Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

We're Not Bluffing Anymore by "E. Cleaves"

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

A materialistic couple with a hidden past awaken to the memory of their true selves. They shed their masks, yet remain at the dance.

Turns out we both like nude beaches. Who could’ve guessed it? Now I know her secret. She knows mine. We have marijuana to thank for it. For as long as I can remember, my wife and I cultivated images of innocence and sweetness, each of us thinking that that’s what the other wanted. Not so hard to believe if you consider the kinds of pre-cast molds this society expects people to slip into. We wiggled and stuffed ourselves into the All-American form, stamped ourselves pure with Laura Ashley and Brooks Brothers, and moved to Peoria. Fear of betrayal didn’t crop up because we lived a thousand miles from anyone who’d known either of us back when. Careers and money formed the focus of our lives. We scaled ladders quickly, gained notice from people at the top of our professions, and moved to larger and larger cities. Brighter lights, famous restaurants, bigger names, larger houses, and newer cars. We knew how to act happy, did so, and were good at it, but what bubbled to the surface didn’t come from very deep. We talked a lot about IRA’s and vacation homes, wallpaper and antiques, dogs and Porsches because that’s what we thought we were supposed to do.

That’s what parent pleasers do. They live lives subject to someone else’s expectations. Thirteen years into this, we’d had enough. We realized that we were walking on a volcano and our marriage could explode at any time. What opened our eyes to this we still don’t know. Probably just plain old fatigue. Tired of the chase. But we knew enough to change directions and accepted an offer to move to a small coastal California town.

First impression of our new environment: time stopped in about May of 1969. Environmentalists dominate local politics. Old VW Buses outnumber luxury cars. Sandals, no wing tips. Natural, no make-up. Organic, no pesticides. Bob Marley, not Garth Brooks. We didn’t know the land and couldn’t peg any of the faces yet all was well understood, if not familiar. The people in our new community marched and protested their way out here several decades ago. They brought with them new beliefs and value systems; and, some of them brought along a good supply of cannabis seeds. New friends began telling us that they’d been growing and smoking marijuana for more than 30 years. It had become a part of their lifestyle. They asked me if I liked getting stoned. I laughed, looked at my wife, and navigated my way out of the conversation.

My wife and I hardly talked about it. The next time at our friends’ house, however, I smoked their home grown herb as the joints passed from one person to the next. My wife’s reaction was guarded and it would take her a bit longer to decide to try it. Being stoned opened my mind and heightened my senses to such a degree that I saw in detail the path to shedding the actor’s costume I’d been wearing and letting the original copy of myself show through. For the first time in my recent memory I had followed my own instincts, laid myself open to the judgment or indifference of others, and found within myself a chance to be better. I had relearned what happiness feels like.

My use of marijuana became more frequent until I was smoking about every other day. Now a year in our new home, my wife was still reluctant to try it, although I’m convinced that she’d experienced some contact highs. In fact, it was she who correctly noted that the reason we seemed so comfortable with our new friends lay in their sense of peace, simplicity, honesty, and openness. As it happened, she told me this on a night when I’d enjoyed a particularly smooth and pleasing joint. We explored what she’d said and, with inhibitions removed, I was willing to talk openly and candidly about it all and concluded that we were not the what-you-see-is-what-you-get people our friends were and that it was time that we smoked our way out of our old, established ways and out of the kind of thinking that had come with us from our past. My wife decided to try it.

Marijuana induced conversations, the likes of which we’d never had in all our years of marriage, followed. I confessed that, far from being a novice with the sacred herb, I had eaten ganja brownies at concerts as far back as high school and college and loved every bite. I told of my roommate who was a grower and how I rode with him to get his seeds and cultivating equipment. We’ve had good laughs about it, real laughs, for the first time since we’ve known each other.

We learned that each of us had experienced deep intimacy with other people before we’d met, something we’d each long denied and always avoided discussing. We found that we both wanted to go for a romp on a hedonistic nude beach, and we discovered that neither of us had ever found much satisfaction in the bigness and richness of our previous life. We both confessed to problems and dysfunctions in our families and a lack of good marital role models.

Interestingly, none of this hurt. Marijuana, instead of leading us to confrontations about hiding secrets or lying all these years, filled us with a desire to discuss these things all the more. Nor did we accept all these revelations as just minor aggravations. We received them as if they were expected. We saw each other, for the first time, as flawed as everyone else and found in that a kind of relief that dropped the weight of stainlessness and conformity forever. Our use of the herb continues and we find out more about ourselves all the time. But far from being stoner dropouts, we use marijuana prudently and we find that, just as our home life improves, so our work continues to improve because, we believe, we’re more relaxed in our approach to it.

It’s a state of being we realize others may find hard to accept. That’s fine with us. We had to break free, though. We’re both the products of a destructive, conservative way of thinking that leads people to fear that if they set one foot out of line they’ll have to face society’s meanness. I’m convinced that this contributed to the behavior of our early years.

But in the end, we’ve discovered that what we both really want is contentment with what we have rather than the perfectionism of accumulation and put-ons. Marijuana has landed us solidly into a groove of change; it’s broken down barriers between us, and probably saved our marriage and family. We have a heightened sense of what we’re all about as a couple, we’re better parents, and more compassionate people, and now know that at our core is a need for plain talk and self-content. Most important, we’re no longer bluffing our way through life. The moment is real for us now.

Up From Illegitimacy by Anonymous

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The author of this piece is a 21-year-old political science honors student at a New England university. He prefers moments of beneficial introspection and solitude in his occasional experiences, while ruefully noting the harmless utility of the plant must be kept secret.

On the topic of why I get stoned, there are many reasons why I enjoy the feeling of being high; some are quite simple and obvious, and others are more revealing about my personality and the inner workings of my thoughts. Describing to somebody the sensation of being high is akin to explaining color to a blind man, but I will do my best.

I like to use marijuana depending on the different context during which I will be high. These contexts are juxtaposed as what one could call the “social” and “introspective.” As I move on in age and experience (I am presently 21 and have been using marijuana since age 17), it is increasingly rare that I smoke marijuana in social situations, such as when going out with friends; I do not find the marijuana high in most circumstances congenial to extroversion or gregariousness. Nonetheless, with certain friends and during certain activities, I find marijuana to be a social drug, particularly when everyone in the group smokes together and is on the same wavelength, so to speak. Being stoned among people who are not stoned (and who do not know you are stoned) can be an extremely uncomfortable experience. But for he most part, those days ended early on in my college years. I now smoke for different, more personal reasons.

When I smoke and I am in a certain mood – a ruminative mood, usually when I need to think or much has happened that I should have thought about – being stoned both focuses my mind by filtering out the trivia in my life and also slightly alters the conclusions I reach while thinking. I think that, as time moves on and events unfold, I build up a need for solitude in order to think and wander around the expanses of my mind. My desire for the particular intoxication which marijuana provides is thus occasional in nature, not everyday and familiar – it is employed not as a constant companion or everyday indulgence but instead as a utilitarian substance providing both physical pleasure and psychological tranquility.

Being stoned creates a sort of switch in my thoughts; in a sense, I become intellectually and emotionally a slightly different person, a person that is more calm and introspective and inclined to pursue different avenues of thought. Getting stoned, in an odd sense, is like getting a second opinion, from myself. Of course, I manage life’s affairs soberly and competently like any person who has their psychological house in order, yet the desire to get stoned builds up as the events compile in my psyche. Getting high for the purpose of introspection (which is usually the only time I smoke anymore) causes me to focus on or discover ideas that never occurred to me, and put events in their proper order of importance; it’s an antidote to pedantry. Getting stoned gives my rational thoughts a rigorous examination from my marijuana-altered psyche. I think about my plans for next semester and next year, my professors and classes, relationships with friends and lovers, past and present. Indeed, while stoned, thoughts and memories become tinctured with a more emotional nostalgia, perhaps a longing for the past or at least a better understanding of it. I’m not sure if that’s the right way to describe this phenomenon, but while stoned I tend to view the events of past years more viscerally, more recent, cutting and profound.

Getting stoned makes me feel alive, in touch with a part of me that is normally inaccessible, a part that is differently creative and differently able to judge life’s events and future possibilities. Being drunk is heavy and sluggish on the mind and the next day’s memories of the previous night are cloudy, desultory, and numbed. But the marijuana high is immaculate, poignant, lucid, revealing, and thoughtful. It is pleasant because I usually become content simply shutting myself in my room, browsing my bookcase, leisurely reading a magazine, or just bumbling around playing songs and organizing stuff in my room.

The most demoralizing and outrageous aspect of this is that it causes me to live a kind of double existence and put up a fake countenance in certain situations. It’s like I have a secret life that I believe is entirely legitimate, virtuous, and healthy, but I cannot allow most people to know about it because they are convinced, through supine gullibility or dubious information, that my informed, rational, and deliberate choice is immoral and harmful. Imagine if everybody who liked having a gin and tonic once in a while had to do so with the knowledge that they would become an instant pariah (or maybe end up in jail) if their behavior became known. That’s the life of the marijuana smoker.

Twinkly by "Twinkly"

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Twinkly is a 24-year-old woman from the Midwest, a high school graduate with plans to attend college. She grew up in a suburban town with both parents, an older brother and a younger sister. Currently, she works as a Customer Service Representative. She says of herself that she has “…had a life-long struggle with stress and depression, but have managed to work hard enough to start realizing my goals and dreams of helping others. I am a survivor of sexual abuse and its effects. The closed-in world of loneliness and shame that I have had to endure for most of my life no longer exists. I attribute much of my personal spiritual success to a wonder-herb called marijuana.”

I started smoking pot when I was 16 or 17. Always in social situations because it was fun. It added so much to a party. Usually my friends and I would turn on some Pink Floyd or Jimi Hendrix, dim the lights, flip the switch on the lava lamps to “on,” and toke on a big “fatty.” It’s amazing how almost everyone is hilarious when they are high. Every once in a while there would be a big party to go to where we were all stoned, but mostly it was just a group of 4 or 5 people in somebody’s living room or basement, or other toking headquarters. We’d smoke and drink and play video games and smoke and talk and drink and get the munchies and smoke and talk and smoke and drink and then pass out. Boy we slept great! So, “in the beginning,” pot was just part of the party. A great buzz with great friends.

When I was 18, I met a guy who was 22. He was awesome! He partied, too, so of course we hooked up and partied together. We were a couple. He liked my friends, I liked his friends. To make the story short(er), we moved in together. One of the decisions that we made was to stop smoking pot. We were going to settle down and make a life for ourselves and not party as much. Well, it never quite happened that easily. We did continue to ride on the party train for a while and had people over a lot. Until…I started having major problems. I was starting to get so stressed out and MEAN. Rabid dog comes to mind. I was so unhappy and cried a lot. I alienated most of my friends, quit my job, and started acting abusively towards my boyfriend. I stopped smoking pot, thinking that it was the pot that made me “psycho.”

Well, needless to say, pot was the least of my problems and quitting the habit did absolutely nothing for my predicament. I stayed in this “slump” for quite a while. I have had slumps before, but never this long. I started getting more violent and having flashbacks of horrible things and being moody all the time. I started to realize that I was suffering from some kind of depression, but did not want to attribute it to what I knew it probably was. I was abused when I was very young. Very young. My grandfather sexually molested me from the age of about 3 to 7 or 8. I had never told anyone at the time, but at 13 years of age, I did tell my mother about it. My grandfather died when I was 10, so obviously there was no confrontation. I had gone to therapy two different times, once at the age of 15 and again at 17. My parents seemed to think I was acting out and unhappy. The latter was true, but the former only consisted of breaking curfew. I cried every time my father busted me for something. We are too much alike to have had a sensible argument.

Well, at this point, I did not know what to do so I tried therapy again at a local counseling center. Since I didn’t have a job I got all of it for free. My boyfriend was supporting me financially, so I really felt free to focus on my issues and try to make some breakthroughs and heal myself. I went to therapy once a week and was on medication. Some of the great side effects of this medication were nausea (yea!), vomiting (yea!), insomnia (double-yea), and sexual dysfunction (just what I needed)! So, I tried this therapy for a while and felt some improvement, but being on the medication seemed to “take my problems away,” so eventually my therapy sessions consisted of me talking about how great life is and that the hangnail I got the other day pissed me off, but I was pretty much stress free. So, I decided to end the therapy. During my therapy months, I occasionally smoked pot about once a month or so when someone had it, or when we would go camping; but it was a far cry from the earlier 3 or 4 times a week.

I was fine for a while…a while being about 7 months or so, but then I started to get pissed off and stressed out and bitchy. This time I was bound and determined to at least try and conquer some of my issues so that I wouldn’t have to go through this for the rest of my life. I felt like I needed some pot to get me through and so my boyfriend (who put up with me through all that) was able to bring home the bacon. Aaah! Relief! I could not believe that I had really ever thought that pot had made me nasty and moody! This felt wonderful! There was such an immediate change and my boyfriend noticed it, too. I felt so much more laid back and not as high strung. The job that I had at the time was still there, and better. My stress level was way down. My relationship improved. And I felt damn good!

I did not go to therapy at all. Thought about it, but felt that I could not go back to therapy again until I found what was in myself to be able to make it productive. So begins the journey into finding myself…I so thoroughly believed that marijuana has promoted my abilities to “find myself.” This new experience with marijuana was definitely different from what I had experienced before. I did not want to party.

I just wanted to be like I was when I was on marijuana. To explain, let me just say that I was so much more tuned-in to myself and others. I could concentrate on my fears, my turmoil, my stress, my problems, and turn them into plans on healing and freeing myself from lifelong chains that had bound me. I felt calm and relaxed and capable of dealing with who I was, good or bad. And what were the side effects? Occasionally, I forgot where I put the damn car keys…oh, that’s right, they’re on my night stand… and fatigue. Whenever I felt fatigued, I took a nap, and would cut down on smoking marijuana 3-4 times a week to about 2-3 times. This seemed to do the trick. I would say a heckuva’ lot better than nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction. I have never had any other kinds of side effects from marijuana other than these. Since I have tried this illegal therapy technique, I have been able to realize things about myself and the world around me. I am a much better person for it. When I do feel stressed out, I go for the marijuana before anything else because it helps.

I have been told that my diagnoses are “Major Depression,” “Social Phobia,” and “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” So, as far as medical use goes, I think that it has definitely been a Godsend to help me cope with these disorders. I am so much more calm in general. I am able to look deeper inside myself to make good, sound decisions based on my true beliefs and morals. I am not violent. I have a greater appreciation for life, people, and my surroundings. I love who I am and what I am, even if I don’t like what has happened to me. I have acquired such sensitivity to those around me and a loving kindness towards all things. I have such an open mind and see such objectivity in things that used to make me so horribly angry! There are so many other wonderful things that I have been able to experience differently or delve into a little deeper using marijuana. It clarifies things that are important and good for me. I am hoping that others have found this “way” or will soon find it even though marijuana is still illegal. This would be such a kinder, gentler, laid-back world if we did.

To sum it all up, I’m still with my boyfriend of 6 years and I do go to therapy every once in a while. I have tried other medications, but none work as well. Much to the disapproval of my therapist, I still smoke marijuana when I get stressed or can’t handle my issues. It helps calm me down enough to deal with them, not to ignore them. I never drink alcohol because I think it makes me lose control. I don’t feel that marijuana is a problem or a “way out.” I am responsible for me and my well being and my relationships. Marijuana has definitely been a good enlightener for me to improve myself, my well being, and my relationships!!!

The Spice of Life by Martin Martinez

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Martin Martinez is the author of Cannabis Indications, a reference manual of scientific research on medical marijuana. He has been active in the medicalization movement since his medical necessity trial of 1997. Martin’s history of medical marijuana use is found here. The following account illustrates some non-medical cannabis experiences that have helped shape the author’s intuitive awareness.

The late Frank Herbert is widely regarded as one of the greatest science fiction writers to ever engage the human imagination. Yet, it is the universality, the intimate understanding of human experience and social organizations that makes Herbert’s works relevant to every day and age. Herbert’s Dune series is a futuristic story of intergalactic intrigue and interplanetary conflict concerning the spice, a precious mind-altering substance with myriad practical uses. For those who read between the lines, Dune offers profound lessons on politics, economics, colonial expansion, class struggle, religious fanaticism, and other forces of group behavior. Dune is also rich in microcosmic wisdom, cleverly detailing dozens of classic roles, illustrating traits such as love, self-discipline, and devotion to duty, as well as many less admirable traits which humans have frequently displayed throughout history. Although decidedly fantastic, the most valuable qualities found in Herbert’s books are definitely not conveyed in either of the words “science,” or “fiction.”

The spice enables space pilots to navigate the quantum leap of intergalactic travel. It enables the Bene Gesserit witches to access the combined knowledge of their hereditary ancestors. Mentats, human logicians with computer-like brains, depend on the spice to unravel their complex equations. Seers and mystics of every type value the spice for heightening awareness. For the masses, it is simply an invaluable medicine that extends life and imparts wisdom. Any scholar of the popular Dune series might easily draw parallels between the politics of the spice and the politics of oil and other basic commodities here on Earth. Herbert’s spice is a drug, but I do not think that Herbert intended the spice to represent cannabis. In my view, however, that interpretation is incontrovertible.

Like most young experimenters, I first used marijuana in the company of other young experimenters. The mysterious lore of acquiring and consuming marijuana was central to our small societies. Secret rituals and private amusements united us in a world outside of ordinary experience. Lacking a better description, those sort of gatherings might be called pot “parties,” but our so-called recreational use of marijuana bore absolutely no resemblance to the alcoholic frenzy of our more conventional classmates. In our youthful circles, no one was compelled to share the marijuana experience. Those in possession, however, were always obliged to share their marijuana. Friends indeed, we were quick to pass a precious joint. Stifled coughs and appreciative comments were invariably followed by seemingly brilliant wit and silly giggles. A second joint passed with enthusiastic conversation or perhaps sophomoric improvisational theatre. As the smoke continued to pass among us, a more subdued mood settled on the circle. Serious subjects explored in-depth, inner conflict born to expression, deep soul-searching with the help of a young peer; these and other important developments were serenely aided by mild cannabis intoxication.

Whatever the topic, our thoughts became animated. A haze of pungent smoke served as backdrop for our mental projections. When the brightness had faded to a soft glow, we sometimes sank into the comfort of worn furniture for timeless moments of dreamy peace. Many pot “parties” I attended were simply a small group of friends who sat, smoked, smiled, and shared a common trance, complete with incense and appropriate music. An outside observer would have been hard pressed to distinguish the true content of our private hilarity and drifting contemplation. Only those within the circle were sometimes deeply aware of each other’s thoughts, non-verbally bonded in smoke-colored minds.

While a common myth purports that cannabis use impairs memory function, I have learned quite the opposite. I remember very clearly, sitting still in my room, adrift, alone in the haze of intoxicating cannabis smoke. Huge billows danced like dragons. Breathing deep, in perfect repose, vibrant lights swirled in perfect syncopation behind my closed eyelids. I sailed inner space, cresting brilliant waves of spontaneous creativity. My internal dialogue bubbled brightly. I bathed in vivid streams of abstract conception. I remember then, remembering when, knowing many things that are not easily put into words, however clearly I might recall the scent. I spent several years intentionally deepening this associative acuity, heavily saturated with large doses of cannabis compounds. Endless hours quietly passed in smoke-induced contemplation did absolutely nothing for my material well being. Still, the wordless expressions unfolding within were invaluable to my mental development. I secretly felt kinship with the fictional characters of Dune who attained supernatural awareness through repeated ingestion of the spice.

Déja-vu is defined as the illusion of having previously experienced something that is actually experienced for the first time. That contemporary English language definition of déja-vu does not describe my unusual mnemonic experiences as accurately as the original French phrase which meant simply “already seen.” On numerous occasions, a certain scene, setting, saying, or scent, has inexplicably triggered the clear recollection of a dream I had previously had concerning that particular experience. Remembering a dream that occurred before the event that was dreamed about is a profound experience that defies an easy explanation. At certain strange moments of my life, poignant memories have echoed and re-echoed in my mind like majestic chimes from somewhere beyond time. On a few rare occasions, I have remembered experiences that had yet to transpire at the time of the recollection. Yes, I have actually remembered elements from my own future many years before they occurred. Cynics may immediately dismiss these claims as drug-induced fantasy. Less critical observers might note a smattering of scholarly research indicating that cannabis compounds stimulate certain memory centers in the brain. Still, the pragmatic validity of my prescient memories remains wholly unsupported. I concede that my grasp on reality can only be appreciated by those who have personal knowledge of similar experiences.

I once chided my friend for his extreme caution upon exiting my driveway. He seemed to have a mild phobia. He verbalized his fears as some kind of intuitive awareness; he sensed a distinct danger. One week later his car was struck from behind while entering my driveway. Was he somehow clairvoyant? Did he psychically sense the event prior to its occurrence? Is it really possible to know future events? In the material world of physical bodies hurtling through space, the world of police reports and insurance settlements, these questions are completely unreal. In my furiously curious mind, however, these are among the most important questions of all.

In one of the later volumes of Dune, a great hero is blinded, yet manages to baffle observers by defeating an adversary in hand-to-hand combat. The hero was an extraordinarily gifted seer. He could actually see the present unfold just moments before it actually happened, due to many years spent ingesting tremendous doses of the mind-altering spice. While that colorful tale is certainly a work of fiction, I find the underlying premise hauntingly familiar.

What is reality? A physician sees a human body made of organs and inter-related biological systems. A biochemist sees a human body comprised of proteins, polypeptides, and an intricate array of chemical bonds. A chemist, on the other hand, sees a complex molecular structure of protons, neutrons, electrons, and other mathematically definable properties that are the minuscule building blocks of the visible world. In the 20th century, science has delved even deeper into the question of ultimate reality. Quantum physics studies the nature of reality in the unimaginably tiny world of subatomic particles. While the fascinating topic deserves much more than this short reference, it is indeed scientifically apparent that, at the sub-atomic level of reality, the material world of physical objects hurtling through space is intimately connected to our perceptions. Yes, as wise mystics have known for untold ages, we are not separate from our experiences. Our thoughts define reality. Our minds are literally at the center of physical manifestation.

A modern neurologist might presume that all thoughts and feelings will eventually be defined and understood as mere chemistry, that the human mind is nothing but synaptic responses of the brain. That mechanistic thinking is a sort of self-fulfilling prophesy; the neurologist collects information that supports his theory while disregarding alternate concepts. I prefer a different theory, one that explains the evidence I have discovered. I have asked many people a simple question: “Have you ever been busy doing something, and then suddenly you realized that someone was watching you from behind, and when you turned around, you found that someone really was watching you?” The answer I have found is usually yes. Although most of the people I have polled have had a similar experience at least once in their lives, very few are able to answer a much simpler second question, such as, “How is that possible?” Sensing that someone is watching from a distance is so common it is frequently depicted in dramatic movies and television shows. However, common as it may be, a workable neurological explanation for this phenomenon remains entirely elusive. As in the case of friends who seem to share thoughts, and at those moments where past and future seem to connect, I ask myself a more specific question: what is that essential element connecting our minds through space and time?

If we look at a crystal-clear glass full of water, it is easy to see the form of the glass reflected by light. Accurately observing the water, however, is relatively impossible. Light passes right through the water and we can only see blurry images of objects outside of the glass. While we may detect air bubbles in the water, and the surface may be clearly defined, the water itself is all but invisible. In dim lighting, we might easily mistake a full glass for an empty one. But if another element is added, like a few drops of food coloring, then the existence of the water becomes instantly immutable.

I know of no nobler quest than that of the infinite mind. While far less dramatic than the fictional spice of Dune, cannabis really is a magical herb. Cannabis smoke colors perception with a radiant glow. As in the case of a clear glass of water, the mind becomes more obvious with the addition of a light haze.

In Dune, the orange spice was known to cast a user’s eyes in a deep blue hue. On Earth, the green herb called cannabis causes a slight reddening of the eyes. The spice was prized for its power to expand the mind and enhance memory beyond ordinary limits. Cannabis is often credited with enhancing artistic sensibilities and deepening natural awareness. The aboriginal spice-users were called Freemen. They were nomads of the desert in rebellion against the Empire. American pot smokers were once called hippies. They rejected mainstream society, seeking peace, love, and freedom. The political struggle for control of the spice ultimately led to a holy war that ravaged the known universe. The political suppression of cannabis has led to an unholy drug war, a crusade against free thought in the alleged “land of the free.”

I have used cannabis as a sacrament, not in dogmatic ritual, but in constant practice for most of my life. I have spent many hours in deep trance, with cannabis smoke thick in my mind, illuminating invisible space with brilliance and depth. I have seen without eyes, heard without ears, and understood without words. Difficult to express, yet there is almost no need. I am sure many readers already share these thoughts, and that is beautiful, perfect communication. But awareness alone will not insure its own survival. Our thoughts must take solid, rational form if we are to legalize the use of cannabis, a wondrous aid to psychic development.

The Senses by Anonymous

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The following is part of a much longer essay written by a writer-photographer who is now in her eighties. She prefers to remain anonymous. Her essay encompasses a truly broad and sensitive spirit, and the perspective of a long and observant life.

Knowledge gained through the senses seems the most superior because most intimately and vitally gained, closest to real truth. To be open to that kind of knowledge helps one to understand Miguel Cervantes’ statement, “Facts are the enemy of truth.”

The two sensual organs that provide me with the most pleasure when stoned are the eyes and ears. The enlarged awareness through them is fascinating and has changed my life. Hearing and seeing become activities in which one feels more of a participation than before. For me there is a new intimacy, new discoveries to be made through those senses, new dimensional qualities in both. Sometimes music seems to surround me and I feel almost a part of it. The stoned consciousness likes complexity of form in music, as well as sights, and often experiences both simultaneously, one enriching the other. This intensified awareness of forms while stoned is what makes me feel that some chemical like that in grass is a natural part of the brains of all artists and creative thinkers.

Sensual complexity is possible because the senses are intensified and the mind is in some way slowed to a rate of perception at which concentration and contemplation can take place. Then, complex sensual experiences become richly dimensional in time and space. Listening to complex music, watching leaves move in the wind with the light on them, birds flying, all natural movements and colors experienced at the same time can be a great pleasure.

As a student of Spanish for several years, through my grass experiences I have come to the conclusion that one comprehends a foreign language better when stoned for the same reason, that the stoned person can observe nature in a different way. It is because he is more aware of the parts making the whole, in addition to increased awareness of the whole; that is, a wider door to perception is opened. I think that one simple reason children learn foreign languages more easily is that they hear better and can repeat what they hear accurately. It is easier stoned to distinguish the nuances of a foreign language or anything else in a perceptual way. The words do not run together in a blur as they often do when not stoned; and part of the new openness and facility remains in regular consciousness. The foreign language, even an unfamiliar one, sounds more normal and natural when stoned, less foreign than before. This is true of the sound of sung lyrics also, in any language, even in opera. The foreign vocabulary is recalled more easily to the stoned mind, and this further convinces me that language study is less intellectual than many people think it is. Some type of relaxed openness is required in the approach to a foreign language and grass provides it for me.

Bird watching is also an increased pleasure when stoned. The eyes are sharpened and one can better distinguish details and at the same time the outline of the bird. The mind seems to perceive the bird differently in movement; it is not that the bird is slower, but when stoned, the bird just seems to give the eyes more time to see, to observe the beautiful flight patterns of its wings, and therefore to know the bird better.

The timber on far mountains and other fine detail not ordinarily noticed can be seen stoned, as well as, at the same time, the broad forms of the mountain in relationship to the sky and foreground. It is the same process of the mind that allows one to better comprehend a foreign language.

I believe that rock music is so popular at this time because its quality of complexity appeals to grass smokers. The poetic lyrics and string sounds combined with a steady organic rhythm makes it a more inwardly felt sound than jazz, which is more of an emotional statement that projects outward. Rock is not as social as jazz, despite rock festivals where large crowds gather. Because of its projection, jazz requires active spatial dancing, and expresses less complex feelings. Rock is contemplative music, the sound more intimately heard by the individual. It activates inward emotions in a different way from jazz. I believe that is the reason that rock stars are so idolized by young girls. The rock music helps them to grow emotionally, to find and define themselves, and they idolize those who bring it to them.

I feel that grass causes anyone to become more creatively orientated and that is why the Beatles became so much a part of the early era of marijuana use. The Beatles’ music, compared to the pop music that preceded it, was fresh, complex and unpredictable, all qualities of art. The influence of grass use is part of the change in modern popular movies also, which now have a more honest and artistic orientation.

Because of the nature of our society, our minds may to some extent have been conditioned to go too fast. Ordinarily my mind skims over things, but with grass, it becomes leisurely; can stop and examine an idea, develop it, allow the subconscious to open the door and let in surprises. To the stoned mind music seems to move through time at exactly the right speed and the music addresses the listener in an intimate way; the slowed mind can attend the music. When the stoned person is relating with the music, he is aware that each part of the music has its own definite spatial place and is aware of several spatial and timely dimensions. So one is both closely with the music and transcendentally away from it, a great pleasure.

In stoned consciousness, one feels more closely related to nature, conceiving nature in the process to be infinitely and constantly creating and renewing itself. One wonders if that concept of nature causes the person who uses grass respectfully and ritualistically to become more creative, or to allow his creative being to emerge in a fuller sense. One learns to accept nature and oneself as a part of it, feels a transference to nature, to feeling naturally directed; the experience of psychic relaxation allows one to know who he is as he becomes more inner-directed. He is able to recognize as false and to throw off images of identity that have been thrust upon him by the society – images that did not fit. The stoned consciousness permits one to throw off all the false ones and to recognize and accept the image that is right and true. He gets a perspective in psychological depth, and is able to recognize truly how things came about, how he reacted and was shaped by certain experiences of the past which gave him pain or pleasure. Also, of course he is able to analyze current experience in the same way. Because of this understanding, one experiences a feeling of triumph; that is, the triumph supposed to be achieved by psychoanalysis; I believe that it is the same kind of triumph enjoyed by the heroines of Henry James’ novels (i.e., Isobel Archer), who possess that pearl beyond price, that which makes up for all losses, makes even older women who have lost their looks fascinating to others and fulfilled: psychological understanding, also called wisdom, satori, religion, transcendentalism, peace.

The fairy story “Cinderella” is a metaphor for this kind of organic self-awareness, wisdom or grace. The glass slipper symbolizes the image that is truly Cinderella’s. She discovers her real self because she had the courage to believe in possibilities and thus she is able to discard the images that the stepmother and sisters were trying to put on her. She now knows who she is, so she can begin to acknowledge more faith in life; she is rewarded for this existentialist trust and courage by the appearance of the fairy godmother who symbolizes her new inner-directedness which will enable her to make correct organic choices, each of which will enable her to grow and develop at the proper rate for her as an organism in nature, not accelerated or slowed by any foreign forces, such as stepmothers or stepsisters trying to force false images on her. To find oneself seems magical.

It is difficult to describe the different visual and aural perceptions which one experiences through the stoned mind. The eye observes fineness and detail more sharply and the feeling of space around objects increases the awareness of the perfection and harmonious qualities of nature and a feeling of one’s self being a part of it, and brings about a feeling of serenity.

With the sharpened vision, one feels a great awareness and awe of the complexity of plants, trees and sky, a new appreciation of their qualities of infinity and eternity. So, inevitably, one feels a religious exhilaration. This awareness is the opposite of escapism; it is more of a coming together, a unity, and one feels that it is the way the mind should be. Grass enables one to differentiate between the subtlest colors, shadings and hues of light, of infinitesimal changes taking place. The intense effect of a sunset becomes spectacular in the mind, overwhelming the viewer with the knowledge that “I am a part of this!” Perhaps the stoned mind is nearer the pace of organic nature and for that reason more seems to happen in an observed landscape. One is able to see and feel the changes of light and a landscape contains so much movement that it can be compared to a movie. But that movement has never been captured in a film; light strangely shifts; particularly at twilight one observes the slow, quiet and magical changes of light and color.

An increased capacity for discrimination takes place aurally as well as visually and with the other senses, and remains with a person, whether stoned or not. I am able now to recognize bad recordings, trite renderings or trite music, as well as good artists; bad music is painful in a way that it was not before. After smoking grass for two years and returning to the oculist for a checkup, two different examiners told me that my glasses were too strong, and they were surprised that the vision of a person my age had improved.

I have tried to describe as honestly as I could my experiences with grass and my feelings about it, as a woman who began its use in middle age. I feel that with it I have gained philosophical freedom and self-actualization. I had been socially conditioned as a woman to dread that age at which women are often ridiculed through the pop media, put down and rejected in many ways. In an externally oriented consumer culture, when a woman “loses her looks” and superficial sexual attractiveness, she has socially lost much. I am grateful for grass in alleviating this terrible condition for me. The source of the myth of a fountain of youth may well be a patch of marijuana or some other mind-expanding drug. Marijuana rejuvenates the spirit. Something of the state of youthful openness induced by it stays in my psyche and helps me even when straight, for it makes me existentialist; the high teaches me to face not only the realities of the mirror but, more important, the realities of the soul, ethos, human courage and myself in time, almost like being both young and old at the same time.

From the bottom of a dark depression I have reached the existentialist position of feeling that each ending is part of a new beginning. I do not mean to imply that grass is a panacea which has solved all of my problems, only that it has helped me to develop a feeling of courage that enables me to live more satisfactorily and to face my death with more equanimity. To have learned to trust grass was an experience that enabled me to learn to trust life and to believe in my own life, to be an existentialist.

Until I had experienced it myself, I did not emotionally understand that state described by Henry Miller and others as hitting bottom, the very lowest depths of helplessness and defeat, and from that time on, perhaps as a result of that state, beginning to hang strangely loosely; one’s fortune changes. It is a concept that cannot be understood in an intellectual way, although people try to describe it. I had been in a deep depression for two years and for the previous several months had been going to a psychiatrist and taking the heavy antidepressants, which he prescribed. I was unable to read or cook; the height of my mental capacity was a crossword puzzle in TV Guide and TV itself. I felt miserable, but so dull that I could not make a fight against misery; I was incapacitated, defeated, hibernating. After we moved to El Paso I ran out of pills and stopped taking them. And after I stopped taking them, I believe they began to do their work. That is, I feel now that the pills had perhaps anesthetized parts of my brain, let them have a rest; perhaps even permanently deadened a part, who can say about the brain? Those pills, or hitting psychological bottom in time made a new person of me because from then on, I had the courage, which develops mysteriously in some who hit bottom, to let go and trust. This trust is vague and general, but part of it is trusting oneself, and another part, no doubt overlapping, is trusting life, always with a new awareness of life and the fleeting quality of it; it is a rebirth, Phoenix. And the trust, the letting go in deep water, enables one then to begin to grow in an organic way. From the time of letting go, I feel I was progressively rewarded and guarded as if by a fairy godmother, and this trust in the positive things that happened to me enabled me to trust grass, submit myself to its rewards, to begin freely and completely to let go in a progression that has culminated in my writing poems, which seems natural, since poetry opens one to further awareness and growth.

Following that mysterious initial letting go, it seemed that whatever I did courageously and generously led to new experience that, even though seeming to be a result of haphazard chance, led to further growth and courage. One courageous or spontaneous act seemed to lead mysteriously to another, and I felt alive and growing and trusting life and myself more and more, and I have been strangely rewarded in many different ways since experiencing the depths and am able to contrast the two states of being. To remember being dead gives one a new appreciation of life.

As I look back over the past few years I see growth and learning experiences leading mysteriously to others, until the past seems to be an interconnecting organic order, since one experience led to the next, like quest myths and fairy stories in which the hero is required to submit himself to various tests; it seems magical. One learns that the more one has the courage to experience, the more the imagination grows and is able to function, and this increased capacity of the imagination causes the next experience to be more meaningful and pleasurable, the imagination enlightening and enriching it. Fairy stories seem metaphors of the development of human levels of consciousness.

Marijuana probably has different effects on different personalities and psyches, as well as on people of different ages. For some, including myself, it seems to be a catalyst for creativity and for seeing “reality” in fresh new ways. I wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn’t discovered marijuana. It enabled me to realize my lifelong desire to write. For years, I experienced the creative process. Stoned, I would become an artist and begin to think about my work, and for that I am most grateful. Now that I’m old I feel that it’s hard enough trying to cope with life by myself without smoking marijuana.

The Screening Room by Doug Magee

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Doug Magee is a 51-year-old screenwriter with four produced screenplays, a photographer, author, and children’s book author. A graduate of Amherst College and Union Theological Seminary, he lives in New York’s East Harlem and is the father of three boys. We are made aware again of the frequency of use by professionals as a stimulant to the imagination. Plunged more deeply into the maelstrom of creativity by his use of cannabis, he awaits the muse’s gift.

I don’t remember my dreams. I think that has something to do with pot because on the rare nights I don’t smoke, I’m often aware of the dreams I’m having. I’m a middle-aged, middle class, white male with a couple of small children, an adult son (who, despite a very ordered life, likes to describe himself as a pothead), and a loving marriage to a gorgeous woman who has never inhaled.

I usually smoke late in the evenings, good stuff that only takes a few tokes to set in. The usual fare for these late hours is music, sex, and movies. The music and sex enhancement marijuana brings are sort of standard issue. The movies are a little different. The screen is inside my head. These are the dreams I remember.

And it’s a good thing too because I make my living as a screenwriter. I can’t write an e-mail stoned and wouldn’t think of writing professionally under the influence, but pot has proved to be a wonderful part of my work. I’ll try to describe how this works for me. But I’m a bit leery of doing so for two somewhat contradictory reasons. First I don’t think pot is essential to what I do and so I don’t want to make what I say below seem in any way necessary. I’ve done some very good work without a toke involved. But I’m leery of trying to elucidate the process because it is ineffable and therefore fragile. I wouldn’t want to make pot’s benefits evaporate because I’ve tried to plumb their depths. However, let me throw caution to the wind and try to give an account.

Screenwriting, at its heart, is not writing. William Goldman and others like to say screenplays are structure and I’ve found this to be true. My part in the process of filmmaking is that of an organizer. I gather characters, situations, incidents, images, dialogue, and technical considerations such as possible locations and seasonal weather and mix them into a coherent blueprint for a film. Despite what the screenwriting gurus would have you believe, there are no formulas for this sort of work. Or rather, if there are, you break them every time out. Even though the cookie-cutter nature of much of today’s movies would seem to indicate there are most definitely formulas, no two stories are exactly alike and so can never be shaped in exactly the same way.

Organizing a screenplay, structuring the film, sounds like an activity for an orderly mind, someone who manages to pay bills on time, remember birthdays, or at least has a neat desk. I’m none of those, and I doubt many screenwriters are, because way down deep, at the place where screenplays begin, there’s a wild swirl of nonsense that daunts the mind bent on corralling thoughts and images. What is needed for the work is a rather peculiar mindset, one that wades happily into the chaos of the imagination, seeks nothing in particular, yet returns with an assemblage of particulars that are the basis of a film.

I think this is where pot comes in for me. I usually leave my computer late in the afternoon, run, have dinner, put the boys to bed, read, maybe watch some television. But throughout this the day’s work, the film I’m writing, is not far away. So when I get high it’s not a stretch to go back to the film in my head and let it unspool some more. I have found that there is no way to induce the film to come to life. It either does or it doesn’t and no amount or type of pot will make a difference. But when the film does hove into view, the high is extremely helpful.

As far as I can tell, it does so in three ways. First, pot kind of empties the mind. This may sound like stereotypical stoner behavior, dazed and confused stuff, but it’s not that way for me. Pot stills the noise of thoughts so I can hear and see the film more clearly. And not just one film. I’m often working on more than one story and I like to think of my head as a multiplex. I go from room to room, theater to theater, and see which one is working for me at the time.

While screenplays are structure, there has to be a passion driving the structure and I think pot plays a part in this for me. I could be working on the most mundane aspect of the screenplay, a reordering of scenes, the “shoeleather” of getting a character from point A to point B, and yet with pot it seems fresh and interesting. More positively, “watching” these films form while high invests them with the magical, dreamlike aura they have for the young, first-time viewers, or those confronted with true cinematic genius. Not that what is forming is spectacular cinema but the drug’s mild euphoria keeps alive the passion that originally attracted me to the story.

Finally, and to the general non-smoking public, incredibly, pot’s place in these nascent films is that of an organizer, a juggler able to hold many balls in the air, whirl them in front of me, and indicate how they all fit together. This is probably the most difficult part of the process, the most ineffable part, the one I dare not say too much about. Suffice it to say that the altered brain chemistry promotes a flexibility that is absolutely essential to “seeing” an unborn film. You don’t go to the film and pluck it from the imagination. It comes to you, in bits and pieces, and, if you’re lucky and perhaps stoned, you let the pieces fall where they want, not where you want them to. They are pieces of you, of me, of course. But I can only watch.

With delight. Once I have seen or heard or understood how the film or the next few pages of the script will run, I celebrate. I’m grateful for the gift, for the pleasure, for the anticipated revenues, whatever, but mostly it’s just the primal joy of watching a film. A premier. All by myself.

What happens next might surprise some. I don’t take any notes and yet the next morning, when I go to the computer I rarely forget anything of importance that has shown itself the night before. Some parts of the experience might not hold up when I start to write, but usually I’ve tossed the bad parts long before I get to the keyboard. The good stuff is easy to remember because I’ve seen it, the connections between various elements are now obvious to me, and all I need to do is write down what I’ve seen and heard. Dialogue is usually sketchy but the overall sound and tone of the voice is clear. I just have to listen as I write.

That’s about it. As I say, no extravagant claims and certainly no prescriptions for others. I’m not a wildly creative person and the scripts I’ve written and films I’ve had produced are far from indications of genius. Yet I have traveled a lot farther in the arts than I ever would have imagined in my youth. Then I was an Eagle Scout who understood the imagination as some sort of wanton luxury to be avoided by all the dutiful. Pot and experience changed that and pot continues to move me ahead in unexpected ways. I respect it for that and know when I abuse the drug that I’m trying to take advantage of a friend.

The Old Pothead Poems by Sam Abrams

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Sam Abrams has been a Fulbright Professor of American Literature at the University of Athens and currently is Professor of Language and Literature in the College of Liberal Arts, Rochester Institute of Technology. He dropped out of academia from 1968 to 1978, during which time he was a film writer, a communal organic farmer, a casual longshoreman, a union laborer, and a public relations flack: he considers that of these, the farming was the best learning experience.

These poems embody aspects of the consciousness of a sixty-something American professor-poet, a character related to me, Sam Abrams, born in Brooklyn in 1935, in much the same problematic way in which the “Walt Whitman” of Leaves of Grass is related to the Walter Whitman, born in Huntington, Long Island in 1819.


Louis Armstrong who cd know better?
meant it pot
sharp extreme deep focus
extreme wide angle all the
five orbs of sense 360

your world clear
fresh full of soul
no “it” anywhere
only your brothers
your sisters

telling ya
if ya really wanna know


I once got high with Miles
and Joe Early
hunched against the wind
in an alley off 2nd
off that fat hash roach

“You’re the only white
guy I ever knew
who knows how to
lace his moccasins on right.”
said the shaman

“You’re a real mean
fucker aincha?”
said the longshoreman

“That’s vulgarest
poem I ever heard.”
said the professor

The Old Pothead uses marijuana as a releaser, a guide, a prioritizer, an organizer. It’s his different drummer, a rhythm that can override the frantic cadences of the entertainment state. The fleeing crowd with the furies of their own self-betrayals on their heels would sweep us along in their devil’s dance. Vital for the kind of poet the Old Pothead is stepping aside, finding one’s own pace/space/rhythm, which is what a certain kind of poetry is “about.”


Damn! That’s it!
Some critter up in the hickory tree
‘s droppin little bits of
nutshell on me.

Been wonderin’
when I spose to be workin’

Pot, poetry and bicycling permit the OP to sneak out of the rush. They are places to pull off, to get out of the closed-access traffic lanes. Weather permitting, the Old Pothead, bicycles nine miles to work along the Genesee River, through a not-too-mutilated Olmsted park. He stops by the river, pours a coffee from his thermos and composes. He finds that without his usual two, three hits, he composes only lectures, memos, reports. With those few morning hits, he composes mostly poems. Many of them turn out to be keepers. Even when the weather forces him into his automobile, pot helps him take his ease, take the needed pause.


to drive to work
by the most
beautiful least trafficked way

I only have to make
one illegal turn

I park by the first beautiful spot
just the Subaru Franz Josef Hayden and me

what you see is
what you got

Pot, poetry, getting out into nature, return the Old Pothead, to some extent to radical innocence, to recover the astonishment of the world made new that Thoreau (lucky with yet unspoiled Walden to help) knew about.

In youth, before I lost any of my senses–I can remember that I was all alive–and inhabited my body with inexpressible satisfaction…earth was the most glorious musical instrument, and I was audience to its strains…I can remember how I was astonished. Thoreau, Journal for 16 July 1851

These poems would demonstrate the possibility of that recovery of lost sense, with the aid of herb.


the purpose
of that cute little tailwag
robin does right after
perching on bare branch
to save & shake our world
as any fool old pothead
can plainly see

Like, I suspect, most long-term, careful users of, marijuana, The Old Pothead, while consciously distancing himself from the lonely crowd, is yet intimately engaged in trying to build community, he is politically active, committed; causes are a normal part of his life, grounding many of his poems in the lessons of the Vietnam protest, during which he is proud to have been jailed. In 1967, 1968, every week he visited Manhattan South police headquarters to have demonstration permits signed, every week, he carried a couple of joints in his pocket (in a waterproof match case) as a reminder of which side he was on, is still on. Not a pharmacological effect of marijuana, but powerful, that it reminds us that innocent activities are subject to criminal sanctions in our America while, often, criminal activities have the blessings of the law.


go view Hendrick’s and dead
Shreela’s dogwood blooms
always two weeks ahead
of ours

get two packs orange Zig-Zag papers
drop canned food off
at Catholic Worker
drop Windows keyboard and floppies
at Pastors for Peace
for Cuba Caravan

remember what Barbara Ehrenreich
said: “in the Sixties
the people with power
were acting irresponsibly
so the people without power
had to begin to take responsibility”

and what Robert McNamara confesses
speaking for the powerful
“we were wrong, terribly wrong”

“There are facts lodged in the world”
says Baraka,
like seeds

With pot, he finds he can focus on what he knew all along matters most. The drunken monkey inside, the skillful commercial persuaders are muted. The frantic screaming, the cries of the tortured, the bulldozing of gardens (Damn Giuliani!) recede somewhat. He is reminded that he feels more than savage indignation, that saeva indignatio itself is meaningless unless grounded in love.


this morning
while listening to Woody singin’
takes a worried man
ta sing a worried song
thinking about this conversation
with a learned nun
’bout Mr Jefferson
an’ Sally Hemmings

so I said to her people think
they couldn’t have been in love
don’t they know about
the million mad vagaries
human hearts are capable of

yes she said yes the strength of
the human heart it
breaks through all
boundaries all
social constructions

worried now but
I won’t be worried long

Not that savage indignation is inappropriate nowadays, especially in the context of the use of marijuana, so hedged in by obscenely punitive, obscenely wasteful prohibitory legislation. I am afraid that we cannot expect to make much progress in rationalizing those laws until the long-term, responsible marijuana-users who, like the Old Pothead, hold respectable positions in society get it together to out ourselves.


I once got high turned on by
a detective lieutenant
at the home of the dean of students

a test of the old heads’ myth
that narcs have the best shit

it’s true they do
they do doobie
doobie doo

The Laidback Meerkat by "Carla"

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Carla is a 53-year-old woman with two grown sons, originally from Texas. She has a degree in Psychology and Computer Science and has worked both as a computer programmer and public school teacher (science and technology). She feels her animal totem is a hyper-alert meerkat that needs to relax. After major lifestyle changes at midlife she’s establishing an education-related business on the Internet and spends her summers in Sweden.

I guess I’ve always been a bit different. When other teenage girls were reading fashion magazines, I was reading Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams or Alan Watt’s In the Way of Zen. I also had a subscription to Psychology Today. So I’ve always been interested in philosophy, psychology, and the nature of consciousness. Another interest is computers to the degree that they record/simulate human intelligence and facilitate communication.

I’ve experimented with marijuana over the years with mixed results, but I no longer have any doubts about the benefits. The first time I smoked pot, as a teenager, was one of the most ecstatic highs of my life. I was outside on a steep bank beside a river with my two brothers and my best friend. The moon illuminated the landscape with a soft silver glow and the sound of the breeze rustling the tall grass was indescribably beautiful, like music.

Over the next year, I experienced several more very enjoyable highs. But after being confronted with problems in my family in addition to problems in other relationships, I found myself experiencing considerable anxiety after getting high. So I moved away from all drugs, including alcohol, and began to study yoga and meditation. I found meditation especially helpful in reducing anxiety.

In my first experiences with marijuana, I identified pot as a source of euphoria. Later I identified it as a source of anxiety and I believe this was a natural assumption for my immature mind. Perhaps when we’re young and dependent, it’s in our best interest to view the source of happiness as external. It comes from our parents, our friends, our possessions, and from substances we may ingest. But now that I’ve reached mid-life I’ve discovered a new way to use marijuana that’s led me to a very different conclusion.

I experienced many things between my marijuana use as a teenager and my renewed usage in middle-age. I got an education, worked, married, made a home, raised a family, entered a profession, and grew relatively wealthy. I played by the rules and did all the things authority figures say will make us happy. During all this time, I continued to identify the source of happiness as outside myself, seeking it especially in relationships. I know some people find happiness this way, but I was consistently dissatisfied and sad. I was never able to establish a truly fulfilling love relationship, although my ex-husband and I stayed together 22 years in order to raise our children. During these years, when meditation seemed ineffective, too time-consuming, or just plain tedious, I used other substances to life my mood including alcohol, antidepressants, and tranquilizers.

Then after almost two decades of low-grade depression, during a visit with the friend who shared my first high, I smoked pot again. She and I always make each other laugh and it was a great experience that lifted my spirits tremendously. Since then I’ve continued to use pot as a mood elevator, but there’s a catch. I still sometimes experience anxiety, especially if it’s been awhile since I’ve smoked.

Right after getting high, I sometimes experience a rush of thoughts and feelings and may even cry. And I think this happens because I’m processing negative emotions that have been repressed. But now, instead of swearing off pot, I surrender to the feelings until they pass. This process only takes a few minutes and it’s like the sun coming out from behind dark clouds. By getting past the anxiety I’m able to put things in perspective and regain my sense of humor. I can laugh and achieve a more positive affect not numbed by repression or denial. Using pot in this way is an educational experience and a way to gain insight. Best of all, I’ve found that the benefits continue into normal waking (or down) consciousness. I tend to be happier and have a more philosophical mindset.

Maybe marijuana is not the source of either euphoria or anxiety. Perhaps the human nervous system is the source and pot is a key that turns the engine on. And saying that pot causes anxiety is like saying that turning a rock over causes creepy things to materialize. The creepy things are under the rock whether we’re aware of them or not.

When I was young I tended to deny painful feelings and become numb. There have been times when I didn’t have a head for ganja, because I was overly fearful. It takes courage to face one’s mortality and choose the risk of living fully rather than clinging to the illusion of safety through denial. Smoking pot has helped me face my fears. And although alcohol can sometimes help me relax and it may even feel euphoric, I’ve never found getting drunk to be an educational experience.

When we actively seek a higher plane of existence, I think marijuana facilitates our search. By actively seeking ecstasy we give ourselves permission to experience it and marijuana seems to be a chemical trigger that alters our perceptions and enhances the quality of our consciousness. Once our chemistry is altered, it’s up to us to choose and create either a positive or a negative experience.

The practical demands of life make it necessary to focus on tasks that ensure our survival and screen out extraneous stimuli. But if, in the name of survival, we adhere to this narrow focus too slavishly, we miss a lot of wonderful experiences and pass through our lives almost without noticing.

When I get stressed I feel like a hyper-alert meerkat scanning the horizon for predators and I hold a lot of tension in my muscles without being aware of it. But smoking pot reminds me that I have a body and it’s ok, even imperative, to relax and enjoy it. Time stretches out, but instead of killing time and feeling bored, I’m making the most of it by choosing pleasurable experiences and being creative. I’m remembering to enjoy life.

Using marijuana seems to make the screen through which we perceive the universe more porous, even though it’s still easy to focus. In addition, it seems to stimulate creative thought processes and awaken appetites. I believe it can be used to enhance the quality of consciousness and teach individuals to experience a more mature, self-sufficient form of happiness. Marijuana may be a catalyst that helps us discover and expand our inner capacity for joy.

Healthy Effects of Marijuana by Mark James

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Mark James (a pseudonym) spent the last six years as a public schoolteacher in a rural Southern area. Prior to that, Mark worked as a paralegal. He has a Master’s Degree in Education and is active in various community groups. After ameliorating symptoms from an abusive youth, including anxiety, insomnia, and anger, he uses cannabis as an adjunct to problem-solving.

Mark James interviews Mark James

Q: How did you start using marijuana?

A: I tried it a few times as a teenager but never developed the habit. In fact, it used to make me a little paranoid, hungry, and sleepy. I experimented with it again in college, but mostly I was a drinker. I didn’t start using marijuana regularly until my late twenties.

Q: What brought that about?

A: I had a hernia that required surgery. After surgery, the doctor put me on Percocet, an opium derivative, as a painkiller. The Percocet caused serious constipation; after three days I had to be brought back to the hospital ER for abdominal pain. The attending physician had me x-rayed, and he quickly diagnosed the problem. Much to my embarrassment, I had to be given an enema.

When I got home, I was still in some pain from the surgery, and almost all physical activity was still forbidden. Swearing to never touch an opium derivative again, I asked my brother to buy me some marijuana. Well, it did the trick, with none of the bad side effects. My digestive system never felt better.

Also, I learned to smoke in the right “set and setting.” Instead of smoking in an urgent rush to increase the effects of alcohol and “have fun,” the way I had as a teenager, I learned to smoke leisurely and contemplate life while high. Oddly enough, I credit marijuana with bringing my brother and me closer. I began smoking with him (which I never did before), and we worked out all of our childhood differences. To this day, we are the best of friends and smoke together when we can.

Q: Any further digestion problems?

A: Only when I stopped smoking marijuana for more than six or seven months straight. I have never had any constipation, diarrhea, or heartburn during periods when I was smoking regularly, even a small hit once or twice a week. Ironically, marijuana enabled me to clean out my medicine cabinet. The only over-the-counter medication I keep is aspirin.

Q: What other health effects have you experienced from smoking marijuana?

A: The pressure in my eyes has always tested superbly in glaucoma tests, although I can’t guarantee this is due to marijuana. Mostly, marijuana seems to greatly aid my nervous system. This requires a bit of explanation.

As a child, I was raised in an abusive home. The abuse was physical, emotional, and sexual. As I became a teenager, I became somewhat manic-depressive. Days of mania, with endlessly racing thoughts would prevent me from sleeping or concentrating. Then I would crash; horrible depressions when I could think of nothing but suicide, unable to get out of bed. I would have no appetite and no ability to feel pleasure of any kind: complete anhedonia. My blood pressure was 142/92 at the age of eighteen. I experienced anxiety attacks, which ruined my social life – I could rarely walk into a room without turning bright red, sweating profusely, unable to stop my pounding heart. In short, my flight-or-fight response was short-circuiting, probably from being overused during my abusive childhood, when I was in a constant state of readiness for my father’s next, unpredictable, violent outburst.

Q: Didn’t you seek professional help?

A: Yes. A psychiatrist put me on Combid, to relax my stomach, and Inderal to help with the anxiety attacks. They didn’t help as much as I hoped they would, so I didn’t stay on them long. It wasn’t until about four years ago, when a different psychiatrist put me on Paxil, that I was thoroughly cured of depression and anxiety attacks.

Q: How did that work?

A: Paxil is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), similar to Prozac. I couldn’t believe the difference Paxil made in my life. It really opened my mind back up to the way chemicals affect us. Oddly enough, Paxil brought me away from alcohol, and back to marijuana. Since I began taking Paxil, I’ve not had any paranoia or other unpleasantness while smoking pot.

Q: Enough about Paxil; let’s get back to marijuana. What else has it helped you with, medically?

A: Back to my overworked nervous system. Marijuana has been a godsend for helping me control my temper. The past six years I’ve been teaching fifth- and sixth-grades in low-income schools. Talk about stress. In case you are unaware, discipline in schools isn’t what it used to be. The kids cuss at teachers, threaten them, throw chairs, etc. You send them to the Disciplinarian; the disciplinarian sends them back in ten minutes with cookies in their hands. The teacher has to put up with more abuse.

A few times, during my first year of teaching while completely abstaining from marijuana, I almost lost it. When the kids would get violent and threatening, I almost responded with violence, but limited myself to yelling. It seems my abusive father’s temper has been passed on to me. I went back to marijuana, and it has helped my temper immeasurably. My only outbursts have been during long periods of marijuana abstinence. I learned my lesson: always keep just enough pot in my system (two to three bowls a week) to keep me mellow. I think the government should give all middle school teachers a weekly supply.

Q: Let’s talk about purely mental processes for a while. How does marijuana affect your creativity?

A: Good question. Years ago, when I used to write novels and screenplays (which never got published), I would drink and/or smoke and seem to have great creative bursts. However, when I sobered up the next day, there were usually many flaws in the writing; things were a bit scattered and tangential. Pot doesn’t seem to promote tasks that require linear thinking. Yet, it is an absolute boon for tangential, brainstorming, and what I call “discovery” thinking.

While I love to toke up for repetitive tasks such as housecleaning and paperwork, the real intellectual benefit I’ve received from marijuana has been in creative problem solving. Several times in my life, I seem to have reached a dead end (in a career or relationship), and I couldn’t find a solution. Marijuana has helped me “think outside the box,” as the current cliché goes. Somehow, it has put me on a reflective mental path that is non-judgmental, more open, tangential and creative in its connections. Like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle using opium to figure out unthought of ways for Sherlock Holmes to get out of a jam, I have been able to find previously invisible solutions to my problems while smoking pot. Unlike my linear writings, these solutions have stood up well in the light of sober day. Somehow, I will think of someone who can help, someone I haven’t had contact with in a while, and give them a call. Marijuana really helps me stay in touch with old friends and acquaintances whom I no longer live near. And the solutions to job and financial problems have sometimes amazed me.

Also, marijuana gives me great solace; an appreciation for the wonder of everyday things; and perspective on the true size of problems. Some might call it wisdom.

Q: How’s your memory?

A: Fantastic. Last night I gave an eight-minute speech without a single note. I’ve been able to memorize lines for both small and large theatre roles while keeping marijuana in my system. I win a lot at Trivial Pursuit, and play along quite well with Jeopardy, thank you. But no, I wouldn’t recommend toking up during an intense study period. That’s because marijuana leads me off on tangents, which seem more interesting at the time.

Q: Any other positive effects?

A: Just the ability to think positively, and see past current problems. Marijuana is a great cure for monomaniacal and megalomaniacal thinking. It would have done wonders for Stalin, Hitler, and Napoleon. What more can you ask for?

Q: How about in the bedroom – sleeping and sex?

A: I almost forgot. Marijuana has cured an insomnia problem I’ve had since childhood. It stops the racing thoughts, and allows me to doze off. As for sex, it tends to prolong lovemaking, then lead to an even stronger orgasm.

Q: And you’ve given up on alcohol?

A: As I have a tendency toward depression, I don’t need to add a depressant to my chemical balance. Besides, alcohol doesn’t work well with Paxil.

The Great Marijuana Hoax by Allen Ginsberg

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

7:38 P.M. Nov. 13, 1965 San Francisco, California, USA, Kosmos

How much to be revealed about marijuana especially in this time and nation for the general public! for the actual experience of the smoked herb has been completely clouded by a fog of dirty language by the diminishing crowd of fakers who have not had the experience and yet insist on being centers of propaganda about the experience. And the key, the paradoxical key to this bizarre impasse of awareness is precisely that the marijuana consciousness is one that, ever so gently, shifts the center of attention from habitual shallow purely verbal guidelines and repetitive secondhand ideological interpretations of experience to more direct, slower, absorbing, occasionally microscopically minute engagement with sensing phenomena during the high moments or hours after one has smoked.

One who has the experience needs no explanations in the world of explanatory language, which is, after all, a limited charming part of the whole phenomenal show of life. A few people don’t like the experience and report back to the language world that it’s a drag and make propaganda against this particular area of nonverbal awareness. But the vast majority all over the world, who have smoked the several breaths necessary to feel the effect, adjust to the strangely familiar sensation of time slow-down, and explore this new space thru natural curiosity, report that it’s a useful area of mind-consciousness to be familiar with, a creative show of the silly side of an awful big army of senseless but habitual thought-formations risen out of the elements of a language world: a metaphysical herb less habituating than tobacco, whose smoke is no more disruptive than insight — in short, for those who have made the only objective test, a vast majority of satisfied smokers.

This essay in explanation, conceived by a mature middle-aged gentleman, the holder at present of a Guggenheim Fellowship for creative writing, a traveler on many continents with experience of customs and modes of different cultures, is dedicated in the author’s right mind (i.e., not high) to those who have not smoked marijuana, as an attempt to bridge the conceptual gap, or cultural gap as may be, to explain the misunderstanding that has too long existed between those who know what pot is by experience and those who don’t know exactly what it is but have been influenced by sloppy, or secondhand, or unscientific, or (as in the case of drug-control bureaucracies) definitely self-interested language used to describe the marijuana high pejoratively. I offer the pleasant suggestion that a negative approach to the whole issue (as presently pertains to what are aptly called “square” circles in the USA) is not necessarily the best, and that it is time to shift to a more positive attitude toward this specific experience1. If one is not inclined to have the experience oneself, this is a free country and no one is obliged to have an experience merely because a great number of one’s friends, family, or business acquaintances have had it and report themselves pleased. On the other hand, an equal respect and courtesy is required for the sensibilities of one’s familiars for whom the experience has not been closed off by the door of choice.

The main negative mythic images of the marijuana state that the general public is familiar with emanate from one particular source: the U.S. Treasury Department Narcotics Bureau.2 If the tendency (a return to common sense) to leave the opiate problem with qualified MD’s prevails, the main function of this large bureau will shift to the persecution of marijuana. Otherwise, the bureau will have no function except as a minor tax office for which it was originally purposed, under the aegis of Secretary of the Treasury. Following Parkinson’s Law that a bureaucracy will attempt to find work for itself, or following a simpler line of thought, that the agents of this bureau have a business interest in perpetuating the idea of a marijuana “menace” lest they lose their employment, it is not unreasonable to suppose that a great deal of the violence, hysteria and energy of the anti-marijuana language propaganda emanating from this source has as its motive a rather obnoxious self-interest, all the more objectionable for its tone of moralistic evangelism.3 This hypocrisy is recognizable to anybody who has firsthand experience of the so-called narcotic; which, as the reader may have noticed, I have termed an herb, which it is — a leaf or blossom — in order to switch away from negative terminology and inaccurate language. A marvelous project for a sociologist, and one which I am sure will be in preparation before my generation grows old, will be a close examination of the actual history and tactics of the Narcotics Bureau and its former chief power, Harry J. Anslinger, in planting the seed of the marijuana “menace” in the public mind and carefully nurturing its growth in the course of a few decades until the unsuspecting public was forced to accept an outright lie.4 I am not a thorough patient sociologist and this is not my task here, so I will limit myself to telling a few stories from personal experience, or relating stories that have been told me.

I must begin by explaining something that I have already said in public for many years: that I occasionally use marijuana in preference to alcohol, and have for several decades. I say occasionally and mean it quite literally; I have spent about as many hours high as I have spent in movie theaters — sometimes 3 hours a week, sometimes 12 or 20 or more, as at a film festival — with about the same degree of alteration of my normal awareness.

To continue, I therefore do know the subjective possibilities of marijuana and therein take evidence of my own senses between my own awareness of the mysterious ghastly universe of joy, pain, discovery, birth and death, the emptiness and awesomeness of its forms and consciousness described in the Prajnaparamita Sutra central to a Buddhist or even Christian or Hindu view of Kosmos which I sometimes experience while high, as for the last two paragraphs, and the cheap abstract inexperienced version of exactly the same thing one may have read in the newspapers, written by reporters (who smoke pot themselves occasionally nowadays) taking the main part of their poorly written squibs of misinformation from the texts and mouths of Chiefs of Narcotics Bureaus, Municipal or Federal — or an occasional doctor notorious for his ungracious stupidity and insulting manners.

One doctor, facing me across a microphone in a radio broadcasting booth on a six o’clock chat show, pre-recorded, opened our conversation reading aloud a paragraph of Kaddish (a poem I had written in memory of my mother, and a tribute to her which made my own father weep; a text widely read, set to music or anthologized in portions, translations of which had met with some critical approval in various languages — Spanish, French, Italian and German, by now some Bengali or Hebrew; a text which I submitted as among my major poems in applying for monies from great foundations; a text applauded in recitation before academies; a text recorded for a large commercial business establishment’s circulation; a text which I’d spent months daily transcribing as a movie scenario — in short a straightforward piece of communication integrating the subjective and objective, private and public, and what is common between them) — disapproving and confused — declared firmly that the dashes used as this — indicated that the broken measures of phrase — moment-to-moment consciousness during which syntax and meaning and direction of the — pauses for thought — were a sign of marijuana intoxication and were incomprehensible. He could not follow the thought. He said, as I remember — marijuana retains associations and goes from one thought to another if verbalized — that I was, in fact, quite mad.

Such a notion I thought quite mad on his part; my mother had been that. They were both quite insistent in their obsessions, or opinions, and sometimes harsh and premature in their judgments. This doctor and my mother did not differ so much from myself; the announcer was sympathetic to both of us. After the show I got quite angry with the doctor — it seemed quite a self-righteous remark; but I suppose I could not match his Power by any other means at the moment and felt that frankness and a show of emotion might shake his composure — alas, I yelled Fascist in his face, and had to be reprimanded by my companion Mr. Orlovsky for losing my temper with the doctor. I have a most excellent reason in such cases and so calmed myself, but I did believe that he was a quack-mind of sorts and a sort of negative judger with professional credentials. I had as friends many psychiatrists who treated me as interesting and no madder than themselves; and had in fact graduated from 8 months in a psychiatric institute to be told smilingly by a doctor that I was not schizophrenic but in fact a bearable neurotic, like many other people — but this was years earlier when I was a poet with a tie and an obsession with eternity. True, I had changed much in the intervening 13 years, I had pursued my thoughts to India and was now satisfied with my self and bodily existence, and a little more in harmony with desire for life, I had begun singing mantras daily — Hindu practice of japa and kirtan — and I had smoked a lot of marijuana in those years; but I had not, despite my odd little biography in Who’s Who, maintained so much confusion over my identity as to forget to end a sentence, if I wished to, tying together simultaneous association and language and memory with correct punctuation and obvious thought for the reader (to make it obvious, I am doing it now): I had not so much changed and broken away from communication from my fellow selves on earth that anyone should judge me mad. His remark (on the radio) only made me feel slightly paranoid; and I suppose it is no cure to try to make the other fellow feel paranoid, so perhaps I misunderstood the doctor and must take a charitable position and assume that I am Mad (or Not-Mad) but that the doctor also misunderstood my syntax; and judged too abruptly before the revelations possible thru pot had been deciphered … In any case I had not been high on marijuana when Kaddish was composed. The original mss. were bought by New York University library and are clearly labeled as written primarily under the influence of amphetamines, more popularly known as Benzedrine or Dexedrine, familiar to many a truck driver, doctor, student, housewife, and harried business executive and soldier in battle — a common experience not generally termed mad.

The mind does wander and that’s another way around; to give by example a manifestation of the precise record of the effects of marijuana during composition on the subject itself, showing the area of reality traversed, so that the reader may see that it is a harmless gentle shift to a “more direct, slower, absorbing, occasionally microscopically minute, engagement with sensing phenomena” — in this case the phenomenon of transmuting to written language a model of the marijuana experience, which can be understood and related to in some mode by those who have not yet met the experience but who are willing to slow their thought and judgment and decipher the syntax clause by clause; not necessarily as slowly as composed, so the affect will differ; and of course two bodies cannot, they say, occupy the same place in space. Yet in another light, they say we are one being of thought and to that common being — perceived in whatever mode one perceives — I address this syntax.5

Returning to the mundane world of order6, may I compare the mental phenomena of the preceding anecdote with the criminal view of it as presented by the Narcotics Department for years in cheap sex magazines and government reports — reports uninfluenced by the Narco Department take a contrasting view7 — base paranoia close to murder, frothing at the mouth of Egyptian dogs, sex orgies in cheap dives, debilitation and terror and physiological or mysterious psychic addiction. An essentially grotesque image, a thought-hallucination magnified myriad thru mass media, a by-product of fear — something quite fiendish — “Dope Fiend,” the old language, a language abandoned in the early sixties when enough of the general public had sufficient personal experience to reject such palpable poppycock and the bureaucratic line shifted to defense of its own existence with the following reason:8 necessary to control marijuana because smoking leads to search for thrill kicks; this leads to next step, the monster heroin. And a terrible fate.9

In sound good health I smoked legal ganja (as marijuana is termed in India where it is traditionally used in preference to alcohol), bought from government tax shops in Calcutta, in a circle of devotees, yogis, and hymn-singing pious Shivaist worshippers in the burning ground at Nimtallah ghat in Calcutta, where it was the custom of these respected gentlemen to meet on Tuesday and Saturday nights, smoke before an improvised altar of blossoms, sacramental milk-candy and perhaps a fire taken from the burning wooden bed on which lay a newly dead body, of some friend perhaps, likely a stranger if a corpse is a stranger, pass out the candy as God’s gift to friend and stranger, and sing holy songs all night, with great strength and emotion, addressed to different images of the Divine Spirit. Ganja was there considered a beginning of sadhana10 by some; others consider the ascetic yogi Shiva himself to have smoked marijuana; on His birthday marijuana is mixed as a paste with almond milk by the grandmothers of pious families and imbibed as sacrament by this polytheistic nation, considered by some a holy society. The professors of English at Benares University brought me a bottle for the traditional night of Shivaratri, birthday of the Creator and Destroyer who is the patron god of this oldest continuously inhabited city on earth. Bom Bom Mahadev!” (Boom Boom Great God!) is the mantra yogis’ cry as they raise the ganja pipe to their brows before inhaling.

All India is familiar with ganja, and so is all Africa, and so is all the Arab world; and so were Paris and London in smaller measure in high-minded but respectable 19th-century circles; and so on a larger scale is America even now. Young and old, millions perhaps smoke marijuana and see no harm. And we have not measured the Latin-American world, Mexico particularly, who gave the local herb its familiar name. In some respects we may then see its prohibition as an arbitrary cultural taboo.

There has been a tendency toward its suppression in the Arab world with the too hasty adoption of Western rationality and the enlarged activity of the American fanatic Mr. Anslinger as US representative to the UN World Health Organization Single Narcotics Commission — a position from which he circulates hysterical notices and warnings, manufactured in Washington’s Treasury Department, to the police forces of the cities of the world — so I was told by a police official in Tel Aviv, an old school chum who laughed about the latest release, a grim warning against the dangers of khat, a traditional energizing leaf chewed by Bedouins of Arabia and businessmen and princes in Ethiopia, as well as a few traditional Yemenite Jews.

There seems to be a liaison between Anslinger and some policemen in Egypt, which has now formally outlawed its hashish or kif form of marijuana (even though masses of non drinking faithful Muslims prefer a contemplative pipe of kif

to the dangers of violent alcohol forbidden by the Koran). We find government bureaucrats with the well-to-do (as in India) taking knowing delight in alcohol as a more sophisticated and daring preference; and stories of mad dogs frothing at the mouth and asylums full of people driven mad by some unheard-of brand of hashish (would god it were imported to America like some fine brand of Scotch or pernod) circulated from the police information bureaus of Egypt — or perhaps some single cranky Egyptian Dr. Baird — thru the Treasury Department Narcotics Bureau and thence by interview and press release to the mass media of America and an inexperienced public (encouraged to drink intoxicating beer by millions of dollars’ worth of advertisement). The Egyptian evidence has been quoted for years, most recently by the present head of the Narcotics Bureau, a Mr. Giordano, one of Mr. Anslinger’s former intimates in the department.

Professor Lindesmith has already objected in public print to the Department’s manipulation and attempted quashing of various medical-juridical reports; a Canadian documentary film on the drug subject has been blocked from being shown in this country thru activity of the Treasury Department — perhaps an import license was refused; the impartial LaGuardia Report was rudely attacked by Anslinger; a President’s Judicial Advisory Council Policy Statement (1964) has characterized the activities of the Bureau as exceeding legal rightfulness in “criminalizing” by executive fiat and administrative dictum those addicted to addicting drugs who for decades have been prevented from going to a doctor for treatment unless it was under the aegis of Lexington jail and thru police channels. Memory of the British East India Hemp Commission report, the largest in history, done in the 1880s, which concluded that marijuana was not a problem, has been ignored,11 memories of our own Panama Canal military reports giving marijuana a clean bill of health have been unavailing in consideration of the Bureau,12 doctors have complained of being harassed and framed by one or another police agency; sick junkies have died in jail; thousands of intelligent citizens have been put in prison for uncounted years for possession or sale of marijuana,13 even if they grew it themselves and only smoked in private; youths have been entrapped into selling small or large quantities of grass to police agents and consequently found themselves faced with all the venomous bullshit that an arbitrary law can create from the terrors of arrest to the horror of years in jail; the author receives letters of complaint and appeals for help from many US cities, from acquaintances, fellow litterateurs, even scholarly investigators of the subject writing books about it, as well as from one energetic poet founding a fine project for an Artist’s Workshop (John Sinclair in Detroit, sentenced to 6 months for letting an agent buy marijuana for the second time) — one becomes awed by the enormity of the imposition.14

It is not a healthy activity for the State to be annoying so many of its citizens thusly; it creates a climate of topsy-turvy law and begets disrespect for the law and the society that tolerates execution of such barbarous law,15 and a climate of fear and hatred for the administrators of the law. Such a law is a threat to the existence of the State itself, for it sickens and debilitates its most adventurous and sensitive citizens. Such a law, in fact, can drive people mad.

It is no wonder then that most people who have smoked marijuana in America often experience a state of anxiety, of threat, of paranoia in fact, which may lead to trembling or hysteria, at the microscopic awareness that they are breaking a law, that thousands of investigators all over the country are trained and paid to smoke them out and jail them, that thousands of their community are in jail, that inevitably a few friends are “busted” with all the hypocrisy and expense and anxiety of that trial and perhaps punishment — jail and victimage by the bureaucracy that made, propagandized, administers, and profits from such a monstrous law.

From my own experience and the experience of others I have concluded that most of the horrific affects and disorders described as characteristic of marijuana “intoxication” by the US Federal Treasury Department’s Bureau of Narcotics are, quite the reverse, precisely traceable back to the effects on consciousness not of the narcotic but of the law and the threatening activities of the US Bureau of Narcotics itself. Thus, as the Buddha said to a lady who offered him a curse, the gift is returned to the giver when it is not accepted.

I myself experience this form of paranoia when I smoke marijuana, and for that reason smoke it in America more rarely than I did in countries where it is legal. I noticed a profound difference of affect in my case. The anxiety was directly traceable to fear of being apprehended and treated as a deviant criminal and put thru the hassle of social disapproval, ignominious Kafkian tremblings in vast court buildings coming to be judged, the helplessness of being overwhelmed by force or threat of deadly force and put in brick and iron cell.

This apprehension deepened when on returning this year from Europe I was stopped, stripped, and searched at customs. The dust of my pockets was examined with magnifying glass for traces of weed. I had publicly spoken in defense of marijuana and attacked the conduct of the Bureau, and now my name was down on a letter dossier at which I secretly peeked, on the customs search-room desk. I quote the first sentence, referring to myself and Orlovsky: “These persons are reported to be smuggling (or importing) narcotics…”

On a later occasion, when I was advised by several friends and near- acquaintances that Federal Narcotics personnel in New York City had asked them to “set me up” for an arrest, I became incensed enough to write a letter of complaint to my Congressman. He replied that he thought I was being humorless about the reason for my being on a list for customs investigation, since it was natural (I had talked about the dread subject so much in public); anyway, not Kafkian as I characterized it. As for my complaint about being set up — that, with my letter, was forwarded to the Treasury Department in Washington for consideration and reply.16 I had schemed writing some essay such as this in addition to a letter of reminder to my Representative, for it would be to my safety to publish.

I had had the earlier experience after a nationwide TV discussion show, during which the moderator, John Crosby, the anthropologist Ashley Montagu, and celebrated fellow-writer Norman Mailer all concluded — perhaps for the first time over a nationally publicized medium of communication in the last three decades — that as far as we knew there was nothing wrong with marijuana — of learning that the Treasury Department, true to its obsession, had forced its opinion back on the medium thru a seven-minute video-taped refutation (including an incredible rehash of the Egyptian mad dogs), and placed it on the air against the wishes of Mr. Crosby on the insistence of his network, which had received a communication from the Narco Bureau, possibly thru intervention of FCC. Years later I read an account of the incident by Mr. Crosby in his syndicated column, formally complaining about the affair.17

At that time, looking forward to the occasion of this essay, a difficult one, I made a preliminary epistle on the subject to Anslinger himself, a ten-page composition saying I thought he was a dangerous fraud, responsible for untold death and suffering, and that some day soon, those who had experience of the matter would band together with reasoning and documentation — such as one may find in this book — to come out in the open to explain the actual horror of the US Treasury Department Federal Narcotic Bureau to an already suspecting public.

Allen Ginsberg 2 A.M. Nov. 14, 1965


Rather than alter the preceding composition — let it remain, for the reader who has not smoked marijuana, a manifestation of marijuana-high thought structure in a mode which intersects our mutual consciousness, namely language — the author wishes to add here a few thoughts.

The author has spent half a year in Morocco, smoking kif often: old gentlemen and peaceable youths sit amiably, in cafés or under shade trees in outdoor gardens drinking mint tea, passing the tiny kif pipe, and looking quietly at the sea. This is the true picture of the use of kif in North Africa, exactly the opposite of the lurid stereotype of mad-dog human beings deliberately spread by our Treasury Department police branch. And I set this model of tranquil sensibility beside the tableau of aggravated New York executives sipping whiskey before a 1966 TV set’s imagery of drunken American violence covering the world from the highways to Berkeley all the way to the dirt roads of Vietnam.

No one has yet remarked that the suppression of Negro rights, culture, and sensibility in America has been complicated by the marijuana laws. African sects have used pot for divine worship (much as I have described its sacred use in India). And to the extent that jazz has been an adaptation of an African religious form to American context (and will have been in no small measure the salvation of America, if America survives the decades of coming change), marijuana has been closely associated with the development of this indigenous American form of chant and prayer. Use of marijuana has always been widespread among the Negro population in this country, and suppression of its use, with constant friction and bludgeoning of the law, has been one of the major unconscious, or unmentionable, methods of suppression of Negro rights. The mortal sufferings of our most celebrated heroic Negro musicians, from Billie Holiday thru Thelonious Monk, at the hands of police over the drug issue are well known. Such sadistic persecutions have outraged the heart of America for decades. I mean the cultural and spiritual heart — US music.

Although most scientific authors who present their reputable evidence for the harmlessness of marijuana make no claim for its surprising usefulness, I do make that claim:

Marijuana is a useful catalyst for specific optical and aural aesthetic perceptions. I apprehended the structure of certain pieces of jazz and classical music in a new manner under the influence of marijuana, and these apprehensions have remained valid in years of normal consciousness. I first discovered how to see Klee’s Magic Squares as the painter intended them (as optically 3-dimensional space structures) while high on marijuana. I perceived (“dug”) for the first time Cézanne’s “petit sensation” of space achieved on a 2-dimensional canvas (by means of advancing and receding colors, organization of triangles, cubes, etc. as the painter describes in his letters) while looking at The Bathers high on marijuana. And I saw anew many of nature’s panoramas and landscapes that I’d stared at blindly without even noticing before; thru the use of marijuana, awe and detail were made conscious. These perceptions are permanent — any deep aesthetic experience leaves a trace, and an idea of what to look for that can be checked back later. I developed a taste for Crivelli’s symmetry; and saw Rembrandt’s Polish Rider as a sublime youth on a deathly horse for the first time — saw myself in the rider’s face, one might say — while walking around the Frick Museum high on pot. These are not “hallucinations”; these are deepened perceptions that one might have catalyzed not by pot but by some other natural event (as natural as pot) that changes the mind, such as an intense love, a death in the family, a sudden clear dusk after rain, or the sight of the neon spectral reality of Times Square one sometimes has after leaving a strange movie. So it’s all natural.

At this point it should be announced that most of the major (best and most famous too) poets, painters, musicians, cinéasts, sculptors, actors, singers and publishers in America and England have been smoking marijuana for years and years. I have gotten high with the majority of the dozens of contributors to the Don Allen Anthology of New American Poetry 1945-1960; and in years subsequent to its publication have sat down to coffee and a marijuana cigarette with not a few of the more academic poets of the rival Hall-Pack-Simpson anthology. No art opening in Paris, London, New York, or Wichita at which one may not sniff the incense-fumes of marijuana issuing from the ladies’ room. Up and down Madison Avenue it is charming old inside knowledge; in the clacketing vast city rooms of newspapers on both coasts, copyboys and reporters smoke somewhat less marijuana than they take tranquilizers or Benzedrine, but pot begins to rival liquor as a non-medicinal delight in conversation. Already 8 years ago I smoked marijuana with a couple of narcotic department plainclothesmen who were trustworthy enough to invite to a literary reception. A full-page paid advertisement in The New York Times, quoting authoritative medical evidence of the harmlessness of marijuana, and signed by a thousand of its most famous smokers, would once and for all break the cultural ice and end once and for all the tyranny of the Treasury Department Narcotics Bureau. For it would only manifest in public what everybody sane in the centers of communication in America knows anyway, an enormous open secret — that it is time to end Prohibition again. And with it put an end to the gangsterism, police mania, hypocrisy, anxiety, and national stupidity generated by administrative abuse of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937.

It should be understood once and for all that in this area we have been undergoing police-state conditions in America, with characteristic mass brainwashing of the public, persecution and deaths in jails, elaborate systems of plainclothes police and police spies and stool pigeons, abuse of constitutional guarantees of privacy of home and person (even mode of consciousness) from improper search and seizure. The police prohibition of marijuana (accompanied with the even more obnoxious persecution of sick heroin addicts who all along should have been seeing the doctor) has directly created vast black markets, crime syndicates, crime waves in the cities, and a breakdown of law and order in the State itself. For the courts of large cities are clogged with so-called narcotic crimes and behind schedule, and new laws (such as the recent NY Rockefeller Stop and Frisk and No-Knock) spring up against the citizen to cope with the massive unpopularity of prohibition.

Not only do I propose end of prohibition of marijuana, and total shift of treatment of actually addictive drugs to the hands of the medical profession, but I propose a total dismantling of the whole cancerous bureaucracy that has perpetrated this historic fuck-up on the United States. And not only is it necessary that the Bureau of Narcotics be dismantled and consigned to the wax-museum of history, where it belongs, but it is also about time that a full-scale Congressional investigation, utilizing all the resources of the embattled medical, legal and sociological authorities, who for years have been complaining in vain, should be undertaken to fix the precise responsibility for this vast swindle on the administrative, business and mass-media shoulders where it belongs. What was the motive and method in perpetrating this insane hoax on public consciousness? Have any laws of malfeasance in public office been violated?

Not only an investigation of how it all happened but some positive remuneration is required for those poor citizens, many of them defenseless against beatings, sickness, and anxiety for years — a minority directly and physically persecuted by the police of every city and state and by agents of the nation; a minority often railroaded to jail by uncomprehending judges for months, for years, for decades; a minority battling idiotic laws, and even then without adequate legal representation for the slim trickery available to the rich to evade such laws. Pension must be made obviously for the cornered junkies. But for the inoffensive charming smokers of marijuana who have undergone disgraceful jailings, money is due as compensation. This goes back decades for thousands and thousands of people who, I would guess, are among the most sensitive citizens of the nation; and their social place and special honor of character should be rewarded by a society which urgently needs this kind of sensibility where it can be seen in public.

I have long felt that there were certain political implications to the suppression of marijuana, beyond the obvious revelation (which Burroughs pointed out in Naked Lunch) of the cancerous nature of the marijuana-suppression bureaucracy. When the citizens of this country see that such an old-time, taken-for-granted, flag-waving, reactionary truism of police, press, and law as the “reefer menace” is in fact a creepy hoax, a scarecrow, a national hallucination emanating from the perverted brain of one single man (perhaps) such as Anslinger, what will they begin to think of the whole of taken-for-granted public REALITY?

What of other issues filled with the same threatening hysteria? The spectre of Communism? Respect for the police and courts? Respect for the Treasury Department? If marijuana is a hoax, what is Money? What is the War in Vietnam? What are the Mass Media?

As I declared at the beginning of this essay, marijuana consciousness shifts attention from stereotyped verbal symbols to “more direct, slower, absorbing, occasionally microscopically minute engagement with sensing phenomena during the high …” Already millions of people have got high and looked at the images of their Presidents and governors and representatives on television and seen that all were betraying signs of false character. Or heard the impersonal robot tones of radio newscasters announcing mass deaths in Asia.

It is no wonder that for years the great centers of Puritanism of consciousness, blackout and persecution of the subtle vibrations of personal consciousness catalyzed by marijuana have been precisely Moscow and Washington, the centers of the human power war. Fanatical rigid mentality pursuing abstract ideological obsessions make decisions in the right-wing mind of America, pursuing a hateful war against a mirror-image of the same “sectarian, dogmatic” ideological mentality in the Communist camp. It is part of the same pattern that both centers of power have the most rigid laws against marijuana. And that marijuana and versions of the African ritual music (rock ‘n’ roll) are slowly catalyzing anti-ideological consciousness of the new generations on both sides of the Iron-Time curtain.

I believe that future generations will have to rely on new faculties of awareness, rather than on new versions of old idea-systems, to cope with the increasing godlike complexity of our planetary civilization, with its overpopulation, its threat of atomic annihilation, its centralized network of abstract word-image communication, its power to leave the earth. A new consciousness, or new awareness, will evolve to meet a changed ecological environment. It has already begun evolving in younger generations from Prague to Calcutta; part of the process is a re-examination of certain heretofore discarded “primitive” devices of communication with Self and Selves. Negro worship rituals have invaded the West via New Orleans and Liverpool, in altered but still recognizably functional form. The consciousness-expanding drugs (psychedelics) occupy attention in the highest intellectual circles of the West, as well as among a great mass of youth. The odd perceptions of Zen, Tibetan yoga, mantra yoga, and indigenous American Shamanism affect the consciousness of a universal generation, children who can recognize each other by hairstyle, tone of voice, attitude to nature, and attitude to Civilization. The airwaves are filled with songs of hitherto unheard-of frankness and beauty.

These then are some of the political or social implications of the legalization of marijuana as a catalyst to self-awareness. The generalizations I have made may also apply to the deeper affects and deeper social changes that may be catalyzed thru the already massive use of psychedelic drugs.

And it is significant that, as marijuana was once monopolized by a small rabid bureaucracy in the Treasury Department, the psychedelic drugs have this year in America been officially monopolized by the Pure Food and Drug Administration — within months a large amateur police force has mushroomed. I’ve heard it rumored that the precise group of citizens least

equipped for “responsibility” in this area — the least “mature” pressure-group in the States — already acts in an advisory capacity on licensing. This group is the Chemical Warfare Division of the Pentagon.



1 Editorial in the English Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, November 9, 1963. ….At most of the recent references the question was raised whether the marijuana problem might be abolished by removing the substance from the list of dangerous drugs where it was placed in 1951, and giving it the same social status as alcohol by legalizing its import and consumption.

This suggestion is worth considering. Besides the undoubted attraction of reducing, for once, the number of crimes that a member of our society can commit, and of allowing the wider spread of something that can give pleasure, a greater revenue would certainly come to the State from taxation than from fines. Additional gains might be the reduction of interracial tension, as well as that between generations; for ‘pot’ spread from South America to Britain via the United States and the West Indies. Here it has been taken up by the younger members of a society in which alcohol is the inheritance of the more elderly.

2 Anslinger, Harry J., and Oursler, W. C.: The Murderers, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1961 (p. 38).

Much of the irrational juvenile violence and killing that has written a new chapter of shame and tragedy is traceable directly to this hemp intoxication….

As the Marijuana situation grew worse, I knew action had to be taken to get proper control legislation passed. By 1937, under my direction, the Bureau launched two important steps: First, a legislative plan to seek from congress a new law that would place Marijuana and its distribution directly under federal control. Second, on radio and at major forums, such as that presented annually by the New York Herald Tribune, I told the story of this evil weed of the fields and river beds and roadsides. I wrote articles for magazines; our agents gave hundreds of lectures to parents, educators, social and civic leaders. In network broadcasts I reported on the growing list of crimes, including murder and rape. I described the nature of Marijuana and its close kinship to hashish. I continued to hammer at the facts.

I believe we did a thorough job, for the public was alerted, and the laws to protect them were passed, both nationally and at the state level.

3 H.J. Anslinger, Commissioner of Narcotics, Correspondence, Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 16, 1943 (p. 212).

….information in our possession…that marijuana precipitates in certain persons psychoses and unstable and disorganized personality … may be an important contributory cause to crime … by relaxing inhibitions may permit antisocial tendencies…

Of course, the primary interest of the Bureau of Narcotics is in the enforcement aspect. From that point of view it is very unfortunate that Drs. Allentuck and Bowman should have stated so unqualifiedly that use of marijuana does not lead to physical, mental, or moral degeneration and that no permanent deleterious effects from its continued use were observed.

4 “Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs,” Report by the Government of the United States of America for the Year Ended December 31st, 1938, by Hon. H. J. Anslinger, Commissioner of Narcotics (p. 7). “The Narcotics Section recognizes the great danger of marijuana due to its definite impairment of the mentality and the fact that its continuous use leads direct to the insane asylum.”

5 As stated in the text, which stands almost completely unrevised from first composition, the author smoked one marijuana cigarette at the beginning of the fourth paragraph.

6 The author is still high to the end of Section I.

7 The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, Goodman and Gillman, 1956 ed., (p. 20). “The federal narcotic regulations and a number of supplementary laws include drugs such as papaverine and marijuana which do not produce narcosis.”

(pp. 170-177). “There are no lasting ill effects from the acute use of marijuana, and fatalities have not been known to occur.

Careful and complete medical and neuropsychiatric examinations of habitués reveal no pathological conditions or disorders of cerebral functions attributable to the drug.

“Although habituation occurs, psychic dependence is not as prominent or compelling as in the case of morphine, alcohol, or perhaps even tobacco habituation.”

8 Hearings before the Committee on Ways and Means, U.S. House of Representatives, 75th Congress, 1st session April and May 1937: House Marijuana Hearings (p. 24).

Rep. John Dingall: “I am just wondering whether the marijuana addict graduates into a heroin, an opium, or a cocaine user?”

Anslinger: “No, sir. I have not heard of a case of that kind. I think it is an entirely different class. The marijuana addict does not go in that direction.”

9 In historical context this recent excuse for repression of marijuana seemed to the author so irrational that it was unnecessary to analyze. Yet public confusion may warrant some precise analysis.

    A) There are no legitimate sociological/medical study documents warranting the Narcotics Department’s assertion of causal relation between use of marijuana and graduation to opiates.
    B) There never had been any hint of such association before the two classes of drugs were forcibly juxtaposed in black market by said department; Anslinger testified to that in 1937. (see footnote #8).
    C) A greater number of opiate users started with bananas, cigarettes and alcohol than started with marijuana — no causal relationship is indicated in any case.
    D) The number of millions of respectable Americans who smoke marijuana have obviously not proceeded to opiates.
    E) In test sociological cases, i.e., societies such as Morocco and India where marijuana use is universal, there is very small use of opiates and no social association or juxtaposition between the two classes of drugs. What juxtaposition there is in America has been created and encouraged by the propaganda and repression tactics of the Narcotics Bureau.

10 Saddhana: yogic path or discipline.

11 Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, 1893-94, Ch. XIII (263-264, par. 552)

Summary of conclusions regarding effects. The Commission have now examined all the evidence before them regarding the effects attributed to hemp drugs. It will be well to summarize briefly the conclusions to which they come. It has been clearly established that the occasional use of hemp in moderate doses may be beneficial; but this use may be regarded as medicinal in character. It is rather to the popular and common use of the drugs that the Commission will now confine their attention. It is convenient to consider the effects separately as affecting the physical, mental or moral nature. In regard to the physical effects, the Commission have come to the conclusion that the moderate use of hemp drugs is practically attended by no evil results at all. There may be exceptional cases in which, owing to idiosyncrasies of constitution, the drugs in even moderate use may be injurious. There is probably nothing the use of which may not possibly be injurious in cases of exceptional intolerance….

In respect to the alleged mental effects of the drugs, the Commission have come to the conclusion that the moderate use of hemp drugs produces no injurious effects on the mind….

In regard to the moral effects or the drugs, the Commission are of opinion that their moderate use produces no moral injury whatever. There is no adequate ground for believing that it injuriously affects the character of the consumer…for all practical purposes it may be laid down that there is little or no connection between the use of hemp drugs and crime.

Viewing the subject generally, it may be added that the moderate use of these drugs is the rule, and that the excessive use is comparatively exceptional.

12 Panama Canal Zone Governor’s Committee, Apr.-Dec. 1925: (The Military Surgeon, Journal of the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, November 1933, p. 274).

After an investigation extending from April 1 to December 1925, the Committee reached the following conclusions:

There is no evidence that marijuana as grown here is a “habit-forming” drug in the sense in which the term is applied to alcohol, opium, cocaine, etc., or that it has any appreciably deleterious influence on the individual using it.

Panama Canal Zone Governor’s Committee, June 1931 (vide supra, p. 278):

Delinquencies due to marijuana smoking which result in trial by military court are negligible in number when compared with delinquencies resulting from the use of alcoholic drinks which also may be classed as stimulants and intoxicants.

13 12,229 convictions for marijuana in 1963 and 1964 reported from California alone, according to Prof. Lindesmith. The whole scene is so shrouded in bureaucratic mystery that there are no national figures available anywhere.

14 By March 1966 Dr. Timothy Leary faced a minimum of 5 years in jail and A.P. reported that the celebrated novelist Ken Kesey was a refugee in Mexico threatened with extradition by the FBI to face marijuana charges in California.

15 Proceedings White House Conference on Narcotic and Drug Abuse, September 27-28, 1962, State Department Auditorium, Washington, D. C. (p. 286). It is the opinion of the Panel that the hazards of Marijuana per se have been exaggerated and that long criminal sentences imposed on an occasional user or possessor of the drug are in poor social perspective. Although Marijuana has long held the reputation of inciting individuals to commit sexual offenses and other antisocial acts, the evidence is inadequate to substantiate this. Tolerance and physical dependence do not develop and withdrawal does not produce an abstinence syndrome.

16 Reply received December 22, 1965:

“I would advise you that I have been in touch with the Bureau of Narcotics and am of the opinion that nothing has been done in your case that is illegal or inconsistent with law enforcement practices designed to enforce the narcotics laws.” In this case it was police request to arrested friends that they carry marijuana to my apartment and to that of the novelist William S. Burroughs.

17 New York Herald Tribune, November 22, 1963.