Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Big Bong Theory

There are people that you and I know who have beer or wine every day.  And over the weekend, the intake might even increase.

But, there is nothing to describe them the way the word "pothead" is used.  Beerhead? Winehead?  Whiskeyhead?  You see the problem?

As one who has never gone anywhere near marijuana, and as one who has rarely ever tasted anything alcoholic, I find this alcohol versus weed discussion to be a tad incomprehensible.  Intellectually, I have always argued in favor of legalizing, but regulating, drugs similar to how we regulate the sales and distribution of tobacco and alcohol.  So, this whole pothead thing intrigues me and confuses me.

Consider, for instance, the following paragraph from a marijuana user:
For the first time I have been able to hear the separate parts of a three-part harmony and the richness of the counterpoint. I have since discovered that professional musicians can quite easily keep many separate parts going simultaneously in their heads, but this was the first time for me. Again, the learning experience when high has at least to some extent carried over when I’m down. The enjoyment of food is amplified; tastes and aromas emerge that for some reason we ordinarily seem to be too busy to notice. I am able to give my full attention to the sensation. A potato will have a texture, a body, and taste like that of other potatoes, but much more so. Cannabis also enhances the enjoyment of sex – on the one hand it gives an exquisite sensitivity, but on the other hand it postpones orgasm: in part by distracting me with the profusion of image passing before my eyes. The actual duration of orgasm seems to lengthen greatly, but this may be the usual experience of time expansion which comes with cannabis smoking.
You are perhaps thinking, "spoken just like a pothead."  We then imagine some cliched images of the pothead who wrote that.

Well, the pothead who wrote that was, get this, Carl Sagan.  Yes, that Carl Sagan.

He was in his mid-thirties when he wrote that essay in 1969.  He was a lifelong pot user.

Sagan writes:
My high is always reflective, peaceable, intellectually exciting, and sociable, unlike most alcohol highs, and there is never a hangover. Through the years I find that slightly smaller amounts of cannabis suffice to produce the same degree of high, and in one movie theater recently I found I could get high just by inhaling the cannabis smoke which permeated the theater.
He concludes with:
the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.
Recreational use of cannabis is legal here in Oregon.  Sagan could have been home in this gorgeous state.  Too bad he died when he was barely 62.


Ramesh said...

Carl Sagan being a "pothead" is neither here nor there and does not influence my view one bit.

Where do you draw the line - if weed is OK, then my not meth. Why not crack. Why not all those meds that have killed Michael Jackson, Prince, et al ??

I have little sympathy for those who need drugs to get a "high". Public opinion has at least turned against smokers and they have been made into pariahs. That's drastically reduced the number of smokers. I see absolutely no reason to make smoking pot "cool".

Your state is way too blue for me on this one !!!

Sriram Khé said...

Yes, where do you draw the line?
How about alcohol? The number of alcohol addicts. People killing others when driving drunk. Cirrhosis of the liver. Drunk guys beating the crap out of their wives.
Cigarettes kill. Why not ban them? Why only regulate the sales of tobacco instead of making them illegal?

"Public opinion has at least turned against smokers and they have been made into pariahs" ... yep--it was not by making smokers criminals, right? All we did was warn people that smoking kills, and if they really wanted to do it, there is a minimum age and we have placed restrictions on the kinds of public spaces where the can/cannot smoke or chew tobacco. And for how many years did we allow smoking in planes, of all places?

We might disagree on where the line is, but there is no way you can convince anybody by drawing any comparison with tobacco products.

And, of course, it bears repeating here--I have no dog in the race, as they say. I have never been anywhere near marijuana. So, I have no vested interest in legalizing marijuana. I am interested only in the logic of the public policy.