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High Culture:

  Marijuana in the Lives of Americans

    by William Novak

      Appendix I. Letters from Smokers (and Nonsmokers)

1. A San Francisco cannabis connoisseur ("Alan"), 36, married

I first turned on with marijuana while an undergraduate in 1963, although I didn't really get into it until two or three years later when I was in India. I have been smoking it regularly since then, ranging from a couple of times a week to almost every night as a relaxant.
    I have also stopped smoking a few times for periods of up to several months, whenever I feel that it's just becoming habitual or uninspiring. I also stop smoking and possessing marijuana whenever I'm involved in political organizing around the marijuana law reform issue—in other words, when I'm in the glare of publicity, or when I feel that even the slightest chance of getting busted would harm the cause.
    I usually smoke a joint or two in the evenings with my wife, while watching the tube or playing backgammon or reading, as a relaxant and mild soporific. I've been insomniac since the year one, and find a little dope by far the best sedative, although a quarter of a Quaalude does almost as well. I rarely smoke pot during the daytime while working, not only because it would be hazardous to get caught but also because I don't like to work while stoned; it's too much of an effort, and it's distracting and drains energy. I'm a classic workaholic and regard one of the most important of pot's medical uses as a self-medication against overwork.
    On the other hand, I find that marijuana increases my imaginativeness and creativity when I'm working on something creative, like writing or photography. I believe in chemical control of my own consciousness, and I use a great variety of drugs for specific purposes. For creative work I find that a toot of coke for energy, a hit or two of reefer for inspiration, a big multiple Vitamin B-complex capsule and about 500 units of Vitamin C will usually put my consciousness at its discursive best. For sexual activity, I like a bit more coke (maybe a quarter gram taken in very small mini-lines over a period of several hours), a modicum of marijuana or hash or hash oil, a glass or two of wine for staying power, and Vitamin E.
    For pain—for example, when my wisdom teeth were pulled—I self-medicate with prescription Percodan or Tylenol #4 with codeine, lots of marijuana, Perrier water for minerals, Vitamin C for healing, maybe goldenseal for healing also, and a little smoking opium if available. It places my consciousness just beyond the pain.
    At parties or social gatherings (ranging from just getting together with another couple at home to going out to movies, to big parties), I find that marijuana creates conviviality, gregariousness, social giddiness. I find pot infinitely preferable to liquor as a socializer, though sometimes tequila gold with salt and lime is wonderful. (I also consider tequila from the Agave cactus to be the most psychedelic of alcohols.)
    Set and setting are important, and yes, there are circumstances in which I feel pot smoking is inappropriate. I never get stoned before making any kind of public presentation, for example, testifying in court or before a legislative hearing, when I want to be at my sharpest. (I don't drink coffee, toot coke, or take any other kind of drug except tobacco in such circumstances.) I find that too much marijuana (for me) when I'm trying to get some work done, even creative work, leads to the two most famous pitfalls of being stoned, STML (short-term memory loss) and TT (tangential thinking ). There are chemical and nonchemical ways to correct this condition, but generally when writing a research paper or a journalistic article I avoid getting very stoned.
    On the other hand, I very often have magnificent creative insights when very stoned, and leap up to capture them on a note card, which I save for future use. A strong consciousness and will, a highly developed critical sense, and carefully nurtured self-editorial ability are necessary to separate the banal and trivial from the golden glimpse, the kernel of insight that often exists in my stoned jottings. Carpe diem is the key—seize the moment when the insight occurs, write it down quickly and hot, and edit and criticize it later. It's a two-edged sword; often my stoned writing is too rambling or parenthetical, but just as often being a bit stoned really helps the flow of writing and thought. So there are times when smoking marijuana is very suitable, and times when it's not suitable at all. Part of the value of long-term marijuana use is knowing which is which from experience.
    Marijuana, like all hallucinogens, is a wonderful teacher. Although its most famous value in creativity is as a source of inspiration and suggester of things, it is also perhaps the world's best herb for creative appreciation Whether listening to music, watching TV or a movie, reading poetry, mulling over one's thoughts in a pensive mood, or sensuously touching the skin of a loved one, marijuana sharpens the senses. That is its great virtue and reward. Baudelaire had a sense of this in his magnificent phrase about hashish, "the mirror that magnifies." Allen Ginsberg wrote the definitive statement about marijuana's effect on consciousness in general: "The paradoxical key to this bizarre impasse of awareness is precisely that the marijuana consciousness is one that, ever so gently, shifts the center of attention from habitual shallow, purely verbal guidelines and repetitive secondhand ideological interpretations of experience to more direct, slower, absorbing, occasionally microscopically minute engagement with sensing phenomena."
    In a world glutted with information, desensitized by television and telephone and endless tabloid journalism, this directness and intensity of perception is marijuana's major gift to humanity. From the historical perspective it seems to me that marijuana is the perfect drug for the mid-twentieth century, and its massive increase in use throughout the world in the 1960s is extremely appropriate for this time and place. Of course, LSD and the major hallucinogens are greater, if more demanding, teachers: but they are ideal for advanced students7 while marijuana is generally suited for everyone.
    Insights while stoned. I've had so many valuable insights while stoned that to describe them all would comprise a decade's autobiography. But I would like to mention one that has repeatedly proven invaluable over the years. I believe that marijuana's oft-mentioned ability to interfere with immediate memory ("short-term memory loss" ) has another facet, which I call "long-term memory gain." I believe marijuana is helpful in delving swiftly and directly into many levels of consciousness, including those the psychologists call "subconsciousness." A great part of the untapped potential of the human mind lies in the reservoir of archetypal memory, not only tucking into the memory bank everything that happens in this life7 but also many things that have happened in previous lives. Often this involves the most profound of human senses, deja vu.
    I pride myself on not often being guilty of fuzzy or "magical" thinking, but I profoundly believe in many levels of consciousness, in reincarnation, and in marijuana's ability to open up the creaking doors of awareness of multiple realities coexisting simultaneously in my life. T he first time I had an insight into this occurred when I was a graduate student. A friend of mine had some relatives visiting him, including a little girl cousin about five or six years old, and my girlfriend and I went over to his house to smoke some fine Afghani hash that had just arrived in town. After the kids were put to bed we settled down for some serious exploration of this fine, crumbly herb. We'd all gotten pretty stoned and were sitting out on an enclosed porch watching the heavens roll by, a very clear chilly midnight with the stars and moon ever-so-bright, listening to records and chatting. The little girl wasn't able to sleep and came out to the porch rubbing her fists in her eyes. "What are you doing, Daddy?" she mumbled to her father, who was just reloading the hash pipe.
    Quietly, without any put-ons or razzle-dazzle, he told her that we were smoking hashish and showed her how to burn it a little and crumble it and put it in the pipe, light it, and toke on it slowly and carefully. I was very stoned and dreamy, enjoying the crisp air and wonderful stars and this little tableau happening; and suddenly I was overwhelmed with a sense that this had all happened before, had all happened to me before. The scene was stunningly familiar: the little girl learning how to smoke dope from her kindly father, an intimate family scene going back to prehistory, an overwhelming sense that we were in a smoky cave in Afghanistan in maybe 1500 B.C. and the old man was carefully, sensitively, teaching the child a tradition already ancient. An illusion, a "memory hallucination," perhaps. Perhaps?
    But I felt that I had suddenly tapped into a great cosmic flow of reality, a sensation that truly I had witnessed such a scene before and it was in a Himalayan cave long ago. I have had a conviction of having lived in ancient Afghanistan (where I've never lived in this life, though I spent a year in India) in a past life ever since and have had this conviction confirmed by other experiences many times over the years. But that is not the insight. The insight is that the use of mind drugs can make a person aware of other levels of reality and experience that might never otherwise be awakened. And by "experience" here I mean personal experience, an unshakable recollection of things that have happened to me in circumstances that are not familiar from this life's thirty-six years on the planet. And that are made available, often through deja vu sensations, by the judicious use of cannabis.


2. A Denver high school senior, 17, who works in a bank

I'm Miss Straight during the day, but at midnight I turn into your everyday teenage marijuana user. Parties and all. There is no set schedule with me, or with most of my friends, about smoking. If someone has it, we smoke. If they don't, well, we'll stay straight. I would say on the average that I smoke about three or four times a week, especially on the weekends. I doubt if anyone smokes on a set schedule.
    Smoking has the best effect on me when there is a party. It seems there are so many people to meet and talk to. Any act of craziness is not looked at like craziness at a party because everyone knows exactly how everyone else feels. There is much better communication when people are smoking. For instance, if Jim and John were directly opposite each other on the subject of capital punishment, and if both of them smoked until they were reasonably high and then discussed the subject, each would give in a little on their stands until, eventually, the two would come to a kind of agreement on the subject. This sounds strange, but it happens.
    Marijuana relaxes your mind and allows new feelings and ideas to come in. It seems your mind is at peace with itself. Sometimes I look into the mirror and say, "Well, what are you? A dope head or a nice, goody-goody secretary?" I'm both. I fully enjoy my job at the bank, and I have my best times when I'm stoned. I hope no one ever asks me to pick between the two, because I couldn't. Also, when I'm straight, there are certain things or actions that I would never think of doing. For example, I doubt if I would ever kiss d total stranger for any reason. But if I was smoking, it wouldn't seem too terribly bad, and in fact, I probably would. I don't mean to say pot lowers your values, but it just lets you expand and realize new dimensions.
    Anything you do is more exciting, more fun, and more terrific when you're stoned. Trying to tell someone the way you feel about them is more romantic, more evident, and much greater when you're high. It seems easier to express your feelings, not just about love but about everything. You feel more open and relaxed about your views. You try hard to express your feelings, at least harder than when you're straight.
    I have a very good relationship with my mother. She knows I get high and I tell her about my experiences. Marijuana is basically like anything else. If you don't know about something, you fear it. You keep fearing it until you experience it. Then you think you were silly for being afraid. She also has seen me when I was extremely high. I asked her to ask me a few questions about things that had definite answers—age, address, names of relatives. I answered them just as quickly and just as accurately as when I'm straight. My skills are not lowered by the effects. For example, I can take shorthand at 140 wpm. I can take it at 140 wpm when I'm stoned too, with the same amount of accuracy. I don't misspell words, forget periods, or anything else like that.
    There are several reasons why people are believed to smoke pot. The first and most widely used cop-out is as an escape. I have no problems that are bad enough to use marijuana to escape from. Even if I did, I would not use pot as a means of escape. That's ridiculous. Another reason people give you is because it's cool or to make it with the crowd. Cool is what's cool to you. If I want to run naked on the streets, I am going to. But because I want to, not because everyone else does it.
    People don't smoke pot because it's the newest thing or because everyone else on their block is doing it. They do it because they like it and it's right for them. As the old song goes, "you can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself." Pot is not addictive, so there can't be a physical need for it. People don't realize that some people do things because they simply enjoy it, not because they have serious problems, or because the rest of the family does it. Also, a lot of people think the reason kids start on pot is because they are pushed by society. No one makes them hold the joint and no one forces them to toke on it. The choice is (or at least it should be) made by each person.
    I don't know if you're interested, but the reason I started smoking was purely out of curiosity. I wondered what everybody was talking about. Sure I could shake my head and laugh at the funny stories they told about being stoned, but I never actually knew what they were talking about, or just how they felt. So, I finally tried it. I was scared at first, and I was also very aware of my highness. I would say something really dumb like, "I guess I'm high." It was terrific. I enjoyed the way it made me feel, and I continued using it. But as every kid that smokes will tell you, there came a time when I wanted to move on to bigger and better things. I first tried better quality grass (Colombian Gold, Jamaican), and then I gradually worked my way up to things like speed, downers, THC, acid, hash, and joints with LSD in them. But because I didn't care for some of the effects that some of them brought me, I never used them again. I am not ashamed of trying them, and I can tell people of my experiences and hopefully help them to look at both sides of the drug.
    Music? Well, I do know that if you don't particularly like a song and you hear it when you're high, you tend to not dislike the song as much. What I mean is that you enjoy music more when you're high. Also songs that I didn't understand or didn't think had any meaning are suddenly so meaningful that it's a trip. For example, our rock station plays hard rock twenty-four hours a day. When I listen, sometimes I'll hear a song I don't particularly care to listen to, so I'll change it or turn it off. But when I'm high, I can listen to it all the time, no matter what song comes on, and I enjoy every song from start to finish. It's like the beat and words are impounded in your mind, as if you're doing the singing. I believe that music can make you higher than you actually are.
    I'm afraid I can't help you much on the subject of sex. I'm still a virgin, but I can tell you how the desires feel. Sexual arousal is one thing that is definitely brought on when you smoke. Ask anyone. I would say this feeling would be very close to my opinion of lust. I don't mean you go out and find anyone. I mean you are more apt to have sex with someone while stoned. When I think about it, the only word that does describe this feeling is lust.
    Being around lots of people while stoned is great. You talk to people you normally wouldn't, you like people more than you normally do too. You realize how much you care for your friends, and you are somehow closer than before.
    One of my hobbies is pretending. When I'm high the things I dream of are somehow not as far away, at least not as far away as when I'm straight. Feelings are more noticeable, and if you're high and around a bunch of people, you can sense more easily a feeling of hate, or you can tell when people really care for each other. You can sense other people's fears more easily. You can tell when someone doesn't like you. It's like you are a machine and can look through people and see their feelings.
    The only way I could think of using marijuana badly is for means of escape. Real escape. I mean if you have a hard time at home, or you always come in high because your dad's yelling doesn't sound as loud, or your mom's bruises don't look as bad, I guess then pot is used as alcohol. Or because you think you look prettier when you're high. All these things are wrong reasons to use pot. Unlike alcohol, pot can also be used for good reasons. Anytime you smoke pot, have a few friends over, and just have a nice time—this is using marijuana well. I feel sorry for people who can't use this for what it provides—pleasure and peace. It's almost as good as being in love. In fact, the two are very much alike.
    There is one thing about marijuana that amazes me. You know how it is said you can never distinguish a certain age or point when a boy becomes a man? There is no exact moment when a boy completely leaves his childhood and the next second he's a man and ready to begin adulthood, right? Well, it's the same with marijuana. When you start smoking, there is never a point when you can say, "Okay, I know at exactly the point where I stopped being straight and started getting high." It just never happens. It must enter your system so slowly and carefully that you are not even aware it's happening. That is, until you're high. It's the same thing when you're coming down. You simply can't tell. You know if you're high or straight; you just don't know where the two meet.


3. On not smoking: a successful illustrator in his thirties

I haven't used marijuana for at least ten years (before I made prints), and then only a few times. I tried hash once. My experiences were disappointing in that I had expected breakthroughs of perception or something of that sort, and found instead a state that was similar to that of a reasonably concentrated work session, with the disadvantage that I was unable to hold a train of thought long enough to retain more than a sensation afterward that I had the seeds of good ideas. The dreamy state was spoiled by my inability to control the development of thoughts and by my irritation, even while high, at seeing good ideas float off into what was clearly an irretrievable fog of sensation. Indeed, since the images that came to me while high were similar to those I normally developed while working, marijuana use seemed like going back to work in a situation that I was prepared to devote to relaxation and socialization.
    The friend who provided the pot said that I was not relaxing and had too many explicit expectations. This may be true. Nevertheless, I was left with the impression that pot offered me nothing that concentration and diligent observation could not and had the great disadvantage that much of what was experienced was immediately lost. Nor could I perceive that my friend, who was and is a regular user, was really assisted by his use of pot and other drugs (LSD for a while, and hash), except insofar as one might be aided by a sedative.
    My friend and I are not a statistically valid sample, but this has not prevented me from wondering whether pot has much attraction or advantages for anyone other than being more portable and fashionable than booze. Other acquaintances of mine use pot, many of them artists. I have not discussed their reactions to pot specifically, but as I run over them in my mind the thread that runs through them is that they all believe that an artist should be a bit zany and that something is wrong if he is not. This follows from the idea that art is born of neurosis. I am not a student of psychology, but I don't subscribe to that idea; I think Van Gogh would have done more and better work if he had had his head screwed on right. The best aspects of his work are not those arising out of his mental imbalance: reduce the frenzy of the brushwork and you have a brilliantly analytical postimpressionist....
    This is a digression, which I've indulged in because it brings me around to my reason for not using pot further. It is that I think that what is good in art comes from real perceptions, which are available to everyone, to which the artist brings an interesting point of view. We all respond to good art, because in one degree or another we have all shared the perception, and it is the pleasure that comes from finding yet a new facet to an old idea that draws us to art. Novelty turns out to uphold the understood order of things. Now it is true that sometimes in moments of intoxication or agony or something that breaks in on our usual tangle of preoccupations and permits a focus on one idea we get new perceptions; but once we have this perception we do better to return to a steady state and proceed with its development with all our senses of proportion and humor at the ready. The foolishness of drunks is notorious, and although a drunk may say one insightful thing he can rarely string two together.
    My argument, then, is that too-great dependence on pot or any "unsettler" for a state of mind in which ideas flow simply argues insufficient discipline of the mind.
    I should add that I drink alcohol daily, or very nearly, but not to the extent of drunkenness. I never drink while working.


4. A nineteen-year-old woman at a New England college

When I was in the sixth grade, a detective, complete with a badge, came into our class armed with various samples of drugs: little red pills, white powder, and some greenish-brown pot. They were all enclosed in plastic boxes attached to a board, and he pointed to each one in turn, explaining how each substance constituted a threat to our lives. He even went so far as to burn some marijuana, so that each of us would be able to recognize the pungently sweet aroma and we would know enough to stay away from any place where that smell could be found. I believed everything he said; marijuana was surely an evil. How could anyone do something illegal like smoking pot, not to mention risking harm to their brain?
    In junior high the same thing happened, this time with the health teacher. But what the teacher doesn't realize is that by telling kids how bad it is she will just raise their curiosity. You just sit there and think: what is it like to get high? What does she mean by euphoria? So all the curious kids went and got high because nobody could explain how it felt.
    My first experience came shortly after that. Two close friends of mine, both a year older than me, asked if I wanted to try it. I knew that Marie, who was like a cousin to me, had smoked previously. At first, I was quite shocked and disappointed in her, but gradually the newness of the confession wore off, and I no longer viewed it in the same alarming light. Already the logic was setting in; if so many people smoke pot, and nobody seems to be harmed by it, how can smoking pot be so bad?
    Marie's invitation triggered conflicting emotions within me. I was flattered to be considered "cool" enough to be asked, but I also felt frightened and nervous. At the same time, I was excited by the prospect of this new adventure. I would finally see for myself what it was like to be stoned.
    The first time was disappointing. Other than feeling a searing pain in my throat when I inhaled the smoke, I felt absolutely nothing. I had something of a natural high from the tension and the excitement of the event, but I felt nothing from the pot itself.
    The next time, though, I wasn't disappointed. I felt a light tingling in my fingers and arms, and my eyelids felt strangely heavy. Everything was suddenly funny; I had a perpetual grin on my face. Things looked different. They seemed clearer, more distant. I suddenly became aware of all the little ridges on the trunk of a palm tree. I had trouble judging distances as we were walking, and I experienced a case of the famous munchies. The experience was definitely a positive one, and I had a really fun time just acting silly.
    Since then, I have had many unusual experiences while stoned:
    —swimming in the lake at night, I felt like my body lay floating on shimmering glass;
    —walking back with a friend to her house at midnight, we both felt like we were in "hobbitland." The road looked like the one to the Mystic Mountains, and any minute we expected to see Bilbo Baggins or a dwarf pop out;
    —sitting down and eating an entire cake my mother had just baked with my brother, who was also stoned.
    I also found that when I was in Florida, I could not smoke pot during the day. The intense heat combined with being stoned made me unbearably sleepy. I did, though, enjoy being stoned in cool woods or mountains during the day. Nature is overwhelming by itself, but combined with the effects of pot, it is even more so. I would almost feel like crying because the woods were so beautiful.
    Last year, I stopped smoking marijuana because I stopped enjoying the high. I suddenly began feeling self-conscious when I smoked, and I began to care what people thought of me. I was thinking too much about depressing things when I was stoned, and I found that I no longer enjoyed smoking except with very close friends. I started to get more withdrawn, more contemplative when I was stoned at parties; it was less and less of a social drug.
    I no longer smoke, but I still get high. For instance, I would rather drink a glass of good wine than smoke a joint. Wine relaxes me and makes me feel good, but not the least bit uptight. And if I am really in the mood to relax and party, which happens about twice a month, I take half a Quaalude. No moral judgments, please, I just think they give the best high of all. Besides, anything in moderation can't be that bad. Which reminds me: even marijuana can be detrimental to a person's well-being if it is used continually.
    So there I find myself, in the category of people who used to smoke marijuana, but who no longer do. I'm not for it or against it. If people want to smoke around me, fine; I just won't smoke with them. I find that observing can be as interesting as participating.
    Being a former smoker rather than one of the people who has never smoked puts me in a special category: I don't smoke marijuana, but I know what it's like, and have experienced it. I think that marijuana is a learning process that everyone should go through.


5. A housewife, 26, in a small town in Ohio

Like most people, I began to smoke marijuana out of curiosity. The various news media bombarded me almost daily with conflicting information about marijuana and other drugs, and I decided that the only way to find out about the marijuana experience was to try it, so I did. That was about four and a half years ago. Today I am a fairly heavy user.
    In the beginning, I felt thrilled that I could actually find the courage to do something illegal and get away with it. (Pot has been decriminalized here in Ohio, but it was still totally illegal when I started.) Having grown up under rather isolated conditions (rural, lower class), I was also thrilled that this group of people accepted me and even seemed to like me. That is where my education began.
    The thrill of illegality soon wore off, but since I enjoyed being high from the beginning, I could see no reason to stop. My self-image didn't suffer from what I was doing, either. On the contrary; it began to improve. I felt good when I was high, and one day it soaked through my thick skull that if I could function effectively among people when I was stoned, then I ought to be able to do the same when I wasn't. So I tried. I geared up what little courage had survived my childhood years, and I tried talking to somebody without being totally bombed. It worked! From then on I became increasingly conscious of the effects that smoking was having on me.
    My favorite time for smoking was while making the hour-long drive to the college I was attending. One day, instead of a useless stream of facts parading through my befogged brain, those facts started connecting themselves in a sensible manner. Specifically, I was ruminating over things I had learned in anatomy and physiology, and with a flash I understood how all of the different things we learned were relevant to each other. I realized what it meant to apply the things that were retained in my mind. All through my life I had thought learning meant memorizing a bunch of facts to answer back to the teachers on tests. I was so overwhelmed by this discovery that I had to pull off the road in order to give it the serious attention it deserved. I've never forgotten that lesson. It helped me start pulling myself up from my unhappy childhood and warped adolescence. (I'm still climbing, but I've come far enough now to know that I'm going to make it.)
    I am now able to use marijuana casually instead of needily. I no longer smoke to find the courage to do things. In fact, I find that when I feel shaky in the knees before a new encounter, a joint may prevent the experience from being fulfilling.
    Currently, I smoke almost every day, usually only if I'm feeling chipper. Marijuana is a mood-enhancer for me, rather than a mood-changer, and it's a lousy experience if I smoke pot when I'm grumpy or ill at ease. If I'm about to undertake something that could turn out to be either a good or a bad experience, I find that if I concentrate on the possibility of a pleasant time, and get a good buzz on, it seldom turns out badly.
    It goes almost without saying that getting high during an already pleasant experience increases the pleasure many times. But the reverse is also true, and a bad experience is made worse by smoking. I don't smoke in places where I feel uncomfortable, or with people I don't feel at ease with. I've wasted too many years being depressed, so I've learned how to smoke in order to exaggerate the good things in life and minimize the bad. I call it survival.
    At the same time, I don't have to smoke pot in order to function. Every couple of weeks I will go through a period, usually from one to three days, during which I have no desire to get high. These times really cheer me too, for they are the signals that let me know that I can function without artificial aid. 'These abstinence periods also enable me to more thoroughly enjoy it when I resume smoking. They are also useful in that I don't harbor a half-buried fear that the Establishment is right and that I'll be hooked for the rest of my life. Less guilt equals more fun. (If I'm hooked on anything, it's food, not pot.)
    I'm not a physically inclined person, but even physical activities are enhanced by smoking. When stoned, I become aware of almost every bone and muscle in my body, and can follow their alignment with each other, receiving an anatomy lesson far superior to anything I learned in my three semesters of high school biology. I experience the ability to actually feel the parts of my body functioning together as one smoothly working unit. I've been trying to extend this awareness consciously to include the involuntary systems and parts of my body; so far, the success has been small, but enough to know that in time, with serious effort, I will develop that ability as well.
    The way in which I appreciate music has changed since I began smoking. I used to listen to music, or rather to the Iyrics of songs, almost as an addiction, finding in them a reason or justification for almost everything I thought or did. Now, I hardly know more than a few words of my favorite songs; instead, I listen to the music and understand that music is a series of connected sounds and that they are connected by memory; if you can't remember the previous note, the next one won't have much meaning.
    This sounds obvious, but it is something my music teachers tried in vain to teach me for years. Until I started getting stoned, I could not differentiate one instrument from another. Now I can pick out the different parts that make up one piece of music. Instead of hearing a big jumble of sound, I can distinguish numerous small sounds working together. I'm even beginning to be able to identify a few sounds as coming from a particular instrument, which is a new adventure for me.
    I have come to have a greater appreciation of art in the same manner. Through looking at pictures while stoned, I have learned to see the detail, to look for the feelings in pictures. Colors stand out as more vivid, and slight variations in hues become more discernible. I have a small book of prints by Salvador Dali, which I enjoy looking at when I'm stoned. He paints schizophrenia and other intangible aberrations into visible, tangible pictures.
    Marijuana grown in different places has different effects. The first time I got loaded on Jamaican, I felt as if some oversized dark-complexioned god was walking through the fields of my mind, swinging a hammer, tearing down the walls and fences, crushing out the choking vines of repressed knowledge, feelings, and memories. I can pinpoint that experience as the point where I started to believe I could do something intelligent and constructive with my life.
    Mexican taught me how to laugh; or rather, it taught me that it is okay to laugh. Mexican, of course, was my first high. I learned that I could relax, that nobody was going to gobble me up. And I learned that not all humor is malignant, the way it was at home. Being stoned on Mexican taught me that laughter is essential, not the laughter that ridicules but the laughter that says, "Hey, I feel good! The world feels good! And it's okay to feel this way!" This was something I had not known previously; I laughed when I was stoned, and when I came down it was still okay.
    Colombian is like a cool breeze blowing through the summer midday of my mind, teaching perseverance, concentration, and the beginnings of patience. On Colombian, things feel that they are fitting together more smoothly, as though all of my physical and mental processes are at last synchronized. I learned to concentrate, to really concentrate on one thing, to do some really heavy thinking without feeling like I was some kind of weirdo. I discovered that deep thinking was actually good for me, that it was a natural tendency of mine that had been severely repressed from early childhood. I learned that solutions to problems could be found in my own mind, that I didn't need somebody else to point the way for me all the time. And I found out that people who think are not the sad cases in the world.
    Smoking has its disadvantages too. That same Colombian that blows a cool refreshing breeze can also blow up a hot arid storm. When this happens, there is nothing I can do except ride it out. Getting frustrated just makes it more intense and longer lasting. Pressure builds behind my eyes, and my head becomes hot. Thoughts don't flow freely. Concentration becomes difficult. \0Ihen this happens, I just do the dishes or sweep the floors or get involved in some other physical activity until the storm subsides, as it always does.
    When I'm stoned, my thoughts fly to some pretty strange places. It's fantastic. The doors in my mind are thrown open wide, and I'm free to retrieve much more information stored in the library of gray matter than I can ever manage to tap when I'm straight. I read a report somewhere that pot affects the user at his memory switching station. I think the report is right, but I don't find it to be cause for alarm.
    Many of my repressed childhood memories come back to me when I'm high, and I can see that life is dynamic and not static. I try to let myself see what went on; before a pattern can be altered, it must first be sharply defined, and marijuana has given me back my childhood through memories that were hidden for years. It has enabled me to begin perceiving and altering the patterns of my life, making them constructive instead of destructive.
    I've always been a reader, and smoking marijuana has helped me to see the world in more ways than just the printed word. Now I can also see things in pictures, thoughts, sounds, ideas, emotions, and physical sensations. It's like when I started getting stoned, somebody starting letting up the shades on all the windows in my mind. Now I'm learning to translate knowledge and experience from one realm to another, just like translating a book from one language to another. And in the process, I'm coming more together.


6. A Nashville man, a cook, 29

I have been religiously smoking the herb for the past eleven years. In fact, I'm religiously smoking some delicious gold right now and the damn joint keeps going out.
    Henceforth, let it be known that the word herb will be used for marijuana. Let me start off by telling you that I have devoted my life to this herb. It is my religion, my God. My whole world revolves around it. This may sound sad to you but it's not. I have lots of fun all the time. I have to admit that it's limiting at times, but not so much as to inhibit my peaceful coexistence with this planet Earth.
    I am a different human being. Most working-class people start their day with a cup of coffee in the morning. I start mine with a joint. No matter what (even when I'm sick), I start the day with a joint. No matter what. If my lunch break at noon is long enough I will smoke herb. Usually I will wait till I get home. If I'm not working, well, that's another story. I will smoke herb about every three hours. My usual consumption is one fat joint (about two grams) of uncleaned flowers. I will chain smoke until it is gone. I don't believe in saving herb. I believe it should be consumed as fresh as possible (after curing) in order to partake of the full experience. Consuming stale herb is absolutely sinful to me. Stale herb has lost 50 percent of its energy or more.
    I use herb virtually as a cure-all remedy. Ever since childhood I have been thin, with a poor appetite to boot. Now I eat with enthusiasm. I must smoke a joint before each meal or I will have no appetite at all. Eating stoned is more exciting than eating straight. Flavors seem to jump right out of the food. Even smells are more intense.
    When I come home from work I must smoke a joint. Work really winds me up. If I have no herb I will lose my mind. I become very sad and upset. I cannot relax without it. I become snappish and irritable. A real monster This happens very rarely for I am a Holy Man amongst my peers. A Holy Man's job is to always have herb. I will go to great lengths sometimes to obtain it.
    I must smoke a joint before sleep or I will get none. I will often have an upset stomach and sometimes if I smoke a joint it will settle it. Herb relieves boredom. Herb will relieve certain types of mild pain such as aching bone joints when you have the flu. Me and my old lady will smoke at the movies. Even at the Kiddy Matinee when we saw Star Wars.
    When I write letters stoned I'm less serious and tend to write about positive things instead of negative ones. I would not think of attending a live concert without a full stash of herb. Just unthinkable. When you wake up in the morning with an alcoholic hangover, try smoking a joint. Notice the difference. I also use it to make tea and to flavor foods.
    I use it because it is wholly gratifying. I like to suck a joint and fill my lungs with smoke and exhale billowy clouds. I have used herb to barter for other drugs, food, money and have used it for a tip for services rendered. Sometimes herb will take a headache away. Sometimes it will cause one. If I really get stoned on herb (which is very hard for me since I smoke it all the time) it will keep me awake when I want to sleep, acting like a stimulant. I have to smoke Hawaiian or Thai herb to do this.
    Speaking of Hawaiian, that's where I would like to live eventually. Of all the herb that I have smoked I think it's the most perfect in every way. It is the most unique species of herb that I have ever encountered. I had an excellent connection for Hawaiian herb at one point, but alas, all things must pass.
    I find that when I'm stoned I can laugh easily at silly things. Being stoned makes me more childlike. Maybe that's one aspect of herb that I like when I'm paranoid about being an adult. Adults are notorious for being too serious about everything. I find that when I'm serious I tend to worry about things too much. One must be able to laugh at anything at one time or another. You might call it a nothing is sacred attitude. It helps keep me smiling.
    The one major drawback that I have observed in myself over the years is that I seem to be very absent-minded with a pronounced loss of short-term memory. Also a less responsive long-term memory. Sometimes if I'm hanging out in the living room and decide that I'm hungry, I'll go to the kitchen and forget what I came in for. Oh well, everything has its negative points.
    God is herb. Herb is God. When you smoke herb, you and God become one. Everything becomes equal. Smoking is prayer. The more you smoke the more you are God and you control everything. Smoking is the holiest act. A true holy person takes the herbal sacrament as often as he can. It is surely a way to happiness.

Appendix II

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