Drugs Part 2: Marijuana

It was early 2000, a bit after my 20th birthday. The sun had fallen to darkness. My father was asleep at the other end of the house. I was up late, watching television. There was a tiny, little knock on my window. I looked and found my friend, Dan, bleary-eyed and reeking of a strange, foreign burnt smell.

At that time, I’d known Dan for 2 or 3 years. We were in high school together and friends post-graduation. He was someone I grew close with very quickly, a rarity for me even to this day. We were dumb punk kids who served our small-town sentences with in-depth conversations, listening to music, making music, and general teenage shenanigans. 20 years later, I’m honoured to still consider him a friend.

Dan was already well-travelled by the time I met him in the late ’90s. He’d recently returned to our small desert town from a trip out of the country. He’d been staying with us for a couple of days and was tap-tapping on my window because he’d been locked out (and not provided a key by my father) once night fell. Dan had spent the evening doing whatever it is Dan does and came back looking worse for wear.

He knew, as virtually everyone in my peripheral knew, that I did not do drugs. One could even say I was vehemently anti-drug. It didn’t matter what the drug was, I was against it (as I had been trained to be), even pot. I was aware Dan smoked pot, but he was courteous enough to not mention it while around me or even be noticeably high around me. But here he was at my window, drenched in a skunky odour I wasn’t familiar with.

Dan lied and said he didn’t smoke any weed, but that he’d been in a car with people who were and they “hotboxed” it. That’s why he stunk. He, of course, had to explain what hotboxing was and the nature of getting a contact high. During the course of the night, we stayed up hanging out as we oftentimes did, but it was remarkably different for me. I was giggling more. I felt happier, lighter somewhat. Being kids, we believed that I had contracted a contact high from his clothes (we even swapped shirts because of this belief because, you know, kids).

I’d asked Dan if this is what smoking pot was like. Giggling and having fun. He essentially said yes and that it also made you hungry, then sleepy (in that order). Dan eventually confessed he had indeed smoked it earlier in the evening and I eventually confessed I was now intrigued instead of repulsed.

The D.A.R.E. and “Just Say No” campaigns painted with huge, broad strokes when talking about drugs. They grouped all drugs together and proclaimed loudly they all were equally bad. Scare tactics that championed “Drugs make you feel good for a moment, but then they ruin your life forever.” They had disingenuous, infamous commercials like this:

It’s scary stuff. Brains are important! But here was my friend, one of my closest friends. He’d smoked weed since he was 13 and his life wasn’t ruined. His brains were still good. He’d already visited more parts of the world than I could name at the time. He didn’t steal. His life wasn’t wrecked in any way I could see. All I saw was my friend, in fine shape, giggling and having fun.

Without an iota of peer-pressure, I said I’d be willing to try pot. The next day, Dan procured some, fashioned a pipe out of a Coke can (just as had been done for his first time), and we crouched behind the garage at my father’s house. He lit it for me and I smoked marijuana for the first time. We traded off a couple of times, but he ended up smoking more of it than I. The weed had little-to-no effect on me. The assurances he’d made of cottonmouth, being hungry, being tired, never came to pass.

Come to find out I didn’t actually inhale. I didn’t know how! I did what’s known as a mouth-inhale. Essentially, you take the smoke into your mouth instead of your lungs, then blow it out. I repeated this incorrect way of smoking pot until taught correctly while smoking a cigarette (which I’ll elaborate on in part 3).

When I did finally learn how to smoke it properly, good times were had all around. Those memories are pretty hazy, but I distinctly remember trips in the desert outskirts, hiking up mountains, playing copious amounts of video games, and generally amazing times with my friends. Most of my time in the year 2000 was spent in a glorious cloud of pot smoke. I thoroughly enjoyed being high. The lightness. The relaxation. The lack of worry. My life at that point was already pretty lax and the weed simply complimented that fact. It pleasantly enhanced already pleasant times.

I never committed any crimes to get pot (unless you count the act of buying it). I never lied to anyone about it (although I didn’t really volunteer my newfound hobby to my abusive father). I held down my job. My brains were as uncooked as I could perceive. I quickly learned that all the anti-drug hysteria masqueraded as education was complete and utter bullshit. Marijuana didn’t ruin my life, in fact, it made it all the better. I never felt compelled or addicted to smoking it. I smoked it whenever I wanted to get high. There were plenty of times where I didn’t want to be high and no amount of pot I smoked changed that position. The only negative side effect I was cognizant of was that pot made me lazy sometimes.

I had been lied to by every commercial, parent, teacher, police officer, etc. I couldn’t figure out why. What was the motive? Were they keeping all the fun stuff to themselves? Alcohol (which I’d only tried 5 months before pot) made me feel good. Marijuana made me feel good. Neither had a detrimental effect on my life. I was always told I could have alcohol when I was 21, but Marijuana was a drug and all drugs are terrible (and will cook them brains). Well, evidence proved that to be a lie. So, naively I believed that must mean they lied about all the other drugs, too.

That’s how marijuana is a gateway drug. Scare tactics that conflate all drugs and profess they are all bad is the worst possible way to go because more often than not, a kid will try pot and be perfectly fine afterwards. For most people, pot has no adverse effects. To equate marijuana with something like heroin is not only disingenuous, it’s dangerous. Scaring, instead of informing properly, had a deleterious effect on me and I’m certain on many others. Not all drugs are created equal. I learned that the hard way, during some pretty wild times, when I should’ve learned that in school or D.A.R.E. classes.

But it still is a drug. It can still affect your life in the negative if you allow it. I had one friend growing up (name omitted) who was seemingly addicted to pot. He smoked way too much of it way too often. So much so, that he lost his job and started engaging it truly deplorable behaviour. To this day, I don’t know if there was something extra going on. All that any of us knew and saw was that he only smoked pot. He became the addict the commercials warned of. His brain was properly fried.

People like him are a rarity, though. Most are people like Dan and I. We’re both in our 30’s now. We still talk. Separated by distance, our conversations almost exclusively via text. Both living in states where marijuana is legal for recreational use. Neither one of us compelled to smoke or consume the stuff much anymore. Neither one of us ruined by the Devil’s lettuce. Both graduated onto harder stuff because of poor education and poor decisions but never once blaming marijuana.

There was only even one other period where I habitually consumed marijuana. Between the years of 2003-2004, I met my dear friend, nicknamed Guido, who at the time only smoked pot. He and I got on instantly and spent an insane amount of time together, where smoking pot was a regular occurrence. Our adventures dabbled into various other drugs, but his main squeeze was the pot, so my main squeeze was the pot. When the intensity of our friendship ran its course, so did my nearly everyday use of marijuana.

Outside of the 2000 and 2003-2004 time periods, I didn’t really smoke much. I’d take a hit here-and-there, but it was never habitual. I was never addicted to it. To this day, it’s a rare occasion for me to consume marijuana, for no other reason that I simply don’t want to be high. I don’t actively avoid it or even think about it much. It holds no real weight in my life and, looking back, it never truly did. Marijuana was a fun distraction with little-to-no side effects.

It did prove to be an unfortunate gateway for me to much harder drugs. Being a gateway drug wasn’t marijuana’s fault. Poor education was firmly to blame. If instead of teaching “Marijuana is a drug and all drugs will completely and utterly ruin your life,” they taught “Marijuana’s fun and won’t really harm you, but smoking it too often can make you lazy,” my life might’ve gone in a completely different direction.