Is Marijuana Prohibition America’s ‘Berlin Wall’?

by George Rohrbacher, Member, NORML board of directors; medical cannabis patient
[Editor’s Note: This essay was originally published on March 1st, 2009. In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s deconstruction and the fall of Communism being recognized around the world this week, and with the ever-falling support for cannabis prohibition in America, this essay from NORML board member George Rohrbacher seems even more apropos today than last March.] It is said that almost everyone in the marijuana law reform movement has a seminal moment they can point to when their public activism started. My moment was in the fall, six years ago.
I’m a past president of our local Kiwanis Club. I’ve been a member for years; we meet for breakfast at 6:30am, every Wednesday morning. My fateful “activism moment” was meeting face-to-face with one morning’s Kiwanis Club program, our town’s newly acquired dope dog. Some rock-ribbed citizen had left money in his will for the city to buy a dope dog for our town of 3,000, in a county of 18,000 people. The dog’s handler and the police chief were up at the speaker’s table. I had to fight back the urge to turn around and run.
As I sat down at my usual spot, ordered breakfast and clipped on my Kiwanis Club nametag, my heart was just racing! Thank God, my neck pain had not been severe enough that morning that it had required some marijuana medication, because, I imagined, triggered by the smell of freshly consumed ganja, that huge German Shepard would have leaped from the podium to pin me down to the floor, the dog’s sharp white teeth snarling and snapping at my throat.
As we went through club business about our kid’s reading program, ate breakfast and conducted the normal chit-chat that makes Kiwanis Club so enjoyable, I slowly calmed myself. I had not been found out as a marijuana user, yet. There was no need for me to panic, because the likelihood that I would be found out now by this agent of the state, was growing smaller and smaller by the moment. But, as the primal fear drained away, it started to piss me off; this dope dog was invading my space.
The dog handler got up and spoke glowingly about his charge, the alpha male of his litter. This dog had been born of a long and impressive pedigree in Baden-something, formerly East Germany. Looking at me from across the room was the pride of the jack-booted police state, the purebred German Shepard—smart, vicious, relentless.

The dog handler went chirping on, to mostly nodding heads, about what a fantastic dog he had and how many pot busts he had already made with it. Suddenly, all I could think was: This dog was born in East Germany, it’s father could have pulled someone down off the Berlin Wall…this dog’s great-grandfather would have marched the Jews or Gypsies to the ovens at Buchenwald or Auschwitz… And now, my own little town had a new resident from the same police dog gene pool that serviced the two most brutal totalitarian regimes in the history of the mankind!
Scenes from my childhood of when German Shepards attacked the Civil Rights marchers at Selma floated before my eyes… This well-groomed dog was a tool of the modern police state in all its scariest manifestations. The more I thought about it, the madder and madder I got.
I paid my breakfast bill and left in the first wave. I drove back out to the ranch and fed our cows their daily ration of hay, all the while mulling over my close brush with the dope dog. By the time I got done with my chores and back to the house, I absolutely had to do something! I picked up my telephone and called NORML, and I volunteered for the fight that very day…our fight for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”

Marijuana prohibition is a corrupt and evil social institution, just like the Berlin Wall was. For generations both have been symbols of the ruthless and relentless oppression of the state. Then, one day, by the sheer weight of internal political rot and thousands of little hammers, the Berlin Wall came down, and it came down virtually overnight! Marijuana Prohibition is just as corrupt and evil as the Wall, and it, also, is rotting internally from seven decades of injustice. It, too, is ready for collapse.

0 thoughts

  1. I am sorry, but comparing Pot to the Berlin Wall, is just as stupid as people comparing Bush and Obama to Hitler. I get that it is something we need to overcome, but choose another symbol.
    [Editor’s note: Got another symbol or metaphor to employ instead?]

  2. And finally if anybody out there cant see the similarities
    between our cops and gestapo, come move your dumbass to kansas where they WILL kick in your door, come into your house without a warrant, hassle you as you walk down the street, and all around fill you life with fear and misery for smoking a plant. We have a small town and a shitload of bored cops with nothing else to do. DONT DISMISS THE CLAIMS OF PERPETUAL HARRASMENT AT THE HANDS OF LAW ENFORCEMENT ON INNOCENT SMOKERS

  3. O yes indeed! Come give good ol kansas a visit if you like see to rampant gang and violent crime (even in the small towns) unchecked while fearing lenghthy incarceration for havin roaches in your ashtray. Because yes folks if you look harmless and small and non violnet the cops will hassle you. Being hassled by cops not your thing? Kansas can accomodate that too! Appear as if you belong to one of the numerous violent gangs native to here such as: ms13, mxican mafia, bloods, crips, and many more and you can be sure our cops will be to busy shitting themselves in fear to do anything to you!!!!!!!! SO CMON DOWN!

  4. As I stated in my post above, let this damn law persist for a few more decades, what how many more suffer and die. What how many more of our freedoms are stripped from us in the name of “Taking care of the people”.
    Those of you on this post that cant see that are blind and close minded. WAKE THE HELL UP!

  5. When the agents turn your house upside down. Dump your food out of the fridge. Call you names and scream in your face. Make you lose your job. Take away your house without a trial like in Hawaii. Neva be charged but lose your house anyway. Use illegal heat seeking choppers at night at tree level. Scaring your animals and livestock half to death by hovering so low over land.
    Police state? Nah.

  6. I didn’t mean to start a storm of flames (post 3). The point I was trying to make was this and only this: Although you and I can view prohibition in the same light as Nazi Germany and or the Soviet Union; non smokers will find this argument a little goofy. Many people have lost their livelyhood because of this unfortunate prohibition, but loosing your livelyhood and genocide are different. I’m all the way with the article…I understand the imagery and respect it. I was just trying to say that as we are trying to end the problem, we shouldn’t muddy the waters with opinions as much as facts that support our Arguments. That’s my two cents…peace and green.

  7. I think anyone who has ever dealt with our law enforcement and judicial system (after being arrested for cannabis)finds this comparison very realistic. Ask someone that has been through this process and listen to their response. This is without a doubt the single most destructive law the United States has ever imposed on it’s own citizens! The human toll is so large we can hardly begin to measure it. Now think about the impact on the rest of the world due to our foreign policy about cannabis.

  8. Heres an answer to any nay sayers here. If you go against the law they will make you suffer. If question their motives you will suffer. If you think its bull, come out of the closet. Fly your flags, make your protest signs, speak your mind against this police state that is before us. They will more readily call you a terrorist, extremeists,criminal than they will a man that just killed 13 people in fort hood. This is the world we are living in. Conform or be considered criminal. If that isnt communist I dont know what is.

  9. On e other thing some of you should consider. Our founding fathers were considered extremists,radicals,criminals. With out them where do yo think we would be today. It will take us”extremists,radicals,criminals” to fix what is wrong today.

  10. O.K.
    So… guys don’t like comparing Cannabis Prohibition to the Berlin WALL because of the whole genocide “thing”, huh??
    Well, how about this comparison…..the PREJUDICE against freedom of personal choice mixed with the cruel and unresonable inprisonment of a SELECT group of people(a.i. Cannabis consumers) might be a lil’ more similar to…Oh, I dunno…SLAVERY in the good ol’ U.S. I mean, let’s face it…the sparks of Prohibition were fueled by a few choice remarks I would DEFINATELY view as racist/prejudice.
    Let’s see,….what else?. Oh yeah!! Non-violent Cannabis users are taken against their will and put behind bars. Kinda like Africans(who also posed no threat to Americans at the time)were taken against their will…..and put in SHACKLES!!!
    Non-violent African women were abused and RAPED! by their Slavers…..and I’ve heard a few nightmarish tales about how Non-violent cannabis-convictee’s get abused and RAPED when put in the same cell as a KNOWN rapist. I don’t know about you a***oles, but I don’t think somebody deserves to be physically VIOLATED, and possibly infected with AIDS because they FREELY choose to RESPONSIBLY enjoy Cannabis in their own home.
    EVEN after African folks were set free (by the Emancipation Proclamation)they had touble finding descent jobs simply because of the PREJUDICE towards “Blacks”. Kinda like how today many people in America are refused jobs or have a hard time finding employment simply because of the PREJUDICE towards “Stoners”.
    AND let’s not forget the BIGGEST similarity between Prohibition and Slavery—HYPOCRICY.
    Many WHITE men once enjoyed freedom while(at the same time) unjustly infringing upon BLACKS entitlement to that very same right–FREEDOM.
    Today, many DRINKERS practice and enjoy the right to get “HIGH”; while(at the same time) unjustly condemning TOKERS for trying to practice AND enjoy the same right—TO GET HIGH.
    2+2=??………any takers?????

  11. I just hope it doesn’t take 200 + years to end Prohibition the same way it did Slavery……
    P.S. by the way, SLAVERY is still legal in the U.S.A.
    as long as your “plantations” *cough*sweatshps*cough* are located in other countries… China or Honduras.

  12. We should have a day where we grab our hammers and stand in protest in D.C. That should send a message…. and buy stock in tools.

  13. Oh and another thought on this Wall comparison. What if hemp oil really DOES cure cancer. What if the really are cures for many deaseases from cannabis? The government has effectively STOPPED anyone from finding out! What if MILLIONS of people have NEEDLESSLY died from cancer! Wouldnt that easily be called a Holocaust!? After all it was a government in germany that killed millions. Our government could have done the same with different methods..huh?
    Now tell me this comparison isnt right!!

  14. I’m with R.O.E. and many others. I don’t think the author was saying that there is a direct comparison between our police state and nazi germany. He was making allegory to show when his ‘defining’ moment came in the fight to end the war on marijuana users (which those waging it deny its existence).
    I too love animals, but what they train animals to do sometimes sickens me (attack dogs, dolphins carrying mines, etc). Whoever said dogs aren’t allowed to search you is plain wrong. Why do you think they stand in front of lines at airports, etc? If that dog catches a whiff of something it doesn’t like you can be damn certain you’re going to be pulled and searched. If you run the dog will be biting the sh*t out of you. There are no 4th amendment rights with a police dog around.
    End the war on PEOPLE (and marijuana users) because that’s what it really is.. not a war on drugs, it’s a war on PEOPLE. If you don’t hold sovereign power over your own body then there is a HUGE PROBLEM!

  15. The founders thought they had Guaranteed the right to use cannibis George Washington wrote How can I start a revolution with no hemp? The moral of my troops will certainly droop if we stoop to stems and seeds…
    I’ll have to cop from Jefferson to satisfy our needs.
    Now Tommy’s mellow,in Monticello, toking up and writing down those grand ideals.
    Since we smoked and spoke and joked about the future of this land,
    I think I understand just how he feels.
    We hold these truths to be self evident, etcetera,
    down to the part we like the best;
    to protect our own indulgences, we guaranteed the pursuit of happiness

  16. Marijuana prohibition started as as a racisit way to control the Mexican immigrants back in 1930’s. People think that it kill brain cells, makes you go crazy, and is incredibly addicting. It is none of these things, it is completely non harmful and beneficial for you health.
    What the hell is wrong with you people?!?! WAKE UP! You are being blatantly lied to!!! You think our government really cares about our health?!?! Alcohol and cigs are legal, and how many people do they kill? Marijuana has never killed a single human being in the history of it’s existent.
    The alcohol and tobacco company are laughing their heads off at how much money they can make from our government’s stupidity!

  17. Yeah R.O.E I just wanted to say that if I openly spoke out about involvement with anything related to marijuana then I would instantly be labeled a radical hippy and never be looked at the same way by my peers, not to mention I could possibly loose my job.
    I wonder how long it will take people to look past their complete ignorance of facts and denial of logic on such a simple issue. Prohibition does 5x more harm than it prevents. What is the point?

  18. I only saw the first 10 seconds of this clip showing the badly damaged car and then heard them saying that the driver was a known cannabis driver . That was enough of B.S. for me . That lady who drove that vehicle had a blood alcohol level of 1.6 % . They didn’t tell you this .They hide the truth . This is what is meant by …..distortion .

  19. Just a little hypocrisy humor here. The next time you see a sign that says “Drug free school zone” within 5 miles of a bar or store that sells alcohol, think of all the people put in prison for growing canibus. While the drunks run free in these school zones with their government approved baby raper liquid drugs.

  20. Have your door broken in with a no-nock warrant for your electric bill being too high (computers not grow lights) and then tell me this is not out of order in comparisons. Show me that the people I’ve known who committed suicide versus spend more than a decade of their lives behind bars is not comparable. Tell me why it is okay to profile and pull people over simply to be searched for cannabis?
    Like many I grew up with 1950 ideals and live in an Orwellian world of police raids, helicopters and dog assisted searches and roadblocks. How is this not similar to how people were kept from one another in Berlin?
    I do agree the bit on the dog was really ludicrous, but the intent was to show just how far people have gone down the rabbit hole and the polarization is not a welcome one on either side of the wall outside of those who built the darn thing..

  21. …for me the issue of personal souvriegnity is paramount. keep your opinions and machinations off of my body/mind/spirit.any lesser approach invalidates any claim of a free society.
    as far as cannabis is concerned… in our culture we allow armed agents of the govt to acost, enquire, subjugate, assualt kidnap,accuse, and imprison citizens for possessing a FLOWER with the heinous intent of making themselves somehow feel better.
    this seems to me to be INCREDIBLY STUPID.
    by what logic does this apply?
    the costs are innumerable and the positives inappearent.
    i guess the ghosts of evil puritanism will haunt us till the culture crumbles.

  22. THE wealthy tobacco companies try to make weed sound worse than it is because they know that if people try it they’ll like it better than cigs or beer and therefore will lose income. comparing weed to heroin or meth is idiotic. booze is more dangerous than weed.

  23. For me it’s simple the wall needs to come down so I do not have to move to a state that has finally realized the medical benefits and people who are ill do not have to worry about being arrested while trying to relive themselves of extreme pain. I have Parkinson,TMJ,Migraines,deterating disc in my neck and the list goes on. Meanwhile I can legally walk around with many narcotics that I hate taking but, can not deal with the pain without them. Then I have another pill for the nausea. I have to spend hundreds of dollars a month for nerve blocks and another couple of hundred for the pills. Then the call comes when blood is drawn that my liver is showing distress. Enough of this crazy battling over this issue just make it legal already like so many states have arleady done. Lets help the ill,keep others mellow rather then all tanked up and shooting of their mouths after a few to many martinis that keep going into larger and larger glasses that are very cool looking so they appeal to the person holding them. All for seeing the national debt going down and we all know the money it will bring in. Life in prison for growing pot are you kidding me. We are letting hard criminals out of prison due to not having enough room for them.

  24. The global elite will never let this “berlin wall”come down. They’ll most likely throw potheads and anti drug war supporters into concentration camps in the near future before they even consider letting the president legalize it. The people lost power along time ago. Im sorry fellas but we are FUCKED. They simply have more money then we could ever dream of. They owe most of that profit to marijuana’s illegal status. They wont let law change without a fight, and sure as the dick between my legs, WE WONT LET THEM WIN WITHOUT A FIGHT!!!! FIGHT THE POWER!!!!!!

  25. The best way to tear down this so called “Prohibition Wall” is to become like Johnny Appleseed, plant em and pass em out freely. I would rather give some of my Cannabis out for free for those that need it than to try to profit from it, that way I can not be labeled as a dealer since I’m passing it out for nothing.

  26. Jolly Old Toker,
    Its funny you mention Jonny apple seed. Did ya know Jonny apple seed was removed from many school libraries due to its “sexual” indications(I believe). Cencor ship at its finest. The problem is, when I was a youngin in school,watched films and read books on J.A. S. I didnt see any sexual conotations. Just goes to show how some ‘ADULTS’ look for boogymen and demons in everything. Cannabis is not different. Its a scary world we live in when ‘ADULTS’ make dirty a simple childs story. Makes one wonder what will be banned in the future in the name of”protecting the children” .
    The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)

  27. Hi evereybody, I’m not a smoker of anything but, if cannabis is recomended for illnesses thats a great thing that nobody can say about tobacco. Nobody advice tobacco to get well, this one only kills and is not forbidden, it’s the biggest drug and it’s legal…Isn’t this the biggest irony ?

  28. instead of thousands of hammers… imagine thousands of beaners… what if everyone planted a bagseed in their neighbors yard, then everyones yard would have a weed plant and everyone would realize their neighbor is actually cool ; )

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  30. Wonderful piece of writing!
    America would indeed soon turn into a similar thing as the Soviet Union if Drug Prohibition would not be resisted.

  31. ?Everyone, stop asking, pleading, begging the Federal government to legalize marijuana.
    All one has to do is look to the rules for the Federal government. The constitution for the United
    Article the twelfth [Amendment X]
    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it
    to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    If a state decides to completely legalize pot, the Federal government has NO say in the matter
    Think about it for a moment. ?Prostitution is legal in Nevada, but not in the District of
    criminals Columbia. Can a Federal agent arrest someone in Nevada for ?prostitution? No
    they can’t. State law over-rides Federal law.
    Same thing with ANY law a state makes that is in contrary to Federal law.
    Section. 8. The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and
    Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the
    United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United
    To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
    To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the
    Indian Tribes;
    To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of
    Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
    To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of
    Weights and Measures;
    To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the
    United States;
    To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to
    Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
    To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
    To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences
    against the Law of Nations;
    To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures
    on Land and Water;
    To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a
    longer Term than two Years;
    To provide and maintain a Navy;
    To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
    To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress
    Insurrections and repel Invasions;
    To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part
    of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States
    respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according
    to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
    To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding
    ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress,
    become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all
    Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for
    the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; — And
    To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the
    foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the
    United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
    Section. 4. “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a
    Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against

    [Editor’s note: Its too bad that modern courts pretend the 9th and 10th amendments no longer exist…reformers citing the 9th and 10th Amendment as means to retard cannabis prohibition will be very likely be disappointed when trial and appellate courts largely ignore pleadings that invoke the 9th and 10th Amendments.]

  32. Thanks very much for this great post! Was very very helpful. I get writers block from time to time and this will keep me writing for a YEAR! Great stuff and some types of blog posts I??ve never even thought of writing.Thank you very much.

  33. Some people would rather waste money to make a point. Marijuana is illegal. For over 80 years it has been illegal. It does not matter that we know so much more about marijuana today than we did 80 years ago. It does not matter that today science says pot is a magnitude safer than alcohol. Science says pot is much less addictive than alcohol and non-toxic too. So why are we prohibiting marijuana again? We made a bad law back when we knew nothing about marijuana, does that mean we can never change it…ever? I like to think that we are not as stupid as what this appears. We are forcing people to drink and risk their health and life when they could have a choice, a safer choice! Our kids are drinking themselves to death and they could have had a safer choice but we are so ignorant we will let these folks die because our government made a bad law 80 years ago and we don’t seem to have the sense to change it. Over 30 of our kids died at college last year from alcohol poisoning…not one kid died from marijuana poisoning last year, or any year. How many of those kids would still be alive if they had had a choice? Please, please, end the alcohol monopoly in America. Help make America a safer place to live.

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