By now you’ve heard the news, and if you were anyone like me, you’ve spent more than a moment to revisit some of Bowie's greatest contributions in respect of his passing. This last Sunday was a sad day indeed. The world lost a great artist, a maverick, an iconoclast, and a true creative genius. For countless, he was an inspiration.
While searching for more details of the illness that lead to his death, I came across an article reminding me of a long forgotten incident. On March 22nd, 1976, David Bowie, and a couple of his entourage (including James Osterberg, aka Iggy Pop) were arrested for possession of marijuana in Rochester, NY. The Vice Squad entered a hotel room in which all were present, searched, and recovered about a half pound of cannabis. It could have ended badly, for at the time such an offense could have resulted in 15 years prison time. The jury did not indict him.
The original news article from March 22, 1976, has been re-published here by the Democrat Chronicle.
To me, several things are remarkable about this event – albeit in hindsight. How threatened this conservative society in upstate NY must have felt in order to have gone after David Bowie (and friends) in order to convict and put him away – especially with such zeal. Throughout all media coverage at the time, including transcripts of court appearances and televised interviews, Bowie upheld nothing less than a very polite and gracious persona. He couldn’t have come off any more opposite than what his prosecutors were convinced that he was – a deadbeat, a stoner, and a scourge on society. Unlike many music artists of today, he was a class act. He has always been a class act. It’s absurd that the community leaders of the time were so threatened by Bowie’s perceived representation of moral decline and so convinced of his devil ways. How far we have come.
Or have we?
I’m fortunate to live in a state (California) that has seen the benefits of cannabis as a holistic catalyst for health and well-being. It’s very likely that this year, 2016, will be the year cannabis use becomes legal for recreation in California too. Yet, so many states, indeed our own federal government, are still holding the arcane view that cannabis has no medicinal value and is still associated with moral turpitude – bolstering the out-of-date stereotype and stigma. This really bothers me.
Here at HelloMD, the observed demographic of patients that use our service might surprise the politicians and legislators. Daily we see working professionals, veterans, elderly, moms, dads, and people that look like you and me. They may well be your family, your neighbors or your colleagues. None of them are deadbeats. None of them are a scourge on society. All of them have a legitimate health need for using cannabis.
David Bowie, a long time resident of NYC, was probably not able to legally use cannabis as part of his treatment regime. Being terminally ill from cancer of the liver would have surely qualified him to do so, but the laws governing medicinal cannabis enacted by the state came in too late (not to mention the fact that they appear overly restricting).
Attitudes can change over time, and they are, but there is still much to be done to educate and inform. Those old stigmas and stereotypes need to be put on trial and put away.
David Bowie, you were just ahead of your time. You always were. That is why we loved you. You showed us the future.
So long. We miss you already.