I’ve had my New Mexico medical cannabis card for over a month now. Fucking game changer. And by far the funniest (and most distressing) behavior I’ve found among medical pot smokers is the tendency to pretend that they don’t actually like getting high. Everyone seems to have it in their heads that as long as we act like it’s not happening—that we’re all smoking weed just to deal with headaches and muscle inflammation—somehow we’ll sneak it in under Their noses, and we’ll all be getting high before They even know it.
Of course the truth is that the whole reason this shit stays illegal is because people continue to misrepresent the state of consciousness that goes along with it. Cheech and Chong probably did as much damage as Reefer Madness in convincing everyone that stoners are stupid, lazy, and useless. And while everyone hems and haws and acts like they’re the only one out there who love the medical effects, but hate all that getting high and changing your life stuff—the world keeps adding to the myth. It’s crazy. We’ve only thought of marijuana users as “stoners” for less than a century. Before that, they were mystics and magicians and great philosophers.
Case in point: Golden vessels discovered near the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia in 2013 held a residue that tested positive for cannabis. The artifacts were discovered at the site of Scythian burial mound. The Scythians were an ancient nomadic culture that lived in the central Eurasian steppes between the ninth and first century BCE. The find gave credence to the ancient historian Herodotus’ claim that the Scythians would set up tents where smoke from hemp censers was inhaled as a purification ritual during the funerary rites of a fallen leader.
According to the Ming’i Pieh’lu, a fifth century book of medicine by a famous Taoist physician T’ao Hung Ching, cannabis was mixed with ginseng by necromancers, who would then use the concoction to see into the future (by making time pass around them). In 2003, in China, what is believed to be the mummy of a Wu shaman, buried with dried cannabis leaves was discovered amongst a number of unearthed tombs that archaeologists believe date back to somewhere between 600 and 900 BCE.
India has had a rich history of cannabis use. The term “indica” is actually just classical Greek and Latin for “of India”. During Holi—the Hindu “festival of colors” that celebrates the rites of spring—everybody gets higher than an elephant’s eye on bhang (a marijuana infused drink associated with Lord Shiva), the use of which goes back to at least before the Vedic age (1500-500 BCE). Cannabis plays a major role in the famous Churning Ocean of Milk cosmological myth and is considered one of the five sacred plants given to humans by the gods. Another notable use of marijuana (along with alcohol, excessive sex, self-mutilation, coprophagia, and cannibalism, supposedly) as an ecstatic vehicle in India is among the Aghori, a sect of sadhus who attempt realization through exploration of the … darker aspects of the universe.
In 1090, Hassan-i Sabbah took control of the fortress of Alamut, atop a mountain in what is now northern Iran. There, he established the Hashashin, a heretical Islamic sect that would become legendary. Hashashin is literally translated as “those who eat hashish,” a name they received in reference to their use of the drug to induce visions. Stories of the vicious exploits and political intrigue of the cult abound (their name is where the modern “assassin” has its etymological roots), and they were even canonized as anarchist saints by Peter Lamborn Wilson (who details Hassan II’s proclamation of the “Qiyamat,” the breaking of the fast of Ramadan, and declaration of the apocalypse).
In Africa, cannabis has been used as a religious sacrament as far back as the 14th century. Archaeologists believe the plant (which isn’t indigenous to the continent) was introduced by Arab traders, and was originally chewed by African tribesman before they started smoking it. The Bashilenge, a tribe living on the northern borders of Lundu, cultivated their own fields of cannabis and began calling themselves Bena Riamba—“the sons of hemp.” As part of their daily rites, a member of the hemp cult was expected to smoke as much of the plant as possible to constantly remind themselves of its divine qualities.
The common thread here is that marijuana has been used as a spiritual lubricant for centuries. These people (and this isn’t even close to a comprehensive list) weren’t “stoners.” But they did believe there were advantages to tuning in to the marijuana frequency over subscribing fully to baseline consciousness. It seems weird as hell to me, to be honest, but that resistance is probably just remnants of my lifetime under the thumb of an alcohol, opiate, and speed-fueled culture.
Actually, it’s weirder that most of the civilized world has somehow completely flipped on its opinion of pot—splitting from what has been accepted human wisdom for maybe all of history—and done it in less than a century. Maybe it’s the rise of media and its influence over mass culture. Maybe it’s the “sit on your laurels and let someone else figure it out” thinking that somehow snuck in alongside the scientific method and the Age of Reason. I don’t know. I’m just a stoner, aren’t I?
The triumphant return of cannabis to our culture isn’t being blocked by lack of knowledge (most everyone in the developed nations has Google sitting in their pocket, and there’s more than enough non-anecdotal evidence to keep them busy for hours) or a concern over its health effects (the goldurn US government patented a strain of weed for its ability to treat neurological diseases), it’s being stopped because we don’t want to be high. It’s because we only like states of awareness that are conducive to making that money. Introspection and empathy aren’t all that useful in the corporate marketplace.
If you really want to convince your friends and family that marijuana is good for the world, quit quoting cancer statistics and scientific studies, and start telling them the truth: That it makes you a better person when you’re high. (Actually, don’t stop quoting cancer statistics and scientific studies, please.)
Hopefully, in the future, we’ll all look back and have a hefty laugh at the expense of those silly Pre-Weed Era people who somehow managed to make it without a constant THC drip. “Can you believe there were people once who didn’t like to get high? Just be glad you weren’t alive in such barbaric times, child.”