Jim Belushi is one of the most recognizable stars in Hollywood, and yet he’s just like many of the rest of us.
He’s faced the death of a loved one, his dear brother John; divorce; and similar traumas that have threatened the grounding presence that is family.
“The No. 1 fear in life is death, and the No. 2 fear in life is the collapse of family. Family collapses from alcoholism, from death, from losing a job, from PTSD,” said Belushi, a comedian and actor who was one of the original cast members of “Saturday Night Live” and played the lead role on the sitcom “According to Jim.”
These days, Belushi, 67, is dedicating his time and energy toward raising awareness of the potential wellness benefits of cannabis, which is currently legal recreationally in 18 U.S. states, two territories, and Washington D.C. Medical marijuana is legal in 36 states and four territories.
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Belushi owns a 93-acre farm in Rogue Valley, Oregon, on which he grows legal cannabis. He also hosts “Growing Belushi,” a reality TV show on the Discovery Channel where he educates newbies on how cannabis is grown and what it can be used for. What’s more, Belushi is on the board of the Last Prisoner Project, a nonprofit dedicated to freeing the estimated 40,000 people currently imprisoned for cannabis use.
Branching into cannabis
On Belushi’s farm, there are 200 cannabis plants — up from the 48 he started with when he began his farm in 2015. He uses high-tech greenhouses with Anden humidifiers and Fohse lights, and, like many farmers, considers pests his biggest challenge in farming.
Belushi isn’t the only one getting into the business. One report suggests the cannabis industry will be worth nearly $100 billion by 2026, fueled largely by medical and therapeutic uses.
Veteran growers clued Belushi into those applications of cannabis, and that’s the main reason he got into the business, a feat that required “capital, patience and love,” he explained.
Research suggests increased access to marijuana is linked to reduced opioid prescriptions, and Belushi is one of many advocates for using cannabis as a significantly safer wellness alternative to those highly addictive painkillers. Public health officials in the United States have declared the opioid crisis one of the most pressing health issues: In the 12 months prior to May 2020, 81,000 people died of drug overdoses, the majority of them involving synthetic opioids like fentanyl, government data shows.
Belushi recalled talking to a veteran who refused to take opioids and asked his doctor if he could use marijuana to manage his PTSD instead. The man cried and thanked Belushi for the cannabis, which he said was the only therapy that allows him to talk to his family and sleep again.
“I said, ‘Hey, man, I didn’t make this,’” Belushi said of the cannabis the man was using. “And he goes, ‘No, but you’re the steward.’ And that was the paradigm shift on my mission from God.”
“[Cannabis] makes you feel good,” said Belushi, adding that it’s nonviolent. “I was once a bouncer in Chicago, and I never broke up a fight between two potheads.”
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Other potential uses of marijuana that are currently being studied include lessening symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, migraine, cancer treatment, and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
For Belushi, cannabis has helped him reduce anxiety, aid sleep, and manage PTSD.
“I take 2.5 milligrams [of cannabis] to go to sleep,” Belushi said. “I don’t do any sleeping pills or whatever, and I wake up feeling great.”
Despite the drug being stigmatized in the past, marijuana as a therapeutic tool has been increasingly accepted — across generations, political party lines, and the like. The key, he explained, is buying cannabis from a legal seller that supplies dosing information. This allows for a more controlled experience.
“Everybody knows somebody who’s suffering,” Belushi said, and cannabis is one potential source of relief.