Higher Ground: What’s so bad about being high? 

Back when I was in college, I walked into a friend's dorm room one night to find a bunch of weed scattered on a table with a bunch of ripped up papers. I could tell these guys were buggin' because their eyes were all bugged out as they stared at me.

"Can you roll a joint?" one of them implored.

Apparently these guys were using something else and needed to chill out. I coolly slipped into a seat, grabbed some papers, and commenced to rolling. These guys were really grateful as they sucked the sweet smoke into their lungs.

My good deed done, I headed out into the night in search of more stoners in need ...

When I look back on it, I think that their use of marijuana at that moment was medicinal. They needed to chill out from whatever they were using, take the edge off, and relax.

Some folks think medical marijuana should be reserved for those who are on the verge of death, a last resort before you plunge into darkness. Then there are those who claim that any use of marijuana is medicinal.

I was having a friendly argument with a friend recently. He is not friendly toward marijuana and made the assertion that 95 percent of the people who have medical marijuana certification really don't need it. He said that the vast majority of certified patients have the qualifying condition of "severe and chronic pain," which anyone can claim to suffer from.

During the course of the argument, I decided to take the position that any use of marijuana is medicinal. If people just want to chill out and relax, isn't that medicinal? Isn't it good both physically and psychologically to be relaxed?

It might be better to be able to achieve relaxation without needing to use some substance, but that's not going to work in our current instant-results society. There are plenty of people who get out of work and head straight for a drink to relax. Heck, when I worked in downtown offices I was amazed at how many folks had drinks for lunch. As far as I was concerned, they were medicating themselves to make it through their day.

When you think about it, why not use a substance that is benevolent and doesn't destroy your body the way alcohol does. Long-term use of alcohol compromises the immune system, increases your risk of developing cancer, and screws with your pancreas, liver, heart, and brain. Marijuana strengthens your immune system and is known to help fight cancer and numerous other ailments.

And when you come right down to it, what's so bad about being high? This stuff is so good that despite trillions spent and a worldwide campaign to stomp it out, people just keep using it. The market is so lucrative, it has funded international cartels that have challenged Latin American governments.

Getting high is probably nothing at all like what someone who has never given it a try imagines it to be. Anyone who drinks alcohol probably thinks of it as somehow like drinking. It isn't. It doesn't make things look different, taste different, or sound different. But it sometimes makes all of these experiences extremely fascinating, or funny. It helps to open your portals of perception. Suddenly you find intricacies in your favorite song that you never noticed before. And the beat is so slamming that you can feel it to the depth of your being.

You look at a painting and you discover details of the brush stroke and modulations of color. And after seemingly having examined the painting for an hour, you realize it only took 30 seconds to find an entirely new way of looking at the art.

It's sort of like that dress thing: Is it white and gold, or is it blue and black? Except with marijuana, it might be all of the above — and more. And then you might find the entire thing hilarious and fall into paroxysms of laughter.

And things can taste so good, you can't believe that you've never really appreciated the texture of crème brulé, or the crispy crust of mom's fried chicken. You might need to practice discipline when it comes to the munchies. It can have deleterious effects on your pocketbook and your waistline.

Still, this whole opposition to people getting high is ridiculous. Your brain will do it to you naturally when it floods your system with endorphins. That's why people report feeling relaxed or at peace after exercising.

But there's that thing against getting high. Here's a snippet of a conversation between comedian and TV host Art Linkletter with President Richard Nixon:

"When people smoke marijuana," Linkletter explains, "they smoke it to get high. In every case, when most people drink, they drink to be sociable."

"That's right, that's right," Nixon says. "A person does not drink to get drunk. ... A person drinks to have fun."

Well, Tricky Dick, I have fun when I get high.

This whole paranoia thing that some people experience can be a problem, although most of it comes from feeling different than usual and somehow channeling into the antidrug propaganda you've heard all your life. It can also come from the very real chance that you could be arrested and sent to jail. However, that guy who just came around the corner is probably just a guy who came around the corner.

But even then, just remember that you're high and laugh at yourself. Marijuana will help you do that, and as so many people say, laughter is the best medicine.

Larry Gabriel writes the Stir It Up and Higher Ground columns for the Detroit Metro Times and is editor of The American Cultivator.

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