,” Mikuriya responded, firmly. “They were interested in finding anything toxic, anything that could be used to dissuade the use of cannabis. But at the same time they recognized, although it couldn’t be admitted, that it was relatively benign. The big problem with dealing within the federal bureaucracy – or I suppose any bureaucracy – is the compartmentalization, that restriction on the flow of information.”

Mikuriya with his sisters and parents.

The Doctor’s Journey

There is no mention of Mikuriya’s gig with the federal government in his obituary in the New York Times upon his passing in 2007. They do go into great detail on his advocacy for the plant and subsequent persecution.

Mikuriya was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on September 20, 1933, to parents who raised him and his two siblings as Quakers.

“The Quakers were proprietors of the Underground Rail[road], I’m proud to say,” he was once quoted, making reference to the underground route to safety for slaves in Colonial America.

His mother, Anna Schwenk, was a German immigrant and a special education teacher. His father, Tadafumi Mikuriya, was the descendant of a Japanese Samurai family, trained as an engineer. 

Mikuriya earned a bachelor’s degree from Reed College in Oregon in 1956, and his MD from Temple University in 1962 – where he stumbled upon a reference in a pharmacology textbook on the uses of medical marijuana.

Intrigued by the many medicinal applications listed, he decided he needed to experience cannabis first hand.

“… I was smitten by an attack of idle curiosity during my sophomore year in medical school during the pharmacology course,” he explained. “I happened to unintentionally read a chapter on cannabis in Goodman & Gilman, which described the medicinal uses and described also, fairly Draconian punishment for its use. This was consistent with what social attitudes existed back then in 1959.”

Reading up what was available at the library, he said that summer he traveled down to Mexico to score some weed. Using some slang words for cannabis on a street dealer that he said approached him upon crossing the border, he succeeded in his quest.

Mikuriya said he took the man up to his hotel room and at random picked one of the 10 hand-rolled marijuana cigarettes laid out, instructing the dealer, “Okay, light it up, take a few puffs.” When the man showed no hesitation to partake, Mikuriya was relieved to see it was not poisonous, and partook himself.

With his curiosity whetted, he said he quickly realized he should keep the experience to himself, and that this was not something he would submit to any department for a research project, because it would surely have been the end of his medical career.

“So, then I embarked upon my personal bioassay experience,” he continued. “I put this down after a while, having no one to communicate with and no source, until 1964. At which time, during my psychiatric practice training up in Oregon I became aware of it.”

After finishing his psychiatric residency at Mendocino State Hospital, he enlisted in the U.S. Army as a medic. Shortly thereafter, ironically, he became Director for a drug addiction treatment center of the New Jersey Neuropsychiatric Institute in Princeton, under the tutelage of Dr. Humphrey Osmond, who was well versed in psychedelic drugs.

“I then was headhunted by the National Institute of Mental Health Center for Narcotics and Drug Abuse Studies, with the specific assignment of research into marijuana,” he said. “Needless to say, this seemed to be right up my area of interest, and left New Jersey for the psychosis inside the Beltway.”

Reefer Madness, Part 2

The psychosis inside the Beltway refers to the Reefer Madness he experienced while working in Washington D.C. researching cannabis, then finding that the laws weren’t exactly copasetic to what he knew to be the plants full potential. 

He also came to the realization that cannabis had been part of the American Pharmacopoeia for at least 200 years prior to it being politicized in the late 1930s. Thankfully, the plant was added back to the list fairly recently in 2016.

“First stop was at the National Library of Medicine, where I ran across many more medicinal and pharmaceutical papers that motivated me to assemble what I felt to be the ‘creme de la creme’ and put it into a book, The Marijuana Medical Papers: 1839 to 1972,” he shared, of the compilation still available today.

Mikuriya became a consultant for the Shafer Commission, formerly known as the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, appointed by then President, Richard Nixon, with the report released in 1972.

The commission’s now infamous report, Marijuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding, called for more research and the decriminalization of cannabis possession. But, Mikuriya said it was “D.O.A.” and ignored by Nixon’s White House, who proceeded to add the plant to its failed War on Drugs.

“This was part of the Nixon administration’s distraction and palliation of the scientific and medical communities, as he put together the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, that classified cannabis as having no medicinal redeeming importance and being Schedule I, highly dangerous, to be avoided – which was a total lie,” he said. “But this is the way it is today. That federal law still is driven by this insanity, put together by the Nixon Justice Department apparatchiks.”

So good was the government’s campaign against the plant, that at the time a mere 12% of Americans supported its legalization, with public sentiment viewing cannabis users as dangerous. In reality, the committee found them to be more “timid, drowsy and passive,” concluding that cannabis did not cause widespread danger to society, further outing the political hoax.

“The use of cannabis goes into antiquity, as probably everybody knows, but what is not known, or what is not appreciated, is the fact that it was clinically available for roughly a hundred years in America and Western Europe for a variety of therapeutic uses. It was called ‘cannabis,’” he explained. “And the term ‘marijuana’ was described as a ‘mongrel word,’ that was applied to the Mexican use of cannabis, that very few agencies within the federal government at the time back in 1937 understood that it was the same as cannabis, so they thought that marijuana was really a separate plant, a separate material. And didn’t connect it with the medicinal uses.”

In the years that followed, Mikuriya would go on to document 200 case studies from his own clinical research from patients successfully using cannabis as a serious medicine for both emotional and physical issues. But, as long as cannabis was listed on the Department of Health’s Schedule 1, showing no medicinal value, he was shouting at the wind.

The Endocannabinoid System (eCS) wouldn’t be discovered until 1988 by researchers Allyn Howlett and William Devane at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, in a government-controlled study that also discovered the body’s CB1 and CB2 receptors; the pathway for plant compounds to distribute themselves throughout all human biological systems.

As they say, timing is everything. Having the knowledge of the eCS during the Shafer Commission’s work might have saved the plant from the crossfire of the failed War on Drugs, but we’ll never know.

California Medicine, Federally Illegal

The disappointment of the Shafer Commission’s report may have had the good doctor fleeing Washington D.C., but it only empowered him as an advocate once back in California, where the LGBTQ+ community had already championed cannabis as medicine for AIDS patients.

By the mid-1990s Mikuriya became one of the architects and co-authors of Proposition 215, with California voters giving a green light for residents to become cannabis patients. Mikuriya was the first physician in the state to write a script, recommending cannabis as medicine for the first cannabis patient.

A collective sigh of relief was heard throughout the world, as California became the leader in compassionate care and education on cannabis as medicine. Mikuriya thought it would be smooth sailing from then on, that the voters had spoken and the people would finally be educated on this powerful plant. But, the celebration was cut short.

“Within a month after we passed the law back in ’96, there was a meeting at McCaffery’s office in the White House,” he said. “The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, where they hatched schemes to nullify the state laws, either directly in court or through other means – and the other means would be to go after both the patients and the physicians.”

Barry McCaffrey was the first “Drug Czar” for the The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), established by President Nixon overseeing his War on Drugs. The position is still just one step down from the Oval Office, with it and its agency’s existence just one executive order away from the president’s pen. 

The State’s Attorney General, he said, opposed the proposition before it passed, and was dedicated to “blocking and suborning it.” With this, the DEA became empowered, embedding themselves into local law enforcement agencies in the state, in fiscally subsidized partnerships, causing a financial dependence that continues today, even in legal states.

Physician, Heal Thyself

Mikuriya became a thorn in the side of the DEA, claiming representatives from the privatized “prison-industrial complex, our version of the military-industrial complex,” were big supporters of the War on Drugs, funding the Partnership for a Drug-Free America (now, Partnership to End Addiction). 

“These are the subversives that are embedded in the civil service system,” he said. “The California Narcotics Officers Association believes that medical marijuana is a hoax, and have sponsored and organized statewide meetings within the criminal justice system for orientation and training, in actuality laying out templates of ways for blocking it.”

An outspoken patient himself, ordinances dictate that doctors aren’t allowed to touch the plant. They aren’t educated in medical school and they can’t prescribe cannabis as medicine, they can only “recommend.”

With the plant still federally prohibited, with no medicinal value admitted, Mikuriya was hotly criticized, with an attempt made to strip him of his medical license.

“In my case, an undercover agent was sent to infiltrate a clinic of mine, not even bothering with the niceties of the Medical Board, filtering and embellishing it, went directly to the AG’s office,” he said. “So, there’s been this clique of opponents who are doing their damndest to hurt the physicians and dissuade participation in the law.”

The incident happened in 2000, with the Medical Board of California giving Mikuriya five years probation and a $75,000 fine for what they called “gross negligence, unprofessional conduct, and incompetence” for failing to conduct proper physical examinations on 16 patients for whom he had written scripts. The truth was, Mikuriya had given out around 9,000 scripts all told.

The fact that they pinned 16 questionable scripts on him with probation and a fine seems to have been a weak attempt to slow him down, as he continued his private psychiatric practice, as a cannabis clinical consultant, until his death.

“I want to see cannabis defined as an easement, which is not a narcotic, not a psycho-stimulant, not a hallucinogen,” he surmised. “One of the things in managing chronic conditions with cannabis is the absence of side-effects as being the critical factor. Cannabis has a remarkable profile compared with any synthetic pharmaceuticals. In fact, it really enhances both the quality of life and rehabilitation from illness. Since cannabis both modulates and activates certain kinds of very positive healing functions of the body.”

Author’s Note: This profile was taken from transcript, The Lost Interview, Berkeley, California, 2004, Interview by Paul J. von Hartman.

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