Laurel Dewey – Author, Betty’s (Little Basement) Garden and the Jane Perry mystical crime thriller series
What if everything you were ever told and believed about a subject wasn’t true? What if the well-meaning, trusted and respected people who told you those lies were just parroting the propaganda that they heard?
That’s the exact dilemma I found myself in about three years ago. For most of my life, I bought into the grim and terrifying stories I heard about — dare I say it? — marijuana.
Whether they called it doobie, reefer, pot, Mary Jane or plain ol’ weed, I believed all those ominous voices when they warned me that marijuana could cause everything from brain damage to a craving for stronger drugs (i.e., the “gateway” theory.) And so as I got older, I just kept repeating the same marijuana mantras to others, convinced that I was right. “Marijuana is dangerous,” I told others. “Only brain dead stoners use it.”
Someone once said to me, “the further you get away from the facts, the easier they can turn into a myth.” Boy, is that the truth. It all started three years ago when I decided to finally research marijuana. If anything, I was determined to prove to myself and others that my concerns were valid. Living in Colorado where medical marijuana was legal to possess and grow once you qualified for a “red card”, I was surrounded by “pot shops.” Thanks to Amendment 20 in our State Constitution, these dispensaries grew and flourished faster than it takes a medical marijuana bud to mature. In Denver County alone, there are around 400 medical marijuana dispensaries, outnumbering the 375 Starbucks statewide. I freely admit that I mocked these businesses and rolled my eyes at the people who frequented them. So, on that summer day nearly three years ago, I decided to dig into this controversial plant and arm myself with even more information that would support my anti-marijuana stance.
But a strange thing kept happening. The more I dug into what some opponents refer to as “the green menace,” the more I continued to find research studies I wasn’t aware existed. Some of these studies had been buried — perhaps purposely — and made scientific claims about Cannabis Indica and Cannabis Sativa that I found almost too good to be true. For example, I read a 1974 study(published in 1975) that was conducted at the University of Virginia that proved that the cannabinoids in the cannabis plant shrunk cancerous tumors and killed cancer cells, leaving healthy cells alone. Even though it was there in black and white, I still didn’t buy it. So I kept investigating. I found that when I used the Internet search terms “cannabis+indica+healing+benefits,” I got a whooping 220,000 websites. When I added the word “medical” to that group of words, the field increased to 452,000.
For the next six months, I spent every spare moment researching “the Devil Weed.” Putting it bluntly, I was shocked. There was absolutely nothing “devilish” about it. All this remarkable information had been out there, waiting to be discovered and all I had to do was agree to view it with an open mind. I learned that Cannabis Indica had been compounded into liquid extracts in the late 1800’s and up until the early 1900’s. These extracts were recommended by medical doctors to alleviate everything from teething pain in infants to reducing the pain of arthritis and menstrual cramps.
I found out that contrary to what I’d been told, nobody has ever died from using marijuana in the thousands of years this plant has been available. In fact, I had no idea that its medical use dated back to around 2700 B.C. and was called a “superior” herb by the Emperor Shen-Nung (2737-2697 B.C.). I discovered that while I had been demonizing marijuana, thousands of people worldwide had been quietly and effectively curing or relieving a multitude of health problems, including Crohn’s disease, migraine headaches, chronic depression, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), insomnia, dementia, epileptic seizures, Parkinson’s disease and even AIDS. The more I researched and talked to pro-cannabis physicians, patients, researchers and historians who studied the plant, the more I heard incredible testimonials of recovery from illnesses and mental imbalances in addition to, as one patient told me, “just a better outlook on life.”
And that’s when I uncovered information that really challenged the stories I’d been told. People were using this “weed” to get off of opiates, alcohol, tobacco, heroin, cocaine and other powerful drugs. Thus, it was gaining traction as “an exit drug,” instead of the “gateway drug.” Seniors were also secretly using it to improve their cognition. Wait…what? How is that possible? Didn’t marijuana make you a “brain-dead loser”? No, not according to the scientific data I discovered. The opposite was true as researchers found that the plant allowed neurogenesis in the brain — the growth of new neural pathways, even when the brain had been damaged by age or trauma.
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