FREE THE WEED 18 by John Sinclair
Originally publiced on the website of Michigan Medical Marijuana Report.
Congratulations to the publishers of the MMMReport on the success of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Convention at the Clarion Hotel in Ann Arbor in mid-August. A splendid exposition of medical marijuana products and related services was the centerpiece of the weekend-long affair, with a very busy doctor certification service, legal panels, a workshop on jury nullification, a Woman’s Alliance panel, a political confrontation exploring Republican and Democratic interpretations of the medical marijuana law, and a day-long exploration of organic growing, proper nutrients and perfect soil, plus cooking with Captain Kirk and other pressing issues topped by the first Caregiver Cup Awards and a pair of popular after-parties at the near-by Green Bee Collective.
I was in attendance all weekend in the excellent company of my granddaughter Beyonce and my daughters Sunny & Celia, who were helping with the vending of John Sinclair Seeds, books and CDs at our table in the exposition hall.
John Sinclair Seeds, marketed under the brand names Viper, White Panther, Trans-Love, and Amsterdam, were created by Ceres Seeds in Amsterdam as a way of raising money to fund my various projects like Radio Free Amsterdam, the johnsinclair.us website, the Fattening Blogs For Snakes site, and the distribution of my books & recordings on-line at CDBaby.com, iTunes, Amazon, Beatnik Press and other outlets.
We introduced the seeds at the Michigan Medical Cannabis Cup in Detroit last October, and they made their second appearance in Ann Arbor in August. The first Dutch batch of Viper weed is growing in Amsterdam as we speak, and if our efforts at producing a serious strain of smokables prove successful, the 420 Café is set to enter our product in the 25th (and reportedly final) Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam this November, while the Hempshopper will enter the Viper seeds in the Cup as well.
“Spring of 193I—we did call ourselves Vipers,” Louis Armstrong wrote in his autobiography, “which could have been anybody from all walks of life that smoked & respected gage. We always looked at pot as more of a medicine than a dope.” Pops also sponsored a youth baseball club in New Orleans called The Vipers, and the term was in widespread use to describe serious pot smokers in the United States throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
The Amsterdam brand is a potent strain of skunk, and White Panther, a tasty indica-sativa cross, was once known as White Smurf—until the straight Smurf forces threatened to sue Ceres Seeds for copyright infringement. That’s when Sidney asked me, as his friend and the former Chairman of the White Panther Party, if it would be okay with me to rename the strain after our anti-racist organization, and a fruitful partnership that’s resulted in John Sinclair Seeds and the John Sinclair Foundation was born.
Trans-Love, our sativa strain, was named for the non-profit hippie collective founded by Gary Grimshaw, Rob Tyner, myself and several others in the early spring of 1967. Trans-Love Energies managed the MC-5, presented countless free concerts and benefit dances, published the Sun underground newspaper, and served to unify and strengthen the hippie community in Detroit, Ann Arbor and throughout Michigan in the crucial years of 1967-69. Trans-Love was also the spawning ground for the White Panther Party and an early force in the struggle to legalize marijuana.
I’m proud to have been a founding member of these organizations that helped lay the groundwork for everything that’s good in our denatured and degenerated society of the 21st century, and I try to keep alive their memory and history to advance an image of a better world for the people of today. Non-violence, peaceful sharing among friends and with the less fortunate, great music, open sexual congress, bright colors, free concerts, group dancing, communal living and plenty of joints, with a tab of acid thrown in from time to time to keep raising the level of available reality.
Young people are dying for lack of these elements in daily life today, and it’s important to point an arrow back to our illustrious past here in Michigan in these final days of marijuana prohibition so we can draw on the strengths of the early struggles against these idiotic laws for the strength we need to carry the fight over the top to full legalization of this benevolent herb.
As I was writing this column my daughter Celia came over to where I’m staying with my daughter Sunny to bring me the first copy of her mother’s long-awaited new book, DETROIT ROCKS! A Pictorial History of Motor City Rock 7 Roll 1965 to 1975 by Gary Grimshaw & Leni Sinclair. From Leni’s dynamite photo of the Rev. J.C. Crawford, the Oracle of Zenta, on the front cover to Gary Grimshaw’s classic Rip-Off Press poster of the MC-5 at the Straight Theater in San Francisco on the back, this book smokes from beginning to end with information, history & beauty presented in the photographs & text of Leni Sinclair and the mind-boggling, eye-popping posters of the great Gary Grimshaw.
If full disclosure is required in this particular context, Leni Sinclair was my wife between 1965-77 and the mother of my children, and Gary Grimshaw was my comrade and working partner at the Detroit Artists Workshop, Trans-Love Energies, the White Panther Party and for some years thereafter in Ann Arbor & Detroit. Leni documented with her camera all the important musicians and musical events of those years, and Gary Grimshaw communicated the cultural reality of the period through his posters for the Grande Ballroom, Trans-Love Energies and many other presenters of music & cultural events.
The energy, spirit and daring of those times are encapsulated in DETROIT ROCKS! Like never before, from the title page crediting “Gary Grimshaw, Minister of Art, White Panther Party,” “Leni Sinclair, Minister of Education, White Panrther Party,” and “A Publication of the Detroit Artists Workshop Press, Founded in 1965” through the chapters titled The Detroit Artists Workshop, Trans-Love Energies, The Grande Ballroom, The MC5, The White Panther Party, The Free John Sinclair Campaign, The CIA Conspiracy and The Ann Arbor Years.
This book could easily have been two or three times as long, but in its tightly organized 112 pages designed by Grimshaw and produced by my daughter Celia you will find the essential graphics of the period, from Grimshaw’s powerful Grande Ballroom posters, the covers of underground press publications, iconic photographs of the MC5, Stooges and other important musical figures of the time, the rejected Grimshaw cover design for the first MC5 album on Elektra Records (currently on display at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), posters for the John Sinclair Freedom Rally and the original Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festivals, and artifacts of the marijuana legalization movement, plus added treats lifted from FBI, Justice Department and Detroit Red Squad files compiled on the hippie movement and the cultural revolution in Michigan.
The one drawback is that it’ll be hard to find a copy of this book for yourself, since the original edition is limited in number . to what the authors call their ”co-publishers”—the several hundred people who wisely responded to the authors’ call for financial backing and pledged their money in advance, sort of as a forerunner of the now-popular Kickstarter method of financing independent works. The authors hope to attract a publisher to pick up the “Publishers Edition” and convert it into a product for mass distribution and consumption, which would be a very good thing indeed.
Let’s give Gary Grimshaw the last word: “The people, events, plces, and hgistiory we have presented in these pages shaoped my life an dthiose of my friends and close community. There is a lot of history packed into each page and, like our community, it is a unique and remarkable history. We effected positicve change into our own futures, we helped to influence law in our own country, and we help VIP backstage passes to the founding of the industry of Rock and Roll. We thought we were going to change the world. And guess what? We did.”
True dat, my brother, true dat indeed.
August 17, 2012
© 2012 John Sinclair. All Rights Reserved.