Over a period of 111 years, cannabis has taken the blame for addiction, violence, and the degradation of our youth. But cannabis is a plant and has existed on this planet for thousands of years. It has been used by cultures around the world for thousands of years. It has been a part of human spiritual celebrations and homeopathic regimes for thousands of years.

So why now is cannabis seen as a horrific drug, here to manipulate and control people? Whenever a group targets another specific group or piece of its culture, we need to take a step back and ask why. Is it really about protecting the youth or is something deeper. We need to learn from our history. 

When educators speak against cannabis, have they done their academic due diligence as educators to find the why? Would you be surprised to know that it involves deep seeded racism targeted directly towards our Mexican neighbors and Hindu immigrants coming to this state for protection and solace? Would you be surprised to learn that we specially put into place laws and sentencing to put our brown and black communities in prison in an attempt to silence them?

As educators, are they aware of the endocannabinoid system, a major body system needed for homeostasis? Are they aware that we have receptors—CB1 and CB2—that need our body’s endocannabinoids to activate them? 

In 8000 BCE we used hemp for rope. In 2000 BCE cannabis leaves and seeds were seen as one of five sacred plants in Hindu texts. In 1611 Jamestown, colonists were required to grow cannabis and were fined if they refused. By 1900, cannabis was a household medicine in the United States. You could find it in any American pantry and general store. 

Children were taught to respect cannabis, just as they are taught to respect all medicines including alcohol.

A letter written by Henry J. Finger to Hamilton Wright in 1911: “Within the last year we in California have seen a large influx of Hindoos and they have in turn started quite a demand for cannabis indica; they are a very undesirable lot…fear is now that they are initiating our whites into this habit…”

John Ehrlichman, counsel to Nixon: “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be against the war (Vietnam) or Black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and the Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did” (A Tale of Two Countries; ACLU Research Report 2020).

We have had several reports commissioned to study cannabis and its legalization. In 1938 New York Mayor Fiorelo LaGuardia asked the New York School of Medicine to investigate and the report came back that the claims about the dangers of cannabis had been exaggerated. 

And again in 1971, the Schafer commission, put together by President Nixon also called for the decriminalization of cannabis. Both reports were ignored. Why?

Cannabis is listed as a Schedule 1 drug, along with peyote. According to this schedule, cannabis has no accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse. Methadone, OxyContin and Fentanyl are listed as Schedule 2 drugs, meaning that these drugs have been deemed safer than cannabis. They have a high potential for abuse and should be considered dangerous. 

It is the responsibility of our education system to educate our children objectively. It is the responsibility of parents to inculcate the values and sense of respect that go with the use of the plant as medicine. 

The stigma needs to end. The racism needs to end. Cannabis is here…the time is now.

Malisha Kumar, Morgan Hill

Certificate in Cannabis Science & Medicine

The Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine

University of Vermont

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