It has been 79 years since the Marijuana Tax Act was passed in 1937. Recent decades have shown some progress, and finally the facade of prohibition is starting to fall apart.
The Canadian legalization process took decades, but was ultimately successful, and recent rulings in Mexico have opened up the road to nationwide legalization. Success in the United States has mostly been at the state level. Efforts of anti-Prohibitionists (people who reject prohibition) to counter this alarmist and misguided social policy with facts, studies, and logic are finally reaching the federal government.
As legalization progresses, what is the next step? Further education of the general public? Decades of misinformation have taken its toll. Instead of trying to break or damage the Prohibitionist (a person who accepts prohibition) ideology, the legalization movement should build another ideological system. A competing system will empower marginalized groups by demonstrating what they all have in common, and appeal to even the most reefer-mad voter.
Every lie the Prohibitionists tell themselves — and the rest of us — about pot aren’t really about pot at all. Every myth about cannabis — for recreation or medicine — is connected to a bigger picture, an ideology driven by the very basic human emotion of fear. In this case, the marijuana leaf is the symbol of fear for the Prohibitionist. Some common, non-specific fears are fairly obvious, like the fear of terrorism or poverty. Other more intangible fears include the fear of competing ideologies. For example, environmentalism stresses a world that is not human-centric. Socialist policies stress the good of the group as opposed to the individual.
The Why, Not the What
“It’s not WHAT they do. It’s WHY they do it,” Simon Sinek asserts in his TED Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action. The lecture is more about marketing and product positioning than civil disobedience, but Sinek uses inspirational civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. to help illustrate his point. His “Golden Circle” is constructed based on what motivates people and why.
Logically, the lies that prop up prohibition should be successfully countered by the truth and hard facts. Prohibitionists don’t care about the truth or the facts. They continue to ignore them. What exactly do they care about, and why?
Prohibition advocates are more focused on the efforts they make to achieve the result. This is why they are not affected by the logical assertion that “prohibition simply doesn’t work.” The results of prohibition are not as important as the efforts made towards achieving that end. It is the effort that drives the prohibitionists, not the result, and this effort relies heavily on a system of belief that will never be swayed by facts.
It’s the why that’s important, not the what.
The leaders of the Prohibitionist movement insist that marijuana is the source of many, if not all, of these real or imagined threats. The anti-Prohibitionists have this backwards. Most of the dialogue of the anti-Prohibitionist starts with the “what” – the legalization of marijuana, which is the ultimate goal.
But why are we doing it?
The Circle Template
We can view the Prohibitionist ideology of fear in a simplified form using Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle” diagram as a template.
Why – to protect you from all the bad stuff in the world (crime, poverty, terrorism, sickness, and sin);
How – by doing everything we can to eradicate the marijuana plant, which is the source of your horrors, and punish anyone who touches it;
What – marijuana prohibition.
As overblown as the “why” claim sounds, it succeeds by appealing to the most basic and childlike needs and desires of every human being alive. It simplifies complex problems, and blames a single, outside entity for them; real or perceived. The “why” encompasses the purpose, cause, and beliefs of the Prohibitionists. Below is the voice of fear that they might be hearing in their head:
“Because without marijuana prohibition protecting us, terrorists and criminals would swarm over society in days, leaving us completely powerless. We just can’t take that chance!”
Another fringe benefit of the fear factor is that it gives the Prohibitionists the impression that they are constantly being attacked by these malevolent and insidious forces, which justifies their aggression against their opponents as a form of self-defense. This is how Prohibitionists justify harassing otherwise harmless people who are clearly not criminals. This also explains why a Prohibitionist can rationalize their own personal pot use. The effort to eradicate marijuana certainly won’t include them. They don’t include themselves in any of the groups typically associated with marijuana (liberals or “leftists”).
The Legalization Movement needs its own Golden Circle. We need to recognize and use our own powers, rather than work within the framework the Prohibitionists have built.
Breaking prohibition doesn’t mean the legalization of cannabis only. It will empower the entire human race. And that means everyone. Inclusion is important because division is one of the Prohibitionists’ favorite weapons (they keep it right next to fear in the Authoritarian toolbox).
The Emerald Circle is about inclusion, improving the quality of life of everyone, and freedom from fear, anger, and exclusion. Historic context is also important, as the Prohibitionists bristle at the thought of a world that existed without them. In a very broad sense, what follows is one all encompassing form the Emerald Circle can take.
Why – to improve the quality of life for every single human being on this earth;
How – reducing and eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels by discovering and developing alternative fuel resources, eliminating corruption in police and government, saving millions in taxes and fees and delays in our court processes related to overcrowding and lack of funds, etc. (pretty much everything that farmers, doctors, economists, and hippies have been trying to say for the past 90 years);
What – LEGALIZE IT.
The Emerald Circle is just as supernatural in its claims as the Prohibitionist counterpart. However, every one of these things is possible with legalization, even in a tangential way. It makes more sense to break down the Emerald Circle into specific categories, and apply it to different ideologies. For example, for those concerned with factory farming or GMO (genetically modified organism) seeds and crops, the Emerald Circle would focus on a different aspect of prohibition:
Why – improve food production, availability, affordability, and quality;
How – lift the restrictions against hardy and versatile crops that farmers are currently not allowed to seed, grow, or cultivate;
What – LEGALIZE IT.
The connections to the bigger picture here include industrialized hemp, as well as any seed that has been genetically modified or restricted for farmers to use, like certain types of corn. The Legalization Movement stands firmly in solidarity with another group, one that opposes genetically modified crops and factory farming, but has the same ideological goals.
The message is a positive one that focuses on inclusion, empowerment, and appeals to those that are concerned about the quality of their food or, on a more extreme level, afraid of starvation. Corporations like The Monsanto Company (a Missouri agrochemical, agricultural and biotech company that was recently sold to Bayer) use the fear of starvation and unemployment to coerce both farmers and consumers into accepting factory farming and genetically modified crops. Nor does Monsanto allow its customers to choose what they grow.
The message of the Emerald Circle is diametrically opposed to the one that Monsanto and their supporters use. It empowers instead of being a bully. It encourages self-sufficiency as opposed to relying on corporations to curate our food supply. Here is another example that demonstrates the wider appeal of this philosophy:
Why – lessen the costs associated with health care, while at the same time improving quality and delivery;
How – allowing patients to use natural and holistic alternatives that are scientifically proven to be effective against a variety of ailments, and have been quality produced and tested by experts;
What – LEGALIZE IT.
Concerns about the cost and delivery of healthcare are serious issues, so this appeals to anyone. This includes any and all patients (remember, inclusion is important), but can be applied to chronic patients that also need expensive prescriptions over long periods of time.
In this instance, we include anyone who is concerned about the cost in a general sense, as well as the side-effects of prescription drugs that are distributed via the health-care system, and the ulterior motives of the companies that produce them. Government and insurance companies play on the fear of removing health care entirely when they insist that they must make cutbacks, or increase premiums under the guise of improving or saving the system from total destruction, depriving the frightened and vulnerable of a world entirely without health care.
The Emerald Circle combats this feeling of helplessness, empowering patients and doctors alike, instead of threatening them. One more example, and perhaps the most poignant considering the driving forces in North American politics these days:
Why – eliminate our dependence on petroleum;
How – researching and developing alternative forms of clean and renewable energy sources of plastic and other petroleum based products;
What – LEGALIZE IT.
This includes hemp, of course, but can apply to virtually any alternative fuel source. Hemp is an option for replacing petroleum as either a bio-diesel, or an ethanol fuel, which counters the alarmist claims of petroleum advocates. They claim that without oil we would all have to go back to living in caves, appealing to the basic human fears of poverty or material loss. The general understanding is that petroleum is so important that we simply can’t live without it, even though we have survived without it, and thrived as a society and species for many thousands of years.
Some Prohibitionists insist that making plants illegal is a normal practice. Actually, the contrary is true.
Fighting this false ideology — which has been the Prohibitionist gravy train for almost a century — by trying to challenge it with facts may seem like the obvious answer, but it has proven to be futile. A competing ideology, one that uses the opposite tactics (inclusion where there is division, empowerment where there is helplessness) and appeals to positive human emotions instead of negative ones can succeed where raw data has failed.
The Emerald Circle is not a marketing ploy, nor a psychological trick. It is the natural evolution of normalizing cannabis. The Legalization Movement needs to remind humanity of the positive things they were capable of, and will be again, in a world without cannabis prohibition.
Kristy Ambrose is a professional writer, beginning in 2010. Ambrose dabbles in various genres, including short blog posts and serialized novels. Her inspiration comes from gamers, beachcombers, foodies, and her fellow traveling smokers. Ambrose holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.