by Crystal Sands
My relationship with marijuana goes way back–but probably not as you might think. I’ve been teaching freshman writing in college for 24 years; therefore, for 24 years, I have been reading persuasive essays about why marijuana should be legal.
In the early years of my teaching, I was skeptical of the argument, trained well by our culture to believe in the evils of marijuana. But, as a teacher, I kept pushing my writers. I taught them how to research in scientific journals, and as the scientific research on the medical benefits of marijuana kept coming across my desk, I decided I needed to research this topic more on my own. Soon, I came to understand that there were, indeed, many medical benefits of this plant, and I remember the look of surprise on my students’ faces when I told them I agreed with them about legalizing weed. There’s something fantastic about the look on an 18 year old’s face when they find out they are no longer rebelling against their middle-aged, nerdy professor.
For years, I still never tried marijuana, but then I read Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire; soon after marijuana became legal in Maine. I was 39 years old when I first tried marijuana. After that first evening, I remember saying to my husband, “If everyone did this, the world would be a better place.” I also remember crying because, for the first time in my adult life, my stomach didn’t hurt. I was so used to walking around in pain that I had forgotten what it felt like to not be in pain.
The year following the legalization of marijuana in Maine, the Common Ground Fair, one of the most popular educational agricultural fairs in the country, offered classes on growing marijuana. The classes were offered the next year as well. I wondered if the stigma surrounding marijuana might be going away. After all, if farmers are teaching others how to grow, we must be making progress.
I think that progress has been made clear in recent years. As of November 2020, 35 states have legalized medical marijuana, and 15 states plus D.C. have legalized it for recreational purposes. But there is some stigma still there, I think, and the fact remains that many people, especially people of color, are in prison for possessing marijuana.
It is this injustice and stigma that Danielle Simone Brand addresses beautifully in her new book, Weed Mom. In the book, the author shares her own story with marijuana. Much like me, Brand was skeptical about marijuana but became curious in middle age. In her book, Brand writes about her husband’s struggle with marijuana, which led to her own hesitation with the plant.
But when recreational marijuana became legal in her state, she tried it, and it helped her. Brand begins Weed Mom with a letter to alcohol, a letter explaining why she is breaking up with alcohol in favor of weed. She describes not feeling well after drinking alcohol and shares research pointing to findings that long-term use of alcohol is more damaging to the brain than long-term use of cannabis.
In her introduction, Brand summarizes her book, which is truly a handbook for beginners, who like me, may be trying marijuana for the first time in middle age or, like others, may be revisiting marijuana from their youth and finding things have really changed!
The first chapter focuses on her personal journey with the plant; this chapter of the book is beautifully written and heartfelt, and although I wanted more of her story, I could see this was not the main purpose of her book. Each chapter of the book serves as a clearly-written and easy-to-follow guide on a particular topic. Early chapters explain the science of the plant and the history of how it came be illegal. Until recently, I did not fully understand how much the efforts to make marijuana illegal were fueled by racism. Brand’s chapter on the history of marijuana is really enlightening and emphasizes that this plant has been a part of the human experience for thousands of years. Prohibition of it in the 20th century is truly a “blip,” as Brand describes it.
Brand shares research, discusses issues of safety, and explains everything from flowers and buds to edibles and tinctures. To be clear, her guide focuses on using marijuana safely and legally, and within this discussion, she writes openly and honestly about the benefits and risks of using marijuana while explaining, in detail, the different ways it can be used. In addition to the many medical benefits of marijuana, Brand explores other benefits ranging from improved parenting to improved intimacy with one’s partner to improved connections to nature, always making a powerful case for the benefits of marijuana but never ignoring the risks.
One of my favorite bits of research about the benefits of marijuana is actually not directly related to humans at all–it’s about bees. Because of our modern mono-cropping tendencies, humans have taken away diverse plants that feed bees during critical times of the year. Recent studies from California and Colorado have found that large marijuana farms are feeding the bees during a critical time of the year in late summer and early fall, when bees are in particular need of food. Essentially, our new human fascination with marijuana is helping bees, which, of course, helps humans as well.
I can’t help but wonder if plants may be trying to save us from ourselves. It’s an interesting point to ponder, and there’s a good chance you will be more open to this idea after reading Danielle Simon Brand’s book. In the final pages of Weed Mom, Brand writes, “Over and over, as I interviewed doctors, scientists, policymakers, growers, retailers, and cannabis-loving moms, I heard the same thing: we’ve only just scratched the surface of what this plant can do.”
Weed Mom from Ulysses Press sells for about $15 and is available everywhere.
photo credit: Mountain Tree Studio