Giving Thanks For Cannabis
In this season, when we’re inclined to be grateful for the people and things that make our lives and the world a better place, we wanted to take a few minutes to give a shout out to some pioneers who have dedicated their lives to making cannabis safe and accessible.
Back in The Day
Back in my college days, I remember overhearing a friend of mine talking on the phone about a biology class assignment and needing a 1×8 in gloss photo and some other strange requests. What she was saying didn’t make any sense, especially since she wasn’t even enrolled in classes! Then, I realized she was talking in code and trying to get an eighth of weed. I’m sure many of you over the age of 35 have similar memories. Not only was talking in code about cannabis common but there was a lot of fear of getting in a LOT of trouble for possessing even small amounts. We’ve come a long way since then!
In the United States, there are only 11 states that haven’t legalized THC containing cannabis either medically, recreationally, or both. Now, that is 11 states too many, but a far cry from the number 50 in which cannabis in all forms was illegal when I was in college. Many of us take for granted the ease with which we can obtain safe, clean, and consistently dosed cannabis products.
The list of cannabis pioneers and activists is long, many of whom resided in California. Below are some folks who may not have received as much of the limelight as some of the more well-known players that we’d like to recognize.
The Godfather of Cannabis
Dr. Raphael Mechoulam is best known for his discovery of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). His work busted the mythology that cannabis is only good for altering consciousness and paved the way for people to understand that it contains a myriad of health benefits. Dr. Mechoulam saw that different cannabinoids work more effectively together than in isolation, which he called the Entourage Effect. Additionally, he and his colleagues also discovered anandamide, an endocannabinoid produced by the human body that activates the CB1 receptor, which is similar in structure to THC, opening up all kinds of discoveries relating to the importance of the endocannabinoid system. Dr. Mechoulam’s work has opened people’s eyes to the science and legitimacy of cannabis as medicine. He lives in Israel, is 91 years old, and continues his invaluable research for the cannabis community to this day.
Mary Jane Rathbun made a lot of noise about the necessity of recognizing cannabis for its medicinal value and was a key player in the passage of Proposition 215. In 1974, she met Dennis Peron (another cannabis activist) who shared a joint with her which introduced her to the world of cannabis. Mary volunteered at San Francisco General Hospital in the 80’s and 90’s where she witnessed the devastation of AIDS/HIV. She made cannabis infused brownies and distributed them to those who were suffering from the debilitating symptoms of AIDS and HIV. At the height of her brownie baking days, she made around 1,500 brownies a month, which she primarily funded from her social security checks and anonymously donated cannabis from local dealers. In her relentless pursuit to help the suffering, she was arrested 3 times. She considered herself a caretaker of the victims of the AIDS epidemic and runaway kids on the streets of San Francisco, and through her actions, made a huge impact on the direction of cannabis legalization.
Dr. Lakisha Jenkins
Dr. Jenkins is a Naturopath, master herbalist, and teacher of endogenous cannabinoid system education who is passionate about cannabis as medicine and the need for cannabis research. Her journey with cannabis began in 2002 when her oldest daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer at age 8. In her pursuit for alternative therapies, she learned about the function and physiology of the endogenous endocannabinoid system and its importance in overall health. She became a Founding Board Member and first elected President of the California Cannabis Industry Association, and she served on the National Cannabis Industry Association Board. Dr. Jenkins is the founder of Jenasis Medical Group, which is a holistic health center that, among many services, offers endocannabinoid consultations. She is a voice of the healing power of not only cannabis, but other medicinal herbs, and sees herself as a bridge between western medicine and “alternative” therapies where she offers a safe and nurturing space for healing.
Where are we headed?
We may have made great strides in the fight for busting negative stereotypes surrounding cannabis and movement towards legalization, but we still have a long way to go in terms of equity. In 2017, 81% of cannabis business owners or founders were white, and a 2020 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, concluded, “Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates.” Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead of us. Keep your eye on Khadijah Adams, co-founder of C.E. Hutton LLC, a Denver financial firm focused on giving minority entrepreneurs resources to succeed in the legal cannabis market. Check out Nina Parks, founder of Gifts of Doja, a women of color created cannabis equity brand, and co-founder of Supernova Women, an Oakland organization that lobbies for equitable cannabis policies. See what Cat Packer, a long-time advocate of cannabis equality and industry diversity has done and will continue to do as California’s first executive director of the Department of Cannabis Regulation.
So, here’s to the folks who have dedicated their lives to making the cannabis space safer and more equitable! Over the holidays, when you’re drinking a canna-cocktail with your favorite Humboldt Apothecary tincture or enjoying a Humboldt Apothecary tablet, let’s cheers to those who have helped make it possible.