Written by: Kristy Gustafson

Louis Armstrong said it’s “a thousand times better than whiskey,” Willie Nelson calls it a “flower put here by God,” Bob Marley talked it up to the “healing of a nation,” and even Susan Sarandon argues it would “make for a much gentler world.”

Yes, I’m talking about good ol’ marijuana. And as we venture further down the path towards legalization, what better time to… clear the air, so to speak?

For the record, this article is not a how-to guide for getting the most out of your ‘toking experience,’ nor is it a list of irrefutable reasons you should give pot a try or why “ganj be the greatest plont in the entiya universe mon.” It’s a real and open conversation about why it’s time to get over the ridiculous stigmas that cloud it–no pun intended–and see it for what it really is: natural.

Fear of the unfamiliar has been around for all of history. After all, it’s this inherent, fight-or-flight response that’s key to our survival. But, even if only for the time it takes you to read this, I ask that you put down the metaphorical pitchforks, toss out the bogus rulebook on humanity and open your mind to the possibility that the “reefer-maddened stoners” might actually be onto something.

I recently attended the Women Grow Leadership Summit in Denver, and, was blown away by not only the passion and innovation behind the cannabis industry, but first and foremost, by the people. I found myself surrounded by brilliant and dedicated moms, scientists, physicians, holistic health practitioners, and entrepreneurs who, together, are redefining the norm and, ultimately, changing the skewed outlook on this life-saving and game-changing plant.

As Dasheeda Dawson, president of MaryJane Marketing, so eloquently put it: “This plant has been subjected to a lot of bullshit.”

She goes on to say that what this industry needs is for more people to come out of the “cannabis closet” and tell their story. And Leah Heise, CEO of Women Grow, agrees.

“One of the best things about the industry is the incredible stories of how people came to the plant,” she says. “And how it’s changed their lives.”

Tracy Ryan, CEO of Canna Kids, is just one of these stories. After her daughter was diagnosed with brain cancer, she discovered cannabis oil as a path of treatment, and now provides a way for other terminally ill patients to do the same.

While more and more people are starting to catch on, much to the remaining population’s dismay, it’s about more than ‘getting high.’

Humans have been consuming cannabis in one way or another for 10,000 years, and have since proven its medicinal qualities in, not only relieving physical and mental conditions, but also certain cancer treatments, as mentioned above.

Yet, it’s somehow still considered illegal by most?

That’s not to say we haven’t made some progress. Let’s look at the numbers, shall we?

Today, weed is legal in some form in over half of the United States, while recent polling shows “60 percent of American adults now say that marijuana should be legal, the highest level of support in nearly a half-century of polling on the question.” Along with cops being able to focus on real crimes, and research into marijuana’s medical benefits being able to move forward, the legalization of this green could lead to an influx of another as well: a total tax revenue of $28 billion for federal, state, and local governments.

Still, all the proven benefits, lowered crime rates, and debt-solving cash flow in the world will fall short in changing the landscape of this supposed “drug war” if people can’t learn to change the landscape of their own closed off minds.

We’ve heard it again and again: Isn’t marijuana addictive? … “Yes,” author Richard Neville says, “in the sense that most of the really pleasant things in life are worth endlessly repeating.” Well, it’s a gateway drug … “To what?” asks comedian Zach Galifianakis, “The fridge?” But, all people who smoke weed are lazy and unsuccessful … Morgan Freeman, Richard Branson and Michael Phelps might have to disagree there.

Stigmas, in the end, are nothing but ignorance; and this ensuing “war” is nothing but a fight against changing a notion.

Just as every human needs a survival instinct to stay alive, we also need a cure-all way to bookend and unwind in the midst of life’s chaos; to allow us to step outside ourselves, quiet our chattering minds and just be–in whatever way we damn well please.

Other times, all we need is a reminder not to take life so seriously; to instead bask in our own independence or the company of another, and lose ourselves in a fit of laughter, bliss and appreciation for some of life’s littlest joys.

It is in these moments that we get a glimpse of this “gentler world,” this “healing of a nation,” in which all the natural simplicity around us is celebrated with an inhale and exhale–a good ol’ puff, puff and pass.

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