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It’s Time for a Rebrand: I’m Not a Stoner; I’m an Herbalist

Updated: Jan 16

Cannabis is still medicine!

It’s a rainy gray day in the San Francisco Bay Area in that strange, un-motivational work space-time continuum between Christmas and New Year’s. This is the last WIERDOS of 2023, and as we all look ahead towards 2024, I’m also looking back a decade when this whole commercial weed legalization experiment in America began in Colorado in 2014.

Legalized by voters in 2012, when Colorado kicked off the sales of cannabis on Jan. 1, 2014, the talking points for legalized weed transformed into the benefits of cannabis commerce and strayed away from the previous push for legalization, its use as a medicine. As we enter into a decade of legal cannabis sales in America, I believe we should change the narrative again, this time without the negative connotations: I’m not a stoner; I’m an herbalist.  

People have used plants, including cannabis, for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Herbalists are people who use plants for healing. My healing journey with cannabis began with unpacking studies related to cannabinoid science, followed by an examination of how weed works with our biochemistry. Learning about the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which regulates balance through an interplay with many other systems in our bodies, helped me understand how special it is to have a plant built to bind to our cell receptors. Cannabis most often helps me regulate my moods, but it has also been beneficial in healing my gut from the adverse effects of inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS). 

Scientific research shows that the ecosystem within our intestines, composed of things like bacteria and viruses, the gut microbiome, plays a massive role in our health, ranging from regulating depression and anxiety to boosting our immune system. While gut health science is a growing field of study, the role of the ECS is often overlooked.  

“Current thinking suggests that the ECS serves as a sort of bridge between bacteria and the body itself, including the brain, relaying signals back and forth in a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship,” Project CBD, a California-based nonprofit dedicated to promoting and publicizing research into the medical uses of CBD and cannabis, reports. “At least that’s how it should be—but chronic imbalance or impairment of the gut microbiome, also called dysbiosis, can harm physical and mental health.”

While it’s still unclear exactly how the interplay works, the connection between the gut and brain shows that not only does a healthy microbiome establish gastrointestinal homeostasis or balance, but it’s also “likely to have multiple effects on affect, motivation, and higher cognitive functions.”

Combined with a healthy diet and exercise, consuming cannabis helps to regulate my gut microbiome and, thus, my emotions. My relationship with this plant makes me happier and healthier. 

In 2023, we lost the world’s most prominent cannabis researcher, Raphael Mecholuam. While Mechoulam made significant contributions to our understanding of how cannabis works, he also believed that many more discoveries would be made. As 2024 approaches, my hope is that we talk less about the capital cannabis can generate and more about the conditions it can improve. 

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