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Emancipation and Entrapment: My Experience of the Dual Effects of Marijuana

Marty discusses his experience of using Marijuana

In one of his legendary set pieces, cult figure and comic icon Bill Hicks famously announced that he thought marijuana should not just be legalised, it should be mandatory. Though he may only have been trying to tickle the ribs of his Saturday night crowds, his innocent image of a world of “happy, hungry, high people” set stigma-free into the world of legality, acting as more than just a pardon for the global stoner community.

Impersonating an incensed, horn-spamming car driver stuck indefinitely in a traffic jam, he is handed a spliff by a police officer and told to “smoke that, it’s the law,” so that he may gain a bit of perspective. After a few quick burns, Hicks instantly drops his shoulders, takes his hand off the car-horn and through the dopehead’s signature thin eyes remarks, ‘Oh sorry, I was taking life too seriously.’

And it is true. People smoke weed to take some of the noise away from the traffic in their lives, to sit back for a while, laugh at the little things and free themselves from a part of themselves. But when smoking the green becomes daily routine, can this feeling of emancipation in the mind develop into a feeling of entrapment?

“everyone has their own relationship with the drug, whether that be a long-lasting, happy marriage, a hostile feud or simply an indifferent acquaintance”

The title of this article is specifically ‘My Experience’, as I am conscious of the fact that everyone has their own relationship with the drug, whether that be a long-lasting, happy marriage, a hostile feud or simply an indifferent acquaintance. And yet, the fact that I often hear among my peers a similar overarching attitude towards weed, one that recognises both the positives and the negatives, suggests an attitude towards it which may realistically be more universal. With some form of legality of the drug creeping onto the lips of British legislators in the wake of legalisation in countries like Canada, Holland and part of the US (among others), discussing openly the pros and cons of marijuana use seems something worth doing. After all, a lot of people smoke it.

Most people who have enjoyed smoking weed will indulgently share memories of halcyon days when they and their pals became part of the sofa, or when they laughed themselves breathless replaying the one bit in that song where the singer’s voice breaks weirdly, or when their dopey friend forgot a) their name, b) that Santa wasn’t real c) that they were holding the spliff, not you, and so on.

Likewise, of those epiphanic instances of revelation, the momentary mind-fucking when connections your high brain makes explain the complexities of the world around you, or when staring up from a field floor to the night’s sky you first consider that the stars you see may have long-since exploded, and that the light from its supernova is only just reaching your eyes. Or perhaps after those hard days of work, when the therapeutic effects of the CBD compound does just the job to help them unwind. I am no exception to these people, and it is clearly the ability to offer experiences that range from the laughter-loaded, light-hearted larks to the intensely contemplative and creatively-minded moments that give marijuana its distinct charm and wide appeal.

But while I do not struggle to give examples of what smoking the substance has given to me in terms of feelings of liberation (a common argument used by stoners to persuade non-users to partake: *toke* you don’t know what you’re missing out on, man!), nor do I struggle to recognise in what ways it has seemed to do the opposite – that is to say, act as an obstacle.

“the short-term, attractive lure of getting high has felt at times like a long-term trap – a trap I’ve been too stoned to notice I’ve fallen into”

Like any other act of relief, it is too easy to get into the habit of doing it too often, and like any habit you do too often, it becomes harder to objectively assess the detriment it may be causing. This is especially the case with something like marijuana use which, aside from uncomfortable sensations such as nausea or paranoia, has been ultimately innocuous to me on a spliff to spiff basis. In narrow margins, so to speak.

It’s only when I take a step back to detect the effects it has had on me personally in the larger picture – changing patterns in my behaviour, lowering certain standards I set for myself, squandering valuable time and money, repeating and enhancing certain anxieties I have – that I can begin to see what regular weed smoking has the potential to do. While I have never considered it an addiction, the short-term, attractive lure of getting high has felt at times like a long-term trap – a trap I’ve been too stoned to notice I’ve fallen into, and one I’ve been too lazy to climb out of.

Enthusiasts of the plant might respond that these issues are not a problem of the drug itself but pre-existing personal problems/shortcomings I have, i.e. harbouring certain anxieties, having an ‘addictive personality’, having the propensity to be lazy, etc. This is something I have considered, and it may well be true. However, of the regular marijuana smokers that I have known, many have at one time or another confessed similar acceptances about the drug’s impact on their lives, its ability to command a part of it. So what conclusion am I exactly trying to draw?

“support the legalisation of the drug on the principle that it would take away much of the outdated and inaccurate stigma which it continues to have and which it does not deserve”

Marijuana is a complicated thing to categorise. People have called it everything, from life-changing to life-ruining, from moral to immoral, from legal to illegal, from the best thing in their life to the worst, from God’s medicine to the devil’s lettuce. It is its ability to evoke such strong, opposing opinions between different people that have made it such an interesting point of debate over its legality and potential benefits or drawbacks. I would of course, like the late comic Bill Hicks, support the legalisation of the drug on the principle that it would take away much of the outdated and inaccurate stigma which it continues to have and which it does not deserve.

This would in turn pave the way for a more in-depth and widespread circulation of education about marijuana use which, bar the internet, feels all-but absent for the young people who begin to smoke it. But through the relatively short period of four years of on-off usage, what I have personally discovered is that if you choose to use, it is imperative to recognise when it is a good thing and when a well needed rest is necessary. Avoid its traps and allow yourself to remain free, healthy and happy – whatever that might mean.

Marty Fraser-Turner

This article does not reflect the views of Impact Magazine or the university.

Featured image courtesy of Cannabis Culture via Flickr. Image license found here

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