From Trousering Your Weasel

In our last post, we discussed how marijuana should not be combined with leftover turkey. So how does marijuana work? Well, it goes straight to the brain, because most of the time that’s already the highest point in the body, and it travels through the blood-brain barrier. The blood-brain barrier exists in order to allow helpful items like glucose and hormones into the brain’s fluid whilst keeping out the little fatties like bacteria and Botulinum that are up to no good. This is why you can inject Botox into your forehead to smooth out wrinkles without worrying about smoothing out the brain also, which you do not want. The active ingredients in marijuana are sleek, and they slither right on in, often illegally, where they wander around before settling down in a few specific areas of the brain: the basal blobular area, the antebellum, and the hippocampus. Fortunately, you’re not using most of your brain most of the time. The basal blobular area is only there to keep the rest of the structure from caving in, and the antebellum sits at the back end to provide a cushion during whiplash events. The hippocampus is from the Latin for “the quad where the large animals hang out and play Frisbee,” and naturally it’s the go-to spot for pot.

The cool guys who were good at tossing a Frisbee could toke on a joint, tuck it under the lip of the Frisbee, and send it to the next guy, and that’s sort of what happens in the brain, too. The hippocampus, like the rest of the brain, is lousy with neurons. There are more neurons in the brain than you can count, because you’d fall asleep before you finished. The neurons are single cells but they are not physically connected, and if they want to communicate, they have to throw neurotransmitter chemicals at each other. The pointy end (the axon) of one neuron winds up and tosses the chemical information to the branchy portion (the dendrites) of another. It’s all Neurons In Space in there, and the neurons rely on each other’s ability to toss and catch to get anything done at all. If the receiving neuron already has its hands full, the doobie of information falls out.

And that’s what happens with the pot. The THC in marijuana acts like just another Frisbee and jams the receiving end of the neurons, which gums up their normal functions. Which, in the hippocampus, include your coordination, your short-term memory, and something else. Something-something. I used to know.

So anyway you might look at a pretty red flower and think: oh, wow, that is so red. And a moment later you’re still looking at the flower but you think it’s the first time you’ve really looked at it, and you think: oh, wow, that is so red. And so on, and so forth, until soon you are steeped in a redundancy of redness and you will be moved to write a poem about it, a poem without any of the coherence you’d have if you could properly recall your most recent thought. But that won’t be clear until you look at the poem later.

And sometimes the fundamental incoherence of your now-compromised neurons starts to set off alarm bells until you’re in a full-blown panic about the situation, no long able to track time, with your past disappearing before your eyes and your future, by extension, in doubt. That’s what started to happen to me every time I smoked pot, which did not prevent me from continuing to smoke pot. Our generation had a lot invested in the idea that marijuana was harmless, and it took a while for me to consider that it might not be that good for me, personally. In reality, many of us had trouble with panic attacks and paranoia, but we didn’t blame the pot. We blamed the Establishment, which was out to get us, a fact we could perceive most clearly when we were stoned.

(Kids are idiots. They’d be better off if they were stashed in the basement at age 13 and not let out until they were 30. Of course, a number of us did spend an equivalent amount of time in the basement, and didn’t turn out that well. But it could have been so much worse.)