A Few Reflections on Liberty

October 29, 2017 ·


This little piece is an intersection of two biographical facts: First, that I witnessed and to some extent participated in the social changes of the 1960s and 1970s. Second, that I have been in the criminal justice system for 32 years. Everything I have to report comes from personal experience, and observation.

A little background. When people say to me that “marijuana is no worse than alcohol,” I want to ask them, “Okay, then. How did the Greatest Generation give us stable and loving homes? What happened to the safety and stability we children of that generation knew?  How do you account for the differences in achievement between their generation and what came after?” I wonder if they see my point? Our World War II fathers weren’t getting tattoos — not after they got home from the war, anyway. They weren’t getting stoned. They didn’t experiment with gender. They would have scoffed at the idea of two guys getting “married.” They did not have or care about what today is being called “liberty,” yet they provided better homes than we are providing now. Something happened right around 1968 that separated us from the safety and security that generation attempted to provide, and what we have now.

Why is that, do you suppose? I would say drugs, probably more than any other factor, have taken away the America I knew and loved. There are other factors involved, but drug use has imposed a serious, vampiric drain on American vitality. I think I can tell you why that is so, but if you’re like a lot of people, you’d rather I didn’t say. After all, I should be concerned about “liberty.”

My point, of course, is that when parents focus on providing a stable, loving home for their children, getting stoned is not an option. My generation was the last to see traditional, American homes as the norm — before parents were also stoners. Those homes have been replaced by a legion of self-indulgent people who value the wrong things over the necessary things.

Perhaps it is nothing, but I have noticed it. It seems that not long after pot shops show up, downtown areas transform from solid and crisp Yankee ventures into a kind of slouch. Do you think it’s the patchouli oil and crystals that do that? I’m not sure what the cause is, but I’ve noticed that every time a certain kind of culture shows up, there is less of that old-fashioned determination to overcome poverty, and more of a kind of indolence, a surrender to class determinism and one’s astrological chart, perhaps. There was a will to establish orderly neighborhoods and schools and hospitals in Americans of my parents’ time and before. There is a kind of indifference in our time born of class envy, even misplaced pride in one’s fictitious achievements. When it comes to drug use, there is something in the whole “lifestyle” canard that doesn’t ring true. Skeptics like myself wonder if there isn’t something else at work there — something decidedly antisocial. If I were looking for a chemical cause of these delusions, THC would certainly have to be regarded as a suspect, because it elevates juvenile drama into fake science. It is not liberty its defenders protect. It is immaturity.

Those of us who watched the change that took place from the late 60s to the early 70s surely saw this difference, and it seems to have a primary cause, and the cause is not obviously attributable to the sins of the Greatest Generation.


I was asked recently to “distinguish” between the alleged horrors of alcohol, versus the relatively minor damages caused by marijuana use. That, to me, is apples and oranges. Many people drink moderately. In fact, the greater percentage of alcohol sales that occur throughout the day result in no drama whatsoever (dinner with wine, beer after work). Surely moderate drinking has no harmful effects among the general population. Granted, if a person has serious mental health issues, alcohol can aggravate those issues. Also, absinthe and moonshine are more dangerous than 3.2% beer. But alcohol is a natural byproduct of metabolic processes and is nearly unavoidable in many food and pharmaceutical products that are used daily. The first big problem that occurred after Prohibition was that pharmacists and hospitals couldn’t treat people because alcohol has so many daily applications the authors of the 18th Amendment did not take into account. Does alcohol use in any way explain the dramatic, visible spike in serious mental health issues that we are seeing? I’m willing to bet that in the next 10 to 20 years, statistics will show a definite spike in serious mental health challenges traceable to the normalization of marijuana use, whereas alcoholism rates are largely unchanged. I might be wrong, but I doubt it. It does not seem particularly honest to apply an equivalency to alcohol and marijuana.

While we’re on the subject of alcohol, let me tell you what I’ve seen over the course of my lifetime. I was born and raised on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State and am very familiar with the dreaded wife-beating alcoholic that haunts marijuana-drenched imaginations. The kind of defendant we see in the courtroom today is an individual whose psychiatric and social pathologies go way beyond anything you would have seen among alcoholic longshoremen in 1965. The reason is obvious, once you think it through. A high percentage of people drink without getting drunk, but it is pretty much impossible to use marijuana without getting “baked.” No one rolls a doobie unless they’re prepared to spend the next several hours stoned, whereas many people who drink alcohol do so without any need to get drunk. It is a question of intent. The question you have to ask yourself is, what are the consequences of that mentality? Of needing to get stoned?

We’ve seen damage since the 1960s that outstrips the problems historically associated with alcohol. We’re talking about people who will likely be disabled their entire lives. The casualty list is long and depressing. The question I always have for people is, “Instead of lecturing me about the War on Drugs, when are YOU going to feel enough compassion for your fellow human being to actually try to help them?” We’re led to believe that arresting people is cruel. I think it’s more cruel to let them go insane.

The typical response to that question is rage. Like it or not, the “mellow marijuana user” is very frequently an angry individual when it comes to his or her drug of choice. A friend of mine calls it “pot rage.” There is a definite anger pattern among marijuana users that is not being addressed. I think it is more pronounced in our time, with the more potent THC content.


Here in Washington State, where marijuana has been legalized, you can see an alarming increase in people suffering from mental illnesses. It never seems to occur to anyone that marijuana use might be a cause, but it looks rather obvious to me. I’m suspicious that THC is creating schizophrenic-like symptoms in people who might otherwise live ordinary lives. I could be wrong, of course, but I’ll bet time vindicates me on this. Another aspect to this that people are discussing is that many people currently using psychiatric medication are getting stoned at the same time. I wonder what kinds of results we’ll see over the next 20 years from that? I imagine it won’t be pleasant.

We are forbidden from saying that marijuana is a gateway drug. Why? Our parents and their parents did not naturally experiment with other drugs as a result of alcohol use, whereas the entire Psychedelic Sixties started with cannabis. Did you miss that connection? I was there. I saw it happen. Marijuana transforms people in a way that is noticeably different from anything alcohol does, and it’s not for the better. Compare the lyrics of Big Band music to the lyrics of John Lennon and the Doors, if you need any proof that the Sixties pushed psychedelic use. I could make the argument that the single biggest achievement of the 1960s was mental illness brought on by the politics of class envy, and the use of psychedelic drugs.

It remains an enormous mystery to me how people remain in denial about the obvious mental health issues that crop up around marijuana use. Yes, I know professional people who are “responsible” stoners. But it is also true that there is a kind of emotional immaturity that goes with persistent marijuana use. The people who have been using marijuana since I was a teenager seem to have stayed stuck in a conspiratorial morass that always involves their need to get stoned. I call it the Black Helicopter Effect. They don’t seem to be able to see the world and people as they are. There is always a conspiracy, hidden motives, and ALWAYS those motives are designed to take away their beloved marijuana. They are not nearly so dedicated to Liberty as they are to a childish self-indulgence.

I think I know what accounts for marijuana’s peculiar effects on the human mind. THC, I would say, promotes hypnotic trance. It diminishes the acuity of the objective faculties, promoting a kind of suggestive state. Prolonged use has the effect of compromising the forensic faculties. Marijuana users seem to be stuck in a solipsistic place where their opinion about how life works is maintained no matter what additional facts are produced. It is a very odd. It is also frequently accompanied by self-pity. People challenge me when I make that observation. I make it nonetheless.

People I speak to oftentimes commiserate with me that I see the “less than savory” elements of society because of the work I do. What I am seeing has little to do with social judgments on what is savory. What I see is a society that has lost, or is losing, its will to live. A society that is exuberant and grateful about life does not fall into Hell. It works its way toward order, just as frontier Americans first built homesteads, and then cities. What I am seeing can only be described as a kind of sickness that allows the gates and the siding to deteriorate, while the residents inside live out adolescent fantasies about “liberty.” It has more to do with a resignation to death. There is something in marijuana that promotes indifference to one’s duties as a human being. It allows one to wear diapers and pretend they are wearing a tuxedo.

The picture of Coit Tower in San Francisco, just after World War II, tells the tale. Those people weren’t smoking dope.

I predict that America’s next large crisis is not a war, like World War II, but a public health crisis brought on by a combination of dependence upon the state for sustenance, and dependence upon drugs. We have people who remain helpless throughout their most productive years, hiding from Black Helicopters and pretending to be experts on things without having studied or done the work. When the curtain finally lifts, and the ugliness exposed, we will have to put our country back together, one individual at a time — without drugs.

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Two links to consider:



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In a Facebook discussion about whether America died in 1968, my friend Shay Nyunt wrote:

The nation didn’t die, it changes with the generations, very slowly. Just as slavery was taken as a norm in 1700 by 1776 it was fading out in NE mostly because the economy wasn’t slave based, not because Yankees were morally superior. The socio-economic change of the sixties was simply the great wealth created by the Greatest Generation and the rotten children it spawned. A look back to the time of Augustus you find the same kind of excess and moral decline. The major reason Rome continues for another millennium mostly in Byzantium was it’s conversion to Christianity.”

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Bruce Hanify was born and raised on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.He was a deputy prosecuting attorney for 15 years and a criminal defense attorney for 15 years.

He is working on a book about dreams and teaches dream workshops.

Bruce Hanify 2017 All Rights Reserved

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  • James Riley says:

    Interesting take. My sense is that marijuana and opioids and sex addiction are symptoms of the spiritual and cultural problem, but they probably accelerate surrender to the primary disease on their own.

  • Brian Boe says:

    One other factor that you did not mention, that might also be a part of this equation, is the sheer number of “kids” who were put on ADHD drugs starting 25-30 years ago. Many of them are now in their 30’s and likely, 40’s. We never hear about them getting off of those meds. I wonder if the combo platter also adds to the mix. We’ve heard a great deal of anecdotal evidence about some of our more wacked out sprees involving some who were apparently heavily medicated for many years, and seemed to have some sort of psychotic break. Who knows, but I don’t think it’s been a net positive.

  • George Murray says:

    As a self indulgent hippie who spent the majority of my college years from 1972 to 1978, stoned…. I disagree.
    The Greatest Generation IS partially to blame.
    Their absolutist faith in the religion of their forefathers had been traumatized by life (corruption and hardship which was available to be seen by everyone via newspapers and radio) and WWII.
    And then, they suffered from the hubris of being immensely successful through the dint of their OWN hard work.
    G-d was no longer calling the shots.

    They went on to have the mistaken notion that we, their children, should have all the advantages of a good life with little of the struggle.
    A dissolute generation came of age in the 60’s and 70’s.
    The Soma of pot was just another mind numbing perk of “if it feels good, do it.”

    I finally escaped the boredom of marijuana by joining a “cult” in San Francisco that prohibited drug use.
    However, the lack of personal ambition in This World has never quite left me.

    I am pretty sure that it is the rebellion against G-d that has led our world into its moral decline.