In sixth grade we were visited by a DARE officer about whom I can recall two things: One is that his first name was “Lowell,” which everyone found obviously hilarious; and the other is that everything he had to say about marijuana was extremely funny to one small segment of the class for reasons that I could not at the time understand.
“It’s a gateway drug,” we were told, “it’ll get you into the harder stuff.”
The student who laughed the most at Lowell was a short kid named Rob who had adopted the nickname “The Cadillac Kid,” after the hood ornaments he was known for stealing. Everything about the DARE instruction was deeply amusing to him, and afterward, at recess, he would go point-by-point through all of the details that DARE had gotten wrong.
Both Lowell and Rob made arguments that seemed convincing to me, and it was impossible to know which side I should take. On one hand, Lowell wore a police officer’s uniform, which every element of the culture in which I had been raised meant that he deserved esteem. On the other hand, Rob wore a stolen Cadillac hood ornament on a chain around his neck and had the easygoing Fonzi-like confidence of someone who never once been made fun of in his entire life, which was enviable to a child who was made the subject of fun through every waking moment, and probably also when I was asleep.
Ultimately, I decided it was best to join in the mob that laughed at the DARE officer, though I had no idea why what he was telling us was wrong. I kept myself at arm’s length from drugs through high school and college, and got particularly fussy about the smell when I lived next to a heavy pot smoker. Every night I’d passive-aggressively soak towels in water and place them over the crack at the bottom of his dorm room door to try to contain the smoke. I thought I was making An Obvious and Withering Point, but he seemed to regard my actions as helpful and supportive.
“Thanks,” he’d say, opening the door a crack as I slapped the heavy wet towels down on the ground like a scullery maid.
My first experience with weed happened during a road trip, when I was able to buy some candies at a legal dispensary in Colorado. I discovered that I speak in rhyming gibberish when I’m high: When asked if I needed a rest stop break, I responded negatively by saying, “Oh ho, that’s a hobo no-go on the bonobo showboat.”
After that, weed was a recreational pastime, deployed to heighten my enjoyment of video games and at-home viewings of Murder She Wrote. It would creep into activities here and there, a relaxing background blurring of my senses that made jokes a little funnier — and, I discovered, stress a bit more blunt.
It was the stress relief that turned weed from a now-and-then to an every-night routine. In the last year, I’ve struggled to keep ahead of anxiety about money and politics and work and friends and health and — well, you name it, really. A little smoke before bed helped me to drift off, and after a few months of that, I found myself waking around 2am for a second helping.
It was when I started contemplating getting high immediately after rising that I started to think that perhaps this was not a solution to the problem of anxiety that I wanted it to be — that keeping myself buoyed on a series of highs throughout the day was probably not optimal. I brought it up with my doctor during a checkup, and she suggested a weed fast. (She also suggested I reduce my consumption of bread, which, fuck that.)
“Just give it a month with no weed, and see how you feel,” she said.
I hated it.
It turns out that vintage '80s procedural mystery shows are not quite as much fun when sober. It took me longer to learn new video games, because I was more agitated during tutorials. And my ability to rhyme — alas, the bonobo showboat had left me behind.
By the end of December, I’d given it a month and was ready to start smoking again. But oddly enough, I didn’t. I meant to — I bought my favorite weed snacks (Doritos and Oreos, a truly vile combination that I can only gorge when my brain is in a cloud), I had a list of Murder She Wrote episodes to watch, and I kept thinking ahead: “This Friday. I’ll get stoned this Friday.” It was something to look forward to.
But then the end of the week would come, and I’d be busy making a chocolate souffle, or going for a long run, or livestreaming Stardew Valley for the 500th time… and I’d simply forget to get stoned. These were the activities that moved into my life after giving up weed, the pastimes that kept my anxiety under control in the absence of smoking. Like a family of mice, baking and exercise and chill games had nibbled through the floorboards of my brain and took up residence in the walls, and I hadn’t even noticed the extent to which they’d replaced weed as a sleep aid.
So for now, weed has taken up a curious position in my mind. It’s no longer the thing I’m resigned to needing at night, but is instead the thing I look forward to restarting, the friend I anticipate seeing at some unknown future date, the hobby I’m planning to resume when I remember to. Not right now, but eventually. One of these days. My weed fast has turned into weed-procrastination, a safety net that I might never actually need. It’s just comforting to know it’s there.