I felt uneasy when I came face-to-face with Bill O’Reilly. He looked at me and my brother like a hungry lion feasting its eyes on a pair of lambs. He gave us his trademark O’Reilly sneer and let out a growling tone,
“Come on, you know what the ruse is, you know what the scam is.”
I knew the tirade was coming. This has become the standard for many hostile journalists. That have this thinking that medical cannabis is nothing more than a fraud.
Personally, I recommend cannabis for the management of chronic pain. However, I do use it for other purposes. It can help me get a good night’s sleep or shake off sadness or nervousness. I also use it for enhancing the pleasures of enjoying a sumptuous meal or getting more moved with a certain piece of music.
I am like most people who has this outdated notion that health is nothing more than the absence of disease. If you are not sick, then you must be healthy. The traditional notion is that whenever people get sick, we visit our doctor. He will write us a prescription or perform a procedure. Once done, we can start on our journey to recovery and become healthy again.
This perception changed over the course of a few decades. By then, health is best described as a continuum between a state of complete wellness on one end and a state of illness or sickness on the other end. Man moved anywhere along this continuum.
There are safe and non-invasive ways to maintain and enhance wellness. That is why we know that exercise, good diet, chiropractic, acupuncture, and meditation as well as other holistic healthcare modalities are effective alternatives to medicines and surgeries.
This is also the reason why we now have a mushrooming of yoga studios and gyms. There are now also organic sections in grocery stores. Insurers are also covering nutrition counseling, acupuncture, and chiropractic in their policies. It’s also the reason why there’s an explosive growth in cancer integrative treatment centers.
California law allows physicians to prescribe or recommend cannabis to patients who can benefit from the substance’s many effects. Remembering this law somehow prepared me for O’Reilley’s comment.
Throughout my practice, patients have confident that they appreciate what the cannabis law provides. However, they don’t feel they should be labeled as “sick” or “injured”. I also meet ordinary individuals who share with me comments such as,
“You know Steve, I totally support everything you are doing to help patients. I believe in medical cannabis, and I smoke weed myself. But I’m not sick; I just like to get high.”
I often respond by trying to learn more such as when and why they use cannabis or what specific benefits does cannabis provide? I also ask them about the likelihood of cannabis making a difference in their lives and how is it so far?
To give you an idea of how these individuals would answer my questions, it would often run like this:
“Without cannabis, I’d get home feeling irritated from a long day at work, a hassle with a boss or a coworker, a hot rush-hour commute, whatever. My back might be aching, and I wouldn’t feel like playing with my kids or talking to my wife. I’d often have a sour stomach and not much appetite. Dinner wasn’t very appealing and sometimes gave me heartburn or indigestion. After dozing off in front of the TV, I’d wake up and sometimes not be able to go back to sleep. In the morning I could be tired, and not feel like going to work or doing much of anything.
With cannabis, everything is different. I’m happy to see my family and have as much fun playing with my kids as they do. I forget about my aching back, and reuniting with my wife is a pleasure, not a chore. Dinner smells and tastes great, and I never have a problem with digestion. After dinner, the wife and I put the kids to bed, and then we have some extra special intimate time together. I curl up next to her, sleep soundly till morning, and wake up refreshed and ready for the new day. Cannabis makes my life a lot better, but I’m not sick and I wouldn’t die or end up in the hospital without it. I’m not a patient; I just like cannabis.”
I realized that an average doctor will interpret these descriptions of symptoms as warranting a diagnosis of depression, anxiety, insomnia, acid reflux, erectile dysfunction, arthritis, and low libido. There are advertisements on TV promoting a dizzying array of pharmaceuticals that address these conditions. All of these have side effects that can be worse than those coming from a Stephen King novel.
For many individuals, cannabis is a much better alternative. It has the power to preserve, promote, and restore balance between body and mind. It is effective in the management of the various diseases advertised on TV, but with only transitory and mild side effects. Cannabis also provides other unique benefits that are often overlooked. In most cases, however, people characterize these benefits as ‘getting high’.
The benefits include the promotion of self-examination and the enhancement of one’s patience. It can awaken playfulness and a sense of wonder while fostering openness to a number of spiritual experiences. Cannabis can also enhance the aromas and flavors of a meal, the harmonics of music, and the delicate caress of a lover’s touch. It opens the mind, inspiring creativity. It can also empower a performer with spontaneity. Cannabis catalyzes laughter, bridges human differences, and facilitates friendships.
The first time I shared these views with my father, I was given that ‘I don’t need BS look’. My dad was already on medical cannabis for his insomnia and pain, so he didn’t challenge me outright. However, I knew I pushed the button. On our succeeding visit, I learned from my father that he did notice improvements in his everyday activities with the use of THC tincture. He now had an intense desire to do something more creative, like writing his memoirs. He also said it can enhance intimacy and sensuality.
It is clear that these attributes are not that of an intoxicant. These are the attributes of a product that facilitates and enhances a number of the most meaningful aspects of human life. It doesn’t excite or stupefy. It also doesn’t diminish one’s mental and physical control. It is a wellness product.
Different cultures all over the world have their own substances and methods which allow them to enhance their states of mind. Each culture develops its own norms and language so that it can assess and regulate the correct use of such substances. What is clear is that a drug-free society only exists in the mind. Throughout man’s history, there’s no such thing as a drug-free society.
Since Washington and Colorado legalized recreational cannabis, there have been a lot of confusion as to what constitutes ‘recreational use’. For many, it is the use of cannabis for anything other than for medical reasons. Unfortunately, this lack of a unified definition led to the thinking that ‘recreational use’ means no other than ‘getting high’. There is another word for ‘getting high’, intoxication. The term ‘intoxication’ further puts cannabis into bad light because of its negative connotation and its association with something illegal.
It was never easy to come to this realization. My first brush with the term made me think that it’s a step in the right direction, one step better than ‘dependency’ or ‘addiction’. It was also more convenient to contrast it with medical use.
Unfortunately, neither the terms ‘medical’ nor ‘recreational’ are accurate in describing the very same experiences that people have about cannabis. I knew there had to be another ‘term’ that can best sum up these human experiences. Whether I care to admit it or not, Bill O’Reilley and others like him destroyed the fallacy and allowed me to crystallize my thoughts. I now have a more coherent thesis.
Today, I have this firm belief that the recreational use of cannabis is nonexistent. The definition is self-limiting, not to mention very unhealthy. If one defines cannabis use as something that one can choose to engage in, then one ignores fundamental history and human biology. It also devalues the many benefits that cannabis provides.
The majority of the people who consume cannabis use it for wellness purposes and not because they are sick or they want to get high. Of course, there’s always the risk of misuse, as any other psychoactive material can.
While there are downsides to the use of cannabis, these pale in comparison to the adverse effects of other substances. Regardless, these still require careful analysis and due consideration. We can use the lessons we learned with alcohol in the making of new approaches for the more sensible use of cannabis.
It is also important to understand that the chemistry and effects of cannabis are different than those found on alcoholic products. If we are to view cannabis in the context of history and science, this plant is
Both a medical and a wellness product. The applications are limitless. There will come a time when ‘recreational cannabis’ will look as old-fashioned as ‘medical alcohol’ was at the end of the prohibition era.