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Ram Dass and medical marijuana

Ram Dass and medical marijuana


November 3, 2002
Sentinel staff writer

For 30 years, when Ram Dass has spoken, Santa Cruz has listened.
For a significant part of the West Coast cultural literati, Ram Dass
has always been a font of wisdom as a writer, spiritual leader,
pilgrim in the science of consciousness and counterculture icon.
In the debate over medical marijuana, Ram Dass should have a
stronger voice than usual. He’s a patient as well as an advocate.
But ironically, on an issue where words are flying hot and fast, for
the 71-year-old “Be Here Now” philosopher, words come in a trickle.
In 1997 Ram Dass had a stroke that slowed but didn’t stop him. On
Thursday, a documentary film on his life, “Fierce Grace,” will be
screened at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz as a fund-raiser for the
Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana.
In interviews, Ram Dass now speaks haltingly, often laboring to
articulate his ideas. That he even bothers is a testament to the man’s
indomitable spirit.
“In using medical marijuana,” he said by phone from his Marin County
home, “I stand back from my life and stand back from the stroke and
witness my soul.”
The former Harvard psychology professor uses marijuana to relieve
pain in his limbs and control his body’s spasms.
Santa Cruzan Harold Margolin, who uses marijuana to control severe
neurological pain, says that Ram Dass was an inspiration to him in his
understanding of marijuana’s medicinal power.
“The way Ram Dass says it, we operate generally on a gross level of
existence,” Margolin explained. “When he smokes marijuana, he is able
to rise to the soul level of existence and be a witness to his pain,
instead of experiencing it.
“When I heard him say it three years ago, I didn’t understand it. I
thought about it a long time, and now I can take a step back and
view my pain as just another thing that happens in your life.”
As is his habit, Ram Dass tends to talk compassionately about people
on the other side of the ideological fence.
“The people who are supporting the war against cannabis, they’re
feeling tricked,” Ram Dass said. “They want to see themselves as
“But the case of Valerie and Michael (Corral) has put the government
in a very anti-compassionate stance.
“Everybody in this culture has a heart, and everybody has
compassion in that heart. In this case, something has to give. And
people don’t want their hearts to give.”
If you go
WHAT: ‘Fierce Grace: The Life and Times of Ram Dass.’ A benefit for
the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana. Sponsors say Ram Dass
will speak after the film.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday.
WHERE: The Rio Theatre, 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz.
DETAILS: 423-8209

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