Is Pot the Answer?

I’ll admit I smoked pot here and there when I was a young adult, pretty much if anyone handed me a pipe or joint. I didn’t think about it much and it didn’t concern me if I had some, or if I didn’t. I never thought that pot was necessary for a good time. I was probably more excited about coffee and sweets. And with time, wine or scotch.

When I was about 13 years old my parents broke up and my family home became a wild partying place. I was offered pot at times, and I’d say ‘no thanks’ because I didn’t think smoking pot was particularly cool. I mean, my mom smoked, and her boyfriend and my older siblings. What was the big deal. I was happy in my own head.

I may have been an odd duck but I was more interested in sneaking out of school with my best pal and taking the subway to the Union Station (the massive echoing hall filled with travelers) and eating a toasted buttery cinnamon roll in a diner. Then we might take photos of our silly 13 year old selves in the old black and white photo booth. That was our idea of a wild afternoon.

As a young adult I skulked outside bars, sharing a joint with my boyfriend. It was the culture of pot smoking that it was illegal, and that was part of the fun. In order to buy some pot you had to have a dealer, and they were interesting characters. I remember an IT guy who worked for IBM, brilliant and artistic, who had a magical front room filled with art and wandering cats. He self-medicated to settle his wandering mind, I think, and was always fun to visit.

But I stopped the constant imbibing of marihuana when I had children. The older I got and the more children I had, I found that I was mostly too tired. And I did not want to face any childhood crisis without my full attention. A child choking? A child falling and breaking a leg? A child having an asthmatic attack? A child suddenly in a high fever? Pretty much common parenting challenges and no avoiding them, but best to have a clear mind.

I recognized that pot was not great for some of my family and friends, becoming a lifestyle rather than an added bonus, and draining them of energy or ambition. But I knew too that for many people pot was a healthy alternative to pharmaceuticals that have been created to reduce anxiety or help you sleep. Marijuana is a plant, after all, it’s not a poison, but like everything in life, it is best in moderation.

I see the advantage of making it legal and reducing the amount of illegal trade and criminal prosecutions but I miss the old days of sneaking a toke out behind the movie theatre. And now smoking is so commonplace in cities that you can’t walk down a street without the heady incense of pot on every corner. It is a perfectly nice aroma, but I am not adjusted to the ubiquity of today’s pot smoking. Is everyone stoned now? Are all the elementary teachers gnawing on jujubes? Who knows! Pot smoking has gone mainstream.

From the nibbling of edibles, to drinks and candies, you don’t have to smoke to get THC anymore. Middle aged and older people are all over this new fad. And some of these people are also on pharmaceutical drugs. Never mind the constant diet of caffeine, alcohol and sugar that we all pour into our bodies. I am flabbergasted at what we regularly put into our bodies. If our bodies were cars, we would not dare treat them so cavalierly.

I struggle with my stomach, or it struggles with me. In any case, I am very sensitive to every damn thing, both mentally and physically, and my gut/brain connection is strong. If I feel stressed, I don’t digest well at all. I remember when I went for my first scope and the young doctor’s eyebrows were scrunched into a look of concern as she examined the photos she had taken of my esophagus and stomach.

In my innocent state of self delusion, I thought knitted brows must be her normal expression. I did not think it was due to my ravaged stomach but she was alarmed by the raw state of my gut. When she told me with great relief that I did not have cancer, I was not as relieved as she was because I had not even thought about it.

But as I began to understand that my stomach was a mess and that I would have to take two pills a day of a strong PPI (proton pump inhibitor) in order to heal it, I had to consider my part in my ill health. I looked back to the year I had been through preceding my pain under my rib that had drawn me eventually to the health clinic, and I realized that emotional stress had caused my pain. I knew that if stress and mental pain had caused the ulcerous conditions then it was up to me to reduce stress and heal myself. I thought, if I can cause my own pain and illness, I must be able to heal it.

I have done my best to reduce stress in every possible way, and I am living without the need of PPI’s at the moment. But it has occurred to me that imbibing marijuana might be a good way to reduce stress. I don’t love feeling foggy and sleepy, but whenever I say that I hear from my beloved potheads that that there is a special category of pot for those that want to get work done. OK, fine.

And what about smoke not being good for my lungs, I say? Edibles, they all say. But I am nervous to try edibles. I remember edibles. I remember a day on a beach in Jakarta after a magic mushroom omelet. Apparently it is possible to laugh until you are a puddle and unable to move. Edibles are absolutely unpredictable and I really don’t want to be in some altered state for hours.

OK, what if I nibble a small candy, just a little bit, and see how it feels? Join the crowd already!

So I popped into an official pot store in Nova Scotia. It was at the back of an alcohol store and looked much like an antiseptic clinic. There were two discreet openings in the white ceramic wall marked as an exit and entrance, and one sign that warned that I would have to be ready to show my ID.

It felt bureaucratic, medical and a bit threatening .I did not feel welcome, nor tempted, but in I went. Before me was an assortment of middle aged people shuffling up to the counter and ordering things with very exact sounding names like, the D327.

Couldn’t we have something just a tiny bit cool? Where was my trusted drug dealer, his tiny apartment reeking of pot? What about the very first pot store I ever saw? Nothing compares to the unrivalled coolness of your first legal pot shop in Amsterdam; a hole in the wall with music playing and some young guy with dreads handing packages out of a small window, a small chalk board giving you a list of what was on offer.

I looked through a big white binder with plastic pages displaying the pot for sale. Special cookies and candies were being offered for the holidays with childish, colourful packaging. I was shocked. Don’t we know how dangerous that is? Aren’t emergency doctors cursing these childish looking drugs? We cannot be surprised that children are drawn to this packaging; what can they be thinking? I muttered my disapproval, lost interest in my outing and slipped away from the most uncool pot dealer ever, our government.

But more than just ill advised, the childish packaging reveals something worse and more disturbing. As a society, we are treating ourselves like children. Our current state of mind is that human adults are incapable of handling stress. We allow our authorities to tell us what to think and where to go. We are in a constant state of submission. We allow ourselves to be mollified, distracted and comforted. We medicate ourselves and surround ourselves with comfort foods and endless games.

Who is in control, then? Who is keeping watch? The government? Do I trust our government to sell us our ‘high’? I don’t trust the government at all. Not at all.

Back to the yoga mat, gentle turmeric drinks and such a clean diet you could serve dinner on my liver. And a clear mind. A mind of my own that no one can dominate. That’s freedom.

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