Monday, May 23, 2011

Why Pot Supporters Shouldn't Use The Term "Marijuana"

This is a belief I've held for a while, although obviously I often slip and use the more common term. Unfortunately, I can't remember what I read that first provided me with this information, so I had to re-research everything to make sure my facts are straight. Most of it was gleaned from this article.

Hemp was the major staple of George Washington's garden. Hemp was sold in American pharmacies. Hemp was required to be grown by colonial farmers. So why, now that it's illegal, is it referred to as marijuana? The term marijuana has a short history in America, filled with racism and political intrigue.

Although the middle east has a history of hashish use, hemp wasn't really smoked recreationally in America until Mexican immigrants brought the practice with them into the western states around the 1930s. California was the first to ban the "preparation" of hemp, after Mexicans were observed doing it, and many western states followed. This was happening right at the time of the prohibition of alcohol, and the government was testing how far it could go banning mind-altering substances. Apparently, it found that it could go quite far.

Not okay.
In the east, the racism was directed at the black Jazz musicians. Their weed-smoking habits formed a central part of their musical sub-culture. Since they were seen as immoral and dangerous, this terrified the populace. Henry Anslinger, the rightly-reviled crusader against weed and the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, is alleged to have made many racist statements, including “…the primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races" and “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” No matter what the time period, these are not appropriate statements for a public figure to make.

Rumors began circulating linking marijuana use to murder and violent behavior, but it was obviously unfounded speculation based on the fear of other races. For example, newspaper tycoon William Randoph Hearst writes, "“Was it marijuana, the new Mexican drug, that nerved the murderous arm of Clara Phillips when she hammered out her victim’s life in Los Angeles?… THREE-FOURTHS OF THE CRIMES of violence in this country today are committed by DOPE SLAVES — that is a matter of cold record.” It's important to note that Hearst had much to gain, since the sensationalism sold newspapers and the use of wood-based paper over hemp-based assured him profits from his investments.

As soon as hemp was in non-white hands, it was labeled with the exotic term "marijuana," which the layman did not know was the same plant. William C. Woodward, of the American Medical Association, cited this as a reason to reject the bill proposing its prohibition. In the article I linked to above, the author writes,
"At this point, marijuana (or marihuana) was a sensationalist word used to refer to Mexicans smoking a drug and had not been connected in most people’s minds to the existing cannabis/hemp plant. Thus, many who had legitimate reasons to oppose the bill weren’t even aware of it."
Unfortunately, he was ignored and the bill was passed.

Though the term marijuana has lost its racist connotations for the most part, its history is largely ignored. It's important for weed smokers (just like anybody) to realize the implications of the terms that they use, and choose one that fits what they mean. In my opinion, "hemp" is the best term because of its historical use and its harmless connotations, but "weed" and "pot," though vague, are a little less formal and work just as well.
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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sight-seeing for stoners in Rochester!

This weekend I was sight-seeing in Rochester, NY with Boyfriend and decided to go see a Pink Floyd laser light show at the Strasenburgh Planetarium. If you ever find yourself in Rochester, you need to check it out.

We went high on a bowl that was almost entirely headies-kief, and the show blew my mind. I honestly wasn't sure how cool it would be, being at a place of learning that can often be really dry, but it was really cool. In addition to the regular star projector doing background things (like constellations and flying money), they had lasers (duh) doing some really cool effects, including flying parabolas, spinning mandala-type patterns, and fields of menacing gears. One effect that they did to death was to spin the stars one way and the laser patterns the other way, to increase the dizziness, but even that was really cool when paired with a tunnel to make it look like you were traveling through a worm-hole in space. I had to constantly keep myself from yelling in my enthusiasm, and it was a tough battle. I was also pleased with their music choice; instead of being Pink Floyd's most popular, it was a good mix of the most popular and the best, including a track off The Division Bell, which is my favorite album. I told Boyfriend that I now consider him ready for acid. :) Here's the link to the Planetarium's schedules page, if you want to see what's up. They apparently have a different laser show going on each month. Pink Floyd is only going until the end of the month, but in July they're doing the Beatles!

Other fun places to go non-sober in Rochester include the Strong Museum of Play. Boyfriend and I went sober, unfortunately, because the security near the museum was unfortunately very present. We spent hours playing like children, touring fantasylands, driving planes, playing guitar hero, and pretending to be superheroes. I wish I had the foresight to drop some acid before I went, particularly because of the butterfly garden. It was so special walking through a path decorated in over a thousand living butterflies, some the size of your hand. Unfortunately, butterflies apparently freak out Boyfriend so we had to leave after like five minutes. :/

Also, if it's the right time of the year, the Lilac Festival is really cool. It's outside, free, and the park is huge and beautiful. I used to smoke/trip there a lot-- the appeal is undeniable.
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Heavenly Blues

These beautiful and innocent-looking flowers might be in your mom's window box. They're called Heavenly Blue morning glories, and their seeds can apparently make you trip balls.

This must be a well-kept secret, or more people would be flocking to try such an easily-available high. Technically, the extracted substance (lysergic acid amide, or LSA) isn't legal, but the actual plants are. You can go uproot them from Aunt Myrtle's garden. Go on. I'll wait.

Once you've got your paws on some seeds, you can either eat 100-400 of them straight up, or if you'd like to avoid headaches and heinous gastrointestinal unpleasantness, you can extract from them the LSA using common household ingredients like Everclear. The problem with eating raw seeds are multiple: besides the poison that most shops will douse them in to foil your plans, there is one chemical that will make you nauseous and another that will give you a terrible headache. Either way, the resulting trip is apparently similar to LSD and will last 6 to 10 hours. The flowers can also apparently be made into a tasty wine.

Gee, it sure would be easy to get some and plant them all over town, a la Johnny Appleseed...

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder is when visual characteristics of a trip last for much longer than the trip itself, until after the chemical has been removed from your system. Contrary to flashbacks, it's always present and relatively permanent. It is most commonly related to LSD use, but that may just be because acid is the most commonly used hallucinogen. Those that are genetically predisposed to HPPD can begin experiencing it very early on in their drug use, but in others it sets in much later in the game, and therefore seems to be unrelated to the frequency or number of trips one takes.

Common sights of HPPD sufferers include halos or auras around objects, changes in dimension and color, a difficulty in distinguishing between colors, trouble reading because of "misbehaving letters," geometric patterns where there are none, flashes of color, movement in peripheral vision, or TV-like "static" on monochrome surfaces. The symptoms can be made worse by fatigue, drug use, a sudden change in the visual environment (like walking into a brightly-lit room from the dark), or simply paying too much attention to it.

Many people have never heard of HPPD, or if they must seek treatment they are too embarrassed to admit to having used hallucinogens, and therefore the statistics on its prevalence are probably incorrect. This is another good reason that hallucinogen use should be legal or at least socially acceptable: research could be done, and people with disorders of this sort could get the treatment they need. Luckily, many people don't need to get treatment, because HPPD often fades over time of its own accord.

Now, don't be like me and assume that your brain is broken just because the rainbows around lights at night seem suddenly really noticeable. HPPD is only diagnosed when the disturbances are so severe that the patient cannot ignore it. Like other psychiatric syndromes, a requirement for diagnosis is that it impairs normal functioning. To be fair, I had no idea that light halos were a common occurrence until I asked my boyfriend, who verified that he saw them too. :)

HPPD raises some interesting questions about how drugs affect us. One common theory is that hallucinogens permanently affect the nervous system, creating less sensory gating (like Huxley described in The Doors of Perception). This leads us to be more open to receiving sensory signals that have always been there, but are usually filtered out. There was also an interesting study that I read about that showed that those who use hallucinogens have a lowered ability to distinguish between colors, and to distinguish between a very fast strobe and a continually-shining light. I found this to be the opposite of what I've experienced: my drug use has made me appreciate color so much more, and when I'm high I can even see the strobing in cheap fluorescent lights, which is super annoying. Anyone else have a different story?

I was also kind of surprised that HPPD only includes the visual aspect of hallucinogens. It seems to me that other aspects of a trip could last too, but I guess people with that are just called "crazy." :)

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"Hello, my name is not Sunshine."

Yesterday, I got into an argument with a friend. I've always respected her for her intelligence, her analytical ability, her spunk, and her awesome 'fro. The way she is always challenging the ideas that she and the people around her hold close to their hearts is a trait of which I am deeply envious, but I can't pretend it doesn't create friction from time to time. She has recently become even more interested in black activism, and has been giving presentations about hair & black identity, and other interesting stuff like that. In a show of support, I playfully suggested that we find a time machine and go back to the sixties, so she could experience the Civil Rights movement and then we could swing by Woodstock for me.

That really pissed her off, for reasons that she then decided to detail.

She noted that I would have been treated much better than she would have, which is why the Civil Rights movement needed to happen in the first place. The heroes of that time period did what they did so that in the next millennium she could live fear-free, as she does. Respectable & more than valid; I agree entirely.

Another of her reasons, though, was that she feels that anyone who wishes to live in a different time period suffers from an “overly patriotic, white washed” and “limited” perspective gleaned from Euro-centric textbook representations. This is where I felt the need to disagree and express what it is about the sixties that draws me like it does. It's not what you might expect.

I am more than willing to admit that I am an idealist, and not just when it comes to the past. Part of what I do idolize about the sixties is the fashion, the drugs, the youth culture. I like to imagine that there were more people then who would understand me. I often wish for warm-bodied spontaneity, which in my imagination existed in a much higher quantity before the Internet became a household time-sucker. I wish more people around me understood the spiritual and philosophical nature of my drug use, instead of judging me as somebody who's just looking for kicks. I crave a community of care-free youth like me, which I imagine existed in abundance in the 1960s. I know that it's unrealistic, but that's why it's a dream.

But I'm not stupid. I know that the sixties wasn't groovy all around: not everybody upped 'n' changed their name to sunshine. Some serious stuff was happening, some good and some bad. The Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam draft, the moon landing. The government was redefining its relationship with the American people. We were literally rocketing into the future. In a vital way, the culture of the hippies was a reaction to these things, which has not been lost on me. The commitment of the youth to wildness, rebellion, and fun was an almost hysterical retaliation to the inescapable fear of nuclear destruction. In a way, what I long for are those times that are less complacent, less sure. This was a pivotal time in America for a variety of reasons, all of which interest me. Not to mention Star Trek. :)

However, I agree with my friend on one important point: as long as I'm here at the beginning of the new millennium, there's still quite a bit of stuff for activists like me and my friend to do. Now interracial couples can get married, but homosexuals can't. Blacks and women, though we can vote & hold down jobs, still have social attitudes to correct and understanding to create. I know I belong in this time and that I've got work to do, but that doesn't mean that I keep my bell-bottoms and my freak flag in my drawer, no?

The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.

-John Lennon

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pro-Legalization Politicians

I've always been really interested in politics, especially when it comes to researching social issues and forming intelligent opinions on them (partially because I'm bad at keeping up with current events). Now that I've I recently turned old enough to vote, my political thinking has become even more important to me. I have a tough time allying myself with any major political party because I disagree with most of what they say, but I definitely lean towards the left. This is partially because of my dad, who is a self-described Communist (although in practice he really isn't), a proud union man, and a supporter of the underdog (i.e. Ralph Nader, every goddamn election). However, until recently I never gave much thought to who wanted to legalize marijuana, because I figured none of them did. I guess I was wrong!

Here's a list of politicians to support:
  • Gary Johnson, the governor of New Mexico & possible presidential candidate in 2012. He's a libertarian who supports legalization from a fiscal point of view. Unfortunately, he was denied a chance to speak at a recent Republican conference, supposedly from a lack of scheduling space. Unless somebody better comes along, he's my vote!
  • Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City. This one only sort of counts, because pro-legalization is not part of his platform, but he has admitted to smoking weed and liking it. He's certainly a step up from those that deny "inhaling." His quote was featured on a slew of ads by NORML, which he didn't approve of but didn't make a big deal about either. He gets points in my book just for being honest.
  • Ron Paul, congressman of Texas and 2008 presidential candidate. He's pro-legalization as an extension of States Rights. High Times apparently wrote an article about him in their November 1988 issue

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Trying DMT Part 2

Last night, I finally got around to doing DMT. Unfortunately, I didn't really trip, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless.

It was around 11:30 before I got ahold of my friend (who, for privacy reasons, I'll just refer to as J). When J met me at my boyfriend's room, he imparted that he had tried salvia earlier that day but that nothing had happened, so DMT was still gonna be his first experience weirder than weed. Frankly, I was still really nervous, but I had spent part of the evening reading Tim Leary's The Psychedelic Experience, and found it very reassuring. Tim Leary generally makes me feel happy and peaceful, whether I have a chance to use his theories or not, so that helped.

Purely out of luck and not by choice, J's roommate (R) is the one we always go to if we want something interesting, and he was holding on to the DMT for us. It was taken for granted that we were going to smoke in their room, like we usually do, but J said that there were already lots of loud people hanging out in there and that he would rather go outside. Where I live, the weather is always terrible, and so I told him I'd rather not be outside in the mud to smoke something that causes a loss of motor control. He agreed, so we decided on my boyfriend's room, which is pretty much my room. However, when we went to R to get the DMT, he told us we should definitely go outside, because tripping inside made him feel trapped. I was willing to listen to R because of his vast experience, so that's what we ended up doing. J had borrowed a pipe, which I am told was a crack pipe, but I don't know what a crack pipe looks like. It was metal and had no carb, but I've seen weed pipes like that. In any case, we put on our raincoats and traipsed outside.

The four dorm buildings where most of my friends live are curled around one half of a big drainage pond, known dramatically as the "Lagoon." On the opposite side is a small forest, some benches, and a low stone retaining wall for a decorative garden. That spot is in full view of the campus police on the other side of the pond, but that's actually an advantage. First of all, there's a distinct dark spot in the streetlights that hides us, and secondly if anyone did decide to come investigate, we could see them coming and have ample time to skedaddle. It ended up being nicer out than it has been for a few weeks, and was only sprinkling lightly and pleasantly, making everything look clean and fresh. The rocks, however, were soaked, so I laid down my raincoat to sit on while we packed the pipe with the yellowy powder.

Boyfriend doesn't partake in anything stronger than pot, so he lit up a cigarette to pass the time, which, since he quit a few years ago, is a special treat. He had been unsure if he wanted to come along, but I told him he was more than welcome as long as he didn't get concerned or ask too many questions. There's not much that anyone can do to make my trips negative anymore, but since it was J's first trip I didn't want him to get nervous. I'm glad that Boyfriend ended up coming with us-- it was reassuring to have someone sober there, since I had no idea what to expect.

First, J took a hit and held it in for a very long time before passing it to me. The smoke didn't taste as bad as I expected it to-- kind of like burnt Mac and Cheese. It caused an immediate head rush and a pleasant lightheadedness. We repacked it and passed it back and forth a couple of times, but neither of us had a very strong experience. As I looked at the Lagoon, I noticed that the reflection from the street lamps seemed to be floating above the water. Details seen out of the corner of my eye startled me-- like the whiteness of a bus I saw across campus. The sparkle of the wet pavement took on an almost furry texture, and the mud seemed weird and rubbery. And I had the familiar full-body relaxation that all hallucinogens cause in me, but from what I gather that's the opposite of what most people experience, no matter what psychedelic they're doing. I didn't get any visuals, not even with eyes closed. The overall mindset was very clear, functional, and euphoric, with no spatial distortions or dizzyness like acid. Pretty typical of the early stages of most of my trips, but closer to my experiences with mushrooms. Since DMT is a chemical naturally involved in dreaming, I expected the trip to be dream-like, but it wasn't noticeably so.

Eventually, we decided to go back inside. On the walk back, I asked J if he had experienced anything cool, and he mumbled something about "the trees moving." He looked like he was in la-la land, with his eyes squinty and his face red, but I think it was just that he was high when our excursion began. Once we were under the streetlights, we realized that there was still a lot of powder stuck to the sides of the baggie, so we went to Boyfriend's room and finished what we had left, but aside from another initial headrush, nothing else developed. After about a half hour, the effects were gone, aside from the bodily relaxation. I slept very well, and woke up this morning (later than planned) very well-rested, as opposed to the sleeplessness of acid. 

I definitely plan on trying it again, maybe with a larger quantity and in better conditions. Now that I've had the first experience to prove that it isn't scary, I'll have an easier time with higher doses. Next time, I'll do some things differently. We were given what was supposedly enough for two people, but I think we accidentally wasted a lot, so I'll make sure to have more to smoke and to hold it in for longer. Also, the setting was the best we could hope for in our belt of lake-effect weather, but I'd rather do it in like a sun-dappled forest where I can stay for a while.

Obviously I am not an expert on this subject, but in my opinion this would be a trip that it would be fine to take alone, because the emotional tone was less sketchy and paranoid than acid. Also, full functionality was regained quickly, so this may be a good I-have-work-later-but-sure-give-me-a-hit drug. 

If you've tried it, leave me a comment to lemme know what you think!