by David Sisler

Forty years ago Americans saw the beginnings of the drug culture. An early underground newspaper was edited by Merlin Dawson Sims. "Being Stoned," informed its readers where to buy seeds for a backyard garden, named drug paraphernalia suppliers, and suggest ways to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies.

Two of the writers of "Being Stoned" wrote a song about the growing movement. When it was recorded by the folk-trio, Peter, Paul, and Mary, "Puff, the Magic Dragon" became an instant hit and a disguised hymn to marijuana use.

Recently, a respected publication, "Journal of American Medical Milestones," reprinted the issue of "Being Stoned" in which "Puff" first appeared. The original article included commentary which exposed the hidden meanings in that seemingly harmless song.

Here is how the composers of "Puff" described their song.

The title is obvious - puff, the magic dragon, or drag on - a marijuana cigarette. Another obvious line is Jackie keeping a look-out perched on Puff's gigantic tail - lawbreakers must be vigilant.

From there on, they get clever. Several references point to areas where marijuana is grown. Puff "lived by the sea." South African marijuana is harvested along the Atlantic Ocean between Lambert's Bay and Cape Town. Puff "frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Hanna-Lee." Autumn mist is a play on the ancient name for Morocco, Al Maghrib. Hanna-Lee is an 8-mile drug-run across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco into Europe.

"Jackie Papers," Puff's companion, is an early packaging material used by smugglers. It was then used to roll cigarettes.

The duo travels "on a boat with billowed sails." This is one of several references to China, another source of the drug. One of marijuana's nicknames, "tea," is a homage to emperor Shin Huang-ti who popularized its use in his country. His other accomplishment was construction of parts of the Great Wall. At the end of the song Puff's "green scales fell like rain." This is almost a transliteration of Giang Szeccl Fa province in southern China, a source of an extremely powerful strain of the drug.

The "kings and princes" who bow their heads when Puff and Jackie approach are part of the hierarchy of the drug culture.

The "pirate ships" that lowered their flags "when Puff roared out his name" shows the writers' disdain for the 1937 laws which attached criminal penalties for marijuana use.

Even the dangers of using the drug are mocked: "Painted wings and giants rings make way for other toys." From marijuana, the user progresses to harder and harder drugs.

One more thing. Gottcha!

I made all of that stuff up.

The publications mentioned above are completely fictitious. "Being Stoned" is based on my wife's initials (Bonnie Sisler). The "Journal of American Medical Milestones" comes from the initials of our children (Jennifer, Amy, Michael and Matthew - AKA the JAMM Kids). The fictitious "editor" has the same initials as I do - Melvin David Sisler.

Giang Szeccl Fa province is fictional. The other geographical areas referred to are real and marijuana does grow there. Emperor Huang-ti did build parts of the Great Wall, but he smoked no plant life, at least as far as my research revealed. Laws were passed in 1937. Most users of hard drugs did start by smoking marijuana. Peter, Paul, and Mary did sing about Puff. And I did hear a rumor 35 years ago.

The rest is pure malarkey. Except the danger.

Rumors, once started, are almost impossible to stop. It's been Madelyn Murray O'Hare, the FCC, hidden messages in Disney movies, satanic corporate executives and satanic company symbols. We hear something. We pull our fingers to our mouths, and in horror say, "Oh, my God! We've got to do something!"

What we need to do is investigate. Thoroughly. The Bible says a matter must be established by two or three witnesses. God warns against spreading false witness. Christians are counseled to test the spirits.

Christians claim to speak for God. His advocates, far more so than anyone else, need to be sure of their facts.

Otherwise, when you least expect it, someone, somewhere may walk up to you and say, "Gottcha!" And your carelessness may cause skeptics to doubt anything a Christian says.


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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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