Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office to Continue to Prosecute Marijuana Cases

Those hoping for a respite from cannabis possession-related charges in Florida shouldn’t get too comfortable, even after top prosecutors announced that the state has limited technology to pursue such offenses. The Northern Florida US Attorney’s office sent out a press statement saying that it will continue to prosecute marijuana possession cases, and that it will even review cases that have been set aside by state attorneys.

The feds have even considered the staffing concerns that could arise by prosecuting cannabis crimes. The US Attorney also announced that its office would be looking into the possibility that assistant state attorneys could be sworn in as federal attorneys in order to pursue marijuana cases. Attorney General Ashley Moody and Statewide Prosecutor Nicholas Cox have already given their permission to have some of their assistants temporarily sworn in as these “Special Assistant United States Attorneys.”

The move is in response to State Attorney Jack Campbell’s July announcement that his office will not be prosecuting cannabis possession cases going forward. Campbell said that the state is not equipped with tests that can tell the difference between marijuana and hemp, the latter of which is now legal. There is a chance that this policy will change if the state gets its hands on testing technology that is capable of making the distinction.

“There’s literally no state lab in the state of Florida that can do testing and say ‘this is hemp,” or ‘no, this is marijuana,’” Campbell told a local news site. The US Attorney also suggested that Campbell himself could participate in the “Special Assistant United States Attorneys” program.

Martin County Sheriff William Synder has also told officers that they will no longer be arresting people on charges of cannabis possession.

Campbell’s announcement is not the only recent political movement away from prosecuting cannabis-related crimes in the state. In July, the Florida Police Legal Bureau sent a memo to the press clarifying the fact that marijuana odor would no longer be deemed a reasonable criteria for police traffic stops. Rather, cops will have to be able to identify other factors to justify stops and searches.

That’s certainly not to say that the state has erased cannabis stigma. Earlier this month, South Florida’s Homestead Hospital diagnosed a patient as a drug abuser after he told doctors that he is a licensed medical marijuana user, and consumes the drug as part of treatment for his epilepsy.

In August, Representative Shevrin Jones introduced HB 25, a cannabis decriminalization bill that would render the possession of less than 20 grams from a first-degree misdemeanor to no longer be a criminal offense. Currently, such possession charges can be punished with up to a year in jail, a year of probation, and a $1,000 fine.

But even if such decriminalization measures are passed, it’s important to note that Florida residents will still need to watch out for the US Attorney. A reminder: federal prosecutors can go after individuals for cannabis-related federal offenses, even in cannabis-legal state or local jurisdiction. In fact, they can do it even if the individual has already been charged or punished by their state or local jurisdiction.

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CBD American Shaman

Founded in 2015 by hemp-entrepreneur and CEO Vince Sanders, CBD American Shaman is based out of Kansas City, Missouri and is one of the largest hemp derived CBD companies in North America. Using a team of dedicated researchers and doctors, the company has developed a series of organic, all-natural industrial hemp-based products with increased bioavailability aimed at improving people’s quality of life and promoting an overall healthier lifestyle for patients.

After Sanders’s uncle Dennis was diagnosed with an aggressive form of stage IV lung cancer in 2012 and given six months to live, Sanders identified what was important to him and became inspired to discover a solution that would prolong his uncle’s life. Curious about the medical benefits of cannabis, Sanders began his research, which led him to CBD. Although there wasn’t much U.S.-based information about the market, there was a plethora of scientific reports from Israel and Spain that gave him a starting point. Armed with knowledge, Sanders developed a crude CBD extract and after administering it to his uncle for 90 days, Dennis was in full remission. Despite his efforts, Dennis passed away due to unrelated complications, but the experience started Sanders down a passionate path of helping people that he would not turn back from. “It’s addicting,” he says.

Vince Sanders/ CBD American Shaman

Over the next few years, Sanders poured himself into the industry with the intent of “changing lives and turning people on to a homeopathic, plant-based option that is natural, therapeutic and far superior to pharmaceuticals, [without] any of the side effects.” Thus, CBD American Shaman was born.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is one of 113 known naturally occurring chemical compounds, known as cannabinoids, found in cannabis and hemp that imparts a sensation of calming relaxation and has no psychoactive properties. CBD is usually derived from Cannabis Sativa, which has two species, hemp and marijuana, although hemp generally carries a much higher percentage of CBD and extremely low levels of THC (less than 0.3%). Associated with a cascade of remedies, CBD has become well known for treating conditions including pain, inflammation, severe stress/anxiety, epilepsy, cancer, and a laundry list of other disorders.

In an effort to create a more affordable and shelf stable product, Sanders and his team harnessed the science of nanotechnology to improve their full spectrum, terpene-rich CBD emulsion. This process breaks down molecules to a billionth of their original size, making it easier for the body to absorb the compound into the blood stream, retain the microparticles for longer periods of time, and penetrate deeper into the body. This is known as bioavailability and is currently the most effective way of introducing a compound into the body, specifically the endocannabinoid system (structure of cannabinoid receptors located throughout the body). It produces a more uniform effect with greater surface area, making the product more consistent and predictable, which means you can take less of the product while retaining more of the benefits. Shaman specifically breaks its particles down to 50 nanometers, known as the goldilocks zone, using their particle size analyzer to ensure it connects to your receptors.

Vince Sanders/ CBD American Shaman

Shaman has infused this ‘cornerstone’ tech into all its products including water soluble products, tinctures, skin care/beauty products, edibles, capsules, pet products, and more—all created in their manufacturing facility and overseen by lead chemist, Jade Mitchell. Responsible for R&D and quality control, Mitchell uses a High-Pressure Liquid Chromatography System (HPLC) to accurately break down, analyze, and quantify every batch of CBD before processing, ensuring the compound is consistent, of the highest quality, and free from pesticides, heavy metals, and other impurities. “We’ve manipulated it as softly as we can […] ensuring the integrity of the plants profile is upheld,” says Sanders. “Our goal is to be as close to nature as possible.” 

CBD American Shaman also works with medical director and chief medical officer Dr. Jesse Lopez, a traditionally trained trauma surgeon who has over 27 years of experience in the medical field and has long incorporated holistic treatments and natural supplements into his practice. Based at one of the two Shaman clinics, Dr. Lopez educates and advises leadership of the company on questions and concerns regarding the clinical benefits of CBD while lending expert support and documented validation from the medical perspective.

Inspired by the demands of his patients seeking a more natural remedy to support a healthier lifestyle, coupled with the company’s progressive transparency, Dr. Lopez joined forces with Shaman at the beginning of 2018 with the intention of regulating their CBD treatment from a supplemental perspective. “CBD is a health supplement like any other, like vitamin D or C, and an individual should have access to it from a supplemental perspective,” says Lopez, adding that “personally, I believe in plant medicine. I believe that plants have healing properties […] but from the traditional, practical perspective, we need to get back to calling it a supplement, rather than a medication.”

Vince Sanders/ CBD American Shaman

Through this lens, the company can provide therapy assistance and preventative advice to patients, looking at the entire aspect of their condition, “yielding immediate results by utilizing natural holistic supplements that can support their overall health and homeostasis,” says Lopez. And although “CBD is one of the main tools in our tool belt […] the team prefers to take a more scientific approach to narrowing down symptoms in order to create a treatment plan based on the individual needs of each patient.” This is what truly sets CBD American Shaman apart from other companies in the industry: understanding the concept of modern-day wellness and the desire for people to naturally combat ‘dis-ease’ in their lives.

Of course, there are still a host of challenges in today’s CBD industry. From untested, uncontrolled production of inferior products with limited bioavailability, to overpriced merchandise, to misinformation and negative stigmas, CBD is in a limbo of authenticity and honest information. “The biggest challenge facing the CBD industry today is that it is associated with THC […] CBD does not have the psychoactive components that THC does and is not marijuana,” states Lopez. Once this misconception is overcome, more people will have access to the miracle of CBD, with the potential to improve their lives using natural, homeopathic, plant-based remedies that have been part of our culture throughout human history.

In addition to both of Shaman’s physician staffed Kansas City clinics, the company has over 300 franchise locations throughout the country with more on the way. They also offer online ordering, ensuring availability to any and all in search of alternative relief they can trust, with the science to back up the results. So, if you find yourself reading this article, it is not a coincidence: it is the synchronicity of connecting with the right information in the right place at the right time. This is the Shaman Way.

“Changing lives and turning people on to a homeopathic, plant-based option that is natural, therapeutic, and far superior to pharmaceuticals, [without] any of the side effects.”

—Founder and CEO Vince Sanders, CBD American Shaman

CBD

Cannabidiol is a phytocannabinoid found in both hemp and marijuana that connects with naturally occurring receptors spread throughout the human body and is clinically proven to assist in pain management, anxiety, cognition repair, seizure reduction, and so much more.

Nanotechnology

Nanotechnology refers to molecules broken down to a billionth of meter in size, making it easier to be absorbed by the body. Imagine a basketball on your floor full of BBs. Alone the basketball has little surface area, but if the BBs spill out, your floor would be covered by them, allowing for a greater surface area to be covered.

Bioavailability

Bioavailability refers to the percentage of a substance that can be absorbed by the human body, and measurement of the rate it reaches its area of activation.

Endocannabinoid System

The endocannabinoid system is a biological system composed of neurotransmitters and receptors spread throughout the central nervous system that regulates cannabinoids and the effects of cannabis/hemp.

Homeopathy

Homeopathy is a medical alternative based in the belief that the body can heal itself with the aid of natural supplements, minerals, and organic substances.

Vince Sanders/ CBD American Shaman

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Maryland Court Rules Pot Smell Not Enough for Police to Search Person

Bob Dylan wrote his indelible classic “The Times They Are a-Changin’” at a moment of enormous political and cultural upheaval in the country. Nearly 60 years later, the lyrics have been invoked—in a court of law, no less—to capture the winds of change in marijuana policy.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled 7-0 this week that the smell of pot alone is not sufficient grounds to search an individual. The court cited the state’s five-year-old law that decriminalized marijuana possession for 10 grams or less. And it also cited the king of folk. At the very top of the opinion, Maryland’s highest court placed the iconic lyrics from the song, which Dylan released in 1965 as an anthem for the Civil Rights era.

The case dealt with the arrest of Michael Pacheco, a 26-year-old who was approached by a pair of Montgomery County, Maryland police officers in his parked vehicle in May of 2016. The officers testified that they smelled freshly burnt marijuana emanating from the vehicle and that they could see a joint in the center console. After ordering Pacheco out of the vehicle, the officers searched and found cocaine in one of his front pockets.

Pacheco and his attorneys contended that the cocaine was the result of an illegal search, arguing that the officers had no probable cause that he was in possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana. After entering a conditional guilty plea, Pacheco took it to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, where he lost.

But the Court of Appeals reversed that ruling this week, saying it was based “predominantly on pre-decriminalization cases.”

“It is by now well known that the laws in Maryland and elsewhere addressing the possession and use of marijuana have changed,” the court wrote in the opening of the opinion, just after quoting Dylan. “Those changes naturally have compelled examination of how the affected laws are to be interpreted and applied consistent with the dictates of other law including, here, the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

“The same facts and circumstances that justify a search of an automobile do not necessarily justify an arrest and search incident thereto,” the court said in the conclusion of the majority opinion. “This is based on the heightened expectation of privacy one enjoys in his or her person as compared to the diminished expectation of privacy one has in an automobile. The arrest and search of Mr. Pacheco was unreasonable because nothing in the record suggests that possession of a joint and the odor of burnt marijuana gave the police probable cause to believe he was in possession of a criminal amount of that substance.”

In the concurring opinion, two members of the panel sought to emphasize the “limited nature” of the ruling, saying that driving under the influence is a “matter of growing concern.” Those judges said that the ruling “should not be read to preclude a conclusion that an officer has probable cause for arrest when the officer comes upon an individual alone and awake in the driver’s seat of a vehicle with a marijuana joint at hand and the pungent odor of marijuana in the air.”

The Maryland legislature decriminalized marijuana possession for 10 grams or less in 2014, and it was signed into law by then-Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley.

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Flashback Friday: Yagé, Psychic Vine of the Amazon

Each Friday, we’re republishing an article from the High Times archives. This week, the topic is yagé, otherwise known as ayahuasca. Originally featured in the “Vagabond” section of the August 1979 issue, the article was written by none other than celebrity physician and erstwhile High Times contributor Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D.

Excerpt from the August, 1979 issue of High Times/ Timothy Plowman

Every Saturday in a remote region of south-western Colombia, sick people make their way to a hut in a jungle clearing. The hut is a two-to-three-hour walk over a rough trail from a little port town called Mayoyoque on the River Caquetá, a tributary of the Amazon. Some of the people are very sick with high fevers, infections and chronic diseases that have not responded to medical treatment. The goal of their pilgrimage is an Ingano Indian witch doctor named Luis Nutumbahoy. He is a yagero, a man skilled in the use of yagé (yah-HAY), the powerful psychedelic drink of the Amazon, and every Saturday he cooks up a batch of it to use in curing ceremonies.

I have been interested in yagé for years and have visited a number of yageros in the western Amazon. Last January, on the recommendation of a Colombian friend, I made the long and difficult trip to see don Luis and his ceremony.

To get there I flew from Bogotá to Florencia, capital of the Caquetá Territory, a large province of Colombia mostly consisting of steamy jungles and large rivers. In recent years, intense colonization has resulted in ugly clear-cutting of the jungle and the growth of rowdy frontier towns noted for their violence. At the moment, the Caquetá is officially considered a war zone because of guerrilla activity, principally of a group called the FARC, the Colombian Armed Revolutionary Forces. In my travels from Florencia to Mayoyoque by bus and boat I was stopped frequently by soldiers, asked for identification and sometimes searched for weapons. Considerable drug traffic comes through the territory as well, mostly cocaine shipped by river from Peru.

Last January it was hard to get around the Caquetá because it was the middle of an unusually hot “summer,” a period of drought and high temperatures that had dried up the territory, making river travel uncertain and causing spontaneous forest fires that filled the skies with smoke and turned the sun an ominous copper color.

I took an uncomfortable bus from Florencia to a port called Curillo on the River Caquetá, then caught a motorized canoe downstream to Mayoyoque. Mayoyoque is in a lawless zone with no police or authorities. The town has seen a number of murders in the past months, and I was not eager to stay there long. The morning after my arrival I set out on the trail to don Luis’s house.

Freshly cut tanks of yagé, showing pattern of “hearts”/ Diego Léon Giraldo

The first part of the trail led through blackened, devastated fields, recently burned for new growing and grazing land. Then the forest began, dark and lush despite the lack of rain. I saw many kinds of mushrooms on the ground and on dead logs. There were some spectacular flowers, one a giant red bloom from a tree called palo de cruz. Parrots sang in the trees. I crossed deep ravines on crude log bridges. Normally, these ravines are roaring torrents on their way to the Caquetá. Now they were still, with a few disappearing muddy pools.

My companions on this trip were Diego León Giraldo, a well-known Colombian film maker who had visited don Luis before to make a documentary movie about yagé; his wife, Silvia Patiño, a professional photographer; and Carlos Rangel, an Indian guide who knows the territory well.

In late morning, we emerged into a sunny clearing with a large palm-thatched house. Luis came out to greet us. He is a 56-year-old, small, active man with an unusual face that sometimes appears very old, then changes into the face of a young child. His wife and children were there, and they showed us inside to the cool part of the house. Hammocks were strung up, the air smelled of woodsmoke from a kitchen fire, and a noisy parrot strolled about the rafters. Chickens paraded inside the house. Outside was an arrogant rooster that I grew to hate during the week I stayed there, also a family of ducks, some scrawny dogs and a few pigs.

The Inganos are descendants of ancient Incas who migrated north. Some of them live in villages in the mountains near the Ecuadorian border, but most are spread out through the hot lowlands along or near rivers. Like don Luis, most of them live in houses in isolated clearings in the jungle. They hunt, fish and grow a few staples like yuca (tapioca root). They sometimes wear colorful costumes, and they use a number of drug plants, especially yagé, which they call huasca in their own dialect.

Yagé is a gigantic liana, a woody vine that climbs up the huge trees of the jungle. In many parts of the Amazon it is a rare plant, and some Indians have to make long journeys to collect it. But Luis had many wild yagé vines within walking distance of his house. Some of them were the biggest I have seen, with heavy trunks six inches in diameter, so tall that I could not make out the leaves at the top.

Among the Inganos of this region, yagé is a sacred plant, used only in ceremonies for specific purposes such as healing and divining. There are certain taboos around it. For example, women are not allowed to see the living vines or their preparation, although they may consume the drink. If a woman sets eyes on a living yagé, that vine is useless and cannot be prepared.

Beaten sections of yage ready for cooking/ Diego Léon Giraldo

On the day after my arrival Luis cooked up a batch of yagé for me to drink. He began by felling a giant tree with a vine coiled about it, then hacked the yagé into eight-inch lengths with a machete. He carried these back to a small ramada about five minutes from the house. The ramada is only used for cooking yagé, and no women are allowed near it. Luis half filled a large fire-blackened caldron with about two gallons of water from a nearby water hole. He added about a quart of finished yagé from his last batch, cooked the previous Saturday. Then he brought fire from his kitchen and kindled a blaze underneath the pot, arranging long pieces of wood so that he could push them in and keep the fire going.

Next he sat down on a log and began to smash the pieces of yagé with a heavy stick. He beat each one until it split apart, exposing the inner fibers. When Luis finished this operation, he stood up, went to a post supporting one edge of the ramada and unfastened a net bag. From the inside he extracted handfuls of fresh green leaves. He called these chagrapanga and said they were the other ingredient that went into his version of yagé.

Each yagero has his own recipe for the drink, and some use various additives, including toxic plants like datura. In the western Amazon the basic mixture is simply trunks of yagé and leaves of chagrapanga. The botanical name of yagé is Banisteriopsis caapi, and it owes its hallucinogenic power to two chemicals called harmine and harmaline. Chagrapanga is a related plant, Banisteriopsis rusbyana, also a woody vine, whose leaves are rich in DMT, dimethyltryptamine. Luis says that these leaves “brighten the visions” caused by yagé, that with yagé alone “you will get intoxicated but not see anything; chagrapanga shows you pictures.”

Selecting chagrapanga leaves from banana-leaf-lined bag/ Diego Léon Giraldo

He put two large handfuls of these leaves into the pot and adjusted the fire to bring the water to a boil. I wanted to see the chagrapanga vine because I had never met Banisteriopsis rusbyana in the wild, but Luis said the plants were scarce, and he had gone a long way through the jungle to collect these leaves.

When the water came to a boil, Luis added the smashed yagé, two big bundles of it. He stirred the mixture with a stick, adjusted the fire till it was simmering, then sat back to wait. He told me it was important not to make the fire too high or the liquid would cook down too fast without extracting the power of the yagé.

The cooking took three hours. It was a scorching day, and the fire made things even hotter, but it was not unpleasant to lounge in the ramada, watching the caldron bubble, stirring the brew occasionally. When it was done, Luis unhooked the pot from its support and poured the liquid into two containers fashioned from the sheaths of flowers of palm trees, discarding the spent yagé. He covered the containers with fresh banana leaves. Then he repeated the process from the start, with water, chagrapanga and yagé, and cooked this second batch for the same amount of time.

Adding Chagrapanga leaves to hot water/ Diego Léon Giraldo

When the second batch was done, it was late afternoon. Luis combined the liquids from the two cookings and put them back in the pot. He then boiled the mixture down for an hour more to concentrate it. The finished product was muddy brown. When it was cool, Luis poured it into two containers: a large glass jug that had once held whiskey, and a plastic motor-oil bottle. These he carried up to the house, ready for use.

You never drink yagé until dark. And you are not supposed to eat anything after noon on the day you are going to drink it. I had not eaten since breakfast. Expectantly, I waited for sunset and for the heat to subside, watching the animals hunt for food around the house. As it got dark, Luis made things ready inside. He arranged some objects on a little altar, lit candles, got out cups and poured himself a few shots of aguardiente, the fiery anise-flavored cane whiskey that Colombians love. Luis says that aguardiente increases the effect of the yagé and also kills its bitter taste.

Luis’s brother-in-law, named Jorge, had come by to help. It was the middle of the week, not a regular yagé Saturday, and no sick people had come. Only Luis, Jorge and I were going to drink. Jorge prepared a large bowl of water with several aromatic leaves and barks. He called this mixture fresca and said it would be used in the ceremony.

Beaten age sections added to pot/ Diego Léon Giraldo

Unhurriedly, Luis poured out a portion of his brew into a large gourd. He set this down and began chanting over it: a strange, half-whispered chant, interrupted by puffs of breath. He took down from the wall a kind of noisemaker of bunched, dried palm leaves and rattled it over the bowl of yagé while keeping up his quiet song. This blessing ritual lasted ten minutes. Then Luis dipped out a four-ounce coffee cup of the brown liquid, raised it to his lips and drained it down, chasing it with a quick shot of aguardiente. He then dipped out a cup for me.

I followed Luis’s example and drained the cup quickly. The yagé tasted bitter, rusty and unpleasant, though not as bad as peyote. It was not very hard to get the first dose down. Since I do not care for aguardiente, I sucked on a slice of lime instead.

After Jorge drank his cup, Luis settled into a hammock and was quiet. Jorge lay down in another hammock. I was lying on a bench. It was dark except for a few candles, and the night was still hot. We listened to the jungle noises and watched some spectacular fireflies, which the children trapped and put into a jar.

I had taken yagé once before in the mountains of the Putumayo Territory southwest of here. But that drink contained datura and other additives and was violently intoxicating. I lost all power of movement, experienced complete physical and mental chaos and received no help from the yagero, who did nothing at all after a few minutes of chanting before pouring out the dose. My mind ran back to that adventure of a few years before. I was apprehensive, waiting to see what would happen.

Waiting for the yage brew to finish cooking/ Diego Léon Giraldo

In about 15 minutes I began to feel an uncomfortable heaviness in my stomach. It intensified over the next ten minutes, till I had to roll around in search of better positions. Eventually I got up and walked outside the hut to vomit.

Vomiting is the first stage of the effect of yagé. It is not fun, and I say that as someone who likes to vomit in certain circumstances. I held on to a tree and brought up a small quantity of intensely bitter liquid with wrenching spasms. Yagé tastes much worse on the way up than on the way down—so bad that it left me shuddering for a few seconds. But I felt much better immediately after, and as I straightened up I noticed the stars for the first time. It was a beautiful night with a new moon over the dark forest. I felt high, not the chaotic acceleration of datura-adulterated yagé, but a calm, floating, detached feeling. Breathing deeply I headed back into the candle-lit hut. Luis was still sitting in the hammock with a serious expression, and Jorge was still lying down.

After a few more minutes I had to answer another call of nature. The second action of yagé is to purge the intestine. The effect is spectacular and painless. When I went back in, Luis asked me it if had been “a good purge.” I told him yes. Eventually, he and Jorge also made trips to the jungle. I lay down on my bench, feeling very disconnected from my body and the external world. I was in a dreamy, trancelike state, not at all speeded. When I closed my eyes I began to see things: plants mostly, what looked like rows of sugarcane against a black background. I felt as if I were floating in a velvety liquid. The plants became undersea plants, waving in a gentle current.

My visions were interrupted by an unwelcome sensation in my stomach, and I shuffled out into the night to my tree for another episode of vomiting, worse than the last. There followed several walks into the fringes of the jungle with diarrhea. Yagé cleans you out thoroughly from both ends, and that is probably one reason why it helps sick people. It has been shown to be an effective treatment for amebic dysentery, for example. Anyway, in a short time there was nothing left inside to come out.

Simmering brew of yage and chagrapanga/ Silva Patiño

Back in the house Luis poured me another cup of the bitter brew. This time it was hard to get down. The association of the taste with the terrible vomiting was too strong. But I did swallow it.

Now Luis began chanting in earnest. A yagero’s chant is his most precious possession. It comes to him in dreams and stays with him all his life. Until a man receives his chant from the spirit of the vine, he cannot conduct ceremonies. Luis’s chant was strangely hypnotic, a mixture of sounds, tunes and words. There were Spanish words, Ingano words and words of a sort I had never heard before. I asked him what one particular word meant. “It is yagé speaking,” he answered. “It doesn’t mean; it is yagé speaking.” He resumed the chant. At times the sounds turned into the grunts and snorts of a big cat, and his face assumed an animal expression. He looked up and grinned at me. “I can be a jaguar when I want to,” he said.

I vomited a few more times, then came in and collapsed on the bench. Luis went out to vomit, too, but I could barely hear a break in his chanting. From now on he chanted nonstop and would go on until dawn. At times it was quiet, at times loud, always fascinating and powerful. Under its influence my visions of plants became more elaborate with huge forest trees and vines. But all was calm and peaceful: a world of plants with no animals.

Luis told me later that yagé visions come in stages with practice and increasing dosages. First come patterns, then plants, then animals, then fantastic architecture and cities. If you are fortunate, you see jaguars. Though he has been no farther from his home than Mayoyoque, Luis says that under yagé he has left his body and visited distant towns and cities, including Florencia and Bogotá. In the visions he sees the causes of illnesses and the cures. He sees what plants a sick person should take or what pills if plants are not strong enough for a particular illness. People consult him about missing persons, too, bringing photographs if they have them, and in the visions Luis discovers their whereabouts. Recently he saw one missing relative in the army in Bogotá.

First batch drains while second batch cooks/ Diego Léon Giraldo

I saw only plants after two cups of yagé except for a brief period of suspension bridges. These looked like the beginnings of fantastic architecture but did not progress to cities. And I saw no animals. Luis wanted me to drink more of his brew, but I could not. My body rebelled at the thought of consuming more. In the course of the evening Luis drank nine cups of the stuff. Each one sent him to the jungle for further purging, but his animated chanting continued without pause. With each cup he became more energetic. Finally, Jorge helped him into a heavy necklace of jaguar teeth and a fantastic headdress of parrot feathers. Then, palm-leaf rattles in his hands, Luis began a stomping, turning dance around the house, all the while uttering the sounds of yagé.

After a time he sat down and had me sit in front of him. He chanted over me, shaking the palm-leaf rattles loudly over my head, and finally he took a big mouthful of fresca and sprayed it all over me. It felt wonderfully cool and revived me from the dreamy trance with overtones of nausea. Jorge explained that fresca brings you down if you are too high and calms you if you are having anxiety. All you have to do is sip some. I took a little because I was thirsty, but I felt no anxiety. I just wanted to stay curled up on my bench, float among the visionary plants and listen to Luis’s sounds.

As the night wore on, Luis kept up his dancing. From time to time he would pick up a harmonica and turn into a one-man band. He would dance out the door and we would hear him chanting and singing off into the jungle, circling the house, disappearing into the night. Then he would burst through the doorway in an explosion of feathers and palm leaves, growling like a jaguar.

This performance continued till sunup, long after I had crashed on my bench. I got little sleep because the rooster started crowing well before dawn. (It did so every night, and I thought of many different ways I would enjoy cooking it.) As soon as I woke up, Luis took me outside for a purification ritual. He instructed me to wash my face and hands with the clove-scented fresca and had me rinse my mouth out with it, too. Then he waved some branches of stinging nettles around me as if to drive off any lingering bad energy. I felt refreshed and hungry. Luis slept some in the morning, then went about his daily chores, including chopping up more yagé for the weekend.

Don Luis chanting with palm-leaf rattle/ Diego Léon Giraldo

Luis has been using yagé for 22 years. He learned how by serving as apprentice to masters who came from the Putumayo Territory. “The old people knew much about the secret power of yagé,” he says. “Now they are gone.” But he is passing his knowledge on. As the weekend approached, a man named Victor showed up—an Ingano chief who lives half a day from Mayoyoque and has been Luis’s apprentice for three years. Victor is a fine-looking man with parrot feathers in his ears. He explained to me that few people know how to use the vision vine these days, and he wanted to be able to serve his people as a yagero.

On Saturday, Luis cooked up more yagé, and he, Victor, Jorge and a patient drank it at nightfall. I participated, too, but only took a little. Victor and Luis sang and danced all night, periodically going out into the jungle to sing under the trees, then returning to the candle-lit house. Victor congratulated Luis on having made a really strong batch.

Luis gives yagé to anyone who wants it: to young and old, men and women, sick and well. He says it cannot hurt anyone, and, though he gives it to pregnant women, young children and people with high fevers, no one suffers bad effects. Victor and he are both in good shape after taking enormous doses for years. Luis has seen hundreds and hundreds of people trip on yagé and knows all the ins and outs of the experience. He knows exactly how to minimize negative effects and encourage people to interpret their experiences in good ways. And many of the patients say they are helped. I talked with people in Mayoyoque who say that visits to Luis cured them of various ills.

Yagé is a strong drug, rough on the body physically when you take it but not harmful in any serious way. Used casually it might cause all sorts of bad trips. But treated with respect, made carefully and consumed in these elaborate rituals, it becomes a power for good in the hands of men like don Luis and his colleagues.

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New Documentary Explores the Origins of Woodstock

50 years after nearly a half million people descended on a New York dairy farm for the three-day Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, the event has taken on a near-mythical place in our collective imagination, one that’s rooted far more in nostalgia than reality. Creating Woodstock is a feature-length documentary that goes beyond the overly-enchanted impressions the festival has garnered over the years, examining some of the less glamorous aspects of the monumental happening that nonetheless remains the defining event of a generation.

A drummer and Woodstock attendee, Emmy Award-winning TV producer Mick Richards wrote and directed the film. The story unfolds through rare archival material and three decades’ worth of interviews with the organizers, many who have since passed away. Judging by the models of the computers in the interviews, a lot of the recordings are on the older side, which makes the film feel as though it’s been around awhile, even though it’s only being released now. There’s also a lot of talking, which makes it more likely to appeal to die-hard music-industry geeks and rock historians than the average layperson. It almost feels like Creating Woodstock is pieced together from the recollections and reminiscences of wistful relatives who are continuously reliving the 72 hours between August 15-17, 1969. Still, what they have to say is interesting.

John Sebastian at the 1969 Woodstock Festival/ © Henry Diltz

Spoiler alert: By all accounts, Woodstock had all the defining characteristics of a potential disaster. The organizers had trouble securing a venue until Max and Miriam Yasgur offered their property. Then, with barely a month at their disposal, roughly a thousand people hurriedly worked on the festival’s infrastructure—preparing roads, digging wells, and installing electricity. Most days, it rained.

Originally intended only for about 20,000 people, Woodstock eventually required 500-plus acres for parking alone. Hundreds of thousands of audience members braved 20-mile traffic jams and a five-mile hike just to arrive to the festival, which lawmakers threatened to shut down by sending in the National Guard.

Richie Havens at the 1969 Woodstock Festival/ © Henry Diltz

Eventually, the organizers pulled it off. The permit came through only hours before the event officially began, and though a health inspector was called to the scene, because he brought his 15-year-old daughter who promptly disappeared, he went looking for her over the course of three days and never got around to inspecting.

Money is one of Creating Woodstock‘s recurring themes. Since the spirit was one of positive energy and goodwill, the festival went from being a ticketed festival to a free event. Even so, the film reveals that the Who wouldn’t play onstage until they got paid in cash, and at $35,000, Jimi Hendrix was the highest paid act, though he had trouble getting in. The rain fell and the stage started to slide down the hill, but Hendrix continued playing into the morning after what was supposed to be the end of the festival.

A view from the stage of Woodstock, 1969/ © Henry Diltz

Creating Woodstock doesn’t end there. Interviewees look back on the aftermath as well, including the massive cleanup effort, the dicey finances, the “tremendous smell,” and even a dead body or two.

While it’s very much a behind-the-scenes look at the festival, Creating Woodstock is full of interesting tidbits that make for worthwhile viewing. Plus now, a half century later, Woodstock’s role in American history is even more apparent, and therein lies the real value of the film. As Arlo Guthrie says in the documentary, “It’s a singular event in history.”

The aftermath of the original Woodstock Festival, 1969/ © Henry Diltz

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La Corte Suprema de México ordena al Ministerio de Salud regular marihuana medicinal

Los largos retrasos en las directrices han dejado a los pacientes y productores del país en la oscuridad.

Los jueces de la corte suprema de México están impacientes con la demora de dos años del Ministerio de Salud en la regulación del cannabis medicinal. El miércoles, el tribunal le dijo al ministerio que tiene seis meses para emitir reglas sobre el uso del paciente, emitidas como parte de su fallo en el caso de un niño que busca tratamiento de THC para la epilepsia.

El anuncio se produce casi un año después de que el gobierno del político izquierdista Andrés Manuel López Obrador, también conocido como AMLO, propusiera una legislación para regular tanto las industrias de marihuana medicinal como recreativa, pero ese plan no ha visto mucho movimiento desde su anuncio.

No es la primera vez que el ministerio recibe instrucciones para elaborar los reglamentos para la industria médica. En 2017, cuando el cannabis medicinal se legalizó por primera vez en México, se le dijo al ministerio que tenía medio año para codificar la distribución y el uso de la droga. La demora ha dejado a los pacientes y proveedores de cannabis en gran medida en la oscuridad sobre sus derechos para comprar y vender hierba medicinal, no obstante algunas compañías han comenzado a ofrecer sus productos en el país.

México se ha quedado mucho tiempo en una zona gris con respecto a las políticas hacia la marihuana. Muchos tenían grandes esperanzas de que AMLO legalizara rápidamente el cannabis. Aunque el presidente promocionó la reforma del cannabis como un aspecto de su plan para combatir las tasas de criminalidad que se disparan en el país, los mexicanos han visto pocos movimientos tangibles hacia la regulación.

La mejor esperanza del país para la legalización parece ser el plan que la ministra del Interior de AMLO, Olga Sánchez Cordero, propuso el otoño pasado. El proyecto de ley cruza la línea entre las fuerzas del libre mercado y las preocupaciones de salud pública. Prohibiría la publicidad de marihuana y establecería el Instituto Mexicano de Regulación y Control del Cannabis, una agencia para manejar las licencias, los límites de THC y CBD, y dictaría qué tipos de productos de marihuana podrían estar disponibles para los consumidores.

La legislación propuesta de Sánchez Cordero también permitiría operaciones de cultivo doméstico registradas, con individuos autorizados a cultivar 20 plantas para un rendimiento total de 480 gramos cada año. Incluye subsidios para cooperativas de cannabis, grupos autorizados para proporcionar hasta 480 gramos de marihuana a un total de dos a 150 miembros por año.

El año pasado, la corte suprema del país dictaminó que la prohibición del cannabis viola el derecho del individuo a desarrollar su personalidad. Ese fallo declaró que los legisladores tienen hasta octubre de 2019 para aprobar una legislación que regule la marihuana tanto recreativa como medicinal.

En previsión de ese plazo, el gobierno convocó sesiones de “parlamento abierto” en la Ciudad de México los días 12, 14 y 16 de agosto en las que se invita a los ciudadanos a que intervengan en el proceso, lo que implicará la consideración del plan de Sánchez Cordero y Varias otras propuestas legislativas que se han introducido en los últimos años.

El gobierno también ha publicado un sitio web donde los ciudadanos mexicanos que no pueden asistir a las sesiones puedan dejar su opinión sobre la legalización de la marihuana, que será utilizada por las cuatro comisiones parlamentarias a cargo de la creación de legislación reguladora. El sitio enfatiza los aspectos de los derechos humanos y la salud pública del debate, así como la necesidad de evitar el abuso de drogas.

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Ohio Experts Withdraw Recommendation to Approve Cannabis for Autism, Anxiety

A committee of experts advising regulators in Ohio has withdrawn its recommendation to approve adding autism and anxiety as qualifying conditions for the state’s medical marijuana program. The action by the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program’s expert review panel on Wednesday follows a recommendation to approve the two conditions for inclusion in the program the committee issued in May.

After hearing additional testimony from four physicians and reviewing several letters opposed to the plan on Wednesday, the committee voted to reverse the earlier decision.

Dr. Michael Schottenstein, the president of the Ohio State Medical Board, is a psychiatrist practicing in the Columbus area. He is also a member of the review committee and opposed adding autism and anxiety to the state’s list of qualifying conditions.

“Approval feels premature at this time,” Schottenstein said after the committee voted to reverse course. “For the medical board, there should be consensus to do so among respected medical authorities.”

Committee member Robert Giacalone was also opposed to approving the recommendation.

“There is, at best, anecdotal evidence on the other side,” he said.

“The comfort’s just not there,” Giacalone added. “I’m hearing solid science on one side and, at best, anecdotal science on the other.”

Doctors Disagree on Proposal

Anup Patel, the section chief of neurology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, said that there is anecdotal evidence that suggests cannabis may be an effective treatment for autism and anxiety. But with no clinical trials showing that medical marijuana was safe and effective, Patel advised against adding the conditions to Ohio’s program.

“The reality is we should all still be held to the same standard of the scientific method,” he said.

Three other physicians also testified against adding anxiety and autism as qualifying conditions. Additionally, the board had received letters against the proposal from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the Ohio Children’s Hospital Association, the Ohio Psychiatric Physicians Association, and the Ohio departments of Health and Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Gary Wenk, a professor of psychology at Ohio State University who studies how drugs affect the brain, was one of two physicians who supported adding anxiety and autism as qualifying conditions for the state’s medical marijuana program He said that some research on animals suggests that cannabis can aid neural development and reduce incidents of self-harm in autistic children.

“I came down on the side of saying this is useful,” Wenk said.

Mom Left in Tears by Decision

Tiffany Carwile of Bryan, Ohio submitted the petition to add autism as a qualifying condition because she believes that medical marijuana could help her 5-year-old son. She was in tears on Wednesday after hearing of the committee’s decision to rescind the recommendation for approval.

“The medications our kids have access to now are absolutely horrible in comparison to cannabis,” Carwile said. “I am so heartbroken for Ohio. I am truly shaken to the core.”

The full state medical board is expected to vote on adding anxiety and autism to Ohio’s list of qualifying conditions at its next meeting on September 11. The board voted against adding depression, opioid abuse disorder, and insomnia in May while delaying the decision on anxiety and autism so new board members could be brought up to speed on the issues.

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Talking the Shifting Cannabis Perception with Straight Edge Community Members

Straight edge is a movement that was born out of the early ‘80s punk movement and the loss of several in the community due to various vices. Such losses included punk musicians Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols and The Germs’ Darby Crash. 

In response, many in the emerging hardcore punk scene created an offshoot that extends beyond music. Their anti-consumption lifestyle and art would go on to be dubbed straight edge. 

Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye is credited with coining the phrase from a 46-second anti-vice song. The band also receive credit for setting up the rules in their song “Out of Step.” The track’s lyrics include “I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t fuck.” 

The lifestyle continues to this day as a genre of music, art and life in general. Vice‘s i-D platform noted back in 2017 that the movement was back on the rise.

Back in the 80s, cannabis was still widely demonized by communities of numerous kinds. The plant was deemed a drug is now too is on its way back to being a medicinal option. 

So, how does a community steeped in anti-consumption feel about a plant both used in therapeutic and recreational uses? 

Dimitri Oster grew up as a teen in the ’90s heavily involved in New York City’s straight edge hardcore scene, continuing to today. He is also a credentialed addictions counselor, licensed clinical social worker and serves as the Program Director of a Brooklyn-based outpatient treatment program.

He explained that straight edge is much more than being drug-free. “It starts there, but goes much further,” Oster said. “Straight edge has always been about challenging the dominant and popular cultural stereotypes, that mainly serve to reinforce the order of our increasingly dysfunctional society.”

Several reasons convince Oster that cannabis is a drug not worth consumption. He said that he still considers the plant a mood and mind-altering drug that remains listed as a controlled substance in the U.S. 

What may be the most concerning to Oster, however, is the potential adverse mental health effects. “I have seen countless instances of teenagers and young adults “experimenting” with marijuana, which had direct and serious negative effects on their mental health. I have personally witnessed some marijuana users actually have psychotic breaks and lose contact with external reality.” This happens more often with those predisposed to mental illness and are not even aware of it, according to Oster. 

There is some shifting sentiment in the community. Ryan, a moderator for Reddit’s straight edge subreddit said that the view will vary by the person, while also noting that marijuana use still qualifies as an “edge break.” 

That said, he has witnessed a change in the sXe, the genre’s often used moniker, community. The moderator noted criminal justice serving as a prime driver in the shift. “Generally speaking, I’ve noticed a large shift over the years from a total disregard for it to some of us, including me, voting for legalization and expunging records of people convicted of marijuana violations.” 

Chris, a 30-something tattoo artist in New York City, has been straight edge his entire life. He acknowledged a clear distinction between synthetic drugs and marijuana. He still has no interest in consuming it himself despite many in his circle using it for a variety of reasons. 

“The majority of my friends use cannabis for a variety of reasons, and I have no problem with it. I am pro-legalization. The war on drugs has essentially been a war on the poor and minorities, and would love to see that end.” 

Chris gave his take on the current community sentiment towards cannabis as well. “While there are certainly hardline straight edge individuals today, most of those I know have a much softer perspective towards marijuana use.” He added, “I think once you understand why it was made illegal, as well as it’s benefits, it becomes insane to think that alcohol is legal while cannabis is not.”

Andrew Clark is straight edge and shares similar beliefs around the war on drugs. The marketing strategist opined, “Out of all the drugs in this world, cannabis is pretty mild and does not often lead to people committing acts of violence like we see with alcohol or opioids.” 

Clark went on to say that legalization has helped bring cannabis into the mainstream. He believes that this begets more regulation and responsible use as opposed to keeping it in the shadows. 

Others differentiated between CBD and THC.  Francois Mathieu previously lived a straight edge lifestyle. He believes that CBD is a “completely different story than THC” due to its inability to alter minds and is thought to be nonaddictive. The Toronto-based green tea business owner said, “I believe that in many cases, it actually helps people avoid certain prescription drugs that would be addictive with nasty side effects.”

Meanwhile, others have accepted cannabis but not for any sort of personal use. Noah Bolanowski describes himself as “very anti-drug,” and calls the shift on cannabis less about acceptance and more commodification. 

“Many of my peers in the corporate space are investing in the industry at an alarming rate. If not THC then they’re definitely investing in CBD.” He said that those that have acquired cannabis businesses continue to not partake but promote its use. 

Bolanowski added, “To me, it’s become a tolerable commodity with a lot of room for growth. But its nothing more than that – a commodity.”

Some have “broken edge” with cannabis for medical reasons. Krysia Hepatica once experimented with cannabis as a college undergrad but had since turned away from its use. That changed three years ago when she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. 

She said the results were incredible, but came at a loss away from her health. “I have found there is a price. I have lost other straight edge friends because of my personal choices.” Despite the loss of some in her circle, Hepatica said those she considers true friends continue to support her use to address her symptoms.

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Smoke Cartel Announces Licensing Agreement with High Times

Cannabis accessories manufacturer Smoke Cartel announced on Thursday that the firm has entered into a licensing and royalty agreement with High Times Holding Corporation, the parent company of High Times. As part of the two-year agreement, Smoke Cartel will provide products to VIP attendees of High Times Cannabis Cup events, a series of competitions to honor the best cannabis products at the state and regional level held across North America and Europe.

The first High Times Cannabis Cup was held in Amsterdam in 1988 and has since grown to be the world’s largest series of cannabis culture events, with entertainment including top concert touring acts, food, and vendor and activist booths in addition to the competition. Over the next two weekends, Smoke Cartel will hook up tens of thousands of VIP attendees with High Times branded products at Cannabis Cup competitions in Seattle, Detroit, and Oklahoma City, with more planned over the next two years.

One product produced under the partnership, a red silicone bong emblazoned with the High Times logo, features prominently in an episode of the new HTTV series “Meet the Judges.” In the spot, Cannabis Cup judge Adam ill demonstrates how he uses the bong to rate Cannabis Cup entries in the best flower competitions.

Get Your High Times Gear Online

The High Times-themed goods manufactured under the licensing agreement will also be available soon to consumers on the Smoke Cartel website. High Times has agreed to promote the line of cannabis accessories through its social media platforms as part of the deal.

Smoke Cartel launched in 2013 and has provided high quality cannabis accessories to more than 125,000 retail customers in over 50 countries and has also served more than 1,000 wholesale clients. At the core of Smoke Cartel’s success is its commitment to customer service, powered by a proprietary suite of online retail operating software called Warely. Smoke Cartel has employed Warely on 19 different web domains and is also licensing the software to other online retailers. The company went public in 2017 and is trading on the OTC markets under the ticker symbol SMKC. 

“We run a successful e-commerce operation because we develop effective e-commerce software,” said Darby Cox, the CEO and co-founder of Smoke Cartel.

The company also operates online retailers Midnighttoke.com, Rolluhbowl.com, AskVape.com, ClubLifted.com, HeadyPet.com, as well as other e-commerce platforms.

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Ricky Williams: The High Times Interview

After a remarkable college football career that culminated in winning the Heisman Trophy in 1998, Ricky Williams entered the NFL. While he found success on the field in the pros, he also battled anxiety and depression. After leaving professional football, Williams embarked on a quest for knowledge, studying alternative healing and advocating for cannabis. His unique background as an athlete and healer led Williams to start his own cannabis line with the goal of opening minds and connecting patients to the world around them.

In 1999, the New Orleans Saints gave up all of their picks in order to draft you fifth overall in a historic trade. You were the only draft pick for the team that year. What kind of pressure comes from something like that?

I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure that came with it, but, at least at the time, I wasn’t really aware of it. I wanted to be the first pick. Back in 1999, it was the Cleveland Browns’ first year back in the NFL as an expansion team. They had the first pick. And so I saw being the No. 1 pick and going to Cleveland as my path. But I wasn’t the first pick—I fell all the way to the fifth pick. It was a little bit devastating for me. It didn’t really dawn on me—the massive trade and what it meant—until much later. The pressure I always put on myself to perform tends to be greater than any kind of pressure people on the outside could put on me. I really didn’t feel excess pressure from the pressure that I typically put on myself.

You were coming off a legendary career at the University of Texas. But in the pros, you began experiencing social anxiety and became known for your postgame interviews in which you wore your helmet and visor. When did you first start feeling anxiety in those situations?

I first started feeling anxiety almost immediately when I started dealing with the NFL. I guess, looking back, that probably should have been a clue that [professional football] might not be the path for me. I remember going to the NFL combine and just feeling grossly misunderstood. You mentioned the University of Texas and everything I did there. I think I was still a weirdo, but in college, you’re a kid and people look at you and treat you [that way]. At Texas, it felt like a big family where, for the most part, we accepted each other for who we were. I got into the NFL and I realized that people had a certain idea of who I was supposed to be and how I was supposed to behave that didn’t seem very interesting to me. I kind of went through an identity crisis of trying to figure out, am I who I think I am, or am I who everyone is telling me I’m supposed to be? That created a lot of anxiety for me. As I was wrestling with this tension, I remember it was during training camp, and we were in Wisconsin at the time. There was a light rain after practice and I was injured, so I hadn’t been playing or practicing, and the media wanted to talk to me. I was walking to a covered area, and before I even got there, someone in the media kind of yelled at me to take off my helmet. I’ve got a bit of a rebellious streak, so when they said it, I kind of thought, I haven’t even gotten under the thing, and you guys are yelling at me, treating me like a puppet. So I said, “What’s the big deal if I leave the helmet on?” For that whole season it stood, partially as a rebellious act against the idea that the media or that the fans want me to be something and aren’t willing to actually see who I am underneath the helmet.

That’s really interesting because it was so widely reported that the helmet/visor was related to social-anxiety issues. But you’re saying it was really more of a rebellious act?

Yeah, at the same time, because part of the anxiety was an inner rebellion that took a while to come to the surface and for me to actually act on it. But the signs were there from the very beginning that the NFL might not be the place for me.

You were using Paxil to treat anxiety — and you even did a campaign for the drug. How did you first end up using marijuana to treat symptoms of anxiety?

I remember we’d just finished a season—I think it was the 2000 season—and I had since recovered from wearing the football helmet. It was the following year, and I got off to a really good start that year, and I ended up breaking my ankle in the 10th week of the season. I kind of went into the tank because I had finally proven to myself that I could play in the NFL, and then I had this injury. And again, these ideas of, is this really what I want my life to be like, always trying to prove myself? And so I started, again, questioning—is this really who I am? And another symptom was I didn’t really feel like being around other football players. I felt like we didn’t have very much in common, and I just felt like an outcast. I was at home watching TV one day, and there was a commercial for Paxil and it started listing symptoms of social-anxiety disorder. It probably listed seven or eight symptoms, and I identified very strongly with three or four of them. So I started seeing a therapist, and she put me on Paxil. Who knows if the Paxil helped? For me, what was powerful was knowing that there was something that I could do about it.

So around the same time, I was living with a teammate of mine, and he was a smoker. We would get together and roll up and we’d smoke, and we’d talk. At this time, I’d never really even heard of medicinal marijuana. I grew up, my auntie smoked. It was around. That was just something you do. I didn’t look at it as being a bad thing, but I also didn’t realize that there were potential benefits from it. As I was smoking more and more, I started to ask myself different questions and look at the world in a different way. Parts of me that I’d never really knew existed, or I had long since buried, started to come back to the surface. It was almost like it allowed me to give myself permission to consider doing something other than playing football.

I don’t really get into the details of whether cannabis can treat mental-health disorders. What I do know for sure is that using cannabis helped me look at the world in a different way, which opened possibilities and doors that I didn’t even know existed. My classification of that is more of a spiritual type of medicine. Something that gives you a broader perspective and allows you to see things differently. And in my path, in studying different healing modalities, other than the Western healing modality, I learned the main disease we have is a lack of connection to the universe or to spirit.

You’ve extensively studied Ayurveda and yoga. What led to your interest in alternative healing?

It all started around the same time. As a football player, I was noticing when I go on the football field, everything is good. I’m talented. I know how to handle myself. I know what to do. But at the same time, my personal life was really a mess, and I felt the opposite. The question I kept asking myself was: I wonder what I’d have to change in my life for my personal life, my life off the field, to be as vibrant, as successful, as my life on the field? It was almost as soon as I started asking these questions, things started to change. I started to look at things differently. And so when I decided to retire from football in 2004, I wanted to travel. I wanted to experience different things. As I traveled, certain things would land in my lap, and a book on Ayurveda was one of those things. At this time, I was dealing with some residual injuries from playing football, and so part of my journey was looking for ways to help myself feel better physically and emotionally.

So I started reading this book on Ayurveda, and it just blew my mind. Here was this completely different way to look at the body and the mind that made more sense to me than what I had learned growing up. So when I got back to the States and realized, I’m not a football player anymore, I have to find something to do, I decided to start studying Ayurveda. I found a program in Northern California, moved up there and started studying.

As I studied Ayurveda, one day I was in class, and someone asked a question about cannabis. The teacher explained, “What the Buddha said is that anything can be medicine, and anything can be poison.” And he started to share his story of his personal use of cannabis, and he said, “I don’t use it every day, but if there’s a problem or something that I just can’t seem to figure out, I’ll use some cannabis, and it helps me see things differently.” As I studied further, I realized that they’ve been using cannabis in Ayurveda for over 2,000 years. So at least the internal stigma in my mind started to break down, and I started to realize all of these disparate pieces of my narrative are all starting to come together.

While I was studying Ayurveda and studying not only cannabis, but the other 150 herbs that they use in their pharmacopeia, it struck me that I’m in a state where I could get a [cannabis card]. So I got my rec and I got a couple of pounds of flower, and at the time I was working in the herb lab at the Ayurvedic school, and so I would bring home different herbs, and I started playing around in my kitchen, creating herbal formulations for myself and for my friends, combining these traditional Ayurvedic formulas with cannabis. It really opened my mind, considering my history as an athlete and taking Advil or Paxil or taking other different pharmaceuticals that, yes, provided some relief, but also a lot of side effects, and altered my ability to function. I just kept exploring, and through that exploration I found yoga, I found meditation and I found all these different things. What I wrestled with inside was that we’re taught cannabis is bad, but my experience with it is it goes extremely well with all these other things that I’m doing. I just further started to free my mind from these ideas of what we’ve been taught, of what cannabis is and what cannabis isn’t.

You obviously had a lot of trouble with the NFL’s cannabis policy — you mentioned at one point that pot cost you roughly $10 million when you factor in salary, fines and endorsements. How do you view its current handling of cannabis? Do you feel like it’s improved?

I will say it has improved. But I think for the most part, everyone’s had to improve. An example is when I got in trouble with the NFL, they were testing for THC metabolized at 0.15 nanograms per milliliter, which I think is pretty close to the lowest that you can test legally. They’ve now bumped it up to 0.5 nanograms per milliliter, and the significance of that is both of my failed tests were under 0.5 but above 0.15. So if I were playing in the NFL now, I wouldn’t have even failed the drug test and been in the drug program. So there definitely have been improvements. The other side is once you get into the drug program, essentially they treat you like you’re a criminal. In the drug program, I had to call the NFL and tell them whenever I was leaving town, I had to give them the date that I departed, the time that I arrived, my address and location so that they could test me any time they wanted. And I had to see an addiction specialist, once a week. That was for two years.

I think the NFL has improved. But at the end of the day, the program is you get tested once a year in the off-season between April and August, and then if you pass that one test, there’s no more tests the rest of the year. So for all intents and purposes, if players take a break or find a way to pass that test, they’re free to smoke during the season. So you could make the argument that the NFL is lax. The other side of the argument is the NFL is a powerful corporation that carries a lot of clout, and if they did modify their approach more significantly, it could create a lot of change in the world.

You started your own cannabis business, Real Wellness, based on your unique background as an athlete and a healer.

Yeah. My idea of entrepreneurship is seeing where there’s a need somewhere and using your individual abilities, talents, perspective to fill that need. I started speaking at cannabis conferences a few years back, just telling my story. Quite naturally, after being onstage on a panel or as a keynote, I’d walk the floor and meet different vendors and different people, and I kept being approached [about starting a business]. I started to think about my background and realized there’s a void for truly medicinal-marijuana products right now. With my background in herbalism and Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, I have access to formulas and ideas to actually start creating products for people where they can practice medicinal marijuana. I realized there’s something here. My personal experience, after studying alternative medicine, was that I found ways to take care of myself and realized I could do a much better job keeping myself healthy than the doctors could. A large part of that was using different herbal remedies, my yoga practice, my meditation practice, and realizing that we all, with a little bit of education and consciousness, can find ways to take care of ourselves.

Where can people find Real Wellness products?

Right now we’re only in Southern California dispensaries. In the RW line, we have several products that have THC and CBD, among other medicinals. We also have CBD-only products, which are available online and in dispensaries in Southern California. But right now we’re currently in conversations with manufacturing partners in other states so that we can get this product in patients’ hands.

I’m 41 now, and I look at my past and ups and downs. To me, I’m in a place where I can turn all that stuff into value, not just for myself but for other people. So starting a brand is really mainly a way to get my message out, that this is a plant that’s really contributed to my life and opened my mind to a lot of things. I just see the world being a better place if people’s minds are more open. Real Wellness isn’t just about eating organic food or exercising. It’s about your perspective. And your ability to feel connected to your life and the world around you.

This article originally appeared in the March 2019 issue. For subscription services, click here.

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