Cannabis Cup in the D

Big event comes to town, and Dana Beal's ibogaine odyssey

Michigan's medical marijuana community will be spotlighted in a big way when High Times magazine brings the Cannabis Cup to Detroit this weekend. The first Michigan Medical Cannabis Cup competition and exposition kicks off at noon Saturday and continues through Sunday evening at Bert's Warehouse Theatre in Eastern Market.

The Michigan Cup will feature the world's premier medical marijuana competition, a two-day medical marijuana expo, and a special medical smoking area where qualified card-carrying patients can meet and medicate.

The exposition will include a series of panels and seminars with doctors, patients, researchers, growers, dispensary owners, activists and leaders of the medical-marijuana movement, including High Times cultivation editors Danny Danko and Nico Escondido.

For sheer medicated fun, High Times will throw a VIP party on Saturday night at the Warehouse, 140 Clark St., on the city's southwest side, with music by the 420 Funk Mob with special guest Dr. Funkenstein, plus rapper Royce Da 5'9".

A gala awards ceremony at Bert's Warehouse will close out the festivities Sunday evening when the High Times judges announce the winning strains of sativa and indica, hybrids, concentrates and medical edibles submitted by Michigan growers, cannabis collectives and compassion clubs.

Patients, growers, activists and cannabis businesses will be offered a series of seminars on cultivation, cannabusiness, legal medicine in Michigan, veterans and medical marijuana, marijuana-law reform activism, and political action, sure to be a popular topic in today's repressive climate.

Panelists include medical hemp-oil inventor Gersh Avery, Detroit cannabis attorney Matt Abel, Dr. Paul Meyer, Michael Krawitz of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, Jamie Lowell of the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers, and representatives from Michigan organizations including Mary Jane's Helping Hands, Michigan Moms United to End the War on Drugs, MedMar, the 3rd Coast Compassion Center, C-4 Dispensary, the Midwest Cultivator and Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine.

On a personal note, this writer will be honored by High Times with the Lester Grinspoon Lifetime Achievement Award and subjected to questioning from the audience at 4:20 on Sunday. I'm deeply appreciative of this honor, a rare instance of a prophet being honored in his hometown after 45 years as a proponent of marijuana legalization.

There's never been anything like the Medical Cannabis Cup in Michigan before, and it provides smokers of every stripe with the unprecedented opportunity to get together and make new friends, learn things, make important contacts for the future, and generally have a ball celebrating our culture and talking about what we can do to get the authorities off the backs of marijuana users and growers in Michigan once and for all.


On a sadder note, I'd like to pause for a moment and direct our thoughts and prayers to my friend Adam Brook, who started a two-year sentence in the Michigan prison system last week (on gun possession charges, to which he pleaded guilty in exchange for having the weed charges dropped). I've known Adam since he brought me to the Hash Bash in Ann Arbor in the mid-1990s; we've worked and traveled together, and it breaks my heart to see him hauled off to prison. 

Meanwhile, our friend Dana Beal, organizer of the annual Million Marijuana Marches all over the world and an early advocate of the healing powers of the African plant called iboga, is being given a medical discharge from a prison sentence for marijuana violations in Wisconsin. He recently suffered a heart attack, and we'll be thinking of Dana while he awaits double-bypass surgery.

Beal's ibogaine preaching won a convert in former Detroiter Dimitri Mugianis, a serious dope fiend who heard about the ibogaine treatment for addicts and traveled to Holland in 2002 to take the cure with iboga healer Sarah Glatt at her home clinic just outside of Amsterdam.

A street hustler and acolyte of original Beat demigod Herbert Huncke, Dimitri chased his habit on the streets of Detroit and New York City for three decades as a heroin addict with a taste for mixing in some cocaine. But after three days of the iboga treatment he emerged as a new and different person.

His transformation was relatively clean and quick without the typical horrors of withdrawal beyond 18 hours of vomiting and voiding of bodily toxins, after which his body no longer required the regular injections of heroin to keep functioning. Mentally he was no longer an addict and had absolutely no further craving for drugs.

Under iboga, Dimitri reports, he underwent a profound spiritual experience that arose from a visitation by the ancient African spirit guides known as Bwiti, who are closely associated with the plant. The Bwiti told him that he now had a purpose in life and he was to help spread the message of regeneration and renewal that the spirits had shared with him.

Dimitri went back to New York City and pondered over his experience for some time with little idea of what to do next. Then he met other ex-addicts who'd been healed and inspired by their own communion with the Bwiti while under iboga to try to help other drug addicts kick their habits and turn their lives around.

They formed a small, mobile guerrilla healing force and began treating addicts in three-day iboga sessions held in apartments or hotel rooms. Psychedelic scholar Charles Shaw describes them as a "small but vociferous ibogaine underground, a community of mostly former addicts whose lives were saved by the psychoactive iboga plant of West Africa, which has extraordinary powers to curb addiction.

"These 'converts,'" as Dimitri calls them, now work tirelessly with the medicine as part penance, part service, believing that this is now their calling. They are "what back in the day used to be called 'angel jobs,' the arduous process of taking care of a physically dependent junkie in the throes of withdrawal."

Dimitri has since conducted hundreds of one-on-one iboga healing sessions and in the process became driven to delve more deeply into the spiritual roots of the iboga experience. He's made several pilgrimages to the African soil where the plant is grown and studied with the earthly representatives of the Bwiti prepare iboga bark for medicinal use, learning the ritual chants and dances associated with the traditional iboga ceremonies.

Now he's called Mobengo, the name the Bwiti gave him, and his quest has been brilliantly documented by filmmaker Michel Negroponte in a feature film called I'm Dangerous With Love. It opened to rave reviews in New York City and around the country earlier this year, and it'll be screened at the Detroit Institute of Arts on Oct. 20.

As Charles Shaw concludes, "Instead of retreading the tales of misery that are endemic to any addiction narrative, I'm Dangerous With Love quickly becomes a sort of shamanic journey into the underworld, with Dimitri as a kind of Ulysses of the Lower East Side. ...  For those seeking a path out of darkness, this film is not to be missed."




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