Radical Rant: The Personal Toll of Marijuana Activism

This weekend, one of Oregon’s finest marijuana activists passed away.

John Walsh was a kind man who was dedicated to achieving marijuana reform. He wasn’t an organizational leader, he wasn’t a medical marijuana clinic operator, he wasn’t in this for any personal accolades or financial benefit. He was just a man who believed in changing our laws and did everything in his power to affect that change.

I didn’t know John personally, but I had met him at numerous events. He always reminded me a bit of late Chicago Cubs sportscaster Harry Carey, with his unkempt white hair and big glasses. He was there for every march, every protest and every event in our community.

He single-handedly gathered more signatures on more petitions for initiatives that succeeded and failed in this state to bring some measure of compassion to our cruel marijuana policies than any other activist. Others can do far more justice in recounting the legacy of John Walsh than I can, and I encourage you to read more about him.

His death, as well as other recent deaths of Oregon activist like Jim Klahr and Jim Grieg, plus monumental changes happening in my own life, have me thinking about the personal sacrifices we make in our choice to be marijuana activists.

So many of us have given so much of ourselves to fight this insane prohibition.

I’ve told countless stories of good people whose lives have been drastically damaged or even ended by this fight. And I’m saddened when I see so many good people in this movement give so much to receive so little in return, while carpetbaggers who five years ago didn’t know a sativa from a Subaru are now diving into the market we created and making out like bandits.

But it’s not just the “suits” reaping the rewards of our harvests that has me down.

Too many of the “heads” in our movement are the anti-John Walshes, people who are so effective at playing on the morality and dedication of hard-working altruistic activists, using them up for their talents and connections to build their marijuana empires, praising them with empty words and promises rather than cold hard cash and security. For all of the great work that John Walsh or Jim Grieg or Jim Klahr did for everyone else, what did they end up with in return?

In my 10 years of marijuana activism, I have seen more backstabbing, conniving, vicious, nasty, junior-high-level immature behavior than in any endeavor I’ve been a part of—and I was once a bass player in a band with a convicted meth felon and a schizophrenic that played in biker bars for other convicted felons. I saw more honor and respect among outlaw crank gangs than I’ve seen from some folks in the marijuana movement.

One friend of mine has been plundered for almost a million dollars by someone in the movement who has recently received national praise as a movement leader.

Another couple of friends are tech gurus so talented they should be earning six figures and living in McMansions, but instead, they have had their talents and work steadily leeched off of by a movement leader, while they struggle living in apartments.

Another friend has brought unparalleled media exposure to the plight of medical marijuana families, only to be viciously slandered and attacked by some in the movement. Still another friend had to go to court to recover tens of thousands of dollars of income promised, but never delivered, by a movement leader.

Maybe my own plight lately has given me tunnel vision.

Maybe the world is just a vicious, conniving, back-stabbing place, and I’m just especially sensitive to its manifestation in the marijuana movement.

Maybe a movement born of black-market criminal activity can’t help but be disproportionately steered by criminal minds and dishonorable intent.

I just wish that the legalization of marijuana would reward the people who’ve worked so hard for it.

(Photo Courtesy of CannabisCulture.com)

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