Pot & Parables

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Emily Dufton spoke at Politics and Prose about her book, Grass Roots. Tyler Cowen blogged, “It is sure to make my best books of the year list, and if she had ten other books I would buy them all sight unseen.”

With marijuana investments growing, (That’s my trade, short Tesla, long pot – Danny Moses) we’ll look at pot and then parables.

In the 1860’s, marijuana was available at corner pharmacies and was used by new mothers to calm colicky babies. In 1886 Coca-Cola was born and would be one of the few to survive the patent medicines era. Salesmen traveled from town to town, sold their elixir, and left us with the expression, ‘snake oil salesman’. By 1897, marijuana’s medical use was well documented.

Köhler’s Book of Medicinal Plants, 1897. From Wikipedia.

As the century turned over – from the Gilded Age to the Progressive – the federal government took a larger role and issued The Food and Drug Act, and Coca-Cola became more like the drink we know today. Prohibition ran from 1918 through 1933.

Fast forward to 1968 and with Richard Nixon’s election, there’s more government expansion. He wants marijuana listed as a schedule one drug on the Controlled Substances Act. The Shafer Commission, tasked with judging this request,  recommended decriminalizing small amounts. Instead, marijuana was listed as a schedule one drug.  The knock-on effects today include academic research being nearly impossible.

But states write their own rules. In 1973 Oregon decriminalizes it, making smoking a joint equivalent to running a stop sign. In 1976 the first parents against marijuana group forms in Atlanta. Around this time, one in ten high school students reported smoking dope and a dozen states have decriminalized small quantities.

In 1980 the lumbering giant known as the federal government takes another step as First Lady Nancy Reagan encourages kids to ‘Just Say No.’ In research for this post I was surprised to see that Nancy Reagan’s is often compared to Lady Macbeth, in both kind and criticizing tones. Around this time another strong California woman enters the saga.

In 1981, ‘Brownie Mary’ was arrested. She reportedly told the police, over the 18 pounds of cannabis on her kitchen table, as they entered her home, “I thought you guys were coming.” Her crime was making ‘magically delicious’ brownies. Her customers were – mainly – HIV invalids.

During the eighties, the war on drugs continues. Marijuana is seen as relatively less harmless when viewed next to cocaine. By 1990, marijuana arrests account for 30% of all drug arrests. By 2002 it’s 50%.

In 1996 Prop 215 allows medical cannabis sales in California. Fast forward to 2017. Thirty states allow medical marijuana. Nine states allow recreational marijuana. It’s estimated the legal marijuana business will have sales around ten billion dollars – that nearly the sales totals from all the Dunkin’ Brand stores.

So what?

Stories rule our lives. Humans aren’t absolute oracles, we compare this to that. ‘This’ is whatever is here and now. ‘That’ is whatever is easy to recall. Our conclusions ca be accurate and erratic, like a driver in the snow or a parent who yells at their kid.

Stories are like candy, and once we hear one we keep it because we’ve already digested it. It’s hard work to avoid what Tyler Cowen calls the philosophy of once-and-for-all-ism. Marijuana is a complicated subject with a sundry history. And in these five hundred words we didn’t address the elephant in the room; race.

Living life by simple stories is like asking, ‘Is the Wifi on?’

Asking questions about simple stories is like asking, ‘How is the Wifi on?’

It was two Republican presidents that restricted individual freedom. How does a party that defined the ‘nine most terrifying words of the English language’ add so much scaffolding, facade, and concrete? It was because of the stories we tell.


Thanks for reading.

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