By Sarah Wang
Cannabis, the powerful and versatile master plant is believed to have co-evolved with us humans, finding “a way to produce chemicals that give us pleasure, like THC, thereby seducing us into cultivating it and spreading it– a strategy that allowed cannabis to piggy back on humans as we’ve settled all over the world.” Almost 5000 years ago the earliest reference for cannabis was written by Emperor Fuxi. He was said to be a shaman who could tame animals with telepathy. He received much of his inspiration from nature and invented and perfected arts like fishing, trapping, cooking, the calendar, angular measurement, music and writing. He references cannabis as having qualities of both yin and yang. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the energetic qualities of plant medicine is very important to consider before you use it for any condition. Cannabis is such a versatile ally if you consider her qualities in aiding with either energy or sleep, ability to be administered to children or elderly, treating mind or body, or used to relieve stress and anxiety or spark creativity. A Chinese shamans grave was discovered from almost 2700 years ago in the north west region of China. The archaeologists discovered nearly two pounds of dried plant material along with the shamans tools. The flower was believed to have been harvested at the time of the burial and contained high traces of psychoactive THC which had converted in to high levels of CBN over time. The use of cannabis spread from China to India to North Africa then Europe.
Meanwhile in the U.S. our forefathers also cultivated cannabis for both industrial and medicinal use. Thomas Jefferson smuggled cannabis seeds from China to France then back to the U.S. as noted in his journal. Industrial hemp was used for the production of textiles, paper, oil, paint, and industrial plastics. Henry Ford of Ford Motors was a pioneer for using hemp gasoline and plastic hemp paneling for a model of cars. In 1914 the $10 bill was printed on hemp paper and the back of the bill portrayed farmers plowing hemp.
In Virginia, it was considered illegal at one point in time for farmers not to grow hemp and farmers who didn’t comply were taxed heavily. So when did our love affair with this giving plant change?
In the 1920s there was an influx of Mexican immigrants coming into the American South West post Mexican Revolution, some of whom smoked recreational cannabis. Sailors and West Indian immigrants also used cannabis and brought the practice to port cities along the Gulf of Mexico. The plant was also cited as being used by African-Americans, jazz musicians, prostitutes, and underworld whites. The 1920’s was also the era of the great depression so this paired with racism and anti-immigrant propaganda sparked fear of “reefer madness”. In 1930 the Federal bureau of narcotics was created, and in 1937 Marijuana Tax Act written into bill. Thus cannabis becomes illegal and the US pressures other nations at a UN conference to also criminalize the plant.
To this day cannabis is still considered a Schedule 1 drug on the federal level, disproportionately affecting communities of color even though many states have already or are on the path to medical and recreational legalization. How do we reconcile and heal our communities who have been affected by the criminalization of this plant? For one we can support small businesses owned by people of color to allow them an equal playing field with wealthy corporate investors, big tobacco and liquor who are inevitably investing in this growing industry. There are also several organizations advocating and creating space for diversity in the cannabis industry listed below:
Cannaclusive- Support diversity, inclusion, and education in the cannabis industry.
Women Grow- Focused on female leadership in the cannabis industry.
Minority Cannabis- Increase representation of minorities among cannabis business employees, owners and investors.
Supernova- An advocacy group creating space for women of color in the cannabis industry.
We can also honor this master plant by using her medicine wholistically and creating supportive communities with one another to share resources for helping our loved ones who suffer from ailments in which cannabis can be of aid. Medicine can be expensive especially once big pharma gets their hands on it. The most expensive cannabis medicine is that which has been extracted to a point beyond recognition, ie: the isolates and concentrates. There are many ways to make our own herbal preparations at home as our ancestors have been doing long before us such as infusing flower or trim in oil, alcohol or tea and extracting its medicinal properties with the processes of heat or time. Whatever the method just remember that even through decades prohibition and bureaucracy, cannabis remains the people’s medicine worldwide.