"My father used cannabis as a coping method his entire adult life. I can only imagine what he internalized as a Black man who grew up in Alaska in the 1950s."

Image: Amrita Marino

Content warning: this essay discusses suicide and racial violence.

Born at precisely 4:20 p.m., I believe I was destined to be a cannabis enthusiast. Now it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy. According to my mom, my electrician and computer nerd father felt he “worked better while high,” which sounds like something I would say.

My father used cannabis as a coping method his entire adult life. I can only imagine what he internalized as a Black man who grew up in Alaska in the 1950s—a predominantly Republican, non-Black state with record-high depression rates, at a time when therapy wasn’t nearly as accepted as it is today. In 1992, after battling severe depression, my dad died by suicide. I was 4 years old. Because of my dad’s decision to end his life, and the fact that he was a regular cannabis user, my mom developed a (since-abandoned) negative view of the herb. But I also think using cannabis made my father’s depression less painful for years.

Now that I’m a grown-ass Black woman watching the racism-fueled dumpster fire that is American society, I am coming to fully understand why my father was so depressed, isolated, and felt his life did not matter. I often wonder where I’d be without copious weed (and my dogs) to keep me entertained and optimistic. Still, the relationship between depression and cannabis is complicated. My New Age Black lady therapist advised me that cannabis can be part of a healthy lifestyle, but to avoid using it to escape my emotions. So when I feel anxious, exasperated, or stressed, I sit with that before I go running to the bong.  That said, sometimes weed is just what I need. Here’s how cannabis has been helping me get through 2020.

CBD for Anxiety 

With the risks of coronavirus, state-sanctioned murder, and racial violence, I often give myself pep talks before leaving the house for errands. To get myself out the door, I’ve been incorporating CBD supplements to calm my anxiety, which has been at an all-time high.

Sleep 

Until recently, I never (intentionally) used cannabis as a sleep aid. But too often in 2020, I’m doom-scrolling in bed into the wee hours reading about the government trying to kill people who look like me. As the owner of a mind that races, smoking before I hit the hay slows my thoughts, makes my eyelids heavy, and gives me that extra push into slumberland that I desperately need these days.

Creativity 

Smoking weed also helps me tap into my creativity. I believe any amount of reading the news must be balanced with blasting a good record, singing, raging, and dancing around the house. Burning one down only enhances the release. Smoking weed was something my dad truly enjoyed, and when I light up, especially while listening to his favorite records, I feel closer to him.

Appetite 

Does anyone else find the state of the world straight-up unappetizing? (Don’t worry, I still have my sense of smell.) I’ll be at the house hungry as all hell, but nothing in my pantry sounds worthy of making. Getting high triggers my appetite. While waiting for my EBT benefits, I’ll smoke a bowl, explore recipes online, and make a grocery list.

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