By Djamila Noelle Grossman
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Professor Louis Silverstein released "Deep Spirit & Great Heart: Living in Marijuana Consciousness" earlier this year. The book describes the experiences of a young man named Ganja while he's under the influence of marijuana. Ganja feels a great intensity of perception and experiences an everlasting bliss in every aspect of life.
Ganja, an actual person, was a good friend of Silverstein who asked him to publish his journal entries after he had passed away.
Silverstein has traveled throughout the United States, Jamaica, Costa Rica and numerous European Countries for his studies on transformative consciousness and alternative realities.
Currently, professor Silverstein is teaching Peace Studies, Dying and Death, and Culture, Society and Drugs at Columbia College in Chicago.
Wildcat: What is the purpose of your book, and who should read it?
Silverstein:: To share with all people who are curious about this thing called marijuana and what its actual properties are if it is used in a disciplined and respectful manner. Right now, marijuana is demonized, and the basic public policy is to "say no or say nothing." We have created a nightmare in terms of how we have treated people who have decided to use it. I hope that my voice will be heard in the war against drugs.
Wildcat: In what way do you think people receive the message, do you think they understand what Ganja is talking about?
Silverstein:: People who are what I call kindred souls, who have also been under the influence, and used, not misused marijuana, tell me how wonderful it is that someone is courageous enough to say to the public: "This is what marijuana is, why are you persecuting and criminalizing us?" If it is used in a certain kind of manner, it can be really beneficial. This is a democracy and the population should be allowed to hear diverging viewpoints and then make up their mind.
Wildcat: Do you think especially young people can tend to misunderstand the message and get in trouble using marijuana in a wrong way?
Silverstein:: It gets very clear in the book: We are talking about disciplined, respectful use, not misuse. If they decide not to listen to that, it's up to them. If we have taught them how to use it appropriately, it's their decision. Within us is a source of joy, compassion, and love for all creations, including one's self. And marijuana can allow one to tap into that. The challenge is to take that high into everyday life without being under the influence. There are many substances on the planet that can be used and misused. There are more people dying from aspirin than from harder drugs. If you follow the instructions, you lose your headache. If you take too many aspirin, you destroy your kidneys. The problem with illegal substances is that the public conversation doesn't include use.
Wildcat: Why do you think institutions advise people against using marijuana?
Silverstein:: All those people who profit, the policemen, lawyers, the criminal justice; the least thing they want is less crime, OK? It diverts public attention from real problems like homelessness and environmental issues. Also ignorance – most people don't know that more people are harmed from alcohol than from marijuana. Marijuana was used to get at Mexicans, African-Americans, at hippies. When people were associated with working against the war of Vietnam, they never got arrested for political reasons, but for drugs. What would come out in the media was "Political activists arrested for drugs," so drugs are certainly used as a political weapon. There have been many more people harmed by the war against drugs than by the drug itself.
Wildcat: What do you think would change if marijuana were legal in the U.S.?
Silverstein:: We would spend more money on education. Right now in New York, more money is spent on putting people in prison than on higher education. We could take that money and enhance life. I would like to take the policemen who spend so much time arresting people and let them work in communities with young people who are in need. A kid who is tutored and has perspectives in life is less likely to get into criminal behavior.
Wildcat: What conclusions do you draw from countries where it's legal to consume marijuana?
Silverstein:: There was a study of long-term use of marijuana in India and they couldn't find any negative effects. There was less abuse, less criminal network. The same in Jamaica. In the Netherlands, less young people use marijuana because it's not forbidden.
Wildcat: Are you permanently stoned?
Silverstein:: I have been taking marijuana and it has placed me in a state of consciousness and I can bring this state of consciousness into everyday life. I'm permanently stoned because my wife and children love me. I'm stoned on the joy and beauty and ecstasy of life and I also work against the injustice. That keeps me stoned.
Wildcat: So you don't have to consume marijuana anymore?
Silverstein:: I have consumed marijuana in my life in places where it's legally and culturally approved. This does not mean that when I travel in parts of the world where it is legal that I don't take it anymore. Of course I do.