On January 6, 2021, we all witnessed what can happen when millions of people believe nonsense. The U.S. Capitol was ransacked by a mob of nitwits who believed the debunked conspiracy theories repeated by a president who knew that sowing lies has always been his best shot at staying in power.
Donald Trump’s four years as president offer a great parallel to the marijuana industry and the history of cannabis in the United States, which was also subjected to plenty of nonsense. By now, you know the stories that were used to criminalize cannabis for decades: marijuana is addictive; marijuana is a gateway drug; marijuana can cause overdoses; marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol. The false claims made about cannabis were designed to keep Americans drinking booze, popping pills, using trees for paper and cotton for clothing, and not utilizing a plant that threatened other entrenched industries.
Trump’s lies have been far more corrosive. To stoke the idea of his candidacy, he pushed the lie that President Obama was born in Kenya. One of his first acts in office was to lie to the American public about the size of the crowd at his inauguration, claiming — against clear proof — that his was the biggest in history. He continued to fuel division by saying without any evidence that Obama illegally spied on his campaign. And he fully embraced the lie that the election was rigged and rife with fraud, long before (and well after) Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2020 presidential election, planting the seed among his supporters that they must rise up in rebellion if somehow he were not re-elected.
Sadly, people can be talked into all kinds of nutty stuff if they want to believe something badly enough. And, when it comes to Trump, he was a master at appealing to the unwary and gullible (think Trump University). You can’t blame coal miners in West Virginia for supporting a guy who promised to bring back their jobs, even though that promise was nonsense. Those good people have every right to want jobs, security and a decent living.
However, you can be disgusted by wealthy Republican enablers who knew coal jobs would never come back, held millions in Tesla stock and invested in clean energy companies while feeding coal miners lies solely to get elected or stay in office.
And that’s the root problem with the Republican Party and Trump. It’s called Cynicism. They can’t tell the truth to the public because if they did, they’d lose 90% of their support. So a party with leadership made up of mostly old, rich, white guys readily supported a draft-dodging, tax-cheating fraudster because it helped them politically in the short run. The Trump tax cuts also helped their stock portfolios and reduced their capital gains liabilities, all at the expense of everyone else and the national debt. As I said in an earlier issue of Marijuana Venture, there’s a reason Trump only builds his hotels in deep blue cities with effective regulations that cover zoning, building permits and construction rules — and it isn’t because Houston doesn’t want one of his tacky buildings.
So when you think of Trump, cults and “drinking the Kool-Aid,” it’s worth remembering that in 1978, more than 900 followers of Jim Jones were convinced he was the messiah and could do no wrong. They drank poison. They died. Today, millions of Trump voters are just as delusional and blind.
I hope 2021 is a great year for the marijuana industry, and I suspect that with Democrats controlling the Senate, we might even see federal legalization of marijuana. It makes sense, unless you still believe all the nonsense that Americans have been fed for decades. Right now a majority of Americans support some form of legalization, and it’s time we put outdated pot laws and Trump out to pasture.