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High Culture:

  Marijuana in the Lives of Americans

    by William Novak

      4. Marijuana Activities II

God is looking at the world through your eyes. Are you showing Him a good time?

—a smoker in Wisconsin

Smokers have gotten high to sell cars, march at their own graduations, get married, attend funerals, give lectures, appear in plays, be interviewed for jobs, and virtually everything else. Normally, the event in question goes smoothly enough, although there are exceptions, as one young man discovered:
This past year I went for my interview to get into Yale. I stopped to visit a cousin, and we got blown away. I should have known better. I went into the interview with a shoe in my mouth. The man would ask me a question, and I would think about it forever before responding in a completely irrational manner. I'd rather not relive this nightmare.

    Because moments like this can and do occur, most smokers have internalized a code governing what activities they will engage in while stoned. For some, tasks that require dealing with systems of authority are ruled out, not because they can't be done well but because they may be highly unpleasant. Even as trivial an exercise as requesting a telephone number through directory assistance from a strictly impersonal operator can be upsetting to the smoker who is high and feeling friendly and relaxed. Such activities as standing in lines, going to the bank or post office, and sitting in traffic can similarly be unpleasant when one is stoned. (On the other hand, many commuters like to get high during rush hour to make it bearable.)
    Sometimes unlikely activities present unlikely problems. A housewife in Dayton, Ohio, writes that she got high with a friend before a neighborhood Tupperware party, where she ended up buying fifty dollars worth of Tupperware "because everything looked so useful." Indeed, one piece she bought was more useful than she realized; she now uses it to store and preserve marijuana in her freezer
    The range of experiences enhanced by marijuana is endless. A new mother reports that she enjoys breastfeeding when she is stoned:
I felt so aware of the milk flowing and the baby sucking. But the best part is after the feed when the breast starts to fill again. I can practically feel the milk far back, from all parts of the breast streaming toward the nipples, a streaming, yes, that's the best word to describe it.[1]

    One of the most unexpected stoned activities is housework. Several users mentioned that they have learned to enjoy this normally dismal task while high, adding that marijuana can also lead to a more thorough job. "I hate housework and usually do the minimal amount," writes a Chicago woman. "But if I get stoned and put on some music, I will tear a room apart and clean every inch of it." And a high school girl adds:
What I think is the most fun to do when you're high and alone is just to clean little unimportant things like the TV screen. These things do get pretty dirty. It's great to walk into the kitchen in a daze, get some paper towels and cleanser, and clean the rubber plant in the hall. You think to yourself, "What am I doing this for?"

    A man who says he doesn't help out much around the house reports that smoking will put him in a very different frame of mind, in which he feels the need to put things in their proper place. Stoned, he especially enjoys physical tasks like emptying the dishwasher and compulsive activities like chipping away all the ice that has accumulated in the freezer. Other smokers recount similar experiences, and a New York woman notes that it is now as common for professional housecleaners to take five minutes out for a joint as it is for them to help themselves from her liquor cabinet.
    Another favorite indoor activity for some smokers consists of handling marijuana, including rolling joints, cleaning an ounce or two, or dividing a pound into one-ounce plastic bags. Good marijuana can be pleasing to look at, handle, and smell, and these pleasures are naturally intensified for the consumer who is stoned.
    Several people mentioned that when they are high, they feel more aware of animals, that the animals take on a more distinct identity, that they become easier to comprehend as live creatures with personalities and needs of their own. Among smokers, it is widely believed that household pets become high if smoke is blown toward them. One experienced smoker notes that cats handle being stoned better than do dogs: "Cats either curl up and dream, or else prowl around in a prickly alert state with their fur electrified. Dogs just get splay-legged and drool." Other users enjoy watching animals, especially fish in an aquarium. A Nevada woman elaborates:
I have a desert tortoise as a pet, and the other day I smoked a joint and spent at least an hour just watching him. I became totally captivated with his actions7 as slow as they are, and with the various colors and shades of his shell. I can really get into animals when I smoke, and have held "thought conversations" with cats I used to own, to the point where I felt I could really tell what they were thinking. I realize how strange that must sound, but I did feel it.
    Once one of my cats had just given birth, and she and the kittens were all together in my bedroom. I just went in, sat on the floor, and watched them for a couple of hours. The kittens were crawling all around me, and I was totally content. It felt like that was all I needed in the world to be happy. Animals also like to get high, and it isn't even necessary to blow smoke in their faces, as most people think. They get high just from
    being in a smoky room. My cats would get close to me when I was smoking, and would even lift their heads in the air and sniff in order to catch the smoke. Animals get very affectionate when they're high, or else very energetic, and will wear themselves out playing or running around. I'm pretty sure that even my turtle gets high, since he acts differently and moves around more when there's smoke in the air.

    Smokers choose different settings for stoned activities. Some, like Judy, prefer staying home, "where I have a wonderful time going nowhere. Before I started smoking there was much more pressure to go out and 'do something,' especially on the weekends." For this group, leaving the house to go somewhere requires too much energy and involves too many hassles.
    Another group, given the choice—and good weather—will go out of its way to find a physically pleasant environment, such as a beach, a forest, a park, or a canoe in the middle of a lake. A Missouri man notes that the ideal place to get high is on the levee on the Mississippi, "just laying back with a joint, listening to the sound of the tugboats with the cool breeze kissing you on the face." Another man mentions that, when he is stoned, a simple walk in the woods can turn into an adventure in exploring sensations. "For example," he asks, "how many people have stopped to listen to alder trees rattle against each other on a winter's day when the temperature is down to ten degrees?"
    Others use marijuana to enhance short trips and sight-seeing. A college student in Boston recalls one night when he and his roommate, both high, decided to visit Plymouth Rock:
It was intense. We got there, to the pavilion, where the lights give off this eerie, moonish glow. You stand above that rock, and you look out, and there's this rock where the Pilgrims came up—right up to that point. That very rock! And they carved "1620" into that rock. And after all those years, that rock is still there!

    In a sense, the more ordinary the experience, the more exciting are its transformations under marijuana. Mark, the computer designer, describes the simple act of taking a walk through his neighborhood to visit a friend:
I love to go walking. If you're stoned enough, you never seem to get where you are going. You lose your sense of time. The usual memory processes aren't working, and it seems you have always been where you are now.
    The slightest scene on the street becomes a dramatic episode. Two guys talking to a girl. A man going into a store. A woman carrying a small child out of a car. It all becomes part of this live movie you're watching, looking out at all this simultaneous movement, taking in the panorama of the ever-changing street.

    The key to the transformation is that marijuana encourages its users to relax, to take the time really to notice the world around them, to see that which they might routinely ignore on other occasions.
    A Long Island woman, now in her early thirties, so much enjoys going for walks with her friends when they are all stoned that she imagines that this will be the perfect activity for her old age. "People associate smoking dope with youth," she says, "but in some cultures it's done more by old people, and I can see why. I once read an interview with Albert Hofmann, who discovered the psychedelic properties of LSD, who said he thought that psychedelic drugs were most appropriate for a 'ripe personality.'"
    There is no consensus at all among smokers as to whether marijuana mixes well with work; it seems to depend on the smoker—and on the nature of the work, as a secretary explains:
I can never understand why people will say "I can't smoke now, I'm going to work." Now, I see that this would apply to people who are, say, airline pilots or surgeons, or who do something where you can't take a chance on losing your concentration or drifting off for a few minutes. But for the average person such as myself, whose work doesn't have much to do with life and death matters, work can be more enjoyable and easier when you are stoned.
    I've never screwed up because of being stoned. It just doesn't affect me that way. When I'm stoned at work, I put my attention to the work and everything turns out all right. So I guess what all that says is that I control the dope, rather than vice versa. I have noticed and known a lot of people who are incapable of doing any important work after smoking, but I think they're in the minority.

    The majority of users, probably, would not even consider smoking on the job. It's not always a question of being able to perform well; for many, the mix is simply inappropriate. "The whole point of marijuana," says a printer, "is that it can be used as a reward for when the work is over." A young man who works in a car wash finds marijuana helps him cope with the boredom of the job, but adds that he is careful not to smoke before work—or else he might not come in at all. This brings to mind an adage popular among smokers: "Do whatever you want when you're stoned, but decide what you want to do before you smoke." For many people, one of the effects of marijuana is that it makes them reluctant to leave the activity in which they are involved in favor of something else.
    A Washington journalist has worked out a compromise. He finds that smoking often increases his motivation. If he is working on a good story, he won't need to smoke. But if the deadline is drawing near, and nothing exciting is breaking, he may choose to get high for inspiration. He will also smoke before major events:
Usually I'll smoke up before a presidential press conference, or a similarly important event or speech. Once I ran into Senator Hatfield while I was getting high, and neither of us thought anything too bad was happening, although of course he may not have known what I was up to.



Only a few years ago, marijuana and sports represented worlds that were not only mutually exclusive but mutually hostile as well. Indeed, the topic of marijuana and sports was initially not considered for inclusion in this book, but the relationship between the two activities was mentioned so frequently that it clearly merits attention.
    Our concern here is with amateur rather than professional sports. While a growing number of professional athletes are using marijuana and other recreational drugs,[2] it is among those who enjoy sports as a hobby that marijuana is especially popular. The college jock who smokes—or even sells—marijuana may be far more common a figure than is generally realized.
    In 1978 an informal survey at a prestigious New England college revealed that over half of the players on the school's various athletic teams were regular users of marijuana. "That's much higher than it used to be," comments a senior on the school's highly regarded basketball squad. "Jocks used to be a lot straighter than everybody else, but now that the rest of the world has smoked, the jocks have tried it too."
    College athletes who play team sports will sometimes come stoned to practice, but actually to play in a game under the influence of marijuana is considered risky. One football player at the college referred to above says he enjoys getting stoned before the workouts because it makes him feel less pressured by the drills—and the coaches. "I get more psyched and invigorated," he says, sounding a little like a character from "Doonesbury." "It's the next best thing to skipping practice altogether. If they're going to keep you there all afternoon, you want to make the best of it."
    The main problem with engaging in athletic events while stoned is not that they can't be done well but that the result is so often unpredictable. A guard on the basketball team explains:
I can't take the chance of playing high anymore. I've done it twice. The first time I played out of my mind, scoring twenty-seven points, a team record. The other time I made a complete fool out of myself, and scored only three points. I don't dare try it again, since there's no telling what will happen.

    His teammate says that offense is easier to play stoned than defense is. But basketball requires both sets of skills for each player:
There's just no way I can play defense when I'm high. I can't think straight. I can't play out a strategy or guard my man properly. All I want to do is steal the ball and get a break. But when I do get the ball, I want to do so much and make so many good shots that I try to accomplish everything at once, and generally screw things up.

    Coordination is yet another problem. "I get a pass from another player and the ball goes right through my hands." A forward adds that when he plays high, he thinks he's doing well, but the game statistics usually suggest otherwise.
    In more casual, less competitive situations, basketball and marijuana appear to go together more easily. A man from the Midwest who plays with his friends describes how it feels when he is stoned:
You run with the ball, bouncing it and dodging about on the floor. But you aren't just running; you're pumping forward and feeling your muscles enlarging and pushing you on, with the sweat pouring out of you. You can feel this because you have never felt it before. When you leap with the ball to shoot, you've had it all planned and you are moving more slowly. You know that you can do it well, shoot more accurately at the basket, as your whole body is warmed up, your blood is shooting through your veins, and you seem to have the game in your body, not just in your mind.

    Marijuana is used more often in individual than in team sports and is particularly popular among swimmers, skiers, and runners. Smokers rarely claim that marijuana makes them perform better, recognizing, rather, that it often reduces their athletic skills. But they also find that smoking helps them to enjoy and appreciate the total experience of a sport or other activity. A Minnesota woman observes:
If you're moving when you're high, it's the greatest experience. Take a sport like downhill skiing. God, what a trip. Or canoeing. You feel so many sensations in depth when you're stoned: the wind against your face, the muscles that you use becoming visible in isolation. Marijuana enlivens the sensations around you, and you notice even the tiniest of nature's beauties when you're gliding along in that canoe. Everything appears fascinating, everything envelops you with happiness.

    Feelings and sensations resulting from a specific physical activity are likely to become intensified and frequently more personal with marijuana. A teacher from Brooklyn recalls being stoned during one day of a week-long bicycle trip: "I felt at one with that bike, as though the bike and I were a unified machine operating under a unified power."
    The most popular stoned physical activities appear to be downhill skiing in the winter and going to the beach in the summer. Many smokers say that marijuana makes them feel more energetic. When one man described how he goes surfing high, I brought up the question of danger. He explained that he simply doesn't get stoned on days when the waves are bigger than he can handle. Evidently, he has internalized a sense of proportion with regard to marijuana and the potential dangers of being stoned in the ocean. "You learn to make adjustments," he said, and several other users made a similar point.
    Stoned swimming is especially popular, less as a competitive sport than as a pleasant outdoor activity:
I felt as though I were weightless and suspended, especially while I was underwater; that fear caused me to submerge for shorter periods than I normally do. But I also liked that feeling, and the sense that the water had a texture that I could really feel as I moved my arms and legs through it, like soft butter.

    A Harvard freshman who likes to smoke on the ski slopes said he was concerned that the mechanics are often stoned when they mount the bindings for skiers; for this reason, the student was working on a model for standardized bindings. He was fairly certain that marijuana is used more by skiers than by other sports-minded people, and other users agreed with this estimate. The most popular time to toke up, apparently, is on the chairlift. An Oklahoma woman describes this double ascent:
I want to mention the tremendous aid to skiing that grass provides. I am a secure intermediate skier, and I will take the expert trails when I have been on the slopes for a couple of days, and feeling limber again. But it was not until I got high on the chairlift that I actually discovered the necessity of "feeling the mountain" when I ski, and pot helps me in this.

    Running is becoming a popular marijuana-related activity.[3] One of the main effects of smoking on the runner is that it may distort his sense of time. For some, smoking makes the task more difficult, since time begins to drag; for others, however, smoking enables them to transcend their normal concerns about time and to concentrate instead on the running. A Los Angeles accountant described the effect of marijuana on his running routine:
I do five miles three times a week, always stoned. I've been able to run fastest that way. When I'm not stoned, I run slower because I'm nervous. Stoned, I'm more relaxed, and running is all I think about. There I am, listening to my heartbeat, feeling my legs and stomach growing tighter, and I keep pushing. I've timed myself, and grass increased my speed by about 10 percent.

    "There are two kinds of high," observes a Texas woman. "There's the feeling you get from going a long distance; that's the true runner's high. The other kind? You run—and then you go and get high." In fact, those who combine marijuana with running are more likely to get stoned before starting out.
    Some runners, including a Boston attorney, find the "genuine" runner's high so appealing that it becomes an alternative to marijuana. As this man describes it, running was an easier way for him to experience similar sensations to those he used to feel when he smoked:
I love running. It's nice, jogging along, the rhythm of your legs lulling you into a meditation. All your anxieties drop off. You feel like you do when you're high; everything's great, you're relaxed, and you want to embrace the whole world, you're so happy.
    And as you continue, you start to get into an altered state of consciousness. Colors may start to blend. Your vision can narrow; things are not as clear. Sometimes I run right past people I know without really seeing them, and they're always surprised.
    The weather makes a big difference. In fog, everything is more intense. On really hot days, you feel the heat intensely; on cold days, sounds are very crisp, and you feel tremendously alive. And the greatest thing about it, after forty minutes or so, are those flashes of problems which come through, solutions to problems you've been trying to solve. It takes time, though, to work up to that much running, where images start to appear from the periphery of your consciousness, and you get childhood memories, and things of that nature.

    Unlike other marijuana-related activities, where smokers routinely and with little effort compensate for various losses of ability resulting from the drug, most users who smoke in connection with physical activities must accept the marijuana-induced disadvantages. "When I'm stoned," says a tennis player in New York, "I can't hit the ball for love or money." Nevertheless, she sometimes prefers to play that way. An Arizona player had a different experience:
As I prepared to hit the first ball, my arm felt like lead and my feet like magnets. For both of us, the first few shots were awkward and heavy handed. But then, we played the finest twenty minutes of tennis in our memories: spectacular placements, crisp volleys, incredible shots. I remember one point in particular, a fifteen- or twenty-shot volley at the end of which we just looked at one another, acknowledged that something outrageous was happening, and agreed not to analyze it—but to keep on playing.
    My perception of the ball's flight was extraordinary; I saw it coming off Bob's racket like a grapefruit, and moved toward it instinctively. The racket had become an extension of my arm, over which I had total command. I knew upon making contact that the ball would land precisely where I had intended.
    After a short while, we came back down from our "tennis high" and dragged ourselves back home. I have never played as well as I did that evening, stoned or straight.

    But for most smokers, marijuana means accepting a certain falling off in ability, in exchange for a more relaxed state of mind, which may lead to a greater enjoyment and appreciation of the game. For those who play sports while they are high, winning isn't everything—and it isn't the only thing.
    This attitude, which strikes deep at the heart of the modern American sports ethic, carries over into spectator sports as well. For smokers loyal to that ethic, marijuana can lead to interesting conflicts. A Boston artist finds that he enjoys watching basketball on television, but says that when he is stoned, he isn't as concerned about his beloved Celtics winning or losing as he is in appreciating good play by members of both teams. "When I smoke," he says, "when the game's over, it's over, and I don't care so much who won."



Like sports, games are popular stoned activities. Frisbee is a great favorite, as are such indoor activities as Boggle, Go, chess, pinball, and Monopoly. One smoker recommends magic tricks as the ideal stoned activity, noting that when his friends are stoned, "they get so shocked by these tricks, especially if I just do one or two without announcing that I'm doing magic."
    Some California smokers are familiar with a game called "Dealer McDope," in which players are given an allotted sum of money that they then spend on drugs, running the various risks that real dealers encounter. Another popular game, especially in California, is known as "the seventh son of the seventh son." Actually, it is more of a ritual than a game, as marijuana scholar Michael Aldrich explains:
Played most often in communes and frat houses, it requires a constant fresh input from large numbers of smokers, who save every roach from their joints, and put them into a can marked number 1. About seven of these roaches make enough smoke for a new joint; the roach from it is put in can number 2. When there are seven, a joint is made, and its roach is put in can number 3, and so forth. Starting with the second generation the joints will start oozing and getting softer and heavier with THC, almost like smoking a fresh hash joint. By number 3 you will probably have to drill a hole through the center of the joint with a toothpick. By number 4 you may have to keep the paper attached to the third-son roaches intact or the thing will glob up too much. Keeping it in an airtight container like a film can helps this hashishization. The object, of course, is to get to the seventh son of the seventh son, a ticket to a world far beyond "marijuana" as usually smoked. Multiple exponents of seven (one number 2 equals seven number 1s, and so forth) are said to lead geometrically to the Kingdom of Heaven.

    In 1974 writer Jon Lipsky wrote an article for The Real Paper, a Boston weekly, listing several of his favorite stoned games, three of which are reprinted here:[4]
While the verbal facilities are still intact we turn to Dictionary, a game that many fine people are playing these days.
    Jayne looks up a word neither she nor anyone else can define. "How about icteric?" says Jayne. No one has the foggiest for icteric. But we all write down on sheets of paper what icteric ought to mean. These made-up meanings are written in dictionary lingo in order to fool people. Jayne writes the real meaning on another sheet of paper, mixes it in with the fakes and reads them all. We have to guess the right one (one point for each person you fool with your fake meaning, one point for guessing the true dictionary meaning yourself):
    "Icteric—a prehistoric dinosaur with leathery wings."
    "Icteric—a rhythmic beat, a stroke or blow; also sunstroke."
    "Icteric—pertaining to, affected with, or service as, a cure for jaundice."
    "Icteric, Hans—a 14th Century Danish explorer, discoverer of the Isthmus of Mikwen."
    "Icteric—nasty, bilious, filled with bile or fetid materials."
    If you want the right answer, look it up. But be careful—the game is infectious and will make your mind define words like "hello" or find derivations for "ostrich feather."
    Eventually, however, dictionary lingo becomes uninteresting. To put the creativity back into this type of game we have developed "Fictionary." You play Fictionary the same way, only instead of a dictionary you use any work of fiction.
    Nicky grabs The Idiot off the shelf. She picks a line from Dostoyevsky's book:
    "Nastasya Filippovna had taken a glass of champagne..."
    We have to complete the sentence. In the style of Dostoyevsky The real sentence is mixed in with our fakes. Is the correct finish "... and declared that she would drink three that evening"?
    Or is the correct finish "... and it was difficult to understand her strange and at times abrupt and sudden sallies, her hysterical and causeless laughter, alternating with silent and even morose depression"?
    Or "... and a piece of black bread"?
There comes a time in every party, though, when someone wants to play a real blood-and-guts competition contest. Playing poker for pennies, however, is absurd, because nothing is at stake. This game puts the stakes back in poker.
    Mental strip poker uses regular poker rules for the cards but a different system for betting. The currency in this game is divulgences. Everyone is on his/her honor to divulge whatever is bet during a round. For instance:
    I deal. I call for an ante: "One black thought."
    Everyone can easily risk divulging one black thought, so everyone puts in the ante.
    Jayne has two kings and opens the bidding: "I bid a small sexual fantasy." Everyone stays in. But Mickey, with four hearts, says: I see your small sexual fantasy and raise you a grave doubt." Most of us wouldn't mind telling a harmless sexual fantasy, but a grave doubt—that's too heavy. We fold.
    Jayne draws a third king but keeps the bidding light: "I raise you a youthful mortification." Mickey has pulled the flush. "I see your youthful mortification and raise you a major vanity." Jayne wavers, but decides she has put in too much already to chicken out on a possible bluff. She sees the major vanity and loses.
    She feels sick. Everyone tells a black thought and a small sexual fantasy, but Jayne has to tel1, in addition, a grave doubt, a youthful mortification, and a major vanity. Jayne tries to squirm out of it by using as her grave doubt her inability to grow house plants. We reject this doubt; it is not grave enough.
    We remind Jayne of the time one of the women admitted as a major vanity, "I think I'm very beautiful," and as her grave doubt, "I'm afraid I'm not." Now, that was full payment.
We say: "Let's play the Ultimate Stoned Game." Everyone agrees.
    We sit around the room in no special pattern. We talk, we smoke, we sniff, we eat, we carry on our lives. Eventually someone will notice that someone has left the room. He will say: "Someone has left the room." Then everyone has to determine whether this is true, whether someone has indeed left the room. (If this is true, the person who said that someone had left the room gets a cookie and perhaps a kiss.) If someone has indeed left the room, then everyone has to guess who it is. If you guess the correct person, you lose. If you guess someone who has never been in the house during the evening, you get another turn If you guess, with a sincerity that no one doubts, that the person who left the room is someone who is still sitting in the room, you win.


Movies and Television

A major effect of marijuana is to intensify the visual perceptions of its users, who report that they see objects more clearly and colors more vividly. Not surprisingly, going to films is a favorite stoned pastime for many users. Some films, like 2001, Star Wars, Woodstock and other rock movies, Yellow Submarine, and a handful of others, appeal directly and deliberately to the stoned viewer. But as with music, almost any movie that is stimulating under normal conditions will be perceived as more exciting and more vivid when the viewer is high. A film like The Harder They Come, with its vivid colors, pounding rhythms, and frequent mention of marijuana is popular with users in many large cities. It is difficult to generalize, but stoned moviegoers seem to prefer lighter fare, like comedies, adventures, and cartoons. As one smoker puts it, "Movies with complex plots are a waste. You have to keep too much together, use too much memory. Visual trips are much more effective."
    Fantasia, that old Disney favorite, has been revived annually in many communities over the past few years, and it depends upon stoned audiences for much of its current—and recurrent—popularity. Its appeal is strongly felt by the smoker with strong memories of the 1960s, since Fantasia not only mixes music and color but also portrays an essentially beneficent, cooperative universe, in which various creatures and plants work together in an ordered and harmonious setting of love and contentment. True, there are malevolent characters and frightening situations, but in the film, these are faced and beaten back, and serve to increase the spirit of cooperation among the inhabitants of the Fantasia universe.
    Yellow Submarine is a more recent and no less successful attempt to illustrate music visually, and it is even more brilliant than its spiritual predecessor. This was the quintessential marijuana movie for the youth culture that made the drug so popular in America and in other countries as well. Sandy, the writer in upstate New York, recalls what it was like to see the film the first time, stoned:
For me, it illustrates the sheer power of marijuana, its mind-expanding qualities. On the screen there is an outrageous profusion of color, and while watching it, my visual senses became heightened to the point where my heart was pounding and I actually became overwhelmed with excitement. It was not unlike sexual stimulation, an eyeball orgasm, as it were. Then, to my amazement, my senses would periodically shut down to the point where my poor, overloaded circuits couldn't take it anymore. I sort of blanked out, pretty much unaware of anything at all. Then I would recover, and resume watching the movie. I also remember the communal singing of "All Together Now" at the end. It felt like the characters in the movie and the entire audience were all sharing a joint.

    Although they may prefer going to see films, most smokers find television more accessible, requiring far less of an expenditure of energy, no small consideration when high. "You can always find something that goes with being stoned," says a New York editor who enjoys randomly flipping the channels of his television. A teacher in Philadelphia reports that he likes to make the colors come in "louder" by tuning in the brighter shades of green and red "so that they're flowing at you." He especially enjoys watching political conventions, and during the course of each party's meetings, he will get high "to appreciate the political subtleties of the system," and also drunk, "because I want to be on the same level as the people I'm watching."
    A number of smokers enjoy watching old television shows such as "The Honeymooners" and "Ernie Kovacs." Other popular choices include live sports events and certain situation comedies. Some people, when high, become involved in programs they would otherwise never dream of watching.
    Several smokers mentioned watching the news stoned. For an Illinois man, televised accounts of tragedies led to his giving money and other forms of aid to the victims; this occurred, he says, only when he was high during the news. Karl, a professional photographer, enjoys watching the news stoned because he likes to separate each newscaster from his or her blank facial expression:
Their expressions seem like acting: one night, I finally realized it was acting, but acting in reverse. The acting involved in reading the news requires you to resist all the emotions which might normally accompany the script. It's a funny notion of acting, I know, but that's really what it is, acting by not acting. You can almost hear the director saying, "Okay, once more, but with less feeling!"

    A banker from Birmingham had an entirely different reaction:
Watching the news while you're stoned can be incredibly depressing. You stop and realize that all those terrible things portrayed on the screen, wars and tragedies and all the rest—they're all true, and not just television entertainment. Being stoned can put you more directly in touch with what's going on, and sometimes, as with the news, that can be almost too powerful to handle.

    Karl's wife Martha, a lawyer, enjoys watching "Perry Mason" when she is high. Normally, she thinks the show is "pretty dumb," but after smoking, she finds that it becomes a mysterious and complex drama. For many smokers, however, the trouble with television is that it just isn't worthy of the stoned experience. "I seem to be more critical when I'm stoned," notes a Colorado housewife. "And when I watch television, I'm aware of the bad acting, the bad scripts, and the bad direction."
    There are a few happy exceptions. One is commercials. "I resent the commercials when I'm straight," says a New Jersey viewer. "They're an interruption and a bore." But when he is high, he realizes why for some people commercials represent the best thing about television. "Commercials are made with far more care than most regular programming, and with far more talent as well." More than regular programs, commercials have apparently been influenced by the drug culture, being more daring in structure and execution as well as in use of colors and images.
    Several television shows have flourished in recent years, to the delight of stoned audiences. Perhaps the most popular are the British half-hour comedy show "Monty Python's Flying Circus," and "Saturday Night Live." "We are counting on at least 80 percent of our viewers to be wrecked—really in Cuckooland," "Saturday Night Live" writer Michael O'Donoghue told an interviewer. "So the show is clearly written with that in mind." He adds, although it hardly needs articulation, "It's not like we question a joke because we wrote it when we were stoned." The show is a dramatic illustration of the newfound legitimacy and power of the marijuana culture. That a show appealing especially to stoned viewers could become an enormous hit on network television would have seemed, only a few years earlier, a hippie's crazy dream.
    Those viewers for whom television is normally addicting find it even more so when they are stoned. A Washington journalist who occasionally watches television when he is stoned disapproves of his friends who like to get high and then watch whatever happens to be on. "I think that's a disgrace to marijuana," he announces, preferring to smoke only before programs of special interest. "If you get high to watch reruns of 'I Love Lucy,'" he says disdainfully, "then you've wasted your evening. And you get only so many evenings."



1. New mother: The Cannabis Experience, p.101. (back)

2. Their smoking takes place off the playing fields, presumably, although New York Yankee Joe Pepitone revealed in his book I Remember Mickey that he once got Mickey Mantle stoned before a game. (back)

3. Running: see Jim Lilliefors, "Dope and the Running High," High Times, March 1979, pp. 14-15. (back)

4. Jon Lipsky: "Summer Is Icummen In, Llude Sing Cuckoo," The Real Paper, 9 May 1974, pp. 10-12. (back)

Chapter 5

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