Cannibis and the Cult of Hyprocrisy

Street image, first snow in London

It’s dangerous territory to express what one really thinks. I try to cloak my convictions in stylish robes, keeping them close and  only revealing what I think when the fabric is safely and gently freed of its folds.

Friends might say: “You’re full of opinions and yourself!” I can only smile like an onion and shed a few layers. Most of the time I feel my expression of a moral or intellectual stance is superficial, but is often taken as full depth, rather than a mere starting point for deeper exploration. Usually the discussion ends before going beneath the surface.

From time to time, however, I feel compelled to speak my mind on certain subjects and let the bricks fall where they may. Here’s one of them:

What truly irks me is hypocrisy — proclaiming a virtue while doing the opposite. This is the case with do-gooders who wish to save “the people” through food labels that warn of plant alterations, also called genetically modified organisms, “GMOs.” In many cases these also are people who favor legalizing marijuana and who also might be inclined to indulge in an occasional toke.

Carl Jung suggested that “every individual needs revolution, inner division, overthrow of the existing order, and renewal, but not by forcing them upon his neighbors under the hypocritical cloak of [brotherly] love or the sense of social responsibility or any of the other beautiful euphemisms for unconscious urges to personal power.”

This brings me to a new book from Timber Press, an outstanding publisher of gardening, botany and environmental books. Amy Stewart, author of Wicked Plants and Wicked Bugs, says Jim Rendon’s new book: Super-Charged: How Outlaws, Hippies, and Scientists Reinvented Marijuana is, in part, a discussion of how the plant’s genetics have been altered to satisfy the American appetite and culture. Marijuana is a popular recreational drug that has been genetically engineered over the years without any regulation or control.  

Rendon’s book does not advocate for or against the use and legalization of marijuana. It’s a look at the plant and world that surrounds it. Marijuana has been illegal in the United States since 1937. Yet, thanks to a loosely connected underground world of breeders, dealers, and smokers, there are currently more than 2,000 plant varieties available — in other words GMOs — the very thing people want labeled, but no one demands this of their local dope connection.

And since 1996, when California first passed legislation allowing for legalized medical marijuana, the underground has slowly surfaced, pushing what was once a decentralized, lawless land closer to the corporate world of business, agriculture, and pharmaceuticals. I have yet to see a call for
labels that warn the sick that the reefer they rely on is genetically modified, such as has been the case with packaged food stuff.

In Super-Charged, Rendon gets up close and personal with the people who have transformed this controversial drug. With personalities and backgrounds as diverse as the plant itself, the growers include a former Silicon Valley software entrepreneur; third-generation residents of Humboldt, California; a publicly traded pharmaceutical company; and the famous marijuana personality Jorge Cervantes.

Rendon takes readers behind the scenes and into the homes and grow operations of the committed, quality-obsessed practitioners in the international underground industry responsible for creating today’s genetically altered, super-charged cannabis.
Ironically, the pioneers who built this illegal industry may one day find themselves out of business in the face of the drug’s growing mainstream acceptance. Just how this could come about is part of the incredible story. But, my guess is that those who sanctimoniously call for GMO labeling and GMO-free foods have never questioned the genetic engineering in their smoke of choice.

In a fascinating blend of botany, politics, and cultural revolution, Rendon succeeds in taking apart these contradictions and creating a vivid portrait of what may be the world’s most powerful plant.

I point out this book because I believe that those who would seek to save the world from the evils of modified food and drugs should take a look at one of the world’s most popular medicinal and recreational plants and understand the profound biochemical changes that have occurred to weed to meet the demands of today’s users. I recommend a serious look at “Mary Jane,” with a eye to understanding what has happened to this plant and whether we’re applying the same concerns and standards to this produce as would be applied to other food stuff.

Jim Rendon adds his book to discussions about whether marijuana should be regulated and taxed, labeled, packaged and delivered to consumers who should want the same confidence about what they’re putting into their bodies as they would want with corn or strawberries. While we’re being bombarded with anti-tobacco ads, what’s being done to point up the personal and social perils of marijuana? If marijuana production is regulated like tobacco, will we start seeing warnings about the effects of second-hand smoke? How do we protect children?

To do anything less is hypocrisy. That’s my stance. What do you think? There’s a comment box below. 


Jim Rendon is a freelance writer who covers business, science, design, and the environment. His work has appeared in The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, Mother Jones, Fortune, Men’s Journal, and other publications. He is a former staff writer for SmartMoney magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Published by Kate Campbell

Writer, editor, photographer, novelist, short story writer, poet.

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