While I was on my book tour for Jesse Ventura’s Marijuana Manifesto, I was shocked to discover how many Americans didn’t know our Founding Fathers grew cannabis. From talk radio and TV hosts to fans at my book signings, many were unaware that the 13 colonies were of great value to the British Crown because by law, colonists had to grow hemp and give it to England free of charge as part of their taxes. This obviously saved the British Navy an incredible amount of money, as everything from uniforms to rope to paper to ships’ sails were made from hemp. Most people I spoke to also didn’t know that the DEA would consider George Washington and Thomas Jefferson criminals today because they grew marijuana and hemp. I was often asked: Why isn’t this information taught to us in school when we learn about American history? For the same reason when you Google marijuana, one of the first things that comes up is “gateway drug.” For generations, our Federal government has been re-writing America’s history as it pertains to cannabis. Today, the DEA is also playing a dangerous role when it comes to medical marijuana studies.
Just this month, we learned that 50 years ago, Big Sugar paid Harvard scientists to refute evidence from a major study that showed sugar plays a significant role in increasing the risk of heart disease. After receiving their payout, Harvard scientists decided to point the blame at fat instead, and for the past 50 years, we’ve been relying on that very study to determine what is a healthy, nutritional diet. We take fat out of everything, but have you noticed how much sugar is in our food, starting of course with baby products? Of course, too much fat isn’t good for you either, but the point is: little did we know, these scientists weren’t above being bribed. A scientific study is supposed to be objective. Scientists go into a study looking for answers. In this situation, scientists were told what the outcome of the study had to be, and they did their job.
The interesting part about this story is that at the time, other researchers were conducting similar studies and found the results that Harvard did not disclose: that sugar played a significant role in heart conditions. The Harvard researchers actually dismissed any conflicting studies, stating things like eating less sugar and more vegetables isn’t a feasible dietary change. Or that other studies didn’t go far enough to determine that fat was the true culprit of things like coronary heart disease. Even though it took 50 years for the truth to finally come out and many of the original Harvard scientists are now deceased, sadly this manipulative practice is still going on. Corporations like Coca-Cola have offered to pay researchers to determine that drinking sugary drinks does not lead to a greater risk of obesity or Type 2 diabetes. But how does this relate to marijuana? Easy.
There are two conflicting “scientific” ideologies when it comes to marijuana: 1) marijuana is a Schedule 1 narcotic, just as dangerous as heroin, with no medical benefits whatsoever, and it is a gateway drug. 2) marijuana is a medicinal plant with great value for many diseases and incurable conditions. Over the years, studies have proven both points. How can that be possible? Take a look at who is funding and approving the studies. Take a look at who is conducting the studies. Take a look at where the studies are being conducted.
If the results of the study fit into the first “scientific” ideology, then that’s a pretty good indication that the study was conducted in the United States. Since marijuana is a Schedule 1 narcotic, any researcher looking to study it must go to the DEA and ask permission to do so. The DEA then decides if the study is worth pursuing. Only in America can a law enforcement agency have the right to decide what scientists can and cannot research. Why on earth would the DEA approve a study looking to determine any positive attributes of marijuana, when the DEA’s job is to eradicate the plant and imprison anyone who uses it?
If you come across a study that lists any positive results—such as how THC can cause brain tumors to shrink and disappear entirely—then that’s a good indication the study was conducted in another country, such as Spain, Germany, or Israel. There’s also a good chance that the study has been published in several noteworthy medical journals, but we the American people probably won’t hear about it. The mainstream media in the United States sure wouldn’t cover the findings, and if any politician is asked about the medical benefits of marijuana, the response remains “we need more research.” Why would that be? Think about all the industries who would be threatened by marijuana if it became legal, especially for medical purposes. Think about all the money those companies give to politicians. Think about how much money those corporations spend on advertising. Any media company would be shooting itself in the foot if breaking news went against what those corporate sponsors want. Don’t believe me? Re-read what I just wrote about Big Sugar. The same principle applies.
While I was on my book tour, a conservative talk show host tried to “get me” with a study that showed marijuana has a negative impact on the brain’s ability to remember. He didn’t know where this study was conducted, or who led the charge on the research. He also didn’t know about the studies that show marijuana helps people with Alzheimer’s. I admittedly don’t know every single scientific marijuana study that has been done in the US and abroad, but when I wrote my marijuana manifesto, I read enough of them to notice a pattern: America likes to rewrite history, ignore facts, and claim that a law enforcement agency has no conflict of interest when it decides what drugs to classify as illegal, and what studies scientists can conduct. The problem with this pattern is that it is dangerous. Marijuana could alleviate and possibly cure conditions that affect thousands, if not millions of people. How can the DEA act this way when no one knows what the future holds? One day, you or someone you love might have exhausted all pharmaceutical options and find that you actually need what this plant can provide. What will you do then?
As far as I know, there is one DEA- and FDA-approved study underway on US soil that could prove unprecedented positive results. Dr. Sue Sisley’s study is examining if whole-plant cannabis can help with severe cases of PTSD if veterans are allowed to smoke it as a treatment option. She had to wait nearly seven years to get the study approved, and she claims the only way she even received federal approval was due to support from veterans’ groups that pressured the government. With 20 or more veterans committing suicide every day (that means more service men and women die after returning home from combat than on the battlefield), this study was long overdue. I hope it is the first step in reversing our prejudice against this incredible plant, but did you realize what it took for the study to happen in the first place? We the People had to rise up and demand it.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of Nixon’s War on Drugs. If we really want to make America great, then it’s time to end the war against the American people. It’s time to realize the Founding Fathers knew the value of democracy as well as cannabis. In poll after poll, more than half of the American people want to see marijuana legalized. If that’s true, then we have to rise up together and demand it.
Commentary by Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota and the author of Jesse Ventura’s Marijuana Manifesto. He was a Navy SEAL and is a Vietnam veteran. He was also a professional wrestler from 1975 to 1986 under the ring name Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Follow him on Twitter @GovJVentura.