Pot 102: Marijuana and American Culture
September 4, 2007 8:03 AM   Subscribe

I need to know everything about marijuana.

I'm working on creating a character who is a true marijuana connoisseur, who treats the substance the same way some people treat fine wine and cigars. He is a collector, an expert, and very meticulous.

So I'm looking for info on: varieties of marijuana, the history of how the plant and/or the quality has changed over time, distribution in the US, slang, the pros and cons of various ways to use marijuana, the typical American cultural approach to the drug -- from the attitudes of those who indulge, important tools that a true smoker can't live without, "designer" or artistic pipes and so forth.

Yes, I'll pick up a copy of "High Times," but I'd also like book recommendations, documentaries, best websites to mine for info, and any personal expertise you care to share. E-mail is in the profile if you prefer to respond anonymously.
posted by brina to Grab Bag (29 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: http://www.erowid.org/plants/cannabis/cannabis.shtml
posted by thirteenkiller at 8:16 AM on September 4, 2007

Best answer: marijuana-logues
reefer madness
posted by Mach5 at 8:19 AM on September 4, 2007

Best answer: My very favorite pot-smoking piece of fiction is David Foster Wallace's story in (I think) The Pushcart Prize XVIII edition. It's a piece that became part of Infinite Jest, which I didn't read, talking about a character meticulously preparing for a several day pot binge. It's something this character does once in a while and he has the drill obsessively down: pull shades, set away messge on answering machine, stock up on all perfect junk food, etc. George Saunders has a similar story about a suburban couple that decides to have a crack vacation. I know this is not the drug you're referring to, but man is it a great piece of writing.

The big thing about people who are really into their drugs is that there's a whole system of winks and nods and subtle cues that can be hard for a non-drug person to get into. I'm not saying "Oh you just can't understand it" but you should be pretty carefully triangulate the information you receive because, similar to people who write about mentall illness, there's a whole group of people who write about things they've only researched. (and it's painfully obvious in some cases, like people who still call whatever street drug by last decade's slang). If at all possible I'd suggest running a draft past a few people who are actually involved in the subculture so you're sure you're not going all Reefer Madness on them.
posted by jessamyn at 8:30 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, jessamyn -- good advice on that part (and I've already got a few readers lined up).

Any other recommendations? Seriously, I'm holing up for a two-month info binge on pot books, films, and so forth.
posted by brina at 8:32 AM on September 4, 2007

Since it's probably easier to track down a copy of Infinite Jest, I'll point out that Ken Erdedy's binge-prep is the second or third scene in the book.
posted by backupjesus at 8:44 AM on September 4, 2007

Definitely get the series "Weeds", as it is one of the only shows on television that shows drug use without immediately having the characters do something stupid or get in trouble with the law. I'm nearly positive network television is subject to regulations, so even if marijuana is used in a sitcom is never to promote it. "Entourage" is another series that shows marijuana use (especially this last season) as it is currently used. "Weeds" is definitely more of a caricature and takes on all the negatives of a sitcom, so unless you can spot the obvious deus ex machina (or should I say dues ex marijuana) that is sometimes used to propel the show, you might get a somewhat warped view. This may not be bad if your book is trying to show that people experience things as the media projects it.

Grow guides (Google: Overgrow FAQ) are probably your best places to understand different strains and the more nuanced differences in marijuana production. There strain guides and the like floating around, which should help you. Keep in mind that only growers will be aware of strains and strain differences, unless your character buys his weed at a medical co-op.
posted by geoff. at 8:47 AM on September 4, 2007

Best answer: I loved Paradise Burning by Chris Simunek, he wrote for High Times, and it's a collection of great essays about the culture.
posted by andrewzipp at 9:13 AM on September 4, 2007

Any good "connoisseur" discussion must include a debate on the old-school highs of the 60s and 70s varieties, versus the highs provided by today's highly-engineered weed.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:21 AM on September 4, 2007

i actually thought weeds, although a fairly good show, was not very accurate when it came to marijuana portrayal.
posted by alkupe at 9:30 AM on September 4, 2007

Response by poster: Thorzdad, do you have any reading/viewing recommendations on that subject? I'd very much like to get info on how the plant itself has changed, and how the effects have changed, and so forth.
posted by brina at 9:38 AM on September 4, 2007

Response by poster: geoff., I've heard from friends that there used to be guys you could call up in NYC -- an 800 number -- and they'd come around with a briefcase full of different strains, and you could try them out and figure out what you liked that way.

So this character has pretty much the best available connections, and he knows about strains. That's the big piece I know nothing about and would love more info. Definitely checked out those grower's faqs, but they're quite technical. Am looking for something (perhaps this is only my imagination?) where someone could point out different varieties of cannabis like different kinds of tea. "This one is really calming and mild; this one is a bit more psychadelic," that kind of thing. Any suggestions?
posted by brina at 9:45 AM on September 4, 2007

Best answer: I think you need to take the risk and spend a while getting really high. It's research, I promise. You're almost guaranteed to sound like you work for the ONDCP if you don't have experience or a qualified cannabis consultant.

I can't pull up any seedbank links while I'm at work but they're a good place to get a good idea of the varieties of cannabis out there. They often include a short, connoiseiurish description of the high/aroma etc. The other area I'd recommend is forums like hg420. There's a lot of devoted cannabis enthusiasts in those places.
posted by polyhedron at 10:35 AM on September 4, 2007

Do you have pot clubs where you live? I would try and arrange a visit if you do. They're pretty much a marijuana store- they'll tell you the names, the potency, the type of high. You'll need to make arrangements beforehand, of course; you won't be allowed to just walk in.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:35 AM on September 4, 2007

For cost effective, hassle-free research opportunities, head to Amsterdam with your moleskin.
posted by paulsc at 10:44 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Michael Pollan wrote a great chapter on marijuana in "The Botany of Desire" that I strongly recommend you read. My other piece of advice would be to interview some real potheads. These people can talk for days on end about weed, what it does to them mentally and its physical characteristics.
posted by xammerboy at 10:53 AM on September 4, 2007

Ahh, I just came here to post about the Botany of Desire! Tomatoes, johnny appleseed, and pot... what a curious ecological impact we have!
posted by Myself at 10:56 AM on September 4, 2007

Best answer: See if you can find a good collection of High Times back issues - get some from the '70s, the '80s, the '90s and today. Definitely look for the "Cannabis Cup" issues (official site) - you'll find lots of the descriptive info you're looking for. ("Strawberry Cough" is a very cerebral, introspective high..."OG Kush" gives an energetic buzz, &c.) They'll also go into flavor and other descriptives, along with truly excellent photographs of the various strains.

I know my old local headshop (the Bench Shop in Willimantic, CT) sells back issues of HT, so you might be able to find a local headshop that does the same. Otherwise, High Times sells back issues online. There's also a High Times retrospective book (ebay link) that might be of use to you. (You might also scour ebay for HT back issues - cheaper than their site, no doubt.)
posted by Banky_Edwards at 11:17 AM on September 4, 2007

Also, if you want to talk to some people who take their weed very, very seriously, I might be able to put you in touch with a few. Email in profile.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 11:18 AM on September 4, 2007

Best answer: I would definitely suggest issues of High Times. Also, the show Trailer Park Boys is informative on the subject and also just fun as hell to watch.

If you use bittorrent, you can come across a litany of marijuana documentaries including stuff on Marc Emery, History of Marijuana, growing how-tos, etc.

"important tools that a true smoker can't live without":
Every connisseur has a onie, a regular pipe, a bong, and a rolling paper preference. Blue-collar type guys tend to smoke via papers, college kids prefer to use glass, and everyone seems to appreciate a good onie.
Other important tools:
Something to poke the ends of rolled Dubois with (jam/pack the crumbled marijuana near the ends that is often not tight enough) which may be a toothpick, a match, a Stylus, a headphone plug, etc.

Also, some sort of roach clip is a must: forceps, pliers, barette/bobby pin, binder clip, sewing scissors or any one of the thinly disguised "key" roach clips available at your local headshop.

All connisseurs also have their technique for hiding things when driving: cans of coffee, tricky compartments within the vehicle (I've seen everything from removing the radio to actual welded-in compartments beneath the car), etc.

And when attending things like a concert, or otherwise going out in public: putting joints in pens with the ink chamber removed, cutting tiny holes in something like the wrapper for a candy bar and sliding in contraband, any sort of unusual case that has a legitimate use can be converted into a receptacle for illicit materials.
posted by nameless.k at 11:39 AM on September 4, 2007

I would take myself off to Amsterdam and chat to the coffee shop owners. I swear, it's like being a kid in a candy shop (if it's your sort of candy).

Channel 4 did a night about pot about 10 years ago. THere were some great shows on it. Might be able to find them on youtube if you do a bit of googling?
posted by twistedonion at 11:44 AM on September 4, 2007

Best answer: Take a look at the Big Book of Buds by Ed Rosenthal.

We've been using this as a coffee table book / private bathroom time reading and it is a great read. Lots of information about the specific qualities of many different strains and a few essays thrown in for good measure.
posted by utsutsu at 12:13 PM on September 4, 2007

Best answer: There's a great documentary about the Cannabis Cup called "Weed." It's a good flick, funny to boot.
posted by tr33hggr at 12:43 PM on September 4, 2007

Your character will, of course, have to be up on the latest technology, like those newfangled vaporizers (even if he staunchly prefers the tried-and-true methods, as I'd expect him to). He will have to have a personal preference for consumption. He will have to appreciate marijuana-themed music and film, but not your run-of-the-mill stoner fare. John Holt's "Police in Helicopter," the pot-themed John Holmes porno "Aphrodisiac!" and the documentary "Grass" might be some good examples.

One humorous little aside you might work into the story: it's a simple fact (but usually remarked upon/known only by cannabis aficionados) that you can talk to any pothead while they're high and they probably won't make much sense, they'll be disconnected, laughing incoherently, etc (depending on how much they've ingurgitated). But if you mention anything that has to do with the preparation or consumption of cannabis whatsoever, they will immediately become cogent, knowledgeable, and totally businesslike. It's pretty amusing to watch it happen.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 3:36 PM on September 4, 2007

I was going to say, the real connoisseurs use vaporizers. And I second the documentary Grass.
posted by ludwig_van at 7:40 PM on September 4, 2007

(vaporizers aren't really newfangled though)
posted by ludwig_van at 7:43 PM on September 4, 2007

Response by poster: Just as a continuation: Does anyone have any good info on art pipes and other paraphernalia? Something a guy might collect?

Thanks again for all the great info. Sadly, I won't be going to Amsterdam any time soon, as I am only a starving writer who sometimes looks in between the couch cushions for quarters.

Definitely feel free to e-mail if you have any other ideas/suggestions you think would be of interest.
posted by brina at 8:19 PM on September 4, 2007

Best answer: Dude, I'm late to the party.

If you want to find info on different strains and their particular effects on the smoker, you need to start from the seeds. There are many places in Europe that sell seeds and you can find lots of info on their sites: here's one, for example.

I'll nth the recommendation that you read anything by Ed Rosenthal. Also, the Cannabis Grow Bible by Greg Green is exactly what it says: THE resource for the person who wants to source their own. I would think any connoisseur should know the various facets involved in cultivation, cutting, and curing, even if they don't necessarily grow it themselves.

As far as "art pipes," I'm not sure there's a market for "collectibles" as such. Blown glass/pyrex is pretty hard to manufacture to specification, so each piece has its own look and feel. Unless you're talking about wood or something, which I don't really go for. I imagine there may be some antique hookahs...

And FWIW, I like the show Weeds, but the portrayals of the smokers are, as usual, over the top and stereotypically immature. But that's entertainment.
posted by krippledkonscious at 11:16 PM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Eric Schlosser's Reefer Madness has a section about marijuana.
posted by box at 5:48 PM on September 5, 2007

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