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.

Cannabis + Creativity = Productivity

The first time a budtender told me that sativas would give me mental energy, I looked at him like a dog asking a question. Say what? What does that even mean — “mental energy”?

If you’ve never experienced cannabis — or only ever experienced indicas (which make up the overwhelming majority of cannabis strains) — that probably sounds like a contradiction of terms. Isn’t cannabis supposed to make you “dopey”? For an extended reflection & rant on how a mythology based entirely on racism stood in for truth, I refer you to Blunt Truths, the series I wrote for Weedmaps News). None of us steps onto the cannabis playing field aware just how profoundly tilted it is.

It’s practically vertical it’s so damned tilted.

Cannabis has a complex structure. THC and CBD play significant roles in how our brains react to cannabis and perceive its effects but they’re only part of cannabis’ palette. Terpenes play an equally vital role in how any particular strain will work. Thus far, we’ve identified about 120 terpenes in cannabis. We know (or have a rough idea at least) how about 25 of them work.

Throwing a little heat into the mix gets the THC, CBD and other cannabanoids to dance with the alpha-pinene, micrene, linolene and/or caryophyllene (among others) in its terpene structure. The synapses in our brains act like digital circuits. They’re either open or closed. If they’re open, thoughts flow through our heads. If they’re closed, thoughts don’t happen. THC simply makes more of those synapses open. We process more information.

That’s why some people feel paranoid. THC makes us more aware of everything. That sudden inflow of more raw data into our brains can feel oppressive. Suddenly you’re thinking about things like “What if there’s a cop nearby?” Food tastes great with cannabis for the same reason. It’s why things seem funnier. You’re perceiving them “funnier”.

When cannabis eventually found its way from the southwest to New Orleans after WWI, it was taken up by the musicians there working the bars and whorehouses. Players like Louis Armstrong didn’t like drinking much because it inhibited their ability to play and think musically. They were in the middle of inventing jazz and needed their faculties functioning at full blast. Marijuana, rather than dulling their creativity, sparked it. They could hear more, feel more. It wasn’t their imaginations telling them that.

And yet… it was. Their imaginations — their creativity — was telling them that with cannabis in their brains, they could be even better, more creative — more productive.

I wandered into cannabis looking for sleep. After years of taking OTC sleep meds — and getting little sleep but lots of memory loss, I bit the bullet years ago (living in California as I do) and got a prescription. Then I went to my first dispensary and got my first cannister of Skywalker flower.

For the first time in a decade, I slept. I woke up in the morning feeling rested. No druggy lassitude, no lingering weariness. Just top quality brain rest. What a radical concept.

The next time I returned to that dispensary, I wanted to know: what’s in all those other cannisters filled with weed? Do they all produce sleep as wonderful as Skywalker? Some, it turned out did. Others, on the other hand…

My first daytime strain was Durban Poison, a classic sativa. As much as it focused my brain — giving me lots of mental energy, it also opened my eyes. Cannabais isn’t good for just kicking back & relaxing or sleeping. Cannabis is good for working your ass off to earn that relaxation.

With a strain like Durban Poison — or Clementine or Jack The Ripper (the weed is kinder than the name) or hybrids like Dutch Treat and Pineapple Express, I feel the world come into sharp relief. I hear and see nuances and shadings. The responses flow effortlessly. Writing is not a struggle.

There are variations in how different sativas or hybrids feel inside your head. Whereas Jack The Ripper, say, will give you terrific focus, it has a slight “edge” to it. Not a bad edge — an extra bit of focus and energy. Maybe the best daytime/working strain of all is Trainwreck. Trainwreck gets you so focused you feel compelled to clean your house. Completely. With a toothbrush — that’s how focused and thorough you want to be.

Then I discovered (like a lot of athletes have) that cannabis can improve your physical performance — because it focuses your mind. I started smoking Durban Poison before and, sometimes, while I’m playing. It’s wild, the impact: everything “slows down”. I can see the spin on the ball. If I really focus, I can almost see the fuzz on the ball right where I need to hit it.

I can see where the ball needs to be. I can see where I need to be after I hit the ball. And ya know what? As much fun as I had playing tennis before? Now, it’s even more fun.

I cannot think of a single negative impact that cannabis has had on my life. Life, as we all know, is hard and getting harder. No one gets brownie points for bearing it unmedicated.

Here’s a better idea. Put some cannabis in those brownies. You’ll thank me.

The Remarkable Pleasure Of Coffee & Cannabis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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