The first time I blogged about pot, I sweated for the next few hours waiting for an email to appear in my inbox from the FBI. There are a few reasons for that: (1) I am a nervous law-abiding person; (2) marijuana is, federally speaking, illegal; (3) I was stoned.
I felt really conflicted, as a former D.A.R.E. ad sponge, about pressing publish on a post that contained the phrase “I smoke pot.” On the one hand, I'd had a California state medical marijuana card for a few years, which I obtained after a rough patch with the prescription sleep aid Lunesta. On the other hand, I felt guilty, because I really really like smoking weed.
Not everyone appreciates the effects of THC, the chemical in marijuana that gets you high. In fact, scientists are trying to isolate the relaxing compound, CBD, in strains of marijuana so that patients can enjoy the benefits of the drug without enjoying any Cartoon Network programs.
Cool, but I actually enjoy the cartoons as much as I enjoy the relaxation. That is the distinction between a patient and a stoner: The stoner says, “Everything about this drug is great.” The patient says, “I want to stop losing my keys and staring at my visualizer. Hand me a joint of that no-fun stuff and let me get on with my day.” Patients maintain the image of being reasonable and responsible humans. Stoners are filed away as either Beavis or Butthead, depending on their nostril shape and/or hair color.
I am both stoner and patient: I do not own any tie-dye, for example. But coming to terms with the fun parts—the accessories of a lifestyle that still feels sort of like truancy—isn’t easy for everyone. Especially those of us who do not hacky sack.
I might never have gone through the bizarre process of consulting a doctor who advertises her services as “Doc 420” on billboards throughout Los Angeles were it not for Lunesta's untenable side effect. For me, it made everything, including air, taste bitter and life-alteringly horrible. Ambien was off the table because I don’t want to eat everything in my freezer somnambulantly. I had always liked smoking pot for television-watching and chips-dipping purposes, so I thought I might try using heavy indicas (the “downer” strain of marijuana) to go to sleep. It worked.
This was an unexpected and almost disconcerting development. Doesn't medicine become drugs when it's fun? Is it okay to enjoy doing medicine? When would the fall come, I wondered. When would I look back on these evenings watching Law and Order and eating a really, really, super special pizza and recognize my own descent into addiction? When would high school health classes begin printing fuzzy black-and-white photographs of me on a series of slides in order to illustrate the adverse effects of drug use? At what point would I meet my friend for coffee only to discover television interventionist Jeff VanVonderen and a group of people who love me like crazy sitting at a patio table waiting to ship me off to some Pathway to a Sober Future in an Arizona cul-de-sac? I waited anxiously, but the axe never fell. I looked really relaxed. I oozed into bed and woke up feeling sparkly.
Obviously, nobody cared that I had admitted to smoking pot on my blog, and though I lost about a pound of water sweating that one out, I eventually stopped waiting for the rap on my door (the police knock—KNOCK, KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK) and realized that it was okay to come out of the closet. Figuratively. I never had a closet big enough to accommodate the enormity of my anxiety, nevermind my body.
It’s still weird to admit, even whispery and with a quick over-the-shoulder glance, that I might be a stoner. Kind of, only on weekends, just a tiny bit, I tell people who ask if I smoke weed. But so many of us participate in the culture of weed smoking now that it is entering an interesting transitional phase. We are gradually climbing up the Splash Mountain slope of acceptance. Laid out below us is a cornucopia of pleasure and horror: Jerry Garcia is down there, and Doc 420 is waving from behind that big plastic tree, and there’s ice cream with textural surprises. But there are also the lurking federal agents, the lowered eyebrows of judgmental bosses, the unnamed and shadowy consequences that murmur wordlessly like so many animatronic raccoons.
But I also know from experience that being a stoner doesn’t mean smoking pot all day every day, forgetting which side your gas tank nozzle is on and spilling bong water onto a pleather sofa in an already-dank basement. Being a stoner is simply the experimental acceptance of one idea: There’s nothing wrong with being stoned. Yes, it would be wrong to drive a car to Wendy’s right now. Yes, it would be bad to smoke pot and report to work, whether work is a Ben and Jerry’s factory (you get caught sneaking brownie batter in the back room) or an office (the magic distortion of time turns on you; minutes stretch into days; you want to nap in the middle of a spreadsheet).
But what about before a bubble bath, before painting with watercolors in your backyard on a Sunday, before dinner? What if pot was just accepted as a kind of dual-gender Viagra you took to more profoundly enjoy the things we take for granted—like the band Chicago or IMAX 3D?
Marijuana reform exists in the smoky gray area of legality where nothing remains for long, and it’s impossible to say where we’ll be ten years from now: Buying pre-rolls at the 7-11; giving the password through a peephole in an unmarked door; hunting down the last notes of a Bob Marley song to find a smokeasy. In the meantime, it seems a shame not to talk about these things: The unique back roads your mind takes after a night with Purple Skunkberry and friends, or the Wheat Thins sundae you ate all alone. So let’s talk. If the FBI shows up and carts me away, do me a favor and grab me the number of an attorney off a telephone pole in Studio City. I promise you, I’ve seen them everywhere.
Enter High Minded, where Tess Lynch revisits previously forgotten epiphanies, drags her lazy, leaden body on adventures and—whoa. I think this pudding's texture might improve if I added a handful of popcorn and some, like, canned blueberries. Look for a new column every other Friday at GOOD. Collage, as always, by Beth Hoeckel.