Cannabis & Sports Go Together Better Than You Think

I started using cannabis to play tennis about 2 years ago. I wish I had started way sooner. I bet I would have enjoyed tennis a hell of a lot more.

I don’t mean because I’d be playing high. I’m not sure why anyone would want to do that. I don’t use cannabis to get “high” anyway — at least, not in the sense that most people use the word. My writing day starts around 5 a.m. with a mug of strong, dark coffee (I’m especially fond of Trader Joe’s Cafe Pajaro blend) and my first cannabis bowl of the day — usually a blend of GG4 & Durban Poison.

The GG4 in the mix brings a lovely, wide beam of euphoria and energy. The Durban Poison brings clear, steady focus. The combination is exquisite. My next bowl moves completely into sativas — I have four or five I use as my go-to daytime strains. Presently — Durban Poison, XJ-13, Clementine and Cat Piss. In the past, Jack-the-Ripper, Alaskan Ice and Strawberry Durban Diesel have all been in the mix too.

Just as Durban Poison is a great strain for working — the focus and mental energy it produces is outstanding — it’s a great strain for sports. A good hit taken just before I step onto the court slows the ball down — slows everything down — just enough so that I can actually see the ball’s spin. My timing gets more precise. My decision-making, too. I see the whole court better. I strategize better. I seem to get across the court faster and anticipate my opponent better.

It doesn’t make me perfect (nothing could possibly do that) but it makes me more consistent — and my whole tennis experience just “feels” more fun. Playing better can have that effect.

And, of course, there’s the simple fact that cannabis just makes you feel better. I’ve no doubt that contributes to the positives.

But it isn’t feeling good that produces an improved ground stroke or serve. It’s focus.

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More Notes From A Former Drinker — Drinking Culture Wouldn’t Be Half So Stupid If People Learned “How To Drink”

Want to feel like a social leper? Decline an offer of alcohol from your host — whose whole experience of you is as a drinker. I might as well have said I’d turned cannibal and wanted to eat him. “You’re not drinking?”

“No. Had to stop, remember — my mood stabilizer makes alcohol taste like shit.”

“For real? Hunh… well, you want some water? There might be soda in the fridge…”.

If you don’t drink, that means you’re not an adult. That’s how it feels when everyone toasts before drinking — and your water glass (or ginger beer) clinks against their wine goblet or highball glass. The irony (one could get drunk off it ffs!) is that the non-drinker gets to watch all his drinking friends drink themselves toward increasingly un-adult behavior.

Wanna make that irony a double? Won’t cost any extra… What I’ve learned, now that I’m alcohol-sober is that we’ve evolved into a culture that encourages people to drink — and drink lots — from a very early age. But we have no interest in teaching people how to do this thing. Because we see drinking as a vice — like sex — we assume you don’t have to be “taught” how to do it; nature will teach you.

For most of us, Nature sucks as a teacher of sex. Experience — and a lover you care about — teach far more, far more quickly. Drinking works pretty much the same way unfortunately. Experience does the teaching except, with drinking, there’s no lover you care about. There’s just the alcohol. And alcohol does not love you no matter how much it says it does.

While both drinking culture and cannabis culture are social, there’s a difference between drinking together and smoking together. While one might share a bottle of wine, one does not share (normally) the cocktail itself as one does a joint. Sharing cannabis — passing it around to all who want — is part of cannabis culture.

Aside from falling asleep, the only appreciable effect of continual cannabis use over the course of an evening might be more laughter. Cannabis users don’t get sloppy high. They don’t puke their guts out or risk alcohol poisoning. They don’t wake up the next morning, bleary-eyed and confused about how they got where they are, their memory having been blotto’d by the drink.

The effects of alcohol lag a bit — usually 20 minutes or so — before kicking in. While it can take up to an hour sometimes for cannabis edibles to noticeably kick in, the effects from most smoked flower begin to roll across your consciousness within a few minutes. That’s one of the reasons young drinkers especially get into trouble. Most of them don’t KNOW that fact about how alcohol works on their bodies.

Young people ODing on drugs of any kind should never happen. It especially shouldn’t happen with alcohol. Drugs still operate in the shadows because we insist on seeing drugs as a criminal issue instead of a health issue. It’s understood that any kid wanting to experiment with most drugs will have to do it off the grid as it were. Alcohol, on the other hand, is right inside their house just waiting to be sampled.

As counter-intuitive as it might seem, we’d probably do ourselves a hell of a lot of good if we got over our discomfort with alcohol culture and taught young people how to think about alcohol as informed consumers and not as naughty boys and girls with a naughty vice they’d rather keep quiet about.

We’ve tried it that way, haven’t we?

My best advice to my drinking friends — and most of my friends are friends who drink — put down that bottle. Pick up a piece. Pack some lovely cut flower into it and let your mind flow instead of burying your mind under waves of increasingly dense alcohol fog.

Notes From A Former Drinker — Drinking Culture Is Really, Really, REALLY Stupid

Perspective is the damnedest thing. For the overwhelming majority of my adult life, I was a drinker. I never thought of myself as an alcoholic though I drank at least 2 glasses of wine every day. Religiously.

I prided myself on making not merely a good martini but a great one (I still do as my wife can attest). I savored the creative output that some craftsperson spent years probably putting into whatever bottle I had just cracked. I actually pitied anyone who didn’t drink.

Oy.

Meanwhile, alcohol fed my depression. Theirs was a sick, co-dependent relationship with me caught in the middle. Toward the end, it’s not like I was drinking great stuff anyway — I couldn’t afford great stuff anymore (though I still had some pretty great stuff in my dwindling “wine cellar” including some Chateau Lafitte Rothschild and some Opus One). Even after I came within inches of killing myself, it still didn’t occur to me to look at my 2+ glasses of red wine every night as a possible co-conspirator.

I owe a small debt to lamotrigine, the mood stabilizer I now take every day to keep my darkness in check. I owe an even bigger debt to a great therapist and a smaller but not insignificant debt to cannabis — the other part of my mental health regime. There are no specific warnings about taking lamotrigine and drinking alcohol. And, at first, when I started my regimen, I continued right on pounding down my two plus glasses of red.

But then a strange thing happened. I noticed it about a week in to taking the lamotrigine (I got very, VERY lucky by the way; I leveled within 36 hours at the minimal dose, 25 milligrams). All alcohol suddenly had an aftertaste. All of it. Beer, wine, cocktails… A lovely glass of Zinfandel or Petit Sirah (I loved em big & inky) would start perfectly from the nose to the first blast of fruit on the palate then start to settle in for the aftertaste when — kapow! A flavor like grapefruit rind took over everything. And it didn’t go away quickly.

As I was already deep into cannabis, I figured “what the hell” — that would be my “cocktail” of choice from now on. Funny thing? I have not missed alcohol for two seconds. Not even one.

Now, I do take my marijuana with me. I’ve got a little traveling pouch with an unbreakable silicone pipe and three or four pre-ground flower strains (sativas and hybrids) in 10 dram glass containers. I may not go drink for drink when I go out socializing, but I’m not relying solely on my fizzy water, ginger beer or overpriced mocktail for a thrill.

For the record, I do not get high. Ever. I’m not interested in being high. To me, cannabis is for sleeping, working or relaxing. When relaxing (think strains like Cherry Pie, GSC or Bruce Banner), I want to be mellowed a bit but social. I want the warm, friendly euphoria to keep my hypomania at bay. So — even when I go to a party at someone’s house, in no way am I “keeping up” with everyone else around me who’s drinking.

Watching other people drink from a place of alcohol sobriety is almost always eye-opening. I’ve watched friends slowly get silly over the course of an evening. I’ve watched the quality of the conversations descend from heights of great repartee to meandering repetitiveness — all within an hour or two. People getting soused by the way have no idea that they’re not being witty any more.

Also remarkable — the amount of planning that has to go into drinking. I can make a few grams of my favorite strains last for a month. A bottle once cracked will probably disappear within an hour if shared. While most restaurants have liquor licenses, I have been part of dining decisions made where we overlooked a place’s inferior food because the cocktails were special. When the cocktail is the point, nothing else matters.

A group of people drinking and a group of people smoking marijuana have very little in common — even though our perception might be that they’re all self-medicating. Because of the way marijuana was demonized and falsely mythologized, we have it in our heads that marijuana and alcohol do the same things to us. That’s absolutely not the case.

I do some work occasionally for a marijuana tour company here in Los Angeles. The tours start out at a dispensary where (after lots of good, quality information about legal pot), the tour goers buy lots of marijuana. The next stop — a house (owned by the company) where the tour goers can smoke the pot they just bought. That part of the tour lasts about 45 minutes.

Then we take this dozen or so people of varying ages (all over 21 of course) to a glass blowing factory where they can see how bongs are made (it’s very cool actually). Then the tour takes them to a glass warehouse. Now — here’s where the difference between drinkers & pot smokers is most pronounced. This group of people who’ve just spent 45 minutes smoking pot walk into a glass warehouse… and nothing breaks.

Think about it — would you dare take a dozen people who’d been drinking beer for an hour into a glass warehouse? Does that sound like a good idea? Of course not — because people who’ve been drinking lose motor control whereas people who’ve been smoking marijuana GAIN motor control. Fine motor control even.

I’ve watched people I know for a FACT are “high as kites” pick up beautiful, delicate glass bongs — works of art, some of them — like surgeons doing microsurgery. Smoke a lot of strong indica and, yeah, you can get “dopey”. But — because marijuana actually makes your brain “think more” (it causes more of your synapses to open so you process more information — the reason some people feel paranoid), most users can pull out of a cannabis high and think clearly; if you really want them to think clearly, feed them a little CBD; it will mitigate the THC’s effects almost instantaneously.

And, another huge difference, though pot smokers can get loud — they do laugh a lot — they never get violent (contrary to the mythology first drug czar Harry Anslinger invented to scare white people).

Imagine if sports fans smoked pot instead of drinking beer. There would never be violence at the end of a sporting event — though there might be lots of hugging (“You played great, dude!” “But you played better — ya won!”) and a few people happily sleeping or dealing with a severe case of the munchies.

Violence wouldn’t spill from the stadium onto the city streets. That’s for damned sure.

From time to time, I do miss some of the rituals around drinking. I like the process of making a martini. I loved the theater surrounding absinthe and the way a good bottle of red opens up as the tannins oxidize over the course of an hour.

But then I tap a little Durban Poison into my regular glass piece — and, as my mind focuses and the world comes into sharp relief — I could almost forget alcohol ever existed.

Cannabis + Creativity = Productivity

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.

Today’s Cannabis Work Cocktail Is…

Every now and then I like to share a particularly good cannabis experience. One of the great revelations of my life was that cannabis makes me work more productively. It focuses my very hypomanic mind without dulling it.

My go-to daytime strain is Durban Poison. It delivers a steady, even focus that comes on quickly and last a solid hour-and-a-half before slowly easing off. It platforms very well on top of itself (hits every 30 minutes or so to keep a steady flow of DP’s THC & turpines flooding the brain) but also makes for an excellent companion to hybrids like Trainwreck or Dutch Treat.

I found Strawberry Diesel Durban and paired it with White Widow this morning. The StrawbDD was a great combination of Durban and NYC Diesel — the same focus with a hint of the Diesel’s hum. The White Widow brings a quick hit of euphoria and mental energy. The combination has been lovely and — isn’t this most important for a daytime strain — productive?

Enjoy!

The Remarkable Pleasure Of Coffee & Cannabis

I love mornings. I didn’t used to love them but these days my day doesn’t so much “start” as spark to life. My morning routine feels a lot like the lights suddenly going on inside a factory.

That’s the caffeine in the coffee of course but even more than that? It’s the cannabis.

I hope there are heads nodding as they read this — those who know whereof I speak. As those same people also know it can be damned hard to explain to people with no experience of cannabis what cannabis does for us.

Here’s the tricky part. No one knows how anyone else feels. That’s a fact. Unless you can crawl inside someone else’s skin and see the world literally through their eyes, you cannot really know what they’re seeing, hearing or feeling. By the same token, no one can walk a mile in your shoes either.

The best any of us can do — if we care to — is pretend to know what others feel. Cannabis has the same problem. No one else can ever actually know how cannabis effects each of us. No one else can actually know how cannabis makes us feel. It’s especially tricky to to explain to those who’ve never tried cannabis that the cannabis experience is nothing like the bullshit mythology that was built around it for racist purposes.

I can predict with Swiss clock precision the head tilt, furrowed brow and genuinely taken aback “Really?” when I tell people I use cannabis (Durban Poison specifically) to play tennis. I actually do. DP’s a sativa. It delivers a smooth, soft focus to everything I do (writing, driving — yes, driving — tennis). On the tennis court the DP slows me down (my bi-polar brain is very hypomanic) so that I can stop thinking about everything else and focus just on tennis — on the court — on the point I’m playing — on the ball — on its spin — on where I want to put the ball on the other side of the net — on attacking the ball aggressively and following through.

I process every bit of that distinctly (but much faster of course) when Durban Poison is in my brain. The improvement to my game — to my consistency and focus — is distinct. I don’t see it as gaining an advantage over my tennis partner, I see it as losing the disadvantage of unfocused inconsistency. My tennis partner gets a better game out of me. Better games equal way more fun. I don’t know if cannabis’ effect on my brain lifts it to the level of PED, but I’ve never heard my tennis partner complain that she has less fun on the court after I stop to smoke a bowl.

Cannabis improves my mornings, my morning routine and the whole rest of the day that follows. Cannabis’ focus — even its mild euphoria — marries well with a caffeine buzz. I like to start my day (my mornings begin around 5 a.m.) with a hybrid. GG4 has always been a favorite. Dutch Treat, too (though it’s way, way harder to find regularly). The caffeine delivers its familiar jolt of energy. The cannabis however feels like warm syrup pouring slowly from the crown of my head downward. The syrup feels lovely all by itself — its warm, enveloping. But there’s more to the syrup than just its euphoria. There’s the focus. And there’s cannabis’ version of mental energy — it’s distinctly different from caffeine’s.

Caffeine’s jitters are familiar to lots of people. Decaf coffee solves that problem but you don’t get the jolt. Cannabis strains like Moby Dick, Super Lemon Haze, Jack The Ripper open your eyes but they don’t suddenly turn you into Gene Krupa — tap-tap-tapping away on the drum kit furiously. It’s more a feeling of being imbued with knowledge. You find it as much as it finds you. It’s like your mind has simply become more open — more cognizant and aware of details that, without the cannabis in your brain — you would probably have missed (as usual).

Is it a coincidence, I wonder, that all these great CHEMICALS all with the letter “C”? Coffee… cannabis… chai… chocolate.

They all match up well with cannabis. At the very least, one always knows the coffee (or chai or chocolate) will taste amazing with cannabis inside of you. It’s the same effect. THC lets your brain process more information (that’s why it makes some people paranoid). There’s a lot to love though in all that additional info.

How does one explain to a non-user of cannabis how amazing even a simple cup of coffee can taste?

When It Comes To Cannabis, I’m Strain Specific

I approach cannabis from the point of view of “What do I want cannabis to do for me right now?”. In the world of legalized cannabis, that should be the operating principle. To think cannabis is only good for “getting high” is very old fashioned thinking. And very misinformed.

While the labels “indica” & “sativa” are becoming less valuable (pretty much every strain has been hybridized one way or another), the botanists hard at work on the strains we like, are making those strains the equivalent of cabernet sauvingnon clones. When we get to fully legal, fully licensed — and fully regulated — legal cannabis (the only choice for a business that’s lived so long as a criminal enterprise), the ideal should be a cross between a Big Mac’s universality of design and a grape varietal’s individual expression as realized by a talented winemaker and the wine’s growing conditions.

A gram of Durban Poison should be like a bottle of cabernet. There can even be (will be) levels of quality. Just as there are two-buck-Chuck quaffing cabs & bottles of Opus One worth hundreds of dollars, there are already top shelf expressions of cannabis strains and lesser versions — probably all shake (the leftovers at the bottom of a cannabis canister).

Durban Poison — Not merely a good strain, a great one.

I wasn’t a pot smoker in high school. Pot put me to sleep and that wasn’t interesting to me. In college, I discovered cocaine. And even though I once spotted a friend my semester money to buy a pound of who knows what, up until late middle age, my relationship with cannabis was mostly non-existent. Life, middle age, financial hardships, depression — by my mid 50’s, I was sleeping maybe two or three hours a night and none of it was restful. I was popping OTC sleeping meds — Simply Sleep knockoffs mostly — and getting little to nothing from them except memory loss (there’s data that says those products can do that to us if over-used). Living in California — where it was medically legal (only at the time), I said “why not?”

“Sleeping issues,” I told my first budtender. “Skywalker,” he replied. Though I chuckled that first time at what I thought was a cute name that dispensary had come up with, I learned fast — Skywalker is a recognized strain (whose name must now change because of issues the Walt Disney Company has with their intellectual property — it’s now being called Mischka instead; that means — fully licensed cannabis dealers won’t/can’t call this cannabis product Skywalker anymore). Go to most any dispensary in LA and Skywalker will be on the menu.

The Skywalker worked for me. From that night forward, I may not ever have slept as much as I perhaps should but my five solid hours a night are like nectar to my brain. Perhaps I’m just a five-hours-a-nighter. I awake every morning feeling rested and ready for the day.

When I next visited that first dispensary, I was curious. What was in all the other canisters behind the counter? Turned out, cannabis was far more complicated, nuanced, wine-like in nature.

I use cannabis from the start of my day — usually around 5 am — to the end of my day. I like to segue into work head with GG4 (formerly known as Gorilla Glue #4). I love that feeling as the cannabis kicks in — a soft lift to my mood, a feeling of mental focus, of contentment. From there, once a little caffeine enters the mix, I move to my sativa lineup. These days that includes Durban Poison, Jack-The-Ripper (when I can get it), Super Lemon Haze, Clementine and (the unfortunately named) Killing Field.

Put a little of the hybrid Trainwreck on top of that (I love layering strains — we’ll talk about that another time) and you’ll want to clean your house with a toothbrush — you get that dialed in.

All of those sativas bring focus and mental energy. Each, having a different terpene profile, has a different flavor and a slightly different quality to its mental focus. None is quite like DP though for its evenness. I can’t recommend it strongly enough as a workday strain.

As the day winds down, I like to move away from the sativas (or the strains that bring all that focus) toward the more relaxing strains. Kalifa Kush… Bruce Banner #3, Platinum GSC, Cherry Pie, Pineapple Express — all are great for transitioning to a less go-get-em head and a more “Hey, what’s good on the tele tonight?” frame of mind.