In recent decades, marijuana has been prescribed for medicinal purposes in state after state here in the US.
Recreational use has now been made legal in several states, and I see no reason for this trend not to continue.
But I’m not really writing to comment on state or federal marijuana laws; I just wanted to point out the overall trend toward legitimacy.
It seems weed is something we’re ready to believe we can trust ourselves with.
So regardless of the consequences of improper or immature use, I don’t think it’s helpful or honest these days to simply label weed as bad and destructive—an evil to flee from at all costs lest we be hopelessly corrupted. Such a view seems too simplistic and ignorant when weighed against our current collective conscience.
Writing weed off due to its potential for abuse might be about as selective and shortsighted as suggesting we offer everyone a free-for-all in light of its benefits.
The problem with all delicate balances that hinge on evolving degrees of personal and societal responsibility is they’re nowhere near as neat and easy to spin as either bud pics with devil horns or montages showing respectable stoners sharing specific knowing looks.
Real stories of uncertain direction and mixed ideals can, however, make up for their lack of sex appeal with a capacity to cross divisive lines and unspin quick interpretations, uniting diverse hearers and storytellers alike around common experiences shared.
So to depart from narrow sound-bite figments of opinion, and to hopefully connect across the board via honest sharing and illustration, let me quickly blast through an overview of my own relationship with weed thus far.
In short, the balance of responsibility we as a society seem ready to accept is the same balance I’ve been searching for ever since I first tried weed as a teen.
The first night I smoked, I remember feeling this all-encompassing rhythmic pulse surging through my body. It seemed to encapsulate everything I saw, felt, and heard . . . even down to my thoughts . . . locking it all together beautifully in time. All I wanted to do was close my eyes and let whatever was happening occur.
Before long, I found that weed could help with creativity. I’d often smoke and play guitar. And it wasn’t like being high gave me superhuman abilities to bust out lightning solos or anything; it more just helped me appreciate the simple rough-and-tumble patterns and riffs I’d always come back to and roll around when not paying much attention.
Weed seemed to help me develop a sense for where to go next in music.
It also helped me better understand my own thoughts and motivations. Maybe in the same way it can enhance food, entertainment, and other experiences, I felt as if being high slowed my thoughts down to where it was like I could literally see in-between and realize, “Oh, thaaaaaaaaat’s why I think that. It makes sense now.”
I’d often keep a tape deck and pad of paper with me when I smoked.
In my 20’s, I grew somewhat wishy-washy in life, bouncing between extremes. I remember smoking a lot with friends at the time. We’d have the most fun, silly, profound conversations.
I also grew fond of burning through buds alone late at night in my room with the lights out and windows open. I lived in the middle of a big city, so I’d be puffing away, listening to all the people walking by on their way out or back from town.
But then I’d get a new job, or new girlfriend, or my religious friends would bring me to church, and I’d completely flip the other way, quitting weed and throwing out all my paraphernalia.
I hit my 30’s with a pretty clear sense of who I was and what I wanted in life. I’d decided I was going to be a writer; but I couldn’t shake this feeling that I’d simply taken too long to make up my mind and start, and that it was now too late.
I remember being plagued by horrible, mounting anxiety as I stared at blank pages on screens way past midnight every night for months on end.
And time kept going by (as it does), so I got more and more anxious and down on myself for not making progress toward my goals.
Then a friend happened to bring up medical marijuana in conversation, and it was a true light-bulb moment: when the idea of legal weed as a real possibility hit me for the first time. The benefits I’d always loved weed for—such as creativity and personal insight—felt like the exact attributes I was missing.
So I booked an appointment and got my prescription.
At first, I’d arrive home from school late each night and sneak tokes in the downstairs bathroom. Right from its onset, the high would dissolve my gritty edge, and I’d fall in love with whatever I ended up doing next: music, TV, food…
But then I began to enjoy that sense of deep release and happy enhancement a little too much. I added a second daily session, smoking out of old, dented cans in my car on my lunch break at work . . . then a third after dropping my kid off at school.
It wasn’t long before I was smoking all day most days.
Now, I started to see right away that being high all the time was having some pretty major negative consequences. Three of the biggies were:
- All my money was literally going up in smoke, even precious savings for future dreams.
- I was isolating myself from most friends—basically anyone I wasn’t comfortable being high around.
- Being high didn’t change how I felt about failing to reach my potential.
Plus I couldn’t stop. I mean, I can’t tell you how many perfect plans to keep myself from weed I must have found, bought, or constructed in those first 2-3 years of addiction.
It was actually when I was high that I’d feel most motivated to change and gain control; but then the high would drift away, and I’d go all fuzzy and dull again until I’d watch myself skitter and sleepwalk my way back to weed (as fast as I possibly could).
Seeing myself fail over and over to limit how much I was using took my already fragile self-esteem and gnashed it against the reality of a life passing by so fast, I felt, with so little yet to show for it.
But here’s where we return to talk of very real and delicate balances—where values and consequences must be weighed against one another as ruthlessly and objectively as possible.
For even though using weed addictively was holding me back in obvious ways, I was also still experiencing those same benefits I’d always enjoyed.
As for creativity: I went from being a wannabe writer trapped in constant failure-to-launch to packing drives with documents filled with ideas for stories and other projects enough to last myself for years.
Being high all the time just meant I couldn’t flesh out those ideas the way I knew I needed to.
Weed fantastically enhanced my idea-generation process, but hindered my ability to consciously turn those ideas into something real.
Regarding personal insight: Through months and years spent experiencing and recording those deeper “in-between” high thoughts, I started to see the same intuitions and convictions repeating, looping, and expanding out to later tie back together in increasingly obvious and diverse ways.
I was essentially engaged in an ongoing conversation with my high self . . . and we got to know each other pretty well.
I felt like weed enabled me to apply my mind back to itself in an interesting way so that no thoughts or perceptions would end up “wasted” after all.
Instead of just feeling anxious about not reaching potential, or wishing I could save money instead of watching myself blow it all on weed, I was also gaining an inescapable, comprehensive, and holistic view of all my deepest core values.
So those things I felt weed was genuinely helping me with became my reasons both to not stop using entirely and to not keep losing control.
If it could be possible to get high non-compulsively—to not use more than I thought I should, but still without having to quit altogether—then that was my goal.
And for four years I put that goal to the test. I learned to face my relationship with weed for exactly what it was in order to make the experience as good and helpful as it could be.
And since society now seems ready to trust itself with that same responsibility for balanced use, I say we stand together and hold ourselves accountable to live up to that ideal: to not use irresponsibly, but to make the experience as positive and beneficial as possible.
The reason I’m writing this call for collective, open accountability is that what really changed everything for me was making my story public.
Again, just by using weed over time and capturing my high experience, I was already gaining insight into why my values were worth facing my addiction(s) and limitations for. But it was putting that experience together to share that made it impossible for me to go on avoiding or ignoring my own next steps toward what I kept hearing myself say I wanted.
Even after watching myself fail plan after plan to gain control, publically facing my relationship with weed did eventually change me. I saw myself start to make progress toward all sorts of goals as addiction steadily lost more and more ground in my life.
And since my journey had been public, those changes were far more irreversible.
Basically, going public with my weed experience ended up making that experience everything I’d always hoped it could be.
But beyond just with weed, going public forces you to see and reckon with your current state for exactly what it is. You can’t go on hiding indefinitely from addictions, excuses, compulsions, and the lies you’ve learned to tell yourself without realizing.
I believe it’s possible to face, control, and return from addiction—to find balance even after having lived as an addict, and after having failed to quit however many times.
By sharing my story, I was able to reach that delicate, balanced state of living in control without having to rely at all on abstinence or willpower.
An old and true cliché: If I can do it, anyone can!
So in this world where weed now presses on the verges of legitimacy—where the joy and help we’ve found collide so neatly and plainly with all potential for abuse—I say we stand together and honor the best in ourselves and in this beautiful plant we love.
Instead of running, hiding, and attempting to spin away the difficult and often uncertain balance involved in taking on such responsibility, let’s step up into it together.
Let’s all share our unique stories and evolving perspectives so we can watch ourselves become more and more the people we want to be; and let’s never stop helping each other move forward toward that end.