“Where do you want to eat?” I asked Dana.
“The Szechuan joint is closed,” he said. “Let’s go up 37th street and find another place.”
The Szechuan restaurant referred to has been, for the past few years, our regular meet up spot. But it had been a while since I had dinner with world renowned cannabis activist and zealous advocate of ibogaine, Dana Beal. COVID-19 had forced New York City into a four-month lockdown.
It was eerie. We were in midtown Manhattan, but the streets resembled more the set of The Walking Dead than the “Greatest City in the World.” Few people could be seen wandering about. Almost all the stores were still closed, even though the mayor had announced we were in “Phase 3” of re-opening, whatever that meant.
Dana and I walked for a few blocks until we came upon a hotel with a restaurant set up for outdoor dining. We sat down and took a look at the menu. Standard Mediterranean fare, but it would have to do under the circumstances. I ordered spaghetti marinara. Dana ordered the seafood linguini.
I looked around at the near empty skyscrapers and half deserted streets. It was rather depressing.
“You’ve lived here in midtown for many years Dana,” I said, “have you ever seen anything like this?”
“Not since 9-11,” he replied.
“Do you think New York will ever recover from the effects of the coronavirus?”
“Yes,” he said, “New York will make a full recovery.”
It was heartening to hear. I realized then that being an activist required generous doses of optimism and realism. In equal measure. And that was what we all needed now.
It had seemed like a long haul – months of quarantine followed by protests and violence. But while most of us remained sequestered inside, fueled by steady doses of Grub Hub and Netflix, Dana Beal was out doing what he does best – protesting.
“I saw your post on Facebook,” I said, “you were just in Seattle.”
“That’s right. We were bringing Yippie support to the Seattle CHOP.”
I was trying to visualize the scene: a 73-year old caucasian man, sporting a handle-bar mustache and cowboy boots, making his way through the Capitol Hill protest zone, with tear gas and violence erupting around him.
“How did it go?” I asked.
“It went well. Black Lives Matter hung our banner, declaring ‘Trump Free Zone: No Russian Agent Provocateurs Here,’ on the East Precinct Building. They were very responsive to our message.”
“What’s the message?”
“The message is: replace cops with medical personnel armed with the African Cure, instead of guns.”
The ‘African Cure’ Beal speaks of refers to Eboga, long used by Gabon’s Mitsogos and the Fangs, in their initiation ceremonies. During these rituals, the initiate would take high doses of ibogaine and enter into a dream-like trance to confront repressed memories and traumas. Beal believes that ibogaine can be used to successfully treat drug addiction in as little as 48 hours.
“Ibogaine has been found,” Dana tells me, “to switch on a growth factor, GDNF, that not only regenerates dopamine neurons suppressed by substance abuse, but also back-signals to cell nuclei to express more and more GDNF so addicts can stay clean without needing more ibogaine.”
“Do you really think,” I pressed him, “we as a society can exist without cops?”
“People suffering from addiction,” Dana explained, “even if they commit crimes, don’t need a cop with a gun and an itchy trigger finger. You send a doctor or EMT to salvage their lives. Not a cop to end or enslave their lives. Take the cops away, and we will solve the drug addiction problem with ibogaine the antidote, and cannabis the anti-drug and safer alternative.”
The stark reality is that the backbone of our budget for policing and maintaining the prison-industrial complex comes from the bogus War On Drugs: approximately 700,000 Americans are arrested just on marijuana related charges each year.
With costs upwards of $60,000 per year of taxpayer dollars to maintain each prisoner in federal penitentiaries, one begins to realize what a big money scam this whole business is. Then of course, there are the lives ruined, reputations besmirched and families torn apart by these Draconian measures.
The worst part is that anti-drug laws have targeted colored communities from the get go, and still do to this day. Cannabis usage rates between white Americans and blacks are similar, but black Americans are being arrested for cannabis offenses at a rate of 4:1 when compared to whites. When you look at the numbers, you begin to understand the underlying causes that are fueling the rage expressed by groups like Black Lives Matter.
The disparagement in the numbers are no accident. It is a matter of historical record that the Federal government has systematically targeted blacks and other minorities. Back in the 1970s, President Nixon declared drugs to be “Public Enemy #1,” but there was a political and racist agenda behind this move. President Nixon’s Domestic Policy Chief, John Ehrlichman, later admitted:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people… We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
Of course, cannabis prohibition as a tool for racism goes back much earlier than that, to the 30s and 40s, in the so-called “Reefer Madness” era. It was then that the first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry J. Anslinger, and chief architect of Cannabis prohibition, was quoted as saying, “The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races…Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
“Anslinger was friends with the Nazi, Joseph Goebbels,” Dana said to me.
“Well, that makes sense,” I said.
After dinner, the waiter cleared our dishes. Dana started hacking. “Cannabis,” he said, “clears the lungs.”
“What about that study that says cannabis can cure COVID?” I asked.
“Not true,” he said. “Cannabis can increase your immunity, but at best by only 10%. A negligible amount.”
Dana stood up, walked over to the sidewalk and hocked a big loogie into a potted plant by the hotel. A family walking by, horrified, quickly replaced their masks over their faces.
I guess you can’t be too safe these days.