Marijuana has been illegal for the entire time that I’ve enjoyed it, a circumstance that has made it so much more than just a hobby. As a user of marijuana in America, I am automatically an advocate for it, and being swept up in the idea that we should all be allowed to smoke weed has led me to smoke a whole lot of it without considering whether or not I have a problem.
Because of where I live, work, and socialise I’m almost never ostracised for smoking weed. I’m very open about it, and the worst reaction I’ve had is some stereotyping asshole treating me like a moron. Admittedly, I really hate that shit, but no one has ever gotten preachy to my face, and I doubt people are expressing concern behind my back. Few people I know perceive being a pothead as a real problem.
But not everyone sees it that way. There are people out there who are disgusted enough by weed smoking that they establish programmes, hotlines, and centres dedicated to weaning people off weed. Even these places are reasonable enough to admit that having a marijuana habit is not as bad as being addicted to cocaine or heroin, but they still see it as a problem. This is something we disagree on.
I called up a marijuana addiction hotline, not to tell them that I have a problem, but to divulge my habits and let them assess whether or not I require their services.
I reached a guy named Dennis (not his real name). I laid down the details of my weed smoking – three-to-five times in the evening on weekdays, eight-to-ten times on days off, about an eighth and a half a week, ongoing for about ten years. He immediately concluded that I had a problem. Dennis said that with drugs like cocaine and marijuana, there’s no physical addiction, but rather a psychological dependence. I’d heard this plenty of times before, but I hadn’t heard the symptoms of weed withdrawal that he then proceeded to describe to me. He also kept saying “you”, making his predictions feel all the more personal.
“You would feel bad. You would feel bad and you’d feel confused. You’d feel awkward, you’d feel not like yourself, and you’d feel anxiety. Shit like that. You’d have a lot of psychological issues.”
I tried to jump in and let Dennis know that these were actually symptoms of not having enough experience smoking marijuana, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise. He told me I should try to “cut back and see what happens”. This was confusing in itself, and just as I was about to ask why I’d want to purposely trigger my anxiety by quitting, Dennis put me on hold. I used the two minutes and 13 seconds to finish rolling the J I had spread out in front of me. Dennis came back on and launched right back into what would happen if I stopped smoking and got mad deep with it.
“You’ll have anxiety about the way you perceive your relationship with reality. It makes you feel like you have to do certain things in your life to make you get where you want to go. It’s up to you to solve the problem of life. This makes you very hypervigilant. The only way you can calm down, to feel normal, to feel like you can breathe is by taking a hit of grass and going uuuuuhhhhhhhh.”
The impassioned sigh that Dennis let out told me a lot about him. For one, it seemed to me that this guy really fucking loves weed and is denying himself the pleasure for some reason. I felt like I was talking to one of those gay conversion counsellors who are so obviously gay themselves that you’re like, “Come the fuck on, man.” He went on…
“You’re obsessing about yourself and you’re also worried about what’s going on around you. This is creating a level of anxiety and discomfort on a day-to-day basis. You want to change how you feel and you have no organic internal capability to change how you feel, because you haven’t learned that. So you turn to substances, which might work, or you turn to sex or shopping or rock ‘n roll. You’re turning to stuff outside of yourself to change how you feel and to alleviate the anxiety of the outside world.”
In his confused ranting, Dennis had not only told me that drugs would free me of my the crippling anxiety he had diagnosed me with, but he even recommended a couple of other addictions, some of which I’m fond enough of to consider making them a habit.
He had finally run out of steam, so I was compelled to give Dennis a little more blather fuel. I told him I was in the music business. Drugs are just a part of my lifestyle, and that if I stopped it would jeopardise my career. He insisted that this behaviour would in fact ruin my career and then he inexplicably launched into a yarn about how Stone Temple Pilots went to shit because of Scott Weiland’s drug problem and that he really screwed over Dean and Rob DeLeo. I love Stone Temple Pilots. For a glimmering moment, I almost considered quitting weed. I would be devastated if my drug problem was even remotely responsible for breaking up Stone Temple Pilots.
I lit my J and sat back, pondering Dennis’ advice and quickly writing it off. First of all, STP would not have been the same without Scott Weiland’s drug habit, and though the same circumstance also led to Velvet Revolver, I’m happy enough with the nostalgia I have for those first three albums. Secondly, there is NO FUCKING WAY I’m going to stop smoking weed. Sure, I am probably pretty psychologically dependent on it, but everyone is psychologically dependent on something, whether it’s exercise, television, fried foods, sex, shopping, or "rock ‘n roll". I look forward to my vice becoming as accessible as any of those, but in the meantime I’m going to keep at it. Eat it, Dennis.