FreeMinds: An Herbal Smoke Program for Prisons & Institutions

by Aug 11, 2020Smoke Signals0 comments

FreeMinds: Herbal Smoke, Institutional Prison & the Freedom Within


“Free your mind, and your ass will follow. The Kingdom of Heaven is within.”

Baby, you can say that again: Funkadelic was onto something. (Or maybe on something. Reportedly, that entire album was commandeered under the influence — from cut to press.)

Regardless, George Clinton (not to be confused with the sax player who didn’t inhale) had one hell of a point. Cerebellums hold the key to cerebral freedom. 

At Bear Blend, we’re all about freedom through nature — beginning in the mind. We believe in the blessings of plants and organic herbs to free our implanted Cosmic Souls from concrete jungle pounding HiTops, from the Babylon Zuckerberg of social media, from the salivating Pavlov of the proverbial click.

FreeMinds from prison cells

FreeMinds: A Program for Institutional Freedom


“Free your mind” especially applies to those literally and figuratively surrounded by walls: prisoners in institutions, addicts in therapy and rehab clinics, folks in work release programs striving to rebuild their lives.

That’s why we developed the FreeMinds program, a therapeutic outreach specifically designed for inmates in prisons and patients in rehabilitation facilities. We began the program about a year ago, and it has been growing steadily as word gets out. Currently, we’re serving inmates in several facilities, including Ablemarle, Maury, Nash, and Tabor. 

Bear Blend smoke provides inmates and recovering addicts with an organic herbal smoking tobacco alternative. Many smoke Bear Blend as a ceremonial practice.

FreeMinds with herbal smoke

Participants connect to the program through their chaplains. We work with multiple religious and ceremonial groups, including Christian, Muslim, Rastafarian, Jewish, and Native American traditional religions. 

Bear Blend cannot ship to inmates directly, as most are prohibited from receiving packages. Instead, chaplains purchase through money allocated to them by an institution; or inmates purchase using their commissary money and we send the product to the chaplains. Instead of tins, the blends are shipped in see-through plastic bags to comply with prison regulations. Because of institutional mandates, Bear Blend hemp and CBD products such as the Shaman blend are not included in the FreeMinds program.

The program grows in popularity as more and more prisons ban tobacco. Bear Blend can help people quit cigarettes as a tobacco alternative, and provides a ceremonial smoke for those seeking spiritual connection.



program for prisoner in cell

Prison Penpals: Reseeding Human Souls


The program first began when we were contacted by a chaplain in a Missouri institution.

“He had worked with another supplier, but the product was very schwaggy it kept getting clogged and the inmates didn’t have materials to clean their pipes. He liked that ours didn’t look like it could be laced or mixed with K2, synthetic weed,” said Julia Strobel, Bear Blend Customer Service Manager. 

“So we sent him some samples of our blends. A few months later we started getting handwritten letters from inmates, requesting brochures.”

We sent those brochures, but we also sent letters, even birthday cards and slowly we began forming bonds and penpal friendships with the inmates.

“It’s a small thing, but it’s really about helping people,” Strobel said. “A huge part of it is treating everyone like an individual soul, rather than the society cop out: ‘Like you messed up, so we’re not going to treat you like a human being for 3 years.’ We want these folks to remember they’re still human.”

With the inmates, we write a lot about gratitude. Some even helped out on our brochure, making helpful suggestions on design. 

One penpal, John S., wrote of the inspiration he gets from the legend of the Buffalo Woman, a spirit who appeared to the Lakota people in the form of a white buffalo and blessed them with the gift of smoking. According to Lakota tradition, white buffalos are regarded as especially sacred, a sign of purity in mind, body, and spirit. 

The Buffalo Woman presented the Lakotas with a sacred pipe — Chanunpa — and taught the people how to pray and dance. The smoke rising from the bowl is thought to be the breath of Tunkashila, the living breath of the great Grandfather of Mystery. 


dream catchers for freeing minds

Sprouting Up Through Concrete Cracks


For many of these inmates and patients, our spiritual smoking herbs help them get back to their traditional roots. Smoking helps to maintain a gratitude connection for nature and the soul of the Earth.

“It’s about getting the tradition of smoking back into the culture, which is what our company’s about: Bringing ceremony and returning to the language of the plants,” Strobel said. “Being able to provide that for everyone is the goal.”

dream catchers for freeing minds

Single or Double? Windsor or Knot, Everyone’s Tied


Of course, you don’t have to be in prison to live in one or feel like you do. Steel bars are prevalent in our society: mandated by tax code, copyright, bleeding-you-dry-401Ks. The Yoke is tied and mounted, even when the designer shirt’s untucked. 

Surrounded by the bars of UPC codes and the tick-tocking hands of the clock, it’s understandable if you feel depleted, drained, lost and sold among the nearly 8 billion people on this planet. It’s no surprise we’re losing our touch with humanity. 

The Buffalo Woman appeared to the Lakota people in the midst of a lasting famine. “Then she disappeared,” writes the Greenville Speech & Language blog for the Lakota Ranch. “Almost at the same time as her leaving, great herds of buffalo could be seen surrounding the camps. It is said that after that day, the Lakota honored their pipe, and buffalo were plentiful.”

The Spark of Freedom


So is this life getting to you? Whether you’re inside walls or without, living in prison or imprisoned in the walls of this situational psyche, reconnect with the sky and the synchronicities of nature. Reach into the stratosphere — or just inside Mind Infinity — whatever you can touch.

Free your mind, and your ass will follow. Smoke is spiritual manifestation, the herbs giving up their being in a sacrament of harmonious exchange.

So spark it up; let it fly. Let the Smoke wander the Sky as free as it gets. Live your best dreams, beginning today.

No matter whose walls surround you, reach into the Blue with open arms for wings — or in the harmony of those Immortal Funksters:  “Open up your funky mind and you can fly.”

Mathew Gallagher

Mathew Gallagher

Wordsmith Specialist

A freelance writer for hire, Matt Gallagher is the face and voice behind Web Copy Magician. He enjoys Bear Blend as a tea to spiritually reconnect with nature and the therapeutic wonders of chlorophyll.


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