Friday, April 30, 2010

Is the current Cannabis boom a replay of the 30's?

It was the best of rhymes it was the worst of rhymes....

Remember Jessica Rabbitts entrance in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" where she's sing that sultry song? The song in question is "Why Don't you Do Right?" by Kansas Joe McCoy.

The lyrics are plaintive but banal:

I fell for your jivin' and I took you in
Now all you got to offer me's a drink of gin
Why don't you do right, like some other men do?
Get out of here and get me some money too
Why don't you do right, like some other men do?
Like some other men do.

However the song was originally written in 1936 at the height of the depression and was titled "Weed Smoker's Dream." The refrain of the song's original narrator was smart, simple, and far from ordinary:

Sittin’ on a million
Sittin’ on it every day
Can’t make no money givin’ your stuff away
Why don’t you do now
Like the millionaires do
Put your stuff on the market
And make a million too

The message is clear: if Wall Street can plunge the nation into chaos as a result of its vicious and unstable business practices, shouldn't we be able to make some cash selling grass too? It's a question that's been getting a lot of media coverage these days and not without good reason. Everything old is new again including economic meltdowns.

Stoners have been around forever and the most creative of modern American taste-makers often paid homage to their green muse. In the 20's and 30's weed heavily influenced the creation of Jazz and popular music. Smokers were known as "vipers" and countless songs were written about pot's effect, commerce, and attendant culture. Most famously Fats Waller wrote and sang "If You're a Viper" otherwise known as "The Reefer Song" in which he pines:

Say I dreamed about a reefer five feet long,
A Mighty Mezz but not too strong
You'll be high but not for long
If you're a viper.

These songs from the 30's lovingly payed tribute not just to the high cannabis elicits, but also to Marijuana's power to act as an escape from personal hardships and the economic devastation that was sweeping the country at the time.

In perhaps the sweetest ode to marijuana of it's age, "Smoking Reefers," Buck Washington croons what could almost be a torch song to Cannabis:

Old weed cigarette that we must all depend on
Old weed once begin it and you're sure to end on
It's the kind of stuff that dreams are made of
It's the stuff that White folks are afraid of

Up in Harlem we go on
A Marijuana jag
Smoking reefers to get beyond the misery
Go away you misery
Go away go away
Smoking reefers to get beyond the worrying
Go away you worrying
go away go away

Must wake up to work in the morning
I must get by the broodin' at night
Aw, You can't change this world you were born in
But I declare
You can be walking on air
By smoking a reefer
You'll have the angels sing away
Helping you to fling away
You worries, your troubles, your cares

The same sentiment flows through Chick Webb's "When I Get Low I Get High"

My fur got stole
but, lord ain't it cold
But I'm not gonna holler
cause I still got a dollar
And when I get low
Oooo I get high

Buck Washington's catchy "Save the Last Roach for Me" begs

Folks say that I'm lonesome
Say I'm as blue as I can be
Well if you're smoking that Jive
When I pass by
Then save the roach for me.

In our current economic crisis that approaches the Depression in its scale and social upheaval weed once again has become a favorite of those hoping to avoid feeling the squeeze. These days there's no shortage of low people trying to get high. Perhaps no one explains the appeal of weed in these situations better than Kat Williams:

If you ain't got no job and you not smoking weed I don't know what fuck you are doing with your life, I really don't...I'm just saying is if your life is fucked up you need weed... There's a chemical in weed that's called "fuck it," and if you can just get that in your system it could change your life...some of y''all be crying about bills you can't pay...just hit the blunt one time and see if it don't change your perception of what's important in your life.

Unlike the Great Depression though, our Great Recession has bolstered the legitimacy of cannabis. The 1930 saw the creation of "The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN)" and the passage of the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. Another classic marijuana song from 40's laments "The G-man Got the T-Man." This Fall a "legalize and tax" cannabis initiative will appear on the ballot of the most populated state in the nation, California. So far polling is looking good, and even if the measure doesn't pass the cannabis industry opreating under Medical Cannabis laws is flourishing. In Northern California it's known as "the Industry."

Which brings me back to "Weed Smoker's Dream" the last verse goes

May's a good-lookin’ frail
She lives down by the jail
On her back though she got
hot stuff for sale
Why don’t you do now
like the millionaires do
Put your stuff on the market
And make a million too

May's starving and feet from jail anyway, but she's ok, because she's found a way to make money. As California edges closer to economic collapse this seems to be one of the predominant talking points in favor of cannabis legalization. Whatever voter's have to say at the ballot box, they've spoken with their wallets. California has put its stuff on the market and everyone wants a share.

Crawling Back

I've had the blogging itch lately, which is not a good sign.
I get the blogging itch whenever I become hopelessly bored with my real life. Some people supplement their existential boredom over cyber-space by posting anonymous encounter ads on Craig's List. By contrast my cyber supplement entails reveling in the unearned smug satisfaction of putting my half assed opinions onto a global medium.

I should say that currently I am working (and working and working and working some more) at a medical cannabis dispensary which is NEVER boring. But the routine of work has become old hat and my free time to explore has shriveled. So expect more frequent updates on Wander Blog.