The People's Plant
I spent the past week analyzing why I felt the need to do the ECS series. I’m apparently incapable of just relaying information without burrowing to the other side of the internet fact-checking myself, so it ended up being a much larger undertaking than I had planned.
It’s important – I truly believe that – and even I have learned things I wish I'd known sooner, so I know it's worthwhile. Plus, if it has helped even just ONE person, that’s more than enough reason to keep going with it. In the end though, I don't really care if you understand the science of Cannabis or not (don't worry, I'll be finishing the series).
I care that you understand this:
I forfeited my cultivation license recently. We fought like hell to move into legalization, but the current legislation does not make it feasible. You should know that back in 2016, when Santa Cruz County gave cultivators a do-or-die period to register, 950 people paid $500 to declare their love of growing Cannabis and intent to continue doing so in the county, legally. When we met with a lawyer this past fall, the number of farms successfully permitted in the county was less than twenty. I'm being generous. The actual number hurts.
Every week someone asks me for medicine. I don’t like to say yes because on a consumer level it implies that providing such is okay, and the truth is, right now I have no legal channel. Legally speaking, I can’t sell medicine with THC without a license, and I can’t even GIVE it out in the state of California because “the voters want tax money from it”. As far as I know, cultivating Hemp in California has similar restrictions to MMJ.
It’s SO important everyone understands this. It’s important everyone understands how “legalization” of this plant is, in fact, the opposite. It's important you realize the VAST GRAYNESS of this industry, so you realize you NEED TO PAY ATTENTION and VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLARS, VOICE, and ACTUAL BALLOTS. Far too many people have suffered for this plant at the hands of the very same people now monopolizing her for profit. We can't let this happen.
There was a lot of hype over the holidays about the Farm Bill passing - hemp was legalized as a crop, CBD was rescheduled, everyone celebrated. I didn’t want to be a buzzkill, but y’all know state law still supersedes federal - so that bill actually only helps citizens in states that *don’t* currently have agricultural hemp programs in place. Granted in most states it’s much easier to be a part of “pilot industrial hemp” programs than MMJ, but we cheered and clapped like Hemp was about to be a backyard option for all...and it’s not.
It should be though, as should its THC friendly sister, Cannabis. Every time I or another displaced #Prop215 farmer complain about our axed access to her, someone in a prohibition state reminds us to be grateful we have access at all. For so long I’ve taken these gentle reminders to reminisce on the lessons the garden taught me - which is great - but I’m not down with reminiscing and you shouldn’t be down with envying our overtaxed access. Don’t tell me to be grateful - you get as pissed as me!
ICYMI, the FDA is making moves on regulating Hemp CBD as a result of the Farm Bill passing. California's been on that issuing statements kick for a long minute, while Maine and New York recently went as far as to remove products intended for ingestion. Luckily straight [hemp] bud is out of FDA regulation, for now. Are y'all pissed with me yet, or are we gonna wait around in a smokey daze while this plant gets taken from the people that have suffered to see her resurrection?
Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a game of tug and war, except I’m the rope. I’m for high standards in cultivation practices, and I’m for lab results. I still think every single person should be able to grow this plant like every other herb, and every consumer should have the option to get their medicine from whomever they want. We literally can all grow our own veggies - how many of us do? How many people are going to buy a probiotic supplement instead of fermenting their own? Open access wouldn't absolve the mass market, but it would give consumers more to take into consideration when choosing than who can afford which license.
I've talked about the effect the opiate crisis has had on my hometown previously, and recently there was another passing. In truth, I only knew this victim of the epidemic from a handful of shared blunts with mutual friends, but there were details to her death that hit everyone pretty hard, in that way where you question the WTF before acknowledging the damn.
This picture is from August 2007. I was eighteen. The previous December I'd had 4mm of bone removed from my right ulnar, the separated bones reconnected with a plate and six screws. It was the second surgery on my arm in two years, as the doctor “preferred to play it conservatively” when it came to surgery. He was far less conservative with painkillers, and at this point, I'd worked my way through Tramadol and Vicodin.
Never-mind the dutch roach I'm smoking, but the arm holding it is broken in this picture. If you look closely you can see the bulge where two of the screws are being rejected by my body. Every month I saw that surgeon and told him my wrist was still dislocating, and every month he told me that wasn't possible while refilling a prescription that allotted me 180 Percocet a month. It wasn't until a rousing Christmas game of Wii Baseball four months later landed me in the ER crying that I would find out the pain and popping were not normal, as the doctor had insisted. Two weeks later I had my third out of four surgeries – a bone graft to fill in a 13-month long break in my arm and a new set of screws.
The year prior to the start of my arm injury, I was in a car accident, rear-ended at 30mph from a complete stop. The whiplash left my back a tangled mess, the extent of which became apparent when school started back up shortly after the collision. I was a dance major at a performing arts charter, and in dance, your core is everything. I could no longer feel my body through the clenched muscles, my alignment was gone, and as a result, I was demoted to the beginner ballet class until I could get it back.
I worked my ass off that year, relearning how to feel my vertebrae stacking neatly on top of each other, remembering how to balance the tension of pressing your shoulder blades down while spreading the distance between them. It paid off too – I skipped a level and placed in all advanced classes for the following year, and was accepted into a summer program at a top conservatory. I fell on my wrist while dancing two weeks after returning home from that program.
Pain is a tricky concept to explore given that it manifests in so many forms, for so many reasons. No matter its variation, it's a messenger. I worked SO hard after that car accident relearning how to listen to my body through feeling it, yet I spent the subsequent four years after ignoring everything it was telling me. I will live the rest of my life with nerve damage as a reminder of the danger in this.
This photo is from September 2008, shortly after I moved to Philly and started using Cannabis regularly. I still had my Percocet prescription, but I was refilling it much less often, and at least the visible bulge has been replaced with a visible plate. I'm a lucky patient.
Our society is full of broken systems. Sometimes it seems silly to advocate for a plant when there are so many other injustices at play. That's the thing – it is silly. It's silly that I have to advocate for. a. plant. A plant that has done no recorded harm to mankind yet continues to be used as a weapon by man against its own. Legalization is not giving permission to work and heal with this plant solely to those with the biggest bank account. Spoiler: not all rich people are smart.
Double spoiler: Cannabis is not inherently expensive. She becomes expensive when we force her inside, supplement her environment with tanked C02 rather than allowing her to sequester the carbon currently killing Earth's atmosphere, require middlemen distributors to take products from manufacturers to retail, and tax every step of the way. Other states may not require that she pass through as many hands, but the price tag to get in the game makes up for it.
Five years ago I moved to California under the ask of leaving behind everything I knew about survival to trust in a plant to provide. It has undoubtedly been the wildest, hardest, and at times the most painful process I have been through. My Cannabis use never changed that. Her medicine is not meant to numb, it is meant to heal. Cannabis taught me how to sit with my pain, in it, and listen. She taught me how to trust and respect my pain. Opiates only ever masked the pain, in a way that is far too dangerous for an empathic population. This is why her medicine cannot justifiably have a price tag – we've already paid more than enough for her, from incarceration to epidemics. It's up to us to fix the system, no one else, no specific government. We have the power, don't settle for anything less.
Last thing: even with everything I've experienced (weaning myself off opiates, figuring out how to use Cannabis to outsmart my autoimmune disease) and learned (science), I still get labeled as a stoner. I still get told I'm only using Cannabis to get high. I thought proving the science would explain how that's not the case, and how the mindless rhetoric surrounding THC is detrimental to changing stigmas. I'm not sure whether science or story does more to combat stigma, so I guess this is both.