People have been asking me, what’s this cannabis culture you write about? What is a culture? Culture is the way of life of a particular group of people, the customs, traditions and values of a society. In a wider sense of the word, as in agriculture or tissue culture, culture is alive.
Cannabis culture occupies a unique place in American history. We survived a prohibition. We risked our lives and lands to grow this plant so many people need. America has a guilty conscience over what was done to us during prohibition — the lands and homes stolen from us wound up in someone’s hands. And yet we consistently speak of love not hate, forgiveness not revenge. That’s our culture speaking: cannabis teaches us love and promotes social unity.
Seven decades of prohibition taught us the value of brotherhood. Brotherhood rules are: Tell the truth. Keep your word. If you cause harm, ’fess up and apologize. Cannabis culture has principles: live with heart, act with compassion, express gratitude, show respect, heal each other, serve community, promote universal health, keep economic resources flowing, fertilize the soil.
Cannabis culture is deeply spiritual and respectful. We have standards of decorum at our gatherings. Many of us ask at difficult moments, what would Jesus do? Our herb is a shared sacrament. (That cannabis is our sacrament gives our culture constitutional protection under freedom of religion.)
Above all, cannabis teaches laughter, happiness and creativity. That’s why our culture is both attractive and unifying. Cannabis unites country rednecks, black jazz musicians, farm workers, Ivy League elites, fishing families, football players, soldiers and veterans, old hippies, young WWOOFers. Think Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson, Bob Marley, Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Rihanna, Natalie Portman. If anything can unite America during these divisive times, it’s cannabis.
Cannabis culture has achieved generational continuity, and we accomplished this while surviving a tragic prohibition. Millions of lives were ruined and imprisoned, families were broken up, children — including my own daughter — taken away, economies destroyed. We learned in a hard school whom we can trust. Many who misplaced trust paid with their freedom. We learned discretion and forged bonds of loyalty. So far we have survived the sixties, seventies, eighties, nineties and oughts. We are here now with our children, our children’s children, our wisdom and our values.
Those who begat cannabis culture in the sixties are seniors today. Prohibitionists bully us as if we were naughty children, saying “shame on you.” We reject shame. We’re healthy and we have longevity. We are mature, educated, productive, creative adults and seniors who, as we age, find more and more uses for this medicine that we grow ourselves, this geriatric herb that prolongs healthy life. We don’t visit alcohol and tobacco bars saying “shame on you.” Back off, bullies, and respect our free will choice.
Cannabis culture is healthy; it’s not just about weed. We grow healthy food and raise happy healthy families. We have wisdom to share about health.
“Everyone loves dope; even our judges love dope,” said Jennifer Messick of AKLAW.
Messick, an ex-prosecutor, was in Homer to inform health professionals and law enforcement about designer drugs, a scourge that is causing terrible harm to America’s young people. Designer drugs are white powder chemicals that you don’t know what they are, dissolved in acetone and sprayed on plant material that you don’t know what it is, unregulated, untested, packaged deceptively, marketed as “synthetic marijuana,” “spice,” “bath salts,” “plant food,” and available legally in tobacco shops, head shops and on the internet. These legal drugs are causing violent behavior, severe health problems, suicides and deaths.
Messick ended her presentation with a plea: “Parents, tell your kids, if you’re determined to smoke, smoke marijuana because it’s harmless, but stay away from designer drugs. Just because they’re legal doesn’t mean they’re safe.”
Similarly, genetically modified foods are tearing down American bodies, turning muscles, ligaments and tendons, and internal organs to mush.
Cannabis cultural wisdom says, Be careful what you ingest. If you didn’t grow it, or you don’t know who grew it, don’t ingest it. Follow this rule, or you could die.
Because in the final analysis, a culture is a group of people who survive, thrive and pass on culture to the next generation. Despite a “war on drugs” that is really a war on families, political dirty tricks, and in Homer, Alaska, a city council who ignores the will of the voters by forcing us to vote again for what we already voted for, we’re still here.
Lindianne Sarno is a music educator, musician, author, and gardener who studied constitutional law and history.