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The Weed - Time, 1943

Teenage Marijuana Orgy

Time Magazine - July 19. 1943 - Pub. P.I. Preutice (page 54)

The Weed

One of the more nervous heroes of hot jazz, Gene Krupa, went to Califomia's San Quentin Prison this week to serve a sentence of one to six years. Drummer Krupa had been sentenced on two counts. The first was a felony: employing a minor, one John Pateakos, to transport narcotics. The second and lesser count was a misdemeanor: possession of the drug marijuana, a violation which, if it could be universally detected, would land a great many jazz musicians behind prison bars. It is no secret that some of the finest flights of American syncopation, like some of the finest products of the symbolist poets, owe much of their expressiveness to the use of a drug. But the nature and effects of marijuana, specifically, are a good deal more of a secret than they need be.

To its users, the drug has many names -many of them evasive. Marijuana may be called muggles, mooter, Mary Warner, Mary Jane, Indian hay, loco weed, love weed, bambalacha, mohlasky, mu, moocah, grass, tea or blue sage. Cigarets made from it are killers, goof-butts, joy-smokes, giggle-smokes or reefers. The word marijuana is of Mexican origin and means "the weed that intoxicates." It is made from the Indian hemp plant, a spreading green bush resembling sumac. Known to the pharmacopoeia as Cannabis sativa, it is a source of important paint ingredients and rope fiber as well as narcotics. It can be grown easily almost anywhere, hence tends to be inexpensive, as drugs go. Its recent prices (10 cents to 50 cents a cigaret) have placed it beneath the dignity of big-time racketeers. But its furtive preparation and sale afford a modest living to thousands.

In most U.S. cities the marijuana salesman peddles his cigarets to known clients in public places. He is known to his clients as a "pusher." His clients are known as "vipers." Etiquette between pushers and vipers is necessarily delicate. When he wants to buy, the viper sidles up to the pusher and inquires "Are ya stickin'?" or "Are ya layin' down the hustle?" If the answer is affirmative, the viper says, "Gimme an ace" (meaning one reefer), "a deuce" (meaning two), or "a deck" (meaning a large number). The viper may then quietly "blast the weed" (smoke). Two or three long puffs usually suffice after a while to produce a light jag. The smoker is then said to be "high" or "floating." When he has smoked a reefer down to a half-inch butt, he carefully conserves it in an empty match box. In this condition it is known, in Mexican, as a chicharra, or in English, as a "roach."

Around the Piccolo. Some pushers run establishments known as "tea pads." The tea pad may be anything from a rented room to a suite in a fashionable hotel. Usually it is dimly lighted with colored lamps and reeks of incense burned to cover the telltale, bonfire-like odor of burning marijuana. Most tea Pads are supplied with a juke box (known in marijuanese as a "piccolo"). Clients who have assembled to "have a pad" may smoke their own reefers. But commonly they blast the goof-butt collectively, passing a single reefer around from mouth, to mouth like a pipe of peace. Next morning, enjoying a heavy sensation very much like an alcoholic hangover, they are said to be "down."

The effects of marijuana smoking somewhat resemble those of alcohol. Within half to one hour the viper's eyes redden, his pupils dilate, his tongue gets parched. If he is a novice, he frequently breaks into uncontrollable laughter, or vomits. But an hour or so later he is "high." He has a sensation of floating on air, or falling softly on waves. His ears ring sweetly his head swims pleasantly, his limbs are langorously heavy, his hunger grow, especially for sweets. Curious things happen to his perceptions of space and time. Objects a mile outside the window may seem within easy reach. A lazy minute may seem like an hour. Curiously, the power of mental concentration appears to increase rather than diminish. Some specialized workers find that marijuana stimulates their faculties.

The association of marijuana with hot jazz is no accident. The drug's power to slow the sense of time gives an improviser the illusion that he has all the time in the world in which to conceive his next phrases. And the drug also seems to heighten the hearing-so that, for instance, strange chord formations seem easier to analyze under marijuana. Jazz-playing vipers may be outnumbered by "lushes" (alcoholics)---who almost never smoke reefers. Today, among all dance musicians (including those of the "sweet" bands), the percentage of marijuana smokers probably does not exceed 20%. But among hot jazz players there are few (except the confirmed lushes) who do not occasionally smoke.

Old Persian Practice. In some form, hemp has been smoked since long before the beginning of the Christian Era. It was familiar to the ancient Hindus and Persians. It is smoked widely by the Arabs. Eminent European vipers have included De Quincey, Baudelaire (who once, under the influence, sketched a self-portrait, With the Colonne Vendome in hashish perspective-see cut, P. 54), Dumas, Gautier. The U.S. vogue, precisely coincident with the vogue for hot jazz, began in New Orleans a generation ago, moved up the Mississippi to Chicago, thereafter spread east and west.

Despite its lurid reputation, marijuana seems no more harmful than alcohol. Though habitual criminals often use it, psychiatrists and police narcotic experts have never been able to prove that it induces criminal tendencies in otherwise normal people. It is less habit-forming than tobacco, alcohol or opium. The most confirmed vipers have no particular craving for the drug. They just enjoy its effects. Like alcohol, of course, it can raise hell with orderly living, release bad as well as good personality traits. But in spite of the legends, no case of physical mental or moral degeneration has ever been traced exclusively to marijuana.

Because of its non-habit-forming character, doctors have recently been experimenting with the drug as an aid in curing opium addiction. In the world of hot jazz, marijuana's relatively benign effects are attested by long experience. Lushes often die young from cirrhosis of the liver or apoplexy, often spend their final days in delirium tremens. But vipers frequently live on to enjoy old age. In You Rascal You, a viper addresses an imaginary lush: "I'll be standing on the corner high when they bring your body by."


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