Main Street Marijuana

I grew up in the town of Vancouver, Washington, and like everybody with intellectual, artistic, or spiritual inclinations I grew up hating my hometown for stifling my aspirations. I was a big fan of the Sinclair Lewis novel Main Street because it bolstered my contempt for the small-town mindset. I read it several times. I longed to move to some great city where I would find the open, cosmopolitan mindset where everybody talked about serious, creative issues. (Interestingly, Henry Miller despised his hometown of New York City for many of the same reasons I despised Vancouver.)

Forty years ago, when I arrived in San Francisco I thought I’d finally found what I was looking for. So it’s ironic that on July 7th my old hometown is getting its first marijuana store, while here in San Francisco the locals get all uptight whenever a medical marijuana dispensary is proposed for their neighborhood. It’s especially ironic for me, deliciously ironic, that the new store is going to be located on Vancouver’s Main Street and will be called Main Street Marijuana.

I’m entirely in favor of legalizing marijuana. But, as it seems to be with nearly all issues these days, my reasons for supporting it are different than that of most people. I think legalizing it for medical reasons is fine, but I don’t like the “recreational” tag. It’s frivolous. It encourages people to approach marijuana as a party drug, which is a waste of its real value. The justification for legalization is its value as a spiritual tool.

I’m well aware that you’d never get the stuff legalized taking that approach. Today’s image of the dope smoker is that of a lazy, dull-minded space cadet, a credulous fool. Furthermore, although few of them like to talk about it, a lot of people who used to smoke it stopped because, they say, it started making them “paranoid.” Marijuana is essentially an amplifier—a benevolent one, I’d say. It increases your awareness, in the beginning at least. It depends, though, on what you want it to do. When I was playing music, some of my best performances happened while I was high. (This was not merely my subjective opinion. The audiences affirmed it for me each time.) My hearing was extraordinarily acute and I was strongly aware of the smallest details in my playing and singing. Likewise, I’ve had some fine meditations while stoned, special insights that I still remember. The thing is, you always come back down. The hope is that you learned something while you were high that you could begin to strive toward in your day-to-day unstoned mind. The problem with people who smoke it and smoke it and smoke it is they blow out their energy. That’s why you get sleepy stoners who don’t seem very bright. They’ve shot their wad. (You can always get it back. It doesn’t cause permanent damage. You just have to stop for awhile.)  I haven’t smoked any in 15 years. I’m still working on what I learned in those first 30 years of smoking. As for paranoia, the drug itself doesn’t make you paranoid. It simply shows you the paranoia that is already within you. It shows you by amplifying it. But it also amplifies love. It amplifies everything.

Anyway, that’s my take on the subject. I’m happy to discuss. My best wishes to Main Street Marijuana. May it be a successful enterprise.

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20 Responses to “Main Street Marijuana”

  1. Chandani Diaz Says:

    I am in favour of legalization as well – but I have a valid question no-one can answer. What about driving under the influence of Marijuana?? If one drives DRUNK there is a “breathilizer” test that is non-invasive. As far as I know, there is no “breathilizer” to test for marijuana; I’m told that only a bloodtest would confirm positive or negative for marijuana. A bloodtest isn’t going to work because law enforcement cannot legally force a person to have a bloodtest and many would see it as a violation of their rights. So how does law enforcement check for DUI of marijuana?

  2. markbittner Says:

    I can’t answer that either. I’ll see if I can find the answer.

  3. Lynn Duvall Says:

    I’m in general with you all the way on everything you post. I know, not very interesting. When I was in my early to mid-20s, I smoked for the wrong reasons and, yep, sometimes felt paranoid. Many, many years and learning experiences later, I look back and realilze that was indeed my core state, having come from an abusive, alcoholic family and suffering from a kind of PTSD from living in that war zone for almost 20 years.

    But, I wonder if you think part of that paranoia owes to the pesticides and other chemicals used to grow it back in the late-60s to mid-70s? Remember? Back when a lid was $15? Now, I hear it’s upwards of $200 an ounce.

    I’m also one of the ones who stopped smoking and dropping acid because it began to take too much time and energy to regain my equilibrium, such as it was. Couldn’t have been farther from a spiritual tool for me. Now, after 30 years of fibromyalgia (chronic pain/chronic fatigue) I would love to be able to smoke when the pain is unremitting and now, since I learned TM in 1976, I would benefit from the spiritual tool aspect.

    But, my dearest, closest friend, who I lived with for 34 years is an addict, so not here and I have no interest in a group experience. As Mrs. Madrigal says in Tales of the City: “I hate that soggy communal mess.” But more than the saliva, I can’t think of that many people who still smoke that I’d want to be stoned with. “Back in the days,” of course, it was like breaking bread together, only not really.

    One final note, Mark, a personal one: I kinda cringe when I read phrases like “shot their wad.” Yuck. You’re an articulate man, a sensitive man. You can do better. Otherwise, being stuck in the Deep South, after many months of living in San Francisco over the years and feeling right at home there, I remain …

    foglover99 (i think)
    Keep thinking.
    Keep writing.

    • markbittner Says:

      I tend to think that the expression in question has expanded from what it originally meant. I think of it as more colloquial than vulgar. It’s just sounds, which don’t inherently mean anything.

  4. Jean-Luc Picard Says:

    There’s 2 dispensaries on Howard you can vaporize in & 2 really cheap ones on Mission by balboa. If you’ve missed anything, it’s that you get the indica high of 70s weed with the sativa intensity of 90s weed. There’s actually this stuff called Charlettes Web that’s pure cannabidiol– doesn’t get you high, mainly used for children with severe epilepsy disorders, but also has the effect of ‘curing pain’ (& certain cancers). I smoke mainly as a nightly sedative w/ my melatonin but also for morning constipation. I am, however, very guilty of recreational use. As a man missing some social-essential brain functionality from birth, it’s better than nothing. I recognize it as the self-indulgant mental leech it is when it’s used past morning, before late-night (unless I have my guitar on me :P).

  5. Lynn Duvall Says:

    Yes, o wise Zenmaster. You are correct: words are inherently meaningless. So, why have a blog using words to convey thoughts and opinions? Maybe these messages would be better conveyed by transmitting them during a meditative state.

    • markbittner Says:

      All I meant is that words are ultimately relative. Useful, but relative. I don’t like to get too puritanical about language. It develops out of all our experiences. It’s flexible. For instance: Do you know why Washington legalized both marijuana and gay marriage at the same election? To fulfill the Biblical law that two men who lie together should be stoned.

  6. rainnnn Says:

    I grew up in Camas, Washington. Well, actually in the hills north of it but that was my school and the town I liked. I never wanted to leave it but parents moved when I graduated from hs.

    I’ve never done pot or any of the illegal drugs but when Oregon had it on the ballot, I voted to legalize it. Unfortunately it got scared out and lost on the ballot. Too bad as it seems logical to me and to have stores sell it assuring it is safer, just is a no brainer as likewise is not jailing those who use it or sell it. It has filled up our prisons at a time when we have more serious issues to worry about.

    • markbittner Says:

      When I was a young boy, my family often drove through Camas on our way to Carson and up the Wind River Highway to a cabin my grandmother owned. The paper mill smelled so bad, I always wondered how anybody could tolerate living there.

    • rainnnn Says:

      well if you lived 7 miles up into the hills, you never smelled it. It was up the Washougal drainage on the Yacoult Burn, the home country of Sasquatch. I think Oregon got more of the stench than Camas did. And I also spent time up on the Wind River. Beautiful, wild country and good fishing for my dad and brother. YOu likely were through there though after I left as I graduated hs in ’61 and was gone that same June. I always wanted to move back, buy the property but it wasn’t meant to be and now it’s fancy mini-estates.

  7. de Says:

    Isn’t anyone concerned about the health risk second hand smoke causes? I haven’t read anything about that. I sure wouldn’t want i anyone smoking it near me or my chldren.

    • markbittner Says:

      It’s not the same as cigarette smoking in that very little is consumed at one time. It’s not a thing where people smoke joint after joint after joint. Two people might smoke one joint in an entire evening, which is less smoke than is in a single cigarette. But keep your children away from it if it’s a concern.

  8. Tim Mueller Says:

    This is an issue that I go back and forth on. Our jails are bursting at the seams because of the Reagan-era “get tough on drugs campaign”. Alcohol is clearly more dangerous than marijuana, and we, as a society, cannot handle alcohol consumption in a mature way. The use of mind-altering drugs for the raising of consciousness implies that people have a healthy sense of self-esteem and are motivated to do that which is in their own best interest. Medical marijuana, I feel, is a no-brainer. How we discuss and promote legalization is more important than whether or not we do it. If it is simply one more plank in the Libertarian platform or the cause celebre of the quasi-enlightened Hollywood crowd, I think we will send the wrong message to those who are looking for one more excuse to say “Fuck you” to American society, or community in general. I believe that any form of hedonism is ultimately self-destructive, and I also believe that we do have a duty to help others avoid making bad choices. I don’t think that’s being Puritanical or elitist; I think it’s being spiritual. De-criminalization of marijuana is also a no-brainer, in my opinion. Incarceration serves no purpose whatsoever. I think the real question is, “Do we legalize it at a time in our nation’s history when we are already pressured to look for a limitless array of ‘acceptable’ methods of numbing our minds and withdrawing from all forms of public interaction? ” Built into that question is the presumption that things will ever get better; that there will be a time when marijuana use will be a selective act rather than one of the four main food groups.

    • markbittner Says:

      Yes. I think promoting “recreational use” is a mistake. I might have emphasized that a little more. Recreational use means “get stupid behind it.” I’m not in favor of that with anything.

  9. Lynn Duvall Says:

    Good joke, Mark, and I’m not usually a fan of jokes because the ones I hear are usually so infantile. A good political joke is something else again. And I’m all for being colloquial in writing and not worried about getting puritanical about language. That one phrase just rubs me the wrong way, I think because mostly I hear crude guys using it where I live.

    Carry on …

    BTW, how do I put my comment below your last to me?

    • mark Says:

      Sometimes In some current American slang it is a reference to male ejaculation; however the phrase has a very long history covering most of the time that muskets have been in use up to the present. The wad is a piece of paper put in the muzzle along with the projectile and gun powder. If the shooter is too hasty — say in a tense battle — they may not include the projectile. The result is a fire without the intended bullet; only the wad will fly out…a wasted shot. Hence, “shooting your wad” can mean expending your energy fruitlessly. The OED also references the wad as in a roll of paper money; in this case “shooting your wad” means blowing all your cash at once.

      This desription is from wiki.answers.

  10. Lynn Duvall Says:

    Well, color me educated! I love knowing word/phrase origins but it didn’t occur to me to look for this one because I thought I knew what it was. :: blush :: Sometimes I’m too “smart” for my own good.
    Thanks so much. BTW, I just got your book and I’m looking forward to finding out the rest of the story. I just watched the documentary for the fourth time and it always seems new, never dated or repetitive, really a unique filmmaking achievement. Pass it on, please, if you are Judy are still keeping company, so to speak.

    • markbittner Says:

      Yes. Judy and I are married. I will pass it along. She is always careful not to put anything in a film that might date it. By the way, the Mark who did the research on “shooting your wad” was some other Mark. Not me.

    • Lynn Duvall Says:

      Glad you two are still “a pair.” You seem perfect for each other. Sometimes what dates a film is not so much what’s in it but, thinking of the ancient (1964) LaRousse Gastronomique I bought at a thrift store, the quality of the color and type of film. The photographs almost look hand-tinted and, of course, the presentations are hilarious. Judy also did an excellent job when she picked the film and the camera. Even the music always seems just right, maybe because that’s the signal that I’m in for a rare treat.

      Do you still live on Telegraph Hill? On one visit, my husband (a third Mark, a photographer, too) and I stayed at the San Remo and I have an indelible memory of looking through the leaded glass windows in the bathroom as I showered, having a perfect uphill view of Coit Tower.


      *85% of life is showing up.– Woody Allen*


  11. Gertrudis Caivano Says:

    Here is a statement from the one presidential candidate who actively supports the legalization of medical marijuana nationwide! “[T]here is very little evidence that smoking marijuana as a means of taking it represents a significant health risk. Although cannabis has been smoked widely in Western countries for more than four decades, there have been no reported cases of lung cancer or emphysema attributed to marijuana. I suspect that a day’s breathing in any city with poor air quality poses more of a threat than inhaling a day’s dose — which for many ailments is just a portion of a joint — of marijuana.”You can read more and support her campaign on her site Join us and together, we can create a true land of the free.

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