My Friend Cannabis by Adam Meadows
The author is a 23-year-old graduate student in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley. He completed his undergraduate degree at Purdue University in 2001, where he graduated with highest distinction and was awarded his department’s most prestigious award for intellectual merit. Besides marijuana, he loves his family, science, dancing, and just being alive.
For me, there is nothing that compares to the experience of marijuana intoxication. Truly, the most amazing, ineffable emotions, thoughts, and pleasures have been wrought from the THC molecule and its chemically related cousins by my brain.
My introduction to cannabis began eight years ago, when I was in the 9th grade of high school, only 15 years old. Realizing slowly that I was not cut from the same cloth as the mainstream society, I began to investigate different social paths, trying to find one where I could be the “me” that I subconsciously wanted to be. I was drawn towards the idea of mind “expansion” and the various altered states of awareness the human brain is able to support, and so, of course, I began by experimenting with the lightly rebellious habit of marijuana smoking. Peer pressure was not a motivating force for me. I simply wanted to see what it was like to have one’s mind vaulted into a different universe of experience. I was not disappointed.
I have heard stories of people who, upon smoking marijuana for the first time, notice little or no difference in their minds’ experiences. Luckily, my brain had no such difficulty in converting the chemical potential of THC into drastic behavioral alteration. In fact, it did so too well! I swore to myself, as I was laughing hysterically with my best friend in the back seat of a car, that I would never smoke marijuana again! The unique pain of intense, uncontrollable laughter was too much for my body to handle and I decided that this must never be experienced again. HA! The high state can produce such delusions sometimes…
In my high school years, I limited my use (wisely, I believe) to only once a month. It made each time a special, almost religious event, and I enjoyed every session with an intensity I never knew was possible. As evidence for the sagacity of moderation, I will mention that I graduated valedictorian from one of the most academically prestigious high schools in Kentucky and was also a National Merit Scholar. These rewards were not due to marijuana of course, but neither were they in spite of it.
In college, around the time of my junior year, I began to step up my usage. My training period was over, and I understood well how cannabis affected me. I knew when it was and when it wasn’t a good time for me to smoke. I knew when I had smoked too much. I knew how to use it in a way that would best suit my needs and help me to maximize my expected pleasure integral over the course of my life (this concept of “maximizing the pleasure integral” was concocted with the help of my friend, cannabis, when I was a freshman in college; interestingly, I recently discovered that a similar notion is used by some economists to describe consumer behavior and explain addictions). I feel that anyone who is thinking of making a lifelong acquaintance of ANY mind altering chemical would be well-advised to self-impose an introductory period of limited use in order to gain familiarization with all the subtleties of the chemical. I am still trying to learn all the little quirks of marijuana and its changing effects on my maturing mind.
Marijuana began to represent my cheese in the maze; as school intensified, I needed to keep pleasure and pain in an acceptable balance. Marijuana became a weekend treat that made the toils of the school week tolerable. In fact, I credit marijuana with showing me the deep truth-beauty of what I was being taught. After learning about quantum mechanics during the week, a marijuana-aided reflection on the topic could be profoundly inspiring! So much so that it was during this transition period of my usage style that I decided I would get a PhD in chemical engineering. Moreover, it was actually while I was high that I decided this! Before this transformation, I was complacently heading toward a bachelor’s degree followed by an immediate entry into the job market. Now my goal is to teach and conduct research at the university level – a career that I think will be many fold more satisfying for my personality – and I credit marijuana for helping me come to terms with this. I had never considered this option viable until marijuana forced me to ask, “Why the hell not?” I love learning about our universe and to simply stop at a bachelor’s degree, as my parents advised, would have been an unfulfilling choice for me. Now, as a graduate student, I am happily exploring the frontiers of human knowledge! Hopefully this anecdote helps to dispel the myth that marijuana makes you stupid and unmotivated (or at least is a data point that suggests the conclusion opposite to the conventional wisdom expounded by the drug warriors).
Throughout my undergraduate years, another important change took place: the marijuana experience began to morph into something I had only fleetingly encountered in high school. Occasionally, I would be presented with profound visions of philosophy, math, and science that would often stand the test of the coming day’s scrutiny. My sober self, though, seemed unable to appreciate the visions fully and was much more concerned with the day-to-day banalities that one need heed if one is to “survive” (laundry, cooking, homework, etc.). When I am high, the ideas come like an overwhelming flood. I try to write down as much as possible, but the act of transcribing is painfully slow relative to the torrent of ideas that is coursing by my mind’s eye. To deliver just one aborts five others! Some of my hIghdeas are silly, of course. Others have elements of sublime truth hidden inside them, although the wording of the ideas is often awkward. Regardless, I find that it almost never fails that during periods of intellectual despondency, a personal marijuana session perks my brain right up – for a few days at least – to all of the phenomenal mysteries surrounding us. I truly believe that evolution forces a stupidity on all of us that causes us to overlook the beauty of our world and the significance of our physical existence. Marijuana jars the mind out of its comfortably adaptive groove and screams, “Hey, look at how incredible all this is!”
To make what I am referring to more intellectually tangible, I have decided to show you some of my thoughts and ideas that I composed while high. Some sober editing has been done to eliminate grammatical and syntactical errors, but the kernels were all born from a brain accentuated by THC molecules. Unfortunately the most exciting thoughts pass unwritten because the act of writing, as I mentioned before, is not conducive to the act of enlightenment. It’s a tough call on whether or not a beautiful idea deserves a tame, long life or an impassioned ephemeral one. The quotations signify the “high” thought.
“The sound water makes reveals information about the structure of water. What is it about the sound form that allows us to say, ‘That is liquid; that is shattering; that is something metallic; that is clapping’? Of course our brain learns to associate the inner experience to the outer reality of the observed system, but that is not what I am thinking of. There is a physical structure underpinning the origin of the sound that imparts information about the state and arrangement of the molecules into the surrounding gaseous medium as patterns of density variation. Perhaps acoustic microscopy could yield as much information on the nature of a material as the electron methods…”
This little bit exploded like a bomb into my consciousness outside the Cincinnati Art Museum, while playfully splashing my hand in a fountain. That characteristic sound of splashing and flowing liquid saturated my mental awareness. How THC aids spontaneous revelation is a mystery that I have also pondered while high. However, too much recursive thought like that spins me round and round until I am hopelessly lost, so I do try to avoid such lines of contemplation.
“The appreciation of music is strongly linked to the language abilities of humans. Possibly the appreciation of music evolved first? How to prove this? Humans with brains that derived pleasure from organized patterns of sounds, capable of perceiving frequencies, rhythms, timbre, etc. would be more able to use those same sonic devices to convey meaningful information. A species capable of language could potentially dominate all evolutionary competitors.”
This thought occurred originally while listening to a brilliant piece of techno music in a friend’s basement. The realization that the beauty I was experiencing via the music could not be the result of some neutral mutation in the brains of all humans led me to see musical appreciation as an adaptive trait most plausibly linked to language. Further sober speculation has led me to conclude that the parts of the brain involved in finding music beautiful are probably useful in many other areas important to humans: mathematics comes to mind most immediately. The positive correlation observed between music and mathematical ability seems to be suggestive evidence of this. Evolution is an often-visited topic by my high mind; a THC-powered meditation on the path from molecules to man never fails to astonish me.
The sensation of having found the one and only truth of a subject seems to be a characteristic feature of many of my “high thoughts.” The THC enhanced mind can do some highly original analysis, but often at the cost of neglecting a reasonable survey of other possible explanations. Many times I have been certain of truth while high, only to later realize that what I was imagining to be the grand explanation of the matter was only a special case. Still, there is something to be said about the feeling of having uncovered profound truth, whether it is from the actual thing or a drug-induced delusion. In both situations, the mind perceiving the phenomenon is absolutely convinced of the reality of the conception. This important invariance makes any outside criticisms of the latter being less “real” than the former completely irrelevant to the person who is experiencing the emotion.
As an applied scientist, I crave the sensation of having illuminated a fundamentally important truth. All scientists should have the chance to feel that intense, satisfying joy that most of us are searching for with our research. A rare few are gifted enough to genuinely achieve it several times in their life. Marijuana allows you to visit the sensation temporarily without making a habit of being credulous; that would be suicide to any self-respecting scientist. It may seem a temporary madness, perhaps, but one not lacking in utility.
At 23, I still find marijuana a useful part of my life, although the intensity of the experience seems to be waning (this surprises me, actually, since there is some evidence that THC receptors increase in number with age). My favorite activities while high include watching an engaging movie, visiting a museum, listening to electronic music, and just plain ol’ brainstorming. I will probably continue to smoke for as long as I enjoy it, which, as far as I can see, will be for the rest of my life.
So those are some of my thoughts on a most complex subject. I hope I may have inspired you to responsibly explore the potential of a marijuana-mind-meld or, at the very least, respect those of us who do. If you don’t think society would benefit from the punishment of those like myself, whose only “crime” is smoking marijuana, then our laws clearly need to be changed. Please vote that way. Good luck in finding your happiness, wherever it may be!