Pollan, M. 2002. The botany of desire: A plant’s-eye view of the world. Random House. New York, NY. pp. 113-179 (Ch. 3).
This chapter of The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan explores yet another plant with a long history of human involvement, not for its beauty nor nutrition, but for its equally coveted and feared psychoactive effects- the cannabis plant. Through first-hand recounts, interviews with experts of various disciplines, excerpts from the works of great philosophers, and relevant historical facts, Pollan tells the long, ever-changing story of marijuana and mankind’s dysfunctional on-again-off-again relationship with it.
Pollan covers many topics in this chapter: he humourously recounts his early, albeit minuscule, attempts at marijuana growing, then goes on to explore the rises and falls of marijuana popularity in the West, the pointlessness and futility of America’s “War on Drugs,” marijuana’s connections with past and present religions, his observations of the sophisticated modern cultivation of marijuana plants, the reasons why humans (and other animals) are compelled to alter their perceptions of reality, and the possible biological origins of those alterations when propagated by the consumption of psychoactive drugs.
Marijuana has been on my mind a lot this week, having also done some of my own research on it for my Power Point presentation for lab, but I’ll have to take this time to gingerly admit that it is usually on my mind anyway, or at least usually in it. I don’t know if this is necessarily an appropriate place to admit it, but hey, it is my blog!
“Memory is the enemy of wonder, which abides nowhere else but in the present.”
This has been my absolute favourite reading of all this semester. This chapter, along with some of the reading I did for my presentation, has actually brought me some insight as to why – biologically, that is – I may enjoy indulging in the devil’s lettuce that I had never really considered previously. Pollan’s description of marijuana use being a way for humans to “forget” the mundane aspects of their everyday lives and be present in the moment is very accurate, for me at least. I can be an extremely anxious person with an often hypersensitive perception of the world around me and thoughts that are usually cycling between the “what-ifs” of past and present, and I am rarely fully, consciously present in the physical space that I occupy on Earth (while sober, I mean). I didn’t really think of it this way until after this reading, but I now know that is likely why I enjoy my time indulging so much. It brings me into a fully present state, a state in which I can appreciate myself and my immediate surroundings, without worry of things to come or what has already passed… and if it does that for me, it likely does for others. So I ask, should government and legality have the right to forbid us those profound feelings? It does, but it most definitely should not.
Aside from my personal reasons, I still agree entirely with the ideas Pollan brings forth in this chapter. The fact that a single plant, a weed!, has caused so much turmoil and terror and show of force in North America is absolutely stunning. The amount of people who are spending more time in prison for simple possession of a personal amount of marijuana than those who have committed violent crimes is so absolutely illogical that it makes my brain hurt (but pretty much anything concerning laws and government can make my brain hurt!). In addition, the mere fact that humans (and other animals) have receptors for cannabinoids and, in fact, produce our own versions of the compound producing similar effects, should be able to solve the long-standing question of “is it ‘bad‘ or not?” But unfortunately, for some reason that also hurts my brain to try to understand, science is still not a widely accepted form of reasoning (especially in the realms of law and government) in much of the world, so we must endure …
In my personal opinion, everyone should have the option to benefit from a little “cognitive dysfunction” now and then!