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”.

Alcohol + A Pandemic = Terrible Decision-Making

I stopped drinking alcohol just over four years ago. I didn’t “have to” per se, but the mood stabilizer I started taking gives all alcohol a grapefruit skin-like aftertaste making it completely unpalatable. Given a choice between drinking and not being depressed, I’ll take the latter, thanks. And anyway — it’s not like consuming alcohol does one’s depression any favors. Alcohol might just be the worst thing for a depression. That’s why no matter how much we drink, we can’t get ourselves out of the dark, frustrating vicious circle the pandemic has us running on like hamsters on a demonic exercise wheel.

Alcohol itself isn’t our problem. Our attitude toward alcohol is. Because we treat it as a vice — like sex — we get squeamish talking about it. Oh, we’re happy to brag about our prowess or relate countless funny stories about drinking and cringeworthy results, but we dare not discuss what alcohol does to our judgment. How many drinking stories have you heard in your life where alcohol caused someone to do the right thing instead of the stupid?

Do I miss alcohol? Occasionally. I’ll be with someone who’s enjoying a glass of something so inky and dense that you can practically see its tannin structure. My mood stabilizer hasn’t hurt my ability to smell any. In a way, that makes the impact it has on my taste buds even more cruel. One of the best parts of a great wine is its long, complex aftertaste. It’s a little like knowing the great meal you’re about to eat will absolutely end with food poisoning. Really, it’s just not worth it.

Though alcohol abuse wasn’t my specific problem, it was a problem for me; I know that now. That’s part of alcohol’s hold on us. Even if you think you have a problem with alcohol, alcohol convinces you it isn’t that big of a problem. And anyway, what would you do if you couldn’t drink — or, worse, go out drinking with your friends? If you’re like most of America, apparently, you obsess over it endlessly.

Though I no longer drink alcohol, I do consume a lot of marijuana. I have a prescription. I don’t need one to purchase cannabis here in California though having one does save me some of the sales tax. That’s not why I keep my prescription active; I do that because THC is the other chemical in my mental health regimen. I use THC to moderate my hypomania (while my mood stabilizer handles the depression). As I’ve written here before, I use cannabis from the start of my day to the very end of it. I wake & bake using a variety of sativas, I chill in the early evening with hybrids and I use indicas to give me a fabulous night’s seep.

In my past, I’ve tricked myself into thinking alcohol and cocaine could add to my productivity. Talk about bullshit! Neither can do that.

As I’ve also talked about here, cannabis is completely unlike alcohol (and cocaine of course). Whereas alcohol is a depressant, cannabis isn’t. Depending on strain, THC content, terpene structure and a few other variables, a hit of THC can focus your mind even as you settle into the couch. Our brains like cannabinoids. A lot. There’s a reason musicians like Louis Armstrong self medicated with marijuana while inventing jazz in New Orleans in the early twentieth century. Alcohol dulls the senses. Opium wipes them out completely. Cannabis, on the other hand, floods your brain with information. That’s, in essence, what THC does. If you think of our synapses as digital circuits — either opened or closed — THC causes more of them to be “open”, receptive to information. The reason music feels richer, colors seem more vibrant and food tastes better on dope is because your brain is processing more of that sensory information in real time. It’s not that the food “tastes better”, it’s that THC allows you to taste the food “more”.

Among the enduring images from our pandemic hellscape is maskless people partying — bleary-eyed and shit-faced past caring. It’s like watching a tragedy take shape in slow motion. Think about how much money Big Alcohol spends on advertising to get people to do something they already like doing. Big Alcohol can’t be happy, it seems, until every single American is plastered out of their mind. If we were capable of making good decisions, the first one we’d make is to stop listening to what Big Alcohol says.

Humans are social creatures and alcohol makes us more social. One plus one equals two. But, when people keep drinking, two plus two equals four — and the next thing you know, the tipsy happiness produced by the first cocktail becomes slurred decision-making by the time cocktail number two gets consumed. Drinkers — even if they’ve been drinking all their lives — seem to forget (once they start drinking) that there’s about a twenty minute lag between the alcohol passing their lips and that specific alcohol’s impact on their brain. It’s the lag that causes most people to drink more and drink more quickly.

And get wasted more quickly.

That’s the strangest experience of all. Back before the pandemic closed bars and made parties verboten, I got to watch my wife and friends (on numerous occasions) morph over the course of a few hours from sensible, moderate people enjoying each others’ company to a bunch of happy, but loud, partiers

What scares me most about watching people drink to excess in the middle of a pandemic is my own experiences drinking. I kept drinking though I knew it was doing me way more harm than good. People who feel compelled to go out and drink socially with friends are answering a call deep inside their heads and livers. It’s hard to deny that call; I know.

But that call is the voice of bullshit. I know — I’m pissing into the wind here. We’re not going to start talking about our drinking problem just because a former drinker has seen the light. But, we should. Also, we should “teach” young people “how to drink”. I don’t mean get them drunk and teach them how to get drunk faster, I mean teach them HOW to drink like responsible people and not like teenagers on a bender.

Drinking responsibly means understanding your own bio-chemistry, your own limits. It means knowing how alcohol changes YOU and your behavior. It means telling yourself “no” a lot more than “yes”. It means owning that alcohol owns you and not you it.

I am absolutely not casting judgment. Been there, done that, guilty as charged. But, the problem with alcohol is it lies to us. It insists we can handle “one more for the road”. Even if we manage to get home safely, that was as much luck as anything else.

Look – there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with drinking. There’s plenty wrong with drinking irresponsibly. Unfortunately, ours is a culture where drinking alcohol to excess is considered both a birthright and a right of passage. But then again, we don’t attach any responsibility to being citizens (we want it to be a non-stop grab bag of goodies). Why would we attach any responsibility to something citizens do to excess?

If We Were Honest With Ourselves, We’d Admit That Alcohol And Pandemics Simply Do Not Mix

Pandemics don’t sit well with social creatures. Covid19 would be a lot easier to beat if humans were more like snow leopards — exceptional at self-isolating from other snow leopards. But, humans mostly crave each others’ company. We like socializing. We especially like drinking while socializing. Sometimes, in fact, we like the drinking more than we even like the socializing. If we socialized without drinking, we’d feel like we didn’t really quite “socialize” properly. Don’t get me wrong — there’s nothing wrong with either self-medicating or self-medicating together. But the last thing we need is a “medicine” (alcohol) that makes us more susceptible to a pathogen by encouraging stupid behavior.

I stopped drinking alcohol four years ago. I didn’t mean to. The mood stabilizer I started taking to treat a suicidal depression gives all alcohol a terrible, grapefruit skin-like aftertaste. Even a big, inky red loaded with fruit and depth suddenly became grapefruit skin on the finish. Given the choice between not being suicidally depressed and not drinking alcohol because of the aftertaste, I turned my back on a collection of lovely reds, single malt scotches and all sorts of interesting alcohols. I walked away from bracing, ice cold gin martinis and sumptuously malty IPAs. I didn’t just drink alcohol, I savored it. I collected it. I celebrated it.

These days, I self medicate almost exclusively with cannabis. I could not be happier. Literally.

Being a non-drinker opened my eyes to both my own excessive drinking and — sorry, guys — everyone else’s too. Don’t take this personally. It’s just a stone cold fact: you all drink too much. You think about alcohol too much. You don’t appreciate how much it impacts you because you haven’t the (non-drinker’s) perspective. It’s fascinating to go to a bar or party (back when we used to do things like that) and, over the course of a few hours, watch everyone you’re with become less coherent. Or worse. I can’t tell you how many times, over the last four years, I’ve watched friends and loved ones become painfully silly the more they drank and thought “There but for the grace of alcohol go I”.

We know this to be true: the more alcohol you drink, the more your motor skills diminish. The more your thoughts blur together. The more your emotions — anger especially — spark to life. Alcohol obliterates our capacity to edit ourselves. In vinas veritas? Bullshit. In vinas stuff you shouldn’t say. Not because it’s “true” but because however you’re going to say it, you’re going to say it inelegantly. You’re not going to articulate the nuances of your feelings, you’re going to take a huge emotional dump all over the person you’re focused on.

How much trouble has alcohol caused at sporting events around the world? How much rioting? How many championship celebrations have morphed into street violence? Take alcohol out of those equations and — I betcha — those equations all end differently.

Imagine for a second that instead of serving alcohol at sporting events they served cannabis. Think there’d be any violence at the end of a soccer match? Hell, no! Cannabis doesn’t work in our brains the same way alcohol does. Not even remotely. Ever see gangs of people hopped up on cannabis rioting? No? There’s a reason for that. Cannabis does not compel you to do anything like that.

Cannabis (especially sativas) focus the mind while drenching you in feelings of mild euphoria. One can appreciate nuances of the game one would miss on alcohol. And there’s no anger. Oh, yeah, sure — if your team’s playing badly, it’s not nearly as much fun as when your team’s winning. But a stadium filled with fans high on pot would never turn violent. They might hug each other a little too tightly. They might praise each other a little too effusively. They might be asleep.

I had the pleasure of going (only once unfortunately) to LA’s first cannabis cafe. It was awesome. At the time I went they didn’t serve alcohol; I’m not sure if that ever changed; I hope it didn’t. A couple of quick takeaways: the most striking thing to me was how the place sounded. For starters, the profit-driving product for sale wasn’t alcohol — served in glasses — it was cannabis — served in joints or as ground flower or concentrate. One heard lighters flicking a lot. But very little clinking of glass. Cocktails weren’t be mixed. Beer bottles weren’t being opened. Toasts weren’t being made.

And what happens after the drinking begins — that wasn’t happening either as my friend Johnny and I sat there, enjoying first the giant sativa joint we bought to share and then a very good lunch: people getting louder. People getting high on cannabis may laugh a lot more — and there was abundant laughter in the room (joyful, delighted, high-as-a-kite laughter), but no one got boisterous the way alcohol makes people boisterous. Cannabis, by contrast, draws people inward.

They get a little quieter actually, more thoughtful. Johnny and I — the THC from the sativa (I don’t recall what strains were blended into it) drenching our brains — had a very good, very intense conversation about what we were experiencing. We couldn’t help noticing how many of the tables around us were doing the same thing — in the same normal tone of voice. That’s the thing, ya see: unless you’re (deliberately) wasted? Most people on cannabis don’t change much from when they’re NOT on cannabis.

So — the Cannabis Cafe was quieter because less glass clinking, more conversation using indoor voices exclusively, more focus and euphoria. Cannabis, by the way, makes food taste awesome. And the menu was created with a clear understanding of the ways pot makes you hungry and what it makes you hungry for. The Korean tacos would have been good anyway. On pot, they were transcendently good.

One other relevant observation. The cafe has a parking lot right next to it — with valet service. Johnny and I both parked on the street and walked a half block or so to the cafe. When our ninety minutes were done (that’s all the time you get — there’s a line of people waiting for your table after all), Johnny and I paid our bill and headed for the door. Like everyone else, we’d just spent 90 minutes eating and getting high.

Just outside the cafe’s front door, Johnny and I watched the other diners get their keys from the valet, climb into their cars and drive off. Johnny and I then said our good-byes (and how much we enjoyed ourselves) and headed off to our cars — which we both got into and drove off. Having — all of us — just smoked dope. Know how many traffic accidents happened just outside the cafe (as “high” drivers, oblivious because they’d smoked weed turned into oncoming traffic)? Zero.

There’s a reason. Alcohol and THC do not act on our brains the same way. Though we treat them like they do, they simply do not. While alcohol impairs your motor skills almost from the get-go, THC doesn’t. There’s data from the National Highway Transportation that makes the point. It states in fact:

“…Most marijuana-intoxicated drivers show only modest impairments on actual road tests.3738 Experienced smokers who drive on a set course show almost no functional impairment under the influence of marijuana, except when it is combined with alcohol.”

It does not matter how experienced a drinker you are. You will always be impaired by a certain amount of alcohol. It’s just math — and blood-alcohol chemistry. The same simply is not true of marijuana.

Hell, I take a hit or two of Durban Poison (a wonderful classic sativa) before playing tennis because it improves my timing. The THC slows my thought process down (I’m hypomanic) just enough so I can focus on the ball. I see it far better WITH the THC in me than without. I know where I have to be to put the ball where I want it to go. Another benefit I’ve noticed? My timing is better because I become more “coachable”.

I listen to myself. I make the necessary adjustments in order to play better. And then I do.

Alcohol, by contrast, causes terrible decision-making. People say things they shouldn’t. They have sex they shouldn’t have with people they shouldn’t have sex with. They get into their cars and turn on the ignition.

Or they go out drinking with friends during a pandemic.

If there was more of me and less of you, I’d try to stage an intervention on your behalf. Alas, there’s not so I can’t. I totally get our obsession with drinking. It used to be my obsession. But, these days, if I get hurt or die in a drunk driving accident, I know going in I won’t be the cause. Neither will my medication. I can’t control drunk drivers.

Neither can I control assholes who won’t wear a mask. I wouldn’t even try.

They’re probably drunk.

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.

In Cannabis Veritas

In vino veritas is how the original goes: in wine there is truth. Actually, the original original goes in libris veritas: in books there is truth. Books has it right. Wine… not so much. Oh, the occasional drunk may spew out how they really feel about you or the world in that instant, but the truth is, they’re not “in touch” with themselves. They can’t be with all that alcohol in them. I’m kind of a “control group” on the topic. I used to drink. To excess (if I’m honest with myself). I used to think I was just getting “truthful” by cracking the next bottle. My personal experience says “in vino veritas” is bullshit.

I stopped drinking four years ago, just after I started taking a mood stabilizer to help moderate the deep, dark depression I was in. The personal depression I’d been working on for ten years got subsumed inside the national depression that began when Donald Trump stole election 2016. After coming within literal inches of offing myself, I took the plunge into mood stabilizers (having feared that plunge as much as my depression). Fortunately for me, I leveled almost immediately at the minimum dose. Bullseye. Lamotrigine — at the minimum dose — kept my darkness at bay; it could no longer “get at” me. The bad news: the lamotrigine gave all alcohol a terrible, grapefruit skin-like aftertaste that just ruined the whole experience.

I became like Alex in A Clockwork Orange —

When “dosed”, the violent criminal suddenly couldn’t abide violence — to his own peril. In my case, this lover-of-all-things-alcohol suddenly couldn’t abide the taste of alcohol. Well, the aftertaste. Even a great, structured red wine, its tannins as supple as its fruit was dense suddenly became… grapefruit skin. Just… unbearable.

Good thing my one remaining vice was cannabis. And good thing I lived in California where cannabis is legal. Because in cannabis veritas.

I’ve told my story here about how I morphed from a guy who didn’t really care much about cannabis (sure, it should be completely legal!) into a guy who loudly and shamelessly advocates for the stuff because it’s become such an important part of my quotidian life. Yeah, yeah, yeah — it’s not everyone’s answer (thank goodness we got THAT out of the way). But, for those who cannabis can help? There are myriad ways it can help you. Myriad ways it can improve the quality of your life. I truly use cannabis from the start of my day to the very end.

In addition to being depressed, it turns out I’m bi-polar. My darkness is matched by hypomania. Thoughts don’t just fly around inside my head, they explode into life constantly. I don’t mind that. My only problem is it’s distracting. They’re all squirrels and I’m just a dog. I can chase one or two; I can’t chase them all. Cannabis — sativas during the day time — slows the mania down. My brain is like a black box theater — think of a shoebox, painted black inside, turned upside down. It’s a simple black space inside which anything can happen. At any one time, a dozen or so things are being projected onto the walls, the floor, the ceiling. Some are in technicolor, some black-and-white. A few are even in sepia. Music plays. All kinds. And there are smells and sounds and did I mention the comedians sprinkled through the crowd? Those guys kill.

A sativa like Durban Poison acts like a scrim. It falls gently — quieting most of the projections and noise — allowing me to focus on just one or two. And suddenly — another benefit of the cannabis — I can see or hear or smell or taste whatever I’m focusing on with remarkable clarity. Food really does taste better on weed. Smells are more distinct. Music deeper and more soulful. Or fun. Things “seem” funnier, in part, because you’re appreciating them from a deeper place. It really is funnier than you realized — and the fact that you just realized how much funnier it is? THAT’S effin’ hilarious!

I wrote “straight” most of my professional life. I know what that is. Having written with cannabis in my system now for a half dozen years, I can honestly say — I’m better on cannabis. Maybe that’s because I enjoy writing more on cannabis. Cannabis makes writing easier — because the thoughts come easier. I feel more in tune with where the thoughts are coming from.

As I wrote about in Blunt Truths, the series about cannabis prohibition I wrote for Weedmaps News (back when that was a “thing”), marijuana played a big part in the invention of jazz. When the mostly Black musicians gathering in New Orleans in the first decade of the 20th century tried to get at the music inside their heads, they didn’t turn to alcohol to help get at it. Alcohol dulls. Opioids? Are you kidding? They dull creativity worse than alcohol. Marijuana, on the other hand, takes your creativity in hand and lets it soar.

Louis Armstrong, like the rest of the amazing musicians around him, were imaging what classical European music would sound like if you larded it with African music. What if you filled in all those spaces European music left with more music? What if the musician was allowed to improvise and build on what the music’s composer wrote? What if you tried using diminished keys and odd beat structures?

As I wrote in Blunt Truths, the worst thing Harry Anslinger ever did was invent the whole “Reefer Madness” myth that cannabis is the “Assassin of Youth”. He didn’t care about “marihuana” (his spelling) when he first became America’s first Commissioner of the now defunct Federal Bureau of Narcotics because, at the time, only Mexicans and Black people used it. It wasn’t until marijuana headed up the Mississippi along with the musicians heading north — and suddenly white people were smoking it. White people using something black and brown people used? That was wholly unacceptable to raging racist Harry Anslinger.

It’s a stone cold fact: the reason marijuana was made illegal is racism. Racism, racism and more racism. Not for two seconds did anyone legislating to illegalize cannabis EVER ask “But, is it bad for you?” Anslinger succeeded in making marijuana illegal (actually, the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 makes not paying the hefty tax on the sale and purchase of marijuana illegal) over the objections of the American Medical Association.

We have lived in Harry Anslinger’s shadow all this time, thinking marijuana was something that it isn’t.

Yes, I write with loads and loads of cannabis in me. I do everything with loads of cannabis in me. Tennis, for instance. The same Durban Poison that delivers a smooth, focused “high” (ask my wife — I’m never ever “high”; I’m either focused or asleep) that makes writing a pleasure also takes my tennis game up a few notches. With a hit or two of DP in me, the ball slows down. I listen better to my own inner coaching. I spot the ball better off my opponent’s racket and — with everything slowed down inside my head — go through the step-by-step needed to successfully put the ball back across the net where and how I want it.

As my working ends and my evening begins, I turn again to cannabis. I’m not interested in being insensate. But — again — a hybrid like GG4 or Dutch Treat mitigates the cacophony. The feeling of mild euphoria that settles over you — it doesn’t disconnect you from the world, instead, it fuses you to everything.

As we speak, various members of my immediate and extended family are all either turned on to the benefits of cannabis already or becoming aware of them. My mom uses CBD oil to deal with an arthritic knee. CBD was her last stop before opioids. The CBD works great — and she feels better overall and sleeps better too.

If we see a product from the point of view of its benefits versus its detriments, cannabis (in all its various forms) is sliced bread. Why the hell wouldn’t you want it (if you want bread)?

This morning, I tried, for the first time, a sativa called The Fork. Where Durban Poison delivers a stead flow of very even-feeling focus, The Fork delivered strong free-associative thought. My mind went plenty of places — and burrowed into each of those places. This blog post popped into my mind.

And then onto the page.

I’ve written stuff on alcohol and cocaine that, as I was madly typing it, I was sure was genius. When I went back to look at it afterwards, it wasn’t even good typing.

Hey, for all I know, what The Fork inspired in me was pure crap. You’ll be the judge. But (and you’ll have to trust me on this) the typing’s sheer genius.

A Cannabis Consumer Review: Canndescent Charge (No 514)

It was absolutely inevitable that the instant cannabis became legal, it also would become corporate. There’s a staggering amount of money to be made. What more do we need to say?

To be fair though, there’s really no “middle way” to come in from the cold. The whole idea of calling it “cannabis” instead of “marijuana” is to try and separate this amazing product from its outlaw past. Important caveat — that outlaw past was the product of racism; we did not “illegalize” marijuana because of what it did or because it was bad for anyone — a the time it was illegalized, even the AMA thought it was actually efficacious. It only EVER had to do with WHO was smoking it. At first Mexicans in the Southwest states (after the Mexican Revolution sent a wave of immigration across the border starting in 1910) but then, a little later, mostly Black musicians based out of New Orleans. These musicians — Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver — were inventing jazz and found marijuana great both for chilling but also for articulating the music in their heads. It was only after these musicians headed north — starting with the Great Depression in 1929 — taking their dope with them — that anyone started to care. The trigger: white people started smoking marijuana.

And that — per America’s first-ever Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger — was unacceptable. Anslinger changed from thinking “marijuana was harmless” to “marihuana [Anslinger’s preferred spelling] is the most wretched, most dangerous scourge on earth” specifically because this “non-white” thing was now “infecting” white people.

My long-winded point: none of marijuana’s bad reputation was deserved. Everything “criminal” about it is wrong and wrong-headed. Of course cannabis isn’t for everyone. What product is? Mis-use or profound over-use of any product — household or otherwise could put you in a hospital or morgue. And way faster than mis-use or profound over-use of pot ever will. It’s just a stone cold fact: cannabis is way more benign than alcohol. It causes far less death and destruction.

As drugs go, cannabis has one particular distinction that will always set it head and shoulders above every other drug: it is entirely natural. Aside from watering a pot plant and feeding it (organically of course), one can grow, harvest and enjoy cannabis all by oneself. If I got good at growing the strains I most enjoyed, I could (if I was really, really, REALLY obsessive-compulsive about it) become completely self-sufficient with my “drug-o-choice”.

While I may have smoked pot occasionally when I was in high school, my distinct impression of it was: it put me to sleep. That wasn’t appealing to me at the time. That fact remained a constant through my college, after college, early, mid and late professional periods. Cocaine got my business (in addition to copious drinking). Ecstasy (a very good drug under normal circumstances, an excellent drug under just the right ones). Mushrooms (just once but so memorable, so demanding of an encore!) Not being a smoker, marijuana wasn’t something I felt naturally drawn to.

But then a decade-long depression made sleep damned near impossible. That wasn’t helped by years of taking OTC sleep meds almost nightly. They produced little good sleep but plenty of memory loss. “Hey,” I reminded myself, “You live in California. You can buy marijuana legally — you know, that thing that always put you right to sleep when you were a kid?” Overcoming all that nonsense mythology that was planted in my brain, I went and got a prescription then went and got it filled with my first purchase of Skywalker.

I slept wonderfully that first night — as I have pretty much most nights ever since (edibles travel). Indicas, it turned out, produced real quality sleep with zero lassitude the next morning. That’s not just a benefit, it’s a life-saving benefit. You can’t get mentally healthy if you can’t sleep. But a sleeping med that impacts your productivity is no improvement. My First Big Lesson about Cannabis: it works as a sleep med like nothing else.

Then I learned my Second Big Lesson about Cannabis: sativas work differently.

That, I think, was the biggest revelation of all to me: cannabis really can be a useful product from the start of your day to the very end of it. The first time a hit of Durban Poison rolled gently across my mind, focusing my thoughts in a way I didn’t know I could be focused — well, it stood out in my mind. When I learned (about an hour and a half later) that I could keep that focus going (keep the snacks handy though), in fact, building on it slightly with the fresh hit? My whole life style changed.

Then, when I discovered that different sativas (and hybrids — most strains these days are pretty hybridized anyway) had discernibly different effects, I became fixated on trying everything I could — fascinated both that there were subtle but discernible differences between many strains and that those differences were pretty much repeatable each and every time I bought that strain.

Here’s the point. The first thing Legal Cannabis had to do — and it did — was to be as faithful as they could be to creating a uniform product. Within the context of a plant subject to local growing conditions and farming expertise, Legal Cannabis made strain specificity a “thing”. Whether grown from seeds or as clones, strains became distinct in the way that cabernet sauvignon clones become distinct statements of what we want that particular grape to be.

When I order cannabis from my favorite delivery services, I expect the Strawberry Diesel I get this time to be roughly on par with the Strawberry Diesel I bought last time from them. It might even be from a completely different grow — it probably will be (I buy large-ish quantities). But the effect the product produces should be pretty much the same.

I think of this as the “Big Mac-ification” of Cannabis. On the one hand, who wants to see something as wonderful as cannabis be “Big Mac-ed”? But, on the other hand, that is what real legalization will look like. What it probably must look like. That hurt to type. But, the truth is, if cannabis had never been demonized, never illegalized, never treated as a pariah or even as a bad thing, it would have been “corporatized” long, long ago.

Like tobacco. Or alcohol.

My natural instinct with cannabis is the same instinct I had with red wine. I was a collector and a “terroir” guy. My passion was for big, dark, inky reds that screamed their heads off about the grapes they were made from — the specific grape and where it was specifically grown. I told myself I was less interested in what we, in America, call “meritages” — blends.

But then, I had plenty of “meritages” in my collection. They didn’t call themselves that, they called themselves “Bourdeaux”. For instance — the couple of bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild I inherited from my dad were blends of cabernet sauvignon (70%), merlot (25%), cabernet franc (3%) and petit verdot (2%). I’ve bought and enjoyed bottles of each of those grape varietals. Know what? They were all great by themselves and great put together in that one bottle as a “meritage”.

Corporate cannabis produces plenty of good, reliable cannabis strains. The Big Mac-ificiation has already happened — like it had to. But there’s another corner of corporate cannabis — the meritage makers — who are busily carving out territory of their own in the growing legal marijuana marketplace.

Full confession: my gut instinct is to avoid meritages. My gut instinct is not trustworthy.

I recently broke down and purchased an eighth of “Charge (No 514)” one of the Canndescent Company’s 5 flower products. Now here’s the thing about Canndescent’s approach. They start out by asking the question “what do you want your cannabis experience to be?” They see five curated possible answers — Calm, Cruise, Create, Connect, Charge that mix and match the effects of body up or down and mind up or down — with the resulting experiences of working, socializing, exercising, meditating, . For instance, their “Calm” is meant to answer your “end of the day” cannabis needs — like sleep.

Being as I’m always looking for another sativa to add to my collection, I chose to try Canndescent’s Charge which, its label says “fires you up with rising energy that clears the head and activates the body so you can dine and dance the night away”. I wasn’t looking to dine or dance. I was looking to be productive.

Though Canndescent has a product “Create”, I tend to shy away from what cannabis reviewers call “creative strains”. Yes, they deliver plenty of psychoactive creativity, but I want focus with my creativity. Great ideas are great especially when they get flowing. But, if I can’t corral them, they’re not doing me the good I need them to do.

The benchmark for me will always be Durban Poison. DP delivers a smooth, even focus for a good 90 minutes to two hours with a gradual drop off and little to not tiredness. I use DP to play tennis because it slows my mind down — gives me a chance to “see” my timing and truly see the ball. I also use strains like the aforementioned Strawberry Diesel, Alaskan Thunderf*ck, Willy Wonka, White Buffalo, Ghost Train Haze, Kali Mist and Trainwreck. I want mental focus and a feeling of “energy”. I want the sense of contentment that sits beneath it all.

One more note: while I certainly don’t want my tongue to feel like I’m smoking ditch weed, I’m way, way more focused on what a strain does than on how it tastes. When I was still drinking, my cocktail of choice was a gin martini, served icy cold. A little paper umbrella in a drink for adults? You jest. Candy and fruit flavors — for alcohol? If you have to put training wheels on your drink, maybe drinking’s not your thing.

The bottom line for me — where Charge is concerned: how does it impact my productivity? The answer? This is a great product.

The “high” comes on quickly, suffusing the mind with an increasing sense of focus. Important details stick out a little more prominently. While some strains bring a little edge with their mental energy (the Alaskan Thunderf*ck for instance — which diminishes its value to me on the tennis court), the Charge absolutely does not. Not to me anyway. I would describe it as Durban Poison Plus.

Being a proprietary product, the Canndescent Company doesn’t say exactly what strains go into Charge. They intimate through their box copy and via their web site that they use a combination of known strains and proprietary strains, crafting the whole thing into a meritage-style blend that deliver a particular set of effects.

Charge platforms beautifully with itself, by itself. Meaning — if you kept re-upping the “stone” exclusively with Charge every 90 minutes or so, you could maintain a strong, even, cannabis focus the entire working day. But Charge also platforms nicely with other strains. This morning, I platformed some Casey Jones from my collection on top of the Charge (my second hit of Charge of the day — having waked and baked already to a full hit of Charge all by itself). The Casey was one of my go-to morning strains for a while. I haven’t found any Casey nearby in a while which sent it to “the bench” for occasional use.

The platformed Casey and Charge got me into some very deep thinking. It was awesome. Every strain I’ve platformed atop the Charge has been goosed by it.

Charge’s flavor profile is pleasant. It doesn’t strike my palette in any particular way. There’s no harshness to the smoke whatsoever and the slower — well ground — burns cleanly and completely in my favorite glass piece.

As undeserved as cannabis’ criminal past was, the truth is, cannabis wore its outlaw status beautifully. It’s hard to let go of. Canndescent’s Charge makes it a little easier to see that, yeah, there’s another way to think of this product and sell this product. I’m sold on Charge’s ability to deliver on its promises. I will absolutely try their other flower products.

It wouldn’t shock me if Canndescent’s approach — selling cannabis by its desired effect — didn’t become a kind of industry standard. It couldn’t replace the strain-by-strain experience. It shouldn’t.

Thinking back to my former red wine collection, there was a good mix of everything — including mixes. Canndescent’s product line are a perfect complement to anyone’s cannabis collection.

An Ode To Waking & Baking

My mind’s a blur when I awake,

That is, until I let it bake.

The coffee’s strong and dark and hot,

A sip or two, a hit of pot.

The caffeine “turns the lights on”, sure,

But cannabis actually “opens the door”.

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

Indicas make you sleepy; sativas give you focus.

There’s nothing like its mental clarity,

where thoughts are denser than a singularity.

Some Durban Poison, Mimosa or Kali Mist,

Put Casey Jones and Allen Wrench atop the growing list.

A hit of Trainwreck could never suck,

And neither could a bowl of Alaskan Thunderfuck.

The fact is there are dozens of extraordinary strains,

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

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

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

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.

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

From the get-go, every impulse to regulate cannabis has been based on racism.

When the California Pharmacy Board amended the state’s Poison Act in 1913 to include marijuana in the “poisons” under its control, they were simply piling onto the racist legislation that began in 1875 when California passed America’s first anti-narcotics laws to “combat” opium dens. Translation: to legalize anti-Chinese racism and bigotry. Up until 1910, no one had an issue with marijuana because no one in America knew what it was.

But, a keen-eyed California racist named Henry J. Finger — a prominent member of the Pharmacy Board — saw something that needed to be stamped out quickly.

I wrote a series — Blunt Truths — for Weedmaps News (back when they were a going concern) about this very subject. I’m biased but I recommend it. At the time, Weedmaps News was being run by journalists including the former LA Times journalist who hired me to write for them — so long as I adhered to journalistic standards. In other words — I couldn’t rely on bullshit to tell the story I wanted to tell. Among the sources I relied on because of their reliability was Dale Gieringer, PhD., a NORML board member. I highly recommend his The Forgotten Origins Of Cannabis Prohibition In California. It’s loaded with fascinating information that will change the way you think about cannabis.

Considering the radical shift in how we see race relations in America that’s happening right this second — Gieringer’s insights take on greater resonance.

For a taste. Here’s Gieringer citing a correspondence between Henry Finger and Hamilton Wright (in 1911 when Wright is the chief architect of US narcotics policy) —

“Within the last year we in California have been getting a large influx of Hindoos and they have in turn started quite a demand for cannabis indica; they are a very undesirable lot and the habit is growing in California very fast…the fear is now that they are initiating our whites into this habit…”

Gieringer notes: “The “Hindoos,” actually East Indian immigrant of Sikh religion and Punjabi origin, had become a popular target of anti-immigrant sentiment after several boatloads arrived in San Francisco in 1910. Their arrival sparked an uproar of protest from Asian exclusionists, who pronounced them to be even more unfit for American civilization than the Chinese.” Immigration authorities quickly cut off the flow. The roughly 2000 “Hindoos” apparently became a threat. They were “widely denounced for their outlandish customs, dirty clothes, strange food, suspect morals, and especially their propensity to work for low wages… no one complained about their use of cannabis. To the contrary, their defenders portrayed them as hard-working and sober. “The taking of drugs as a habit scarcely exists among them,” wrote one observer.”

Henry Finger persisted. “By this time, another menace had appeared on the horizon: “marihuana” had begun to penetrate north of the border from Mexico, carried by immigrants and soldiers during the revolutionary disorders of 1910 – 1920 [aka The Mexican Revolution]. Though hardly known to the American public, marihuana or “loco-weed” was noticed by the pharmacy journals.”

And there you have it. The Pharmacy Board — a supposedly scientific body — was crafting legislation without an ounce of science in it. But there sure was plenty of racism.

Thus marijuana prohibition began. The legislation that followed — most of it with actual “Reefer Madness” in its heart — was driven by America’s first Commissioner of the Federal Narcotics Bureau Harry J. Anslinger — our first “drug czar”. And Anslinger behaved like a drug CZAR. Anslinger — once he came around to the “marihuana is a scourge” point of view (he started out insisting it was harmless) — invented most of what we still think about cannabis. He literally pulled it out of his ass.

His very RACIST ass.

Let’s be clear. Harry Anslinger is a villain not just because he was a racist. He’s a villain because he was also an excellent bureaucrat who knew how to manipulate the system to get what he wanted. Anslinger knew how to go to the press — as the respected, trustworthy Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics — with lies (Mexicans and blacks are selling marihuana to our children) that the press would then print — which Anslinger would then hold up as proof that Mexicans and blacks were selling marihuana to our children.

Neat trick, huh?

It’s important to understand what turned Anslinger. What convinced him that cannabis was more dangerous than opium? It was the exact same thing that bothered Henry Finger — not the what, the WHO. WHO was using marijuana. So long as Mexicans and black jazz musicians kept marijuana to themselves, racists like Anslinger might have been able to tolerate it to a degree.

The trouble was white people started taking up the habit — and that was totally unacceptable to Anslinger. Cannabis was illegalized in America to keep white people from using it and to punish black and brown people for “poisoning Americans” with it.

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

The “gateway theory” — that cannabis is a gateway drug to heroin — is based on zero research. It’s an abuse of statistics and nothing more. But, when the Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics says it, so the public thinks, it must be so! The gateway theory gained traction and acceptance. And, racist bully that he was, Anslinger used the occasion to increase the punishments for drug-related crimes — knowing full well on whose backs these new, even more cruel punishments would fall most: black people and brown people.

Anslinger retired in 1962 — on his 70th birthday. But the racism Anslinger had instilled remained. In the late 1960’s, with American soldiers returning from Vietnam with cannabis in their duffel bags, Richard Nixon declared a “War On Drugs”. Nixon — a drinker — didn’t declare a war on alcohol (though he abused it). He declared a war on everyone else’s medication — marijuana especially.

The War on Drugs was (and remains) a war on People Of Color. When Anslinger went to legislate marijuana prohibition, he bumped into a problem: there’s no constitutional basis for making marijuana illegal. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 does not, in fact, make marijuana illegal (because it couldn’t). Instead, the act imposes a very steep (in fact onerous) tax every time one bought or sold marijuana or hemp. In order to prove you’d paid the tax, you needed a stamp.

Problem was — the stamp was not available. By design. Everyone who bought or sold marijuana (or hemp) would therefore break the rule 1) by not paying the tax (who were you supposed to pay it to anyway?) and 2) by not getting the stamp. The first two arrests for “tax evasion” — occurred within 24 hours of the act’s signing — two men from Denver (Sam Caldwell and Moses Baca) were caught, one for selling, the other for buying. They both went to prison.

Our drug laws are morally wrong because they’ve got nothing to do with drugs — and never ever have.

Dear Legal Cannabis Business: Here’s What I’d Like You To Be When You Grow Up

Legal Cannabis is here and it is not going away. All those dire predictions of society’s collapse? Ummmm, not quite. Just the opposite actually.

As the coronavirus pandemic proves to us every day, some people can’t be dragged kicking & screaming to a good idea even if that good idea could save their life. Full cannabis legalization is a very good idea on myriad levels. Making it illegal in the first place — one of the worst decisions EVER.

It WAS a “decision” remember. We didn’t have to do this. We shouldn’t have. But, as I wrote about extensively in the 13 part series “Blunt Truths” that I wrote for WeedmapsNews, the story of cannabis prohibition is a story of racism and nothing but. The only reason first Commissioner of America’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics Harry Anslinger sought to make “marihuana” illegal was because white people started smoking it — and racist that he was, Anslinger could not tolerate a “colored vice” infecting white people. Here’s a basic fact: at no time in the process leading up to marijiuana’s “illegalization” did Anslinger EVER look to science or medicine to back him up. That’s because science & medicine (the AMA for example) disagreed with him. Completely.

Anslinger literally INVENTED “Reefer Madness” — the ludicrous notion that marijuana turns people in to raving lunatics. In the 1930’s, as cannabis use spread (following the African American jazz musicians heading north from New Orleans to Memphis, Nashville, Chicago), Anslinger (as America’s respected Narcotics Commissioner) would go to the newspapers and tell them — no, LIE to them — that black and Latino marijuana users were turning into drug-crazed killers who were selling their poison to school children. The newspapers would then dutifully report what the august Commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics had told them — and Anslinger, in turn, would hold up those very newspapers as PROOF that what he was saying was true.

Anslinger’s problem: there’s no legal basis in the Constitution to criminalize cannabis. In fact, when America was founded, farmers were REQUIRED to grow hemp because it was that important a crop with multiple uses. Consequently, Anslinger was forced to circumvent the Constitution and the will of the people (via medical science) by creating “The Marijuana Tax Act Of 1937“. The act didn’t make marijuana illegal. It did however impose an onerous tax on the sale and purchase of hemp and marijuana. In order to prove that you paid the tax, you also had to have a stamp to verify your transaction. The stamp however was impossible to get.

Therefore, anyone who bought or sold hemp or marijuana — without paying the tax and without getting the stamp — was breaking the law. The first marijuana arrest came within 24 HOURS of the Tax Act’s passage. Samuel Caldwell of was arrested on October 23, 1937 in Colorado for buying a joint and not paying the tax. So it began.

Racism worked well for Anslinger for a long time. When racism’s spur began to wane however — after WWII when opiates began to wreck American lives in rising numbers (wars cause a lot of physical pain), Anslinger invented “The Gateway Theory” that said marijuana was a “gateway” to harder, worse drugs like heroin.

Mind you — to get to the idea that marijuana was a “gateway to worse” required the leap that marijuana wasn’t the scourge WORSE THAN HEROIN that Anslinger himself had TESTIFIED BEFORE CONGRESS that it was. But, hey — what’s a little perjury between racists, amiright? Especially when those racists are in Congress and legislating their racism.

The Gateway Theory became “accepted” as real. It’s not. Never was.

Then, in the late 60’s as the Vietnam War began to come apart — with tens of thousands of American troops returning with marijuana in their duffel bags — Richard Nixon declared “The War On Drugs”. Quick side note — as the African American jazz musicians in New Orleans had quickly learned, while one cannot create on alcohol or harder drugs like heroin, one becomes extraordinarily creative with THC in your brain. THC and alcohol do not work even remotely the same way when inside us.

American soldiers found that with a few hits of marijuana in them, as they went out on patrol, 1) they were calmer, more collected, 2) they were focused, 3) they were more sensually aware. Our thoughts occur as electric signals flowing across synapses. Our synapses are like digital circuits — they’re either opened or closed. Open they receive information, closed, they do not. THC causes more of our synapses to be open — and receiving information (visual, aural, taste, feel — whatever). That’s why people often feel paranoid when using cannabis. What they’re actually experiencing is an increased rush of information inside their heads. They perceive all that information coming in as someone watching them and knowing everything they’re doing.

If you don’t experience the paranoia reaction, that flow of information is nectar. Ambrosia. Gold dust.

This is the bottom line. Our brain chemistry and THC work extremely well together. Emphasis on the word “WORK”.

Here’s the part, Cannabis, where we talk about how you need to WORK for people.

For comparison’s sake, picture a sports stadium filled with people. Remember them? Remember what happened pretty regularly every time one of those stadiums drank too much and then spilled out onto the nearby streets?

Imagine how it might have been if, instead of drinking, those crowds had been using cannabis instead. No one’s rioting. No one’s fighting. At the end of the match, more likely, people are hugging (remember that) or high-fiving each other (opponents included) for having played so well and so hard. Cannabis does not make people angry or hostile the way alcohol does. We all know a few angry drunks.

I dare you to find an angry cannabis user. That is one of the reasons we use cannabis. To mitigate the triggers that make us angry and destructive. That’s why so many people use it now as part of their psychotherapy wellness regimens. I absolutely do.

The legalization process had myriad hurdles to clear. The largest unfortunately was marijuana’s bandit history. It sucks seeing the mom n pop cannabis shops die because the cost of all the regulations is so steep that only corporate players can survive. This is the price of moving cannabis from a criminal-owned-and-run business to a legitimate business that plays by The Rules.

There’s no middle ground sadly. There shouldn’t be a need for a “middle ground” but history forces things on us that reason would prevent. For now, we’ll have to endure over-regulation of the business side (who can sell, how can they sell, in what quantities, in what format) until we achieve a “critical mass” of acceptance where we realize that the overwhelming majority of our caution and regulations weren’t necessary. There’s more money to be made — via tax dollars — by letting the legitimate, mainstream marijuana marketplace find its way.

A big “for instance” — I sometimes use edibles at night. I do smoke indicas every night before bed. I used to use over-the-counter sleeping aids like Simply Sleep. But the sleep was never very good; I always awoke from what sleep I got groggy and lethargic. From the day I switched over to medical cannabis instead (I have and keep a prescription), I have slept wonderfully most nights. The smoked cannabis is great for getting me to sleep and keeping me asleep for a few hours. If I want longer sleep — that’s when edibles are good — as an add-on to the smoked cannabis.

If we were talking any pharmaceutical product, it wouldn’t even be a thought that someone with no involvement in my medication-taking would be telling me how much of a dose I can take vs how much I can’t. Prior to the crack-down on legit dispensaries here in CA, one could buy edibles with huge THC levels (pot brownies with 1000 milligrams of THC in them). Now — because of the regs — everything’s capped at 100 mg of THC. Why? No reason. Someone chose a number and there we are.

This is what I’m talking about, Legal Cannabis Business. That’s bullshit and YOU (especially you) know it.

It’s not the legal cannabis business itself that’s causing itself (and all us legal users) frustration and heartache. Yes, heartache, because cannabis IS a medicine. I use it not only for sleep but to moderate of my hypomania. I am bi-polar. I use 25 mg of lamotrigine a day to manage my depression. To manage the manic side of my brain — I use THC. It works. It works over short periods of time so that I’m never waiting to “come off it” when I need to. Hell, at any point, if I did feel I’d consumed too much THC (this has never happened to me and I doubt it ever will), I can always down a little CBD to eliminate the THC’s impact.

When you grow up, Cannabis Business, I need you to see yourself in a multi-faceted way befitting your multi-facted uses.

You need to position yourselves not so much as an adjunct to alcohol use (one really shouldn’t use the two concurrently as they cancel out each others’ effects — it’s really just humans being piggy about their indulgences), but as AN ALTERNATIVE. In the three years since I’ve stopped drinking (the lamotrigine gives all alcohol a grapefruit skin aftertaste making it completely unpalatable — an unintended, unexpected side effect), my eyes have been opened about alcohol: we (myself included when I drank) abuse the hell out of it. For real.

Cannabis also needs to get way better at messaging. It’s a big ask, I know, but the science is on cannabis’ side here. We need to get straight on something — since alcohol and THC act very differently in our brains, it follows that alcohol and THC impact us differently when we, say, get behind the wheel of a car. Alcohol impairs our motor skills. There’s data. THC? There’s no such data.

Let me be clear — where cannabis data is concerned, there’s far more we don’t know than we do. When they measure THC in experiments, they treat it as a generic when the way that THC acts in my brain depends entirely on the rest of the package it entered with (its terpene structure). Speaking entirely for myself here — since I can only speak from personal experience (365 days X 7 years of daily data gathering) — I become MORE physically coordinated with THC in my brain than when I don’t have it in me.

Example — I play tennis (well, I did before quarantine). I smoke cannabis before I play (and often during). The sativa Durban Poison is my preference. Within a few moments of a hit, after a feeling of calm descends on me, my brain focuses. The calm slows me down. The focus allows me to see the tennis ball with remarkable clarity. I can literally see the fuzz and the spin on the ball as it speeds toward me. I can break down the timing with precision. Move now. Racket back. Choose a spot across the net. Step into the shot. Follow through. Move to where you expect the “reaction shot” to go.

I just don’t play that way without the DP in my brain. I play appreciably better because I’m more focused. Alcohol does not work that way.

Just as sativas focus my brain for tennis, they focus my brain for work. Remember all those black jazz musicians from New Orleans. Louis Armstrong was one of marijuana’s first great champions (until the man took it away from him and put him in jail).

I drive with THC in me all the time (on the few occasions when I drive anymore). Hell, when we (used to) go to parties or out to dinner? My wife drinks alcohol. She’ll drive TO the party or bar and then I (because I don’t drink) do the drive home. I will have been smoking at some point during the evening. Keep in mind — marijuana doesn’t do to me what alcohol does to you. I’m not slurring my speech at the end of the night. I’m not bumping into things.

The National Highway Transportation Administration aches to tell us cannabis use causes traffic accidents. But read their own analysis of their own methodology — BEFORE looking at any numbers they throw down:

“Compared to that of alcohol, the contributions of other drugs to crash risk were minimal. In the initial data analysis, THC seemed to be a significant contributor to crash risk. However, with more sophisticated analysis controlling for variables known (based on previous research) to be associated with age, gender, race/ethnicity, and alcohol, drugs did not show a significant crash risk. The findings from this study may be surprising in light of some studies that have reported crash risk to be significantly related to drug use and driving.”

The moment you do “sophisticated analysis”, “drugs do not show a significant crash risk”. Bias shows more risk than the cannabis does.

Another NHTSA document “Marijuana-Impaired Driving: A Report To Congress” makes THIS statement:

Challenges in Estimating Crash Risk from Drug Use Conducting case-control studies to estimate the risk of crash involvement from drug use presents many difficulties. The first challenge is obtaining reliable and accurate estimates of drug use. Many studies rely on self-reporting (which have obvious inherent problems) rather than actual measurement of THC in blood or oral fluid. Also, the extent of care regarding the matching of crash-involved and control drivers varies to a large extent among studies. The more carefully controlled studies, that actually measured marijuana (THC) use by drivers rather than relying on self-reporting, and that had a high degree of control of covariates that could bias the results, generally show low risk estimates or in a few cases no risk associated with marijuana use (Elvik, 2013).

Another recent report published by the National Institute of Health says this:

Although cognitive studies suggest that cannabis use may lead to unsafe driving, experimental studies have suggested that it can have the opposite effect. 

And, in conclusion, it also says this:

Because of… an increased awareness that they are impaired, marijuana smokers tend to compensate effectively for their impairment by utilizing a variety of behavioral strategies such as driving more slowly, passing less, and leaving more space between themselves and cars in front of them. Combining marijuana with alcohol eliminates the ability to use such strategies effectively, however…

If we compare apples to apples — marijuana smoking to marijuana smoking and not stupid male behavior (per the studies) or stupid behavior combined with alcohol consumption to marijuana smoking — a very different picture of cannabis, cannabis use and cannabis users emerges.

A little while ago I went to the first cannabis cafe that opened here in LA. It was AWESOME! Strange, too. In such an atmosphere, one expects to hear the hush of human voices and laughter — and the clinking of glasses. That’s missing here. The “CLINK!” because no one is toasting each other.

But the voices are there. And the laughter. But the laughter doesn’t have that increasingly manic edge that comes after alcohol use. Instead, the voices and laughter had an intimacy to them. No one needed to shout. Everyone was cool and sober and social and feeling good. The cannabis made the food taste really, really good — as cannabis (which, remember, is feeding more sensual input to your brain) invariably does.

And then, when the meal was done (diners were allotted 90 minutes and then given the heave-ho cos people were waiting to get in), just about all of us went out to the parking lot, got our keys from the valet guy, got into our cars and drove away. Some of us went home but others WENT BACK TO WORK.

Here’s the key. We drove out of the parking lot — every single one of us — with THC pumping through our brains — and (to my knowledge) not a one of us had an accident. If there WERE a string of accidents, we’d all know about it. But there weren’t. And there aren’t. That’s because cannabis effects our brains differently from how alcohol effects them.

There’s actual data — from the government no less — from the National Highway Safety Bureau that backs this up. When they actually measure how cannabis effects people behind the wheel, what they invariably get is this: while alcohol makes people drive erratically, changing speeds, swerving from their lane, cannabis has the exact opposite effect. The data says people with THC in them maintain the speed limit (consistently) and they stay in their lanes. They keep safe following distances.

In other words, unlike with alcohol, cannabis users drive mindfully.

But then, cannabis users mostly know this about cannabis. We know what cannabis does for us — and what it doesn’t do. We know how good it makes us feel and we know how productive we can be with cannabis in us.

The large and growing number of us who use and enjoy and rely on cannabis — we know for a fact that everything we were ever told about this product is bullshit. Yes, yes, yes — cannabis isn’t good for everyone. It’s not good for kids to use. And not everyone drives well on cannabis (they might not drive well without cannabis in them — the cannabis might not be the issue with their bad driving). Nothing in this world is uniform or perfect. Not even physics.

The cannabis business, being a business — will do what it needs to do to stay a business. They will respond to whatever they perceive the marketplace for its product to be. If we act like a mature, responsible, data-driven market, the cannabis business will eventually catch up with us.

First though, we have to get the rest of the culture on board with us — with the truth. I guess what I’m saying is, it isn’t so much the cannabis biz that needs to grow up here, it’s us.