“I’m a planner” is something I say a lot. I use it to explain emailing my friends about making a dinner reservation two months out, or asking for Christmas wish lists in October. "I'm a planner" is accurate, but it’s also a safer way of saying that I’m neurotic — which is a still-slightly-safe way of presenting my anxiety. I fret over just about everything, small and large: The list of worries I keep on my phone (yes, this is a thing that I do) includes “I can’t find the measuring spoon” as well as “I’ll never be as talented as Kurt Cobain was.” I exercise religiously, which helps. I sleep and eat well, too, and I meet weekly with a lovely therapist who reminds me that a tumultuous childhood necessitated what she calls my “need for vigilance,” and that there are reasons it’s not easy for me to relax. I’ve tried meditation to calm myself down, but it makes me feel like a hummingbird pinned to a tree — full of energy and unable to harness it. And in yoga, I tend to beat myself up for not being strong, flexible, or thin enough. I’m not against prescription drugs, but my minimalistic proclivities are deep-seated, and I’d rather not add more doctor’s appointments, pharmacy lines, or pill reminders to my life. But what if there were an over-the-counter drug I could take on an as-needed basis? Turns out, there might be one. In Oregon, where I moved last year, marijuana recently became legal to possess and use recreationally if you’re over 21. Honestly, I’m not sure whether to call it “pot,” “weed,” or “dope.” I rarely say those words, because I never smoke the stuff. Or at least, I haven’t done more than fake-inhale a few times to appease friends since my early 20s. The last time I really smoked marijuana, I was in college. I did it with a friend who lived down the hall. I fell asleep at the foot of her bed and stumbled back to my room in the middle of the night, losing a slipper along the way. Before that, I smoked in someone else’s dorm and couldn’t remember how to get back to my own. And that’s really why I don’t do it anymore: It makes me feel confused and not in control, which just doesn't work for my Type-A personality. I’m actually at my most relaxed when I’m ticking things off a to-do list — not lying on the couch, snarfing chips and listening to Dave Matthews. I also hate breaking rules that may result in having to answer to authority: Once, trying to avoid police detection, I dragged a friend who wanted to light up so deep into a park that I ended up with poison ivy. I haven’t changed, but pot has. Now that marijuana laws are evolving, you can shop for designer strains that are supposed to make you feel euphoric without inciting paranoia or giving you the munchies. I’m into the idea of selecting only the stuff I want and eliminating the rest — à la hypoallergenic dogs and lactose-free milk. Who couldn’t use a little instant bliss that's free from side effects? So while I remained skeptical, I also became determined to give this newer breed of weed a second chance. To give you an idea of how out of character this is for me, here’s what my friend texted when I told her I wanted to try getting high again: “STOP IT. STOP IT!! You’ve made my day with this news. This is too good. Can you send me a video?!” It’s understandable; she’s never even seen me drink more than two cocktails. A woman in my book club recommends a strain called Obama Kush, which I ask for at the fancy head shop where I drag my husband. But the saleswoman steers me toward something called Blue Dream. “It’ll make you giggle for a while, then get super deep, then gently fall asleep,” she tells me. Sold. She rings me up, and we head home, receipt safely tucked in the proper wallet pocket, paper bag neatly folded on my lap.
I decide to smoke in the lookout tower my husband and I have rented for the weekend. It’s 40 feet up in the air and situated on 160 acres of forest, so there are super-visible cosmos to contemplate but no chores to do or emails to check. I’d booked it on Airbnb, figuring that being without internet or cell service and away from anything resembling a town would force me to let go a bit. And it does: The first day there, I read an entire collection of short stories, watch some cows roam, and feel more at ease than I normally do — albeit a tiny bit stir-crazy.
Unfortunately, when it comes time to try the Blue Dream, I opt to puff away three-quarters of the joint on a deck located a little too conveniently close to the bed, which I crawl into after taking a few sips of mint tea. I think I giggle once — when my sober husband asks whether I’m stoned. I eat a couple of chocolate Teddy Graham-type snacks and discover that I don’t, in fact, have the munchies. But mostly I just feel unable to keep my eyes open. For round two, I pick a quiet Friday night at home and decide to gradually graze my way to getting high this time — rather than hoovering up so much smoke at once. I take a couple of puffs in the garage, and then finish cleaning up the dinner dishes. I take a couple more and settle in on the couch to watch Johnny Depp in Blow, a movie that makes me glad the drug I'm doing will neither land me in jail nor make me act insane in a fast-moving convertible. I’m mellow, but not incredibly sleepy, which is good. My worries are still there, though they seem a little further away and harder to access. I feel like a subdued version of myself — a little loopy and unfocused. The next morning, I think about what I want to do with the rest of the weed that’s tucked in the door of the fridge, next to the Sriracha. I feel like I want to smoke it again, but not like I need to. I feel some Type-A twinges: Maybe I didn’t do it right or try hard enough. Maybe I should have looked through a kaleidoscope or listened to The Velvet Underground, or somehow made more of an effort to tune out my anxiety and turn on the part of my brain that just sees beauty and feels love. The part that rests, rather than jumping from one nervous perch to another. But no, I realize; that’s the point. Pot helps me “be present” because my brain is too scrambled to think backward or forward. While I was high, I didn’t think nearly so much about what I “should” be doing. It’s unlikely that I’ll become a regular cannabis consumer. I’m cheap, smoking makes my lungs feel the way they did when I used to have to run the mile in elementary school, and the smell is a little gross. Now, I think of it more as something I can choose to stock in my medicine cabinet, like aspirin or Tums, to temporarily tone down a symptom of something that requires a more complicated solution in the long-term — mostly, stress. But that’s a pretty dope option, no?
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under Federal Law, regardless of state marijuana laws. To learn more, click here.