Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2020
Photography by Tony Ward, Copyright 2020
The March/April 2020 issue of Discover magazine has a couple very interesting articles on scientific research into the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), shows great promise in treating ARML (Age Related Memory Loss), dementia, and may even reverse Alzheimer’s. That’s pretty amazing to me, because back in 1969 I was arrested for possession of marijuana, one single joint in the pocket of a man who didn’t live with us, was just visiting. Five people in the apartment, one had marijuana, all five were charged with possession! Not only were the four of us who had no marijuana charged with possession, we were each facing up to thirty years in prison!
And this being Richmond, Virginia, we were all convicted! I got a three year sentence, thankfully suspended, and had to fight to get that conviction expunged so I could vote, own firearms, and exercise constitutional rights that most people take for granted.
My life was totally disrupted, and one of my best friends who’d been living with me in the apartment put a gun in his mouth and killed himself over it. I’ve never completely gotten over that. A young life ended by the evil of misguided government.
Now, fifty-one long years later, we’re finally getting around to doing the research to find out what marijuana actually does when ingested by humans. And we’re finding out that it does some remarkable things, like restoring memory function to aging brains when used in moderate quantities.
Serious research was blocked for generations by stupid regulations that made such research almost impossible.
Actually, the research had unwittingly already been done in the field. There are areas in Kashmir and other high Himalayan regions where people have cooked their food in Red Oil, marijuana oil, for centuries. All we need to do is compare them with others who live in similar localities but use other oils for cooking.
When National Geographic sent a team into the area years ago for a story, the photographers and writers ate what the locals were eating, and found themselves too high to function. It took them weeks to get accustomed to having high levels of THC in their systems and become functional again. But the people who cook with Red Oil aren’t any less healthy than their neighbors who don’t, and show no increased level of mental problems. They live quiet, happy lives.
Is marijuana totally harmless, then? No, (and probably should only be used by adults, as it may be harmful to developing brains), but neither is coffee, chocolate, tea, or countless other plant products. Demonizing marijuana, as the U.S. government did for years, ruined lives and was far more harmful to society than marijuana ever could have been, even if the lies about it had been true.
Here in backwater, backward Virginia, people have even seen the light. Our legislature, the General Assembly, which likes to remind us that it is the oldest elected legislature in America, has finally passed a bill to decriminalize marijuana, and our Governor says he will sign it. But decriminalization is not legalizing, and they’ll still be able to bust you for having it. It will just be a fine instead of jail or prison.
We’ve had a “medical marijuana” law in Virginia for years. It says they can’t charge anyone for possession if they have a valid prescription from a Virginia doctor. But doctors here were not allowed to write such prescriptions! And prescriptions from one of the surrounding states or D.C. weren’t any good.
All laws making marijuana illegal need to just be struck from the books. For that matter, it is my opinion that all drug laws do far more harm than good. We could save a hell of a lot of money and break the backs of the drug cartels by ending unproductive prohibition and disbanding the Drug Enforcement Administration, and have local police stop wasting time and money harassing people for simple possession. All those millions of tax dollars could then be put to productive use.
Almost all of the Democratic presidential hopefuls say they favor legalizing marijuana, as has President Trump. I say, stop talking and do it! Trump could do it with the stroke of a pen with an Executive Order, as could the next president, if it’s not him. Fifty-one years is too long to wait.
About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author and former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models. He is serving the 11th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read more letters from prison by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonyward.com/bob-shell-finally-something-good-to-report/