Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, is Liberation Day in Holland. It marks the end of the German occupation over the Netherlands during World War II. This is when the Dutch people celebrate their deliverance from the brutal Nazi regime with festivals and gatherings throughout the country.
Liberation Day is a vivid reminder of what it means to have your country taken away from you; and your government and public institutions used against you, all to serve the purposes of the enemy. It’s a jubilant affirmation of the inalienable human right to freedom and liberty and self-determination. And it keeps alive in the national consciousness the triumph of humanism and democracy over the cruel system of oppression and exploitation imposed and enforced by Adolf Hitler and his psychotic Nazi regime.
The memory of Liberation Day— the 5th of May, 1945—remains fresh and potent in the Dutch mind because it was only 63 years ago that Hitler and his Nazi minions were defeated and driven out by the power of allied forces. While circumstances have changed and greatly improved in Europe since the end of World War II and with Germany and The Netherlands now being fellow members of the European Union; few Europeans are able to forget the ruthless rise of the Nazis and their unquenchable thirst for power and domination that ruined so many lives in Europe for at least 5 long years in the middle of the 20th century.
An extraordinary spirit of tolerance and personal freedom
The tiny nation’s recent experience with occupation and domination by the Nazi regime and the joy of liberation from alien rule seems also to have engendered an extraordinary spirit of tolerance and personal freedom amongst the populace. Dutch people fully enjoy their freedom as individual citizens to live and comport themselves as they may wish as long as they are not harming others.
Demanding freedom from official interference with their own chosen life-ways, the Dutch tend to extend this freedom to their fellow citizens across the board and let people enjoy themselves in their homes and their public pursuits. Professional sex activity is tolerated and even licensed and allowed to thrive in its own district. Recreational drug users of every sort are not regarded as criminals and possession of small amounts of one’s drug of choice is not regarded as a crime.
The Dutch allow free use of Cannabis
Most spectacularly, the Dutch allow free use of Cannabis and provide for its retail sale over the counters of hundreds of licensed coffeeshops around the country. There are nearly 250 surviving coffeeshops in Amsterdam itself, warmly and efficiently serving the Cannabis-smoking community with top-quality Dutch-grown Marijuana and imported hashish which may be smoked and enjoyed on the premises.
For an American, the situation in Holland is as close to a condition of social freedom as one can imagine. In the United States, Cannabis users are legally defined as criminals and hounded and persecuted by the police all their lives as smokers. Citizens are subject to drug testing as a condition of steady employment or for the successful completion of a probationary sentence. They live in constant fear of police raids on their homes, businesses and the incessant stops; searches and seizures of their personal stashes when arrested in their cars or public places.
They know what freedom means because of those who had none and those who fought to be liberated.
The burgeoning American police state has been built on the framework of the government’s 40-year War on Drugs, in which the preponderance of victims of the drug warriors are Marijuana smokers. Hundreds of thousands of American pot smokers are incarcerated in federal and state prisons as we speak, but they represent only a mere fraction of the citizenry victimized by the police and courts simply for smoking Marijuana.
A vast industry of punishment and social pain has been erected on the backs of American Marijuana smokers. Legions of special narcotics police stalk the streets of our communities seeking to harass and arrest every Marijuana user or supplier they can find. The arrestees are dragged before special drug courts and tried by special drug prosecutors in front of special drug judges armed with the most draconian set of drug laws imaginable.
Once convicted, usually following a guilty plea arranged by one of the thousands of lawyers who specialize in defending drug cases, the smoker is fined, sentenced to a probationary term and ordered into a drug treatment program to insure that the cited recreational drug use will abruptly cease. Their urine is assessed in drug testing labs and their conduct scrutinized by drug treatment professionals, drug probation officers and the ever-present drug police. That’s a whole lot of people and facilities lined up against Marijuana smokers and dedicated to their capture and punishment.
Thousands and thousands and thousands of Americans are employed at taxpayers’ expense by the insane mechanism created by thisWar on Drugs. From the drug police at the front end of the deathly funnel, through the ranks of the defense lawyers and prosecutors and judges who deliver the verdict, to the probation departments, drug treatment centers, jailers and penitentiary guards at the ass end of the system; a vast force of drug law enforcers prospers by delivering severe punishment to an entire national community of recreational Marijuana smokers.
My own experience with the law goes back to 1964, well before Richard Nixon declared a War on Drugs in the early 1970s, and when the population of pot smokers in America was relatively tiny. I lived in Detroit, and Michigan law mandated sentences of 1-10 years upon conviction for possession of drug war Marijuana and a minimum mandatory 20-year sentence for sales or dispensing, with a maximum of life imprisonment. Marijuana was classified as a narcotic and considered no less serious a violation than heroin, cocaine and other drugs.
After a series of arrests and convictions for Marijuana possession I ended up in prison, first for 6 months in the Detroit House of Correction in 1966, and finally on a 9-1/2-to-10-year sentence of which I served 29 months in Marquette and Jackson prisons before my legal challenge to the constitutionality of the state laws was successful and the Michigan Supreme Court overturned the narcotics statutes in March 1972. Thereafter called a “controlled substance,” Marijuana remains a serious criminal matter, carrying one year for possession and 4 years for sale.
In the city of Ann Arbor, where I lived after my release from prison, Marijuana smokers organized for political action and brought about the enactment by the City Council of the $5 Marijuana fine for any Cannabis violations. Similar ordinances were passed in Ypsilanti and East Lansing, but the forward motion of the Marijuana liberation movement came to a grinding halt by the mid-‘70s and remains only a brief moment in history today.
I’ve managed to avoid arrest while smoking quietly each day
Since my release from prison 36 years ago, I’ve managed to avoid arrest while smoking quietly each day, but the shadow of the drug police is always hovering overhead no matter where you are and is even more ominous when you’re driving your car. Carrying a small smoking stash in public or even toking in your home can bring serious grief if you’re apprended, and the pothead lives in a continuous state of terror even if the police remain at bay.
Liberation for the Marijuana smoker in America, sad to say, is not on the near horizon. The mammoth drug law enforcement industry built up around the War on Drugs channels billions of dollars each year to the worst segments of our society, and I’m afraid they’re so deeply entrenched that their overthrow will be particularly problematic. Pot smokers will continue to suffer fear and ignominy and unceasing police terror as long as the drug war remains essentially unchallenged.
But liberation for the weedhead is real when one arrives in Amsterdam. Purchasing and smoking Cannabis is perfectly okay, and the police have no interest whatsoever in the individual smoker. All of a sudden one is no longer a criminal, and the veil of fear and trembling rises and floats away in the breeze. Life begins a new in liberated territory, and we are free to live our lives as Marijuana smokers without fear at last. Liberation from oppressors, liberation from terror, these are good things, and we will continue to celebrate them as long as we may live.
For: Free Amsterdam