As you all know, Colorado is the New Amsterdam. Recreational weed — pot, marijuana, cannabis sativa/indica — is now legal to sell, buy, and smoke, steep, or eat for any reason, or for no reason at all. The business is in its rapid-expansion phase, which means all the vendors are competing on product quality, rather than price, location, or marketing gimmicks. Since they are competing on quality, there is (reputedly) nothing on the planet that comes close to matching our Colorado home-grown.
So naturally, tourists who come to Colorado to sample snowshoeing and skiing and our excellent microbrews, also want to sample our pot.
We’ve had numerous house guests this Christmas, and for the first time in decades needed to mention the house rule: no smoking in the house. All of our guests were fine with that. But recreational weed is still a rather awkward thing, and I thought it would be an appropriate gesture of hospitality to join my guests in smoking their first bowl.
I’m not a pot-smoker. I’d tried it back in the 90’s and quickly concluded it was not my drug of choice. I didn’t especially like the high, and it made me talk too much, lowered my inhibitions against being an asshole, and kept me up all night — all of which, under those circumstances, were not really problems, but I still didn’t like it. On the other hand, what I tried back then had necessarily suffered a circuitous chain of supply, being illegal, and while the regular users who shared it with me invariably claimed it was “the very finest stuff, ever, man!” I always wondered if maybe it was just overhyped cheap stuff.
So, this Christmas, I found myself on the back patio stumbling through the ritual of carburetion.
Our guests had bought something in a Denver store called “Tangerine Haze” (a sativa-dominated hybrid of cannabis sativa and cannabis indica known for its citrus notes) and a small, blown-glass pipe with an odd shape and holes in it — a bit like a glass kazoo.
Unlike pipe tobacco, it seems that pot will not create a coal that burns for any significant length of time, so someone can’t just light the pipe and hand it to you. You have to master the trick of lighting it yourself, which involves applying flame while inhaling through the pipe — a little scary for the unpracticed, since it feels like you’re going to suck the flame from the lighter straight into your mouth. While you’re doing this, you need to cover the carburetor hole on the side of the pipe with your fingertip, so that the flame is sucked down into the pipe bowl to light the weed. As soon as it is lit, you remove the flame, take your finger off the carburetor hole, and inhale, so that you are now drawing a mix of smoke and cool air. I don’t know the chemistry of why: this is just how it is done.
It’s the two step nature that is tricky: let the thumb of one hand off the lighter-lever, and simultaneously let the finger of the other hand off the carburetor — plus, don’t get confused and open your hand and drop the pipe. Oh, and don’t forget to inhale. It’s not actually hard: your hands master the movement by the third try. But the first and second tries are a bit dodgy.
I’m always shocked that I have no impulse whatsoever to cough up my lungs.
As a small child, I always waited with anticipation for Dad to come home. He was like a clock: off work at five o’clock sharp, home and through the door between seven and twelve minutes later. Although neither of my parents smoked, Dad would always bring with him a cloud of stale cigarette smoke from the office, and it was only years later that I realized it was the stale smoke that gave me the brief headache I suffered every evening when he came home, and probably contributed to the surge of hyperactivity with which my sister and I greeted him.
In the 1980’s, I worked in an R&D department filled with engineers in white shirts with pocket-protectors, who sat in their neat rows of desks all day and chain-smoked. There were days you could not see from one end of the office to the other through the haze of cigarette smoke. During that time, I suffered from bronchitis and chest colds in the winters, and measurably lost lung capacity — I don’t recall specifically why I needed the breathing test, but the doctors weren’t happy with the results. My “cigarette-headaches” became a normal background in my life.
I was thrilled when cities started to impose smoking bans in public buildings. A strong whiff of certain brands of tobacco can still set off a coughing fit.
With pot, there is no such instant, involuntary revulsion, which seems odd to me. But it’s the case. I drew a bowl of Tangerine Haze, held my breath, and then slowly exhaled.
My guests said that the high peaks within minutes. I had to pay close attention to notice anything at all.
Now, I should note that I’m not a small person to begin with, and I’m overweight, so it takes higher than normal doses of anything to have a normal effect. In addition to that, I seem to have a buffered reaction to most drugs. Even prescribed opiates, though they doubtless impair my abilities, don’t give me much of a high. On the other hand, they certainly have the normal result of slowing my large intestine, which helps me get my shit together in a most unpleasant way. I can’t imagine taking opiates for fun — it takes a lot of pain before I’ll even consider taking them.
In addition to that, I am, by temperament, pretty much the opposite of “high-strung.” Call me “low-strung.” When I paid very close attention in the minutes after I’d exhaled my tangerine cloud, I could tell that the pot had taken me from a low E to an E-flat.
The rest of the evening was not quite so pleasant.
The weirdest side-effect was second-guessing myself. Perhaps it had to do with my prior knowledge that pot could make me into a verbal asshat — so I was already tuned to “watch myself,” as I did need to be a hospitable host to my guests. I would reach for my face to push up my glasses, a purely reflex action, and then I’d stop with my hand poised in front of my face, pondering whether I ought to be doing this: making a conscious (and laborious) evaluation whether pushing up my glasses was perhaps like scratching my crotch. I’d reach for a light switch to turn off the light, and then I’d stop and try to work out whether I was shutting off the light while someone else was still in the room. It was just a momentary hesitation, a half-second or so, but it was more than enough for me to notice. The whole sea of subtle clues and automatic reactions we live most of our lives within became disconnected, and every small act stood on its own, without context. It was annoying.
After that wore off, I got a mild headache with nausea, and then could not sleep all night. I never did get the munchies — quite the opposite, in fact, though I did notice that the flavors in the food were especially bright that evening. But that could have been the food itself.
So — as I’d already determined a long time ago, and reconfirmed this Christmas — pot is not my recreational drug of choice. In the future, I’ll find other ways to be hospitable to guests who want to sample Colorado Green.