I grew up in a home with a rich and diverse love for music. It ranged from Charlie Pride and Kenny Rogers to Yo-Yo Ma, Hendrix, Juice Newton and a family favourite Michael Jackson. However, my family were very proud Regan supporters and the War on Drugs was all the talk around our dinner table.
When the conversation was too heavy, I'd run off to my bedroom to practice the twist, the mashed potato and the moon walk. I would lip sync into my hairbrush for hours while listening to 45’s or AM radio.
I guess I came by this honestly without sharing secrets that aren't mine to share—my father was quite a performer himself, and my mother styled hair for some of the Legends that made their way through our town. Her favourite to work with was none other than Ms. Diana Ross.
On spring and summer break, we would visit the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. I was blown away at how tiny Jimmy Hendrix stage outfits were. More pilgrimages would be made: off to Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee to visit the home of Elvis Presley. The jungle room and the shiny Cadillacs were my favourite. I remember watching video clips, and wondering why he was always so sweaty. Again we lost this beautiful human to opioids prescribed by his doctors. Could cannabis have helped alleviate the pain and pressure Elvis was dealing with?
On my first family trip to Jamaica, we visited "9 Mile," the parish where the iconic artist Bob Marley was laid to rest, and at the time I thought cannabis killed him (I was pretty young and still thought Nancy Regan had all the answers). Now, however, I know cannabis helped make him who he was. Cannabis was immersed in the culture that helped shape the nation, a movement and the sounds that we still enjoy today—especially, at least for me, while smoking a blunt.
I guess I'm jumping around a bit, pardon, I’m a little buzzed, but while I reminisce and the memories come flowing back, I feel so incredibly sad and a bit ripped off that we weren't given the truth. The cannabis plant is a plant of peace and healing, used to create and inspire. Unfortunately, religion and racism didn't allow cannabis to grow to her full potential—until now.
While writing this, and taking a long trip down memory lane, I can't help but wonder, if cannabis was legal and the War on Drugs was actually about doing the right thing and taking opioids off the streets, would some of these musical geniuses still be alive today?
Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose, perhaps cannabis could have helped her with her anxiety and depression.
Kurt Cobain died way too soon, he took his own life. I’m no doctor, but I would say the over prescribed Valium definitely had a hand in it.
Unfortunately, there's a long list of talented humans that used drugs to ease the pain, the same pain that is so often used to write, create and inspire so many.
I’ve felt that inspiration too. Fast forward to me leaving home at a very young age and taking my "talents," as previously discussed in past editions of kind, on the open road to growth and discovery I became what some might call a groupie—my parents must be so proud.
I have been fortunate enough (or unfortunate) to have "partied" and tour with some incredibly talented and creative humans throughout my life. I wish I knew then what I know now.
I remember being backstage (actually in a tented area side stage) at Lollapalooza in 1996, the partying was out of control. They call it "partying," but is it really? I guess some were actually medicating? In order to get on stage in front of thousands, travel the world performing night after night, almost all mere mortals must use something other than fresh air and good vibes.
I remember smelling a skunky odor coming from a deck where Wu-Tang Clan were hanging out on their own, and I marvel that, at the time, cannabis charges were just as serious as crack cocaine.
Now in my 40’s and popping backstage to say hello to some friends in the industry, things have changed a lot. It's usually me that asks: "What, no hookers and blow?" Maybe we're finally learning from the past, maybe legalization is actually going to save and change what we think of when we hear the phrase "party like a rockstar."
When I started to write this piece, I was going to talk about my all access pass and my backstage experiences, but there's a much bigger story here. I could go on about the "groupie life" and name drop, but that's for another day. (I promise). This story is really about what we've lost to opioids, alcohol and prescription pharmaceuticals.
Amy Winehouse sang: "they tried to make me go to rehab," then at the height of her career died of alcohol poisoning. What if, like me, she lost the wine and picked up the weed?
I hope I've left you thinking about how you too can help end the stigma and celebrate cannabis as we approach the second anniversary of Canadian cannabis legalization.
Finally, no Canadian cannabis and music fan could forget that October 17 is the anniversary of the late, great Gordon Downie's passing. Since Mr. Downie's death the remaining members of the Tragically Hip have become public figures in the cannabis community. We salute them, and Gord, every day.