HIGH...in a down world

The drug culture is one I didn't just visit. I was a heavy user of 
cannabis products for 50 years and from the experience, I know that the 
attitudes, laws and proscriptions concerning what people ingest, inhale 
or inject produce the most misguided social reactions of any of the 
subjects under discussion.

I was introduced to marijuana in 1946 in Chicago. The first couple of 
experiences were unremarkable: I had to learn to get high. On my third 
try I was alone, listening to a familiar bit of music - which was no 
longer familiar; in fact it was as if I heard it correctly for the first 

As a child I had been indoctrinated with the "weed from hell" delusion 
and was only persuaded to try smoking "tea" because the people who 
offered it to me were quite obviously living proof that the anti- 
marijuana propaganda was false. Perhaps the residual fears helped 
account for the lack of affect.

I have seen the marijuana pendulum swing from "Weed with Roots in Hell" 
propaganda to "vegetable of Inspiration" and back more than once. My 
attitude has moved from fear to advocacy to a sort of indifference but 
my experiences in the culture are among the most moving of my several 

I once had a full-blown opium habit when a friend gave me a substantial 
quantity of that "queen of drugs" and the withdrawal was a bit painful 
but not as important as it often is to people who have trouble kicking 
habits. I used cocaine as a stimulant to enable me to play marathon 
sessions of poker, sometimes going four or more days without sleep. I 
never thought of it as "recreational." I stopped using any of these 
things about six years ago and have felt neither ill effects nor any 
desire to reestablish the practice.

There must be a place in the mind that knows the how to get high. There 
are instances in double blind tests (the name comes from the procedure 
in which neither experimenter nor subject knows whether he has been 
given the drug under test, or a placebo) during which some of the 
subjects report hallucinations from the sugar pill and some report no 
effect from taking an ordinarily effective dose of LSD.

This placebo effect might account for the problems we have with each 
others' different reactions to apparently identical events. An assassin 
who was spoken to by God and a book burner are convinced they serve 
truth. We who imprison, execute, or defy their intent are equally 
convinced that their behavior is sociopathic and our repression of them 
is for the greater good.