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The Next 11 States to Legalize Marijuana

 Marijuana prohibition is entering its 78th year. Colorado’s marijuana law went into effect at the beginning of last year in the wake of changing attitudes. Compared to 1969, when only 12% supported legalizing pot, today a majority of Americans support legalizing recreational use of the drug.

It is legal to purchase marijuana in four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington — as well as in the District of Columbia. Prior to the legalization, all of these states had already reduced the penalties for possession and use of small amounts of the drug or introduced policies permitting medical marijuana use. To identify the states most likely to legalize marijuana next, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 11 states where by law residents in possession of small amounts of the drug are not punishable by jail time, and medical marijuana use is permitted.

Click here to see the next 11 states to legalize marijuana.

A large share of U.S. states, including all 11 on this list, have decriminalized marijuana at some point. The widely-referenced, but confusing term actually means a different thing depending on where it is being used. Not to be confused with legalization, states that have decriminalized marijuana have in some way reduced the penalties for for those caught with the substance. In most cases, this means the state will no longer prosecute or jail those caught with small amounts of the drug for personal use. In some cases, getting caught with a few grams of marijuana is as serious as a traffic infraction.

Other states that have decriminalized, however, still have relatively harsh penalties for possession. In Nevada, for example, the state no longer can assign jail time for those caught with a small amount of the drug, but violators can still be arrested, fined heavily, and charged with a misdemeanor.

Various moral and practical arguments have helped to catalyze the growing trend of legalization and decriminalization of marijuana. The potential tax revenue, job creation, and reduction of the burden of offenders on state prison systems, for example, have likely been a motivating factor behind the bills to regulate and legalize the drug in many of the states on our list. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Allen St. Pierre, executive director at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), argued that legalizing marijuana “would generate revenue where we now hemorrhage out billions and billions of dollars.”

However, according to Morgan Fox, communications manager at the Marijuana Policy Project, the most significant force in getting bills and referendums on the table is public support within the states. In most of the 11 states that may soon legalize marijuana, recent polls have been conducted showing a majority of residents support some form of legalization. In Connecticut, 63% of those surveyed in a March 2015 Quinnipiac University poll said they were in favor of legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults.

St. Pierre argued that the current prohibition laws are inconsistent. “If alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and pharmaceutical products can be legally sold to adults in this country, it’s hard to understand the constitutional economic or for that matter moral arguments put forward on why marijuana can’t be within that same ambit of choices for adults.”

One factor that may be driving high public support for legalization in these states is the a high number of users. Of the 11 states that appear next in line to legalize marijuana, nine surpass the nationwide rate of marijuana users. In 2012 and 2013, an estimated average of 12.3% of Americans 12 and older smoked marijuana. In Rhode Island, one of the states on our list, more than 20% had.

St. Pierre also noted that the marijuana legalization issue is unique in that Americans’ political persuasions favor legalization of marijuana. Support for reform can be found among liberals, but also among conservatives, particularly those with libertarian-leaning beliefs. “It’s hard to make an argument against legalization in a free-market society such as ours,” said St. Pierre.

Still, according to Gallup, less than one-third of conservative Americans think cannabis should be legalized, in contrast with overwhelmingly strong support from liberals and a strong majority of moderates. Nearly all of the next states expected to legalize marijuana are liberal-leaning states.

To identify the next states to legalize marijuana, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed states where possession of small amounts of marijuana is not punishable by jail and also where medical marijuana is currently legal based on data from The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). We also considered marijuana-related arrests per 100,000 residents through 2012 provided by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. In addition, we considered the estimated proportion of residents 12 and older who had used marijuana some time in the past year, based on annualized data from 2012 and 2013, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Public opinion polls were provided by the Marijuana Policy Project based on the most recent available survey. All data on current enforcement policies and penalties were provided by NORML.

These are the states where marijuana is most likely to be legalized.

Purdue hosts Field Day to teach farmers about industrial hemp farming

TIPPECANOE CO., Ind. (WLFI) – Purdue researchers had an Industrial Hemp Farming Field Day Tuesday to educate people about proper hemp growing practices.

The field day showed farmers the best ways to grow and provided science based crop advice. Officials say hemp could have thousands of uses. But the main uses are for protein from the seeds, healthy fatty acids taken from the seed’s oils and clothing made from the plant’s fiber.

Researchers say hemp farming could broaden Indiana’s agricultural market.

“It diversifies our economic base beyond corn and beans and wheat, and gives us a fourth option. And I think that is something that’s really important for long-term sustainability,” said Janna Beckerman, a professor of plant pathology at Purdue.

The researchers also discussed the legal issues facing industrial hemp production and the differences between hemp and marijuana. Marijuana has significantly higher amounts of tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), a psychoactive ingredient, than industrial hemp.

Researchers say hemp is bred for its seeds and not its psychoactive properties.

“The THC level in our industrial hemp is about .3 percent. To give you an idea how low that is — if you were to try to purchase marijuana in Colorado, the average THC level is actually 18.75 percent,” said Beckerman.

Purdue researchers plan on harvesting the hemp in the coming days, but say they will have field days again next year.

To figure out more about Purdue’s hemp project, you can click here to check out their website.

Delayed seizure after exposure to a synthetic cannabinoid product

PB-22

PB-22

★★★☆☆

Delayed seizure-like activity following analytically confirmed use of previously unreported synthetic cannabinoid analogues. Schep LJ et al. Hum Exp Toxicol 2015 May;34:557-60.

Abstract

Exposure to s0-called synthetic cannabinoid products, which may consist of any of 100s of specific compounds — of a combination of these chemicals — have been associated with a wide range of signs and symptoms, including anxiety and agitation, drowsiness, vomiting, tachycardia, hallucinations, and seizures. Diagnoses associated with such exposure have included myocardial infarction, ischemia stroke, and acute kidney injury.

This paper, from the National Poisons Centre in Dunedin, New Zealand, describes a 23-year-old man who suffered 2 episodes of seizure activity 4 to 6 hours after last smoking a synthetic cannabinoid marketed and labelled as “K2.”  Analysis of the patient’s plasma samples drawn 5.5 and 8.3 h after last exposure detected:

Because of the multiple substances involved and the possibility that other, undetected, chemicals were present, it’s hard to know what to make of this case report except for this important point: seizure activity can be delayed for hours after last exposure to synthetic cannabinoid(s). Note that 5F-PB-22 has been associated previously with abrupt sudden death. In addition, PB-22 was identified in a very unusual case in which both a man and his pet dog seized after exposure to a synthetic cannabinoid.

[Structure of PB-22 from wikipedia.org]

Related post:

Inter-species case series: seizures associated with a novel synthetic cannabinoid

 

Delayed seizure after exposure to a synthetic cannabinoid product

PB-22

PB-22

★★★☆☆

Delayed seizure-like activity following analytically confirmed use of previously unreported synthetic cannabinoid analogues. Schep LJ et al. Hum Exp Toxicol 2015 May;34:557-60.

Abstract

Exposure to s0-called synthetic cannabinoid products, which may consist of any of 100s of specific compounds — of a combination of these chemicals — have been associated with a wide range of signs and symptoms, including anxiety and agitation, drowsiness, vomiting, tachycardia, hallucinations, and seizures. Diagnoses associated with such exposure have included myocardial infarction, ischemia stroke, and acute kidney injury.

This paper, from the National Poisons Centre in Dunedin, New Zealand, describes a 23-year-old man who suffered 2 episodes of seizure activity 4 to 6 hours after last smoking a synthetic cannabinoid marketed and labelled as “K2.”  Analysis of the patient’s plasma samples drawn 5.5 and 8.3 h after last exposure detected:

Because of the multiple substances involved and the possibility that other, undetected, chemicals were present, it’s hard to know what to make of this case report except for this important point: seizure activity can be delayed for hours after last exposure to synthetic cannabinoid(s). Note that 5F-PB-22 has been associated previously with abrupt sudden death. In addition, PB-22 was identified in a very unusual case in which both a man and his pet dog seized after exposure to a synthetic cannabinoid.

[Structure of PB-22 from wikipedia.org]

Related post:

Inter-species case series: seizures associated with a novel synthetic cannabinoid

 

Marijuana is my secular sacrament | The Spiritual Naturalist Society

Posted by on Jul 16, 2015

Sacred marijuanaThe Spiritual Naturalist Society takes no official position on the use of psychotropics in ritual or spiritual practices. However, the Society does recognize that entheogens have been a part of religious, shamanic, and other spiritual practices throughout human history. We therefore respect and welcome Spiritual Naturalists who advocate their responsible use in spiritual practices, while also welcoming those who reject their use. In today’s article, Brian Hines explains his stance on marijuana…
__________

 

I don’t embrace God. I do embrace marijuana. Big time.

In my experience, cannabis is way more spiritual than a supernatural being who almost certainly exists only in people’s imagination.

Pleasingly, on July 1 marijuana became legal to possess and use here in Oregon, though recreational sales are on hold for a few more months.

When I use my fingers to carefully pluck small bits of buds (flowers) to place in a vaporizer receptacle — no metal grinder for me; I enjoy touching the herbal essence of a marijuana plant — this has a sacramental feel.

I’m grateful to Mother Nature for bringing forth a substance that elevates the spirit.

There’s a reason we speak of getting high.

Cannabis has a way of making my usual worries and anxieties appear much smaller, as if I were standing on top of a mountain, looking at them from a distance rather than close-up.

At the same time, I don’t feel like I’ve lost touch with reality. Rather, marijuana stimulates a sensation of This is how life really is.

Meaning, my supposedly “normal” perception of having to make my way through a world filled with obstacles, problems, barriers, irritations, and what-not is supplanted by a flowing feeling where stuff happens, but not really to me.

Both modern neuroscience and ancient forms of spirituality such as Buddhism agree that this cannabis-caused diminishing of self is closer to how things truly are than everyday waking consciousness.

Inside the mind/brain, there is no sign of any independent, unchanging, non-physical entity corresponding to our sense of “I” or “Me.”

Yet we feel like there is.

To escape from this fantasy I don’t need to laboriously meditate under the critical gaze of a Zen master. I just fire up my vaporizer, take a few puffs of THC-infused warm air, and, voila!, enlightenment. Thank you, caring compassionate cannabis.

Now, spiritual traditionalists look upon marijuana as an illicit short-cut. They argue that changing one’s consciousness to be more in tune with the reality of no-self must be done naturally, not artificially.

I agree. We just differ as to what is natural, and what is artificial.

Cannabis is a flowering plant indigenous to Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Humans have used it for thousands of years, as have other animal species, impelled by what psychopharmacologist Ronald Siegel calls the fourth drive in his book “Intoxication: the Universal Drive for Mind-Altering Substances.”

We need intoxicants — not in the sense that an addict needs a fix, but because the need is as much a part of the human condition as sex, hunger, and thirst. The need — the fourth drive — is natural, yes, even healthy.

 

…Over the centuries, people have sought — and drugs have offered — a wide variety of effects, including pleasure, relief from pain, mystical revelations, stimulation, relaxation, joy, ecstasy, self-understanding, escape, altered states of consciousness, or just a different feeling.

As noted above, I don’t see this as a drive to escape reality.

Rather, marijuana and other psychedelic drugs propel human consciousness into a less ego-centered state that more accurately reflects neuroscientific understanding of the brain’s inherent selflessness.

For a marvelous hip-hop dance mirroring of this truth, I heartily recommend watching Alex Wong’s and Twitch’s “Get Out of Your Mind” routine.

Jump off your self-absorbed psychoanalytic couch and go freaking crazy! This might well be the sanest thing you’ll ever do.

Oh, but what about the dangers of marijuana? It’s well known that there is no lethal dose of cannabis. Don’t people get psychologically addicted, though?

Sure, in much the same way Gallup tells us that almost half of American smartphone users agree with the statement “I can’t imagine my life without my smartphone.”

Are they addicted? Yes. Do they care? No. Because 70% of smartphone users say their device has made their life better.

Which is how I feel about cannabis.

After using marijuana heavily in college back in the 1960’s, I took a long break during thirty-five years of searching for my True Self through being a vegetarian, hours of daily meditation, and abstention from alcohol/drugs.

Back then I thought my essence was immaterial: a soul-consciousness detachable from the crude physical body.

Now I look upon myself as an integral part of nature. Like everything else, I’m made of energy and matter which eventually will return to its basic constituents when I die, leaving me nowhere to be found.

So I live for today here on Earth, not for an imagined tomorrow in some heavenly realm. Ingesting an herb which alters my brain chemistry is not only morally acceptable, it is “spiritual” in the way I now view that word, as realizing that I don’t have a soul, or self. (The Onion humorously reports on another guy’s similar discovery in “Search for Self Called Off After 38 Years.”)

Sam Harris speaks of this realization in his book, “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.”

My goal in this chapter and the next is to convince you that the conventional sense of self is an illusion — and that spirituality largely consists in realizing this, moment to moment.

 

…Most of us feel that our experience of the world refers back to a self — not to our bodies precisely but to a center of consciousness that exists somehow interior to the body behind the eyes, inside the head.

 

The feeling that we call “I” seems to define our point of view in every moment, and it also provides an anchor for popular beliefs about souls and freedom of will.

 

And yet this feeling, however imperturbable it may appear at present, can be altered, interrupted, or entirely abolished.

 

…Subjectively speaking, the only thing that actually exists is consciousness and its contents.

Far out, man.

Inspired by Harris’ arguments, I used his ideas in a pre-election Strange Up Salem column I wrote for my city’s alternative paper, Salem Weekly: “A strange reason to legalize marijuana.”

Here’s a news flash from the front page of modern neuroscience: “You don’t exist.” At least, not in the way most people believe they do.

 

We feel as if we look out upon the world as a detached ethereal consciousness floating behind our eyes, inside our head. We feel as if we’re a weightless self or soul inhabiting a body.

 

These feelings are wrong. The sense of self is an illusion. You, me, and everyone else are billions of neurons woven together via trillions of electrochemical connections.

 

Marvelously, the brain tells itself stories about how it is other than it is.

 

As biologist Edward O. Wilson puts it in his new book, “The self, despite the illusion of its independence created in the scenarios, is part of the anatomy and physiology of the body.”

 

Mind-blowing, right?

 

 

Subscribe to The Spiritual Naturalist Society
Learn about Membership in the Spiritual Naturalist Society

__________
The Spiritual Naturalist Society works to spread awareness of spiritual naturalism as a way of life, develop its thought and practice, and help bring together like-minded practitioners in fellowship.

About the Author

brian-hinesBrian Hines is a writer and blogger who summed up his philosophical state in a 2004 post called “I’ve become the person I warned myself about.” That was the year he started a Church of the Churchless blog after being deeply involved with an Indian guru and a mystical meditation practice for thirty-five years. Brian continues to explore the always-fascinating contours of what remains when faith in religious supernaturalism fades away. He is the author of “Return to the One,” a non-scholarly examination of Plotinus, a Greek neoplatonist philosopher. An avid Tai Chi student, Brian lives on ten acres near Salem, Oregon with his wife and dog. He is a Ph.D. dropout in Systems Science and has a master’s degree in social work.

Minnesota considers medical marijuana for pain patients

State officials are weighing a question that could drastically expand Minnesota’s medical marijuana program and offer hope of relief to thousands of residents: Should it allow people with intractable pain to buy the new drug?

With its program launched just this summer, the state is seeking public input on the expansion in a series of community meetings statewide starting in Rochester on Wednesday. The final decision is subject to some of the same political pressures and unease that shaped Minnesota’s new law into one of the most restrictive programs in the U.S.

• July 17: Why medical marijuana is off to a slow start in MN

Here are some of the considerations officials have to make as they decide whether patients in pain can buy medical marijuana starting next summer:

What’s the impact?

The state doesn’t have a firm grasp on how its patient base would increase if they expand the narrow list of qualifying conditions to include intractable pain. But there’s no doubt it would be a massive change.

Manny Munson-Regala, chief executive of the medical marijuana manufacturer LeafLine Labs, said he thinks it could eventually triple or quadruple the 5,000 patients they currently expect to sign up. He said that’s a conservative estimate, though Minnesota Medical Solution’s Dr. Kyle Kingsley said he would expect a “more modest” bump.

Patients in chronic pain are eyeing the possible addition as both necessary and potentially life-changing.

After more than a decade of compounding back problems and countless surgeries and drugs that proved fruitless, Jeff Ross spends much of his time in bed coping with crippling pain. Support groups for his painful form of spinal arthritis have praised medical marijuana’s effects.

“This is a possibility of having my life back, of going back to work, of being able to be a father and being able to be a husband instead of living this half-life that I have now,” said Ross, a 55-year-old Maple Lake resident and father of four. “If there is a chance that I can have a normal life again, what is their right to be in my way?”

How is the decision made?

The decision ultimately lies with Department of Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger, who assembled an advisory group of medical professionals to weigh the addition with the goal of forwarding him a recommendation by the end of the year. The patients being considered must have pain for which “no relief or cure of the cause of the pain is possible,” though the state could expand — or tighten — those standards.

With Ehlinger’s decision coming, medical marijuana could be available for pain patients in August 2016 at the earliest. The Legislature could also step in and make the expansion sooner or shoot down any decision to add it.

Will it happen?

The advisory panel tackling the issue is confronting some of the same doubts among the medical community that have made it difficult for patients to get a doctors’ sign-off. Some doctors and clinics are still leery of sending their patients to buy medical marijuana.

“There’s a ton of literature and data and opinions to comb through,” said Nancy Jaworski, a pediatric pain specialist in Minneapolis and one of eight advisory panel members. “I feel like I have to be very, very, very careful. I have to look to the science.”

The manufacturers themselves were once mum on the question, preferring to leave it to lawmakers and state officials.

But executives from both Minnesota Medical Solutions and LeafLine said this week they believe expanding the program to include intractable pain is the right route, especially as an alternative to opioid medication and the concerns of addiction and overdose that come with it.

“The medical case is building. We need to advocate for these patients,” Kingsley said.

COULD THEY HANDLE THE NEW BUSINESS?

Just 361 patients were cleared to buy medical marijuana by the state as of Thursday. Though it’s unclear just how much that may increase if intractable pain patients were added to the fold, the two manufacturers expressed confidence they could meet increased demand.

Both companies have expansion plans for their manufacturing facilities drawn up that could be retooled if pain is added as a qualifying condition.

“We have enough lead time to be prepared to whatever influx of patients could reasonably be expected,” Munson-Regala said.

11 States Most Likely to Legalize Marijuana Next | High Times

With a majority of Americans in favor of marijuana legalization, it seems to be only time before the herb is legal in every state. Currently only four states (Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington) and D.C. have legalized recreational pot for adults—but according to financial blog 24/7 Wall St., 11 more states might not be far behind. 

The blog’s predictions are based on two criteria: states where medical marijuana is legal and states where possession of small amounts of weed is not punishable by jail. 

Other considerations included the number of marijuana-related arrests per 100,000 residents, the estimated proportion of residents who used marijuana in the past year and public opinion polls. 

According to USA Today, most of the states on the list also have a high number of marijuana users, with nine surpassing the nationwide rate. 

See the list below:

1. Massachusetts

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $100
Marijuana Related Arrests in 2012: 2,596
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 39
Minimum Penalty Classification : Civil Offense

2. Nevada

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $600
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 8,524
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 309
Minimum Penalty Classification: Misdemeanor

3. California

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $100
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 21,256
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 56
Minimum Penalty Classification: Infraction

4. New York

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $100
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 112,974
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 577
Minimum Penalty Classification: Not Classified

5. Vermont

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $200
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 926
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 148
Minimum Penalty Classification: Civil Violation

6. Minnesota

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $200
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 12,051
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 224
Minimum Penalty Classification: Misdemeanor

7. Connecticut

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $150
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 3,747
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 104
Minimum Penalty Classification: Civil Penalty

8. Maryland

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $100
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 22,042
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 375
Minimum Penalty Classification: Civil Offense

9. Rhode Island

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $150
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 2,320
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 221
Minimum Penalty Classification: Civil Violation

10. Maine

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $600
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 3,202
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 241
Minimum Penalty Classification: Civil Violation

11. Delaware

Maximum Fine for Small Amount of Pot: $575
Marijuana-Related Arrests in 2012: 2,912
Marijuana Arrests per 100,000: 318
Minimum Penalty Classification: Misdemeanor

(Photo Courtesy of 420Intel.com)

Purdue hosts Field Day to teach farmers about industrial hemp farming

TIPPECANOE CO., Ind. (WLFI) – Purdue researchers had an Industrial Hemp Farming Field Day Tuesday to educate people about proper hemp growing practices.

The field day showed farmers the best ways to grow and provided science based crop advice. Officials say hemp could have thousands of uses. But the main uses are for protein from the seeds, healthy fatty acids taken from the seed’s oils and clothing made from the plant’s fiber.

Researchers say hemp farming could broaden Indiana’s agricultural market.

“It diversifies our economic base beyond corn and beans and wheat, and gives us a fourth option. And I think that is something that’s really important for long-term sustainability,” said Janna Beckerman, a professor of plant pathology at Purdue.

The researchers also discussed the legal issues facing industrial hemp production and the differences between hemp and marijuana. Marijuana has significantly higher amounts of tetrahydrocannibinol (THC), a psychoactive ingredient, than industrial hemp.

Researchers say hemp is bred for its seeds and not its psychoactive properties.

“The THC level in our industrial hemp is about .3 percent. To give you an idea how low that is — if you were to try to purchase marijuana in Colorado, the average THC level is actually 18.75 percent,” said Beckerman.

Purdue researchers plan on harvesting the hemp in the coming days, but say they will have field days again next year.

To figure out more about Purdue’s hemp project, you can click here to check out their website.

Synthetic Cannabinoid–Related Illnesses and Deaths — NEJM

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Marijuana is my secular sacrament | The Spiritual Naturalist Society

Posted by on Jul 16, 2015

Sacred marijuanaThe Spiritual Naturalist Society takes no official position on the use of psychotropics in ritual or spiritual practices. However, the Society does recognize that entheogens have been a part of religious, shamanic, and other spiritual practices throughout human history. We therefore respect and welcome Spiritual Naturalists who advocate their responsible use in spiritual practices, while also welcoming those who reject their use. In today’s article, Brian Hines explains his stance on marijuana…
__________

 

I don’t embrace God. I do embrace marijuana. Big time.

In my experience, cannabis is way more spiritual than a supernatural being who almost certainly exists only in people’s imagination.

Pleasingly, on July 1 marijuana became legal to possess and use here in Oregon, though recreational sales are on hold for a few more months.

When I use my fingers to carefully pluck small bits of buds (flowers) to place in a vaporizer receptacle — no metal grinder for me; I enjoy touching the herbal essence of a marijuana plant — this has a sacramental feel.

I’m grateful to Mother Nature for bringing forth a substance that elevates the spirit.

There’s a reason we speak of getting high.

Cannabis has a way of making my usual worries and anxieties appear much smaller, as if I were standing on top of a mountain, looking at them from a distance rather than close-up.

At the same time, I don’t feel like I’ve lost touch with reality. Rather, marijuana stimulates a sensation of This is how life really is.

Meaning, my supposedly “normal” perception of having to make my way through a world filled with obstacles, problems, barriers, irritations, and what-not is supplanted by a flowing feeling where stuff happens, but not really to me.

Both modern neuroscience and ancient forms of spirituality such as Buddhism agree that this cannabis-caused diminishing of self is closer to how things truly are than everyday waking consciousness.

Inside the mind/brain, there is no sign of any independent, unchanging, non-physical entity corresponding to our sense of “I” or “Me.”

Yet we feel like there is.

To escape from this fantasy I don’t need to laboriously meditate under the critical gaze of a Zen master. I just fire up my vaporizer, take a few puffs of THC-infused warm air, and, voila!, enlightenment. Thank you, caring compassionate cannabis.

Now, spiritual traditionalists look upon marijuana as an illicit short-cut. They argue that changing one’s consciousness to be more in tune with the reality of no-self must be done naturally, not artificially.

I agree. We just differ as to what is natural, and what is artificial.

Cannabis is a flowering plant indigenous to Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Humans have used it for thousands of years, as have other animal species, impelled by what psychopharmacologist Ronald Siegel calls the fourth drive in his book “Intoxication: the Universal Drive for Mind-Altering Substances.”

We need intoxicants — not in the sense that an addict needs a fix, but because the need is as much a part of the human condition as sex, hunger, and thirst. The need — the fourth drive — is natural, yes, even healthy.

 

…Over the centuries, people have sought — and drugs have offered — a wide variety of effects, including pleasure, relief from pain, mystical revelations, stimulation, relaxation, joy, ecstasy, self-understanding, escape, altered states of consciousness, or just a different feeling.

As noted above, I don’t see this as a drive to escape reality.

Rather, marijuana and other psychedelic drugs propel human consciousness into a less ego-centered state that more accurately reflects neuroscientific understanding of the brain’s inherent selflessness.

For a marvelous hip-hop dance mirroring of this truth, I heartily recommend watching Alex Wong’s and Twitch’s “Get Out of Your Mind” routine.

Jump off your self-absorbed psychoanalytic couch and go freaking crazy! This might well be the sanest thing you’ll ever do.

Oh, but what about the dangers of marijuana? It’s well known that there is no lethal dose of cannabis. Don’t people get psychologically addicted, though?

Sure, in much the same way Gallup tells us that almost half of American smartphone users agree with the statement “I can’t imagine my life without my smartphone.”

Are they addicted? Yes. Do they care? No. Because 70% of smartphone users say their device has made their life better.

Which is how I feel about cannabis.

After using marijuana heavily in college back in the 1960’s, I took a long break during thirty-five years of searching for my True Self through being a vegetarian, hours of daily meditation, and abstention from alcohol/drugs.

Back then I thought my essence was immaterial: a soul-consciousness detachable from the crude physical body.

Now I look upon myself as an integral part of nature. Like everything else, I’m made of energy and matter which eventually will return to its basic constituents when I die, leaving me nowhere to be found.

So I live for today here on Earth, not for an imagined tomorrow in some heavenly realm. Ingesting an herb which alters my brain chemistry is not only morally acceptable, it is “spiritual” in the way I now view that word, as realizing that I don’t have a soul, or self. (The Onion humorously reports on another guy’s similar discovery in “Search for Self Called Off After 38 Years.”)

Sam Harris speaks of this realization in his book, “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.”

My goal in this chapter and the next is to convince you that the conventional sense of self is an illusion — and that spirituality largely consists in realizing this, moment to moment.

 

…Most of us feel that our experience of the world refers back to a self — not to our bodies precisely but to a center of consciousness that exists somehow interior to the body behind the eyes, inside the head.

 

The feeling that we call “I” seems to define our point of view in every moment, and it also provides an anchor for popular beliefs about souls and freedom of will.

 

And yet this feeling, however imperturbable it may appear at present, can be altered, interrupted, or entirely abolished.

 

…Subjectively speaking, the only thing that actually exists is consciousness and its contents.

Far out, man.

Inspired by Harris’ arguments, I used his ideas in a pre-election Strange Up Salem column I wrote for my city’s alternative paper, Salem Weekly: “A strange reason to legalize marijuana.”

Here’s a news flash from the front page of modern neuroscience: “You don’t exist.” At least, not in the way most people believe they do.

 

We feel as if we look out upon the world as a detached ethereal consciousness floating behind our eyes, inside our head. We feel as if we’re a weightless self or soul inhabiting a body.

 

These feelings are wrong. The sense of self is an illusion. You, me, and everyone else are billions of neurons woven together via trillions of electrochemical connections.

 

Marvelously, the brain tells itself stories about how it is other than it is.

 

As biologist Edward O. Wilson puts it in his new book, “The self, despite the illusion of its independence created in the scenarios, is part of the anatomy and physiology of the body.”

 

Mind-blowing, right?

 

 

Subscribe to The Spiritual Naturalist Society
Learn about Membership in the Spiritual Naturalist Society

__________
The Spiritual Naturalist Society works to spread awareness of spiritual naturalism as a way of life, develop its thought and practice, and help bring together like-minded practitioners in fellowship.

About the Author

brian-hinesBrian Hines is a writer and blogger who summed up his philosophical state in a 2004 post called “I’ve become the person I warned myself about.” That was the year he started a Church of the Churchless blog after being deeply involved with an Indian guru and a mystical meditation practice for thirty-five years. Brian continues to explore the always-fascinating contours of what remains when faith in religious supernaturalism fades away. He is the author of “Return to the One,” a non-scholarly examination of Plotinus, a Greek neoplatonist philosopher. An avid Tai Chi student, Brian lives on ten acres near Salem, Oregon with his wife and dog. He is a Ph.D. dropout in Systems Science and has a master’s degree in social work.