An Ode To Waking And Baking

Two facts: I have never been busier in my entire life AND I have never been more “stoned” in my entire life. Those facts don’t contradict each other. Actually, they complement each other. Pot and productivity go hand in hand. It’s hard to describe to people who are fearful of pot that it’s not just one thing — a get you impossibly high product. It’s a variety of things. Because it does a variety of things to your brain chemistry. Most cannabis strains have been hybridized one way or another; sativas are more focus forward (like a red wine can be fruit forward) while indicas are more euphoria forward. I wouldn’t use a sativa at bedtime just like I wouldn’t smoke an indica and expect to get any work done.

That I’m busier is pure luck. Some to do with me, some not. Being busier, time management becomes essential. The last thing I need is to feel lethargic, unmotivated or “stoned”. That’s why, even before I’ve had my first sip of coffee, I’m tapping some Willy Wonka into my favorite glass piece (that looks like a banana slug). Sometimes, I’ll wake and bake with GMO or Alaskan Thunderf*ck. I’m also a fan of Canndescent’s “Charge”. In the wine world, they’d call “Charge” a “meritage” — a proprietary blend (of grapes). That’s Canndescent’s approach. They’ve created a series of proprietary strains, each approaching cannabis from an effects point of view: what do you want the cannabis to do for you? If you want it to get your mind percolating, choose “Charge”. Indeed — a couple of good hits of “Charge” and my mind’s percolating.

The cannabis users understand what I’m talking about. That’s one of the challenges of talking about and writing about cannabis. It’s effects are principally cerebral. You may feel like your limbs suddenly weigh a ton as the couch lock sets in, but every bit of that is emanating from your head. A drunk person literally loses their motor skills. A person high on cannabis does not.

As I’ve written here, I “came to cannabis” late in life. It didn’t do much for me when I was a kid except put me to sleep which held zero attraction. Much later in life, when sleep was an issue and over-the-counter sleep meds were doing more harm than good, the idea of pot putting me to sleep suddenly became appealing. Good thing I live in California. From that first night when Skywalker eased me into the most restful sleep I’d had in a decade, sleep has not been an issue. I had no idea that cannabis could do just as much for my waking hours.

We live in the shadow of the mythology invented by Harry Anslinger, America’s first Commissioner of The Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1930) in order to satisfy his racism. As I wrote about in my series “Blunt Truths” (written for now defunct Weedmaps News), every single bit of marijuana prohibition was racist, based on racism and bent on punishing people because of racism. At no point in the “illegalizing” process did anyone doing the illegalizing EVER ask “But, is it bad for people?” Any possible health risks were not the problem (the people in the hearings were all smoking tobacco — during the hearings!) The people using marijuana were “the problem”.

As cannabis legalization spreads across the nation, more and more people are using cannabis and incorporating it into their day without civilization coming to an end. Cannabis doesn’t make people violent the way alcohol can. Imagine if they stopped selling beer at sporting events and started selling reefer instead. There’d never be another fight at the end of a soccer match as the two opposing fan bases — liquored to the gills — pour into the streets together, still feeling the game. If all those sports fans had been using cannabis instead of alcohol, it would never occur to the to fight.

They might hug. They might tell each other how well they played. They might even have a vicious case of the munchies. But they won’t have it in them to get violent with each other. It’s just now how cannabis works inside our brains. The fact is, our brains like cannabis. We have receptors that, it turns out, are tailor-made to bind themselves to THC.

As my day goes on, I like to layer one sativa atop another. Each sativa strain — between the THC in it and its terpene structure — presents a little differently. There are nuances. Willy Wonka produces a clean focus with good mental energy. Add twenty percent to that focus and you have Strawberry Diesel. One can really bore in on an idea. There’s a little “edge” to it. Hints of more free-associative thinking.

Same goes for Ghost Train Haze and White Buffalo. Green Crack, too. They present evenly.

Then there’s a strain like The Fork. Whoa! The hybrid Trainwreck can create a feeling of hyper focus in your head. Even cleaning the house becomes a satisfying experience you’re so intensely focused on it. The Fork unleashes waves of free associative thinking. And yet, one doesn’t find oneself “all over the place”. The free associations all seem to be circling the thing you’re really thinking about. From the point of view of “thinking”? It’s extraordinary.

The all-time go-to workday strain is Durban Poison.

Durban Poison has virtually no edge. Its “high” is pure, even focus. That’s why I like it for working AND playing tennis. With a hit of DP in me, the ball slows down (everything slows down — but only in the sense that my mind isn’t racing to keep up with all the information coming at it; I feel like I’m seeing, hearing, processing it all just fine and in real time). So — when the ball comes off my opponent’s racket, I’m better able to focus on the ball and track it all the way to where I want it to be when I attack it. I’ll put it this way: I coach myself better and am coached better when the coaching is coated in Durban Poison.

In a later post, I’ll talk about straight hybrids — afternoon and early evening strains. Finding a good hybrid that chills without sedating — that’s a whole other journey.

The Joys Of Waking & Baking

It ain’t the cannabis talking — I’m far more productive and focused after a couple of hits of sativa. These days, my morning go-to’s are Willy Wonka, Alaskan Thunderfuck, Strawberry Diesel and Durban Poison. I like variety, ya see.

I also like the way different strains work inside my brain. Yeah, they’re all variations on a theme but it’s a great theme. Willy Wonka produces a clean focus with good mental energy (as do the others). Wonka and Strawberry Diesel have a bit more “edge” to the focus. The Thunderfuck a touch less edge.

Durban Poison has virtually no edge. Its “high” is pure, even focus. That’s why I like it for working AND playing tennis. With a hit of DP in me, the ball slows down (everything slows down — but only in the sense that my mind isn’t racing to keep up with all the information coming at it; I feel like I’m seeing, hearing, processing it all just fine and in real time). So — when the ball comes off my opponent’s racket, I’m better able to focus on the ball and track it all the way to where I want it to be when I attack it. I’ll put it this way: I coach myself better and am coached better when the coaching is coated in Durban Poison.

It’s hard to describe to people who are fearful of pot that it’s not just one thing — a get you impossibly high product. Most people I know don’t use cannabis that way. I’m not sure I’ve ever been “high”. I’ve been focused. I’ve been relaxed. I’ve been asleep. When I sit down at my desk — usually around 5 am — I’ve got coffee in one hand and my piece in the other, the bowl filled with one of my go-to’s.

The caffeine does what it does. You feel awake but not necessarily focused. In fact, too much caffeine and it gets harder to focus my hypomanic mind. That’s where the cannabis works wonders — especially first thing in the morning. I prefer that first hit to come before that first sip of coffee but it really makes no difference. There’s nothing quite like that feeling — a few moments after you’ve exhaled — as the THC begins to filter down through your brain.

That’s when I really “wake up”.

Each strain feels a little different — where they seem to be filtering from. Some start at the crown and melt downward. Others seem to emerge like a thought from behind the eyes before slowly filling your whole head with a feeling of calm. Of peacefulness. Of focus.

Not a revelation: we live in a shithole at the worst of all possible times. It would be so easy to throw up one’s hands and toss everything but the indicas. The idea of sleeping through what’s happening until it’s over has definite appeal. But, it’s having cannabis in my life (and my family of course) that makes it all bearable.

Musings On Marijuana

I didn’t start out a pot guy.

When I was in high school back in the 70’s, marijuana was around. A guy I was friendly with was a hard core stoner; he stank of weed in class and watched us all with a strange, pleased detachment I now recognize as euphoria. On the occasions when I was in the same place and time as a lit joint, the stuff put me right to sleep.

In college, my friend Drew convinced me to use a big chunk of my semester’s money (the money my parents put into my bank account to pay for books and other incidentals) to buy a pound of marijuana that, he said, we’d sell, making both of us lots of money. I knew Drew was a fan of marijuana. I didn’t realize his fandom would cost us our profits. I made back my “investment”. Barely.

When I was in college — and in the years afterwards — coke was more appealing. It kicked things into a higher gear. That’s what we told ourselves. Frankly, considering how much that powder we were snorting was stepped on, I’d be shocked if there was anything stronger than aspirin in it. Ecstasy also was appealing. I had lots of great ecstasy trips. And one awesome experience with shrooms and a U2 concert at LA’s Colliseum.

Oh, and I drank. Wine mostly. And gin martinis. And beer. And single malt scotch. Yeah, I drank. Throw a decade-long depression into the mix and daily use of (utterly useless!) over-the-counter sleeping meds and it was probably no wonder that I couldn’t sleep for shit. I was asking too much of my poor brain.

This was about five years ago. I was beside myself for a number of reasons. Lack of sleep wasn’t helping any. I did not want to take anything pharmaceutical. That wouldn’t solve my problem; it would only exacerbate it. Living in California, where pot is legal — pot that always put me to sleep in the past — I figured, what the hell?

Long story short. From the first night where I used marijuana as my sleep aid, my life changed. I began sleeping. Now, I still don’t sleep a ton. If I can do five hours — I’m good for the day (with a couple of brief naps along the way). The mood stabilizer I started using five years ago — that helped cage my darkness, keeping it at bay — has an un-noted side effect: it gives all alcohol an unpleasant aftertaste — like grapefruit skin.

My first visit to my first dispensary put Skywalker in my hand (and in the little glass pipe I bought; I can’t roll a joint to save my or anyone’s life). On my return, I wanted to know what was in all the other glass jars filled to the brim with weed? It turned out the thing I now used every day to sleep was called “indica”. But there was also “sativas” and “hybrids”.

As I wrote about myself in Blunt Truths (the 13 part series I did for Weedmaps News), we were and remain bamboozled by a totally bullshit mythology about marijuana that was invented out of whole cloth by America’s first “drug czar”, Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger. We — as a culture — are still almost entirely misinformed about cannabis — what it does to us, how it does to us, why it does to us. The law still treats cannabis like its effects on our brains was the exact same as alcohol’s.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As I’ve learned from experience — and what a wonderful experience it’s been — cannabis can be part of your whole day if you want it to be. And I’m talking about highly productive days. Yeah, if I did nothing but smoke Skywalker or King Louis XII or Northern Lights or 9 Lb Hammer (or any of the other indicas in my collection — I like to keep a dozen or so on hand — I really, really like having choices if I can afford to), I would get very little done.

But not nothing. Funny thing about indicas. Yeah, they put me to sleep. Eventually. But I’ve gotten used to a sudden creative blast — usually after I’ve taken my second or third hit. Whatever creative problem I was working on when I quit for the day? Suddenly the answer is there.

I wrote the whole logline and concept premise for the TV show I’m about to take out a few weeks ago moments before I thought I was about to slip into bed. The wooziness was wonderful. And then the idea dropped. I walked calmly to my desk, sat down and wrote the whole thing.

Now, with alcohol, when one returns to the “genius” alcohol inspired the night before, it’s never genius. It’s barely legible ffs. With cannabis it’s the exact opposite. As I also wrote about in Blunt Truths, marijuana use spread slowly in the early 20th century. It started out mostly in the south west (California especially following the surge of people that entered the state fleeing the Mexican Revolution — 1910). By the 1920’s use had reached New Orleans where it was taken up by the mostly black musicians who were creating a new musical form called “jazz”.

Guys like Louis Armstrong (a self-avowed fan who was punished for being a fan) recognized that while you couldn’t create music or play music on booze or opium, you absolutely could on marijuana. Whereas alcohol dulled the senses and opium obliterated them, cannabis “excited” them. While it makes you feel calm and euphoric, marijuana also makes the senses more acute. You can smell more intensely, hear with more clarity and see more detail. Nuance does not get lost to a mind happily soaking in THC. If anything, a mind soaking in THC can get a little too absorbed in nuance.

If you’re creating things — a story, a song, an idea — nuance is everything. Creativity and cannabis go together brilliantly.

What scared Harry Anslinger into declaring war on marijuana (he insisted it wasn’t worth worrying about previously) was white people starting to use it.

The story of marijuna in America is another story about racism. The only reason cannabis was ever illegalized was racism. Not for two seconds did Harry Anslinger or any other moral scold determined to prohibit cannabis use ever research cannabis to prove its negative effects. They never cared about what it did to people (positive or negative). They only cared who was using it (originally).

As my wife recently told a friend who wondered what it’s like being married to a guy who’s stoned all the time, “I’ve never seen him ‘high’.”

That’s true. I know what’s meant by “high”. It’s the very real feeling of euphoria just before I fall asleep. In that sense, I get do get high every day. But, until that point, I have no interest in being “high”. I’m only interested in being productive. When I wake & bake, that baking needs to produce product. My creative day starts around 5 am with a cup of joe (I like it take-no-prisoners dark) and a bowl of sativa. In the mix this morning: Durban Poison (always!) Casey Jones, Ghost Train Haze, Willy Wonka & Alaskan Thunderfuck.

There’s nothing quite like the feeling of your mind focusing in on something as the first waves of THC roll across your brain. When I really want to focus on the stuff I’m focusing on, I haul out the Trainwreck. Trainwreck’s a hybrid but there’s nothing quite like it.

Before I tried it the first time, I read somewhere that Trainwreck made you feel like cleaning your house. I thought that was funny. It’s goddamned true! Something about Trainwreck makes you super-focused and, yeah, you do get a sudden jones to clean the house. With a toothbrush (someone else’s).

It’s even better when used to write.

At the end of the day, since I no longer drink, the call goes out again to cannabis. It ain’t Miller Time, it’s Hybrids Time. Dutch Treat… Pineapple Express… Bruce Banner… Snowcap… White Widow. A friend gave me some home-grown Apple Fritter that’s awesome! Good hybrids produce feelings of calm. Of perspective.

A friend and I went to ss, LA’s first cannabis cafe not long after it opened. The line to get in was huge (this was pre-pandemic). So, interestingly, was the line to get a job there.

They didn’t serve alcohol then (don’t know if they did when they shut for the pandemic) but it wasn’t needed. The whole vibe inside the cafe was unlike anything I’d experienced before. Because there’s no alcohol, there’s less glass moving around. People aren’t there to drink (though staying hydrated is important). Consequently, there isn’t the constant clinking of glasses. Also missing — that manic edge that alcohol slowly asserts on a room.

Since I stopped drinking I have witnessed rooms filled with my friends (and rooms filled with strangers) as they devolved from easy-going coherence to alcohol-fueled testiness. The laughing gets louder and a little more crazed, uninhibited. There’s plenty of laughter in a room filled with cannabis users. Even more laughter than there is in a room filled with drinkers.

But the sound is different. Whether they were leaning forward or sitting back, everyone in that room was relaxed. Mellow. Their conversations — and their laughter — reflected the mellow more than anything. Being in a room filled with stoned people is nothing like being in a room with drunks.

Then, of course, everyone in that room (being as we were all given a 90 minute time limit after which we were vacating our table by rule), went out to the parking lot, got their keys back from the valet and drove home (or back to the office). If those people had all been drinking, there would have been the constant sound of cars smashing into each other right there where their parking lot met the street.

No such thing happened. I walked back to my car (I parked on the street), my friend walked to his car and we both drove home.

As I’ve also written about, the actual data — there IS data — says cannabis doesn’t effect how we drive under its influence the same way alcohol does. That fact befuddles researchers determined that cannabis does impact our brains the same way. As plenty of athletes already know, cannabis improves focus — which, in turn, improves performance. I smoke Durban Poison before I play tennis. It slows my thoughts down. Gives me time to process them. With DP in my head, my timing improves considerably. Seeing the ball (my bugaboo) becomes easier.

There’s a reason, once the opposition to cannabis started cracking, that the opposition fell to pieces quickly. It’s the same reason LGBTQ rights became viabe so quickly. And the same reason Black Lives suddenly Matter. The Truth has always been apparent.

Like the show X Files used to tell us, the Truth is “out there”.

The Truth also rests inside the bowl of Strawberry Durban Diesel I’m about to smoke. The one thing I know for a fact the Durban Diesel and its truth will do? They will set me free!

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.