Tag Archives: Lila

Burn It Down Slow: On Canadian Cannabis Legalization

Today, millions of cannabis users light up in solidarity around the world. In Canada, it is an especially interesting day, given that last week the Liberal government proposed the Cannabis Act, to de-schedule and heavily regulate cannabis in Canada. While imperfect, the bill is yet another nail pulled from the coffin in which prudes and other social conservatives had tried to bury cannabis alive.

I am 110% for cannabis legalization (that is 10% more support than I have for legalizing all psychoactive substances). I know the proposed legislation isn’t ideal, but for me, it is a sigh of relief. I am surely not alone, whether in Canada or around the world.

I Have a Name

Marijuana, as with many monikers for cannabis—weed, pot, dope, reefer, chronic, devil’s grass—and euphemisms for intoxication—stoned, baked, fried, twisted, blitzed—all carry negative implications. These names betray the demonization which the plant, and the people who have been custodians to this plant, have garnered ever since the U.S. government was threatened by highly-productive-but-high Mexican labourers in the 1930’s, and then industrialized a military to pass on their gospel.

It is a good choice to frame the newly proposed legislation as The Cannabis Act. There are so many beautiful names for the plant, and maybe something that preceded the Scythian‘s word cannabis, which Dr. Linnaeus adopted to taxonomically classify the species. To date, Canada has been particular about using marijuana. But of course, calling it marijuana would have ousted the government’s uneasy hand on the whole matter.

For 15 years, I have used cannabis recreationally, spiritually, and medicinally. Apparently, I continue the relationship people have kept with the plant for millennia. Terrence McKenna would even go so far to propose the Stoned Ape Theory, which postulated that psychedelics substances (primarily psilocybin mushrooms) were the catalysts for evolution from apes to Homo erectus.

Sometime between getting lifted for the first time in the Cradle of Civilization and now, humanity has come a long way. That relationship with the plant has become strained in many parts of the world. Within the last century (or so), a global effort has been spent criminalizing an autonomous plant, and punishing those people who get involved with the plant.

More than that, prohibition also criminalizes a state of consciousness. In the realist world view, being high is the North Korea of the mind.

(Ironically enough, North Korea has a very liberal approach to cannabis. There is absolutely nothing otherwise enviable about North Korea).

North Korea comes to Canadaupon Parliamentary and Senate approvalon or before Canada Day, 2018. The complete bill can be viewed here, but CBC has a good summary, which didn’t vary much from the leaks earlier this week.

It isn’t legalization in its idealist sense, but it is workable…although equally vague and questionable. But regulatory changes happen slowlyunless they happen bloodily, in which case, enough people have to be willing to pay that price. I don’t think that would be a sustained hurrah from cannabisseurs (cannabissoirs? cannabians??).

If I have this many questions as a 110%er, I can understand how those against this idea are ready to chant it down

and I was going to get into (700 words of) thoughtful and nuanced questions on each piece of the bill. The Cannabis Act is not ideal. It shows a profound misunderstanding of the plant, its uses, and its users. But I get to burn in my backyard without risking my job, my family, or my freedom. That is a concession I will take with caveats.

“All I want to do is get high by the beach…” – Lana Del Rey

True, there are many parts of the proposed bill that are ridiculous. The proposed driving rules are harsh and seem emotional rather than factual. There should always be caution when operating a vehicle impairedbut assholes aren’t typically pulled over for the sole reason of being assholes (a.k.a. assholiphilia), although they are likewisely impaired. (Note: If you start making up words, you probably shouldn’t drive regardless of what’s in your saliva.)

When The Cannabis Act was released, purists raised their hard heads. Larsen, the Emery’s, and other respectable voices in the Canadian cannabis community, seemed appalled by a step in the right direction. It wasn’t ‘legalization-y’ enough. Larsen laid out some decent arguments, but it became apparent that Marc Emery was just as happy to get back to watching the Maple Leafs play hockey before he (possibly) goes to prison again.

It took me a while to remember that for any ’cause’, there will have been the activists who offered themselves up as martyrs and who want a stake in the freedom fries. That’s legiteven Che got to sign the Cuban currency.

Either way, there is no light switch that any legislation can enact that will win the hearts & minds of the general populaceand the whole world, who will be watching with intent as their own reformists become encouraged by Canada’s lead. It seems naive to hope that a flick of some bureaucratic pens will suddenly erase decades of psychological warfare. It will take sustained, destigmatized experience to exhibit cannabis users’ general responsibility. Popular opinion will eventually come to commonly understand the fear & loathing was exaggerated.

A Lame, But Revealing, Ending

All these herbalists and not a one remembers how A Clockwork Orange ends. Sure, an external force was able to soften Alex’s behaviour, but once they returned Alex to his regular state, it took a good dose of banality and a chance meeting with an evolved friend for Alex to realize he could—and would—change. The moral I am trying to draw? Self-transformation is the most powerful transformation. Let’s not make the same mistake every doe-eyed teenager makes—no forced, external revolution will ever change the world.

Cannabis has to prove itself in public view. People have to understand that for every loser (who arguably would be a loser regardless), there is a doctor, a lawyer, and a candlestick maker who smoke up, up, and away. That will not happen while the plant remains illegal.

The underground has not done cannabis justicethose who understand it and advocate it overstand, but it is still difficult to convince your family at Thanksgiving dinner that your daily joint doesn’t make you a scandalous fiend.

Anything besides prohibition gets the conversation started. Issues and benefits have the opportunity to become illuminated. So far, the government’s “educational” approach has included web advertisements that direct you to Health Canada’s cannabis page, or Reefer Madness 2: Selective Science Madness. Some of the acute risks of cannabis include stroke and heart attack. No mention of pre-existing condition or other substances that were consumed, because, of course, as Dr. Kellie Leitch knows and will fight for: marihuana is a dangherous drhug.

I think at this point in our history, it is clear that the “War on Drugs” has failed. Starting from failure, it is hard to do wrong. Like the free-climber who falls to break eighty bones in their body, success cannot be measured by reaching a treacherous summit—success can be making it up one single stair. We’re on that first step. Let’s not let our egos handicap us. Let’s not crumple on the floor like we will never get to the mountaintop again.

I have a method to get to a mountaintop. It starts in an unfertilized flower bud and ends with smoky curlicues. That’s what’s important here. The devil may be in the legislation’s details, but as any cannabis user knows, the devil is currently around every goddamn corner, just waiting for enough evidence to pull you into its bowels. Between the two, I think we stand a better chance parsing through grey regulations than facing black-and-white zero-tolerance.

As Dr. Dre proselytizes: “We roll shit that burn slow as fucking molasses/probably won’t pass it, smoke until the last hit.” The value of a smooth, slow burn is known to any cannabissarian. It’s a sentiment that can be translated to anyone pursuing legalization. All the ugliness that has suppressed cannabis will burn away—responsible users will help burn it down—but it will burn down slowly…

…slower than a fat blunt of fresh Trainwreck buds.

Now light up the fatty, jump in my Caddy, pull your seat back—yup, I know you need that…” – Snoop Doggy Dogg




Other echoes

Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?

T.S. Eliot


The day before yesterday morning I woke repeating a word in my head: Vestal. I have a wide vocabulary that I can’t account for, so often I get these ‘word worms’ (similar to ‘ear worms’) slithering through my consciousness. If I’m feeling up for it, I will ponder these words; why they strike me when they do, and what meaning I can gather from them. I am profound like that at times. But most of the time I do everything I can to forget the word, bury the meaning, excise the demon worm.

Vestal is from the Greek for ‘fire’, and in its most significant derivative, represents the Roman goddess of the hearth, home and family, Vesta (and the corresponding order of priestesses, the Vestal Virgins). In Rome, there were temples that burned sacred fires to Vesta. Ever faithful to the gods, the Romans believed a central temple to Vesta, which burned a never-ending hearth, was an ongoing offering to the goddess for success. When the fire went out, so would the Roman empire. So when Emperor Theodosius I carried the Christian tradition from Constantine and forbade public pagan worship in 391 CE, the Roman Empire was already on its way out.

Ovid had an interesting rumination on Vesta: “Vesta is the Earth itself, both have the perennial fire, the Earth and the sacred fire show their see”—which is a dense, cumbersome sentence only open to my weak interpretation—but speaks to many ancient cultures’ fire worship. Fire is ephemeral, temperamental, coming and going, requiring work, effort, care, and symbiosis between living and elemental, all culminating in a transformation from one chemical to another.

Which echoes to the Indus Valley’s Hinduism, a removed culture from the Romans that shared some of the ‘coincidental’ subconscious symbology (Jung, anyone?). Fire in Hinduism, and Buddhism which evolved from it, carries similar properties—magical but real, temporary but ubiquitous, essential but destroying. The god Shiva is encircled by flames, representing destruction and enlightening rebirth. Shiva dances, within the flames, simultaneously destroying and laying the groundwork for the illusion of the world. In Sanskrit: Lila, or the theatrical, illusory state of the material world.

There are a handful of Sanskrit words that also seem to strike me at different times as ‘worms’. It is of some wonder then that the night after my Vestal dream, in the midst of a psilocybin excursion, the word ‘artifice’ and Lila became the only way to describe my environment. Walls shifted, grew and shrunk. Kaleidoscope phosphenes danced over my eyes, and music filled the room spatially. Artifice—that is how reality appears on hallucinogens, or really any altered state where your senses are affected, be it fever, exhaustion, or emotional distress.

The world is illusion, Hindus and Buddhists say. “Look at the world, glittering like a golden chariot,” the Dhammapada reads in my favorite passage, “The wise do not touch it, but the foolish are immersed in it.” Judeo-Christians see the material world as a temporary state between the everlasting soul’s existence in heaven. Even scientists—mostly physicists and chemists—have come to see reality as a sort of quantum illusion, a multi-dimensional expression of energy, to which humans are only evolved to perceive a certain spectrum. In the minutest sense, modern physics tell us there are atoms, which are mostly negative space occupied by energetic forces that can only be determined, spatially and temporally, by perception. In religion first (probably from shamanic explorations of our reality), and now in science, we get the sense that reality is in the eye of the perceiver.

But the psychedelic truffles told me more. Like most good psychedelic trysts, there is an interesting thought to explore that you find tucked away in a nook—to open, peruse, and read like a weird book stashed away in your house from a previous owner.

And that weird thought was not so elaborate or elegant, but simple and profound—that the artifice—that Lila—that the illusory reality around us—is not illusion at all. Reality exists as it is, in its myriad forms that we may or may not perceive. The only illusion is in the way we perceive reality. It is our perception that is like our fire symbology, and not the world itself—it is our perception that is ephemeral, temperamental, coming and going, requiring work, effort, care. Our perception is a symbiosis between living and elemental—between chemical expressions of energy.

This is some heavy, sticky stuff to wade through. Sorry to put you through it. But the day after turning all your senses up to eleven, you often drift into the metaphysical.

And that’s where I leave you now.