Marijuana. Pot. Weed. Herb. Ganja. Grass. Mary Jane. Reefer.
These are names for cannabis, a plant whose dried buds are a popular euphoric drug. Much has been written about the wacky weed over the last century, from the anti-hemp lobby’s attempts at prohibiting the drug with propaganda films like “Reefer Madness,” to the rise in recreational use by jazz musicians and beatniks in the 1950s, to the full-blown psychedelic tidal wave and proliferation of the counter culture of the 1960s and 1970s.
Marijuana became the dug of choice for California hippies who wanted to kick back on a beanbag chair and listen to I Am the Walrus for evidence Paul McCartney was dead.
Yet despite its reputation in the mainstream media as a gateway drug, or a drug that leads to the degradation of our youth in the form of giggling uncontrollably, wearing tie-dye T-shirts and watching Cheech and Chong movies, marijuana is here to stay. Powerful strains, grown in hydroponic facilities and harvested for sale is a multi-million dollar industry in America, where the drug is stigmatized and illegal.
In New Jersey, getting caught with 50 grams or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor that nets a fine of $1,000 and six months of incarceration. If you cultivate less than one ounce of marijuana, you’re hit with a $10,000 fine and 18 months in jail. If you’re an entrepreneur with a capitalist spirit and sell less than one ounce of weed, you’re hit with a $150,000 fine and are going to jail for a year.
When I was in high school back in the 1980s, I never understood the pot culture. I thought drug users were basically losers who sat around their parent’s basements getting high and watching Pink Floyd’s The Wall. They reeked of reefer, had long hair and this attitude that because they read Hesse’s Siddhartha ad nauseum, that they were somehow intellectually superior.
My first experience with marijuana involved several concerts in high school, when the Philadelphia Spectrum was thick with pot smoke during a Van Halen show. Maybe the kids passed joints around because that’s what Van Halen fans do, or maybe it was because Sammy Hagar replaced David Lee Roth. I still don’t know, but that heady aroma stuck with me. It sort of had a faint aroma of burning oregano and sage, and smelled like a beautiful hippie goddess wearing patchouli oil who spontaneously combusted.
A "joint" and a "bowl", two things that could get you incredibly fucked up.
Generations of young Americans believed recreational drug use was getting high, listening to records and not caring if people knew you were stoned or not. You can tell if a young person is stoned because they’re smiling. Most teenagers are moody, with an apathetic attitude. When the kid that’s grinning like the Cheshire cat on nitrous oxide, well, he’s tripping.
Pot is in popular culture. Its influence in music in nearly omni pervasive, and marijuana on television, once taboo, is a regular occurrence. The Showtime drama Weeds tells the story of Nancy Botwin, played by Mary-Louise Parker, a widowed mother who sells marijuana to support her kids in the suburbs. Marijuana has been featured extensively on the animated comedies Family Guy and South Park, the latter featuring an animated towel named Towelie who gets high.
There’s a movement to legalize marijuana in this country, led by Rastafarians, Berkeley professors and people who listen to Phish. They cite cannabis’ positive effects on cancer sufferers and advocate medical marijuana for people with glaucoma and other maladies. The activists assert that medical marijuana will help alleviate suffering and should be available with a prescription. Yeah, that’s what I want to see my pharmacist dole out: plastic baggies of weed. Maybe when grandma is rolling her joint and toking up to Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, she’ll finally be relaxed enough to bake cookies. Of course the cookies will have more hemp in them than brownies in an Amsterdam bakery. Perhaps she can crochet a covering for her bong.
Facetiousness aside, I was reluctant to take the plunge and try marijuana. Part of being a writer is to actually experience things so you could write about them, that with that shared experience, you’d have firsthand knowledge of something, become familiar with it and articulate it in writing. Such was my reasoning for trying the accursed weed. Reluctant I was, I thought what if I become an addict? What if I actually enjoy the stuff? What if I start listening to folk music and become a registered Democrat, or worse, vote for Ralph Nader?
So many doubts and fears plagued me, yet I didn’t want to be one of those prudent killjoys who sits on the sideline of life chastising and nitpicking. If I was going to do this, I would have to really do it and jump into the marijuana mosh pit, arms and legs flailing.
The first thing I realized is people who smoke marijuana don’t frequent mosh pits, which are loud places filled with violence. Pot smokers are a passive lot, preferring the tranquil solitude of nature, the still sanctuary of their bedrooms, or a quiet parking garage at two in the morning.
Not wanting to try my first recreational drug by myself, I partook with women on a few occasions. Getting high with women is an interesting experience for two reasons: first, you don’t have to put on a false display of bravado like you do getting stoned with men and secondly, you can have sex with the women.
Lil' Blunty. You never forget your first one.
So let me lay the scenario out for you: We’re in her apartment, she lights a few candles to set the mood. We take our clothes off first, because undressing while stoned poses its own hazards. There’s only so much fumbling and tripping your way out of your pants you could do before falling on the cat. So she rolls this joint that looks about half the size of a normal joint. I’ve seen Cheech and Chong movies where the joints are about the size of a Buick. The joint she rolls is so small, an ant couldn’t get high off it.
I call it Lil’ Blunty. It’s my first. She lights it up and puffs on it, then exhales a smoke cloud into my face. Eyes stinging, I take hold of the micro-joint, put my lips on it and…nothing.
I chicken out. Like Bill Clinton asserted, I didn’t inhale.
I just couldn’t bring myself to inhale. Oh, I might have taken a few wispy puffs and some of the smoke might have touched my lungs. That might have happened on a microscopic level.
But generally, I just breathed in the smoke and handed her the joint.
“How is it?” she asked, taking a long drag on Lil’ Blunty.
“Yeah, it’s good,” I said, getting dizzy.
“Did you inhale it?” she asked.
“Yeah, well, I’m inhaling the smoke,” I said, trembling that I was on the slippery slope to stonerhood.
Despite my failure with Lil’ Blunty, the experience wasn’t a total failure. One thing the government doesn’t tell you about marijuana is that it makes women very horny. She told me her senses heightened every time she smoked marijuana, like an out of body experience, a drug-induced astral projection that made her wetter than Niagara Falls and as promiscuous as Jenna Jameson. When she climaxed, the neighbor two floors up complained of the noise.
That’s when it occurred to me as I peeled her from the ceiling: the government wants to outlaw marijuana because the last thing America needs are sexually satisfied couples. The status quo prefers sexually frustrated people who fail at sexual intimacy and end up taking out their anger by kicking their dogs and working late at the office. Frustrated people are naturally more bitter, more loathing and more apt to shop more, support war as conflict resolution and approve censorship. In other words, sexual frustration leads to our current society.
But if the women were stoned and more relaxed we’d have plenty of couples who experience wild nights in the sack, and with this a cheerful and happy outlook on life. Sure, after the pot wears off the women would get the munchies and put on 20 pounds, but it’s a price this country will have to pay to not have its men be so uptight and angry.
The next time the woman and I got together, she had some pot left over.
“It would be a shame to let this go to waste,” she said, and rolled a joint. Not as small as Lil’ Blunty, the second joint, which I’ll call El Capitan, was a success. After she became as stoned as the entire front row at Woodstock, I went back to the nightstand for seconds and realized El Capitan did the trick.
Physically, when you get stoned with women, your body relaxes. Maybe it’s the orgasm or the snuggling with a women you didn’t have to buy dinner for, but your heart rate slows, you get sleepy and your mind freely rolls back to your childhood when you sat through all of those mental hygiene films that specifically decried marijuana as an evil corrupting force that would kill you stone dead. Lying there in the arms of a snoring nymphomaniac, I understood that the people who made those films did not get high with women.
Two years after El Capitan, another female friend visited me with a plastic bag of marijuana as a housewarming gift. I would have preferred a fruit basket, but it’s the thought that counts, after all. As we sat at my kitchen table, separating the dried cannabis sativa buds from the seeds, I pondered upon this new life skill. After sorting out the green flakes, she gave me some rolling papers and I rolled my first joint. The technique here is to place a bit of the marijuana on the paper lengthwise, roll it up and lick the end.
She remarked that for a beginner, my joint looked pretty good, a compliment I relished. It wasn’t every day that you sat at the kitchen table rolling joints. Okay, maybe in the inner cities, but not here. I didn’t even want to name my own joint, preferring to let it stand on its own, unblemished and untarnished by a whimsical title. Instead, I smoked my nameless joint as we watched adult cartoons.
What can be said for this shameful escapade? Am I the next Hunter S. Thompson, a junkie journalist flying from assignment to assignment with psychotic visions of monstrous bats or melted walls? Hardly. I know the freewheeling 1960s are over and like the Moody Blues sang, Timothy Leary is dead. I understand cannabis is illegal and even possessing a smidgen of it could land you in prison on Devil’s Island for 100 years.
Yet I just wanted to try it, to see what all of the fuss was about, to taste the forbidden herb. The verdict: being buzzed is the same thing as taking a nap. It’s relaxing when you’re baked, a sensation like you’re drowning in happiness with Care Bears farting This Land is Your Land.
While joints are cigarettes for people who want to lose their short term memories, I won’t be rushing out to Rico behind the Sunocco for a dime bag any time soon. I also won’t be applying for that staff writer position at High Times, either. The drug culture is all about escapism, and that’s what marijuana is. It’s a natural substance that makes women sluttier and men stupider. If you enjoy lying in the middle of a field at night and counting stars while waiting for a visit from the phosphorescent fairies that dwell in your subconscious, I’d sooner listen to Terrapin Station sober. At least you could understand the lyrics.