I don’t smoke cannabis.
I did in high school, but much like Coruba and Bernadino (two other things I enjoyed at the time), I realised as I matured that I didn’t like it much.
In 2003 I had chemotherapy to treat a breast cancer diagnosis. After my first treatment I contracted campylobacter and became very unwell; I was admitted to an isolation unit at Auckland hospital. By the time I was discharged I’d lost about 7kg in a week. I felt dreadful, and yet was headed straight into more treatment. My bossy parents moved me out of out of my one bedroom apartment and into their spare room, where I spent the next few weeks binging Buffy The Vampire Slayer on VHS (like Buffy I was different from my peers; burdened with challenges no one else understood) and smoking tiny bits of weed delivered to me by my friend Karen Inderbitzen-Waller.
It’s hard to describe how this made me feel. Rather than making everything go floaty and weird, which is what you might expect, it made everything lucid and normal. Much like how Ritalin speeds up chill people, and chills out those with high energy. The seasickness I was living with subsided, and I could eat and articulate myself beyond the inner turmoil I was living.
That place in time passed, and the few times I’ve smoked pot since then haven’t been great experiences, largely due to its unregulated nature and not knowing the strength of whatever I was dealing with. But what I do love is CBD. This is the non-hallucinogenic part of the cannabis plant; it contains no THC and numerous studies have shown it to be an incredible tool for health and wellbeing. I myself have used it as a natural sleep aid (the best I’ve tried), a balm to rub on my endo-sore tummy, and a tincture to calm me down when feeling stressed.
In more recent times (AKA ye olden days) I’ve been lucky enough to travel to LA, and each visit, I’d take a trip to a MedMen (a cannabis dispensary) and absolutely marvel. Firstly, at the clientele. People from all walks of life and all ages, from the elderly to the infirm and the young and hip. Rows upon rows of edibles, tinctures, vapes, pet products and buds. The buds, tightly furled and cranial looking, all sit under a glass cloche, a bit like artisanal baking at a busy café. Next to them lie iPads outlining the different properties of each strain. In this regulated market you know exactly what you are getting and can opt for strains that are mild with few side effects (such as paranoia etc.).
Here I should point out - I am well aware of the white capitalism of an industry that’s disproportionately discriminated against minority groups and people of colour in the USA. Tech start-up companies raising millions of dollars in venture capitalist funds to repackage shiny ‘wellness’ products to a Goop-esque market (aka me) doesn’t sit right, and after seeing conversations around some of the big US-based companies during the Black Lives Matter protests earlier this year, I will be far more careful about where I spend my money, should I ever return to the States. I will look for those companies that are Black-owned, and/or companies that are heavily invested in giving back to the communities that have been damaged by discrimination.
In Aotearoa, we need to acknowledge the current laws around cannabis use are racist. We also need to protect our Māori farmers and the indigenous lands they serve and ensure they profit from the ensuing fight for the cannabis dollar should this law be passed.
There are many other reasons to vote yes too - Toby Morris has done an excellent piece breaking down the comparison between weed and alcohol.
For me, it’s a no-brainer. Alcohol is a known risk factor for breast cancer and yet I am surrounded by people who drink it freely and carelessly. The benefits of THC and CBD have so much to offer so many. Besides, when has Aunty Helen ever led us astray? Listen to her if you don’t believe me.