[Writer's note: this is a true story about events that occurred in my own life. Yes, it is long, but it tells the full story, and I believe it can be read quickly. I wrote it in March of 2009, around the time I created this GC account. I was reluctant to post it for stupid reasons, but my good friend and GC celebrity WetHorseLips has convinced me. Names have been changed.] In many ways, I was the last person anyone would ever expect to smoke cannabis. I stuck to my group of friends in high school, and few others knew who I was. Since I took only AP and honors classes, I rarely left the exclusive bubble of kids obsessing over tests and freaking out about Harry Potter. I was pretty and sweet, if a bit shy to people I didn’t know. And I was Jewish, which stuck out in a sea of Southern belles with upturned noses. I got along great with my parents, who thought of me as a perfect angel. My group of friends for the most part practiced good clean fun. We prided ourselves on not “needing” alcohol or drugs to have fun. Instead we had movie nights, played Apples to Apples, and ate pizza. We were still loud, outgoing, and fun, but not party-goers by any means. The extent of PG-13 behavior was the obvious horniness among the group, exercised through games of spin-the-bottle that never led to much more than heavy petting. Even if I seemed innocent, I probably looked like a wild child compared to my best friend Christina. Christina was the oldest of three with a motherly personality to prove it. A religious Catholic, she was conservative and opposed premarital sex, drug/alcohol use, and a whole laundry list of other things. Interestingly, in spite of her chastity, she had a womanly figure with full breasts that she couldn’t hide. Her face was one of classic beauty with delicate features. She and I got along smashingly. I brought out the crazy in her, and she calmed me down when necessary. Our conversations were filled with girlish giggles and inside jokes. We obsessed over boys, friend drama, and clothes. I wasn’t oblivious to the world of pot smoking, however. The bubble of upper middle class suburbia in which I lived contained the perfect recipe for teenage drug use: money and boredom. Most kids at my high school got drunk on the weekends, and a sizable number of people smoked. My best friend and I even joked that if we wanted drugs we could have them in a split second. Some of the people at my lunch table smoked, and I loved listening to their stories. One kid said that I seemed interested, but I told him that I didn’t like the idea of it being against the law. I said that if you disagree with a law, you should try to change it but not disobey it for fear of the consequences. My friend Alex and I spoke openly about it the first time we talked. He told me that it was definitely something I should consider trying. In Spanish class, I recall an acquaintance of mine asking why I didn’t smoke. I simply replied that I didn’t have any desire to, but I didn’t have a problem with people who did. Things took a turn in the spring of my junior year. Some of the guys in my immediate group of friends smoked pot for the first time and (surprise, surprise) loved it. My one friend Max, in particular, became immediately obsessed. Of course, in no time, the uptight girls of the posse found out and quickly gossiped, calling the boys foolish hypocrites. While I sort of agreed that they were foolish for trying it just for the sake of fitting in, I remained more ambivalent about the issue than anything. In reality, I was very curious. I asked Max about his experiences, and he noticed my interest. He jokingly made a bet with our other friend that he would get me to smoke by the end of the upcoming summer. I laughed, brushing it off. The summer before my senior year was a time of countless changes. It seems that if just one thing was altered in those three months, it would change the course of my life. For two weeks, I went to a program at an Ivy League college to take a psychology course. What was supposed to be a nerdy, academic experience ended up expanding my world view and unleashing my wild side. Drugs and alcohol were explicitly out of the question at the program. Although we were given an excess amount of freedom, that was one thing that no one messed with. Still, the people I became friends with were intellectual on one hand, but total party people on the other. \t\t One of my friends in the program was a grower and a dealer back home, one was a self-described alcoholic with a propensity for weed, and still others dabbled in recreational pain medication. They all smoked cigarettes. They were quite different from my friends back home, but I began to love their stories, terms, and mannerisms. These were “users” but also incredibly intelligent people; above all, they were kind and fun. My notion that people who used drugs were bad people immediately went out the window. Even though we never smoked marijuana or drank together, we smoked hookah one rainy night on the stairs of a lecture hall. The combination of the sweet, fruity smoke, the nicotine buzz, and the community experience left me feeling deliciously rebellious. Another night, we went to a Badfish concert, where the distinct scent of pot pervaded the balmy summer air. I remember getting a slight contact buzz and grinding up against my friend Drew, fully knowing he had a girlfriend back home, but not really caring. The experience away from home was only two weeks out of my life, but it would forever change my life path. By the time I flew home on my first plane ride alone, I had gained knowledge, culture, and confidence. Already, I felt quite different from my friends back home. The night I got home, I went out for coffee with Christina and our other friend, and something felt indescribably changed between us. My mind was stuck in that college town with those amazing people, but my physical body was elsewhere. I told her that I had hooked up with a guy there, and she responded with a disgusted “ew.” I knew that from that night on things would be different. I went home that evening and cried. As the weeks went by, I began to focus more on other friends of mine. With the memories of my summer program friends still in my thoughts, I began wondering more and more frequently what it would be like to get high. I realized that it was something I definitely wanted to try at least once. I talked to my friend Kayleigh, and she too was interested. When I asked Max, he got really excited and said he’d be happy to smoke us up. Thursday, July 31st presented itself as the perfect opportunity. Max's parents were out of town, so Kayleigh and I would go over there and blaze before eventually going back to her house to sleep over. That day, we went to a back-to-school session at our high school to take our senior year pictures and pay our class dues. We talked excitedly about the coming night. Later that day, after I packed a small backpack of stuff I might need, Kayleigh cancelled. Her mom didn’t want her to have someone sleep over that night. But the plan was still on. Lying to my mother, I left for Max's house before 6 PM. When I got over there, our friend Dan hadn’t arrived yet. We sat on the couch in his room talking. Max's dad built their house, so his room was well-furnished, with a bed, couch, coffee table, TV, computer, and a mini-fridge. His ceiling sloped upward, giving the room a triangular feeling, not unlike a barn-house. Also, he had two windows that displayed a wonderful view of the sky and the expansive field in front of his house. I had told my mother I would be home around 7:30 AM, which would have been the case had I stayed with Kayleigh, because she had to work. I recall setting several alarms on my phone, because I was unsure the effects that cannabis would have on my sleeping patterns. I didn’t want to not be able to rise out of my stoned stupor. Until Dan arrived, we relaxed in the late afternoon sun watching Comedy Central. He took out a little clear plastic bag and showed me the cannabis he’d bought. It was from a friend named Chris who didn’t deal, but happened to have some extra to sell Max. I inspected the plant matter. It looked like everything I’d seen in health books and Above the Influence commercials. Yet, at the same time, there was something very familiar and comforting about it. It wasn’t a pill, powder, or potion, it was just nature, just a plant like the things growing in my backyard. Max told me to smell the bag, and I was confronted with a pleasant, distinct smell that I would grow to appreciate. Looking back on it, we probably didn’t have anything too dank, but at the time, it seemed incredible. I handed Max a five dollar bill, since I knew he was tight on spending cash. Five bucks as an entrance fee for what I was about to experience was well worth it. Dan still hadn’t arrived, so Max began to fashion a piece out of a water bottle since he didn’t own a glass one yet. I cringe looking back on how harmful and disgusting inhaling plastic was, but it did the trick. Once the sun began to set, Dan came over. We went into Max's guest room, which was relatively small and sparsely furnished. Dan opened the window, and we sat on the queen sized bed as he finished creating the piece. Using a sharp knife, he cut a small hole on the side of the bottle toward the bottom. At the top, he secured a piece of tin foil and poked a few holes through it large enough for the smoke to travel through, but not so big that pieces of weed would fall through. Max packed the bowl, crumbling the pot into small pieces and placing them on top of the tin foil. We stood in a circle, as is always the case. Call it the circle archetype, that which has been a part of mankind forever, or simply a convenient way to puff puff pass, but either way, that is how it’s always been. It was a two man operation. The person inhaling would hold the bottle, being careful not to tip it over, as precious cannabis would fall off—a definite party foul. Accordingly, you had to tilt your head perpendicular to the bottle and suck out of the small hole Max had poked. Since this required a good grip on the bottle, you needed both hands, and someone else had to light the lighter. At the time, I didn’t even know how to correctly light a lighter. My heart was beating faster and faster as the time approached the inevitable. I couldn’t back out now. The feeling reminded me of being at the top of a steep amusement park ride after waiting in line all my life. I would finally get the chance to see what all the hype was about. Dan was excited and animated, exclaiming, “I haven’t done this in so long! Yes!” Max took the first hit to “show me how,” even though it was probably just because he wanted to take the first one. He breathed in, holding the hit for as long as he could. This was back before we learned that you only really need to hold it in for a few seconds; we thought if you held it in longer you’d get higher. Finally it was time for me to be initiated into this beautiful, but so greatly stereotyped and discriminated group: pot-smokers. I held the bottle, titled my head, and sucked in as my friend lit the greens. Immediately, my mouth was filled with the distinct taste of cannabis. It was no matter to me that it was coupled with burning plastic and aluminum foil—I still was tasting this magical herb that so many before me had enjoyed. After holding it in and exhaling out the window, I didn’t feel too much different. Still, the experience made me feel like I was part of something greater somehow. I laughed as my friends began to get high and giggle at random things. I said, “You guys! I am really not feeling it yet!” Dan told me to repeat “we need more weed” in a singsongy voice as Max packed the next bowl, immediately handing it to me. I took a few more hits and still felt only buzzed. I was not aware that it would hit me gradually instead of immediately. All of the sudden, I realized I had spoken too soon—it was as if a wave of highness crashed over me. At once, my body felt completely relaxed and tingly. “Woah...” I uttered, sitting down on the bed. All I could utter was “holy shit.” My brain was bubbling with thoughts, memories, and dreams as my perspective drastically changed around me. I felt my heart race as I stood up to walk to the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror. My eyes were drooping red slits, with dark circles underneath them. I noticed my mouth getting dryer as cottonmouth settled in. I walked out of the bathroom, still utterly overwhelmed by the complete change in perspective. Dan, always a horn-dog and even more so when he was high, suggested we take a “naked hit.” I felt so fucked up that I easily complied. After shirking our clothes, Max commented that my hair and body made me look like a statue of a Greek goddess. The boys seemed to morph into cartoon characters with funny-looking faces and floppy, flaccid penises. After we took a few more hits, I felt as if I was drifting in and out of awareness. Max said, “Oh shit... What would we do if my brother walked in?” Even though Adam’s brother had smoked quite a lot in high school, he had no clue Max did, plus he generally acted intimidating and rude. At that thought, paranoia rushed over me. The feelings of fear, a pounding heart, and a total change in my perception of the world flooded my brain. I quickly threw on my clothes and walked back to Max's room, saying I felt like I had to lie down. I lay on the couch, somewhat unaware that tears were running down my face. I felt unpleasantly overwhelmed with this feeling, and I just wanted to escape it, but I felt trapped. Luckily, my friends knew just what to do. Max took out a Mountain Dew: Code Red from his mini-fridge and began to play Afroman’s, “Because I Got High” on his iPod speakers. I sat up, sipping the beverage, and my tears instantly vanished. It tasted better than anything I’d ever experienced. It was fizzy, chilled, and sugary with cherry flavor, like some sort of liquid orgasm. At first, I was so high I couldn’t even figure out what song was playing, but once I did, I started cracking up hysterically at the image of a tiny black man in my head singing “because I got high, because I got high, because I got high...” I set my drink down and began to dance and frolic around the room, feeling the music with every fiber of my being. I finally understood what it meant to be “off in your own little world.” I had no conception of time, no fears, and no worries—only absolute euphoria about everything in life. It felt kind of like a lucid dream, but I didn’t have to wake up; this was real life. I looked over at Max and Dan who were laughing and watching me prance around like a goof-ball. Eventually, the sun was almost down and we settled down in front of the TV to watch the last minutes of The Colbert Report. We cracked up as pot leaves flashed on the screen; somehow part of the show was related to cannabis. I began to realize what a common thing smoking cannabis actually is, in spite of its illegality. I knew that millions of Americans smoked, and even though I hadn’t been high for long, I definitely understood why people would want to experience cannabis. I reflected on our evening so far and practically laughed at the absurdity. “Isn’t it bizarre to think that this is illegal?” We were just a few kids acting silly and enjoying the beauty of the world. My thoughts grew more profound and easily fluttered in and out of my brain. No longer was I confined to time and rational thought. The world and my own brain had so many possibilities that I hadn’t even begun to unearth. After that day, my perspective on the world was forever and irreversibly changed. I realized that I shouldn’t have been so quick to assume that I knew how things worked in life—there were so many different ways to experience reality. And although reality is always the same, I finally realized how influential perception really is. I pondered out loud how interesting it would be if the creator actually intended for our primary state of consciousness to be highness, but switched it at the last minute. Max, a strong Christian, and I began to discuss religion for a bit. I explained that I was somewhat agnostic, but mainly just unsure about where I stood on matters of God. I realized at that point how my assertions when I was high were extremely intuitive and honest. In such a state, you lose the need for denial or lies to sugarcoat things. It also made me extremely affectionate. I remember hugging Max and telling him how I was sorry about any time we’d fought. My eyes welled up, and even he began to get teary eyed in the moment. The munchies started to settle in and I asked Max if I could have some of the Wheat Thins and spray cheese on his table. I realized how polite the cannabis had made me; normally I probably would have just grabbed the snack. I realized he had Taco Bell sauce packets on the table, so I asked if I could have some of those as well. I made my snack and shoveled it into my mouth, realizing how intensely delicious the flavors were. I grinned widely and said with a full mouth, “Maybe there is a God...” In a way, pot seemed to serve as a truth potion. Dan and Max asked me questions about things that had happened with the girls in our group of friends and things like that, and I was not fazed by their questions. Still, I found it fairly difficult to explain my stories, as I kept getting confused and forgetting what I’d said. In addition, I interspersed my story with comments about what was going on in my brain, such as “I feel like I’m in a video game and each part of the high is going down into another level.” By about 10:30, we started to come down a bit, so we smoked again. Upon coming back into the room, I checked my phone, realizing I had a phone call from my mother. I got a little paranoid and immediately called her back. She picked up, and I remained surprisingly composed. I was easily able to sober up as she explained that she just called to say good night. I told her that everything was going great with Kayleigh, and we’d eaten a frozen pizza. I said I loved her and I hung up, realizing how much love and gratefulness I really had for my parents. Unfortunately, Max's brother had overheard my conversation and knew something was up, because I’d obviously lied. We realized that what we’d have to do was pretend that Steven was driving me home, and then when we came back, I’d have to sneak back inside the house. At this point, I was really annoyed at the inconvenience, but I remained calm. We left the house, saying goodbye to his brother. I tried to stay silent, but as we left the house, I randomly uttered, “That was funny...” Max and Dan immediately shushed me. Steven drove my car to a nearby neighborhood, and even though I was worried about Dan driving while high, he did just fine. We stopped for a few minutes and figured out our game plan. Eventually, we drove back and I hid in my car while they ran inside. They said they’d text me when I could sneak in. I remember feeling paranoid, but also excited at the adventure and feeling like a secret agent. Once we all returned safely to Max's room, we were able to calm down a bit, even though I had to hide and stay quiet. I remember looking out the window and realizing how beautiful the scene outside was. It was like something from an fantastic movie with 3D glasses, but it was all real life and right in front of me. Just in case Max's brother walked in, I stayed under a table with a blanket over it. The room was dark except for the soft blue glow of the TV. I listened to my iPod, throughly amazed at how perfect each song sounded. It was as if I was truly experiencing the music through my veins and appreciating each subtle note. At that point, I realized how I had returned to having a childlike curiosity of the world. When you are not so experienced and jaded with things, every feeling is new and wonderful. In my mind, I was already creating a list of things I wanted to do while high. I knew I would be returning to this beautiful way of seeing the world. That night, we drifted off to sleep soundly and comfortably. In fact, it was probably the best sleep I’d had in a long time. And after such a life-changing evening, it seemed the only thing left to do was sleep. The next morning, I woke up early, my muscles still eased. It was the complete opposite of an alcohol hangover; I wouldn’t mind waking up to that feeling every morning. Since that magical night, I have smoked cannabis with some degree of regularity. At first, it was only once every two months or so, but as the year went on, more opportunities to smoke presented themselves. Since weed tends to bring people together, I grew closer with certain people I probably wouldn’t have gotten to know if not for the herb. My friend Christina eventually found out that I’d smoked. She chose not to confront me about it, instead deciding to basically distance herself from me. At first it was strange not to have her as a best friend, but I realized that I was better off without her in many ways. Even my mom agreed that I was better having branched out. She noticed the powerful change in my personality and friendships. She would remark, “You seem so much more peaceful and happy this year.” My parents to this day have no idea that I smoke. I’m not sure what they would think if they found out. We get along quite well, but I know my mom at least would likely disagree with me about it. However, I know I would have ample proof that it has not “ruined my life” like the propaganda out there wants us to believe. I have received excellent grades in AP and honors classes, maintained great relationships with friends and family, was accepted to several colleges, served as a member and officer in several clubs, completed public service hours, and so on—all while enjoying cannabis in moderation. There exists no doubt in my mind that people can smoke on a regular basis and still be productive, functioning individuals. I hate the negative stereotypes and the social stigma associated with pot smokers. I strive to defy those generalizations. Whenever I see those “Above the Influence” commercials like the one that asks sarcastically “what has weed ever done for you?” I smile at their ignorance and think of all of the ways that this precious herb has benefitted my life. It has helped me to appreciate the intricacies of life and nature. It has swelled my soul with happiness and peace of mind. It has given me patience to deal with people and situations. It has increased my curiosity in the world around me. It has brought me closer to many people. It has made me grateful for everything that I am so lucky to have in life. The list of advantages goes on and on. I look forward to sharing a bowl with my friends at the end of the week to relax and recharge. As far as health goes, those problems can easily be rectified by vaporizing and making edibles. And even so, studies have found that although smoking anything can be harmful for your lungs, marijuana does not directly cause cancer. Some studies have shown that it actually acts in a similar way to a cough drop, lubricating and opening up passageways to the lungs. Also, medical marijuana is used in a growing list of states to treat countless illnesses and diseases. Above all, the fact remains the same that no one, not a single person, has died from cannabis. Regarding illegality, I find that it is way easier than I would have thought to get around. If you smoke in a safe place like a house and the police somehow find out (which is highly improbable), they would need a search warrant to come inside, and most would be way too lazy to fill out pages of paperwork for a kid hitting a bong. So many times people simply get a slap on the wrist for smoking pot. Being on school grounds is a different story, but otherwise, if you are stealthy, don’t drive recklessly with pot in the car, do your job, and pass any required drug tests, no one has to know. I can only hope that I will see legalization in my lifetime. I remain strong, and already we are making progress. There are times when I become so upset over the injustice surrounding cannabis users, but other times I simply have to laugh at the absurdity and ridiculousness of it all. I can say with pride that I am a cannabis user. We will be persecuted, judged, and discriminated against, but we also have the power to make great strides in this war and put a stop to the ignorance. I am proud to get the munchies; proud to come up with profound ideas always prefaced by the word “dude;” proud to forget what I just said five seconds ago; proud to get giggle fits at nothing at all; proud to look dazed and confused; proud to blast classic rock from my car; proud to wear hemp; proud to name my glass bowl like my daughter; proud to notice when the clock changes to 4:20. And, overall, I am proud to smoke this incredible, natural, beautiful gift, enjoying every second of it.