Pubdate: Wed, 23 Dec 2015
Source: Seattle Weekly (WA)
Column: Higher Ground
Copyright: 2015 Village Voice Media
Author: Michael A. Stusser


How can we remove the stigma of pot use? Maybe give it a spiritual spin?

I was recently asked to participate on a panel that was part of a 
charity auction for a local nonprofit.

The organizer was excited to have me involved, but wanted to make 
sure I didn't mention my work in the cannabis community as "it 
wouldn't go over well with our patrons." While I agreed to avoid any 
wild diatribes about legalization, I did think the request was a bit 
ironic, given that there was an open bar and they were auctioning a 
wine trip to Walla Walla as a grand prize.

I've been "out of the cannabis closet" for decades, and have always 
taken a great deal of pride in being the obvious stoner-the guy 
everyone knew would show up to the party with a joint or three on 
hand. In the "old days" of prohibition (circa 2011), we had to hide 
our ditch weed in the closet and smoke in side alleys and basements. 
Today I can proudly display my elegant glass-etched water pipe and 
cedar stash box on the coffee table, just as the Mad Men generation 
showed off the Art Deco tumblers and wood-engrained bars of their era.

With legality, then, should come public acceptance and innovation. 
Brainiac Jason Silva (host of National Geographic's Brain Games) 
talks about cannabis in relation to Timothy Leary's concept of "set 
and setting": "You start eliminating the association with criminality 
and the paranoia and the fear of getting caught, and instead you 
create a canvas where people can smoke a joint before going to a 
boutique movie theater to have a very increased cinematic immersion. 
Or you can create spaces where people can maybe vaporize some 
cannabis before going and listening to a symphony orchestra.

Or maybe they can go on these beautiful, sort of guided marijuana 
hikes, where the set and setting would be curated for a particular 
marijuana flavor."

While I've been advocating for stoned symphony nights, vaporizer bars 
and marijuana dinners for cannabis connoisseurs, each and every legal 
state is making it damn near impossible to use the stuff in a social 
setting. Public consumption-in bars, parks, public spaces, hotels, or 
restaurants-is currently not allowed in any of the states that have 
legalized it. (Oregon just passed a law banning the few cannabis 
cafes that were in existence, while the Alaskans, God bless 'em, are 
fighting to allow consumption at recreational stores.) Community 
events involving cannabis are also forbidden: Ya can't smoke weed at 
music festivals, marijuana conferences (even at the High Times 
Cannabis Cup), cannabis "tastings," or Bud and Breadfasts. If it's 
legal, we should be able to use it in safe and social settings.

While four states have now legalized cannabis and 23 more have 
medical-marijuana laws, the War on Drugs is not over by a long shot. 
In addition to the 700,000 citizens arrested every year for 
marijuana-related offenses, employees are still being fired for 
having THC in their systems (even in legal states); parents of kids 
with severe epilepsy can't get access to non-psychoactive 
cannabidoids (aka CBD) to help with life-threatening seizures; and 
soldiers and vets aren't allowed to use pot for PTSD, anxiety, or 
trauma. Even here in Washington, it's still illegal to grow at home 
and use it in public, and still a federal felony to pass a joint. 
Hell, both Instagram and Facebook continue to delete accounts related 
to cannabis brands and refuse to allow them to promote posts.

Maybe the way to eliminate the second-class stigma attached to 
cannabis is to put a spiritual spin on the notion of getting high. 
Throughout history, cultures have used natural psychoactive 
substances to elicit transformative, mind-altering experiences: 
Ethiopians chew khat, which they consider a divine food; Amazonians 
(from South America, not South Lake Union) eat yaga (ayahuasca) which 
translates to "vine of the souls"; Bohemians suck down wormwood 
(absinthe) to get lifted; and Native Americans have used Hell's Bells 
(jimsonweed) and peyote as a mystical sacrament.

The Aztecs even used a type of morning glory to soar with their 
shamans. (Then again, they also used human heads as soccer balls in 
certain ceremonial situations.) It was the ancient Greeks who came up 
with wine as a way to celebrate life, pouring it down one another's 
gullets during drunken dance festivals that encouraged community bonding.

It's high time to bring cannabis into the communal tent. Praise Sativas!

There are lots of reasons to be loud and proud about cannabis; in 
fact, you don't even have to like weed! Perhaps you're a parent who 
wants to kill off the cartels and raise tax revenue for drug 
education and awareness.

Perhaps Dr. Sanjay Gupta convinced you this healing herb should be 
available to the sick and the needy; perhaps you want to screw over 
the Saudis by using hemp for fuel and fiber; perhaps you want cops 
focused on more serious crimes; perhaps you're a libertarian who 
wants the government off our backs and personal freedoms to reign.

Or perhaps, like me, you want to be able to expand your consciousness 
and get high as a kite. Whatever your reason, please raise your voice 
in support of legalization. We're at a tipping point-and the rest of 
the nation is watching.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom