When I moved to the U.S. years ago, my first job was as a deckhand on a fishing boat in Alaska. I had to figure a lot of things out fast: how to drive a stick shift, run a crane, sort fish, steer a massive motor vessel. I also had to adjust to American culture, which felt both familiar from a million hours of watching ‘80s sitcoms, and totally foreign at the same time.
I was surprised to learn that my skipper, who was a cool progressive type, was a handgun owner. This was an absolutely alien concept to me. Even the cops didn’t carry guns in the town I grew up in (they were authorized to begin carrying handguns in 1998). Even more surprising to me was why he kept a gun. He didn’t trust the federal government, he said, and he felt the need to keep a gun to protect himself.
What?! I’d never heard of such a thing. My father was a fisheries scientist who worked for the Canadian government. He loathed bureaucrats, and if he’d had his way he would have blown up every hydroelectric dam in the country, but he’d never said anything about needing to arm ourselves against a possible threat from the authorities, let alone the government! The skipper chuckled at my naivete, and gave me a Cliff’s Notes version of the Second Amendment — the beginning of my education in American distrust.
My next stop was Seattle, where I fell in love with a guy who smoked copious amounts of weed, and was a massive conspiracy theorist, mostly for entertainment’s sake. I was fascinated by the wild tales he told me, of the faked moon landing and the New World Order takeover headquartered under the Denver airport. Don’t trust the stories they want you to believe, he’d say, passing the bowl to me. It goes all the way to the top.
Next, I landed in New York City, where I met the High Times family — which is what they were, at the time. Tight-knit and suspicious as fuck of everyone and everything, the fam gave me an education in how fundamentally fucked up the American government is. From inventing the Drug War to control Black people and hippies, to spraying marijuana crops with paraquat, there was no end to the evil the American government was willing to perpetrate on its citizens.
I wasn’t a Pollyanna about it, after that. Weed was a gateway drug for me to see that shit was majorly fucked up, and it was fucked up because of the people in charge, who did not want people to smoke weed and question everything. They wanted people to get hammered and forget it all.
So, I understand why people distrust the government, and why they believe in conspiracies. But in 2023, this shit has gone way too far. A dear friend of mine fell into the WWG1WGA world of QAnon and its sect of “conspirituality,” defined as “a rapidly growing web movement expressing an ideology fuelled by political disillusionment and the popularity of alternative worldviews”. There are plenty of these folks in the cannabis world, some of whom I count as friends. They don’t trust the government, scientists, doctors, or the media. Live and let live, I used to think. You’re doing your thing, and I’m doing mine; just don’t send me YouTube links about Covid being a hoax, and I won’t count on you to vote in the primary. I loved my 5G-Covid-hoaxer conspiracist pal; she loved me; we were cool.
My laissez-faire attitude changed when she ignored troubling health symptoms until it was too late, and died within weeks of her diagnosis. She died because she didn’t believe in Western medicine. If she’d seen a doctor and received a cancer diagnosis earlier, I think she’d still be here. And that fucking pisses me off, because she was young and had a whole lot of life left to live as an awesome person who I loved very much.
When she finally did see a doctor, and was given the news that she didn’t have much time to live, she elected to use juice therapy and cannabis oil as treatment. I know how absolutely fucking miserable chemotherapy is, from watching my sister go through it, and so I totally understood my friend’s choice not to do it, especially since her diagnosis was late-stage.
But there were people who were telling her that she could cure her cancer with cannabis. She asked me if I knew anyone who had done so, and I told her I’d read about thousands of people who have used cannabis to treat cancer symptoms. I told her what I knew about Rick Simpson oil, and how cannabis has been proven to shrink tumors in mice. I told her of all of the incredible people I’ve met and written about who have found relief using medical marijuana. I didn’t tell her it was a cure. Others did.
A few weeks later, another dear friend said to me as we were mourning the news of her death, “I wish she’d fought with both hands.” He meant that her distrust of doctors and Western medicine, together with her belief in conspirituality, had effectively tied one hand behind her back. She lost her fight.
We know that cannabis is medicine. And it’s understandable that some people distrust doctors. But the conspiracy theorists and neo-wellness community need to fuck off when it comes to convincing people to ignore critical diagnoses and modern treatments that could save their lives. Sometimes, you can punch with plant medicine, and knock things out. And sometimes, you have to fight with both hands. Don’t let the conspirituality goons tie one behind your back.