Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Al Martinez: Do we need one more drug to shield us from reality?

I predict that by the end of the year the sale of marijuana will become so common in L.A. that Mom will be able to say, "Timmy, run down to Vons and get me a quart of milk, a loaf of sourdough bread, a pound of tomatoes and two ounces of pot."

Even though an effort is being made to limit the number of places that sell marijuana, and even barring home delivery, there will be no way to keep it totally under control.

Any effort to confine its sale to specific venues will be out the window by the time that old devil weed has made inroads into our culture. Fake prescriptions will pop up by the thousands and burden the marijuana stores to the extent that sellers will be expanded to include pet stores, gas stations, coffee shops and street vendors.

Its sale will satisfy not only its users but those who profit from it, including growers, sellers and the city. There's nothing like making money to keep a product in the public eye, or the public bong.

Kids who don't already have the habit will pick it up from their friends and parents and before you know it every third person in L.A. will be wearing a dim smile and calling everyone Dude; beggars will carry signs that say "Will work for Weed."

Marijuana has never been my drug of choice even though the very air reeked of burning hemp during the 1960s when I was covering the student uprisings in Berkeley. You could get stoned by just breathing. I was a martini man then and I'm a martini man now and I rarely smile, dimly or otherwise, and I call no one Dude.

That is not to say I've never tried the stuff. Since I was writing about them a lot I decided one evening to eat a sugar cube soaked in LSD. But instead of rising into psychedelic space or trying to fly out a window, I remained in my own world, as bland and colorless as it was. I just sat there drinking beer, of all things, and waiting for my soul to soar. It never did.

Someone remarked that I was unaffected because I couldn't tell the difference between fantasy and reality. It reminded me of the famous boozer/comic W.C. Fields who, when asked if he ever suffered delirium tremens from overdrinking, replied, "I can't tell where Hollywood ends and the d.t.'s begin."

Next, on a separate occasion, I tried a pipe loaded with kief, which is made from the crystals of a cannabis plant. There were maybe four couples involved, and after a few puffs, everyone fell asleep where they sat, practically in midconversation. Only my wife Cinelli declined to smoke the pipe and remembers the evening as very weird, with everyone slumped in their chairs like oversized rag dolls.

I guess that's the way it was about 2,000 years ago when the ancient Egyptians were using pot to treat sore eyes. It worked. After a sufficient number of hits the patients just fell asleep, thus closing their eyes. In such a state the soreness was gone.

One wonders what inroads the drug sellers will make next. Well, how about controlled cocaine parties? What you do for those inclined to sniff things up their noses other than decongestants is to confine the festivities to closed auditoriums, sell a certain amount of the drug to each partygoer and let them have the time of their lives until the coke is gone and they're too stoned to party any longer.

Then when the doors are open and they stumble out onto the streets, you arrest them for being under the influence of a banned substance, fine them and release them until the next coke party. There again, you see, everyone makes money, society gets its pound of flesh and no one is hurt.

A pamphlet once distributed out of Chicago warned that "friendly strangers" might try to sneak "marihuana" into your tea pot or your tobacco in the days when you rolled your own cigarettes, describing the drug as "a powerful narcotic in which lurks murder! Insanity! Death!" Wow!

I don't believe you necessarily go from one or two hits to becoming a serial killer. But I do wonder if our culture, already a little screwy, needs one more drug to shield it from the realities of the world we should be moving to face head-on before it's too late. To cure or relieve pain, sure. But where there's money to be made, I can't help but believe that the whole humanitarian process is going to be ridden like a drunken horse over the wishes of the people and we'll all go to hell smiling dimly and calling everyone Dude.

Al Martinez is a journalist and author for newspapers and magazines across the country and a frequent contributor to the Daily News. He can be reached at

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