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Native Americans have always respected and used “teaching plants.” By far the most commonly used and most beneficial plant is cannabis or marijuana. Whether it was smoked or eaten, its use has been verified around the world and dates back to the beginning of man himself.
Marijuana was a name given to the familiar plant cannabis in order to perpetuate propaganda that would turn the country against it. It was used to make canvas, a very familiar product used by sailors, painters and everyone in between for its strength and durability. Bibles, maps, clothes and books were made from cannabis. People knew this plant and loved it, so in order to make the people fear it, a new name had to be used and cannabis became marijuana. A thorough explanation of this can be found it the book The Emperor Wears No Clothes by Jack Herer.
The Cherokees call it Gatunlati, and legend says it was brought to this planet by the star people who seeded our world with what we know as humanity. The story says that this plant was so important that they thought it integral to the survival of the species. The very planet the star people came from was called Gatunlati in this plant's honor, or perhaps visa-versa. While the theory that aliens or star people walk among us is up for debate, the values of cannabis are not. I am not exaggerating when I say it could revolutionize the world. Until fairly recently in history, it was highly prized for its many uses.
Hemp is simply a strain of the cannabis plant that has little or no THC, the ingredient that causes one to feel “high.” Hemp was legal tender (money) in most of the Americas from the mid-1600s to the early 1800s in order to encourage more American farmers to grow it. One could even pay their taxes with it. There were laws requiring the growth of cannabis in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and one could even be jailed for not growing it during periods of shortages in Virginia. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew it and Benjamin Franklin owned a paper mill that used cannabis.
Some cannabis strains can reach a height of twenty feet in a single growing season. One acre of cannabis in annual crop rotation over a twenty year period would produce as much pulp for paper as over 4 acres of trees being cut down during the same twenty year period. Furthermore, the process to produce paper from the hemp would use less than ¼ as much polluting chemicals to break it down. In addition, hemp can be bleached by a process that is far safer for the environment.
Hemp makes a much better cloth than does cotton. It is four times as absorbent and lasts longer. Cotton depletes the soil when grown, whereas hemp replenishes the soil and even breaks down clay and rocky soils. Cotton requires a tremendous amount of herbicides and pesticides as compared to hemp and only reaches a height of four or five feet.
Cellulose is a biodegradable organic polymer. It is a biodegradable replacement for plastics. Hemp hurds are 77% cellulose which can be used in the production of chemicals, plastics, and fibers. This is a higher cellulose content than even sugar cane. Furthermore, cannabis has a short growing season and can be harvested twice a year in most places.
Each acre of hemp is estimated to be able to yield 1000 gallons of methanol or 500 gallons of gasoline. Hemp seeds contain 30% oil which can be used to make high-grade diesel fuel as well as aircraft engine fuel and precision machine oil. Throughout history all over the world, hemp seed oil has been used for lamps long before whale oil.
There was a conspiracy perpetrated by the newspaper, textile, and chemical manufacturers to eradicate cannabis from the competition. Through the use of propaganda, cannabis was now referred to as marijuana and stigmatized for its recreational use. The complete story can be found in Jack Herer's book and I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in the history that made criminals of innocent people.
While the large chemical companies of the last century profited greatly from the demonizing and renaming of cannabis, the world has suffered. Not only has our environment been damaged considerably, but there have been major wars fought over oil fields and petroleum reserves. In the summer of 2016 the NBC affiliate in Colorado Springs reported that compared to the temperatures in the 1970s, the average daily temperature has risen by twenty degrees! Surely burning fossil fuels and contributing to that warming cannot be a wise long-term plan for our future. Whatever we can do to diminish that impact would seem to be a step in the right direction. I don't believe anyone needs to be reminded that Native Americans honored the earth passionately.
After several decades of research, scientists studying the effects of cannabis have discovered how the active ingredient works on the brain via a system called the endocannabinoid system, or the ECS. It is important to note that cannabinoids are produced naturally by the body in addition to being found in cannabis. Yes, you read that right. Cannabinoids exist in the body of all people, whether they have ever been exposed to cannabis or not.
The flowers of the female cannabis plant can provide relief to a myriad of ailments. In Colorado Springs, the Stanley brothers have developed a strain called Charlotte's Web. It is a strain that has high cannabidiols and almost no THC, the psychoactive ingredient, and was named after a little girl who suffers from Dravet syndrome which manifests in hundreds of seizures a week. Her doctors had advised her parents to put her in a medically induced coma to await her death. She was unable to attend school, walk, talk, or interact with other children. She was five years old. Today, she is seizure-free, thanks to cannabis. She is a happy, active child who attends school and has learned to read, ride a bike, play with her friends, and accomplish numerous other achievements.
Since her story was seen on the CNN documentary Weed with Dr. Sanjay Gupta in 2013, hundreds of families have sought out treatment with Charlotte's Web. Unfortunately, it is illegal to transfer the oil made with the plant from one state to another. This has resulted in an influx of families with very ill children being forced to move to Colorado in search of relief for their children.
The influx of people seeking legal cannabis for medical and recreational use has boosted the economy tremendously in Colorado, done wonders for the housing market, brought in seventy million dollars in tax revenue in one fiscal year (according to Time magazine), provided scholarships for high school students, and has given jobs to tens of thousands of people. Cannabis revenue totaled $486 million in the first five months of 2016 alone. Estimates showed Colorado’s real gross domestic product had grown 3.6 percent in 2015, which is one full point higher than the nation as a whole. Imagine the improvement to our economy if cannabis was used for cloth, fuel, plastics, solvents and paper and not just for ingesting. I honestly feel it can save our world for the next generations.
Cannabis can be smoked, eaten or vaporized to reap benefits that include: treating glaucoma, improving lung health and reversing the carcinogenic effects of smog and tobacco smoke, helping control epileptic seizures, decreasing anxiety, slowing the progression of Alzheimer's, easing the pain of multiple sclerosis, decreasing muscle spasms associated with Leeuwenhoek's disease and other causes, lessening the side effects of hepatitis C treatment and increasing its efficacy, treating inflammatory bowel disease, relieving arthritis pain, maintaining a healthy metabolism and creating a better physical response to sugar, improving the symptoms of lupus by having a calming effect on the immune system, helping with Crohn's disease, soothing tremors of Parkinson disease, helping those suffering from PTSD, helping the brain recover after a stroke and other traumatic events like concussions and physical trauma, decreasing nightmares, stimulating appetite, reducing effects of chemotherapy, helping people who wish to cut back on drinking, and increasing creativity as well as sexual pleasure.
No one has ever died from using cannabis. The same cannot be said of alcohol, tobacco, and legal pharmaceuticals. Deaths from properly prescribed drugs kill more people per year than do traffic accidents, according to a 2009 Time analysis of existing data.
The most amazing thing cannabis can do is to kill cancer cells. When cannabis oil comes in contact with cancer cells the result can be viewed under a microscope. Highly active and quick moving cancer cells start to slow down immediately. Within seconds they are still. Then a remarkable thing happens, they die and disappear. They do not explode, scattering debris onto nearby tissue, they simply vanish. Their demise is clean and permanent.
One can imagine big pharmaceutical companies may not want people to have a home remedy for cancer. If we are not careful, our God-given right to this plant may still be threatened as large companies seeing its true value try to monopolize the markets. Some may see the progressive legalization of cannabis as a sign that community activism has succeeded and that there is no further need to concern ourselves over our right to this plant. Complacency always carries risks. The risks are especially high when it comes to our lives and the health of the planet.
It is scandalous that patients suffering in states where cannabis has not been approved for medicinal uses must leave their trusted physicians, families and support systems in order to get appropriate care. The life-threatening ignorance of contemporary legislatures is inexcusable. In a country founded on religious freedom, the fact that cannabis is an important part of Native American worship and culture should have been enough to keep it legal were it not for the fact that our people and culture were marked for extinction. It would be just as inexcusable if big pharmaceutical companies monopolized its use.
The “teaching plants” were another way for people to balance themselves, to move their center towards the area of their solar plexus as opposed to above their hearts. So often today we could say people wear their hearts on their sleeves, they are quick to anger, judge others, and take offense. So often people are ruled not by rationality, but by their emotions. They forget to think, they simply feel. If we could center ourselves, and cannabis can help many to do so, we would not be so easily thrown off balance by rudeness, incompetence, laziness and the like.
Sometimes using cannabis can make one giddy, revealing double entendres, the funny side of things that one rarely notices. Laughter is very good for the body and soul. Scientific studies have shown there are verifiable physiological benefits to laughing. Some people have even formed groups that gather for the sole purpose of unprompted laughter. These people report a better quality of life, a stronger immune system and fewer aches and pains. One of the best remedies for a mild case of the blues is a night at a comedy club. The temporary escape from daily concerns is only part of the effect. The benefits of the endorphin release can be felt for days after.
Cannabis use can also slow things down and give one more time to consider the situations at hand. This enhances self-reflection and discovery. With the benefits of cannabis, it can be easier to look inside oneself and turn off the exterior noise of a busy world. By focusing on our breath and looking within ourselves we can better concentrate on our own lives and how the world is affecting us. It is only through this introspection, with or without cannabis, that we can gain the knowledge and enlightenment that will give us the key to trusting ourselves, our inner elders, to guide us to a place of peace and wisdom, the source of our own Native Strength.