From the get-go, every impulse to regulate cannabis has been based on racism.
When the California Pharmacy Board amended the state’s Poison Act in 1913 to include marijuana in the “poisons” under its control, they were simply piling onto the racist legislation that began in 1875 when California passed America’s first anti-narcotics laws to “combat” opium dens. Translation: to legalize anti-Chinese racism and bigotry. Up until 1910, no one had an issue with marijuana because no one in America knew what it was.
But, a keen-eyed California racist named Henry J. Finger — a prominent member of the Pharmacy Board — saw something that needed to be stamped out quickly.
I wrote a series — Blunt Truths — for Weedmaps News (back when they were a going concern) about this very subject. I’m biased but I recommend it. At the time, Weedmaps News was being run by journalists including the former LA Times journalist who hired me to write for them — so long as I adhered to journalistic standards. In other words — I couldn’t rely on bullshit to tell the story I wanted to tell. Among the sources I relied on because of their reliability was Dale Gieringer, PhD., a NORML board member. I highly recommend his The Forgotten Origins Of Cannabis Prohibition In California. It’s loaded with fascinating information that will change the way you think about cannabis.
Considering the radical shift in how we see race relations in America that’s happening right this second — Gieringer’s insights take on greater resonance.
For a taste. Here’s Gieringer citing a correspondence between Henry Finger and Hamilton Wright (in 1911 when Wright is the chief architect of US narcotics policy) —
“Within the last year we in California have been getting a large influx of Hindoos and they have in turn started quite a demand for cannabis indica; they are a very undesirable lot and the habit is growing in California very fast…the fear is now that they are initiating our whites into this habit…”
Gieringer notes: “The “Hindoos,” actually East Indian immigrant of Sikh religion and Punjabi origin, had become a popular target of anti-immigrant sentiment after several boatloads arrived in San Francisco in 1910. Their arrival sparked an uproar of protest from Asian exclusionists, who pronounced them to be even more unfit for American civilization than the Chinese.” Immigration authorities quickly cut off the flow. The roughly 2000 “Hindoos” apparently became a threat. They were “widely denounced for their outlandish customs, dirty clothes, strange food, suspect morals, and especially their propensity to work for low wages… no one complained about their use of cannabis. To the contrary, their defenders portrayed them as hard-working and sober. “The taking of drugs as a habit scarcely exists among them,” wrote one observer.”
Henry Finger persisted. “By this time, another menace had appeared on the horizon: “marihuana” had begun to penetrate north of the border from Mexico, carried by immigrants and soldiers during the revolutionary disorders of 1910 – 1920 [aka The Mexican Revolution]. Though hardly known to the American public, marihuana or “loco-weed” was noticed by the pharmacy journals.”
And there you have it. The Pharmacy Board — a supposedly scientific body — was crafting legislation without an ounce of science in it. But there sure was plenty of racism.
Thus marijuana prohibition began. The legislation that followed — most of it with actual “Reefer Madness” in its heart — was driven by America’s first Commissioner of the Federal Narcotics Bureau Harry J. Anslinger — our first “drug czar”. And Anslinger behaved like a drug CZAR. Anslinger — once he came around to the “marihuana is a scourge” point of view (he started out insisting it was harmless) — invented most of what we still think about cannabis. He literally pulled it out of his ass.
His very RACIST ass.
Let’s be clear. Harry Anslinger is a villain not just because he was a racist. He’s a villain because he was also an excellent bureaucrat who knew how to manipulate the system to get what he wanted. Anslinger knew how to go to the press — as the respected, trustworthy Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics — with lies (Mexicans and blacks are selling marihuana to our children) that the press would then print — which Anslinger would then hold up as proof that Mexicans and blacks were selling marihuana to our children.
Neat trick, huh?
It’s important to understand what turned Anslinger. What convinced him that cannabis was more dangerous than opium? It was the exact same thing that bothered Henry Finger — not the what, the WHO. WHO was using marijuana. So long as Mexicans and black jazz musicians kept marijuana to themselves, racists like Anslinger might have been able to tolerate it to a degree.
The trouble was white people started taking up the habit — and that was totally unacceptable to Anslinger. Cannabis was illegalized in America to keep white people from using it and to punish black and brown people for “poisoning Americans” with it.
The “gateway theory” — that cannabis is a gateway drug to heroin — is based on zero research. It’s an abuse of statistics and nothing more. But, when the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics says it, so the public thinks, it must be so! The gateway theory gained traction and acceptance. And, racist bully that he was, Anslinger used the occasion to increase the punishments for drug-related crimes — knowing full well on whose backs these new, even more cruel punishments would fall most: black people and brown people.
Anslinger retired in 1962 — on his 70th birthday. But the racism Anslinger had instilled remained. In the late 1960’s, with American soldiers returning from Vietnam with cannabis in their duffel bags, Richard Nixon declared a “War On Drugs”. Nixon — a drinker — didn’t declare a war on alcohol (though he abused it). He declared a war on everyone else’s medication — marijuana especially.
The War on Drugs was (and remains) a war on People Of Color. When Anslinger went to legislate marijuana prohibition, he bumped into a problem: there’s no constitutional basis for making marijuana illegal. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 does not, in fact, make marijuana illegal (because it couldn’t). Instead, the act imposes a very steep (in fact onerous) tax every time one bought or sold marijuana or hemp. In order to prove you’d paid the tax, you needed a stamp.
Problem was — the stamp was not available. By design. Everyone who bought or sold marijuana (or hemp) would therefore break the rule 1) by not paying the tax (who were you supposed to pay it to anyway?) and 2) by not getting the stamp. The first two arrests for “tax evasion” — occurred within 24 hours of the act’s signing — two men from Denver (Sam Caldwell and Moses Baca) were caught, one for selling, the other for buying. They both went to prison.
Our drug laws are morally wrong because they’ve got nothing to do with drugs — and never ever have.
When I was in high school back in the 70’s, marijuana was around. A guy I was friendly with was a hard core stoner; he stank of weed in class and watched us all with a strange, pleased detachment I now recognize as euphoria. On the occasions when I was in the same place and time as a lit joint, the stuff put me right to sleep.
In college, my friend Drew convinced me to use a big chunk of my semester’s money (the money my parents put into my bank account to pay for books and other incidentals) to buy a pound of marijuana that, he said, we’d sell, making both of us lots of money. I knew Drew was a fan of marijuana. I didn’t realize his fandom would cost us our profits. I made back my “investment”. Barely.
When I was in college — and in the years afterwards — coke was more appealing. It kicked things into a higher gear. That’s what we told ourselves. Frankly, considering how much that powder we were snorting was stepped on, I’d be shocked if there was anything stronger than aspirin in it. Ecstasy also was appealing. I had lots of great ecstasy trips. And one awesome experience with shrooms and a U2 concert at LA’s Colliseum.
Oh, and I drank. Wine mostly. And gin martinis. And beer. And single malt scotch. Yeah, I drank. Throw a decade-long depression into the mix and daily use of (utterly useless!) over-the-counter sleeping meds and it was probably no wonder that I couldn’t sleep for shit. I was asking too much of my poor brain.
This was about five years ago. I was beside myself for a number of reasons. Lack of sleep wasn’t helping any. I did not want to take anything pharmaceutical. That wouldn’t solve my problem; it would only exacerbate it. Living in California, where pot is legal — pot that always put me to sleep in the past — I figured, what the hell?
Long story short. From the first night where I used marijuana as my sleep aid, my life changed. I began sleeping. Now, I still don’t sleep a ton. If I can do five hours — I’m good for the day (with a couple of brief naps along the way). The mood stabilizer I started using five years ago — that helped cage my darkness, keeping it at bay — has an un-noted side effect: it gives all alcohol an unpleasant aftertaste — like grapefruit skin.
My first visit to my first dispensary put Skywalker in my hand (and in the little glass pipe I bought; I can’t roll a joint to save my or anyone’s life). On my return, I wanted to know what was in all the other glass jars filled to the brim with weed? It turned out the thing I now used every day to sleep was called “indica”. But there was also “sativas” and “hybrids”.
As I wrote about myself in Blunt Truths (the 13 part series I did for Weedmaps News), we were and remain bamboozled by a totally bullshit mythology about marijuana that was invented out of whole cloth by America’s first “drug czar”, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger. We — as a culture — are still almost entirely misinformed about cannabis — what it does to us, how it does to us, why it does to us. The law still treats cannabis like its effects on our brains was the exact same as alcohol’s.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
As I’ve learned from experience — and what a wonderful experience it’s been — cannabis can be part of your whole day if you want it to be. And I’m talking about highly productive days. Yeah, if I did nothing but smoke Skywalker or King Louis XII or Northern Lights or 9 Lb Hammer (or any of the other indicas in my collection — I like to keep a dozen or so on hand — I really, really like having choices if I can afford to), I would get very little done.
But not nothing. Funny thing about indicas. Yeah, they put me to sleep. Eventually. But I’ve gotten used to a sudden creative blast — usually after I’ve taken my second or third hit. Whatever creative problem I was working on when I quit for the day? Suddenly the answer is there.
I wrote the whole logline and concept premise for the TV show I’m about to take out a few weeks ago moments before I thought I was about to slip into bed. The wooziness was wonderful. And then the idea dropped. I walked calmly to my desk, sat down and wrote the whole thing.
Guys like Louis Armstrong (a self-avowed fan who was punished for being a fan) recognized that while you couldn’t create music or play music on booze or opium, you absolutely could on marijuana. Whereas alcohol dulled the senses and opium obliterated them, cannabis “excited” them. While it makes you feel calm and euphoric, marijuana also makes the senses more acute. You can smell more intensely, hear with more clarity and see more detail. Nuance does not get lost to a mind happily soaking in THC. If anything, a mind soaking in THC can get a little too absorbed in nuance.
If you’re creating things — a story, a song, an idea — nuance is everything. Creativity and cannabis go together brilliantly.
What scared Harry Anslinger into declaring war on marijuana (he insisted it wasn’t worth worrying about previously) was white people starting to use it.
The story of marijuna in America is another story about racism. The only reason cannabis was ever illegalized was racism. Not for two seconds did Harry Anslinger or any other moral scold determined to prohibit cannabis use ever research cannabis to prove its negative effects. They never cared about what it did to people (positive or negative). They only cared who was using it (originally).
As my wife recently told a friend who wondered what it’s like being married to a guy who’s stoned all the time, “I’ve never seen him ‘high’.”
That’s true. I know what’s meant by “high”. It’s the very real feeling of euphoria just before I fall asleep. In that sense, I get do get high every day. But, until that point, I have no interest in being “high”. I’m only interested in being productive. When I wake & bake, that baking needs to produce product. My creative day starts around 5 am with a cup of joe (I like it take-no-prisoners dark) and a bowl of sativa. In the mix this morning: Durban Poison (always!) Casey Jones, Ghost Train Haze, Willy Wonka & Alaskan Thunderfuck.
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of your mind focusing in on something as the first waves of THC roll across your brain. When I really want to focus on the stuff I’m focusing on, I haul out the Trainwreck. Trainwreck’s a hybrid but there’s nothing quite like it.
Before I tried it the first time, I read somewhere that Trainwreck made you feel like cleaning your house. I thought that was funny. It’s goddamned true! Something about Trainwreck makes you super-focused and, yeah, you do get a sudden jones to clean the house. With a toothbrush (someone else’s).
It’s even better when used to write.
At the end of the day, since I no longer drink, the call goes out again to cannabis. It ain’t Miller Time, it’s Hybrids Time. Dutch Treat… Pineapple Express… Bruce Banner… Snowcap… White Widow. A friend gave me some home-grown Apple Fritter that’s awesome! Good hybrids produce feelings of calm. Of perspective.
A friend and I went to ss, LA’s first cannabis cafe not long after it opened. The line to get in was huge (this was pre-pandemic). So, interestingly, was the line to get a job there.
They didn’t serve alcohol then (don’t know if they did when they shut for the pandemic) but it wasn’t needed. The whole vibe inside the cafe was unlike anything I’d experienced before. Because there’s no alcohol, there’s less glass moving around. People aren’t there to drink (though staying hydrated is important). Consequently, there isn’t the constant clinking of glasses. Also missing — that manic edge that alcohol slowly asserts on a room.
Since I stopped drinking I have witnessed rooms filled with my friends (and rooms filled with strangers) as they devolved from easy-going coherence to alcohol-fueled testiness. The laughing gets louder and a little more crazed, uninhibited. There’s plenty of laughter in a room filled with cannabis users. Even more laughter than there is in a room filled with drinkers.
But the sound is different. Whether they were leaning forward or sitting back, everyone in that room was relaxed. Mellow. Their conversations — and their laughter — reflected the mellow more than anything. Being in a room filled with stoned people is nothing like being in a room with drunks.
Then, of course, everyone in that room (being as we were all given a 90 minute time limit after which we were vacating our table by rule), went out to the parking lot, got their keys back from the valet and drove home (or back to the office). If those people had all been drinking, there would have been the constant sound of cars smashing into each other right there where their parking lot met the street.
No such thing happened. I walked back to my car (I parked on the street), my friend walked to his car and we both drove home.
As I’ve also written about, the actual data — there IS data — says cannabis doesn’t effect how we drive under its influence the same way alcohol does. That fact befuddles researchers determined that cannabis does impact our brains the same way. As plenty of athletes already know, cannabis improves focus — which, in turn, improves performance. I smoke Durban Poison before I play tennis. It slows my thoughts down. Gives me time to process them. With DP in my head, my timing improves considerably. Seeing the ball (my bugaboo) becomes easier.
There’s a reason, once the opposition to cannabis started cracking, that the opposition fell to pieces quickly. It’s the same reason LGBTQ rights became viabe so quickly. And the same reason Black Lives suddenly Matter. The Truth has always been apparent.
Like the show X Files used to tell us, the Truth is “out there”.
The Truth also rests inside the bowl of Strawberry Durban Diesel I’m about to smoke. The one thing I know for a fact the Durban Diesel and its truth will do? They will set me free!
The leagues — all still holding onto bits and pieces of our old way of thinking about cannabis (the Harry Anslinger-inspired Reefer Madness way of seeing it) — told themselves that cannabis was good for pain relief. That’s why it was okay if their players tested positive for THC in their swabs or urine samples. For starters, not having to punish their stars for something they might be using themselves (knowing the effects) was a huge load off their, um, consciences. It also absolved them of having to justify test results that can’t tell anything beyond the presence of THC.
THC tests can’t tell you how much THC is in you. Can’t tell how long said THC has been in you. Can’t tell what exactly said THC did to your brain that makes punishment for it so important.
As I wrote in Blunt Truths, a thirteen-part series I did for WeedmapsNews (back when it existed as a thing), the story of cannabis prohibition is a story of racism and nothing but. At no point in our national conversation about cannabis did those trying to prohibit it ever back up their reasoning with science or data or anything remotely connected to them. Don’t you think they would have if they could have?
Oh, there’s “science” but it’s of the climate denying variety that could be picked apart by a kid working on a science fair project. The data — now that we’re collecting it — tells a very different story about (here’s the problem) a very different product. Different, that is, from alcohol. And other drugs that do things cannabis does not do.
Cannabis simply does not do to our brains what alcohol does. Or opiates for that matter. We need to stop acting — well, legislating and law enforcing — like it was. One of the things I wrote about in Blunt Truths was how marijuana became popularized in America. It more or less entered the country via the southwest. It had been used in Mexico for a long time already when the Mexican Revolution (started in 1910) sent a wave of Mexicans fleeing north to escape the violence.
In 1913, the very white California State Board of Pharmacy had noticed that Mexicans sometimes used marijuana to relax. Marijuana being foreign to them, these white guys decided it could only be bad — since Mexicans were already bad cos not white. They helped write the first anti-cannabis legislation. They claimed science but had none on their side. See how that works?
But, marijuana — that was different. Not “I want it to be different” different, DIFFERENT. On marijuana they felt both relaxed and deeply focused. The relaxed feeling — the euphoria — took the weight of the world from their shoulders. While the marijuana was caressing their brains — and smoking it gives you an hour-and-a-half or so of “prime time” and a few hours of much milder effect — they heard better. They articulated better the abstract musical ideas in their heads — reproducing it as notes on a trumpet or piano or glockenspiel even.
Marijuana really and truly makes its users more creative. Hell, I use indicas for sleep (I use sativas & hybrids the rest of the day). I mix & match from my collection (I like to keep a “rotation” of 8 or 9 different indica strains going) — usually doing two bowls of Skywalker or Hollow point or Paris or King Louis XIII or Afghani directly before bedtime. But, even as the indica’s sleepiness begins to envelope me in its delicious embrace, I can still get creative.
Suddenly, I’m sitting down and writing. Spewing an idea in all its glory as if I hadn’t been sleepy a minute before. I’ll sketch the thing out. Put down the pad or close the computer — and marvel at how the sleepiness, in a moment or two, returns. As if I hadn’t just been experiencing a vibrant, creative outburst.
And then I slip between the covers and sleep wonderfully. I started using cannabis a few years ago because of insomnia. Because OTC sleep meds weren’t doing anything for me. I had been using them for years and could count the number of “good” nights’ sleep on one hand. I was experiencing memory loss, too — a side effect of those drugs. Living in California, I figured what the hell. Dope had never been my thing when I was a kid — it put me to sleep. If that was the problem I was trying to solve — why not?
After putting my sleep problem to bed, I began to wonder what was in all those other jars at my local dispensary — that weren’t indicas? I had no concept back then what an indica was versus a sativa or hybrid. Like most people, what I knew about cannabis was mostly bullshit colored by Harry Anslinger, America’s first drug czar (he served as first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from 1930 all the way to 1962 when JFK shitcanned him). I had no idea that sativas had a very different effect from indicas. And what were these “hybrid” strains?
Then I discovered Durban Poison.
DP is a great working strain because the “high” is so focused but also so “smooth”. Other sativas (or sativa-dominant stains) like Crystal Coma or Green Crack deliver the same mental focus but with a little more edge. It’s kind of like feeling “extra curious” about things. Your mind wants to dig deeper still into whatever you’re thinking about. DP doesn’t prohibit one’s mind from going there, but it doesn’t automatically put your mind there.
Again — what sativas deliver to our brains is focus. It slows everything down. Think of our brains as being like digital circuits: our synapses are either open or closed. A zero or a one. THC causes more of our synapses — our digital circuitry — to be open. It’s not making us see more or hear more, but it is allowing our brains to process more. More visual input. More smell and taste input. That’s why people feel paranoid — their brains are receiving more information in real time. Some people perceive that as threatening. They think the information flowing to them means someone is watching them. It’s not a rational thought, it’s a feeling. But we go with it.
That additional flow of information to our brains also is why food tastes incredible when you’re high. It’s why smells are stronger and things just seem… funnier. That’s why people laugh so much on cannabis. You don’t just see the humor in things, you REALLY see it. And then you really, REALLY laugh.
If the fans attending a sporting event smoked cannabis instead of drinking beer, there would never be a fight in the stands because one drunk got pissed off at another. There would never be rioting after a match. People would be too busy hugging each other and saying “good match!” And the players?
Yeah — what of the players — and their experience using cannabis on the pitch or field or tennis court.
I’ve played tennis all my life. I hated it most of the time. Not tennis’ fault, that. Mine. I didn’t realize until a few years ago that I was dealing with a monstrous depression. A few days before Christmas 2016, I came within literal inches of killing myself. In the long, slow march toward oblivion that I was on, I would torture myself weekly with tennis.
My depression was filled with self-destructive loathing. If I played badly, it was because I sucked. I sucked because I always played badly — and I always played badly because I beat myself up instead of coaching myself. Long story short, my depression’s in remission. My mood stabilizer stops me from beating myself up — especially about tennis.
When I stopped beating myself up and started coaching myself instead — I got better at tennis. Well, I started to live up to my tennis-playing potential and that was awesome. It was fun, too. A shitload of fun.
Imagine it being a revelation that the sport you’ve played all your life can actually be enjoyable to play. Cannabis is the icing on that cake.
As it does with my work, cannabis focuses my brain on tennis. It relaxes me. Slows everything down. “See the ball”, I tell myself — and I find it as my tennis partner hits it and follow it all the way to my racket. “Where’s the ball?” I ask also. The ball needs to be in a specific place for me to attack it — and I need to be attacking it (rather than being attacked by it). I need to have a strategy in mind — and the cannabis does that too. I pick a spot. I attack the ball accordingly (racket back ASAP), stepping into the shot, striking the ball in “the zone” and then (most importantly but too often forgotten) following through.
I wish I was more consistent. But I’m waaaaaay better than I was — and I’m always keenly aware of exactly what I do wrong when I do things wrong.
The advantage cannabis gives me on the tennis court isn’t physical. It’s mental. I’m not being pumped up, I’m being focused. I’m being relaxed into a better performance.
And a fun experience becomes exponentially more fun.
Does cannabis give me an unfair advantage? That’s a science question, really. I sometimes think it does. But then I lose focus momentarily — because I’m still me — and I’m not so sure.
Legal Cannabis is here and it is not going away. All those dire predictions of society’s collapse? Ummmm, not quite. Just the opposite actually.
As the coronavirus pandemic proves to us every day, some people can’t be dragged kicking & screaming to a good idea even if that good idea could save their life. Full cannabis legalization is a very good idea on myriad levels. Making it illegal in the first place — one of the worst decisions EVER.
It WAS a “decision” remember. We didn’t have to do this. We shouldn’t have. But, as I wrote about extensively in the 13 part series “Blunt Truths” that I wrote for WeedmapsNews, the story of cannabis prohibition is a story of racism and nothing but. The only reason first Commissioner of America’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger sought to make “marihuana” illegal was because white people started smoking it — and racist that he was, Anslinger could not tolerate a “colored vice” infecting white people. Here’s a basic fact: at no time in the process leading up to marijiuana’s “illegalization” did Anslinger EVER look to science or medicine to back him up. That’s because science & medicine (the AMA for example) disagreed with him. Completely.
Anslinger literally INVENTED “Reefer Madness” — the ludicrous notion that marijuana turns people in to raving lunatics. In the 1930’s, as cannabis use spread (following the African American jazz musicians heading north from New Orleans to Memphis, Nashville, Chicago), Anslinger (as America’s respected Narcotics Commissioner) would go to the newspapers and tell them — no, LIE to them — that black and Latino marijuana users were turning into drug-crazed killers who were selling their poison to school children. The newspapers would then dutifully report what the august Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics had told them — and Anslinger, in turn, would hold up those very newspapers as PROOF that what he was saying was true.
Anslinger’s problem: there’s no legal basis in the Constitution to criminalize cannabis. In fact, when America was founded, farmers were REQUIRED to grow hemp because it was that important a crop with multiple uses. Consequently, Anslinger was forced to circumvent the Constitution and the will of the people (via medical science) by creating “The Marijuana Tax Act Of 1937“. The act didn’t make marijuana illegal. It did however impose an onerous tax on the sale and purchase of hemp and marijuana. In order to prove that you paid the tax, you also had to have a stamp to verify your transaction. The stamp however was impossible to get.
Therefore, anyone who bought or sold hemp or marijuana — without paying the tax and without getting the stamp — was breaking the law. The first marijuana arrest came within 24 HOURS of the Tax Act’s passage. Samuel Caldwell of was arrested on October 23, 1937 in Colorado for buying a joint and not paying the tax. So it began.
Racism worked well for Anslinger for a long time. When racism’s spur began to wane however — after WWII when opiates began to wreck American lives in rising numbers (wars cause a lot of physical pain), Anslinger invented “The Gateway Theory” that said marijuana was a “gateway” to harder, worse drugs like heroin.
Mind you — to get to the idea that marijuana was a “gateway to worse” required the leap that marijuana wasn’t the scourge WORSE THAN HEROIN that Anslinger himself had TESTIFIED BEFORE CONGRESS that it was. But, hey — what’s a little perjury between racists, amiright? Especially when those racists are in Congress and legislating their racism.
The Gateway Theory became “accepted” as real. It’s not. Never was.
Then, in the late 60’s as the Vietnam War began to come apart — with tens of thousands of American troops returning with marijuana in their duffel bags — Richard Nixon declared “The War On Drugs”. Quick side note — as the African American jazz musicians in New Orleans had quickly learned, while one cannot create on alcohol or harder drugs like heroin, one becomes extraordinarily creative with THC in your brain. THC and alcohol do not work even remotely the same way when inside us.
American soldiers found that with a few hits of marijuana in them, as they went out on patrol, 1) they were calmer, more collected, 2) they were focused, 3) they were more sensually aware. Our thoughts occur as electric signals flowing across synapses. Our synapses are like digital circuits — they’re either opened or closed. Open they receive information, closed, they do not. THC causes more of our synapses to be open — and receiving information (visual, aural, taste, feel — whatever). That’s why people often feel paranoid when using cannabis. What they’re actually experiencing is an increased rush of information inside their heads. They perceive all that information coming in as someone watching them and knowing everything they’re doing.
If you don’t experience the paranoia reaction, that flow of information is nectar. Ambrosia. Gold dust.
This is the bottom line. Our brain chemistry and THC work extremely well together. Emphasis on the word “WORK”.
Here’s the part, Cannabis, where we talk about how you need to WORK for people.
For comparison’s sake, picture a sports stadium filled with people. Remember them? Remember what happened pretty regularly every time one of those stadiums drank too much and then spilled out onto the nearby streets?
Imagine how it might have been if, instead of drinking, those crowds had been using cannabis instead. No one’s rioting. No one’s fighting. At the end of the match, more likely, people are hugging (remember that) or high-fiving each other (opponents included) for having played so well and so hard. Cannabis does not make people angry or hostile the way alcohol does. We all know a few angry drunks.
I dare you to find an angry cannabis user. That is one of the reasons we use cannabis. To mitigate the triggers that make us angry and destructive. That’s why so many people use it now as part of their psychotherapy wellness regimens. I absolutely do.
The legalization process had myriad hurdles to clear. The largest unfortunately was marijuana’s bandit history. It sucks seeing the mom n pop cannabis shops die because the cost of all the regulations is so steep that only corporate players can survive. This is the price of moving cannabis from a criminal-owned-and-run business to a legitimate business that plays by The Rules.
There’s no middle ground sadly. There shouldn’t be a need for a “middle ground” but history forces things on us that reason would prevent. For now, we’ll have to endure over-regulation of the business side (who can sell, how can they sell, in what quantities, in what format) until we achieve a “critical mass” of acceptance where we realize that the overwhelming majority of our caution and regulations weren’t necessary. There’s more money to be made — via tax dollars — by letting the legitimate, mainstream marijuana marketplace find its way.
A big “for instance” — I sometimes use edibles at night. I do smoke indicas every night before bed. I used to use over-the-counter sleeping aids like Simply Sleep. But the sleep was never very good; I always awoke from what sleep I got groggy and lethargic. From the day I switched over to medical cannabis instead (I have and keep a prescription), I have slept wonderfully most nights. The smoked cannabis is great for getting me to sleep and keeping me asleep for a few hours. If I want longer sleep — that’s when edibles are good — as an add-on to the smoked cannabis.
If we were talking any pharmaceutical product, it wouldn’t even be a thought that someone with no involvement in my medication-taking would be telling me how much of a dose I can take vs how much I can’t. Prior to the crack-down on legit dispensaries here in CA, one could buy edibles with huge THC levels (pot brownies with 1000 milligrams of THC in them). Now — because of the regs — everything’s capped at 100 mg of THC. Why? No reason. Someone chose a number and there we are.
This is what I’m talking about, Legal Cannabis Business. That’s bullshit and YOU (especially you) know it.
It’s not the legal cannabis business itself that’s causing itself (and all us legal users) frustration and heartache. Yes, heartache, because cannabis IS a medicine. I use it not only for sleep but to moderate of my hypomania. I am bi-polar. I use 25 mg of lamotrigine a day to manage my depression. To manage the manic side of my brain — I use THC. It works. It works over short periods of time so that I’m never waiting to “come off it” when I need to. Hell, at any point, if I did feel I’d consumed too much THC (this has never happened to me and I doubt it ever will), I can always down a little CBD to eliminate the THC’s impact.
When you grow up, Cannabis Business, I need you to see yourself in a multi-faceted way befitting your multi-facted uses.
You need to position yourselves not so much as an adjunct to alcohol use (one really shouldn’t use the two concurrently as they cancel out each others’ effects — it’s really just humans being piggy about their indulgences), but as AN ALTERNATIVE. In the three years since I’ve stopped drinking (the lamotrigine gives all alcohol a grapefruit skin aftertaste making it completely unpalatable — an unintended, unexpected side effect), my eyes have been opened about alcohol: we (myself included when I drank) abuse the hell out of it. For real.
Cannabis also needs to get way better at messaging. It’s a big ask, I know, but the science is on cannabis’ side here. We need to get straight on something — since alcohol and THC act very differently in our brains, it follows that alcohol and THC impact us differently when we, say, get behind the wheel of a car. Alcohol impairs our motor skills. There’s data. THC? There’s no such data.
Let me be clear — where cannabis data is concerned, there’s far more we don’t know than we do. When they measure THC in experiments, they treat it as a generic when the way that THC acts in my brain depends entirely on the rest of the package it entered with (its terpene structure). Speaking entirely for myself here — since I can only speak from personal experience (365 days X 7 years of daily data gathering) — I become MORE physically coordinated with THC in my brain than when I don’t have it in me.
Example — I play tennis (well, I did before quarantine). I smoke cannabis before I play (and often during). The sativa Durban Poison is my preference. Within a few moments of a hit, after a feeling of calm descends on me, my brain focuses. The calm slows me down. The focus allows me to see the tennis ball with remarkable clarity. I can literally see the fuzz and the spin on the ball as it speeds toward me. I can break down the timing with precision. Move now. Racket back. Choose a spot across the net. Step into the shot. Follow through. Move to where you expect the “reaction shot” to go.
I just don’t play that way without the DP in my brain. I play appreciably better because I’m more focused. Alcohol does not work that way.
Just as sativas focus my brain for tennis, they focus my brain for work. Remember all those black jazz musicians from New Orleans. Louis Armstrong was one of marijuana’s first great champions (until the man took it away from him and put him in jail).
I drive with THC in me all the time (on the few occasions when I drive anymore). Hell, when we (used to) go to parties or out to dinner? My wife drinks alcohol. She’ll drive TO the party or bar and then I (because I don’t drink) do the drive home. I will have been smoking at some point during the evening. Keep in mind — marijuana doesn’t do to me what alcohol does to you. I’m not slurring my speech at the end of the night. I’m not bumping into things.
“Compared to that of alcohol, the contributions of other drugs to crash risk were minimal. In the initial data analysis, THC seemed to be a significant contributor to crash risk. However, with more sophisticated analysis controlling for variables known (based on previous research) to be associated with age, gender, race/ethnicity, and alcohol, drugs did not show a significant crash risk. The findings from this study may be surprising in light of some studies that have reported crash risk to be significantly related to drug use and driving.”
The moment you do “sophisticated analysis”, “drugs do not show a significant crash risk”. Bias shows more risk than the cannabis does.
Challenges in Estimating Crash Risk from Drug Use Conducting case-control studies to estimate the risk of crash involvement from drug use presents many difficulties. The first challenge is obtaining reliable and accurate estimates of drug use. Many studies rely on self-reporting (which have obvious inherent problems) rather than actual measurement of THC in blood or oral fluid. Also, the extent of care regarding the matching of crash-involved and control drivers varies to a large extent among studies. The more carefully controlled studies, that actually measured marijuana (THC) use by drivers rather than relying on self-reporting, and that had a high degree of control of covariates that could bias the results, generally show low risk estimates or in a few cases no risk associated with marijuana use (Elvik, 2013).
Although cognitive studies suggest that cannabis use may lead to unsafe driving, experimental studies have suggested that it can have the opposite effect.
And, in conclusion, it also says this:
Because of… an increased awareness that they are impaired, marijuana smokers tend to compensate effectively for their impairment by utilizing a variety of behavioral strategies such as driving more slowly, passing less, and leaving more space between themselves and cars in front of them. Combining marijuana with alcohol eliminates the ability to use such strategies effectively, however…
If we compare apples to apples — marijuana smoking to marijuana smoking and not stupid male behavior (per the studies) or stupid behavior combined with alcohol consumption to marijuana smoking — a very different picture of cannabis, cannabis use and cannabis users emerges.
A little while ago I went to the first cannabis cafe that opened here in LA. It was AWESOME! Strange, too. In such an atmosphere, one expects to hear the hush of human voices and laughter — and the clinking of glasses. That’s missing here. The “CLINK!” because no one is toasting each other.
But the voices are there. And the laughter. But the laughter doesn’t have that increasingly manic edge that comes after alcohol use. Instead, the voices and laughter had an intimacy to them. No one needed to shout. Everyone was cool and sober and social and feeling good. The cannabis made the food taste really, really good — as cannabis (which, remember, is feeding more sensual input to your brain) invariably does.
And then, when the meal was done (diners were allotted 90 minutes and then given the heave-ho cos people were waiting to get in), just about all of us went out to the parking lot, got our keys from the valet guy, got into our cars and drove away. Some of us went home but others WENT BACK TO WORK.
Here’s the key. We drove out of the parking lot — every single one of us — with THC pumping through our brains — and (to my knowledge) not a one of us had an accident. If there WERE a string of accidents, we’d all know about it. But there weren’t. And there aren’t. That’s because cannabis effects our brains differently from how alcohol effects them.
There’s actual data — from the government no less — from the National Highway Safety Bureau that backs this up. When they actually measure how cannabis effects people behind the wheel, what they invariably get is this: while alcohol makes people drive erratically, changing speeds, swerving from their lane, cannabis has the exact opposite effect. The data says people with THC in them maintain the speed limit (consistently) and they stay in their lanes. They keep safe following distances.
In other words, unlike with alcohol, cannabis users drive mindfully.
But then, cannabis users mostly know this about cannabis. We know what cannabis does for us — and what it doesn’t do. We know how good it makes us feel and we know how productive we can be with cannabis in us.
The large and growing number of us who use and enjoy and rely on cannabis — we know for a fact that everything we were ever told about this product is bullshit. Yes, yes, yes — cannabis isn’t good for everyone. It’s not good for kids to use. And not everyone drives well on cannabis (they might not drive well without cannabis in them — the cannabis might not be the issue with their bad driving). Nothing in this world is uniform or perfect. Not even physics.
The cannabis business, being a business — will do what it needs to do to stay a business. They will respond to whatever they perceive the marketplace for its product to be. If we act like a mature, responsible, data-driven market, the cannabis business will eventually catch up with us.
First though, we have to get the rest of the culture on board with us — with the truth. I guess what I’m saying is, it isn’t so much the cannabis biz that needs to grow up here, it’s us.
The first time a budtender told me that sativas would give me mental energy, I looked at him like a dog asking a question. Say what? What does that even mean — “mental energy”?
If you’ve never experienced cannabis — or only ever experienced indicas (which make up the overwhelming majority of cannabis strains) — that probably sounds like a contradiction of terms. Isn’t cannabis supposed to make you “dopey”? For an extended reflection & rant on how a mythology based entirely on racism stood in for truth, I refer you to Blunt Truths, the series I wrote for Weedmaps News). None of us steps onto the cannabis playing field aware just how profoundly tilted it is.
It’s practically vertical it’s so damned tilted.
Cannabis has a complex structure. THC and CBD play significant roles in how our brains react to cannabis and perceive its effects but they’re only part of cannabis’ palette. Terpenes play an equally vital role in how any particular strain will work. Thus far, we’ve identified about 120 terpenes in cannabis. We know (or have a rough idea at least) how about 25 of them work.
Throwing a little heat into the mix gets the THC, CBD and other cannabanoids to dance with the alpha-pinene, micrene, linolene and/or caryophyllene (among others) in its terpene structure. The synapses in our brains act like digital circuits. They’re either open or closed. If they’re open, thoughts flow through our heads. If they’re closed, thoughts don’t happen. THC simply makes more of those synapses open. We process more information.
That’s why some people feel paranoid. THC makes us more aware of everything. That sudden inflow of more raw data into our brains can feel oppressive. Suddenly you’re thinking about things like “What if there’s a cop nearby?” Food tastes great with cannabis for the same reason. It’s why things seem funnier. You’re perceiving them “funnier”.
When cannabis eventually found its way from the southwest to New Orleans after WWI, it was taken up by the musicians there working the bars and whorehouses. Players like Louis Armstrong didn’t like drinking much because it inhibited their ability to play and think musically. They were in the middle of inventing jazz and needed their faculties functioning at full blast. Marijuana, rather than dulling their creativity, sparked it. They could hear more, feel more. It wasn’t their imaginations telling them that.
And yet… it was. Their imaginations — their creativity — was telling them that with cannabis in their brains, they could be even better, more creative — more productive.
I wandered into cannabis looking for sleep. After years of taking OTC sleep meds — and getting little sleep but lots of memory loss, I bit the bullet years ago (living in California as I do) and got a prescription. Then I went to my first dispensary and got my first cannister of Skywalker flower.
For the first time in a decade, I slept. I woke up in the morning feeling rested. No druggy lassitude, no lingering weariness. Just top quality brain rest. What a radical concept.
The next time I returned to that dispensary, I wanted to know: what’s in all those other cannisters filled with weed? Do they all produce sleep as wonderful as Skywalker? Some, it turned out did. Others, on the other hand…
My first daytime strain was Durban Poison, a classic sativa. As much as it focused my brain — giving me lots of mental energy, it also opened my eyes. Cannabais isn’t good for just kicking back & relaxing or sleeping. Cannabis is good for working your ass off to earn that relaxation.
With a strain like Durban Poison — or Clementine or Jack The Ripper (the weed is kinder than the name) or hybrids like Dutch Treat and Pineapple Express, I feel the world come into sharp relief. I hear and see nuances and shadings. The responses flow effortlessly. Writing is not a struggle.
There are variations in how different sativas or hybrids feel inside your head. Whereas Jack The Ripper, say, will give you terrific focus, it has a slight “edge” to it. Not a bad edge — an extra bit of focus and energy. Maybe the best daytime/working strain of all is Trainwreck. Trainwreck gets you so focused you feel compelled to clean your house. Completely. With a toothbrush — that’s how focused and thorough you want to be.
Then I discovered (like a lot of athletes have) that cannabis can improve your physical performance — because it focuses your mind. I started smoking Durban Poison before and, sometimes, while I’m playing. It’s wild, the impact: everything “slows down”. I can see the spin on the ball. If I really focus, I can almost see the fuzz on the ball right where I need to hit it.
I can see where the ball needs to be. I can see where I need to be after I hit the ball. And ya know what? As much fun as I had playing tennis before? Now, it’s even more fun.
I cannot think of a single negative impact that cannabis has had on my life. Life, as we all know, is hard and getting harder. No one gets brownie points for bearing it unmedicated.
Here’s a better idea. Put some cannabis in those brownies. You’ll thank me.
I’ve searched Google & Wikipedia. I’ve searched the whole internet (every single tube of it). I even cracked an actual book. There’s no evidence anywhere that racism ever did anything good for anyone. Yet here we are, hostages of America’s racist soul.
I’ll warn ya right now — there’s a whole shitload of irony coming. Because of course.
Patrick Crusius, the El Paso shooter, published a manifesto an hour before heading out the door, armed to the teeth, his intent — hunt other humans and kill them because they’re different. His manifesto made his feelings about brown people and immigrants crystal clear. 21-year-old Mr. Crusius was angry enough to drive hours across the state of Texas to specifically shoot people coming from Mexico. Or, as Mr. Crusius would probably call them “Mexicans”.
I don’t know if Mr. Crusius smokes cannabis. I know lots & lots & LOTS of his white supremacist pals love the stuff. Why shouldn’t they? Cannabis is a great product (for adults for whom its appropriate and who are savvy about their dosing). But the fact that it IS a legal product now in places like California is in spite of the fact that it was “illegalized” back in the day specifically because of racism like Mr. Cruisius’.
In “Blunt Truths” — the series I wrote for Weedmaps News — I deep dive into the overt racism behind every bit of marijuana prohibition. At no point did anyone legislating marijuana ever ask “But, is it bad for people?” It was never about what marijuana did to anyone, it was always about WHO was smoking it. When Harry Anslinger became America’s first Commissioner of the nascent Federal Bureau of Narcotics, he didn’t give a shit about cannabis. He said so.
White people knew little about cannabis. It wasn’t part of their culture as it was part of Mexico’s culture. Not a big part, of course — but a part. Unlike alcohol, marijuana didn’t make anyone angry or violent. It just made them feel better and happier at the end of a day’s work. Or whenever they cared to use it. The Mexican Revolution (1910) created a wave of frightened Mexicans heading north. Marijuana traveled with them. Because it was unfamiliar, it caught the attention of the already nervous white people.
Marihuana caught a ride east and landed in New Orleans where jazz was being born. The musicians doing the birthing (guys like Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and Jelly Roll Morton) didn’t like to drink because alcohol dulled their senses and their creativity. Morphine was even worse. Marihuana however made them feel good without dulling them. Quite the contrary — reefer opened their minds. Suddenly they could hear tones and shadings and nuances they didn’t hear without the dope. They could create on marijuana. They could perform on it. They could live their lives on it.
New Orleans habitually expunged the black musicians from the city. When the city closed famed Storyville in 1918, all those talented players headed north, up the Mississippi. That same migration happened again in the late 1920’s. Those pot-smoking jazz musicians landed in Memphis, Nashville, Chicago. Each place they landed, marijuana culture started. And — here’s where it gets problematic for white people — WHITE PEOPLE started smoking it. That’s the reason behind cannabis prohibition not only in America but all around the world — for real: Cannabis was made illegal because white people started smoking it.
Harry Anslinger was a staggering racist but (the problem) a masterful bureaucrat. He overcame a veritable shitload of truth, reality and law to finally have his way and make marijuana illegal. Once he made it illegal here, he used his bureaucratic expertise to make cannabis illegal all over the world. To help accomplish that end, Anslinger invented every last bit of the marijuana mythology that still haunts us today.
Anslinger invented “reefer madness”. When, in the 1950’s his racist dog whistle stopped working as well in Congress (Anslinger had to fight a constant war for dollars to fund his agency), Anslinger invented “The Gateway Theory” to connect marijuana usage to hard drug usage. No legitimate data exists connecting those two things — emphasis on the word “legitimate”. None. Zilch.
Still, Richard Nixon used that lie to justify the (bullshit) War On Drugs. Just so we’re clear — the War On Drugs (John Haldeman even admitted this in an interview ffs!) was understood by those waging it to be a war on black people, brown people and liberal people.
Just like the raging racists who preceded them, no one ever asked “But, isn;t it actually kind of good for people?”
Racists like Mr. Crusius, Santino Legran (Gilroy Garlic Festival) & William Bowers (Tree Of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh) or bigots like Omar Mateen (the Orlando gay nightclub shooter) despise all foreign cultures (especially if black or brown people practice them). Yet — given time, these same racists will ADAPT and come to love the very cultural object they once used as the focus of their ignorance and racism.
I celebrate anyone who enjoys and revels in the many pleasures and benefits of cannabis. Ummmm — hold on there, white supremacists. I’m celebrating your cannabis celebration with an asterisk: you’re a damned hypocrite.
What this illustrates is the sheer bullshittiness of racism. Those of us hip to the amazing advantages of multi-cultralism and diversity know — things not native to white Christian culture (jazz, food with flavor, cannabis) — will eventually burrow their way in (if not to the racists then to every last bit of the culture around them). But then there’s cannabis.
Even a racist can’t not love it. I warned you there’d be irony.
I took marijuana to an airport yesterday — out in the open. Here’s what
I never imagined I would become a warrior in the War On Drugs. I definitely
never imagined that cannabis would touch my life so profoundly that I’d take up
its cause with a Kamakazi’s zeal.
For reference’s sake — I wasn’t into pot when I was in high school. The
handful of times I tried it, it put me right to sleep. Same all the way through
college. I preferred cocaine. Speed worked better with my hypomania. At least,
I thought it did at the time. I preferred ecstasy. Even psybocilin the one time
I tried it. And, of course, there was always always ALWAYS alcohol.
Then Life happened. Ups, downs and everything in between. By the time I
reached my mid 50’s, I was depressed and getting more so. Sleep was getting
hard to come by. I had no interest in taking Ambien — knowing how my mind
worked, that pretty much guaranteed I’d snap to from a fugue state in some
strange, public place, completely naked. Wasn’t gonna happen.
I’d been taking Simply Sleep knock off’s for years. Occasionally I would get
some sleep from it. Mostly it just made me groggy the next morning and screwed
with my short term memory. Living in California, (back before full
legalization), I had access to medical marijuana. Being at the very end of my
tether, I found a doctor nearby who prescribed.
It wasn’t illicit — but it felt illicit. That’s how powerful bullshit is.
“What’s your issue?” “Insomnia,” I said. I began to explain
but he held up his hand. Not necessary. He wrote the prescription on his
computer, printed it and handed it to me. Short $69, I walked out the door.
Next stop — my local dispensary — located almost literally under a freeway overpass. The only thing it needed to be a full on crime scene was the yellow police tape. I filled out their extensive paperwork. Showed them my California picture ID and my RX. I was buzzed through to the “showroom”, a few old display cases with pipes, bongs, papers, the few edibles then on the market (Cheeba Chews mostly) and a dozen large jars filled with cannabis flower.
My first budtender (I didn’t know he was called that then) welcomed me like
I was a “customer” or something. The whole experience — that first
time especially was surreal (something about it remains surreal).
“Insomnia,” I said.
“Skywalker,” said my Budtender. As he went for the Skywalker jar, my immediate thought was “cute name”. I had no idea — zilch — that Skywalker wasn’t just a “name”, it was a genuine cannabis strain — a known quantity with known effects if you smoked it. It wasn’t the product of a bunch of stoners stumbling upon a plant that made the dope they liked, it was a hybridized product of serious work by serious people. Skywalker was a kind of “brand”. In theory, Skywalker was as reproducible a product as a Big Mac.
My Budtender offered me the jar — so I could smell it. Yup. Smelled like
dope. I bought two grams. Took them home, intensely curious about what the
dried flower in the plastic vile would do to me that night. I’d already bought
a small glass pipe and a lighter. I didn’t have a grinder. Didn’t know I needed
I was as green as the Skywalker in the vial in my hand. But, that night, I
ground up some of the leaves between my fingertips, snuck outside and smoked
it. It didn’t take long — a few minutes — before a feeling of calm came over
me. My hypomanic mind slowed down. Then sleep beckoned. Usually, I had to go
hunting for it. But, with Skywalker’s THC now in my brain, sleep came looking
for me. As I slipped into bed beside my wife, the feeling of
sleepiness became downright delicious.
All I remember after that is waking up the next morning, feeling RESTED for
the first time in… forever. In time (subjects for other blog posts), I’d
learn that cannabis wasn’t just for bedtime. I was buying from one jar at the
dispensary. What was in all the others?
Turned out cannabis could be genuinely useful first thing in the morning,
too. Turned out pretty much EVERYTHING I knew or thought about cannabis was
absolutely wrong. And the more I corrected that problem — the more I learned
about cannabis — why it was “illegalized” (check out my series Blunt
Truths at Weedmaps News) — the
more I learned about the differences between indicas, sativas and hybrids —
the more I found that cannabis & me were, in myriad ways, soul mates.
I’d even say we’re “buds”.
Back to my airport story… A few days ago, I traveled from LA to visit
family on the East Coast.
In California, cannabis is legal. Because I’m over 21,
I can walk around with 28.5 grams of cannabis flower in my possession (I can
also have 8 grams of marijuana concentrate — I can even possess six living
cannabis plants at my private residence. In California, these are my
I can possess the flower and concentrate at my house, on the street, in my
car (so long as I’m not actually using it then and there, mind you) and
— still Constitutionally legal — at the airport. Until I board the airplane
— where the FAA and the Federal government have jurisdiction — the weed in my
possession is 100% legal.
So — I’m at LAX the other day. I know my rights here in California. I
intended to travel some of cannabis with me to the east for personal
consumption. The place I was going — another state where cannabis is legal. I
know for a fact, as I go through the TSA security line that the vials of
cannabis flower in clear view in my carry on bags (I now grind my flower and
put it into 5 or 10 dram vials that I label with the strain’s name & type
— there will be no mistaking what’s in those vials). I also was traveling with
clearly marked edibles. I did not repackage my THC gummy worms with
store-bought ones (as one normally does).
Quick footnote — on the
day cannabis went fully legal in Nevada, an interesting phenomenon
happened. The dispensaries all ran out of edibles. This happened principally
because Nevada made a deal with the devil (in this case the liquor distributors
who, shocking, did not have their shit together on Day One like they promised
to); all re-stocking of retail supply had to be handled by the liquor
distributors. Dumb, dumb, dumb. BUT – the phenomenon part is this: most of the
sales, it’s believed, were made to non-Nevadans — tourists — who were about
to get onto airplanes with loads of THC — in their food.
The wide availability of THC in food that looks exactly like non-THC food
changes the game with no going back. It’s unpolice-able. Now that
semi-legalization has unleashed all that THC-inspired creativity, there aren’t
too many formats THC won’t take going forward. I’m not saying I’ve broken the
law and traveled with THC-laced food in the past, but, I might know one or two
people who have.
Being a “Have a plan B in your pocket” kind of person, I prepared
myself in case the TSA agent understood the law “differently”. I drew
plan B from my pocket when my computer backpack got flagged and pulled aside
for a hand inspection.
I stepped up to the counter — not anxious so much as wary (I already had
lots of THC in me). The TSA agent saw — and moved right past the 5 vials
clearly containing cannabis — to the (I thought it was empty) water bottle
that was there, too. There was an ounce of water left inside it. I needed to
either lose the water bottle or leave my bags with my young adult kids, exit
the secure area, dump the water and go through security again — water bottle
I’ve had this water bottle for a while. It’s a good water bottle. It’s my
tennis water bottle. I’m not ditching it because I overlooked a few swallows of
water. I left my bags with my kids and did the whole security dance again. Then
I carried on through the airport to my gate — water bottle & cannabis
still in my possession.
I saw the future — where cannabis was normal and, to a degree already,
normalized. It was awesome.
I believe — actual life experience being my data set — that my life is better in myriad ways with cannabis IN it than WITHOUT it. If I separate my personal experience with cannabis from cannabis’ story here in America (its demonization and prohibition for entirely racist reasons), I see a natural product — minimally processed (especially if you grow it yourself which anyone can do) — that 1) gives me a quality of sleep that no OTC sleep med ever delivered, 2) mitigates my hypo-mania while 3) improving my focus exponentially and, bonus, makes me a far, far better 4) tennis player and (frankly) 5) driver.
There’s actually lots of data compiled by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration that backs me up about cannabis’ actual effect on driving. Look past the report’s inherent upfront bias — where it states how impactful cannabis is on driving performance — to where it deals in actual data. The actual data about cannabis’ impact on driving abilities says “Experienced smokers who drive on a set course show almost no functional impairment under the influence of marijuana, except when it is combined with alcohol.”
Further: “Several reviews of driving and simulator studies have concluded that marijuana use by drivers is likely to result in decreased speed and fewer attempts to overtake, as well as increased “following distance”. The opposite is true of alcohol.” Cannabis made drivers drive more safely. There’s a giant flaw in all of this research however. A giant one. The research assumes that all cannabis is created equal. It’s not. An indica’s impact is very different a sativa’s. Skywalker will put you to sleep while Durban Poison will focus you like a laser.
I’d like to see the same research done with users on different types of cannabis. I won’t hold my breath.
We currently treat cannabis the same as we do alcohol — as if its impact on our brains was exactly the same. That’s nonsense. Scientifically speaking — it’s total nonsense. THC does not work on or in our brains the way alcohol does.
The reason black jazz musicians in New Orleans gravitated toward cannabis in the 1920’s when it first appeared there was that, whereas alcohol and every other drug dulled their creativity, cannabis sparked it. Yes, yes, there are feelings of euphoria. But there’s also an increased awareness of all the details around you. You hear more, see more, smell and taste more. Fact — food when THC is pumping through you can taste extraordinary.
My creative day begins with cannabis. I like to ease into the work day with GG4 and coffee. I usually have MSNBC on in one ear via satellite. I hear nuances in the voices. I hear the awkward pauses and the extra twists of inside-dish-snarkiness. Getting serious starts as the coffee finishes — with a sativa. Durban Poison is a regular; I love its clean, even-keeled focus. Consistent clarity. Clementine is another terrific daytime work sativa. Ditto Super Lemon Haze.
For maintenance of a working “high” (it’s not a “high”, it’s focus — good, solid, intense focus), I also use Pineapple Express and Silver Back. But the hands down best “Go For Broke” workday strain is the hybrid Trainwreck. A Trainwreck reviewer said once that it made them want to clean their house with a toothbrush — that’s how focused it made them. Yeah — that’s about right. The one drawback to Trainwreck though — unlike the other strains — there is a sleepy patch on the downslope side of the high. Nothing a five minute cat nap won’t resolve.
Even before I discovered cannabis late, late in life (it only ever put me to sleep when I was younger — which held minimal appeal then), I wanted to tell the story of Harry Anslinger and cannabis’ criminalization. When a journalist friend became an editor at Weedmaps’ News division — and asked me to write for them — I offered up my deep dive into Anslinger — and Blunt Truths was born.
I’m biased, of course, but I recommend Blunt Truths unequivocally.
The Blunt Truth is that we did something terrible to ourselves when we let prigs and sanctimonious racists bamboozle us into thinking cannabis caused people of color to rape white women. As my own research revealed — at no point in cannabis’ illegalization did ever of the illegalizers ever ask or even conduct experiments demonstrating whether cannabis WAS actually good or bad for its users.
That’s what makes what we did so profoundly wrong. It’s not for everyone. Can we please accept that nothing is good for everyone? But its benefits so far outweigh its negatives that — it WAS criminal to have criminalized cannabis. It was extra criminal to criminalize the people who used it — or sold it or bought it or grew it or sold products related to it as Tommy Chong did (for which he was imprisoned — and check out my experience of getting high with Tommy here).
I am grateful — truly grateful — that cannabis is in my life. My wish is that it can be a part of everyone’s life (everyone who wants it to be of course). If more people smoked more dope, more people would be more sane in this world. That’s experience talking.
The story of marijuana prohibition is an object lesson in what happens when bullshit triumphs over truth. That should matter to us right here, right now — because we’re facing a similar situation with the Mueller Report. Truth exists within its pages — yet there are people insisting that the diametric opposite is true. Too bad they have power — and the power to push their lies hard.
Republican Representative Justin Amash from Michigan held a town hall to explain to his constituents why he broke ranks with every other Republican to demand Donald Trump’s impeachment. Representative Amash had the audacity to actually read The Mueller Report. By contrast, it seems, not a single other republican has even cracked it. Wonder why…
Anslinger was America’s first Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. A lot has been written about Anslinger recently, not all of it correct. For a more detailed analysis of Anslinger and his impact on America and the world, check out my series Blunt Truths over at Weedmaps News. Bottom line — Anslinger was a racist, top to bottom, who invested his racism in American laws. The reason we still live in Anslinger’s racist shadow is that, in addition to being a racist, Anslinger was a very good bureaucrat. He understood how the system worked and therefore how to work it.
In 1930, when Anslinger first took office, marijuana was a non-entity to most Americans. They had no idea what it was and didn’t care about it. Why would they? Prior to 1910 — when the Mexican Revolution sent Mexican war refugees heading north — Americans thought of cannabis as 1) medicine and 2) hemp. The influx of Mexicans meant an influx of Mexican culture — which included marijuana (the way WASP culture includes cocktails).
Apparently the sight of Mexicans blissing out horrified white people (and their abuse of alcohol).
Cannabis does what cannabis does. It doesn’t do what it doesn’t do. There are behaviors it “causes” and behaviors it doesn’t — because of how it works biochemically in peoples’ brains. Fact — if the crowds at football games (soccer games) all smoked cannabis instead of drinking beer, there’d be no lager louts rioting, setting cars and shops afire after matches. They’d all be hugging each other more likely. Or asleep. Happily. With no hangover in their future.
But people being happy and snoozing doesn’t “sell” anything. The first anti-cannabis laws were passed in California in 1915 — pushed hard by the Pharmacists. Funny thing? Though they were pharmacists, they weren’t thinking about whether or not cannabis could or would hurt its users. They were thinking only of its users — Mexicans. THAT, California’s pharmacists decided, was the problem.
Every single anti-cannabis measure ever passed — EVER — has been born of racism and nothing but. FACT.
As late as 1935, Harry Anslinger still didn’t give a damn about cannabis. But then something changed. Word began to filter toward Anslinger that white people were now using marijuana. During the 1920’s, cannabis use spread from the American Southwest to New Orleans where it found a very happy home amongst black jazz musicians. Musicians discovered that cannabis unleashed their creativity (whereas alcohol killed it).
Our thoughts are electrical currents flowing across the synapses in our brains. Our synapses are like digital circuits — they’re either open or closed. THC causes more of those synapses to be open. More thoughts flow through our brains. It’s not that we see more or hear more, we just become more aware of all the things we’re seeing and hearing. THC makes our brains more cognizant. That additional information flow can feel intimidating. It can feel like paranoia. But it can also make food taste incredible. It can make music sound sublime. It can make things funnier than you realized.
The truth about cannabis (and yes, yes — it’s not all positive — so what; people abuse EVERYTHING including chocolate and love) is that it’s a perfectly good product that, used responsibly by adults, produces a host of positive effects. That was not the story Harry Anslinger told about it however. The thought of white people acting like black or brown people horrified Anslinger. He leapt into action.
There is absolutely no basis in our Constitution to outlaw cannabis. None. When Anslinger bumped into that problem, he circumvented the spirit of the law by pushing through the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937. Very cleverly, the Tax Act imposed an onorous tax on every purchase and every sale of marijuana or hemp. To prove that you paid the tax, you had to have a stamp. The stamps were impossible to get. Therefore, everyone who thereafter bought or sold marijuana (or hemp) was a tax cheat.
Anslinger, in addition to being a very good bureaucrat, was an astute purveyor of public relations. He knew that Americans were completely ignorant about marijuana. Anything they were going to know about it would be what he told them about it. And that’s where Anslinger’s lesson about how to manipulate the American Public leaps forward in time.
The first two men arrested and convicted because of marijuana were sent away for not paying taxes. I bet that made Al Capone laugh.
Harry Anslinger lied utterly and completely when he told Americans what cannabis was. AG Bill Barr lied utterly and completely when he told Americans what the Mueller Report says.
Anslinger’s lies about cannabis have cost this country dearly — in lost money, manpower and justice. When racism’s juice began to falter in the 1950’s, Anslinger invented the “Gateway Theory” to suggest that cannabis use led to heroin use or worse. The same statistical horse shit could be used to suggest a link between coffee drinking and heroin use. Or tobacco use and heroin. Or breathing and heroin. It was dishonest and intentional. And racist.
Bill Barr is working from the exact same playbook. We The People — having been fooled once by White Bamboozlement syndrome — need to avoid a sequel. Lies need to be shot down the instant they land among us. They don’t ever go away of their own volition.
How you tell a story is almost as important as the story itself.
The moment you fade in on your narrative, you frame it. You establish a point of view — even if its strict neutrality. And strict neutrality is rarely as neutral as it thinks it is. That, too, is a framing problem.
If you report a lie — without framing it as a lie — it’s perceived as the truth. When you sit a climate scientist next to a climate denier on a set and shoot them 50-50, you’re framing their conversation as a 50-50 — literally. The visual language says these two points of view are being represented on the screen in their proportional likelihood of truthfulness. At 50-50 — to judge by the framing — either could be right.
Quick side note, CNN & MSNBC — A more truthful, accurate screen representation would have the climate scientist occupying 99% of the screen and the denier getting roughly 1% — not because what he’s saying is 1% valid but for shits n giggles. I want to experience a climate denier shouting (at 1% of the audio mix too) into the wind as the wind devours them. See? I just framed a cruel streak in myself. I like to mock stupid people. And I think people who frame things badly are stupid.
Every time the Main Stream Media tell a story that’s framed incorrectly, they lead us further astray — and further down the authoritarian rabbit hole. The whole point of making the Truth hard to know starts with FRAMING IT THAT WAY. By “framing” the Truth as “hard to know”, those unwilling to question that assertion will now accept as truth that the Truth is beyond them. And all it took to get there was dishonest framing.
If you frame abortion as “baby-killing”, you’re framing it dishonestly. If you frame hunting as “sport”, you’re framing it dishonestly (you’re murdering animals for fun — admit it — the animal would tell you that’s what’s happening). If you frame
The fact that Donald Trump became president and is still president is a failure of framing. The CORRECT framing of Donald Trump was obvious the moment he rode down that escalator in that whorehouse of a building of his and announced that Mexicans are rapists. Trump framed himself as a racist. A few days later we heard him frame himself as a rapist, too, whose wealth apparently gave him permission to sexually assault women at will. Donald Trump framed himself as a criminal every time he bankrupted a casino. Everyone with a brain knew he’d been laundering money for the Russian mob. The proper frame for Donald Trump has always been a “thing”.
And yet… Our news media framed Trump differently. They stuck racism and bigotry and rapey behavior IN the frame (in a corner) but they didn’t use them to FRAME the way THEY were “telling” Donald Trump. In spite of the honest way Trump himself was framing himself, the media insisted on framing Trump as the imaginary character that had been created for him by Mark Burnett so as to make “The Apprentice” make sense.
As we now know, The Art Of The Deal wasn’t just utter bullshit, it was the utterest bullshit. While Trump was putting his name on Tony Schwartz’s writing, he was on his way to losing 1.7 billion dollars. A more honest framing of the book would have been The Art Of Near Total Failure.
I just wrote the last installment of a series called Blunt Truths for Weedmaps news — about the true story of cannabis prohibition. Yes — it was racism start to finish. But the way Harry Anslinger — America’s first Commissioner of Narcotics used racism to frame cannabis was a stroke of dark public relations genius that’s still haunting us. Even as cannabis is legalized, it’s still drenched in the bullshit mythology Anslinger created for it. We still frame cannabis from the point of view of a racist lie.
Every time a Hallie Jackson or an Alex Witt or a Chris Matthews goes to commercial with a tease that asks “Was the FBI SPYING on the Trump Campaign?” they’re literally FRAMING the story from THE CRIMINAL’S POINT OF VIEW. Think about it. The FBI wasn’t spying, they were carrying out a legitimate counter-intelligence investigation because good, solid evidence fairly shouted that Trump was owned by the Russians — but MSNBC is still FRAMING the story as SPYING because that’s what the subject of the investigation — the guy owned by the Russians — calls it.
It’s ludicrous. It happens every damned day.
Terrible framing is why so many of us remain in a constant stage of agita. We expect the Fourth Estate — as part of its Constitutionally mandated responsibility — to be the final check on power. To do that, they need to acknowledge that indeed that IS their responsibility.
I bet if they framed it that way to themselves, they’d get better at their jobs immediately.