One of the unquestionably beautiful things about cannabis is how easily it can stand in as a synonym for the word “community.” Wherever you find the cannabis plant, you will find humans gathered around it. And as they come together they will undoubtedly look for, and soon discover, ways to connect with one another. One of cannabis’ essential qualities is its ability to provide an avenue for conversation and engagement among people from vastly different cultures. It’s a big boat.
In the wake of unprecedented success at the ballot box this year, millions of Americans are, at this very moment, reevaluating their relationships to the plant and rethinking tired prejudices. This new wave of interest and curiosity has the power to wash away the detritus of decades-long propaganda, misinformation and straight-up shame campaigns. We know that cannabis is not a vice. We know the emotional, creative, commercial, medicinal and spiritual uses of the plant.
One way those of us in the industry can prepare ourselves to engage in and positively influence these conversations is by looking within, and locating examples thriving communities who owe, at least in part, their health and well-being to cannabis. By elevating these stories, we illustrate how powerful cannabis can be, first in bringing people together—cannabis is a potent, high decibel siren song after all, and then subsequently binding those people to one another over the long run. Our ability to recognize how cannabis functions in and upon tight-knit communities will only strengthen.
The Phish community is one such tribe that has had a long and co-creative relationship with cannabis. Sure, Phish concerts are great places to score, but that misses a much larger symbiosis. First of all, the music, all music, alights with cannabis. As our senses change and we become more attuned with our surroundings, the music unfolds for us differently, alerting us to previously hidden nuances and dynamics our unmedicated state often misses. Working together, music and cannabis become their own form of healing. Not to mention the dancing…
I’m biased, but occasionally after imbibing and putting on the latest heady Phish jam, I’m convinced by track’s end that the band themselves invented weed specifically to make consumption of their music a superior proposition. But like all things Phish, that’s a matter of opinion, man.
Still, there’s more.
Phish’s cultural overlap with The Grateful Dead, and by extension, The Hippie Movement of the 60s grounds its presence firmly in the modern cannabis marketplace. As the peace and love vibes of the 60s waned, many partisans simply drove north to tend their gardens, wishing to have no part of the grim reality show that sometimes is America. Given the climate today, we may finally know exactly how those people felt as one decade slid into the next.
Cannabis use and enthusiasm has always been an open secret at Phish and other jam band concerts and festivals. Surely you’ll find people smoking weed at almost any concert no matter the genre—rock, indie, punk or otherwise. The cannabis tribe is diverse and at Phish shows, cannabis is celebrated as a welcome participant. Like any invisible prophet, offerings are made and the cup runneth over. Even those who abstain appreciate and respect the plant’s central place in the ritual of the band’s live experience for as soon as the house lights go down, signaling the band’s return to the stage, hundreds of joints are simultaneously lit.
Jerry Garcia once called the marketplaces—illegal and otherwise—common to Grateful Dead shows—part of “the hip economy,” a fluid and freewheeling shadow economy that worked alongside the more mainstream “straight” economy. For more than a generation, this has enabled growers, artists, makers and craftspeople from across the country to thrive and connect with one another providing economic opportunity and liquidity for people that otherwise might not have access. Economic ties are usually the first to be established, but cultural and emotional bonds are never far behind.
The example of cannabis and the Phish community is one of many. What will be even more beautiful is when other communities, tribes and subcultures follow the lead of such pioneers and begin their own honest assessment of cannabis and its potential place in the destiny of their shared interactions. Though some lights have dimmed of late, the fire of cannabis has never burned brighter, and can, will and should, light the way forward in bridging what, at its worst, may seem the widening gap between the compassionate, loving and good humans of this planet.