Desegregating Cannabis and Herbalism

Desegregating Cannabis and Herbalism

Cannabis is a powerful and multifaceted plant medicine capable of treating physical ailments, providing emotional support and expanding consciousness – as we ALL KNOW.  Even though, to us, it is an ally and a friend, its history in the US has largely segregated it from herbalism, healing  and the sustainable material space, until just recently.  

We are here to present an article that embraces cannabis as an essential plant member to the herb world.  It is only the bureaucratic, racist and capital-driven distortion of our morally corrupt laws that have led to the destruction of lives all over the US in the name of protecting people from a plant that at the end of the day, truly serves.

Cannabis, A Brief History

Ancestral agrarian communities have relied on cannabis’ versatility as a sustainable material dating as far back as 8,000 BCE (that’s over 10,000 years of cannabis - human bonding).  It is considered one of humanity’s first agricultural crops, used in textiles, inks, ropes, building material, medicine and pretty much anything else. 

So, why has hemp been relegated to a simple ingredient in natural beauty products and protein powder in the 21st century? 

Well, in the early 1900s, the value of hemp was declining with mass medical industrialization.  Opium and the syringe were replacing what hemp was so keen at accomplishing millenia ago, at least in the minds of the developers of allopathic medicine. Despite this shift, hemp remained a precious building resource that was stronger than steel
Because industrialists who wanted to profit on materials like nylon and plastics couldn’t compete alongside hemp’s versatility and abundance, a campaign against hemp had to be waged in order for these fortunes to be made.
 
Cannabis had its place within the American landscape, even in the early 20th century.  During WWII, for example, people were encouraged to cultivate hemp to help war efforts.  At this time, some medical professions and lay people continued to offer psychoactive cannabis as medicine.   Underlying interests, however,  were already leveraging the law to squash the proliferation of our favorite weed. 

As a final nail in the coffin,  President Nixon declared the war on drugs, which classified cannabis at Schedule 1 in the Controlled Substances Act.  Hemp was then categorized as an illegal Schedule I drug, next to heroin and crystal meth.  Strict regulations were imposed on the cultivation of industrial hemp as well as marijuana, until 2018.

Understanding the Drug Scheduling System

The Major Players — What is the role of the DEA?

The DEA was established in 1973 as the federal organization in charge of enforcing the controlled substances laws of the United States

Classification is based on medical value and the potential for a substance to be abused. Substance abuse will oftentimes lead to the dependence of a drug resulting in maladaptive behavior that poses a harm to the individual and those around them.  Here are eight factors in scheduling cannabis

  1. Cannabis’ actual or relative potential for abuse
  2. Scientific evidence of the pharmacological effects and general pharmacology of cannabis
  3. The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance 
  4. Its history and current pattern of abuse 
  5. The scope, duration, and significance of abuse 
  6. What, if any, risk there is to the public health 
  7. Its psychic or physiological dependence liability 
  8. Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled 

The declaration of war on drugs was a declaration of war on black and brown communities who benefited greatly from its use. Through this ill-intentioned scheduling system, the federal government simultaneously systematically incarcerated people for nonviolent crimes while also delegitimizing the medicinal value of cannabis as a preventative medicine. 

State-sanctioned systematic incarceration left black, brown, queer and counter cultural communities fractured without resources or the social mobility to end generational poverty. 

Delegitimizing Cannabis’ Medicinal Value

Classifying cannabis as a schedule 1 drug was an intentional move to distort the value of the plant as a legitimate form of preventative medicine.

A drug's schedule is an important policy guide. A stricter schedule lets the DEA more stringently limit access to a drug and its supply, which can make a drug more difficult to research — as has happened for marijuana, limiting researchers' ability to study the drug for its medical value. ” 

Cannabis has always held medicinal value, as mentioned earlier, hemp derived medicines were used in agrarian society to treat dis-ease for millenia.

Opium arrived onto the western medical scene at the turn of the 20th century, which was not long after the establishment of the AMA in 1847. With the intent to legitimize allopathic medicine, doctors sought to delegitimize women of color who held the ancient knowledge of plant medicine and traditional midwifery.   

Even though people already knew about these benefits, the medical-industrial complex was not interested in promoting research for plant medicine because they could not successfully monetize plants.  Part of why the DEA required proof of medical value as criteria for classification is because the corporatized medicinal system has a huge stake in what substances are deemed medically valuable and decisions of drug scheduling.

Medical value and Medicinal Value are Different

Medical value - when a controlled substance can be used for medical application 
Medicinal value -  an element of the substance promotes a healing quality when consumed or applied. 

Although Cannabis has already shown to have medicinal value, it was not until it could be shown as medically valuable that it could begin its descheduling.

Currently there have not been enough studies done to show that cannabis holds neither medicinal value nor medical value according to DEA standards. You can read more about the federal scheduling system here

Mass Clemency and Amnesty for Social Equity

Today, over eighteen states have legalized cannabis under state regulated possession thresholds.  With nearly 40,000 Americans who have been incarcerated for nonviolent cannabis offenses the people are pushing for executive powers to grant mass clemency for all non-violent convictions regardless of the legal limits. 


What is mass clemency? 

Leniency or mercy. A power given to a public official, such as a governor or the president, to in some way lower or moderate the harshness of punishment imposed upon a prisoner.
Clemency is considered to be an act of grace. It is based on the policy of fairness, justice, and forgiveness. It is not a right but rather a privilege, and one who is granted clemency does not have the crime forgotten, as in Amnesty, but is forgiven and treated more leniently for the criminal acts.

What is amnesty?

The action of a government by which all persons or certain groups of persons who have committed a criminal offense—usually of a political nature that threatens the sovereignty of the government (such as Sedition or treason)—are granted Immunity from prosecution.
Amnesty allows the government of a nation or state to "forget" criminal acts, usually before prosecution has occurred. 
 

Recently, the governor of Colorado pardoned over 1,300 people convicted of nonviolent cannabis offenses. This has been a long awaited moment since cannabis has become a lucrative industry for people with enough capital to pay for licensure. However, not all nonviolent convictions were pardoned due to the possession threshold, 


“His office declined to pardon those with more than one ounce on their records because that amount violated the existing state law…There was nothing written into the new law that calls for a proactive review of cases that may qualify for clemency given the possession threshold increase.”


Raising the possession threshold is not enough to repair the damage. Reparations must be made through the use of a President’s unilateral power, by way of executive order or decrees, to grant mass clemency for all nonviolent cannabis offenses. 

Understanding Executive Power

What can the Executive Office do to deschedule Cannabis (and other plant medicine)?

Any president is capable of using their executive power at the fullest extent to change the law without waiting on congress,

 “A recently published Congressional Research Service (CRS) report affirmed that the president has it within his power to grant mass pardons for cannabis offenses. It also said that the administration can move to federally legalize cannabis without waiting for lawmakers to act.” 

What is being called for now is to exercise unilateral power instead of waiting on bureaucratic institutions to carry out the changes we’ve been fighting for. 

Decriminalizing cannabis would be a step forward to ending the prohibition on plant medicine. 

 

Liberating Plant Medicine for Social Equity

With the assistance of movements like Decriminalize Nature and organizations like The Last Prisoner Project, we can educate ourselves about ways to promote equity in our communities while fighting for social justice. 

In addition, we must remember that cannabis is still part of the plant community that provides medicinal value within our own endocannabinoid system. We deserve to have access to the health benefits that cannabis offers. 

If you’d like to learn more about the history of cannabis and its influence on communities of color, please check out the film The Grass is Greener

We believe that all plants belong within the symphony of earth medicines and would like to introduce you to one, which we find to be a harmonizing plant relative for the heart and moving forward into our activism, Cacao. 

With every order of The Love Below collection, we are offering a palmful of roasted cacao beans and a love candle.  

Many thanks,

Goddess Breath  

 

Resources: 

  1. https://ministryofhemp.com/hemp/history/
  2. https://ministryofhemp.com/blog/hemp-as-medicine/
  3. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/fixgov/2021/02/24/merrick-garland-cannabis-policy-and-restorative-justice/
  4. https://www.forbes.com/sites/joanoleck/2020/06/26/with-40000-americans-incarcerated-for-marijuana-offenses-the-cannabis-industry-needs-to-step-up-activists-said-this-week/?sh=53732b63c16f
  5. https://www.marijuanamoment.net/colorado-governor-says-new-marijuana-clemency-plan-will-be-announced-within-days/
  6. https://www.dea.gov/drug-information/drug-scheduling
  7. https://www.vox.com/2014/9/25/6842187/drug-schedule-list-marijuana
  8. https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/8/20/17938372/marijuana-legalization-federal-prohibition-drug-scheduling-system
  9. https://www.marijuanamoment.net/biden-has-every-intention-of-using-clemency-power-and-is-looking-at-people-with-drug-convictions-white-house-says/
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