There are two popular strains of Canabis: Canabis indica, and Canabis sativa
Canabis indica is a shorter, broader leaf plant known to have high proportions of CBD which gives users a body high. Canabis sativa is a longer, narrower leaf plant with higher proportions of THC which gives users the notorious head high. Hybrids have been created with various proportions of CBD and THC which give the user entirely antagonistic outcomes: CBD relaxing, THC stimulating and sometimes anxiety inducing.
Although studies are conflicting, evidence presented in mammalian studies show that long term use of THC can lower IQ, decrease cognitive abilities such as memory, and alter the chemical reward system of the brain. THC effects brain chemistry by increasing neurotransmitters such as Dopamine, the ‘pleasure’ and ‘well being’ molecule by interfering with the uptake of inhibitors (i.e. Anandamide). This effect is compounded by inhibition of GABA, a molecule that inhibits the production of Dopamine. The end result is an uncontrolled and uninhibited Dopamine surge.
Habitual use of Canabis conditions the brain with a perspective of complacency, that everything is ‘okay,’ as Dopamine signals fire from smaller and smaller stimulus responses. Made famous in the movie the ‘Big Lebowski,’ the ‘Dude’ is character who appears to have succumbed to this brain chemistry complacency trap, as he seeks retribution against a group of criminals after a case of mistaken identity that resulted in damage to a simple hippy rug. This is the evolutionary equivalent of releasing a golden retriever back into the wild to reintegrate with a pack of wolves to ask for his favorite chew toy back. The wolves brain chemistry is sharpened for survival in harsh conditions whereas the golden retriever was bred to be happy and complacent. It is clearly an unfair fight, but the movie is comedy gold, purely for its parody of materialism – the ultimate conclusion of which is insatiability, and greed – pornographers and millionaires be damned!
In the 60’s, Canabis played prominence in the coming of age counter-culture as the ‘Boomer’ generation sought to distance themselves from the consensus and conformity driven ‘Great Generation.’ Canabis was the social elixer that enabled perspective change as users let go of the square and perfect suburban lifestyle as portrayed by the Cleaver family in the sit-com ‘Leave it to Beaver.’
Critical to the transmission of that cultural experience was music, as bands experimented with the use of Canabis. Examples include: Tom Petty “Last Dance with Mary Jane“, Bob Dylan “New Morning,” Steve Miller Band “The Joker,” Jimmy Hendrix “Purple Haze,” Steppenwolf, “Don’t Step on the Grass, Sam,” Neil Young, “Roll Another One (For the Road).” Joe Cocker, “With a little help from my friends.“
Bob Marley was the largest icon and proponent of Canabis, and also its greatest tragedy. Two days before he was to perform a free concert Marley was targeted in a shooting at his home on December 3rd 1976 by unidentified gunmen. The shooting was believed to be politically motivated, but that did not deter Marley’s conviction. Before performing the concert, Marley was quoted as saying “The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off, how can I?” Marley died five years later in May 1981, after he refused treatment for a treatable malignant melanoma found on his toe in 1977.
Today as we inch closer and closer to legalization of Canabis at the federal level, the push is coming within and against the medical community as its proponents highlight the benefits of CBD for inflammation and pain management. It is controversial, and possibly paradigm changing. This is all within context of the broader pressures pushed on the modern medical community today with COVID-19.
Humans are innately resistant to change. We are creatures of habit; and Canabis, used to stimulate change by making the pain of change more manageable, is finding its way into an oligarchical and monopolistic system in need of change. Canabis is not necessarily the change we need – it is the metaphor, and a sign the door has been opened.
I should warn I am not entirely optimistic. During the prohibition (1920 – 1933), there was a significant rise in organized crime in the United States as drinking appetites made the average consumer a felon. The overall acceptance of crime due to its routine occurrence, led to the popularity of crime culture: Bonny and Clyde a famous example. Legalization of Canabis, however, is slowly having the opposite effect. As mass decriminalization moves across the United States there is a subtle shift in cultural norms. Music is less anti-government and anti-police, which will increase social acceptance of centralization. This is both good and bad. There needs to be dissenting opinions to make healthy debates. Social complacency could yield a political landscape in the future that is significantly more apathetic to history as it unfolds.
Between the conflict of materialism and spiritualism, between organized crime and the ‘Dude’, there is timeless struggle which influenced Led Zeppelin’s greatest achievement: Stairway to Heaven.
“There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to Heaven
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
There’s a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook
There’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiving
Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder”
“Hey, if you’re not doing anything later, why don’t you join us at nine o’clock on the ninth green. Oh and Happy, dress nice.” –
– Shooter McGavin