Cannabis is a much-maligned substance. Politicians and anti-drug campaigners have been quick to point out the various negative effects that it can bring about, but yet, very few are willing to champion its numerous beneficial properties. The stigma attached to openly stating that marijuana has medicinal value has led to a gross imbalance in the way that its relationship to a person’s health is reported. We hear a lot about the harm that it can cause, but very little about its application as a form of treatment. Fortunately, cannabis journalist and lifelong marijuana advocate, Joan Bello, has dedicated her life to presenting the other side of the argument. She has campaigned tirelessly to publicize the many potential benefits that the cannabis plant can yield and written a multitude of books about the subject, including the critically acclaimed, “The Benefits of Cannabis.” I was fortunate enough to be granted the opportunity to interview her about her work and find out exactly why she holds cannabis in such high regard…
First of all, introduce yourself and tell me a bit about your work.
By way of introducing myself, I will say first and foremost that I am an advocate for spreading the truth about the cannabis sativa plant. I have been a researcher and a participant in this movement for the past 40 years, ever since I discovered the medicinal properties and the possibilities of marijuana as an impetus to spiritual growth. I am a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a marijuana grower, an author, and a constant student of the seemingly endless benefits of this magnificent plant. I am a pretty, scholarly type. I’m a teacher and counsellor with an MSc in Eastern Studies and Holistic Health, which was obtained after realizing the link between cannabis and Eastern philosophy. For a few years, I dabbled in political action, but was very disillusioned with the reality that profit runs everything. It was too confrontational and a slow process. My husband and I eventually retired to the country where we live among the mountains and have lots of pets but few neighbours. We are both around seventy and very physically fit. Actually, the physical pains of youth have disappeared. I attribute our health to constant and daily marijuana smoking as well as a vegetarian diet.
How did you first become aware of the medicinal properties of marijuana and what inspired you to write about them?
In 1971, my son developed epilepsy, and the poisons and foolishness that the medical profession subjected him to sent me searching for alternative answers. I was a new marijuana smoker and grower at the time and was completely enthralled with the mental awareness and feeling of wonder that the plant gave me. I am a catholic school graduate, which pretty much guarantees being a rebel and anti-catholic in adulthood, so I looked to Eastern philosophy for answers. Somewhere I found a reference to ‘bhang’ [a preparation from the leaves and buds of female cannabis plants, smoked in the Indian subcontinent] with regards to curing epilepsy, which was all I needed. I took my son to a hotel, afraid that I would lose him and lose my house if I was caught, and began his initiation into the world of marijuana medicine. It worked! Its effects took place very slowly, but obviously, the success of the treatment caused me to begin my formal studies at an ashram [a building used for Indian spiritual activity or instruction] for my Master’s in Eastern philosophy. Everything I learned about yoga was intense and correct and a perfect fit with the effects that I was documenting about marijuana. Writing my book just came without effort – I knew what I had to say. When people talk about inspired writing, I know just what they mean. ‘The Benefits of Marijuana’ was inspired and the pen just flew across the page. It’s not nearly as easy anymore.
You have spoken of the benefits that smoking cannabis can give to war veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome. Can you say a little bit more about this?
In some states, the law allows veterans with PTSD to obtain marijuana by a doctor’s recommendation. This is because of all the positive proof that it helps and all of the veterans who have carried on loudly telling the truth as often as possible. In other states, it is illegal. Medically speaking, there is no doubt that marijuana resets the destabilized amygdala region of the brain where emotional memories are stored. I have written extensively about this topic in the final edition of ‘The Benefits of Marijuana.’
Why do you think so few people are prepared to talk about the positive applications of cannabis?
Funny isn’t it? Everyone knows the truth, but no one will talk about it. There is so much fear of being fired if the wrong person finds out. There’s a sheep mentality and it’s hard to change or admit that the knowledge is contradictory to what you were taught and swallowed. Downright fear and ignorance covers it all, but I am hopeful that the youth know much more about marijuana than their parents and that they are not afraid to talk about it. I don’t think that will change the laws though. Only more profit is a fuel for change.
Can you say a bit about the benefits of marijuana therapy, as described in your book ‘The Benefits of Marijuana’?
In the late ‘80s, there was no such thing as medical marijuana. That idea came later. I originally wrote about the general benefits of marijuana and, later on, started to use ‘marijuana therapy’ as a description of how to use marijuana to feel better physically and mentally and, thereby, allow for spiritual emergence.
Do you think that by preventing this spiritual emergence, the authorities are stifling religious freedom?
From an esoteric point of view, religious freedom is not associated with spiritual evolution, but in the cultural sense of what is meant by religion, then the answer is yes. It is just as holy to smoke marijuana as it is to drink blood or wine or whatever is your ilk. There have been a number of attempts to bring suits for marijuana as sacrament in various courts in the U.S., but all to no avail. But it is the intellectual freedom of the mind that is really being stifled. We are being steered into the tunnels of convenient thought while some of us are escaping. Marijuana is helping us to be ourselves.
You served five months in jail for possession of marijuana. What exactly happened?
The crime was logically constructed from the fact that the police found marijuana and I was the likely owner; and I was, although the whole case was constructed because of who I was and because of the fact that I had written a scandalous book. Of course, it’s no longer scandalous, as it has been proven true many times over. As for my time inside the county jail, it was great for the movement. I did lots of writing for the now defunct ‘Holy Smoke’ magazine, I was interviewed by ‘High Times’ magazine, and I was a hero to the other women. However, it caused great hardship to my family, took away any monetary security that we had, stopped me from ever teaching or counselling again, and lit an enduring fire in my soul to fight the power until my last breath, although no longer politically, but now with the might of the keyboard and the inspiration of marijuana.
The government is supposed to be a buffer for the people. In our country, it is supposed to be the government representing the people against corporate greed and injustice, but it is just the opposite. The money folk and the government folk are against the interests of common folk. If it suits the government to house political prisoners with violent criminals to save money, then so be it. It is a terrorist tactic – ‘get in line or else.’ If we realize that the only way to fight a powerful moneyed structure is to cost it money, then we will be more effective. Boycotts and strikes would be far more effective than trying to pass bills or writing blogs. The only problem is that there is no big block of citizens willing to give anything up. Every group has its own agenda and there is no unity, so we have confusion and we are controlled.
You have experience as a substance abuse counsellor. How did this fit in with your views on marijuana?
I worked mostly for the government, so my clients had no choice but to come to their sessions. I had to throw away numerous failed urine analyses because I would not be instrumental in jailing a person for ingesting a substance. The clients and I became friends and I spent lots of time advocating on their behalf and teaching them about the benefits of marijuana.
What has the response been like to the books you have written?
Always astoundingly supportive. Readers often write to me and thank me or ask me questions.
Finally, what are you working on at the moment and what can your readers expect from you in the future?
The first of the two books coming out is ‘Introduction to The Yoga of Marijuana,’ which is exactly what it says it is – a very long introduction to the vast topic of The Yoga of Marijuana. The second is ‘How Marijuana Cures Cancer,’ which is a documented scientific explanation of the inner workings of the cannabinoids, explaining how the cannabinoid system is restored with marijuana therapy.
The Benefits of Marijuana is available from CreateSpace Publishing, priced at $14.35.
21 September, 2011