Dispatches From The War On Drugs — Is That Marijuana We Smell? Or “Surrender”?

I took marijuana to an airport yesterday — out in the open. Here’s what happened…

I never imagined I would become a warrior in the War On Drugs. I definitely never imagined that cannabis would touch my life so profoundly that I’d take up its cause with a Kamakazi’s zeal.

For reference’s sake — I wasn’t into pot when I was in high school. The handful of times I tried it, it put me right to sleep. Same all the way through college. I preferred cocaine. Speed worked better with my hypomania. At least, I thought it did at the time. I preferred ecstasy. Even psybocilin the one time I tried it. And, of course, there was always always ALWAYS alcohol.

Then Life happened. Ups, downs and everything in between. By the time I reached my mid 50’s, I was depressed and getting more so. Sleep was getting hard to come by. I had no interest in taking Ambien — knowing how my mind worked, that pretty much guaranteed I’d snap to from a fugue state in some strange, public place, completely naked. Wasn’t gonna happen.

I’d been taking Simply Sleep knock off’s for years. Occasionally I would get some sleep from it. Mostly it just made me groggy the next morning and screwed with my short term memory. Living in California, (back before full legalization), I had access to medical marijuana. Being at the very end of my tether, I found a doctor nearby who prescribed.

It wasn’t illicit — but it felt illicit. That’s how powerful bullshit is. “What’s your issue?” “Insomnia,” I said. I began to explain but he held up his hand. Not necessary. He wrote the prescription on his computer, printed it and handed it to me. Short $69, I walked out the door.

Next stop — my local dispensary — located almost literally under a freeway overpass. The only thing it needed to be a full on crime scene was the yellow police tape. I filled out their extensive paperwork. Showed them my California picture ID and my RX. I was buzzed through to the “showroom”, a few old display cases with pipes, bongs, papers, the few edibles then on the market (Cheeba Chews mostly) and a dozen large jars filled with cannabis flower.

My first budtender (I didn’t know he was called that then) welcomed me like I was a “customer” or something. The whole experience — that first time especially was surreal (something about it remains surreal). “Insomnia,” I said.

“Skywalker,” said my Budtender. As he went for the Skywalker jar, my immediate thought was “cute name”. I had no idea — zilch — that Skywalker wasn’t just a “name”, it was a genuine cannabis strain — a known quantity with known effects if you smoked it. It wasn’t the product of a bunch of stoners stumbling upon a plant that made the dope they liked, it was a hybridized product of serious work by serious people. Skywalker was a kind of “brand”. In theory, Skywalker was as reproducible a product as a Big Mac.

My Budtender offered me the jar — so I could smell it. Yup. Smelled like dope. I bought two grams. Took them home, intensely curious about what the dried flower in the plastic vile would do to me that night. I’d already bought a small glass pipe and a lighter. I didn’t have a grinder. Didn’t know I needed one.

I was as green as the Skywalker in the vial in my hand. But, that night, I ground up some of the leaves between my fingertips, snuck outside and smoked it. It didn’t take long — a few minutes — before a feeling of calm came over me. My hypomanic mind slowed down. Then sleep beckoned. Usually, I had to go hunting for it. But, with Skywalker’s THC now in my brain, sleep came looking for me. As I slipped into bed beside my wife, the feeling of sleepiness became downright delicious.

All I remember after that is waking up the next morning, feeling RESTED for the first time in… forever. In time (subjects for other blog posts), I’d learn that cannabis wasn’t just for bedtime. I was buying from one jar at the dispensary. What was in all the others?

Turned out cannabis could be genuinely useful first thing in the morning, too. Turned out pretty much EVERYTHING I knew or thought about cannabis was absolutely wrong. And the more I corrected that problem — the more I learned about cannabis — why it was “illegalized” (check out my series Blunt Truths at Weedmaps News) — the more I learned about the differences between indicas, sativas and hybrids — the more I found that cannabis & me were, in myriad ways, soul mates.

I’d even say we’re “buds”.

Back to my airport story… A few days ago, I traveled from LA to visit family on the East Coast.

In California, cannabis is legal. Because I’m over 21, I can walk around with 28.5 grams of cannabis flower in my possession (I can also have 8 grams of marijuana concentrate — I can even possess six living cannabis plants at my private residence. In California, these are my constitutional rights.

I can possess the flower and concentrate at my house, on the street, in my car (so long as I’m not actually using it then and there, mind you) and — still Constitutionally legal — at the airport. Until I board the airplane — where the FAA and the Federal government have jurisdiction — the weed in my possession is 100% legal.

So — I’m at LAX the other day. I know my rights here in California. I intended to travel some of cannabis with me to the east for personal consumption. The place I was going — another state where cannabis is legal. I know for a fact, as I go through the TSA security line that the vials of cannabis flower in clear view in my carry on bags (I now grind my flower and put it into 5 or 10 dram vials that I label with the strain’s name & type — there will be no mistaking what’s in those vials). I also was traveling with clearly marked edibles. I did not repackage my THC gummy worms with store-bought ones (as one normally does).

Quick footnote — on the day cannabis went fully legal in Nevada, an interesting phenomenon happened. The dispensaries all ran out of edibles. This happened principally because Nevada made a deal with the devil (in this case the liquor distributors who, shocking, did not have their shit together on Day One like they promised to); all re-stocking of retail supply had to be handled by the liquor distributors. Dumb, dumb, dumb. BUT – the phenomenon part is this: most of the sales, it’s believed, were made to non-Nevadans — tourists — who were about to get onto airplanes with loads of THC — in their food.

The wide availability of THC in food that looks exactly like non-THC food changes the game with no going back. It’s unpolice-able. Now that semi-legalization has unleashed all that THC-inspired creativity, there aren’t too many formats THC won’t take going forward. I’m not saying I’ve broken the law and traveled with THC-laced food in the past, but, I might know one or two people who have.

Being a “Have a plan B in your pocket” kind of person, I prepared myself in case the TSA agent understood the law “differently”. I drew plan B from my pocket when my computer backpack got flagged and pulled aside for a hand inspection.

I stepped up to the counter — not anxious so much as wary (I already had lots of THC in me). The TSA agent saw — and moved right past the 5 vials clearly containing cannabis — to the (I thought it was empty) water bottle that was there, too. There was an ounce of water left inside it. I needed to either lose the water bottle or leave my bags with my young adult kids, exit the secure area, dump the water and go through security again — water bottle in hand.

I’ve had this water bottle for a while. It’s a good water bottle. It’s my tennis water bottle. I’m not ditching it because I overlooked a few swallows of water. I left my bags with my kids and did the whole security dance again. Then I carried on through the airport to my gate — water bottle & cannabis still in my possession.

I saw the future — where cannabis was normal and, to a degree already, normalized. It was awesome.

Better than awesome. It was sane.

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.