How I Use Pot by Paul DeFelice
Paul DeFelice is a 41-year-old architect who designs houses and small buildings. Throughout a realistic and detailed examination of his youthful experimentation and travails, then discovery of cannabis’ applications as an aid to both learning and treatment of nicotine addiction, we learn not only of many other benefits, but cautions for moderate use of this “holy smoke.”
I’ve been using cannabis for most of my life, for everything from partying to praying. I’ve received so much from this plant that I became an activist to protect it as a way of giving thanks. I’m currently running a retail store devoted to cannabis smoking and activism and have found, with legal battles and fund raising, that it now seems, like some pot critics say, that my life “revolves around marijuana”! But I believe that if I obey the current prohibition laws, against my better judgment, then I am voluntarily placing myself in prison.
I was born in 1957 in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, which is known for the world’s largest nickel smelter, and resultant moonscape. My father was a pro hockey player in the 40’s and 50’s and, after his final years in hockey, settled down and worked as a beer salesman for over 25 years until his retirement. My mother graduated from university in the 40’s and worked as a pharmacist until her retirement. My Dad’s beer company was owned by a cigarette company for a while. So when I was growing up there were 2 extra fridges in the basement for beer, a hall closet full of cigarettes, and our medicine cabinet and my mother’s workplace full of pharmaceuticals. I often joke that I have booze and drugs flowing in my veins!
However, none of my parents’ drugs were really attractive to me. I did the obligatory experimenting with tobacco and alcohol, but from as early as I can remember, I found myself drawn to cannabis. I can’t even remember exactly when I first became aware of its existence. I think it was probably through the drug warnings and lectures that the teachers and police were giving us in the schools and the “lure of the forbidden fruit”.
The fact that both of my parents made a living dealing legal drugs had a definite effect on my opinion of illegal drugs during my formative years. So did growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s. I understood the laws of prohibition to be completely hypocritical right from the start. I never had a feeling of guilt associated with my drug use, since I saw my parents dealing with and using the hardest drugs known with few apparent personal problems of their own. Of course, my parents had no understanding of cannabis and believed all the negative propaganda. It even stated on the inside cover of my Mom’s organic chemistry textbook that due to international conventions, Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica were both deleted. Mom told me once about a local GP who had a morphine habit for 20 years but was still a fine doctor. I think because she was taught about opiates in university she was less afraid of heroin than of cannabis.
I used to argue with my parents about drugs and pointed to them as examples of how hypocritical people can be. Now I get along a lot better with my parents and I use them as examples of how legal, regulated drugs like alcohol and pharmaceuticals can work in today’s society. Neither my father nor my mother have ever had any kind of problem with the drugs in their care. My father drank little to none. He certainly never drank and drove. My mother did not have a habit of using any of the narcotics, sedatives, tranquilizers, or amphetamines that she worked with all day. These legal drug dealers, my parents, were able to raise their family in a loving, caring way and were/are respected, productive members of society.
My first cannabis experience was with blond Lebanese hash that a neighbourhood kid had gotten from his older, biker-type brother when I was 11 years old. I was just a little 4-eyed nerd kid that wasn’t really accepted into the greaseball tough-guy mostly Italian gang that hung out in my neighbourhood. This was 1968 but Sudbury was still mostly stuck in the 50’s greaser stage. Brylcreem, bikers, rumbles, homemade Italian wine, plain-end cigarettes…anyway, the only reason I got a toke that day was because nobody in the gang new how to smoke it! I had been reading my older sister’s Rolling Stone magazines or Yippee literature (or something) and had seen a photo of a person smoking hash on a pin through a Bic pen tube. When I described this to the leader of the gang with the hash he followed my instructions and everyone was toking…except me! Finally after some pleading on my part someone said I should be allowed a toke since I figured out how to do it. I had already been smoking cigarettes (but not always inhaling) for a couple of years (in order to look tough) so I got a few good tokes in me, enough to cough, and I swear, I got high!!! I laughed and giggled, got paranoid, got the munchies! Of course nobody believed me and everyone said I was “faking it.” Whatever! I liked it and couldn’t wait to try it again.
Even at the tender age of 10, I was drinking home made Italian wine and stolen beer around the campfire. I learned early on that I had no head or stomach for alcohol. I would always get stupid, get sick, throw up, pass out, and get really hung over. But I sure liked pot! I found where most people could drink me under the table, I could smoke them under the table with no apparent harmful after-effects. When high, I felt talkative, imaginative… like I had a better perspective on myself and the world around me. Music sounded better, books were more exciting to read… Of course I could rarely find any kind of cannabis when I was 11 and what I did find was mostly brown Moroccan or blond Leb hash usually purchased from bikers. I didn’t even see actual “marijuana” until I was about 13 and even then it was mixed half with tobacco.
At around age 12 I began to discover that not all kids liked to get drunk, fight, and talk about cars and sports. There was a neighbourhood down the highway where kids liked to play music, dress weird, experiment with drugs and act goofy. At least that’s how it seemed. We’d all pretend to be high even if we weren’t and to us that meant acting as strange and incomprehensible as we could, especially around adults. We were eager to try just about any drug that came along from what I can remember.
Then, still at the tender age of 12, in 1969, I was heading for my first rock show, a matinee at the city arena, when my friend suggested we should take a walk through one of the city’s pool halls and see if we could find some pot. The hall was lined with black-leather bikers who would call out what they had for sale and you could take your pick. When a guy called out “acid for sale” my buddy said “yeah”! All I knew about acid was that it was LSD, that the Beatles had done it, and it was associated with “Peace & Love” (in big fluffy psychedelic cartoon lettering). So for $3 a hit, we each bought a tab of Orange California Sunshine.
One thing is for sure, I was much too young to be dropping so much LSD, especially with no knowledge of the drug’s effects and no experienced guide to help. It was sheer hell! I was terrified! But since this account is supposed to be about cannabis I won’t get into the story of my first acid trip. Except to say that instilled in me an everlasting respect for all drugs, especially psychedelics! I’ve since had hundreds of wonderful trips including some extremely positive life-changing mega-doses.
As I got older, I found it was easier to get cannabis. My older sister was popular among the drug-using crowd of the day. There was always some guy making a play for my sister who would be trying to impress her little brother. This meant that I usually had a reliable connection.
One of the best scenes in high school I can remember is the weekends when the lobby of the school was turned into a coffeehouse complete with checkered tablecloths, candles, and ashtrays. Local folk singers would play, soft drinks and coffee would be served and we’d sing along and dance. Also, all down the school corridors and out in the parking lot kids would be smoking pot and nobody cared!!!!! Parents and teachers used to be so happy just that we were there, under control and not causing trouble somewhere out of sight. These were also the days when, if you smelled pot in the corridors during the school day, it was more likely to be coming from the staff room than from the boys’ room. It felt like pot would be legal any day!
Yet, even in that era of tolerance, when I was 15, a friend and I were dragged out of a pool hall by uniformed police and brought to the station. I, luckily, was not found with any pot. My 15 year-old friend, however, had a half-ounce of pot on him. I was let go after a phone call to my parents. My friend was not so lucky. He wasn’t just strip searched, but CAVITY searched by five uniformed cops. He was never the same and, in a way, neither was I. I have never been okay with this incident. I couldn’t believe that we would allow our children to be treated like this. I can’t believe we still allow our children to be treated like this! I am forever inspired to see that this sort of thing doesn’t happen to children any longer. There is no way that anyone can get sanctimonious with me and invoke the danger of pot to children when this is how the law treats them.
During high school I smoked mostly on weekends since I wasn’t sure if I could handle going to class high. But by the time I was in Grade 12 I was smoking whenever I could. I didn’t do homework or study. I basically socialized as much as possible and I somehow still got my graduation diploma. I even went to Grade 13 but it was mostly to socialize. I had absolutely no interest in anything the school had to offer so I ended up with just a couple of credits. I wouldn’t say that pot kept me from academic achievement as much as did the lack of interesting courses or teachers.
I got busted (officially) for the first time when I was 18 while smoking a doobie in the parking lot of a drinking establishment. I was about to leave for college in the next few days and I just wanted to get it over with without my parents finding out. No such luck! During the ensuing lecture and argument my parents exclaimed that I might as well not waste my time going to college since my brains were “fried on marijuana”! In recent years, I’ve come to realize how that had instilled an attitude in me of “I’ll show them”!
As I went through college from 1975 to 1978 studying Architectural Engineering Technology in Thunder Bay, Ontario, I began to find out that learning and pot smoking went well together. There was only one other pot smoker in my course that I knew of. Approximately 150 students began the course and only 12 of us went on to graduate the 3-year course. 2 of those 12 were us 2 pot smokers. The course was very demanding with a ridiculous workload. I watched through rosy red eyes as student after student suffered breakdowns and collapses and gave up in despair.
The calculus course was not well taught and many students wrote it off as too difficult and esoteric to bother with. I was almost ready to give up on it myself when I got so high on some Cambodian grass the night before the calculus final that I had a breakthrough and scored 24/25 on the final and 25/25 on the re-write. I still have the test papers to prove it!
I was hooked on skiing since age 11 even though I grew up in a place that had nothing higher than 200 vertical feet. I found hockey to be too competitive and violent, especially when stoned. At first I resisted smoking pot and skiing because I thought it would be like drinking and skiing, which I certainly couldn’t do. I gradually came to find that cannabis and skiing went really well together.
I skied fanatically for over 20 years, high every vertical foot of the way practically, and made my way into Warren Miller Ski Films for 3 years, 1985 to 1988, where I was sent to resorts in Europe, the US, and Canada. I was featured in a Warren miller instructional video called “Steeps Leaps and Powder: How the Super Skiers Ski”. Unfortunately, Warren didn’t mention that I would attribute any finesse I might have to skiing while stoned. The only serious injury I ever had (knock on wood) was in Chamonix after 3 weeks with NO POT! I fell down L’Aguille de Medi in Chamonix and hurt my knee!
I would definitely rate cannabis as a performance enhancer (sorry Ross Rebagliatti!). I find it helps manage fear and adrenaline. It’s like I rise out of my body a little ways and guide my body thoughtlessly through space and snow from a position above and behind my head. Sounds weird, but that’s the best I can describe it. It can also stave off fatigue on long hikes in a similar sort of way in that it takes me out of my body just a bit.
I must remember, however, that there was a time when I ate some potent ganja muffins for breakfast one morning and got such a body stone that I couldn’t leave the lodge. I was definitely incapacitated. For me, an important reason why I prefer smoking to eating cannabis is how I can determine fairly instantly how high I am and when to stop. When I eat cannabis I’m never sure just how high I’m going to get. I would also say that eating cannabis has the potential to get a person much higher than smoking it to the point where high doses can equal LSD or psilocybin. Regular smoking of cannabis does not seem to have impaired my judgment when it comes to driving. I enjoy driving while high. I like to point out that I have driven many miles over the last 20 years without a single accident or even speeding ticket. My last vehicle, a 1983 Tercel wagon was retired with a rusted out frame and over 400,000 accident-free kilometers on it and I was high for most of those km’s. Driving while high causes me to drive a little slower and more attentively. I feel more attuned to my car and my surroundings. I’m also less prone to road rage and much more patient and courteous if I’m high.
I’ve made a living as an Architectural Technologist since graduating in 1978. I couldn’t begin to add up the thousands of square feet of building area I designed while stoned. It seems like pot removes the tedium from whatever task I put my mind to, whether washing dishes or shoveling dirt. When drafting it seems like a blank page is much harder to start filling with lines when I’m not high. Also, I’ve never had a complaint or any problem with the integrity of any structure I’ve designed, and I’m scrutinized by engineers, inspectors, and tradesmen.
I think it’s important to mention that I kicked my 20-year tobacco addiction using cannabis. Before I got busted, I was growing kind bud and smoking it quite chronically on top of a pack-a-day cigarette habit. I decided that I needed an oxygen break between cigarettes and doobies so one of them had to go.
I started off by substituting doobies of kind bud whenever I had a tobacco craving. I soon found that I would get too high smoking that many bud joints and would soon become immune to the pot’s effects. I switched to substituting leaf doobies for my cigarette craving and saved the bud for special occasions. Within approximately 2 weeks the tobacco craving subsided and I easily weaned myself off of the leaf joints. In the last few years I’ve given up meat, dairy, alcohol, and coffee. I would say that this is evidence that cannabis IS a gateway drug… OFF of harder drugs! Starting in 1988, after my second cultivation bust and after a life-changing trip on a mega-dose of LSD, I became politically and socially active. During the acid trip, I felt a distinct calling to come to the defense of the Earth. In particular I felt called to defend the cannabis plant. I felt like I had been educating myself for the job my whole life. It was the peak of the Drug War and I felt like I was one of the few people in a position to speak up because I was single and self-employed. I also began a more spiritual relationship with the plant and since that time I feel compelled to say, at the very least, a little (usually silent) prayer of thanks for the gift of cannabis, raising the joint or pipe to my third eye every toke. I used to be a lot more verbal with my prayers but found that it sometimes weirded people out. Besides, God isn’t deaf.
I’ve been a member of the local wilderness and watershed protection groups since 1988 and learned non-violent direct action strategies. I’ve been active on at least 6 blockades and arrested and sued on 2 of them. I believe that the hemp movement is actually another aspect of the environmental movement. At first some fellow activists were uncomfortable with the sight of “marijuana” leaves on their information tables or banners at the blockades. As word got out about hemp for fiber, fuel, food, and medicine, people got on the bandwagon. It is empowering to realize that I, and thousands of people like me, got hemp re-legalized in Canada! It was a powerful demonstration of successful grassroots activism. We got the laws changed and hemp in the ground without any slick TV or magazine ads or corporate funding. It was all by word of mouth, letters to the editor, festivals, photocopied handouts, postering, etc.
I feel like the momentum is continuing, at least in Canada, and that cannabis will soon be legal not just for industrial and medicinal, but for “recreational” purposes as well. These days I’m part owner of Holy Smoke Culture Shop, a retail/activist store and compassion club. We and our customers smoke openly in our store all day long. We’ve had some legal struggles because of it but we’ve triumphed in all our court battles so far. We’re still going after 3 years!
I believe that cannabis will always be a part of my life although I definitely smoke less now than I did as a younger man in my 20’s and 30’s. I’ve learned that if I smoke pot too chronically I’ll become immune or desensitized to its effects and that’s the worst possible punishment. Also, I don’t find that pot is, strictly speaking, an anti-depressant, although it does combat depression for sure. Rather than saying that pot makes me feel “better”, I would say that it makes me feel “more”. That is to say, in the right circumstance, a toke might bring on a tear as readily as a laugh. This is a good thing and not the escapism that we are led to believe it is. It’s part of getting in touch with myself and the world around me.
I look forward to the day when pot smokers and growers can emerge from the underground, bringing with them their precious knowledge of cannabis that they have lovingly protected and cherished during these dark ages, and share it with the rest of humankind. I hope to see a day when the insane concept of “prohibition” is a relic of a tarnished past and the drug war prisoners can all come home.