The conversations in a pot store, or recreational cannabis dispensary, are fascinating. People in Colorado pot stores are talking about very subtle variations in their consciousness and experience, associated with different forms and strains of cannabis. They are doing very comfortably what philosophers call phenomenology, examination of the structure and nature of consciousness and experience. It’s usually a pretty hard thing to get across in class but these people are naturals. Allen Ginsberg certainly understood too. In 1966 he wrote that “the marijuana consciousness gently shifts one’s attention…to sensing phenomena.” And then his 1977 his book Mind Breaths Ginsberg explicitly associated the creation of poetry with the observation of consciousness as practiced in Buddhist meditation.
So, many of these friendly happy people in the pot store are practicing a natural and unassuming form of philosophy, art, and spirituality. Every pothead knows this, but others might not, so here’s some more quick evidence. There are at least nine strains of cannabis that contain the name of the Buddha: Big Buddha Cheese, Blue Buddha, Laughing Buddha, Buddha, Buddha’s Love, Buddha Haze, Buddha Tahoe, Buddha’s Sister, Buddha’s Triplets–a number of which have won the yearly Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam.
What do alcohol people talk about? Hoppiness, fruit, sweetness, dryness, cinnamon, malt, smoothness—all are about taste. Alcohol is alcohol, that’s all, it’s always the same. It’s a Central Nervous System Depressant. It slows you down mentally and physically. It’s crude and it’s boring: the #1 cause of traffic fatalities, murder, domestic abuse, rape, transmission of STDs, assaults and other forms of violence, and #2 as a cause of addiction (behind nicotine). It was intentionally used as a weapon in the genocide against Native Americans. Cannabis on the other hand, is gentle and psychologically subtle, it lowers rates of all the violence associated with alcohol, and encourages spiritual, artistic, and intellectual reflection. Excuse me, but after 40 years of being persecuted for what I consider a spiritual practice, I can get a bit overwrought–it’s all true though. And on the other hand, I am barely mentioning the tens of thousands of lives that were pointlessly disrupted, the inhumanity of denying a proven safe and effective therapeutic herb to people with M.S., R.A. AIDS, and cancer, and the creation of violent organized crime, just as happened with alcohol prohibition. I was almost one of those tens of thousands, by the way. The same judge who sentenced the legendary musician Roky Erickson to the Texas State Hospital for the Criminally Insane for ongoing electro-convulsive therapy (shock treatment) for possession of one joint, one joint, once, had me in his power for a similar reason and tried to convince me to switch from pot to liquor. Lucky thing it was an illegal search.
Where did the stupid law come from in the first place? Well, the out-of-work alcohol prohibitionists just made it up, and since cannabis use was associated with Mexican and African-American people no one with any power objected much. In fact, it was a good way to keep the “lower classes” in their place. For 70 years now, every time the justification for cannabis prohibition has been scientifically disproved, a new justification has been trotted out. How can such an unscientific, ineffective, inhumane, and counterproductive law have survived for 70 years? The only answer I have is xenophobia, pure and simple, the fear of the other. Those old rednecks were scared of all of us who were different: black, brown, red, or green.
So I owe the sane and healthy people of Colorado a debt I can never repay. But I try. Every time I can, I go there, and I spend money on gas, hotels, concerts, museums, tickets, restaurants, sports, clothes, parking, parks, and more. Plus, I love to chat with the young phenomenologists in the pot stores.
Please support NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) or SSDP (Students for a Sensible Drug Policy) and help end the violence of this insane law and repeal cannabis prohibition.