Oh wow, it’s been awhile since I posted. My other writing projects are going so well, I just haven’t felt like blogging much. But I want to take a moment to say a few words about cannabis. And Netflix.
I rely on cannabis. It is by far the best medicine I’ve found for managing my anxiety disorder. I’ve used it nearly every day since 2008. I’ve smoked it in joints, in bongs, in pipes, in bubblers. I’ve vaped it, eaten it — I’ve even dabbed a few times. Compared to insulin or my allergy medications — the other medicines I rely on — it is fun. So much colorful paraphernalia, so many silly names for strains. My goodness, it comes as candy!
But there’s a dark side too. A history of oppression, motivated by racism and greed. Lack of protection for patients in their apartment rentals or their jobs when using legally within their state. A phenomenon I call canna-bigotry, when ordinary people or, worse, doctors, can’t see past the plant. When researchers or science journalists do a shoddy job in their work to confirm their own bias. Is cannabis damaging me in some way, even as it helps me hold down a job and pay bills and taxes? I don’t think so, but I don’t actually know. No one does.
But as my home state of California hurtles onward toward full recreational legalization, I find a disquiet brewing in me. Radio DJs talking openly about using — alright, that I dig. Billboards for dispensaries popping up everywhere — eh, good for them. Finally coming out of the shadows. Safe. Legal. I’m not wholly comfortable with them just out in public like that, any more than I am with billboards selling alcohol. Kids can read billboards too, after all, and unless they have epilepsy or cancer they have no business using the stuff until they are eighteen.
Stories of people who have been involved in the black market for cannabis — mostly people of color — being kept out of the new white market. That’s more troubling. Come on, cannabis has a culture and it is diverse. But the most disquieting thing so far is Netflix. Today is the last day you can buy Netflix-branded strains at Alternative Herbal Health Services in West Hollywood. And I don’t mean someone else decided to start naming their strains Poussey Riot (inspired by Orange is the New Black) or Prickly Muffin (inspired by Bojack Horseman). NETFLIX THEMSELVES are in on this one. For three days only, they are advertising their new show Disjointed by selling nine strains of cannabis at this “pop-up event”.
I feel like I should be excited. What other new, cool things are unbridled, white market capitalism going to bring to cannabis? But…this is my medicine — I use it because my brain chemistry is not normal. And this is a thing that has gotten countless people, disproportionately of color, thrown in prison. It still gets people denied housing, jobs, and respect. Just five years ago, Daniel Chong, a college student, was kept in a holding cell for five days with no food or water because he had been at a pot-infused party in my own home city of San Diego. He broke his glasses, carved, “I’m sorry mom,” onto his own arm, and then ate the glass in an attempt to end his suffering. And now Netflix wants to cash in with their trendy strains for three days?
This is what privilege looks like. Ableist privilege. White privilege. Poussey would riot, alright.
Just…let’s get the nuts and bolts ironed out before we run too far with this new fun thing called Legal Cannabis. Let’s make sure patients don’t get turned down for a job or kicked out of their apartment because of a drug test. Let’s make sure patients can use in multiple states, not just their own, so they can travel this great nation like everyone else with their medicine in their luggage. Let’s make sure formerly convicted non-violent users and sellers are able to get in on this business. Let’s make sure formerly convicted non-violent users and sellers are all released from prison, and their right to vote is returned. Let’s make sure prices don’t go up and up and up, driving the poor and sick back to the black market because state and municipal governments want those sweet, sweet cannabis business taxes. Let’s make sure good research is being done into how cannabis helps people, and how it hurts people. My God, let’s make sure hemp is being grown for use as paper, fiber, and food again!
Then maybe we can all Netflix and chill.