Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Today is 4/20, and when I left the Legislature today the grounds were thick with marijuana smoke - strong enough that it permeated my vehicle. Hundreds of Albertans gathered to...well, I can't actually assign a motive with any authority, because as square as it may sound, I've never used recreational drugs. But from what I've read, a lot of folks would like to see pot legalized.

Given the cost to life, limb, property and civil liberties the war against drugs has cost North American society so far, I'm comfortable with the idea. On balance, legalizing cannabis seems like less trouble than prosecuting people for using it. (Although I'd have to read some peer-reviewed studies to see if that's actually true.)

Personally, though, I don't see the appeal of recreational drugs. Cigarette smoking is disgusting enough; to my nostrils, marijuana is even worse. And like alcohol, cannabis alters your mental faculties, and that's what I really have a rough time understanding. Back in my teens and twenties, I was encouraged more than once to indulge. But I always refused, not because I'm a puritan - I'm certainly not - but because the idea of willingly surrendering control of my faculties holds zero attraction for me. I do and say stupid things often enough without wanting to risk doing or saying something even stupider while under the influence.

Other people - most people, I guess, if you include folks that consume alcohol - have made a different choice, and I respect that choice. I've never judged anyone for using any sort of drug. In fact, somewhat hypocritically, I've been entertained by the antics of people under the influence of drugs or alcohol. And I have to admit, it looks like fun. But it's not for me, and I'm honestly puzzled by my inability to even understand the appeal.

Some folks say that drugs open up new worlds of creativity, new ways of seeing the universe. But that happens to me every night when I dream. Are drugs really so different? Why buy what I can get for free, without the side effects? (And on the other hand, without the fellowship of the shared drug experience.)

On a day like today, I feel more like an outsider than ever, a stranger not only to my own culture, but my own counterculture. Sometimes I think that understanding yourself is the biggest challenge of all. Maybe there's a drug for that.

1 comment:

"For The Jeff Is Hollow, And I Have Touched The Sky" said...


An Essay
by: Jeff

I say that people who refuse drugs on principle tend to take in a lot of caffeine. (Poeple who refuse drugs and caffeine tend to be Buddhist Monks.) For whatever reason, a glass of wine at supper is abhorrent, while a pot of coffee a day is delightful.

Marijuana is a "harder" drug than alcohol. Both will do you serious damage if you take too much. Guess what? Same with caffeine. You can elect, of course, to limit your intake of MJ by smoking very little, or limit your drinks to a beer or a glass of wine and then stop. That's called willpower, and most people have more of that than they are given credit for.

Wanting to enjoy a recreational drug may or may not be the same as wanting to get stoned or wasted. In the latter case, then yes, I would agree that there are major psychiatric issues that need to be addressed. But in the former case, the case of just wanting to enjoy the sensation, the buzz, I would disagree with my teetotalling friends. Especially the ones who crave caffeine.

One issue with caffeine is that until recently, it was added to many food products without mention on the label. Even now, it's hard to find out what dosage you are getting when you are enjoying your favourite food or bevvie. Plus there are some products that are marketed very aggressively because they have a lot of caffeine: it's a selling point to consumers who are addicts.

The city of Seattle is famous for being so caffeinated that there is now a permanent measurable level of caffeine in their ground water. If you are on a zero-caffeine diet, you cannot even drink from the tap.

People who espouse abstinance publically should themselves be abstinent, and that includes caffeine. I went completely caffeine-free for four years. Now I am so sensitive to the stuff that a single can of Coke will keep me up all night and a triple expresso will have as intoxicating an effect as three fingers of scotch, although at least the scotch lets me sleep.

I do not reccommend abstainance from recreational drugs. I do reccommend that people look carefully at the amount of caffeine they consume and reduce their intake as much as possible. Naturally, this stance is very unpopular. People will give up booze and pot before they give up their ritual daily cuppa.

As the sage says, moderation in all things. Definitely enjoy a drink, or a toke if that floats you boat. I even have a Coke from time to time, maybe once or twice a month. You can scratch the itch without wounding yourself, it seems.

4/20 is not about moderation, it's about pushing at the values of the state. It does get people talking about their own values, which is usually a good thing. In the ideal world, the consensus would be that recreational drugs, used responsibly, will have their place in society. The brain-fogging cloud from 4/20 is the democratic ideal telling us that in this instance where there is smoke there is higher thinking.