Many of my best experiences being a son were with my Dad while we were driving
somewhere on the weekend. It was during those times that my Dad’s mind would
wander and he’d talk to me about whatever was on his mind (cars, school, and,
uhm, sex) and I’d ask about whatever was on mine (what’s the stock market, why
atomic bombs, and, uhm, sex). On one of those trips, I asked my dad where beer
came from and ultimately why people made it. I remember the answer had
something to do with barrels, rain, and this fundamental truth:
They caught a buzz and humans like getting buzzes.
Wow, that pretty much nailed a critical aspect of human nature for me.
At the time, I didn’t even know what a buzz was or what the metaphor “to catch
one” meant, but Dad’s summation wasn’t far off. Fundamentally, we are Great
Apes who like catching buzzes. An occasional flirtation with zymurgy,
kefir, and kombucha confirmed Dad’s just-so tale: early alcohol was surely
caused by natural yeasts in barrels mixed with rain consuming sugar to make
alcohol in a time far lost to memory. It was an honest and surprisingly adult
answer to give a young lad.
But I had no such space to ask about humans’ love of other drugs and thusly
never did. It didn’t feel safe, this was the era of MADD, “Just Say No” and
ASIDE: Parents of now I’d warn you to be careful about which programs you
let your children internalize. If they’ve been conditioned to proscribe
curiosity, that means they’re not asking you. And if their curiosity isn’t
being addressed by you, it’s likely being catered to by someone else who’s
likely selling them something (looking at you, Pornhub) — possibly
something that distorts a healthy but uncomfortable truth..
Many decades later, with cannabis now recreationally available in several
states in the union, alcohol sales remaining strong, caffeine ubiquitous, and
nicotine experiencing a renaissance in e-cigarettes, we’re seemingly coming to
better grips (and therefore better policies) that are built on the fundamental
truth my Dad shared: human love to get high.
The only questions remaining is which substances will be legally permitted and
which will not? And how will be punish those who choose to fulfill this love or
sell the means to fulfill it? Having long been an advocate for cannabis
decriminalization myself, I thought I’d dig into these questions with Michael
Pollan, the square of squares who wrote the Omnivore’s Dilemma. With the
same journalistic style with which he exposed the problems of industrial scale
food production, I figured Pollan could deliver a measured evaluation of the
science, the value, and the undeserved demonization of psychedelics.
More about Pollan’s experience with psychedelics after the jump