What does getting high internationally look like? Travel writer Jon Horn can tell you, in this excerpt from his memoir Opus Dopus, that there are many names and many paths to the other side of the Green Rush. No matter where you get the goods, it’s an adventure.
By Jon Horn
Of course it should be legal, as it’s clearly less harmful than cigarettes or booze. Talkin’ ’bout pot, weed, 420, reefer, ganja – the good herb, mon! “Legalize it and I will advertise it!” sang “the stepping razor” Peter Tosh. My Brooklyn-JA dealer would bring out the extra-strong stuff and then I & I would “reason together,” as he put it in his lyrical way. I love to hear Jamaicans talk, especially when I can understand them. Those Trenchtown accents can convince you they’re not speaking English, but behind the good stuff it all comes clear. Seen!
Hard drugs I always kept at arm’s length. Did you ever encounter a full-blown meth freak or crackhead? It’s Night of the Living Dead 24/7, and they’ll sell their babies for another hit. Scary shit. And the herbals never made anybody into a mean drunk, a coked-out megalomaniac, an OD’d junkie, or even a lung-cancered chain-smoker. I don’t do any “drugs” at all nowadays, certainly not “prescription meds,” and not even THC. Weed was a warm and fuzzy blanket around my cynical and lazy life, and like all comfort blankies, I had to let it go to grow up (at an age when folks used to be old). But that’s me. I don’t frown upon its use—but unfortunately, as with screen watching, abuse often follows use, habituation if not severe addiction. When I stopped seriously smoking spliffs every day (this was before vaping), I didn’t sleep for a week, and I still sigh to recall how I could go to bed and sleep so deep that when I woke up eight hours later it would seem as if but moments had passed. I’ve never slept like that since pot. Never has my mood improved so easily; never have I felt that music sounded so good, or food tasted so great, or life was such a laugh-and-a-half.
In the Djma El Fna (the great square of the Marrakesh medina, site of an all-day everyday fair), an ageless man in skullcap, French Army surplus greatcoat, and trad Moorish slippers, crouched down behind his plastic-covered tray for a couple of peak sundown hours, calling out “Raiba!” none too loudly amidst the Gnaoui drummers, snake charmers, storytellers, acrobats, oud-playing Berber bluesmen, and hawkers of “casse-croute” and couscous with “sauce Italienne.”
Raiba were milk cookies. For local kids and straight tourists, the deadpan cookie man uncovered one end of the thick, opaque plastic to show oven-tan sandies. For local kifis and tripper heads, he lifted the other end of the plastic with a slight conspiratorial smile to display dark-green cookies which sold for twice the price of the others. One or two of them with a glass of mint tea got you quite high.
In Berzerkeley a grinning hippie in a red headband sold honest single jays out of his pocket up by the University gate on Telegraph.
In Park Slope, boro of Brooklyn, you entered a certain Jamaican record shop and went straight to the rear, slipping a five or ten dollar bill thru a small, square, waist-high hole in the wall and immediately receiving a nickel or dime bag from a brown hand.
In Cairo, a savvy cabbie ushered me back of a curtain in a juice bar where hash tokes from a large hubbly-bubbly were shared by heavy-eyed local stoners.
In San Cristobal de las Casas, state of Chiapas, the media-loco son of the Jefe de Policia and his posse of delinquents scored off an old brujo in a windowless candle-lit hovel where bundles of all kinds of herbs, not only mota, were laid out on a dirty table. We walked the cobbled backstreets smoking huge spliffs rolled in newspaper or strips of brown-bag paper (rolling papers always unavailable), my pot pals giggling and jostling as I threw a coughing fit.
In Amsterdam it was uncommonly legal and up-front. You headed for the dirty canal where the cafes had great big cannabis leaves painted on their plate-glass windows.
I started dealing to get my smoke free. I doubled my money turning over bricks, had enough left over for my personal use, and was sold American on such “off the books” free enterprise, with no taxes to pay, half of which would always go to the war machine in the Land of the Smoking Gun. I made contacts, heard about muling and smuggling, and only profited modestly so I didn’t run up on the brutal business of cartels and such. A couple hundred years ago, master novelist (and caffeine addict) Balzac famously wrote “Behind every fortune is a crime,” and that’s still true today, from what I know. Small profits = smaller crimes.
And how many people—usually young and dark—have been sent to prison in the good old USA (with the largest prison population on earth, lest we forget), just for pot-related busts? Now “medical marijuana” has become legitimate, and “recreational use” is being normalized in more and more states. But laws die hard, and until it’s more profitable to tax legal herbs than to incarcerate its users and dealers in “privatized” (i.e. for-profit) lockups, we won’t have nationwide change. Heck, even our old “guaranteed” Constitutional rights have been rescinded in the name of Homeland Security.
It ain’t a free country after all. So the old muggles is still an outlaw thing. I was a stoner – dealer – smuggler – outlaw at home and abroad for some of my best years, a freebooter following the sun along the old hashish trail. Here’s my story, told in a kind of non-linear way, since my life has been non-linear, to say the least …
Thus travel writer Jon Horn begins his colorful and as-yet-unpublished memoir, OPUS DOPUS. Horn’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Sunday Travel Section, Gallery, Redbook, Crawdaddy, and the New Olympia Reader. Bondage Trash, Horn’s early work—a “cult classic, sans cult” (in his words) was published by Olympia Press. Michael Perkins (in The Secret Record, Morrow) described it as “a masterpiece…abstract as a poem, a work of lurid beauty fashioned from unlikely materials.”