Welcome to Debate Club, a column where we pose club culture's biggest conundrums to an expert panel, dealing with everything from the ethics of flirting to the spatial-politics of dancing, the joy of a French exit, and the horrors of ketamine.
This week's panelists are THUMP UK staffers Josh Baines and Angus Harrison, alongside THUMP US Features Editor Michelle Lhooq.
The question: is weed a good club drug?
Michelle Lhooq: Anyone who says weed isn't a good club drug is either smoking whack shit or a pussy. Just kidding about that last bit—some people are genuinely triggered into an anxiety spiral after they smoke, and that's OK, because not every drug agrees with every person's bio-chemistry. Like any other drug, finding the right strain and dose to suit your party vibe is critical. I like brainy, psychedelic sativas when I'm out, and sedative indicas when I'm coming down.
Anyone can see that compared to alcohol, weed is so much better suited for raving; have you noticed how drinkers are always the first to pass out or stumble home? Weed is also less excruciating on both your wallet and your hangover, and most importantly, music sounds sweeter when you're blazed than when you're messy drunk.
I've noticed a huge contrast between stoner club culture in the States, which is currently in the thralls of a weed revolution, and in cities like London, where legalization efforts have been slow to catch on. People in the UK don't like to get stoned because they're smoking shitty weed. The War on Drugs is a failure because it results in the proliferation of subpar drugs that pose greater risks to users (see also: the rise of dangerous research chemicals like bath salts and N-BOMe because of the criminalization of MDMA and LSD). It's an old story.
The last time I was in London, I spent half of a Dean Blunt show at Bloc wandering around the smoking section desperately looking for bud (preferably stashed in a toy car). I probably asked a half dozen strangers to no avail. Many told me that weed isn't a big "going out" drug in the UK, because it's too difficult to smuggle into clubs where stringent bag checks are the norm, it makes them anxious and paranoid, or they'd rather smoke at home to come down. Instead, these Brits would seriously rather take handfuls of sketchy pills and ketamine.
I've had similar experiences in Berlin, another clubbing capital with pathetic weed that gets you high for an hour before leaving you with a headache. (Don't @ me techno bro! I've scoured that city.) People still smoke more there compared to the UK, thank god, but the quality is nothing compared weed paradises like Los Angeles and Portland, where clouds of kush hang over every dancefloor.
At the end of the day, legalization results in quality herb, while prohibition leads to shitty oregano-ass-weed that gives the drug a bad name. To anyone who says weed isn't a good club drug, I say: you need to smoke better stuff.
Josh Baines: A pussy speaks out...
Memories of my early-to-mid twenties are deeply entwined with memories of weed. Any kind of trip down memory lane sees me walking the same route night after night with my housemates in tow. There are blue bags stuffed to the gills with Holsten Pils, the yellow flash of emptied pouches of Golden Virginia Smooth, the dirty green of a freshly purchased twenty bag perched atop a DVD case, ready to be consumed with the utmost haste. I see You've Been Framed and How It's Made, I hear Kurt Vile and Destroyer, and I feel so happy that weed is something I have consigned to the past.
Weed—and even now, typing the word, saying the word, fills me with a palpable second-hand embarrassment that makes me feel as if my stomach is about to lurch out of my mouth at an alarming speed—ruins people's lives. It makes you lazy, unproductive, bored and boring. You stop eating properly, you stop sleeping properly, you stop washing properly. You relinquish responsibilities in favour of "just another" joint, always telling yourself—over and over and over and over—that you've got it under control, that this is all fine, that money and work and life will just sort themselves out. They don't, and they won't.
All stoners like to think of themselves as high functioning, but the sorry truth is that most of the time, even nipping to Tesco for a packet of ham and bottle of ginger beer becomes a slow, hellish trudge. Imagine transferring that level of sloth-like reaction times to an environment infinitely more stressful than a supermarket. Imagine being completely stoned in a club. I can't really imagine it because the prospect of it is so challenging that my mind's eye flat-out refuses to conjure any kind of visual accompaniment: I am bereft of imagination.
If I force myself to look hard, really hard, through the haze and the fug and the blue-grey plumes, all I see is horror and confusion, a distorted tangle of bodies, and the rapidly encroaching feeling of total mental annihilation. I feel myself sliding into the quicksand of psychosis. I don't want to feel like that.
And that's why I'd never want to be stoned in a club.
Angus Harrison: Michelle, you're definitely onto something when you point out that British people generally don't smoke in clubs. I'd say weed is a part of mine and most of my friends' nights out, but it comes into play once we get home, rather than when we're sweating it out on the dancefloor. Maybe more than anything, this is the product of the UK being behind on the legalisation front, but I can't help but feel it's basic physics.
To my mind, there is a reason why MDMA is the most popular drug in nightclubs. I'd much rather my heart-rate steadily climb to match the pace of a kick-drum, than find myself fighting the uncontrollable urge to sit down in the smoking area and eat a whole box of Quorn scotch eggs. At the best of times my relationship with weed is a tightrope walk between vacant amusement and total wig-out—yes, I'm the "pussy" you were referring to earlier—so I'd way rather wait until the very end of the night, when I can slip into the muggy ether on a comfortable sofa.
The end of the night joint is a staple part of British club culture—it's the great leveler, lulling spangled or cokey chats in paralysis, turning impassioned monologues about social housing into laboured YouTube trawls in the blink of an eye. This is the true purpose of weed on a night out: bringing everybody down gently. The thought of a spliff during the night just doesn't appeal to me that much, but then again I'm not drawn to ketamine in the club either, so maybe it's a personal thing.
That said, I'm not sure I'd be as absolute as Josh. If Michelle is right, and the issue here is that British people smoke bad weed, then maybe I haven't experienced the full joys of a joint in the club. Maybe I just need the stars to align—the right strain, the right music, the right club—and suddenly I'll understand smoking pot while listening to techno as something other than mildly stressful. Until then, I'm going to have to err on the side of caution and reserve weed for the fusty living room where it belongs.