Decolonizing our Medicines

By Cathy Walker 

illustration by Karlene Harvey

When we talk about the effects of colonization, we only refer to how it affected a continent of people, but we should also understand the correlation of how it shaped and affected the land, the water, the animals, and all that inhabits the Earth. How migration changed, how scarce food became, or how diet changed. Not only for the two-legged already here, but how it also affected the winged ones, the four-legged, the crawlers, swimmers, the medicine plants, and the one-legged. Not only through an increase in population, but also by the medicine’s that were brought over when they came from far away lands.

I imagine before the ships came, seeds were spread through birds of prey that ate small rodents and en route to the nest, pollen or seeds fell from their wriggling bodies. Our stories talk about small rodents going through bear stool and taking seeds and spreading them wherever they went. Animals were more important for cross-pollinating, seed spreading and releasing of spores than people simply because they were larger in numbers and lived amongst the plants. Animals were more important for cross-pollinating, seed spreading, and spore release than people were due to population rates. Watching animals was how many of the Nations became knowledgeable of the medicines. For Anishnawbe people, the bear clan people were responsible for patrolling the lands around their communities to make sure they were secure. Since they were on the outside of the village, more in the bush, they were closer to the animals and so they would watch what the animals ate, what plants they stayed away from, what plants they went to when they were sick and what plants made them purge to feel better. This information is what they would use to heal their people and this is why they became the healers of the clan system. 

When the newcomers touched this strange land from their ships, they carried more than the clothes on their backs. A lot of food was carried on those big ships, many probably went to seed by the time they arrived and were dumped in a compost heap on undisturbed ground. On their trousers and shoes, they unknowingly carried little seedpods or individual seeds that stowed away in an attempt to run from the motherland. Everywhere people walked, their plants followed them like dutiful pets always wanting to be close to their humans. Maybe they were a little bit afraid at first and stayed close to those they came with, but became more brazen as settlers moved about, their medicines were never far behind. 

I like to imagine the moment an animal came into contact with one of these newcomers, what it’s reaction would have been. Did it sniff it suspiciously, or did it run away in fear knowing this was a symbol of uncertain things to come. What did the hunters, trappers, or medicine people think when they saw these new wildflowers coming? Did they see them before they saw the pale faces, did the women warn children not to touch them knowing that on some level they were dangerous? And how long did it take before they became part of our medicine bundles and started taking over all of our gardens. How many medicines dropped off from our teachings once newcomers began to take over. How many medicines and their uses did we lose once western herbs became the focal point over Indigenous based medicines. 

The colonization process has affected us on so many levels including our landscapes. Travel changed from foot and horse and small pathways of trampled grasses to dirt roads and then by gravel roads. Soon they found ways to grind the gravel and poured our grandfathers into long winding roads that went with the hills and valleys. Eventually, they saw our large grandfathers were in the way and found ways to blow apart mountains and hills so that the roads went straight through. Seedlings would never feel the warmth of the sun and now lay in dormancy. Seeds that were once spread by foot and horse, were now spread by the winds created by cars and trains and everywhere humans went. Their medicines would be sure to follow them. But not only could these men devour mountains, but they could also control waterways and some communities that were barely touched by newcomers within the last 80 years, now had villages divided up by rerouted waters and dams. Entire ecosystems were demolished and animals had to migrate to other areas in an effort to survive. Everywhere the newcomers went, meant devastation to the land, and slowly over time, those new plant medicines started taking over and started dominating over the territories. As our nations battled the newcomers, our medicines also battled, laying claim to their own territories and over the centuries slowly lost. Large parcels of land taken up by wild ginseng, blue and black cohosh, wild indigo, and northern sweet coltsfoot are now growing in smaller numbers, slowly being suffocated by the root systems and overcrowding of non Indigenous invaders that have taken over fields, farms, forests. Many are impossible to find. Yellow pond lily and Arrowhead lily are both in smaller numbers as a result of other invasive lilies, in fact, in Ontario, there are over 400 invasive species all competing with each other claiming this new land and every decade that list grows longer. 

Further north, in zones below 3, invasives still pose a problem, but it is not as dire. Still, you will see mullein and clovers in fields and roadsides, and closer to areas with larger populations. There are forests that still have large populations of Indigenous medicines if you know where to look, but even if they aren’t vying for land by invasive species, they are still at risk of being over-harvested. Ghostpipe, Ladies slipper, Calamus, golden thread, are all important traditional medicines and are all at risk to the point where people now say, they too are in hiding and only come out to those they know will honour them. And even our own people do much to dishonour them because we no longer know the spirit of the plants. We also see them as a viable resource, or as a nuisance and have been removed from our ways of giving thanks. Of laying down gifts, of spending time with them. We don’t even know their names anymore and those of us who study are taught their names in Latin instead of in our own tongue, what our grandmothers would have told us long ago. 

Our own people are so far removed that we even fight over which medicine is the best, which sage, which tobacco, which willow, when in fact a lot of our recipes were based on geographical availability. We talk about the four sacred medicines, but some of our communities didn’t have access to tobacco, we used other plants instead of in our pipe medicines. We didn’t have access to sage, and so we had other plants that were used in place of sage, same with sweetgrass, or cedar. A lot of those plants were traded and held in high regard for their healing abilities and for their power, but we didn’t have access to them all the time. This is why our recipes for things like kinikinic and minigan are as diverse as the communities themselves. But we all battle with each other, which one has the real recipe… Or the BEST one. It also shows the effects of pan-Indianism, that we all were the same and used the same medicines when we didn’t. I think of these medicines as the gifts that come from the four directions, but individually we had access to many amazing medicines that grew all around us. 

But the one way that colonization has truly taken over in the plant world is through patriarchy within our men. At one point, the children learned of the medicines because they stayed with the women. Every woman had some knowledge of how to use plants to heal her family, but the real medicine lineages came from the midwives and the healing societies, but somehow over the years, the boys outnumbered the girls that were taught. Or the only way women could learn the medicines was to learn by men, who in turn advanced on them with ulterior motives. What resulted were medicine men that were unhealthy or became community rockstars with egos to match. Even today, much emphasis is spent on supporting the men to learn, while women often have to fend for themselves or turn to “western” herbal schools and pay to get their teachings back. Factor in mixed marriages, residential schools, and foster care, and these women are even further removed from their families and removed from their ability to learn. This is not to say that men don’t have issues getting medicine teachings as well, but by far there is more emphasis on teaching the men over women, especially those going back on the red road. Overall there are more resources for men to have access to healers, sweat lodges, ceremonies, and if you have children, your ability to learn becomes even more of an obstacle, because our priority within the community is to look after our children, and there are no resources made to help build that community for respite so that we can learn. Therefore, men are an easier option. We won’t even get into the dynamics of men that have left women to raise their kids alone, who get these opportunities, but I digress… 

This article was not intended to seem bitter, or morose, but merely to speak the truth on how colonization has affected not just the medicines, but how we are around the medicines and in the end, this will affect our medicine. I think back to a time when we didn’t have that colonized mind, how if someone was in a bad way, there wasn’t a four-day protocol, people would just take that person and bring them into a lodge. They would administer medicines without prejudice. If the person was from overseas and they were sick, they would share the medicines as well. They would do whatever they could to save them and in turn teach them how to live on this land. True, they repaid us by killing us off, rounding us up on small parcels of land we call POW camps, and they took our land and resources by force, they overharvested, and purged, and took in defiance, leaving us little. So yes! We have every right to protect what we know, protect our ceremonies and our medicines and locations of where they grow. But, at the same time I have to remember, I do not own anything, let alone any plant that I use. I am not the healer, the medicines are the ones that do all the work. I just assist them… That’s all I do. That’s all any of us do.  We cannot assist the medicines if the land and water have been destroyed or contaminated and we cannot safely harvest our traditional medicines if they have been over-harvested by people who have replaced sacredness with dollar signs. We can’t assist those medicines if invasive species keep taking over, and if we keep disregarding the needs of our most sacred medicine plants, they will go to sleep and that includes those of us who walked this land since time immemorial. We have forgotten that before treaties were made between nations, we made individual treaties with our original mother to protect her. We made treaties with the plant medicines and left offerings to those that protect them. But have we honoured those treaties? Maybe their disappearance is also a reminder that they choose when to do their work, and who to do their work with, either way, we have all been affected by colonization and one way to remove that way of thinking, is to honour them as the spirits they are and to acknowledge their healing comes from selflessness and kindness and we must return to them in the same way. 

The Next Green Revolution

By Winona LaDuke

It’s been twenty years since Alex White Plume planted his first hemp crop on Wounded Knee Creek. Wounded Knee Creek is on the Pine Ridge reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota. Soon spring will come, after a winter buried in epic snowstorms and the grass will be more green than ever. Soon it will be time to plant. In 2020, Alex White Plume will introduce a new crop, he is the Hemperer of a cannabis economy for Native people. 

“Who killed the hemp industry and where is the body?” That is the question. There was once a thriving hemp industry in North America. After all, the word canvas comes from the word cannabis, that’s a lot of sails. The mystery of a missing infrastructure body is what we’ve been trying to solve at White Plume Hemp and Winona’s Hemp. During three years of our investigations, following interesting dead ends and looking into crazy leads, we are now looking at European and Chinese technology; because here the body has disappeared from the crime scene. Remnants of an American hemp industry have been buried by seventy years of fossil fuel economics.

There was a time when we had the choice between a carbohydrate economy and a hydrocarbon economy. The carbohydrate economy was hemp and the hydrocarbon economy is what we ended up with. Unfortunately, the wrong choice was made and now we must restart. We are sure that together, tribal nations in North America can build a sustainable economy for the future. The hemp or cannabis plant is one with 10,000 different uses, and we are now revisiting the opportunity to do something right. After all, if you could replace plastics in the material economy, synthetics in the textile industry, and opioids in the drug trade, why wouldn’t you? Hemp corresponds to the needs of our society more than ever before, it sequesters carbon at a higher rate than almost any other crop. Hemp can be used to create low carbon buildings, it’s an incredible food source, it can clothe you, and fuel your tractor.   

Tribes are currently in a unique position. Tribal sovereignty gives tribal governments leeway in the development of cannabis policies; this will be a stabilizing force in some turbulent times. Today, we see that the combination of the conflicting and ever-changing regulations with the lucrative cannabis industry growth, set a complex scene. 

 Santee poet John Trudell understood hemp as a revolutionary transformation, urging the Indian Country to move forward. Although he passed to the Spirit world in 2013, today his dreams are coming true. Take the case of the Flandreau Dakota tribe in South Dakota for instance. The Dakota have been interested in cannabis for several years, initially to look at recreational legalization and more recently to look at a hemp crop, i.e.: something without THC. The approval of the Farm bill in 2018 opened the door nationally for cannabis, but there are some big caveats. That’s to say, we can grow it, but there is currently no way to process hemp into thread in the US, at least at a commercial scale. This is one of the most baffling, yet ultimately promising realities for tribal nations. Firstly, many farmers who grew huge CBD plots this past year were faced with some big losses due to the CBD market already being flooded. Secondly, state regulations particularly in a state like South Dakota (part of the Deep North) prohibit hemp, while the federal government has simultaneously approved it. Hence, large land-based tribes like Pine Ridge, Rosebud, and Cheyenne River, all within the borders of South Dakota have an incredibly promising crop in a state which has banned it. That’s South Dakota. Governor Kristi Noem vetoed industrial hemp production in 2019, after the bill had passed through the South Dakota legislature. As the Oglalas prepare to move ahead, it’s clear the state and the Oglala Nation at Pine Ridge will be in conflict. That’s no surprise.

In the meantime, Wyoming’s governor signed the first state-level hemp law under the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill. Wyoming Rep. Bunky Loucks sponsored the legislation. The Republican representative had a message for South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem: “Tell her I hope she vetoes it, because that would be good for Wyoming,” he said. The bill was finally approved in Wyoming, but South Dakota remained a hold out state.

South Dakota, by many guesses, will be one of the last states to legalize this crop, despite promising economics in the industry and an immense agricultural opportunity. In the meantime, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe illustrates the complexity of tribal and state conflicts. Last year’s crop on the reservation was destroyed after the Santee were told they would be raided by federal agents. The state of South Dakota ended up prosecuting non-Indians who worked with the tribe. In 2019, the Santee submitted one of the successful permit applications to the USDA. That’s for 2020.

During the National Congress of American Indians winter session in February, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Stephen Censky said his agency had approved seven tribal hemp plans so far. “We have more that are in the queue,” Censky told tribal leaders. According to the USDA website, more than two dozen tribes have submitted plans or are in the process of doing so in order to enter the hemp industry.

The challenges are many, but the opportunity is much greater. It’s not about the money, it’s about transforming the economy and our future. That’s one of the reasons why tribes are so important. The Trump Administration has successfully muddied the waters more in hemp production, demanding THC level testing in quarter-acre plots of hemp and throughout the season. That gets expensive, and unmanageable.

 The national level is .3% THC, below that your hemp crop is legal, above it is not. The .3% was set a while back. The problem is that most of the hemp being grown in this country is CBD, or CBD varietals. Most of those originated from cannabis varieties like Kush, (Afghani), Thai, or Mexican varieties. Those strains have been bred to in this day and age have up to 25% THC. Breeding out a tendency for THC, a natural part of the plant’s chemistry is challenging to say the least.

Fiber varieties, like those I grow, come from European varieties (French, Italian, Czech, Romanian, and more), Chinese varieties are not so available, and those varieties have been bred with oilseed varieties ( X 59 a big one from Canada). In short, all of these varieties are not easily found, and the ones which are used in the CBD market are often genetically unstable wanting to return to their higher THC relatives or ancestors.

Many growers find the .3% arbitrary, and punitive. After all, why smoke some X 59 variety when you could smoke high-quality cannabis? Don’t punish the plant.Over time, tribes (if working together) can likely protect their seed varieties and develop crops appropriate for each possible industry: food, oil, fiber, construction. The future is not a competition, it’s cooperation, and that’s the New Green Revolution.

The Oatman family from the Nez Perce reservation is taking on new leadership to build a stronger collaborative. Tribes across the country are keen on building a collaborative environment to learn and grow in this Green Revolution together. “This issue is so critical, and it’s moving at such a fast pace, that we need single-focused vision and collaborative efforts.” Judy Oatman explained as she and her family launched the Tribal Hemp and Cannabis (THC) magazine. Her grandmother, Alice “Jeanie” (Johnson) Warden, was sent to prison for growing marijuana on her Nez Perce family’s allotments. As a third-generation farmer, Oatman is now taking her family history as inspiration to grow the next economy.

In a video message at the THC Launch party,  Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) tied hemp and cannabis to the inherent right of tribes and it’s citizens to determine their own futures.”Part of tribal sovereignty is deciding which industries to engage in and how best to create economic opportunities for your tribe.” Haaland said. “But the federal laws regarding cannabis and hemp stand in the way right now,” Haaland explained. “That’s why I support legalizing recreational marijuana and opening up agriculture to hemp farming opportunities.”

Other leaders in the Cannabis renaissance include  Walker River Paiute Tribe, whose leaders entered into a government-to-government agreement with the state of Nevada to address marijuana on their lands. Chairwoman Amber Torres attended the magazine launch and said she stands with Judy Oatman’s plan.  

In the midst of a federal muddle created since the passage of the Farm Bill, tribes are carefully preparing to plant. Some tribes will venture into CBDs, others into medical marijuana and recreational cannabis. There are many choices to be made, and the plant has something for everyone. The Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Dakota will continue to grow fiber cannabis, working with the University of Minnesota geneticists. The Red Lake Nation has put medical marijuana up for referendum vote this summer, and if approved will be the first Indigenous nation in Minnesota to move ahead with medical marijuana. In the face of wildcards created by history and federal regulations, complicated by a missing industry infrastructure, we move ahead on faith.

Indeed, Minnesota used to have eleven hemp mills. The state provided canvas, fabric, and rope across the country and those mills were a green economy. That economy was killed by the logging, plastics, and cotton industry. However, in the time of change brought on by the end of the fossil fuels economy, cannabis and hemp are returning. We have not found the body. Still, the New Green Revolution is coming, Native people do not want to be sidelined. It’s spring on Wounded Knee Creek, the promise of seeds and a future is something we can taste in the warm spring winds.  

Winona LaDuke is the Co- founder and Executive Director of Honor the Earth, a non- profit, environmental justice organization comprised mostly of Indigenous people and based in northern Minnesota. www.

Divine Birth Wisdom

By Divine Bailey-Nicholas

Every original or Indigenous people, tribe, nation has a healing system specific to their culture and or belief system. These healing systems or modalities can include herbs, foods, animal, and insect parts. It can include music, movement, and ritual. Often, this is called “traditional medicine”. For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda are some of the more commonly known original healing systems. When people leave their lands voluntarily or in the case of enslaved Africans, involuntarily, their healing systems were brought with them. With healing practices also came birthing practices.

This being so, the Africans who were enslaved in what would become the United States continued a long tradition of healing and birth work.  Their uses of plants, roots, bark, resins that were native to this land were based on the foundation of knowledge that was already acquired in their West and Central African lands. Also, there were many plants that were brought with them during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The work of Divine Birth Wisdom and specifically the “Grandma’s Hands Pregnancy & Postpartum Herbs and Nutrition in the Southern Tradition” online and in-person workshops, is to reclaim and restore the healing folkways of those Black Southern Midwives who carried on the tradition by catching babies and healing the sick throughout slavery and Jim Crow in the South.

Accordingly, the power of okra, cotton root bark, camphor, and mullein among others, are plants that were used traditionally by Southern Black Midwives.  There is a loud drum beating in the hearts of many Black birth workers to be culturally connected to the healing modalities they use.  Unfortunately, there has been a repeated lie that all Black birth traditions are dead or were totally stripped from us during slavery.  It has been my charge to dispel those myths and bring to light the wisdom of our foremothers so we can continue with the great work ahead.  Living in a country where Black birth outcomes are dismal, it is time to consider that the further we run away from our own cultural herbal traditions and look toward so-called “technology” or “western herbalism” that excludes or diminishes our knowledge, that we are feeding a system that has not and, is not serving us. 

My work is focused on the reality that Black Southern herbalists and our folk healing system exist on our own terms. Reaching back into our cultural healing traditions gives us the tools to not only better our health outcomes, but also to take ownership of our bodies, and to teach our healing ways with no apologies.

Divine Bailey-Nicholas, CLC, Doula, Student Midwife, Traditional Herbalist in the Southern Tradition

Divine Bailey-Nicholas is a Trained Birth Assistant, Doula, Certified Lactation Counselor and Master Herbalist in the Southern Tradition. Originally from Chicago, IL, she is proudof her Delta Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia roots.
It is that cultural foundation, that breathes through her plant medicine and birth work. Divine is also the Founder and Executive Director of Community Birth Companion, a non profit organization working to decrease infant and maternal mortality rates through childbirth education, breastfeeding support and community doulas in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana where she resides with her husband and 4 children

OPIRG: Garlic Mustard Pull

By Katherine Nixon and Mandy Hiscocks

OPIRG is a student-funded and volunteer-driven organization based on the University of Guelph campus.  We focus on social and environmental justice, and on helping people to develop activist and organizing skills and experience.  I’m the Volunteer Coordinator there.  I’ve lived in Guelph since 1994 when I started at U of G and fell in love with the town and the rivers here.

Every year in May we gather to pull garlic mustard up from along the Speed and Eramosa Rivers, as part of the 2Rivers Festival. We teach people about the plant and show them how to pull it up properly and how to make pesto with it.  We pull up as much as we can and the City disposes of it, and then we plant native plants in the empty space in the hopes that they will thrive there instead.

Garlic Mustard is an invasive plant that was brought over from Europe in the early 1800s.  It was grown as a salad green and herb, used to treat ulcers and gangrene (and probably a lot more things that I don’t know about), and sometimes planted to prevent erosion.  Its Latin name is Alliaria petiolata and it’s in the Brassicacae (mustard) family.

It has a two-year life cycle and only flowers in its second year.  First-year plants grow low to the ground whereas the second year plants grow tall, anywhere from 30 to 130cm. The flowers are white with four petals and grow at the top, and the seed pods are long and shoot upwards. It tends to grow in transitional areas like river floodplains, forest openings, roadsides, and trail edges.  Many of these conditions are met in Guelph between the walking trails and the rivers, so we see a lot of garlic mustard in those areas.

Since garlic mustard comes up early in the spring and grows fast, it can crowd out other plants and spread very quickly.  It does this by restricting access to sunlight and also by killing fungi in the ground that bring nutrients to native plants and trees, actually changing the composition of the soil.  Pulling up garlic mustard allows for other native plants to grow, which is important because native plants are important food sources for pollinators and wildlife.  Garlic mustard hasn’t replaced these plants as a food source because it’s so new to the ecosystem here, so when native plants are replaced by garlic mustard there’s a reduction in available food and in biodiversity. 

When you learn to recognize garlic mustard you can become overwhelmed with how much there is and how impossible it seems to eradicate it.   My suggestion would be to choose an area that is important to you, that you go to often, and that is small enough to feel manageable.  It’s probably easier and more satisfying to take on an area where the garlic mustard is just starting to encroach and to work to keep it out than to go to a place that is covered in it and try to restore it.  

You can eat the whole plant – root, stem, leaf, and flower. There are lots of recipes online for salads, pestos, pasta sauces and so on

Pulling and eating garlic mustard feels like a win-win because we’re helping to restore the land; we’re getting nutrition from something very local that didn’t exploit any migrant labour, use any pesticides, or get transported anywhere using fossil fuels; and we’re not depriving other beings of food or having to worry about overharvesting a wild edible, which is a concern as more and more people are turning to foraging for wild plants.

Eating the plant also allows us to feel grateful instead of angry or annoyed at it; it’s not its fault that it’s here after all.  In its own land garlic mustard is part of a balanced ecosystem and it’s just continuing to do what it evolved to do naturally.

Doing community pulls allows us to talk about all of these things.  We also have a chance to address more complicated ideas, and to connect the concept of invasive species with settler colonialism and the responsibilities settlers have to land that is not ours and to an ecosystem, we didn’t evolve to be part of.  More and more people are becoming concerned about pollinators and want to help increase food sources and habitat for them, so these events are one way we can contribute to that effort.

At OPIRG we pull up garlic mustard to try to undo some of the damage being done to the ecosystem it’s invading, but it’s important to note that there are different ways to look at garlic mustard and at invasive species generally.  Ecologically, some people think it would be better for us not to interfere but instead to let them take over and either create a new balance or burn themselves out.  Philosophically, some people question the very ideas of “invasion” and “damage” – after all, everything moves around the planet all the time, and habitats are constantly changing, and why should humans constantly be trying to control nature?  These are important conversations that start with whether or not to pull garlic mustard and can lead to much larger questions of humans’ place in the world, the role and contradictions of environmental conservation, and the nature of evolution and change. 

You can reach Mandy at, and if you’re interested in learning more about OPIRG Guelph, go to

mandy hiscocks is a settler
from the UK who came to this continent as a child and has called Guelph home for 25 years now. she works as the volunteer coordinator at OPIRG Guelph and many years ago was a member of the Peak collective.

Katherine Nixon is a teenage community organizer living
on Anishinaabek lands. She works to provide support and solidarity in her community and beyond.


By naomi doe moody 

my name is naomi and i am half asleep

my brown limbs fall in a gangly tangle of exhaustion on the couch that i am too long to rest on comfortably and as i begin to relax, my vagus nerve sounds the alarm to my limbic system: danger! it cries and i jerk awake

memories old and new of being woken in the night for the sake of being harmed are a common reality for those of us who have lived through or are born from violent acts of colonization

you’re growing like a weed my mother tells me every summer when her white hands pull the dusty box of clothes labeled naomi from the attic and tries to make them fit

they never do

she glares at me through the bluest eyes and i see myself through her distorted lens; i am a weed, to be pulled from her garden and discarded 

what must i have done to deserve this? i ask myself and look down the length of my little brown body to find my answer

my name is naomi and i have dark skin and dark hair and dark eyes and i speak English as my first language and i know no other well enough to claim a second

i was born in an academic town in a northeastern corner of turtle island right by the sea but i am forever being told to go back to where i come from

having now reached the peak of maturation and searching for a “from” to go back “to”, i have

ventured further inland to less populated parts of this corner we now call New England to plant seedlings and put down roots

and perhaps it was here that i unwittingly became the carrier of a likewise mature deer tick that transferred to me through violent means a bacteria named borrelia and their sibling with a much lovelier name, babesia 

and perhaps because i’ve become accustomed to wearing too short shorts and making do with what i’ve  got i went into the woods vulnerable and unprotected and once again the colonization of my brown body is my own fault 

because people always ask: weren’t you wearing pants? 

the lyme lays waste to my body

like the inhabitants of a man camp the spirochetes drill holes through the vital parts of my being and rob me of what sustains me

the babesia attacks and destroys my red blood cells, leaving me gasping for air and oxygen though my breath is steady and strong

there are days i am so sick i am sure i will die and days i am ready to let it happen 

in the course of my treatment i have been prescribed a number of herbs, some that i have abandoned and some that have become close and trusted friends

there is one whose scientific name revealed nothing to me about who they are or where they came from but they have become requisite to my existence

the kinship i experience with them i attributed entirely to necessity:

they are the THING that WORKS on my DISEASE 

very western 

very modern

very science 

when i work with this medicine i am able to breathe i am able to rest i am able to sleep through the night and the hope is that i am able to heal, though intuitively it feels like there is something missing from our dialogue

a quick google search tells me the story of their origin, the reality of our bond and, most likely, the mystery of the missing link: unsurprisingly this plant was stolen, exploited, colonized

Nibima, as they are called in Twi, is a weedy vine Indigenous to West Africa and championed by what the western herbal community refuses to call Traditional African Medicine

Nibima has been an ally of Indigenous peoples of so called Ghana and surrounding nations for centuries

a true herbal remedy, infusions and decoctions of the root have been used to treat many cases of illness and disease by traditional medicine people, including malaria, a leading cause of death in small children and pregnant people in West Africa

but because of this, their strongest constituents are stripped from them, concentrated into forms palatable by white bodies and given a new name (very western, very modern, very science):

cryptolepis sanguinolenta

and suddenly they are dropped from English speaking tongues, trapped in brown bottles with white labels adorned by this cumbersome lie of a name, exchanged by white hands, nibima’s origins and history thoroughly erased 

(it’s worth noting that though lyme aka borrelia is a disease of whiteness named after a town in so called Connecticut where it was first discovered-or let loose-babesia is malaria’s cousin)

(it’s worth noting that as human intervention disturbs and disrupts the natural habitats of other beings like microbes and pathogens, we become more visibly a viable host and more likely to carry these beings with us as we invade and colonize our way across the globe) 

(it’s worth noting that weeds and weedy plants are among the most effective remedies for fighting these pathogens and that many of the plants we call invasive are often introduced to a new environment without consent)

and so we all come together in this confluence of colonization

with names from tongues that ancestrally are not our own




scrutinized out of context through the Eurocentric experience, stuck in an unending cycle of appropriation and pathology which perpetuates a lack of health beyond just being sick with a disease that is difficult to treat

the only way forward, the only way to heal, is depopulation of my cells…quite literally decolonization 

there is a belief that those of us with impaired immunity are especially vulnerable to tick borne illness and my immune system has been run ragged by a fight or flight response that just won’t quit

it’s been stuck in the on position since 1492 and been in overdrive since 1619

to decolonize my body of pathogens i’ve had to decolonize my connection to plant medicines which in turn has led to a decolonization of my spirit; i’ve learned to not only look down upon my length with love but to turn that love inwards as well

i’ve had to debunk the myth of the missing link within myself; parts of me were never gone just hidden, connections not broken but obscured

histories not erased but painted over only to be chipped away again to reveal the beauty beneath

to free the truth and my ability my right to speak it to power:

i release the lies and labels others have thrust upon me in their fear, their ignorance, their hatred

i release the false names i have been given to sanitize my truth out of existence

i release the false ideals projected on to me until i bend and break myself into a more acceptable shape and size 

i reclaim my rightful place to take up space and grow and thrive, like a weed, like a persistent medicine plant, beautiful and vital and welcomed as i am: whole

my name is still naomi for now but i am wide awake and i am healing from colonially imposed self-hatred as much as i am healing from illness and dis-ease

nibima my sibling remains with me and reminds me that like them, my true name is out there and i will recognize it when i hear it

naomi (they/she) is a Black multiracial community organizer learning and sharing how to navigate and heal trauma by allying with plants. They live on Abenaki ancestral land and spend most days in the woods or gardens homeschooling their 7 year old, lil j. Connect at @radiclenaomi on IG and at


The Democratic Flower

A Conversation with Lawyer Caryma Sa’d

Interview By Chela Paulino 

In 2018, “Canada” legalized weed. It’s been a long road and many folks have different thoughts on how the market is being controlled, the lasting impacts of past criminalization, and the future of cannabis culture. One of the most important questions is around the legalities of cannabis consumption and how individuals navigate within this very new reality. Caryma Sa’d is a lawyer based out of Toronto who is passionate about cannabis law and the clients she represents. Chela Paulino, an editor with The Peak, took some time to sit down and discuss how the past, present, and future will be impacted by legal cannabis industries.

Can you introduce yourself and the type of legal work you do?

C: My name is Caryma Sa’d and I’m a lawyer who focuses on landlord-tenant and housing issues, criminal law, and cannabis law.

What drew you to start specializing in cannabis cases?

C: I’ve always been interested in the criminalization and regulation of cannabis. Throughout law school some of the most interesting cases were about people’s right to engage in an activity that was non-violent, not hurting others and yet there were serious consequences for growing and consuming. In many situations, there were charter arguments raised; and of course, I’m referring to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is part of our Constitution and certain rights were deemed to be infringed by the then-existing framework for cannabis. And from a civil liberties perspective, I thought that that was an interesting subject. When I finished my articling and was getting ready to be called to the bar and officially become a lawyer that was in 2016; and that summer Project Claudia was underway in Toronto. 

For those who don’t know — Project Claudia was an organized initiative by Toronto Police where all of these dispensaries that were operating without licenses. Project Claudia was a coordinated raid basically against all these dispensaries because at that time there were many many dispensaries in Toronto. It was kind of in-between when the Prime Minister announced that legalization was coming down the pipeline but nothing was finalized, many people jumped the gun or already had businesses that were aligned with that. Anyway, there was a day in Kensington market, I was sitting in a cafe and literally watching the raids take place. It occurred to me that it was unfair and this was an area of law [that is] emerging; there’s plenty of room and opportunity to shape the policy and for that reason, I decided to focus some of my attention.  I do practice not just criminal law but also housing. In that context, I deal with tenants who have prescriptions for medical cannabis and are getting push back from their landlord about growing or smoking; sometimes it’s purely recreation but there are again privacy and civil liberty interests at play depending on the lease. I also work with landlords who have problematic tenants who are not growing or consuming responsibly and I consult with condo boards on how to structure rules for condominiums. 

Can you describe how your work has shifted now that cannabis is legal?  

C:  I started practicing after my call to the bar and I didn’t take clients on until about 2017, so at that point, we were very close to legalization. In my observation, and it is kind of ironic, legalization in some ways has made things more difficult from that landscape I initially entered. When I started, if I was dealing with a dispensary raid, it would be relatively straightforward to get peace bonds — meaning the crown would drop the charge and the person would promise to the court that they would be on good behaviour for whatever set period of time. Now, there are minimum fines in the legislation, and in Ontario, the cannabis control act there is a $10,000 minimum [fine] whether you are the security guard outside or the person who is actually behind the counter regardless of how much control you have over the business. So, in some ways, it’s harder now and I think that’s surprising. I also know that there are people, specifically patients, who may have been growing or smoking in their units well before legalization under the radar, but with the proper authorization, and post-legalization landlords, some of them were quick to pass new rules and the same with condos. People were put in this awkward position of, “do I have to disclose my use? It’s not really anyone’s business.” And so legalization actually put more of a spotlight and undermined people’s rights, even though it was meant to have the opposite effect. I don’t mean to be a negative nancy about all of it, those are just instances that stand out to me because it’s sort of a counter-intuitive result. 

Historically, what has our society been taught about cannabis? 

C: The historic reference point is the reefer madness videos from the States in the 30s and “cannabis will make you lose” and “cannabis is going to…you’ll be crazy and you’ll start killing people” and all of these assertions that were totally not fact-based, divorced from reality but it was propaganda and it was effective propaganda. And it continued on with “this is your brain on drugs”, and a lot of the programming that we’ve received is: “you must abstain otherwise…this is a gateway drug and you’ll be doing heroin in the alley next”. And that’s not true, to the extent that cannabis is a gateway to harder drugs, I think that there’s probably a lot to do with it being illegal and therefore you’re already in a space that you’re more likely to have access to other illegal things versus something that’s inherent to cannabis itself. As a result of all this propaganda, I think there’s a lot of assumptions: ‘stoners are lazy’, ‘stoners are unproductive’, ‘they are good for nothing’, and it’s not the case. There are a lot of professionals who consume cannabis, there are people who work 9-5, who are stay at home parents, who are whatever else and contributing to society in their own ways. So I think as more people come out of the figurative “cannabis closet” so to speak, again that will affect chipping away at the stigma.

Why do you think cannabis has been criminalized so harshly in the past?

C: If you look at the history of drug prohibition, and this is not just Canada, it’s the States and also global — there are a lot of intersections with racist, sexist beliefs and thought patterns that resulted in the criminalization of cannabis. In part, it was a way to target certain demographics. Certainly in the U.S, we saw that prosecution for non-violent cannabis offenses was the entry point for many people into the criminal justice system. It was not a gateway drug to other drugs but rather a gateway into the custodial system. And it’s a pretty cynical perspective but I think that the records support the fact that politicians treated it harshly because it was a lever of power; I think that might be a way to put it. It is interesting because there are studies showing that even though the usage of cannabis was very similar between racial groups — I’m speaking specifically to Toronto but I think this pattern replicates itself more broadly. The people who were being criminalized the most tended to be black and poor or one or the other. So you know it really was a weapon wielded against more marginalized members of society and I don’t know that that was always a conscious decision on the part of prosecutors or police or politicians but that was the outcome and the effect. So, there is no good reason really, it’s not evidence-based policy, there is nothing to suggest that cannabis is a danger to public health in that it requires people to be put behind bars. I think you would find the opposite actually that putting people in prison for cannabis-related offenses actually is the harm, not the cannabis use itself.

We know that large numbers of Black, Brown, and Indigenous folks have been jailed for cannabis-related crimes. Oftentimes, they come out with a criminal record after these types of charges are laid. With the recent legalization of cannabis do you think we will see criminal records being removed?

C: There is some legislationin place to speed up the pardon process but only for certain types of cannabis offenses. So it’s a pretty narrow subset of people and has to be simple possession, pretty much, there might be a couple of other criteria but the point is that it’s not covering the whole scope of 500,000 Canadians or so who have a record. It’s still a very arduous process, you need to go to the courthouse, you need to get certain documents, and for anyone who is constrained by time or income that can be insurmountable.

Photo of Caryma Sa’d

I do hope that we will see records removed but I would prefer that the government opted for expungement. The difference between a pardon and expungement is with expungement the government is recognizing that this never should have been a crime in the first place, you never should have been prosecuted, and it allows the process to be more expedited. It takes some of the pressure off the individual accused or citizen and puts it back on the government [that’s what] I would like to see. There’s not really been the political will or drive for it so it’s organizations like Cannabis Amnesty that are pushing hard and I think that anything we can do to support those initiatives is a good thing.

Who does the gentrification of cannabis benefit? 

C: Primarily white men. If you look at the cannabis industry, you’re going to see it’s dominated by white men. Some of whom or many of whom have experience in other industries and are transitioning to the cannabis world but may lack the knowledge, insight, or cultural competence to deal with this plant and the target audience. It’s hard to say because cannabis is a pretty democratic flower and it’s not just one group of people who smoke or enjoy it. What we do see in some of the advertising, you know a replication of other industries or patterns where there is racism, sexism, whether it’s overt or more subtle. That has at least been my observation and it’s also important to note that at the higher levels of many of these cannabis companies or licensed producers or whatever other aspects of the industry, there are requirements for security clearances and you can’t have a criminal record. So it actually shuts out some of the legacy market participants who really played an important part in making cannabis legal in the first place. 

I think we do need to keep our eyes on where the money is going and where it’s coming from. And you will see that toward the end of 2019 and early 2020 the bubble has popped. So there was a point in time where people and investors were pouring money into these cannabis companies with the expectation of higher returns and instead we are seeing mass layoffs, we’re seeing losses, financial losses. So I think that hopefully, the market will regulate itself and that people who played a part in legalization or are new to the industry but a more diverse group of people, hopefully, there will be room for that innovation and reimagining the industry. 

Does the class system come into play with this new legalization of cannabis?

C: To enter the legal market, one needs to have access to a certain amount of capital if they’re planning to do it on their own or set up their own shop. And by that, I mean money from the bank or investors or whoever else to cover the costs associated with licensing, with purchasing equipment, with purchasing spaces, with legal fees. [So] if someone doesn’t have access to credit or is relatively low income and therefore [find it] difficult to get a loan, for sure there’s going to be a class element there. And that’s another good reason why we should be on guard for that sort of thing. There are jurisdictions that have created essentially equity programming where if you or someone in your family was affected by the war on drugs, you kind of get a fast pass into the system. For various reasons these initiatives have their own problems and are flawed perhaps in the execution but it’s not even something, we’ve turned our mind to in Canada. So I do think that to prevent the replication of unfair systems and to ensure that those who suffered the most under prohibition are given an opportunity to thrive under legalization there does need to be some level of intervention or programming in place to give a boost.

We know that for decades the assumption that cannabis is linked to criminal activity and deviance has been perpetuated in the media and reflected in our justice system. Does legalization change this assumption at all, do you think?

C: Stigma is much more deeply rooted than a simple change in law and we see that in municipalities. For example, [municipalities] are banning dispensaries, or banning people from smoking outdoors. So there is definitely still a mindset of “weed is bad”, and I don’t think that will change overnight.  Culture shifts generally, you know it takes time and there needs to be momentum. What I will say is that as we see an increase in the use of cannabis among baby boomers and older folks, I think that will chip away some of the stigma and the connection between criminality and cannabis. Again, it’s a chicken and egg scenario because you are associating it with criminal activity because it’s criminalized, not because of anything inherently wrong with the plant. And actually, if we’re really talking [about] criminality and drugs, alcohol is a huge driver. In all my time in criminal court, I’ve never heard an allegation of, “he was smoking cannabis and then punched his girlfriend and then robbed a bank, and then decided it was gonna be a good idea to start a bar fight whatever”. But alcohol fuels all sorts of stupid decisions. And I’m not suggesting that alcohol needs to now be prohibited; that we tried, it didn’t work. In fact, I would suggest that all drugs should be treated not as a criminal issue but a public health and wellness issue. It’s useless to keep drug users kind of ingrained in the system. Perhaps we need a different approach for the people who are actually in the higher levels of distribution of illegal drugs and naturally that results in serious criminal activity, but again only because the substance itself is illegal to obtain elsewhere. So it means that there isn’t enough incentive to take the risk or to do bad things to make more money. You can make more money because it can’t be acquired elsewhere. So I think that we really need to rethink how we treat drugs and the extent to which it is or is not appropriate to use the criminal justice system as a crutch. 

Chela Paulino is an artist
and community worker residing in Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood. Her writing began as an expressive outlet and turned into a full blown passion for poetry, music and the arts. A natural entrepreneur, Chela is developing creative therapy projects. She has dedicated herself to collaborating within communities that support vulnerable populations.

Reflecting on my Relationship with Cannabis

By Lalita Rose 

Feeling Fine by Savina Monet

Praise to the Creator of Earth and her inhabitants. Praise to the Source of Life. Calling and invoking the Love within us. Creator, who is urging our human consciousness to awaken to the true possibility of liberation and connection, thank you for the gift of your sacred plants. Plants that heal us, that speak to the organs in which you crafted, to come into balance. Creator may we remember the sacredness of every relationship we encounter, may we remember what it is to be human. To be human is to love. To be human is to celebrate differences.  To be human is to create and always be innovative while respecting the generations that came before and those that will come after. Please give us the strength to protect your sacred land.
Cannabis magnifies and presents to us a clear picture where both liberation and oppression function. It teaches us the malleability of our realities and complexities. This malleability gives us the opportunity to alter patterns of behaviors, thought processes that are shaped by our internal dialogue where we see direct results. In large part, it appears that we have yet again need to return to the basics by reflecting on what it means to be human. Opening my copy of Audre Lorde’s “Sister Outsider”, in the essay “Learning from the 60s,” her voice whispers across time: 

“As Black people, if there is one thing we can learn from the 60s, it is how infinitely complex any move for liberation must be. For we must move against not only those forces which dehumanize us from the outside, but also against those oppressive values which we have been forced to take into ourselves,” (Lorde, 135). 

We, and by ‘we’ I mean every single human on this planet, are sitting with this grand task. For many of us, we struggle to find words to describe the emotional territory in which we find ourselves. Collectively, we are in a pandemic, probably the largest pandemic of our generation. Prior to the life-form, that is COVID-19 traveling around the world, it became crystal clear; there is a global voice rising up for the protection of our sacred mother Earth.  Indigenous people of African, Turtle Island, Phillipino, Chinese, Irish, Scottish peoples are returning to the foundations of what offer truths that exist, buried under the fabricated lies of plastic, wasteful, white supremacist Capitalism. The younger generation is reaching back, searching for the Elders who not only hold knowledge but enact it for community uplifting.  Mama Lorde is one such Elder. She did not sleep, nor despair or give up on our human capacity for real change. In the 80s, where 60% of Black youth under 20 were unemployed and becoming unemployable, lynchings were increasing, Apartheid in South Africa was reaching its violent peak, yet there were minds and people who did their work. 

Each generation received a torch passed from a previous one. In each era, there are sub-generations, the older folks, the children, the adults, the teenagers, the babies. Each member holds a thread; a piece to the larger puzzle. Each root of the large tree of life is our family systems. Within our roots, lies what needs to die, and what needs to be nourished and survive. These fabrics interweave in every aspect of our lives, to what we eat, how we spend our time, how we view sex and relationships, and even how we wipe our asses. Though what aspect of ourselves are we feeding?

Plants are organic matter that can communicate information without having to search on Google. The ancestors of healing knew this, the ones who are open can still hear, and nothing can ever change that. Cannabis is a plant that since its birth was a plant that supports the elevation of human consciousness. It is a plant that opens portals and allows us to see in a larger holistic vision when our Consciousness is directed to do so. Cannabis gives us permission to access the aspects of our minds that can shapeshift our reality. It affirms our gifts as healers, as artists, as craftsmxn, as lovers, as humans. Yet it can also give us a portal into those shadow spaces. The grief, the ugly, the loss, and with it all, we humbly give thanks for the wisdom that lies when we allow ourselves to cry, to speak our truth, and to wrestle with our fears. 

Reading Audre Lorde’s account of the 80s reads like a newscast that happened in last week’s news cycle. “Decisions to cut aid for the terminally ill, for the elderly, for dependent children, for food stamps, even school lunches, are being made by men with full stomachs who live in comfortable houses with two cars and upteen tax shelters,” (Lorde, 140). Not to mention that the 60s were rife with the fear of complete annihilation under the threat of the Nuclear War. She continues, “Can any one of us here still afford to believe that efforts to reclaim the future can be private or individual? Can anyone here still afford to believe that the pursuit of our liberation can be the sole and particular province of any one particular race, or sex, or age, or religion, or sexuality, or class? (Lorde, 141).

So here we are. In 2020, former Toronto Police Chief responsible for the imprisonment of thousands of Black and Brown teenagers, men and women, mothers for even having as small as a gram of cannabis is now the Board Chair of Aleafia Cannabis Wellness.. Fantino, once compared the legalization of marijuana to legalizing murder”.  His position alongside other individuals who are not the native caretakers of this sacred medicine, brings into focus an area where justice and accountability need to be made. Our planet still needs protection as Indigenous peoples around the globe are laying their lives on the line in places such as the Amazon, Wet’su’weten territory, to ensure that all of our lives will be worth living for generations. Audre Lorde’s haunting question after reflecting on the legacy she stands on: are we doing our work? Are we willing to carry on this sacred torch we have been given from generations prior? There is so much that we can do, if we can avoid cutting each other down and out of our lives. If we can hold onto compassion for ourselves and one another, and know that there is a juicy vision that is calling upon us to rise up into our power. And perhaps it’s no longer about being at war with the external other. Perhaps it is about centering in our profound dreams and desires. Maybe it is in practicing the feelings of pleasure, affirmation, creativity, experimentation that can snap us out of being drained, and spur us into action that is fueled not by shame, or guilt, or fear, or “we are running out of time,” but of curiosity and anticipation that our collective inspiration can produce different results.

Plants and humans have always had a symbiotic relationship Capitalism puts a price on everything that is priceless. The commodification of Cannabis can change how we are in relationship to it and with the heightened unequal approach to the Cannabis industry, I wonder if this impacts our highs? We are already largely separated from our food systems, as big corporations monopolize on Mama Earth’s main function; an abundant giver. Plants support us in maintaining and returning our bodies, minds, and spirits into equilibrium and balance, including the hallucinogenic herbs that have largely been marked as poisonous and illegal. Though big businesses and governments have no qualms selling poisonous foods, chemicals, and lucrative plant properties. 

Cannabis has taught me compassion. It’s shown me that our life is in fact interconnected, that we can shift our perceptions and the whole world can change. It’s hard stems grow like the neural pathways in our brains. Cleanse your body, purify your mind with this plant. It’s taught me that we are all healing, whether we are Black, White, wealthy, cash poor, and we want to do better, but we can get trapped in our past, all of us. At a moment such as this, we are so capable to tune into our inner perceptions and be the midwives of Mama who will birth us into an era of regeneration.

Lalita Rose is a futurist, time- traveler, plant-lover, pleasure seeker, weaver of songs, films, and visions. You can catch her conjuring a story, reading tarot, twerking mid-day and talking on the phone with people across the seas.

Aversions to THC

The Alternative Use of Topicals

By Tyner Bouteiller

The legalization of cannabis has had a ripple effect and I have directly seen its impacts. People now discuss the consumption of cannabis openly and cannabis accessories are cropping up every which way I turn. More and more people have started to explore weed culture and are often surprised, if not mocking, of those who do not partake in this recently normalized indulgence.

Although many people have chosen not to use cannabis products for moral or personal disinterest — there are some of us who do not use cannabis for other reasons. I suspect many of us want to participate in this newly legal and sensory-stimulating culture but a few of us are finding that cannabis is not all it’s cracked up to be. Speaking from a place of experience, cannabis, regardless of the strain, can cause an increase in anxiety.  

In my experience, I have noticed that the consumption of cannabis can lead to other unwanted effects, including hallucinatory-like visions that can be long-lasting (even in small doses), unpleasant physical sensations, and hangover-like symptoms occurring the following day. Not everyone appears to experience these side-effects, and it has made me wonder if some people may be intolerant to tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. Some people can even experience stuffy, runny noses and rashes, suggesting a full-blown allergy. So how can people with these issues benefit from cannabis?

Thankfully, for those who are intolerant or do not enjoy the effects of THC, there is an alternative. Several companies have been offering CBD oil with low or negligible levels of THC. CBD (cannabidiol, which is an active compound of cannabis) has most of the medical benefits of cannabis without causing people to get high or hallucinate. Although some people enjoy taking the oil as oral droplets, others like to use it as a topical. Topicals, often in the form of creams, are applied to the skin and body rather than inhaled or orally consumed. Companies have produced lotions, body butters, and even bath bombs and lubricants with CBD oil.

So, if CBD doesn’t get you high, what are the benefits? Well, there have been reports of CBD being used to reduce pain and inflammation, which is likely of interest to many of us, whether we have experienced arthritis, earaches, back pain, or even just sore muscles. The benefit of having a bioactive ingredient that focuses on both pain and inflammation is that it helps reduce the symptoms and the potential problem.

Unfortunately, since research has been limited on CBD’s ability to reduce inflammation, I would suggest combining the oil with a variety of other well-known anti-inflammatory natural ingredients, such as turmeric, ginger, and honey. If you are interested in creating your own pain-lowering and anti-inflammation lotion, it is easy to do. I have even made my own “honey, lemon, and ginger” topical cream, named after the soothing drink my grandmother makes me when I’m sick. It involves using one’s preferred body oil (I like coconut oil), CBD oil, aloe vera gel, which one could harvest from their own plant, minced or powdered ginger, powdered turmeric, a bit of honey, and lemon essential oil. Blended together in one’s preferred quantities, I have found it useful for reducing sore muscles and feet, and even some of my headaches when applied to the back of the neck. CBD oil is an exciting new natural cannabis product that many anti-THC users may enjoy and benefit from.

Tyner Bouteiller is a recent Bachelor of Arts graduate from the University of Guelph. She majored in psychology and minored in nutrition and nutraceuticals, which is where she discovered her interest in bioactive ingredients and topicals. Her holistic perspective will eventually be used to help those with mental health disorders.

Love, Honour, and Respect

Our Relationship to “The” Plant

By Ms Faith

Love. Plant. Medicine. Healing. Supportive. Homeostasis. Essential.

Just a few of the words that come to mind when I think of the beautiful cannabis plant this Earth has been blessed with.  A plant that our ancestors and we have been blessed to be intimately acquainted with throughout millennia, cultures, and lands. Just as we all have different paths — we journey on to spirituality, our different ways of connecting with our spiritual Creator and nurturing that relationship. We all have different paths and ways of connecting with weed and nurturing our relationship with it. Our relationship with ganja, much like our relationships with ourselves & others, is important to maintain and examine from time to time. 

When? Where? What? Who? How? Why?

Your personal answers to these questions are of utmost importance. Throughout time there have been several attacks on our relationship with the holy herb, attacks that only our knowledge & strength of our relationship with marijuana has helped us to withstand. I grieve when I think of all the people whose lives could have been saved or prolonged by benefiting from the healing this plant offers, healing that our bodies’ endocannabinoid system recognizes immediately. However, governments, oil companies, capitalists, and misinformed religious propaganda have violated and disrupted our connection to the ancestral and indigenous knowledge of the true science of this plant. The science we knew before science knew what to call it. 

As a woman of Rastafari, who grew up in the Nyahbinghi House in Toronto, born & raised in Canada, the legalization of my holy sacrament has only made me more acutely aware of the importance of holding firm in my relationship to sensimilla and my knowledge of it. As the daughter of someone who lived through the Coral Garden atrocities and a Black/Métis woman living in Canada, I’m constantly aware of the violence and brutality inflicted on Black and Indigenous peoples. The legalization that Peter Tosh inspirationally called for us to envision — is not the one that has been designed for us to take part in. The way legalization has unfolded, it has not provided the same access, privilege, and opportunities to the very people who have been fighting and defending this plant throughout history. Legalization is a perfect reflection of the institutional racism that exists in every fiber of North American society. I’m also aware of the numerous benefits and opportunities that informed legalization can offer our communities.

I highlight these things to reinforce the fact that our relationship to and knowledge of cannabis is more important to maintain and uphold than ever before.

The ancient African tribes, the ancient Chinese shamans, the Hindu sadhus, Rastafari, and everything connected and in between — has done great work to keep our connection to this plant alive and we must nurture it forever. Respect it as the rest of the plant family that supports our health. We don’t describe vegetables and fruits in different categories like medicinal and recreational. We simply enjoy them and use them in our everyday life. We know depending on the growth quality, and form of consumption, these things affect how we benefit from these plants. The cannabis plant is no different in this regard. The weeds of the plant world are no different in this regard. 

In this pandemic time, where we are practicing social distancing, & many of our ill have been left unsupported by our overloaded health systems, guard and utilize our ancestral knowledge of health and well-being to support ourselves and our communities. The medicinal and holistic properties of kushumpeng exist in all forms of its intake. Other than smoking, additional methods such as vaping, edibles, tea, oil, salves, steam chalice, juiced, or fresh in a salad, are all healthier ways of using this wonderous plant to support our optimal health. 

We, the people who have loved, protected, and defended weed throughout time, space, and misinformed societies, shall always reserve with us the power to do so while teaching & healing nations as we know cannabis is meant to.

Keep the relationship tight, keep it healthy, keep it safe, keep it sacred, & keep it pure!

Peace & Love,

Ms  Faith

Ms. Faith is a multi-disciplinary creative who is a writer, poet, singer, and herbal connisseur. She’s performed at open mics and poetry events across Toronto and is currently working on unreleased works.


An Essential Need for Black Health

By Chaney Turner 

“Every cannabis user is a medical patient whether they know it or not.”

Dennis Peron 

Access to affordable medication has always been challenging for poor and lower-income people. But for Black and Brown populations who are disproportionately impacted by systematic racism, gentrification, and displacement — access to affordable cannabis is a necessity. When it comes to approaching our healing from a holistic place, there are many barriers that prevent us from accessing cannabis, even though traditionally Black & Indigenous communities have used plant medicine for centuries.  

In 2012, I was rushed to the ER after being sick for a few days. My blood pressure was ‘180. The doctors were concerned and wanted to find out the cause. After spending a week in the hospital I was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism also known as Graves Disease. Doctors gave me 3 options. Have my thyroid surgically removed, take radiation pills for 6 months, or take the medication Methimazole. I chose to take Methimazole while researching more holistic ways to heal myself.

I didn’t realize until years later that my thyroid and chronic illness were stress-related. This led me to do a personal evaluation of how long I’ve lived with stress & anxiety. In reflection I realized I was an anxious child, always stressed with a variety of stomach aches. Anxiety lived in my bones. 

Many things contributed to my anxiety as a child. I was sexually abused at an early age. My mother was addicted to crack cocaine. I’m from East Oakland and grew up in a neighborhood plagued with drugs & violence. Like many Black people, I thought anxiety was a normal part of life; I learned how to live and function with anxiety.

I didn’t realize until years later that my thyroid and chronic illness were stress- related. This led me to do a personal evaluation of how long I’ve lived with stress & anxiety. In reflection I realized I was an anxious child, always stressed with a variety of stomach aches. Anxiety lived in my bones.

Later in life, I started smoking weed and would describe myself as a late smoker. I tried weed a few times as a teen but didn’t start indulging recreationally until after high school. I used to suffer from painful menstrual cramps. The unbearable pain would confine me to my bed for days. Cannabis was the only thing that brought me relief. I eventually got a medical card in 2003 after a car accident. I’m sensitive to opioids and they make me nauseous, so I asked my doctor for a medical marijuana recommendation. Receiving my medical card not only helped with my healing, but it also sparked my interest in the marijuana business. In 2016, along with former partners, I co-founded a Measure Z dispensary in Oakland, Ca. This membership-based dispensary catered to marginalized communities, most of the patients that came through our doors suffered from some form of trauma. 

One of the common narratives on the benefits of cannabis is that it supports veterans with PTSD. While this is true, Black folks living in the hood who are exposed to constant trauma are left out of this narrative. According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. Systematic racism, violence, and sexual abuse are contributing factors to PTSD. 

The Black Census Project, led by Black Futures Lab, is the largest survey of Black people conducted in the United States. Black people across the country shared their thoughts and life experience and the results were informative. 84% of senior respondents say the lack of affordable health care is a “major problem,” while 73% of young respondents under age 30 say the same. Other studies have shown that Black people have some of the highest rates of PTSD, cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and other stress-related diseases. These health issues can all be managed with medical marijuana. 

Covid-19 has further exposed the economic & health inequalities that Black & Indigenous people face in America. Coronavirus is real, but let’s be clear, it’s capitalism that’s killing Black, Brown & low-income people whose lives are being sacrificed for this country’s economy. Equity is essential for our health and survival. Investing and empowering communities with the tools & resources they need in order to survive and have a better quality of life. 

Chaney Turner is a national equity thought leader, organzier & cannabis advocate. Chaney
is the Chief Executive Officer of Beyond Equity, a non profit that focuses on empowering & liberating Black communities from extractive systems. They’re also the owner of Town Biz Oakland & Co-Founder of The People’s Dispensary. Chaney’s work embodies the belief that those most impacted by inequities should have the power to implement solutions to those inequities. This work is a logical extension of Chaney’s activism, the majority of which has centered around gentrification, displacement and state sanctioned violence