In the pictures, a young Barry Obama is gesticulating and smiling, eyes half-shut in a Panama hat, a joint to his lips, smoke curling up; a pastime, he told a town hall in his first campaign for president, that he frequently indulged in during those days. "That was the point," he told his bemused admirers. They hoped his election to the country's highest office would begin to unravel the knot of hysteria and scapegoating around cannabis, which to some extent it did. Still, the tangled threads of the War on Drugs extend far beyond American shores.
Five years, to the day, after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (now forever immortalized as the eponym of a turn-of-the-century Scottish postpunk quartet) on June 28, 1914, the Treaty of Versailles brought peace to a European continent still smoldering from the War to End All Wars (it didn't). The armistice, largely a collective guilt trip on the German Reich for trying to take over Europe (this also didn't work), incorporated 1912's International Opium Convention, the world's first collaborative attempt to control the "manufacturing, importing, selling, distributing and exporting" of consciousness-altering drugs (again, not a paragon of success).
Despite being targeted for prohibition by Egypt in a revised treaty, with backing from Uncle Sam here in the U.S., marijuana eluded the powermongers of the new world order until 1961. That's when the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, implemented by the United Nations, put handcuffs on cannabis sativa the world over, which remains to this very day chained to the levers of global gerrymandering and busybody-ing. As described in an issue of the Bulletin on Narcotics shortly after the ink of the treaty's signatures dried into infamy, "This is a goal which workers in international narcotics control all over the world have striven to achieve for half a century." Another half a century has passed, and world governments are still striving to paint a paper tiger as an actual menace.
Sing an "obscene ballad" or spit in public in Singapore, and you may earn a visit to the nearest stony lonesome, but hold a little more than a pound of pot? That will get you noosed and hooded. In Malaysia, too, possession of 200 grams (about 7 ounces) of cannabis will punch your ticket to the gallows (literally: hanging is the customary method of execution). Stoners in Saudi Arabia, where Sharia law considers any intoxicant haram (forbidden), have met the same grisly fate, albeit by beheading.
Thankfully in the tolerant, lenient West, you can often get off scot-free (at least here in the Evergreen State and our coastal neighbors), or, say in Oklahoma, be spared the electric chair with a sentence of merely life imprisonment. Obama, to no one's surprise, has planted roots in D.C., where he can recreate those hazy days of yore (legally) and conduct the Left from the comfort of his couch. ♦