10.27.2020 | A Vote For Compassion

Welcome back to the Red Bench – today I want to talk voting! Do you feel like your vote matters? I wonder that sometimes, but then I think back to the one vote in my life that I know mattered, that was back in 1996 when I voted “Yes” on proposition 215.

Taking A Pot Fast

Let me flash back to early 1995 for a minute… I was very conflicted about being a pot smoker. I had been smoking the herb for twelve years already – pretty much daily – and I was tired of being considered a criminal for this behavior. The War on Drugs was raging at the time and I had no interest in being an outlaw – I was also trying to reconcile being a practicing Christian with being a pothead. In this conflicted state, and for a few other reasons, I decided to quit smoking the herb for five hundred days – taking a “fast from marijuana” so to speak.

Taking a fast usually has a purpose and my herb fast had one – I was going to pray for compassion for marijuana for five hundred days. I was tired of the drug war. I was tired of the hatred the War on Drugs had directed at pot smokers. I was tired of three strikes, drug laws, piss tests and the racial injustice… I was tired. Where was the compassion in our society? That was very prominent in my mind… compassion.

I quit smoking the herb the day after Memorial Day, 1995. Five hundred days of no herb lay ahead of me, and I began my prayers for compassion. I will not say it was easy. I missed the herb nearly every day – but I stuck to the plan, and didn’t take a hit of pot again until October twelfth of 1996.

Do you know what it feels like to take a break from herb for that long, and then to imbibe upon that first hit? I was sitting in a hotel room in San Francisco when I inhaled that delicious marijuana smoke. I felt the THC spread throughout my body, tangibly, down every blood vessel and capillary. It was a slow spreading feeling as the herb happily filled my body once again. The day was fantastic on all levels as Tania and I strolled, stoned, through the streets of San Francisco, one of my favorite cities in the world.

Above: Tania and I on the streets of San Francisco in 1996

Proposition 215

It was after we got back from San Francisco that I learned about a proposition that was up for a vote the next month – Proposition 215 – The Compassionate Use Act! This was the first time medical marijuana was on the ballot that I knew of… medical marijuana? This was not even on my radar at all. People use marijuana for medicine? I had never considered such a thing…

Being a cannabis advocate I voted yes for proposition 215, and probably for the first time in my voting life, something I voted for passed!!! My vote, Tania’s vote and everyone else who voted “Yes” that year for 215 helped change history.

That vote was the moment the War on Drugs hit the wall. The momentum was with the drug warriors up to that moment. Nothing seemed like it was going to stop the drug war from stripping us of all our civil rights. That changed on November 5, 1996 when 55.56% of voters in California said “Yes” to medical marijuana!

Since then, over 33 states have passed medical marijuana laws, and now that a growing number of studies have been completed, we’re finding that marijuana, both THC and CBD, are very effective in helping a number of illnesses and medical conditions. We are discovering this plant has more goodness hiding inside than we ever imagined!

Medical marijuana led to a more positive social attitude toward the herb in general. While the stereotype of stoners, in the Jeff Spicoli or Cheech and Chong style, still exist, marijuana use has been greatly normalized in legal states like Colorado, Washington, Oregon and California… imagine hopping into a time machine in 1996 going forward to 2020 – a complete 180 degree change in societies attitude towards pot use!

In retrospect I’m very glad that the path to legalization has been through medical marijuana. Marijuana has been the backbone of my ability to navigate bipolar depression. If we had headed straight to recreational marijuana back in the 1970s, we would have missed out on all the goodness that focusing on medical marijuana has brought us. I say that with a tear in my eye for all the wasted lives, dreams and dollars – not to mention the civil rights lost by the War on Drug during those intervening years… a complete waste.

I hadn’t been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder yet in 1996. I didn’t realize my vote was going to benefit me years down the road. I voted because it was the right thing to do, it was compassionate. Proposition 215 opened my eyes, and many other’s as well, to the medical possibilities of cannabis. After I was diagnosed in 1998, it didn’t take me long to realize I had been self-medicating for years, and I began to treat marijuana as a medicine, not just for “recreational” purposes.


So, the point of this post was going to be to encourage you to get out and vote (or stay inside and vote by mail)… I sort of digressed into the whole proposition 215 thing, but not without a point − vote because it matters, vote because you can change the future, vote like your life depends on it! This year, it seems like it does.

Red Bench Reviews will not be making any political endorsements because our cannabis-positive message reaches out to the left, right and center. Full legalization is going to take all of us working together. We do however, encourage people to vote cannabis-positive, vote for medical marijuana and legalization if it’s on the ballot in your state.

Are you a cannabis-positive voter? Here’s Leafly’s guide to the 2020 election with all the relevant states and issues covered. Be knowledgeable and make your voice heard!

Until tomorrow, best of health.


Note about the graphic above: I created this graphic back in 2002 as a symbol to represent medical marijuana. I had never seen this symbol used before this point.

Since I created this symbol, I’ve seen numerous variations of it, because of it’s simplicity and it immediately tells you this is about marijuana and medicine. The marijuana leaf used in this graphic was one I grew in 1988 – it’s a Humboldt Skunk leaf. I still have the leaf…

Let's get this sesh started!

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October 27, 2020 1:39 pm

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this Jon. I think the future will bring cannabis to the forefront of society even more because of the monumental medical benefits still being discovered almost monthly.