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.

Today’s Cannabis Work Cocktail Is…

Every now and then I like to share a particularly good cannabis experience. One of the great revelations of my life was that cannabis makes me work more productively. It focuses my very hypomanic mind without dulling it.

My go-to daytime strain is Durban Poison. It delivers a steady, even focus that comes on quickly and last a solid hour-and-a-half before slowly easing off. It platforms very well on top of itself (hits every 30 minutes or so to keep a steady flow of DP’s THC & turpines flooding the brain) but also makes for an excellent companion to hybrids like Trainwreck or Dutch Treat.

I found Strawberry Diesel Durban and paired it with White Widow this morning. The StrawbDD was a great combination of Durban and NYC Diesel — the same focus with a hint of the Diesel’s hum. The White Widow brings a quick hit of euphoria and mental energy. The combination has been lovely and — isn’t this most important for a daytime strain — productive?

Enjoy!

When It Comes To Cannabis, I’m Strain Specific

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s CRIMINAL That Cannabis Was Ever Criminalized

I believe — actual life experience being my data set — that my life is better in myriad ways with cannabis IN it than WITHOUT it. If I separate my personal experience with cannabis from cannabis’ story here in America (its demonization and prohibition for entirely racist reasons), I see a natural product — minimally processed (especially if you grow it yourself which anyone can do) — that 1) gives me a quality of sleep that no OTC sleep med ever delivered, 2) mitigates my hypo-mania while 3) improving my focus exponentially and, bonus, makes me a far, far better 4) tennis player and (frankly) 5) driver.

There’s actually lots of data compiled by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration that backs me up about cannabis’ actual effect on driving. Look past the report’s inherent upfront bias — where it states how impactful cannabis is on driving performance — to where it deals in actual data. The actual data about cannabis’ impact on driving abilities says “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.”

Further: “Several reviews of driving and simulator studies have concluded that marijuana use by drivers is likely to result in decreased speed and fewer attempts to overtake, as well as increased “following distance”. The opposite is true of alcohol.” Cannabis made drivers drive more safely. There’s a giant flaw in all of this research however. A giant one. The research assumes that all cannabis is created equal. It’s not. An indica’s impact is very different a sativa’s. Skywalker will put you to sleep while Durban Poison will focus you like a laser.

I’d like to see the same research done with users on different types of cannabis. I won’t hold my breath.

We currently treat cannabis the same as we do alcohol — as if its impact on our brains was exactly the same. That’s nonsense. Scientifically speaking — it’s total nonsense. THC does not work on or in our brains the way alcohol does.

The reason black jazz musicians in New Orleans gravitated toward cannabis in the 1920’s when it first appeared there was that, whereas alcohol and every other drug dulled their creativity, cannabis sparked it. Yes, yes, there are feelings of euphoria. But there’s also an increased awareness of all the details around you. You hear more, see more, smell and taste more. Fact — food when THC is pumping through you can taste extraordinary.

My creative day begins with cannabis. I like to ease into the work day with GG4 and coffee. I usually have MSNBC on in one ear via satellite. I hear nuances in the voices. I hear the awkward pauses and the extra twists of inside-dish-snarkiness. Getting serious starts as the coffee finishes — with a sativa. Durban Poison is a regular; I love its clean, even-keeled focus. Consistent clarity. Clementine is another terrific daytime work sativa. Ditto Super Lemon Haze.

For maintenance of a working “high” (it’s not a “high”, it’s focus — good, solid, intense focus), I also use Pineapple Express and Silver Back. But the hands down best “Go For Broke” workday strain is the hybrid Trainwreck. A Trainwreck reviewer said once that it made them want to clean their house with a toothbrush — that’s how focused it made them. Yeah — that’s about right. The one drawback to Trainwreck though — unlike the other strains — there is a sleepy patch on the downslope side of the high. Nothing a five minute cat nap won’t resolve.

Even before I discovered cannabis late, late in life (it only ever put me to sleep when I was younger — which held minimal appeal then), I wanted to tell the story of Harry Anslinger and cannabis’ criminalization. When a journalist friend became an editor at Weedmaps’ News division — and asked me to write for them — I offered up my deep dive into Anslinger — and Blunt Truths was born.

I’m biased, of course, but I recommend Blunt Truths unequivocally.

The Blunt Truth is that we did something terrible to ourselves when we let prigs and sanctimonious racists bamboozle us into thinking cannabis caused people of color to rape white women. As my own research revealed — at no point in cannabis’ illegalization did ever of the illegalizers ever ask or even conduct experiments demonstrating whether cannabis WAS actually good or bad for its users.

That’s what makes what we did so profoundly wrong. It’s not for everyone. Can we please accept that nothing is good for everyone? But its benefits so far outweigh its negatives that — it WAS criminal to have criminalized cannabis. It was extra criminal to criminalize the people who used it — or sold it or bought it or grew it or sold products related to it as Tommy Chong did (for which he was imprisoned — and check out my experience of getting high with Tommy here).

I am grateful — truly grateful — that cannabis is in my life. My wish is that it can be a part of everyone’s life (everyone who wants it to be of course). If more people smoked more dope, more people would be more sane in this world. That’s experience talking.