"Seek out the company of those who are searching for the truth, but doubt those who claim to have found it!"

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Marijuana and the Word of Wisdom - an LDS Perspective

“And again, verily I say unto you, all wholesome aherbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature, and use of man—Every herb in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with aprudence and bthanksgiving.”
Doctrine & Covenants 89:10-11

It’s 3:27am where I am, as I sit down to write this.  I haven’t yet fallen asleep, and have my doubts that I will.  You see, I’m sitting here thinking about Marijuana.  Not because I have some bizarre infatuation with what some affectionately call the “holy herb,” but rather because I’m beginning to wonder if it is indeed an/the “holy herb.”  For those of you who’ve been here before – and I acknowledge that my writing is much more for my benefit than for others – you’ll recognize that I write from the viewpoint of someone stuck in a strange world.  I practice the modern idolatry of belonging to a church.  Not just any church, mind you, but one mired in a mirage like “cult of personality”.  I say mirage like if only because on the inside that cult of personality cannot be seen for what it is.  Only upon waking up from our idolatry does any of this begin to make any sense.

Layers Upon Layers

It is as if the Lord is smiling down on us, amused at our ignorance.  Even when we think we’re on to something, it’s likely only another layer to a deeply philosophical paradigm which we scarcely begin to understand.  We’re too busy crying from the burning of our eyes as those layers get peeled back, and so we plod along in our ignorance until the Lord allows us to peel another layer back.  And so on.  And so on.  Little by little, clarity comes.

It is within that strange bemusing context that I write this, not really sure how it will turn out and fully acknowledging, at the outset, that this may be one terrible crash landing when it’s all said and done.

Ozzy Osbourne

My introduction with marijuana came sometime around my 17th or 18th year on this planet, or at least that’s the one time I remember it.  I grew up in a middle sized Midwestern town, not unlike most of them I’d surmise, where the height of excitement on a Friday or Saturday night was either hitting up the local main drag and cruising for girls, or hanging out at the bowling alley.  By the time I was a junior and senior in high school, the majority of my friends were drinking and smoking on a regular basis or at least on the weekends, and pretty heavily at that.

All the while, I stayed mostly aloof from their retreats to either the bottle or the smokestack, but was nevertheless cognizant of their weekend endeavors.  Though I never partook either one of those things during my high school years (or since for that matter), I was around it pretty regularly.  Regularly enough to acquaint myself with the smells of these intoxicating substances.

Those things, with my group of friends, were natural lead ins, I would guess, into this marijuana business.  Though I don’t specifically remember them experimenting with the holy herb, I’m fairly certain they did.  For that matter, most people in my high school probably did.  Later, during the summer between my junior and senior years, I thought it would be cool (don’t ask me why) to go to an Ozzy Osbourne concert, with Filter also there.  It was an outdoor concert where, I was certain, I could have a good time.  I’m largely blessed with a high degree of naiveté, never realizing the situations I find myself in until way after the fact.  Such was the case with Ozzy and Filter.  The first question that comes to mind is, “What in the heck was a teenager doing at an event attended mostly be middle-aged men and women, long since sober, revisiting their teenage years at the Ozzy concert?”  And that wouldn’t be the last question of that ilk, were one to psychoanalyze the situation to its profound, or not so, depths.  To each question, I would fail to have an adequate response.  Such is the nature of my naivete, or so I call it.

Those were some of my better days, I must admit – head banging to a mostly indecipherably man in his 90s, or what seemed like it in concert, was the supposed epitome of excitement.   My friend, who went with me, and I were likely the odd couple of the crowd – two mormon teenagers head banging to Ozzy, as we sported sleeveless t-shirts, in a crowd comprised almost entirely of men and women old enough to be our parents, if not worse.  And, to make matters worse, we paid to be there.

It was there, in the midst of all these middle aged men and women, that I had my first memory with the holy herb – at least the first one I can seem to recall clearly enough to describe here.  I must state that I didn’t smoke any, nor did my friend, but I distinctly remember that smell wafting up from a row or two in front of us.  To all who’ve either tried it, or have known someone who has tried it, or been around it, the smell is unique to the entire world and impossible to miss diagnose, or so I think.  I may be wrong on this front, given the paucity of my understanding on the subject.  This experience alone would lead me to believe I’d smelt it somewhere else previously, by my other gift (besides my naïveté), would be my ability to forget nearly everything that has happened in my life, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I have trouble remembering the first time I came across the holy herb.  Nevertheless, it was there amidst those who would counsel me on the dangers of such pastimes in any other situation, that I first remember smelling that sweet odor.

Maybe, in retrospect, the second hand smoke of the holy herb is what made the Ozzy concert more tolerable to both myself and everyone else in attendance, because I’m not sure how I made it through those shrill screams back then, but alas such is the joy of youth (and middle age for that matter).

What a Pervert!

From that time until now, a span of nearly 15 years or so, I can’t say I remember having that scent cross my olfactory senses but maybe one or two more times, if that.  It is simply something you don’t come across unless you run in certain groups, and I can’t say I run in those groups.  Like my previous encounter, I haven’t been found attending various outdoor concerts, or any concert for that matter in almost 10 years, so it may simply be that I’m limiting the circles of influence unwittingly.  Whatever the cause, it simply isn’t a smell that one encounters too frequently.

Then, a decision made over a few minutes of reflection once again thrust that sweet smelling herb into my mind.  A couple of weeks back I found myself getting ready to head out a long road trip.  Ever the one in need of intriguing books to keep me awake in the middle of the night as I drive across the wide open expanses of America, I turned to the local library to find a good audiobook or two.  Quite by chance, I picked a rather inauspicious book entitled, Botany of Desire, authored by Michael Pollan.  I’ve held some interest in gardening since my time in Vermont a few years back and noting that the book was about plants, a mild interest seemed to percolate within me.  Turning over the cover to the audiobook I found myself reading of the same interests – namely, plants, gardening and their effect in our world.  So, with some reluctance, I headed for the checkout.  I’m not entirely sure of the reluctance I felt in taking that copy to the checkout register, but there was some reluctance inside of me to even hold it in my hands.  Some may say it was the “good” spirit telling me to put it back, while others might suggest that it was the “bad” spirit trying to dissuade me from finding truth in the most unlikely of locations.  Only then did I realize a second reluctance – that of checking out a book with “desire” in the title.  A title which brought me a small degree of embarrassment as I approached the register.  Not entirely sure of the reasons, other than the dubious title, I sheepishly headed for the door all the while thinking that the young lady who had just looked at the title of the book in checking it out was probably thinking, “What a pervert!”

Perhaps not, but such were the games my mind was playing on me that day.  Not only was I questioning the selection of the book in the first place – not sure if it were going to be something I’d really find interesting listening at 3am in the middle of Nebraska – but I was also questioning the title and what others would think of me in having such a title in my hands.  Yes, I fight that idolatrous beast day in and day out, always conscious of others thoughts no matter how idolatrous those thoughts are.  Having the word of “desire” in any title brings up some rather interesting thoughts for a man, especially parading the book around in a library and making the conscious decision to check it out, but that’s a story for another day and another time.
Some 3,000 miles, and one full month, later, the book still sat unopened in my center console.  By this time, I had finished listening to no less than 6 audiobooks.   Only upon several reminders from my wife to return the book because it was long since overdue did I throw it in my CD player as I headed to Iowa to pick up an old military trailer.  I figured it was now or never, and mostly my reluctance to listen to it was suggesting never was the better option.

So, with no small amount of reluctance, I popped the first CD into my player, and the journey began.

The Good Stuff

I was more than reticent to actually listen to the book.  By the time the book was finished, it was more than 2 weeks overdue.  In reality, I only relented (to listen to it, that is) because I felt guilty about having it so long and not taking the time to listen to it.  So, on this short side trip to Iowa, I blithely slip into my seat and began the journey that may forever alter my existence here on earth.  Never one for hyperbole (ironic, isn’t it), this statement may indeed be true.

The book began with a long and interesting story on John Chapman, perhaps better known as Johnny Appleseed.  Then, this story was followed by an equally compelling story on the Tulip stock market which brought the Dutch economy to its knees in the 1700s (to say nothing of the nuances in all the Tulip varieties which were altogether over my head).  I learned that Johnny Appleseed wasn’t planting trees to give the local kids a good source of Christianity and apples with a healthy dose of Vitamin C.  No, he was planting trees to help establish solid orchards in the expanding frontier of the United States whereby the local purveyors of hard cider and apple jack might have an adequate supply stock.  So began the book.  Good, to be sure, but not the kind of stuff that keeps a man awake through the night.  By the time I had arrived at my destination in Iowa I had just come to the end of the discussion on Tulips and mankind’s desire for beauty (hence the cultivation of the tulip and entire economies devoted to futures contracts of a flower).

Then, finally, on my way back from Iowa the 3rd (of 4) chapter began to play through my speakers.  I wasn’t totally prepared for this chapter, though I knew the book was to speak on it.  That, I suppose, is also due to my forgetful nature.   This time, however, the discussion was neither on apples and Johnny Appleseed, nor on Tulips, but rather on intoxication.  Not intoxication in the form of inebriating beverages, but rather our human search for substances which alter the consciousness which rules our world, intoxication in the form of the great holy herb, or cannabis sativa.

The Gospel Gestapo

Being raised in a Mormon household, with an active, faithful Mormon lineage stretching back several generations, my thoughts are more than influenced through a paradigm heavily tilted to the side of Mormanity.  This is no different than any other person, in reality, as we’re all influenced through various paradigms our parents instill in us.  Like some sort of invisible surgery, our perceptions, realities and thought processes are almost invariably influenced by those entrusted to parent us.

Mostly, this comes out good, as is my case.  Though, in spite of the goodness, there is nevertheless a distinctly dogmatic paradigm through which Mormonism operates these days.  This is due to many factors, but mostly due to the desire to control and correlate the membership.  Any organization of any size instills a certain degree of correlation and control on its membership, and should be expected.  Such is the case today inside Mormonism.  More and more, members are encouraged to believe one set of principles, one set of ideas and one set of thoughts.  This creates the culture of conformity many see inside Mormonism, but also one of unanimity.

It is this box from which I am laboring to extricate myself these days.  Not that the box is inherently bad, but rather I find that the more I read and experience, the more I see a dogmatic box which serves as a limit and control on anyone inside of it.  All one has to do to see this control is walk into any Latter-day Saint meeting and suggest that we should trust our personal revelation, even when (especially when) it contradicts the hierarchy of leaders.  Members cling with increasing vigor to the “church” at the expense of everything else.  This appears to have been the result of the correlation of doctrine within the church, a misguided (if I may) approach to develop unity within the church.  Instead of striving to develop a unity of purpose, we see a striving to develop a unity of doctrine.

Back in the day there is ample evidence to suggest that the early saints were far less concerned about doctrinal differences then we are today.  The next time you bring up a doctrinal difference in your next church meeting, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see a mini-fight break up to quell the perceived rebellion.  Instead of championing the discussion and divergent ideas, the current status quo within the church champions uniformity of thought and belief.  Some view this as good.  Me?  Not so much.  This idea has only recently come to me, though it’s been something I’ve been trying to define in my own life.  I’ve been trying to recognize my role, today, with my varying thought processes when juxtaposed with the official party line.  Like the Greeks of old are fond of saying, the truth lies in the middle somewhere.  On the one end, we have the doctrinal police and the Gospel Gestapo.  On the other, we should have far more people actively reconciling their thoughts and beliefs with the divine.  Though truth is universal, it is also uniquely individual.

Wholesome Herbs

This all serves as a mere prelude – placed out of sequence – to my discussion on the Holy Herb.  The vast majority of Americans, I would surmise, serve as the Dogmatic Police with regards to the Holy Herb.  Inside the church, the Gospel Gestapo play a similar, albeit more authoritarian role.  In the world of religion, authoritarians often use the threat of salvation and damnation to corral rebels and squash dissent.  Such is the scene currently in play before our eyes.

Were I to mention, tomorrow in church, that I think we should all be partaking some Holy Herb on a regular basis, there’s no doubt I’d be reported to “higher” authorities, a misnomer if there ever were one, but that’s neither here nor there, at least not yet.  Nevertheless, that seems to be the view found in Pollan’s write-up on Cannibis, and who is to say he isn’t right.  I certainly was left a little dumbfounded listening to him discuss the natural history of the cannibis sativa plant, and mankind’s search for altered consciousness, but in a very good way.

The scriptures abound with references to God’s creations and suggest that man has dominion over them all, to do as he sees fit.  That’s not a recommendation to waste and pillage, but rather to use with prudence (see D&C 59:20).   The numerous creation accounts all reference the purposes for the myriad creations (see Genesis 1, Moses 2, Abraham 4, etc), but more specifically – especially as it relates to this write-up – the use of herbs.

Adam is told to eat “the herb of the field;” Moses is told to “eat every herb of the land;” Adam is told the “green herb have I given you for all things;” Job speaks longingly of herbs; the Psalms reference herbs as being “for the service of man;”  Isaiah speaks of herbs numerous times, even stating how bones “shall flourish like an herb;” the Book of Hebrews even suggests that the earth brings forth “herbs meet for them by whom [the earth] is dressed;” D&C 59 references how herbs are for our use; the Book of Moses states how “every herb” was created by the Lord, in the context of spiritual and natural creations; and, D&C 89 reminds us that “all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the constitution, nature and use of man … .”  These are some of the many references to “herbs” in scripture, and only give a glimpse of the possible meaning behind their numerous recommendations.

Indeed, the founding father’s, who the LDS church views as pious and saintly and virtually beyond reproach, were well acquainted with the “holy herb.”  Some of them had hemp plantations with thousands of acres of hemp.  Though I have found no hard evidence that they enjoyed the recreational uses of the “holy herb”, there are subtle indications that they were acquainted with its other uses (other then for cloth, rope, sails, paper, etc.).  In one instance, George Washington, as Harvey Wasserman wrote, “[Washington] regrets being late to separate his male hemp plants from his females. For a master farmer like George, there would be little reason to do this except to make the females ripe for smoking.”  The instance of the founding fathers is only to suggest that our modern interpretation of something being a “drug,” and it’s resulting effects on our spirituality, may be entirely misplaced and extremely misguided.

In fact, of note, is the idea that Wilford Woodruff once performed the temple work for the founding fathers and signers of the Declaration of Independence as these men “waited on [him] for two days and two nights.”  Some will be quick to point out that these ordinances have nothing to do with marijuana or this discussion – and they’d be right – but that’s not the point I’m getting at.  What I am suggesting is that our interpretation of good/bad may be entirely erroneous.  I’m persuaded, mostly, that many of the founding fathers – Washington, Jefferson, etc., – must have known of the recreational uses of the holy herb, being farmers and gardeners.  The advantages of the hemp/marijuana seed have been known through antiquity, going back thousands of years.  And yet, today, we believe (largely) that we’d be fit for hell (or worse) if we use the holy herb or partake of it, and it all largely has to do with public and governmental perception.   I really do doubt that there is any eternal punishment affixed to what plants we use/don’t use in our diets, especially after what I found in researching this issue a little further.  Mormons today believe that such an act as ingesting (in any form) such a drug is inherently wrong and evil, but only because it’s been classified as something by the government and society.  What’s interesting, in contrast, is that Mormons (up until the late 1800s) couldn’t have cared less about public perception or the way the government classified this or that.  Now, instead, we’ve been relegated to a group of people content on focus groups, questionnaires and polling to tell which way the wind is blowing.  Now, instead, we’ve become nothing short of “yes men” to those authorities.
Moving on with respect to this topic, and in context of this write-up, one simply must question whether something like the “Holy Herb” is an herb at all and not some noxious weed or thistle meant to torment man.  That is a most useful and pertinent question.

Definitions Defined

Some of you may be familiar, but most likely not, with the work being done over at The Chronicle Project where they are trying to get back to the heart of the Hebrew language as contained in the scriptures.  Hebrew, in their view, is a self-correcting system which we’ve managed to screw up over the years.  In our screwing up of the Hebrew language, we’ve lost – either on purpose or not – the original meaning of the scriptures.  It shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone that there are those who would “transfigure the word of God” to meet their belief systems.  Of note, Mormons are as guilty of “transfiguring” the word of God as they/we claim others are.  For an admirable article and write-up on this, go here.  After all, it surely must be easier to change a few words or definitions then it would be to change the way you live your life and what you believe.  Scriptures are funny that way, it seems.

In their “reworking” of the original verse of Genesis where the grasses and herbs are discussed, the original words appear to be, “Proceed new growth, the Earth.  New growth, young shoots, that to seed… .”  This would mean, in other words, that the original Hebrew was rendered, “grasses, and a number of other words, the word is a description of all fresh growth or herbage found in a pasture or wild field … .”  According to Strong’s Concordance, their take on the Hebrew derivation of “herb” is just that, “herb, herbage, grass, green plants.”  The word “wholesome” only occurs two times in both the Old and New Testaments, combined.  Each definition, according to Strong’s, suggests that which is “health, healing, cure.”
The 1828 Webster’s Dictionary – a useful tool in trying to understand the wording used primarily around the time of the Restoration of the LDS church – describes “herb” as, “a plant or vegetable with a soft or succulent stalk or stem, which dies to the root every year, and is thus distinguished from a tree and a shrub, which have ligneous or hard woody stems.”  This same dictionary defines “wholesome” as, “tending to promote health; favoring health; salubrious; as wholesome air or diet; a wholesome climate.”

Taking some literary freedom – it is my write-up after all – I would assimilate those words as meaning:  “a plant or vegetable (which dies to the root every year) which promotes health.”  Wow.  That was complicated.  Therefore, according to D&C 89:10, “all wholesome herbs” are ordained of God for the “constitution, nature and use of man…”  Or, in other words, “all plants or vegetables which promote health are ordained of God for the constitution, nature and use of man.”


From a scriptural standpoint, the Holy Herb only need be found “wholesome” to be ordained of God.  Simple enough, right?  Wrong.  At least in today’s bizarre world where bad is good and good is bad.  We’d rather ordain pesticide riddled crops or sugar laced drinks as “wholesome” than we would an herb which has attracted the ire of the drug war.  Rather than launch into a diatribe on the drug war we see bandied about in schools and publications across the nation, I think it best to focus on whether or not the “holy herb” can be deemed wholesome the way used back in 1828 and elsewhere.  And, for all intents and purposes, the answer appears to be a resounding yes.

Though I had to meander through the equivalent situation as checking out a book with “desire” in the title in order to find the benefits of the Holy Herb, I nevertheless found many.  Why, as I digress, should I feel ashamed to research a topic – in this case, the benefits of marijuana – in the comfort of my home, away from the peering eyes of anyone else?  It’s not as if I have to check a book out, or buy something in the store, and yet, for some reason, there’s a sense of uneasiness about merely researching a topic.  Odd as it may be, I think the answer is also found in my reluctance to pick the book off the shelf at the local library to begin with – that of deciding whether or not I was ready (or wanted) to see truth in an area of life I wasn’t thinking of.
In thus researching this topic, I have found more than a few benefits.  Below are merely a few of those suggested benefits:
  1. “When the system is hyper-aroused, as in today’s lifestyle, marijuana calms. The significance of this fact cannot be ignored. It explains the increased creativity reported as a part of the marijuana experience, because when both sides of brain processes are heightened, both types of brain activity are greater. The left brain notices more, while the right brain receives more. This is the unification of logic and intuition. The term “expansion of consciousness” is explained physiologically as a “shifting of brain emphasis from one-sidedness to balance” (Sugarmena and Tarter, 1978), which fits precisely with the feeling called “high.” (p. 35)
  2. “When we ingest marijuana, the heart swells through capillary enhancement and is fueled more by more fully oxygenated blood, while, at the same time, its contractions and expansions are greater, allowing for stronger pumping action to the rest of the body (p. 37)
  3. “The marijuana experience itself does not miraculously cure. Instead, it allows the body a respite from the tensions of imbalance, while exposing the mental confusion of the mind. The marijuana experience of balance becomes a learned and, over time, somewhat permanent response as the essential human tendency to homeostasis is reawakened and the natural healing process restored.” (p. 49)
  4. “In a Costa Rican study, it was found that chronic marijuana smokers who also smoked cigarettes were less likely to develop cancer than cigarette smokers who didn’t use marijuana. Since marijuana (smoking, as well as ingestion by other methods) dilates the alveoli, toxins are more easily eliminated with cannabis use regardless of its method of application. … As an aid for all psychosomatic disease, marijuana can benefit the participant, generally because of its health-restoring effects… The fear of marijuana… stems from its limitless potential for treating illness, in that both the pharmaceutical industry and the medical monopoly would lose billions of dollars if marijuana became the non-drug of choice.” (p. 61)
  5. “With the expansiveness that occurs with marijuana, the subject may begin to notice infinite possibilities to raise the quality of his/her life that would otherwise have remained hidden from normal, defensive consciousness. And feelings of health and happiness naturally lead to hope, which of itself can be curative.” (p. 49)
  6. “Marijuana can act as the loosening agent, so that whatever has been banned from consciousness may come cascading forth. To uncover our deceptions without our usual rationalizations can be unpleasant, an experience that has turned many psychologically fragile individuals away from marijuana despite its therapeutic catharsis.” (p. 50)
  7. “To ascend the ladder of consciousness, human beings need as much help as they can get. Levels of consciousness above concerns of personal survival and power are neither necessary for human life, nor visible from ordinary states. Because these higher degrees of awareness threaten the power structure, all paths to them are often outlawed. If we are not taught by some older, wiser person that deep and timeless perceptions really exist (or unless we ourselves fortuitously catch a glimpse of these subjective realities), we remain ignorant of their existence and are easily molded into the lower social goals of materialism, competition, and power. This less enlightened state is expressed by a constant gnawing dissatisfaction. It is the dimension of perennial desire. With each fulfillment of a goal /need / want, another void erupts. In Buddhism, it is the realm of nightmarish, insatiable hunger, which cannot be resolved unless or until the being attains to a less self-centered level. Deep within each of us, an essential need for a higher meaning of life waits to be awakened. Because of its ability to unlock this yearning and allow us a glimpse of the deeper reality, marijuana is feared by the establishment and loved by the user. (p. 66)”
  8. “Marijuana, by its effect on the Automatic Nervous System, enhances both sides of the brain. Through increased Sympathetic action, left brain perception is heightened, while, at the same time, right brain reception is enhanced. This is a physiological fact. More blood, and cleaner blood, is sent to the brain, as in the “fight or flight” reaction. And because of Parasympathetic dilation of capillaries, which signifies relaxation, the blood supply to the entire brain is increased. More blood means more oxygen and consequently clearer and broader thinking. Since marijuana works on both sides of the brain, the most noticeable effect, in our fast-paced mind set, is one of slowing down, which blends the thrusting competitive attitude with the contrasting viewpoint of nurturance to arrive at a more cooperative balance. This experience is, however, not innate to marijuana, but to the mental set of the subject. When we are mellow, tired, and relaxed, marijuana is energizing and affords alertness, determination, and even strength. This variation in the physiological effects has caused great confusion from an either/or framework. And the balancing nature of marijuana (both/and) has not been understood. It both stimulates and relaxes, simultaneously, which equates to an unpredictable variation in effect that is solely dependent on the state of its subject. When the system is sluggish, as with natives in warm climates (Africa, India, South America), marijuana has been used extensively and for centuries to energize it…” (Chopra and Chopra, p. 3)
  9. Marijuana is psychoactive because it stimulates certain brain receptors, but it does not produce toxins that kill them (like alcohol) … . There is no evidence that marijuana use causes brain damage. Studies performed on actual human populations will confirm these results, even for chronic marijuana users (up to 18 joints per day) after many years of use.  In fact, following the publication of two 1977 JAMA studies, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially announced its support for the decriminalization of marijuana.  … Marijuana has the effect of slightly increasing alpha-wave activity in your brain. Alpha waves are … associated with meditative and relaxed states, which are … often associated with human creativity.”
  10. “The term “drug” connotes the concentration of substance to its most powerful form, but marijuana is unprocessed, dried vegetation from a strong smelling annual herb called cannabis.  It maintains its natural complex chemistry of both active and inactive compounds rather than concentration of a single compound. …  The main problem with drugs is their danger, since all drugs are defined as poisonous, depending upon dose, which means overdose can cause death.  … Marijuana has no known level of toxicity.  The amount needed to produce a lethal reaction has been estimated at from eating five pounds at one time, to smoking 40,000 joints in one day, far beyond any physical possibility.  … It does not kill people in overdose or produce other symptoms of obvious toxicity.” (Joan Bello, The Benefits of Marijuana.  Pages 21-22.)
Carl Sagan, of all people, described some of the benefits in an essay he wrote under the presumed name of “Mr. X.”  Only after his death did Dr. Lester Grinspoon publish the piece and reveal the identity of the previously unknown author.  His account is as follows:
I can remember the night that I suddenly realized what it was like to be crazy, or nights when my feelings and perceptions were of a religious nature. I had a very accurate sense that these feelings and perceptions, written down casually, would not stand the usual critical scrutiny that is my stock in trade as a scientist. If I find in the morning a message from myself the night before informing me that there is a world around us which we barely sense, or that we can become one with the universe, or even that certain politicians are desperately frightened men, I may tend to disbelieve; but when I’m high I know about this disbelief. And so I have a tape in which I exhort myself to take such remarks seriously. I say ‘Listen closely, you sonofabitch of the morning! This stuff is real!’ I try to show that my mind is working clearly; I recall the name of a high school acquaintance I have not thought of in thirty years; I describe the color, typography, and format of a book in another room and these memories do pass critical scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that there are genuine and valid levels of perception available with cannabis … which are, through the defects of our society and our educational system, unavailable to us without such drugs. Such a remark applies not only to self-awareness and to intellectual pursuits, but also to perceptions of real people, a vastly enhanced sensitivity to facial expression, intonations, and choice of words which sometimes yields a rapport so close it’s as if two people are reading each other’s minds.
Like others, Sagan discusses that such highs are available through other means (Pollan suggests that such highs are also available through fasting and meditation, and elsewhere), but because of the “defects” of our society and educational system they become inactivated and much more difficult to attain through these other means.  In his book, Pollan discusses how the “natural history” of such mind altering plants to be the “gateway” to a higher consciousness and that many of the historical giants we view as “spiritual leaders” were not discussing mere imagination and visions, but rather the results of “highs.”  Whether this is true or not is left for the reader to decide and peruse in their own studies, but certainly the topic is compelling.

Perhaps, with the word of wisdom, the Lord was providing a simple method whereby we could elevate our consciousness in spite of the poor diet of the modern society and the defects in intellect which find root in our educational systems we are so quick to throw our kids into at the tender age of 4 or 5.  Perhaps, instead of being a drug from which we should run, it was meant to be a “wholesome herb” to which we should turn.

Though I may have lost some of you in all that talk, I feel it necessary to discuss these benefits.  What I see from the above information is the epitome of a “wholesome herb.”  There are, from what I could gather, a pile of other benefits.  Somehow – which is way beyond the scope of this article – we’ve come out with a misguided understanding of an herb which grows annually and which has numerous restorative and health-promoting qualities, the essence of what a “wholesome herb” is.


I’d be mistaken not to discuss potential dangers when discussing such a topic, though I must confess that the “evidence” of alleged dangers was far from convincing.  Some sources suggest that marijuana is the “root of many mental disorders,” such as panic attacks, delusions, depersonalization, paranoia, etc., while others suggest it is a “gateway drug,” and responsible for “loss of motivation, increased heart rate and diminished inhibitions.”

If you know me, I’m generally disposed to believe alternative websites much more than “establishment” information channels.  So with that in mind, I went searching some of these alternative sites to see if they had anything good, or bad, to say about the Holy Herb.  Mercola.com was mostly against marijuana, at least in its smoked form, while Natural News had a number of favorable articles on the subject.

Of those articles favorable to the subject, NN made this keen insight:  “Transcending political controversy and stigma surrounding the subject, the second largest physician group in the country [American College of Physicians] has endorsed the use, reclassification, and further study of medicinal marijuana…”  Also in this article, it discusses one of the common “dangers” of the herb by stating:
To date, the most serious argument for potential damage done by cannabis is harm to the lungs caused by smoking. The paper notes that this problem has already been overcome by a technology known as vaporization, in which the active constituents are efficiently released into the lungs without burning the plant.

Another myth dispelled by the paper is that marijuana acts as a ‘gateway drug,’ leading to the use of more harmful substances. “Marijuana has not been proven to be the cause or even the most significant predictor of serious drug abuse. Opiates are highly addictive, yet medically effective … There is no evidence to suggest that medical use of opiates has increased perception that their illicit use is safe or acceptable,” the group [American College of Physicians] states.

The paper also cites significant evidence that cannabis relieves the nausea, vomiting and wasting that accompany cancer, AIDS and other diseases, while lessening the pain associated with multiple sclerosis and many other conditions.
The paper, as written by the American College of Physicians, can be found by clicking here.  Elsewhere in various pieces of literature, the supposed anxiety, paranoia and other effects of plants have been noted to be the result moreso of the set and setting related to the drug (i.e. the time, place and culture in which the marijuana is consumed; some have noted that the set and setting is more important than anything else.  For example, if one were to partake of marijuana in a context of fear of the authorities (i.e. getting caught), then the user is much more likely to experience anxiety and paranoia).  This is admirably discussed in Pollan’s book (see page 151-152 for a more in depth discussion).  This is no different than any spiritual encounter, if one could call a “high” a spiritual experience.  Set and setting are as important as anything else.

How Did [we] Get Here?

One of my absolute favorite songs happens to have had its birth in the 1980s.  Not one for 1980s music, mind you, this one song is the exception to that rule.  That song, entitled, Once in a Lifetime and performed by the Talking Heads (who were probably high on something during many of their recordings), contains some lyrics which epitomize not only this issue, but life in general.  Here are those lyrics:
You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack,
You may find yourself in another part of the world,
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile,
You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife,
You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

You may ask yourself, what is that beautiful house?
You may ask yourself, where does that highway lead?
You may ask yourself, am I right, am I wrong?
You may say to yourself, my God, what have I done?
Those words come to me as I write this.  “My God, what have [we] done?”  The more I peel back the layers of this onion called life, the more I realize how deep the rabbit hole goes.  Yes, I just used two metaphors in the same sentence, and the meaning they provide is a propos.  Though I shouldn’t be surprised with what I find as God allows layers of the onion to be peeled back, the level of deception our world has reached is likely beyond compare.

I could choose (and probably should) to pontificate on the reasons why the rabbit hole is so deep and why there is deception at every turn of the road, but I think no reason is more clear than a simple scripture which is found in no other place than D&C 89.  That scripture reads, “In consequence of aevils and designs which do and will exist in the hearts of bconspiring men in the last days, I have cwarned you, and forewarn you, by giving unto you this word of wisdom by revelation— …”

Some of you reading this may think I’m crazy for suggesting that the drug war on marijuana is thanks to conspiring men.  If so, so be it.  Here I have laid out what I believe to be a mere tip of an iceberg discussing the benefits of a “wholesome herb,” and yet arrests for marijuana – for the mere possession – represent the vast majority of drug related offenses.  According to some sources, between 30% and 40% of the nationwide prison population comprises people arrested for “victimless” crimes, such as possession of marijuana.  Regardless of the end result, one must wonder why this particular herb is the source of so much ire from the bureaucrats who have staked their careers on its criminalization.

Doctrinal Police

So, how would this information play out amongst the Gospel Gestapo?  Most likely, it’d be like mud wrestling a 500# alligator, or trying to outrun a hungry lion when you’re as slow as a sloth.  In an age where doctrinal differences are tantamount to apostasy, odds are the outlier will be rejected, and in record time.  Especially in this instance.  While we could debate the purpose or goals of correlation, the end result is a quashing of divergent ideas.  In today’s context, one can profess their belief that the “holy herb” qualifies as a “wholesome herb” and, as such, is ordained by God, but it could have interesting consequences.

Some authors have addressed this topic (not the “holy herb,” but rather the doctrinal police) in the conversation of movements versus institutions, or peoplehood versus religion, and quite convincingly I might add.  Interestingly, the internet has a divergent set of opinions on the issue, at least as it relates to medical marijuana within the Mormon community.  Many simply fall back on the “legality” or “illegality” issue – stating that if it’s illegal, then we follow what the government says.  While others fall back and merely rely on what the “brethren” say about the topic (thereby relying solely on the office as a means for the authority of the statement, and not the truthfulness of the statement itself), or what this or that Ensign article stated, and some used logic to prove/disprove the idea.  I’m more easily swayed by the latter types, as that seems to fit D&C 121’s call for “persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned…” as a way to work out differences, and not by “power” or “influence” (appealing to what the “Brethren” have stated), and as such would recommend you seek those sources out if interested in a further discussion.
As an interesting aside, James E. Talmage (of Jesus the Christ fame) once took Cannibis Sativa over a several week period as a way to test its effects on the human system (for scientific purposes).  Here is what he stated in his journal:
March 22. This being Saturday, was the day I selected to study practically the effects of Haschisch. This evening, after work and all was over, I took at 3 doses each an hour after the preceeding, 5 grains solid extract Cannabis Indica. At this writing—midnight—5 hours since last dose, I have experienced no effect whatever. The effect is said to be widely different in different people.

March 23. Sunday. Spent quietly. Have had no result to be noted of my physiological experiment yesterday ….

April 5 … Took in all 15 grains. No effects.

April 6. Sunday … Continued my experiment by taking 20 grains Cannabis Indica and the effect was felt in a not very agreeable way.
Try completing that experiment within the walls of your own home (interestingly, Talmage’s experiment would have included general conference weeked – April 5th and 6th) and you’ll be run out of town by everyone not named Batman Bin Suparman.  That’s simply the name of the game.  Regardless of what you believe, or the true interpretation of D&C 89 on the issue of the “holy herb,” it simply doesn’t matter.


All of this is merely a way of stating that (a) we should be enjoying the “wholesome herbs” God has given us and (b) Cannibis Sativa is a “wholesome herb.”

Now, whether or not I actually ever partake of any is another story entirely, but the knowledge is there and I shall see where it leads.  It sort of reminds me of the “mild drink” discussion and alcohol.  It’s too bad I loathe the taste of the stuff, otherwise I’d be glad to comply with the recommendations set forth on “mild drinks” in D&C 89.  For those interested in that aspect of D&C 89, you should read this wonderful entry on Pure Mormonism’s blog, entitled, Too Bad I Don’t Like Beer.  It does a far better job discussing the issue then I ever could hope to do.

To all who’ve read this far, congratulations.  I apologize for the layout of this post, but do encourage all reading to seek out two additional sources on the topic, as they have more information, detail and thought provoking material than I could ever hope to write here:

(1)    Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire
(2)    Jack Herer’s The Emperor Wears No Clothes:  The Authoritative Historical Record of Cannibis and the Conspiracy Against Marijuana
Perhaps a future article will delve into the conspiracy noted by Herer, as related to the “conspiring men” discussed previously from D&C 89.

Lastly, please do not take my word as anything from which you base your decision on this issue.  Make the decision consciously, but make it between yourself and your God.  Leave me out of the equation as all I do is muddy the view.

No comments:

Post a Comment