It’s 4/20 — Here’s Why I Celebrate Having Cannabis In My Life

It tickles the hell out of me that marijuana has its own day in our collective consciousness. It tickles the hell out of me that I have the relationship with cannabis that I do — and I do have a “relationship” with cannabis. I use it from the start of my day to the very end of it. I rely on sativas to get my brain focused and indicas to make my brain stop focusing so I can sleep. That sleep, by the way, is the best sleep I’ve ever had and I am a terrible sleeper. Or, I used to be. I’ll get to how cannabis changed my relationship with sleeping I also use cannabis when I’m in between work and sleep — when I’m just “being”. Mostly hybrids fill those spaces. I’ve done my share of cocaine. I know what that “needling” feeling is — the edgy “c’mon, c’mon!” inside your head that wants you to tap out another line and snort it — screw it — tap out everything ya got! There’s no urgency to my cannabis usage over the course of a day. It’s more like… the “thought” of recharging the high crosses my mind like a hot air balloon rising in the distance. Hmm, I think, that might be nice — and off I go. I don’t spend my day chasing a high. That’s no way to have a relationship. That’s why having a relationship with cannabis works for me. I always feel like cannabis is meeting me halfway.

Stone cold fact. Our brains like cannabinoids. In fact, our brains make their own kind of cannabinoid, endocannabinoid. One little squabble with the source — they use the word “disrupting” to describe the effect THC has on our brains and the resulting mental and physical functions. That’s true in the broadest possible sense — THC changes the normal pattern of events inside your brain. Here’s where subjective experience speaks far, far louder than any data set from a lab. It’s why cannabis is being legalized so swiftly across the nation and why those standing in the way look stupider and stupider. THC effects every person’s brain chemistry in its own way. There are people who can’t tolerate having THC in their brains. Fair enough. This product is not for them. I can’t tolerate cilantro or tarragon, two other herbs. For those of us who can tolerate THC, the majority of us experience very similar things when we smoke the same strains of marijuana. Our collective experience of cannabis wouldn’t use the world “disrupting” to describe what’s happening inside our heads when the THC starts to work. In fact, “disrupting” might be the last word we’d use.

I can only speak for my own experience and what THC does for me. I don’t use edibles often. They’re a little harder to predict both in terms of effect and longevity of effect. Not that the effect would be negative. It’s just that, with smoking as a THC delivery system, I have far more control over every aspect of using the product. I just like that better — for our “relationship”, I mean. I guess I should tell you how me and pot ended up so tight in the end.

The first time I ever did pot was at my cousin’s bachelor party when I was 16. I think the testosterone in the room had more impact on me than did the THC in the ditch weed. THC levels back then were both unknown and far lower than now. I didn’t smoke anything when I was a kid. Never touched tobacco. I hate the smell of tobacco smoke. Hated that my parents smoked (they quit in large part because of my and my sisters’ loathing of it). The one thing I know that first encounter with marijuana did to me was put me to sleep. Yeah, I passed out because of the pot just as the stripper arrived.

That’s what pot did to me the few times I tried it after that all through high school and college: it put me to sleep. Coke appealed because it did the opposite. Ecstasy was awesome the dozen or so times I did it. Shrooms! I did them once with my friend Johnny Solomon just before a U2 concert we attended with our wives here in LA — at the Coliseum in 1987 and I’d do them again right this very second without so much as a thought. The last drug on my radar as I slid into middle age was marijuana — even as I continued to live in a state where it slowly became legalized. I always thought, “Yeah, of course dope should be legal! The Drug War is bullshit to begin with!” But, I didn’t think, “Hey, I live in a state where dope’s legal — I should be smoking it therefore!”

For reasons I won’t go into here, I found myself toward the tail end of a deep, dark depression. This was before I was diagnosed as bi-polar with episodes of hypomania. Years of worries about money had exacerbated an underlying emotional issue. Sleep had become a nightly struggle. I used OTC sleep meds for years and years pretty much on a nightly basis — and I took those pretty much every night on top of the ridiculous amounts of alcohol I was consuming. I’d “awaken” in the morning feeling unrested and unready to face the day, already mentally exhausted. Finally, I came to my senses. I live in California. I was over eighteen (by a thousand miles). My insomnia was an acceptable symptom with which to walk into a doctor’s office — well, those doctors who prescribed.

So, off I went — a little trepidatious, I admit. The doctor and doctor’s office were, frankly, seedy. Though every bit of this was regulated, the experience made legal cannabis feel deeply connected to its time as an outlaw. The doctor took his fee, wrote my prescription and off I went again — to my first marijuana dispensary. That, too, felt shady back then (this was 2015) between the gates and the buzzers and the scowling security guards. But, my first budtender was enthusiastic and very helpful to this total newbie.

“Insomnia”, I said.

“Skywalker,” he replied.

Inside my head, I smirked: “Cute name,” I thought, assuming — not knowing a damned thing about the business I was about to become acquainted with — that “Skywalker” was this dispensary’s cute name for the cannabis that was sitting in this large jar. All the large jars had names on them. I had no idea that those names had lives beyond this pot shop. I took that Skywalker home and, that night, I smoked it outside my house after everyone else had gone to bed so my kids wouldn’t know what I was doing (one was in high school, the other in middle school). The wooziness came on slowly. Skywalker’s an indica; their impact, in general, comes on more slowly than a sativa’s does. I went to sleep and woke up the next morning feeling more rested than I had in a decade at least.

When the exact thing happened the very next night? That changed everything. I stopped caring whether my kids knew I was smoking pot every night to get to sleep. We lived in California, for Christ’s sake! Most of their friends were smoking pot or vaping. As my first buy of Skywalker began to run out — and a return visit to the Silver Lake Care Givers loomed — a question had begun to form in my head: I now knew what the pot in the Skywalker jar could do for ME. There were sooooo many other jars (two dozen total!) Did all the marijuana in those jars do the very same thing? Or did they do something different?

Turned out, they did both. It depended on what strain of cannabis was inside the jar. For the record — hybridization has hit most of the legal cannabis we use. That said, there are pure sativas and pure indicas. Depending on strength (a combination of THC level and terpene content), a pure sativa can reliably focus your thoughts while a pure indica… it’s complicated. One can experience a period of mental activity where suddenly a thought blossoms and you find yourself thinking it in an expanding way — until a wave of relaxation comes over you and suddenly, you couldn’t care less about any of that fancy thinking of a few minutes ago. You’d like to curl up on the couch or in bed and surrender to the most delicious feeling of wooziness imaginable. Hybrids capture elements of its parent strain’s effects. The head buzz they produce will usually lean toward the more dominant parent strain.

On subsequent visits to my first dispensary, I began to explore all those other jars. I also began to explore other dispensaries not out of disloyalty but because I’d discovered that different dispensaries had different strains on hand and the more I began to experiment with different strains — sativas, hybrids and indicas — the more I began to discover the nuantial differences between them all — effects that were absolutely discernible. Repeatable every time I smoked the same strain.

By then, I had learned that names like “Skywalker” weren’t local. Strain names were like brands. Or, like wine varietals. That’s how I started to think of them all — like cabernet sauvignon clones, each with their own distinct characteristics that cold be “utzed” this way or that by the person growing them. Being a natural product, cannabis can be manipulated, its qualities heightened. The evolving cannabis business, it struck me, was evolving of necessity away from its “I don’t know what’s in the baggie” mentality to something more “corporate”. For cannabis to succeed as a business, its customers needed to experience the product more like they’d experience a Big Mac. In theory, the Big Mac “experience” here in LA is the same Big Mac “experience” anywhere. A Big Mac is a Big Mac. And Skywalker, in theory, is Skywalker.

That pans out mostly. It’s why reliable growers and sellers will win and the old way of doing things will lose. Hey, there’s money to be made. A lot of money. Once everyone stops stumbling over their greed and the old way of thinking of cannabis, America and then the world will realize and accept the terrible mistake we all made illegalizing this thing. We’ve spent incalculable amounts of money prosecuting people for using something that does far less harm to its users than alcohol or even saturated fats in our food. We’ve destroyed millions of lives for no reason. I recommend Blunt Truths, the 13 part, 25,0000 word series I wrote for Weedmaps News (and, he’ll know what this means – Nicolas Juarez, you should be ASHAMED of yourself, you effing thief!) about the true story of marijuana prohibition. Racism and nothing but caused it to happen.

The whole reason I got to write that series is because a journalist friend (who’d been let go by the then shrinking LA Times) had been hired to create a legitimate news division for Weedmaps. By then, I’d immersed myself in cannabis and had become an advocate within my large social circle. By coincidence, years and years ago, I had tried to sell the story of Harry Anslinger and how he forced marijuana prohibition upon us as a TV movie to HBO. Given the chance suddenly to a deeper — journalistic — dive into the subject? I jumped. And I learned things that opened my mind even wider to what cannabis was, what it had done for people and what it could do for me.

That is what I celebrate most of all about cannabis and the fact that I can legally use it whenever, however I like. Cannabis DOES THINGS for me. Not “to” me, but FOR me. Several cannabis companies — the Canndescent Company is one — approach their product lineups in that exact way. They make proprietary blends using proprietary strains to create specific effects. That is the exactly right way to think of cannabis: what specifically do I want it to for me right now?

And so — I start my day with sativas: Durban Poison delivers a clear, bright beam of mental focus you can apply to anything. I use it to write (with great specificity). I use it to play tennis, too. I’ve experimented with other sativas on the tennis court and found the focus they produced was too fine for tennis. Being such a subjective experience, it’s hard to describe but through trial and error, I discovered that a hit of DP either before or while playing will, within minutes of my smoking the DP, improve my game perceptibly. It doesn’t go from being shitty to good. I play well. But, with DP in my brain, everything slows down. If I focus, I can see the fuzz on the tennis ball before I hit it. My timing becomes precise. My inner player hears my inner coach and complies precisely. THC does not impair one’s motor skills. It doesn’t. It’s not alcohol.

Plenty of people drive with plenty of THC in them. Try as they might to produce data that says THC impairs driving, the data simply won’t go along with them. People with THC in them, it turns out, stay within the speed limit, stay within their lanes and drive safely. That’s both compared to drunk drivers and to drivers in general.

I recommend reading this study. Oh, they desperately want to say that cannabis impairs driving but the data itself keeps fighting them. The analysis of why people with THC in them drive more carefully wants to believe the THC users are overcompensating for their being high rather than just being able to drive more carefully BECAUSE OF the THC in them. The researchers’ bias is clear — but the data overcomes it regardless. Here’s a small sample of what I mean —

3.3.1 Culpability studies — 3.3.1.1 Studies that do not show culpability

Some reviewers have concluded that there is no evidence that cannabis alone increases the risk of culpability for crashes, and may actually reduce risk.66 Drummer’s review of blood samples of traffic fatalities in Australia found that drivers testing positive for marijuana were actually less likely to have been judged responsible for the accident.67 Several other studies have found no increase in crash risk with cannabis.6870 Williams’ California study of 440 male traffic accident deaths found that while alcohol use was related to crash culpability, cannabis use was not.71 Terhune’s study of 1882 motor vehicle deaths calculated an OR of 0.7 for cannabis use, 7.4 for alcohol use, and 8.4 for cannabis and alcohol use combined.68 Lowenstein and Koziol-McLain’s study of 414 injured drivers admitted to a Colorado E/R found an OR of 1.1, indicating that marijuana use was not associated with increased crash responsibility.

The reason Black musicians like King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong took up marijuana smoking is because they realized, having tried the drug, that while no one can write music or play music when drunk (and trying to do anything on heroin is impossible), that’s not the case with marijuana. With THC in your brain, suddenly you think more. You hear more and see more. And one can articulate what one’s thinking or hearing or seeing. Food tastes amazing. Your senses really and truly do come alive. Biochemically, the THC is causing more of the synapses in your brain to fire. You’re experiencing more thought — processing more information. That’s why some people feel paranoid. The THC is increasing their “awareness” and sometimes, to some people, that hyper awareness can produce feelings of paranoia.

For the rest of us — fortunately — instead of paranoia, we feel wonderful! That’s the bottom line where cannabis is concerned. It conveys a feeling of euphoria and in this freakin’ world? Euphoria’s a blessing. It doesn’t cover up the pervasive rottenness of our time but it does make the rottenness endurable. Fact: if we stopped selling alcohol at sporting events and sold only cannabis instead (along with all the food and soft drinks), there would NEVER be violence at the end of a sporting event ever again. City blocks wouldn’t suddenly find themselves aflame because the local sports team won a championship. Fistfights between competing fans would not happen. That’s not what cannabis does to anyone.

Instead, sportsmanship would reign. Teams that had been competing would be shaking hands — as they do. But, so would the fans in the stands. Cannabis causes people to bond, to want to hug each other and talk. It makes people more social, not more anti-social. And people high on cannabis don’t puke all over the place. They don’t have to empty their beer-filled bladders repeatedly. They don’t pass out in puddles of their own vomit. Oh, pot users may well “pass out” — but, if they do fall asleep, they’re not unconscious. No one has ever died from smoking too much pot as they have from drinking too much alcohol. People smoking dope don’t regularly engage in drunken sex that they’re not sure whether they actually had they were so “blotto”.

When I finally dealt with my depression, the mood stabilizer I started taking gave all alcohol a grapefruit skin-like aftertaste. Unintended but a fact of life if I was going to beat my depression. I stopped drinking — which wasn’t doing my depression any good anyway. I started smoking more marijuana instead. The THC, it turned out, moderated my hypomania just fine. That’s why I’ve maintained my marijuana prescription. I really do think of cannabis as a legitimate medicine.

And I think of it as the best work aid in the world. And the best sleep aid in the world. And the best chill agent in the world. It’s 4/20 — and I, for one, am celebrating cannabis all day — as I do every day. I can hardly wait for the whole rest of the country to be equally chill. Then the world.

And, no — I ain’t “high”.

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.

When It Comes To Cannabis, I’m Strain Specific

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.