I started using marijuana in high school because I was nervous about sex.
At 17, I still had not successfully had sexual relations with a girl, and the social and hormonal pressures were intense.


The 70’s was a decade of a lot of sexual “freedom”, which basically amounted to sex being talked about in magazines, on TV and shown in movies with unprecedented frequency and verisimilitude.  


Nowadays, it’s commonplace to see sex scenes on TV, but back then it was new and electrifying to see people making love in films without a fast cut to a scene of waves breaking on a shore, or logs burning in a fireplace, a euphemistic device brilliantly parodied in the comedy Top Secret.


All this to say that sex was always top of mind for me back then.  And my anxieties about it, about my performance, about the possible consequences, were also top of mind, and worrisome.


To ease the discomfort, I sought out someone who I knew was a marijuana user, with whom I also desired to have sex.  This girl was more than happy to get me “high”.


(Marijuana was, of course, illegal back then.  I don’t know where she got her stash, but her older brother is a likely possibility.  I recall months later trying on his leather jacket and finding inside the pockets two enormous plastic bags of pot.)


The effects of smoking were immediate.  I was no longer nervous about anything.  I was friendly, clever and amusing, untroubled by the possibility of rejection.  I felt like the charming fellow I could never comfortably be in “normal life”, but felt myself capable of being.


A few hours later, of course, I was back to my old confused, introverted self… but also ravenously hungry.


Pot became a staple in my life for many years, and it all started by “solving” my problem of sexual performance anxiety.  After a while, nervousness about sex was no longer my problem.  Quite the opposite: irresponsibilityabout sex became my problem.


Today’s medicos undoubtedly recommend drugs to teens for similar anxieties.  Today’s marijuana, as well as today’s psych meds, are far more powerful and addictive than anything I would have been exposed to in 1977, so I am concerned about the 17 year olds of 2019 who might be as nervous about life as I was.


Here’s the thing–drugs are a quick fix.  They aren’t based on or supportive of rationality.  They don’t cure anything.  They are simply substances that affect the body in various ways, some of which can be pleasant, but always with a price.  
Any pain diminished by drugs inevitably returns.  Drugs rob your body of nutrients and, in many cases, can interrupt normal body function enough to make you ill or even do you in.


Pot smokers, back in my youth, were typified by the comedy of Cheech and Chong, (the Key and Peele of my day) who became famous with slapstick movies about stoners getting into ridiculous situations fueled by “Thai stick”, “Panama Red” and other species of weed.  (I recall them as hilarious, however, I don’t think I’d feel the same about them if I watched one today; you never see any of their titles on “Best Comedy” film lists.)


Pot smoking was seen as unserious and innocent, nothing to get too worked up about.  Overzealous educational films of prior decades which preached marijuana was a one-way ticket to insanity were rightly seen as exaggerated and inaccurate, playing on parental fears with laughably unrealistic situations.


A casual attitude about pot was partly the reaction to the obvious falseness of these “authoritative” films.


Marijuana didn’t destroy me.  It didn’t turn me into a maniac, or ruin my life.  But it didn’t assist me in navigating the many challenges of life.  In fact, it got in the way of me controlling my life. 


Although I had innumerable stupid misadventures, the worst thing that happened to me as a result of marijuana was that eventually I did not care what I took into my body to feel better. 


THAT opened the door to some very serious drugs which absolutely could have destroyed me and very nearly did.


That may be the most dangerous facet of smoking pot, one that is ignored today in the current wave of legalized weed; if smoking or eating pot to solve one’s problems is acceptable, why stop there?


I don’t have the hard statistics to hand, but I reckon most people that, like me, eventually turned to harder drugs to satisfy their pain or their boredom began it all by smoking pot.  


Smoking pot was, for me, a surrender to something, a giving up on a problem, not a victory.  It was an expression of throwing my hands up and saying, “I can’t figure it out–I’ll just be numb.”


Once started down this road, I found it hard to resist other drugs that had equal promise to numb or to “enlighten”.  And those drugs being toxic, the more I took, the less physical energy I had to face and conquer my problems on my own.


Eventually I got to the point many drug users get to where a partnership of sorts with chemicals becomes a stated reality.  “I can’t be who I really am without them, therefore I won’t even try.”


It had all begun with trying to solve my nervousness with pot.  That opened the door to a myriad of other dangerous solutions that stalled out my creativity and blunted my perceptions for a long time.


(By the way, when my nervousness came back, it was much worse than before.  So much for the marijuana “cure”.)


I eventually of course did straighten myself out and left the druggie life behind forever, but that’s a story for another day.


You may be wondering why I am taking up this topic now, so many years later.  I suppose it’s a response to the rising number of billboard advertisements I see in my home town for dispensaries, and their promises of health, happiness, inspiration or delight, (free delivery!) just a mouse click or a text away.


Marijuana is legal now in Los Angeles and in many places in America.  I’m not necessarily offended by this, as I consider sending people to jail or prison isn’t a good solution and degrades people faster than pot.


But the lies about pot smoking are offensive to me. Claims about it being medicinal, the inference of the now ubiquitous “green cross” symbol, are falsehoods on the level of the timeworn “snake oil salesmen”. 


Claims about pot making one more tranquil, or more creative, or more productive are all spurious; they may sound good, but close inspection will prove them invalid.  The tranquility, creative spirit or increased productivity one may achieve with pot will not last, and in it’s place will follow the same obstacle one was originally trying to handle, only now bigger and more difficult to confront.


With any drug, eventually, the human body adjusts to the toxicity and balances itself, creating a tolerance.  More and more of the drug is required to have the same effect.  More and more, stronger and stronger, oftener and oftener, one needs to continually increase just to keep up.  This isn’t news.
Many addicts today take a variety of drugs just to get the effect they used to achieve with small doses of just one.


That’s the way it always goes.  Anyone saying otherwise, as did the doctors who dispensed millions of prescriptions of opioids to unwitting patients, making them addicts, is either lying or catastrophically ignorant. Either way, it’s criminal.


There are safe, non-drug methods to deal with nervousness, pain, boredom, or any of the unpleasantnesses of life.  


Marijuana does not provide all the answers to the pain, disappointments and confusions of life, no matter how trendy the billboards.


You’re not fooled.  You know.