Soon after I rolled up a joint and light it up, I inhaled deeply, feeling the smoke traveling down my windpipe and filling my lungs. After I exhaled slowly, I officially became a first-time weed smoker. A few minutes later, an intense and pleasant feeling swept through me, as I experienced lost in time and space, aimlessly drifting away from reality.
For most ethnic minorities with a Chinese heritage, smoking weed sounds like a crazy idea, and my first marijuana use in California – the state with legalized recreational pot – allowed me to taste what is a forbidden fruit in China. Cannabis, the most popular plant in the world, has been demonized by the China for over a century. Ever since opium evaded China in the 1800s, China has waged a full-blown war on drugs, tackling the shame and horror of “Sick Man of East Asia.” Amid an extraordinary anti-drug frenzy that has lasted till today, pot has been commingled with synthetic addictive to be in the crosshair of the government’s crackdown.
The anti-pot mania has taken deep root among overseas Chinese who hold a strong view that all drugs are harmful. Many Chinese people consider marijuana users scums, losers, criminals or morally corrupted individuals. A marijuana war erupted in San Francisco as the local Chinese community recently pushed back against the commercialization of weed, calling for an outright ban on cannabis across retail stores. Pot shops carry such a strong stigma in the city that any suggestion to open a medical marijuana dispensary in the neighborhood sparked outrage from the Chinese community activists. They pulled speakers supporting dispensaries off the stage and attacked their ideas for being against Chinese cultural values.
The ethnic Chinese resentment against weed has been tapped into by politicians to build political capitals. In 2015, the Conservative Party started a fearmongering campaign, claiming that the Liberal government would turn Canada into a drug users’ paradise. The campaign was deliberately targeting ethnic minorities including Chinese Canadians during the previous federal election. As the Liberal government takes steps to make weed a legitimate product on the market, the community reacts with outpouring anger and protest, with many vowing to remove the federal Liberals from power in the next election.
However, weed isn’t opium and marijuana have powerful positive effects on human beings. They can do wonders to an ailing body or to sedate an anxious mind. According to studies, with its THC effects kicking into full gear, cannabinoids can reduce inflammation and pain, lower blood pressure, stop seizures and relax muscles and quell epilepsy. They seem to reduce spasticity and stiffness in people with multiple sclerosis, help with cramping, improve sleep, reduce nausea and calm PTSD.
Perhaps the greatest mystery about pots is their long-term effects on young minds. Research indicates that they have not played such a devil role in their life as we assume. While cannabis is not benign to all of the teens, it is not devastating for everyone either. Many teens on weeds are doing well at schools, making into honor rolls and getting enrolled into universities.
While weed has suffered collateral damage in China’s war on drugs, cannabis was a plant cultivated and used for multiple purposes for over 4000 years in history. Chinese used the hemp plant for rope, clothing, bowstrings, paper and of course, medicine as anesthesia.
My first experimental use of marijuana was a positive experience. I was laughing out loud as I enjoyed the mere moment, seeking an elevated mind through a spiritual path. If pot can change our consciousness and shift our state of mind, allowing us to see the world through a different lens, maybe cannabis is all about forgetting the century of humiliation.