Moving to a Marijuana Mecca:  Medicine, Magic, and My Growing Relationship with an Old Friend

 

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The cannabis plant and I have enjoyed one another for the last fifteen years, a

friendship full of both funny stories and profound mystical awakenings. From the

suburban New Jersey streets to the ghats along the Ganges in India, we’ve shared many of

what I consider my most important experiences. Then last year, everything changed.

I moved to a place where sweet smoke wafts from every street corner, where bags of

fresh green are tossed into the air as gifts, where friendliness and acceptance towards this

holy plant boggles a mind accustomed to a lifetime hiding from the law. In the course

of six months, I became a card-carrying pot smoker, found employment at an indoor

growing operation (and helped organize the workers while there), and started growing

my own plants for the first time. My relationship with this soft, smelly creature has

transformed. The options of sativas and indicas available at the dispensaries, in so many

forms and in combination with all the beautiful places around to stroll with a joint or

a brownie, have opened up undreamed-of worlds, aspects of respect and balance and

consciousness for which I’m deeply grateful.

 

And yet, there are serious questions raised. A booming industry caught between

opposing state and federal legalities plays by its own rules and not always in the interest

of patients or consumers. The healing potentials of the plant can be undercut by abuse of

the substance. And there are always questions to ask about how my own body, mind, and

soul relates to this plant today and how it might tomorrow.

 

There are three main types of cannabis plant: sativa, indica, and ruderalis. The

ruderalis is small and fibrous, the indica medium sized, and the sativas tend to be large,

with both fibrous and higher THC content varieties. Tetrahydrocannabinol is the name

of the psychoactive chemical which biotically gives cannabis it’s magic qualities.

According to the Hemp Wikipedia entry, hemp usually contains “below 0.3 % THC,

while marijuana grown for medicinal or recreational purposes can contain from 2% to

over 20%.” There are further important botanical distinctions to draw as well. Because

it is the female buds that are dried and smoked (or threshed and sieved and pressed for

hash) there needs to be careful process of separating males from accidentally pollinating

sensimilla (without seed) female plants.

 

According to Spliffs: A Celebration of Cannabis Culture by Nick Jones, cannabis is

believed to have “originated from the Samarkand area north of Afghanistan and the

Hindu Kush.” (Jones, 20) Cloth, rope, resin and seed have been found at archaeological

sites throughout Central Asia and northern India, dating back to around 3000BC, and

suggesting that it’s use as a staple crop was widespread for vast swaths of time. (Jones,

16)

 

Cannabis is a uniquely useful plant. The fibrous stems are excellent for making

cloth, rope, paper, even entire buildings. The flowers and leaves, aside from the high

concentration of psychoactive THC, have been long valued medicinally for their

analgesic, anaesthetic, antispasmodic and antidepressant properties. Even the seeds have

nutritional value and when pressed produce an oil great for burning in lamps. As for

the ritualized spiritual or recreational use of the plant, the Scythians are the first culture

to record their use of smoking chambers, and Hindus trace their relationship with the

sacred plant to Krishna and Shiva fighting along a river bank. Siddhartha the Buddha is

said to have lived on an exclusive diet of cannabis seeds and leaves for his years in the

forest before his enlightenment. The Sufi and the Magi of the Islamic faith also explored

the mystical experiences available through the Marijuana plant, and the Rastafarians of

Jamaica worship the plant and the Ganja culture almost exclusively. Coming to Europe

through the Moorish invasions, it later took off in the New World when combined with

that hemisphere’s tobacco plant. The Declaration of Independence was printed on hemp

paper, and the first Levis jeans were made from riveted hemp. Hash specifically grew in

popularity, in clubs and salons throughout Europe and North America, until the 1930s

when the Federal Bureau of Narcotics was established, (later becoming the Department

Enforcement Administration, DEA) and the war on all things cannabis began.

Jack Herer in his interesting book The Emperor Wears No Clothes traces a deep

conspiracy between the federal government’s war against cannabis to ties with DuPont

and its investment in oil-based synthetic fibres like nylon which were threatened by a

burgeoning hemp industry, as was William Randolph Hearst and his paper empire. So

pot came to be demonized and run out of town. The intensity of this crusade fortunately

only lasted a decade or two before the 1960’s counterculture erupted and pot came back

in a huge way, via the “hippy trail” between Morocco and India, then swirling into the

culture through Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and figures like the Beats and Timothy Leary,

with his calls to turn on, tune in and drop out. While the backlash of the ‘70s and ‘80s

(with the exception of Cheech and Chong) caused pot to retreat underground somewhat,

this was followed by an explosion of secret indoor grow operations in this country, vastly

improving the quality and consistency of the substance and introducing the concept

of “medical marijuana.” The first medical cannabis club in the country opened in San

Francisco in 1996.

 

I’ll explore this world of medical marijuana in greater detail further along, but as

long as we’re in 1996, I’d like to introduce myself at 15, getting stoned for the first time

in suburban New Jersey. We hot-boxed my father’s little red Subaru Justy, because I

had heard it doesn’t always catch the first time, and I figured filling a compact car with

reefer smoke would more or less do the trick. I needn’t have worried. We were a good

match. According to reports, I couldn’t stop giggling all night. Says an eyewitness, “It

was cute when everyone realized you were at the table babbling, but less funny when

everyone was trying to sleep.” Pot continued to be a fun but relatively harmless after

school activity (except for the time Scott got too high and fainted, busting his nose, and I

decided to greet his parents at the hospital with “Everything’s fine. Nobody’s high.”)

My father died when I was 19, and in the years that followed, cannabis and to a lesser

extent nicotine provided comfort and happiness in a way that little else seemed to. Living

on a couch in the East Village with a tiny fan running constantly to pull the thick air of

my depression out the window into the alley, pot did indeed become my medicine. Life

without my father required that I, torn open and lost, build myself back together from the

elements that were fundamentally Josh inside me. Pot, besides helping me have fun with

friends, now opened up opportunities to drop down into my soul’s new position within

the natural and cultural worlds, and it carried me across the thresholds of my grief into a

lingering belief – and then finally a trust – that I would continue on.

 

Marijuana also proved a hugely important catalyst for healing and growth in my

relationship with my mother. Estranged at the time of my dad’s death, it took many years

for the two of us to work through all our old and new arguments and come to a place of

reconciliation and understanding. I moved back to the old house after graduating from

NYU in film and finding myself unable to maintain an interest in the New York film

business community, and I saw no reason to hide my pot smoking from my mother upon

returning. She had smoked in grad school, and had always told me to wait until I was 18

to experiment, and to at least be conscious not to do anything to permanently damage

my brain or body. So a week into moving home when I told her I was planning to step

outside for a joint, I figured she’d be alright with it, maybe shoot me a small lecture. I

didn’t expect her to invite me back inside to share the joint with her in the living room.

Having not smoked in 30 years, she kept exclaiming “Look how different my body is!”

 

This led to five years of meeting every Sunday for dinner and a smoke. During

these sessions we learned to speak openly with each other, we were able to extend our

awareness into the space around old arguments, pressing past the triggers and eruptions,

and towards a committed healing of wounds and discovery of new ways of relating. Our

shared ease and comfort with the altered state allowed us to mirror back to one another

our common and unique joys, laughs, fears and pains. By the time I left for California,

my mother and I had built an entire language of respect and support between each other,

and I don’t know if we could have done this without pot. Around the same time I left my

mother on the East Coast, she fell in love for the first time since my father’s death, and as

she put it “has remained in such a state of inspiration and bliss that I don’t need dope.”

After breaking free from the grip of my hometown, upon commencing with some

global travel, pot was not usually at hand. This was a source of nervousness at the

beginning of my trip (compounded with general travel jitters) but it proved to be

a beautiful aspect of a glorious journey. Because pot was mostly not around (and

frighteningly illegal in some of the countries I visited) it’s absence allowed me the chance

to stretch my dependency on it out (I was just emerging from the sweet heavy cloud

of a year writing 200+ pages of screenplay about my dad’s death) until it faded in the

purifying sun and demanding labor of international organic farm work.

 

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And yet – my old plant friend would also show up from time to time, in only the most

perfect and magical places and circumstances. One of these was Hawaii, the other

India, with a night in between in the Philippines. The first place this plant showed up

on my trip was Ka Lae, Hawaii – which makes sense given how much verdant and

abundant green this island chain with it’s constant birth process supports. The day

before I travelled to this southernmost tip of The Big Island I received a little plastic bag

freshly harvested from my farmer friend’s own plants. This was the first time I’d known

and supported a grower personally. And Ka Lae, where Polynesians first landed 1500

years ago, was by all experiences, a vortex, a sacred area on the planet where the veil

between worlds is permeable. This was palpable in every interaction with the plants and

animals of the area, as though each one acknowledged and supported my presence. These

energy exchanges presumably occur and perpetuate with or without the tools of opened

perception – but they helped. Though I ended up falling out with the shaman who ran

the wwoof farm there, and falling out of a tree, breaking my wrist – I wouldn’t trade my

transcendent experiences of Gaia in Ka Lae for anything. There is a direct line between

my experiences of divine nature in South Point and my decision to attend CIIS four years

later. Would these initiatory experiences have been available without weed? Probably.

But within the realms of those glorious Hawaiian ganja trips I was ushered profoundly

and permanently into sacred relationship with, and service towards, the ensouled living

earth. So why privilege one method over another?

 

Then, with the exception of a magical night in Sagada, in the northern Philippines,

surrounded by a valley of coffin-filled caves and a very strange new friend named Rawq,

I didn’t come into contact with cannabis in any form until India. In India there are

religious and institutionalized relationships with ganja. Sadhus, those older, orange-clad

gentlemen who have passed through the apprenticeships of youth, the career and family

orientation of middle age, and with approaching elderhood and the blessings of their

communities, forsake all worldly possessions save for a begging bowl, a pair of

commanding dreadlocks, and a chillum from which to smoke charas, a hash blend. I

almost swapped the word charas for chiba, which is a Caribbean-Spanish slang for

marijuana. Isn’t it great how many words we have for this plant? Anyway…the sadhus

wander the sacred sites of India, praying, meditating, and getting stoned. Bhang, a dark

green drink, sometimes in lassi form when milk or cream is added, is sanctioned by the

government for religious purposes, and a full strength green milkshake will knock you on

your ass all day, so these are for real devotees. Still, the point is not to get this segment of

the population messed up all the time. This was beautifully illustrated to me one sunny

day in Jodhpur, the Blue City of Rajasthan.


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I was navigating the twists and turns of another sensory-overloading city market, when I emerged into an open plaza and heard

glorious, passionate music reverberating throughout the blue painted neighborhood.

Pausing outside the house from which the music originated, and smiling broadly at the

men who emerged from inside, while swaying from side to side with the rhythm as

though I were not an awkward foreigner with no knowledge of meaning or language, I

managed to get myself invited inside by looking friendly and curious. And while the

specificity of the words – to Krishna, to Shiva – were lost on my American ears, the

sentiment was clear. Worship. Devotion. Outpourings of creative prayer, passion and

feeling beyond any I’d witnessed in a tiny crowded room before. Out back in the

courtyard between houses, a group of men (and they were all men here, an unfortunate

and old tradition) laughed and poured each other second helpings from a giant vat filled

with a thick green liquid. Bhang, like chai, is always slightly different, depending on the

ingredients of the concoction. Usually cannabis and ghee, the mixture can sometimes

include opium, and any array of spices typical to Indian brews as well. Offered a large

cup of bhang, I gratefully joined in ceremony with the men, sitting down amongst them

and throwing my hands up and nodding in sync with the exhaltations of the group. One

man closer to my age and nearby to where I was sitting appeared distracted. He kept

eyeing me. Since there’s no shortage of Indian men happy to shoot you the most intense

eyes ever, I took it in stride. But then the man began coming over and trying to interrupt

my singing. He was suggesting I go back outside and smoke a chillum with him. Now, I

couldn’t understand the details of the argument that ensued, but the two older gentlemen

on either side of me intervened on my behalf. They were insisting I stay. As I watched

the three men erupt quietly and intensely, not wanting to disturb the others but needing to

work out what to do with me, it became clearer what the older men were insisting about.

The purpose of drinking the bhang that afternoon, of swirling in mind and melody, was

not to get fucked up. It was to come closer to God.

 

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Begrudgingly, Mr. Let’s Go Get More Stoned backed off after this exchange, though

he continued to shoot me frustrated looks the rest of my time with the Qawwali singers.

Nevertheless, the lesson stuck with me. The sacred intention, the mystical communion,

the holy connection – this is what remained ever present and important for these religious

devotees. The numbing, deadening drive of destruction and obliteration so common in

American culture, encouraged by the false rites of passage called college binge drinking,

could not be further away in intention, practice, or resonance from the experience of these

sacred stoners. If the value of sacred work with plant teachers could be separated and

distinguished from the distracted and devastating drugging of a restless and privileged

populace, it could catalyze a fundamental change in perspective between ourselves, our

neighbors, and our spiritual available realms.

 

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Back in the US, I was not sure this transformation was possible. But I was used

to New Jersey. And then I moved to California. “Moving to California” is it’s own

archetype, one that pre-supposes a warm weather welcome, countercultural Dionysian

freedom, and according to one of the anonymous interviewees for this paper, “the leading

edge” – both of our country’s expansionist frontier as well the front line of our societal

vanguard. While there are always some bumpy landings, for the most part things seem

to fall into place when one decides to move to Cali. This is part of the “Best Coast’s”

archetype. Another friend in his late 20s whose move to the state four months ago

coincided with his introduction to cannabis for the first time remarked, “It opens so much

creativity! Everything somatic, music, dance – I can feel into things so much deeper.”

Of course these are experiences encouraged by place as well as plant. Altered states

in an remarkably alternative state. Having access to weed in an authoritarian regime

would remain a potentially limited experience, though transformational in other ways

perhaps. But the abundance of psychotropic substances in California is clearly tied to the

abundance of sunshine, the abundance of fresh food, and the abundance of friendly faces.

The entire Californian universe, for those of us healthy and functional enough to enjoy

her bounty, can be transformatively expansive on the levels of mind, body, soul, and

community, and the nation’s most elaborate medical marijuana system is symptomatic of

all this.

 

According to professionals I spoke with, while chronic pain and anxiety are the

top “wellness reasons” for choosing medicinal cannabis, there are a great many illnesses

and symptoms that cannabis has proved effective towards, ranging from nausea, vomiting

and IBS to disorders of every letter of the alphabet: Alzheimer’s, bipolar disorder,

colorectal cancer, depression, epilepsy, through Parkinsons, PTSD, psoriasis, sleep apnea,

and Tourettes. What constitutes a medicinal dose? It depends of course. US Office of

National Drug Control Policy Senior Speechwriter Kevin A. Sabet told ProCon.org in a

telling Jan. 22, 2004 email:

 

“Smoked marijuana has no reliable dosage…. As you know, smoked marijuana is not a

medicine since it has failed to pass the scientific trials needed for it to go to market. As a

result, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance, as defined by the Controlled

Substances Act.” Notice how Sabet intrinsically ties medicine with the market. No room

for holistic healing in there. And while pot use remains illegal on the Federal level, still included as a Schedule 1

drug on par with heroin, today California takes in several billion dollars a year from the

medicinal cannabis industry, and 16 states allow for the sale of medical marijuana, with

different rules and laws governing its use.

 

So what do the experts believe constitutes a medicinal dose? Depends on a number of

factors. As Jay Cavanaugh, PhD, National Director of the American Alliance for Medical

Cannabis, wrote to ProCon.org on May 21, 2002, “When patients smoke or vaporize

cannabis they can titrate their dose by inhalation. The medicinal constituents are absorbed

in the lungs and proceed directly to the brain and general circulation avoiding a first

pass through the liver. Patients can ascertain the effectiveness of the medicine within

just a minute or two. By waiting between inhalations, patients can achieve the maximum

effect with the least possible side effects.” He goes on to write “It is vitally important for

naive patients (ones who haven’t used cannabis socially or recreationally) to be trained

by skilled caregivers into how to obtain the best relief with medication that may vary in

potency from crop to crop or even in the same cannabis depending upon its age, moisture

content, etc. ” Those who are more familiar with the experience, who might even be

looking to do sacred journey work, might take more or even ingest the plant in food,

which tends to produce a more hallucinatory experience.

 

In Berkeley where I live the city cannabis ordinance guidelines permit 10 plants and

2.5lbs of smokable dope per patient. Collectives can grow up to 50 plants and share 12.5

lbs. Oakland permits up to 72 plants. That is so much weed! Some cannabis patients

report going through ten joints a day for chronic pain. Others require just a puff before

meals or before bed. Indicas, with their stronger body high might be better choices for

chronic pain, while sativas, with their more awake, silly highs, might be better for anxiety

or stress. Your local neighborhood pot club (and they’re everywhere now) is likely to

have a variety of both kinds, as well as baked goods, chocolates, drinks, tinctures, and

topical creams. There are now smart phone apps that break down each strain by effects

positive and negative (euphoria, silliness, painkiller, or dry mouth, red eyes, couch

lock) and tell you the nearest dispensary where that strain is available. They also sell

little clone plants, which I’ll elaborate on in a moment, but I did, after receiving my pot

card for (legitimate) nausea and back pain, also attempt to grow my own plants in the

backyard, a plan that was quickly thwarted by my landlady. Maybe at my new house.

One by one though – Blue Dream, Lemon Kush, Grand Daddy Purple, Jack Frost – I

started making new friends, following new opportunities.

 

One such opportunity arrived in the form of a job. I worked in the pot industry for

exactly six months, which happened to coincide perfectly with the implosion and collapse

of the medium-large sized clone operation that hired me. I’ll refrain from using names

in this account, and I’ve left out a few identifying details for the sake of anonymity, but

otherwise what follows is true, at least from my perspective.

 

I was approached by a member of my school community, someone whom I had met

a few times and picked up a sort of intense energy from, but with whom I’d shared few

experiences. She came up to me after an event and said “You look like someone I can

trust.” I said “I am. What can I do for you?” She explained that she’d been growing and

selling marijuana clones (clippings from a mother plant which will turn into mothers

themselves) for the last 15 years and she could use a new worker. I turned her down at

first because I’d just been hired at a nearby cafe, but when that job fell through the next

day, it felt awfully lucky to have been offered a $25/hour under the table gig working

with plants all day. I’d farmed and gardened and loved both. How could this be that

different?

 

Well first off, farming and gardening usually take place outdoors. Our pot factory

never saw an ounce of natural sunlight. Enclosed in a cement bunker in an industrial

park nestled between several chemical factory and the Richmond Chevron oil refinery, I

should have known it was a toxic environment from the way the air smelled just on the

bike ride there. Every factor was regulated – light, humidity, air movement, as well as a

precise cocktail of chemical fertilizers fed everyday to optimize growth – for about 8000

mothers and maybe 75,000 teenage clone plants moving through our elaborate shelving

system at any given time, adding up to easily many hundreds of thousands of dollars over

the years.

 

The crew, the saving grace of the place, was a motley one, though smart and sensitive

and funny and often quite sweet. Every 45 minutes or so there would be a “safety check,”

which meant someone had rolled another joint. And when the boss wasn’t around, which

was almost always, we could settle into our task – watering, cutting, harvesting – with

some good music and interesting conversation, and the day would move fast. There

was a balance between those who strove for efficiency, for numbers, old-timers who

had weathered the storms and just wanted to get through the work day, with newbies

interested in oming and chiming harmonious tones over the plants. We started the day

with honest to goodness check-in circles, we took long lunch breaks with beer, and we

were proud of the service we provided. When the boss wasn’t around everything flowed

smoothly.

 

When the boss did zip back a few weeks at a time from her new home in Hawaii, she

was like a hurricane. Without assuming too much of an accusatory tone, my impression

was that she actively and unconsciously sabotaged her own operation through escalating

perpetrations of violence. At the two month mark she forced out the main manager

through increasingly inconsistent and erratic demands and screaming fights. Turns out

this had played out over and over with other managers for years. The way she put it, she

always needs “a throat to choke.” At the 4 month mark, in response to a vision which

occurred during an LSD trip, she cut off half our supply chain, leaving us all in the lurch

both financially as well as legally – all plants if they are to be legal at least state-wide,

must be destined for official medical marijuana dispensaries, something that was no

longer true without this one distributor. Under regular business models there would be

someone to hold this woman accountable, at least someone to whom one could report

abuses and misuses of power. But because so much remains in legal limbo, there was

little recourse and a lot of putting up with crazy.

 

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The final straw came the week I was intending to leave the company anyway to spend

my remaining summer break in NJ. Our boss brought in some new mothers, different

strains with names like Alohaberry, Chemdawg, and Buddha’s Sister, and as it turned out

they were all infested with spider mites. Now the most effective way to avoid a few

plants with spider mites infecting and bringing down your entire operation is to isolate or

quarantine the plants. If you have a history of problematic workplace interactions, a laxly

regulated environment, and a growing, yet still submerged unconscious desire to shut

your business because you prefer to live in Hawaii away from all your troubles, you

might spray every single plant with a nerve toxin pesticide that comes in a tiny expensive

vial and requires gloves, a double gas mask, and a full body suit to apply. You might not.

But if you did, and you started sending plants out the door covered in poison, (because

this particular toxin should never be sprayed on plants which might be flowering within

three weeks) and your employees started getting sick (because you’re spraying a fine

mist of nerve toxin over everything) you might recognize that things have gotten out of

control. You might not. When we started getting sick after the second or third spraying,

our fearless leader didn’t believe us. She thought we were being sensitive. I certainly did

feel sensitive with my dizziness and wobbly knees. She told those who didn’t want to be

around to take a vacation. As the bad feelings escalated (built up over years one assumes)

our boss reassured us that fine, she would stop the spraying immediately, not to worry.

Then she secretly snuck in during the night and sprayed without telling anyone to see if

we would exhibit symptoms. The next day as my friends started to get sick again and the

conspiracy unraveled, I was able to be present for the walk out, the worker’s meeting, the

start of a strike. and the debate about options. This felt like the reason I’d been hired for

this position by the Universe, to help everyone through these decisions. We will be

exposed to a lot of toxins over the course of our modern lives. Sometimes we are able to

make choices about our bodily integrity and the health of our selves and our families,

sometimes those choices are made for us. I saw some beautiful scenes of people taking

back control of their lives, reorienting themselves to their deeper humanity and dreams.

That weekend I left, over the next few days about 3/4’s of our pot factory workers quit

outright, and on the following week our little place was busted by federal agents. Turns

out the distributor our boss had dropped during the acid trip had been followed by the

DEA for months. He had guns, and ties to gangs, and it turned out to be for the best that

we dropped him, whether or not it was handled well. Regardless, after the cops tore up

the place, holding one worker for a day and another for a week because he was the most

famous cannabis activist from South Africa and therefore deemed a flight risk, they

released everyone without charge. It seems that though the feds do go after those who

perpetuate organized violence, and do still like to harass pot growers and providers

following the letter of the state laws (despite Obama’s stated encouragement to divert

resources) they nevertheless don’t have the money or space to lock up all these pot

professionals. So while the risks of running a medical marijuana operation are real,

increasingly Big Pot is becoming an accepted source of income generation and a valued

member of the community. Cannabis conventions and 420 expos pop up every few

weeks in the Bay Area, and there is even a new reality show debuting this very week on

Discovery Channel called Weed Wars about the Harborside club in Oakland, which was

one of the few dispensaries that accepted our clones, hopefully not filming any of us as

we dropped off deliveries.

 

Now a great number of pot sources in California do come from organic outdoor farms

in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, where probably no one suffers from mental illness

or addiction problems and everyone’s sweet to each other. But with an industry exploding

this fast, the pressure for results and the ability to cut corners encourages cutthroat

choices, and it is often the worker and the patient that is left out of the decision making

process.

 

There are a few other concerns that arise in the world of weed of course. The sensimilla

revolution – the rapid spread of talented US homegrown indoor hydroponic cultivars,

which resulted in much stronger plants with higher THC levels across the board from the

early ‘80s on – these stronger buds can sometimes cause something like panic attacks in

some users if caught by surprise. These states will pass, but they can be scary. As well, if

someone already suffers from mental or psychological instability, pot can exhasherbate

these symptoms as well.

 

While no one has ever died from too much weed, and it remains only mildly physically

or psychologically addictive, there are certainly carcinogens caused by smoking to take

seriously, though these fall away when marijuana is consumed via an inhaler or in edible

form. There is the chronic laziness that smoking a lot of weed can cause, the cloudiness,

the separation between a smoker’s aspirations and his or her motivations. Though so

called “couch lock” can vary with strains, more common in body-heavy indicas than it’s

headier, dancier sibling sativas, pot is a downer. While contemplation, rumination, and

daydreaming are all necessary components to any fully lived life, the danger of remaining

content to lay back and imagine forever without reaching that crucial stage of action and

engagement exists strongly with pot. It may be that some of this plant’s medicine lies in

providing a challenge in this arena for each cannabis-engaged soul. Those whose fingers

itch with the urge to grip video game controllers hours on end may not break away from

their virtual environments long enough to take advantage of the consciousness raising and

creativity enhancing aspects in that bong rip – probably because they pull and cough and

hack and suck down smoke until they float in that thin line of cushy consciousness where

little can get through. Those of us who use in order to expand and deepen rather than thin

out and numb should be able to navigate our ongoing relationship clearly enough to know

when we’ve had enough. One hopes. Some of those spaced out old hippies concern me

sometimes.

 

So do I need dope? After fifteen years of relationship, through crests and troughs of

frequency and desire, I’ve smoothed out into what feels like a workable balance, a

healthy orientation. Some activities I certainly do enjoy being stoned for. Plenty of

activities I don’t. When I do find myself swirling in marijuana’s muddy shadow – those

darker moments alone in my room when I haven’t followed through, when my

insecurities have squashed my intentions again, I forget that I actually operate quite well

in the world. When one is not able to flow with the high for whatever reason, the nugs

can amplify the negative as easily as the positive, can illuminate insecurity and paranoia

as easily as beauty and comfort – it often depends on the person, the place, the strain, as

well as great many other factors, like diet and sleep. Many people don’t take to weed at

all, it knocks them over, or freaks them out. Often I’ve found these people have a

concurrent affinity for alcohol – some people are drinkers, some are smokers. Of course

there are also coke heads, meth addicts, coffee fiends, and sugar monsters. Our modern

planet is gifted with access to a great many relationships which harbor potential for

addiction. We all have our own bodies and they respond to different stimuli in different

ways. This can also change. The natural cannibanoid receptors in our brain (which imply

we are already set up for this exchange) can grow more needy over time. For instance, as

we get to page 18 of this paper, my body is letting me know exactly what might help get

me through that final push. Yet I rarely feel burned out or too messed up. Today, while I

cannot say that I only ever imbibe this smoke with sacred intent, I can say that I do try to

bring sacred awareness, that living consciousness of the moment into my everyday life,

and pot helps with that immensely. Time and pace slow, the significance of focus and

bodies and energies all amplify, and with just that little amplification, I find I can engage

the world with so much more peace and insight. If I’m looking for profound awakening

these days, for reality shattering peak experiences, I don’t tend to approach this plant

besides as means to ground back in and remind myself of myself. But I’ve never liked

being fucked up, out of it, and my threshold of tolerance for overwhelming or prolonged

alteration has dropped considerably over the years. This line has lowered in conjunction

with the trajectory of diminishing returns as well. The more you smoke the more you

have to smoke for the same high. This seems to be true for most things in the universe,

with the possible exception of love.

 

When asked whether her long-term dependency with the plant ever got her down, one

of my friends said “Sure, the positive versus negative Neptune, in astro-speak. Because

one can fool oneself all too easily, get sucked under by delusion. And yet a great wisdom

can be gained by engaging the process, by finding one’s way through. But a conscious

effort must be maintained.”

 

There is also the question raised of pot’s effect on the dreamtime, whether more waking

time spent in a dreamlike state means less time truly dreaming when asleep. In my

interviews with weed smoking dream conscious colleagues, some reported no problems

with navigating a combination of heavy weed smoking with excellent retention and even

participation in dreams. Others found that their dreams were consistently more vivid

and memorable when they cut back on weed smoking. One friend had a particularly

harrowing story to relate.

 

“I had no recollection of any dreams for many years of smoking. I got used to it. I woke up like

a blank slate, no residual feeling left over from dreams. This went on for years. Then, I decided

it was time to change something and stopped smoking. The first night, I was terrorized by the

most intense nightmares, vivid demons, monsters, etc. It was unbelievable. I feared for my life.

Second night the same. Third night, the same. For a little more than a week, I was terrorized

in my dreams, and every day I looked like I have been beaten in the night. Upon reflection,

I thought this had to happen this way. I had been denying the mysterious workings of the

unconscious, I had been denying the compensatory effects of dreams. The perpetual denial of

this “force” discharged all its shadow energy on to me. So, I had to pay the price for this. Once

through that first week, I had the most beautiful dream of all the kids from my kindergarten

playing with me. I woke up in tears of joy, for the love they shared and for the feeling of

belonging I felt. After going trough the shadow, there was a beautiful sunrise again.”

 

Hallucinatory drugs and dreams are both associated with the sixth chakra, the third eye

of vision and psychic perception. Both are driven by imagination, expansion of focus,

and negotiations with control. Both hold the potential for the download of spiritual or

philosophical or bodily knowledge. Both hold the potential for spiraling fear or anxiety.

What seems to most easily allow navigation through both realms is consciousness,

awareness. The more consciously one moves through the hypnogogic states of waking

up and falling asleep the more likely one is to be able to remember and even participate

lucidly in dream states. The more consciously one uses (or relaxes ones’s use) of

anything we put in our body, the deeper relationships and understandings one is able to

come into with that medicine.

 

P1010703

 

Because everything has medicine, everything is imbued with certain magic. Some

plants are soaked in it. A recent email on our school listserve suggested that the plant

being Cocao, in particular its sometimes troublesome nephew cocaine, was responsible

for Sigmund Freud’s breakthrough in psychotherapy, thereby responsible for all of us

doing the work we do today. Though one must be careful with simple justifications like

this, I loved this idea. It opens the exciting possibility that the spirit of cannabis may be

acting through us, adding it’s imaginations to our task of transforming the world. Food

scholar Michael Pollen, in his book The Omnivores Dilemma, even suggests marijuana

and humans co-evolved together, that the plants interest in its own spread and survival,

and our innate interest in altered states, were mutually enhancing characteristics both

species adapted to reinforce and encourage. In that case, those people lined up outside the

pot store must be highly evolved beings.

 

No matter what questions or business plans we may have for this plant, at it’s root it

is a creature of magic, of mystery, a producer of laughter, joy, and healing, and I intend

to honor these aspects in consciousness every single time I breath in and breathe out, no

matter what plant matter’s passing across my tongue.

 

Bibliography:

 

Anonymous participants, Interviews, conducted November and December 2011

 

Herer, Jack The Emperor Wears No Clothes: The Authoritative Historical Record of

Cannabis and the Conspiracy Against Marijuana, Ah Ha Publishing, Van Nuys,CA,

1985

 

Jones, Nick Spliffs: A Celebration of Cannabis Culture, Collins and Brown Limited,

London 2003

 

Pollan, Michael: The Botany of Desire, Random House, New York 2001

 

Samuels, David, “Dr. Kush: How Medical Marijuana Is Transforming the Pot Industry.”

The New Yorker, 6/8/08

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_cannabis

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemp

http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000334

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