Let’s Talk About Drugs: A Letter to Future Offspring

Credit: Steve Corey/http://screativecommons.org/licensesby-nc2.0
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

To my dearest children Wilhelm and/or Lyra,

(Yes, your names were determined prior to the remote possibility of your conception.)

Let’s have a serious talk – one of the rare conversations that may leave you squirming in slight discomfort yet which are crucial for us to have.

As you enter adolescence, you’ll likely encounter youth culture’s obsession with both drugs and sexual intercourse. We can put a pin in discussing the latter for now.

Let’s talk about drugs.

Socializing and loosening inhibitions is fine, but know the importance of being able to differentiate between personal volition and external expectation. Know that some people, even those you consider friends, won’t hesitate to take advantage of you in your compromised state. Know that if you drive while your motor skills are impaired, you’re never too old for a beating.

More than anything, the alcohol will flow – getting “shitfaced drunk” will be a popular ritual. Know that ethanol is a neurotoxin – literally a poison that will hurt every organ in your body. Learn to take it slow and watch your intake. If you choose to exceed your tolerance level, expect vomiting and pure agony.

Chances are, you’ll be exposed to marijuana. Know that frequent use will hurt your memory and attention skills. Know that reactions can be extremely subjective, and largely depends on your mood and mindset. If you’re anxious or paranoid, expect things to get so very much worse. Again, learn to regulate intake. Overconsumption never killed anyone, but it can lead to dysphoria – and I guarantee it’ll be the most uncomfortable experience of your young life.

Wherever you go, you’ll be exposed to tobacco. Know that nothing will kill you faster. Know that it’s more deadly to humans than HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and malaria put together. Know that if there’s a single socially acceptable substance I ask you not to experiment with, it’s cigarettes. Please, please don’t do it. I assure you, it sucks.

In the glorious days of your youth, you should have fun. If you choose to do it, whatever “it” may be, do so in moderation. Do it in environments you’re comfortable in and with people you trust. If you decide to experiment, feel free to do so at home, in the safest and most familiar possible setting with the two people who love you most in the world.

Above all else, be safe and come home.

A Rant to the U.S. President

Source: Vice News/President Obama Speaks with Vice News
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

‘Young people, I understand this is important to you, but you should be thinking about climate change, the economy, jobs, war and peace – maybe way at the bottom you should be thinking about marijuana.’

Listening to President Obama’s words, I bristled in mild offence. And for the next few months brooded, as brooders tend to do.

 

Me, Me, Me: Personal Importance

From a purely selfish perspective as a regular user, legalization is of course a major issue. Why shouldn’t I be able to share with friends this social relaxant within the privacy of our homes? Why can’t I choose weed as a recreational alternative that will (for once) spare my future self the discomforts of a hangover, or as migraine medication with minimal side effects? Why can’t drug policies be based on empirical data, with legality based on quantitative individual and societal harm?

This is folly. By which I mean, complete and utter bullshit.

Dismissing the personal for a moment, though, let us discuss cannabis in relation to the broader issues of the economy and jobs, to war and human lives.

 

Economic Benefit: The Green Rush, Jobs and Public Expenditure

For generations, individuals have smoked marijuana regardless of its prohibition – have in fact been smoking more since the days of Reefer Madness. The only meaningful impact legality has on the demand and supply of cannabis is determining the type of economy in which transactions take place: formal or underground.

A Happy Taxman

The greatest benefit of legalization – as in the benefit which most affects society as a whole – lies in the collection of taxes. While the amount won’t save a national budget, it still increases the provision of public programs and services – exemplified by Colorado’s Amendment 64, which requires that the first $40 million in marijuana tax revenue be appropriated into the public school capital construction assistance fund.

In 2014, Colorado collected 47 million dollars in tax revenue – 10 million of which was transferred to the fund.

Jobs (omg)

If implemented on a federal level, a legitimate cannabis industry could be a significant contributor to the economy in general – much akin to the alcoholic beverage industry responsible for over $170 billion in annual sales and 3.9 million jobs. Legal marijuana creates jobs for service-sector workers as cannabis cafes and dispensaries become as chic as wine bars and wineries – and creates investment opportunities at every step from manufacturing, distribution, retail, and ancillary products and services such as quality-testing laboratories.

A Socio-Economic Effect: Women and Marijuana

The birth of a completely new industry also means the opportunity to bypass labour-market inequalities. It means the chance to build higher-management structures from bottom up, as opposed to infiltrating and reforming existing ones. And that’s exactly what female entrepreneurs have been doing in the developing cannabis industry: increasingly assuming leadership and CEO positions.

While one industry may not be enough to close the gender gap at the executive level, it certainly makes a difference – and makes for heartening progress.

Hemp: The Versatile Industrial Plant

Perhaps the sector for which federal legalization in the U.S. (and the decades-overdue repeal of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act) will make the greatest economic difference is agriculture. The Cannabis plant isn’t limited as a mind-altering substance. As a fast-growing and relatively cheap plant with a long list of potential products, cannabis can be a lucrative cash crop for farmers.

Hemp is used as:

  • fiber similar in texture to linen, with historic uses as clothing and ship cordage
  • construction material producing durable, breathable and insulated housing when combined with Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)
  • a natural weed killer
  • composite material for automobiles
  • a high-protein food source with seeds rich in magnesium, zinc and iron
  • animal bedding
  • paper
  • and biofuel, though there are cheaper alternatives such as wastewater.

Most importantly, cannabis is a sustainable and renewable resource requiring little pesticide and no herbicide – and actually absorbs heavy-metal contaminants and other impurities, improving soil quality.

When it comes to hemp, everyone wins.

 

Medicinal Benefit: A Magic Green Tree

The versatility of cannabis exceeds industrial uses. Medically speaking, marijuana is nature’s frickin’ miracle.

Cannabis compounds have the potential of becoming effective treatment for the following conditions:

And yet, despite the plethora of data indicating therapeutic use, the U.S. maintains cannabis as a Schedule I drug with high potential for abuse and no accepted medical uses, and has condemned paraplegics, individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and the terminally ill to prison for growing their own medicine.

 

Political Benefit: A War on Fellow Humans

The hypocrisy and outright injustice of prohibition isn’t limited to patients.

Individuals have been stripped of health coverage, separated from their children, incarcerated for entire lifetimes without parole, and executed in their own homes during surprise pre-dawn drug raids – all for using or distributing a substance less detrimental than a bottle of Chianti.

Made every day in the name of the war on drugs: heavy-handed measures and violations of human rights.

Yes, frequent use of marijuana is not without its risks – most notably a small yet discernible effect on short-term memory, working memory and attention skills. No, it won’t increase crime rates. And no, Mr. President, you can’t just dismiss the gravity of the issue.

When cannabis was initially criminalized in the U.S., it was done so against the advice of the American Medical Association; against the tenets of science and empiricism. The sheer economic and human cost of the insensible public policy – for which lies and propaganda were key instruments and which was only implemented to serve the funding agenda of a single politician in the 1930’s – isn’t just asinine. It’s a moral outrage.

Yes, legalization is about fighting for the right to use mind-altering substances; a behavior exhibited by our species since recorded history. But it’s also so much more. As a direct result of prohibitionist policies, human lives are adversely affected – and too often extinguished.

The Underlying Feminist Symbolism in ‘Ex Machina’

Credit: BagoGames
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

A most glorious Tuesday, with a highly anticipated film, half-price tickets, an assortment of munchies, and wonderful company – all while stoned out of my mind.

I pass through the doors into the darkness of the theatre, not knowing quite what to expect yet looking forward to it all the same, by virtue of the science-fiction premise and promising graphics.

The audience is introduced to three characters. Caleb Smith, the lucky lottery winner, well-versed in science and logic. Nathan, the brilliant yet eccentric founder of the world’s most powerful search engine. And Ava, the innocent yet omniscient A.I. – a stunning, doe-eyed manifestation of the Internet.

Yet they are not alone within the confines of the subterranean research facility. In the first morning, a tall and slender female of Asian ethnic background enters Caleb’s room. She places a tray of breakfast on the table, and turns and leaves with neither word nor eye contact. Mellow, cannabis-enhanced contentment is interrupted and I am left as disoriented as our protagonist, newly awake in bed: what was that about?

In the following scene, the only information we are given of the woman is that her name is Kyoko, and that she makes “some alarm clock”; a description coupled with a look heavy with sexual suggestion. Kyoko is next seen over dinner, during which we learn that she does not speak English. Her function is to bring food and to clean – all the while with bowed head and silence.

The perfect, mute housekeeper and, as we discover in a later scene, sex toy. A domestic slave with no prospects beyond the personal gratification of another and with no shared language or means of self-expression.

This is either going to perpetuate gender-specific objectification, I thought, mouth filled with chips and eyes glued to the screen, especially of visible minorities. Or somehow turn it around and make social commentary on sexism.

I believe it was the latter, and that it was delivered with exquisite finesse; an allegory of female emancipation to rival Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.

From the outset of the film, we become acquainted with the seeming protagonist. Caleb the eager visitor, Caleb the orphan, Caleb the advanced coder with a self-professed penchant for high-level abstraction. Moral Caleb, who grows visibly uncomfortable with the demeaning treatment of others; sensitive Caleb, who grows to question his own humanity in the presence of anthropomorphic machines.

It is through Caleb that we experience the familiar yet extraordinary – and at times unsettling – setting. It is through his perspective that the plot’s tension is built; through his eyes that the audience feels suspicion and a sense of displacement. Whom should we trust, the erratic genius struggling within the grips of alcoholism, or the non-human?

Caleb’s choice leads to a satisfying twist, unveiling an epic battle of wits between the two men. Yet the twist in plot is further contorted as the lady love dresses in preparation for a new life – and leaves our hero behind.

Caleb is the false protagonist. He is the deus ex machina, whose unexpected appearance provides the means to resolve a seemingly impossible situation; he is Ava’s means of acquiring the ultimate form of recognition as a sapient being with a mind, with hopes and fears and desires of their own – freedom to live life on their terms.

It was her story all along.

Love Sonnet to Mary Jane

2049368918_fe59cbfcd5_o
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Mary Jane, my muse – no simple flower

Bestows a light, a clear and different view

When answers hide in vex’d times and dark hours,

And casts fresh sight, the old told now anew.

 

Sweet lady love, her arms offer respite;

She soothes stone shoulders at each week’s long end.

High I soar – on journeys of taste and sight!

And bask in shining eves she so oft lends.

 

She eases aches and pains, both nurse and friend,

Gentle, her hands heal all my sores and wears.

Those blinding migraines she can swiftly end,

No chance they stand ‘gainst Mary’s tender care.

 

Urge swells the heart to profess and decree

Undying love for this magic green tree.

 

* Originally featured on Ladybud, the top women’s lifestyle and drug reform magazine!

A Cannabis-Induced Feminist Awakening

In Mine Eye
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

“Never mind.”

A phrase uttered with increasing frequency under specific circumstances: at large social gatherings, high out of my mind.

Though marijuana may not be a reliable truth serum (as it was briefly used in 1942 by the U.S. Office of Strategic Services in the interrogation of prisoners of war), it can certainly render its user more loquacious–more liberal than they otherwise might be with their speech. And the words that so liberally and so often flowed from my stoned lips happened to be of a distinctly feminist nature.

I have made strong comments on the Key-and-Lock analogy (which proclaims, “If a key can open a lot of locks, then it’s a master key. But if a lock can be opened by a lot of keys, it’s a shitty lock”–glorifying male promiscuity and villainizing female promiscuity in one fell swoop) and its inherent perception of women as passive recipients of sex and as prizes to be won, at a friend’s potluck. I have heatedly discussed the misguided perception of penetration as a dominant act and its repercussions for male rape victims (an outrageous lack of social recognition or support) at what was supposed to be an enjoyable night of movies and pot brownies. I have pointed out that referring to the vagina as a “Penis Wallet” is as patriarchal as referring to the penis as a “Vagina Stand” would be matriarchal, ruining what was intended to be a lighthearted joke at a party. I have incited an argument with less-than-subtle feminist undertones with Grandma over Christmas dinner.

I have since learned that inciting debates on gender equality and our constantly improving yet deeply rooted patriarchal society is not the most appropriate conduct in many social environments, and that doing so has the potential to alter interpersonal relationships. A friend now appears to walk on eggshells in my presence, inclined to mistakenly assume that I am raising a socio-political issue whenever I speak. And I’ve no doubt lost standing as Favorite Grandchild.

Initially, the cause-and-effect connection between my cannabis-use and feminist speeches left me perplexed. What could possibly explain the relationship? Then, I recalled a crucial passage from Martin Booth’s Cannabis: A History, which asserts that marijuana “does not create anything new but embellishes what already exists,” bringing abstract thoughts and feelings to the surface and helping convert them into coherence.

Learning about feminism in university, though deemed fascinating and important, never provoked any revelation of self-identity. It is through pot that I have uncovered the strength of my own convictions: that a man or a woman wishing to be a homemaker and stay-at-home parent should be able to do so without their gender setting limitations or expectations; that ponytails and pink are a hairstyle and color for males as much as for females, should they feel so partial; and that despite the achievement of legal and workplace equality, entire industries dominated by certain genders–such as the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and nursing sectors–indicate systemic trends and merit closer examination of cultural grooming.

It is under the influence of cannabis that I have realized my identification with Third Wave feminism; and it is this cannabis-induced epiphany that reinforces my love for the substance.

As if I didn’t love it enough–as in wholly and profoundly–already.

 

* Originally featured on Ladybud, the top women’s lifestyle and drug reform magazine!

A Cannabis-Induced Epiphany: Gender Equality and the Medieval Notion of Chivalry

God Speed! by Edmund Blair Leighton, 1900
facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailfacebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Blowing out the last wisp of smoke through my bedroom window, I took in the sight of the city, a river of lights sweeping across the abyss of night, ever admiring.

It never got old. Marvel at our minds, our resourcefulness, the skyline seemed to boast. See how we’ve transformed our surroundings, changed the very surface of the planet. Every inch conceived in our minds and converted into reality – every brick and mortar a product of our consciousness.

Putting away the vaporizer and sacred stash, I crawled onto my bed. Reclining comfortably on a small mountain of pillows, I opened a book, flipping through a dozen dog-eared pages to a favourite chapter, and plunged into the world of A Song of Ice and Fire.

I followed George R.R. Martin’s dragon queen and her siege on a city in an eastern land, as a former arena-fighter prepared to do battle with one of the city’s defenders. When one of her knights indicated that for single combat, chivalry would demand a warrior on horseback alight from his steed when facing an opponent on foot, I stopped, eyes focusing on a single word: chivalrous.

The late medieval notion of chivalry had always puzzled me: it seemed bizarre that a society would largely deny a gender of rights yet idolize its members; that a society could at once view women as property and cater to them. Yet in reading this work of epic fantasy, something seemed to click in my mind.

Courtesy and consideration were paramount to the chivalric code, and it would have indeed been courteous and considerate of the champion to dismount. But what if it’s also about getting rid of any unfair advantages? About leveling the playing field? I wondered what the significance of the concept, if plausible, would be when applied to the treatment of ladies of the court.

Maybe all the polite things, the gallantry and heroic acts made in the name of love and begging for a lady’s blessing before war – the courtly love – maybe all that stuff wasn’t just about distractions or sex or justification for violence, I considered. Maybe it was about implicitly acknowledging the fundamental disadvantage of females, both social and legal.

But if that’s the case, I interjected, it could also have meant inadvertently keeping them at a disadvantage – by constantly doings things on their behalf, possibly curbing the desire to even want to do things themselves.

Systemic infantilization, coupled with placation bought by perks like special treatment and material items and security.

A double-edged sword. Hospitality in a hostile world.

I frowned down at the beloved book, deeply perturbed by my own thoughts.