If I would have had the nerve, I would have told him I’d been using the herb off and on since I was 16 years old, and felt nary a pang to upgrade to any other substance in all these years.
1960s: Gateway Drug to Enlightenment
I grew up in the 1960s, and went through high school in the 70s, so drugs were no stranger. Having an alcoholic father, at times my childhood was one big cocktail party. Thankfully, alcohol wasn’t a draw for me, nor was tobacco at 13, mushrooms at 15, acid and other uppers and downers at 16, or cocaine at 19. I was and am a pot smoker, period.
School was difficult for me. An undiagnosed processing problem went unchecked as I appeared to be a good student, but could barely pull a C in most classes. After trying cannabis at 16, I did better in school; my concentration improved drastically. I read like an alphabet-hungry animal, began writing haiku and poetry and was first published at 19. And, as a bonus, I no longer needed to take liver-damaging Midol for menstrual cramps.
Last year I reviewed The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook by cannabis activist Cheri Sicard. Her forward was written by Lanny Swerdlow, a Registered Nurse who stated many patients had used cannabis years prior, stopping for long periods of time, then returning to it later as medicine. Of all the reasons for stopping, not one was for negative reasons against the herb. All of them stopped due to the stigma that came with it when a job or kids came into play, or they “just didn’t think I should use any more.”
That was my modus operandi. I even lied to my daughter about my cannabis use, thinking it would give her permission to use drugs – a common belief by moms at the time.
When California’s Proposition 215 was on the ballot in 1996, I voted for it, and was happy it passed, but I didn’t rush out to get a card. Throughout my daughter’s life I would partake if it was offered, but only covertly, and I never kept any at home.
It wasn’t until 2007 when my daughter was 16 that the herb came back into my life. She had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia at 13 and was suffering terribly when a friend acquired a small amount on the black market for her to try.
I rolled a cigarette and we sat outside in the garden, each taking a few puffs.
She was a straight A student, and prior to her illness an all-star athlete. She was also a “D.A.R.E.” kid, wasn’t interested in drugs at all, and did not like the euphoric feeling it gave.
That afternoon we spent a full three hours thrift shopping until the effects wore off.
That evening I made her a tea before bedtime as an alternative to smoking. She slept well, but again, she was not comfortable with the feeling from the psychoactive properties of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is activated with heat, and the biggest challenge in medicating the masses with this plant.
If I had known about raw ingesting for pain without the psychoactive properties, I’d have chopped up fresh leaves and put them in a salad for my daughter, or I would have had her munch them raw, since she grew up eating from the garden – but that was nine years ago. There is barely any information on the Web today about raw ingesting or juicing with cannabis – a now popular method used by many, bypassing THC activation, with no euphoric feelings, just good medicine, as encouraged by Dr. William Courtney, a California physician (www.cannabisinternational.org).
Would I encourage parents to help their children with cannabis? Yes, I would and do often. It’s a harmless herb, albeit it makes you loopy, but that fades with use. The auto-immune spectrum is widening, with autissm and attention deficit disorders dominating children’s lives, cannabis is a safe alternative with education.
As for myself, that little bag of green helped me to get back in touch with my muse and I created a studio in the garage. After smoking I’d go outside and walk my neighborhood with my camera. Soon I shed 50 pounds and created an art project of “Alley Photos.” The little pieces of junk I found on the ground led to a new hobby of Assemblage.
It breaks my heart that I couldn’t help my daughter at the time, but I’m grateful the herb came back into my life. My mother is no doubt smiling down from heaven, her words falling lightly around me, “Everything happens for a reason.”
The 50 pounds I shed came from an earlier diagnosis of hypo-thyroid disease and the herb got me off my tush, outside, and back into creative projects. I stopped watching television, pitched a tent in the garden in July, and slept outside until the rains came in October.
Behind the Curtain
Within a year we had relocated to Humboldt County. Not for the herb, but college for my daughter and a degree in Plant Sciences. Today she is in nursing school and I’m hopeful she’ll make a difference to many with the empathy and education acquired from her own illness.
Humboldt County is synonymous with cannabis, and I slowly realized that most of my co-workers above and below the administrative line had a “grow” – a subsidy because they could.
“Behind the Redwood Curtain” soon became “Behind the Curtain” for me, as I was told in some neighborhoods every third house hosted a grow in a back bedroom, and for good reason. Humboldt is a depressed, rural area. The lumber industry is a distant memory, and fishing is a shadow of what it once was.
As with the rest of the country, retail rules, and minimum wage is often the only option. So, you do what you have to do. Many grow; many more trim; many, many more work in numerous ancillary fields surrounding the production of the herb.
I did not plan on becoming a cannabis activist. A simple story about a new school in Garberville (707 Cannabis College) led to a request from Canna attorney Kyndra Miller to write of a physician on her way to prison.
Just when you think you have it all figured out, everything changes.
Dr. Mollie Fry, otherwise known as “Doc Fry,” is a double mastectomy survivor, a mom, and a devout Catholic. If anyone could enlighten me to “God’s Medicine,” it’s Mollie. She connected the dots for me on medicine vs. recreational use. Because, you see, it’s all the same.
A recovered alcoholic friend once told me, “Alcohol worked for me.” And, aside from the destructive nature of alcohol, I can understand that, as cannabis works for me.
At 54 with thyroid disease leading into menopause, I’ve been challenged physiologically and emotionally for a few years now.
And while Big Pharma did not lose me completely, my cannabis use has now replaced a 13-year Synthroid habit and hormone replacements, treating myriad symptoms from both afflictions, including; serious digestive issues, fatigue, depression, chronic insomnia, to name just a few ailments.
Most antidepressants made me feel worse, not better, as do most prescription pain meds or even antihistamines, for that matter. Synthetic drugs and I just don’t mix.
Ingesting cannabis works for me, and was the only medication I used after gallbladder surgery for pain, and again after an intense elbow surgery where the tendon was scraped from the bone, then again after knee surgery, with excellent results.
Yes, I got very high, if that’s the word you are used to. For me, from this day forward, I’m calling the feeling, “well” – with no apologies, and no side effects to speak of – and with my organs intact and thriving.
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Editor’s note: Sharon Letts began her love of gardening in Southern California by her mother’s side, watching as she buried fish heads at the base of roses.
At 24, Sharon hung her shingle, “Secret Garden,” planting flower beds for dainty ladies. Gardening led to producing and writing for television with “Secret Garden Productions.”
Today Sharon continues to write about gardening and all that implies, advocating for the bud, and writing for many magazines, including DOPE (Defending Our Patients Everywhere).