“I had myself a ball…it’s a thousand times better than whiskey.”
Legal recreational marijuana became a reality for those 21 and older in Colorado on January 1st. This is a big deal for many reasons: An improved economy, more sensible use of taxpayer dollars, less nonviolent humans locked in cages and more efficient use of police resources. These are the themes found most often among the recent explosion of positive pot articles, and while important, they may be missing the most relevant of all: it will improve collective human nature.
The rest of this may sound like hippie bullshit, and you have every right to think so. But hear me out.
We’ve figured out ways to alter our consciousness since the beginning of human existence. Prohibition be damned, we’ve drank, smoked, snorted, pill-popped and injected our way toward temporary bliss. It’s a fundamental human desire to do so. Unfortunately, many of these experiences open Pandora’s Box of negative energy in a very real way. This is true for one substance more than any other, albeit glorified by society along the way: Alcohol.
Preface: I enjoy alcohol. It has its place just like any other dopamine-pumping substance. It loosens up the socially anxious, makes boring situations bearable and fuels celebration. But it does way more than that too, and it usually isn’t good.
At least half of you reading this participated in and/or witnessed alcohol-induced drama on New Year’s Eve. I’m pretty damn sure of it. It’s like clockwork. One shot too many and suddenly your best friend is crying about an ex, a stranger swears at you for an accidental bump-in and two guys across the bar are throwing fists over a college football game. For all the silly propaganda about pot making you dumb, there aren’t many things that make us act dumber than alcohol.
The way I see it in Freudian terms, alcohol tends to inflate the Id/Ego. Concern for your fellow man drops in correlation with alcohol intake while instant gratification takes control. Consider drunk driving: Actual driving impairment is only half the problem, the other half being that the person is willing to get behind the wheel at all despite the obvious risk to everyone around them. The stuff is the nectar of empathetic ignorance.
Some will tell me to loosen up and just enjoy it, and I would tell them once again that I do, more often than you’d believe. That isn’t the point.
The problem isn’t even so much alcohol as it is the fact that it’s been the only thing legally available for far too long. Think about when your parents came to visit your college dorm. One roommate scrambled to hide the pipe while another happily offered them a drink upon arrival. Culturally entrenched beliefs aside, that is wrong on so many levels, and not just because you’re hiding the substance that treats cancer while proudly displaying the one that causes it.
Returning to Freud, marijuana tends to sensitize the Superego, or the part of the psyche that strives for spiritual growth, love/consideration for others and an unbiased sense of right and wrong. It makes sense, then, that it’s the “potheads” who saw most clearly how terrible the conflict in Vietnam was and how silly we are for treating our planet so poorly, just to name a couple examples.
Speaking personally, marijuana added a level of perception to my life that wasn’t there for my first two decades on this planet. I was a very black/white thinking person; when I felt I was right, that was it and I wouldn’t be told differently. I was easily angered, quick to give an only half-knowledgeable opinion about something to fulfill my own ego and judged others without knowing a thing about them. This isn’t to say I don’t still do these things, of course, but I do them less often and notice more easily when I do. For myself and many others, marijuana is the key that unlocks the ability to cut through cultural norms and see the error in our ways.
Marijuana has already been proven to make humans love themselves more, as suicide rates dropped in states where medical marijuana was legalized. The study’s authors even note the importance of alcohol sales dropping in states where marijuana became available. Seems pretty simple to me: replace one substance with the other, and less people kill themselves. Cool.
With Colorado and Washington spurring an impending domino effect, I look forward to seeing if people slowly change their substance of choice and whether it will have a ripple effect on human consciousness.
Perhaps, as Bob Marley once said, “The herb will be the healing of a nation.”
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