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The Shark Ethic


Rum will be absolutely necessary to get through this night – to polish these notes, this shameful diary..keep the tape machine screaming all night long at top volume: “Allow me to introduce myself… I’m a man of wealth and taste.” 


Not for me.  No mercy for a criminal freak in Las Vegas.  This place is like the Army: the shark ethic prevails – eat the wounded.  In a closed society where everybody’s guilty, the only crime is getting caught.  In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity.


— Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.


            I did say I would return with some wisdom from Shark Hunt.  But I changed my mind as  I happen to be reading from Vegas to do research for a group presentation yesterday. There were three of us presenting (Amy, Sam and me), and for reasons I can’t remember, we picked “vice.”   Sam spoke about the history of alcohol prohibition, focusing a lot on Mencken and Mark Twain; Amy  spoke about tobacco and the spin doctors in the industry, also managing to quote Mark Twain.   I spoke about marijuana, which I felt familiar with, despite the fact that I don’t really smoke it (I’m very sentitive to THC . when I smoke it, or eat it, it consumes my entire day with either wild paranoia or non-stop laughter for 8 hours, which was fun with Hunter, but not anymore).

              I was sort of asking the question to myself that people have been asking since 1937: “Will the prohibition of marijuana ever end?”  I became even more doubtful when I stumbled across, in my research, statistics about the private prison industry.  Section 1 of the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution says “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” There are many companies profiting from prisons besides the prison industry itself. There is one place that is dangerously competitive in the 3rd world labor market: US Private Prisons.  When a company hires a prison to make their assembly line products (like jean jackets), usually private prisons are expected to pay minimun wage, but 80% can be deducted and paid to the prison. Prisoners make 17 cents per hour to 50 cents (50 cents if for “highly skilled labor”).      

          The private prison boom happened in the early 80’s, right before the “minimum mandatory sentencing” for drug laws. The prison labor market in the United States has turned into a mega business that thousands of (mainly poor black or Hispanic men) work for.   So, when I asked myself if marijuana prohibition is every likely to end, it gets uglier and uglier the more I learn about the money some corporations are making off the labor of those convicted marijuana users (any other drugs of course).

             A man named Tony Serra is speaking out about prison labor and will be at Owl Farm this summer (with Tommy Chong) at the second annual NORML party that I will have for their legal conference that is organized by Keith Stroup.  I look forward to seeing what he has to say. 



Until next time, your friend,

Anita Thompson

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