Cannabis and Black History Month: Taking a Closer Look at the Roots of Cannabis

A logo for Black History Month

A logo for Black History Month

February is Black History Month, meaning that is the perfect time to examine how cannabis and Black Americans are tied to one another. Black Americans have helped shape the landscape of cannabis in the United States, though unfortunately, this does include a storied history of racism and injustice. Here at our cannabis dispensary in Port Hueneme, we want to take a moment to look at the history of cannabis, and acknowledge just how Black Americans have helped to legalize and destigmatize cannabis usage as a whole. 

 

A Brief Background on Cannabis

While the origins of harvesting cannabis date back to as early as 500 B.C. in Central Asia, it eventually made its way through South Asia, then to India, and onto the Arab nations. This is the reason that some of the terms for cannabis are actually Sanskrit words, including ‘ganja’. 

From there, thanks to the vast trading system, cannabis made its way to various parts of Africa some time during the 13th century. During the 1800s, the British used indentured servants from India and took them to the Caribbean to work on the sugar and rubber plantations located there on the islands. Some of these servants brought cannabis with them.

What resulted was a blending of Indian and Jamaican cultures with cannabis being introduced to the Black, Jamaican field workers. It was in 1833 when Britain declared that slavery was illegal, effectively outlawing it and freeing the Indian slaves that were on the islands. These individuals left the plantations and moved into various parts of Jamaica and Barbados, settling in and making lives, which in turn, made cannabis increase in popularity as it became introduced to more people.

So how did cannabis wind up in the United States? Sailors, immigrants, and trade merchants from the Caribbean brought cannabis with them to the ports. From there, Black and Brown communities began partaking in cannabis recreationally. However, the United States was hardly a stranger to cannabis in the first place, as many Black Americans during that time period had grandparents who worked on hemp plantations. 

To this day, Jamaica and cannabis are still thought of together quite frequently, especially when looking at pop culture icon Bob Marley as well as other famous island musicians. 

 

The War on Drugs

Under Richard Nixon’s presidency, the United States was subjected to a campaign best known as the ‘War on Drugs’. While this campaign, which began in 1971, is often seen as the culprit behind the criminalization of cannabis, the issues truly began with Henry J. Anslinger. In 1930, the end of prohibition, there was the formation of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and with it, the first commissioner, Anslinger.

At the time Anslinger was brought into office, heroin and cocaine were already outlawed, leading to only one viable option to criminalize: cannabis. Despite the fact that prior to his term, he had gone on record to state the idea of cannabis making people ‘mad’ or violent was absurd, he still kept after criminalizing cannabis. This led to him attacking jazz music and cannabis, both of which were rooted in Black culture.

Jump ahead to the 1970s when Nixon was in office. Thanks to his administration, there is a huge disparity between how Black people and people of color get treated and persecuted when faced with drug charges compared to those who are white. These effects are still felt to this very day. In fact, according to a study conducted by UCLA, Black people are nearly four times as likely to get arrested for a cannabis-related crime than compared to white people. 

The presidency of Ronald Reagan also played a role in this storied history as well and included his Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986. Not only did this further criminalize cannabis, but it also created something called mandatory sentencing laws. This meant that even for a petty, non-violent crime, such as marijuana possession, the person convicted would have to spend a minimum of five years in prison – a punishment that hardly fit the crime. Because of this, private prisons filled up with mostly Black men, and has cost the United States taxpayers a whopping $2.5 trillion.

 

A Brighter Future

While cannabis and the treatment of Black Americans have come a long way in recent years, there is still so much ground to make up. The legalization of cannabis has brought some amazing changes, including actually decreasing crime rates. In fact, violent crime in California has fallen by 15%. That means a lot to us personally, especially here at our cannabis dispensary in Port Hueneme, CA. 

It is high time to right the wrongs and injustices carried out by the war on drugs, and no, we aren’t just referring to Nixon’s campaign. Those efforts were clearly rooted in racism and meant as a way to monetize the maltreatment of Black Americans. To begin with, anyone who is currently serving a sentence due to a non-violent, drug-related crime should be freed and have their records expunged. To still be serving time for something that is no longer illegal, and never should have been in the first place, is the antithesis of justice. 

Not only that, but reparations should be made to Black and Brown communities all across America for the injustices that have been served. Social and equity programs need to be implemented to help those who were wrongfully prosecuted recover and reintegrate. Education remains at the forefront of change, though, and will make us hopeful for the future. By funding the education of cannabis for the new generation, we will help to unlearn the falsehoods enacted over the last four hundred years. 

Until the current cannabis industry sees these types of changes, we will not be able to truly move forward. So this February, not only think about the Black Americans who have suffered due to wanting to freely enjoy cannabis, but do what you can to be a part of the change. Vote, advocate, donate: when we all come together, then we will truly pave the way for a brighter future. 

Cannabis Landrace Strains and the Origin of Indica Vs Sativa

Close up of hand holding jar with cannabis and flower in the background laid out on table

Close up of hand holding jar with cannabis and flower in the background laid out on table

Over the past decade, we have seen the cannabis industry evolve from an illicit market to a booming multi-billion dollar industry. In a not-so-distant past, the consumption, possession, and growing of hemp and cannabis would lead to serious jail time and consequences. As cannabis legalization continues to sweep across the nation, things seem to finally be taking a turn for the better. With 36 states allowing medical use and 16 having legalized adult use, professionally curated dispensaries and perfectly packaged goods are becoming the norm.

As the legality of cannabis continues to expand across not just the United States but the world, the industry is in a state of evolution and transformation. With the infusion of cannabis in a variety of our everyday products such as food, beverages, beauty products, and more – you are no longer limited to simply smoking flower. 

Watching how the industry has progressed is truly remarkable. Though the flower you see packaged on cannabis dispensary shelves today is much different from the genetic makeup of the original landrace strains. In fact, all cannabis can genetically be traced back to one single cultivar grown in the Hindu Mountain region of what is now Afghanistan and Pakistan. As trading and migration of humans occurred, cannabis began to make its way around the world. This highly versatile crop easily adapted to each country’s unique climate, making landrace strains the first cannabis crops grown in different regions throughout the world. 

 

The Origins of Sativa

The term sativa has many different meanings though when it’s used today, most people use it to describe the effects of a strain. So when people say sativa, they likely are referring to a more uplifting, energizing, or creative high.

Scientifically speaking, sativa is used to describe the anatomy of the plant. Traditionally, sativa’s are known for being tall with thin narrow leaves and wispy flowers. Sativa’s origins can be traced back to the warm southern climates. The increased sunshine, warmer temperatures, and prolonged summers in these climates help them achieve their full growth potential.

 

The Origins of Indica

Unlike its counterpart, Sativa, Indica was not a globetrotter. Instead, it was reserved and isolated to solely arid and mountainous regions, primarily across different parts of the middle east, such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

This cannabis is indefinable by its broad leaves, short stature, and dense flowers.  Indica strain names today pay homage to the places they were cultivated. Think ‘Afhagni’ and ‘Hindu Kush’, for example. 

 

Terroir: What does it mean? 

A landrace marijuana strain is one of the first strains grown in various regions throughout the world, and oftentimes, they carry a name that hints at their origin – ‘Thai’, ‘Durban Poison’, ‘Acapulco Gold’, and more are some well-known examples of this. As time went on, the various growing practices and environments particular to these locations influenced the plants’ unique characteristics, affecting both appearance and chemistry. A technical term for this is ‘terroir’. 

When considering this concept, think of how wines are classified. French wines are named for what region the grapes are grown in, as this helped determine the flavor of the wine, attributing to such characteristics as ‘body’ and ‘dryness’. When you hear the classifications of ‘Bordeaux’ or ‘ Merlot’, these indicate the region or area the wine is from. This same system is used for the origins of cannabis. Consider it a geography lesson each time you spark up!

 

Close up shot of cannabis leaves in field at sundown with sun glowing in the background

 

Are landrace strains still around?

It wasn’t until the late ‘70s that people began to intentionally cross-breed Sativa and Indica together, creating a hybrid of the two. By doing this, they were able to create a plant that harbored the best of both strains, essentially weeding out unwanted characteristics that could weaken the plant’s health and production. 

In the current cannabis market, these hybrids have become the norm. Rather than smoking a pure landrace strain, consumers today enjoy a  hybrid descending from the landrace genetics instead. That is the biggest difference between the cannabis enjoyed in the ‘60s and ‘70s and what’s on today’s shelves.

 

Are landraces more potent than regular strains?

While this answer can vary based on the specific strain and how and where it was grown, the bottom line is no, probably not. The hybrid strains bred today are specifically geared to providing a high potency, among other advantageous characteristics. 

 

Is it hard to find landrace strains?

Because they are not grown on a large scale today, landrace strains can be a bit more difficult to come by. However, they do carry somewhat of a cult following, those dedicated to these original strains still carry them on the current market. Sometimes, they are referred to under the term ‘heirloom’ strains, referencing to how they’ve been passed down through the ages. They are produced in small batches and carry the genetics of the landrace, though they lack the original terroir. 

Until the world cannabis market opens up more and legalization happens on a broader scale, giving us access to direct landrace strains from various parts of the planet, there are still a few heirloom finds you can get at your local cannabis dispensary. If you’re truly curious to give these a try, make sure to ask your local dispensary to see if they have some in stock.

 

Back to the Roots

While it is on the shelves bred for superiority as far as potency and flavor, it’s important to remember where cannabis truly began. Exploring these original strains gives us a better idea regarding the strides that the cannabis industry has made, offering up a better insight regarding exactly what our parents and grandparents smoked back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Because of their groundwork with creating hybrids, we are able to enjoy more refined and potent cannabis products today. 

 

How it All Started: The History Behind 4/20

Group of friends sitting at the beach smoking marijuana

Group of friends sitting at the beach smoking marijuana

 

The story behind the iconic term ‘420’ has changed hands many times over the years. Like every legend passed down, it has been prone to modifiers, exaggerations, and theories. While some believed that it was to denote the number of chemicals in cannabis, others believed it was in reference to Bob Dylan’s song, “Rainy Day Women No. 12 & 35”. The refrain featured an infamous line, ‘Everybody must get stoned’, with 12 multiplied by 35 equaling to 420. 

While these tales are fun and are certainly good guesses, it is quite a ways off from the truth. The real answer? It all began with five Californian teens who used to hang out against a wall outside of San Rafael High School. This meeting spot earned the teens the nickname, ‘The Waldos’.

 

The Waldos

In the fall of 1971, the Waldos had learned about a former Coast Guard member who had planted some cannabis but could no longer tend to the crop. The five friends set out armed with a treasure map, rumored to have been given to them by the Coast Guard member himself, in search of the cannabis plants. Each day after school and practice, as they were all athletes, they met up at 4:20 p.m. by the Louis Pasteur statue on school grounds. The Waldos would pile into a car and smoke some weed, all while scouring around Point Reyes Forest, doing their best to follow the instructions on the map.

 In an interview with the Huffington Post, one of the original five, Steve Capper, said that they would remind each other in the hallways to meet up at 4:20. It began as ‘4:20-Louis’, but eventually, it was shortened to just ‘4:20’. While they never did find the elusive crop, they did inadvertently coin a term that would become an international trademark for weed enthusiasts everywhere. 

 

The Grateful Dead

So, how did a secret code used to denote a meeting spot for teens transform into what is it today? Look no further than the rock band, the Grateful Dead. 

The Waldos and the Grateful Dead were intertwined on several levels, both hailing from California. One Waldo member’s dad managed the band’s real estate, another had an older brother who was good friends with ‘Dead’ bassist Phil Lesh. One time, when some of the Waldos were hanging out backstage at a ‘Dead’ concert, someone handed over a joint and said, ‘hey, 420’. This triggered it to spread around the music community, passing around much like the joints they shared.

Marijuana joints rolled next to cannabis buds

From Slang to Sensation

In 1990, Steven Bloom, who worked as a reporter for  ‘High Times’, was attending a Christmas concert in Oakland, California. One of the bands playing was, of course, Grateful Dead. When wandering around through the crowd, he was approached by a ‘Deadhead’ who handed him a flyer as a means of invitation. The man said, “we are going to meet at 4:20 on 4/20 for 420-ing”. Bloom wrote about this encounter in his article, and because of this,  ‘High Times’ undoubtedly helped launch the slang term into a cultural movement that is still celebrated to this day. 

 

A Cause for Celebration

Now that we’ve covered the history of one of our favorite holidays, it’s time to focus on what it’s all about: the consumption of cannabis products. At your local recreational cannabis dispensary, you can find a variety of products for purchase, regardless of how you prefer to partake. From cannabis-infused edibles to high-grade cartridges, From the Earth has a wide variety of quality products for every type of consumer.

 

Safety First

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the large public events and celebrations are being postponed or withheld another year. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t find a way to participate in festivities. A popular option is utilizing video chat, such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, or even just FaceTime. Pick a theme, play your favorite tunes, and enjoy spending quality time with some of your favorite people, all in the safety and security of your own home.

Another great way to celebrate 420 is at From the Earth. Stop in-store or place an online order and select delivery or curbside pickup. We understand that many of our customers still feel more comfortable with minimized contact, and we are happy to bring you this feature at all of our locations. Start adding products to your cart today to enjoy your 420 festivities and beyond!

 

Entertainment & Activities

If your staying-at-home plans don’t include a video chat, there are still a multitude of other activities that you can enjoy. A great option is watching some of your favorite 420 centric films or TV shows. They could be about cannabis, such as the Seth Rogen classic, ‘Pineapple Express, or binge-watch the critically-acclaimed Showtime series ‘Weeds’. Or they can simply be your favorite comfort show – after all, this holiday is all about celebrating your way!

If you’re someone who enjoys cooking or baking with cannabis, make sure you check out this recipe for cannabutter, a staple for DIY edibles. Or this recipe for edibles brownies, a secret shared by Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg themselves. 

Or, for the person who would like to spend some quality time alone without any of the DIY, consider taking a relaxing dip with a soothing CBD bath bomb or taking a bite out of a cannabis-infused chocolate bar for a real treat. If smoking isn’t your preferred method of consumption, no worries at all! Cannabis is meant to be enjoyed in many different ways.

So no matter what your 420 looks like, or how you choose to celebrate, just make sure you make the Waldos proud and honor the tradition they started all the way back in 1971, making this year the 50th anniversary of the holiday. Smoke, bake, eat, just make sure it’s cannabis-related, and you’re all set for an excellent time! 

 

What Happens When Art and Cannabis Collide

Young woman smoking marijuana joint by window
Young woman smoking marijuana joint by window

Art and marijuana have always gone hand-in-hand with one another. Many artists of different cultures and mediums, from sculptures to painters and photographers, have all dabbled in the marijuana experience while creating their art. 

Why It Works

Scientists have said that cannabis helps to stimulate the frontal lobe, which is an area of the brain that is very active in creative people. That said, cannabis affects everyone differently. If you are an artist wanting to boost your creativity with the use of cannabis, you have to find the right dosage, or sweet spot. 

Also, knowing the strain you are using can help as well. Keeping in mind that an Indica will keep you more calm and mellow, while a Sativa will give you a boost of energy. 

How Cannabis and Art are Colliding

Now that cannabis and the use of marijuana is starting to become legal across the United States, we are starting to see different ways people are combining the use of cannabis and art. Even businesses are starting to pop up in areas where the drug is legal and are inventing fun, interactive art activities for people to take part in like Puff, Pass and Paint or Marijuana and Mimosas. 

There are even businesses that are adapting to the new legality of the drug and introducing special classes to their schedule like Paint & Puff, a 420 friendly painting class. 

Cannabis Artists

You may be wondering if any artists you know or have heard of have ever used marijuana to enhance their creativity while creating art. 

One artist many people have heard of is William Shakespeare. A study done in 2001 in South Africa by anthropologist Francis Thackeray and his team may have found traces to indicate that our beloved English playwright in fact smoked marijuana, among other things. 

The team was loaned 24 tobacco pipes from Shakespeare’s garden that date back to the early 17th century. While they can’t prove that they were his or that they were used by him, they were found on his property. The team analyzed the 24 pipes and found evidence of cannabis as well as Peruvian cocaine. 

Thackeray noted that before he started this research with his team, he read all of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In an unpublished manuscript, Thackeray suggests that Shakespeare may have used marijuana as a “stimulant that had mind-stimulating properties.”

Snoop Dogg smoking joint on stage at concert with sunglasses on

Cannabis in Pop Culture

In today’s culture, you can probably name a few artists who use marijuana. From famous rappers like Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa, to celebrity personalities like Willie Nelson and Cheech and Chong. 

Though we may know these famous names and how vocal they are about their love for marijuana, they use their artistic vision along with their love of cannabis, to create not only their art, but ways of sharing their art with their fans. 

In an interview with “The Cut” in 2015, Snoop talked about his use of marijuana for wellness and sleep. Snoop was in town for his annual 420 Wellness Retreat, which is Snoop’s way of celebrating 4/20 with his fans with “music, cannabis culture and overall wellness.”

In his interview, Snoop mentioned that he starts his day “lighting one up and eating some fruit.” He goes on to talk about how cannabis helps in his wellness routine. “Cannabis keeps me feeling good and allows me to be more creative, which is important as an artist. You gotta keep feeling inspired. Weed relaxes you and opens your mind.”

"The Farmer" mosaic art piece by Chronic Art, Cliff Maynard. Older man with glasses, hat and white beard with marijuana plants around him.
“The Farmer” from Chronic Art Facebook Page.

Cannabis Art

While most of us know many musicians and actors who use cannabis to help them make their art, there are many other types of artists out there who create purely cannabis art. 

Cliff Maynard is a mosaic artist who not only uses cannabis to create his art, but uses the paper too. Maynard uses roaches, or the remains of a blunt, to create stunning, layered mosaic works of art. What started as an experiment while attending the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, turned into what he calls “recycling on a higher level.” Maynard has created different types of mosaics from portraits of John Lennon and Bob Marley, to advocacy and activist flyers and even the 2009 official collector’s poster for Hempfest in Seattle. 

Tony Greenhand, is known to many as the “world’s greatest joint roller.” Why? Because he creates smokable sculptures that one could only dream of. By scrolling through his Instagram, you can find fun creations like Bulbasaur, The Pink Panther, the Lombardi trophy, and a collection of Rick and Morty characters, just to name a few. Greenhand has even created his famous cannabis art for marijuana enthusiasts like Tommy Chong and B.o.B.

Alyssa Serpentini is doing her part in hopes to break the stigma around cannabis art. Serpentini creates landscape art and layers rich colors to emphasize the flower and make something that looks different than what most people are used to seeing when they think of cannabis art. By using various techniques with acrylics and glazes, she showcases her pieces similar to how one would see paintings of trees and wildflowers, to help emphasize the similarities between the plants. Serpentini also uses hemp in her products by mixing her modeling compound powdered hemp. 

Conclusion

As we can see, there is much more to cannabis art than meets the eye. From artists using cannabis byproducts in their art or as their art, to smoking marijuana to feel inspired and creative. While we have merely touched the surface of cannabis art, there are tons of cannabis artists out there creating beautiful works of art. 

A quick search on Google or Etsy and you will find the typical types of art you might think of, like psychedelic colors and aliens, but you will also find beautiful drawings of cannabis flowers and even a few pop culture references thrown into the mix. No matter the medium, no matter the use, cannabis art is a creative avenue with many forms and variations.

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