Let’s Play “Desert Island Cannabis Strain”! I’ll Go First…

In the style of that great BBC radio show “Desert Island Discs” — where each week’s guest “is asked to choose eight recordings (usually, but not always, music), a book and a luxury item that they would take if they were to be cast away on a deserted island” — I propose a show where, each week, a cannabis aficionado — imagining themselves cast away on a similar tropical paradise — have to chose three strains that will have to sustain them. I’m still undecided how firm we should make the “one-from-each-type” mandate — wherein the guest must pick one sativa, one indica and one hybrid; there’s so much blurring of many strains already, their genetics a tossup. One could as easily suggest we divvy them a morning strain, an afternoon strain and an evening strain — which is kind of how I see all cannabis anyway. I use particular strains at particular times of the day because I want the expected effects from that strain.

Part of the un-learning we all have to do about cannabis is the idea that it does only one thing — get you high. Yes, absolutely — if you sit down and smoke yourself silly with pretty much any strain, you’ll end up silly — or asleep. But there are remarkable differences between a sativa like The Fork (well, 70% sativa according to Wikileaf) and an indica like Northern Lights. The Fork is not for casual users; but then, I’m not a casual user. It’s great for when you’ve got five thing to do or think of at the exact same time because it brings not only focus (as any good sativa should) but a real capacity for multi-faceted thinking. Northern Lights, on the other hand, is a classic indica strain with crazy high THC, usually well north of 30%. A few hits of Norther Lights plus about fifteen minutes (indicas tend to come on more slowly than sativas) should produce a gentle, warm buzz that eventually evolves into an exquisite wooziness and full on sleepiness. From the day I first swapped my OTC sleep meds for cannabis — about six years ago now — I have slept wonderfully. So, a strain that delivers quality sleep is a strain I’m interested in sampling or even buying.

So — if I was going to be stuck on a desert island (and, hopefully my reading matter and other entertainments was accounted for) — with only three cannabis strains to see me through, which three would I choose?

As waking & baking would be the one thing on my schedule each day, I need my day-time strain — my sativa — here on the island to be not only the breakfast of champions but its lunch, too. DURBAN POISON is a classic; each of my Desert Island strains is. One of my criteria for inclusion is availability. I’ve had some great strains that, it turned out, were one-and-done at whatever dispensary or delivery service I found it. Lucid Blue, Jack The Ripper, Casey Jones, Clementine — I keep the empty vials I use to store my cannabis — each with its own home made label — in the hope of one day finding it again because my experience with it was so extraordinary. Durban Poison isn’t as everywhere as Blue Dream or Jack Herer but it’s around.

Durban Poison… Not merely a good sativa, a great one!

DP delivers a lovely, wide beam of even mental focus that you can turn on anything and increase your productivity. Not only do I use DP as one of my regular go-to workday strains, I also use it when I play tennis (which I do at least twice a week). The DP helps my focus on the court the same as it does when I stare at my computer monitor. On the one hand, everything simply slows down. It’s easier to find my timing with a hit of DP in me. I see the ball clearly. I can even see its spin if I’m really dialed in. My game improves perceptibly because my timing becomes more precise. On the other hand, I become more “coachable”. The cannabis’ euphoric effects prevent me from ever beating myself up. The coaching reinforcement rather is entirely positive.

When it’s quittin’ time, I turn to my hybrid collection. One wants to be chill but not at all asleep. If a movie’s one, the strain should make it even better than you remembered or better than you expected it to be. Food should taste amazing — and the strain itself should make you want to leap into a pile of snack food. If people are around, the strain needs to be highly social. Great for loving and laughing. My go-to here is GG4. Formerly known as Gorilla Glue, this strain is ubiquitous but deserving of its ubiquity. The high is big and euphoric; I’ve used it often in the past as the basis for a “platform” — a strain that I start a session with. Smoking Durban Poison atop GG4 gives a real boost to the already boostful Durban Poison. By the same “toke-en” (sorry, couldn’t help myself), GG4, in addition to being a great strain to spend an entire evening with, also partners well with other hybrids and also with indicas to start one’s evening off perfectly.

GG4
Northern Lights

NORTHERN LIGHTS would be my indica. It could almost just as easily be Kosher Kush, King Louie XIII, LA Confidential, White Empress, Diamond or Suicide Girl. But, Northern Lights — the last batch I bought said it’s THC level was 33% — always manages to squeeze that last bit of compis mentis from my brain. About twice a week, after I’ve taken my second or third indica (I usually do three different ones when it’s time for bed), right when I expect a blanket of wooziness to slowly settle over me, inspiring me to go the hell to bed, I get a sudden burst of creative energy. Suddenly the idea I was struggling with all day, presents a simple and elegant answer. I have found myself a half hour later, pages deep into something I didn’t know I was ready to write but apparently was.

The good thing about writing on cannabis — as opposed to writing on, say, alcohol — is that the work product is almost always what you expected it to be. There’s a reason Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and all the musicians who invented jazz invented jazz while smoking cannabis. They were trying to reproduce something complex that was inside their heads on a musical instrument. One simply can’t do that with alcohol or coke or heroin. One certainly could create without using drugs; but, as anyone who’s smoked dope and then sat down to be creative knows, there’s simply nothing like it.

Some day — sooner than any of us expected, it turns out — we will all finally get to step out of Harry Anslinger’s long shadow. America’s first drug czar, Anslinger almost singlehandedly created the “reefer madness” mythology that became our drug policy. When that day happens, we may finally get to see cannabis as a remarkable adjunct to living a happy, successful life. Which it is — and always has been.

If you’ve gotten this far — thank you! More to the point, please let me know what YOUR Desert Island Strains would be. Someone oughta start a damned podcast!

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.

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…

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.

The Remarkable Pleasure Of Coffee & Cannabis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Ode To The Civilizing Influence Of Cannabis

As I write this, I’m waiting for the final bowl of my nighttime meds (I started with Skywalker then finished with a bowl of Godfather with a little Afghani sprinkled on top. In a few minutes the combined effects of those strains should fuse into a feeling of delicious, creamy sleepiness that I can surrender to at will; if I get distracted — my mind will be there to deal with whatever it is. When I turn my mind back to bed — the creamy sleepiness will be right there where I “left it”.

I don’t call cannabis’ impact on my brain “being high”. Being “high” isn’t my goal when I use cannabis (that’s just me — everyone has their own relationship with cannabis and that’s as it should be!) My whole approach to using cannabis starts with a question: “What do I want cannabis to do for me?” If I want to be sleepy (as now), I reach for one of my indicas.

Tomorrow morning, when I wake up, I’ll start my day with a hybrid called GG4 (having woken up feeling refreshed thanks to my cannabis sleeping meds). A sativa dominant brings a soft focus to my mind which makes for a nice transition from the restful sleep. Combined with my one mug of coffee for the day (caffeine and my prostate don’t get along anymore), the world comes into complete focus. The caffeine’s rush is familiar. The GG4’s effect is more like when you’re sitting in the optometrist’s chair and she’s asking which of the two letter A’s is sharper. The GG4 makes it sharper. Appreciably so.

The great revelation to me was that one could work on cannabis. I write (and, if I get lucky, I also get to produce what I write if I get so lucky as to sell the damned thing) and my writing relies on precision. There’s a reason all the musicians who created jazz down in New Orleans took to cannabis like nothing else. That’s literally. They couldn’t create or play their instruments when drunk. Heroin might be attractive but you couldn’t work with it in your system (never mind the mess it’d make of you). But cannabis was different. Even indicas open your mind.

The way I understand it is this. Our synapses work like digital circuits. They’re either open or closed. THC (in concert with the particular strain’s turpenes) causes more of your synapses to be open. More information is flowing into your brain because the cannabis has made your brain more receptive to it. That sensation of too much information can make you feel paranoid. The reason cannabis makes some people feel paranoid is because it makes those people more aware of everything. Every sound even.

Here’s a dirty secret the world will eventually catch up to. Cannabis does not do to our brains what alcohol does. Biochemically speaking. There’s lots of data to back up our laws prohibiting drinking and driving. Our assumption that cannabis has the exact same effect isn’t based on anything — least of all the practical experience of the cannabis smoker.

Now, I wouldn’t smoke an indica and get behind the wheel but a bowl of Durban Poison is a whole other matter. DP, if you don’t know, is a classic sativa. Sativas don’t make you feel sleepy; quite the opposite. Sativas give you mental focus. They sharpen the mind. After my first bowl of GG4 in the morning, I move on to Durban Poison or one of a half dozen other sativas currently in my rotation (I love having choices and cannabis provides so many) — Clementine, Killing Fields (not big on that name), Jack The Ripper (okay — I’ll grant you, there’s a strange pattern here), Dutch Treat if I can Find it.

There IS data — published by our very own National Highway Traffic Safety Administration — that says (hell, I’ll even quote them!) “When the odds ratios were adjusted for demographic variable of age, gender, and race/ethnicity the significant increased risk of crash involvement associated with THC disappeared.” The same report points out drivers under the influence of THC (unlike drunk drivers) stay within the lines. They maintain a safe following distance and drive at the speed limit. They drive that way because they’re processing more information as they drive.

I won’t say that cannabis makes anyone a better driver (though I know for a fact it makes me considerably better), but it does not make anyone a worse driver. That’s statistics talking.

I smoke a bowl of Durban Poison before I play tennis. Often, midway through, I’ll smoke another bowl (we’re talking two hits and a count of fifteen). The effect is greater focus. The short court warm up I do with my long-time tennis partner is always great fun; she’s an athlete, I’m not. The focus I get from cannabis makes up enough of the difference to make our game competitive. With DP in my brain, the game slows down. I see where I need to be. I see where the ball needs to be (when I return it). I see the spin on the ball as I approach it. And I watch the ball all the way through my follow-through.

The mood stabilizer I take gives alcohol a wretched aftertaste. I had to give up drinking. Truth be told, I don’t miss alcohol a bit. But I miss the camaraderie of alcohol as its still the more accepted way to self-medicate socially (despite the mess alcohol causes in so many lives). It’s strange now to be the only non-drinker at a party or social gathering — and to watch your friends or family slowly become less coherent.

Put a bunch of pot smokers in a room together and they’re incredibly social. They love sharing. Passing a joint around is part of pot culture.

I’ll close with this. If a soccer (football) stadium filled with people smoked cannabis instead of drinking beer, there would never be any rioting or violence at the end of a match. The fans would all be too busy hugging each other, laughing together or sleeping.

Yes, yes — cannabis isn’t a panacea. It isn’t for everyone. What in this world IS “for everyone”? But cannabis can make your life better. Life is hard enough on a good day. The silly idea that self-medicating is bad is just that — silly. Being a sentient creature on planet earth is hard. One needs a buffer between our sentientness and stone cold reality.

Let me know when someone clever thinks they’ve found something better than cannabis. By then, I’m sure I’ll really need the laugh.

My Cannabis Journey: How THC Is Saving My Life Every Day

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.

Maybe some sleeping, too.