Cannabis is not Anishinaabe medicine. In fact, it’s contrary to our way of life.

I’ve got something important to share. It may not be popular but I have to say it. So here goes.

Anishinaabe mno-bimaadiziwin minwaa Anishinaabe mushkiki does not include the use of cannabis.

The use of cannabis, either recreationally or medicinally, is contrary to Anishinaabe teachings and sacred law.

Sacred law tells us that using anything that alters our spirit in any way, is a big no-no. I learned this long ago in in the Midewiwin Lodge and from many true Anishnaabe leaders, teachers and healers over the years. It’s the one reason why I personally chose not to use alcohol or any other mind-altering substance.

I’ve seen several mind-altering herbs, roots, vines and leaves, all natural products, make their way into our communities from outside Indigenous healers. This includes anything from peyote to ayahuasca. Such potent hallucinogens and their purveyors have also left a lot of pain in their wake.  I’ve even heard some Anishinaabeg speak about a “whiskey ceremony” where a shot is passed around while telling stories. Forget what you’ve been told – this is not the case.

Yes, cannabis is natural. It might not lead to issues of hardcore dependence and overdose that we are seeing from opioids in our communities. And sure, it is somebody’s medicine.  But it is definitely not Anishinaabe medicine.

In our Creation Story, Msko-Gaabwid, the red-standing one, was placed on Earth with all the things he needed. Tobacco, the very first medicine, is a medicine that is almost entirely spiritual in nature because that very first human being was very much spirit rather than physical. However, as the world evolved, our eldest ancestor began to become more and more physical. As such, Anishinaabe, as he was to be known, had more physical needs including the need for food and medicine. It is said that medicinal plants gives themselves to us. Food plants give themselves to us too.

Anishinaabe and all his descendants are to keep all Creation in balance including our own physical vessel. More than that, we are to keep our body, mind and spirit pure and unaltered. We are told of these types of substances in our Creation Story. Our medicine people knew of these things. But plainly and clearly, we are told not to ingest anything that disrupts that balance, or may disrupt our interrelationships with all those in Creation.

When we take cannabis, alcohol and narcotics and use it in such a way that it makes us “high”, we disrupt the balance within us and around us. We hurt the balance between the body and the spirit. Our Spirit is disrupted. Dependence on these substances will ultimately affect our emotional and mental balance as well. Eventually, no matter how gentle the effect is, long-term use of these substances will also take a physical toll.

This kind of hurt my heart a bit. Ode’imin, the pure and beautiful strawberry, a chief medicine food, has become a cannabis edible.

Many of our Grandmothers and Grandfathers are concerned over the impacts that cannabis will have on our youth.  Evidence shows that using cannabis increases the risk in the development of schizophrenia or other psychoses. Also, there is evidence of the risk and repercussions associated of chronic and problem cannabis use, increased risk of depressive disorders, social anxiety disorders and suicidal thoughts and actions.

Today, I’m seeing a lot of nonchalance about the use of “medicinal” cannabis for any number of remedies.  Even more disturbing, there is a lot of indifference to the legalization of “recreational” cannabis.  We should be concerned over our already high incidence of addictions, mental illness, chronic disease and inter-generational trauma among Anishinaabe people. Making cannabis more accessible, through community-based dispensaries or even from the LCBO in town is so concerning to those who live by our traditional ways.

The use of cannabis has been discussed in our traditional societies and Lodges over the years. No matter how many time it’s raised, (“Well, it’s going to be legal soon.” “Many people use it for medicinal purposes.” “It’s not really going to hurt anybody.” “My auntie needs it for her eczema.”), the discussion is never a long one.

Again, with emphasis added: Anishinaabe mno-bimaadiziwin minwaa Anishinaabe mushkiki does not include use of cannabis. Period. It just doesn’t get any clearer from an Anishinaabe point of view.

That’s bad news for some Chiefs and leaders, pot-activists, cannabis enthusiasts, clever businesspeople, medical dispensaries and corner drug dealers.

I might be out of touch, unhip or too beholden to our Anishinaabe beliefs – but I thought I’d put it out there. They are our beliefs and there are many of us that stand by them.


One of the greatest gifts given to us by Gzhemnidoo is the gift of freewill. And the first teaching we are given when we hear the Creation Story is that “all Creation stories are true”. Meaning, we are all entitled to our beliefs and we can all choose our own paths that are right for us.
The purpose of the blog was to share our beliefs and perspectives from Anishinaabe teachings. No one is expecting everyone to live by them to the letter, or that they cannot evolve. However, this perspective regarding spirit-altering medicines hadn’t been shared and I felt strongly that it needed to be put on the record.
Taking medicines in a responsible way that honours them, honours our bodies and honours Creation around us is well within our ways. As some wise people point out, there are ways to use cannabis without getting high, disrupting our spirit or abusing the medicine.
As I acknowledged in the blog, this is somebody’s medicine. If they find relief and comfort in that, by all means. But it’s important to hear all aspects of the discussion, including those perspectives given to us in our Creation Story and original instructions as Anishinaabeg. Miigwetch.


  1. Ted Scheniman says:

    Great article.I spent 4 years in Sandy Lake Ontario, a fly-in Reserve and have watched with a breaking heart as the use of cannabis and opioids have run rampant. I am so sick of hearing, “It’s a plant, it’s natural, God made it.” Appreciate your candidness, thanks and God bless.

  2. Kelly Brownbill says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful words, Bob. I am heartened by your observance to our traditional ways. Perhaps, though, instead of having our focus on what mainstream society is making available to our youth, like legalized marijuana, we should try to reach those same youth through the beauty of our teachings. Let’s not demonize mainstream society as being disruptive to mno bimaadziwin; all those cultures that make up mainstream have lots of different teachings. Let’s continue to build a nation of people who cherish their own identity and their own traditional teachings. I see it as our people are still affected by assimilation and can find no pride or safety or beauty in their heritage. That, to me, is more dangerous than a pot dispensary on the corner. You won’t be tempted by that place because you have found the beauty and let go of the pain. That is what I pray for, for the rest of our beautiful brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews….

  3. Pamela Smyth says:

    Simple and direct! Thank you.

  4. Peter Schuler says:

    Miigwetch for the courage to put those words out there. I agree with what you say and I also share your concern with youth using cannabis and developing a mental illness. I have seen it already happen to several different youth who were completely normal before they experimented with this supposedly harmless drug.
    When you see first hand the devastation this can cause to not only the affected youth but to their families .
    I too chose not to use alcohol or drugs and try to follow our teachings and continue to learn.
    Life without those mind changers in it is much more simple and peaceful. There are enough challenges in life already without adding things that impair vision and thought. Having lived with alcohol in my life when younger I can honestly say I do not miss it.
    This does not make me better than anyone else. It is simply a choice that I have made.
    Walking this road is not easy; it is a good road ;it is less traveled ; it has so much to learn and pick up along the way and it is always full of things to do.
    I encourage all to move away from those mind changers and step onto this road. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are.Some where along this road you will find yourself ;you will who you are and what you are supposed to do.

  5. Giiwe says:

    Gitchi Miigwitch for sharing this in our natural way of kindness and teachings. Geget!!

  6. LauraLee Harris says:

    Chi meegwetch. I hear what you say. Just wanted to share some healthy knowledge about cannabis. Did you know that our body’s actually need the cannabinoids for our receptors. We have an endo-cannannabinoid receptor system as all vertebrate animals have. This receptor system is a communication system within the body telling the body what is needed and when so it can heal.

    As we eat poisoned food (industrial GMO and pesticides, hormone disruptors, and more) as well as growing old, our receptors die off as we no longer make cannabinoids. Then we get sick with cancers, Parkinson’s, MS, Diabetes and many more diseases as it is calling out but the receptors are not working. Cannabis has over 530 beneficial medicines for the body for both animals and humans, only when eaten. When smoked, you only get a little THC and the rest of the 529 healthy benefits are all burnt up in smoke, so to speak…

    If you don’t want to get high, eat it raw, in a shake/smoothy or have the tincture, which is made from glycerine, and which is made by keeping the temperature below the carboxylation of THC, so as not to fire up the THC. What I don’t want to see happen is more people die and get sick with pain from mis-information, from irrational fears. The cannabinoids from this edible plant go and repair those receptors, healing not only the symptoms, but also the source of the illness. Eaten you get the whole 530 components. Eaten raw, you get one less: The THC.

    My mother who has Parkinson’s, 89 years young, is in long term care. We make her tincture and butter and brownies and bring it to the long term care. She couldn’t walk or talk before. Now she’s going to Bingo, does physiotherapy two times a week and races down the hallways with her walker. She has a social life there and is doing quite well. She’s also on organic foods because the poisoned creator’s foods are making people sick with many many diseases.

    Parkinson’s has a lot of symptoms including depression. Cannabis in its edible form heals the inner psyche and so would help also with those who are suicidal, taking away depressions and stressors which all add to the human fragile state today.

    This is not an allopathic drug like pharmaceuticals curing one symptom and giving 10 more symptoms. This is a real medicine the creator gave to humanity especially for these times when our creator’s foods, waters and medicines are being poisoned and destroyed. These foods, waters and medicines are gifts from our creator being destroyed by the elite 1%. Edible cannabis cures addictions of opiates and fentenal too as well as alcohol.

    We are part of a group called MEND Mother Earth’s Natural Design. We teach people how to make tinctures and butters using cannabis leaf material, stems, roots. This medicine is efficient as it cures everything. This medicine is economical as the same material used in the tincture is used in the butter. Cooked in a crock pot for 24 hours for the tincture and then 24 hours for the butter. We give the recipes away. We believe people have a right to be pain free and healthy with Creator’s medicines.

    Here is the MEND site. Check out the files section for the recipes.

    Hope this helps in some way. <3

    Much respect,
    chi meegwetch for sharing,