West Coast Style: the Love of Hippie Lettuce
So whats the deal with the west coast and it’s love for marijuana?
Weed, Mary-Jane and (my personal favourite) hippie lettuce – call it what you will, cannabis is as much a part of our West Coast landscape as rain boots and Cowichan-knit. I was 18 years old when I took my first tentative toke (a late-comer, no doubt, despite growing up in a town so small and isolated that “smoking grass” was the leading pastime among the majority of my peers). Now, more than ten years and many doobies later, my tolerance for the wacky tobaccy is nowhere near what it used to be – perhaps an inevitable side-effect of turning 30 and realizing my body just isn’t as forgiving as it once was.
Nonetheless, there are some things that have stood out to me over the span of my pot-smoking experience – a few things you might not (but probably already do) know about when it comes to the sticky-icky.
According to popular culture, the types of people who smoke pot are invariably either violent criminals or brainless hippies. It never fails to blow my mind, then, when I find out that someone I never would have expected (by mainstream culture’s sentiments, mind you) is a pot smoker. Family, friends, colleagues – none of whom I would describe as brainless, and certainly none who would ever fathom breaking the law (aside from smoking pot, of course). Their reasons for smoking are diverse, from overcoming the same Type A-ness that regularly overwhelms me, to treating specific medical conditions. Some indulge only when the mood is right, others are habitual smokers. Chances are there’s at least one person you’d never expect who smokes dope (who might even be smoking it right now!).
The Gateway Effect
The “gateway drug” hypothesis is a favourite argument of marijuana adversaries, and the same assumption that keeps concerned parents awake at night. I see the “gateway myth” as a chicken versus egg dilemma – sure, people who become involved in using more powerful and dangerous drugs probably started off smoking pot, but distinguishing marijuana as the sole reason is a naïve presumption that fails to take into account other influencing factors. Indeed, the whole notion of pot as a “gateway drug” is not only outdated, but regarded as nonsense by those who smoke pot and have never even entertained the idea of experimenting with other substances.
Recently I saw a comedian on television comparing cannabis to alcohol, and the inherent difference between the two – how the type of anxiety that arises from pot leads to revelations like, “Am I selfish? I’m worried I might be a selfish person. You know, I’m really going to try harder to not be selfish.” The sort of revelations that come from drinking alcohol, however, are more along the lines of, “You kn-…you know what? It’s time I stop taking shit from cops!”
It is hard for me to take the so-called perils of smoking pot seriously in light of the much more obvious and acute consequences of too much alcohol. Long story short: there’s no such thing as a weed hangover, as far as I’m aware.
(Also, be cool and don’t ever drive under the influence of pot…or alcohol or, for that matter, anything that affects your sobriety in any way. Just saying.)
Dazed and Confused
Let me say as well that smoking pot does not necessarily make one lazy. Yes, pot makes some people lazy, but the odds are high (har har) that people who smoke pot and are lazy are probably lazy regardless. From my own experiences, if you’re productive by nature, cannabis serves to heighten this attribute. I once smoked pot before cleaning the bathroom and, let me tell you, my bathroom tile never gleamed so brightly.
My relationship with cannabis has certainly evolved the older I get. Early on, it was a source of joy – a simple way to release the worries that would otherwise occupy my mind, and to savour the present moment in side-splitting laughter and, eventually, ravenous hunger. Later, it served as a means of mind-expansion, leading to thought-provoking conversations and inner exploration. And now? It’s rare that I can consume cannabis without being overwhelmed by anxiety. Even the most cautious inhalation can spur crushing dread, so that I’ve finally accepted the fact that my relationship with the ganja has, as it turns out, reached the end of its useful life.
Several months ago I watched the banned TEDxTalks, The War on Consciousness, featuring writer and journalist Graham Hancock, who, in his presentation on the shamanic use of the hallucinogenic ayahuasca, touches on his 24-year cannabis habit. He describes on his website how pot “had lightened me up a lot in all sorts of ways and encouraged me to explore unusual connections between things I would not normally have connected”. With continual use, however, he found the pot eventually began to amplify negative and self-defeating behaviors, and it was only once he stopped consuming it (after an intense ayahuasca vision, which he describes here), that his creativity flourished.
While I’m inclined to agree with Hancock’s opinion that “it is the right of adults […] to make sovereign decisions over their own consciousness, including the right to enjoy the effects of cannabis, and to benefit from its medicinal properties, should they choose to do”, his account is an important reminder of all things in moderation.
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