|"A Smoking Club" by James Gillray (They are smoking tobacco, but I liked the illustration.)|
Sex, Drugs & Magick: Chapter Four: The Mexican Weed
I don't think there's as much for me to comment on in this chapter compared to the others. We don't have the ambiguities of a personal anecdote, nor do we have the occult hints of the last chapter proper. Instead, we have a rational history of marijuana and survey of its use that was contemporaneous during the time of publication. This doesn't seem like much anymore when marijuana is a hot topic and the history of the plant is more widely available than ever before. But I'm sure it was revolutionary for many readers over the years and it was for me as well.
As I've mentioned before, when I set out into my occult excursion (from which I have yet to return) I wanted to stay away from drugs; I wanted to work the wonders of the Qabalah and be like one of Yates' Rosicrucian mages. I failed, quickly. Originally, I did stay away from the drug literature, but I was already firmly in the hands of the Magician of Northampton and while I rolled my eyes at the pothead dialogue when I first read Illuminatus!, I knew that I needed to keep reading Wilson. So it would be that Sex, Drugs & Magick was my first proper primer on drugs. This chapter did what it was supposed to; it changed my perspective on cannabis.
Maybe it's a cheap trick to use Washington as a way to legitimize the use of marijuana; pretty much every American has the idea that the Commander of the Continental Army was a god who once walked the earth drilled into us from the youngest age. But it is effective, even for a cynical nineteen year old whose attitude towards marijuana was akin to how he imagined Phillip Marlowe would have felt; only good for addling the mind- stick to alcohol and cigarettes. (I was and am, very dumb. Also- I'm obviously not talking about the best version of Marlowe- Elliot Gould's in Roger Altman's The Long Goodbye.) Hey, if the guy on the one dollar bill smoked weed, what's stopping me.
Interestingly, maybe?, this wasn't the first time I'd heard that Washington had an inordinate fondness for hemp. That was a pretty common piece of lore, even in the Stone Ages before Colorado freed the djinn of civilized cannabis laws, and that piece of lore formed the basis of one of the best scenes in a Pynchon novel, which I read well before Sex, Drugs & Magick. Pynchon's Mason & Dixon contains an enchanting scene where the two surveyors meet with Washington at Mount Vernon and get uproariously high. In the mix is one of Washington's slaves Gershom (he's Jewish for Pynchonean reasons) who becomes much more of an equal as the smoke flows and a merry, snack providing Martha. Even before I ever partook of the pernicious drug myself, I loved that passage.
So perhaps it was a combination of Moore, Wilson, Pynchon and George Washington who got me hooked.
- The jazz "marijuana-cult" has always been a fascinating part of this chapter. When I read Wilson's hope that a jazz historian might one day find out more about this group, I immediately thought of Eric. So Eric, have you ever came across some musician/cheeba-enthusiasts who like fanciful Hindu names?
- Marijuana is pretty unanimously agreed upon as making sex even better. This is such a given to me anymore that I hardly reacted to that part of the chapter at all. If you haven't tried it- boy howdy, you should.
- I hope I'll stop harping on this as much as the rest of you, but I am uncomfortable with the fate of legal cannabis in the United States with the current rhetoric from the Right. If they consolidate power this Autumn and in 2024, I think we could see major setbacks. While some libertarian-leaning conservatives might be cool with marijuana, I feel as if the segment leading this shit vanguard are not. Remember, that it was only June when Laura Ingraham was suggesting that cannabis use is to blame for the recent mass shootings. This makes Biden's heel-dragging on federal decriminalization or legalization all the more frustrating.