Medicine, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (I was an English major; that’s where I go first)—
1. The science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease (in technical use often taken to exclude surgery)
2. A drug or other preparation for the treatment or prevention of disease
3. (among North American Indians and some other peoples) a spell, charm, or fetish believed to have healing, protective, or other power.
I remember a conversation I had about seven years ago back east, when the medical marijuana “movement” was gaining traction nationwide and recreational cannabis options were just beginning to open up as a realistic possibility for American citizens.
S-Boy looked me right in the eyes and told me, “We need to stop calling it marijuana; that’s prohibition talk; we need to call it cannabis. We need to call it medicine. That’s what it is.” I, being kind of old and definitely old-school in mentality, just looked at him and nodded, mostly because I didn’t really know what to think at the time.
I’ve always been a true believer in this plant, back to the bricks-and-stems-and-seed days; when I say I believe in cannabis, I mean that I’ve had two visions regarding its ability to expand consciousness and to heal what ails us as a society, with particular regard to matters spiritual; my relationship with C. sativa has changed my life, but the whole “cannabis – medicine” thing sounded gimmicky at best to my ears.
Then … a lot of things happened. I’ll save the details for another day, but my path led me here to DGO and the opportunity to write a weekly “Weed” column; at first, I was a bit worried that the singularity of the subject matter might be limiting; after about a year-and-a-quarter, I feel like I’m swimming happily in a cove and the range of possibilities is the great ocean beyond. And I now understand what S-Boy was talking about.
Oxford’s first two definitions of medicine could have been written specifically about cannabis, a plant with over 400 chemical compounds that are just beginning to be understood by the standards of modern scientific research. Where else in nature’s pharmacopoeia can you receive both preventative and palliative care for conditions as varied as pain, nausea, seizures, muscle spasms, Crohn’s disease, ALS, PTSD, wasting syndrome, arthritis, migraines, glaucoma, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C, cancer, mitochondrial disease, sickle cell disease and literally dozens of other conditions?
Keep in mind that the medical uses of this plant are from individual states within the borders of a nation that continues at a federal level to criminalize it and to schedule it alongside heroin and at a level higher than it schedules cocaine and methamphetamine. If cannabis is not medicine, there is no such thing as medicine. If you choose to believe, in the face of the evidence to the contrary, that cannabis is not medicine, you are either uninformed, obtuse, or operating with an agenda. It’s really just that simple here in 2017.
Then there’s that third definition. I think I internalized Oxford’s third definition of medicine as it relates to cannabis the first time I ever smoked it. It has been said that we are spiritual beings operating on a physical plane. The more I read in the arena of modern science, the more it echoes of what we now call myths, the archetypal truths of their times and places that have been relegated to the dusty corners of history by what we call Progress (with a capital P); if Albert Einstein and mythologist Joseph Campbell weren’t birds of a feather, maybe it’s me who’s missing something. I believe that cannabis is our ally as it relates to our connection to the pieces of us that long for a healthy connection to that which we cannot often see in our waking lives but we always feel in those places deep down inside us, the places where our spirit resides.
We’re entering a new phase of cannabis history here in the United States. Well over half of The Fifty allow its use in some form, but we must still hope that this right will not be taken from us by the same government that allowed Aslinger and Nixon to decide policy. I say, enough of that. It’s time to decide whether we truly believe in and respect the gifts cannabis provides us with or are we just happy to be along for a nice ride, whether we are committed to a future with cannabis here to help us and our children as it has for millennia or just satisfied to be part of a bubble in this social experiment as it unfolds. I can’t decide your path for you, but I know mine and I encourage you to take some time this week and think about what “medicine” can cure.
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected].