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105 monkeys figure out how to get the banana out

By G.D. Maxwell There’s this famous experiment in the annals of learning. It involves a jar, a banana and a monkey.

By G.D. Maxwell

There’s this famous experiment in the annals of learning. It involves a jar, a banana and a monkey. I know it sounds very similar to jokes that start, "There was a priest, a rabbi and a minister," but it’s really not the same at all.

Anyway, the banana is put inside the jar – pretty big jar – and the jar is put inside a room. So is the monkey. Put inside the room, that is, not inside the jar. It’s not that big a jar. The monkey being a monkey and the banana being a banana, it doesn’t take long for the monkey to notice the banana and decide he/she would really like to eat it. This is where it gets good.

You see, the mouth of the jar is big enough to slip a banana through and it’s big enough to slip a monkey’s hand through but it’s not big enough to slip a monkey’s hand holding a banana through. Kind of like one of those Chinese finger traps... only different.

The monkey reaches into the jar, grabs the banana – all the time dreaming about eating the banana with abandon but thinking "Boy this sure ain’t nothing like the jungle." – and tries to get it out of the jar. Doesn’t work. Now the monkey has a problem.

The monkey doesn’t want to let go of the banana. He – let’s call the monkey he, I’m getting tired of he/she and besides, it’s always easier to make a monkey out of a man – wants the banana out of the jar and can’t quite figure out, the monkey brain not being sophisticated enough to comprehend these things, how to accomplish that, especially if he lets go of the banana. It just doesn’t make sense to let go of the banana to get it out of the jar.

The rest of the experiment isn’t really important. Okay, I know you’re on pins and needles. If the monkey is smart, he finally figures out he has to hold onto the banana, run briskly toward the wall of the room, smash the jar against the wall, sever the veins in his wrist and quickly finish the banana before he bleeds to death. Just kidding. He figures out he has to turn the jar upside down and shake the banana out. Either that or evolve enough to build a nuclear weapon of mass destruction which is what some guys who act a lot like monkeys would do.

The point of the experiment, of course, is to determine the monkey’s ability to appraise a situation, weigh alternatives and come up with a solution. The point of this long introduction – other than to amuse you and gobble up close to 500 words – is this. If the men in government who set policy on cannabis – yes we’re still on that subject – were placed in a room with a banana in a jar, they’d still have their hand stuck inside it after close to 75 years.

I’m not advocating letting monkeys set Canada’s national policy on cannabis – we’ve already tried that. I am suggesting you have to be pretty stupid to stick with a policy that doesn’t work, costs gobs of money, turns otherwise productive people into criminals, clogs your courts and alienates vast segments of your citizenry from having any respect whatsoever for the rule of law. Seems to me that smart monkeys would appraise the situation and try something else.

So why is pot illegal? I don’t want to wade into the historical conspiracy theories surrounding that question. Pot’s illegal because it’s bad for us, right? Wrong. Unless you consider feelings of euphoria, relaxation and sociability bad. That’s what the Senate concluded the main effects of smoking pot were after they closed the door, figured out how to get the joints out of a jar and tried it themselves. Just kidding. Their research staff did that. Actually they held hearings and did a pretty exhaustive examination of the "scientific" literature on pot.

They also found pot impaired short-term memory, concentration and some psychomotor skills. You’re probably thinking to yourself, "Gee, sounds a lot like having a few drinks." Well, yes... and no. They also found no long term effects on cognitive functions, no hangovers, no ability to smoke yourself to death and far fewer health problems than with alcohol.

So why is pot really illegal? There are two interesting reasons. The first is well known and understood by anyone who was ever a child. It’s because people in power don’t trust powerless people to choose their own fun. There are simply lots of folks out there – probably suffering from chronic constipation – who don’t want you to have fun unless it’s a kind of fun they approve of.

The second is because reefer is a jungle bunny drug. It’s black. It’s Hispanic. It’s, oh so southern hemisphere. It came out of the ghetto and those same constipated people are convinced it will lead us all back there sooner or later. One of the standout sections of the Senate report said this.

"We conclude from these observations that the international regime for the control of psychoactive substances, beyond any moral or even racist roots it may initially have had, is first and foremost a system that reflects the geopolitics of North-South relations in the 20th century . Indeed, the strictest controls were placed on organic substances — the coca bush, the poppy and the cannabis plant — which are often part of the ancestral traditions of the countries where these plants originate, whereas the North's cultural products, tobacco and alcohol, were ignored and the synthetic substances produced by the North’s pharmaceutical industry were subject to regulation rather than prohibition."

It’s that superiority that gives the US – and to a lesser extent Canada – the moral imperative to go into Mexico and burn fields of pot, the only cash crop being grown, into fields of Colombia and burn coca trees, the only cash crop being grown, and into fields all over Asia and burn poppies, the only cash crop being grown. Unable to curb the demand of their own people, they choose instead to destroy the economy of producing nations in exchange for money, siphoned off by corrupt government officials like themselves, and aid packages of Twinkies.

That’s what they call the moral high ground.

I’ll take a pass on what stake the police have in keeping pot illegal. The Senate puts their stake at upwards of half a billion bucks a year. That’s half a billion dollars that could be spent more productively or at least keep ’em in coffee and doughnuts till we all get back to the jungle.

I’ll leave this subject for now – don’t want to bore you – but I’ll give the senators the last word.

"The international drug control conventions are, at least with respect to cannabis, an utterly irrational restraint that has nothing to do with scientific or public health considerations."

Smart monkeys, eh?