We are underestimating weed

We are underestimating weed

A clinic in Lakewood is using pot to change lives

VicesMarch 15, 2019 By Reilly Capps

America can be a anxious and lonely place now, and weed is one way folks calm and relax, to make bearable an otherwise tough day — or life.

Veterans smoke on their way to their therapy appointments at the V.A., lying to their counselor about why their eyes are red.

A parent who was abused by their parents smokes so they don't take their rage out on their kid, and perpetuate the cycle.

Jen Fiser, a Colorado therapist with bookish glasses and a warm smile, knew these exact people. They were her clients.

And, then, something weird happened that helped Fiser see weed as a more powerful drug than just a source of escape or chill.

People are out of touch with their bodies, Fiser believes. We're all a thinky-thinky, sedentary bunch of lugs. So Fiser has long used a kind of therapy that's about feeling your emotions in your body: fear in your stomach, say, anger in your chest, judgment in your jaw.

Four or so years ago, after weed became legal in Colorado, a few clients — such as the ones above — started opening up to Fiser about their weed use. And they said that when they smoked at night, the high helped them contact the physical parts of themselves, and sensations like waves of energy coursed through their nervous systems like lightning.

So Fiser had an idea. She said to the clients, "Let's use cannabis during therapy, and see what happens."

photo - cannabis vaping for therapy

[A client at Innate Path vapes before a session.]

In her Lakewood, Colorado, clinic called Innate Path — all soft lighting and vibrating massage tables and calming music — Fiser's clients vaped up, then put on eye shades. Within a few minutes, they were shaking and writhing like they were wrestling an invisible MMA fighter. Cramping their hands, vibrating, moaning. Sometimes feeling euphoria.

"We downplay [cannabis] as a recreational drug, like alcohol," Fiser said. But weed, she found, is "incredibly powerful."

Some of the results of Fiser's sessions are on video. They're wild. It looks painful. It is. But this is people dealing with their shit. It's what a sad person has to do — not hiding their shit, but feeling their shit.

photo - cannabis therapy innate path

[A client at Innate Path undergoing cannabis therapy. Photo from Innate Path.]

Animals have all kinds of bad things happen to them, too. Gazelles get chased by lions, squirrels by cats, etc. It's worse than getting yelled at by your boss. But after that awfulness, the gazelles and squirrells literally shake off the nastiness. You've seen a dog shake out their body after a fight. A theory, laid out in books like "The Body Keeps the Score," says humans don't shake out their bad vibes, and store their shit up in their tissues. They need to release it.

For Fiser's clients, this weed-induced shaking often worked. One of the folks mentioned above, the parent who worried about hurting their own kid, changed their mindset, Fiser says. They went from daily panic attacks and night terrors to being calmer and more relaxed, and able to play with their kid. Weed is the gateway drug to getting better.

Cannabis therapy is a relatively new and unknown thing; there are only a few outfits in the country advertising it on the Internet, mostly in hippie places like Boulder and Berkeley. They say a similar thing: weed is underestimated. 

"I spent years smoking cannabis and sitting in a recliner," said Matt Kahl, who was in the infantry in the Army and smoked weed regularly to deal with his PTSD. He's the head of Veterans for Natural Rights, a nonprofits which fights for rights for vets, including around weed. Kahl is and a subject in the documentary "From Shock to Awe," and he's used all kinds of medicines to try to treat himself, from ayahuasca to mushrooms. He said weed, if you smoke in the right setting, can put you in "a transformative state in which you can change your entire life," Kahl said.

The county is sad. Twenty veterans kill themselves every day, plus 110 non-veterans.

There's been this big news about a new treatment: a few years from now, folks will be treated with ecstasy — molly, MDMA — and therapy. The results from the clinical trials are off the charts.

But this therapy is at least two years away. And it might end up being expensive. And hard to find.

Meanwhile, cannabis is legal in thirty-plus states.

And Kahl and Fiser say cannabis can be as effective as MDMA.

"From the therapist's point of view, it looks the same," Fiser said.

Most of you who are, Fiser says, is hidden inside your body, the way an iceberg is mostly hidden underwater. Fiser says weed can help your subconscious "express" itself, and you can access feelings and moods that have been hidden. An afternoon with cannabis, and weed becomes more than a way to relax temporarily. Life can be a little more bearable; the seas can calm around you.