Peace Talks: The Role of Conflict and Conflict Resolution in Cannabis

Peace Talks: The Role of Conflict and Conflict Resolution in Cannabis

Human beings will fight over just about anything, so of COURSE we’re gonna fight over cannabis. Ever since the days of Harry Anslinger, the plant has inspired conflict and battle. By placing it in Schedule I alongside heroin, Richard Nixon used it to target his young, left-leaning opponents.

Once the War on Drugs gained steam in the ‘80s, cannabis growers in Northern California were targeted in brutal CAMP raids, a trauma which still resides within our living memory. And even now that cannabis is legal in the state of California, a war still rages over the plant: What is cannabis? What can it heal? And who benefits?

Important to understand that no matter how certain you are of what the answers should be to those questions, guaranteed there’s someone on the other side of that answer pushing for theirs. Against you. And that’s where things stand right now.

Conflict often stands as collaboration’s occasionally evil twin. It can stand in the way of progress, but as we all know, what does not kill us only makes us stronger. And ultimately, the roots of conflict resolution, as always, rests in the plant, whether the dispute is personal or political


Resolving inner conflict with Equanimity

Before cannabis can help anybody, one has to determine his/her relationship to the plant. This often requires education, which is in itself a struggle. However, unlike other fights waged around the plant, this one is absolutely worth fighting for. We’re coming out of 80 years of Prohibition, and the stigmas are only just beginning to unravel. They’re still strong enough however, to bring people into their city halls and mobilize against the opening of a simple retail outlet in their stores. Yet those very same people may be fighting their own inner battles with themselves that could be put to rest with greater Equanimity in their lives.

For them as well as for us, the daily grind places extraordinary pressures upon our collective shoulders. The constant drive to win at all costs and to do it all NOW ends up taking us out of the current moment and letting it recharge and refresh us. The solution for this, as we know, is Equanimity, which returns us to our inner core. Medicine Box has especially formulated our Equanimity to aid in creating a physical and mental homeostasis. This lies directly in cannabis’s wheelhouse, given the endocannabinoid system's foundational role in maintaining homeostasis.

In our view, too many people try to bend their external circumstances to fit the mold they have created in their head, which only creates more internal conflict.  Equanimity assists with slowing us down to a more observant space of paying attention. And it is a pity that those who seem to need this equanimity the most tend to resist it most strongly.

The battle for the heart and mind of cannabis

As anyone who has read this blog recognizes, the battle is on to redefine cannabis, and so far, in one of its most hotly contested battlefields, the state of California has done a pretty poor job. Instead of listening to and strengthening the people who know the plant best, poorly designed regulations favor the big boys and the criminals, leaving those attempting to work within the letter and spirit of the law groaning under the cost of compliance.That, in a nutshell, is the primary conflict.

Again, going back to education, much of the difficulty lies in the hands of bureaucrats and businesspeople who fail to understand the plant and really take their lead from it. The potential to create a sustainable industry that rights the wrongs of the past and honors its cultural heritage and medicinal properties has been obscured in the rush to build the industry. All of the collaboration-innovation that the industry rests on comes from those who have lived and breathed cannabis for years, and it will continue to. To ignore this and run it just like it was any other business will ultimately prove fruitless.

My mentor Michael Hollister often referred to the Gestalt as an organizational business principle, and applied to the current moment, it could offer some solutions to this impasse. Simply put, the gestalt is an organized whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.  When there is conflict in any piece of the organization, it has a ripple effect on the larger whole. When a conflict occurs, it is imperative to take inventory of all the working parts so harmony is brought back into focus.

Currently, the conflict between the OGs and the newcomers - and that includes state and local officials as well as corporate competition - rests upon the changes both want to see enacted in the system. These changes by and large are cultural - the newcomers want to see top-down, whereas the OGs want to see a decentralized and community-based system which preserves their way of life. Understanding the gestalt means seeing the opportunities where conflict can become collaboration, instead of one group trying to overpower the other.

The gestalt of the cannabis industry, like the plant itself, is vast and complicated, so pulling it apart to make its constituent elements work will take time and above all, patience. I return once again to the plant, which hands us a wondrous blueprint for handling even this task with equanimity and fairness. It all comes back to the values the plant itself inspired, values which Medicine Box has striven to identify and align ourselves with. I always say, "never sacrifice your values for a bigger bottom line." Your values should always align with your mission, and be the guiding path forward. If these values aren't aligning with your colleagues, there is a much greater chance that there will be conflict ahead.  Minimizing conflict starts at alignment of values from early on. If that clicks, intuition’s autopilot takes over from there.

Win–win situation

Too often, success in our society is defined as a zero-sum game. This flies in the face of a truly collaborative paradigm cannabis enables. Working within this world of cannabis, we have discovered how so much of the conflict powered by our ego-based society can be softened by truly embracing cannabis as a medicine for one’s heart and soul. Cannabis is a great catalyst to achieving what I call the Four Cs: consciousness, creativity, compassion, and conversation. Integrating these cannabis-heightened qualities into a mindful way of living, we continue to evolve.

Of course, this wealth cannot be hoarded; it needs to be shared. Own all the brands you want, but the plant itself should always belong to the people first. As long as we can maintain that, we can have peace in the valley of cannabis. Hope everyone else in the Gestalt can figure that out as well before too long.

Back to blog