"It's about getting myself out of the way and letting the ideas flow," says Charles, "not every time - but when it works, it works well." Charles (whose name has been changed) is an Oxford-trained philosopher and good friend discussing the effect of cannabis on his writing.
Between "straight" and "high" there is a zone we might call "elevated." It's where all parts of the brain are lit up, firing on all cylinders, so to speak, but one is able to direct the bliss into something worthwhile, important and satisfying.
"When I return to [what I've written] the next day, or days later," Charles continues, "I'm pleased to discover that I can use maybe 75 percent of it." Cannabis doesn't interfere, says Charles, rather, it "facilitates the flow of ideas from my head to my fingers."
I've heard this before from artistic and creative types. Cannabis stimulates the stream of ideas from head to keyboard, paintbrush or musical instrument. It does this – so it seems – by stepping around the "me," so that ideas, musical or philosophical, smoothly transition from one form to another.
I'm told – by those wiser than me – that there are actually many paths to this place. What appeals about cannabis, however, is how readily it takes one there once one knows how to use it.
Cannabis can put you in the 'zone'
The "zone." That's the word Ross Rebagliati uses to describe what cannabis did for him when he was training. Rebagliati was the first to win a gold medal for Men's Giant Slalom in snowboarding at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano.
I remember thinking – as Ross was being stripped of his medal for showing THC in his blood – that cannabis would not be on my list of performance-enhancing drugs, at least not in a capacity where you take your life in your hands to rocket down an ice and snow track faster than anyone else in the world.
But, as Rebagliati explained it to me, giant slalom requires you to go directly to "the zone" as expeditiously and calmly as possible.
Medical marijuana helped veteran reconnect with people
There are zones and there are zones, of course. Recently I interviewed a Canadian military vet. His name is Casey and he's done two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He discovered that cannabis enabled him to reclaim his life from alcohol, permitted him to sleep normally, and released him from the PTSD-anxiety that had colonized his waking hours.
He was not, he readily admitted, a believer in cannabis therapy. Like many military personnel, he gravitated toward alcohol as his first line of self-medication. But he quickly discovered that alcohol made worse what was already problematic – and it cost a lot money. Reluctantly, he admits, he took the advice of another vet and tried cannabis – initially just to sleep. "The difference was night and day," Casey told me, "getting good sleep was key. Once I could sleep, I could think clearly again."
Today he vaporizes on a daily basis and has cut back on his alcohol consumption. He's re-engaged with his kids and his community – and he's reaching out to others from his unit.
"Alcohol takes a terrible toll on soldiers," he admits. "It's our 'go-to' drug of choice – but it does a lot of harm."
Well, that's true – it's true of all drugs or activities taken to their extreme. Finding that golden balance is the eternal quest, n'est ce pas?
Cannabis can make you more focused and creative
My own experience resembles these. As a singer/entertainer, I'm constantly multitasking my way through an evening. I'm asking myself – while I'm playing and singing one song – what's the best song to follow this one? And what's best after that? And when should we take a break and how many people will we lose if we take one now versus 10 minutes from now?
All of this is happening simultaneously with concentrating – really hard – on the precise attack on my instrument to get the exact feeling for that song in that moment. And because I'm usually playing with someone else, I'm calculating precisely how far to be from the microphone for the bridge or chorus given that my collaborator on that night may not be in perfect voice.
We still have to get the vocal blend right and I have to know as soon as this song is over where the evening should go next. Got to keep things moving and have to be spontaneous about it so that every song lands exactly where it's supposed to land and the audience is constantly – and pleasantly – surprised and engaged by it.
All of this is happening – as it were – at the speed of brain. In such a circumstance – in such a high-traffic environment – you might think that cannabis would muddy things up. But when elevated, it has the opposite effect: it opens the doors to creativity so that, in my case, new ideas present themselves seemingly from the deep subconscious that – more often than not – turn out to be the perfect proposition at the perfect moment.
The bliss that attends such experience is hard to put into ordinary language: it's a zone, alright, of light and meaning and intense satisfaction.
Craig Jones is the executive director of NORML Canada: The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws in Canada. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org