Take it or leave it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

CANNABIS: BLISS OR DISS?

At this year's Super Bowl party, a friend of my father's came at me with a business proposal. "Let's make marijuana," she said. She had my attention. As I listened, she explained that actually we wouldn't be making marijuana, or even growing it. What she had in mind was the manufacture, specifically of pot brownies.

"Is that legal?" I wondered.

Shawna shook her head. "But it will be. Soon."

Shawna is a businesswoman, so you know, I can trust her. Granted that hair salon of hers did go bust, and after my father invested huge sums of cash. Down the drain, as they say. Shawna is also my dad's former mistress, their affair having lead to his divorce from my mother. If my mom ever found out I was talking to this nice lady, much less doing business with her, and in the business of selling pot, no less, there'd be hell to pay. But the former Mrs. Dave is herself a devoted pot smoker. So there is that.

"Whattaya think?"

"Um, okay," I said.

At parties I rarely think before I speak. Sometimes on account of too much booze. But at this party I hadn't had but one beer. Okay maybe two. But not more than three. Call it living in the moment. I excused myself and hid in the bathroom till halftime.

At the end of the night as we said our goodbyes, Shawna left with the words, "I'll call you when pot's legal."

Pray the day never comes, I heard myself mutter. Oh, but it will. We move closer to legalization by the minute, as recently senators unveiled a bill to legalize weed at the federal level, which would make Shawna's dream a reality, if a potential one. We'd still have to do it. I'd still have to help her. If I'll be going into the business of "making marijuana," I'd better be in the know.


So I took a look at the scientific literature. After a perusal of periodicals and recent studies, I have come to the conclusion that everyone studying marijuana, writing about it, and possibly even deciding whether and which laws to pass on it, is high. Case in point a recent feature article in Time Magazine, called "The Great Pot Experiment." Author: Bruce Barcott, whose new book carries the pertinent title Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America. Clearly this guy Bruce must be in the know.

The article's subheading: "Because of years of government roadblocks on research, we don't know nearly enough about the dangers of marijuana - or the benefits."

Um, yeah, because everyone involved is a stoner. My point.

The article told me nothing that I didn't already know when I began smoking pot as a college freshman. I had by this time gotten high a handful of times in high school - one of which involved a coke can with many haphazardly poked holes, another involved a bag of Doritos, eaten, not smoked, and damn if they weren't the best Pringles I've ever had, I mean Doritos - but these occasions were infrequent and the effects unreliable. "I feel nothing," was my frequent refrain.

Yes the article discusses laboratory experiments involving rodents raised on THC (the psychoactive compound in marijuana) but after decades of research and millions of dollars invested, the effects, both positive and negative, are only those which any teenager who's ever held a joint has long since figured out. Yes, pot can help alleviate pain (a positive). And yes, it can alter brain development, is addictive in some, and can aggravate mental illnesses like schizophrenia. Duh! Who hasn't gotten paranoid while high? Yes, it can also help treat multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Useful information, this, as combined these two groups (those with MS and epileptics) account for a fraction of a fraction of one percent of the stoner population. Lotta help that will do. Study on!

But considering the pervasive effects that legalizing pot could have on society as a whole, it is critical to know whether smoking marijuana is overall, good for you, or if it's bad. Since before long buying a J will be as easy to obtain as alcohol or cigarettes. It probably is already, but soon it will be easy and legal. As it is, 1 in 10 adults and 35% of high school seniors admit to getting high. And how many lie?

So in lieu of reliable scientific research, I decided to once again consult the data generated by my own personal history. It's also called life experience, which some researchers may lack. All those years hitting the books and all.

I'll make this brief, since my pot-smoking history is probably of little interest to anyone but me, and I don't find it very interesting. In college I started smoking pot with friends from high school who I learned had been smoking since their early teens but managed to hide it from their sober friends for fear that we might judge them. Part of pot's paranoia, but we know that already. "Pot will make you horny, hungry and tired," one friend told me, and then he handed my the bong. Sex, food and sleep, can life get any better? Not as easy to answer as this may seem. And in its defense, marijuana has helped me through break-ups, bereavements and other personal losses - like the one Shawna caused, the hussy! I know, I know, it's all just meant to be.

The philosopher Herbert Spencer was a big fan of making lists. He'd assign numerical values to the items for and against and base decisions on which side outweighed which. So as a tribute to this great thinker, here goes my personal pro and con list of smoking pot.

Pros
1. On pot, food tastes really good. Especially ice cream.
2. On pot, sex feels really good. Even with yourself.
3. On pot, it feels really good to sleep. Mostly you sleep so deep you don't dream, but when you dream, the dreams are really good too.

We knew this already. My friend's 1, 2 and 3.

4. Watching movies is fun on pot. Especially funny ones, but even tragedies can become comedies when you're stoned. If you doubt, go watch Dolores Claiborne. I've laughed the hardest courtesy of THC. Don't smoke a bowl and listen to Jerky Boys unless you want to crack a rib. Some of my best memories of my brothers are when we used to get high. And laugh, boy how we'd laugh.

5. You really go deep in conversations, sharing the nitty-gritty mysteries of your souls. Most of it you forget about a half hour later.

Cons
1. Pot makes you think too much. And the thoughts you have seem like major revelations, but on reflection when sober, if you can remember what you thought about, your musings seem obvious, or trivial. And it sucks. You don't forget how much it sucks, because when it happens you're no longer stoned.

2. Pot makes you act dumb. Probably because you're living in your head. But it does slow your reaction time. This much the science is pretty clear on. Although the weed-beclouded motorist knows he is impaired and so drives more carefully, unlike the inebriate, who thinks he's Mario Andretti when drunk and so speeds up. And yet cannabis plus alcohol is one of the most oft-detected drug combinations in car accidents. It seems booze plus bud increases the concentrations of THC in the blood.

3. Pot makes you lazy, complacent, a couch potato. It robs you of motivation. But hey, what's wrong with spending all weekend in bed. Maybe I needed the rest - says the guy while high.

4. Pot plays with your perception of time, and some activities you may enjoy - like exercising, especially running - it makes no fun, and then makes them seem to go on forever.

5. I cannot retain anything I read while high, and everything I try to write, or for that matter try to get done, takes much longer to finish, and is usually not as good as if I did it sober. However, once I did paint my apartment this really cool shade of purple I'd never thought to have applied while sober - but I got it all over the carpet - and it was oil-based. Motor skills! This inability to get much done pretty much goes for every stoner, especially those in charge of legalizing marijuana.

Well, it's 5 to 5, so I guess it's a case of "I leave it up to you."

I know there's an exceptional to every rule. Everyone remembers the whizkid who could smoke a J and ace his exams. Or the guy in college who loved to pump iron while baked. "Feel the bake dude! I mean the burn! Feel the burn!" Or the friend whom weed makes more social rather than less. And some stoners are actually high achievers. Snoop Dogg just completed his 13th album, entitled Bush. There's a name that leaves little to the imagination. Of course he could be talking about the former president, or his favorite plant, or a hairy woman's crotch. Personally I think Snoop Dogg has never managed to outdo his debut effort, featured on Dr. Dre's album, The Chronic. So that's 20-plus years on the downhill. Call me ole school. Just one man's opinion. Snoop's dope, though. And G Thang's gotta go down as one of the best songs ever and in any genre - though I can't understand half of what they're saying. Get up and dance now, don't be shy.


And I know there is a big distinction made these days about the strain of pot you prefer. Indica versus sativa. Mellow versus energetic. I've tried the former, while recovering from a bike accident. Those brownies did little for my pain. What they did was lock me in my head. My own worst enemy much? Not my idea of a good time, no sir.

And since we're on the subject, let us not neglect to mention the deal-maker. Smoke weed and you are instantly transported to an alternate reality, shot to a parallel universe, deposited on a different wavelength from the sober "others" in your midst. But you know this. This you can add to weed's benefits if said others are goobers. And if your friends are stoned, they're in on the secret. But if they're not, they're hardly your friends. They're onto you. They're coming to get you. Homies be speakin' a different tongue 'n shit - in the parlance of high times.

Then I think back to how weird my friend acted back in the day. We'd be surfing and he was high and I was unaware. We still had fun. Plus or minus? Hard to say. Either way, marijuana stunts a kid's growth, betcha didn't know, but you oughta, since the highest prevalence of smokers is in the 15-24 age group, boys more than girls. My friend coulda pitched for the Dodgers if he wasn't such a 'head. I haven't the heart to tell him, though he's probably too high to care. Last I checked DJ still smokes every day. Pot smokers also enter puberty earlier, which sets them up for early exposure to alcohol, tobacco and sex. Ah, to be a parent in this day and age! Glad I'm not.

And so it goes. . . .

So you see, as with most of life's pleasures, the plusses and minuses of smoking weed pretty much cancel out; they add to the same thing, which is zero. Which considering the effort and time involved to procure your next fix, means you're probably better off foregoing. Unless you like the ritual of it all. Which means you may have a problem. Of course just saying no will save you money. But life is about having experiences. And the laughs, oh the laughs! Anything for those side-splitting laughs. But laughter is pretty empty if it comes by way of brain cells. Welcome to my mind. I'm going to end this before I cancel myself out a second time and disappear. Oh look, it happened. And I'm gone.

P.S. It's good I have my vanishing act down. Because I may need it if Shawna comes around. Unless she brings sativa. Then it's anybody's guess.

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