The other day, in a seaside cafe here, veteran cannabis journalist David Bienenstock gamely fielded my attempts to catch up on a subject I have failed to appreciate for far too long: the coming end of marijuana prohibition.
Earlier this month, the backers of a California initiative to legalize the recreational use of marijuana (including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and tech kabillionaire Sean Parker) said they had gathered enough signatures to make the November ballot. In the same week, the federal government dropped its long-standing case against Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, the largest medical pot dispensary in the country.
California, with a thriving medical marijuana industry, already produces and sells more pot than any other state, including Colorado, Washington and Oregon, which have all legalized adult recreational use of marijuana. In California, we could see a tenfold increase in what is already a billion-dollar-plus industry, and this despite the continuing federal classification of marijuana as a dangerous substance with no medical value.
Right now, a majority of Californians favor legalization. Latino voters, who strongly opposed a failed legalization measure in 2010, are increasingly leaning toward it as well.
“This is California’s time to reemerge as the center of the cannabis economy and the center of cannabis culture, and that’s what’s so exciting,” said Bienenstock, 40, who has just written a modest but charming weed primer, “How to Smoke Pot (Properly): A Highbrow Guide to Getting High.” A former High Times editor, Bienenstock, who lives near Santa Cruz, writes Vice’s “Weed Eater” column and produces Vice’s very funny cooking show, “Bong Appetit.”
Personally, I am not a weedinista. I hate feeling stoned. I don’t think pot will save the world, and dependence, especially with younger users, can be a problem. But I do think, in some settings, it can work miracles.
A year ago, probably after hearing me knock pot smokers one too many times, David Downs, a San Francisco cannabis journalist, who is married to my niece, sat me down and explained something I hadn’t known. There are two important components in marijuana. The primary psychoactive ingredient in pot is THC, which also has medicinal properties such as pain relief and nausea reduction. And there’s CBD, a non-psychoactive ingredient that has been shown to be helpful for many ailments, including epilepsy, cancer pain and anxiety.
Increasingly, researchers are investigating the health benefits of CBD. Growers, in turn, are meeting consumer demand for pot strains that are high in CBD and low in THC.
You can achieve a tremendous benefit from high-CBD marijuana and never feel stoned.
This was a revelation.