Archive for the ‘Essays’ Category

The Composition of Music by Anonymous

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The Author is a 29-year-old man who has lived almost all of his life in Southern California. A composer and improvisor of avant-garde music, he is months away from completing his doctorate at a well-known university. He has studied and worked with some leading composers and performers, and his music has already received some recognition. We follow him from reflective composition into the melody of life.

I have used marijuana fairly regularly for some 12 years, and have found it to help my creativity and my appreciation of music and art in general. I first tried it as a high school student, but didn’t start using it frequently until college, in the company of good friends in the dorms. I would estimate that in my first two years of college, I smoked, generally, almost daily: the principal exceptions were vacations, which I usually spent at my parent’s home. Although in my junior year I curbed my drug use, I was far from abstemious, smoking on average several times a week from then on, for several years. As an undergraduate I maintained almost straight A’s (getting membership in Phi Beta Kappa and receiving special honors upon graduation) and enjoyed a reputation as a talented and dependable violinist. I say this not to boast, but to underscore that my drug use has had no apparent adverse effect on my work.

Pot at this time was both a social bond for my group of friends, and a means for enhanced experience. My friends and I would spend days or nights together, listening to music, having long and wide-ranging conversations (one friend was an engineering and physics student, and we would often discuss analogies between artistic and scientific perception), and going on expeditions into nature. We were much impressed with the example of the Beat poets, for instance, and similarly sought through drugs a richer and more direct relationship to things. Natural phenomena, like trees or the ocean, had never before revealed their complexity and beauty as fully as they did under the influence of marijuana (or, more intensely still, LSD). Further, music was more potent than before, thanks to the distension of time usual with pot.

Later I used pot less in general social circumstances, and more for specific ends. For example, a good friend of mine was a painter: we would smoke and spend hours studying reproductions of Poussins or Twomblys, figuring out how they worked, the hidden proportions and balances, the beauty of individual details. More importantly, I started using pot in the process of composing, a practice which continues to this day.

I compose very much in layers: first comes some sort of general impression of a piece (instrumentation, rough proportions, length); then a more mechanical phase of deposing “stuff” (pitches, rhythms, shapes) into this schema; and finally, the refinement and alteration of this material for increasingly specific expressive intents. (This is a big simplification, and in practice these levels are becoming increasingly fluid; but I don’t want to get too technical, so I’ll leave this as is.)

Pot can help me a great deal in the first and third of these phases. It helps make my initial impressions more concrete: I can better feel the continuities and conflicts that they can embody, and better visualize general shapes. Although this overview invariably changes a great deal during the working process, I need a vivid image to motivate this work. Pot is not very good for the second phase of composition: the mundane “working out” of the initial vision is best done without the distraction of heightened sensitivity that pot provides. However, pot is very useful in the third phase: I read through my material over and over again, trying to discern its internal energies, revising both the details and my general conception of the piece as I go. Pot can make me much more sensitive in particular to the affect of given gestures or shapes; as in the first phase, I have a more visceral and plastic sense of the music, how it feels to the emotions and the body. This physical impact is very important for me (which is not to be confused with mere force – it may be a thing of great delicacy), and I compose neither at the piano nor with computer aids. Pot improves my imagination of the propulsions and resistances that animate my music.

I like using pot in the composing process (I haven’t used it much as an improviser, but intend to), and also in listening to music, reading, and watching films. Pot can diminish stamina sometimes, perhaps because time distends under its influence, and short events can have the weight of meaning (and consequent capacity to exhaust) that longer ones typically do; but this potential defect is generally offset by exceptionally acute emotional impact and perception of nuance. At the same time, the sensitivity it fosters enhances both my positive and negative “normal” reactions: my fondness for slow music, for jazz, for rich and complex textures, for fusion of expressive and constructive dimensions (e.g., Bruckner, Billie Holiday, Ferneyhough, Schoenberg) flourishes; as does my distaste for motoric pulses, indulgent heroic rhetoric, virtuosity for its own sake (techno, film music, Paganini). With reading, I may not read as much as when I’m not stoned, but I can read more deeply: this is very useful with poetry, in which hitherto ignored layers of resonance and significance can emerge. This is also true of films: good older Hollywood movies and “art films” are improved, while the manipulative entertainments typical now become ludicrous or worse.

I use marijuana because I enjoy such sensitivity, either when working or when perceiving. I like taking long walks through the canyons near my home under its influence, observing the flora, the weather, etc. Walks in the city are also interesting: the undertones of class and power beneath the surface of the environment become more perceptible. Pot can also be useful as a sort of meditation aid: recently, I’ve been experimenting with a sort of self-hypnosis under its influence, trying to listen into hidden parts of the self, the continuity of bodily and emotional memory. I generally smoke between once and four times a week. I have gone without for periods of up to nine months, however, either from lack of access or from self-imposed discipline.

At one difficult period I felt my use was excessive, and, worried, I stopped using for a long time; but I found that my productivity and mood did not improve in its absence. On the contrary, I think pot would have helped me overcome my depression more quickly (my work was at a crossroads and a long-distance relationship was ending); it has certainly helped give me perspective in subsequent disappointments. Pot has definitely affected my general view of life: my best experiences with it remind me of, or deepen my perception of, the beauty, complexity, and interrelation of self, history, and environment.

Incidentally, alcohol is a completely different drug from marijuana. Pot for me is generally not a good social drug: I can become self-conscious and often would prefer to be alone, working on my music or reading or walking, or else only with one or two close friends. Alcohol by contrast can improve ease of social intercourse for me; but it is useless for insight into art or place.

The Case of the Conscious Connoisseur by Anonymous

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The author is a successful attorney living in the northwestern United States. She is a happily married mother in her 40’s interested in music, dance, theater, cinema, international travel, gardening, and gourmet cooking. Her panoply of interests is intensified by her modest and periodic use. We dance with Sufis, canoe through wilderness waters, and visit Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, in this quest to further open the doors of consciousness.

I grew up in New York City, where I was never offered marijuana. I first sampled marijuana at the age of 16, during my senior year of high school, while visiting a boyfriend at a Massachusetts university. We were at a party given by friends of his who lived off-campus. I wasn’t aware of experiencing any particular change, but was told by fellow partygoers that I was sporting an “acid grin.” I had a good time, but hey, it was a party. I only tried it again once or twice before going away to a college in upstate New York where pot was prevalent. I obtained a small stash and smoked it from time to time, generally not daily or even weekly. This is still the extent of my practice.

From the time I became aware of marijuana’s effects, I was impressed by how powerful it was. Even with the less potent varieties of weed, I usually feel it after smoking a very small amount. With high-quality weed, one or two puffs will usually be sufficient. I discovered early on that more was not better, and that in fact, it was worse, especially if eaten. A small amount sufficed to “open the door” to greater focus, relaxation, creativity, laughter, and excitement. Anything beyond that was likely to produce anxiety, paranoia, and an uncomfortable, excessive loss of self-control.

The first obvious effect after inhalation is enhanced body awareness. I immediately become aware of the shallowness of my breathing, and my breath slows and deepens. I seem to feel every tangle in my hair and feel a need to brush or comb my hair. I then notice every area of tension in my body and stretch my legs, arms, back, and neck. I usually put on some music, or change the music, or do something to alter or optimize my environment. I completely lose my appetite for food, although I sometimes enjoy a glass of wine, especially if other people are present. (The appetite for food returns with a vengeance when the effects of the pot wear off.) I gain vastly increased appreciation for the subtleties of visual art. I start thinking in creative terms, and exploring the nature of my intoxication. I often wonder whether I can open the same doors without the drug, and if so, how. I become very attentive to what is going on both inside and around me, and I try to define what has happened to me. My quest for verbal explanations leads me through the world of words and into creating prose, poetry, and sometimes, songs. I often smoke in anticipation of experiencing live music. When appropriate, I dance, often wildly, including to the stereo at home. When dancing is inappropriate, such as at the opera, symphony performances or chamber music recitals, I sit transfixed, transcendent and transported to other realms, often inspired to create poetry and songs of my own. I often bring a pad and pen with me to express my inspirations during and after the show.

I’ve always had powerful memory for words and song lyrics, and an uncanny natural ability to unscramble words and create anagrams. I’ve always been a good Scrabble player, but during college days, I found that, under the influence of marijuana, my abilities improved further, and I came up with imaginative combinations that far surpassed my earlier efforts. I also find that I can play a better game of Encore – a parlor game where players must recall song lyrics containing a particular word – when I’ve smoked some pot. These enhancements run contrary to the notion that marijuana smoking adversely affects memory. I can also play ping-pong much better when I’m high, with increased physical coordination and less inhibition.

I also use the opportunity to ponder the problems of society, which usually leads to deeper spiritual inquiry. I have had numerous personal epiphanies while under the influence, and have learned important things about myself and have gained insights into my own behaviors, which have led me to take corrective or ameliorative actions.

Unlike alcohol, which has caused me to pass out at least twice in my life, marijuana has never put me out of commission, although I had one bad day about 25 years ago after consuming too many brownies baked with “green butter.” (Recipe: a large harvest’s worth of sticks, stems and twigs are boiled all day in a big pot of water with a pound or two of butter, then drained and after solidifying, the butter – now green, and containing the fat-soluble THC – is removed from the top of the water.)

After college, I moved to San Francisco, and lived in the Bay Area for more than 20 years. During that time, I usually kept a small stash, but used pot even less frequently, sometimes going many months or even a year between uses. I attended law school (graduating with highest honors and law review, notwithstanding my occasional marijuana use throughout the three years of law school) and worked as a lawyer, got married and divorced a couple of times, bore a child, and became involved with a lot of different people during my Bay Area years. I discovered, by trying it just once, that smoking marijuana and work (including school classes and schoolwork) do not go together at all well. I find that when I’m high, I do not like putting myself in a position where I have to do something I really don’t want to do, which usually includes working with others in an office. Especially when I’ve smoked, I don’t like being in a place where my conduct and performance are constantly scrutinized and evaluated.

About nine years ago, I moved to another state where I became licensed as an attorney, and where I was again married and divorced. For the past six years, I have been with my current husband. He is a wonderful, brilliant, happy man who grew up in a non-dysfunctional family (unlike my own family of origin) and who is almost always smiling. I call him a Buddha because he naturally practices non-attachment, without aspiring to any particular religious or spiritual ideology. He does not smoke pot or use any drugs; he is extremely susceptible to alcohol and gets looped on two glasses of wine, so he doesn’t drink much either. He has encouraged me to continue smoking pot, and enjoys being with me when I have smoked. He agrees with my decision to keep it from the kids (I’m concerned with the children’s use causing possible lack of motivation, impairment of school performance and social function, not to mention legal problems) for the time being, and has cooperated with me in keeping my practices discreet.

As a rule, even people who know me well cannot tell when I have smoked. They may notice my good mood, but since I am usually cheerful anyway, they don’t associate the increased giggling with drug use. This is fortunate, because I have three kids: a 15 year old daughter who lives with me, as well as 15 and 12 year old stepdaughters who are in my home half the time. As far as I know, they have never sampled marijuana, although my daughter has been offered it more than once at school by classmates who are open about their use. Because I believe that marijuana, like alcohol, requires mature, adult judgment, and moderation in use, I would strongly prefer that the children not start smoking or drinking until they are well into, or even past, their college careers. I realize they may start sooner, but I don’t want to be the reason, so I keep my past and present drug use a secret from them, although I do drink moderately in their presence.

I enjoy a glass or two of wine with a special dinner once in a while, and a cocktail or beer occasionally, and probably consume alcohol on the average of three to four times a month. I consider marijuana a far superior recreational drug. When I have consumed alcohol, I cannot drive as well, or function well in other ways. When I’m high on pot, I can drive just fine, and the only thing I do differently when driving is make 100% sure that I’m not going over the speed limit at all – making me a much safer driver. I’m aware of a tendency to drive too slowly when stoned, so I always try to stay right at the speed limit. In many other activities, my functioning under the influence of marijuana actually seems to improve. Some examples are: singing, dancing, playing piano, writing poetry, joking, socializing and relating to others, especially children. I often question whether my functioning is truly improved, or whether it just feels like it when I’m stoned. When looking at the fruits of my actions after straightening out, I am usually convinced that I really did perform better while under the influence of THC.

I have tried, but do not particularly like, amphetamines and cocaine. I have also tried, and am interested in further experimentation with, psychedelics, including psilocybin mushrooms (with no effect – they were probably bad) and LSD. I did not try LSD until I was in my early 40’s, and I have tried it no more than six or seven times, and only during times when my children and I were separated by many miles. I am curious to sample Ecstasy, but have concerns about its safety. I would also consider trying mushrooms again, as well as peyote and ayahuasca, if I could do so under the right circumstances. I very often experience extremely vivid visual as well as auditory “hallucinations” and colorful images while stoned, and sometimes while straight.

During my college years, I became initiated into transcendental meditation by a designee of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. This required that I give up alcohol, caffeine and marijuana for a month prior to initiation, and to remain away from these substances. I found meditation very helpful, but I did return to occasional substance use after several months. I also got involved in hatha yoga soon thereafter. Over the years, I have explored many types of psychotherapy, self-help and spiritual practices, my favorites being neurolinguistic programming as described by Tony Robbins, Buddhist detachment practices, Course in Miracles forgiveness practices, affirmations, and the Dances of Universal Peace and other spiritual practices given by teachers within the Sufi tradition (the lineage of Hazrat Inayat Kahn and Murshid Samuel Lewis). I have never derived great spiritual satisfaction (although I have at times gained a pleasant sense of culture and community) from Judaism, my religion of birth (though not training) nor from Christianity, although I have taken some interest in both.

Part of my spiritual and religious explorations has been my quest to find other ways of opening the doors that marijuana seems to open. I have also tried to induce a placebo effect (is that oxymoronic?). Sometimes I think I can, only to realize I actually haven’t.

I find it hard to believe that the places I visit in my head when I’m stoned are either not there or completely inaccessible without using the “key” of pot. Although I can’t simulate the state of mind 100%, and not always at-will, I sometimes can put myself in a heightened state of awareness without imbibing any substances. At such times, I am delighted to rediscover the joys of dancing, singing, writing, and dreaming in free-flowing mode, and I thus remain occasionally encouraged in my otherwise seemingly futile quest to replicate marijuana’s effects without any chemicals.

I have had the great pleasure of enhancing travel experiences with marijuana. In the summer of 1972, I visited Europe for the first time, traveling mostly by myself for three months. Twice during the trip, I visited Amsterdam, which was quite different from the way it is now – currently, pot is sold in licensed “coffeeshops.” Back in the Ô70’s, marijuana and hashish flowed openly and freely throughout the city, and an overriding sense of personal freedom pervaded the atmosphere, and persists to this day. When I finally returned to Europe in October of 2001, I again visited Amsterdam, and enjoyed dropping into different coffeeshops and sampling the wares (including “Blueberry,” the winner of the Cannabis Cup Prize awarded annually in the fall by a panel organized by High Times magazine) without fear and for mere pennies. On both trips to Europe, I found that my experience of walking around a foreign city – a wonderful thing in itself – was even more exciting and sparkling with the added gloss of a marijuana high. It was a special thrill, on both trips, to smoke pot prior to visiting the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum. I will not take the risk of crossing international borders in possession of pot, so I was only able to use it in Europe while visiting the Netherlands (although I was aware of pot and hash smoking on the trains and in the parks in Germany and the Czech Republic during my recent trip).

I have also visited the Hawaiian Islands on about ten occasions from 1974 to 2001, and on most of these visits, I have either brought marijuana along or obtained it there. Again, the vibrant colors, unforgettable flora and fauna, and caressing warm breezes and waters of the tropics are inherently enormously pleasurable, and yet, a toke of marijuana takes the experience to an even higher, almost orgasmic, level. I would caution against swimming or snorkeling while under the influence of any intoxicant, since hyperventilation and lack of judgment can occur, with disastrous consequences. I usually avoid these problems by using the “buddy system,” and I am very fortunate to have my husband as a buddy. I have also brought pot along on backpacking and other wilderness trips, including 5-day canoe trips in the Boundary Waters between Minnesota and Canada, and on cross-country ski trips, day trips to the coast, and local day hikes. My experience of nature is vastly enhanced and deepened by the use of marijuana. I often become much more relaxed and far less nervous about walking over logs across streams, or other seemingly hazardous stepping places. I don’t become brazen, but I do relax enough to make it safe, and I enjoy a sense of empowerment and victory over my own self-sabotaging fears and habits.

I believe it is no accident that many peace-loving people are pot smokers – pot makes me even more committed to peace, justice and love in my life and in the world. I find it interesting, and significant, that the federal war on drugs is being stepped up (in part, by the appointment of an especially rabid new drug “czar” who believes in increased criminal penalties and feels that treatment and education are useless) at the same time the federal government is conducting an international war, and eliminating constitutionally-guaranteed civil liberties in the process.

THC and the Topical Gag by Anonymous

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The author is a 37-year-old comedy writer who finds cannabis useful in his work. From plodding to playful, he retrieves the cosmic jokester from his baggie, and creates ripples of mirth.

I’m a 37-year-old comedy writer from New York City. I’ve been using marijuana off and on for 21 years.

Marijuana is so useful to writers that it’s hard not to think of it as crushed and dried inspiration. People who have never tried it have written brilliantly, and it can’t be used as part of a daily work routine; but a few grains of it from time to time warm up the imagination, and bring the energizing benefits of a fresh perspective.

I use it every few weeks to generate material, usually starting with a problem that has resisted a straight solution. Often the jokes will need reworking the next day, but that’s generally true anyway. And cannabis jokes have a special quality — there’s something oracular and otherworldly about them; I’m almost sheepish about taking the credit. I’ve written or rewritten a lot of useful material on THC, and there’s probably a stench of it on everything else I write.

Gag writers rely on intuition. They’re confronted with a topic from the news, say, and numberless trains of thought that might proceed from it. In some corner of the brain the connection is made instantly; the trick is to distract that plodding little monkey who works the controls.

Here are some recent jokes that may or may not illustrate this principle — but I remember that in each case the dread of the assignment was relieved with marijuana, which restored the requisite psychic playfulness.

“Texas Governor George Bush said this week that he is ‘optimistic’ that none of the 112 people he has executed were innocent. However, he admits he was also optimistic in Juarez, when he paid $300 for eight grams of baking soda.”

“The ‘Today’ show’s Katie Couric announced she is going to broadcast her colonoscopy on nationwide TV, to emphasize the importance of the procedure. Producers are so strongly behind the idea, they plan to introduce it as a new feature after the weather, called ‘Where the Sun Don’t Shine.'”

“Margaret Chaplain, the San Diego woman who claims she was Ronald Reagan’s mistress during his term as governor, said this week that her decision to go public was motivated by anger. ‘I slept with him 60 times,’ she said. ‘Now he acts like he doesn’t know me.'”

When I smoke pot I realize the darkness of the glass through which I’ve been seeing. Pot is face to face. The gauze that shields you from, say, a painting on your wall that you haven’t inspected since August of 1985 is lifted. You’re restored for a few hours to a child’s relationship to outside stimuli, to his own sensorium and nerve endings. Aldous Huxley wrote in the introduction to THE PERENNIAL PHILOSOPHY, “As the individual grows up, his knowledge becomes more conceptual and systematic in form, and its factual, utilitarian content is enormously increased. But these gains are offset by a certain deterioration in the quality of immediate apprehension, a blunting and a loss of intuitive power.” Ganja can reverse the process, for a short time. The chronic, low-level disappointment that adults can feel even at the Grand Canyon or a planetarium show is overthrown by intense aesthetic engagement. Stoners don’t leave a fireworks display feeling that anyone had a better seat, or that the whole thing was vaguely over their heads.

Because of this power to strip layers of blubber from the brain and make it more penetrable to stimuli, pot is a strong, parasitic pleasure drug. It enhances sexual, musical and other enjoyments. And since empathy is a product of imagination, it can bridge long-standing gaps between people. It has brought me closer to my friends and family who have happened to drop in while I’m sensitized by the stuff.

Cannabis is not all flower-strewn euphoria. It’s not a narcotic; it doesn’t commandeer one’s responses. Anyone who has experimented with it knows that in addition to grooving enjoyment, it also enhances anxiety, morbid introspection and paranoid thinking. This is native to the beginning of the trip, and after these blocks are worked through (or become boring) one feels free to enjoy the rest of the evening. I don’t use it much around other people, because someone always suggests a restaurant and I’ll think the waitress is judging me. And as I mentioned, it has limits as a writing tool. Everyday use makes one flamboyantly stupid, and dependence on anything is abject. The intricacies of its use have to be learned by diligent experimentation.

There are many other aspects of cannabis intoxication that interest me. Writing about them explicitly makes them leaden and pedantic, and too small. I use it to keep in touch with myself and to get to a higher creative ground. Legalizing it would strip it of a certain speakeasy mystique, but I still look forward to the evolution of our current troglodytic system.

Stress Control by "Doug Dusalle"

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Doug Dusalle (a pseudonym), DVM, Ph.D., describes himself as a “straight-A type” who ended up with two professions… veterinary medicine and biochemistry. He teaches at a large university and practices veterinary medicine. He describes self-medication using cannabis for mild epilepsy, rage behavior, and a range of neurotic symptoms.

After a fall from a horse in the 11th grade, I suffered a few seizures and later developed emotional tides which could erupt, leaving me confused, emotionally exhausted, and with intractable headaches. I managed to get along OK it seemed, but after four years of college, I dropped out for a year. My obsessive/compulsive personality was unable to solve essential problems. Grief over the loss of a horse patient coupled with the rigors of professional school so stressed me that I was out of control and did some pretty bizarre stuff (I am told). In a small community mental health center I was tried on the usual spectrum of anti-psychotic medicines, but anti-seizure medicine, Dilantin, helped dramatically. My EEG was abnormal, and a temporal lobe abnormality was diagnosed. The anti-seizure medicine stopped the paroxysms of bouncing off of the walls and kept my emotional tides under control; I felt sane. At the same time, I was dissatisfied with the side effects of Dilantin. I didn’t really notice the sedation until trying to do analytical thinking and there it was devastating; I felt stupid.

That year, I first tasted pot. The books and articles from the intellectual component of the “turned on” generation had made pretty short work of the common myths about pot “flashbacks” and so on, and pointed sharp questions at the authorities; questions the authorities still refuse to discuss.

“We’re the authorities, you dunce,” (oooh, how I hate bullies).

I clearly remember that I felt nothing the first few times I “took a puff” at a party. But a close friend gave me a small stash, and I got high one night while watching television. I have often heard that people can remember the time they first got stoned (but not the last). Vivid, lucid, arcane, lyrical, hysterical, colorful, carefree, euphoric. Not the craziness and out-of control state promised by the government propaganda. As my experience with the drug increased, I realized that it made me feel unstressed. Even though I was more likely to make mistakes, forget things and so on, it was much harder to get upset when stoned.

Indeed, I much preferred smoking pot to taking Dilantin. Pot is interesting, with a paradoxical expansion of consciousness and mild euphoria to balance its sedative effects, whereas Dilantin is purely a “gorker.”

There were a lot of students smoking at the University. I stopped Dilantin because I felt really stupid on it (couldn’t take notes, couldn’t think) and finished my last year in veterinary school smoking pot every day. Tests in the last year were more of a challenge, but I sailed through the last year and the veterinary board examinations and went into practice still smoking quite a bit of the illegal herb every evening. Veterinarians, above all professionals, need compassion and patience and I felt acutely more compassionate and patient when a little stoned. While pot was ideal for dealing with animals, it was a distinct handicap when trying to keep track of multiple things or dealing with clients. I couldn’t smoke at work (I know some who can) because you can’t think as fast, you tend to get distracted and you can become confused.

I remember doing some mechanical work on an old VW engine for a friend. Things went from bad to worse under the summer sun and my anger peaked after recognizing how totally I had wrecked things; I was ready for an embolism. Injuring a toe as I kicked the steel toolbox, I stomped upstairs and rolled a joint. From red faced furious to amusedly befuddled in a matter of a few minutes. Within 15 minutes I was downstairs picking up all of my tools and realizing that things weren’t so bad after all. “What in the world was the matter with me?”

Highway driving in big cities is a dangerous fast-paced potentially adversarial procedure. I fully understand road rage after having spent many long times in rush hour traffic with horrendously inconsiderate and discourteous drivers. Smoking a little pot makes me more laid back. I know it is supposed to slow your reflexes and cloud your judgment, but if you are following less closely and are not upset when people pull out in front of you, you are still a lot safer. Yes the person behind you is tight on your bumper because you let in another buttinsky, but he is safer too because you have more reaction time and smoother responses. Besides, I don’t really believe it slows your reflexes. You do have to learn to maintain attentiveness to the road. The answer to the question of whether pot would increase or decrease road accidents would depend on whether people were using pot responsibly.

One of the advantages of the altered perspective is a sort of outward interest in your surroundings; you become less self-centered. You sort of slow down and start to notice subtleties below the subliminal level of your “straight” radar. I found out, to my dismay, that I am a bully. I hate bullies, but even more I hate being a bully. One tends to always think one is being fair, but when you resort to solving conflicts by pronouncement, one is usually being a bully, especially if you are a doctor, I think. Most painfully, my expanded consciousness led me to recognize that it is very hard for women to get equal treatment from a man. Men tend to be quiet until making a decision, and then hand it down like a decision from a high court, “take it or leave it.” Women like to discuss things and be a part of the process. It seems only common courtesy to make allowances for this in the medical field. But in the times I was not smoking pot regularly, I was much faster, more efficient, more abrupt, more decisive and, well, more of a bully.

Sometimes my mind returns to situations in the past where the bully in me came out to quickly solve a problem. I cringe with internal embarrassment and a sense of having wronged some man or woman or child because of impatience in human relations. Pot helped me see that in myself and others. While I seem to have it much better under control now, others seem clueless. It seems society in general is clueless about the inhumanity with which we treat each other almost daily in the name of efficiency and economy – but that is a different story.

Reading is a hassle when stoned. It is harder to avoid distraction and slower going, but it didn’t keep me from smoking every day I was in graduate school in biochemistry and that didn’t keep me from getting straight A’s. I’ve been forced several times to stop from a lack of availability, but the psychological withdrawal is minimal. I’ve never felt physical withdrawal, unless you count mild irritability.

In brief, while the “recreational” uses of pot for euphoria and distraction are attractive, my own use has brought about control of stress-related psychiatric problems. Whether my paroxysmal emotional vulcanism and difficulty dealing with emotions (including anger) are mainly epileptic or neurotic, pot has proved adequate under most circumstances to maintain an even keel.

Restoration of the Body by Anonymous

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The contributor of the following article is a 30-year-old attorney living in Massachusetts who loves all team sports, jazz, blues, camping, and hiking. He first experimented with cannabis when he was eighteen, near the end of his freshman year at a small liberal arts college. We are instructed on stretching our bodies, and our minds.

I awake on Sunday morning, and I feel fine, until I try to roll onto my side. My entire body aches, forcing me to stretch the process of standing up into a two- or three-minute process. All of my large muscle groups are inflamed and so tight that it feels as if they might snap free from my bones. My rib cage is tender, so that coughing and laughing are painful. It is difficult to avoid excruciating leg cramps as I move to a standing position.

Yesterday had been the first day I had played rugby since the prior year’s alumni game, and despite my efforts to tune up my aging frame during the previous months, I could not have prepared myself for the contact and the intensely physical nature of the sport. Although I had faithfully administered a healthy dose of ale at the party which immediately followed the game in an effort to reduce the pain and inflammation, this strategy only served to provide a brief hiatus fro the groaning complaints of my aching muscles. The hangover and accompanying headache were now extracting their payment for the respite for which I had bargained.

I walk slowly to the refrigerator and drink a quart of water. I then hobble into the backyard with a roach I have poached from my host’s ashtray. I ease myself onto the grass, and I take just one or two long puffs. Almost instantly, my head stops pounding. I begin to appreciate the rhythmic sounds of nature, and I focus on breathing deeply. At this point, the only thing I want to do is to loosen up my aching body, each part of which is clamoring for individualized attention. All other concerns fall away from me.

I draw myself up to a yoga-like position with straight back and feet drawn in, and this prompts me to take stock of my physical state. While I continue to be so sore that standing up would be a major chore, I now am certain that I will be able to find my way out of this extreme discomfort through a careful stretching routine. I begin to sort out those areas which were most traumatized from those which are simply tight. My proprioceptive powers are enhanced, allowing me to clearly address the pain experienced by each limb. I take inventory, noticing bruises for the first time. I piece together which particular tackle or scrum-down caused the more severe aches and pains. The stiff neck is from the whiplash I experienced when I was sandwiched between two burly forwards. The tender rib cage is from when I ended up on the bottom of the pile made up of ten 200-pound players.

Just a moment before, I was moving as gingerly as possible, trying to avoid moving and stressing my muscles. It is now deeply satisfying to stretch out each large muscle group in turn. I reach far into each stretch, beyond the pain. There are moments when fluorescent colors push into the periphery of my vision as I hold a stretch. I lose awareness of my surroundings as I listen to the blood coursing through my arteries. I am able to intuit when and how to stretch each muscle group, and after perhaps twenty minutes, I gradually move out to the finer muscles of the hands and feet. I massage my hands and feet, my neck and jaw, and a wave of pleasure washes over me as I recognize my body as a unit again instead of as a mob of warring factions. While before my “wake and bake” I had been unable to even begin a stretching motion, I was now limber. I would not be able to play rugby today, but some Frisbee, volleyball or hiking would certainly be in order. Without the herbaceous assistance, even croquet would have been out of the question.

Prior to my stretching routine, I was able to think of very little save the pain I was experiencing. The prospects for the day seemed dim, as my goal was minimizing and avoiding pain rather than enjoying life. Now, the oppression of my body has been lifting, and my mind flits easily to anticipate the tasks and pleasures of the day. I feel very spiritual and in tune with my body and the earth, and I give thanks that I am able to appreciate the day despite the harm which I inflicted upon myself (with the assistance of my fifteen opponents) the day before. When they arise, my friends are slightly annoyed at my chipper outlook, which only reminds them of their own hung-over state. Those among them who have been socialized to believe that the kindest herb is for evening or afternoon consumption only will have a much more prolonged state of discomfort than I experienced.

I am certain that this form of self-medication drastically reduces the amount of recovery time which is required before normal activity may be resumed after over-exerting the body. I tend to “overdo it” regularly, whether on the basketball court, ski slopes, or touch football field, and I have been the unhappy subject of numerous “control” experiments wherein I was forced to cope with severe muscle strain without the benefit of cannabis. Whether the cause was due to a failure in the supply lines or the result of some misdirected, self-imposed period of prohibition, my recovery period was always longer, grumpier, more painful, and more sedentary than it needed to be. I am very wary of beginning the simplest stretch due to the pain I am experiencing. I simply cannot get past the feeling that, if my body is protesting so vehemently I may do damage to it if I try to push it past the pain. No amount of hot showers or Advil can begin to loosen the muscles like a few puffs. Even a trained masseuse would have difficulty untangling my knotted muscles – self-massage is advantageous because of the immediate feedback I get, as well as the sensation of each muscle calling out for the manipulation which will allow it to peaceably co-exist with its neighboring muscles, tendons, and joints.

I should point out that on the second morning after the overexertion, I again awake to extreme soreness and tightness, even if I have gone through the ideal routine as set forth above. While I believe that a couple more puffs would be the most effective means of approaching the day, I may forego these if, for example, a Monday morning meeting looms. In this case, I am able to go through a stretching routine which returns my body to a functioning unit. This stretching process is clearly facilitated by the time I have spent the previous morning. If I had neglected my body by not smoking the previous day I would be every bit as sore as I was the previous morning, and equally unlikely to make it past the pain to get into an effective stretching routine.

Reefer Sanity by Anonymous

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The author is a 60-year-old grandmother and a Ph.D. in one of the helping professions. She teaches graduate students, writes, and has a small psychotherapy practice. In this advisory on use, we learn of the many facets of her relationship with cannabis, from handling strong feelings to social interaction and the selection of tasks while under cannabis’ influence.

The idea of writing about my experiences with marijuana had been lingering in the wings for some time, but it was a statement by a government representative on a radio show about legalizing marijuana for medical uses that put me over the edge. I tuned in reluctantly because the opposition, those who see pot as a dangerous drug, make me so damn mad. Lester Grinspoon was speaking and making sense as usual. Then the government official, who was given the last word on the subject, said “Everyone knows that smoking pot turns people into zombies.” I lurched toward the radio, nearly knocking it off the shelf. This was the last straw. My frustration with the endless flow of misinformation about pot was pushed to the limit. Those who want to keep marijuana in the same class of drugs with morphine and heroin, prevent its use for medical purposes, and fight to keep it illegal are the only voices heard. We who smoke and have valuable information to add to the discussion cannot speak openly because pot is illegal.

What follows is a piece about my relationship with marijuana. I do not speak for all smokers, and it is not my intention to advocate pot smoking. But I hope this will motivate others to write about their own pot smoking experiences.

I have been smoking grass for almost 25 years, starting in my twenties. One Thanksgiving my cousin came to visit, bearing two joints. “I’ve got something for you” he said gleefully. My husband was a bit reluctant, but having tried pot with a college friend a few years back and nothing much happened, I was unimpressed and not worried. That weekend I got high and had all the pleasant and surprising reactions of first time smokers – we laughed a lot, had ground breaking ideas, profound conversations, listened to music with cat ears, and savored the taste of whatever we put in our mouths. Pot became my drug of choice. Never much of a drinker – alcohol muddled my head, made me autistic, and punished me with a headache if I drank too much – marijuana made me feel alert, focused, articulate, and had no next day effects. After that weekend, I usually had some pot on hand. We smoked irregularly, enjoyed turning friends on, and each new stoned experience was a neon lit event.


On the whole, pot has been a friend. It has gotten me through a gut wrenching divorce, bouts of confusion, consuming anxiety, run of the mill worries, and the winter blues. Grass does this for me in two ways. It quiets my emotions when my feelings are so entwined with a problem I cannot think. Marijuana creates distance by turning down my emotional burner, which allows me to get some perspective and think about possible solutions. It also propels and engages me in the present, a reminder that more is happening than my problem and its churning waves of emotions.

One of the emotions that marijuana mutes is anger, a point in its favor. I have never seen or heard a news flash that says, “crazed pot smoker stabs friend in a rage.” Alcohol is frequently associated with violent acts, but pot is not. Here’s an experience I had in Holland a few years back that brought this home to me.

I am on the dark edge of a small town standing in front of a tiny coffee shop with a Jamaican flag taped to the window. My partner wants to go in, but I am reluctant, seeing only men in the small room. My paranoia rises and I can feel my temples constrict. Quickly I move to a stool with my back to the bar, so I can face the room and look around. Reggae music is playing in the background, but the people noise is low. Men are playing chess, pinball, listening to music, talking, or just staring into space. From behind the counter a friendly voice asks “Would you like some juice, a coffee?” “Juice please.” I say, and turn to face him. He smiles, pours an orange juice, and slides the glass down the counter. I am starting to feel calmer. My temples loosen up. Then it comes to me, “This is not a bar.” I realize the chance of snide come-ons, threats and counter threats, angry looks, the potential for violence, was nil. This was a group of pot smokers.

Personally, it’s hard for me to stay angry when I am stoned, which is usually a good thing. I am prone to holding on to anger as if it were a prize. But when high, it’s harder to remain angry and I am more willing to walk down the road to reconciliation.

Pot mutes other feelings besides anger, and this is a down side. There are times when some feelings –sadness, hurt, disappointment, fear, and even anger – must be felt and pot numbs them. I smoked the night I found out my father died, and I regret it still. For those who fear their feelings, pot aids in the attempt to stay numb. Here is James McBride, a teen running from his mother’s suffering in The Color of Water, describing his misuse of pot.

“I had no feelings. I had smothered them. Every time they surged up, I shoved them back down inside of me the way you shove clothing in a drawer and shut it. Weed was my friend, weed kept me running from the truth, and the truth was, my mother was falling apart.”


I think a common misunderstanding about the effects of smoking grass is that is not a social drug, that while high on marijuana, people sit around like opium smokers, each in his or her own little world. This is not true. Marijuana is very social drug. When smoking with others who are high or with people who are at ease with others being stoned, pot stimulates discussion and creates lively interactions. When I smoked before going to social gatherings, I had interesting conversations and experiences with people. Because marijuana can focus my attention on whatever involves me in the moment, I can give someone my full concentration. When straight, I am busy listening to what is being said, what I think about it, and what my response will be. But stoned, I attend to what is not being said. I notice facial expressions, pauses, body movements, use of words, and the unexpressed feelings behind or under the words, so my response to that person flows from the experience of the whole person in that present moment.

Doing Things

Pot allows me to focus. Once I make the decision to tackle a problem, I can hone in on a subject, and nine times out of ten, come up with a plan. Many a workshop, speech, outline for a paper, plan of any kind, was hatched while high. On pot I see the whole, the overall design. In the morning, I fill in the details. However, work which requires thought and attention to detail is out of the question. Anything technical, a task involving numbers, following directions, editing a paper, or typing references is out. I will either get lost in the minutiae or dense out completely. The exceptions here are tasks that do not require thought but do require concentration, for example, painting walls, watering plants, cleaning the slats on my mini blinds, or picking lint off my black coat. For these, pot works just fine. So I’ve learned to choose my task, to know what I can and can’t do well when stoned.

I am a low energy person and struggle to stay above the water line. Pot gives me a lift when I need it most, a boost, a burst of energy to do some tasks that really must be done – organize the papers on my desk, pack and schlep bags of paper to the front of the house, fold the laundry, or make those phone calls that must be made before the day is over.

Seeing and Being

I have yet to mention my favorite use of pot, alone in nature, no agenda, nothing to do, nothing to be, just unstructured time to see, smell, feel the wind, to watch the sun crash over the bay. I love to be outdoors when I am stoned, walking down alleys, the quiet streets in my neighborhood, wild desert trails, and the streets of far-flung cities and towns. The joy and sense of connection with the environment is the main reason I smoke pot.

Marijuana heightens the senses – hearing, seeing, taste, touch, and smell – and I have experienced all my senses sharpened after smoking grass. Not especially an auditory person, pot heightens this sense and I hear sounds and nuances I barely notice when straight: the click clicking of ropes against the mast poles of sail boats, a lone crow breaking the silence of the night. When listening to music, I notice the sounds of the bass, feel the subtle changes in the rhythm, hear themes under the main melody, all ignored when listening to music in a non-stoned state. My dominant sense is visual, so I become keenly aware of color, shape, and texture. What I see is subtly altered, bolded, and riveting: the shades of green on the leaves fluttering on the tree outside my office window, blood red flowers clinging to a wood fence, a line of blue boats against a misty horizon. Taking pictures when high is a favorite activity, and every once in a while, I take a good one.

If I let it, marijuana can slow me to stillness. Thoughts stop, and closing my eyes, I become a receptor for the wind, the sounds of crickets, the smell of lilacs, and to the silence inside.

Side Effects

Pot barrels me into the present and vivifies it. Listening to music, observing your cats, or watching TV can become deeply engrossing, so if you don’t have much structure or focus in your life, smoking grass will lead you into more vagueness and uncertainty. Marijuana does not promote the rigors of self-discipline if they are not already in place. I think this is one reason behind the goofy idea that pot turns people into zombies. Another reason is our societal discomfort with anything that encourages being instead of doing, taking in rather than acting upon, satisfaction and pleasure in the present vs. planning for happiness in the future.

No discussion of pot can be complete without talking about pot’s most common side effect, short-term memory loss. For some people, this may be a small problem, but for me this can be a big problem. When I must do things and go places, I have learned not to smoke. “Did I put the plane tickets in the small pocket of my back pack?” I ask myself, reaching in my pack one more time. Navigating a strange city – sometimes even a familiar city – while stoned is a stupid idea. “Did I pass that house already? Did he say the second street after the park?” It’s the details again. The anxiety of trying to remember where, when, what, and how can ruin the whole experience.

While we are on the topic of side effects, let me list some others that I have experienced. Sometimes I get chilly and short of breath if I am doing something strenuous. Grass makes me sleepy when it wears off, which is good or bad depending when I smoke. Since I mostly smoke in the evening, I am sleepy right about bedtime. Pot gives me dry mouth, so having a drink with me (gum will do) is important. One last familiar side effect is the urge to eat. For me, pot gets my appetite going if I have not eaten, but if I am not hungry, I may reach for a cookie or two, but do not want to eat and eat.

My Habit

I have had periods when I smoked 3 or 4 times a week, where I didn’t smoke for six to eight weeks, and many periods where I smoke once a day. During the long potless periods, I grumped and thought about smoking for a few days; then I just stopped thinking about it. Of course, there were moments where a joint would have been just the right thing, but even that urge would pass on.

Sometimes I smoke when it’s not a good idea (though over the years I am better at avoiding these times). Some of these are: in the middle of the day which can cause me to be sleepy when I need to be awake and alert, when there is not enough time to enjoy it because I have something to do that requires a non-stoned consciousness, when there is a chore I don’t want to do and I think pot will help, but it doesn’t, and when I am in social situations where I feel I have to be “on” in some way.

But the positives outweigh the negatives, whose effects I have learned to minimize over the years. Mostly I value marijuana for its ability to tether me to the present with concentration and alertness, be it listening to music, cooking dinner, solving a problem, reading, swimming laps, talking to friends, or sitting on the back porch welcoming an evening wind on a warm summer night.

Re-Opening the Doors: Evaluating Cannabis, Perception and Self by "Oliver Smyth"

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

A 21-year old graduate from the UK who enjoys the broadening aspects of cannabis on perception discusses an altered world view and the ability of cannabis to reveal new beauty and artistic appreciation.

Encouraged by the articles by Dr. Grinspoon, I wanted to share my experience of marijuana use, especially in relation to music and film. I feel that the notion of enhancement is particularly important when understanding marijuana use, and is crucial to undermining the misrepresentation of cannabis users created through media stereotyping and the myopic discourse utilised by anti-drugs campaigners. I want to touch on these misconceptions, and how they create and perpetuate a negative image of an ostensibly positive enhancer. Although I will mostly use music and film as examples of how the power of cannabis can be harnessed towards beatific ends, it should be viewed as a holistic state of mind that may be directed at any form of conscious appreciation. Crucial to this appreciation is understanding and directing the effects of the ‘drug’. I maintain that instead of trying to analyse its effects in a specifically rational, and ‘straight’ mindset, as Dr Grinspoon refers to it, the altered state of reality should be embraced and explored, directed toward new avenues of comprehension.

Being stoned exposes the conflict between conscious and unconscious perceptions of self and world, and may well expose conflict never before encountered. For me, this began with complete re-evaluations of situations I had been in, things I had said, and how their context and meaning seemed so different to the ‘straight’ situation in which they occurred. At first, I merely thought it was a warped sense of reality induced by this altered state of mind, but then it struck me: why must we consider our ‘straight’ perceptions the rule? They could certainly be described as ‘the norm’, for it is what we experience most in our everyday lives; save the individuals who use substances to escape it on a regular basis. But just because it is normal, it does not make it right. I despise the way that normality is inextricably linked with positive moral connotations when morality- for me anyway – is a conditional and arbitrary construct. This is something that is likely to conflict with religious individuals who would no doubt argue that morality is non-negotiable, but I urge these people to briefly put aside these fixed and divine orders and just consider morality in a situational and non-determinist light. I do not wish to dwell on this issue too much, as it is a philosophical topic without objective answer, only subjective suggestion; but I think once we can learn to eschew the conditioned and often restrictive perceptions of normal/abnormal, right/wrong, we may well be on our way to better understand and appreciate different realities.

It was only when I realised that the seemingly altered accounts of my events were not necessarily distorted by-products of cannabis ingestion, but an entirely new and equally informative evaluation from a different perspective. It almost seemed as if my unconscious had always monitored and assessed events as they happened, but its thoughts were repressed by the action of supposedly ‘higher order’, rational cortical function. Our conscious mind is so good at distorting reality to suit our needs, it seems that a positive spin may be put on situations unduly, at least from an outsider’s perspective anyway. It is easier to live in self-denial by evoking an elaborate coping mechanism than it is to face a possibly different experience. We may apply a certain judgement to someone else in a given situation, but a different one for ourselves in exactly the same position. Somehow the brain usually finds a way of rising above, distorting.

In some cases I have found re-evaluation of experiences to be ego-dystonic, but I believe this is only because of the honesty of the unconscious. Being high somehow prevents the circumventing mechanisms of the conscious mind, and reveals an altogether different view of self. In many cases, this may at first be disturbing, but I feel this unease may simply be the result of a much clearer and unshrouded introspection, perhaps what some may describe as paranoia. But I think for this kind of experience, paranoia may be the wrong word. If this altered state of mind were to be maintained for an extended or even indefinite period of time, we would alter our behaviour around it, aiming at some end goal we feel content with: contentment within our own skin. I would wager that a drug to restore the previously ‘normal’ reality may well invoke similar feelings, leading once again to altered behaviour. Huxley realised the nature of these different realities which were so eloquently espoused in his masterpiece, The Doors of Perception. He argued that the beauty and scope of the world is so overwhelming, we have evolved filters or coping mechanisms in order to survive and function; this prevents us from being totally engrossed by the intricacies of a dancing shadow, or the perfection of form found in a single rose.

I believe that our self-deception may be facilitated through similar filters, filters that may be removed by cannabis, leading to enlightenment, rather than temporary paranoia. I think once we are ready to accept ourselves, to unite the revelations of our unconscious with ‘straight’ conscious functioning, we are really ready to embrace the power and utility of cannabis use. By understanding that our idiosyncratic way of processing and dealing with the world ‘normally’ may merely be an increment on a vast scale, it prepares us to understand and empathise with those who may ‘normally’ be operating on a different plane. The way I experience taste when high may be similar to an individual without the use of any mind altering substance. We take for granted our natural faculties because we are so used to them. Whilst we may realise that people have different tastes and different views, we naïvely assume that everyone must experience life in a similar but perhaps quantitatively different way, when it may be something so qualitatively different, that it is beyond the realm of our ‘straight’ consciousness’ comprehension. This is why the arts are such a wealth of information when trying to grasp qualitatively different forms of experience. Stepping out of normality leads to rebirth: ideas, sounds, textures and relations become transformed.

My own experience of music provides one example of this transformation, something that leads to great beauty and insight. The way I appreciate music becomes so enhanced, each song takes on such a definable character, the sounds convey emotions so competently, or sentiments that may only be experienced and not described. One becomes aware of every nuance, and the passage of a song becomes more open and enveloping, and somehow more directed; as if every note and construction points toward some end; a totality that engulfs the entire song and gives it character. I find it so much easier to empathise with the artist, everything somehow feels so much more intense, everything means so much more. Subtleties of production become far clearer as every instrument’s timbre is emphasised, coated with the character and taste of the producer. It’s almost like participating in a performance of some grand sonic narrative. Different sounds interact with each other to create a structure which seems much more cohesive, a structure that my ‘straight’ consciousness can detect, but not nearly to the same degree. If I were forced to distill such a complex experience into a single word, essence may perhaps be the most pertinent. Cannabis ingestion appears to reveal the essential nature of a track or an album, yielding an implicit or tacit understanding of the artist’s goal or perspective.

The same exploration of essence can be applied not only to music but to film. It becomes easier to discern the skill of an actor, the strength of dialogue and their relations to the context and aims of the film. Cinematic nuances become enhanced, and it becomes easier to get absorbed in the art form, both critically and emotionally. The use of lighting, colour and sound becomes much more prominent in creating mood. In general I find it gives me a much more critical eye, but not in the same manner I would normally judge a film. Instead of higher cortical function dominating, I find a more primordial empathy comes to the fore; I feel more for the characters and their plights and my judgement is based on their ability to convey sincere and emotive expression. This is opposed to a more logical–and arguably conventional–approach I would normally undertake. This is not to say that empathy is lost on me under normal circumstances; it certainly is not, but in many instances, I may have a tendency to overanalyse– applying more brain than heart, so to speak.

Some argue that being high reduces the ability to concentrate, rendering the ‘afflicted’ individual little more than a giggling fool. It is fair to say that perhaps the impairment of short-term memory may lead to this conclusion, but I would argue that concentration is merely diverted: re-routed to new areas of focus. New aspects become intensified, perhaps at the expense of general awareness. But why should this matter? I watch a film or listen to music to become engrossed. This may sound escapist, but I believe this oversimplifies matters. I would prefer exploratory: we all appreciate (or at least I certainly do) a break from hectic schedules, a chance to reflect, to truly experience.

The tendency for us to enter ‘auto-pilot’ under normal circumstances is great; we become accustomed to our routines and style. This habituation often leads to de-sensitisation, and a concomitant exiguity of appreciation. By experiencing an altered reality, we notice change; juxtaposition is immediate and revelatory. New appreciation arises both from comparison, and from the novel new experience in and of itself. Not only does this offer insight when under the influence, but also when not, through the synthesis of thoughts when high with the rational mindset when sober. This is not to say that stoned perceptions are necessarily any better, nor do they offer a clearer guide to thought and action, merely a different one. There really isn’t one true guide, only a number of possible mechanisms through which we may define ourselves and the world around us.

Although I would be tempted to promote a sense of increased ‘purity’ when stoned, this would simply be subscribing to an ethos of biased subjectivity. What I do believe, however, is that, subjective predispositions aside, the experience is undoubtedly different – and it is this difference, this opportunity to literally re-view circumstance, that helps negate the dumbing effects of habituation and reduced sensitivity. For me, then, cannabis is one way for coping with existential mystery, and for offering a new path in a familiar world. If it leads me to fresh thought and new pleasure in things already familiar, this can only be a good thing. Cannabis yields no ultimate answers, but is certainly an outlet and tool for grappling with the curiosity roused by the questions.

Puffy World by Bootsy B.

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Bootsy B. Grew up in Tallahassee, Florida. She received a Bachelors degree in Literature and Fine Arts from the College of William and Mary and a Master in Architecture from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has been researching Tibetan architecture in the Himalayas until recently moving to New York. “Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go!”

As I’ve been stoned almost everyday for about the last seven years, I suppose you could say I’m a pothead, a drug addict, a hi-ho. It’s funny, though, although I see myself that way, I’m not too worried about it; and really, I don’t think that’s how other people see me. I am a successful architect, and stay active in a number of intense hobbies, and am known for getting things done imaginatively and with a sense of enjoyment and relaxation that people respond warmly to. Naturally, I don’t advertise the fact that I am stoned, and I look straight and play up a corporate image; people really don’t suspect.

It took some time and effort to cultivate my tolerance and use of marijuana, and my “stonedness” has proceeded in phases. Like many people, in college and grad school I only touched the stuff on weekends, mainly because it never occurred to me that people could use marijuana for anything other than recreation; also it seemed dreadfully expensive and difficult to obtain. Shortly after I graduated, both my mother and my long-term boyfriend unexpectedly passed away. As I had never attended a funeral before, nor suffered any particular emotional setback of any real depth, I had no idea of how to “deal with grief.” Basically I went into denial for a few months — went back to work as if nothing had happened, and in fact took on new projects. Finally I sort of snapped, and woke up one day unable to speak. I remember trying to form a sentence in front of a panel of people reviewing my work, and simply lost it – I was unable to form a single sentence. “Well” I conceded ” I must be depressed.” Since suicide isn’t an option for me, and I didn’t have either the health insurance or temperament for therapy, I looked to chemicals. I was such a mess I would’ve done anything – acid, X, coke, smack, thermonuclear brain jelly. But fortunately pot was the only thing I could lay my hands on. I started smoking enough so that I could sit still and quiet long enough to get a purchase on myself, and to pay attention to the voices in my head that commanded me to stop my life and to remember my mother and my lover. I was so programmed to be “type A” and stoic about my own emotions that I didn’t know how to grieve. Since the people with whom I was most intimate in my life were both suddenly gone, too, I couldn’t really turn to anyone whom I trusted sufficiently to talk about myself. I reckon pot saved my life on that one. Finally, after some real work, I did reconcile myself to both their lives and their memories, and I gradually started smoking less as I re-emerged from my cycle of grief.

Some time passed, and my connection left town, so I didn’t smoke at all until one day, when my boss had a cash flow problem, he offered me a few ounces of premium grade Hawaiian stuff that he got from his lawyer – they had some kind of off-the-record business arrangement. He also mentioned that he would prefer to smoke in his office, if it was all right with me and my colleague. Naturally we had no complaints. We smoked in a companionable, productive way, and worked hard, 12-hour days. We were able to sustain focus, creativity, and a true sense of enjoyment for the buildings we were working on. There are also ridiculously boring aspects of architecture which Ganja made infinitely more bearable for us — it was easier to get into the rhythm of working.

Of course, I was smoking at home, too…but at home, Ganja was for sex.

Oh, and always will be. It’s just so lovely.

Then, I went to India for a few years, where I could really only get hash, which is quite different. It takes enormous mental discipline to “get things done” on hash, and it can fill me, anyway, with a much heavier sense of malaise than Ganga. Of all my pot-smoking phases, this was unquestionably the most abusive – from morning to night, spliffs, spliffs, spliffs (the European style hash-tobacco superlong joint.) Pot smoking became my life entirely, and I did nothing, sometimes, for weeks, but smoke hash and eat and sleep. The Jamaicans don’t call it “dread” for nothing.

I realized that as long as you retain a clear sense of purpose and will and identity, you can smoke as much pot as you like, as long as you don’t make substantially more errors than you do when you’re straight. But when you forget what you are doing because of pot, and when you lose the motivation to do it, then you should probably lay off. Now that my hash-phase is over, and I’ve found a balance to the amount I smoke daily, I use pot to calm my nerves enough to tackle the tough parts of my job. A few years ago, I remember distinctly, I was working in a large, real-estate development corporation as a project manager. I had several intricate, high-stakes meetings and conference calls a week, and was under a great deal of stress.

I started smoking before I went into work in the morning; after that, my boss was thrilled with my performance and my easy-going, confident way of leading meetings; promotions and bonuses followed. I started sneaking out to the park across the street for a lunch-time puff on the one-hitter and got a company car!

Ah, but the pleasures of puff are so plentiful! Part of it is sensual, the fragrance and the deep breathing of smoking. Some of the joy is the ritual of smoking — I like to roll long, elegant, smooth spliffs as quickly as the Dutch, but I’m still working on it. Something about the tactility and the craft of it is pleasing, like taking time out of a busy day to arrange some flowers in a vase, or washing the dishes. At parties, nothing beats the warm recognition of a fellow smoker. Sharing puff with people who wouldn’t ordinarily smoke is always a nice kick, and it’s of course fantastic to meet people who are true weed connoisseurs. My hippy cousins live on the west coast, and are really switch-on about Northern Lights and Oregon Purple and Alaskan something or other — I always enjoy their experiments into true psychedelic weed, but I find the Jamaican guy down the street’s quotidian Brooklyn fare just fine. Marijuana opens up the world for me — because of “dope connections,” I have met people from all nationalities and classes that I never would’ve known if I weren’t a smoker. By far, though, my favorite dope activity is to load up a backpack with a book, a pencil and paper, a Walkman, a list of things to do, and take off on an all-day urban hike.

Actually, mentioning my cousins brings me to my family’s rather bizarre clannish involvement with dope. They say, don’t they, that tendency towards addiction is genetic; I have no doubt. My mother was a fairly committed alcoholic (it’s what she died of, in fact), but dad and I are cut from the same cloth — two beers and we’re both hung over for a week. Moreover, we both reflect our Puritan roots in our attitude towards work and the task of constant self-improvement. We come from a long WASP-ish line of liberal, bookish Bostonian educators and activists, which is a self-conscious legacy my forbears like to keep imagining to be some kind of dynastic destiny thing. Things got a little thwarted in the sixties, though, when my dad and his 3 brothers and all their wives repotted, so to speak, their Bostonian roots in the tropical wilds of Los Angeles. There they all overcame their Puritanical leanings enough to enjoy their marijuana copiously, but not enough to admit it publicly.

Although my dad is a really smart guy, for some reason when I was about ten he got it in his head that if he grew his own plants, he could hide them from my sister and me by installing a thin shower curtain over his scrawny basement garden. Although we weren’t sure what it was, we instinctively knew that it was not a topic for conversation. A few years later, when we were spying on our uncle’s Malibu pool parties in the seventies, we figured out what it was for. And in fact, we filched a couple of joints from his secret joint box (filled to brimming) and tried our first marijuana on the flanks of the San Fernando valley. We felt very disco, as pre-teenagers go, but we shortly thereafter moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where marijuana hallelujah bliss had not yet been recognized by our fellow junior-high schoolers.

It wasn’t until the no-mercy confiscation laws came into effect in the conservative eastern state where my family now lives that my sister worked up the chutzpah to talk to dad about dope. She simply said that she completely understood how a hard-working, successful father of five bright, healthy kids would want to grow his own puff (he has quite magnificent tomatoes, too), but that she would feel safer for the whole family if he stopped growing it. Now she buys it for him, but he’s a little sheepish about it. It has, however, made our relationship with our father warmer and more human, The moral of the story is, I suppose, that if you smoke pot your children will know about it and they will still love you: but you should be prepared to teach them the difference between responsible and irresponsible use.

I reckon it’s like meditation, Prozac, caffeine, vitamins, and exercise… we humans are always manipulating our state of mind and being with some kind of chemical readjustment. We do this either by ingesting some pharmacologically active substance, a placebo which still brings about some relief, or by deploying mental-glandular strategies (i.e. meditation or biofeedback). Some of us seem to require something, some of us seem never to touch anything, but all of us develop a dependency, on either a behavior or a substance. If we did not influence our own chemical state we could not exist in harmony with the world around us. I feel as if pot is one of several chemical re-adjustments or strategies that people make in their lives quite normally in the course of the day. I adjust myself — without overhauling my personality — in all sorts of ways throughout the course of the day. Pot is one of them. Earl Grey tea is another; counting to ten when I’m angry is also very effective. I can’t afford therapy, and moreover I don’t really need to try it; I am quite actively happy because I recognize now that the patterns of my own behavior work. I don’t need Ganja any more than I need coffee or meditation. But I shouldn’t have to be ashamed of it, either — I have given up all sense of societal guilt about my use of pot. When people say (and they don’t, for the most part) “Oh, you smoke two joints a day, you’re obviously an addict” they demonstrate a complete internalization of the pleasure hating, relief-denying, judgmental Puritan ethics of the drug war. I get the work done. I am kind and sensitive to other people and I always try to match my private intentions with my public actions. I do no conscious harm to anyone, feel a keen sense of responsibility in my life as a citizen of the world and go out of my way to stay informed about the world. My use of pot is my own private affair and not anyone’s domain to judge.

The two drawbacks are obvious — health and legality. Obviously, smoking hurts a person’s lungs, but I find a steady exercise routine keeps any serious damage on the backburner, and I smoke only two or three joints made with one cigarette and a couple pinches of puff, with little filters that I make myself. Bongs are certainly overrated and it’s harder to control their blast of dope. I must admit, as an ex-smoker of cigarettes I do tend to reach for a one-hitter when I crave a cigarette, but because the process of smoking dope is so much more pleasurable, I actually put far less smoke into my lungs.

The legality issue is absurd, of course. I tend to be cavalier about smoking in public and thus far, touch wood, have managed to talk my way out of apprehension the few times it’s come up. More troubling is the fact that buying it can be a true pain in the ass, and I have spent more than a few nights roaming the streets talking with burnt-out and well-armed junkies and dealers trying not to get hornswoggled. I would happily pay a hefty tax on legalized pot to re-engineer the American criminal justice system and tobacco and hemp-based industries. And good god, the farce that the DEA does to American foreign policy. That our intolerance and moral hypocrisy jeopardize our credibility does not go unnoticed by the pressed-upon peoples who supply our vast demand for it.

The Million Marijuana March was recently held in New York City, where I live — it was attended by mostly young, hippish looking folk, whom I love. But I was sad to see that there weren’t more people who are closer to the top of the power structure of society, because the Drug War is a hegemony against people who don’t subscribe to Nancy Reagan’s idea of pure living, which is, the way I see it, just about anybody with a pulse or a conscience.

So lately, pot has become a political cause for me. Recently, I gave money to NORML, wrote to Giuliani telling him he’s a jerk for his pot crackdowns, demanded my civil liberties from my insipid, hypocritical president and my fearful congressional representatives. To think that I can’t buy a joint but could buy an automatic weapon sends my blood absolutely boiling. Color me criminal if you like, but I am going to fight for my right to get relaxed.

As I mentioned, I am an architect, and so by nature a pragmatic idealist. I envision and re-engineer the world in my head a million times over, from the microscopic to the macroscopic, all to improve the world so that it’s a more beautiful, just, efficient, and commodious place for all people. Pot can neither liberate me nor prevent my liberation — only I can do that. But I — and all humans — can use it to our own ends, if liberation is what we’re after. But we cannot restrict biology any longer. The drug war must cease.

That’s my story, this is where I stand in relation to marijuana.

P.S. One more little thing – there is no better cure for intense menstrual cramps than a little bit of yoga and a little bit of pot.

Pot to Alleviate Alcoholism by "A Working Mother"

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

“A Working Mother” is a 38-year-old writer/editor living and working in California’s Silicon Valley. She was raised in San Francisco, where pot was “no big deal.” However, her mother (in Connecticut) is sadly convinced that pot fries your brain. This essay provides a counterpoint to such misconceptions, as we learn of an unruly alcoholic husband returned to his innate loving being, a harried mother balancing the household demands by her thoughtful applications of marijuana, and a healthy child learning of her parents special concerns for her welfare.

How Marijuana Saved My Husband’s Life

The cards were stacked against my husband’s sobriety from the beginning. He’s half Swedish, half Irish, hyperactive, brilliantly intelligent, overeducated, and shy around people. All these traits point to socially accepted drinking, and drinking quickly became acute alcoholism. When my husband drinks he becomes belligerent. Whereas some might hurt their spouses and children, and others just get very quiet, my husband’s method was to run screaming in the streets, begging for a fight, particularly with cops or other authority figures, as he was beaten frequently as a boy by his sea-captain father.

And so San Francisco’s finest dealt with him, and locked him up, and often lost their tempers, and punched out his teeth and once cracked his skull. For over twenty years he drank, went to jail, got beaten up, and wrote a lot of anguished poetry.

Then he turned forty. After an altercation involving alcohol, two feuding girlfriends and a gun on Market Street, he was given an ultimatum. Either live in a halfway house, take “ninety (AA) meetings in ninety days,” and all arrests would be cleaned from his record, or he’d go down on felony charges. He chose the former.

To help you quit drinking when you’re a real diehard, they introduce something called Antabuse (disulfiram) into your system. It’s a behavioral drug with terrifying physical effects. Take one Antabuse and don’t go near alcohol for several days after that. The combination won’t kill you, but you’ll wish it had. You get hot and puffy and have terrible headaches, a madly beating heart… for hours and hours you’ll be in hell. IT WORKS. Once you go there, you take care not to go again. After taking it, you have to watch out for hidden forms of alcohol, such as most underarm deodorants, and soy sauce.

My husband cleaned up. But the prospect of being hyperactive, brilliantly intelligent, overeducated, and shy around people WITHOUT any shield between himself and the world was horrible, and made him very sad.

Luckily, pot was fun for him. After kicking the alcohol, he realized he really enjoyed pot. The beer and booze had just masked all the fun stuff that pot does to your head. He treated himself with minute, daily doses of marijuana. Slowly, he went through the twelve steps. Slowly, he graduated from halfway house to a single room in a residential hotel. One day he started to paint. Then he started to sculpt using found objects and materials. For two years he lived a monk’s life. This is where his paycheck went: child support, rent, pot, and Top Ramen noodles. His eighth of weed lasted a few days and then he toughed it out until the next paycheck. Occasionally, he backslid. Every time he drank, he got into trouble.

Then he and I met and we fell in love. I’m not an alcoholic and I couldn’t put up with many drinking events. It quickly became clear that our marriage depended on his continued abstinence from drinking.

It took us about ten years to figure out the best pattern of medication to keep him from wanting to drink, and here it is. Because our dealer lives far from town, my husband makes the trek just before the weekend. We enjoy one or two eighths over the weekend, doled out like gold, like the medicine it is. Then, on Sunday, when we have a bowl left, I give him an Antabuse. That way, he isn’t tempted to drink before Wednesday. By Wednesday, he’s already confirmed next weekend’s plans, so he knows the good stuff’s coming and he can relax. As best he can.

Another factor is that my husband can’t sleep past 3 a.m. He lies awake at the mercy of his brilliant brain and feels the vast void and all the pain that’s in the world. Is it the Irish Swedish combo? I don’t know. But on the days we have pot, he smokes and gets four more luxurious hours of sleep. That smoothes his nerves out. Tuesdays through Thursdays, he doesn’t get that sleep.

So, a stoner dude, does he just sit around and do nothing? Hardly. He works, comes home and cleans the house, cares for our daughter, lifts weights, and paints daily. He also reads around 200 books a year, and watches sports when possible. The pot adds a fun dimension to his routine during the day and lets him sleep at night.

Everyone we meet from AA says that our routine is no good because he hasn’t really become clean and sober. I disagree with their presumptions. I have attended those meetings and seen folks transfer their addictions from harmful substance to meetings+coffee+cigarettes+sugar. Furthermore, there is no “one treatment fits all” for various psyches, especially for artists. Artists are mavericks, and the revivalist quality of AA meetings, and the have-to-go-endlessly rules can kill the very thing worth preserving within an artist: the wondering, open, incoherent child spirit. Why do they drink in the first place? Jung says, to paraphrase badly, that they are yearning for spirit, communion with God, inspiration, and it’s no wonder we call booze “spirits.”

And As For Me

I am a poet/writer/editor working within a multinational technology corporation. Much of my twenties were spent in the company of other poets, painters, writers, all trying various combinations of drugs and lifestyles. The drinkers and speeders – without exception – died young or went crazy. The pot smokers, to my knowledge, did not. Some did their art, some just talked endlessly about it.

My office is the temple of Apollo, where qualities such as logic, progress, clarity, and linearity are highly in demand. I’ve long since stopped smoking before my job and gone to the weekend schedule described above, to respect this and to achieve Apollonian thinking when I need it. But at home, efficiency is NOT king and progress is not ruthless. At home I need to be sensitive to food and to place, and to the subtle feelings of my family. Home is where Dionysus can sprawl, where we laugh, make drawings, dress up, tell stories. We can BE, we don’t have to DO. This is also a relief for my daughter, who is already overloaded with homework by second grade.

Whether you smoke or not, I bet you don’t like to do chores after corporate life all week. Many of my contemporaries hire maids and nannies. You get so fatigued, and kind of spoiled by the successes of the corporate world. Well, pot makes it more fun to fold clothes, wash dishes, and vacuum. It pulls me out of office-linearity and I enjoy getting my hands wet and peeling potatoes. I often take a puff before playing dolls with my daughter. She knows I’ll become absorbed in dressing them and playing out whatever plot she’s constructed. She also knows that after about half an hour, I’ll get distracted by tidying up her room. This way she gets a tidy room each week (she helps) without any yelling.

Leisure at home: I read all week, mostly off of the computer screen. So at home, I don’t really want to read or watch the TV screen. Pot is great for me. I sit with a bowl and my blank book and catch all the thoughts that rise up. I also acknowledge the many small blessings in my life. I remember things from way back, and fragments of dreams. I chat with aspects of myself and write notes to friends. I watch the tree outside our window and think about colors and seasons. I could do it straight, have done so. But pot is so freeing. Then there are the times my husband and I smoke and settle in for a two-hour talk. We share so much, and often the plans we make shape the next portion of our lives. Or we’ll all go for a walk on the marsh together, my daughter gleefully skating ahead, while my husband and I giggle over strange birds and goofy ideas.

We have had pot with money and without money. Because smoking helps us to be content with the way things are, we have avoided the following: overshopping, moving into bigger places, buying anything on time, credit card debt, excessive travel. That said, we live comfortably, eat well, and enjoy books, music, and friends. We know our neighborhood and its inhabitants. We can walk a mile without thinking it’s too long. A walk to the park, a swim in the local pool, hours in the library, a matinee, a day of museums-these are simple pleasures we routinely enjoy, because we’re not en route 85mph to Greener Grasses. In Silicon Valley, this is no mean feat!

The Down Sides

I tend to get more self-absorbed after smoking, so it takes a huge parental effort not to, because my daughter needs me. I had to become aware of this dynamic so I could use my will to pay attention to her rather than myself. I’ve since evolved from merely being irritable to making myself see things from her point of view. The way I see it, ten years from now, I’ll have all the time and space in the world to become self-absorbed, but I won’t have a little girl asking me to play with her or look at what she’s just done.

Another downer: it’s illegal and she’s getting big anti-drug and anti-pot messages through TV and school. We are honest with her. We reason like this:

1. It’s medicine to her Dad, and she sees how he sleeps much better.

2. Alcohol, which is legal, is much worse for her Dad and, genetically extrapolated, for her.

3. NO drugs are good for kids, and neither is marriage, driving, or fighting in a war. All that stuff is for adults.

4. Smoking pot is against the law, but this particular law may change. Alcohol was prohibited for years earlier on. Cigarettes are now culturally prohibited.

We don’t like to expose her to secondhand smoke, so we creep off to smoke. But it’s not a secret. As she gets older and more things come up, I’ll deal with them. I’m also prepared to give it up for a few years if she feels she needs a sober parent to balance with a smoking parent. But again, she’s very aware of how medicinal it is for her Dad. I think she’s caught on that his focus isn’t great while stoned, but he’s fun to do art with (and more willing to buy snacks).

Finally, it is hard to make that stuff last! But that’s because both my husband and I have somewhat addictive tendencies, not because of the plant. An old fellow once said, “Don’t smoke when you’re high or your stash will get low.” That extra bowl, ‘just for the fun of smoking,’ blows us through our stash time and again. Then, Monday night, we wish we had it.

From crazed drunk in the streets to wonderful painter and family man. And a poet/Mom who keeps sane, balanced, and creative in the midst of the rat race. Marijuana is not for everyone, but for us, it’s a miracle plant.

Pot in Prison by Anonymous

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

The 29-year-old author of this essay is currently in prison. Rejecting the use of alcohol in an institutional setting as conducive to violence, he adopts marijuana use for relief of chronic stress.

I’m in prison right now; have been since 1992. I recently left the Federal Penitentiary to finish the State portion of my sentence here in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. I’m not here for drugs. I grow marijuana and smoke it but I’ve never been in trouble for that. I’ve never had any problems, personal or legal, with drugs. I am a staunch advocate for the legalization of marijuana for personal/recreational use, for medical use and for the benefit of the economy.

While I was doing time with the Feds, I learned a lot about marijuana. Prison provides a static environment that readily lends itself to the task of measuring action/reaction dichotomy. Drugs of all kinds are plentiful in prison: alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, you name it. I have been able to make some very lucid observations about the “dangers” of various drugs. Alcohol is a dangerous drug. At least more dangerous than marijuana. I can’t count the number of times, in the past seven years, I’ve seen a prisoner get drunk and then get in a fight; get drunk and decide they need to pick up a pipe or a shank and get some sort of revenge somewhere for some reason; get drunk and get in trouble. I have never seen prisoners get stoned and decide they’ll go whip somebody’s ass – doesn’t happen. I’ve seen many angry drunks but never an angry pothead. Even the folks who are nasty drunks are peaceful on pot.

I see people get drunk and want more and more and more. They spend all their money and go into debt getting drunk; drunk to the point they often become sick and miserable. Not so with weed. People smoke a bowl or a joint, get high and that’s that. No going into massive debt, no getting sick. The difference is dramatic. This is probably not so obvious in the free world where booze is legal and pot is not; where people typically won’t get into as much legal trouble behind liquor as they will behind weed; where there is a terrible, mad “just say no” stigma attached to drugs. Oddly enough, in prison, among people with substance abuse problems, the drunks are at the bottom of the social scale. Drinking problems are frowned on more than other substance abuse problems because they seem to be the most damaging and cause the most trouble – not only for the drunk but for the people around him as well. I’d venture to say a drinking problem (here in prison) is even more damaging than heroin addiction. I’ve seen people killed over heroin debts. I’ve seen people contract HIV using dirty needles. I’ve seen folks wreck their bodies and minds on heroin. I’ve seen it cause all kinds of problems for people but it pales in comparison to booze.

Here in prison you can get to the real nuts and bolts of what’s what concerning drugs and what they do to people. It’s a great experiment. Drugs aren’t illegal here…well, not for the purposes of this experiment. Let me put it this way: Nobody gives a rat’s ass that they’re illegal and their illegality doesn’t make one iota of difference. What are “they” going to do, put you in jail? Without the threatening factors of illegality and social castigation poised like the Sword of Damocles, one can see specifically which drugs have precisely what effects on people at a very basic and honest level. Based on these observations, it makes no sense that alcohol is legal while marijuana is not. I’ve used just about every drug there is at least once and some many times. I drink regularly, smoke pot regularly and use coke, meth, ecstasy, acid and mushrooms occasionally. I’ve never been in any sort of legal trouble over drugs and they’ve never caused me problems in my personal life.

Those are some of my observations and views on the dangers of marijuana; now I’ll tell you something about pot as medicine. Prison is a chronically stressful environment where almost constant tension and turmoil reign. I’ve long since adapted and I get along as well as can be expected. I am basically a happy person. Things could be much better but I make the best of what is. In spite of that there is always some degree of stress present. Not enough to make me miserable or even unhappy but enough to manifest its presence. When I was in Federal prison, marijuana was medicine to me. I smoked it almost every day. Just a puff or two in the morning and a puff or two in the afternoon killed off all the stress. I did not get baked every day (not that I don’t like getting baked) but smoked just enough to take the edge off. Surprisingly, thirteen years of regular marijuana use has not raised my tolerance of the drug – at least not in a drastic way.

I think a pot high is great. I love getting stoned. Music sounds better, food tastes better, I see more detail in my surroundings, it’s an extremely pleasant high. It is a high, though, and I don’t think you can be successful and productive if you stay high all the time – but marijuana is a great recreational drug. Besides using marijuana as a “recreational” drug though, I used it in moderation as a “therapeutic” drug. It made time much easier to do. It absolutely negated the effects of stress in prison. I believe it made – or kept me a healthier person.

In the free world people aren’t normally subjected to the kind of stressful conditions that exist in prison every day; therefore there’s no need to use marijuana as regularly as I have in the past as “medicine” for stress. I think, in many cases however, it would be a good substitute for a regimen of antidepressant medications. I am sure antidepressants have a useful purpose and are most often appropriately prescribed, but perhaps there are some cases that would be better served by an occasional dose of THC. Back when I first came to prison, I tried Elavil, Xanax and Valium to relieve stress. They all worked in varying degrees of effectiveness but I did not like the way they altered my personality. After a while they made me “feel” differently all the time. I even dreamed in a different way. It’s hard for me to describe but those drugs caused a subtle alteration in my personality. I prefer pot. It’s not habit-forming and it does not cause the kind of unwanted change other antidepressants do. Marijuana is good medicine.