I’ve written here before about my cannabis story. I wasn’t a fan in high school. Cannabis (if that’s what I was really smoking) put me to sleep.
That didn’t appeal to me as a kid. So, I avoided cannabis in favor of alcohol, cocaine and, occasionally ecstasy. Depression made sleep hard to come by as my late middle ages wore on. OTC sleep meds (like Simply Sleep) did nothing for me except make me groggy and forgetful.
I turned to cannabis because I live in California. It was (at the time) medically legal. I needed to fix my problem so I gave cannabis a shot.
“I have sleep problems,” I told that first budtender, feeling very illicit though I was doing a totally “licit” thing. “Skywalker,” they replied.
And, from that first night onward, cannabis became a part of my everyday life. I slept that night — slept well. Slept restfully. Woke up ready to face the day for the first time in years. Literally.
That was a game changer. When I returned to that dispensary a few days later, I wanted to know — what’s in all those OTHER canisters?
Turned out there were other indicas with slightly different flavors and effects. There also were sativas & hybrids.
“Sativa?” I asked.
I had no idea that cannabis wasn’t just a feel-super-good sleeping med. Depending on the strain, cannabis can be an all day product. Keeping in mind that virtually everything our culture “knows” about cannabis was racist bullshit invented first by America’s first drug czar Harry Anslinger then turned into a totally racist “War On Drugs” by Richard Nixon, it’s not shocking that, as a culture, we think cannabis & work are incompatible.
That’s because we have it in our heads that cannabis and alcohol work the same on our brains and bodies. They don’t. Not even remotely.
When cannabis began to spread from the Southwest US (in the 1910’s following the Mexican Revolution) to the South, it found a home in New Orleans where a group of African American musicians were busy inventing jazz. Artists like Louie Armstrong didn’t like to drink & play because alcohol dulls your creativity. Same goes for heroin.
Marijuana, on the other hand, had the opposite effect. Yes, there was that lovely euphoria. But cannabis, though you can get pretty “high”, it NEVER impacts your ability to reason or do physical things. Cannabis does not impact your motor skills & perceptions the way alcohol does.
As many of us have learned (through lots & lots of repetition), sativas especially focus your mind. They focus your creativity to a very fine point. You can get lots of very good work done.
I’ve written while drunk. Written while coked to the gills. It’s always crap.
Cannabis has the exact opposite effect on the mind — and subsequently the work the mind produces. In the exact same way, I discovered that a few hits of Durban Poison just before or while I play tennis takes my tennis game up a good, solid notch.
With DP in my system, everything slows down. I can see the spin on the tennis ball as it comes at me. I can see the damned fuzz on the ball. My timing becomes far more precise. I play better. Consistently. Reliably.
When I think of the destruction we caused — to people guilty of nothing other than using marijuana — I want to scream. We destroyed people — the overwhelming majority of them black or brown. But then, that was always the point of marijuana prohibition.
It should go without saying — cannabis is not for everyone. Nothing on this planet is. Let’s put that away, okay?
For most people, cannabis would be a great alternative to opioids and a great alternative to alcohol. If people attending a sporting event smoked cannabis instead of pounding down beer? Trust me, there’d never be another riot after a game ended. All the attendees would be too busy hugging each other or happily dozing.
Poor cannabis. There’s bad press and then there’s the hatchet job that America’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger, did to it.
When Anslinger first got hired in 1930, marijuana was hardly on his radar. Few Americans knew what it was. Fewer still smoked it (though many Americans benefited from its presence in various medicines). The Mexican Revolution in 1910 sent a wave of Mexican refugees across the border. They brought cannabis with them. That freaked out the white people. It wasn’t the cannabis that concerned them so much as the fact that Mexicans were smoking it and deriving pleasure from it. That meant (to the white people) that something had to be wrong with it.
Eventually, marijuana found its way to New Orleans where the black musicians assembled there were busy inventing jazz. While they couldn’t play or create on alcohol (it made their minds too fuzzy), marijuana had the opposite effect. It focused their minds and allowed their creativity to flow.
American soldiers in Vietnam encountered the same phenomenon. They were prohibited from drinking (because, as with the musicians, it fogs the mind). But, the American soldiers learned — having found marijuana both cheap and plentiful — that pot both relaxed them and focused them. They could smoke a joint then walk point in the jungle, their senses not diminished but, rather, heightened.
From time to time, New Orleans would shut down its whorehouses and banish all the musicians working at them When that happened in the mid 1920’s, musicians like Louis Armstrong headed up the Mississippi, stopping in places like Memphis and Nashville on their way to Chicago. Had all those black jazz musicians kept cannabis to themselves, that might have been the end of it. But they didn’t. Cannabis use spread to the white community — and that, from Harry Anslinger’s point of view, was a total non-starter.
Not once did Anslinger ask about marijuana’s health consequences. Even if he had, no research existed proving marijuana was good or bad for anyone’s health. But Anslinger had an agenda. He needed marijuana to be bad. And he knew that aside from the Mexicans, black jazz musicians and handful of white people using marijuana, no one knew a thing about it. Whatever Americans were going to know about cannabis would be what Harry Anslinger told them.
Virtually all of our current perceptions about cannabis flow from Harry Anslinger’s fetid imagination where every black man who smoked a joint then went on a mad raping spree (raping white women exclusively). Anslinger was a racist’s racist. But he was also a master bureaucrat who knew how to work the system.
We laugh now at Reefer Madness because it’s way over-the-top and way wrong about everything. But when Reefer Madness was released in the 1930’s, no one had that perspective. America and the world bought in to the Reefer Madness mythology.
Even in states where cannabis is now legal — like here in California — people remain squirrelly about cannabis. The thought of walking into a dispensary feels wrong to them. They worry about cannabis doing things to them, to their minds, that cannabis simply does not do.
If I get stopped by the LAPD — and they swab me — they’ll find THC in my system. The swab can’t tell how much THC is in me, what the accompanying turpene profile is (and how that might be affecting me), they can’t tell how much THC is in me or whether it’s an indica, sativa or hybrid. All the swab can tell is that there’s THC in my saliva.
We assume — because of the mythology’s enduring power that even a hit of cannabis will turn me into a danger on the highways. That’s because we apparently assume that alcohol and cannabis have the exact same effect on our brains and bodies. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The Nation Highway Transportation Safety Administration reported the following to Congress in 2017 — “…research has demonstrated the potential of marijuana to impair driving related skills. It does not show a relationship between THC levels and impairment.”
Get that? Research demonstrates “potential” impairment yet doesn’t show a “relationship between THC levels and impairment”. How is that possible? It’s not. It’s a leftover prejudice. In the very next paragraph of the NHTSA’s report, it says this: “… after smoking marijuana, subjects in most of the simulator and instrumented vehicle studies on marijuana and driving typically drive slower, follow other cars at greater distances, and take fewer risks than when sober…”. “In contrast,”, the report continues, “Subjects dosed with alcohol typically drive faster, follow at closer distances, and take greater risks.”
See how differently drivers with THC in them perform vs drivers who’ve been drinking? Why do we act like they have the same effect when they don’t? When even legitimate scientific research says they don’t?
Blame Harry Anslinger. Blame us, too. We know better. We simply refuse to acknowledge what we know. It’s like we prefer the effects that bullshit has on us.
I sure hope this isn’t up for debate: America’s war on drugs, especially its war on cannabis, was always about RACISM and nothing but.
I refer you to an excellent series (okay — I wrote it — I’m biased) called Blunt Truths over at Weedmaps News. Blunt Truths points out (with receipts) how at no time in the process of “illegalizing” cannabis did anyone creating or crafting the legislation ever ask “But, is it bad for anyone?” They specifically avoided that question because they knew for a fact the answer would be “We don’t think so — in fact, we see a multitude of ways it’s actually good for people”. That would have been the American Medical Association speaking.back in the day (before they were a political racket first and foremost). But, what did they know…?
Here’s some irony — because this story is built of irony — the very first anti-marijuana law was crafted in 1915 in California — by a group of Pharmacists. But, even as pharmacists, the law they crafted doesn’t bother with what marijuana did to anyone (they had no idea — no research existed whatsoever), what really worried them was WHO was smoking it.
Prior to 1910 — when the Mexican Revolution sent a wave of Mexican refugees fleeing north — Americans had never heard of marijuana. A few perhaps read Fitz Hugh Ludlow’s accounts of being a hashish eater but that was one white man’s experience of the “colored man’s” exotica. The Mexicans fleeing revolution brought marijuana with them because it had become part of their culture; they enjoyed it and its benefits.
Cannabis brings euphoria and happiness. It makes you laugh. Imagine how terrifying the sight of happy, laughing Latinos must have been to those poor, frightened white people — lots of alcohol already in their veins as they fearfully pounded down some more.
Marijuana spread to New Orleans in the early 20’s while jazz was being born. African American jazz musicians liked reefer because, unlike with alcohol which stifles creativity because it fogs one’s thinking, cannabis works the opposite way in our brains. Sativas especially bring mental energy and focus. The musicians took to cannabis because they could work with it in their systems and kick back with it in their systems. It was that multi-faceted a product. That was & is the truth about cannabis.
When Harry Anslinger took over as the Federal Bureau of Narcotics’ first ever Commissioner in 1930, he didn’t give cannabis a second’s thought. He testified before Congress that it wasn’t a problem. And yet — by 1934, Anslinger’s tune had changed. “Marihuana” (Anslinger’s spelling) had become a demon weed capable of motivating its users to madness and mayhem. What changed exactly? White people were now using it.
When the jazz musicians were kicked out of New Orleans, they headed north, following the Mississippi at first. They landed in Memphis and Nashville. They landed in Chicago. And everywhere they landed, marihuana landed with them — where white people, intrigued by the music, were sampling the black man’s inspiration. And liking it.
THAT — right there — is why Harry Anslinger changed his mind about cannabis being a danger to the public. Anslinger’s problem was there was nothing in the Constitution justifying marijuana prohibition. Anslinger had to create a crime (he went for tax evasion — if you didn’t pay the onerous tax each time you bought or sold marijuana — and get the stamp showing you’d paid the taxes — the stamp being unavailable — you became a tax cheat) in order to institutionalize his racism but Anslinger was a dedicated racist and a top notch bureaucrat.
You know how that ended up, right?
Our gun control debate flows from the same dark wellspring of racism. Look at the people arguing most vociferously to hold onto every last weapon they can till said weapons are pried from their cold, dead fingers (per former leader Charlton Heston). Notice anything about them? Like they’re almost entirely white? There’s a reason for that.
The same people will insist with a straight face that they’re fighting the good fight on our behalf — being the militia standing up against a hostile federal government. Yeah… except that’s not what the 2nd Amendment actually says (regardless of how the gun lobby rewrote it in our heads; it STILL puts all the decision-making about gun possession (“keep” and “bear” not “own) into the hands of a “WELL REGULATED MILITIA”.
The Second Amendment is a GUN CONTROL amendment that the gun manufacturers successfully reimagined as a “have all the guns ya want” freeforall. Some day — soon, I think — we’ll toss the bullshit revisionism and go back to the amendment as written.
The RW — always racist to the marrow in their bones — insist that they’re standing up against the potential of a federal government run amok. They don’t say that when the federal government raises, pays for and deploys AN ARMY. But, in the abstract? It terrifies them. Maybe they don’t really mean “Hostile Federal Government”. Maybe what they really mean is “people of color”.
American gun lovers — in their own minds — aren’t standing up against any “government”, they’re standing up against people they perceive the government has empowered — black people. “Arm yourself because black people now have political power and probably will use it.” That is literally what they’re saying and thinking.
Just for shits n giggles — imagine how those very same people would think about guns and people arming themselves to the teeth if the majority of those arming themselves were African Americans or Latinos. Do you really think all those terrified white people could tolerate all those guns going to all those non-whites? If you do, can I borrow some money interest free forever?
Lift the veil on virtually any topic in American politics and you’ll find racism of one kind or another sitting around waiting for the call to come out and play. American racism is always happy to oblige.
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.
Okay — that’s probably hyperbole. I could remove THC from my life and continue living exactly as I am. But, because I live in California, I have a choice — and I choose to use cannabis for a boatload of very good reasons.
I turned to cannabis as a last resort. I wasn’t a big cannabis user in high school or college. If it was there, I did it but it always put me to sleep. Cocaine (by the time I got to college) was the drug of choice. When I think of all the time and money spent chasing an ethereal dragon — a moment or two of exhilaration followed by more lines, more bumps, more angsting about why the high wasn’t kicking like it was supposed to — I want to scream at myself. I wouldn’t have turned to cannabis instead. Being young and stupid, I wouldn’t have listened to myself.
In later life, restful sleep became hard to come by. I took OTC sleep meds for years — Simply Sleep mostly or its knock-offs. These are actually antihistamines. Sleep is a side effect. So is memory loss.
Between deep depression & memory loss — compounded by lack of sleep because the pills were only occasionally efficacious — I was on a downward spiral. I finally broke down and went for a cannabis prescription. What’d I have to lose, I asked myself. Dope was legal. Dope had always put me to sleep in the past. The worst that could happen was exactly what was already happening.
As some of you may know, I’ve written a 13-part series of articles for WeedmapsNews called “Blunt Truths“. The series delves into the mythology America’s first drug czar, Harry Anslinger, invented out of whole cloth to gain his little bureau (started in 1930) the money, manpower and mandate Anslinger wanted. I walked in the door of that first dispensary in Silver Lake, my head filled with Harry Anslinger’s bullshit mythology.
Virtually everything I knew about cannabis — aside from the fact that, in the past, it had put me to sleep — was based on lies (except I didn’t know it yet). I told my first budtender that I was there because of insomnia.
His immediate reply: “Skywalker”.
I chuckled at the name — thinking to myself, “Cute”. I had no idea that cute as the name was, Skywalker was not this one shop’s attempt at clever marketing. Skywalker is a recognized cannabis strain that is grown all over. The people who first started growing and working with Skywalker wanted to create a consistent plant with consistent qualities. The goal of the cannabis industry is to make Skywalker (or any established strain) as consistent a product as a Big Mac. Of course there will be variations from plant to plant — it’s a plant, not a robot. Or a Big Mac.
I’ve come to think of cannabis as a cross between a Big Mac and a good cabernet sauvignon clone. Just as the cab grape is bred, cross-bred and hybridized to bring out certain qualities while minimizing others, so, too, are cannabis strains manipulated. There’s more to cannabis than just its THC or CBD. There is a whole host of other active chemicals in cannabis — terpenes that give cannabis its flavor but also deliver a range of other distinct effects.
Mycrene, for instance, has a relaxing, calming, anti-spasmodic and sedative effect. Combined with THC, mycrene increases THC’s psychoactive potential. Limonene’s presence produces a distinct citrus smell to the cannabis it calls home. Limonene also has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. This description comes from the web site Alchima — “It prevents the deterioration of the RAS gene, one of the factors that contribute to the development of tumors. It also protects against Aspergillus and carcinogens present in smoke. Limonene quickly and easily penetrates the blood-brain barrier, which increases systolic pressure. During testing on the effects of limonene, participants experienced an increase in attention, mental focus, well-being and even sex drive. Limonene is used sometimes in spray form, to treat depression and anxiety. It also has the effect of reducing the unpleasantness of gastric acid and stimulates the immune system. Plants use limonenes to ward off predators; for example, it repells flies like any insecticide.”
I had no idea whatsoever that these attributes existed or were a very real part of the product I was so tentatively sniffing, my budtender extending a giant mason jar filled with Skywalker buds toward me. I bought a couple of grams. Took them home and (before I had the sense to purchase a grinder), broke off little, sappy bits of leaf that I stuffed into the cheap little glass pipe I also bought.
In one night, I went from being a problematic sleeper to a half decent sleeper. I still sleep too few hours but the quality of my sleep went from broken and restless to deeply satisfying. Whereas I used to wake up every morning feeling exhausted as my feet found the floor, now I get up ready for whatever. In time, I learned how to use edibles; a combination of smoked flower and edibles produces as much as 7 hours of rock solid, restful sleep.
So — right off the bat, cannabis brought a positive impact to my life that Big Pharma couldn’t. A healthful effect.
On subsequent visits to that first dispensary, I grew curious. I loved the Skywalker. What was in all those other mason jars? That’s when I learned the difference between indicas, sativas and hybrids. And, yes — there is a marked difference.
For the uninitiated — indicas (the majority of available strains by a long shot) are the strains most people know about or have experienced. They induce euphoria, bliss and sleep. Sativas, on the other hand, produce euphoria, bliss and mental focus. Hybrids combine sativa and indica qualities or multiple sativa qualities or multiple hybrid qualities.
Let me describe my first experience with the hybrid Dutch Treat. Keep in mind — these are psychoactive drugs that work differently inside each of us depending on our individual brain chemistry. The first feeling is warm syrup coating everything. It doesn’t create distance, it just swathes everything in contentment. A feeling of evenness and calm. Whatever comes at me, I can handle it. This was followed by a sense of my mind coming into focus. Or focusing on everything around it.
Our thoughts are created when electricity flows between synapses in our brains. Our synapses are like digital circuits. They’re either open or closed. The more synapses that are open — the more information our brains are receiving. THC causes more synapses to be open rather than closed. The reason some people feel paranoid is because so much more information is coming at them. That sudden influx of more info and raw data than they’re used to can feel oppressive. Though the info is disembodied, we attach a body to it — we feel like we’re being spied on by “someone” who seems to “know” more about us than we’re comfortable with. It’s not an outside person “spying” on us of course — it’s just us processing more information.
For whatever reason, my brain (like a lot of peoples’) doesn’t react to all that additional information with paranoia. Instead, I feel as if I’m more aware. My thoughts are clearer, cleaner. More cogent. The reason jazz musicians took up cannabis back in the early 20th century is because all those clear, clean thoughts can be translated into music. Or, in my case, words.
Dutch Treat made me incredibly productive — not in a coked-out, shotgun kind of way but in a focused, electron-microscope kind of way. Dutch Treat was the tip of an iceberg I’ve come to adore and rely on.
I’m hypomanic (as I’ve written here). The inside of my head is like a black box theater (think of a shoebox, painted all black inside). Walk through the door and you’ll find a dozen or more movies being projected from every conceivable angle. Some are color. Others black and white or even sepia. They’re old movies, ideas, memories. Laser lights flash on and off, too — and music and sound. It’s quite a show — but distracting as hell. While indicas shut it all down, putting me to sleep, sativas and sativa-dominant hybrids, merely slow it all down. Rather, the THC drops a kind of mental scrim in front of most of the projections, giving me the chance to focus on two or three at a time — so I can work productively.
In time — with lots of experimentation — I made strains like Durban Poison, GG4, Clementine and Pineapple Express part of my daily THC regimen. I start my work day around 5 am — with a little coffee and a good solid hit of GG4 (formerly Gorilla Glue #; they had to stop calling it that cos the Gorilla Glue company threatened to sue). Between the coffee, the GG4 and the Durban Poison, the world comes into very sharp relief.
Let’s be clear. Just like no one thing is uniformly good for everyone, cannabis isn’t for everyone. But I bet it’d be good for far more people than even currently use it. Hell — if they stopped selling beer at sporting events and sold cannabis instead, there would never be another riot following a sports match. There would, however, be lots of hugging and high-fiving.