Lester Grinspoon reminded us that we have to carefully evaluate these reports, because poets like for instance Baudelaire had often consumed several substances at once. Michaux, however, seems to have clearly distinguished between his mescaline and hashish experiences.
During a high, Michaux experiences many surprises – and he follows their trail. Myriads of cannabis users have reported that a cannabis high makes them feel as if they would perceive something for the first time; whatever comes to their attention often comes with a strong feeling of awe and curiosity.
We all need to escape from our daily routines once in a while. We go on vacations, play tennis, or relax sipping on a glass of wine. Many marijuana users focus on the here-and-now to forget about their daily routines and worries during a high. There is nothing wrong with those little escapes – as long as they help to lead a happy life.
The high affects a whole range of cognitive and physiological functions, from episodic memory, attention, and pattern recognition to the alteration of our sense of time, the perception of our body, imagination, creative thinking, and empathic understanding. Each of these functions can play a crucial role in the enhancement of sexual encounters.
Countless users of cannabis have profited from a cannabis high. Charles Baudelaire, William Butler Yeats, Walter Benjamin, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Diego Rivera, The Beatles, Bob Marley, Carl Sagan, and many others used cannabis to change their perception, to gain deep insights, to create, write, compose, and perform.
Sadly, Sagan died in 1996, too early to witness the revolutionary discovery of the endocannabinoid system. Since then, we have learned about the amazing range of its physiological and cognitive functions. So, can we actually find evidence for or against Sagan’s hypothesis for instance looking at the distribution of endocannabinoid recepors?
In 1971, Harvard Prof. Lester Grinspoon published his milestone book „Marijuana Reconsidered“, in which he featured an essay “Mr. X” by his best friend, the famous astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan. In his essay, Sagan reports that for him, the marijuana high led to various cognitive enhancements, including an enhancement of cognitive abilities like enhanced episodic memory, pattern recognition, creativity, and the ability to produce insights. Sagan’s essay “Mr. X” is still one of the most illuminating accounts on the positive mind-altering potential of the marijuana high.
"Jazz is a very democratic musical form. It comes out of a communal experience. We take our respective instruments and collectively create a thing of beauty.
How can a high positively influence the performance of a jazz musician? The effect cited most often as an answer is the altered sense of time during a high. Dr. James Munch, pharmacologist and associate of drug czar and infamous marijuana prohibitionist Harry J. Anslinger during the 30s and 40s, produced many ridiculous claims about the alleged horrible effects of marijuana.
Without doubt the history of early jazz and the use of marijuana are intimately intertwined. At the beginning of the 20th century, black jazz musicians perform in the bordellos of Storyville, the red light district of New Orleans. They smoke 'gage', 'tea', 'muggles', 'muta', 'Mary Jane' and will soon call themselves 'vipers'.
When we look at the various cannabinoids and their boiling points, we can certainly make some rough predictions about the systematic influences of a vaporizer on the character of a high. Temperatures higher than 185 ºC (365 ºF) will for instance produce more CBN, which is known to produce a more sedative, confusing effect. A vaporizer high will always strongly depend not only on a certain strain and its cannabinoid and terpene profile, but also on the exact temperature at which it is used. Precision vaporizers like the Volcano in the hands of skilled user will help us to answer many questions and to actually come up with new questions about how a vaporizer can affect a high. This sounds like a futile enterprise for nerdy high aficionados. But to answer these questions will help millions of users to use the potential of marijuana in a more meaningful and inspiring way. Many people use the marijuana high to better remember long gone events, to work creatively, to find new patterns in music or art, to better appreciate nature, to get in touch with their feelings and have a better introspective access to themselves, to enhance their empathic understanding of others, to make love, to generate great and live changing insights and to personally grow. Many of those users are on a voyage, exploring a new world, and the use of marijuana can be crucially important for their lives – and the lives of everybody around them. They will extremely profit from a progress in understanding how the various cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids affect a high.
What characterizes a vaporizer high? How much of a difference is there between a vaporizer high and the high from a joint or bong? How different are various vaporizers on the market as to the high they produce? How much does the temperature setting on a vaporizer matter to the quality and character of the high?
Countless artists and musicians experimented with cannabis, many of them were long time users and some explicitly reported how the cannabis high had helped them to work on their music or art.
After more than 80 years of an almost worldwide prohibition our outlook on marijuana and its mind-altering effects is mostly dominated by fear, ignorance, and disinformation. There are still dozens of myths circulating about the negative effects of marijuana, myths that have been created and spread on purpose for decades now. Many activists have tried to argue against these myths and are fighting to legalize the use of marijuana; but even those liberal minded activist are often ashamed to mention the positive potential of marijuana when it comes to its mind-enhancing effects. It is also a strategical decision. Political arguments are usually based along the lines of proving the incredible usefulness of cannabis as a medicine, or on arguing that the prohibition is detrimental to our whole society. I understand the strategy; both argument lines are true. Nevertheless, I think we should not remain silent when it comes to the many mind-enhancing uses of marijuana. For thousands of years many cultures have used cannabis not only for nutrition, clothing, for medical and many other purposes, but also valued its mind-altering potential. The early cultural history of India for example is deeply involved with the use of Cannabis for mind altering purposes. Many Sadhus in India have used cannabis for centuries to come closer to their deities in their meditations. The Sanskrit many names for cannabis all praise it: vijaya and jaya, (“victorios”), virapattra (“leaf for heroes”), capala (“the light hearted”), ananda (“the joyful”), vakpradatava (“speech giving”), medhakaritva (“inspiring of mental power”). It is time to openly address the issue and to talk about the mind- and life-enhancing potential of marijuana: What is the positive potential of the marijuana high as an altered state of consciousness? How can a high be used to enhance various thought processes and activities? How much can it mean to individuals? And how much of a positive impact did the use (not abuse) of marijuana as a mind-enhancer have on human culture and history?
Already in his second protocol about his hashish experiences written in 1927, Walter Benjamin explained an expression he said he took from his friend Ernst Joël1: “Functional shift. I take this expression from Joël. Here is the experience that made me think of it: I was handed a book by Kafka: “Betrachtung.” I read on the title. But then, the book immediately became to me, what a book in the hand of a poet becomes to the academic sculptor, who has to make a statue of this poet. It was at once fit in the physical structure of my body (...)” 2 In other words: Being high Benjamin at first perceives the book under its every day function, reads the cover, but then his perception shifts away from this function, and he suddenly sees it like an artist merely as an object to be chiselled out of stone. During Benjamin's High, this did not lead to any more interesting thoughts – but, as I will now explain, Benjamin had just described in detail a psychological mechanism fundamental to the process of insights – one of the mechanisms systematically triggered during a high, which I believe helps to explain why so many users have reported to have obtained so many valuable insights during a high.
Benjamin himself noted how he became much more sensitive during his high “(y)ou become so sensitive: fearing a shadow falling on paper would be damaging it”, and how his sense of space and time changed: “The claims of space and time of the hashish eater now come to bear; and they are regal, as is well know. Versailles is not big enough for whom has eaten hashish, and eternity does not last too long.”
It's the year 1927 in Berlin. While some national socialist groups and marxists already got into violent street fights with marxists, the now legendary German-Jewish philosopher and essayist Walter Benjamin sat down and experimented taking hashish with his friends Ernst Joël and Fritz Fränkel. During one of his first experiments with hashish he noted as a last statement of his first short experiential protocol: "Your thinking follows the same paths as usual, but they seem strewn with roses".
GUINEA is not only an interdisciplinary scientific approach, but cross-field, meaning that we need to not only include knowledge from scientific disciplines such as the philosophy of mind, the neurosciences, psychology and other cognitive sciences, but also from other cultural and subcultural fields, such as the leagl and Guerilla cannabis breeding scene or from shamanic and other cultures with experience with cannabis. Let me talk about the accepted scientific disciplines first.
What is it like to be high? What is the positive potential of this altered state of consciousness for medical and inspirational uses? How, exactly, does marijuana enhance cognitive functions like our ability to remember episodes, our attention and perception, or our ability to recognize patterns, to introspect bodily states, to empathically understand others, and to generate new ideas and insights? How do the various cannabinoids and terpenoids contribute to the high? Can we systematically research the high? Is it really important to do research in this field?