Imagine yourself in the early nineteen sixties visiting Hawaii for the first time. Walking over the beach you meet a funky guy who shows you an oddly shaped wooden board and tells you to go out and ride the waves. You have heard stories about that thing called “surfing” before and you think this might actually be fun! Fifteen minutes later, some 10 feet high waves have ruthlessly thrown you back on the shore. Your skin rashes are hurting and you begin to wonder what this is all about.
You’d have to be pretty ignorant to think that this “surfboard” must be a bad tool. The board was not the problem. You have tried out a wonderful tool that can get you a life changing experience of fun – but, obviously, to use the full potential of this board, you need to work on some practical skills, a lot of knowledge, and also, you will have to learn to judge your own skills. Surfboards are like tools in general: they have a potential, but to use this potential, we first need to learn how to use it and we need some knowledge what to do best with them.
Naturally, tools do have not only a potential for use, but also for abuse: I can use a car to get an emergency patient to the hospital and save his life, but I can also abuse it by carelessly speeding on the highway, and having an accident because of heavy rain.
So, tools need skill and knowledge and can be used and abused. That may sound almost painfully trivial, but many forget these facts when it comes to discussions about marijuana and other psychoactive substances.
photo copyright Sebastián Marincolo 2012
Marijuana as a Mind Enhancing Tool
Marijuana, like any other psychoactive substance, can be seen as a tool, a tool with a potential for use and abuse. People abuse marijuana when they e.g. get constantly stoned to flee a reality they can not handle for some reason. But, certainly, there is also a potential for positive use – not only medically, but also inspirationally. This point, as obvious as it may seem, has been ignored by and large by marijuana prohibitionists, who have persistently focused on aspects of risks and abuse. The second aspect of seeing marijuana as a tool, however, is ignored even by many marijuana users in current debates about its mind enhancing properties, like the enhancement of creativity: if we see marijuana as a tool, it becomes obvious that we can use its full potential onlyif we acquire certain skills and knowledge first. A skilled marijuana user knows how much of a dose he needs to ride a comfortable high – just as a surfer knows which kind of waves he can handle. He will also choose his strain carefully and adjust it to his experience of riding a high as well as his immediate environment, just like a skilled surfer will choose the right kind of board matching his own skills and the conditions out there in the waves.
If a novice surfer goes out on a Hawaiian beach to ride high waves with a pro board and gets in trouble, he will probably get in panic – but we wouldn’t judge, therefore, that panic is a typical effect of surfing, would we? It just means that novice users with poor judgement should have more respect, more knowledge and better skills before they go out there riding a wave. There is of course a big difference in our society today as it concerns using a surfboard and using marijuana. The globally influential disinformation campaign concerning marijuana started by drug czar Harry Anslinger in the nineteen thirties invented horror stories about marijuana and its risks, disinformation which is still influential today.
The famous American poet and writer Allen Ginsberg once wrote:
… most of the horrific affects and disorders described as characteristic of marijuana “intoxication” by the US Federal Treasury Department’s Bureau of Narcotics are, quite the reverse, precisely traceable back to the effects on consciousness not of the narcotic but of the law and the threatening activities of the US Bureau of Narcotics itself. (…) I myself experience this form of paranoia when I smoke marijuana, and for that reason smoke it in America more rarely than I did in countries where it is legal.
(The Great Marijuana Hoax. First Manifesto to End the Bringdown” 1966)
Rediscovering the Marijuana High
It is becoming increasingly clear now even to skeptics that marijuana has an incredible medical potential and can be used for many medical conditions. But when it comes to the much sought-after “recreational” or “inspirational uses” of marijuana, it is even more important that we free ourselves of governmental lies and deceptions and rather carefully listen to respectful, skilled and knowledgeable users of marijuana. They have described how a marijuana high brought them a whole array of astonishing mind enhancements, ranging from the intensification of sensory experience to a better concentration on the “here-and-now”, and to the enhancement of episodic memory, imagination, pattern recognition, creativity, imagination, introspection, empathic understanding, as well as to an enhanced ability to produce remarkable insights.
The 24-year old student Beth Amberg, a contributor to Lester Grinspoon’s magnificent website collection marijuana-uses.com, is one of those many who reported how marijuana helps her to better remember past events:
“Perceptions are heightened tonight, my mind unencumbered and slippery. I’m still so close to the wonder and sensations of the past. My thoughts are swimmy-silvery fountains of assorted memories, the novelty-generator of marijuana turning its freshness backwards into history. My past selves have awoken: their experiences aren’t distant; they happen again as I read and remember. The shimmering glaze on memory has opened up and let me back in for the night.”
(Beth Amberg, Memories of the Moment, in: Lester Grinspoon’s “marijuana-uses.com”)
This is just one quote among hundreds of detailed reports about marijuana enhancements which we have from skilled and experienced users. Whatever reason one may have for using marijuana, if you decide to do so, I would recommend you go and learn from them. Whatever reasons you may have to go and ride ocean waves on a surfboard, if you decide to go out there, wouldn’t you want to learn from a master?
To see marijuana as a tool that demands skills and knowledge should not only be a lesson for the personal user of marijuana. It is an important lesson for researchers and scientists in the area: If you really want to study and explore the inspirational potential of marijuana for private life enhancing and for therapeutic uses, you will have to focus on experienced users and research their use.
This is exactly the conclusion to which two eminent experts in the field came already in the late sixties, the Harvard psychologist Charles Tart (see his study “On being Stoned”) and the Harvard psychiatrist Lester Grinspoon (“Marijuana Reconsidered”). Both Tart and Grinspoon based their magnificent research concerning the marijuana high on reports of skilled and knowledgeable users. I highly recommend Lester Grinspoon’s website project www.marijuana-uses.com, a selection of dozens of amazing essays and reports on the marijuana high.
Whether you are riding ‘high’ waves of your own mind or ocean waves on a surfboard, only skill and knowledge will get you to a point where you will ‘step into liquid’ and understand what legendary surfer Bill Hamilton meant when he said: “Surfing equates to living in the very moment of ‘now’. When you ride a wave you leave behind all things important and unimportant, the purity of the moment is upon you.”
A philosopher, consciousness researcher, freelance creative director, writer, and art photographer.