Of all the stars that have graced the peaks of popular music charts, John Denver may well be my least favourite. While Abba and Dancing Queen get under my skin, John Denver’s nasal drawl drives me nuts. The nauseating Annie’s Song, the eponym being John’s wife who apparently filled up his senses “like sleepy blue oceans and mountains in springtime” is bad enough, but then he drones on about “country roads taking him home” and “leaving on a jet plane”. Wtf dude, you driving or flying? Not that I have anything against romantic ballads, it’s just that Cream’s classic Sunshine of Your Love or John Lee Hooker’s racy Boom Boom Boom – are much more my thing. If you must drag oceans and skies into it, Van Morrison’s ethereal Sweet Thing does the job nicely.
But perhaps I was too hasty in my judgment. What if Denver was not, as I assumed dismissively, a cowboy crooner with geeky oversized glasses, but rather a cool prophet and early evangelist for a noble cause?
What if Rocky Mountain High, officially Colorado’s “state song”, was never about forests and streams, but instead the sheer joy of smoking weed out in the open, both literally and metaphorically? We will never know, but regardless, effective January 1, 2014, the State of Colorado made the sale and use of marijuana legal, not just for medicinal purposes, but for “recreational” purposes as well. Washington is next, and hopes are high that California and Florida follow. From Clinton’s “I tried it, but did not inhale” to Obama’s “I inhaled frequently; that was the point”, the times they truly are a-changin’. It is high time.
The arguments for the legalisation of cannabis are well known and increasingly accepted. The Economist, for example, has been a consistent advocate for the cause since 1993. There is no evidence to suggest that the side effects of consumption, whether in moderation or in excess, are any worse than those of alcohol. Why should cannabis therefore be banned when booze and tobacco, or Big Macs and fries for that matter, remain legal? Rather than waste state resources on enforcing a ban – and that too selectively – much better to legalise, regulate and tax production and consumption, with all the appropriate disclosures and safeguards in place, including of course restrictions on sale to minors. Even more fundamentally, I have a visceral negative reaction to the state – any state – imposing these seemingly arbitrary laws based on past prejudices. Governments that allow guns in the hands of any retard with a pulse abrogate their right to dictate what people should drink or smoke. I have infinitely more faith in my kids’ ability to decide for themselves what “works” and equally, what doesn’t; it is a basic rite of passage.
Lest the reader dismiss these as the rantings of a pothead, let me clarify that my personal interest in the subject is – regrettably – almost completely academic at this stage in life, and a function of perhaps overly romantised nostalgia. The garbage we were sold as students was mostly hashish that looked and smelled like something that came out of the wrong end of a goat. Joints – I took great pride in rolling mine artistically – were passed around in a daily communal male bonding ritual, with the customary acknowledgement of “this is good shit, man” after every puff. Occasionally you lucked out and someone delivered the genuine article, and then the effect was something to be savoured. You laughed compulsively, lost track of time, and your senses heightened; food tasted great and music sounded awesome. Smarter minds than I, physicist Carl Sagan among them, reported a distinct sharpening of cognitive ability, and I somewhat disingenuously encouraged the myth of my academic success being attributed to a daily spliff. However, candidly, my experience was quite the contrary. I tried to dive into fractal geometry while stoned, and mostly I just giggled. Almost without exception, the “trip” was better than the cheap booze we had access to, with none of the immediate side effects of being sick and bloated. An excursion to Mussoorie – in the foothills of the Himalayas – lingers fondly in the memory, thanks to a prized supply of the finest Afghani hashish and an even more treasured recording of Jim Morrison’s An American Prayer.
Music is of course completely integral to the stoner’s experience. Almost any music worked, just as long as it wasn’t Abba or John f**king Denver. My own preference while under the influence was bluesy and somewhat edgy rock. Led Zeppelin (Dazed and Confused, Stairway to Heaven), Pink Floyd (Brain Damage, Time) and Jimi Hendrix (Red House, Purple Haze) always did the trick. Morrison was monumental, for me always a poet (“have you been born yet and are you alive”) more than a rock star. I suppose you have to throw Bob Marley into the mix, but he always had that strange thing going with religion that I never really got.
But for all that the world of rock gave us, Bollywood went one up with the cult classic Dum Maro Dum (“Puff, Puff, Take a Hit” might be a loose translation). The image of the delectable Zeenat Aman in a hypnotic trance, swaying and crooning Dum Maro Dum , the inspired lyrics that captured teenage angst with poetic precision…that was good shit man, and those were good days.