Hard to believe it’s been half a decade since Alaska legalized cannabis, but it has—and so far no zombie apocalypse.
Not that we’re out of the weeds yet. After all, pot zombies take notoriously long to motivate. And even if they do eventually drag themselves off the couch, they’re extra slow and super distractible. So if you’re ever chased by one you should be fine, unless you smell like French fries or look like a surviving member of the Grateful Dead.
Anyway, seems like an opportune time to learn more about cannabis—an educational 4:20, if you will—although, obviously some of you have been “educating” yourselves on the subject for years (some, first thing this morning).
Before I continue, let me be clear. I neither condone nor condemn cannabis use — provided you’re of legal age and use it responsibly. As for my own experience, I’ll simply say this: I’ve been to Amsterdam.
Cannabis, or marijuana, is a plant containing the psychoactive ingredient tetrahydracannabinol . THC binds with the brain’s cannabinoid receptor system, which governs neurophysiological processes including appetite, pain-sensation, mood, memory and appreciation of Cheech and Chong.
Desired effects include relaxation, mild euphoria and the ability to beat “Freebird” on “Guitar Hero 2.” Negative side-effects include short-term memory loss, dry mouth, short-term memory loss, impaired motor skills, short-term memory loss, redeye, short-term memory loss and… Oh, man. I know there’s one more…
Medicinally, cannabis is used to treat nausea and vomiting, as pain management and in psychotherapy. It also makes your own singing sound incredible.
Like all illicit subjects, cannabis goes by many nicknames, such as: pot, weed, dank, chronic, sticky, sticky-icky, sticky-icky-icky, Kevin Bacon, Bobby Brown, JRR Tokey-in’, indo, outdo’, tickets to the magic show and Mommy and Daddy’s secret nighttime medicine.
According to a recent United Nations estimate, 4% of the world’s adult population uses cannabis annually — some 162 million people — which may explain how Taco Bell became a popular global brand. Of these, nearly 25 million people rate as daily users. Coincidentally, this is the same total as number of copies sold of Bob Marley’s “Legend.”
Many cannabis varieties exist, all derived from two species: sativa, which produces a “cerebral high,” and indica, known for its sedative effects. Both work equally well for that thing where you synch up Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” with “The Wizard of Oz.”
Cannabis is consumed in several forms:
Marijuana, dried “buds” (flowers), leaves and stems. It contains 3%-20% THC, compared to less than 1% in cannabis grown for industrial hemp. Hemp fiber is inexpensive and uncommonly durable; some people are still wearing their hemp bracelets five years after Burning Man and they shower with them on and everything.
Kief, powdered THC sifted from marijuana. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the green pollen dust that coats all of Southeast Alaska every May. FYI, don’t smoke that.
Hashish or “hash,” compressed THC resin; not to be confused with hash, the breakfast dish consisting of chopped corned beef and potatoes. But you’d imagine the two hashes pair nicely.
Hash oil, aka “concentrates,” chemically processed to contain higher percentages of THC or CBD, cannabidiol, which is sort of like the weed equivalent of O’Doul’s.
Infusions, THC or CBD extracted with fat-based solvents to make products likes cannabis butter, cooking oil and skin moisturizers. Overindulgence, especially all at once, can lead to accidental “overdose.” You won’t die or go running down the street naked and on fire, but it might not be much fun. Just ask “New York Times” columnist Maureen Dowd, who famously described wigging out in a Denver hotel room after snarfing down a whole cannabis chocolate bar. Hadn’t Ms. Dowd heard? Slow and low, THAT is tempo to “let it flow, let yourself go.” Guess she’s not a Beastie Boys fan.
Of all methods of consumption, smoking is the oldest and most widespread. In fact, archaeologists recently discovered charred remnants of cannabis inside a ritual brazier at a 3000-year-old burial site in ancient Dacia, now present-day Romania. Of course, the Dacians claimed they were just holding it for a friend, but come on. When they find your ritual brazier — with charred remnants — the gig is up.
Vaporizers and edibles remain popular smoke-free alternatives, especially in pot-legal states. However, any “scholars” wishing to conduct independent “research” should know cannabis remains a Schedule 1 narcotic under federal law, even with Joe Biden in the White House. Just keep that in mind. I, for one, would rather skip federal prison. Although, I’ve got kids — if I went to jail, I might finally get some peace and quiet.
• Geoff Kirsch is an award-winning Juneau-based writer and humorist. “Slack Tide” appears twice monthly in Neighbors.