It’s April 20, which for various reasons people associate with celebrating cannabis. I’m writing this article as a cannabis using feminist therapist and supervisor interested in starting a conversation around the history of cannabis and mental health.
There’s a long history of people around the world using cannabis for a variety of physical, emotional and spiritual health reasons (as well as using hemp to produce so many things). Then colonization and white supremacy (and some white feminism) led to the prohibition and criminalization of cannabis. Once it was illegal, it was virtually impossible to study the medicinal benefits (that societies have documented for centuries).
After mostly indigenous, black and people of colour were jailed throughout the years (and are still in jail) for the possession of cannabis, Canada legalized the medical use of cannabis in 2001 and the “casual” use of cannabis in 2018. Now that cannabis is legal, regulated dispensaries and cannabis sellers can get fined and/or jail time if they give you information about the various health effects of different cannabis products.
So it’s easier than ever to get cannabis, but harder to find information on how to use it intentionally and medicinally. This is not a coincidence- it’s colonialism through the regulation of cannabis and it’s being done quietly while huge corporations profit and we all try to figure out how to find relief on our own.
Where does this leave humans (such as myself) who are suffering from PTSD, anxiety, depression, or other mental, physical and/or spiritual pain? They (me) sometimes feel shame if they’re using cannabis as medicine, or worry silently if they’re using it “right” or if they have a “problem”- when often times if used intentionally, cannabis can improve our quality of life. As therapists, many of us who use cannabis (it’s not everyone despite what you might think ha ha) feel hesitant to share about our use.
Cannabis isn’t for everyone. It can become habitual or can worsen mental health for some people. It’s important that cannabis is not someone’s only coping tool. But to reduce cannabis use to “recreational” vs “medicinal” has dramatically stopped us from having nuanced and open conversations about the benefits of cannabis for mental health.
To get more perspective on all this, I spoke with Jeremy Jacob and Andrea Dobbs the owners of Village Bloomery to discuss resilience in the ever changing Cannabis market.
Jeremy and Andrea were leaders in the unregulated cannabis scene in Vancouver and opened Village Bloomery in 2015. They wanted to create a community to introduce people to the healing properties of Cannabis and how it can be used for health and wellness. Not only is Village Bloomery a physical space, but it also created a platform for them to advocate for the BC Cannabis industry and to shine a light on the social justice side of prohibition and the war on drugs.
To transition to being a regulated dispensary wasn’t easy. Jeremy and Andrea re-opened Village Bloomery in August 2019 after closing for 4 months. They were faced with ongoing bureaucratic challenges as the government will not let Cannabis stores make any statements regarding the benefits of using Cannabis for health and wellbeing purposes. Warnings and/or fines can be issued if any medical references are made (Can’t use the word ‘dose’, must preface any statements with ‘this is not a medical claim’).
The laws woven within the legalization of Cannabis not only makes things difficult for business owners, but for the local growers as well. With large Cannabis companies having monopolies over distribution, there is an overwhelming sense of sterilization of the Cannabis market - a departure from the grassroots resistance where it started.
Despite these challenges, Jeremy and Andrea are not slowing down. They have hopes to open up additional locations and leave a legacy that supports their community. Their mission is to help people foster their own healthy relationships with this medicine on their own terms.
If you’re in Vancouver, Village Bloomery is off the beaten path by Granville Island and they specialize in products designed for various health uses. Their staff are extremely helpful and ready for your questions. You can also check out the BC Compassion Club Society for more information.