There was a time when the First Amendment didn’t mean much other than you could speak freely to the small group of people you knew, send some letters to long-distance friends, and have the ability to absorb whatever information was handed down by the powers that be.
Case in point, ‘Reefer Madness’ informed the country of the devil’s weed: marijuana. Eighty-two years later, Jeff Sessions, the US attorney general still holds fast that, “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
But times have changed.
Any time a thinking person hears questionable information, just a few taps on our little mobile fact machines and we can get the other side of the story. But it takes effort. Most people are raised on one side or the other of any given issue; they’ve chosen their team from a young age. It takes work, humility and an open mind to see what’s happening on the other side of the fence; that is IF you have a desire to expand your view of the world in the first place.
Having been raised in what I consider to be an extreme Christian cult, I was told repeatedly that if you indulge in the pleasures of the flesh, cannabis being one of those, God will surely smite you. However, that didn’t stop my older brother from regularly getting in trouble at home and at the church for smoking. For me…I bought into the propaganda a bit more.
“Thanks but it’s just not my thing”, was my standard answer whenever I was offered cannabis growing up. The lessons pounded into me from my childhood made a lasting impression. It didn’t help my perspective that my brother was the living epitome of the “weed smoking slacker” stereotype. He’d been a regular cannabis user for most of his existence so it was assumed he’d never make anything of his life, but me? I had goals.
In my early twenties, I discovered the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. As a burgeoning athlete, I didn’t have time for distractions that might derail my future plans as a fighter, especially when it came to using illegal substances. For the most part, I carried that mentality with me throughout my MMA career. However, as every athlete knows but hates admitting, eventually the ride comes to an end and I stepped into the cage one last time at 38. After 12 years of fighting, my body and brain had taken a beating.
By that time, sleeping through the night was a distant memory. I was sharing my sorrows with a friend one evening and he offered me a brownie imbedded with THC:
“Thanks but it’s just not my thing.” “Just try it. It may help you.”
I failed Nancy Reagan and took a bite. Eight hours later my eyes opened. For the first time in years, I had slept through the night. Much to my surprise, I didn’t wake up in a haze like I did when using prescription medications. And thus my awakening began.
I started peeking over that cannabis fence more. I thought to myself, ‘why is cannabis illegal in the first place? Is it really as dangerous as I’ve been told?’ And down the rabbit hole I went.
Whether it was Nixon’s attack on the hippies and “undesirables”, or Harry Anslinger need for a new villain to keep the money flowing after alcohol was legalized, or the Du Pont family and their new synthetic fibers, whatever the supposed reason, it seemed to me there were quite a few people that had a vested interest in keeping cannabis illegal. I just couldn’t find any that reminded me how my brain on drugs looked more like an omelet than a computer.
But what about the addictive qualities? I’ve seen firsthand in my own family how a life can be wasted because of marijuana use. I mean, it was the weed’s fault that my brother was struggling his way through life, right? It certainly wasn’t due to us being raised in a religious cult or growing up in an abusive home devoid of unconditional love? That couldn’t be it, could it? Or the gallons of alcohol that accompanied his smoking? That’s legal so it couldn’t have contributed to his lack of a “go-get-em” attitude.
Around this time I started watching Dr. Drew’s, “Celebrity Rehab”. Every season followed the same formula: all the celebrities show up and spend the first week or two drying out, coming down, going through withdrawal, and -voila – problem solved! Now that the drugs and booze were gone they were healthy and ready to join society as productive members again.
Except, they weren’t.
After the first couple episodes of every season, once the withdrawals were over, Dr. Drew would announce, “NOW the real work begins.” And it turned out with nearly 100% accuracy: the substance abuse wasn’t the problem, it was a symptom of something deeper. The real problem was buried under the drugs and alcohol. Now the therapy could begin. Now the healing could begin.
My brother had been using drugs and alcohol to escape. To quiet the voices that seem to get louder as we get older. The voices that had been screaming at him for over 50 years. Those voices spoke to me as well, but I sat down and listened to them. When my father was dying, I forgave him. I made my peace with my childhood. With my new understanding of the human condition, I was ready to take the plunge. I got my medical marijuana card and started my personal education: what helps me sleep and what doesn’t? What’s an Indica? What’s a Sativa?
I started listening more and more to the conversations going on around me. Looking at the facts, not the propaganda. How many people die from alcohol use every year? How many people die from smoking cigarettes? How many people die from using cannabis? The numbers don’t lie. It’s time for a new understanding.
Now the two Indica capsules I take every night ensure I’ll slip into a deep sleep. The CBD tincture is reducing the amount of inflammation I have in my abused body; it also plays a big part in reducing my use of opiates, which help me get through the day as a result of the eight surgeries I’ve undergone during my lifetime. And along the way, I discovered something else. A nice Indica after a long day can actually be enjoyable.
Wait a minute… I think I may have overstepped my boundaries. Because when it comes to the marijuana conversation we can talk about the health benefits, even the industrial benefits, but God help you if you actually say you ENJOY using marijuana. God forbid! We can appreciate it from a medical standpoint, but don’t dare set back the movement by saying it’s okay to enjoy cannabis for the high! At 10pm in your own home watching a Will Farrell movie, it’s acceptable to drink your ass off, but don’t you DARE smoke and LAUGH your ass off!
After all, the medical benefits of alcohol are well known. For example, if you’ve been shot but can’t go to the hospital, pour some whiskey on the wound! Instant antiseptic. Aaaaaand…well…that’s it.
And I’m not even sure about that one. Yeah. Don’t look too deep into that claim. I’m not sure it holds up.
No one seems inclined to justify a nice merlot with their steak dinner. No one speaks about the benefits of a Long Island Ice Tea. If you’re drinking Long Islands, it’s for one purpose: to get blotto. And that’s tame compared to the Flaming Dr. Pepper I discovered at dollar drink night. I walked in with ten dollars and crawled out broke and broken, with a hangover that lasted about a day and a half.
I’m going to say it, and this may be the first time I’ve stated this as a reason to legalize cannabis, but I enjoy the feeling smoking marijuana gives me at the end of a long day after all my work is done and I want to relax. There. I did it. I exercised my First Amendment right and I told the other side of the issue.
I’ve learned a lot on my journey to better understand the cannabis plant. I listened to the cautionary tales, just like I have concerning alcohol. And I made a decision that cannabis is right for ME. It helps me sleep better. It helps reduce inflammation and pain in my body, which in turn reduces my need for prescription painkillers. It helps me relax at the end of my day. And I believe every adult should have the right to decide what they put into their bodies.
It is astounding to me that in the land of the free we have 20% of the world’s prison population and a majority of that is due to the failed (and expensive), War on Drugs. It’s time to change the conversation.
My name is Nathan Quarry and to Mr. Sessions I say: “I smoke marijuana and I am good people”.