Here’s Why Cynicism Is the Death of Marijuana Activism

Photo by Justin Cannabis

In his book How to Smoke Pot (Properly), author and HIGH TIMES head of content David Bienenstock gives this important bit of advice: “Activism works best when it’s fun.”

It seems so obvious that it should go without saying, but (sadly) it is necessary to say, and say often.

Because nothing is less fun for a pot activist than being told “there is no point.”

Being told weed is evil, a gateway-drug, unhealthy, etc. can actually be quite fun. Because all those things are completely and demonstrably wrong, and totally destroying these falsehoods in public can be a special kind of high all of its own.

But what about the friends and fellow stoners who understand that, and yet still insist on telling us that “it’s never gonna happen dude”? How can people look at places that have legalized and still say “yeah, but not here in [insert oppressive state]”? Don’t they realize every state with any kind of progressive reform started in exactly the same place?

“Oh yeah, maybe in the U.S., but never here in [insert oppressive country]” is even harder to shut down. And it hurts the global struggle against prohibition before many places can get any kind of activist network built in the first place.

I can’t count the times I have said to a fellow smoker: “Why would you be trying to convince people things will never change, when doing so assures it?”

We need hope to energize us, we need allies to keep us on our feet and we need support (and a lot of it) to get places like Asia—where people are literally getting murdered by government death squads for growing reefer (and where I happen to live)—to even begin to rethink laws.

A common theme among progressive communities is to never say “your form of activism is wrong” (unless you feel they are genuinely hurting the movement), because nothing kills an activist’s spirit quicker than cynicism. Telling someone that there is no point, that things won’t change, that you’re wasting your time, etc. all boil down to one thing—”stop fighting.”

But we can’t stop.

Right now in the Philippines, people are being killed in the streets for any drug use. In Malaysia, a man was just executed for selling pot, and in Japan, Indonesia, the UAE and far too many other countries around the world, even trace amounts of cannabis can get you five or more years, with hard labor in many cases.

Fighting this kind of tyranny and oppression is hard work, and there is no reason to make it any harder.

Keeping activism fun is also hard work, but (obviously) it is the fun kind. Lighting up and discussing what you will do the day the world is finally free, or what you can do to help, or what steps need to happen first, or literally anything else positive are all fun ways to keep people engaged.

In his book, Bienenstock gives some great advice for making pot activism fun, like learning as much as possible about the plant’s biology, joining groups like NORML or the Marijuana Policy Project to make new friends and contacts who share a love of cannabis, making a pilgrimage to a state with full legalization, or by taking part in seminars about how to leverage changing attitudes into legal reform.

The last two are why I will be attending the HIGH TIMES Business Summit in LA next month. Talking to industry leaders, legal reformers and global activists in a place where I can carry an ounce around with no problem is hands down the most fun I can possibly think of.

And not a single person there will tell me “there is no point.”

For all of HIGH TIMES’ culture coverage, click here.

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