I grew up hating marijuana and believing it was a dangerous drug that could ruin lives, make you lazy, and lead to other far more deadly intoxicants. It took me almost 30 years to finally understand that this was a complete crock of shit and I had been lied to in the most appalling way. Marijuana it turns out, is not only very pleasant to use (in moderation), but has an astonishing array of medicinal benefits that have made my own life far easier to go through.
I suffer from fibromyalgia, a pain condition that I believe developed in my teenage years. I’m highly sensitive to weather changes, can get migraines, and develop terrible pain in my neck, jaw and upper back when it gets cold and wet. Sometimes it lays me out for weeks at a time where I can get by only by carefully managing my day and making sure I get significantly more sleep. Controlling the symptoms has been a nightmare and it was only when I discovered that marijuana had specific properties that helped alleviate them that I finally found relief.
If used responsibly, the psychoactive effects of cannabis are also immensely rewarding and I have learned to enjoy the altered states of consciousness it can induce. I’ve certainly had some bad experiences with it, but as I have come to learn, they are almost entirely due to set and setting, and my own state of mind going in. Over time, I’ve also learned to get the most out of negative experiences by using them to explore my own insecurities, anxieties and fears. For the most part though, vaping cannabis (I’m no good at smoking it) helps me wind down from stressful days, takes my mind off of work and allows me to think more creatively. It also makes me more empathetic and sensitive to how other people are feeling, so has the added benefit of making me a more tolerable person to be around (although I’m generally pretty easy going anyway).
For anyone who wants to take away my right to use a substance that has a) never killed anyone, b) shown enormous medical potential, and c) made my own life significantly less painful, I’d like to extend a sincere Fuck You. The thought that I could be locked in a cage, taken away from my family and robbed of a meaningful future because of inhaling the vapor from a plant that grows all over the world is frankly sickening. The fact that many, many people have endured unimaginable cruelty because of smoking cannabis is a shocking indictment of how immature we are as a culture — how fearful we are of our own fragile psyches and how quick we are to judge people who reject “acceptable” intoxicants like tobacco and alcohol for a more peaceful, infinitely less harmful substance.
As it stands, medicinal marijuana is legal in 29 states in America (and yes, I’m in one of them). Eight states (and Washington DC) allow the recreational use of cannabis, and a sizeable majority of Americans support its legalization. But with the election of Donald Trump and his nomination of Jeff Sessions to the Attorney General of the United States, this could all be reversed. Sessions is apparently “obsessed” with marijuana and believes it to be an evil drug harming America’s children. The actual research shows the complete opposite is true, and that marijuana is in fact the safest, least harmful ‘drug’ to use. According to Scientific Reports, cannabis “is around 114 times less deadly than alcohol” and “was the only drug out of those examined to pose a low risk of death.”
Nevertheless, the Attorney General may well be gearing up to launch a war on cannabis, putting those who use it for medicinal purposes at serious risk and reversing a decade of progress on an issue that should never have been one in the first place.
Today is 4/20 (April 20th), the annual celebration for all things cannabis, and should serve as a reminder that the right to use cannabis is a fragile one that must be protected at all costs. No government has the right to decide whether you can use a plant to alter your consciousness or relieve pain, and right now the Trump administration may well be about to do just that. So light up, and remember to vote these assholes out of power as soon as humanly possible. It is your mind, your body and your right to do with it as you please.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.