Throughout human history, narcotics have been used as medicine and for pleasure, but those who use them can be stigmatized. When drug use is legal or accepted, is it still taboo? More than a century ago, Queen Victoria is said to have used marijuana to alleviate cramps. Today, patients in California are smoking it to relieve pain and other chronic symptoms. Deep in the Brazilian Amazon, a congregation gathers to drink a powerful hallucinogenic drug. Even children participate in the ritual.
Narcotics: The Blurry Line
Narcotics can alter minds and ruin lives. Users are often stigmatized, even reviled. Many users end up in prison, yet there are some people who have won the right to take illegal drugs.
The ancient Egyptians used marijuana for medical purposes and Piaroa shamans in Venezuela have used the hallucinogen Yopo for healing and enlightenment.
Up to 85,000 people are behind bars for marijuana offenses.
In 1996, California became the first state to legalize marijuana — or cannabis — for medical use, when Proposition 215 was passed by popular vote. Prop 215 allows qualified patients to possess, cultivate, and consume marijuana with immunity.
Up until 1937, you could buy marijuana from your local store or pharmacy. The 1937 Act taxed medical marijuana out of existence and by the 1960s all marijuana was illegal.
Health insurance does not cover the purchase of medicinal cannabis.
Oaksterdam University was established in 2007, and teaches students all aspects of what’s come to be known as the cannabusiness.
During a part-shamanic, part-Christian religious ceremony, Amazonian shamans taught Santo Daime about the mixture of crushed caapi vine boiled with chacruna leaves that produces ayahuasca. He would later call the narcotic, daime.
The active ingredient is Dimethyltriptamine (DMT) that is illegal in Brazil but legal in this part of the Amazonian forest because of its religious nature.
Even children followers of Santo Daime are given small doses of daime that are carefully measured.
In America, the active ingredient of ayahuasca is classed as a Schedule One drug. But since March 2009, it can legally be taken in America by Santo Daime followers because it is part of their religion and after American medical experts found no evidence that the drug caused the Daimistas any psychological damage.
Faced with a public health emergency with an increase in HIV in drug users using needles, the Canadian Federal Government created a place in Vancouver that allows addicts access to clean needles and give them a safe place to shoot up drugs.
Known as Insite, the government funded injecting clinic opened its doors in 2003.
Insite provides everything an intravenous user needs to inject safely — clean needles, filters, sterile water, and alcohol swabs — everything but the drugs.
According to one study, Insite clients are 70% less likely to share needles than other addicts in Vancouver.
Insite also provides detox and rehab facilities.