The Coastal Post - August, 1997

Plants Are Wonderful

By Jim Scanlon

Turning off 101 onto Highway 175 at Hopland, I was reminded that hops, an essential ingredient in the brewing of beer, comes from the yellow resin of a female flower which is related to the marijuana plant and the yellow resin of the flower of THAT plant is what makes hashish. I suppose it isn't

an accident that humans consume both for escape from the boredom and concerns of life.

When I was a kid I could never understand why heroin addicts were called hop heads. This usage seems to have lead, over the years, to "acid head," "pot head," "head shop" and finally just "head."

There may have been hops plants growing in Hopland tended by hop farmers, but all I could see was row after row of beautiful deep green grape vines perfectly spaced out in columns and rows running up and down hills and slopes. It was unnaturally beautiful.

My mind wandered to Tacitus, the Roman historian who wrote The Cataline Conspiracy on the Kennedy-King-like assassinations of public figures at the end or the Roman Republic during the first century BC. He attributed the decline of Rome (i.e. before "globalization" set in) to the cultivation of grapes for wine. He admired the war-like vitality of the Alemani, the barbarian tribes, the ancestors of the present day Germans who lived on the other side of the Alps. Tacitus attributed their vigor to their not processing or importing the juice of the grape.

Of course the Germans learned to grow wonderful grapes and make superb white wines without lessening their military capacity until all their cities were blasted into rubble. The first time I saw hillsides, actually mountains slopes, covered with grapes vines was along the Mosel River in Germany. So Tacitus was no doubt wrong.

The fermented juice of the grape is synonymous with exalted good living but also with wino street derelicts. There is a price and social continuum.

Wine was and is central to the holiest ritual of Christianity, the transformed blood of God, and to the decentralized family rituals of Judaism. To the ancient Greeks and Romans wine was a powerful drug of excess and release.

The barns outside Hopland are beautiful! Built out of now-aged gray boards, they stand out lonely and alone in the green fields. They have a rugged character, not at all like the long rows of tobacco storage barns I used to see massed in fields in Connecticut and Kentucky. I understand these barns are now making a comeback because of the sudden, unexpected popularity of smoking cigars.

Today it is strange to think of Connecticut as a tobacco state, much less an agricultural state, but it was! The first real hard cash product of the Americans (north and south) was tobacco, then along came coffee, chocolate, sugar rubber and other lifestyle items we now take so much for granted.

The green leaves of the grapes on the hills of Hopland reminded me of the Huallaga Valley with its green hills on the eastern side of the Andes. But the green leaves of commerce there are coca leaves. In Hopland there is no military presence, and commerce in grapes, or hop, if there are any grown, does not qualify a farmer for having herbicide sprayed on his crop from a U.S. DEA helicopter.

Neither is commerce in grape anywhere near as profitable as commerce in refined coca. Mendocino County, or course, where Hopland is located, is famous for its cash crop of marijuana, grown now with scientific plant breeding care. It is peaceful along the Russian River.

* * *

Hong Kong was preparing for transition into mainline China. It had been a British colony since the "Opium War" when English traders, backed by European troops, forced the Chinese to tolerate the sale of opium produced from the seed pods of poppies grown in India by, what shall we say, British

slaves. This was actually a "war for drugs." So there is a direct linear connection between the Lords of English Aristocracy and Colombian Drug Lords and the Imperial Chinese Government and the DEA!

Just thinking about this stuff made me drive erratically.

Will any of this ever change? Will the Federal Government reach accords with Lords of (CCC) Colombian Cocaine Cartels? Will they say "si, si, si," as we are on the verge of doing with American tobacco traficantes and their lawyers? A warning on crack vials? A great source of revenue!

Colombian and Mexican drug producers can't support politicians openly the way pharmaceutical manufacturers do. Joe Camel is gone, but we still have Miller Time and now Shenley Distilleries is breaking the ban on TV advertisement of hard liquor!

I almost ran off the road to Clear Lake thinking, "Maybe Tacitus was right!"