“The book has a wide spectrum of data, dating back to the ’30s Reefer Madness era. Actor Robert Mitchum and musicians Louis Armstrong and Gene Krupa’s marijuana arrests may go unrecognized as celebrities who took hits for being busted and suffering for their right to smoke. There was no NORML for protest. Following jazz, the Beats in the ’50s embraced marijuana. The Beats were influenced by jazz. Jack Kerouac was into Charlie Parker and be-bop. They were into pot—and Benzedrine, because they liked the upside of things. That was cool daddy-o!” Bloom continues, “They were puffing, drinking, traveling. The Beats led to the hippies’ ’60s psychedelic era. Ken Kesey was part of the new generation coming off the Beats. He and Timothy Leary were the next players addressing the drug issue broadly. Kesey on the West Coast and Leary on the East were the first to proselytize LSD.”
Though Pot Culture focuses on natural narcotics (marijuana/hashish/mushrooms/peyote), chemically altered drugs such as LSD and Ecstasy, relatively safe if used properly, are discreetly endorsed, while dangerous anodynes such as cocaine and heroin are shunned. The deaths of musicians Jerry Garcia, Rick James and Gram Parsons are related to hard drug abuse, but none are traced back to non-addictive substances such as weed, schrooms or cacti. Even Pink Floyd acid casualty Syd Barrett is listed as dying from “natural causes,” 40 years after getting tossed from his acclaimed prog-rock band. Rightfully, college heads laughed at stupid government-aided anti-marijuana movies such as Reefer Madness upon its ’70s re-release. Hypocritically, during World War II, the government actually sponsored brief film, Hemp For Victory.
“Jack Herer, author of pro-hemp scrapbook, The Emperor Wears No Clothes, and fellow activist, Maria Faro, traveled around during the ’90s, selling t-shirts and going to DC’s Library of Congress, digging up Hemp For Victory, a 15-minute short patriotically saluting 10 foot high hemp plants waving in the wind. The government wanted hemp for rope, parachutes and ships. It’s strong, durable and benefited our overseas effort. It became popular when Reefer Madness gained a cult following. Interestingly, NORML founder Keith Stroup discovered Reefer Madness, brought and released it in the ’70s. Herer suffered a stroke recently but nonetheless has an initiative to legalize marijuana in Santa Barbara. He no longer travels to campuses.” Bloom continues, “I took on college tours to educate students while at High Times, discussing pot’s use beyond recreationally, as an industrial plant used for paper and rope or for medicinal purposes. The seed could be used for soap, shampoo, food items.”
Happily, the ’90s decade was a boon for marijuana subsequent to the conservative ’80s. Though decriminalized in some states during the ’70s, the ensuing “Just Say No” Reagan era had put a temporary crimp on the pro-pot movement. Presently, there’s a rebirth of activism ratified by California’s Proposition 215, legalizing marijuana for medicinal use. In fact, there are several worthy stoner inventions recently unveiled.