Today, countless will convene in celebration of her majesty, Lady Mary Jane.
For some, it is indeed a love relationship, a matter a matrimony – in good times and in bad, forsaking all other drugs, til death do they part, the stoner remains committed to his Mary Jane.
What is it about weed that engenders such fidelity? And also vexes society so?
I suspect Mary’s a good girl who hasn’t the haziest idea why her reputation is so maligned. Especially considering her comrades in vice.
In the same way, I find it absurd that a cat could be arrested for smoking a j in the park even whilst his bench mate guzzles swill from a brown paper bag unscathed.
**Before we go farther down this road, I’ll offer the disclaimer that, of course, clean livin’ is best. Exercise regularly; eat good food; drink water. Stay away from vices. However. If you must vice, then let us have this conversation. We can pick back up with the clean livin’ if ever raw kale snacks and runners’ highs are the subject at hand.**
In February, the Washingtonian ran a cover story titled “High Society: Washington’s Love Affair with Marijuana.” The article pokes at Washington’s weed subculture – a segment of the population that apparently includes high society regulars like political operatives and politicians, lawyers, millionaires, and stay-at-home moms like Ann Romney. Not to worry though, as one mother explains:
“Never in front of the kids … [they] will be with a babysitter and we’ll go to someone’s house, play Wii, and pass a bowl around. Or smoke while we’re at a barbecue, making dinner, or having margaritas.”
Imagine that. Ann Romney types puffin on whiteboys and passing ’em around the breakfast nook.
I understand personal experience shapes perception. But, you don’t gotta touch fat meat to know it’s greasy*. You may not know weed, but we’re all familiar with the ills of more socially acceptable vices. So then, why privilege alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription pills – each, in excess, has proven more dangerous to the individual, physiologically, than weed ever has. The Washingtonian article I mentioned earlier also highlights a study conducted at Claremont Graduate University which tested the point at which various drugs – including marijuana, alcohol, prozac, ecstacy, and cocaine – become lethal. For alcohol, for example, 2 shots of vodka would likely be effective in getting you tipsy; 20 shots, however, would kill you. So researchers divided a drug’s lethal dose by its effective dose, and that figure was the drug’s “safety margin.”
“For alcohol, the margin is 10, because ten times the effective dose will likely kill you.” For marijuana, the margin is 1,000. This means if one j gets you where you need to be, then you’d have to smoke 999 more before your life is effectively in jeopardy.
This brings me back to Mary Jane’s bad reputation. So I asked some brilliant smokers I know to clear the air.
First, I asked each participant to self-identify – would they describe themselves as “professionals” (gainfully employed and making some contribution to job and/or society) or “slackers” (ain’t got no job, and primarily supported by someone else)? And then I asked the following:
- What do you think is the general perception of marijuana smokers? Why do you think that is?
- Why do you smoke?
- Do folks judge you for smoking when they find out you do? If so, how do you defend yourself?
- What are your feelings on marijuana as the “gateway drug”? Does smoking marijuana ever make you want a higher high from a more illicit drug?
- Do you think smoking marijuana impairs your ability to be great? Has it kept you from accomplishing your goals?
- How often do you smoke?
Everyone identified as professionals. And everyone – each one of them – said they smoke daily – several times a day – or would if they had some left in the stash every day.
To question 1, the consensus was that the perception of pot smokers is largely negative. They are “unmotivated” “underachievers” who are “listless…bumping from one blunt to the next.” Most believe media perpetuates this stereotype because “it’s funny to rag the hapless stoner, who’s vice has become his identity rather than just something he does.”
On question 2, one might assume “professionals” would be loath to get down and dirty with Mary Jane because of how bad y’all talk about her. But they aint. One respondent began smoking purely out of rebellion. “I cannot stand being told what I can and cannot do,” she said. Moreover, folk treat smoking sessions like happy hours – toking “for recreation or to be social with friends.” For others, in addition to enjoyment as a general proposition, they also smoke to relax and alleviate pain, for “deep contemplation,” and spiritual connections – meditation and focus. “I enjoy being taken out of (or falling deeper into) my own head for an hour. Like I’m borrowing someone else’s senses.” I dig that.
For question 3, responses about what happens when/if people judge you ranged from “I don’t know because I don’t give a fuck what people think of me” to confronting the negative with “yea, but it’s ok to drink a pint of whiskey and smoke a pack of cigarettes everyday?” Touché, I say. Touché.
On question 4, my respondents unanimously agreed that, to them, marijuana was more like the “gateway” to enlightenment and relaxation than the threshold of bigger, badder drugs. The choice to go harder, it was assumed, was a mechanism for masking some deeper issue that hasn’t yet been unaddressed. One respondent called the gateway argument a “cop out, ” as she believes “folks who were going to smoke crack or shoot heroin were going to do it regardless of if they started with weed.” And another added, “I can smoke pot and feel totally … content with the feeling that it gives me…. I’ve been smoking for over 15 years and I haven’t had the urge or need to try anything else.”
On the last question, I asked whether anyone felt smoking marijuana obstructed their ability to accomplish great things. In each case, the answer was a resounding no. But for flavor, here’s a gem: “If anything, my greatness and ability has been improved and enhanced….Abstract thought and feeling is a big part of what I do, and the ability to explore different ideas is aided by being able to at least contemplate and think outside of the box, which smoking helps me do.” And this one was my favorite: “I will admit that I’ve thought of how much MORE awesome I could be if I didn’t smoke. Like could I have finished my PhD in 2 years instead of 3 if I wasn’t a smoker? Probably not but I’ve wondered….” I love it.
Before today, you may not have realized that folks can have legitimate, respectable reasons for why they spark up from time to time, or even all the time. You may not have realized that one can be both a stoner, and a scholar. And you may not have known that desperate housewives in the swanky enclaves of suburbia host cyphers just to celebrate life. But now you do.
Hey, I’m not your pusher. I’m just here to provide a different perspective.
Happy 420, monkeys.