To Be Blunt: Cannabis can calm the anxious student soul, form community

Shideh Ghandeharizadeh | Daily Trojan

“My emergency weed better be moldy before I ever need it,” one of my friends joked during a smoke session. I laughed at how relatable the statement was, how I’ve seen countless friends hoard weed under lock-and-key for a rainy day and how all stoners, regardless of experience and frequency of consumption, seem to treasure weed.

From relatable, shared experiences to absurd jokes to niche memes on Twitter, cannabis has gradually developed a cult following. Though weed has always been a prominent emblem of resistance and counterculture — most notably in the 1960s — cannabis has encompassed a shared, non-political sense of community seen more prominently in contemporary years.

At the intersection of culture, the arts and language, weed is at the core and impetus of many artistic movements, creative works and emerging modes of expression. The substance has received its due credit only recently, as a result of years of activism, education, advocacy and de-stigmatization efforts.

Ask any cannabis connoisseur or casual user, and you will understand that cannabis is far more than just a drug — it’s a shared experience, a collective and, dare I say, a lifestyle. And although smoking weed is not the be-all and end-all of a personality, in some ways, it kind of is. 

Rastafarianism, a religion and social movement that originated in Jamaica during the 1930s, regards weed as a sacred God-given herb, one meant to be consumed and enjoyed like any other naturally-occurring plant. Used specifically for rituals and religious ceremonies, cannabis is seen as a plant that can bring about necessary feelings of introspection, love, peace and unity. Rastas believe the plant can result in increased wisdom and divinity which allows people to get closer to Jah, or God, and see the world more clearly — beyond material possessions and greed.

While I personally do not adhere to Rastafari tenets, I do find truth in the spiritual, meditative and healing qualities of cannabis. Anyone who knows me knows I have a penchant for unabashedly jumpstarting philosophical discussions, diving into complex sociological theories and generally engaging with topics that many shy away from — particularly when I’m high.

Although the high a person receives depends on the strain type, method of consumption and other biological, chemical and physiological factors, I personally experience greater levels of existential understanding when stoned. While cannabis is a substance known for its impairing properties, I find I’m able to weed out distractions, focus more on the present and big-picture elements of life and attain greater levels of serenity within what I perceive to be a chaotic, nonsensical — and often cruel — world.

I’m not saying cannabis is the magical herbal cure to all of life’s problems, but I am saying cannabis is the magical herbal cure to all of life’s problems. But in all seriousness, weed isn’t just about laughing excessively, hibernating inside a room with potato chips and a binge-worthy series on Netflix or any other stereotypes perpetuated by the media (although it definitely can be just that).

Weed is about connection, social change, togetherness and the radical notion that life is so much bigger than yourself. 

“The most important thing is the act of sharing cannabis is at the forefront of the entire community,” said smoking etiquette expert Lizzie Post in a Vox article about cannabis etiquette. “So if you happen to be in a group of people, and you do have weed, and you are about to light something up, offering to share it with someone is pretty huge.”

Even though cannabis isn’t for everyone, I truly believe it can bring people together by easing stress, lowering inhibitions and allowing people to open themselves up to the world around them. 

I struggled to write this column because I found I couldn’t quite put into words the powerful transformative properties weed has. I cannot quantify or explain what the plant has done for me, my anxiety and my overall well-being. Nor could I properly put into words the way it has boosted my social interactions and allowed me to live mindfully.

Cannabis culture is one embedded with history, both good and bad: It’s used in ceremonies and rituals, Prohibition, Counterculture, the War on Drugs, current legalization efforts and more. Sparking a joint, even now, is an act of resistance and a symbol of unity — a demonstration that things are going to be all right.

If this all sounds like a hippie pipe dream to you, maybe you just need to light(en) up.

Natalie Oganesyan is a sophomore writing about weed culture and politics. She is also the Arts & Entertainment Editor at the Daily Trojan. Her column, “To be Blunt,” runs every other Thursday.