Is cannabis addiction a treatable medical condition? According to one doctor, “cannabis addiction is a real and treatable medical condition.” She claims the “cannabis legalization movement” has successfully pushed back against this narrative due to the drug war. Fortunately, Dr. Salwan is not one of these old-school drug warriors. She knows cannabis doesn’t turn people into criminals and that cannabis prohibition has led to the mass incarceration of peaceful (mostly black) Americans. Dr. Salwan represents the new school of drug […]
Stoptober. This phenomenon is more than just the combination of the words ‘stop’ and ‘October’. Every year, countless individuals around the world make the decision to quit smoking, recognising the numerous health benefits and improved quality of life that come with breaking the habit.
In the United Kingdom, an initiative known as Stoptober, created by the National Health Service, has been playing a significant role in helping people kick the smoking habit for good. With October on its way, we’ll be exploring what Stoptober is, its history, the benefits of quitting smoking, and the resources available to support individuals on their journey to a smoke-free life. Let’s do this.
What Is Stoptober?
So what actually is Stoptober and what’s the point of it? Well, Stoptober – a brilliant combination of two words – is an annual public health campaign in the United Kingdom that encourages people to quit smoking for the entire month of October. Launched by Public Health England (PHE) in 2012, this campaign has grown significantly in popularity over the years, motivating millions of smokers to take the first step towards a smoke-free life. What began as a UK affair, has now developed into a worldwide movement. Spectrum writes:
“Stoptober is a national smoking cessation campaign led by Public Health England that encourages smokers to start by abstaining from smoking for 28 days during the month of October. In England… first implemented in 2012… versions have since been adopted in other countries, including New Zealand, the Netherlands, and France, following a positive evaluation of the first campaign”
The central idea behind Stoptober is to provide support, motivation, and resources to individuals who wish to quit smoking, making it easier for them to succeed. As anyone who’s ever tried to quit anything will know – be it drinking, unhealthy food, or smoking – doing it with other people makes it a lot easier. How easy would it be to avoid having that delicious Friday pint if all your mates were avoiding it too. Or, in this case, how much easier would it be to stop smoking if lots of people around the world were doing it too.
The History of Stoptober
Where did it come from? The concept of Stoptober was inspired by similar successful campaigns in other countries, such as “mois sans tabac” (month without tobacco) in France and “Stoptober” in the Netherlands. Public Health England adapted and launched the campaign in the UK in 2012, capitalising on the idea that setting a specific, month-long quit date could help individuals overcome the psychological barriers associated with quitting smoking. We’ll get on to why using a month to begin with can be a very useful method of quitting a bit later. Since its inception, Stoptober has seen remarkable success, with millions of participants and numerous success stories of people who have successfully quit smoking during the month of October. Supposedly, since its creation in 2012, over 10 million people have attempted Stoptober. The Gov UK website writes:
“Stoptober continues to effectively drive smokers to make a quit attempt. In 2020, the campaign generated quit attempts among 12.3% of all smokers and recent ex-smokers, with 4% reporting that they were still not smoking at 4 weeks.”
Like Dry January, and many other months dedicated to quitting a habit, Stoptober has become an annual tradition for many, offering a structured and supportive environment for those looking to stop smoking.
How Stoptober Works
So, how does it work? Well, Stoptober is a campaign that helps you quit smoking during October – that much is clear. But there are specific methods that help along the way. Here’s how it goes down:
Choose Your Quit Date
The first step is choosing your quit date. Participants are encouraged to set a specific quit date within the month of October. This date serves as a target to work toward, helping individuals mentally prepare for their quit attempt. Usually, as you’d expect, this is the 1st of October.
There’s a bunch of online and offline resources that the Stoptober campaign offers. These include a dedicated website, a mobile app, and a free Quit Kit, which can be ordered online or picked up at specific pharmacies.
There’s also support that comes with the Stoptober app. The app and website provide personalised support based on individual smoking habits and preferences. Users can set goals, track progress, and access helpful tips and advice. Participants can also engage with others on the online community, sharing their experiences, challenges, and success stories. This sense of community can be incredibly motivating. It’s always easier stopping a habit when you have other people’s stories to feel inspired by. How is anyone supposed to know that climbing a mountain is possible, if there’s no one who’s climbed it around to tell their story? It’s the same concept.
For those who require it, Stoptober provides access to NRT (Nicotine Replacement Therapy) products, such as nicotine gum, patches, and lozenges, to help manage withdrawal symptoms. They may also suggest you try vapes, although this probably doesn’t count as completely stopping smoking. Although, if you’re finding it very difficult to stop, a vape is better than smoking.
The methods behind Stoptober are not random, they are rooted in behavioural science and evidence-based strategies. There’s a lot of thought that goes behind this approach of quitting. By encouraging participants to set a quit date and providing support in the form of resources, counselling, and NRT, the campaign addresses some of the key factors that influence successful habit breaking. Remember, it supposedly takes around a month to develop a habit, which can also apply to breaking them. Committing for an entire month seems like a far more accessible plan than simply quitting forever. However, the reason why this is perfect, is because after that month the substance will have far less of a hold over the user. The GOV UK website writes:
“People are 5 times more likely to quit for good if they can make it to at least 28 days smoke free”
This kind of goal setting is accessible, doable and genuinely effective. In addition, goal setting is also a part of this behavioural therapy. Setting a starting date establishes a clear and achievable goal, making it easier for individuals to commit to quitting. Then, when individuals feel stuck or tempted, there’s a great deal of online support for them to look through to not feel so alone. In addition, because it’s a global movement, the chances of smokers finding other people that are also giving Stoptober a try is highly likely. Therefore, as is the case with collective mentality, stopping with others simply is easier. You’re part of a campaign, not on your own.
Why Quit Smoking?
You most likely already know this stuff, but reminding yourself why you want to stop smoking is paramount to increase the success of Stoptober. If you can always remember the ‘why’, then the ‘how’ becomes a lot more doable. Around 80% of the world smokes, which is around 1.3 billion people. In the UK, it’s around 6.6 million people and in the US it’s around 28.3 million. Smoking is everywhere and it’s a leading cause of preventable death worldwide. In fact, in the US, half a million deaths a year are smoke-related. Smoking is responsible for a range of health problems, including:
Smoking is the largest preventable cause of cancer worldwide, with carcinogens in tobacco smoke leading to lung, mouth, throat, oesophagus, pancreas, and bladder cancers.
Smoking damages the lungs, leading to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), chronic bronchitis, and emphysema. This makes it harder to breathe, as well as do exercise.
Smoking significantly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
Smoking can affect fertility in both men and women and is linked to complications during pregnancy, including low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome.
Smoking accelerates the ageing process, leading to premature wrinkles, yellowed teeth, and an ‘old look’.
Smoking is an expensive habit, with the cost of cigarettes accumulating over time. It’s way cheaper to not smoke than to smoke.
Although it’s rather bleak to think about all the problems and health concerns that smoking causes, it’s also good to remind yourself if you are deciding to try Stoptober. These hard cold facts may be the driving force for your quitting attempt.
The Benefits of Quitting Smoking
Remember, if you do try Stoptober, another great reason to keep going is for all the benefits. Quitting smoking is not just about avoiding health problems; it also comes with a wide range of immediate and long-term benefits. Some of the most notable advantages of quitting smoking include:
The body starts to repair itself almost immediately after quitting. Lung function improves, and the risk of many smoking-related diseases decreases.
Increased Life Expectancy
Quitting smoking significantly extends life expectancy. The earlier one quits, the greater the benefits. Woop!
Better Quality of Life
Ex-smokers report improved quality of life, including enhanced physical fitness, better sleep, and increased energy levels.
Quitting smoking results in substantial financial savings by not purchasing cigarettes. You can finally go for all those expensive meals you wanted!
By quitting, individuals also protect their loved ones from the harmful effects of secondhand smoke.
Sense of Accomplishment
Successfully quitting smoking is a remarkable personal achievement that boosts self-esteem and confidence. It might feel difficult now but, once you do it, you’ll feel like an absolute boss.
Stoptober is a vital public health campaign that has made a significant impact in the UK and beyond. By providing support, resources, and a structured framework for quitting smoking, it empowers individuals to take control of their health and break free from the grips of tobacco addiction. While Stoptober is a great starting point for anyone looking to quit smoking, the journey to a smoke-free life is a personal one, and it may require multiple attempts. Anyone who tries, deserves a round of applause. So what do you reckon, will you give it a go?
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Sometimes it feels like the drug world is a continuous game of cat and mouse. The law being the cat, and the drug-makers being the mouse. Every time a substance is banned, another synthetic one will pop up in raving culture, that is supposedly better and legal. That’s exactly what we have with the designer drug: 3-MMC.
Short for 3-Methylmethcathinone, this synthetic stimulant is part of the cathinone class of chemicals, with effects similar to those of amphetamines and MDMA. There are a lot of disparate opinions surrounding this substance, with some users claiming it has the high of ecstasy, without the comedown. However, there’s also very little scientific research into the drug. We’re going to be delving into the chemistry of 3-MMC, hearing first-hand accounts from users, and figuring out whether this drug has some sort of magical powers that others do not. Let’s go.
There’s no doubt that drug culture is very hard to keep up with nowadays. New, cool and intriguing substances are popping and then slowly diminishing from people’s awareness all of the time. A lot of these substances are designer drugs. Designer drugs, also known as synthetic drugs or research chemicals, are substances created in a laboratory to mimic the effects of existing drugs while avoiding legal restrictions or detection in standard drug tests. These drugs are designed by altering the chemical structure of known compounds or creating entirely new compounds that interact with the body’s receptors in ways similar to traditional drugs like opioids, stimulants, or hallucinogens. Science Direct writes:
“Designer drugs of abuse exist in a dynamic market with new drugs appearing all the time. Based on their chemical structures, designer drugs can be classified into amphetamine types… It is important to stay at the forefront of drug detection techniques and strategies to allow speedy identification of new substances as they emerge.”
Each new substance will have a moment of being popular and – in a sense – legal, until eventually it is discovered by law enforcement and cracked down on. Designer drugs are chemically modified versions of existing drugs or entirely new compounds. These alterations are often made to evade existing drug laws and regulations. By changing the chemical structure, manufacturers hope to create substances that are not explicitly controlled by legal frameworks. At first, when these new substances are easy to access and legal, they become increasingly popular as party drugs. However, the moment they become illegal and difficult to access like any other substance, people will often return to the usual favourite banned substances. These include: cocaine, MDMA and ketamine. The types of ‘new’ designer substances that have stood the test of time include: spice, crystal meth and 2CB. There is always a worry and an excitement with designer drugs, which is due to the chemical structure change that happens to them. This alteration can either be incredibly dangerous, or can lead to a new and incredible effect that no other recreational substance has ever had. It’s two sides of the same coin.
What is 3-MMC?
In the last few years, 3-MMC has broken into the limelight. You may have heard of it, you may have not, but it’s certainly been raising some eyebrows. Let’s see what this synthetic substance actually is. 3-MMC is a synthetic compound that shares structural similarities with both cathinone and methcathinone, two substances known for their stimulant properties. It acts as a releasing agent for neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin, leading to enhanced mood, increased energy, and heightened alertness. The chemical structure of 3-MMC has evolved as an attempt to create a legal alternative to substances like MDMA and amphetamines.
How It’s Taken
Users take 3-MMC much the same as MDMA. It comes, most commonly, in a white powder that can be bombed (wrapped in a rizla and swallowed), snorted or poured in a drink. Sometimes 3-MMC can also be sold in a pre-made capsule that can then be swallowed.
The rise of 3-MMC has been recent, existing as a ‘legal’ designer drug version of 4-MMC (mephedrone). The Face writes:
“It was one of the most popular drugs at English summer festivals last year, with research finding that 45 percent of substances sold as “MDMA” last year in fact contained cathinones. One of the most prevalent cathinones was 3‑MMC.”
Supposedly, at the Lost Village UK festival, the substance was being sold as Louis Vuitton pills, pretending to be ecstasy. Due to covid restrictions in 2020-2022, the demand for MDMA was not being matched by the lack of supply. Because of this, 3-MMC was being sold instead. This was occurring all around Europe. In 2022, the European Commission made it their goal to ban the substance of 3-MMC, after reporting its increase in supply around the continent. The Face goes on to write:
“Many countries in the EU are just banning 3‑MMC now, so this has become part of the bizarre game of whack-a-mole between the law-makers and underground chemists. One substance gets banned, another pops up in its place like an unelected Tory prime minister.”
So whilst it’s rather comical to watch this game of whack-a-mole, it is important to understand what 3-MMC actually feels like. You can list off a bunch of supposed effects that a drug might have, but really what counts is people’s genuine, real-life accounts. Does this drug genuinely have no comedown?
What 3-MMC Feels Like
As we’ve heard, 3-MMC has very similar effects to MDMA. Due to this, some have made the case that the drug has the euphoria of ecstasy, without any of the next-day comedown. Of course, if that was to be true, it would be a serious game changer. I myself was attending festivals in London in 2021/2, during the supposed MDMA-shortage period, and remembered friend’s talking about this new mandy-like substance. All they said to me was that it felt slightly less potent than MDMA, which annoyed quite a few people if I recall. Vice reports speaking to a user of 3-MMC, who warns:
“Psychologically, 3-MMC can make you feel euphoric, sociable and increase your libido. However, it also has side effects: insomnia, anxiety and even psychosis… “It’s a FOMO drug,” Giraud explains. “It completely messes up with your notion of pleasure. It’s as if you were about to cum, but you never actually do.”
What this user claims, is that 3-MMC does not quite live up to the euphoric sensation of mandy. Meaning that you are constantly in that limbo stage, waiting for the satisfaction to come, but it never really does. Maybe there’s something to this. If 3-MMC is a slightly less potent version of MDMA, then it would make sense to assume that the next-day comedown would also be less potent too. Here are two accounts from Reddit users:
“I didn’t think 3mmc had one. I plan on using one last time for a festival in 2 weeks and then I will only use it monthly. It’s incredibly underrated, I saw much negativity towards it, but it was so unique. I think it’s great when you want to have an mdma like experience, without the mdma comedown and high serotonin depletion”
“I almost feel as if I’m in an afterglow today, after using for 2 days and only sleeping for 7 hours… I don’t ever do stuff like this often though, so maybe that’s why.”
For those unaware, the term ‘afterglow’ describes a pleasant feeling that remains after something equally pleasant has just happened. In a sense, it’s the opposite of a comedown. However, this is not the only reputation of 3-MMC. Actually, it has also had quite a lot of bad press too. The Face describes its effects quite vividly:
“Think: the stimulant effects of MDMA but minus the rushy empathy, the horniness of cocaine without the ego, and the longevity of speed but with a worse comedown. It feels like halfway between ecstasy and coke but it lasts a lot longer. With clean MDMA, you can expect to sleep when you get home from a club. With 3‑MMC, you’re not going to sleep for a while. This is a drug that’ll keep you in the club until that traumatic moment when they turn the house lights on and it feels like your brain is dribbling out of your eyeballs.”
Does this not sound like the polar opposite of the accounts that we’ve heard so far? Reddit users also go on to agree with the idea of this end-of-the-night feeling:
“3-MMC has some of the worst comedowns of any drug I’ve tried (and I’ve tried quite a few). It’s only redeemed slightly by the fact that the comedown doesn’t last too long”
“I’ve experienced 1 of the worse comedowns from 3mmc. Gotta add that I used to binge for 2 days with 5 g’s whenever I took 3m. 3mmc can have gnarly comedowns.”
With any reasonably new designer substance, it’s really difficult to find any sustained truths of the effects. As is the case with this game of cat and mouse, the mouse has to constantly find different ways to dodge from the hands of the law. Thus, these varying effects could be due to structural differences in the substances that these users are taking. Who knows? What is clear however is that people experience all drugs in their own way, and whilst some people get incredibly bad comedowns, others do not. This has always been the way of the recreational drug world. It is incredibly hard to know, for certain, how a substance will make you feel – especially when it’s fresh in the game. So does 3-MMC have no comedown? Well, reports seem to suggest yes and no. But maybe you know something we don’t? Tell us your stories.
Thailand, a beautiful country in SouthEast Asia, was once a country where smoking a joint could have you imprisoned. In fact, they infamously had some of the harshest drug laws in the world. But then, in 2020, the nation decided to decriminalise cannabis in a bid to benefit from ‘weed tourism’.
However, with thousands of dispensaries opening up, and every legal grey area exploited, it has now been decided that this was a bad decision. Thailand’s new prime minister – Srettha – has vowed to restrict the use of cannabis once again. Let’s delve into this new legislation.
Thailand Pre Decriminalisation
To understand why the Thailand government has now decided to backtrack on a major drug law, it’s probably easiest to first understand what the nation was like before this law. Before Thailand decided to legalise medical cannabis in 2018, and then decriminalise recreational use in 2022, it was an incredibly harsh nation when it comes to dealing with drug users. In many ways, this culture is still there, except cannabis may have been given a break for a moment. Ratchada Law Firm highlights the consequences for those found in possession of Category 1 substances:
“Up to life imprisonment and a fine of 100,000 – 5,000,000 Baht, or the death penalty, (depending upon the amount of the substance or substances found) for disposal or possession for the purpose of disposal… Up to 10 years imprisonment or a fine of 20,000 – 200,000 Baht for possession.”
To put this into perspective, 5,000,000 baht is around 140,000 dollars. Category 1 substances include: heroin, MDMA, ecstacy and LSD. Cannabis, before the new law in 2022, was in the category 5 narcotics list – which included a fine of up to 1,500,000 baht and 2-15 years in prison. As you can see, Thailand has a history of holding extremely harsh laws when it comes to drug possession and use. In fact, in 2011, a Swedish man was given the death penalty for producing and possessing methamphetamine. This sentence was soon changed to life-imprisonment due to international backlash.
Thailand Post Decriminalisation
Then, in 2022, Thailand shook the world by decriminalising cannabis. After such a long period of being known as one of the harshest drug states in the world, they decided to alter that reputation. Cannabis was removed from the category 5 narcotics list, which essentially decriminalised the substance. Thai people – over the age of 20 – now have the ability to sell, grow and possess cannabis. However, within these changes of laws, there are a lot of grey areas. It’s these ambiguities that have allowed for around 6000 cannabis dispensaries to open up around Thailand, selling recreational weed. The Guardian writes:
“Confusing government amendments to the laws and continued debate about what should be permitted has created what has become known as “a weed Wild West” that could land tourists in trouble. “Since legalisation, no one really [knows] whether we have the correct information”, says Kitty Chopaka, an independent cannabis advocate based in Bangkok.”
Whilst possessing cannabis with over 0.2% THC was still technically illegal, it was not stopping the selling and possessing of it. Thailand was becoming one of the ideal spots for cannabis tourism. That is why, most recently, a decision was made to backtrack on this decriminalisation.
As of September 2023, the new Thai prime minister – Srettha Thavisin – has made a promise to “rectify” what he sees as a damaging drug law. After so many thousands of dispensaries have opened up selling high-THC products, he believes it is time to fix the issue. Time reports the prime minister saying:
“The law will need to be rewritten… It needs to be rectified. We can have that regulated for medical use only,” he said, adding that there can’t be a middle ground for recreational use.
During his campaign to be prime minister, Srettha promised a very anti-drug reign, including the undoing of the landmark policy made in 2022. He won the election, and his 11-party coalition, all agree with his decision to reintroduce a cannabis bill that will monitor the cannabis industry with tight regulations once again. However, he does not intend to add cannabis back to the category list. The president of the Phuket Cannabis Association speaks positively on this new prime minister and his views, saying:
“More regulation will be good as we don’t want a free-for-all anyway…Cannabis is here to stay, but in what status is not yet clear.”
Of course there are issues, despite the majority of Thai voters wanting this u-turn to happen. The major problem is that whenever drug use is illegalised, it doesn’t go away, it simply is pushed to the shadows of society. Meaning that rather than cannabis use being within dispensaries – for everyone to see – it will simply move its way back to the black market. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes, the Southeast Asian organised crime economy was worth around 130 billion dollars in 2019. Srettha’s decision to undo the decriminalisation of cannabis will only add to this industry.
So is this another story to add to the war-on-drugs narrative? Or will this benefit Thailand and those who use drugs? Only time will tell.
US cannabis legalization in the 2024 election? Will Joe Biden and the Democrats make cannabis reform a significant part of their re-election platform? With the potential rescheduling of cannabis from Schedule I to III, pot stocks have risen. Investors are hopeful that banking reform may pass Congress. Voters are anticipating the end of cannabis prohibition. But how much of this is hype versus reality? How likely is it that cannabis legalization will be a 2024 U.S. election issue? For answers, […]
I like to get what I need in the place I’m visiting, because scoring adds another dimension to the trip. I presumed it would be easy in L.A., but the first thing “Clarissa” said when I arrived at the airport was, “I hope you brought some of that good New York coke.”
“No, as a matter of fact…” “Oh shit! It’s really expensive out here, and it’s usually been stepped on so much. Luckily I happen to have the best connection, but the cheapest is $125 a gram.” “Yeah. I’d like to get some grass too.”
“There’s a shortage. I haven’t seen any in weeks.” It took four days to find an ounce. During the search, I asked the dealers why. There are a lot of very rich people who use drugs, and the movie and record companies often write off “drug budgets” as part of their expenses. I heard things like: “They spent $200,000 for coke on such and such a movie,” and “So and so walked off the set of his latest because they wouldn’t include a coke budget.” Therefore the dealers who have good drugs have no reason to be interested in the buyer who wants one gram when they can be making big sales on a regular basis. If you were a drug dealer and you moved to Hollywood, you would gradually phase out your smaller customers, because you could be making more money dealing with fewer people in a safer situation.
“Michelle” told me: “Los Angeles is based upon prestige. Here prestige comes from money. Money is a language.” If California were a country on its own, it would be the eighth richest country in the world. Angelenos are naturally attracted to money. In the supermarket the cashier gives you a little card with your change. You scrape it with your fingernail and a number appears. If you hit the jackpot, you win $777.77. I never saw anybody win, but we stood around scraping those cards just as soon as we got them.
The third day I was there someone asked me to participate in a golden chain letter. “If you’ll invest $100 in cash right now, you are guaranteed to make $300,000 in six months.” She was a nice girl, and quite serious about it. I tried to point out the fallacy, but I couldn’t help liking her let’s-make-some-money attitude. After a week, I was saying “Let’s make a deal” regularly. In Los Angeles you are surrounded by so much luxury, whether you possess it or not becomes almost irrelevant. In Los Angeles, you are rich.
I stayed at the Tropicana Motor Hotel on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, ten minutes from Beverly Hills. The Hollywood-Beverly Hills area is where a majority of the most interesting Angelenos live and play. The Tropicana is located in the middle of it. It is run by a friendly young staff. The rooms are comfortable, cheap—my large suite cost $33 a night—and the other guests are not unpleasant to look at. Duke’s, its coffee shop, is a fabulous place to eat.
The “Trop” also has its legends, which lend a distilled elegance to its slightly faded facade. This is where Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey filmed Heat, with Joe Dallesandro and Sylvia Miles. Tom Waits lives in one of the cottages out back. Providing a scenario for traveling musicians, photographers, writers and hustlers, it is often referred to as the “Chelsea West.” In an unpretentious way, the Trop lives up to its promise. Its atmosphere will facilitate your necessary adjustment to the extremely pleasant rhythm of daily life in Los Angeles.
Which it is only natural to initially fight. By the fifth day I caught myself thinking: “Er… take it easy, Vic. Why not lie out by the pool for a few hours? I mean, this is California, man; you’re missing out on the experience cooped up in your room all day writing about why you hate people.” But I couldn’t see how to make the transition without losing the majority of my energy.
I needn’t have worried. The pace of L.A.’s perpetual spring climate makes life’s intricate days much simpler. After a while, gnawing concern about getting everything done evaporates, because everything, from going shopping and parking the car to getting your laundry done in an hour while talking on the telephone, is so easy.
There is little friction between people. Even the exchanges with shopkeepers, gas-station attendants and waiters are so charmingly handled that, just as one’s skin gradually changes from a pale sickly green to beige, one’s nerves straighten from a mangle of barbed wires to make a series of smooth connections. The soothing sunshine complements the pretty space. Undisturbed, the Los Angeles environment treats its organisms remarkably well. As Reyner Banham affirms in his superb book Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies: “Los Angeles remains one of the ecological wonders of the habitable world.”
Ecology is that science which studies the relationship between an organism and its environment: in order to understand this city, which, ironically, attracts so much scorn, I became an organism in the Los Angeles environment and spent a month learning the city’s language.
To mention one amusing result that anyone can understand right away, sex is notoriously better in L.A. I started to pick up on this the evening of the fifth day. A friend invited me to the Mater Dei High School football championship finals in Santa Ana. “Don” has a Lotus Europa, and after turning on and tuning up at a Taco Hut, I found myself gazing up at the electrographic architecture of uninterrupted neon from where I lay in the passenger racing seat as the car rocketed down the freeway in the balmy night and thinking, “California is exactly what you imagine it will be.”
We walked into the arena during the intermission. Here were three or four thousand well-fed, well-dressed, relatively smart and uniformly beautiful “perfect Aryan” teenagers excitedly sitting in this glaringly lit, oval stadium with nothing to do. The score was zero-zero.
I looked down onto the brilliant green field and saw six blond girls. They were wearing yellow knee socks, brown skirts and yellow sweaters and were running through their routine, bursting with sex. The combination of the swift drive in the Lotus, excellent grass acquired from a student and my first sight of live cheerleaders, sweat glistening on their supple flesh in the giant spotlights, got me so hot that within seconds of entering this magic arena of teenagers I was jumping up and down, clapping and pointing out the cutest to Don, ignoring the fact that I was making a spectacle of myself before these pediatricians, executives and detectives of the future. A few hundred of them turned their attention on me, and as the teams ran back onto the field I was dragged down into the stands and found myself surrounded by grinning kids.
Two minutes into the second half Mater Dei scored a touchdown: it was as if my unexpected, unexplainable and unrepeatable presence had been a signal from some messenger in a Cocteau scenario. Pandemonium ensued. They started to push me onto the field to jump with the cheerleaders, who were also focusing their attention on me, pointing and cracking up as they performed their frenzied victory dance. The energy being directed toward my image was phenomenal. I was actually about to make my way onto the field and grab the microphone from the deejay, who was trying to maintain contact with an audience he was clearly losing, when a stab of intuition held me back. Seconds later I sensed the hysteria was about to drown us in a tidal wave of rejection for being too strange. I was dressed in some variation of a New York punk outfit. “Let’s get the fuck outa here!” Don suddenly yelled. I saw fear in his eyes. We ran out of that arena fast, sprinting away into the night like the spirits we had somehow become for those magic 15 minutes.
Driving home, drenched in sweat and exhausted, we talked about it, although there was little to say except “What the fuck was that about?” It did seem magic at the time. What it was about more than anything else was the eternal delight of electric energy. This visit to Mater Dei gave me an enormous boost. And by the end of my first week in L.A., I found that I had begun swimming every day, friends were beginning to swarm by and I was eager to see more and more people. I was drying off in the sun one morning when the poolside phone rang and it was “Valerie” inviting me to drive out to Cal Arts, where “I am a film instructor,” that afternoon. She said she would pick me up at one.
During this very beautiful drive she explained that in the ’50s Walt Disney went to Europe and everyone asked him to speak, so he got the idea people thought of him as an intellectual. He concluded that he should endow an institute devoted to film making, so he put up the money for the Cal Arts Film School. His idea was that there should be ramps from which the public could watch the students learning. He wanted to create an environment in which the students and teachers could live in harmony. Herbert Marcuse was going to be the first president, but then he and Angela Davis were discovered swimming nude in the pool at midnight. (That could be a rumor.) The problem is Walt died before the place was perfected. They call Cal Arts “Disney’s Last Dream.”
After Valerie had rattled off this info, simultaneously driving and rolling a slim joint, she directed my attention, which had been darting between her and the breathtaking desert landscapes on the outskirts of L.A., to the driving conditions. Except on the freeways, everyone drives gracefully and slowly. “Los Angeles is the only city in the world where the architecture was created to be viewed at 15 miles an hour,” says David Hockney in British Vogue. The danger is that you get hypnotized by the montage of forever-lush brightly colored visuals, think you’re in a movie, and space out. But you have to concentrate, because the L.A. traffic cops are mean. In the late ’60s a new breed of California police officer—often Vietnam veterans—spread throughout California. Now, the highest rates of alcoholism, divorce and suicide exist in the L.A. police force, with its inbred sense of minority paranoia. Driving drunk or stoned, I was warned by everyone, will get you treated extremely harshly.
Freeway driving is a satisfying, physical experience. It creates an uplifting feeling of vastness and relaxation. Angelenos have the most advanced car culture in the world. Drivers on the freeways have worked out a system of communication with each other. You get between two cars that are speeding; if either car slows down, it has spotted a police car. As long as you’re in the middle you’ll always be warned in time. This convoy driving is done consciously, with drivers voluntarily taking the point positions. Some people apparently develop these intense intercar relationships, overtaking each other with frosty glares, leapfrogging back and forth around each other and generally using the machine to harass. Whenever I drove, I reflected on how sharp my vision was, how alive and “in” the present I felt. Again, the environment has provided a superior situation for its organisms.
I felt like I was in the future, walking down the wide, empty, shining corridors at Cal Arts with “Juliette,” who was conducting the guided tour. There were very few people around. She told me that no one ever goes to classes and nothing happens. I spent a couple of hours in the empty building full of expensive unused equipment.
FILM MAKING IS TOO DIFFICULT FOR ME reads a sign someone painted on the wall in the basement. Further down the hall there is a GOOD FUCK door, on which a list of names is drawn. After a while I asked Juliette where the people were; I had seen someone waft around a corner, but he seemed to be doing little more than wafting. “They’re over by the pool,” she said.
Most of the students over by the pool were naked. Someone was playing a flute in an upstairs room, and the music wandered over the idyllic scene, from which there was nothing lacking except a bar. Juliette said, “We don’t need a bar because we all take drugs.” On cue, a security guard ran by saying he had just repelled a raid by a group of ten year olds.
“I guess they wanted to see the cocks and tits,” someone said. But, “No,” the guard replied, catching his breath, “they’re after the marijuana.” The students grow their own.
Los Angeles is a misunderstood, unique city that deserves a much better reputation than it has. As an inhabitant of Manhattan, I am often accosted around the States with extremely negative remarks about the place I live in, and I find them to be exclusively based upon ignorance. As a recent champion of Los Angeles, I have found an equally high and caustic level of response to that place, also based on boring, useless ignorance. There is no sense in comparing Los Angeles to any other city in the world, because the factors that combined to create it are extremely unusual. In fact, nothing remotely like it could ever occur again.
An almost perfect climate, which reigns over a large area of extremely fertile earth, provided the initial inhabitants (1781) with a solid basis of wealth in land and field produce. Around the turn of this century, vast quantities of oil were discovered, and oil quickly became an important primary industry. When the first movie was made in 1910, Los Angeles was well on its way to becoming a wealthy town with a population of 800,000 who had come from the Midwest, Mexico and Europe. It was the end of a geographical frontier but the beginning of a mental one.
By 1930, Hollywood had attracted its unconventional and truly unrepeatable population of genius, neurosis, skill, charlatanry, beauty, vice, talent and eccentricity. While other cities have had to invest centuries in accumulating their cultured and leisure classes, Los Angeles has witnessed the greatest concentration of imaginative produce in the history of man in less than a hundred years. No city has ever been produced by such a perfect mixture of space, wealth, talent and natural resources.
Los Angeles has continued to develop and so remains our most modern city in many vital ways. If there are American traditions, there is no better place to inspect them than in Los Angeles, where to speak in superlatives, believe what isn’t true, dress dramatically and tackle the impossible are habits. Unlike other cities, where people are squashed together in a labyrinth of cultural monuments that control their growth, Los Angeles has room to make changes that the conventional metropolis cannot contemplate. This sense of possibilities ahead is a vital part of the basic lifestyle of L.A., where people want to live in the present. One provocative current idea envisions L.A. as a model for our first space platforms.
After graduating from Mater Dei and Cal Arts, I called Professor Timothy Leary. He is an outspoken champion of Los Angeles, and I wanted to hear what he had to say about it. I also wanted to alert him to the fact that William Burroughs was flying out and would be staying at the Tropicana for a week.
Leary, 62, who currently lives in a West Hollywood studio apartment from which he issues books and stories out on lecture tours, was initially hard to reach because he is always rushing off somewhere. Our phone calls continually missed each other’s until, one night, walking into a petite, tasteful restaurant called Oscar’s Wine Bar, I bumped into him sitting with High Times writer Michael Hollingshead and three young women. Exclaiming, ‘Aha! We meet at last!” Leary leapt up. I grabbed his tennis racket. But, as if that were the gist of it, I found him initially difficult to interface with. His sense of himself as a public figure seemed defensive.
A few days later I met him under more relaxed circumstances in the apartment of a mutual friend over after-dinner drinks and was able to get a better picture: he’s energetic and enthusiastic about whatever he is discussing. Tim doesn’t really talk, he sings.
His theory about Los Angeles is that it is in the process of becoming the next center of intelligence. He says the power has moved out of Washington, is moving west, and the intelligence is moving from New York to Los Angeles. “Swarming,” he emphasised, “is the key concept.”
By the time William Burroughs and his secretary, James Grauerholz, moved into the Tropicana, I had all but become an Angeleno myself. Apart from living and working in Hollywood, I was in love with Venice (the boardwalk on Sunday), Malibu (where the sea is your backyard) and Griffith Park (a monument to the genius of D.W. Griffith). I was in love with the city, and a few of its inhabitants, and had completely adjusted to the environment’s rhythm while gaining, rather than losing, energy. There is no question at all that a large part of being happy in Los Angeles has to do with the connection between your body and the atmosphere: one is simply healthier in L.A. on a daily basis than one could possibly be in a similarly large metropolis. It is a complete myth that the inhabitants laze around the pool all day in a stupor of relaxation. I found all kinds of creative people and enormous amounts of energy in Los Angeles. They work very hard out there, because there’s so much money. Don’t forget, this is where some of the greatest works of art of the twentieth century were made.
I gave a party to welcome William to L.A. Leary was at the top of my guest list. I also invited Christopher Isherwood and Don Bachardy. Ken Tynan moved to L.A. quite recently and seems to have assumed a social responsibility for the British intellectual community out there. He’d given a party for Princess Margaret the previous week and mixed Hockney and Isherwood with the likes of Paul Newman, Ryan O’Neal and Swifty Lazar. Tynan came with his wonderful wife Kathleen. David Blue, whom I’d continually met at Dantana’s (a good late-night hangout), came, along with Paul Getty, Ron Kovic, Randall Kaiser, Hiram Keller, Paul Jabara, Ulli Lommel, Frank and Laura Cavestani, Paul Krassner, Jack (Jimmy Olson) Larson, Jim Bridges, John Rechy, Julian Burroughs (who thinks he’s William Burroughs’s son)…
I threw the party in New York-cheapo style, and I think that’s why it was successful; in L.A. they do tend to give fairly lavish entertainments, and this was refreshing; also, because the people all came from different fields there was no power imbalance and everybody could just enjoy talking to each other. All I’d been able to do was buy a gallon of vodka, six bottles of wine and mixers. I rolled up 20 joints. “God, I’m having such a wonderful time. L.A. is incredible!” I said. “I know,” said a guest. “Don’t tell anyone. We’re trying to keep it quiet.” The party spilled out of the suite onto the terrace and around the pool. Marcia’s accompanying pictures tell the story.
The following morning, William, James, Paul Getty and I drove in a convoy of three cars out to Isherwood’s house by the sea in Santa Monica, where he lives with artist Don Bachardy, who wanted to draw William’s portrait. Isherwood has lived in Los Angeles since he left England in 1939. He presents a good example of an older person whose career has been stimulated by the L.A. environment. His relationship with the city has been extremely productive. At 73, he is agile, alert, working on three books.
Noticing that time was slipping by and our appointment at the Getty Museum was drawing precariously close, I went into Bachardy’s studio to warn him we’d have to leave soon, but he was working so intently I couldn’t speak; so I gave William a note: “Christopher is psychic. We have to go in ten minutes.”
Ten minutes later, we dashed along the majestic Pacific Coast Highway to the majestic Getty Museum, which you may only visit by appointment because they have adequate underground parking space for just 100 cars. We were very lucky to be escorted through the collection by young Paul.
That evening, we decided to dine at Lucy’s El Adobe Cafe, an excellent Mexican restaurant on Melrose. We had called ahead for a reservation, but when we arrived, “No reservaçion, Señor.” Slipping past the maître d’ one by one, we commandeered an empty table for six. It is hard to move six hungry people. The waiters looked worried but hastily served us, and we gave little thought to whose table we had stolen.
After the meal we got stuck running into a bunch of guys in the congested corridor that leads to the exit. Shuffling along, I found myself face to face with Jerry Brown. He looked a little tired and spaced out, as if he were waiting for a bodyguard to tell him what to do, his jacket slung over his shoulder.
Metaphorically, I see Los Angeles as a series of opening doors. Inside each room people come and go dispensing information. You walk in and meet someone, and then someone else comes in and you are introduced. Days later, in a different configuration in another room, the same people appear escorting new people. Many impromptu meetings of this nature occurred, as if on cue. It was quite extraordinary how many people I met by chance in such a short time.
“Excuse me, Mr. Brown,” I said, touching his arm, “I’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to William Burroughs.”
Brown stuck out a hand and said, “Not the William Burroughs, the novelist, author of Naked Lunch?”
“The very same,” replied Bill. Brown studied Burroughs intently. William seemed shy at first. Then he said, “Well, we came out here to fight Proposition 6 [the California antigay bill].” Brown replied, “You’ll win. The establishment is against it. Have you been in touch with Henry Miller recently?” “No, I haven’t seen him in years.”
Brown looked embarrassed. “I somehow always associate you with him,” he said. Then, pointing to the table we had just vacated, he said that he’d been waiting for them to get this table ready and graciously invited us to dine with him. We declined, hurried to our cars laughing and drove off to look at some dildos in the Pleasure Chest, a great sex shop down the block from the Tropicana.
Considering I was there for a month, had a fabulous time meeting people every day and can only remember one really bad night with dumb people, there must be some truth in Leary’s theory about intelligence swarming toward L.A. Most of the people I met there were super bright and active. I did go to one cult religious service “just for the experience,” but they were geeks. When somebody does freak out in L.A., they tend to go the whole way, but I don’t suppose religious cults can do you any harm if you have absolutely nothing to do with them. Anyway, the majority of negative things you could dig up on L.A. would tend to involve the residents. Los Angeles is a charming place to visit. In my opinion, you couldn’t put a foot wrong taking a vacation there. But charm is a power that is hard to pinpoint, I was thinking as I stood on the veranda outside my room the evening before I flew back to New York. I gazed past the palm trees and the humming birds hovering in the orange light of the setting sun, down at the pool and the now-empty chairs and tables set aside for sunbathers. I noticed for the first time how cream the stucco coloring of the two-story L-shaped motel building is. I was thinking about my gold Chevrolet Caprice parked in the back and how Los Angeles had changed my mind and body during the month I’d spent there, when a spectral form glided up, a vodka and tonic (no ice) in its right hand. My eyes traveled to the spectacles of William Burroughs as he looked out over the city and said, “I will tell you about it. The sky is thin as paper. The whole place could go up in ten minutes. That’s the charm of Los Angeles.”
Few brands can say they breed, grow, process, package, and sell everything in-house—let alone with their own award-winning genetics and a team of people that could all fit in a studio apartment. Built on a history of 20 years of collecting, preserving, and developing unique cannabis genetics, Archive has gone from an idea to a company that’s grown to encompass every aspect of originator Fletcher Watson’s passion for cannabis. This vertically integrated company was the first seed vendor in the U.S. to have a retail location where you could visit and purchase clones or seeds. Since opening the Portland, Oregon store in 2016, the operation, which now has three distinct working parts, has become a seemingly impossible perpetual motion wheel, continually finding new tricks from well-known favorites, creating new varieties you’ll only find at the shop, and keeping old strains for safekeeping.
There’s a lot of documentation on the history of Watson’s mission to preserve cannabis genetics or his work to promote cultivation techniques during the online forum days when he went by “ThaDocta.” You’ll find more than a few articles on his work with Dosidos, RudeBoi OG, Moonbow, Rainbow Belts, and other strains that hold places on Archive’s wall of fame.
But this company has done so much more than just cultivate killers. Despite falling prices, competition from well-funded corporate interests, and increased oversaturation, Archive continues to increase its market share and reputation. This story is one of pioneering the sweat equity, vertical integration model. Building off of this history, and crafting careful partnerships, empowered Archive to grow and expand in ways the team could never have seen coming.
What Has Three Legs & Award-Winning Genetics?
The Archive name comes from founder and primary partner Watson’s well-known mission to create a repository for the wealth of genetic diversity in cannabis. The goal of the company, when it started over a decade ago, was to hold on to all these incredibly diverse types of cannabis that were running through the scene, being grown for a couple of years, then fading into the background as the market continued the hunt for that new-new.
Watson’s lifelong dedication to cultivation and community stretches far beyond 2012 when he released the first packs of seeds under the Archive moniker. (Fun fact: those first packs were a strain called #32 that Watson created from crossing Albert Walker and Manic.) Cultivars are sitting in their rotation right now that may never go into retail but have been safely stored since 2003, kept alive so that we don’t lose any history.
The Archive triangle—also part of the brand’s iconography—is comprised of A.) the seed business, B.) the cultivation/processing facility, and C.) the nursery/retail store.
As Archive Seed Bank, Watson operates his mad scientist lair, maintaining a rich genetic library that’s the equivalent of Batman’s trophy vault—breeding and hunting for new strains while storehousing countless old-school Pacific Northwest cultivars that might otherwise be forgotten (remember a strain called Corn?).
Having cut his teeth in Seattle when his parents moved him out from Virginia at 15, Watson developed a deep-seated passion for cataloging and preserving all the genetic diversity in cannabis. He compares it to how colonial Americans cultivated thousands of varieties of apples before industrialized agriculture began selectively breeding and harvesting them for things like color, ease of transport, and weight, bringing us down to a mere 100 types commercially produced today. This drive to capitalize on supply caused us to lose out on so many astounding varieties of fruits and vegetables that have passed into the pantheon of forgotten produce. Watson sees it as Archive’s job to make sure as many cannabis varieties as possible don’t end up lost to time or ravaged by market trends.
Where Strains Are Born
Adam Bush runs Archive’s cultivation and processing arm at the Oregon facility. Bush grew up with Fletcher in Virginia and moved to Oregon to learn how to blow glass in the early ’00s. After growing in California’s Mendocino County, he returned to Oregon to begin cultivation while helping his childhood friend with the many cannabis competitions Archive was attending. He and the team test new strains to see how well they’d produce for a retail market and supply all the flower and hash for their retail store.
When the time came to create a home base for Archive, the state of Washington (where Watson resides) wouldn’t allow for a fully integrated company, however Oregon, where Bush lives, was more than happy to let them create a place where they could take all the things Archive had accomplished thus far and provide a headquarters.
Watson and Bush knew they wanted to elevate the brand from being popular with just breeders, growers, and weed nerds and make them accessible to people who weren’t part of the forum crowd. They found a warehouse and storefront space suitable for their needs and called in the final member of the triad to help build Archive’s new home in the City of Roses.
Visit the Shop, Smoke the Weed
Archive Portland, where the dispensary and nursery are located, is run by partner Mac Laws. It’s the hub where fans of the brand can come experience everything they’ve seen online. The relationship between cultivation and retail has provided crucial consumer feedback that’s helped shape the course of their special store-only drops.
Laws and Watson met in Washington state, where they bonded over a shared love of genetic preservation. Laws was a reputable cultivator who believed in the brand enough to come down to Oregon and head up the nursery program and retail operations.
“I didn’t know anything about running a dispensary before this,” Laws admits, “but we knew that Fletch had created this really special thing, and it needed to have a place to take root. With my experience in cannabis, I felt more than comfortable running a nursery. The rest almost came naturally from just loving the brand so much.”
Laws’s positive effect on the organization has even allowed Archive to expand its efforts with plans to open an event space in late 2023, something none of the three partners envisioned when they broke ground together.
With Archive Portland, the trio has discovered an opportunity to establish branding, which they’ve done through merch and artist partnerships with heavy hitters such as Trevy Metal and Lot Comedy. The store has evolved from Archive’s home base to one of Portland’s destinations for cannabis tourists and locals looking to experience the most exclusive flavors in the state’s retail market. Being one of the most widely recognized brands both in and outside of Oregon, many people make the trek just to stop in and pick up clones, try out their favorite strain as rosin, or hunt down seed packs that might be unavailable online.
Cultivating Brand Identity
Archive’s genetics have dominated cannabis competitions for years, but they looked towards external optics to expand brand recognition to the broader world.
As Bush explains, “the extra cost [of branding] is part of why we’ve been able to make the name such a thing here in Oregon. Nobody else was investing in custom packaging and identifiable products when we started, but we knew that part of creating Archive’s home was flushing out that recognizable brand for regular consumers who might not know us from the competitions.”
Bush understands the visual aspects of a brand represent a company just as much as the weed it’s putting out.
“I love growing, but it can really be Groundhog Day sometimes—you know, rinse, wash, repeat,” Bush says. “We know our product can hold its own. That gave us the freedom to look at how we cultivate the brand identity. I have an art background, so coming up with packaging design ideas and going over them with Fletcher and Mac is where I have some of the most fun.”
The close bond between Watson, Bush, and Laws shows how far a good team will take you. With all three members operating their pods, running small groups, and coordinating their efforts, they’ve spit-shined and oiled the operation. That way, Archive can accomplish something that usually takes a much larger workforce.
Few can claim to be a completely self-funded operation these days, and fewer still can say they created most of what they offer. Except for partnering with Smokiez to launch their edible line, the business is a closed-loop system, able to create, grow, and sell everything in-house. Archive has built its reputation on the strength of its genetics and upholds that high standing by directly offering its flowers and hash to the people. At a time when the industry is searching for solid footing, Archive stands tall on a trinity of strength, a position that few cannabis producers in the country can lean on.
This article was originally published in the August 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.
Stephen Marley dropped his new album Old SoulFriday, featuring guest appearances by legends Eric Clapton, Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, Jack Johnson, Ziggy Marley, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Buju Banton, and Slightly Stoopid.
It weaves a texture of unplugged jam sessions, including original compositions as well as classics, some recorded by Ray Charles (“Georgia On My Mind”), Frank Sinatra (“These Foolish Things”), and The Beatles (“Don’t’ Let Me Down”). The album’s available via Tuff Gong Collective, UMe, and Ghetto Youths International, or scoop it up on Stephen Marley’s website. It comes as a limited edition double vinyl, CD, or digital download.
The album’s acoustified jam of “I Shot the Sheriff” features a stunning riff in true Clapton fashion, while “Winding Road” creeps into jam band territory with Weir at the helm. “I’m an old soul, living in the body of a 9-year-old,” Stephen Marley sings in the title track, recalling pivotal shifts in his youth. “Guess I’ve been here before.” Catch him on tour at Old Soul Tour Unplugged 2023 running through Oct. 22, with special guest Mike Love at select stops.
Nearly all members of the Marley family inherited strong musical gifts, but Stephen Marley in particular shines as a producer, working with artists like Lauryn Hill, Steven Tyler, Erykah Badu, and others under his belt. He’s won eight Grammy Awards for his numerous contributions to reggae and hip-hop music. The first singles trickled out beginning last April 20, with new singles dropping now. Stephen Marley discussed with High Times his intentions on making the new album, cannabis, and the early days of reggae with the first to embrace it.
High Times: You just dropped your first full-length solo album in seven years. I’m curious: What’s the meaning behind the title Old Soul?
Stephen Marley: It has a broken down, indie, and kind of jamming feel, y’know. And the thing that is subtle is me speaking about my life and paying homage to the songs I [love], y’know. So that’s all of the thoughts behind the name of the record and the feeling of the music. There are a lot of old songs in there, so that added to the feeling of the record.
How did the album’s intimate, unplugged vibe come about? Did you want to switch things up this time?
Not really. I didn’t really want to switch things up. But when we went to record the album, I didn’t even start out with the intention of recording an album, but you know, we were in the thick of a pandemic and there were no flights. Everybody was stuck where they were and everything was closed down. So my regular access to musicians, my regular way of going about making music and the album kind of changed. And this is what I came up with. That’s all I had to work with to make a record under those conditions.
Do you produce your own songs? What’s your process?
I mean [it depends] when I’m making music. You know what I mean? So what is the process? There is no particular process. I make those songs day by day. You have a concept and you begin to work with the concept and try to keep things within context. You have the concept and you put out the body of work that you are inspired to put out. That’s all. That’s it.
You’re using a range of instruments like binghi drums and a flute. Does this help produce a more colorful sound you’re looking for?
Yeah, to have a healing feeling. I mean it gives me that type of feeling. It takes me places in my head and the feeling brings a healing component. I guess that I want to share that kind of healing feeling that it brings.
Eric Clapton’s cover of “I Shot the Sheriff” was a big deal—his only no. 1 single in the U.S. So he must’ve recognized reggae’s greatness early on. Is his guitar work on the new album version new material?
Yes. That’s him and my guitar as well. It is both of dem ‘tings.
So by revisiting the song you’re recognizing his efforts to help reggae cross over.
I didn’t revisit the song; I was jamming the song and recorded the jam. I didn’t really come with intentions of that in the beginning. We recorded everything and it sounded good. I thought maybe we can get Eric to put something on it. We got a riff and Eric liked it.
Several other impressive artists such as Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir are on the album, on “Winding Roads” I believe. Why such a diverse range of genres?
So “Winding Roads” was a song that I had a while back that didn’t make my first album which was Mind Control. So I had “Winding Roads” way back then. It didn’t make that body of work. When we were recording “Winding Roads” and we liked it. We jammed a few songs. So we recorded some jams with some great musicians and “Winding Roads” was one of those songs. Bob is a musical legend.
Do you think rock ‘n’ roll possesses a similar rebel spirit compared to reggae?
Indeed. I mean, in the ‘70s, it was actually punk rock that first embraced Rasta music and the Rastas. Y’know, with all of these dreadlocks. That’s why in England and in Europe it was the first place to catch on. Y’know there was that big punk rock hair on dem as well. It was a dual relationship.
So that was The Clash, The Damned, and so forth that embraced it first, right?
I’ve read that your family used herbal medicine, as opposed to pharmaceuticals very often. Do you think some of these secrets are lost in Western medicine, when there are natural herbs that work better?
Well, first of all, we Jamaicans, y’know, Africans and Caribbean people—we use herbs for the healing of the body, not just our family. And y’know, everything was for the purpose to heal. If you seek, you will find it. Was this knowledge lost? I think once upon a time that narrative [was true]. But I think nowadays most people know the truth about medicines.
Do you have any cannabis brands you’re working with?
Well we have our own brand Marley Natural. Damian has [Ocean Grown and Evidence] and Rohan has Lion Order going on right now. So those are the brands we’re working with right now.
Spliff or blunt?
Not mixed with tobacco, right?
What do you think the cannabis industry needs the most right now?
What does it need? We want herb to be free across the board, y’know. We want it to be free to smoke. I don’t know about the cannabis industry, but we want herb to be free everywhere. I don’t follow the industry. It’s a plant and herb that I like to smoke.
Do you have any daily routines you practice in order to stay positive?
I personally roll up a spliff when I wake up in the morning and maybe make some herbal tea–thyme or rosemary or echinacea or whatever. I put my thoughts together before the day and reflect. That’s my only kind of ritual. And y’know, because I’m a musician, sometimes I wake up in the evening. [Laughs] You know what I mean?
How do you want people to feel after they listen to your music?
I want people to feel rejuvenated. I want people to feel a sense of healing that can help them get through the day, in that sense. For me, myself, that’s what music is for me.
Are you currently on tour?
Yeah. I just came across the border from Canada and now I’m back in America.
How much time do you spend during the year, working in the studio?
Well, I live in the studio. My home is actually a studio. So every day if I’m not working on the road, I’m in the studio. Sometimes during the day, sometimes at night. It’s called The Lion’s Den.
Do any other artists record there as well?
Yeah, my family records in there. It’s not open to the public, but the ones who qualify do come in to record.
Do you have any other announcements right now?
There’s the new record out that I want people to hear and there’s a component in there that can inspire them and heal them.
N.O.R.E. went to school to be a human resources manager. He never imagined he’d be the co-host of one of the biggest hip-hop podcasts in the world, let alone an accomplished rapper.But in 2016, he and DJ EFN (short for his real name, Eric Fernando Narciandi) turned what was a passion project into a legitimate platform—Drink Champs. Seven years later, they’ve fielded hundreds of guests, some more controversial than others, and thrown back way too many shots to count, but they’re thriving.
“My vision in life was to be a rap star,” N.O.R.E. tells High Times. “That was my goal. But now that we’re being honest, my first goal was to be the biggest drug dealer in the world, and I realized I wasn’t going to achieve that. Pablo Escobar did that already. Then I wanted to be the biggest rapper in the world. But then I realized rap is probably one of the most dangerous jobs in life. We interviewed Bert Kreischer yesterday, and it’s probably one of our favorite podcasts ever.
“It’s all about identifying with human beings. I really feel like I’m a therapist at this point. I really feel like I can break a person down. I can make you cry if I want to. I can make you spill the beans if I want to. I can make you talk about everything if I want to.”
And Drink Champs has accomplished that. Over the course of 363 episodes (and counting), N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN have watched DMX get emotional just months before his death, Kanye West go off the rails about the police killing of George Floyd (the episode had to be pulled after Floyd’s family threatened legal action) and Murder Inc. Records co-founder Irv Gotti make some wild claims about his romantic relationship with Ashanti. It’s all par for the course in rap journalism these days—the more outrageous, the better. But that’s not necessarily Drink Champs’s motive. As N.O.R.E. mentioned, the show is very much like a session with a therapist; feet up, inhibitions removed and more fact than fiction. Add alcohol to the equation, though, and there’s no telling where it can go. Luckily, N.O.R.E.—whose loud, gregarious personality can often trump anyone in the room—has DJ EFN to act as the anchor for the show.
“If you ask people that have known me over the years, they would actually say I be pretty wild, I’m a loud Cuban guy from Miami,” DJ EFN says. “I would drink and get tipsy and talk even louder. But when it comes to me and N.O.R.E., I don’t try to outdo somebody to prove something to the person next to me. I’ve always hated conference calls for that reason. So naturally, I’m gonna take a step back. I’m not gonna try to out character N.O.R.E. I’m used to being behind the scenes and that’s always been my role. I never really wanted to be in the forefront. I’m in the DJ role, N.O.R.E is gonna be the MC who’s in the forefront.”
It took some convincing on DJ EFN’s part to get N.O.R.E. to agree to do a podcast. In fact, N.O.R.E. was initially resistant to the idea because he thought podcasts were for “nerds.” Then veteran hip-hop producer Alchemist inadvertently changed his perspective.
“I didn’t like the name podcast,” N.O.R.E. admits. “I just thought the word ‘podcast’ was corny. I thought they were for nerds, but I didn’t realize I was a nerd, too. Alchemist did something for me. I was stuck in hip-hop purgatory, which is like being stuck between heaven and hell. You’re not exactly broke, but you’re not exactly rich, so you’re just stagnated. I was at Alchemist’s studio. He was like, ‘Do you know who you are?’ And I was like, ‘No.’”
N.O.R.E. was about to find out. That night, Alchemist ended up taking him to a Kid Cudi show in West Hollywood.
“It was nothing but nerds in there,” he says with a chuckle. “They were all nerds, these millennial kids.”
Kid Cudi asked N.O.R.E. to perform a couple of songs, so he wound up rapping two of his classic singles for the unsuspecting crowd, 1998’s “Superthug” and 2002’s “Nothin’.” Then it dawned on him—he was a nerd, too.
“I go into the crowd and there’s nothing but a whole generation of Pharrell kids,” he remembers. “They came up to me and they’re like, ‘Yo! You’re the God.’ And I’m like, ‘What?’ Pharrell birthed a whole generation of kids who are not tough. They’re sensitive people, and I have something to do with that. For that simple fact, that makes me the biggest nerd in the building, so I realized I was a nerd at that very moment and I embraced it. I went and bought the glasses and everything [laughs]. I’m a full-fledged nerd.”
With that, Drink Champs became a reality. But there were many moments where they nearly threw in the towel. At that time, they weren’t making any money. N.O.R.E had just relocated to Miami and there was “no way” his accountant was going to let him go back to New York City after the amount of money he’d just spent on his new penthouse. He had no choice but to make it work.
“We was $80,000 in the hole between us both,” N.O.R.E. says. “Six to eight months into making Drink Champs, we never made nothing. We didn’t want to take the $500 ads or the $200 ads and we didn’t want to take the $15 ads. We knew what we was worth, so we sat around and waited eight months before we actually took an ad.
“We just didn’t want the normal people to invest in us. If you’re going to invest in us, we wanted the highest quality. So we used our own money. There were at least three times we called each other like, ‘Are we sure we want to keep doing this?’ It was definitely scary at first.”
The risk paid off. In January 2023, Drink Champs signed an audio exclusive licensing deal with Warner Music Group’s podcast network, Interval Presents. Under the new agreement, Interval Presents gained the exclusive licensing rights to the audio version of the podcast on all major podcast platforms. The best part about the deal is N.O.R.E. and DJ EFN get to continue doing what they’re already doing: providing an entertaining platform for important conversations with their flurry of high profile guests, while banking on their innate chemistry to keep people coming back week after week.
“I think people see themselves in us,” DJ EFN says. “I think that’s why we inspired a lot of people to start their own podcasts. I don’t want the legacy of Drink Champs to inspire people to get drunk, but I think it’s cool we’ve inspired people to give podcasting a shot. People always tell me they feel like they’re drinking with their friends or their uncles or their crew. We’re not journalists having this real serious Q&A with a guest. It’s just crazy, off-the-cuff talking, but you’re still going to get some stuff you’ve been wanting to know about these artists’ careers and backstories about the culture.”
N.O.R.E. adds, “Giving out flowers is the most rewarding part for me. I’ve had a successful career. I have platinum and gold records. Me giving flowers to a person who has probably never had one gold record or never even toured the world always makes me a better person. It takes nothing away from me as a grown ass man who’s done phenomenal things to give somebody their flowers.”
DJ EFN knows their “livers can’t sustain this forever,” but N.O.R.E.—who’s been smoking a blunt full of moon rocks during the entire interview and admits to having a half ounce to three ounce a day weed habit—has a method to his madness.
“It’s a lot,” N.O.R.E. says of the drinking. “That’s why I only drink what my body’s used to. Usually, I get up and run two to three miles then put on a suit, sit in the sauna and sweat it all out. I drink a gallon of water a day. I do all the precautions.”
But one thing N.O.R.E. isn’t going to do is let society dictate what “living your best life” means for him. He explains, “There’s so many people who live life and don’t actually live life. And I’m not saying alcohol is the way to live life, and I’m not saying even cannabis is the way to live life, but you have to choose your version of having fun. You have to have fun. There’s so many people out here that’s living a boring, corny, stupid, miserable, dumb life because they’re living the standard life of what America says. Go live your fucking life.”
This article was originally published in the August 2023 issue of High Times Magazine.
Sometimes, when you’re sipping on an ice cold beer or a nice glass of red wine, it’s impossible to imagine a world where alcohol is illegal. Well – just like recreational substances – alcohol is not legal everywhere. Alcohol, often referred to as the ‘social lubricant’, has been an integral part of human culture for millennia. It has played roles in celebrations, rituals, and social interactions across diverse societies.
However, not all countries have embraced it in the same manner. In various corners of the globe, alcohol has faced restrictions and outright bans due to cultural, religious, social, or health-related reasons. In this article, we’ll be delving into the fascinating world of alcohol prohibition, exploring the places where it remains illegal and the motivations behind such decisions.
What is Alcohol?
Alcohol has been an integral part of many societies for centuries. In fact, it is believed that the part of our body that metabolizes alcohol has been within mammals long before humans even existed. Some say this is anywhere from 7-21 million years ago. Our predecessors were consuming alcohol from fruits long before we were around.
Alcohol, in a chemical sense, refers to a group of organic compounds characterized by the presence of a hydroxyl (-OH) functional group attached to a carbon atom. The most common type of alcohol is ethanol, with the chemical formula C2H5OH. Ethanol is the active ingredient in alcoholic beverages and is produced through the fermentation of sugars by yeast.
During fermentation, yeast consumes sugars, releasing carbon dioxide and ethanol as byproducts. This chemical process has been harnessed by humans for millennia to create various alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, and spirits. Wine is made from sugar from grapes, whereas vodka is vape from the sugar in potatoes. The Penn Museum writes:
“Chemical analyses recently confirmed that the earliest alcoholic beverage in the world was a mixed fermented drink of rice, honey, and hawthorn fruit and/or grape. The residues of the beverage, dated ca. 7000–6600 BCE, were recovered from early pottery from Jiahu, a Neolithic village in the Yellow River Valley.”
Alcohol, like many recreational substances, has the ability to increase euphoria and decrease social anxiety. It is no surprise that early human beings came across this substance and used it for religious and social ceremonies. In addition, its subtle pain killing properties were also very useful in the early days. Alcohol has stood the test of time as one of the most frequently used drugs ever created. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, an estimated 2.3 billion people are current alcohol drinkers. That is over a quarter of the population.
Alcoholic beverages can be broadly categorised into three main types: fermented beverages, distilled spirits, and fortified wines.
These beverages result from the natural fermentation of sugars by yeast. Common examples include beer and wine. Beer is made from malted grains, such as barley, while wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes.
Also known as hard liquor, distilled spirits are created through a process of distillation, which involves heating a fermented liquid to separate the alcohol from other components. This results in higher alcohol content compared to fermented beverages. Examples of distilled spirits include vodka, whiskey, rum, and gin.
Fortified wines are created by adding additional alcohol, often in the form of brandy, to a base wine. This increases the alcohol content and contributes to the distinct flavors of these beverages. Sherry and port are popular examples of fortified wines.
Effects on the Human Body
When consumed, alcohol affects the human body in various ways, primarily targeting the central nervous system. The effects of alcohol consumption are dose-dependent, meaning that they vary based on the amount consumed.
Even a small amount of alcohol can lead to relaxation, lowered inhibitions, and a feeling of euphoria. However, higher doses can result in impaired coordination, slowed reaction times, and impaired judgement.
Chronic alcohol consumption can have serious long-term health consequences. It can lead to liver damage (such as cirrhosis), heart problems, impaired cognitive function, and an increased risk of certain cancers.
Banning alcohol is an extreme decision, especially when you consider how many nations in the world have maintained its legality. In the modern day, few countries have outlawed alcohol, in part or as a whole. These “dry” nations often implement such measures to uphold religious principles, combat public health concerns, or maintain social order. Some of these countries have a majority Muslim population and have governments that adhere to some form of Islamic law, known as Sharia. Eating pork and drinking alcohol are two of the big prohibitions of Islam. There are around 14 countries that have outlawed alcohol to varying points. Let’s take a journey through some of the regions where alcohol is currently banned or restricted.
One of the most well-known examples of strict alcohol prohibition can be found in Saudi Arabia. The country’s Islamic laws strictly prohibit the sale, consumption, and possession of alcohol. This prohibition is rooted in Islamic teachings that emphasise sobriety and avoidance of substances that alter one’s state of mind.
Due to its primarily Islamic population, Afghanistan also enforces a ban on alcohol. The Taliban’s rule from 1996 to 2001 intensified this prohibition, and even after its fall, alcohol remains scarce and illegal in much of the country.
In Iran, alcohol is forbidden according to Islamic law. However, there is a significant underground market for homemade alcohol, revealing the complexities of enforcing such bans.
Kuwait is another Middle Eastern nation where alcohol is prohibited. The ban is again rooted in Islamic beliefs and the desire to maintain a conservative social environment.
This Southeast Asian country, with its strong Islamic traditions, has implemented a strict ban on alcohol as well. Violations of the ban can lead to severe penalties.
The unstable political situation in Libya has led to sporadic enforcement of alcohol bans. Islamic influences play a role in the prohibition, but social and cultural factors also contribute.
Like many other Islamic nations, Yemen enforces a ban on alcohol. The country’s conservative culture and adherence to Islamic teachings are significant factors in this decision.
Alcohol has faced legal restrictions in Sudan due to Islamic influences, even though the country is ethnically and culturally diverse.
Bangladesh: While alcohol is not entirely banned in Bangladesh, its availability is limited and heavily regulated due to Islamic and cultural considerations.
This island nation in the Indian Ocean has a predominantly Muslim population, which has led to the implementation of alcohol restrictions.
Whilst most of these nations have a strong religious purpose for the ban of alcohol, this is not the first time that this has happened. In fact, in the 1920s, in the US, the same ban was attempted but it failed pretty miserably. This represented an era known as Prohibition. Prohibition, also known as the Prohibition Era, refers to the period in the United States from 1920 to 1933 when the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages were prohibited by law.
This nationwide ban was established through the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and enforced by the Volstead Act. The main motivations behind the Prohibition movement were rooted in concerns about public health, morality, and social order. Advocates believed that banning alcohol would lead to reduced crime, domestic violence, and poverty, and would promote healthier lifestyles and improved productivity. Additionally, there was a strong temperance movement that aimed to curb what were seen as negative effects of alcohol on individuals and society.
However, despite the noble intentions behind Prohibition, the policy ultimately failed to achieve its intended goals, as organized crime rose, crime increased, the economy suffered, and it was simply difficult to enforce. In a nation like the USA, which had used alcohol for centuries, banning it so suddenly was simply not going to work. While prohibition might seem effective in theory, it often drives alcohol consumption underground, making it difficult to regulate and control. Some critics argue that a more balanced approach, such as implementing regulations and educating the public about responsible drinking, might yield better results in terms of public health and safety.
Often people gasp at the idea of a nation that has banned alcohol. For instance, during the Qatar World Cup, many thought it cruel to attend a football game without being able to drink a delicious pint. However, it’s important to put this into perspective. Many countries ban substances that they deem unhealthy, dangerous or religiously improper. Well, alcohol – in many ways – has proven itself to be far more dangerous than cannabis. And yet, the majority of the world still decides to ban it. Whilst alcohol has a deep-rooted culture in much of the world, it doesn’t take away the undoubted dangers that it brings. Perhaps it’s hypocritical to legalize alcohol but not other substances. What do you think?
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