Several stories about health and healing dominated news in 2014. The two biggest were the Ebola virus outbreak and the ongoing move to modernize American marijuana laws. The highlights:
Medical marijuana Whether most Americans realize it or not, expanded legalization of marijuana has been and will turn out to be the biggest story of 2014. We’ll mark the ongoing benefits and consequences of this return to sanity for years to come. Like the subtle burp of the open ocean portending an incipient tsunami, the marijuana sea change began in 1996, in the likeliest of locations: California. That’s when the Golden State freed Acapulco Gold and any other cannabis through a program allowing approved people to use the herb for medicinal purposes. No one fully imagined the scope of the legal change. Hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries sprouted across the state. Health benefits were reported in the media and in research papers. Widespread changes ensued and the impact on marijuana as a cash crop, decrease in prescription painkillers, lowered incarceration rates, frustration of Mexican drug cartels paralleled the decision to allow cannabis as a medicine.
Few predicted what would follow. As states came into line with the idea of medicinal marijuana, progressive states looked at going to the next level: across the board legalization and regulation of marijuana as a recreational substance. The social impact was immediate. The far-ranging impact will be immense as the impetus seen in 2014 will swell into a national change with global implications.
Medical marijuana is a no-brainer. History bears out that plants are the genesis of most prescription drugs. Not saying that’s a good idea; prescription drugs are a horrible idea in general. They rely on a reductionist viewpoint that is skewed toward profitability. What’s remarkable about the use of medical marijuana is how potent the beneficial effects are without the interference of Big Pharma. Consider that aspirin is a Big Pharma derivative of the naturally occurring inner bark of the white willow tree. Those little white tablets in the Bayer bottle are a concentrated reduction of that bark and in fact, are more potent than willow bark tea. But with marijuana, the primary medicinal effects are potent enough right from the natural stuff.
What made the year 2014 a watershed moment is that we saw the number of states allowing the use of medical marijuana swell to 23. Initiatives or bills to make medicinal marijuana legal were considered in all 50 states, with many pending. Recreational use is now legal in four states and the District of Columbia. The impact of marijuana reform, both recreational and medicinal, and the advances made in 2014 will be felt in the social, political, economic, environmental and metaphysical arenas, creating huge change in all. We will reap the rewards for decades to come.
Breaking news: Just days ago, the Department of Justice issued an official memo allowing Native American tribes to cultivate and sell marijuana for any purpose on tribal land. The little Dutch boy has just pulled his thumb out of the dike. Stand back. America is the new Amsterdam.
Ebola It came out of the jungles of central Africa near the river that gave it its name. In the summer of 2014, fear that a worldwide epidemic was imminent rose to fever pitch. By the end of 2014, hysteria has subsided somewhat but the impact of the Ebola virus carried the news for much of mid-2014. With 10,000 known cases by December and a mortality rate anywhere from 40 to 75 percent, Ebola became a frightening disease that challenged the rational thinking of the mainstream medical establishment. Simple facts were overlooked and healthcare workers fell victim to the virus. Panic and distrust were evident. A laissez-faire response by most of the developed world exposed the bureaucratic entanglements that paralyze prompt action. The Western world and Europe finally realized the importance of addressing what was initially viewed as a Third World problem. But with leaky borders worldwide, allowing for confounding rationale as to who gets into a country and who doesn’t, the planet has become too small to think a virus can be successfully isolated in one population forever.
The establishment response was as inept as one might imagine. Sluggish shipments of essential supplies sat dockside while grandstanding politicos and dignitaries postured as if giving appropriate address. As with any other disease or perceived medical crisis, American medical institutions with billion-dollar budgets saw dollar signs and sent their fundraisers to Washington looking for government handouts to expand facilities and fill the coffers with tax dollars. Local participants included.
Lost in the hubbub is the fact that those affected African countries may need less interference from the United States. We sent thousands of troops and millions of dollars to Sierra Leone and Liberia yet the epidemic there continues. But both Nigeria and Mali have effectively quashed significant Ebola outbreaks without assistance from US military. Maybe we should keep our money and troops home and let those sovereign nations handle their own crises. Mali and Nigeria did just fine with minimal assists. Still, if Ebola causes a rational evaluation of how we handle disease and epidemics, the story will have a happy ending overall.
Superbugs in the news. On a related note, news came in December that antibiotic-resistant infections will kill more people than cancer by 2050. Superbug infections killed 23000 people in the US in 2013. Superbugs are spreading and killing far worse than Ebola. Institutional medicine responds with “we must incentivize pharmaceutical companies to research and produce new antibiotics to deal with this problem.” Whoa! Hang on here. The problem is that humankind, AKA modern medicine, has created antibiotic-resistant bugs by producing and overusing antibiotics. And the answer modern medicine comes up with is to produce more and stronger antibiotics. Whuck? Yes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I’d say they're crazy.
Whole Foods national ads. Subtle but huge news, and gratefully optimistic. In October, during the World Series, Whole Foods Market premiered its first-ever national television ads. That’s right, first ever. Why is this big news for the year? Reflect for a minute on what it means. Whole Foods got its start as a niche grocery store in 1978, specializing in natural and organic foods; a health food store. For most of its existence, Whole Foods remained a “health food store” that relied on a niche market, a small segment of the population that had an interest in healthful food, choosing to shop for that rather than the industrialized version that was contaminating our supermarkets. That “niche” grew as Americans learned more about what is wrong with our industrialized food system. The Whole Foods ads during prime time network television signify that the niche is no longer a niche. The search for unadulterated, GMO-free, chemical-free, high fructose corn syrup-free foods is now a mainstream task. Mainstream enough to justify national ads for what was once a niche store. Good job, Whole Foods.
Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: for a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit HeartlandHealing.com.