Sunday, July 28, 2013

Listen, panty raids aren't so bad - at least they weren't smoking pot!

Apparently because there was nothing more important to comment about on November 17, 1967, Helena's Independent Record began its editorial:

Some of the young men attending Eastern Montana College in Billings staged a panty raid a few nights ago.



What news! Surely a stalwart establishment paper like the Independent can somehow use this scandalous nugget to bash hippies:

This is probably looked upon in some quarters as a corny retrogression to the Fabulous Fifties, in contrast to the Swingin' Sixties manifested by beards, bathlessness, pot parties and protest demonstrations. One fellow editorialist mildly chided the EMC panty raid as a meaningless act in an age when young people are struggling to find meaning in a meaningless world.


Yes, this "fellow editorialist" apparently believes going on panty raids can help young people "find meaning in a meaningless world." And the rest of the editorialists agree!

... we'd prefer to look on the panty raid as a rather harmless bit of frivolity that college kids should engage in once in a while. It's a better escape from this meaningless world than marijuana and LSD. 


YES! The world is meaningless. And dope and acid don't make it any less so. But sweet release is waiting, on the other end of hormone-driven B & E.

And we'd prefer to see young men express some masculine interest in the opposite sex rather than the lispy, limpwristed swishes who write dirty words on signs and spit obscenities at cops and soldiers.


How refreshing it is to see REAL, MASCULINE men shoving their hands in piles of female underwear instead of those "limpwristed swishes" who stand up to the crushing authority of the state.

The Independent's editorial is a classic example of how those with establishment views in the Sixties made every attempt, no matter how farfetched, to de-legitimize the counterculture. By harkening back to the good-old-days Fifties (you know, a simpler, whimsical time, when panty raids outnumbered pot parties), the board condemned hippies as effeminate druggies and portrayed a weird fetish crime as All-American mischief. Even "harmless bits of frivolity" were politicized in Cold War America.

Source: "Page of Comment: Panties and Other Unmentionables," The Independent Record, November 17, 1967. Accessed via

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cannabis in the Comics: Kalispell Daily InterLake, 1955

Today, while slogging through's stash of articles from Montana, I found perhaps the most "illustrative" summary of the public attitude toward marijuana in the 1950s:

The detective strip called "Kerry Drake" ran this marijuana-themed storyline from July 11 to at least September 1, 1955, in the Kalispell Daily InterLake. 

In 1950s Montana and other Western states, most upper- and middle-class white Americans considered marijuana to be an abomination. The way they saw it, ganja was an evil drug that depraved addict-criminals pushed onto their youth, turning them into lifelong addicts and criminals. Marijuana was thought to make men into murderous brutes, and women into either prostitutes or victims of violence, sexual and otherwise. For these reasons and others - including racial prejudice and the war on communism - law enforcement at the local, state, and federal levels made the breakup of marijuana rackets and the punishment of possessors, dealers, and growers a top priority.

The 1955 "Kerry Drake" comics perfectly and dramatically showcase all of the contemporary assumptions about marijuana: The "hero" detective arrests a crazed "addict," who he interrogates in order to break up the operation of a greedy, conniving kingpin who abuses his subservient girlfriend (who has the hilarious, quintessential fifties name of "Cozy Caresse"). In this strip, the dope dealer is wealthy and white, indicating that marijuana, once exclusively associated with poor Mexican immigrants, had by 1955 eaked its way into mainstream American culture.

Enough of my rambling analysis. Enjoy the rest of the strips!

Parts 6-10 after the jump!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Martin A. Lee, "Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana--Medical, Recreational and Scientific" (2012)

If you have even a shred of doubt about the legitimacy of cannabis in any society, Martin A. Lee would like a word with you.

Actually, he'd like a couple hundred thousand. In Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana--Medical, Recreational, and Scientific, the award-winning investigative journalist lays out possibly the thickest, most comprehensive and well-researched history of pot to date. His main argument is about as straightforward as it gets: He looked, and there is not one good reason for marijuana prohibition. Lee relentlessly hammers away at this point for more than 350 pages, filled with some of the most eloquent, diligent, and decidedly unobjective history currently available. Like most ambitious scholarly works, Smoke Signals is not without its faults - the two most prominent being Lee's failure to address possible negative effects of marijuana and his general neglect of weed's environmental history.

On the surface, Smoke Signals is an exhaustively detailed version of the common pro-pot argument, which goes something like "Marijuana prohibition is stupid because A, B, and C, and weed should be legal because X, Y, and Z."  Lee examines much of the same evidence, albeit to a greater extent, that other activists and scholars have used in their political campaigns and books to assault cannabis prohibition. For instance, he chronicles the hypocrisy and hefty fascist streak in the U.S. government's Drug War, the experiences of individuals and groups that make cannabis decriminalization a civil and human rights campaign, and the mountain of evidence that assures cannabis is one of the most medically valuable plants on the planet.

Yet it is the exhaustive detail - the seemingly endless run of stories, each one interesting, disturbing, or enlightening in its own way - and the passion with which he writes that makes Lee's argument so much more compelling and convincing than others.