I’m writing this on the cusp of moving out of my first Richmond apartment, mid June 2019. But to be honest I had the title saved as a draft for the past two months or so, I just never bothered to get around to it. But the steam to write it was always there.
I have lived in this shitty house for some time, and I kind of realize that a large problem I had with it has to do with marijuana. No, it isn’t the smell. I actually like the smell. What it is is my observations about how it actually affects peoples lives, as well as how it effects my own.
I’ve bitched about this flatmate enough, but as I got to know him it became clear that he was not in control of his life, and that this drug wasn’t helping. And for him, the effects were pretty bad. He left a couple bags of groceries on the kitchen floor for three damn days, because he was too stoned to put them away. Yes, this was a person of exceptional laziness.
In the last few weeks of our being in that apartment together, the flatmate said to me that he realized he was out of control, and that from now on he was not going to get stoned until the evening, after he had gotten home from work.
He lasted one fucking day.
Let me move away from that guy.
I never had a great relationship with the drug. It was around a whole hell of a lot when I was a child, but I for the most part did not partake. I’m sure someone in the family was getting stoned because I remember that we had occasional family bonfires and I would feel ‘funny’ during them (because mom reads this blog: Fu a casa della zia Lena, e immagino che qualcuno buttava un po’ di fumo nel fuoco che faccevano fuori di casa loro durante l’estate. Se succedeva, sospetto che era o Giorgio o suo padre. Boh). I later associated those feelings with a marijuana high.
Around senior year of high school my parents split up. My dad was trying to find himself, in a mid-life ‘what’s it all mean’ crisis, and the whole thing made him a little more juvenile. He invited me out one night and we met up with one of his friends, and later we ended up at this guys house and passing around a bowl. Mind you, at this point the last word I would have used to describe my father was ‘permissive’, so when he looked me in the eye and passed the bowl, I froze up. Was this a test?
It wasn’t a test.
We were both stoned that night as he was driving me home, speeding like the devil, through a sort of heavily wooded road full of twists and turns. I couldn’t help but wonder how in the world I would go about explaining this to mom if anything happened.
Thankfully, nothing did.
When I started smoking properly (eh, college I guess?), I learned pretty quickly that it mostly brought out the worst of my personality. It made me more awkward than I already was (and I’m awkward as shit). I would often try to talk to people, and if those people were sober it became obvious to me that I was saying shit that didn’t make any fucking sense (stoned people, in my opinion, just aren’t listening). To contradict a point I will shortly make, I would get very finicky about things when stoned, and I would often spend a lot of time cleaning. Unfortunately, I was doing this because Marijuana brought forth some pretty horrific parts of my personality, and keeping myself distracted with chores helped fight off the anxiety. The drug had the inverse effect it seemed to have on most people: I would lose my appetite, the ability to communicate and make me as high strung as possible.
One of the worst cases of this happened at a party back in 2010. I had just been rejected by this one chick, and so I figured i would just make a good time of it. I made such a good time of it that ultimately I missed the last bus home, and needed a place to crash. I started shooting the shit with a random Italian guy with dreadlocks, and he ultimately offered to let me crash at his house, as he had a spare bed. We get to his place and he tells me that he always ended the night with a little ‘nightcap’ and begins to roll up a splif. He smoked it and chatted, and ultimately I asked him to take a puff.
I proceeded to have the worst fucking existential crisis imaginable. I spent the rest of the night trying to deconstruct God and the nature of reality in my own head, and ran into so many logical paradoxes that I broke the operating system of my mind until I got the message back:
error: cureses.h: No such file or Directory
I woke up with the fucking shakes! This was the first, but not the last, time I became convinced that I might just have smoked myself schizophrenic (sound ominous? sound exaggerated? This is shitty blog foreshadowing).
Fast forward a bunch of years and I am getting over a break up and have just failed my Master’s thesis defense. I was at a low point, completely broke, and living in a homeless shelter for the second time in my life, because life is fucking hard. I was volunteering there (it’s a long story), and I had an abusive 10 hour a day 6 day a week ESL job, which to date would have been the most well paying job I ever had, if only they ever fucking paid me. My coworkers noticed I was working like a dog and invited me to have a fucking day to relax and have fun. I managed to get the next morning off from the shelter and we got a bunch of booze, cigarettes and hash together and went to someone’s house to hang out. I got high, and I proceeded to have another massive existential crisis, this one of the you-aren’t-worth-anything-you-God-damned-failure flavor, that it had the theocratic notes of the other as well.
That’s when a Mauritian colleague, and perhaps one of the most gorgeous women I ever met in my fucking life, started coming on to me. And I could barely fucking move.
Fuck you, marijuana!
I should have learned my lesson by then, but I would continue to get high, on and off, for the next three years or so.
To be absolutely fair to Marijuana, I do have some faith in the idea of it working as a pain killer. Back in the summer of 2011 I was doing the Camino de Santiago when my boots fell apart on my, in about half way through. I went to the store to buy a new pair, and the next day they gave me the most horrific blisters imaginable, one of them dead center on the ball of my foot. Every step was agony, and at the first stop about five kilometers into the next day I was considering giving up. But then I reached a cafe, and while I was lancing my blisters someone suggested that I ask the bartender for some marijuana. I walked in to a poster of Bob Marley, Manu Chao, and the European Union flag with pot leaves instead of stars. The bartender was just smoking a joint in the bar, like it was no thing. In my somehow functional Spanish I asked him if he could, cough cough, provide me with some medicine for the pain.
He just handed me the joint.
The rest of that day was like walking on fucking clouds. I could feel the blisters, but the pain was no longer horrific. So anecdotally, one point to marijuana.
But as for me, particularly when I got back to the US I noticed that it increasingly gave me pretty horrific anxiety. Ultimately, after some edibles that kept me up all night and then sent me to work the next day still stoned, I decided to give up and stay sober (until I moved to China and turned, briefly, into an alcoholic). But I was still pretty damn liberal about it, and championed its legalization and how, while not for me, it was a perfectly safe drug.
But then I had the shitty roommate nominated above. That began to change my mind. When I finally got out of that place, I moved into another place with another stranger, and one of the first things I found out about him was that he was now completely off the marijuana.He recently had the epiphany that it was just nothing he could handle. For some time he had just been obsessed with the stuff, and would pawn his belongings when he couldn’t afford it. After he hocked the Nintendo switch, a gift from his then girlfriend, said girlfriend left him over it. That’s when the epiphany kicked in.
So anecdotally, marijuana can make you a pretty shitty person. Nor does it make you better at things. And yet, I hear people say shit to the effect of ‘weed makes me a better driver’ all the time. It’s tough for me, the asshole who’s written about drunk driving here on this blog, to be too condemning of that action, but I at least was never under the illusion that I was better at driving while inebriated. I hear a lot of claims. Like the one that says that marijuana will help people with opioids.
I remember, way back before even Colorado legalized, that there were a whole lot of claims regarding how great it would be when legalization happened. I am finding that these claims really don’t hold water, and were set afloat largely on the optimism and enthusiasm of those pushing for legalization. I am starting to see more and more of these claims being proven false, but the grassroots seems to be ignoring these facts. Remember the claim that Marijuana legalization would help combat the illicit drug trade? It isn’t working. In fact, the opposite seems to be happening.
And it would be here that I would like to mention to anyone in audience that the news of marijuana’s beneficial nature is largely still open for debate. Here’s a really good resource towards that debate.
Alright, last anecdote.
Back when I was in that homeless shelter I mentioned above, I met a guy there from Basilicata (a province of Italy so obscure even some Italians know neither where the fuck it is or what is there. Great place to go for vacation if you want to be off the radar), and this guy was clearly not right in the head. He heard the voice of God in some shape or the other. His lucidity came and went, and in one of his better moments he told me that he used to be normal. I asked what happened to him, and he made a rectangle of the pointer and thumb of both hands. “I used to smoke that much hash (hashish) a week”
For the North Americans in the audience, hashish is THC resin and the method of choice for consumption among Italians is to crumble a small amount of hashish into a hand rolled cigarette to make yourself a spliff. A spliff to shared among friends is not going to have all that much hash in it. What he showed was an ungodly amount of hash for one fucking person to be consuming, an amount which while I was at my worst would likely have taken me closer to a fucking year to consume.
I mentioned that they guy wasn’t right in the head. He often had a pained look about him and was confused extremely easily, so much so that he would take off running when faced with any kind of mental dilemma he could not unpack easily. Just before I left the shelter he had a bad day off of the meds and an Angel’s voice told him to rape a volunteer that he had had an unhealthy infatuation with.
So yea. The guy was certifiable nuts.
In a conversation with a friend not to long ago I tossed to him that old saw about ‘the plural of anecdote not being data’, and he tossed it back to me with a bit of skepticism. I considered it for a while and I realized that there might be something to explore there. I think there is likely some kind of equivocation there, but certainly something like the Kinsey Report is an amount of anecdotes stitched together. Maybe it is just simpler to say that “Anecdote ≠ Datum”. Because we do weave similar account together before we look for an explanation that ties them together.