Introductory ConsiderationsAs with other aspects of the drug, describing the marijuana high has political implications. Both sides of the debate wish confirmation of their prejudices, and most facts presented will be distorted to fit them. The postulate, accepted on faith, not fact, that marijuana is a "crutch" and an "escape from reality," and that man ought to be able to live completely without recreational drugs naturally approaches the drug's effects in a negative way. Even if harmless, the effects, whatever they may be, are defined as undesirable.
This aprioristic thinking dominates both sides of the dispute. The pro side engages in the same mental gymnastics by deciding beforehand that marijuana can do no harm. It is easy to say that what we need is less bias and more fact; more fundamental than facts themselves is the powerful tendency to read facts selectively. At least two processes operate here: the likelihood of accepting one or another fact as true depends on one's prior attitudes toward the drug; and facts may be interpreted to mean many things since what is a positive event to one person may be seen as supremely damaging to another. The description of being high by a user illustrates this axiom: "I felt omnipotent and completely free. I'm a free soul, a free person, and I often feel bigger and better than I am now." The marijuana defender would see this as strong evidence for marijuana's beneficial effects. The antimarijuana forces would interpret the description as evidence of the fact that the drug is used as an ego-booster by spineless personalities; a person should be able to "face life" without the aid of artificial props. The goodness or badness of the events themselves clearly depends on how they are viewed.
Descriptions of the marijuana high run the gamut from pernicious to beatific; one's conceptions of the drug's impact are highly structured by ideological considerations. In the 1930S, widely believed stories were circulated, detailing massacres, rapes, widespread insanity, debauchery, and feeblemindedness as inevitable consequences of the use of the insidious weed. One account, publicized nationwide, had a young man chopping his family to bits after a few puffs of marijuana. The blood has disappeared, but the controversy remains, and a novel element in the debate has been introduced. Whereas marijuana's adherents in the 1930S saw the drug's effects as being confined within a fairly limited scope, largely hedonistic and artistic in nature, today's smokers often extrapolate into philosophical and sociopolitical realms as well. Although it strains one's credulity to accept the notion that a marijuana "turnon" of contemporary political, military and business figures will result in "everlasting peace and brotherhood," this utopian fantasy is as much a fixture of the ideology of many of the drug's most committed propagandists as were the scare stories for the marijuana prohibitionists of the 1930S. Yet the question remains: What are the effects of marijuana?
This seemingly simple question is answerable only with major qualifications, specifications, and prefatory explanations. To pry into the subject, it might be fruitful to structure our thinking around a series of interlocking issues. To begin with, the question of dosage is crucial. Generally, other things being equal, the heavier the dosage of a given drug, the more extreme the effects, with some variations. Marijuana grown in different locations, under varying climatic and soil conditions, will differ in strength, which we explained earlier. Also, in general, hashish will produce more striking and noticeable effects than marijuana containing mostly leaves. It has been determined that the principle active chemical in marijuana is tetrahydrocannabinol (abbreviated THC). Thus, the most powerful effects may be obtained by administering the pure chemical to subjects. It is, therefore, meaningless to ask simply, "What is the effect of marijuana?" without specifying dosage.
A second qualification before detailing the effects of the drug involves prior marijuana experiences of the subject. A significant proportion of marijuana users did not become high the first time that they smoked the drug, as pointed out in our chapter on "Becoming a Marijuana User." In part, much of this may be attributed to improper and inefficient technique. However, even with the most careful instruction and technique, some fail to become intoxicated. But when the neophyte does attain a high, an interesting phenomenon occurs. The effect of the drug on the newly initiated marijuana smoker appears to be highly dramatic and almost baroque in its lavishness. His laughter approaches hysteria. Insights are greeted with elaborate appreciation. His coordination might rival a spastic's. The experienced marijuana smoker, on the other hand, learns to handle his intoxication so that the noticeability to an outsider is almost nonexistent. He compensates for the effects of the drug, so that his coordination is no different from "normal." This is a learning process, not attributable to the direct pharmacological properties of the drug (which, however, sets limits on the compensatability of the subject). It is simply a characteristic that experienced users share and neophytes lack. Yet it is an important qualifying element in the marijuana picture.
In addition, many of the effects of the drug vary with the attitudes, personality, expectations, fears, and mood of the user; this is generally referred to as "set." One experience might be euphoric and wholly pleasurable; another might be uncomfortable and frightening, for the same drug, the same dosage, and the same person. No one has adequate explanation for this variation. A1though the vast majority of all users report pleasant effects much of the time, a proportion will occasionally have an experience significantly different from the usual one. A very few userswho do not, for this reason, become regular usersreport more or less consistently unpleasant experiences with the drug. Here, personality factors may be the controlling factor.
Some observers say that marijuana imposes behavior on the user, that the drug has effects that can be measured, that whatever happens to the human mind and body during a marijuana intoxication is a function of the drug so that the individual is said to be under its influence. To some degree, we have to admit that the drug is an "objective facticity." It is difficult to deny a certain degree of factorness of the drug's effect: the drug is not a zero or a cipher. There are neophytes who smoke oregano imagining their responses are due to the powers of marijuana. However, suggestibility has limits. Were all of the world's cannabis magically substituted for an inert substance that looked the same, it would become known at once. It would be foolish to deny that the drug has its effects. Now, this observation might seem blatantly obvious. Not so. Because the drug's pharmacology exists only as a potentiality, within which forms of behavior are possible as an "effect" of the drug. The effects of any drug are apprehended as subjective experience and experiencing a drug's effects must be learned. The subculture translates and anticipates the experience for the neophyte, powerfully shaping the experiences he is to have. The same bodily response will be subjectively apprehended in many different ways, and, in a sense the "effect" is different. The important dimension is not simply, "What does it do?" This cannot be answered until we know the answer to the question, "What does it mean?" What does it mean to the participant? How do the meanings of individuals relevant to him impinge on his conceptions of the experience? By itself, the simple physiological question is meaningless, since prior experiences and learning substantially alter what a drug does.
Another fundamental question connected with, and prior to, the effects of this drug is, "is the subject high?" The same quantity of marijuana administered to two subjects will produce a "bombed out of his mind" reaction in one and no response in the other. Although objective tests may be applied to determine this state, many users who report being high do not react very differently from their normal state. Many inexperienced users, of course, are not really sure whether they are high or not, and, as stated earlier, some users seem unusually resistant to becoming high. The point is, then, that whether the person is high or not is problematic, and if we want to know the impact of the drug, we must know this beforehand. The police make an issue of this point; they feel that if the promarijuana argument on the relative harmlessness of marijuana bears any authority at all, it is merely because the varieties of cannabis available in America are far weaker than varieties available elsewhere. The drug may be innocuous, but only because it is the very weakest varieties to which the American user is exposed. Were the drug legalized, we would be flooded with extremely potent varieties, causing some of the same kinds of debilitating and disastrous effects reported in the East:American-grown cannabis is likely to be a fraud on the hopeful hippie in that its cannabinol content, in certain seasons and places, may approach what would be near-beer to the boozer. This marihuana is almost harmless except for asphyxiation from air pollution. The hippie's kick is a psychic kick. Chemically speaking, the victim often is not smoking marihuana, but burning underbrush. He is not the victim of a drug, but is the sucker of a hoax. There is enough of this gyp going on to help support the notion that marihuana is innocuous.
(There is some cross-fertilization in regard to the language going on here; Donald Miller, Chief Counsel, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous drugs, in an article which justifies the present legal structure on marijuana, writes: "... many persons report they obtain no effects whatever when they use marihuana. They are not the victims of a drug, but merely have been deceived with a hoax. There is so much gyping going on that it helps support the notion that marihuana is innocuous. Chemically speaking, many ... 'triers' of marihuana really have... become partially asphyxiated from polluted air.")
The reader is seriously asked to believe that a great percentage of all marijuana users, even some experienced ones ("the hopeful hippie"), have never really been high, and that they are experiencing a placebo reaction. Actually, this point serves propaganda purposes: if anyone who has smoked marijuana has not been damaged in any way, he must not have gotten high. Thus protected, the antipot lobbyist is better able to defend the position that the drug is really dangerous. Actually, the position itself is something of a fraud. The placebo reaction occurs, of course, with no mean frequency, but the greater the amount of experience with the drug, the less likely it is that the subject has experienced either no reaction or nothing but a placebo reaction. In fact, the likelihood that a given person who has smoked marijuana more than, say, a dozen times, thinks that he has been high without actually experiencing what a truly experienced user would call a high, is practically nil. The experience has been described in such florid detail by so many more experienced users that he who has not attained it is eventually aware of it, and knows when he finally does attain it.
Throughout any discussion of the effects of marijuana, we must alert ourselves to the complexity of the equation. The simple question, 'What are the effects of marijuana?" is meaningless. The answer to this query would have to be a series of further questions: Under what circumstances? At what dosage level? Engaged in what kinds of activities? Given what kind of legal and moral climate regarding marijuana use? All of these factors influence the nature, quality, and degree of response to the drug.
Yet, at the same time, we must not exaggerate the variability of marijuana's effects. Responses are to some degree systematic. We do not wish to suggest that individuals react randomly to the drug. The police will often make this assertion, in support of the dangers of marijuana: "Medical experts agree on the complete unpredictability of the effect of marijuana on different individuals." The reason why this statement is nonsensical is that, of course, the effects of marijuana cannot be predicted with absolute certainty, though there will be a reasonably high degree of predictability. It is extremely important as to the kind of effect we wish to describe or predict. Some of the many effects of marijuana will be experienced by nearly all smokers who become high. Many other effects will be experienced by only a few users.
The Marijuana High: Experiments and DescriptionsOf the thousands of works describing the psychic and bodily effects of marijuana, the first to meet fairly strict standards of the application of scientific controlsthat is, (1) standardized dosages were administered, (2) of actual marijuana (3) in a "double blind" situation, (4) with systematic measures used to study the effects, (5) to groups with varying degrees of experience with the drug (naive and experienced), (6) in a uniform environmentwas published in December, 1968. (Also, significantly, the drug was administered to a nonincarcerated population.) All of the previous studies were lacking in some of these respects, or were primarily anecdotal, informal, literary, or were based on the literal descriptions of the high by smokers, without checking the accuracy of their descriptions.
Conducted in Boston by pharmacologist-physician Andrew Weil and psychiatrist, physician, and social psychologist, Norman Zinberg, this study established beyond question the generation of a few strictly biological effects of smoking marijuana and suggested the likelihood of others. It did, however, totally negate the possibility of some effects commonly associated with pot. The strictly physiological consequences of marijuana, the study found, were, first of all, highly limited, and second, extremely superficial in their impact. Most of the multifarious effects described in the literature are too ephemeral to be studied under rigid clinical controls, or simply turned out to be myths. The only positive effects which the Boston team could establish beyond dispute were a slight increase in the rate of heart beat, distinct reddening of the eyes, and probable dryness of the mouth.
This descriptive clinical study documented a few positive effects; it also demonstrated some negative ones as well. Not only is the public deluded into believing many myths about marijuana, but experienced marijuana smokers themselves accept a few. For instance, it is standard marijuana lore that, when high, one's pupils dilate. Yet careful measurement under the influence of the drug produced no such result; pupils remained the same size after administration. How could such a myth be believed by individuals with countless hours of experience in the presence of others while smoking marijuana? The Weil-Zinberg team suggests the answer: marijuana smokers customarily consume the drug under conditions of subdued light, which would, in the absence of marijuana, produce dilated pupils anyway. This finding strongly underscores the need for controlled experimentation, with each of the suspected causal factors being isolated successively to test their impact. It also addresses itself to the possibility of empirically false beliefs having widespread currency among even the most knowledgeable of individuals.
This research team also turned up a negative finding with regard to marijuana's impairment of various skill and coordination functions among experienced users, an area in which it was thought to have substantial impact. Marijuana, it is said, impairs the ability to perform manual tasks and manipulations. For instance, it is claimed that the widespread use of the drug represents a massive danger to society because of its obvious deterioration of driving ability, thus increasing the likelihood of fatalities on the road. "I ask the kids," a journalist intones, in a series of articles attempting to avert marijuana use in her readers, "If you have to fly someplace, which would you rather see your pilot take, a martini or smoke a marijuana cigarette?" Aside from the inaptness of the comparison (since very few drinkers can become intoxicated on one martini, while most marijuana smokers do become high on one "joint"), the striking thing about the verbal gauntlet is that the author assumes that the answer is a foregone conclusion. In fact, do we know the answer? Which is, as a result of actual tests, the safer and which is the more dangerous? Curiously, the assertion that it is far more dangerous to drive under the influence of marijuana has never been documented; it is assumed. After all, the role of alcohol in driving fatalities is only too well known; something like twenty-five thousand deaths every year from automobile accidents can more or less be directly attributed to the overindulgence of liquor. The reasoning is that if alcohol is dangerous, marijuana must, of necessity, be worse, because it is legally prohibited; moreover, the results of the two together can only be additive.
The only tests done on driving skills was completed a few months after the Boston experiments in the state of Washington. A team of researchers, including Alfred Crancer of the Washington State Department of Motor Vehicles, and James Dille, Chairman of University of Washington's Department of Pharmacology, conducted an experiment on simulated driving skills. (Tests on actual driving conditions are planned.) The various driving functions were accelerator, signal, brake, speedometer, steering, and total test score; a total of 405 checks were made throughout the course of the entire experiment, so that a subject's total number of errors could range, theoretically, from zero to 405. Subjects were experienced marijuana users who were also acquainted with the liquor intoxication. They were administered the test (1) high on marijuanathey smoked two joints, or 1.7 grams of marijuana (as a comparison, Weil and Zinberg's subjects were given half a gram as a low dosage and two grams as a high dosage); (2) intoxicated on alcohol (two drinks were administered, and a Breathalyzer reading taken); and (3) in a "normal" state of no intoxication. What were the results of this driving test? The overall findings were that marijuana did not impair motor skills, that there were almost no differences driving high on marijuana and normal. The total number of driving errors for the normal control conditions was 84.46; the total number of errors while driving high on marijuana was 84.49, a trivial difference, well within random fluctuation. (The only significant difference between the marijuana-high subjects and the same subjects "normally" was that high users, on the Crancer test, had to check their speedometers more.)
The same could not be said for alcohol. Being intoxicated on liquor significantly diminished one's ability to take the driving test without error. The total number of errors for the subjects under the influence of alcohol was 97.44. Crancer, the principal investigator in this experiment, concludes from it that the drunk driver is a distinctly greater threat than the high marijuana smoker. He is quoted, "I, personally, would rather drive in a car where the chauffeur is high on pot than drive in a car where the chauffeur is high on alcohol." However, it is difficult to extrapolate from thus test, done in an artificial setting, to actual road conditions; Crancer himself designed the test, and found an extremely close correlation between test scores and actual driving skills. But only real-life driving experiments will answer these points definitively; in any case, at the very least the Washington State driving tests certainly cast doubt on the fears of many propagandists that widespread marijuana use will result in an even greater slaughter on the nation's highways than prevails today. It is even conceivable that were pot substituted for alcohol in many drivers, the death toll would actually drop, not rise.
Certainly no one would argue that driving under the influence of marijuana is preferable to being without the influence of any drug. But Crancer speculated beyond the test-driving scores in saying that his "feelings and observations, and that's all they arethey are not scientific conclusionslead me to believe that marijuana has a submissive effect on users." The effects of the drug subjectively exaggerate the sensation of speed, and the high driver often thinks that he is going much faster than he actually is. Some of my own informants report driving to the side of the road because they thought they were traveling at a frighteningly rapid speed, when, in fact, they were driving well under the speed limit. But it is difficult to see how marijuana could possibly improve driving performance. However, there is incomplete evidence that high on marijuana, drivers often drive more slowly than normally, out of fear. The proposition that the high driver is no worse than normal is definitely worth exploring; it is conceivable that further tests will reveal little or no deterioration in driving ability when high on marijuana. But the hypothesis that the marijuana high deteriorates motor skills far less than alcohol is, it may safely be said, firmly established. There is no doubt that, in the typical case, marijuana affects the ability to drive much less than alcohol.
The Crancer test results, by extension, would seem compatible with the Boston team's research. Various tests by Weil and Zinberg were administered to both inexperienced and experienced subjects under normal and marijuana-intoxicated conditions. These tests were "pursuit rotor" test, measuring muscular coordination and attention; the "continuous performance" test, measuring ability at sustained attention; and the "digit symbol substitution" test, measuring cognitive functioning. Most generally, the results consistently showed that among experienced marijuana smokers, no impairment whatsoever was discerned in the ability to perform cognitive and muscular tasks, whereas impairment was significant among inexperienced subjects. Experienced users were fully as able to perform motor skills and cognitive functions while under the influence of the drug as in a normal state. Although further research is needed in the kinds of motor skills in question, this finding powerfully illustrates the need to support one's prejudices with empirical facts. To justify marijuana's present legal status, it is necessary to use damaging "facts" about marijuana, such as its impairment of driving skills, even though they are imaginary in character. Recent research shows the argument that increased marijuana use would contribute considerably to automobile fatalities to be largely specious. Nonetheless, it will continue to be invoked for years to come, because of the need for such an argument. The belief that marijuana makes one a far more dangerous driver is believed, and will continue to be believed, even though the chances are great that it is scientifically false. Yet, scientifically false beliefs can exert a powerful hold on men's minds.
The Boston research points to the clear presence of almost complete compensation in the case of marijuana. The ability of the intoxicated marijuana user to compensate for his state in pursuing motor tasks is 100 percent. With alcohol, there is partial compensation. The alcoholic will be able to perform better than the drunk man once he has had a little experience with alcohol, but the experienced drinker, sober, always performs better than the experienced drinker, intoxicated. With marijuana, on the other hand, there seems to be complete compensation. However, the inexperienced user, with little or no experience with the drug's effects, will suffer a distinct loss in motor skills and coordination, and will be unable to compensate. (The Crancer driving tests, on the other hand, found no difference between inexperienced and experienced subjects; subjects who had never smoked marijuana before the test performed just as well when high on pot as the experienced users did.) It is a relevant question as to how quickly compensation takes place for both marijuana and alcohol. I suspect that after a very small number of experiences with marijuanaperhaps a half-dozenfull compensation takes place, whereas with alcohol, even partial compensation takes place only after long conditioning with its effects. The question of the dose-relatedness of marijuana's impact on coordination is relevant, although not fully answered. The Weil research team supplied its subjects with low and high dosages, the former two cigarettes of a quarter of a gram each, and the latter two cigarettes of one gram each. Not too surprisingly, with the inexperienced subjects, impairment was distinctly dose-related, i.e., the stronger the marijuana administered, the more of a negative impact the drug had on their coordination. However, with the experienced marijuana smokers, a higher dosage of the drug had no additional impact on their skills and coordination; they were able to perform equally well normally, slightly high, and very high.
Because of obvious possibilities for distortions, as with the pupil dilation myth, pharmacologists are uncomfortable leaving the sphere of the directly observable, the experimentally verifiable, the clearly empirically demonstrable. The sociologist, being somewhat more detached from the scientific tradition, is less careful about what he accepts as a "fact." He usually bases his data on reported statements, rather than direct observation. Now, this has both advantages and drawbacks. A competent pharmacologist, performing a carefully controlled experiment, is far more certain that what he says is true; it is less necessary to repeat the same experiment, but if it is repeated, he has more confidence than a sociologist that the results will be confirmed. Although a sociologist will more often be wrong than a scientist working within a firm experimental tradition, he will be able to cover a wider field. By including within his purview the verbal reports of the individuals whose behavior he is studying, he includes a range of data which may be highly significant, and which may tell us a great deal about human behavior. Since I am a sociologist, verbalized reports by my respondents forms a rich lode of information for me. Keeping in mind the realization of large possibilities for distortion, we should nonetheless be able to piece together a more complete picture of the effects of the drug than a pharmacologist is able to do, although one which is more open to question since it is less tightly tied down by unquestionable, demonstrable fact.
We should keep in mind the level of meaning at which we are aiming. With some phenomena, we may look at the marijuana smoker as a kind of scientist, reporting on the accuracy of an observation, which we can check. We have an independent means of measuring, for instance, reddening of the eyes. Aside from asking the user, we can simply look at his eyes. Then, we can check our observations, which we are sure are correct, against the descriptions of the marijuana user, which may be subject to error. If there is a discrepancy, as with pupil dilation, we should supply an explanation for the discrepancy. However, there are vast realms wherein the ultimate validating device is the experience of the user, where the subjective grasp of the experience is the experience, where external verification is not only impossible but meaningless. It is a level of meaning complete within itself. And it is here that we must part company with the more careful pharmacologist.
Psychologists tell us that there are two analytically distinct processes involved in sense perception. We have, first, the primary functions, whereby the sense organs are stimulated directly. Certain sounds are measurably louder than others and, other things being equal, the mind will apprehend the louder sound as being louder. However, the directly perceived sense must, in order to be actually felt, be transmitted to the brain. Thus, there exists a secondary function associated with sense perception, and that is how the brain receives the message. The mind might feel differently about one sound as another; perceptions, then, might also stem from secondary functions, or what a brain decides to do with the sense impression it receives. The mind can deal with similar sense impressions in very different ways, according to their subjective significance. It can, for instance, subjectively exaggerate the significance of a "quiet" sound, while minimizing that of a "loud" sound.
This distinction comes extravagantly into play with the psychoactive effects of marijuana. For the overwhelming majority of all of the effects described by marijuana smokers are those involved with subjective experience. The directly observable consequences of the drug are few, minimal in importance, and superficial in impact. Those effects which can only be gotten at by asking the user to describe them are extravagant, elaborate, and extremely significant. These effects are wholly subjective and beyond the reach of scientific tools and instruments. We are in the area of "thinking makes it so." The experience is defined in its totality by the subject himself. The mind assimilates and, in a sense, becomes the experience. The subject apprehends a reality, explores a subjective realm which reverberates in his own psyche, accepts the total reality of a given phenomenon without regard to external validation, and in a sense defines the configurations of the experience completely.
For this level of meaning we must, of course, ask the marijuana user what are the effects of the drug. We must rely on his descriptions of the high to know anything about the subjective lineaments of the experience. In our interview we included the question:
I want you in as much detail as you can, describe to me everything that happens to you when you get high the high and everything else. Try to describe it to a person who has never been high before; please include everything that you feel, think, perceive, etc., whatever it is.
Of our 204 respondents, seven said that they had never been high, and six said that they had, but claimed not to be able to describe it in any way, holding that its reality was too subjective and elusive for description. Our information, therefore, is based on the 191 individuals who said that they had been high and offered to describe their experience. It must be remembered that this was an open-ended question, with no attempt to structure the responses in any way. This has both virtues and flaws. On the one hand, we did not force any responses on the interviewees. On the other hand, their answers might, by their own admission, be incomplete; they did not necessarily think of all the effects of the drug in an artificial interview situation, to a stranger. However, we assume that the ones they mentioned will be most salient to them, a not unreasonable assumption, although one not in every instance correct. A structured question will also yield a far higher overall response rate. If we had asked our interviewees directly whether or not marijuana had an impact on, say, their conception of time, more than one-quarter would have agreed that it did. Every effect would have drawn greater agreement, but the rank-order of effects should be roughly the same with the two techniques. This contention is born out when our data are compared with studies wherein a direct closed-choice question is asked for each effect. For instance, in an informal study of seventy-four marijuana users in New York, 91 percent agreed that marijuana made them feel more relaxed, 85 percent said that being high makes music sound better, 66 percent said that the drug helps a person feel more sociable at a party, and 35 percent claimed that it helps a person understand himself better (62 percent disagreed with the last effect). The structured question, however, was unworkable for my study, due to the diversity of responses; we could not have offered every possible effect as an alternative, for we would have had no time for any other questions. If and only if we remember two methodological qualifications will our analysis of the responses be meaningful:
- The form of the study instrumentopen-ended or forced choicegives us results that are superficially different (the magnitude of the responses, for instance), but fundamentally the same (the order of the responses).
- Individuals who do not mention a given effect on our open-ended question are not thereby automatically agreeing that marijuana does not have that effect on themthey just did not think of it at that moment in that situation ( although we do have a certain amount of confidence that those who did not mention the effect were less likely to experience it than those who did mention it).
Overviewing the responses elicited, we see that there are over 200 totally distinct effects described. (We have presented only those which ten or more subjects mentioned; there are almost 150 effects each of which was mentioned by fewer than ten respondents.) Sixty-four of these were proffered by single individuals, completely idiosyncratic responses that could not in any way be classified with other responses which were somewhat similar. For instance, one individual said that she had the feeling of "being sucked into a vortex." Another reported more regular bowel movements while intoxicated. A third said that she could feel her brains dripping out of her ears. In addition to the sixty-four unique and therefore totally unclassifiable responses, there were twenty-eight where only two respondents agreed that marijuana had that effect on them. However valid these responses might be to the individual himself, they are not useable to us, since they are still quite idiosyncratic.
Although the diversity of the responses was in itself an interesting finding, the picture was not totally chaotic. Each individual offered an average of roughly ten different effects of the drug as a description of the high. Some of these effects were offered independently by a large percentage of the interviewees although, curiously, none attracted a majority; every effect described was given by a minority of the sample. That is, in spite of the huge diversity in the responses, some agreement prevailed.
Marijuana users seem to describe the effects of the drug in overwhelmingly favorable terms. Certainly the vast majority of the effects mentioned would be thought positive if the judge did not know that marijuana touched off the state in question. Let us suppose that we have been told that the list characterizes how some people react to a warm spring day; our sense would be that they think well of its effects. Thus, most of the characteristics of the marijuana high, as described by its users, would be looked at as beneficial. Yet with the knowledge that the triggering agent was marijuana, the judge reinterprets his favorable opinion and decides that the effect is in actuality insidious and damaging; the question then becomes a moral rather than a scientific one, with the judge being thrown back on his second line of defense'Why should anyone need an artificial stimulus anyway; isn't reality sufficient?' But in spite of one's ideological stance, marijuana's effects remains to be described.
Effects of Marijuana: Responses by Users
N Percent More relaxed, peaceful, calmer; marijuana acts as a tranquilizer 88 46 senses in general are more sensitive, perceptive 69 36 Think deeper, have more profound thoughts 60 31 Laugh much more; everything seems funny 55 29 Exaggeration of mood; greater subjective impact, emotional significance 48 25 Time seems slowed down, stretched out, think more time has passed 44 23 Become more withdrawn, introverted, privatistic 42 22 Generally, feels nice, pleasant, enjoyable, fun, good, groovy 40 21 Mind wanders, free-associates, stream of consciousness 40 21 Feel dizzy, giddy, lightheaded 39 20 Become tired, lazy, lethargic, don't want to move 37 19 Feel light, airy, floating, elevated 35 18 Feel "happy" 35 18 Forget easily, have memory gaps, can't remember things 34 18 Feel freer, unrestrained, uninhibited 34 18 Stimulation of senses more enjoyable 34 18 Become hungry, want to eat more 32 17 Hear music better, musical ear sharper, more sensitive, accurate 32 17 Enjoy music more, greater pleasure from listening to music 30 16 Feel paranoid 28 15 Have hallucinations 28 15 Feel sleepy 26 14 Care less about everything, worry less, don't give a damn 25 13 Become erotically aroused, marijuana acts as an aphrodisiac 25 13 Mouth and throat feel dry 24 13 Concentrate better, become more involved in anything 24 13 Selective concentration: concentrate on one thing, shut out all else 23 12 Can communicate with others better 22 12 Euphoria, ecstasy, exhilaration 22 12 Sense of depersonalization: being cut off from myself 22 12 Food tastes better 20 10 Tend to fixate on trivial things 20 10 Feel secure, self-confident, get a sense of well-being 20 10 Able to understand others better, their meaning and being 20 10 The pleasure of touching is greater, touch more sensuous 19 10 Feel depressed 19 10 Tend to talk a lot more 19 10 Hear better, auditory sense more acute, hearing more sensitive 18 9 Colors appear to be brighter, more vivid 17 9 More uncoordinated, clumsier, motor skills impaired 17 9 Sex is more enjoyable 16 8 Become pensive, introspective, meditative 16 8 Senses become numb; marijuana acts as an anesthetizer 15 8 Body feels warm 15 8 Other people annoy me more, find fault in others 15 8 My vision is clearer, sight improved, see more, see more detail 15 8 Enjoy dancing more 14 7 Subconscious comes out; the real you emerges, one's truer self 14 7 Feel a sense of unity in the universe, a sense of oneness 14 7 Asthetic impulse greater, enjoy art works more 14 7 Feel more nervous 14 7 I feel thirsty 14 7 Skin feels tingly 14 7 Become outgoing, gregarious, convivial, extroverted 13 7 Eyes become hot, heavy, bloodshot, puffy 12 6 Body feels heavy 12 6 Sense of touch improved, more sensitive, can feel things sharply 12 6 Mind works more quickly, mind races 11 6 Experience synesthesia phenomena 11 6 Become more active, want to move around more 11 6 Feel a sense of unreality of everything around me 10 5
There is an abundance of striking contradictions in the effects described. The drug, it would appear, is associated with opposite effects on different individualsand even on the same individual at different times. Yet these dualities are specifically located with certain effects and not others. Only one individual said that music sounded worse high, another that it sounded dimmer, and a third that it sounded strange; these responses are obviously negligible next to those who reported greater acuteness and appreciation of music while high. Yet many characteristics attracted mutually exclusive responses. Table 7-2 lists some of the more arresting paradoxes.
Contradictions in Effects Described (percent)
More sensitive (36) vs. numb, de-sensitizer (8) Introverted (22) vs. extroverted (7) Emotion exaggerated (25) vs. care less about everything (13) Feel happy (18), things seem funny (29) vs. feel depressed (10) Mind wanders (21) vs. greater concentration (13) Feel paranoid (15) vs. feel more secure (10) More relaxed (46) vs. feel more nervous (7) Talk a lot (10) vs. difficulty talking (8) Time slowed down (23) vs. time speeded up (4) Feel light, floating (18) vs. feel heavy (6) Feel warm (8) vs. feel cold (3) Feel lethargic (19) vs. feel more active (6) Depersonalization (12) vs. your true self emerges (7) Touch more acute (6), fun (10) vs. numb, de-sensitizer (8) Mind more profound (31) vs. fixate on trivia (10) Selective concentration (12) vs. synesthesia (6)
Many of these responses were highly conditional. The impact of marijuana seems to vary by mood and setting, as we mentioned, and our interviewees made it clear that the drug affected them in different ways at different times. For instance, nearly all of the descriptions including "feel depressed" as an effect of marijuana were pre faced by the qualification that only if I feel depressed beforehand does marijuana make me feel more depressed. The drug is often tagged with the power to heighten one's present mood, so that a prehigh mood of elation will yield to an even more exquisite feeling of elation, while a depression beforehand will become an even deeper depression.
We must bear in mind the fact that such an investigation can inherently yield only limited and selective information. However, this is also true of laboratory reports, which only display one facet of the drug crystal. Yet, piecing together several incomplete stories might very well give us a more comprehensive one. In asking the marijuana smoker the effects of the drug on himself, we tap only the subjective vein, a valuable but fragmentary source. This information should properly complement clinical findings, not contradict them. Thus, since we have asked for the effect of the drug on the person taking it, we have largely sidestepped the objective-subjective dilemma which is so often a source of confusion. We do not ask the smoker to be a scientist, reporting objectively on drug effects, but to re-create the drug experience itself, to convey the expressive character of the marijuana high.
One-third of the responses to the open-ended question reported that their senses were more receptive, more sensitive. We straddle two realms here. Tests can be constructed to measure the ability of the subject to discern stimuli. But for the subjective impact of sense-stimulation, we have to abandon the laboratory approach, because it does not tell us anything; we must ask the subject himself. Most responses have this dual character. And the subjective meaning of phenomena and sense-impressions forms a vast and uncharted territory, with a logic and integrity of its ownyet one of immense significance.
Why should music be so often singled out as a locus wherein marijuana is said to have such a pronounced impact? There are, after all, five senses, thousands of sources of sound, an infinitude of possible changes in thinking, doing things, feeling; why music? There are at least three explanations:
- The physiological and psychological explanation. There actually is something about the effects of marijuana that relates specifically to music, to rhythm, movement, sound, and pitch.
- The culture explanation. Marijuana smokers happen to be people who enjoy music and merely project onto marijuana, which they also enjoy, the positive effects of any activity toward which they feel positively.
- The logistical and ecological explanation. It just happens that, given the personnel and the setting ( in one's living room for the most part ), it is highly likely that music is one of the activities in which marijuana users will be engaged while high.
There is no doubt that reasons (2) and (3) operate powerfully; the question is, do they account for all of the variance? Is there any pharmacological thrust at all?
A quarter of a century ago, an objective test of musical talent was done on incarcerated individuals, experienced with marijuana's effects, who had been administered parahexyl, a marijuana-like compound. The study found that the drug did not increase musical ability. The typical test result (except for rhythm) was to improve very slightly without the drug as a practice effect, and then to drop back to the original, pre-practice level when high. Although the magnitude of the differences was extremely small, this was a consistent pattern.
However, the Seashore test measures neither musical talent nor ability. What it does measure is the ability to discern differences in pitch, loudness, rhythm, time, and timbre in a laboratory setting. We have to guess as to the effect of the drug in an actual music-playing situation. In any case, this objective test has nothing to do with the subjective impact of music on the high listener. And in this realm, the evidence is overwhelming that marijuana stimulates a much more powerful identification, appreciation, and feeling for the music. The music means more when high, musical ability or not. "My most intense highs are when I listen to music," I was told by a twenty-seven-year-old mother. "I hear more. I hear five different levels at the same time. I can see the vibrations of the strings. I can identify exactly with what the composer was feeling and thinking when he composed the music. I am in the music, engulfed by it. It's happening through me." Another respondent, a twenty-year-old salesman, specifically mentioned the synaesthesia phenomenon as a catalyst for enjoying music more:Once, listening to Wagner, I had three visions. I was a Pegasus horse, flying through the air, with hundreds of smaller-type horses spanning out behind me, all co]ors, like a peacock. I was also a spirit, soaring through space. The third one was, I envisioned myself, I was crawling on the ground, watching flowers bloom and little animals crawling around. I've always enjoyed music more high than straight. Music has a visual correspondent.
In the interview, I asked a specific question on music (as well as sex and food): "What is music like when you are high?" If this question failed to elicit a meaningful response, I then asked the interviewee to compare the experience of listening to music high on marijuana with listening to it "straight." About 85 percent said they had actually listened to music while high, partly a testimony to the fact that music is a fixture in the marijuana mythologyeveryone knows that listening to music while high is the thing to doand partly a simple matter of the logistic fact that marijuana is smoked in one's living room. But is there a physiological component as well? Out of this music-listening contingent, 173 individuals, 10 percent felt that music was more or less the same, high or straight; it sounded no better and no worse. Two individuals thought that music sounded worse high, and preferred to listen to it while not under the influence of marijuana. All of the rest thought that music sounded better, that the high experience improved the listening experience.
Their reasons varied, however. As for the dominant and first mentioned reason for this, 40 percent said that their ability to become subjectively involved in the music, their emotional identification with it and appreciation of it, was heightened. They could "get into" the music better and became, in a sense, part of the music. About one quarter (23 percent) claimed that they could separate out the various instruments, sounds, and levels of sound, better appreciating the elaborate interweaving of sounds occurring in a musical composition. Some even likened listening high to having a built-in stereo set. The sounds actually seemed physically separated; one respondent felt that he could hear the notes of an organ bouncing off the ceiling, while the other sounds of the piece were off somewhere else in the room. Related to this perception was the sensation that they could hear one sound only, while all of the other sounds seemed subdued; there appeared to be some sort of ability to concentrate selectively on a single instrument, tune, sound, or level. Ten individuals, or 6 percent of the high music listeners, claimed that this was the first and most dominant characteristic of listening to music while smoking marijuana. Seventeen percent said merely that their hearing was more acute, that being high improved their listening ability. And 6 percent mentioned the synesthesia phenomenon, claiming that listening had a visual correspondent. They could see the music while listening to it.
Another of the more puzzling and intriguing products of the marijuana high that our interviews tapped remains its impact on the subject's perception of the passage of time. About a quarter of our respondents claimed that under the drug's influence they sensed much more time had passed than actually had. Time, in other words, seems to move extraordinarily slowly. Now, the positivistically inclined clinician will see this as a "distortion." It might, however, be more fruitful to look at time in a more relativistic sense. The division of the day into minutes and hours of standard length is only one of many possible ways of looking at the passage of time. Time also has a subjective element, a kind of organic flow. Under certain circumstances, a visceral grasp of time might coincide with a mechanistic one where, in laboratory terms, the subject will be able to judge time "correctly." Under other conditions, the two will be at variance with one another. Yet it is too narrow to view the mechanical measurement of time as its one true measurement; this may be expressed in many ways, for different purposes. The subject's "erroneous" estimation of time may have a powerful internal validity. We are reminded of Hans Castorp's words in Mann's Magic Mountain: "But after all, time isn't actual. When it seems long, then it is long; when it seems short, why, then it is short. But how long, or how short, it actually is, that nobody knows."
In the Boston experiments, three out of the nine inexperienced users overestimated the passage of time under the influence of a low dosage, while four did so with a high dosage. (No report was given for the experienced users, who may have learned to compensate for the time-altering effect of the drug.) In this case, our informal reports and the laboratory findings to some extent corroborate one another. It is impossible at this point to locate the source of this phenomenon, but it is possible that the exaggeration of mood described by my informants might have a good deal to do with it. Somehow, the drug is attributed with the power to crowd more "seeming" activity into a short period of time. Often nothing will appear to be happening to the outside observer, aside from a few individuals slowly smoking marijuana, staring into space and, occasionally, giggling at nothing in particular, yet each mind will be crowded with past or imagined events and emotions, and significance of massive proportions will be attributed to the scene, so that activity will be imagined where there is none. Each minute will be imputed with greater significance; a great deal will be thought to have occurred in a short space of time. More time will be conceived of as having taken place. Time, therefore, will be seen as being more drawn-out. One of our respondents, a twenty-six-year-old secretary, expressed it this way: "Time is different. You think it may take like five years to pick up a cigarette."
Marijuana's reported effect on memory is one of the more fascinating aspects of the drug's impact; almost one-fifth of the respondents said that, while high, they tended to forget simple things, that their memory seemed to be impaired by the drug. Psychologists divide memory into three zones, corresponding functionally to three areas of the brain; these are immediate, recent, and long-term memory. The marijuana smoker never forgets who he is, who his friends are, or where he is, but he may forget what he has been saying just ten seconds before. Weil and Zinberg pinpoint this speech impairment to marijuana's selective impact on the various memory functions in the brain:If this effect can be demonstrated, it is likely that it is, itself, a manifestation of a more general acute effect of marihuana on a specific mental function: namely, an interference with ultra-short (or immediate) memory. By immediate memory we mean memory over the past few seconds. To be more precise, the interference seems to be with retrieval of information while it is an immediate memory storage; once it passes into the next (recent-memory) storage, it again seems to be easily accessible to consciousness.[l7]
Whatever the physiological foundation of the effect, my informants commonly report it occurring. One user told me: "I can't remember what I said two seconds after I said it. I'm unaware of whether I actually said anything or not, even just after I've said it." In fact, most of the activities which involve forgetfulness while high take place when the subject is talking. This is an event which is both likely to occur and is relatively short-term. Thus the concentration on talking as a memory-impaired locus.
Let us consider hunger. It is an important component of the marijuana subculture that the drug makes you hungry. There seems, however, to be no physiological basis for the hunger. Some of the descriptions were so pungent that it is difficult to believe that some sort of physiological mechanism does not back them up: "I get a ravenous hunger high. When I start eating, my hunger is frightening. I could eat my finger if it got in the way." Hyperphagia, simply eating more, is common among high marijuana users, but the physiological basis for it is obscure. Yet it would be a mistake to throw out the observation, merely because it is not grounded in biochemical fact.
Pot's impact on taste was almost as influential. In fact, since there is no pharmacological reason for the hunger, it may perhaps be accounted for by the fact that the subject wishes to eat more be cause he knows that the food will taste much better. The idea of food suddenly seems much more attractive. Taste was reported as fabulously improved, almost a wild and orgasmic adventure. One of our respondents said that he rolled on the floor in ecstasy after eating some raspberries, so exquisite did they taste. Another respondent, a twenty-eight-year-old woman artist and art teacher, clearly delineated this distinction between the simple desire to eat more and a true, physiologically-based hunger, a hunger in the stomach rather than in the mind: "I love to eat when I'm high. I'm more interested in food. I don't think it's a matter of appetite; it's not hunger, it's mostly interest. Food tastes more interesting." Some of our most interesting and dramatic interview descriptions of the marijuana high were located in this impact on the subject's hunger and taste. The following account is presented by an eighteen-year-old college coed who was high for the first time two weeks before the interview. She smoked in her dormitory room with her roommate, who was a regular smoker:Throughout the whole thing, every time we'd go to the cupboard, we'd see this big bottle of Cremora, and we just had to find a use for it; it was like an obsession. And finally (laughs) we got some tuna fish, and we found a use for it. We mixed up the Cremora and water to make tuna fish stewwe didn't have any mayonnaiseand we used it like mayonnaise. And we thought it was delicious (laughs). And we kept making more, and we devoured it, and then we realized what we were eating. Except at the same time, we felt, I felt, natural, except, you know, this is, like, stupid, we're eating Cremora and tuna fish, and it's horrible, and everybody will think we're absolutely nuts. But meanwhile, it was delicious (laughs). And the whole time, I felt, like, the things I was doing might be silly, but they felt very natural.
Hunger and taste was another question which I singled out specifically; 150 respondents, or about 75 percent of the sample, said that they had eaten food while they were high. Of this 150, six said that there was no difference between eating high and eating straight, that marijuana had no effect on the nature of the eating experience. Eight percent said that the experience was worse in some way; they had less of an appetite, or the food tasted worse, and that they did not enjoy the experience of eating food when they were high. Thirty-eight percent said that the most dominant characteristic about being high and eating was that one's appetite was stimulated; one had a tremendous appetite while high. Thirty-one percent said that the food tasted more delicious high than ordinarily, that eating was a more enjoyable experience. Eleven percent said, merely, that they were more acutely aware of taste, that they could discern the various tastes more accurately while high. The remaining respondents said that they were more aware, above all, of the texture of the food while high, that the most important thing was that they suddenly desired unusual combinations of foods, that they wanted to eat weird foods they had never considered before, and that they had a special craving for sweet things.
We should also expect sexual activity to be closely intertwined with, and powerfully influenced by, smoking marijuana, and in this, our expectations are well supported. Three-quarters of our interviewees said that they had experienced sex while high on marijuana. We asked several specific questions on the difference between sex high on marijuana and sex normally.
First I asked, "Do you think being high on marijuana stimulates your sex interest, or not?" More than a third of the respondents said that marijuana had no effect on their sexual desire. Five percent said that marijuana had a negative effect, that it turned them off sexually. Thirteen percent said that the effect depends on their mood or on their sexual partner. In this group, a common response among the women was that marijuana acts as a sexual stimulant when they're with someone with whom they're already intimate, but when they smoke with a stranger, the prospect of sex becomes even more distasteful than ordinarily. For these women, marijuana seems to polarize sexual desire. But 44 percent, a strong plurality, replied that marijuana definitely increased their sexual desire.
Next, I asked, "Is your enjoyment of sex any different high?" The respondents were less divided on this question. An overwhelming majority, 68 percent, replied that marijuana increased their sexual enjoyment, that their orgasmic pleasure was heightened by the drug. Yet most scientists claim that in physiological terms marijuana lacks an aphrodisiac effect. If anything, it tends to reduce desire and to dull the sexual areas. Norman Taylor, a botanist, writes, "As to being a sex-excitant, marijuana appears to be just the opposite." Constantinos Miras, a Greek pharmacologist and one of the drug's severest critics, disclosed to a seminar at the UCLA Department of Pharmacology that marijuana actually impairs sexuality, and when administered to rats, their rate of "reproductive activity" declined go percent. If, physiologically, marijuana is neutralor even negativeto sexuality, why are so many people sexually turned on by it? Why, after smoking the faddish banana, don't its users descend from a trial high to discover that it is neutral to sex desire and enjoyment?
Consider the mythology. Its use has traditionally been associated with the dramatic loss of sexual inhibition, and with what were thought to be the inevitable consequences: depravity, degradation, shame. Marijuana, according to an historic description, completely inflames the erotic impulses and leads to revolting sex crimes. For years, propaganda from the press assisted the Federal Bureau of Narcotics' campaign to nurture an evil image. An account written in the 1930s chronicles the degradation of a young girl lured into smoking:Her will power dropped away from her like a rent garment, leaving her a tractable, pliant creature, as exposed to chance suggestion as if her soul had been naked to the wind.
The unfortunate girl so discarded her inhibitions that she accepted proposals from strangers. When she came to her senses, she was so mortified that she committed suicide.
The sex-loaded invectives of the antimarijuana campaign may have been a tactical blunder. They seem to have attracted more recruits than they discouraged. Sociologists and psychologists stress the power of mood, expectation, social conditioning, setting, and myth in shaping the nature of the drug experience. And our mood, expectations, social conditioning, setting and myths have long associated marijuana with sex. We have learned to associate it with sensuousness and carnality, with hedonism and physical gratification. And so it stimulates those very reactions which are called debauchery by its critics and rapture by its adherents.
The human, unlike the caged rat, has a broad latitude in shaping the nature of his environment, even of his own body chemistry. Man's somatic responses are often influenced more by what he thinks than by biological and chemical imperatives; in fact, it can happen that what he thinks actually becomes his biological and chemical imperative. Thus the user's attitude toward marijuana may determine what happens to his body when he smokes it. It is only in the narrowest sense that the drug is not a sexual stimulant; that is, in the sense that it will not excite mindless, laboratory-located animal tissue. But many human marijuana users report an actual increase in sexual desire and sexual pleasure. Part of the reality may be analyzed as a "self-fulfilling prophecy." With marijuana's reputation, even a placebo could carry a sexual stimulus.
Women seem to respond more strongly than men to pot as an aphrodisiac. Exactly half the women said that the drug increased their sexual desire, as opposed to only 39 percent of the men. Two related explanations come to mind: (1) marijuana is an aphrodisiac for women because of its cultural association with sex: women are more likely to think themselves into becoming excited; and (2) women need an excuse to justify their desire. However, almost three-fourths (74 percent) of the men said that they enjoyed sex more high, but less than two-thirds (62 percent) of the women felt the same. The explanation for this discrepancy probably lies not in the properties of the drug, but in the characteristic sexual attitudes of men and women in our society. A woman is concerned with the ritual of sex and with what the textbooks refer to as "foreplay." For her, these aspects of the sexual act are often more meaningful than the immediate physical gratification it gives her. Because a woman is more preoccupied than a man with the path to sex, marijuana is more active for her during the overture. For a man, on the other hand, seduction (the overture) is often only instrumental. He is much more localized in both body and temperament; his concentration is on the orgasm. So more often he receives the most pleasure from marijuana during the act itself. But it should be noted that this is only a difference of relative emphasis: for both sexes, marijuana is more stimulating during the act itself than as an aphrodisiac.
The answers to my questions also indicated that both sexual stimulation and sexual enjoyment were directly correlated with frequency of smoking. The heavier smokers were the ones who most often answered "yes" to my two basic questions. I divided the sample into frequent users (at least three times a week) and infrequent users (less than once a week). Over half (52 percent) of the frequent users said that marijuana stimulates their sexual desire. Less than a third (30 percent) of the infrequent users agreed. Likewise, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of the frequent users claimed that marijuana increased their sexual enjoyment, while less than half (49 percent) of the infrequent users agreed.
Do the frequent users smoke more often because smoking makes them sexual, or does smoking make them sexual because they smoke more frequently? Do some people have minds and bodies that are naturally more receptive to the marijuana high, and therefore smoke more frequently? Or have those who smoke more already explored the psychic and bodily experiences available to them? Have they had more exposure to the sex-enhancing properties of the drug?
Another variable, of course, is strength of dosage: both the quality of the marijuana and the number of cigarettes smoked. But these are almost impossible to calculate. I don't know, and neither do my subjects, how potent their marijuana was. Most agree, however, that when they get very high, marijuana becomes soporific. After two or three "good" joints, the only erotic experience the pot head will have will be in his dreams.
To many marijuana users, the question of whether pot is a sexual excitant misses the point. Sex is just one examplethough the example par excellenceof the kind of activity the drug enhances. But they were discriminate in their praise of the drug's power. Whereas it was recommended as an adjunct, collaborator, and stimulus to physical and sensual activity, it was found to be an impediment to cerebral activity. Only about a third of the sample had read anything during their high and, of these, about two-thirds said that reading was actually impaired by the high. Most material, particularly if it was logical, rational, traditional, and "linear," was rendered stuffy, incomprehensible, and impenetrable.
Marijuana seems to allow detours from the customary channels of experience and permit transcendence of some of our peculiar social inhibitions. The middle-class American is taught to be uncomfortable about his body and its gratification. The process of toilet training has made him uneasy about defecation. The taboos surrounding sex and sex education continue to cling to him. He has learned to respect the ritual surrounding food. He may not simply fill his stomach: he must not become too fat, nor stay too thin, nor eat at the wrong time or under inappropriate circumstances. He is warned against belching, flatulating, sweating. Every one of his bodily functions is stigmatized by prohibitions and restrictions. Marijuana may diffuse some of the rigid associations acquired from a culture ambivalent about bodily things. "Sex-evil," "sex-dirty," "sex-forbidden" is a class of linkages which, under the influence of the drug, is sometimes replaced by "sex-fun," "sex-nice." Consequently, users often claim that their involvement in sex is more total while high.
The attitude of play, of novel and unusual roles and activities, is also part of the sex-marijuana calculus. A twenty-year-old waitress said, "You do a lot of weird things in bed." A graduate student in psychology said, "I come up with new sex ideas." Alexander Trocchi, novelist and drug addict, puts it this way:Experts agree that marijuana has no aphrodisiac effect, and in this as in a large percentage of their judgments they are entirely wrong. If one is sexually bent, if it occurs to one that it would be pleasant to make love the judicious use of the drug will stimulate the desire and heighten the pleasure immeasurably, for it is perhaps the principal effect of marijuana to take one more intensely into whatever the experience. I should recommend its use in schools to make the pleasures of poetry, art and music available to pupils who... are... insensitive to symbolic expression. It provokes a more sensual (or aesthetic) kind of concentration, a detailed articulation of minute areas, an ability to adopt play postures. What can be more relevant in the act of love?
Marijuana cannot create a new mentality, a conscienceless, superego-free psyche. It does seem to endorse some of our more whimsical and carnal tendencies. The person who condemns marijuana because of its bestial and violent effects probably does so because in his subterranean self he actually regards sex itself as bestial and violent. The person who claims that marijuana's liberating effects will ultimately cause destruction and brutality probably has a destructive and brutal image of man's inner being. He who in his inner self condemns sex will, under the influence of marijuana, have basically antisexual experiences. Marijuana does not create anew, it only activates what is latent.
A young woman described it this way:A boy smoked it with me so that I'd enjoy the sex more, but it backfired! Every time he touched me, I'd get an electric shock, but if he would move away, I'd get very cold. At another time, it made me aware of the sex so that I'd become self-conscious of my sexual aggressiveness and realize that I wasn't worthy of sex. Often it would be like a psychodrama: I'd act out my problems, and become aware of what was bothering meand become upset by it. I often became aware that I didn't want to have sex, and my body would freeze up. It brings out what your subconscious holds at the time...
Marijuana is much more than a mere chemical. The nature of its social reality, how it is defined, regarded, and treated, how its users shape their lives around it, will determine how it will treat them. A twenty-seven-year-old divorcée, was able to achieve orgasm only under the influence of marijuana. An eighteen-year-old coed chimed in, explaining how sex on marijuana was better, "Well, 'cuz, like you're all, you know, loose, free, and wild, and abandoned, and reckless and freaky. But, like, when I'm straight, I'm inhibited, you know, and cold, I guess, but when I'm, you know, on grass, I dig it." However, another girl experienced her only unpleasant sexual episodes when she was high. In the midst of being seduced, she saw little green men coming through the windows to attack her.
Another of the most popular of responses describing marijuana's effects dealt with laughter; there was widespread agreement that many more things seemed to be funny when high than normally. Even what we would consider quite ordinary in a normal state seemed extraordinarily droll, peculiar, incongruous, and even ludicrous. This is often pointed out by nonsmokers and critics as documentation of the distorting mechanism of the drug. The fact that someone laughs at something that is not really funny seems to prove pot's ability to take the user's mind out of reality, that the drug has the power to distort what is real, putting a "false conception" in its place. However, the user would say that the fact that something which appeared banal "straight" suddenly took on titanically comic proportions means that the experience itself was heightenedthat the response was the experience; analyzing the reasons for the laughter destroys its validity and richness. Who is to say what is really funny and what is banal? (The user's reasoning parallels perfectly the symbolic-interactionist perspective's axiom, "The meaning is in the response.") If something is funny when high then it is funnyat that moment and under those circumstances. Whether something is funny or not is not a quality inherent in the thing, but in the field which is generated between the thing and the audience. The laughter evoked is the act of funniness.
In any case, this aspect of the extreme sense of amusement while high dominates our interviews and strikes the reader with dramatic force:The slightest little thing that's not right, it'll crack you up. You'd break your sides laughing. I was high in school once, and the teacher wrote a word on the boardthis was in economicsand I forget what word it was, but to me it seemed funny. In fact, anything anybody does seems, like, it'll seem funny.
Nineteen-year-old high school studentI get silly.... So all kinds of things, like, can crack you up, you know, that aren't really that funny, I guess, in regular life. But they can be really, really funny out of proportion. You can laugh for 20 minutes.
Twenty-six-year-old secretaryA friend told a joke, and I couldn't even listen to it, and yet, I recall laughing at it, you knowI thought it was a riot, a very old joke which I probably heard before.
Twenty-six-year-old social worker
Many of the responses reported can be summarized under the general category that Matza calls a "sensibility to banality." Many of the things we take for granted somehow are seen in a new light; the everyday is viewed with virginal eyes. Often the straight nonsmoker cannot understand the response of astonishment of a circle of marijuana smokers at a party at what appears to be nothing at all. Cries of "Oh, wow!" will greet the normal observer, and he will attribute them to mere stupidity or silliness. But what is actually going on is an appreciation of something that the detached nonuser has long ago taken for granted, something which to him seems quite devoid of any special meaning. According to Matza, and to most of our respondents, marijuana touches off this new look at the objects and events around us which we have ceased to wonder about.For something to become ordinary it must be taken for granted.... To take... for granted... is to render... empty of human meaning... it will not be an object for reflection.... Belief suspended, an aesthetic of the ordinary may appear. The unappreciable may be appreciated... the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Many of the effects attributed to the drug and described by our informants fall within the orbit of the sensitization to the normally banal. We do not ordinarily reflect on the food we eat, unless it somehow seems extraordinary; marijuana is attributed with the power to make our commonest meals, meals we would never remark upon while "straight," seem uncommon and unbelievably delicious. Laughter is evoked by seeming banality. We are struck by the incongruity of the congruous, by the ludicrousness of the ordinarily serious, by the absurdity of the everyday. Paradoxes crowd in on us where we saw none before. A sense of wonderment animates the high, whether it be in sex, food, jokes, music, life in general, or, seemingly, nothing at all. (Everything is not reduced to the same basic level; there can be degrees of wonderment.) A twenty-three-year-old graduate drama student describes his sense of wonderment at snow:The way I'm using pot now is to try out everything new again. Like, there was a huge snow about a month ago and I went down to Riverside Park, completely stoned out of my mind. And the sky was full of snow, and the snow was eighteen inches deep in the park. And I went through the whole thing rediscovering snow, you know, sort of kicking my way through it and saying, "What's that, daddy?" You know, and sort of re-creating that experience of, you know, snow before snow meant slush and taxicabs, and blech, and inconvenience, and all of the other things that it means now. To go back and find the child-like snow. Pot is trying things out over again.
Of course, the effect need not involve such a conscious pursuit of the new in the guise of the banal. Most of our respondents felt the dramatization of the everyday without having to search for it, without even stepping outside their living room where they were sitting, smoking. Even the very act of smoking took on, sometimes, a new semblance. "When I'm high, I get hung up on little things that I wouldn't even notice straight," an eighteen-year-old coed told me. "Like, oh, wow, a cigarette. You start thinking about the cigarette and you think, you know, you're drawing in the smoke, and it's just going into your lungs, and you think about what's happening."
The issue of the generation of panic states, or psychotic episodes, by this drug marijuana is extremely thorny. There is no doubt that some individuals at some time while taking the drug have had some psychotomimetic experience. This is, however, a flabby, imprecise, and not very useful statement, for a number of reasons. First of all, it has never been established that these occurrences with marijuana are any more common than under any other exciting and possibly stressful situation, such as during a seduction, in an examination, or in athletic competition. There is no clear indication that the effects described as adverse effects of marijuana are due directly to the drug or to an unusual and novel situation, to social pressures and expectationsworrying about not becoming high, for example, or becoming too high, about having a good timeor possibly fears about the drug, about being arrested. One thing is clear, at least from anecdotal material: the factors of "set" and "setting" described earlier make a great deal of difference in the generation of "adverse reactions" to the drug, in fact, in the effects in general which the drug has.
A healthy psyche, taking the drug in a supportive, familiar and enjoyable environment, is highly unlikely to experience a psychosis-like episode. The presence of stress, hostility, strangeness, and a past with psychiatric difficulties, all make it more likely. As with virtually any psychoactive drug, marijuana can induce acute anxiety with some feelings of panic in the user. This type of reaction is uncommon and is often related to an improper set or attitude by the user, or pre-existing personality problems. The perceptual alterations produced by moderately high doses of marijuana occasionally produce a feeling of depersonalization in the user, and his fear that this effect may last produces fear and anxiety. Individuals who are insecure or threatened by circumstances surrounding the drug experience, such as arrest, are more prone to this type of reaction. Prolonged reactions have been reported, but almost always are related to high dose use in individuals with unstable predrug personalities or individuals who have had experiences with more potent psychoactive drugs such as LSD.I have seen three cases of marijuana-induced psychoses... a]l ... were using marijuana for the first time in "far out" environments. All had extreme paranoid reactions characterized by fear of arrest and discovery...
The... psychotic reactions represented the users' attitude toward experimenting with an illegal drug and their rigid personality structure rather than an indictment of the pharmacological properties of marijuana, and demonstrates only that "upright" Americans committed to the current dominant value system should not experiment with illegal drugs even though they might be quite capable of handling accepted intoxicants such as alcohol. Were the illegality of the drugs reversed, then their experiences would also be reversed.
Clearly, a factor making for variability in potentiality for adverse reactions is the setting. The user may find himself in surroundings which are unpleasant to him, in the company of strangers or others whom he does not like, or in danger of some kind. These circumstances will influence his response to the drug. The fact that he is on the street, in public, or in his own house or apartment, will influence what he feels, sees, and does. Marijuana smokers often report paranoia as one of the effects of the drug on their psychic state while high. Many, however, qualify this with the reservation that it is only because of the legal climate, because of the drug's illegality, their fears of being arrested, the fact that a friend may have been arrested, that this mood is engendered. In other words, part of the setting of all users is the fact that the outside world punishes the act, and this realization is often woven into the experience itself, in the form of fear. Yet to say that this effect is a direct product of the drug, and not the legal setting in which the user consumes the drug, is to distort the reality of the situation. As Kenneth Keniston said in a drug symposium, given February 28, 1969 at the "New Worlds" Drug Symposium, at the State University of New York at Buffalo, "The only thing that we know for sure about marijuana is that you can get arrested." The smoker knows this, and sometimes responds, while high, accordingly. Those who charge the drug with generating panic states are often the very same ones who themselves produce them. Allen Ginsberg attributes his sometimes-feeling of paranoia to the prevailing legal climate:I myself experience... paranoia when I smoke marijuana and for that reason smoke it in America more rarely than I did in countries where it is legal. I noticed a profound difference of effect. The anxiety was directly traceable to fear of being apprehended and treated as a deviant criminal and put through the hassle of social disapproval, ignominious Kafkian tremblings in vast court buildings coming to be judged, the helplessness of being overwhelmed by force or threat of deadly force and put in brick and iron cell.
From my own experience and the experience of others I have concluded that most of the horrific effects and disorders described as characteristic of marijuana "intoxication" by the US Federal Treasury Department's Bureau of Narcotics are, quite the reverse, precisely traceable back to the effects on consciousness not of the narcotic but of the law and threatening activities of the US Federal Treasury Department... Bureau of Narcotics itself.
Another difficulty with the contention that marijuana is psychotomimetic is that it is never clearly defined what constitutes a psychotic episode. Thus, at one end of the spectrum of adverse reactions, we might find various vague and superficial sequelae, such as nervousness after drinking coffee, which are easily dispelled. It is possible to place any effect on the Procrustian bed of value judgments; hysterical laughter, for instance: "I laughed for hours at 'Please pass the potato chips.'" Certainly laughing for hours at such a straightforward request is not normal. Yet the respondent reported the event in positive terms; a clinician might see it in a different light.
In fact, the conceptual difficulties which plague the advocates of the psychotomimetic position are even more fundamental than this. The charge is not simply that cannabis generates psychosis-like states. It is that being high on marijuana is a psychosis-like state. The very nature of the experience is abnormal, according to many medical observers. For instance, the Lexington studies' assertion that cannabis has psychotomimetic properties relies on a questionnaire, a battery of questions which purport to measure the degree to which the subject is suffering a psychosis-like state. Yet, when the items in the questionnaire are examined, they contain almost nothing that would qualify as a true clinical psychosis, or anything like it. The general psychotomimetic questions include: "Is your skin sensitive?" "Are you happy?" "Are colors brighter?" "Time passes slowly." "Are you having a lot of thoughts?" "Do you feel silly?" "Is your hearing keener?" The statements specifically related to marijuana (actually THC) include: "My thoughts seem to come and go." "My appetite is increased." "I notice things around me which I have not noticed before."
In other words, what is labeled a psychotomimetic experience is nothing more than the characteristics associated with the marijuana high. The fact that any of these items were actually used to measure a state labeled a psychosis is nothing more than a display of the researchers' prejudices, a display of an archaic epistemological ethnocentrism which rejects any and all experience which does not fit the narrow positivistic mold. This form of reasoning clearly illustrates the interpenetration of science and ideologyideology parading as science. The marijuana experience is, of course, different from "normal." Marijuana is a psychoactive drug; it influences the mind, influences perceptions. This is, in fact, precisely one of the main reasons why it has the appeal it has to some. Some people may like this state, and others may not. But is it madness? How frail are the facts in the path of the mighty concept!
Thus, the attribution to marijuana of psychotomimetic properties is an ideological and political act. It involves a definitional process of deciding that certain psychic manifestations subsequent to smoking marijuana in fact (1) may properly be characterized as psychotomimetic in nature; (2) are generated by the drug; and (3) are not typical of, or generated by, substances of which society approves. There is a tacit assumption in descriptions of adverse reactions to pot that the laws prohibiting this substance are legitimate, and that one of the reasons why it is outlawed (and should continue to be outlawed) is that it is capable of producing a psychotic episode. Yet there is a mirror process at work; not only must we ascribe to marijuana a causal nexus with temporary psychoses, we must also ignore the role of other substances equally as capable of producing the same or even more extreme states. It was found, as a parallel example, that numerous household substances had the same chromosome-breaking properties as LSDaspirin, nicotine, caffeine, tranquilizers, and so forth. The fact that no hue and cry was raised concerning these findings demonstrates the political character of the controversy.
The firmer root which a marijuana subculture would take in American society as a result of its legality is another change that must be considered. Many of the values that marijuana users pass on to neophytes are a contextual feature of its underground status. Elements of paranoia (for instance, fear that one's phone is being tapped by the police, apprehensiveness that someone who wants to do harm is following when one is high on the street) are part of the culture and are only partially a matter of personality configurations. The cultural beliefs evolving subsequent to legalization would not include these elements of paranoia, at least in the same degree.
As Becker has pointed out, the more solid and fully developed that a psychedelic drug culture is, the more it cushions the subject from untoward or psychotic reactions by giving them an approved and fully explained status. Where the high neophyteor the individual who is not part of a drug culture, or is taking a drug for which there has developed as yet no subculturesenses reactions which he did not expect, or which his companions did not expect, they rely on the interpretation which a positivist society passes on to them about anything novel or strange or fantastic: he's crazy. If he says, "I'm Jesus," or "I just saw infinity," or "I want to make love to this flower," where no subculture which has handled such eccentricities exists, the conclusion is obvious: he's crazy. And the message flashes back to the subject; eventually this becomes: I'm crazy! With this lack of cultural and interpersonal support, the individual, high on a strange drug, loosened from his traditional moorings, heavily influenced by the interpretations of his behavior by his equally naive companions, comes to look on his behavior and himself as insane. In this situation, psychotic episodes are highly likely. But if his statement "I'm Jesus" is met with "Groovy, baby; just groove on it," a psychotic self-image is not likely to be engendered. The fully developed drug subculture acts as interpretative "decompression chamber" for bizarre feeling and behavior, which are alien to a rational civilization. By finding such feelings and behavior acceptable, even admirable, by setting them into a more or less commonplace universal and to-be-expected context, and by providing some sort of explanation for their occurrence, they are experienced by the individual as a normal part of his drug adventure, an inevitable unfolding of his destiny and psyche. According to this thesis, with an elaborate and ramified drug subculture, few users of the drug will experience psychotic reactions as a result of such a definition by their peers; in fact, few psychotic reactions will occur at all.
It is Becker's thesis that this process has in fact happened with marijuana historically. Prior to the development of a society of marijuana users with a distinct view of the world, and especially with its own version of the effects of the drug, panic reactions were common; nowadays they are rare. Extending Becker's argument one step further, we would predict that they would be even rarer in the absence of legal sanctions against its possession. The paranoid elements would fall away. There would be less of a need to set oneself off from the nonsmokersthe squaressince there would be less need to play at being straight when one is high. The "bad vibrations" which marijuana users often feel from uncertain situations and individualsoften nonsmokerswould lose much of their force. And a richer and firmer and more supportive subculture would protect the high user from any potentially untoward reactions, from incipient feelings which, in the absence of a justification, might bring on panic.
In the approximately two and a half thousand man-hours of observing marijuana smoking taking place, I did not encounter any response that could qualify as a psychotic episode, even by the most generous definition. The closest manifestation of such a state was when a girl left a party because she felt uncomfortable. However, the descriptions of the marijuana high brought out a small amount of material; two girls experienced more or less consistent adverse and even psychotomimetic episodes while under marijuana's influence. And reactions which would be judged adverse by anyone were sprinkled throughout the descriptions of the high. Some were more commonly reported than others; as we saw, 15 percent of the whole sample said that they sometimes felt paranoid while smoking, a not unreasonable reaction given the present legal setting. However, considering the number of respondents and the frequency with which they had been high, acute panic states while under the influence of the drug seemed to be extremely rare.
This generalization is corroborated by research done in a San Francisco clinic associated with a heavily drug-oriented hippie population. Summarizing his observations in the clinic, David E. Smith, a toxicologist, writes:In fifteen months of operation the Haight-Ashbury Clinic has seen approximately 30,000 patients.... Our research indicated that at least 95 percent of the patients had used marijuana one or more times, and yet no case of primary psychosis was seen. There is no question that such an acute effect is theoretically possible, but its occurrence is very rare.
We would expect that powerful differences in the nature of their answers should obtain among different kinds of marijuana smokers. For instance, do men and women react to the drug, or report acting to the drug, in the same way, or are there systematic differences between the sexes? Curiously, our data suggest small and not very enlightening differences between men and women in their descriptions of the marijuana high. They both give the same average number of characteristics describing the highabout ten per person. And for each effect, the proportion of men and women who proffered it is about 54/46the ratio of men to women respondents answering this question. The only pattern that significantly departs from this is in the realm of adverse reactions. Although for both men and women the effects which the subject and an outside observer of any ideological persuasion would describe as pleasant heavily outweigh the unpleasant, women seem to be more likely to mention unpleasant characteristics in their description of the high.
This pattern holds true, for instance, with feeling paranoid; less than 10 percent of the men included paranoia as one description of their drug experience, while this was true of 21 percent of the women. Women were also more likely to report sometimes feeling depressed (6 percent for men, 15 percent for women), introverted (16 percent vs. 30 percent), or a sense of depersonalization, being cut off from themselves (8 percent vs. 16 percent). In short, women seemed to dominate the negative responses.
Differential involvement with the drug might also be expected to yield differential responses. Strangely, the heavy marijuana smoker (who used the drug at least three times per week) gave the same number of average characteristics describing the high as did the more infrequent user (smoking less than once per week). Adverse reactions were slightly higher for the infrequent user, but the differences were small, although consistent. Contrariwise, the more the respondent smoked, the greater was his attribution of favorable characteristics to the marijuana high.
Aside from three effectsthe feeling that everything seems funnier while high, the sense that time is moving slowly, and the impairment of memory, as well as the sex findings which we mentionedno strong differences of any kind emerged from the interviews outside of the pleasant-unpleasant orbit. In these three, the less frequent smoker gave them more emphasis as a valid description of the high; yet for even these, the differences were never over l0 or 12 percent. What is so striking about these descriptions, then, is the relative consistency of descriptions, the sameness in the qualities chosen to describe the marijuana experience; the variations are always minimal in comparison with the uniformity.
It is possible that our differentiation between the less than weekly smokers and those who used the drug at least three times per week is not sufficiently sharp to capture differences among levels of use. As mentioned above, compensation with marijuana probably develops fairly quickly and easily. Thus, most of our less than weekly smokers were experienced users: they had had sufficient experience with the subjective effects of the drug as to be aware of how to control the high. Thus, the most striking point of difference in the descriptions of the drug's effects would lie between the complete neophyte, who had just been turned on and had experienced the drug's effects once or twice, and the experienced user, who had been high more than a few times. Our differentiation, at any rate, did not yield any interesting contrasts in level of use.
It is often asserted that "nothing is known" about the effects of marijuana, and it is, for this reason alone, a dangerous drug. In the narrow sense that even supposed experts disagree fundamentally about most of the basic issues, this is true. But a great deal of evidence has been collected, and if read critically, a reasonably consistent picture emerges. The one thing that we do know about the effects of marijuana is that many of the components of the classic diatribes from an earlier age turn out to be hoaxes. It is peculiar that "nothing is known" should become a rallying antimarijuana argument today, since what was asserted previously was that we do, indeed, know the effects of marijuanaand they are all bad. However, what is not known, above all, are the effects of long-term usage, particularly long-term heavy usage. And unfortunately, even the most tentative and exploratory answer to this question lies quite distant in the future.
N O T E S1. If one were to do a social history of marijuana use, it would be necessary to grapple with the question of the events so hysterically described. There are several possibilities: (1) events were fabricated, utterly and totally, by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, to initiate and justify the statute outlawing marijuana possession; (2) marijuana use was unconsciously "read" into events that actually took place; some murders, for instance, may have taken place by someone who smoked marijuana, may have smoked marijuana, would have been the kind of person who could have smoked marijuana etc.; (3) the events actually occurred, but were due to the unfamiliarity of the populace with a new drug, and disappeared with the accretion of a subculture of users who have learned, and who initiate the neophyte into learning, what to expect of the drug, how to handle its effects, what to do in case of unusual events or panic. For an imaginative presentation of the third argument, and its extension to LSD use in the early and middle 19605, see Howard S. Becker, "History, Culture and Subjective Experiences," Journal of Health and Social Behavior 8 (September 1967): 163-176 (back)
2. In regard to the "peace" component of this equation, it must be remembered that an extraordinarily high proportion of the American soldiers in Vietnam (and the Viet Cong as well, according to returning veterans' stories) have smoked marijuana; some estimates put the figure at 60 percent. (back)
3. Two complications muddy this simple statement: (1) the excitement of smoking marijuana for the first timethe idea of smokingoften produces many symptoms which are similar to an actual high, for instance, an increase in the heartbeat rate; (2) many initiates do not recognize the actual effects, thinking them to be much more extreme than they are, and may be high without realizing it. (back)
4. Malachi L. Harney, "Discussion on Marihuana: Moderator's Remarks," in the International Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association, Eighth Annual Conference Report (Louisville, Ky., October 22-26, 1967), p. 50. (back)
5. Donald E. Miller, "Marihuana: The Law and its Enforcement," Suffolk University Law Review 3 (Fall 1968): 83. (back)
6. Harry J. Anslinger and W. G. Tompkins, The Traffic in Narcotics (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1953), p. 21. (back)
7. Although researchers often complain of the unstandardizability of the natural marijuana, it is, nonetheless, the substance actually used illicitly, so that synthetic products will produce misleading results. (back)
8. Andrew T. Weil, Norman E. Zinberg, and Judith M. Nelson, "Clinical and Psychological Effects of Marihuana in Man," Science 162, no. 3859 (December 13, 1968): 1234-1242. (back)
9. An earlier research study, Harris Isbell et al., "Effects of (-) A 9 Trans-Tetrahydrocannabinol in Man," Psychopharmacologia 11 (1967): 185, also turned up the negative finding on dilation of the pupils. (back)
10. Donald B. Louria, Nightmare Drugs (New York: Pocket Books, 1966), p. 36, and The Drug Scene (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968), pp. 107-108; Edward R. Bloomquist, Marijuana (Beverly Hills, Calif.: The Glencoe Press, 1968), pp. 1gS-1g8; Pablo Osvaldo Wolff, Marihuana in Latin America (Washington, D.C.: Linacre Press, 1949), p. 31; United Nations Document E/CN 7/481, "Effects of the Use and Abuse of Narcotic Drugs on Accidents in General and on Road Accidents in Particular," September 14, 1965. Louria correctly writes that "there are no statistical data linking marijuana to automobile accidents." Cf. Drug Scene, p. 107. This does not appear to dim the fervor of Louria's argument, however. (back)
11. Myra MacPherson, "Parents Need Facts on Pot," The Washington Post, July 10, 1969, p. K3. The stated purpose of the article is something of an admission of defeat of the antipot argument. The marijuana-using youngster is well equipped to demolish the other side's arguments with facts of his own, which, in its inexperience and ignorance, the older generation is often unable to refute. The MacPherson article, then, attempted to fill this void. Needless to say, what was provided was not facts, but propagandaas is true of the facts wielded by the opposition. (back)
12. Alfred Crancer, Jr., James M. Dille, Jack C. Delay, Jean E. Wallace, and Martin D. Haykin, "Comparison of the Effects of Marihuana and Alcohol on Simulated Driving Performance," Science 164, no. 3881 (May 16, 1969): 851-8S4. Significantly, The Journal of the American Medical Association rejected publication of this important research report. (back)
13. Lloyd Shearer, "Marijuana vs. Alcohol," Parade, July 6, 1969. (back)
14. Shearer, op. cit. (back)
15. See Richard Brotman and Frederic Suffet, "Marijuana Users' Views of Marijuana Use" (Paper presented to the American Psychopathological Association, February 1969), p. 10. (back)
16. C. Knight Aldrich, "The Effect of a Synthetic Marihuana-Like Compound on Musical Talent as Measured by the Seashore Test," Public Health Reports 59 (March 31, 1944): 431-433 (back)
17. Andrew T. Weil and Norman E. Zinberg, "Acute Effects of Marihuana on Speech," Nature 22 (May 3, 1969): 437. (back)
18. Norman Taylor, "The Pleasant Assassin: The Story of Marihuana," Narcotics: Nature's Dangerous Gifts (New York: Delta, 1963), p. 21. (back)
19. Constandinos J. Miras, "Report of UCLA Seminar," in Kenneth Eells, ed., Pot (Pasadena: California Institute of Technology, October 1968), pp. 69-77. (back)
20. Lionel Calhoun Moise, "Marijuana: Sex-Crazing Drug Menace," Physical Culture 77(1937): 19. (back)
21. Alexander Trocchi, Cain's Book (New York: Grove Press, 1961), p. 123. (back)
22. David Matza, Becoming Deviant (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1969), p. 136 et seq. (back)
23. Matza, op. cit., pp. 138, 139. (back)
24. David E. Smith, "Acute and Chronic Toxicity of Marijuana," Journal of Psychedelic Drugs 2, no. 1 (Fall 1968): 41. (back)
25. Allen Ginsberg,"The Great Marijuana Hoax," Atlantic Monthly, November 1966, pp. 108, 109. (back)
26. Isbell et al., op. cit., and Harris Isbell and D. R. Jasinski, "A Comparison of LSD25 with (-)delta-9 Trans-Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Attempted Cross Tolerance between LSD and THC," Psychopharmacologia 14 (1969), 115-123. The items of the questionnaire are not included in the published articles, but are available from the senior author on request. One piece of clinical evidence on the psychotomimetic properties of THC was offered in passing: two subjects withdrew from the experiments because of their experience with psychotic reactions. It need hardly be stressed that these experiments have an extremely limited applicability to marijuana use. Pure THC is considerably more potent than the cannabis substances typically consumed, so that the reactions of subjects will be considerably different for the two substances. In addition, different reactions can be expected in a laboratory as opposed to one's own living room. (back)
27. Howard S. Becker, "History, Culture and Subjective Experience: An Exploration of the Social Bases of Drug-Induced Experiences," Journal of Health and Social Behavior 8 (September 1967): 163-176. (back)
28. Smith, op. cit., p. 41. (back)
DRCNet Library | The Drugtext Libraries