In case you're wondering... sure, this post does indeed belong on this here Church of the Churchless. After all, I've written at some length about why "Marijuana is my secular sacrament." Excerpt:
I’m grateful to Mother Nature for bringing forth a substance that elevates the spirit.
There’s a reason we speak of getting high.
Cannabis has a way of making my usual worries and anxieties appear much smaller, as if I were standing on top of a mountain, looking at them from a distance rather than close-up.
At the same time, I don’t feel like I’ve lost touch with reality. Rather, marijuana stimulates a sensation of This is how life really is.
Meaning, my supposedly “normal” perception of having to make my way through a world filled with obstacles, problems, barriers, irritations, and what-not is supplanted by a flowing feeling where stuff happens, but not really to me.
Both modern neuroscience and ancient forms of spirituality such as Buddhism agree that this cannabis-caused diminishing of self is closer to how things truly are than everyday waking consciousness.
Read the entire post for a fuller understanding of why I consider cannabis to be such a positive contribution for most adult lives.
(Note: I've changed my mind about grinding buds, having embraced the Santa Cruz Shredder.)
Here I want to speak a bit about a subject that came up in comments on a recent post on my other blog, "How to make Crock Pot Pot with coconut oil." Namely, paranoia.
Personally, it's kind of difficult for me to understand how paranoia is associated with marijuana use in a state like Oregon, where I live. Marijuana is legal for adults to use, grow, purchase, and give away. So any anxiety about it, a.k.a. paranoia, must have a reason other than fear of being busted.
Which was a real fear back in my hippie college days at San Jose State College in the late 1960's.
Then us potheads had good reason to worry about smoking weed -- even when we weren't driving around, or otherwise out and about in the "straight world." At that time, being stopped by a police officer for possession of marijuana had more dire consequences than it usually does today.
But I do understand another cause of paranoia: a fear of losing touch with who we are. Or more accurately, with who we feel we are. During my first LSD experience, I was convinced that I'd gone insane.
Not temporarily. Permanently.
The friend who had also dropped acid (LSD) had the job of looking after newbie me. However, it didn't take long for my take on reality to be embraced by him also: Sure, we've gone crazy. But this isn't a bad thing. We'll just have to get used to this new way of being.
Which gets me to my advice for people who are worried about losing their sense of self after imbibing marijuana. Again, read my secular sacrament post to get a fuller philosophical/neuroscientific take on this.
Here's another excerpt (which came from a column I wrote for my town's alternative paper):
Apparently an underlying assumption of legal pot opponents is that human consciousness is some sort of pristine, pure pool of unsullied awareness which shouldn’t be contaminated by chemical substances like THC, the major psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Here’s another science news flash: the brain produces conscious awareness, and it is filled with over 100 chemical neurotransmitters.
They make us happy, horny, hungry, and so much more. Including, high.
I’m writing these words buzzed on a chemical my brain adores: caffeine. Is this wrong? Should caffeine be illegal because it alters my consciousness, increasing alertness and improving my mood?
Of course not. It’s beautiful, really, how humans can bring parts of the world into their brains, then those substances enable them to view the world differently.
We are the world. The world is us. There is no immaterial self standing apart from materiality.
So it isn’t a big deal to add marijuana to the long list of ways human brains are legally altered chemically in Oregon. Marijuana is safer than alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drugs. Informed adults should be able to choose their preferred consciousness-changing substance.
After all, there’s no such thing as a normal state of consciousness.
Each of us already creates our own reality. That's what the human brain does. It's a scientific fact. There's no "real world" outside our heads which can be compared with a certain state of human awareness. What we're conscious of, what we're aware of -- that is reality.
So when someone worries about losing their sense of self if they use marijuana, which can be given the term "paranoia," I'd like to offer these suggestions.
Don't dive headlong into cannabis consumption, especially if you've never tried it, or it has been a long time since you have. Start small. If you live where marijuana is legal and clearly packaged, get a variety with low THC.
An indica strain might be better for new users than a sativa strain. (Descriptions here.) Indica provides more of a body high, while sativa is more of a head high. Or go with a hybrid, for a bit of each.
You're not going to lose control of yourself. Probably you won't experience any loss of bodily coordination, like people do with alcohol. (In my college days I did a heck of a lot of pool-playing and frisbee-tossing just fine while stoned out of my mind.)
Flow with whatever you're feeling.
Say to yourself, "It's all good." Because most likely, it will be. Embrace this temporary change of consciousness. Like I said in my essay, there's no Real You anyway. There's just the habitual you, the you you're most familiar with being.
I won't argue with those who worry about marijuana causing impaired driving. Sure, it's advisable not to drive under the influence -- of alcohol, cannabis, or other mind-altering substances (such as prescription drugs).
However, there's also what I like to call impaired living.
This is way more common than impaired driving. Symptoms include: excessive worrying, being uptight, inability to relax and let loose, thinking too much about the past and future, failure to laugh at funny things -- which, in the right frame of mind, includes just about everything.
So I look upon marijuana not so much as a mind-altering drug, but as a mind-enhancing herb. To quote myself (a favorite activity):
I don’t see this as a drive to escape reality.
Rather, marijuana and other psychedelic drugs propel human consciousness into a less ego-centered state that more accurately reflects neuroscientific understanding of the brain’s inherent selflessness.