Why do you support the legalization of marijuana

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Tuesday, 12 June 2007

A History Of Violence: Origins of the Violent Pot User Myth

For a long time now the government has been telling us that marijuana is a dangerous drug and the propaganda they release says that people who smoke marijuana could become violent and dangerous. I know this is a gross exaggeration, and I am sure all my readers know this is a gross exaggeration, but where does this come from. The most powerful propaganda is not that it is a lie, but rather that it contains a grain of truth or that it echoes common beliefs already circulating, that being said where is the shadow of truth within the violent pot head propaganda. Some may choose to point out that since most people do not believe the propaganda that it is not a powerful story and thus probably does not contain a shred of truth, I would like to point out that the claim that pot smokers can become violent has been circulating for a long time, and many people are still adamant that this is true and that they or “a close personal friend” have first hand experience with this so obviously there are people who believe that pot causes violent actions in users.

Many people attribute the myth of the violent pot user to the days that spawned the “educational” video turned cult classic Reefer Madness, in other words the mid 30’s. Yes I do know that Reefer Madness was never actually used as an educational informative video, however it was commissioned as such before being slightly altered and camped up a bit. However by the time Reefer Madness was released the legend of the hashish induced killing spree was already well established.

Ok, so now your wondering if it wasn’t the 30’s then when was it? As far back as the 9th century hashish was disparaged as a drug that could send a man into a murderous rage. That’s right almost a thousand years ago people were saying that marijuana could induce violence. This belief in the bloodthirsty hash user in the western world arose from writings of Marco Polo from his possibly fictional visit to Alamut in 1273.

But I digress, let me tell you about the group that started it all and spawned the creation of the word assassin. The etymology of the word assassin is much disputed, but it always comes back to a cult group that began around 1090 BC by a Persian named Al-Hasan or Hasan-i-Sabah. Assassin developed either to describe the followers of Al-Hasan (Al-Hasanins) or, more likely in my mind, from the term often attributed to them, the Hashashins or Hash-eaters. Legend had it that Hasan-i-Sabah gave his warriors Hash before sending them into battle, but this has never been verified, and in fact is extremely unlikely as there is no reference in any Persian literature, even in the library of Alamut where the Hashashins originated and some record would most likely have been kept. Regardless of how apocryphal the story of the Hashashins using hash before a battle is it became legend and was repeated time and time again, and in comes Marco Polo to bring the story back to the western world reciting the story as a matter of fact rather then what it was, a local legend.

It is known that Al-Hasan used drugs to initiate his warriors into his cult, but the initiation had nothing to do with violence and in fact had everything to do with euphoria. Supposedly the initiates were made to believe that they had died, usually by being drugged, I doubt very much Hash would have been the drug of choice for this purpose. When the initiate awoke they found themselves in a garden flowing with wine and beautiful women who were supposedly virgins though they were in fact essentially harem girls. They were then drugged again and told that they had died and the garden was paradise and if they followed Al-Hasan they would be granted access to paradise again. Another version of the initiation rites states that Al-Hasan would take men at a young age bring them to a garden flowing with wine women and hashish and allow them to live that way for a few years growing up in the garden, then throw them into a deep dark dungeon telling them that if they wished to return to the paradise they would only do so at the whim of Al-Hasan and thus were told to follow his word loyally and without question. Many believed that Al-Hasan was basically a god and that they had been to paradise and returned to earth to fight as soldiers of heaven.

There is no doubt the followers of Al-Hasan were feared by their enemies, and legend has it that just the threat of being marked for death by a Hashashin would send anyone running. What is of doubt is that Hash made them the fierce warriors they were supposed to be.

Let us return to modern day. The government is trying to discredit marijuana and needs a method, what is the best way to do this? There is already a well known historical cult with a culture of intoxication and death, why not play upon that, spin it into modern tales of violence by hash users and use the legend of the Hashashins to back up the belief. Sure Hashashins are not often mentioned, but the odd time when someone questions the logic of mythical violent pot head the story of Al-Hasan gets rehashed along with questionable evidence of psychotic breaks of marijuana users.

Sources:
The Time of the Assassins - Geoffery Nunberg
Wikopedia entry Hashashin

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If Marijuana became legalized would you support its taxation?

Do you think our economy can be saved by legalizing marijuana

What do you think the Origins of the slang term 420 is

Would you vote for a politician solely on their stance on Marijuana?

What is your prefered method of using pot? (assuming price is no issue)

If marijuana were legal would you grow your own or buy from a store?

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