From the Archives: The Horror of the High (2020)

By Richard Saunders

“Fear is the mind-killer,” American author Frank Herbert wrote in his 1965 novel Dune. Usually, our fears are not based on reality. Horror films typically hijack existing inner fears, such as the guilt from teenagers who are experimenting with sex and alcohol, only to be offed by serial killer in a slasher film.

This Halloween season, it’s time to dispel some of the horror stories and oddities that surround cannabis use. Often these stories are based on myth or on a misunderstanding of the truth—and don’t involve any actual danger.

Cannabis is one of the least dangerous substances known to man among substances that cause inebriation. For instance, a study published on January 30, 2015, in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature, found that THC falls into the “low risk” category, especially when compared to similar substances such as tobacco or alcohol. In fact, cannabis demonstrated the lowest risk of negative effects of all substances that were observed.

Yet we still commonly hear “horror stories” of people who weren’t prepared for the effects of cannabis in some way. This is usually when someone consumes an edible and gets more of an effect than they bargained for. Too much THC can cause a “white out” or a scary, yet usually non-threatening panic. Fortunately, most High Times readers know how to titrate cannabis and they aren’t affected by white outs or the negative effects of cannabis.

In addition, sometimes we encounter what we think is cannabis—but is actually not what we thought. That’s why it’s important to know what you’re consuming.

Sometimes cannabis can surprise you. Here are a few urban legends and horror stories related to cannabis.


On February 11, 2018, Reddit user u/atreides posted a video in the r/NaturelsFuckingTit of what looked like a nug of weed walking across his hand with tiny legs. It looked exactly like a green nug of weed, but with the legs of a bug. “This is a piece of weed—walking!” the user said. “I don’t believe this. I have never seen weed walk y’all.” This was no alien bug. What it actually was is a specimen of lacewing larvae, an insect that hides under a pillow of debris as camouflage.

Lacewing larvae pick up plant debris, lichen, and remains of bugs and pile it on their back. Interestingly, the bug typically looks like a fluffy green nug, considering that most of the debris is made from plant material. They look almost indistinguishable from a weed nug, other than the fact they have legs and can walk.

Since then, similar videos have emerged on social media, and the lacewing larvae bug has been dubbed the cannabis nug bug. In the event that you see one of your cannabis nugs climb out of your stash box and walk away, don’t smoke it. It’s a bug.

FACTOID: Lacewing larvae are voracious predators, and wolf down aphids and caterpillars with their powerful pincers. They can bite your finger if it is mistaken as a caterpillar. Thankfully, they don’t venture very far from home and only bite when they are disturbed.


This classic caper involves a gullible cop who ate way too much of a cannabis brownie, without any prior research on cannabis or its effects. In Dearborn, Michigan, in 2007, Corporal Edward Sanchez frantically dialed 911 after eating a cannabis-infused brownie with his wife that he had confiscated from an earlier arrest.

This cop didn’t understand the dosage of his edible, or how long it takes for the peak effects of THC. Edibles can take up to two hours to kick in. Not only did the cop think he was overdosing, but he thought he was already dead. “I think we’re dying,” Sanchez cried on a dispatch recording, in a viral YouTube video. “We made brownies, and I think we’re dead, I really do.” Corporal Sanchez was forced to resign, but avoided criminal charges after his hilarious ordeal.

Sadly, Corporal Sanchez would not be the last cop to panic after eating a marijuana edible. In 2018, two cops from the Toronto 13 Division in Canada illogically called for backup after getting too high from eating edibles. Those cops also avoided charges, but were suspended from duty after their mishap. Some people never learn.

FACTOID: You cannot physically overdose on cannabis. You would have to take 40,000 times the normal dosage of THC to die. In a 2005 study by French scientists, 92 mg/kg THC intravenously produced no fatalities in monkeys. That’s comparable to a 154-lb human smoking almost three pounds in one sitting.


In the December 1975 issue of High Times, writer Steve Block described one devilish plant that sounds like a horror story. Often called by its common name, the “Devil’s Snare,” the plant is in the nightshade family and Datura genus. According to a number of reports that fall into urban legend, many teenagers have made the foolish decision to try Jimson weed as an alternative to weed, given the similarity of the names and its psychoactive properties. Weirdly, Datura plants can easily be found in the wild, and are grown for their flowers in some cases.

Almost all reports of Jimson weed read like a horror story: The plant causes intense delirium that lasts for up to several days, and almost all users say they never wanted to try the plant again. That’s because if your family and friends don’t know why you’re delirious, you could end up in the emergency room until doctors can figure out what’s wrong with you. You cannot choose to function when the active chemicals are activated.

Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) contains the tropane alkaloids atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine—which are powerful deliriants.

Never, ever consume Jimson weed. Just don’t. Nearly all reports indicate that the plant’s effects last way too long, and it will inevitably cause problems. It’s also potentially toxic and dangerous for your body. Despite Jimson weed’s use in hundreds of American indigenous cultures as a sacred coming-of-age herb, it causes potentially terrifying visions that last days. Nearly all reports describe its effects as “unpleasant,” despite its power. It’s foul-smelling, and its seed pods are covered in ominous spikes—nature’s way of saying, “Stay away.”

FACTOID: Jimson weed can be used medicinally for poultices to soothe scalds and burns. It’s also aggressively invasive, and probably worse than those random seeds people are receiving from China.


On September 21, 1970, then-unknown actor Bill Murray boarded a flight from Chicago to Denver, where he was enrolled in a pre-med course. He was only 20 years old at the time. The thing was, Murray was carrying 10 pounds of marijuana in his luggage—which is trafficking proportions.

Then Murray, being the jokester he is, was (probably) extra high and joked about having two bombs in his suitcase. Congratulations for staying on the down-low, Bill! Not.

Obviously, the ticket agent did not find his joke funny at all, and immediately notified the U.S. Marshals. Murray panicked and tried to stuff his suitcase into an airport locker, but was unsuccessful, as agents quickly surrounded him. Agents found five two-pound bricks of cannabis supposedly worth $20,000. The horror! Imagine being a 20-year-old pre-med student facing hard time.

Instead, Murray was luckily given only five years probation as a first-time offender, but his days as a pre-med student were over.

FACTOID: This event would actually spark Murray’s interest in acting, and set out the course for his defining career in Hollywood. Murray would go on to meet John Belushi and guest star on the original season of Saturday Night Live, join permanently for the second season, and the rest is history.

High Times Magazine, October 2020

Read the full issue here.

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From the Archives: The Silver Walks (1987)

By William Gibson

She’d had this friend in Cleveland, Lanette, who’d taught her lots of things. How to get out of a car fast if a trick tried to lock the doors on you, how to act when you went to make a buy. Lanette was a little older and mainly used wiz, she said, “to move the down around,” being frequently downed-out on anything from endorphin analogs to plain old Tennessee opium. Otherwise, she said, she’d just sit there twelve hours in front of the vid watching any kind of shit at all. When the wiz added mobility to the warm invulnerability of a good down, she said, you really had something. But Mona noticed that people who were seriously into downs spent a lot of time throwing up, and she couldn’t see why anybody would watch a vid when they could stim just as easy. (Lanette said simstim was just more of what she wanted out of.)

She had Lanette on her mind because Lanette used to give her advice sometimes, like how to turn a bad night around.

Tonight, she thought, Lanette would tell her to look for a bar and some company. She still had some money left from her last night’s work in Florida, so it was a matter of finding a place that took cash.

She hit it right, first try. A good sign. Down a narrow flight of concrete stairs and into a smokey buzz of conversation and the familiar, muted thump of Shabu’s “White Diamonds.” No place for suits, but it wasn’t what the pimps in Cleveland called a spot, either. She was no way interested in drinking in any spot, not tonight.

Somebody got up from the bar to leave just as she came in, so she nipped over quick and got his stool with the plastic still warm, her second sign.

The bartender pursed his lips and nodded, when she showed him one of her bills, so she told him to get her a shot of bourbon and a beer on the side, which was what Eddy always got if he was paying for it himself. If somebody else was paying, he’d order mixed drinks the bartender didn’t know how to make, then spend a long time explaining exactly how you made the thing. Then he’d drink it and bitch about how it wasn’t as good as the ones they made in L.A. or Singapore or some other place she knew he’d never been.

The bourbon here was weird, sort of sour but real good once you got it down. She said that to the bartender, who asked her where she usually drank bourbon. She told him Cleveland and he nodded. That was eth and some shit supposed to remind you of bourbon, he said. When he told her how much of her money was left, she figured out this Sprawl bourbon was expensive stuff. It was doing its job, though, taking the bad edge off, so she drank the rest and started in on her beer.

Lanette liked bars but she never drank, just Coke or something. Mona always remembered one day she’d done two crystals at the same time, what Lanette called a two-rock hit, and she’d heard this voice in her skull say, just as clear as that, like it was somebody right in the room: It’s moving so fast, it’s standing still.

And Lanette, who’d dissolved a matchhead of Memphis black in a cup of Chinese tea about an hour before, did half a crystal herself and then they’d gone out walking, just ghosting the rainy streets together in what felt to Mona like some perfect harmony where you didn’t need to talk. And that voice had been right, there was no jangle to the rush, no tight-jawed jitter, just this sense of something, maybe Mona herself, expanding out from a still center. And they’d found a park, flat lawns flooded with silver puddles, and gone all around the paths, and Mona had a name for that memory: The Silver Walks.

And sometime after that Lanette was just gone, nobody saw her anymore, and some people said she’d gone to California, some people said Japan, and some people said she o.d.’d and got tossed out a window, what Eddy called a dry dive, but that wasn’t the kind of thing Mona wanted to think about, so she sat up straight and looked around, and, yeah, this was a good place, small enough that people were kind of crowded in but sometimes that’s okay. It was what Eddy called an art crowd, people who had some money and dressed sort of like they didn’t, except their clothes fit right and you knew they’d bought them new.

There was a vid behind the bar, up over the bottles, and then she saw Angie there, looking square into the camera and saying something, but they had the sound down too low to hear over the crowd. Then there was a shot from up in the air, looking down on a row of houses that sat right at the edge of a beach, and then Angie was back, laughing and shaking her hair and giving the camera that half-sad grin.

“Hey,” she said to the bartender, “there’s Angie.”


“Angie,” Mona said, pointing up at the screen.

“Yeah,” he said, “she’s on some designer shit and decides to kick, so she goes to South America or somewhere and pays ’em a few mil to clean her act up for her.”

“She can’t be on shit.”

The bartender looked at her. “Whatever.”

“But how come she’d even start doing anything? I mean, she’s Angie, right?”

“Goes with the territory.”

“But look at her,” she protested, “she looks so good…” But Angie was gone, replaced by a black tennis player.

“You think that’s her? That’s a talking head.”


“Like a puppet,” a voice behind her said, and she swung around far enough to see a ruff of sandy hair and a loose white grin. “Puppet,” and held up his hand, wiggling thumb and fingers, “you know?”

She felt the bartender drop the exchange, moving off down the bar. The white grin widened. “So she doesn’t have to do all the stuff herself, right?”

She smiled back. Cute one, smart gray eyes and a secret halo flashing her just the signal she wanted to read. No suit trick. Kinda skinny, she could like that tonight, and the loose look of fun around his mouth set strange against the bright smart eyes.



“My name. Michael.”

“Oh. Mona. I’m Mona.”

“Where you from, Mona?”


And wouldn’t Lanette just tell her go for it?


Eddy hated art crowd people; they weren’t buying what he was selling. He’d have hated Michael more, because Michael had a job and this loft in a co-op building. Or anyway he said it was a loft, but when they got there it was smaller than Angie thought a loft was supposed to be. The building was old, a factory or something; some of the walls were sandblasted brick and the ceilings were wood and timbers. But all of it had been chopped up into places like Michael’s, a room not much bigger than the one back at the hotel, with a sleeping-space off one side and kitchen and bath off the other. It was on the top floor, though, so the ceiling was mostly skylight; maybe that made it a loft. There was horizontal red paper shade below the skylight, hooked up to strings and pulleys, like a big kite. The place was kind of messy but the stuff that was scattered around was all new: some skinny white wire chairs strung with loops of clear plastic to sit on, a stack of entertainment modules, a work station, and a silver leather couch.

They started out on the couch but she didn’t like the way her skin stuck to it, so they moved over to the bed, back in its alcove.

That was when she saw the recording gear, stim stuff, on white shelves on the wall. But the wiz had kicked in again and anyway, if you’ve decided to go for it, you might as well. He got her into the pick-up, a black rubber collar with trode-tipped fingers pressing the base of her skull. Wireless; she knew that was expensive.

While he was getting his own set on and checking the gear on the walls, he talked about his job, how he worked for a company in Memphis that thought up new names for companies. Right now he was trying to think of one for a company called Cathode Cathay. They need it bad, he said, and laughed, but then he said it wasn’t easy. Because there were so many companies already that the good names had been used up. He had a computer that knew all the names of all the companies, and another one that made up words you could use for names, and another one that checked if the made-up words meant dickhead or something in Chinese or Swedish. But the company he worked for didn’t just sell names, they sold what he called image, so he had to work with a bunch of other people to make sure the name he came up with fit the rest of the package. Then he got into bed with her and it wasn’t really great, like the fun was gone and she might as well have been a trick, how she just lay there thinking he was recording it all so he could play it back when he wanted, and how many others did he have in there anyway?

So she lay there beside him, afterward, listening to him breathe, until the wiz started turning tight little circles down on the floor of her skull, flipping her the same sequence of unconnected images over and over: the plastic bag she’d kept her things in down in Florida, with its twist of wire to keep the bugs out—the old man sitting at the chipboard table, peeling a potato with a butcher knife worn down to a nub about as long as her thumb—a krill place in Cleveland that was shaped like a shrimp or something, the plates of its arched back bent from sheet metal and clear plastic, painted pink and orange—the preacher she’d seen when she’d gone to get her new clothes, him and his pale fuzzy Jesus. Each time the preacher came around, he was about to say something, but he never did. She knew it wouldn’t stop unless she got up and got her mind onto something else. She crawled off the bed and stood there looking at him in the gray glow from the skylight. Rapture. Rapture’s coming.

So she went out into the room and pulled her dress on because she was cold. She sat on the silver couch. The red shade turned the gray of the skylight pink, as it got lighter outside. She wondered what a place like this cost.

Now that she couldn’t see him, she had trouble remembering what he looked like. Well, she thought, he won’t have any trouble remembering me, but thinking that made her feel hit or hurt or jerked around, like she wished she’d stayed at the hotel and stimmed Angie.

The gray-pink light was filling up the room, pooling, starting to curdle at the edges. Something about it reminded her of Lanette and the stories that she’d o.d.’d. Sometimes people o.d.’d in other people’s places, and the easiest thing was just toss them out the window, so the cops couldn’t tell where they came from.

But she wasn’t going to think about that, so she went into the kitchen and looked through the fridge and the cabinets. There was a bag of coffee beans in the freezer, but coffee gave you the shakes on wiz. There were a lot of little foil packets with Japanese labels, freeze-dried stuff. She found a package of teabags and tore the seal from one of the bottles of water in the fridge. She put some of the water in a pan and fiddled with the cooker until she got it to heat up. The elements were white circles printed on the black countertop; you put the pan in the center of a circle and touched a red dot printed beside it. When the water was hot, she tossed one of the teabags in and moved the pan off the element.

She leaned over the pan, inhaling herbscented steam.

She never forgot how Eddy looked, when he wasn’t around. Maybe he wasn’t much, but whatever he was, he was there. You have to have one face around that doesn’t change. But thinking about Eddy now maybe wasn’t such a good idea either. Pretty soon the crash would come on, and before then she’d have to figure out a way to get back to the hotel, and suddenly it seemed like everything was too complicated, too many things to do, angles to figure, and that was the crash, when you had to start worrying about putting the day side together again.

She didn’t think Prior was going to let Eddy hit her, though, because whatever he wanted had something to do with her looks. She turned around to get a cup.

Prior was there in a black coat. She heard her throat make a weird little noise all by itself.

She’d seen things before, crashing on wiz; if you looked at them hard enough, they went away. She tried it on Prior but it didn’t work.

He just stood there, with a kind of plastic gun in his hand, not pointing it at her, just holding it. He was wearing gloves like the ones Gerald had worn for the examination. He didn’t look mad but for once he wasn’t smiling. And for a long time he didn’t say anything at all, and Mona didn’t either.

“Who’s here?” Like you’d ask at a party.



She pointed toward the sleeping-space.

“Get your shoes.”

She walked past him, out of the kitchen, bending automatically to hook her underwear up from the carpet. Her shoes were by the couch.

He followed and watched her put her shoes on. He still had the gun in his hand. With his other hand, he took Michael’s leather jacket from the back of the couch and tossed it to her. “Put it on,” he said. She did, and tucked the underwear into one of its pockets.

He picked up the torn white raincoat, wadded it into a ball, and put it into his coat pocket.

Michael was snoring. Maybe he’d wake up soon and play it all back. With the gear he had, he didn’t really need anybody there.

In the corridor, she watched Prior relock the door with a gray box. The gun was gone, but she hadn’t seen him put it away. The box had a length of red flex sticking out of it with an ordinary-looking magnetic key on the end.

Out in the street was cold. He took her down the block and opened the door of a little white three-wheeler. She got in. He got in the driver’s side and peeled the gloves off. He started the car; she watched a blowing cloud reflected in the copper-mirrored side of a business tower.

“He’ll think I stole it,” she said, looking down at the jacket.

Then the wiz flashed a final card, ragged cascade of neurons across her synapses: Cleveland in the rain and a good feeling she had once, walking.


Copyright 1987 by William Gibson

Excerpt from Mona Lisa Overdrive, to be published 1988 by Bantam Books

High Times Magazine, November 1987

Read the full issue here.

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From the Archives: Michael R. Aldrich (1998)

By Gregory Daurer

Michael R. Aldrich has planted the seeds of many great ideas. A longtime teacher and historian to America’s cannabis movement Aldrich presented the first conference dedicated to legalizing marijuana. He was instrumental in organizing 1972’s California Marijuana Initiative and 1996’s Proposition 215. Aldrich gave Jack Herer a packet of hemp rolling papers in the early ’70s and explained hemp’s industrial uses to him. A decade later, he edited an early edition of Herer’s The Emperor Wears No Clothes. He resides in San Francisco with his wife, Michelle.

HT: What led you from Rapid City, South Dakota to studying philosophy at Princeton in the early 1960s?

Michael Aldrich: A full scholarship. I was a debater in high school. In the Midwest, debate is sort of the national sport for boys with glasses. A special breed, you understand. I had traveled a lot during high school to debate tournaments and extemporaneous speaking and oratory events. I still have my “I Speak for Democracy” award. And I’m still speaking for democracy, damn it! It’s just the rest of the country, the government, that’s gotten too far behind on democracy. “Freedom Is the Issue,” that was our motto for the ’72 marijuana initiative in California.

What do you recall about your first marijuana experience?

I started smoking in 1963, because of a lovely woman named Betty who was going to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who I remember as sort of a Beat chick. She wore all black and danced like a snake, and I dearly loved her. She handed me my first joint in Harvard Yard on the evening of August 6. It changed my entire life. I was at Harvard summer school taking a graduate-school class in English and studying poetry with Desmond O’Grady.

In what ways did you have your eyes opened?

I think that marijuana’s greatest gift to humanity is the gift of appreciation. I think the ability to just open your eyes and appreciate things: to actually be able to look at something, actually be able to hear something, and ignore a lot of the static, and the noise, and the interpretation, and the newspaper values, and the television imagery and all this stuff that the information overload pours on our heads every day. If you can just ignore all of the rainfall and start hearing the individual drops, I think that’s kind of what marijuana does for your senses. It allows you to hear things that you don’t pay attention to, and to see things that you might just kind of casually pass over. And to see that there is a world in a grain of sand, to use the famous Blake line.

As a graduate student in English at SUNY-Buffalo in 1967 you founded a chapter of the marijuana-law-reform group LeMar—other chapters having been started earlier by poets Allen Ginsberg, Ed Sanders and John Sinclair. What was that experience like?

Buffalo was a very square steel town. So when I came out in favor of legalized marijuana, I cut my hair, I put on a necktie and I was very, very straight. I’ll never forget the wonderful, first sentence that appeared about me in the Buffalo Evening News: “Amidst a sea of beards and long hair, young clean-shaven graduate student Michael R. Aldrich today became Buffalo’s King of Pot.” This caused an immediate uproar in uptight Buffalo.

I think what inspired me was not just imitating what my poetic friends were doing, but that I’d spent a year in India in 1965 as a Fulbright tutor in English. I had tried marijuana a couple of times in the United States but doing it was unusual: It was not in the mainstream, it was a very “beatnik” thing. In India, quite the opposite: Drinking alcohol was considered quite outré. From the Indian point of view, marijuana had been commonly used at weddings, funerals, special occasions and tea parties—in little butter cookies and vanilla-cardamom milkshakes called bhang. And it was just a casual thing that had been used for thousands of years.

And that for me was a real eye-opener. It was my first ethnographic experience of a culture that was based on marijuana rather than alcohol. My opinion then, and it still is, is that the legalization of marijuana would be a real helpful thing for American society. As a culture, it would help take us off our speed and alcohol addictions.

I was so moved by my experience in India that when I came back, I not only founded the first college chapter of LeMar, but I also wrote my doctoral dissertation on cannabis myths and folklore. It was one of the first Ph.D.s in marijuana ever awarded and earned me the nickname “Doctor Dope.”

Later you moved to California to help run Amorphia.

Amorphia was the name of our company that marketed hemp rolling papers for the first time in the United States in over 30 years. It was started in 1969 by Blair Newman, who has since died. Blair deserves to be remembered for the outrageous idea he had: Why don’t we make products out of hemp and sell them to finance the marijuana-legalization movement? And then once marijuana was legalized as a result of that, you pour all the money from cultivating and selling marijuana into other social change. It’s a brilliant concept.

He invited me out to California when I graduated from SUNY-Buffalo in 1970 to help set up this company. He set up the business end, and I ran the political end of it. We marketed four different kinds of “Acapulco Gold” rolling papers. That was the first time hemp products had been marketed in the United States since the 1930s. It took us almost a year to find out who we could order hemp from, and it took another year before the Spanish cigarette paper manufacturer could set up their machinery in such a way that they could ship us the product with our label on It. It took a specialty labeling machine that they had to build for us.

How much did Amorphia raise through the sale of rolling papers?

Oh, probably $200,000. In 1972 that was hard money, not inflation dollars. It was almost all the money the California Marijuana Initiative (CMI) raised for organizational expenses. It was Proposition 19 on the November 1972 ballot, the same ballot George McGovern was running on against Richard Nixon. It made the ballot due to 20,000 volunteers who subsisted on no money. We didn’t have any money for salaries. We poured all the money we could raise into manufacturing T-shirts, posters, signs, buttons, which we could resell again and raise more money. It was the first time that marijuana had ever been offered for a popular vote anywhere in the world.

You’ve written that you considered the 33% of the vote garnered by CMI—which would have allowed personal possession and cultivation of marijuana—a “victory.” Why do you say that?

Oh, absolutely a victory! I was flabbergasted by that percentage of the vote. What it meant was for the first time in history people actually had to look at marijuana supporters as a voting bloc, as an honest-to-God political constituency. And that made all the difference In the world. That’s what caused California state Senator George Moscone, this was before he was mayor of San Francisco, to introduce a bill into the California legislature and caused state Senate hearings on the subject of marijuana decriminalization.

And at those hearings I was in charge for Senator Moscone of doing a fiscal analysis on how much the enforcement of marijuana laws was costing us in California. And the answer amazingly was $100 million a year. Really! That information itself was astonishing to the legislators. They had no idea California law enforcement was spending $100 million a year putting a few thousand people In jail for marijuana.

That’s when it was a felony offense, of course, and even possession of the smallest amount—two seeds in your purse—and it was all over.

Back in June of 1971, you also testified in San Francisco before the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, which eventually recommended to President Nixon that marijuana be decriminalized.

I gave an impromptu speech on why we needed legalization and it went on much longer than they wanted to hear. But the audience wouldn’t let them stop me. So I talked for about fifteen minutes and I ended up with the sentence that was our motto for Amorphia: “What we want is free, legal, backyard marijuana!” Which was a sentence that had been invented by Ponderosa Pine, one of the original founders of the Yippies.

The whole audience went up in flames: They stomped, they clapped, they stood up, they cheered! The chairman of the commission, Raymond Shafer, a former governor of Pennsylvania, was up front gaveling the group down. He said, “Doctor Aldrich! Why did you bring your cheering section?” I said, “I don’t know any of these people! I just moved here.”

How do you feel now that California passed Proposition 215—allowing the medical use of marijuana—in 1996?

We were very pleased and delighted. And the reason that we were excited Is that it’s not a stalking horse for legalization—but because of patients’ rights. Patients have the right now under state law, regardless of what the federal government says, to grow their own pot or to obtain pot some way for medical uses. I regard that as very important. It was not a hoax campaign.

I was hoping that President Clinton would lighten up a bit and allow something that had been democratically approved by the majority of the people of California—even using this as a research experiment in finding out whether or not marijuana has real medical value, by doing longitudinal studies with large populations in California, where it’s now legal to do so.

But instead of doing that, Clinton still abides by this 1930s “Reefer Madness” mentality: “I never inhaled, therefore no one else gets to inhale even if they’re sick and dying.” Which is really the height of political stupidity for a political leader. I have one message for Bill Clinton: Pay attention to the people, Bill. That’s who elected you, and that’s who you should listen to, instead of the stupid Republican politicians.

What spurred you to become involved in AIDS education?

At the end of 1986 my wife Michelle and I had a very dear friend named Dennis Deal. Dennis was a gay man, and he was made homeless when Mayor Dianne Feinstein closed down a large gay hotel South of Market in San Francisco and made about 25 or 30 gay men homeless in order to turn that hotel into a homeless hotel. That made no sense at all. Dennis called us up and asked if he could stay at our place until he found an apartment. He was in dire straits at that point: He had just been told that week that he had HIV. We invited him over. He spent four months with us, dying in our living room—then in our bedroom. It was horrendous. I think we were one of the first heterosexual couples in San Francisco to have AIDS in our house, a person dying in our bedroom.

By January of 1987 Dennis was gone, and I vowed to do something to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. A terrible, ugly disease. And the very worst thing about AIDS is it strikes at our ability to live on this planet. It strikes at the human species. And by that I mean the immune system is the only defense we have against all of the elements on this planet that can kill us, whether they’re diseases or injuries or anything else from which the body can naturally recover.

What are you doing currently?

I work with the Institute for Community Health Outreach, which provides statewide AIDS training programs and local AIDS prevention services. We have one of the best outreach services in the United States, and we teach people how to do outreach in all communities at high risk for HIV.

What I do there is put together training seminars for Community Health Outreach Workers (CHOWs). I think that’s going to be a real important career in the early 21st century. In these days of “mismanaged care,” the best community response I can think of is to have CHOWs who are willing to take medical and social services to people in their own homes and communities and neighborhoods.

Another longstanding position of yours has been as curator of the Fitz Hugh Ludlow Memorial Library.

After Amorphia folded in 1973 I was looking around for something to do. My friends Michael and Cindy Horowitz [Winona Ryder’s parents], Bob and Kay Barker, and a rarebook dealer in Los Angeles, Bill Dailey, had already started the Ludlow Library in 1969 or 1970. It was named after Fitz Hugh Ludlow, who was the author of The Hasheesh Eater, written in 1857. In terms of writing from personal experience about a psychedelic experience, Fitz Hugh Ludlow’s book was the very first in the whole world. That’s why they named the library after him.

What’s in the collection?

We have a 1741 poem to hemp by Baruffaldi; in the back of that is a grower’s manual. We have a 1788 letter from the Viceroy of Mexico commanding the mission at Monterey to plant the first hemp crops in California. We have first editions of Thomas DeQuincey’s classic Confessions of an Opium Eater, Baudelaire, Ludlow, Bayard Taylor and all kinds of early authors about drugs. And everything Timothy Leary wrote is in the library; in fact, Leary left his own personal archives with the library when he escaped from the country in 1970. We have somewhere around 15,000 books. That ranges from extremely rare first-edition books of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries to the sleaziest little pulp paperbacks.

So I became the curator of the Ludlow Library and I still am. It’s the world’s largest private collection of drug books, literature, posters, paraphernalia, ephemera and artifacts. It’s a wonderful collection, and it’s too bad we’ve had to put it into storage since 1981. What I’d like to do is interest Bill Gates or somebody like that in putting the entire Ludlow Library into computer form.

How do you view your place in marijuana history?

I regard myself as an archivist, a rememberer. I’m kind of the living historian of the marijuana movement in the United States.

I remember everything. I know that marijuana sometimes interferes with short-term memory in the sense that you can’t remember the start of a sentence or the start of your thought. But at the same time I earnestly believe that marijuana has a long-term memory gain. Which is somehow almost a Jungian archetype-type memory. I believe that marijuana allows us to tap into something deep in our genetic makeup that is something like a human memory system. I suppose that Freud might have called it the subconscious. A species-wide subconsciousness.

You’ve studied the history of psychoactive substances, yet you also prognosticate on future drugs. What’s coming in the decades ahead?

I think the drugs of the 21st century are going to make crack look like child’s play. They’re going to be so powerful and so abusable and so desirable, because they’ll be targeted for a specific intent. By that I mean you’re going to have drugs, for example, that are performance enhancers. Drugs that will allow you to stay up for 30 hours at top efficiency—that’s a military drug right there. There will be drugs that allow you to sleep for five days if you need to do that—or maybe for five years in cryo-storage for space travel. There will be drugs that will reduce the paranoia of living in constricted, confined, overpopulated environments, such as spaceships. There will be drugs related to improving memory. There will be drugs to allow you to forget traumatic events. Aphrodisiacs and anaphrodisiacs. Drugs to improve your ability to compose music. There will be creativity enhancers.

If we try to continue the prohibitionist policies of the late 20th century—especially as they apply to 19th-century drugs, we’re going to be totally lost in the 21st century. Because the technology, the chemistry, the pharmacology, the neurology and the genetic information is going to bypass the rate at which politicians can prohibit things. It’s just that simple. There are drugs on the street right now that politicians don’t even know about—and I shouldn’t say more than that. But it will be an entirely new world of drugs very soon.

High Times Magazine, July 1998

Read the full issue here.

The post From the Archives: Michael R. Aldrich (1998) appeared first on High Times.

From the Archives: Fear of Flying (1994)

By Gene Christian

To quit or not to quit, that is the question. It seems as good a time as any to quit, at least here in New York City. There’s a new sheriff in town, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who rose to power partly on his sworn pledge to “rid the streets of drugs.” Now take that pledge and filter it through one of the most corrupt police forces in the country, and you have a scaled-down version of the Reagan/Bush War On Drugs of a couple years back: Cocaine and heroin remain protected by organized crime, while it’s open season on your friendly neighborhood pot-smoker. Weed prices soar through the roof and coke and dope are cheaper and purer than ever. I mean really, when was the last time New York experienced a “heroin drought”?

And sure enough, exactly one day before starting this article, I ventured over to the Meadow in Central Park in search of a dime bag when I was approached by a six-and-ahalf-foot Irish dealer with red hair and a handle-bar mustache saying, “Buds, dude?” About 50 feet in front of me, poorly hidden behind a patch of trees, was a blue and white paddy wagon full of cops waiting for the moment they could haul my ass over to Rikers and throw me in a cell with that crazy Jamaican motherfucker who shot up the LIRR some months back.

I looked at my “dealer” and said, “Not today copper, I ain’t your Willie Horton!”

It seems everybody I know has tried to quit at one point or another, with varied degrees of success. And I suppose it’s good to know you can do it if you have to. Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll want to join the LAPD and have to pass a urine test before I’m given free license to beat passing motorists with impunity. The problem I was faced with upon accepting this assignment was I just didn’t want to quit. I mean, HIGH TIMES asking me to secretly infiltrate Potsmokers Anonymous and undergo a cure is kind of like Kirk asking Scotty to beam aboard a Klingon ship and go native. I had this image of them asking me why I wanted to quit smoking pot and me answering, “Because it makes my mouth dry….”

I had never been to a rehabilitation meeting of any kind, so I was thoroughly unprepared for what was in store for me. I felt no shame for my indulgences and I half imagined myself bursting in on the meeting—making a grand entrance, perhaps a running leap through the air that culminated in a slide that extended halfway across the room, after which I would proudly rise to my feet and say, “My name is Gene Christian and I am a pot-smoker!”

Potsmokers Anonymous’ open-house meetings are held every Wednesday evening at 6:15 PM at the East Manhattan School for Bright and Gifted Children, located at 208 East 18th St. in Manhattan. The first things to hit you once you walk inside are the blinding fluorescent lights and dirty yellow walls that are par for the course at any New York City educational facility. Walking through the hallway, staring at scrawled art projects on the walls, you begin to think that something’s not quite right. Then you come to the room where the meetings are held—a nursery school playroom.

It was the holiday season and decorating the walls in obscene combinations of red, white and green were the children’s own fingerpainted holiday portraits—Santa Claus standing in a green snowstorm with what seemed to be an ax sticking out of his head and a sled pulled by a random cast of pit bulls and wild boars. Next to it was a more impressionistic piece, a preschool depiction of either a Christmas tree or the right-hand panel of Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights.” All colors were swirled and mixed to form one primary color—a muddy purple-black. Together all the pieces would have made a fine coffee-table book called It’s a Rorschach Christmas.

I was clearly too stoned to be in such an environment. Figuring that this was only the open house, and that my rehabilitation hadn’t “officially” begun, I’d got myself good and blunted beforehand. Now I was paying the price. Other potential “quitters” started taking seats in the aluminum chairs arranged in a semicircle in the center of the room. Soon Francis Duffy, director of Potsmokers Anonymous, introduced himself.

Potsmokers Anonymous was founded in New York City in June 1978 by psychotherapist Dr. David Izenzon, as a nonprofit educational program dedicated to freeing people from the insidious grip of marijuana, “the drug that quietly undoes your life.” He developed a nine-week course in which pot-smokers were to gradually decrease their usage while developing “emotional recognition skills.” The good doctor has since passed on and it is now directed by Francis Duffy, himself a graduate of the program.

“It is the nature of pot to subdue your processing of feelings,” says Francis Duffy to the group. “It’s an emotional anesthetic. When was the last time you were truly angry? Happy? Sad? It is impossible to lead an emotionally fulfilling life and still smoke pot…it comes to the point where you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I smoking pot or is pot smoking me?’”

The group itself consisted of seven people, mostly yuppie-career types who had just gotten off work. Notable exceptions were a hybrid Deadhead/grunge-rocker who looked about as stoned as I was, and one woman dressed in the Lower East Side’s finest: ripped jeans, Doc Martens and a funny hat.

We were given the “Five Danger Signs” of pot dependency:

1. Nervousness when the supply runs low

2. Forgetfulness

3. Fatigue

4. The “Yes, but…” syndrome (…yes, but I can stop anytime I want…yes, but it’s better than drinking alcohol or breathing polluted air, etc…)

5. The Amotivational Syndrome

The Amotivational Syndrome was by far the most insidious symptom of pot-smoking, explained Mr. Duffy. “It’s the ‘hidden price tag’…the all-encompassing yet invisible inertia in the face of life.”

I was guilty of most, if not all of the danger signs. I started wondering, is it possible? Do I have a problem? Is there such a thing as too much marijuana? I thought back to when I was in college, living next to two Deadheads. Between them they must have had 700 Dead tapes and all I ever remember them doing is smoking weed, eating Ben and Jerry’s and staring for hours at Deadbase IV, as if hidden inside its pages somewhere was the secret of the universe. “It’ll never happen to me,” I said, but who knows what that foul bitch Fate has in store for me?

After the introduction, we were told that groups would meet in two weeks’ time and would cost a whopping $40 a session.

“It’s only a quarter of what you would spend a week on weed,” said Francis Duffy, and I wondered just where the hell he got that figure. “It’s expensive, but think of all the money you’ll save once you quit smoking.”

“Mr. Duffy?” I said, moved to speak.


“How about if we just go through the course and pay upon successful rehabilitation?”

His shrill laugh told me it was going to be a long nine weeks.

Two weeks later I was killing time before my first meeting by trying to smoke up the rest of my stash while flipping between GeraIdo and Donahue. Geraldo’s topic of the afternoon was “KKK Kids—Children Too Young to Hate,” and Donahue had a panel of crackheads—three black, one white. What I really wished was for both panels to be on the same show and for Phil and Geraldo to hand out flame-throwers. That would certainly ignite that good ol’ American car-crash bloodlust. Colostomy bags from here to Miami would begin to fill with warm, brown fear and we could all feel a little bit better about draining the life savings on our new home alarm system.

It seemed to me a bad omen. Somehow I knew that once I left my apartment, I would also be leaving behind the ability to entertain myself at the misfortunes of others.

Assembled once again in the nursery room, I was surprised to find that only three other “abusers” aside from myself had shown up for the meeting. Our counselor Ivan introduced himself. Ivan had been through the program itself and had been so impressed he decided to undergo the six-month training program supervised by Francis Duffy to qualify as a counselor. He appeared to be about 40, dressed casually in jeans and a t-shirt. When he told us he was a salesman during the day, I wondered if it wouldn’t have been wiser for me to save myself the $40 fee and go take my troubles across the street to one of the guys at The Wiz.

Ivan explained that he had started smoking weed in college and had continually smoked for 10 years, sometimes dealing in order to pay for his habit. One day he realized he had a problem. “I wanted to get married, and my fiancee was worried that I smoked too much pot. She wanted me to go have my lungs and my sperm checked by a doctor. Well, I came back from the doctor with some distressing news…. He said my sperm were ‘sluggish.’ ” Personally, I couldn’t see what Ivan was complaining about—if anything, I’d like to train my sperm to retreat. “I was really upset and the doctor told me I was smoking too much pot….”

Okay. Now I have a confession to make.

I’ve never told anybody this, but I feel that in order for me to give an honest account of my experience, it must be revealed. It’s something that happens to me when I find myself in ugly, boring scenes like this—on the bus or subway, on line at Motor Vehicles—I look around, find the most attractive woman in the room, and lose myself in carnal fantasy. On the surface, this doesn’t sound strange at all. It’s when you’re caught in situations where really, there’s no one even remotely attractive and you start daydreaming about yourself and a 200-pound waitress with a gap between her teeth you could fit a dime through, that it enters the realm of the bizarre.

I found my attentions drifting over towards a slightly overweight blonde dressed in yuppie attire—blue skirt, stockings and the obligatory post-work sneakers. Save for her wandering eye, she wasn’t all that bad. She seemed like the type who 15 years ago used to hang out in the parking lot of White Castle drinking beer, smoking weed and listening to Black Sabbath. And after 10 minutes of Ivan and his lethargic sperm, I didn’t care whether her eye packed up and moved to Acapulco. I started imagining myself and her up in the rafters at a Blue Oyster Cult concert at Nassau Coliseum circa 1975, smoking a joint the size of a banana and dreaming about prom night.

“The good news is,” Ivan continued, “since I quit smoking, MY SPERM’S OKAY!” Both fists raised triumphantly toward the sky in procreative glee.

Next, Ivan passed each of us a stack of index cards. On each card was written a reason for smoking pot. We were instructed to choose the cards that applied to our particular situation. Once finished, Ivan called upon us to tell a little about ourselves and reveal our cards to the group.

First to go was Scott, the Deadhead/grungerocker from the open house. Weed had lost its magic for Scott. Lately, every joint he smoked left him with a heavy dose of The Fear. “It was like the song goes,” he explained. “‘Going down the road, feelin’ bad….’” His grades were dropping and he figured if he didn’t stop smoking and hit the books, his dad was going to yank him out of New York University and get him a job as a realtor. He was finding it difficult to quit because he was in a band full of pot-smokers. Among the cards he had chosen from the pile was one labeled “Pot makes music better.”

“The thing you must remember,” explained Ivan, “is that when you are under the influence of a drug, how can you be sure it’s better?”

“I dunno,” shrugged Scott. “All my favorite bands did drugs—Hendrix, Zeppelin, the Stones, Aerosmith….”

“Yeah, but Hendrix is dead, so are some of the guys from the Stones and Zeppelin. Aerosmith, on the other hand, are clean and sober and they’re soundin’ better than ever….”

It was right about there that Ivan lost any remote trace of credibility with me. I mean, anybody who would put Get a Grip above Rocks or Toys In the Attic had nothing to teach me.

Next was Chuck. Chuck was tall and skinny and dressed smartly in a corporate suit and tie. He explained that years back, he had fallen in with the wrong crowd at college, and after having recently lost his job, all he wanted to do now was piece himself together enough to get a job at Chemical Bank and forget about weed altogether. Pot was a handicap in the rat race. He held up his various cards, the two most notable being, “Pot helps me tolerate being treated like a moron” and “I’m 40 years old and I still hang out with teenagers.”

My blonde blushed when her turn came.

“My name’s Barbara and uh…l have a lot of cards….” One after the other, she held them up—”Pot makes TV better,” “Pot makes sex better,” “I can’t go to the movies without getting stoned,” “Pot helps me deal with my parents,” “Pot puts me in touch with my feelings….”

“Jeez,” she said coyly in a Brooklyn accent. “I’m so embarrassed.”

“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” said Ivan. “We’re all here for the same reasons…and finally, your name is?”

“Uh….” It took a moment to realize that he was talking to me, I was still pretty high. “Yeah, uh…my name’s Gene.”

“Any cards, Gene?”

I looked down at my pile of cards and instead of holding them all up, I choose the one that I felt best described my situation: “Pot is my way of life.”

“Hmmm….” Ivan said, writing something down on a note pad. “Let me ask you, Gene, do you do other drugs?”

“Whattaya mean?”

“Well, do you drink?”

“Well yeah, doesn’t everybody?”

“Uh…no. Acid, mushrooms?”

“I have…”


“Are you buying?”

Ivan started writing furiously on his pad as the others kind of stared at me and suddenly my function in this group came clear to me. I was the control experiment, the challenge. I felt like one of Geraldo’s daytime-TV patsies. No one in the group had to say it, I could read it on their faces loud and clear: “Hell, at least I ain’t THAT bad….”

Concluding the meeting, Ivan gave us our “homework” for the week. This comprised mostly of a series of calculations. He wanted to know:

1. The amount of money we spend annually on weed; 2. Any loss of income due to smoking weed; 3. Time “lost” per day stoned; and 4. The number of tokes we take in a given day.

The “toke count” is the official measurement of pot intake used by Potsmokers Anonymous.

It’s how progress is measured, much like the “body counts” of the Vietnam War. Ivan suggested what he called the “toke and stroke” method whereby the smoker, upon every toke, was to note it with the stroke of a pen on paper.

“But what if we’re smoking with other people in a social situation?” I asked. “If I start writing things down on a piece of paper, they’re gonna think I’m a narc.”

“No one said quitting was going to be easy, Gene.”

As we sat in our semicircle the next week, Ivan greeted us all cheerfully and said, “Welcome to week two—the beginning of our journey to awareness.”

Going around the room, we all gave our data to Ivan. The amount of money spent annually on weed by each of us varied from $800 (Chuck) to an overwhelming $5,000 (Barbara). Barbara’s face went red again as she revealed the sum to us. The only one of us who figured they had lost any income was Chuck because he was currently unemployed. The time “lost” being stoned averaged from eight to 16 hours a day and our toke counts ranged drastically from 10 (Chuck) to 57 (Barbara).

When I told Ivan that my toke count of 20 a day was basically a guess, he got a little pissed.

“Gene, you have to have faith in the program and use the tools I give you. If I say toke and stroke, I mean toke and stroke! No exceptions!”

With my chastisement out of the way, Ivan went on to explain once again that when we are stoned, we are unaware of our true feelings. He believed the reason we were smoking pot was because we were unable to face certain emotions.

“I don’t think I agree with that,” Barbara said, beating me to it. “I find when I smoke pot, my feelings are if anything, stronger….”

“And I’m sorry, Ivan,” I said, “but I don’t think ‘Living on the Edge’ is anywhere near as good as ‘Back in the Saddle.’”

“Huh? Guys, guys…let me make my point, then I’ll answer your questions…. Now, we at Potsmokers Anonymous have come up with a system that will help you come to terms with the feelings that you have been denying yourself while stoned.” With that he passed us each a little chart. Across the top of the chart a 24-hour time period was divided into four six-hour sections, and down the side was written the words Fear, Anger, Love and Pain. “All of your emotions can be divided into one of these four categories. What we want you to do is, throughout your day, when you are feeling one of these emotions, mark it on the chart. We call this the FLAP system. If you are feeling good, happy, I want you to FLAP Love. If you’re pissed off at your boss, don’t let it get the best of you—just FLAP anger. If you’re nervous, I want you to FLAP Fear. Got it? I can’t tell you what FLAP-ing has done for my life, how it has put me in touch with feelings I never knew I had.”

We did some practice FLAP-ing where he read us a story about (of all things) Popeye and Olive Oyl being harassed by Brutus. We were to FLAP what emotions we thought Popeye was going through at any particular moment. All the while I kept thinking to myself that FLAP-ing sounded like something I might do after eating too much Mexican food.

Our homework for the next week was to FLAP diligently, every day. We were also to reduce our toke counts by three a day and to institute what Ivan called the “ten-minute rule.” This meant we were to wait 10 minutes before smoking and contemplate whether it’s something we really want to be doing.

“Hey Ivan,” I asked. “How about if I keep my toke count the same, but I switch from Kind to commercial?”

“Nothin’ doing. And I want you all, if you think you are going to surpass your toke count, to call me first. Okay? And Gene—no guessing this time! And don’t forget to FLAP!”

I reached my toke count with some of the HIGH TIMES crew in front of the No-Tell Motel down on Avenue A about one hour after leaving the meeting. I figured that, since it took about 10 minutes to roll the joint, I was still doing okay in that department. But when I finally began refusing my turn at the joint, everybody started giving me strange looks. I told them I’d reached my toke count and they started calling me a lightweight. Then someone suggested I call Ivan up and see if he’d let me borrow some tokes from next week’s count. It seemed reasonable enough.

“Hello Ivan? This is Gene from P.A. I called to tell you I’m goin’ over.”

“Wait a second, Gene. Let’s talk this out…”

“I’m up to my limit but my friends here got a joint and it’s starin’ at me like a goddamn hungry vulture. I’m FLAP-ing some pretty serious Pain. You gotta let me blow one on credit, Ivan.”

“Did you do the toke and stroke?”

“Ah… no.”

“You know, Gene. I can’t help you if you don’t have faith in the methods of the program. You know, sometimes I get the impression that you don’t want to quit.”

“My friends are calling me a ‘lightweight,’ Ivan. There’s a small matter here of my reputation to uphold.”

“Well if they’re saying that, Gene, maybe they aren’t your friends.”

We both agreed that maybe I should start taking the program more seriously. We made an agreement to speak privately after next week’s class.

The following week, when it came time to start the meeting, the only people who showed were myself and Chuck. Barbara and Scott must have bailed, and Ivan was running late. I asked Chuck whether he thought the course was helping him. He shrugged his shoulders and told me he didn’t know what else to do. We both agreed that we didn’t find the course remarkable enough to justify the $40 a week expense.

I told Chuck that I had heard about a free 12-step program called Marijuana Anonymous that was meeting in an hour over at the Fourteenth Street Workshop and we both grabbed our coats and agreed to meet there. As I left the building, I sadly mused upon the fact that me and Barbara would probably never see each other again.

Later, at the 12-step program, I sat in the brightly lit, olive-drab room and listened to the stories. In a group of nine people, I was the only one who held my tongue. People talked of money and friends lost due to drugs and alcohol—of time wasted and opportunities lost.

Some spoke of The Fear—of being stoned in a room and imagining that all eyes were focused upon them in judgment. One guy even told the story about how one night he was rushed to the emergency room because he had a roach stuck in his ear. He was saving it there for later, he explained.

Each story seemed tinged with a small dose of self-loathing. Everybody shook their heads solemnly with each tale of woe and thanked each other for having the courage to speak up. Some had been sober now for two weeks, others two years and for that I too congratulated them. Some were happy, even satisfied and who was I to take that from them? The truth is, though, as I sat there, all I could think about was how the hell I could get out of there without hurting anybody’s feelings. I was feeling restless and I wanted a beer. This wasn’t my scene, not yet at least.

“Now let us join our hands in prayer,” said the moderator. Before I knew it, I was joining hands in the center of the room with all the others as they recited the “Serenity Prayer.”

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

With that finished, everyone introduced themselves to me, welcomed me to the group, even commented that they liked my attire. Chuck grabbed my hand and shook it and said, “I can’t thank you enough, Gene, for telling me about this place.”

I walked out of the meeting feeling as though I had just witnessed something I wasn’t meant to see, like I had just stolen a peek up my mother’s skirt or something. By the exit doors, I passed a 300-pound Hispanic woman with an inoculation scar that upon first glance was the spitting image of Richard Nixon. On the phone she said, “Come pick me up, Tony, I just came from the Messy Apartment meeting….”

I hit Fourteenth Street, zipped into the nearest Irish bar and ordered a pint of Guinness in an effort to recover from the severe bummer I’d just been through.

It wasn’t too cold out that night and I figured maybe when I left the bar, I’d take a walk up Broadway, smoke myself a spliff and bug out on the lights and faces, Rudy Giuliani be damned. And when I hit Times Square, who knows? Maybe I’d grab myself a 40-ounce Crazy Horse and drink it out of a brown paper bag so no one on the Doo-Wop would think I’m from Connecticut.

It’s the American in me that drives me on—the frontiersman, if you will. The gold rush has long since died and Teddy Roosevelt is now just a name in a history book. What’s left to fill that void? I’m an Evel Knievel man myself. Sometimes you’ve got to create your own adventure. What’s wrong with trying to grab a little glory by hurling yourself into potentially suicidal situations and proving to yourself and the world that you can make it on guts and instinct alone? And if I wake up tomorrow in some cheap hotel trying desperately to remove the roach stuck in my ear as some 300-pound crack whore snores away next to me in a malt liquor-induced coma, I won’t despair. I will simply accept if as a thing of my own doing, the same way that Custer had to accept, for that brief moment, that that arrow sticking out of his heart was his own damn fault.

High Times Magazine, July 1994

Read the full issue here.

The post From the Archives: Fear of Flying (1994) appeared first on High Times.

Joan Jett Deflects Ted Nugent Criticism, Cites 1977 High Times Interview

Joan Jett stated her case in a new interview with NME—citing a wild conversation Ted Nugent had with High Times in 1977.

Rolling Stone included Jett as #87 in their list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of all time, which was originally published in 2003. Last December, Nugent—who didn’t make the list—slammed the decision to include Jett in the list.

“You have to have shit for brains and you have to be a soulless, soulless prick to put Joan Jett [on the list],” Nugent said during a livestream on his YouTube account on December 30, 2021.

Jett fired back months later, defending her status as one of the greatest guitarists, and explaining that Nugent’s attack was a poor choice of words based on past interviews.

“Is that his implication,” Jett asked NME, “that he should be on the list instead of me? Well, that’s just typical—it’s what I’ve dealt with my whole life, being written off. Ted Nugent has to live with being Ted Nugent. He has to be in that body, so that’s punishment enough.”

“He’s not a tough guy,” she continued. “He plays tough guy, but this is the guy who shit his pants—literally—so he didn’t have to go in the Army.”

The 1977 Ted Nugent x High Times Interview

Jett was alluding to Nugent’s infamous 1977 interview, first published in High Times, but frequently cited. In 1977, Nugent was at the peak of his fame with his biggest hit “Cat Scratch Fever.” 

When High Times writer Glenn O’Brien interviewed young Ted Nugent in 1977—like many other old-school High Times articles—the interview went off the rails at times. Nugent said he avoided being drafted into the Vietnam War in 1967 by dropping his own personal hygiene and dabbling in drugs to appear like a hobo. 

“I got my physical notice 30 days prior to [being drafted],” Nugent told High Times. “Well, on that day I ceased cleansing my body. No more brushing my teeth, no more washing my hair, no baths, no soap, no water. Thirty days of debris build. I stopped shavin,’ and I was 18, had a little scraggly beard, really looked like a hippie. I had long hair, and it started gettin’ kinky, matted up.”

Nugent continued, “Then two weeks before, I stopped eating any food with nutritional value. I just had chips, Pepsi, beer—stuff I never touched—buttered poop, little jars of Polish sausages, and I’d drink the syrup, I was this side of death. Then a week before, I stopped going to the bathroom. I did it in my pants. Poop, piss the whole shot. My pants got crusted up.”

Nugent also explained that he was typically “extremely anti-drug” but “I snorted some crystal methedrine” in order to avoid the draft, which is ironic considering his long-held stance on drugs. 

Nugent is indeed still anti-drug nowadays, and said as recently as 2018 that he’s “hardcore” against pot. “I have stepped over so many dead bodies who tried to convince me that smoking dope was a victimless crime,” Nugent said in an interview on WKAR’s “Off The Record.”

What Really Happened

So where did the story about getting out of Vietnam come from in the first place? According to an updated autobiography, Kenny Mills, a drummer who goes by the stage name of KJ Knight, claims that it was he—not Nugent—who “used wild antics” at the Selective Service physical and was quickly dismissed from serving. Knight was a prolific drummer in bands like The Knightriders and The Amboy Dukes with Nugent.

According to military records, and reported by Fact Checker and the Reno Gazette Journal, Nugent got a student deferment, which is not “draft dodging” given that he showed up for the medical exam. 

Nugent later admitted that some of the story was made up in later interviews. Nugent got a high school student deferment (1-S) in 1967, a college student deferment (2-S) in 1968, and after being reclassified for military service (1-A) in 1969, Nugent was rejected as a result of a physical examination (1-Y) in 1969 and reportedly received a 4-F classification.

Student deferments are a legal means of avoiding service in the military—you know, the same method that Dick Cheney, Mitt Romney, Donald Trump, Bill O’Reilly, and Bill Clinton used to get out of the Vietnam War. Clinton also got help from friends in high places and didn’t follow through on some promises to avoid service but is legally considered not to have violated the Military Selective Service Act.

In any case, Nugent’s criticism of Jett was probably done without remembering his infamous High Times interview decades ago.

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