by "R" the Dope Connoisseur
First, let me explain why I've undertaken ihe lask of writing a column devoted to a connoisseur's consciousness of cannabis. For years I've been waiting for someone to step forward and bring to the appreciation of fine marijuana the attention to nuance and personality that wine tasters bring to writing about fine vintages, the sensual relish with which food writers describe the subtle savors they devour. Someone to combine the fierce protectiveness and concern for quality control that Ralph Nader brings to the consumer of over-the-counter goods with, the sensitivity that Merleau-Ponty brings to the phenomenology of mind.
Most dope smokers I know have reached a point where it's not enough just to get high, it's not even how high you get; it's the quality of the high when you gel there that counts. You know what I mean. There are times when a nice light-blonde upland Colombian high is just the thing-so breezy, so wholesome, so energetic. Then there are other times when something more dense and sensual is appropriate, an earthy, dark lowland varietal like Manizales, perfect for creating a trance of physical pleasure thick as the honey of killer bees.
The problem is, of course, you can't always get what you want.. The discriminating pot smoker is frustrated by the dictates of the marketplace: the DEAbusts a big boat in the Bahamas, and you spend a gloomy winter smoking nothing but lowland dope when you'd give anything for the sweet lift of Santa Maria gold. By better articulating the tastes of the cannabis-consuming public, growers, smugglers and dealers will get more closely attuned to the tastes of their market..
Uwe let our friends, the growers and smugglers, know diere's a market for a certain special taste, that people appreciate a certain kind of Oaxacan, say,that you just can't firm any more, it wUI become a more worthwhile financial and personal risk for them to develop a few hundred acres down there. The more articulate and sophisticated the consumer's demands, the more responsive the supply will be. We're all in this together.
Astonishing then, isn't it, the shortage of serious writing on the aesthetics of dope appreciation. Astonishing not just from the utilijarian consumer's point of view, but from the point of view of cultural historians and those who try to be connoisseurs of the tastes of popular culture. Because dope, by even the most academic McLuhanesque standards, is a medium, a frame through which we see much of mass culture, just as the 35-millimeter frame, the TV screen and the LP are forms of media.
In fact, marijuana is more than merely a medium-it's the subtle pervasive medium through which we experience other media: a mega-medium. The particular configuration of cannabinoids in a particular variety of dope wUI, in subtle ways, impose its personality, shape what Noam Chomsky calls "the deep structure" of the way we perceive the other media and the increasing number of people who create the content of those media.
And yet look at the scores of rock, film, TV and other media critics who blather on about shifts in popular ■ culture without taking into account the medium beneath their medium. Remember the way rock criiic* loved to quote that line from Plato-^When the mode of the musio» changes, the walls of the state will shake"-to justify their freebie-sated existence as cultural antennae? Why hasn't anyone stopped to analyze the effects of the changes in the mode of marijuana?
Take this sample speculation for instance: is it not possible that the real source of the change in sensibility from the Sixties to the Seventies that everyone likes to analyze to death might have much to do with the shift in the mass marijuana market from Mexij^in to Colombian varieties of dope?
Think about iu Compare the raw, fresh crackling energy of the Mexican dope in the Sixties with the more powerful but often immobilizing Colombian dope of the Seventies. Through the eyes of Mexican, the ways of the wotld as it was back then seemed too ridiculously fraudulent, too silly, lo withstand an assault, of activists. Could it be that, through the eyes of Colombian, the ways of the would appear too stunning and entrancing, too seductive lo resist? Certainly that is the characteristic Seventies response: static, stunned enhancement. .
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