I am not a pothead.
What’s funny is that it’s 4:19 pm as I’m sitting down to write this.
The disparities between the 4:20 urban legend’s reality and its myth are indicative of the problems inherent in the larger marijuana/cannabis culture on the whole: simple, utilitarian truths get surrounded by misinformation and foggy-headed speculation. It’s been explained to me that 420 is the number of molecules (uhh) in THC or also that 420 is the San Francisco Police Department’s code for a marijuana violation. 4:20 appears as the optimal and not-so-secret time for smoking, but these explanations are silly and don’t explain how this time became the numerical placeholder for cannabis culture.
The truth is that it was simply a time some students at San Rafael High School chose to smoke up as it was convenient for them, and the number flowed organically within that community as an artifact of its particular culture. It also turns out that 4:20 is a pretty damn good time to imbibe, so the term has stuck and so has the ritual of the time. There’s no secret handshake or Grateful Dead shirt required, and common sense gets extended to future generations in perpetuity. This happens with stoners more than you’d expect, actually, and what’s funny about it being 4:19 pm when I sat down to write is that I didn’t even realize what time it was and simply glanced at the clock to see how close to 4:20 my smoke session just was. It turns out I smoke or vaporize at around 4:20 pm even when I’m not trying to.
But I am a stoner.
Now, you probably know me, and depending on how well we know each other, you may or may not know that at the ripe age of 31, and for a number of reasons, I essentially decided to forego alcohol entirely and wholeheartedly embrace the plant known scientifically as cannabis sativa and cannabis indica for quite a few of my everyday needs and wants instead. A quick rundown on the differences in my mind between a pothead and a stoner:
- No job
- Probably some kind of hippy
- Smokes to get stupid high (somewhere in the 8-10 range on the scale of highness, with a 10 being so high that you’re uncomfortable and want it to end)
- Doesn’t give a shit about strain or phenotype
- Plays video games
- Is annoying when high
- Functional and productive member of society
- Drives a new car with regular payments
- Smells like rich mahogany
- Much more likely to use a vaporizer for stealth and health
- Smokes for actually, really, for really-real medical purposes during the day and at bed time
- But knows when to get recreational with it and tailor usage to parties in ways many others use alcohol
- Has medical card
- Plays video games, too, but not as many?
- Is awesome when high
One thing that potheads and stoners typically have in common (besides a love of the herb) is a heartfelt devotion to legalization, and a somewhat paranoid attitude toward revealing your smokerness to those who may not approve for legal reasons.
Except that where I live (Colorado) we did legalize it. And even before that I was legal because of my medical card. Fuck paranoia and fuck those people (whoever they may be, I’m not entirely sure they exist in any real numbers), I smoke weed, and here’s why.
Let’s start with alcohol, because that’s really what spurred this whole thing on, in an indirect way. I’ve never particularly loved drinking. I didn’t get blotto on my 21st birthday; I was sober enough to drive home. But as a weird kid in high school, beer was not for me on principle and I never grew into it, and the drink I did enjoy was completely reviled by my friends. I ordered it as “Gray Goose and cranberry” but we all know I was asking for a Cape Cod (or Sea Breeze, whatever). So even when I did drink, I wanted it to taste like candy and not alcohol. Then within a couple of years, my wife and I had two formerly close friends from high school get essentially brutally and violently torn from their lives because of alcohol.
The first was Arlene, a woman who’d been a bridesmaid during our wedding. She died early on the morning of what was to be her own wedding day, after getting her dress altered one last time. She was hit and killed on Hampden Ave by a drunk driver who’d had previous DUIs. Her dress was hanging from the window of the shattered car. This ended any kind of semi-drunk driving I’d been doing until this time.
About five years later another formerly close friend from high school named Joe Goolsby died. Joe’d always had a problem with bipolar disorder and doing things to excess and even when we started drinking in high school and early college, as I was finding hangovers less and less intriguing, he was becoming more and more dependent on alcohol for daily existence. In 2010, as I was in the very early stages of making in-person contact with him again after hearing stories from our other friends about how his alcoholism had brought on alcoholic neuropathy and how miserable this made him to be around as he was in constant pain, I received news of his death.
I’d been told that he couldn’t drink anymore because it’d kill him if he had but he felt that he couldn’t not drink because of the constant pain and inability to function or even eat while sober. He died suddenly of causes that have never been explained to me. I hate to think he did it on purpose, but I can’t know that. The even more fucked up thing is that Joe died within two weeks of two other people from an extended former group of friends from school, both of whom died from the very same problem.
So you hate alcohol, and?
And so I got really and truly depressed from all this. The night before his funeral, I could tell that I wasn’t going to sleep, I needed an outlet, something to cover up that pain that I was feeling and it seemed like drinking myself into a stupor just really wasn’t the most respectful choice. I called up a friend and asked him for some of his weed, and he kindly gave me all that he had which while not much was enough to dull the pain, to help me dissociate – even if it didn’t help me sleep (I’d find out why later).
On top of a general bad mojo I’d felt while drinking after I’d been on some anti-anxiety medication at the time, these losses of life in exchange for liquid poison just didn’t make sense to me, it didn’t seem like a fair trade, and here was an alternative that by all signs seemed to be a harmless plant that could do some real good for me. So I went green.
Next up: growers, smokers and sellers, oh my!