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Doug Fine,
page 2

 

The herbal drug is also good for conditions such as insomnia and Crohn's Disease, he points out. Fine questioned one such patient about purchasing his "ganja" with his credit card: "I asked him, wasn't he afraid to leave a paper trail? And he just said, 'Hell, no, this is my medicine!'"

But while the argument for "medical marijuana" is much ballyhooed and the sum total of most people's perception of justification for decriminalization, Fine says this is a small part of the picture.

"The validating points are all, individually, so compelling," he says. "But putting the medical aspect of cannabis completely aside, even considering just one or two of the other aspects, it still makes sense to immediately end the drug war."

And Fine goes on in the book to carefully and methodically lay out those other arguments, involving the industrial and energy aspects of cannabis, specifically hemp household products and biofuel.

Hemp is a crop that's easier to grow and makes less of a carbon footprint than, say, cotton. Fabric, rope, soap and other products made from hemp fiber are stronger and easier on the environment. When it comes to biofuels — those agri-products that could reduce our nation's dependence on fossil fuels — hemp produces five times the biofuel of corn.

So why the resistance to legalizing cannabis and expanding the markets for and production of hemp? Fine believes the political power of "Big Pharma" and the current investment in agribusiness' corn "are factors in limiting the expansion of hemp."

 

But support for decriminalization has gone mainstream and is amping up, Fine says. His own "straight-laced" mother met him at the airport, he recounts, with a magazine under her arm and fired up about the war on drugs.

"She told me that she just felt the whole thing was a failure and needed to end. My mother said this," he says with a slightly amused laugh.

He talks about his surprise at venture capitalists' interest and open support for the cannabis industry. "You see Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal making cannabis industry recommendations right out there, you see it right in the names of the entities looking for investors, and the message is 'Buy, buy, buy!' When the money is heading there, you know things are really changing."

The result, Fine hopes, is a powerful groundswell for change. "Back in 2010, Pat Robertson, Pat Robertson, went on record saying that we shouldn't be putting kids in jail for possession (of marijuana). Now he's actually coming out and saying that the drug war needs to end! This is big."

He adds that he was genuinely surprised while doing his research at "how ready America is to end the war on drugs. Fifty-six percent favor drug legalization, up from 44% the year before."

And yet, what he calls the "wrong-minded raids," detailed in the book, continue. "I mean, they're raiding this sustainable, tax-paying farmer and leaving the drug cartels alone?" he asks rhetorically, yet incredulously. "I mean, really?"

So the time, Fine says, is ripe. Not only could the taxes generated by a legalized and unmolested cannabis business put needed revenue into the coffers of states that could desperately use it, he says, but the war on drugs itself is a huge expense. In a postscript in Too High to Fail, he writes that the organization Drug Sense's "Drug War Clock," which keeps a running tally on the big money spent on these efforts, showed that more than $35 billion had been spent, in state and federal funds, at the time he finished writing the book. "That's a number that could balance a few budgets," Fine writes.

 

Sitting at his outdoor table, watching his kids — both human and Nubian goats — Fine reflects on the book tour on which he is now embarking and the information he hopes to spread. He anticipates his appearance on Conan O'Brien's late-night TV show will be laced with humor, and he'll perhaps have to answer to some skepticism. But he knows he'll find a different audience when he goes on scheduled programs on Irish radio and New Zealand TV.

"They have hemp biofields there," he says of New Zealand. "They're already on board with it and working with it now!"

Leaning back in his chair, Fine reflects on living and writing in New Mexico, in the slow-paced Mimbres Valley. "I'm really thankful to have this life," he says. "I love how inspiring it is, much of it deriving from the vista and the hummingbirds right outside my office window. I love that I can do this, write books, and hear my kids giggling in the other room, hear my sweetheart making up something good to eat.

"We're on the front lines of change, right here. I don't like having to go through Border Control lines when I drive. I've had neighbors raided for (growing and/or possessing) very small amounts (of marijuana). I really believe it, America's going to be stronger, safer and healthier when the war on drugs ends."

But right now, today, it's just about packing for his trip, talking to a reporter here and there and bringing out the goat milk ice cream. The atmosphere turns to excited squeals as his sons run into the kitchen to help their mother dish up the cinnamon-flavored ice cream that they churned, earlier this morning, in their non-electric, hand-shaken ice cream maker.

Fine digs into a bowl and says that in the bigger scope of things, he's hoping that his book may help to convince "the other 44% of Americans who are not yet approving" the end to the war on drugs. "I'd like to have something to do with reaching that tipping point," he admits with a wistful smile.

 

 

Doug Fine's latest book, Too High to Fail, is available at local bookstores and online retailers. A short film about the book, including links to buying options, is at www.dougfine.com.


Donna Clayton Walter is a Silver City-based freelance writer.

 

 

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