An Ode To Waking & Baking

My mind’s a blur when I awake,

That is, until I let it bake.

The coffee’s strong and dark and hot,

A sip or two, a hit of pot.

The caffeine “turns the lights on”, sure,

But cannabis actually “opens the door”.

There’s no magic here, no “hocus pocus”,

Indicas make you sleepy; sativas give you focus.

There’s nothing like its mental clarity,

where thoughts are denser than a singularity.

Some Durban Poison, Mimosa or Kali Mist,

Put Casey Jones and Allen Wrench atop the growing list.

A hit of Trainwreck could never suck,

And neither could a bowl of Alaskan Thunderfuck.

The fact is there are dozens of extraordinary strains,

for getting one’s mind in gear and letting one’s ideas rain.

If your goal is “Be productive!”, if your goal is “Move & Shake!”

If your goal is “Get things done!”, then you should wake n bake.

Imagine For A Moment If They Stopped Selling Alcohol At Sporting Events & Sold Cannabis Instead

Someday — probably not soon but some day — Americans will get to attend live sporting events again. There’s something about watching sports and drinking that — maybe it’s habit more than anything — goes together.

Or maybe we just think it does because we’ve never considered doing it another way. Human beings are like that — we get stuck thinking things will be how they are forever because they’ve always been that way. Not true and not true. Baseball didn’t always exist. Even within baseball, the designated hitter didn’t always exist (and it breaks my heart that it’s coming to the National League this coronavirus-shortened season). Things change and evolve.

People around the world drink alcohol at sporting events because that’s the only legal choice we have. We know from experience that alcohol prohibition doesn’t work (and it makes organized criminals happy). We also know from experience that drug prohibition doesn’t work but, again, human beings are slow on the uptake. We also know from experience that selling alcohol at sporting events can turn ugly.

Violent.

Destructive.

Alcohol does this to people. Cannabis doesn’t. THC doesn’t effect our brains the way alcohol does. THC may alter our perceptions — it refines & focuses mine — but it does not impact our motor skills. It can make us sleepy and hungry and a little dopey but it does not make anyone violent. And, please, let’s not go down the rabbit hole of “but some do”. Pick a subject and “but some do”.

If everyone at a soccer or football or baseball or basketball game was using cannabis instead of drinking, there would NEVER be violence at the end of a game. Fans from competing teams wouldn’t go at each other — they’d be too busy hugging (when that’s allowed again) or telling each other what a great game it was or laughing or sleeping even. But no one would be fighting because the whole reason one does cannabis in the first place is for the euphoria it delivers.

People experiencing euphoria together (as they would at a sporting event) do not fight with each other. It’s not how euphoria works.

When those sports fans head out into the streets — they won’t be violent there either. They won’t fight police, won’t riot or loot, won’t set fire to cars.

Cannabis is proof that selling lies is easy. Selling the truth — much, much harder. We may never completely clear the racist lies first Commissioner of America’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger invented while trying to justify marijuana prohibition. While Anslinger, as far as we know, didn’t coin the actual term “Reefer Madness”, the “gore files” Anslinger collected and used — all lies and misinformation about cannabis, some of it overtly racist — captured the spirit of “Reefer Madness”.

Not only does using cannabis (instead of alcohol) make watching sports better, as more and more athletes are realizing, using cannabis makes PLAYING sports better. That is, with some THC in your brain, you become capable of performing better. I play tennis using cannabis — I take a hit of Durban Poison just before I play and about halfway through. The DP slows my brain down just a little while also focusing it. I’m bi-polar and very hypomanic. My mind races along most of the time at a fairly supersonic pace.

But the THC in a bowl of DP helps me with that. As I said, the cannabis slows down my thoughts so I have a chance to consider them. I become better able to coach myself. When I tell myself “eyes on the ball” or “put the ball there” or “attack the ball now”, I do it more consistently than if I hadn’t smoked cannabis. Not only do I play with more technical finesse (I’ll flatter myself that I play with “finesse”), but I’m more consistent — and consistency is my biggest bugaboo of all on a tennis court.

I drive better with THC in me, too. I’m not delusional. And I’m not alone.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Authority and the National Institute of Health — the keepers of transportation & drug safety data — want desperately to prove that using cannabis makes you a bad driver deserving of punishment — just like with people who drink and drive. But alcohol and THC work differently in our brains. The data simply will not cooperate.

The data backs up what we know: drinking alcohol — even a little — impacts your motor skills, decision-making and ability to drive. Cannabis doesn’t impact them the same way.

Here’s what the National Institute of Health study says:

Driving and simulator studies show that detrimental effects vary in a dose-related fashion, and are more pronounced with highly automatic driving functions, but more complex tasks that require conscious control are less affected, which is the opposite pattern from that seen with alcohol. Because of both this and 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, and results in impairment even at doses that would be insignificant were they of either drug alone. Case-control studies are inconsistent, but suggest that while low concentrations of THC do not increase the rate of accidents, [they] may even decrease them…

The data says having THC in them causes drivers to follow the speed limit, stay in their lanes and maintain safe following distances — the opposite of what alcohol would cause.

My brother-in-law called me the other day with his 17 year old son on the line. I’ve written a lot about pot. I’ve done research in order to write about it. My brother-in-law figured I’d tell my nephew how much marijuana impacted your decision-making and especially your driving skills. I told my brother-in-law before I responded that I probably wasn’t going to answer his question the way he wanted or expected.

After walking him through the data, I shared one final anecdote about cannabis. Just after the first cannabis cafe opened here in LA, a good friend and I went to it. We made reservations — we had to if we wanted to get in. The deal was 90 minutes then the table went to someone else.

There was a line to get in (even with reservations and timed tables). There was even a line of people wanting to work there.

Inside, it looked like a regular fern bar: lots of wood and warm touches. Ceiling fans whirred constantly, drawing the smoke upward. That was the first strange thing — though everyone at virtually every table was smoking cannabis, the room didn’t stink and it wasn’t smoky and acrid like a bar filled with tobacco smoke.

Second strange thing: the sound of the place. First — because alcohol wasn’t being served, the sound of glass was greatly reduced — the sound of glasses being clinked while toasting — of bottle necks clinking against cocktail glasses as the bartenders mixed away.

Third strange thing: also the sound of the place. When people drink alcohol — and lose their inhibitions — they get louder. The more they drink, the louder they get. Put a bunch of drinkers in a crowded bar and you get a distinct sound signature that only comes from people drinking.

Now throw in the glass sounds and the sight of everyone smoking dope at every table and you begin to sense what an unusual experience this was. The food was great — the perfect, snnacky, salty-sweet bites that the munchies crave.

After 90 minutes (including a gigantic cigar-sized, mostly sativa joint that my friend and I shared — back in the day when one shared a joint), we paid our bill and headed out the door. So did everyone else we came in with. Now, here’s strange thing number four: while my friend and I parked on the street, most everyone else pulled into the lot and handed their car keys to the valet.

Now that they were finished smoking dope and eating, these same people were now getting their car keys BACK from the valet guy, climbing into their cars and driving away — either back to work or home or wherever. If cannabis was like alcohol, there would have been a non-stop pileup of cars right in their driveway — of people just trying to get to the street.

And at the street? An even bigger pileup.

Except there wasn’t. Think about it. If we had spent 90 minute drinking steadily — instead of smoking cannabis steadily — there would have been accidents everywhere in and around that parking lot. But there wasn’t a one.

Hmmmmmmmmmmm…

It will take a while before we stop treating cannabis like alcohol — certainly where driving is concerned. Have I mentioned how slow human beings can be to adapt to new information?

In CA, I hope we have the smarts to allow people to consume cannabis at sporting events the same way they allow alcohol consumption. I hope we have the smarts to take notes when we do — so we can compare how cannabis effects people vs how alcohol does.

If the people making those decisions are all smoking dope when they make the decision? It’ll be dope.

Blunt Truth — Marijuana Prohibition Was ALWAYS About RACISM And Nothing But

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.

In the 1950’s, after 20 years of selling marijuana prohibition with racism, Anslinger expanded the franchise. World War Two caused profound physical pain to a staggering number of people. In response, opioids exploded in availability. So did opioid addiction. With fear of “Reefer Madness” waning, Anslinger invented “the gateway theory” to reinvigorate the public’s passion for prohibition.

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.

Question: What’s The Proper Cannabis Strain To Go With A Coronavirus Quarantine? Answer: Pretty Much ANY Cannabis strain

You know shit’s strange when real time is as plastic and fungible as time while you’re high. I don’t think it’s just me. The deeper we’ve plunged into the coronavirus quarantine, the weirder “time” has become. If you smoke as much dope as I do, you’re kinda used to thinking suddenly “Wait– where am I? What day is this again?” Those can be offputting to some people. I’m used to plunging into “other worlds” when I write screenplays and TV scripts. And I’m used to re-emerging from them (at quitting time) and being genuinely discombobulated upon re-entry.

Yeah — the way that time in general now feels a lot like “cannabis time” — that’s strange.

We will get back to a facsimile of our former lives but nothing about them will be untouched by this first run-in with the novel coronavirus that produces Covid-19 disease. Our lives will have to acknowledge, going forward, that we’re not done with this particular coronavirus and, now that it’s here, it will not ever be done with us. The motherfucker knows where we live.

First major impact on us — on the lives of Americans (different cultures will react to this change differently): we will slow down. We won’t stop living to work (instead of working to live like most civilized cultures). That’d be a bridge too far. But we’ll recognize — after much twisting in the wind — that we’ve all become a bit like Jack (Jack Nicholson’s character) in “The Shining”. He’s come to the terrible realization (too late) that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.

America will emerge from this far more socialized than when we went in. That fact scares the living shit out of Mitch McConnell, the remaining Koch Brother, the Mercers and libertarians everywhere. And there they’d come sooooooo close to stealing the future out from under America — literally kidnapping the 2016 election result. By a large margin (larger than we know because voter suppression), Americans voted one way versus the other. We voted Democratic. And yet we got Republicans.

I won’t rage/argue about how exactly that happened (how the Republican Party made a dark calculation based on demographic extinction to hitch their wagon to Donald Trump and Russia so as to assure themselves of permanent minority rule. Election 2016, with Russia’s profound influence on the result, was literally a soft coup d’etat. Every single Republican knew what REALLY happened that night.

Every. Single. One.

So — slowing down — one has time to think. One has time to organize.

I’ll go through our library eventually, I’ve no doubt. But that hasn’t occurred to us yet. Early days. For now, my big reorganization project (okay — after the garage — one of our “do everything NOW” projects when the quarantine began) was my cannabis collection.

Yeah — I have a cannabis collection. As in “collection”.

I used to collect red wines and single malt scotch (before my mood stabilizer gave all alcohol a terrible, grapefruit skin aftertaste). When I put all my “self-medication eggs” in the cannabis basket — and saw the incredible variety of strains that existed, all with slightly different properties — I automatically began collecting. While cannabis will never be as “terroir specific” as wine grapes (cannabis will always be more weed than anything else), some very real science has gone into the creation of most commercial cannabis strains (imagine having “commercial” cannabis to begin with — that will never stop being awesome).

As of this morning (I did some “housekeeping”), I have 60 different strains in my cannabis collection. That breaks down to 10 indica strains (my night time meds), 14 “hybrid” strains (genetic mixes of indicas, sativas and other hybrids that mostly I use in the late afternoon to manage my hypomania (they all give me varying degrees of mental energy and focus) and 35 sativas (give or take) that I use from the start of my creative day (usually around 5 a.m.) until I finally switch over to straight hybrids in the late afternoon.

Sativas are my workday strain. They focus my mind like nothing else. The flow of thoughts is clear. The thoughts themselves feel organized and purposeful. And my senses are far, far more alive and attuned. I hear better. Smells are more distinct. Taste is sharper (and food tastes amazing as a result).

I’m completely strain specific when it comes to cannabis. Having experimented with “Let’s see what it does” in my early cannabis days (about 2 years ago), I learned that there are plenty of cannabis strains that leave me cold. My brain chemistry can tolerate a shitload of THC. I never feel paranoid. I’ve never experienced anything I would describe as “unpleasant” while using cannabis. And I mix and match strains, I “cocktail” them together and layer one on top of the other — looking to see what the cumulative effect of various strains causes to happen inside my head.

As I said — I absolutely discern subtle, distinctive differences between most strains. Yes, yes — lots of sativas are incredibly similar to each other in their effects. Other qualities differentiate them also — smell, taste, quickness of onset, duration, quality of high and duration of same. I know I’m not the only one who feels these subtle differences — other users have written extensively.

Though I have 60 strains in my collection (by “in” my collection, I mean I have at LEAST a half-gram of it left; enough for at least two bowls), I actively use only a third. A third of my collection are strains I’m not sure I’ll ever see again — and I really liked them (Alaskan Ice, Britberry Cheesecake, Lucid Blue, Bay Dream, Jack The Ripper) so I hold onto them with a mixture of hope (that I’ll see them again so I can buy more) and acceptance (that I never will see them again and might as well just smoke them cos they won’t live forever).

First thing you need to know — I grind all my own flower then put them into little 10 dram containers (that I label myself). I’m weird that way. Entrepreneurial too.

I use a fishing tackle box for my “collection” and various other jerry-rigged plastic containers as my prototype day collection holder & night collection holder. There’s a market here to sell real shit like this to people like me. Did I mention I’m entrepreneurial? Call me!

Quick caveat here. Maybe it matters, maybe it doesn’t. I’m not sure I’ve ever gotten “high” off of cannabis. I’ve gotten intensely focused. I’ve gotten intensely chill. I’ve gotten intensely asleep. I’ve never behaved (or felt) like a “stoner”. And I smoke dope from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep.

My current day time collection — my go-to’s for working, thinking deeply and getting maximum shit done to the very, VERY best of my abilities — feature these awesome strains:

1 DURBAN POISON — If I were to “Desert Island Disks” cannabis — If I had to chose one or two strains to live with and nothing more, I’d pick Durban Poison first. It’s my go-to go-to strain (if that makes sense). The mental energy it creates is focused and “clean”; some of the other sativas on this list have a bit of “edge” to them. That makes them ideal for some tasks, less ideal for others — once you appreciate how to use those effects. Durban Poison works for every work day situation. You simply cannot go wrong with it. The “high” is usually fairly long-lasting (upwards of two hours) before another hit may (or may not) be needed or wanted. Bonus Goodness — Because of its “evenness” and the quality of its focus, I find DP GREAT for sports. I take a hit before (and sometimes during) tennis. The DP allows me to actually keep my eye on the ball (something I’m terrible at) which right off the bat improves my game immeasurably. The DP improves my timing. It slows the ball itself down too. I can see the spin on the ball. I can see its fuzz. DP rocks!

2 GG 4 — My other go-to strain though I don’t use anywhere near as much of it as I do Durban Poison. Most days, I may take one hit of GG4. I may not have any. And that’s at the very start of my writing day — when I transition from sleep to work-head. In times of financial hardship (my collection fell off for a while — it got as low as 25 strains at one point — most of those my “hold onto cause you’ll probably never see em again” collection), GG4 was both my wake up strain and my wind down strain and, ya know? As a wind-down strain it’s super! Most people use it for that apparently. By the time I figured that out, I had already found various “end of the day but not quite ready for bed time” strains so GG4 wasn’t necessary for that. It starts my day in a particular way that no other strain does. It starts with a slowly creeping sensation rolling from the crown of my head forward to my eyebrows — where it seems to dive into my consciousness and swim effortlessly, buoyantly, contentedly. That’s GG4’s greatest strength — that platform it creates. You can ride it all by itself or you can “build” on it — platform a sativa to launch into work mode or an indica to give extra heft and tug to the sleepiness it produces.

3 STRAWBERRY DURBAN DIESEL — A fairly recent find and one that’s become staple whenever I can find it. As the name implies there’s a lot of Durban Poison in the mix — and it’s wedded to some strawberry-flavored genetics (there’s a sweet, berryishness to the smoke) and another classic strain Sour Diesel. It’s got every bit of Durban Poison’s focus plus a little extra pop. I’ve never tried using this strain before playing tennis but maybe I should — the day they start letting us use the tennis courts again here in LA.

4 ALICE IN WONDERLAND — A great strain especially after the day has gotten rolling. There’s nothing wrong with starting a day with AIW but, in my experience, it’s like a brilliant middle-reliever on a baseball team. His job: get you from here to there. Not an opener exactly or a closer (for sure) but anything and everything in between. The buzz is distinctive and heady. Thoughts almost seem to pulsate with clarity.

Since I Stopped Drinking Alcohol, I’ve Come To See Clearly — America Has A Problem With Alcohol

Want to know if Americans drink too much alcohol? Quit drinking for a day. Better yet a week — or a month. Better yet, quit drinking entirely. I wasn’t forced to quit drinking by the mood stabilizer that saved my life. Alcohol can increase the intensity of any side effects the lamictil causes but, by itself, it can’t hurt you. What I found lamictil does to alcohol is give it a terrible aftertaste that ruins the whole experience.

It doesn’t matter whether the alcohol’s in a glass of wine, a bottle of beer or in a martini — just when you expect the glorious aftertaste of whatever you’re drinking to carry on, instead you get grapefruit skin and lots of it. I was cooking clams al vongele the other day. It’s basically clams, parsley, garlic and a bottle of wine (I like to add a little celery and some Pernod to kick up the licorice qualities). I poured in the wine and Pernod — got the sauce back to a simmer and sampled it, expecting exquisiteness.

Instead, I got grapefruit skin. A bottle of wine is a bottle of wine whether it’s in your glass or simmering away in a sauce. It takes a lot longer than you think to burn off alcohol as you cook with it. I forgot that basic fact at first — then wondered why the sauce tasted so awful.

When I was growing up, my dad collected wines — French reds. He and his friends would buy Bordeaux futures — as yet unharvested (ungrown even) grapes in the expectation that they’d become great, age-worthy vintages like 1970 or 1971. When I say my dad “taught me” how to drink, I mean he taught me to appreciate the thing I was guzzling like it was bug juice at summer camp.

I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as a responsible drinker — same as there’s no such thing as a responsible gun owner. 99% of the time — absolutely — most people behave responsibly toward both alcohol and guns. It only takes one slip up however to produce tragedy — one half glass of wine too many that resulted in an accident or traffic fatality or a gun that wasn’t locked up properly in its gun safe — and became a murder weapon.

In both instances, “responsible” becomes “irresponsible” just like that.

I was a lot less responsible than I gave myself credit for being. I’ve no doubt I drove while over the limit on multiple occasions. I know for a fact that I dodged a bullet or two or three where alcohol and driving are concerned. I know for a fact that I am hardly alone having that in my past. Sometimes I marvel that any of us are actually still here and walking (or driving) around.

Before lamictil made alcohol taste like shit, I LOVED drinking. I adored it. I marveled at the craftsmanship that went into a great scotch or a complex bottle of Petit Sirah (I loved em big and inky). I drank every single day — usually two glasses of red wine, sometimes a third glass. On rare occasion a fourth.

I was kinda known for getting even more opinionated than I already am. That’s a lot of “opinionated” to drunkenly throw at people. I don’t recall ever being drunk. I don’t recall ever being wasted or shit-faced or rat-arsed. But then, I wouldn’t know. I wasn’t watching me.

These days, when I go to a party or a bar with my wife and/or friends, I’m the lone teetotaler. When the bartender or wait-person turns to me for my order, most of the time I don’t have one: I’ll have water, I say. Their face always betrays them. My beverage will not benefit their tip. I might as well be dead, as far as they’re concerned.

It’s strange to watch your friends as alcohol takes them over. That’s what alcohol does. It changes how people act. While making them feel good for a bit, it also undermines their motor skills and slowly destroys their capacity to make good decisions. I’ve never seen my friends get out-of-their-heads crazy from drinking. But I have seen them get loud, belligerent, unreasonable, disrespectful and downright unpleasant.

When my kids went off to college, I feared for them as they encountered the drinking cultures on their respective college campuses; I worried especially for my daughter since campus rape culture (like campus fraternity culture) is tied to campus alcohol culture. I was grateful to learn that she and her friends prefer marijuana to alcohol. No one has ever died from marijuana poisoning as they have from alcohol poisoning.

I feel almost blasphemous saying this: alcohol prohibitionists weren’t wrong. They wanted to accomplish something impossible in a free society — prohibition of a product the people want. Prohibition didn’t just make alcohol illegal, it criminalized virtually the entire population while giving organized criminals a nearly perfect product to sell. Prohibitionists used the wrong methodology though their insights were rock solid. Alcohol is far too easily abused. And alcohol abuse causes far too much long-lasting social and personal harm to too many people.

Ads for alcohol are aimed (alarmingly) toward young people. Hell, alcohol products themselves are aimed alarmingly at young people. If you have to fruit flavor alcohol up to make it palatable, maybe you aren’t really ready to drink alcohol. That may look like an umbrella in your drink, it’s not; it’s training wheels. And if you really need training wheels on your alcohol, maybe you shouldn’t ought to be drinking alcohol.

My suggestion? Pick up a gram of top quality sativa or hybrid instead (unless of course you want to go to sleep then pick up a gram or two of indica). As self-medcations go, cannabis blows alcohol clear out of the water. It’s so much more versatile (you cannot work with alcohol in your system just like you can’t drive with it or do athletic things with it because of how profoundly it impacts your motor skills).

Having switched from alcohol to cannabis, I’ve also come to see that America has a cannabis problem too. We don’t smoke anywhere near enough of it.

The Cannabis Lifestyle: “Platforming” Vs “Cocktailing”

First hit of the day…

My day begins with cannabis and it ends with cannabis. That’s not hyperbole.

Medically (and I keep up my prescription because — even though I do recreate with cannabis — it is, to me, first and foremost a legitimate “medicine” that successfully treats a host of very real physical and mental ailments. Consequently, I’m very strain specific. I’ve ID’d a number of very specific strains that produce very specific (and — most importantly — repeatable) effects in my brain. There are differences in intensity of effect (THC levels differ naturally from growth to growth or even plant to plant) but the nature of the “high” remains constant.

I bump on the word “high”. To a degree, I guess, that’s because I don’t often smoke cannabis to “get high”. I want every last bit of cannabis’ psycho-activity. But I want them focused toward my particular need at a particular moment.

That’s the real takeaway here: it turns out cannabis not only fits into lots of “particular moments” in my day, cannabis makes those moments appreciably better. Sativas focus my brain. That doesn’t mean I can’t focus without it. I’d compare it to an eye test where you think the letter floating in front of your eyes is “in focus” and then they drop another lens in — and you realize how much more “focus” there was to be had.

Durban Poison – my go-to go-to.

Being a 100% subjective experience (no two peoples’ “highs” are exactly alike because their brains aren’t exactly alike), it’s hard to say definitively that cannabis will focus everyone else’s mind like it focuses mine. But — I know I ain’t alone in this. A solid hit of Durban Poison creates a feeling inside my brain as if that other lens had just dropped into position. I hear voices more clearly — that is, I hear nuance in voices more clearly. I SEE nuance more clearly — in the abstract. THC (even indicas) never diffuses my thinking; it always focuses it (even if it’s making me deliciously drowsy).

I’ve had repeatedly had this experience: I’ve taken my two big hits of indica just before bedtime (I like to mix n match a variety of strains — Skywalker, Paris, Diamond, LA Confidential, Afghan, Kosher Kush among others) and, just as that exquisite wooziness makes closing one’s eyes and succumbing to sleep imminent — an idea floats to the surface (something I’m working on usually). Next thing I know? Five minutes have gone by, I’ve made extensive notes, having resolved the “problem”. Pencil and pad go back onto desk and I’m between the sheets and fast asleep.

And the quality of sleep cannabis produces? Nothing Big Pharma makes can touch it.

Cannabis’ biggest revelation in my life was the mental focus it delivers — regardless of whether we’re talking sativas, indicas or hybrids. I’m hypomanic. My brain goes a kajillion miles an hour.

I need a few of those kajillion miles an hour to fuel my creative endeavors. The rest however can be a problem. They all want to compete for my attention but there are only so many hours in a day. Cannabis does two things at once inside my brain. It makes me think more (because that’s what THC actually does — it causes more of your synapses to fire so you really do “experience” more thoughts, more sensual input, more outside data; it’s why some people feel paranoid) and it slows me down.

The inside of my head is like a black box theater (think a shoebox turned over, its insides painted black. Anything can happen inside that space. Anything. Most of the time, that space is alive with a dozen different things being projected on the walls, the ceiling, the floor. They’re in color, black & white, sepia. Holograms float here and there. Music and sound come and go. The THC acts like scrims dropping down, muting most of the images and sounds, allowing me to focus on two or three.

And those two or three that I can now focus on? I can really focus on em…

I like to ease into my day (around 5 am) with a hybrid like GG4 or Dutch Treat (which I wish was more reliably available — hint, hint, LA dispensaries). Sometimes though, I like to “cocktail” that first hit with a little sativa — Durban Poison or one of the other sativas I keep in my “rotation”.

I use anywhere between five and eight different cannabis strains every day. As I said — I discern very distinct qualities between different strains. What makes Durban Poison such a go-to strain is the evenness of its focus.

By contrast, strains like Jack The Ripper, Casey Jones or XJ-13 have a little more of an “edge” to them. The mental energy has a touch more “energy”.

Throw a little coffee into the mix, we’re talking literal transcendence.

I also use Durban Poison when I play tennis. Just as it does with my creativity, DP both slows the game down (I can see the spin on the ball — for real) and focuses my thoughts: I can execute the step-by-step of hitting the ball how I want to where I want to with remarkable precision.

DP makes me a better tennis player. I’ve tried other sativas. They all work to varying degrees but it’s DP’s reliable evenness that pairs best with tennis’ mental requirements.

As I said — I love cannabis because I can use it to match a particular strain to a particular need.

So — platforming vs cocktailing.

In essence, anyone buying “shake” is buying a cannabis “cocktail” being an unknown mixture of “leftovers” of stuff that “fell to the bottom”. Lots of big cannabis companies make “effects” products that should produce “creativity” or “calm” or “sleep”. What’s in em?

What’s in a jug wine? Grapes. If that’s all that matters, you’re a cannabis cocktail person. But what if you’re a gin drinker? That’s where strain specificity gets fun…

I find there’s a perceptible experiential difference between mixing two cannabis strains together in one bowl and smoking them versus smoking one of those strains, allowing its effect to initiate, and then smoking the second strain so as to add its effects atop the first strain’s.

GG4 all by itself at the start of my day produces a slowly building sense of focus and well-being.

Mixing Durban Poison and GG4 together and smoking it brings that focus on more quickly and makes the focus more central to the feeling than the euphoria. It doesn’t negate the euphoria, it just moves it to the background — where I want it.

If I smoke GG4 and THEN the DP, I get that “lens effect”. The GG4’s focus was lovely. Layering the Durban Poison’s focus atop the GG4’s produces a slightly more intense focus that lasts a good hour or so before gently fading. If I use a sativa like Casey Jones, that focus is even sharper but doesn’t last quite as long — that’s some of the perceived “evenness”.

So — here I’ve gone and asked a question to which I don’t have a particular answer. To platform or to cocktail.

I think I need to smoke on it a bit…

I Went To America’s First Ever Licensed Cannabis Café Yesterday – And It Was AWESOME!

As good as a deep, inky red wine pairs with a steak or champagne with oysters, it’s nothing compared to how well cannabis pairs with EVERYTHING.

Not only does cannabis give you the munchies (there’s a reason it’s a great medicine for people with eating issues or whose appetites have been impacted by chemo), it also makes the food you eat taste amazing.  That happens because THC causes your brain to process more information.  You’re simply more aware of your surroundings and what you’re experiencing in it because more of your synapses are open and processing information.  That is what THC does to our brains.  It’s the same reason some people feel paranoia – it’s the flow of all that additional information that your brain regularly “screens out” or misses.  Yeah, it can be daunting, intimidating – scary.

But all that additional information can also enhance the flavor of food.  Cannabis and eating establishments are as natural and delicious a pairing as chicken and soup.

Lowell Cafe is in West Hollywood.  It opened a few weeks ago — America’s first ever fully licensed cannabis restaurant.  The restaurant aside, It’s a dispensary where you can smoke your buy on the premises.  That’s a first anywhere in the country (as far as I know).

Part of the lingering ooga-booga in our thinking about cannabis is that smoking cannabis causes people to act like they’ve been drinking for hours.  It’s not the case – at all. 

As cannabis users can attest – smoking cannabis doesn’t fog your mind like alcohol does.  It doesn’t make you irrational.  It doesn’t make you loud.  It doesn’t impact your motor skills.  It doesn’t make you want to fight or vomit up everything you drank.  It doesn’t make you want to take out your junk and piss wherever you are because all that alcohol filled your bladder.

Cannabis civilizes most people.  Fact.

My good bud Johnny invited me to join him – he’d made reservations after hearing Howard Stern do a live broadcast from the café last week.  There’s almost always a line outside the place – even with reservations.

The concept is this – when you sit at your table, there are two menus (same as with alcohol).  The only difference here is (because of the way cannabis is still regulated), you have to purchase your cannabis separately from your food.  Two different bills.

One can bring in one’s own weed – but the “corkage” is $30.  Lowell Cafe is a dispensary.  They grow all their own weed — organically.  The prices aren’t cheap.  They’re retail-retail.  But that’s to be expected.  You’re here also for the experience of smoking marijuana in public – with strangers – like you’d drink in a bar with them.

While you can also get that same experience at a concert, it’s not the same.  Everyone doing that illicitly.  Here – it’s the whole point of the exercise. 

For starters – the room is smoky – but it’s not dense with smoke as it would be if it were filled with tobacco smoke.  Tobacco smoke is sharper, heavier, denser, more genuinely toxic.  There’s no data yet that says what cannabis second hand smoke is filled with.  I can only tell you that whereas a restaurant filled with tobacco smoke makes eating downright unpleasant, that was not the case at Lowell Farms.

The eating experience was not impacted by the smoke whatsoever. 

The cannabis menu (you can read it yourself here) includes flower (they provide rolling papers or they’ll rent you a piece – the state regs prevent customers from bringing their own pipes for now), oils and edibles.  The food the café serves has not been prepared with cannabis – that’s not allowed yet).  If you want to buy and use oils, the restaurant will rent you a rig with which to smoke it.  You can rent a simple rig or a very cool “gravity water pipe” that I wish I had photographed because it was incredibly cool.

I was too busy eating, enjoying the buzz and talking.  Johnny and I ordered a pre-rolled Space Coyote – a combination sativa flower, kief and oil, with a bubbly, spirited impact (according to the menu).  The Space Coyote was indeed heady and social.  And it made the food taste awesome.  Johnny ordered the Lowell Cobb.  Enjoyed it immensely – fresh ingredients not overly slathered in dressing. 

Feeling less in the mood for healthy, more in the mood for “stoner cuisine”, I opted for the sticky tamarind wings and the jalapeno mac-and-cheese bites.  Did I mention how cannabis makes everything taste great?  The tamarind doesn’t bash you over the head.  It doesn’t have to.  The wings were easily inhaled.  The mac-and-cheese bites came with a chipotle-sriracha sauce that cleared the sinuses effectively. 

The staff is all young and excited to be there.  They know they’re pioneers in a business that will take over the country.  Lowell Farms has applied for a liquor license.  They don’t need it.  They should avoid it.

The tone in the room was cannabis chill.  Not alcohol loud.  There was a lot less glass being clinked.  It was… civilized is the word I keep coming back to. Until you’ve experienced sitting in a room with strangers who are all smoking cannabis – like it was normal – you can’t know how remarkable it is. 

We’ve lived in the shadow of Harry Anslinger’s bullshit, racist marijuana mythology for so long, we’ve almost forgotten how incredibly untrue every bit of it is. 

Marijuana legalization has not brought about the fall of Western Civilization.  It hasn’t harmed the communities in which it thrives.  It hasn’t brought about a rise in teen smoking (they’re smoking less, in fact, because every last bit of rebellion has been taken away from smoking marijuana – it’s hard to rebel against something your parents do, too.)  It hasn’t brought a rise in traffic accidents.

And that’s the last point I want to make here.  Lowell Cafe has a valet parking lot.  People hand their keys to the valet then go inside for 90 minutes (that’s your limit for the time being – there’s a line to get in, remember).  They smoke copious amounts of cannabis and they eat.  Then they get their car from the valet guy – climb in it and go home (or wherever). 

I walked down La Brea to where I’d parked my car at a meter.  I got into my car.  I drove home.  And I went back to work.

I wouldn’t have – couldn’t have – had I been drinking all afternoon.

I have seen the future, America – and it was the bomb.

Now, please — quit Bogartin’ that joint and pass it over to me…

Cannabis & Productivity Go Together Like Cannabis & Feeling Good

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.

Or they’d be too busy getting things done.

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.

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.