Pot and Preventive Medicine by David Malmo-Levine

“World pollution, there’s no solution, institution, electrocution. Just black and white, rich or poor, them and us. Stop the war. I’d love to change the world.”
– Ten Years After, 1971

“Time is fast running out to stop irreversible climate change, a group of global warming experts warns today. We have only 100 months to avoid disaster.”
– The Final Countdown, Andrew Simms, theguardian.com, August 1st, 2008

The old master plan

So I was born in 1971. Star Wars was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. I grew up thinking there was an evil empire out there somewhere, and my job was to fight it and defeat it. Pretty much every kid I knew felt the same way. When we all grew up, I thought, the empire was done for … whatever the empire turned out to be.

Fast-forward to 1992. I read the Emperor Wears No Clothes. Suddenly there appeared a solution to a huge whack of the environmental, economic and civil-liberty-related problems out there: re-legalize and re-regulate industrial, medicinal and recreational cannabis. And the bad guys – the evil empire – were the same wankers who were polluting the earth with inferior hemp-substitutes and who wanted to take my pot away from me. It would take imagination, bravery and a relentless desire to see the project through … but I didn’t have anything better to do so I decided to try anyway.

In 1993 I became an organizer, and developed a non-violent arrest resistance technique known as “hug power” – it’s where you hug the person getting arrested (carefully avoiding touching the police) and hold on for dear life. It worked most of the time (a number of people were un-arrested) which made smoke-ins so much more interesting. It also caught the eye of Marc Emery, who in 1995 flew me from Edmonton, Alberta into the big leagues of cannabis activism – Vancouver, BC. These days the threat of activists using hug power keeps the cops away from our 30,000 strong cannabis farmer’s markets we have twice a year at the Art Gallery.

In 1996 I quit working for Marc’s Hemp BC and opened up the “Harm Reduction Club” – basically if you were 13 years old or older and promised not to operate heavy machinery while impaired (not high, just impaired) on cannabis, we would sell pot to you. And we advertized in the papers and did interviews and were as in-your-face as you could get. That lasted about 2.5 months before the first raid. We opened up again just outside Vancouver and lasted another 2.5 months.

The charges from the first raid led to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2003 – where I argued that all proper growing, proper dealing and proper smoking was harmless and thus protected by the constitution. The Supremes didn’t go for it and we were back to square one.

In 2004 I opened up the “Herb School”. We did drug-war history walking tours, gave cultivation classes and sold all the best herbs (cannabis, hash, magic mushrooms, botanical DMT and the occasional half-gram of opium) to our “students” on the down-low. We also opened up the “Herb Museum” – one of the world’s best public collection of old herbal medicine bottles. That project lasted 3.3 years before the raid.

After doing my 4 months in jail, I got out in February 2010 and proceeded to attempt to make the Herb Museum viable. It didn’t pay the rent, and was sold last year to hemp/pot activist Don Wirtshafter to see if he could make a go of it. He’s still looking for a location, but as soon as he opens it I’m certain it will be a hit.

What was I going to do with the money from the Herb Museum sale? Something I had first begun to see myself doing while rotting away in the slammer: open up a medical cannabis dispensary … for healthy people.

The current master plan

Medical cannabis really began in Canada with Hilary Black – another ex-employee of Marc Emery. She was a deadhead who worked at Hemp BC for a while, began to sell cannabis to the sick through her Medical Marijuana Cooperative in October of 1995, and then flew off to Holland and California to learn about cannabis from all the leading minds of our community.

Hil re-opened her med pot dealing operation in mid 1997 – this time taking a cue from Californian activists and calling it the “Compassion Club”, and became – along with a bunch of big-dreamin’ co-workers – a relatively un-bustable oasis of healing and sanity in an otherwise insane war on the sick and the poor.

The number of dispensaries in Vancouver began to slowly increase starting around 2006. There are currently 61. The nice thing about dispensaries is that public opinion is so overwhelmingly in favor of them (about 90 percent in favor across Canada) that the police – especially the Vancouver Police – have no reason to raid them unless there is a complaint about them … which is rare.

Not being thrown in jail is a big plus – especially to pot activists dreaming of a new master plan while in jail. So I abandoned my desire to win the “human autonomy” argument for now and bowed to the all-powerful respect given to practitioner’s statements. I would stop trying to open up a Dutch-style coffeeshop, and instead attempt to open up a dispensary. A dispensary with a twist.

My dispensary would sell to the healthy. But not by pretending they are sick. And not quietly. My dispensary would feature the fact it was selling to the healthy – it would be the main thrust of the project. It would be in the name of the dispensary so everyone would get the point. It would mainly sell to people who wanted to avoid stress and/or depression – the two main reasons people smoke pot anyway.

Not only would we proudly do what others pretended they weren’t doing, we would take away one of the prohibitionist’s main arguments: med pot is a “Trojan Horse” for rec pot! “Yes” we would answer … “rec pot is a sub-section of med pot. It’s a type of medicine … preventive medicine.”

According to merriam-webster.com, “recreation” originally meant “restoration to health”. One of the “R”s in “R&R” was more often than not “recreation”. Laughter, people say, is “the best medicine”. And when a sick person passes a joint over to a healthy person, it doesn’t suddenly become “non-medicine” in mid air. It stays medicine.

I looked into it further. Healthcare practitioners also supported this idea. Dr. Dreher, a nurse/anthropologist/dean of nursing at Rush University pointed out that Jamaican women smoked ganja to help “allay feelings of worry and depression” and that Dr. Mikuriya found that 27% of California patients reported using cannabis for “mood disorders” such as stress and depression – another 5% used cannabis as a substitute for more toxic drugs … such as pills, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine.

“Preventive medicine” – medicine for healthy people to use to stay healthy – has been recognized as a branch of medicine by such authorities as the American Illustrated Medical Dictionary, a source which also recognized cannabis as chief amongst the “cerebral sedatives” back in 1903, before the reefer madness began.

Even the bible (Proverbs 17:22) said that “A merry heart does good like a medicine…”. Every time I told someone my “re-define medical marijuana” master plan I got a positive response. And I told absolutely everyone – even the people the jail provided me to get oriented to life on the outside thought it was a good idea.

Re-defining med pot to include preventive medicine would re-unite the divided rec pot and med pot movements into one powerful force. It would help pot activists in 1) Canada, 2) the US States that had won med pot victories and had yet to legalize rec pot, and 3) other countries with med pot activists. It would help them protect the healthy from harm and channel the economic power of the healthy back into the fight for full legalization.

So April of 2015 comes around and I still hadn’t found a willing landlord to rent me out a commercial space for a dispensary. Vancouver had been picked clean of such landlords by activists such as Dana Larsen, who had two dispensaries, and Don Briere, who had 15. I went begging Don Briere on my hands and knees for him to sell me one of his. Initially he said no, but after weeks of bugging him he finally relented. He said if it was anyone else he would have said no, or at the very least asked a much, much higher price.

So the “Stressed And Depressed Association” was born. With the help of my friend Liz Goode we achieved official society status – which could lead to renting property and getting a bank account. We have only been open a few days but we have an awesome website at stressedanddepressed.ca where you can view cannabis medicine bottles that were used to treat (or prevent) stress and depression, and download booklets professionally co-authored by myself and Rob Callaway – who has his master’s degree in health and psychology. These booklets are designed to convince doctors that cannabis is the safest, cheapest and most effective medicine for stress and depression, using only sources that doctors themselves use.

Our plan is to get everyone in Canada a “practitioner’s statement” for cannabis use. Everyone who wants one. Everyone, young or old, sick or healthy. Our motto is “everyone’s legit”. Our vision is “no pothead left behind”.

The future master plan

Once we get everyone a doctor’s note, then the real master plan takes effect. We use the profits generated by med pot sales to the sick and the healthy to fund the “autonomy battle” and create the wine model (adults only but no doctor’s note), and then eventually use the money from the rec and med pot sales to create the “coffee bean” or “herbal medicine” model, perhaps involving a parental permission policy, in order to protect the youth from the real perils of the black market – instead of the fake perils of pot promoted by the modern-day reefer madness pot experts, touting their “inherent harm to the developing minds” mythology.

Then we use that money generated by pot sales to protect every grower and every dealer from harm. Basically I learned through my court battles that the harmless should never be harmed, and that our fight wasn’t over until every grower, every dealer and every user no longer feared arrest. This might involve some people overcoming their short term self-interest impulses to take advantage of monopoly, cartels and exclusive relationships, but I figured we didn’t need every pot dealer on board – just most of them.

Then, once all our people were out of the woods, we would spend the profits on lobbying for the removal of the red-tape surrounding the cultivation of industrial hemp (currently suffered by Canadian hemp farmers … perhaps all hemp farmers).

Hemp is really the key to human survival. First, it’s a carbon sink, so we could reverse the greenhouse effect with it. Second, unlike problems with oil and nuclear energy, a hemp ethanol spill would just evaporate. Third, hemp can reclaim desert regions (it can grow in sand). It can grow in nearly every country on Earth, which would end the destructive and brutal oil wars we seem to be stuck in these days.

The astonishing fact of the matter is that everything that isn’t glass or metal could be replaced with hemp, including trees for paper and pressed particle board. Anything you can make from a petroleum hydrocarbon, you can make from a hemp carbohydrate. It could be the main component of plastics, concrete and cloth – thus reducing the amount of pesticides used in cotton and plastics we dump in the landfill. No other single change to our laws could have more of a profound environmental impact than the removal of hemp prohibition (or removal of the red tape around growing it in the countries where it is legal).

We would combine our wealth to invest in hemp ethanol manufacture/distribution and – as quickly as possible – replace gasoline, thus insuring a decent environment preserved for getting high within. And we could convince the less-environmentally-inclined with the tempting thought of the car-fuel economy being roughly three times the size of the medicine economy.

3 trillion dollars annually equals 30 million people making a hundred grand per year. I don’t know about the rest of you but I could check off all of the things on my bucket list for that kind of scratch.

Then all the human race would really have to do is invest a little bit of that hemp cash into fixing our democratic process so future monopolists or powerful cliques couldn’t steal it away from us. I figure some sort of power-sharing arrangements along the lines of the direct democracy of Switzerland, the consensus decision making of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories along with the pure anarchy of the hash-dealing Christiania squat in Denmark might do the trick, similar to the effect coffee-selling coffeehouses had on representative democracy back in the 16 and 17 hundreds. If we learn to spread the power and money around thinly enough, tyrants have no thrones to sit on, and we achieve a nice, scapegoat-free, environmentally-sound equilibrium.

Then we can stop all the pollution/war/persecution BS and, instead, “explore space – together – forever”, as pot-head comedian/visionary Bill Hicks so eloquently put it.

I’d love to change the world … and I know more or less what to do. Unless you have a better idea, I invite you to become a co-conspirator in my master plan. And if you DO have a better idea, email me at [email protected] and I’ll abandon mine in favor of yours. Because time is running out, the evil empire is on the march and – as Princess Leia says: “Someone has to save our skins.”

For information on the history of cannabis used against stress and depression, check out stressedanddepressed.ca

For general information about the history of cannabis and other drugs, check out herbmuseum.ca

For information about hemp ethanol, Google “A hemp ethanol spill would just evaporate” or “Can Hemp, Marijuana and Mushrooms Fix Fukushima?”

For information about how cannabis is actually not harming the developing minds of young people, Google “Does cannabis inherently harm young people’s developing minds?”

– Originally published by Abakus. Used with permission.