Note from the editor: This is the first in a monthly series from writers sharing their insights about the intersections between cannabis, psychedelics, and spirituality. Want to pitch your story? Email email@example.com.
I still remember when I told my friend I wanted a pipe for Christmas. I was 29 years old, and I felt called to consume cannabis, just as some people feel called to join the clergy.
It was not a new sensation. In high school, I edited a literary magazine with a bunch of artists who loved getting high. They were mostly seniors when I was a freshman, and they felt a certain sense of moral obligation to keep drugs of any sort away from me.
After they graduated, my new friends and I would have smokey meetings within what remained of an old, stone house that had long ago burned down in the woods behind our school. I remember feeling so at peace among those ruins. I was hyper-aware of things like the smell of the air and the way sunlight filtered through the leaves, but I was never stoned.
The same thing happened during college. My closest friends and I pretty much lived on the lawn and nicknamed ourselves “the smokers circle.” But, when joints and pipes made their way around to me, I would hold them reverently and then pass them on. I always felt connected to cannabis. However, I felt even more deeply compelled to wait to consume it.
On one level, I anticipated consistent, future use, and I wanted my body and mind to be fully developed and strong enough to handle that. On another level, I viewed cannabis as a sacrament within the ritual of life. I believed that consuming it would allow me to embody the spirit of the plant to some degree, and timing felt like an important part of this process.
For many people, it seems like cannabis is an entry point to adult life. Consuming it during youth is both time-honoured and taboo. Most often, it becomes integrated into early experiences that form the foundation of a person’s future relationships, career choices, political leanings and other endeavours. However, the degree of influence it exacts over these areas depends largely on the individual and the way society as a whole views their use.
Personally, I knew I’d use cannabis only once I’d acquired my share of adult experiences. When I asked my friend to purchase me a pipe for Christmas, I’d already gotten married, co-founded a musical instrument business, given birth to two neurologically divergent children and survived many years of chronic illness, clinical depression and emotional abuse.
My life had wrapped me in layers of context. Finally consuming cannabis gave me the ability to shake free from some of those layers, as well as to connect the others in a meaningful way. Rather than integrating with my life as a separate entity, cannabis helped me integrate the various aspects of myself.
Likewise, cannabis has both an elevating and grounding effect on me. Under its influence, I gain renewed perspective on the interconnected and ephemeral beauty and pain of human life. I also gain an enhanced ability to both fill and feel each moment I experience—thus becoming more fully present when doing everything from making love to making a burrito.
Under the influence of cannabis, time begins to feel malleable. Smells and sounds take on new dimensions. I recognize and speak truth with greater ease.
Around the time I received my Christmas pipe, my then-husband introduced me to a network of people who use psychedelics for spiritual purposes. His inspiration to form the musical instrument company I co-founded came from an ayahuasca ceremony, and many shamanic practitioners integrate our instruments in their work.
During the nine years our company was active, we also opened our home to a variety of artists, musicians and spiritual seekers whose lives had been impacted in both positive and negative ways by psychedelics. By my thirties, I’d experienced mushrooms and ayahuasca firsthand.
Like cannabis, mushrooms enhance my experience of the moment. They also alter my sensory perceptions to a comparable, but more pronounced, extent. Everything in my environment acquires intense symbolism, and I often emerge from my journey with insightful, personal allegories at the forefront of my mind.
Meanwhile, my experiences with ayahuasca have rendered the waking world temporarily obsolete. I’ve sat in a mountain clearing and watched as the people around me vanished into pixels, and I’ve had visions of myself standing within a cave filled with hummingbirds whose wings beat into a single voice, sharing answers to some of my deepest questions. I’ve experienced the sensation of giving birth to myself. And I’ve become stuck in fear that resolved only upon my acceptance that I might have actually died, for real. When I woke up six hours later to drumming and starlight, I felt profoundly grateful.
As a result of my experiences within the psychedelic community, I have immense respect for the power mind-altering substances hold. I also think that establishing widespread standards for safe, adult use is a necessary component of the ongoing movement to destigmatize, decriminalize and legalize psychedelics on a global scale.
Finally, I must admit, my experiences with psychedelics have given me an even deeper appreciation for cannabis as well. While I welcome the reminder that life as we know it is likely a dynamic illusion, I’m not seeking transcendence or escape. Rather, I wish to find my way through it, honouring the human experience as authentically and joyfully, as I can. And, nothing I’ve encountered thus far beats cannabis at facilitating that process.
As a result of that, I also support movements for safe cannabis use and legal reform. Almost 10 years after my first toke, I stand by the feeling that cannabis is a sacrament, and it should be available to all who feel the call to use it.
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Seed. Stem. Stash. Smoke.
Despite the perception of Canada as a cold and snowy landscape, cannabis has been grown outdoors here for generations, long before prohibition was lifted in 2018. In Rock Creek, a small town in British Columbia’s Okanagan region, an area adored for its long, dry summers and endless rows of wineries and fruit orchards, a portion of a sprawling 2,200-acre ranch once dedicated to ginseng and cherries is now filled with rows upon rows of cannabis and hemp.
“My partner and I set a goal to make the best cannabis-infused cookie we could. What we learned very quickly was that our cookie recipe was great, but the process of infusing our butter was damaging its integrity. So we set out to find a way to infuse butter—not for maximum potency—but for the best possible flavour, and to preserve what makes butter magic.”
“Weed infused in various candies, brownies, or cookies generally takes much longer to kick in and there’s inevitably a few moments half-an-hour post-consumption in which I say, out loud: “I’m not sure this thing is working.” Then, like one of Mike Tyson’s fists to the face, the full might of a deceptively delicious baked confection takes hold, and for the next few hours—I’m high. High high. And sometimes, too high.”