One cannabis activist’s wish list in light of the Golden State’s recent adult-use legalization
My relationship with cannabis has always been a positive one; I’ve always found the plant interesting, especially in terms of how it affected my physical and mental health. I’ve used cannabis on and off throughout the years since I first tried it in my teens, but it wasn’t until college that I really started to understand society’s misconceptions about its use. To me, cannabis had always been used socially, but I started to notice with the increasing stress of college, that I began turning to cannabis as an alternative to alcohol to cope. Whether I was struggling with anxiety or pain due to debilitating menstrual cramps, micro-doses of cannabis – specifically strains high in CBD – became a solution for me.
Living in California prior to legalization, I wished to see this sacred plant finally break out of prohibition. I knew it would be an important step in the ability to share cannabis’s restorative capabilities, without feeling judged by society and always feeling like I had something to hide.
Prior to January 1st, I had hoped that with yet another state legalizing cannabis (Nevada), we would start to see a chain reaction among other states regulating cannabis a new way – as an alternative medicine, rather than a Schedule 1 drug. I hoped California might be the state that could be catalyst for pervasive legalization and decriminalization. However, with this exciting new turnaround of legalization came my fear around how the big tobacco companies would utilize their established lobbyists to manipulate cannabis sales, availability and distribution. I feared they would see marijuana as a commodity only for money and not for its restorative properties and use the current industry and consumer nativity to cut corners and push out the smaller companies additionally burdened with new and changing regulations.
The failed war on drugs has allowed for the unfair jailing of thousands of individuals to be criminally sentenced. It upsets me that decades of racial profiling and subsequent non-violent arrest has torn up families and communities, leading to decades of hardship and despair. I strongly believe that the decriminalization of cannabis will allow poor and minority populations to advance and will lessen the harrowing grip of the current opioid epidemic on ravaged communities. Earlier this month, the city of San Francisco started applying its new marijuana legalization law, which successfully wiped thousands of misdemeanor and felony convictions off the books. This decision will affect thousands of residents whose cannabis-related conviction deterred their opportunities to find employment and contribute to society. This is one huge step in the right direction since legalization took effect this past January.
I’ve personally felt a calling to open up about my relationship with cannabis, and to help guide those that are new to the realm of legal cannabis use. With cannabis being more accessible than ever before, the awareness of what this plant can do for many needs to be of high priority. The first person I was genuinely able to convince to give cannabis a try was my seventy-year-old grandmother, who had always feared cannabis due to it being illegal in the state where she lived. Now that she finally felt confident she wasn’t doing something against the law, she tried the CBD cream I gave her. Since then, she has completely gone off of her prescription pain medication for arthritis and uses only CBD to alleviate her symptoms.
For a long time, prescription drugs were the only option she ever knew, and from someone she was supposed to trust at the hospital; now that cannabis is finally legal, she has found a much less addictive and mind-altering alternative to pain pills. I know my grandmother is not the only person out there whose life could change dramatically if given the encouragement to try an alternative to pharmaceuticals. My hope now is to continue to share and attempt to provide awareness about cannabis and its availability here in California, and to help lessen the stigma and lead other individuals down a similar path as my grandmother’s.
I believe that California will be on the forefront of positive momentum and change for cannabis this year. California is currently undergoing Assembly Bill 2020, which would make it legal to hold events where cannabis can be sold and consumed if the local government approves. If this bill passes in March, it will bring even more accessibility and the opportunity for understanding cannabis use in social settings. Consumers will get to not only connect with the products first-hand, but also begin to feel socially accepted in using these products, thus lowering the stigma around cannabis use.
This year will bring more attention and curiosity than ever before to cannabis, thanks to the mainstream catching onto the conversation. With that, my hope is that this year more residents in California will take an active part in understanding and accepting cannabis as an alternative medicine and fighting for its legal right.
Story by Kyra Mueller-Yamamoto
Photos by Bess Byers