The Case of the Conscious Connoisseur by Anonymous
The author is a successful attorney living in the northwestern United States. She is a happily married mother in her 40’s interested in music, dance, theater, cinema, international travel, gardening, and gourmet cooking. Her panoply of interests is intensified by her modest and periodic use. We dance with Sufis, canoe through wilderness waters, and visit Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, in this quest to further open the doors of consciousness.
I grew up in New York City, where I was never offered marijuana. I first sampled marijuana at the age of 16, during my senior year of high school, while visiting a boyfriend at a Massachusetts university. We were at a party given by friends of his who lived off-campus. I wasn’t aware of experiencing any particular change, but was told by fellow partygoers that I was sporting an “acid grin.” I had a good time, but hey, it was a party. I only tried it again once or twice before going away to a college in upstate New York where pot was prevalent. I obtained a small stash and smoked it from time to time, generally not daily or even weekly. This is still the extent of my practice.
From the time I became aware of marijuana’s effects, I was impressed by how powerful it was. Even with the less potent varieties of weed, I usually feel it after smoking a very small amount. With high-quality weed, one or two puffs will usually be sufficient. I discovered early on that more was not better, and that in fact, it was worse, especially if eaten. A small amount sufficed to “open the door” to greater focus, relaxation, creativity, laughter, and excitement. Anything beyond that was likely to produce anxiety, paranoia, and an uncomfortable, excessive loss of self-control.
The first obvious effect after inhalation is enhanced body awareness. I immediately become aware of the shallowness of my breathing, and my breath slows and deepens. I seem to feel every tangle in my hair and feel a need to brush or comb my hair. I then notice every area of tension in my body and stretch my legs, arms, back, and neck. I usually put on some music, or change the music, or do something to alter or optimize my environment. I completely lose my appetite for food, although I sometimes enjoy a glass of wine, especially if other people are present. (The appetite for food returns with a vengeance when the effects of the pot wear off.) I gain vastly increased appreciation for the subtleties of visual art. I start thinking in creative terms, and exploring the nature of my intoxication. I often wonder whether I can open the same doors without the drug, and if so, how. I become very attentive to what is going on both inside and around me, and I try to define what has happened to me. My quest for verbal explanations leads me through the world of words and into creating prose, poetry, and sometimes, songs. I often smoke in anticipation of experiencing live music. When appropriate, I dance, often wildly, including to the stereo at home. When dancing is inappropriate, such as at the opera, symphony performances or chamber music recitals, I sit transfixed, transcendent and transported to other realms, often inspired to create poetry and songs of my own. I often bring a pad and pen with me to express my inspirations during and after the show.
I’ve always had powerful memory for words and song lyrics, and an uncanny natural ability to unscramble words and create anagrams. I’ve always been a good Scrabble player, but during college days, I found that, under the influence of marijuana, my abilities improved further, and I came up with imaginative combinations that far surpassed my earlier efforts. I also find that I can play a better game of Encore – a parlor game where players must recall song lyrics containing a particular word – when I’ve smoked some pot. These enhancements run contrary to the notion that marijuana smoking adversely affects memory. I can also play ping-pong much better when I’m high, with increased physical coordination and less inhibition.
I also use the opportunity to ponder the problems of society, which usually leads to deeper spiritual inquiry. I have had numerous personal epiphanies while under the influence, and have learned important things about myself and have gained insights into my own behaviors, which have led me to take corrective or ameliorative actions.
Unlike alcohol, which has caused me to pass out at least twice in my life, marijuana has never put me out of commission, although I had one bad day about 25 years ago after consuming too many brownies baked with “green butter.” (Recipe: a large harvest’s worth of sticks, stems and twigs are boiled all day in a big pot of water with a pound or two of butter, then drained and after solidifying, the butter – now green, and containing the fat-soluble THC – is removed from the top of the water.)
After college, I moved to San Francisco, and lived in the Bay Area for more than 20 years. During that time, I usually kept a small stash, but used pot even less frequently, sometimes going many months or even a year between uses. I attended law school (graduating with highest honors and law review, notwithstanding my occasional marijuana use throughout the three years of law school) and worked as a lawyer, got married and divorced a couple of times, bore a child, and became involved with a lot of different people during my Bay Area years. I discovered, by trying it just once, that smoking marijuana and work (including school classes and schoolwork) do not go together at all well. I find that when I’m high, I do not like putting myself in a position where I have to do something I really don’t want to do, which usually includes working with others in an office. Especially when I’ve smoked, I don’t like being in a place where my conduct and performance are constantly scrutinized and evaluated.
About nine years ago, I moved to another state where I became licensed as an attorney, and where I was again married and divorced. For the past six years, I have been with my current husband. He is a wonderful, brilliant, happy man who grew up in a non-dysfunctional family (unlike my own family of origin) and who is almost always smiling. I call him a Buddha because he naturally practices non-attachment, without aspiring to any particular religious or spiritual ideology. He does not smoke pot or use any drugs; he is extremely susceptible to alcohol and gets looped on two glasses of wine, so he doesn’t drink much either. He has encouraged me to continue smoking pot, and enjoys being with me when I have smoked. He agrees with my decision to keep it from the kids (I’m concerned with the children’s use causing possible lack of motivation, impairment of school performance and social function, not to mention legal problems) for the time being, and has cooperated with me in keeping my practices discreet.
As a rule, even people who know me well cannot tell when I have smoked. They may notice my good mood, but since I am usually cheerful anyway, they don’t associate the increased giggling with drug use. This is fortunate, because I have three kids: a 15 year old daughter who lives with me, as well as 15 and 12 year old stepdaughters who are in my home half the time. As far as I know, they have never sampled marijuana, although my daughter has been offered it more than once at school by classmates who are open about their use. Because I believe that marijuana, like alcohol, requires mature, adult judgment, and moderation in use, I would strongly prefer that the children not start smoking or drinking until they are well into, or even past, their college careers. I realize they may start sooner, but I don’t want to be the reason, so I keep my past and present drug use a secret from them, although I do drink moderately in their presence.
I enjoy a glass or two of wine with a special dinner once in a while, and a cocktail or beer occasionally, and probably consume alcohol on the average of three to four times a month. I consider marijuana a far superior recreational drug. When I have consumed alcohol, I cannot drive as well, or function well in other ways. When I’m high on pot, I can drive just fine, and the only thing I do differently when driving is make 100% sure that I’m not going over the speed limit at all – making me a much safer driver. I’m aware of a tendency to drive too slowly when stoned, so I always try to stay right at the speed limit. In many other activities, my functioning under the influence of marijuana actually seems to improve. Some examples are: singing, dancing, playing piano, writing poetry, joking, socializing and relating to others, especially children. I often question whether my functioning is truly improved, or whether it just feels like it when I’m stoned. When looking at the fruits of my actions after straightening out, I am usually convinced that I really did perform better while under the influence of THC.
I have tried, but do not particularly like, amphetamines and cocaine. I have also tried, and am interested in further experimentation with, psychedelics, including psilocybin mushrooms (with no effect – they were probably bad) and LSD. I did not try LSD until I was in my early 40’s, and I have tried it no more than six or seven times, and only during times when my children and I were separated by many miles. I am curious to sample Ecstasy, but have concerns about its safety. I would also consider trying mushrooms again, as well as peyote and ayahuasca, if I could do so under the right circumstances. I very often experience extremely vivid visual as well as auditory “hallucinations” and colorful images while stoned, and sometimes while straight.
During my college years, I became initiated into transcendental meditation by a designee of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This required that I give up alcohol, caffeine and marijuana for a month prior to initiation, and to remain away from these substances. I found meditation very helpful, but I did return to occasional substance use after several months. I also got involved in hatha yoga soon thereafter. Over the years, I have explored many types of psychotherapy, self-help and spiritual practices, my favorites being neurolinguistic programming as described by Tony Robbins, Buddhist detachment practices, Course in Miracles forgiveness practices, affirmations, and the Dances of Universal Peace and other spiritual practices given by teachers within the Sufi tradition (the lineage of Hazrat Inayat Kahn and Murshid Samuel Lewis). I have never derived great spiritual satisfaction (although I have at times gained a pleasant sense of culture and community) from Judaism, my religion of birth (though not training) nor from Christianity, although I have taken some interest in both.
Part of my spiritual and religious explorations has been my quest to find other ways of opening the doors that marijuana seems to open. I have also tried to induce a placebo effect (is that oxymoronic?). Sometimes I think I can, only to realize I actually haven’t.
I find it hard to believe that the places I visit in my head when I’m stoned are either not there or completely inaccessible without using the “key” of pot. Although I can’t simulate the state of mind 100%, and not always at-will, I sometimes can put myself in a heightened state of awareness without imbibing any substances. At such times, I am delighted to rediscover the joys of dancing, singing, writing, and dreaming in free-flowing mode, and I thus remain occasionally encouraged in my otherwise seemingly futile quest to replicate marijuana’s effects without any chemicals.
I have had the great pleasure of enhancing travel experiences with marijuana. In the summer of 1972, I visited Europe for the first time, traveling mostly by myself for three months. Twice during the trip, I visited Amsterdam, which was quite different from the way it is now – currently, pot is sold in licensed “coffeeshops.” Back in the Ô70’s, marijuana and hashish flowed openly and freely throughout the city, and an overriding sense of personal freedom pervaded the atmosphere, and persists to this day. When I finally returned to Europe in October of 2001, I again visited Amsterdam, and enjoyed dropping into different coffeeshops and sampling the wares (including “Blueberry,” the winner of the Cannabis Cup Prize awarded annually in the fall by a panel organized by High Times magazine) without fear and for mere pennies. On both trips to Europe, I found that my experience of walking around a foreign city – a wonderful thing in itself – was even more exciting and sparkling with the added gloss of a marijuana high. It was a special thrill, on both trips, to smoke pot prior to visiting the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. I will not take the risk of crossing international borders in possession of pot, so I was only able to use it in Europe while visiting the Netherlands (although I was aware of pot and hash smoking on the trains and in the parks in Germany and the Czech Republic during my recent trip).
I have also visited the Hawaiian Islands on about ten occasions from 1974 to 2001, and on most of these visits, I have either brought marijuana along or obtained it there. Again, the vibrant colors, unforgettable flora and fauna, and caressing warm breezes and waters of the tropics are inherently enormously pleasurable, and yet, a toke of marijuana takes the experience to an even higher, almost orgasmic, level. I would caution against swimming or snorkeling while under the influence of any intoxicant, since hyperventilation and lack of judgment can occur, with disastrous consequences. I usually avoid these problems by using the “buddy system,” and I am very fortunate to have my husband as a buddy. I have also brought pot along on backpacking and other wilderness trips, including 5-day canoe trips in the Boundary Waters between Minnesota and Canada, and on cross-country ski trips, day trips to the coast, and local day hikes. My experience of nature is vastly enhanced and deepened by the use of marijuana. I often become much more relaxed and far less nervous about walking over logs across streams, or other seemingly hazardous stepping places. I don’t become brazen, but I do relax enough to make it safe, and I enjoy a sense of empowerment and victory over my own self-sabotaging fears and habits.
I believe it is no accident that many peace-loving people are pot smokers – pot makes me even more committed to peace, justice and love in my life and in the world. I find it interesting, and significant, that the federal war on drugs is being stepped up (in part, by the appointment of an especially rabid new drug “czar” who believes in increased criminal penalties and feels that treatment and education are useless) at the same time the federal government is conducting an international war, and eliminating constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties in the process.