by Dean Frankmore

If I could summarize the essence of cannabis fitness and in a single word say what this term ultimately means to me, that word would be relationship. This is to say, when one consumes cannabis,
he/she joins in a relationship with the plant, the quality of which, like “the kiss” I discussed in my previous essay (see Marquee October 22, 2015), depends on what each partner brings into it. Thus, cannabis fitness begins with the realization that in our consumption of cannabis, we enter into a relationship with it.

No doubt such a view may sound strange in this age of advanced technology and modern pharmaceutics. But this relational look at medicine has been practiced for a long time, having its roots in that most ancient form of healing known
as shamanism.

Found in all indigenous cultures throughout human history, shamanism is the original natural medicine. Typically involving the ingestion of certain herbs and ritualistic practices in order to gain a certain altered state of consciousness (or enter other realms as the native might put it), the ultimate goal of shamanism is connection and vision; contacting the healer within, and the healing potential of nature in general, to see what must be done to affect a cure.

While today such views and practices might sound like superstitious magic or poppycock, many recent findings of science, both mainstream and unorthodox, lend strong credence to this view. The placebo effect for instance, with its near-universal presence in all drug studies, well demonstrates the undeniable power of the mind in medicine and the ultimate healer within.

Moreover, if science has shown us anything in its 400 or so years of steady progress, it is the profound interconnectedness of all stuff; the endless flow of energy within and between all things in layer upon layer of interdependent cycling and processing. Here we find a continual exchange of energy, and not just for the sake of work, but for the sake of information exchange (i.e. communication). In other words—as a dynamic interconnected whole, which the late great physicist David Bohm called a holomovement—all of nature, the whole of the universe, is communicating with itself all the time.

Interestingly, in regards to nature’s communication system, cannabinoid compounds seem to play a special role. Indeed, as the science of cannabis now emerges from its infancy, a deep symbiotic mystery presents itself in the fact that cannabinoid receptors have been found in a wide array of organisms throughout the animal kingdom, from leeches and mollusks, to fish and fruit flies, and many other organisms from diverse animal groups.

With such a widespread occurrence of cannabinoid receptors in the animal kingdom, one must wonder if something bigger isn’t going on here. Indeed the cannabinoid appears to be nature’s Hermes; a far-ranging chemical messenger of the biosphere. Such a common signaling mechanism-—serving communication both within organisms and between organisms, even of different species—makes sense, considering our original common ancestry and ongoing co-evolution. But I’m getting ahead
of myself.

Point is, once we see ourselves so closely interconnected with the whole of Nature, it is not so odd to consider our consumption of cannabis tantamount to an intimate relationship: an interspecies communion if you will. From this perspective, we can proceed as we would with any loving relationship; giving it all the respect, attention, and enjoyment it deserves, while embracing all its various challenges and rewards.

While some might see this as a glorification of marijuana, we can contrast this view with the conventional take on drug use, which on the caregiver end might be summed as, “Just take this pill and all will be well,” along with its correlate on the patient end, “Just give me a pill to make it better.” Note how these two approaches reinforce each other in a vicious cycle that both absolves personal responsibility in healing and reinforces overly simplistic approaches to healthcare. In other words, here’s a good example of an unhealthy relationship with medicine.

While allowing readers to consider for themselves what makes for any good and healthy relationship, we might still see the number of roles cannabis can play: a friend to relax with, a teacher to learn from, a workout partner who challenges, a muse who inspires, and more. In truth, the cannabis experience is not always about getting high and feeling good. Such a misconception is to confuse the effects of cannabis with opiates.

Over the course of my 20-year relationship with cannabis, I’ve had a number of negative and uncomfortable experiences with marijuana. Such negative experiences are not uncommon and well-documented in the literature. Often they are related to problems in setting; that is, the environmental context in which the consumption takes place. A second major source of negative effects relates to dose, wherein the consumption of too much—especially where potent strains and concentrated edibles are concerned—simply overwhelms the system.

Yet despite the potential for such uncomfortable reactions, the most remarkable thing about cannabis is that our friend cannot kill us. Indeed, cannabis has no lethal dose. Thus, even in the midst of a cannabis crisis, we can at least rest easier in knowing this simple fact. Alcohol on the other hand, is far from friendly in this regard; same goes for the vast majority of condoned drugs on the pharmacist’s shelf.

Setting and dose aside, the other major factor that determines the quality of one’s experience with cannabis is set, or mindset; that is, the mental state that one brings into the relationship. In acknowledging the importance of mindset, we recognize that cannabis in not necessarily the cause of all negative experiences. Instead, we might see cannabis acting as a sort of lens that magnifies what is already in the head of the consumer.

In this light, Bob Marley was right on track when he said, “When you smoke the herb, it reveals you to yourself.” Indeed, so apt and succinct is his statement, we might consider it a first principle of cannabis consumption, calling it Marley’s Law of Cannabis Psychopharmacology, or simply Marley’s Law.

With this perspective of medicinal relationship, nonlethal friendship, the importance of setting and dose, and finally Marley’s Law that the herb “reveals you to yourself,” the consumer is basically prepared for the quest of cannabis fitness and the whole adventure of connecting self and Nature.