Getting Blazed For Charity
As the world went into lockdown, many businesses were forced to close up shop temporarily, both over- and underground. Busy shoppers and groups of friends who would usually enjoy this year’s first pint outside in the afternoon sun were virtually overnight replaced by an empty eeriness. Many of us thought that the temporary break from the city’s nightlife would simultaneously be the start of a collective, forced sobriety. While some have reduced their drinking habits, and 6 percent of people surveyed by UK charity Alcohol Change reported they’ve stopped drinking entirely, their research also suggested that around 8.6 million UK adults have been drinking more frequently during lockdown.
However, the situation has been quite different for some when it comes to drug consumption and dealing. Being stuck in isolation hasn’t stopped people from getting through quarantine with weed, while the use of party drugs has reportedly gone down since the lockdown. Despite underground businesses being hit by international travel restrictions and the fact that they’re subjected to more visibility on the streets while everyone is isolating, some have still been able to meet demands by disguising themselves as joggers or using food deliveries to distribute their goods. Some have even used fake NHS ID badges to make their way in.
While we can look into substance abuse during lockdown, the tackling of organised crime and people who are put in danger as a consequence, as well as stories about people getting creative about how they can keep delivering their goods, one edible business offers a completely different perspective to the story. Not only have they offered people a way to cope during lockdown by alleviating their physical pain and helping them with their sleeping problems. They also decided to put people before profit by temporarily stopping their business, and donating the proceeds of their excess stock to charities close to their heart. It’s a story about giving back to communities, instead of the exploitation thereof, which so often lies at the heart of narratives about drug dealing.
For obvious reasons they’ve asked not to be named, but tell me they have been open since June last year and reach the majority of their customers through Instagram. “There is a massive national and global cannabis community on Instagram, with a few users helping us along the way with support and advice,” they tell me. “So it felt only right to make this our main platform.” In response to the government’s Covid-19 advice, they decided to go into full lockdown with their families to keep them as well as their team and customer base safe.
Wanting to make sure that their excess stock didn’t go to waste, they saw an opportunity to use it for a greater good. After putting out a post about what charity to donate to, they chose a local branch of mental health charity Mind. Payments were accepted through online donations, as this enabled them to go cashless and deliver the charity batch contact-free. “The charity means a lot to us, as we’ve had loved ones benefit from their work in the past. Not only that, I think it’s important to promote their work, and the fact that they are there, especially during the pandemic and lockdown!”
Already during the early developments of the pandemic, the World Health Organization warned of the psychological cost of Covid-19 and its subsequent isolation. For those already struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health problems, it probably didn’t take an article or a piece of research to know that this would have a negative impact on them.
Many were stripped of the safety of their routines, the ability to seek emotional refuge with friends and family, as well as other coping mechanisms that would require them to leave the house or access vital services.
On top of that, the general looming of an invisible threat potentially harming you without even realising, as well as the insecurity of jobs and personal finances, added increased anxiety to more than 25 million people as we went into lockdown in March, according to an ONS poll. “I think mental health is affecting a lot of people at the moment with the current situation, and although we’re closed to the public, behind the scenes we have still been fulfilling requests for those closer to home.” For instance, one friend of the business has been able to deal with lockdown anxiety by just adding a brownie to their lunch, they tell me, and the stepmother of another friend who suffers from fibromyalgia has been able to reduce pain down her shoulders and arms. “She eats half a brownie which massively reduces her pain, but it doesn’t get her that ‘high’. When she has a full one on the other hand…”
It’s evident in reports and news articles that the increased visibility of dealers on the street has had a positive impact on tackling organised crime and helping people in dangerous environments, with allegedly at least ten tonnes of Class A drugs being seized globally since March according to a BBC article last month. Inner-city youth worker Mahamed Hashi who was mentioned in the article also suggested the lockdown has been a good opportunity for both young people to reflect on their involvement in these environments, and that support networks should plan how to help them in their journey.
However, there’s no denying that the use of recreational and responsible drug consumption has been beneficial to alleviating mental and physical pain while the whole world was stripped of freedoms necessary for our mental hygiene.
“We try to promote the positive effects of cannabis and the medicinal uses it has, as proven in the USA. We have a number of customers that use or edibles for medicinal purposes, so I like to think that we help people. Not just through lockdown, but regularly.”
At the time of writing, marijuana is legal in eleven states in the US for adults over the age of 21, and allowed for medical use in 33. This is by no means the first time we’ve heard about the benefits of drug use, and psychedelic drugs such as LSD have sometimes even been a preferred substitute for drugs like Zopiclone, Citalopram, and Valium to ease anxiety and bipolar disorder, as they don’t carry the negative side effects of drowsiness and feeling withdrawn, just to name a few. Some studies have even found that drugs like MDMA can help process anxiety and paranoia linked to PTSD, as it affects and increases serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine.
Regardless of current attitudes towards the safety and legality of drugs, the edible business has created a healthy and engaging network, and received many positive reactions to their willingness to give back to charity and support people beyond their clientele. They’ve even gained more of a following as a result of the donation, as existing customers were sharing and tagging friends in their post. “I think it’s given them assurances that we’re genuine people, and community-driven. We’ll definitely do more charity donations in the future.” Even before the Mind donation, 50% of the profits of a batch of their brownies went towards a shop for a local food bank, delivering £100 worth of food. “It’s something we want to do in the future, and give back to the communities that have helped us in the past.”