Catch-422: How The War On Cannabis Ties Us Up In Knots

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With a tip of my hempen chapeau to Joseph Heller, I have identified a phenomenon I call “Catch-422.” With the full-throated (and paid for) assistance of the mainstream media for the last 70+ years, our government’s Reefer Madness campaign has demonized cannabis, stigmatized entire classes of society and destroyed countless lives while decimating our communities of color.


They have put up as many roadblocks as possible in an effort to stifle our progress and vilify cannabis hemp, a safe and effective natural herbal remedy and environmentally friendly crop. A Kafkaesque mélange of federal agencies and bloated drug war bureaucracies justify their existence at the expense of the sick and dying, while alcohol saturated, over-pharmaceuticalized sheeple continue to gulp down oxy, boner pills and anything else peddled by their cowed doctors. Thousands die each year overdosing on alcohol, prescribed drugs and over the counter medications, while there is no lethal dose for cannabis: Catch-422.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are arrested each year merely for possessing marijuana because Reefer Madness has infected Congress and rotted the judicial system to its core. Marijuana’s illegality is justified by calling it a gateway drug that will lead to harder drugs and/or a decaying of a person’s moral fabric: Catch-422. In fact, cannabis is proving to be a gateway AWAY from alcohol, hard drugs and debilitating pharmaceuticals and TOWARDS a safer, healthier and more productive life.

Catch422_6The DEA classifies marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic which, by definition, means there is no currently acceptable medical use. Everyone knows this is total BS, but when researchers ask for cannabis to perform studies, they’re told they can’t have it because, of course, marijuana has no proven medical use, leaving patients burning in a Dante’s Inferno of mock compassion: Catch-422. Their circular logic jerks patients around to no end.

Even states with medical marijuana laws on the books are imposing outrageous restrictions on the ailments that qualify: Catch-422. One of the most egregious examples of this is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which several states refuse to recognize cannabis for despite its obvious benefits. And, the Federal government never misses a chance to pile on by preventing the Veteran’s Administration from providing cannabis to the many vets with PTSD.

A classic Catch-422 is how states delay the implementation of medical marijuana laws, oftentimes parroting the old canard: “think of the children.” New Jersey’s Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act was signed into law in January, 2010. However, bureaucratic foot-dragging by that state’s Gutless Wonder Governor, Chris Christie, delayed the opening of their first dispensary for almost 3 years. How many people have suffered or died because of politicians who are lagging behind public opinion and science?

Catch422_4Consider this: A card-carrying medical marijuana patient working for a big box store had a minor accident, failed a drug test and was subsequently fired. His dismissal was upheld in federal court: Catch-422. And more tragically, a medical marijuana patient who was denied a liver transplant because of his medicinal cannabis use recently passed away: Catch-422. We need to fight for people’s basic right to medicate without discrimination.

During this year’s annual physical exam, I explained to my primary care physician that I use cannabis medicinally and asked him for a recommendation so that I didn’t have to pay another doctor $200 each year for the recommendation. My doctor said he couldn’t give medical marijuana recommendations because he was afraid that the DEA would take away his ability to prescribe medications. This Catch-422 allows my doctor to shirk his responsibility while conveniently blaming the federal government. Fortunately, there are some brave physicians out there who take the Hippocratic Oath seriously enough to risk harassment in order to recommend cannabis for the numerous ailments for which it provides relief.Catch422_7

Another Catch-422 is the “institutionalized hypocrisy” that prevents people from coming out of the “Cannabis Closet.” Despite various state cannabis laws, mere possession of marijuana continues to be a violation of federal law. It is very difficult for someone to promote an illegal activity. You expose yourself to public ridicule or worse. For many, testing positive for cannabis can result in the loss of their job, government benefits, or custody of their children. Students arrested for cannabis can lose their student loans, and others arrested carry the stigma with them throughout the rest of their lives: Catch-422.

Catch422_5We need to borrow a page from the LBGT community who took to the streets to proclaim that they are “here and queer” so you better get used to it. Sunshine is, in fact, the best disinfectant and as more people come out of the Cannabis Closet, the negative stigma associated with cannabis will slowly start to vanish.

Catch22_3In an amazingly sadistic bureaucratic twist, the IRS has ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries cannot deduct business expenses because possessing and distributing cannabis violates federal law: Catch-422. Banks and credit card companies are refusing to do business with dispensaries for the same reason: Catch-422. Imagine trying to start and operate a business where these basic building blocks of capitalism are not at your disposal. And to top it off, in some states, the Department of Justice is threatening landlords of marijuana dispensaries with legal action if they don’t evict their tenants: Catch-422. The irony here is that dispensaries are proving to be economic engines, hiring people and paying taxes in an otherwise depressed economy.

ConflationThe DEA conflates the issue by saying that hemp is the same as marijuana. They have tied a Gordian Knot of hemp rope, claiming that hemp will confuse the police even though this is not an issue in Canada or Europe where it is legal to grow Hemp: Catch-422. United States Department of Agriculture studies call hemp a niche crop without fully investigating its myriad uses: Catch-422. Farmers will not grow hemp unless there is a market for it and you can’t sell products unless you can produce them which means you need farmers growing hemp: Catch-422. This chicken or egg situation is a real paradox. Because of prohibition, the entire hemp industry is being re-invented from the ground up. The sky is the limit (think Trillion Dollar Crop!) but it is going to be a long, hard fight for those willing to join the battle.

Chicken and EggWe need to recognize these illogical absurdities for what they are: blatant and callous efforts to limit our freedoms and impede our progress. Only by identifying and understanding these barriers will we be able to get around or over the obstacles that stand in the way of realizing the full potential of the humble plant scientifically known as Cannabis Sativa.

In the past, supporting cannabis law reform was the third rail of politics, resulting in being labeled “soft on crime.” Fortunately, more politicians, like Maine State Representative Diane Russell, are finding the courage to speak out against prohibition and actively work for its repeal. And, in the privacy of voting booths across the country, people are electing to choose cannabis hemp, giving a collective middle finger to the powers that be. The tide is turning. We are reaching the tipping point of real change. However, the stigma runs deep and it will take years to un-brainwash society and turn Reefer Madness into Reefer Gladness.

Examples of Catch-422 abound, so they next time you see one relating to the war on [some] drugs or the prohibition of cannabis hemp, please let me know so I can add it to the list.