When I saw the movie Reefer Madness for the first time in 1967, I had no idea of what was being said. The movie was part of a light show at Dana Hall. It was projected along with undulating, lava lamp-like blobs of color, random photos and graphics on the screen above the stage, while The Paisleys blasted psychedelic music. Somehow, in my teenaged stoned and scattered mind state, I managed to get the movie’s message: marijuana bad, will make you into a violent killer or suicidal maniac.
My friend Debs and I twirled and boogied to the music, taking breaks every so often to smoke a joint in the back stairwell to Dana Hall. The hall was an old union hall, built over Richter’s drug store on Minneapolis’ West Bank, that had become hippie central.
Debs and I were not crazed killers or suicidal maniacs. We were rebellious, counterculture kids from dysfunctional families looking for a place and people to be a part of. We were part time runaways, leaving our family homes for days at a time.
Over the years, as my life went through many, many changes, I would smoke some marijuana/ weed/ pot/ cannabis occasionally. My view of the stuff was like it was a glass of wine or a martini. I did not fear it, nor did I see it having any real value in my life. In other words, I could take it or leave it.
In my early 30s I became a fitness nut. I thought I was invincible. I thought I was in perfect health and that my routine and diet guaranteed that. But it was not so. Around the time I turned 40, my body began to betray me. I turned to the mainstream medical industry for help, as I was conditioned to do. Over 20 years, they did more harm than good.
It was not until the internet became a part of our daily lives that I was able to do my own research and take control of my health. It was a long road and one of the things I discovered was medical cannabis. By this time I did not want to smoke anything, as I did not want to compromise my lungs. I tried many types of cannabis tinctures until I found the right one. By combining cannabis with other natural and herbal products, going vegetarian, and a unique type of physical therapy/ massage, I improved my health and quality of life. This experience changed my take it or leave it view of cannabis. This is a nuanced substance that has great benefits for many people.
As part of the Sonoma Valley Cannabis group, working to get a couple of dispensaries up and running in the city of Sonoma, I see there is a lot of fear and misunderstanding concerning cannabis. Reefer Madness is alive and unwell. Many people say there are more important issues, so give up trying to get the dispensaries. But, we can work on multiple issues at once. So I am asking you, talk to us, listen to people’s stories and you will see there is much more to cannabis than recreational use.