The Psychedelic Properties of Marijuana
The Psychedelic Properties of Marijuana
Millenia before marijuana was introduced to the new world by the Spaniards, the plant primarily saw use as a religious sacrament amongst shamanic and pagan cultures. Archeological and cultural evidence of cannabis’s use in this manner is scattered throughout the globe. Its surge in popularity as a recreational drug in the 20th century ignored much of the entheogenic origins of the plant, which, amongst other legal and cultural factors, contributed heavily to modern perceptions of it. Particularly with the wave of legalization during the 2000s, more people than ever are now using marijuana for its medicinal effects, leaving the plant’s psychedelic properties to the wayside.
Of course, classifying all marijuana use as “medicinal” is inaccurate; people use it for all sorts of things, from stimulating creative energy to winding down after a long day. This is the beauty of the plant, in that the vast variety of strains can offer something to just about
The use of marijuana exclusively as a medicinal drug or mild intoxicant does a disservice to the power behind those sparkly buds.
everyone. Differences in biology and neurochemistry also affect how people respond to the plant, so any overarching statements on the “best reasons” to consume would be wildly tone-deaf. That said, from a psychonaut’s perspective, the use of marijuana exclusively as a medicinal drug or “mild intoxicant” does a disservice to the power behind those sparkly buds.
I may be going out on a limb here, but I doubt that the millions of Americans using marijuana are going into the experience expecting something similar to classical hallucinogens like peyote or LSD. This is not to knock use in the recreational context, as many people would probably avoid using the plant if it produced effects as powerful as those of the aforementioned substances. However, this does not mean that those effects are entirely avoidable. Sometimes, all it takes is a strong cut of weed or an overdose with an edible, but, at any rate, below the surface, there is certainly potential for more psychedelic effects.
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Set and setting– this is the first piece of advice for anyone interested in exploring hallucinogens. Accounting for your mindset and emotions, along with the environment you are planning to experiment in, is, outside of dosage and testing, arguably the most important facet of exploring psychoactive substances. “Bad trips,” while not entirely unpreventable, can be greatly mitigated by taking your set and setting into account. Harping on this in the context of marijuana may seem insignificant, but I can assure you that bad experiences with the plant can often be attributed to set and setting, among other factors. Just like bad trips with other hallucinogens, the cause is not always known, but the point is that this practice of considering set and setting is far less common, if not completely absent, from experiences with weed.
On first impression, it may seem neurotic to consider every facet of your mind and surroundings before your evening smoke session, but, in principle, the psychonaut rule of set and setting is very practical: If your house is on fire, it’s probably not a good time to start
Most people don’t treat marijuana like the entheogen it is.
experimenting with drugs. Similarly, the content of your experience is heavily influenced by your mindset going into it, which gets to the point I’m trying to make: most people don’t treat marijuana like the entheogen it is.
As mentioned earlier, there are many reasons for this, but I think that legalization and the cultural acceptance of the plant played significant roles in the loss of its psychedelic side. The large swathes of people pushing the safety and medicinal properties of the plant would, at the very least, make users go in with less reverence for the effects. The narrative surrounding the plant was no longer about its dangerous intoxication and strange effect profile, but rather that the effects were mostly understood and harmless. This is not to say that the experiences people have with psychoactive substances are wholly determined by their approach, but rather that the narrative about marijuana completely changed the way people viewed and used the plant.
The Flower Shop
There are many reasons why someone might want to explore the less common side of marijuana. From expanding consciousness to understanding the ancient experiences with this plant, the cannabis realm holds far more than what is advertised. Reaching these sorts of spaces is not difficult but requires intent. For example, planning to take a heavy dose and meditate by candlelight can bring about an entirely new experience. There are plenty of group offerings for these sorts of practices, such as “cannabis spas” where singing bowls are played while participants can dose as they please. Some groups even offer full retreats with cannabis, where the plant is used exclusively in an entheogenic context.
Psychonautics, at its core, is about exploring the mind, and cannabis is a superb catalyst for this practice. That said, there are plenty of substance users that have no interest in psychonautics. They do drugs for fun or to treat their ailments, ignoring the profound effects of
Some groups even offer full retreats with cannabis, where the plant is used exclusively in an entheogenic context.
the psychoactivity. While I’m not criticizing use for these purposes, I do believe that many people are deeply curious and would take an opportunity to wade deeper into the psychedelic pool. The illegality, along with misinformation about so many of the substances that effectively do this dissuades many people from going deeper, but therein lies my point: marijuana can do just that. It takes a bit more intent and work than classical hallucinogens, but don’t be fooled; it is absolutely a psychedelic plant.
Chances are, your average toker doesn’t view the plant in that light and I’d argue that a society of habitual peyote microdosers probably wouldn’t see it that way either. Our cultures’ perception of substances weighs heavily on individuals’ experiences with them, and perhaps what I’m advocating is an unbiased take on psychoactive substances. To explore them, not with a bold desire for intoxication or fear of being judged for taking something forbidden, but rather with curiosity. To see what kind of experiences these plants bring and appreciate humans’ incredibly unique relationship with them. Whether you are a lifetime user or a first timer, afford the plant just a bit of your attention. Analyze and take apart the effects, separating “you” from the experience, and try to save a picture of that which is extraordinary.