John Lennon died tragically 35 years ago today, leaving behind an enduring legacy as a singer, songwriter and political activist. Although most famous for promoting peace during the Vietnam War, Lennon was also an outspoken cannabis consumer and activist.
In late December 1969, Lennon testified before the Le Dain Commission, a federal task force advising the Canadian government on reforming Canada's cannabis laws.
Lennon's testimony is still relevant today as Canada is poised to become the first G7 nation to legalize cannabis: "show us the way," Lennon told commissioners. "You are the new country. Instead of us, the rest of Europe, envying America its wealth, let us envy Canada its progression."
Here are some more highlights from the testimony.
1. Marijuana and the peace movement
Lennon credits cannabis with the rise of the peace movement in the 1960s:
"The one thing that can be said about marijuana is it's non-violent....I think it [cannabis] promoted the non-violent movement, including LSD, but marijuana was the main thing that promoted non-violence amongst youth."
2. Stoner stereotypes and model cannabis users
Lennon said that he saw Yoko and himself not just as activists, but role models for cannabis users:
"We try and be an example, or we are one example, of people who have experienced marijuana....Are we sitting at home just smoking pot in a den of iniquity -- an opium den? ... [T]hat's what people imagine is going on, but, of course, where did all the underground newspapers spring from? Where...did we get our energy? We certainly don't get it from pot and we don't get it from alcohol. It's made no difference into energy power I have as an individual and to the amount of work I do."
He also suggested that, with education and regulation, cannabis users would be as responsible and productive as casual drinkers:
"I am sure when alcohol first came out, you know, people just lay about in a stupor until they got control of it, and knew how much to take and not to take, and when to take it."
3. Advice on incentivizing governments
Lennon had a pragmatic solution for getting politicians onside with legalization:
"How you sell pot to the Government is to tell them how much they're going to make out of it....It may sound simple, but that's where it is. When the machine understands that it can make money form it, that's all it wants to know".
And he wasn't worried about government controls or Big Cannabis:
"The only way to sell the pot to the machine [government] is to let the machine have it. Let it have all the factories. Let it make all he bread [money] in the world. The people only want to smoke. They don't care who makes the money."
4. Reefer madness and Beatlemania
Lennon saw the older generation's hysteria over cannabis as similar to their backlash against The Beatles and Rock and Roll:
"The same fear and reaction happened to Rock and Roll, to Beatles, to every new fad. It's the same old game and that's all. If you can just make parents aware of that even. It's just another craze. It's not going to be the decadent end of the world as you know it. There's not going to be sin, rape, and lust on the doorstep."
5. Canada's role in legalization
According to Lennon, Canada was the world's greatest hope for drug reform:
"The only real help we've had, and the only people like you that we've ever been approached by or the only people we've heard of that are doing anything like this, is going on in Canada, and Canada is America without being American, without that mighty - we are the mighty whatever scene....This is the opportunity for Canada to lead the world....America is too paranoiac to do anything."
6. Making cannabis Canadian
Lennon advised Canadians to embrace cannabis as part of their country's national identity:
"You sell a country on image....[I]mage is how we sell our cigarettes and Coca Cola, and Canada's image is about getting groovy, you know."