A Mouthful of Rights and Wrong

By. George Alberts

“Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” — The First Amendment

There has been a growing concern for some in the cannabis community regarding the current state of content that grace the pages of particular cannabis publications, the web, and upcoming events. At this time, there are more than enough surrounding issues trying to suffocate patients’ rights for safe access, so I question whether or not the content of a publication truly hinders the progression of a movement, especially when the content strikes the foundation of our First Amendment right for free speech and expression.  The opposing notion stems from the sexual reflection that is being loosely associated with cannabis and its industry.  Instead of creating controversy within a growing movement, which questions our integrity as a unified body, we should be more focused on working together, as we usually promote, to bring clarity to the now controversial subject without further developing the blameless association.  As a burden of personal opinion, this stigma only invites a reintroduction into our history and the sexual revolution that started it all.

When people hear the names “Hugh Hefner” or “Larry Flynt,” I doubt anyone associates them with women’s rights. But, as hard as it still is for some to believe, Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt are two of the biggest activists and advocates this country has ever seen. They were the ones that paved the way for all of us to be doing what we’re doing today. Free Speech, women’s rights, abortion rights, sexual freedom, censorship, racial equality, and social justice are all issues they took on! Just as Hefner endured the religious rights fanatics of the 50s, our progress is starting to tolerate the same ache from the inside out.

Hugh Hefner started Playboy in 1953, and little did he know that it would become his profound legacy to the world. In the beginning, very few saw him as an activist and more as a rebel.  Regardless, he became a model for tolerance and liberation.  And it was Hugh Hefner that fought numerous legal battles throughout the 1960s and 70s to keep his aim and outlook in the public’s eye.  One particular event at the nose of his success occurred on June 4, 1963; he was arrested for selling obscene literature after an issue of Playboy featured nude shots of Jayne Mansfield. However, the jury was unable to reach a verdict.

“The complicated web around Playboy and its role regarding women’s rights and exploitation doesn’t end there. Hefner sees the anti-pornography branch of feminism as antithetical to the principles of female liberation and erring in demonizing his work,” says Alex DiBranco of Change.org.  He goes on to say, “While most people probably associate Hugh Hefner with Playboy, the person carrying the torch as CEO and chairman of the board for 20 years was his daughter, Christie, a self-declared feminist that makes quite the controversial figure.”

Playboy illustrates and promotes a vision and philosophy of living your life on your own terms, just as Hefner has. And it’s not that he doesn’t understand conformity, he just chooses not to stand for it…Because he can, because WE can.

Tatiana McKinney of Everydaycitizen.com quotes Hefner saying, “Playboy was part of the sexual revolution that benefited women. The revolution gave both sexes more freedom in the bedroom and everywhere else. It helped change the situation of women being beholden to men. We fought for birth control rights and the change in birth control laws, the change in abortion laws; we fought cases to give women the right to choose.”

Christie Hefner eventually decided to create The Hugh Hefner First Amendment Award “to honor individuals who have made significant contributions in the vital effort to protect and enhance First Amendment rights for Americans.” Since firmly establishing his vision, Hefner has made a habit of contributing to his community and beyond. He has helped raise money for the Democratic Party and has donated $100,000 to the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts to create a course called “Censorship in Cinema” with two million dollars to endow a chair for the study of American film. Individually and through his charitable foundation, Hefner also contributes to numerous charities like Much Love Animal Rescue and Generation Rescue, an autism campaign organization. What a lot of people don’t know is that Hefner and the Playboy Foundation funded Keith Stroup’s start up of NORML and ran FREE ads for the organization. And, as a writer, I sincerely admire the fact that Playboy published major literary writers who others wouldn’t publish or employ, or wouldn’t pay substantial wages to. Through his venture, Hefner has had a considerable impact on society, industries, and entertainment due to our First Amendment right, which made room for other upcoming prominent figures in the field like Larry Flynt.

Along the same path, Larry Flynt published the first issue of Hustler Magazine in 1974, which grew from a much disapproved start due to its controversial and explicit content. Flynt had to fight to publish each issue because numerous people, including some at his distribution company, felt the magazine was too explicit and threatened to remove it from the market. Nonetheless, the magazine and its sales grew, and Flynt decided to adopt an editorial policy on economics, foreign policy, and social issues. Flynt and Hustler have been associated with having more of a populist and working-class outlook than his competitors, and much like Hefner; he was no stranger to the courtroom. “He fought many legal battles regarding the regulation of pornography and free speech within the United States, especially attacking the Miller v. California obscenity exception to the First Amendment in 1973. He was first prosecuted on obscenity and organized crime charges in Cincinnati in 1976 by Simon Leis, who headed a local anti-pornography committee.” – Wikipedia

Unfortunately, on March 6, 1978, during a legal battle over obscenity in Gwinnett County, Georgia, Flynt and his lawyer, Gene Reeves, Jr., were shot by a sniper near the county courthouse in Lawrenceville. The shooting left him partially paralyzed from the waist down with permanent spinal cord damage.  Joseph Paul Franklin, a white supremacist serial killer, confessed to the shootings and claimed he was outraged by an interracial photo shoot in Hustler.

Despite the incident and his condition, Flynt moved forward and fought on. Throughout the 1980s, he used his magazine as a platform for launching spiteful and obscene attacks on the Reagan Administration and religious right groups.  “In 1988, he won an important Supreme Court decision, Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, after being sued by Reverend Jerry Falwell in 1983 over an offensive ad parody in Hustler about Falwell’s first sexual encounter. Falwell sued Flynt, citing emotional distress caused by the ad. The decision clarified that public figures cannot recover damages for ‘intentional infliction of emotional distress’ based on parodies.” –Wikipedia

I strongly believe that Hefner and Flynt have made a difference in America as pioneers of free speech. Though Flynt’s circumstances and product differ from the way Hefner conducts and projects his business, they still fall within the same party of political debate regarding free speech and expression. They’re promoting tolerance and the right to choose, which has been encrusted in American history with specific consideration for women’s rights, free speech, censorship, and sexual freedom. Some critics adore Playboy and Hustler or simply oppose both. Some people – women’s groups and organizations, religious rights activists, etc. – feel that publications like Playboy and Hustler objectify, demoralize, and exploit women; however, I find it hard to believe that a woman would exhibit any of these concerns when they CHOOSE to be a part of that industry. Hefner and Flynt have broken down morality barriers and brought attention to an always existent balance of our population, which is evocative of what we’re doing now in the cannabis community with our movement and its industry.

Unity, Tolerance, Balance
The sexual revolution enveloped the 50s the same way we’re using the cannabis revolution now to create a profitable industry, which could benefit art, culture, literature, progressive organizations and more. It’s reminiscent of what we’re doing now. As medical patients, advocates and activists, I would like to think that we’re all in this together and focused on working towards the same goal. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to become abstracted with stale ideologies because even though some views might oppose the sexual content used for promotion, advertisements, or editorial columns; it is the right of the publication, company, or organization to decide what is appropriate for their pages, their readers and customers.

While we’re fighting to move forward with improving patients’ rights and legalizing marijuana, we shouldn’t be imposing boycotts within our group of people; neither should we voice negative opinions to divide our community. When we start taking sides, we all lose. And I think most of us have been at this long enough to know that we need to end our day just as it started: together and as one. This is the only way to promote and induce change for a better future. Creating controversy within a movement is an unnecessary and biased regression that questions a group’s integrity within themselves as a unified body. We should be tolerant of any form of expression because, as advocates and activists, we are willing and able to express our own opinions and views.

Though we choose not to publish this content in our magazine, NUG feels that it is an important aspect of our history that has gotten us to where we are today in the media, politics, and entertainment. It has allowed us to grow and extend our inhibitions and knowledge, it has created movements and organizations, and it has tailored a free nation with regard to preference and choice. With all arguments aside, there has been and there will always continue to be a venue for sexual exploitation in EVERY industry well within the lines of marketing and entertainment. As Americans, we have the freedom to speak and express our views on the topic, but it is that same freedom that protects those developments. The goal is to promote tolerance, not take sides.

bringing you that fire! stay tune for more posts.

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