This article is featured in Gossamer Volume Seven—the Touch issue— order your copy here.
I come from a long line of “It’s six o’clock, where’s my giant tumbler of vodka?” people. Now, I enjoy drinking, it’s fun, but I really believe the more moderate one can be about it the better, because, let’s face it, alcohol is poison. To get witchy for a second, poison isn’t all bad but you probably don’t want to take too much of it. Alcohol is not an intimacy-cultivating habit. It also makes you eat too much and makes you look old, and I am already old. I don’t need more old.
Just because I think alcohol is poison and encourages reckless overconsumption of dinner and rapid aging doesn’t necessarily mean I’m ready to jump on the “weed is medicine” train. I live smack dab in the middle of “weed is medicine” country and while I did with my very own eyes see my friend cure her border collie’s cancer with cannabis poultices, I am of the opinion that mostly what pot does is make people stoned. For some, being stoned is glorious. For me, historically at least, it means racing thoughts, anxiety, and a sort of panicked fog. It’s absolutely nothing like the ahh, that’s better feeling that a drink gives me.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” I thought, “to be able to sit down at 6 PM or, let’s face it, 4 PM on Fridays, and drink something mind-altering that wasn’t alcohol?”
The more recent generation of edibles—the ones that are mostly CBD with a tiny bit of THC—has provided me with something like the calm focus and cozy feelings I have heard pot lovers praise. Mostly, I wanted to have that end-of-day drink feeling without having to drink alcohol. So when I started noticing that there were lots and lots of pot drinks out now clearly marketed to people like me looking for the same thing—low-dose, THC-infused beverages that resemble currently popular cans of rosé or spiked seltzer and promise a seamless alternative to the poison that is alcohol—I was optimistic that I might find, if not a cure for my habit, then a healthy workaround.
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful,” I thought, “to be able to sit down at 6 PM or, let’s face it, 4 PM on Fridays, and drink something mind-altering that wasn’t alcohol? Something that signaled ‘this is the end of the day’ without totally numbing me out, and that was better for my health?”
I got two different kinds of products to see what would work best for me. One of them was a concentrate that you add to club soda or juice. The label recommended using an extremely small amount, like a quarter capful, if you were a beginner. Although my initial plan had been to sample the drink at cocktail hour, the first time I tried it I had just gotten home from a party where I’d had two glasses of wine.
I drank a lot of water and took a cool shower and put on my caftan. It was 10 PM, my boyfriend was out of town and the dog was ready to stop pacing and curl up with her mom. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be nice to watch a movie under the influence of an extremely light dose of some beautifully packaged liquid cannabis product?” I put a quarter capful in a glass of lemon LaCroix and put on a movie. Ten or fifteen minutes in, I found myself having to rewind the film to understand what was going on. Before I knew it, I was basically tripping my face off.
The best thing I can say about the experience is that even though my thoughts were going a mile a minute and I desperately wanted them to stop and they didn’t until about 3 AM, at least none of them were negative thoughts. In fact, I tried hard to have a negative thought and found I simply couldn’t. I wondered if it was engineered that way or if I was just so high that whatever part of my brain that processes negativity had just shut down. At any rate, I knew this product wasn’t for me. I gave it to a friend who smokes every day. She reported, “I had, like, half a capful of it in water and it made my face numb and then I passed out.”
With optimistic fortitude, I moved on to the next drink. These were carbonated and in cunning little cans. Each contained a 2 mg dose of THC, 4 mg of CBD, and 2 mg of something called Delta-8 which I assumed was a vitamin because I am an idiot. I decided to use this drink the way I had initially planned: as a substitute for wine or a martini at the traditional evening hour. Since it only had 2 mg of THC, I drank a whole can over ice.
I liked the taste. It didn’t taste too sweet, and it didn’t taste like weed. It just tasted like your basic juice seltzer drink.
Word quickly spread of the exciting newfangled pot sodas in my refrigerator and soon many unannounced guests were just “dropping by.”
Sometimes, when I have a drink by myself, I like to write “fun” non-work stuff like terrible fiction. I tried this after my pot drink, and for about a half an hour, I felt relaxed and focused, but hyper focused, almost like I was wearing blinders. This feeling intensified to the point where I was staring at words, marveling at the nature of words, and was, in other words, way too stoned. I decided to have a large glass of white Burgundy to relax. But I was stoned enough not to have two of them, which meant that the pot drink was improving my health, at least a little bit.
I took a day off from taking any substances at all, also known in this household as “a minor miracle.” The next night, I had half a can of the pot soda and found, once again, that though I was not as stoned as I was the day before, I was still quite stoned.
A friend happened to come by with some vegetables, and he was enthusiastic at my offer of a pot soda. “Cool can,” he said, and then chugged the whole thing down in about three gulps.
“Oh shit,” I said. “I know it says that it only has two milligrams of THC in it, but I had one of them yesterday and was so high I was like ‘wow, words are cool.’ Today I only had half of one but I still feel pretty stoned, in fact, wow, now that I am speaking to another person, I am realizing that I am actually pretty stoned. Have I been talking for a while?”
My friend looked at the can. “Delta-8 is some kind of THC,” he said. “So, the whole thing has 4 mg of, you know, actual weed.”
He hung out for a while and had another can. “Aren’t you stoned out of your mind?” I asked him.
“No,” he said, looking admiringly at the can. “I just feel kind of relaxed and good. These are pretty cool.”
As often happens when one lives in a tiny village, word quickly spread of the exciting newfangled pot sodas in my refrigerator and soon many unannounced guests were just “dropping by.”
“Would you like to try pot soda?” I asked them in turn, and each one said why yes, how delightful, they’d love one, or two. Results were mixed. One friend took hers home, drank half of it and cleaned the bathroom, then drank the other half and cleaned half the kitchen before giving up to watch the Olympics. Another, who doesn’t have a television and comes over to play video games with my boyfriend, drank one, played some games, drank another one, and then sat down on a Saturday afternoon and, in a mere one and a half hours, plowed through two month’s worth of work emails and paperwork. One taker drank his, stared at the dog for a while, then went up to the corner store, bought a box of Pop Tarts and ate the entire thing in the parking lot.
The thing I’ve learned to remember when judging pot is that it’s not alcohol.
Pot soda and I are figuring out our relationship. I have been microdosing my microdose: I pour about two tablespoons of one of these drinks into a glass of seltzer and that’s plenty. I call this drink The Megalightweight, and yes, that’s the whole recipe. It helps me fall asleep at night if I was foolish enough to have coffee in the afternoon. Or if I’ve already had two drinks and don’t want to have another, this mellows me out enough that I’m able to go to bed without a third. That’s a pretty useful thing in my world. Also useful: pot soda is an ideal item to offer guests who do weed but not alcohol. And for those who do both, well, if you feel like they’ve had enough wine, you can offer them one of these and avoid both rudeness and having a too-drunk guest on your hands.
The thing I’ve learned to remember when judging pot is that it’s not alcohol. It does different things. Alcohol makes me more comfortable around other people and lessens my anxiety, but it does that because it deadens the senses. That is a difficult thing to know about alcohol. The next time you’re drinking and feeling good, you might want to say to yourself, “The reason I am feeling good right now is because there is a wall between me and reality, but that wall is made of highly polished glass so I feel like I’m still in reality, and it’s even better than it used to be, pretty good trick, huh?” And you know, this is both sinister and alright. Sometimes we need that. Humans are allowed to need that; we don’t have to be ashamed, unless we start fights—or a car—while in this state.
Pot heightens awareness. And so maybe at the end of the day, you can’t just sit there and have a pot drink and expect to feel the relaxation you feel with alcohol. Maybe I have my (heavily diluted) pot soda and add something else, like a walk, or a swim, or I watch a movie, or paint instead of writing, since my painting is truly too awful for me to judge, and not on the line between awful and good like my fiction. Maybe in wanting pot to be like alcohol, I’ve been missing out on what’s good about pot. In the end, I have measured praise for pot soda: it doesn’t do exactly what I wanted it to do, but at least it does something.