How Can Cannabis Save Us Right Now?
This is not a news flash, but we’re in a bad mood. And it’s getting worse. Two recent news items:
- The murder rate across 20 major cities went by up by 37 percent on average in June, according to the New York Times. “People have gotten to the point where they just don’t give a damn,” a Kansas City minister is quoted.
- From Psychology Today, 35 states are reporting a rise in opioid fatalities since the pandemic struck. The “second wave” — raging rivers of stress hormones coursing through our bodies — is triggering what scientists call allosteric overload, a state of heightened anxiety that’s driving people to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
Just two data points regarding the untold suffering of millions of us. It’s not necessary to enumerate the infection rate and horrific death toll since COVID 19 came knocking. Or to dissect the unsettling concern around protests and the deployment of federal troops. Not to mention the terrifying uncertainty about our political future.
We’re all living it — and it’s a mess
Things are fucked up. Our lives are at stake. We want to escape, maybe more than at any time in living memory. When this happens, our bodies prepare us for two possibilities: fight or flight. The anxiety builds, then builds some more. With no end in sight, something’s got to give, and at this point in history, it’s socially acceptable to reach for guns, pills and whisky.
We know these things are bad for us, of course. As coping behaviors go, they are desperate and too-often deadly. But these are not normal times, and people don’t always react rationally. An ongoing flood of stress hormones and a steady diet of insane and sensationalized news can put anyone on the brink of bad behavior — if that’s what you want to call homicide and overdosing.
What can we do to get through this pandemic?
If only there were a non-toxic way to relieve stress and change your mental state. What if you could let off steam without shooting people, escalating a dangerous addiction, or eventually contracting liver disease? Could there be an alternative to suddenly or gradually taking each other and ourselves out of the game? A way to handle stress that’s actually life-affirming?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you cannabis.
I’m not even kidding: Discounting drug raids, cannabis has never in recorded history killed anyone. Despite the legacy of reefer madness nonsense, it’s well-known that alcohol can fuel a murderous rage, while cannabis leaves you mellow. It’s not poisonous to your system, so it doesn’t give you a stay-in-bed-all-the-next-day hangover. Cannabinoids are anti-inflammatory and actually help our bodies maintain homeostasis. CBD and a mix of specific terpenes might even help slow down the deadly cytokine storm of inflammation that COVID kicks off in our bodies.
Lingering stigma be damned, if there were ever a time in human history to embrace cannabis, this is the moment. Stuck in our homes like rats in cages, reverting to destructive habits and behaviors… it’s awfully tempting to just have an extra drink or two at night. Then maybe one at 4 p.m. Or lunch — what the hell, breakfast!
Far better to have a toke, or a gummy, or some drops or a dab or whatever method of ingestion you prefer. Relax. It’s called harm reduction, and it works. If you feel like killing anything, it might be a bag of Cheetos. And that’s OK. And if the last thing you remember about smoking weed was the paranoia it gave you, try some CBD, smoked or swallowed. It can put a big dent in your anxiety, without getting you high.
We are fortunate the legalization movement has gotten us this far in the past 50 years (since Keith Stroup launched NORML). We’ve come a very long way in the last decade, and just in nick of time. Thank God that in 34 states, we can now buy cannabis for medicinal purposes, and in the midst of hunkering down, this has been — astoundingly, and correctly — designated as an essential service.
Pass the word, cannabis really is essential
There aren’t a lot of doctors who will tell you this — although I’ve interviewed a few: Peter Grinspoon, M.D., David Nathan, M.D, Tom Folan, M.D., Benjamin Caplan, M.D. — but in these times, when our bodies are screaming at us to fight or take flight, cannabis is the wise thing to do. It allows you to fight the power, by self-medicating with an organic, non-toxic medicine; and it enables you to take mental and emotional flight, without the negative consequences of alcohol and drugs. Cannabis just might improve your mood, my mood and the mood of the nation, and even be the ray of hope we need to get us through the dark winter ahead.
True, you can’t pass a joint right now, but you can at least pass the word: Cannabis can help us get through this, and on the other side, recover from the damage that’s been done. It can help now, as the relaxant we need, and later as the basis of a new industry that will fuel job growth, spur innovation and generate the tax proceeds we’re going to need when this shit show subsides.
Tell your friends, family and elected officials: It’s time for cannabis!