Marijuana and Me: A musical romance

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I know this blog is going to be a bit controversial so let’s first get a few things straight.  This is NOT a political post. If you know me, you know that I am an outspoken advocate for the legalization and taxation on the sale and distribution of cannabis to adults 21 and over in the US.  I believe this with ALL my heart because history has definitively taught us that prohibition doesn’t work.  IT DOESN’T WORK. And I’m not in ANY WAY advocating your use of Cannabis, nor do I condone its use by minors. While the evidence is sketchy (another casualty of prohibition) it doesn’t seem prudent for an immature, under-age brain. And I have friends who have had dependency issues with weed, and I’m sympathetic to their plight, but there plight doesn’t affect my belief in the freedom for me and others to indulge in a private, responsible way. If it doesn’t work for you, or it makes you sick, don’t use it. We’ve got enough problems to deal with in this country as it is; making things illegal through prohibition is like throwing gasoline on a fire.  This blog is about my experience and use of this humble plant; one I’ve enjoyed responsibly for decades. However, for those of you who are prohibitionists, here are a few quotes from folks way smarter than me on the subject for you to ponder upon.

Penalties against possession of a drug should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself; and where they are, they should be changed. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against possession of marijuana in private for personal use…
― Jimmy Carter

“Prohibition… goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes… A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.
― Abraham Lincoln

The legalization of marijuana is not a dangerous experiment – the prohibition is the experiment, and it has failed dramatically, with millions of victims all around the world.”
― Sebastian Marincolo

This year I celebrate two 40th anniversaries. The most important is that on June 14, 1974 my father gave me a Narada guitar for my 19th birthday-that was a life changing event-the most profound one in my life and I will wax poetic about that next week as I approach my 59th birthday.  But I celebrated another 40th anniversary this winter. On February 27, 1974  I smoked pot for the first time outside Reunion Arena in Dallas, TX while attending an Emerson, Lake and Palmer concert. (And no, I didn’t remember the date, Google helped me out with this. I’m not that big a stoner; however I will make sure it’s on my calendar in 2024 😉 so that I can celebrate my 50th).

Holy shit! I’d never HEARD music like that before. EVER. And I don’t mean ELP, I’d been a fan of theirs for a couple of years, I knew what they sounded like. What I mean is that I’d never heard like that before.  It was a stunning revelation. And one I was eager to try again as soon as I could.  I thought maybe it would be a one-time thing, like losing your virginity, truly a one of a kind experience, but I was pleasantly proved TOTALLY wrong.  The next time I imbibed I could hear more in the music, more detail, more nuance.  Holy shit! As you can imagine, listening to music for someone like me has always had a profound effect on me, but this was something altogether different.  I would put an LP on the turntable, sit back, smoke a joint, and feel like I was in the studio or on stage with the band. I felt like I was IN the music. It was truly amazing. And it is still truly amazing 40 years later.

When I first picked up the guitar, as with most beginners, I would get frustrated at what I couldn’t do, I would focus on how poorly something sounded or how hard it was to play.  But when I smoked pot most of the frustration went away-yea I know, I was happily stoned.  But it kept the guitar in my hand; it made the endless repetition bearable, and because I could hear better I could hear the improvements, even minute improvements which encouraged me to keep the guitar in my hands. BTW, I tried this approach with what society has deemed a legal way to get knocked off-center, alcohol, and it just never worked for me.  Most of you who have seen me perform have seen me perform high whether you know that or not, but no one has ever seen me perform while having more than one or two beers. Why? It dulls the senses, inhibits my ability to play smoothly with dynamics all while giving me un-justified confidence in my present playing abilities. That’s a train wreck. And one I’ve happily avoided.

I have never said this publicly before, but I will now. I would not be the guitar player  or composer I am today without having smoked weed.  Period. As many of you know I teach privately. I’ve given well over 200 different people guitar lessons; almost without exception the best students have been pot smokers. No shit. My theory is that they used the weed similar to the way I used it: it helps get through the “I suck phase’ of playing an instrument and makes the endless repetition bearable. Let’s face it, everything is more fun when you’re high.

I realize that not everyone’s experience with cannabis is the same as mine.  But it is my experience, it is my truth.  For those of you who think weed induces couch-lock, well you’re wrong, at least for me.  Even the nasty dirt weed I smoked in college didn’t do that to me.  I’ve been self-employed (mostly successfully) for over 30 years, and been a pot smoker the entire time. One thing weed doesn’t do is give me couch lock. And if you’re wondering if I’m high while I write this, the answer is no. I’ve not sparked up in over two weeks as I’ve had huge deadlines and traveled through Canada in the past 10 days.  While I have no problems breaking what I consider an unjust law in my own country, I have enough respect for our borders to not push things(and look to Mr. Carter’s quote above as well).  And to be honest the only time I’ve missed weed in the past two weeks is when I pick up the guitar.  It just doesn’t sound as good.  Life is fine without cannabis, it’s just MORE fine, for me, with cannabis. Oh, but I was high when I wrote this blog’s most popular blog to date:  “Why I perform: the most important minimum wage job in the world”. Smoking weed doesn’t make me stupid.

If you’re a fan of my music I hope that you’re not dismayed by this. But you should know that almost every song on my last 4 albums was recorded after I smoked pot.  And 90% of what I’ve composed over the course of my career has been written ‘under the influence’.  While I love the compositions on my first couple of CD’s I find the performances lacking in dynamics, depth and overall feeling.  It’s one of the reasons I’ve re-recorded so much from that era. What I write shouldn’t be played stiffly, it needs to be played with passion and freedom. My way to get there has involved cannabis.

I used to feel badly about my use of cannabis, that it was somehow a crutch or a defect of character.  Our society demonizes so much; there’s apparently a ‘right’ way to feel good, feel creative, and smoking weed somehow doesn’t fit in with that ‘right’ way.  I no longer believe that. I feel, hell, I KNOW that the universe has given me three incredible gifts that have not only brought me great joy, but millions of others who’ve found some peace and enjoyment from my music, and that’s 1) my gift for composition, 2) my gift for playing the guitar, and 3) the gift of cannabis which has allowed my first two gifts to flourish.

I encourage thoughtful comments on this post. I’ll approve most any comment as long as it’s not too inflammatory or disrespectful of the privacy of others. The only thing I ask from all of you, regardless of what you indulge in, is that you do so from the safety of your own home, and not while behind the wheel of a car.  Doing that SHOULD get you in trouble.

Cheers, kb

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