Why I do what I do

Why I do what I do

When I was 13 a friend at school bought a ‘stick’ because he was going to a party on the coming Saturday night. When he showed me, I took the foil and peeled it back to see what lay within.

I had no desire to try it but there was some fascination going on.

I knew nothing about cannabis whatsoever. I had been told it was bad by the well meaning drug education program that our poor grade 6 teacher was forced to put us through but somehow I didn’t quite believe it.

I didn’t really understand what I had been told about it but I certainly wasn’t scared.

I remember it very clearly, it was a significant moment in my life. It was the first time I laid my eyes on cannabis. It wasn’t particularly nice bud, very stalky and dry, a bit of sugar but not a lot… and a seed. The excitement was instant. “Can I have the seed?” was out of my mouth in 0.02 seconds. My very surprised friend looked at me and said “ok”. That was it, I was a grower, although I didn’t realise it at the time.

I put the seed in a pot of soil and watered it a little bit every day. After a week of watching the soil a little sprout appeared. In my dim bedroom it stretched tall reaching for the light and soon fell over. I knew it needed light, we’d done ‘photosynthesis’ in Science at school that year, so I put my desk lamp over the top of it and waited.

I would check on it every half hour and water it just a little bit every hour or two, I cared for that seedling like it was my child. After a few days I could see that it was getting stronger, my TLC was paying off. It made me happy.

When the plant was about six weeks old my grandmother found it. She told my dad. I knew it was bad so I lied, “I just dug it up out of the garden, I didn’t know what it was.” “Oh yes, they come up in my garden all the time” said Grandma who lived on the northern NSW coast. Oh man, I couldn’t wait til our next trip to Grandmas…

Curiously, Dad left the plant in my room. I took it down to the park which our house backed onto and dug a hole in a spot that was hidden behind some clumps of grass growing on the hill. I dug a little trench to catch the rain as it ran down the slope and I gently planted my baby in the soil and watered it in.

Over summer I took bottles of water to it every day, it was so dry on the slope, sometimes I went 3 and 4 times in the day. I would just sit down and be next to it. It gave me a sense of calm and safety. I had a purpose, without my attention the plant would not survive. Sometimes I sat there for hours.

Flowers started to develop around about the time school went back, I still had another whole year before I would be in year 11 and be able to choose Biology as a subject. Each day after school I went straight down to the park and sat with the plant and watched it grow. The buds developed, they were small and sparse. The plant looked like the ditch weed in “Reefer Madness”, I didn’t know what fertiliser was. I didn’t care, to me it was beautiful. I loved that plant.

I had no idea what you were supposed to do with it. I didn’t know what part was used or how. I didn’t even know to pick it and besides, it was my baby. I don’t think I could have picked it. So I just kept on watching as Autumn came and the buds stretched right out. In June it started to turn brown and I felt sad but I knew it was an ‘annual’ and wasn’t supposed to last more than one season, so I felt I had done my job. It had gone from seed right through it’s whole cycle and flowered. It had achieved its purpose and had a full life, I was a good dad.

As I pondered these thoughts while I sat with my poor brown shriveled plant something caught my eye. It was dark and shiny. A seed, just about to drop from my plant. I nearly cried with happiness. Even though I didn’t consume a single speck of it, cannabis got me through a pretty tough year. Life wasn’t fun at home, my only happiness was in helping that plant grow.

In spring I planted the seed in a pot and started the process again. On New Years Eve a couple of my friends pulled the plant out and put it on the fire. They told me about it just in time for me to see the last remains turning to ash. I was devastated. The oppression had begun. My friends were well meaning. They thought I was about to turn into a prostitute and die of brain damage.

Shortly after that I began to cut my legs with broken glass. Not badly enough to need stitches but enough to bleed a lot and leave long skinny scabs which I could pick and peel.

When I was 16 another friend at school had some weed given to him. We wagged the day and smoked it in his mothers kitchen. I couldn’t get to the end of a sentence without forgetting what I was talking about. My mind was going in all sorts of crazy directions and I loved it, it felt great. Nearly 3 years after I grew my first plant I got stoned for the first time.

After another two really destructive years at home I left, school was over, I was gone. I smoked a lot. I was an extremely angry young man. If someone barked I exploded. Cannabis kept me sane, well closer to sane than no cannabis. It allowed me to go through that really difficult time in my life without hitting someone.

At 26 I was put on antidepressants, they just numbed me. I would zone out and stare straight through people like a zombie, some of my friends began to disappear because it freaked them out. So once again as the world weighed down on me I turned to cannabis.

I built a room inside my garage, just a pine framed box that was eight foot square and the ceiling was 2 inches higher than my head so I could walk without needing to stoop. It was divided down the middle with two sliding panels which created a wall. On one side was a bench with trays all over it, packed to cover every inch. Pots sat in all the trays. Everything was automated, the reservoir was plumbed in, it was a sweet set up. On the other side I had a low bench to sit on, a kettle, a mug, coffee and sugar and a shiny new stainless steel bong. My sanctuary was complete.

For 4 years I sat in that room at least an hour a day. Some days I was in there all day. I had a rotational system going where each day a new cutting was taken, a clone was moved from the clone box to the bud box and one mature plant was harvested. At any point in time there was a brand new cutting, a day 1, day 2, day 3 cutting and so on, a day 1 on 12/12, day 2 on 12/12 all the way through to the oldest which was ready to harvest.

The plants were all very small, only about 14 inches tall but I harvested one every day. Because it was clone from clone from clone I could study exactly what was going on. If I changed the pH and kept everything else the same, I could actually see the result in front of me, not just be remembering back to the last crop. It gave me the opportunity to really get to know that plant.

Of course I was getting far more bud than I could smoke myself so I shared it liberally with all my friends. People were constantly asking me for it because it was so much nicer than what the dealers were selling and it was costing a fair bit to run the room. Electricity, nutrients, new globes, timers, heaters, fans it all adds up. Even a little bottle of ‘clonex’ was nearly $10. I didn’t feel I was doing anything wrong by selling some of it. Surely my skill and dedication was worth something?

At 30, my sister in law dobbed me in to the police and I was raided, arrested, charged and convicted for use, possession, cultivation and trafficking. Because I naively thought “honesty is the best policy” I ended up with a criminal record and a $1,500 fine. It was quite sickening to think that I was now officially a criminal. I hadn’t stolen anything since I nearly got caught shoplifting a Mars Bar in Year 7. I had never landed a punch. Oh I shouted at a lot of people, I know I wasn’t great company a lot of the time but to call me a criminal!? I didn’t understand it.

Without my cannabis I sank into a really deep depression, although at the time I didn’t know that cannabis was an antidepressant, I thought it was just a reckless party thing that irresponsible lowlifes like me did. I didn’t understand that I was using cannabis because it helped me. My head was full of rubbish misinformation, all I knew was that I loved it. I lay in bed for 4 and 5 days at a time. My thoughts were ‘oh it’s daylight’ and a little while later ‘gee, it’s dark again’. It was like I was in suspended animation. I wasn’t bored or hungry or sad or anything really, I just wasn’t functioning at all. I took a year off work.

The new antidepressants that I was put on did manage to pick me up and get me going again but I was unable to come off them. Every time I tried to lower my dose I would become disoriented and had light electric shock feelings running up and down my arms. It took 5 years to get off those ones. And only after I had decided to go back to cannabis.

Depression was the only diagnosis I had ever been given, I had no idea that I suffered from anxiety as well. I know this sounds really stupid but I didn’t realise that scratching myself until I bled wasn’t normal. Anxiety is after all an invisible medical condition, no one can see it, I didn’t know I had it until I was 40.

In 2010 I had some heart issues and spent 5 days in hospital. I had full time custody of my Son because his mother was having her own pharmaceutical medication issues. I was desperate to get home because 3 year old Son was having a pretty bad time with Mum not being so well and the last thing he needed was Dad looking like he was about to drop off the planet in a hospital bed. I wasn’t worried about my grow op, a friend was happy to do the bare minimum to keep them alive while I couldn’t be there. I knew they’d kick back as soon as I was home.

Up until this point in time I had done no research into cannabis apart from teaching myself how to become a grower of really nice buds. I was smoking it, I wanted it to be beautiful smoke, not like the stuff I saw other people smoking. I knew nothing about the medical benefits although I had heard some vague talk about it suppressing nausea. I knew nothing of the environmental benefits or industrial hemp applications. I didn’t even know about any cannabis culture around the world and believe it or not I didn’t even know about the Nimbin MardiGrass! All I knew was that I loved cannabis. I was a stoner.

4 days after surgery I was able to walk around the ward reasonably comfortably and felt up to going home to my Son. They wouldn’t let me go. I didn’t understand it, it was causing me a lot of stress. I told the doctor I was leaving on the 5th day whether they agreed or not and they reluctantly agreed. I later found out that my mother had told the young, only 3 years out of medical school cardiologist that I was a huge cannabis addict and I wanted to go home to get my fix. Thanks Mum. The cardiologist gave me a lecture about cannabis causing emphysema.

When I got home, more fun was waiting. I later found out that upon receiving the phone call from the surgeon with the news that her firstborn son was having a heart attack and about to undergo surgery, my mother, who suspected I was growing but didn’t have the nerve to confront me about it, went straight to my house. This was her opportunity to search the property and she knew for sure I wasn’t going to walk in on her. She found my setup, unplugged everything and killed the plants. Then she came into the hospital and acted as though she had rushed straight in.

And the fun continues… My beautiful 16 year old Son, who was worried about his dad, came over for dinner that night. He had come in to the hospital every day I was there, he wanted to see me getting better. After dinner I drove him back to his mothers house and pulled up out the front. My youngest Son was in his car seat and my eldest Son and I had both gotten out of the car to say goodbye and give each other a hug as is our habit when we part.

His mother came charging out of the house. She was glaring at me and looked like she was going to explode. She walked right up to me, fist shaking with rage only inches from my nose and screamed at me for what seemed like 10 minutes straight. My eldest Son’s jaw dropped, he was horrified. I just stood there and looked at her, I couldn’t believe it. I was in hospital only 6 hours earlier after heart surgery.

I’d had it. That was the last straw. Something snapped.

I went home and started researching cannabis. If I was going to argue with these bastards I wanted to know what I was talking about.

I was blown away. All these years I was thinking I was a degenerate lowlife stoner because I loved cannabis so much and now I discover that cannabis is going to save the planet, heal the sick, feed the poor and that everyone has been completely lied to the whole time! I was furious.

I began a facebook profile and named it ‘Law Reform’. I went to my 2 oldest sons friend lists and friend requested all their mates. Then I started posting youtube videos I was finding which were giving all this amazing information. There was a whole wide world of cannabis out there which I had absolutely no idea about. As I found the information I shared it with those kids, there was no way I was going to let them feel ashamed of their cannabis use the way I had been made to feel.

Then a curious thing happened. I got a message from a kid of just 19. He had been smoking for a few years and his family were putting him through hell for it. I was the first person he knew who was telling him he was OK and he just wanted to thank me as sincerely as he could. I was stunned. This was important.

Two videos I saw had a huge impact on me. The first was one from New Zealand. This crazy guy calling himself Dakta Green and a bunch of stoners just like me were in a park in some public place, some domain of society. As the hands of their watches hit 4:20 pm they all lit joints up and filled their lungs with the soul lifting smoke of cannabis. “Proud To Be A Stoner” by the Kottonmouth Kings was the accompanying music. “Fuck the oppression” was the message. It was awesome.

The second was footage of a 420 rally in Canada. There were people talking and music and a countdown to 4:20 when a huge cloud of smoke erupted into the air and people cheered. All I saw was thousands and thousands of people who for one day at least knew they were OK. They knew there was nothing wrong with them and they were free to be who they were. It was bloody powerful.

We need rallies like this in Australia.

The term “stoner” is seen as a derogatory term for a person who uses cannabis. A “stoner” is a drug addicted, amoral waste of space in societies views. It is a term which oppresses people, it makes people feel ashamed of themselves and it makes them hide who they are from the world out there.

“Don’t want anyone to know I’m a stoner, they’ll think less of me. They might not employ me.”

“The ladies won’t be interested.”

“People won’t listen to my point of view”

“What if I have to do a piss test?”

The negative self talk takes many forms. It’s oppressive. It robs you of happiness, it takes away the joy of life. It isolates you from friends and family because you are afraid of the negative judgement. It’s the reason stoners sit at home all day. The couch is safe, it is not prejudiced.

By taking ownership of the term, I completely disarm the oppression. “They” can no longer put me down as a lowly “stoner”. In their minds I may still be all that but that is no longer my problem. They can’t put me down, they can’t oppress me. It feels great.

As any enlightened cannabis user will tell you it is not the destructive ‘devil weed’ that it has been portrayed as. Cannabis allows you to think in ways which you otherwise couldn’t. It allows you to understand on a deeper level. It is a mind expanding drug in the true sense. It has helped me to find myself, to know who I am and to be a better person.

As for the facts rather than the fiction about cannabis… The medical benefits are enormous, I don’t need to explain that to any informed cannabis user, ‘enormous’ is an understatement. And when I say benefits I mean for the benefit of people not corporations. The environmental benefits are almost more impressive. We could solve 19 out of 20 of the environments biggest problems if prohibition were over.

The truth is that I am a medical cannabis user who has been labelled by society as a stoner. Now that I know the truth about cannabis I am proud to be a stoner.

For 3 years now I have been researching, reading for hours and watching videos on YouTube. Talking with people all around the world. My mind has been going hard trying to understand how this situation has arisen, what the hell is going on? Why has society got it so incredibly wrong?

I know all the “Reefer Madness” farce and the various financial and industry power plays behind it. I know the lies that have been told and I see fresh lies being spewed out to the ignorant masses by the mainstream media every week. I understand how the propaganda machine works. It spits out a constant barrage of misinformation with billions of dollars behind it to keep the message ‘cannabis is bad’ firmly in the minds of society. These guys are good, they are better than good. They have master manipulators playing the spin game and simply flooding the cannabis information market with an overwhelming amount of rubbish. The truth is drowned out.

The vast majority of people in society who are anti cannabis are ignorant to the facts. Ignorance and prejudice go hand in hand. What are the facts? How does a person decide for themselves what the truth is? They might go online and do some research but most people in Australia get their “knowledge” from the TV news or one of the mainstream newspapers. When 90% of the population are being bombarded by a multi billion dollar propaganda machine which throws seemingly credible misinformation at them our progress in spreading the truth is always going to be slow.

We need to change the whole paradigm. Arguing cannabis is like arguing the bible. There are so many different aspects to it that you can find all the ‘evidence’ you need to back whatever your particular prejudice is.

I’m over arguing ‘facts’. I want to make people see that cannabis prejudice causes harm. The prejudice takes many shapes. Prohibition in law being the most obvious and the clearest thing for us to paint a target on and attack but in reality, in truth, the real enemy is prejudice.

We must make Australia see that cannabis prohibition is based in nothing more than prejudice.

‘Medical cannabis user’ or ‘stoner’, we are all the same. We are people who are being oppressed by ignorance and prejudice. We must stand together in this fight and we must be proud because we are fighting for a better world.

Matt Riley.

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