Nice portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King in color

What if MLK took what he learned from civil rights . . .  and applied it to herbal rights?

The legalization “movement” is crying out for someone to point the staff toward the Promised Land. Someone like Dr. Martin Luther King. But Dr. King didn’t invent nonviolent confrontation; Gandhi did. Dr. King simply took Gandhi’s formula for upgrading second-class citizenship and adapted it to the civil rights movement. If herbal rights proponents hope for legalization anytime soon, they would do well to replicate the tactics of individuals and movements that persevered through tremendous struggles to win their freedom.

Mahatma Gandhi addresses a big crowd in India

Mahatma Gandhi, MLK’s biggest influence, knew how to work a crowd. Charismatic leaders tend to energize just movements, whether the cause is civil rights or herbal rights.

If you’re after sweeping changes, history tells us that first and foremost you have to put a face on a movement. Faces fit on buttons, banners, and bumper stickers — organizations don’t. Which isn’t to minimize their importance. A strong organization working toward common goals is vital — if you want prompt, conspicuous, and compelling response to valentines like the one the city of Loveland, Colorado recently sent its dispensaries: “Get out of Dodge, cause cities can vote out dispensaries in medical marijuana states any time they damn well please.”

But once you have a face and an organization, it’s a mistake to compromise a just cause by accepting limitations. Demand what’s right from the start — so you don’t have to beg for it later.

Prophets are in short supply. But surely there’s a mediagenic personality out there who yearns to steer the legalization movement. Whoever takes the reins has to be an inspiring speaker and a persuasive writer, know the issues inside and out, and be willing to crisscross the country rallying support. Diplomacy is a valuable trait; forging an alliance of advocacy groups like Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) will be the first order of business.

This is no simple task: at present, the legalization movement is divided on two major fronts.

The schism between patients’ rights groups campaigning for medicinal use and groups seeking herbal rights for everyone — including recreational and industrial use — stands out. In a nutshell: should we settle for providing debilitated persons access to “meds,” or do we demand nothing less than full-on legalization for all? If the SCLC worked alongside militant factions, and Hindus and Moslems cooperated for Gandhi, this gap can be bridged.

Dr. King might proclaim: “The hemp growers who autographed the Declaration of Independence didn’t restrict life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to the chronically ill.”

The other thorny issue is whether a marijuana alliance intends to effect legalization state by state … or get it done in one fell swoop by repealing Prohibition. The mission of securing civil rights for the state of Alabama alone is not one that would have satisfied Dr. King. When you have a day named after you, the worthwhile crusade is repealing Prohibition. MLK labeled the alternative — slogging it out state by state, locality by locality — “taking the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.” He would certainly caution against our doing the same.

There can be no doubt that in Dr. King’s mind, the cause consisted of individual liberty and economic opportunity. After all, the “I have a dream speech” was delivered at the March for Freedom … and Jobs. Supporters had gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to demand both, not to compromise.

Martin Luther King at a podium addressing a crowd at a civil rights demonstration

I have a dream, too: herbal rights activists working toegether to repeal prohibition.

What other limitations would give Dr. King pause? There’s a big price to pay for winning crippled medical marijuana initiatives: they’re a bitch to upgrade later. While it’s true that winning such initiatives “gets your foot in the door” … there’s no guarantee it will open any wider in the future. Witness California Proposition 19; its defeat shut the door on expanded freedom.

Dr. King would preach that as long as “medical marijuana” has that crippling adjective, job creation is a fraction of what it would be if marijuana was fully legal and regulated. Cannabis commerce is condemned to a cottage industry. Cannatax is a trickle compared to the funds that would “flow like the mighty Mississippi” in a fully legal landscape.

Fed up with medical marijuana’s dampening effect on jobs, industry, and taxation, Dr. King might declare, “Now is the time . . . to stop throttling the golden goose.”

What would be the best way to get things moving forward right from the start? Marching on Washington worked out pretty well for Dr. King’s cause. Marijuanamarch would be ample indication that the 150 million strong pro-pot voting combine controls its own destiny — it just needs to realize it. The clarion call from a voice of the movement might reverberate forever.