Music by VICE

Why Smoking Weed in a Nightclub Sucks

We spoke to an expert to find out why techno and joints are such an ugly pairing.

by Josh Baines
Apr 20 2016, 1:50pm

Eggrole.

Once you get past a certain age, smoking weed immediately ceases to be funny or interesting or exciting or rewarding. You stop writing or drawing or making dicks out of clay or playing Trials Evolution or thinking about how strange having hands is and, instead, start worrying about everything in the fucking world in the most minute, debilitating way.

So, eventually, if you're sensible, you stop. Questions remain, though, questions that linger even after you've binned the blue king skins. Some are deep and personal and probing, and some are more important than that. The one I've found myself thinking about, long after my relationship with the drug came to a fairly amicable end, is thus: why the fuck don't weed and dance music work well together? And more importantly why on earth do people get stoned in clubs?

"One key thing to remember is that techno is not relaxing music," Dr Adam Winstock of the Global Drugs Survey tells me when I ask him as to why these two worlds don't collide that pleasantly, "I imagine it can cause an increase in heart rate, and if you become aware of that and you're already slightly anxious then that can send you into a bit of a loop." As a consultant psychiatrist and addiction medicine specialist, Winstock knows what he's talking about. I contacted him to get the lowdown on why combining the two rarely works. After all, most clubbers associate cannabis with leaving the club. Spliffs and chips and increasingly senseless conversations are a pivotal part of the big night out experience, but rarely, if ever, are you likely to find yourself nipping out to the smoking area for a quick single skin between mates before Prosumer comes on.

Just for a second think about how being stoned feels. Not pleasantly high, but stoned. Being brutally stoned is like wading through molasses. On the moon. It's an occasionally terrifying blend of incredibly heightened sensations and a dismally blank dullness. You're both lost in a mental labyrinth and barely functioning. What you want in that situation is music that's detailed but relatively easy going, right? Something that you can sink into without feeling like you've dived into an olympic pool before you've got your 50m badge. As Winstock puts it, "most people don't want to be bouncing around off their nut after a joint. They'll probably want to listen to Pink Floyd with a spliff instead. Putting on something that's a racket is disorientating because it doesn't follow where your brain's going. You want chilled out music."

It may seem like an obvious point—people who smoke in "liking Pink Floyd nearly as much as they like Tim and Eric and having poor personal hygiene" shocker—but it's one worth thinking about a bit more. Obviously drugs affect everyone differently, but there some universal experiences. This is one of of them. Everyone I spoke to as part of the research for this article seemed to understand where I was coming from.

Now, of course there are some forms of "dance music" that don't immediately make sofa-stuck stoners want to puke up their Snyder's. Dubstep, for example, absolutely stinks of skunk, and the relentless abrasions of instrumental grime seem suited to the airily abstract feeling of paranoia that follows one toke too many. But think about house or techno or disco and how they sound when you're stoned. I mean, I tried to listen to footwork tracks about smoking weed while smoking weed and it left me feeling very, very not of this world.

Having not really smoked any considerable amount of cannabis for years, I wanted to talk to someone who smoked weed regularly in clubs to find out exactly what the appeal, if there was one, was. When I spoke to a guy I'll refer to as John, for reasons of anonymity, he noted that, "A few of my mates were really into techno, and for me there was nothing worse than someone looping "Swims" while I was trying to chill out," which seems fair enough. He went on to say, "I become really tired when I smoke weed, so having that kind of music on while I'm semi-comatose was arresting to say the least. It feels like when someone shaking you to wake you up from a nap."

Nightclubs are inherently social spaces. Social spaces are sites of mediation and negotiation. People who are stoned can't do those things. I mean, you can sit there needing a piss for about three hours before having one, so it's quite probable that unless you're a hugely highly functioning cannabis user (and Winstock was keen to stress that not all stoners were hemp-stinking layabouts, noting that, "you can be very successful and very functional when you smoke!") you're going to find the whole experience slightly impaired, and probably quite difficult.

Read more: We Spoke to an Academic Who's Spent 25 Years Researching Drugs in Clubs

Logistics play a part too. Unless you're toting a butane oil filled vape, sneaking fat zoots into a club is slightly more difficult than sliding a pinger in the recesses of a sort of hidden jacket pocket. Weed, if you've not noticed, smells quite strange and strong too, and the chances are, bouncers patrolling smoking areas might have some idea of what you're up to. As John puts it, "smoking weed in clubs feels like the sloppiest military operation ever, kind of like if Solid Snake had actually smoked a lump of solid before going into action."

And this might explain why Winstock and his colleagues have noticed a slight decrease in cannabis usage rates in recent years, a phenomenon he puts down to an anti-tobacco trend. Vaping, which is playing an increasingly important role on the marijuana industry is, he says, "In many respects the best thing to happen in the world," because it bypasses the need for tobacco in cannabis consumption and results in reductions in cancer and lung disease. Which means you're more likely to see someone proffering a sleek vape than passing a tatty joint.

John went on to add that, "I'm a bit of a pussy anyway, so bringing a joint or two to the club after smoking a couple at home was always way more hassle than it was worth. Once you lit up, there was obviously the prang of going undetected, then once I've smoked, I'm pretty antisocial and usually just want to go to sleep. I'd say, at least for me, nightclubs are one of the worst places to get high in. There's too many people around and nowhere I can viably go to sleep without risk of having my wallet taken or being puked on."

Adam Winstock seems to agree, noting that while some people "can get quite bouncy when they're stoned," and that, " tiny amount of weed might be energizing, but if you smoke an eighth you might get a different reaction," the key to enjoyable drug use of any kind—be it cannabis or GHB, LSD or poppers—is remembering the importance of set and setting. He uses Notting Hill Carnival as a perfect example of how, in the right context, cannabis and dance music can work together, which he largely puts down to it's daytime, outdoors setting.

For most of us though, amnesia haze in fabric is a rubicon we'd rather not cross.

Josh is on Twitter