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6 THE CHANGING MEANINGS OF MARIJUANA USE II PDF Print E-mail
Written by John Auld   
Saturday, 11 September 2010 00:00

6 THE CHANGING MEANINGS OF MARIJUANA USE II

The Changing Situational Context of Marijuana Use

Considered in terms of both the demise of Underground culture and the consequences of its associated diffusion to a wider and more respectable public, one would have to conclude that the meanings of marijuana use for many of those who engaged in it underwent a fairly substantial change during the late '60s and early '70s. At any rate, a good deal of the symbolic support for and, correspondingly, rationale for proselytizing the activity disappeared. Yet even if their duration and impact could be chronicled precisely, there is no way in which these changes of the broader social and political milieu within which the activity was situated could alone be considered capable of divesting it of its pleasurability or enjoyable qualities to the extent that would adequately account for the changing patterns of use with which I am primarily concerned here. As we saw in chapter four, many of the subjective effects of marijuana that are defined as pleasurable by its users owe little to such features of the wider social context as have just been considered. Furthermore, such features seem of little relevance to any attempt to account for some of the statements actually provided by people who had expressed a loss of interest in marijuana or were apparently finding its use to have become increasingly less pleasurable over time. Suggestive in this connection is the following remark made by one of Berke and Hernton's respondents:

When I first started smoking there were frequent periods of extreme hilarity but this seems to have diminished and only occurs occasionally.1

Also relevant are some of the views expressed by two of my own respondents.' The following is an extract from an interview carried out with Anna, a 29 year old actress:

Q. How long is it since you last used dope?
A. Oh, I haven't used the stuff for quite a while . . if I want to have a good time,! prefer whisky.
Q. You're not saying that people can't have a good time with dope?
A. Oh, no. I used to enjoy it a lot myself . . . . Things seem to have changed, though. A lot of people seem to have become rather antisocial with it. I'll give you an example. Helen, my flat-mate, gets stoned quite a lot, and sometimes I'd come back from the theatre at night with a friend and there she'd be, spaced out with the music turned up loud . . . I'd try to be sociable, stage introductions and so on, but it was pretty hopeless and in the end a bit embarrassing — at least for me. It's not just her, though; I've found the same thing with other people. It may have been true at one time that you get closer to people if you smoke with them, but not any more . . . As I say, if I want to be sociable,! stick to whisky.

Roger, a 24 year old Economics student, described a rather similar change in experience and outlook, even though he continued to participate in the activity:

Q. How long is it since you last used dope?
A. Last week-end was the last time,! think. Five days ago, if you want to be precise.
Q. And the time before that?
A. It's difficult to say. It's not really the sort of thing you tend to note down in your diary. If I said the weekend before that, that would probably be about right. I suppose I "indulge" about once a week, on average.
Q. Would you say that that's more or less often than previously? . . . (during which the word "previously" was clarified).
A. Well, I used to smoke almost every day. Used to be really good, too — Q. Used to be? You mean it's not so good as it was?
A. Yeah, more or less, if you want to put it like that. Let's say I don't go to the trouble of scoring the stuff myself anymore. Sure, I'll have some if it's being offered round. Who wouldn't? But it's not the same . , .
Changing meanings of marijuana use II 145
A. Well, I suppose it's all become, well, a bit passive. People sitting around not quite knowing what to do with themselves. O.K., they might be listening to music. But you can do that on your own, can't you?
Q. ... But you still continue to smoke?
A. Sure, if there's nothing better to do. Besides, when everyone else does, you're even more out of it if you don't, aren't you?

Significantly, there are a number of accounts in the American literature that document a similar change of attitude. Consider, for example, the remarks made by one of those whom Peter Stafford interviewed about their thoughts on marijuana:

Q. What do you think of pot?
A. I don't know.
Q. I mean, do you like it?
A. Do I like it? Rarely.
Q. Do you smoke it often?
A. Not anymore. Q. You used to? A. Yeah.
Q. Why? What did you get out of it in those days? What was your attitude toward it then?
A. Well, it got me stoned.
Q. Could you elaborate a little bit? What does it mean to be stoned? A. Oh, I don't imagine it was — it was like —
Q. You didn't mind wasting the energy then?
A. No, yeah, I mean like it was still like a novel thing, and I was goofing on the things that come along with it.
Q. Like what, like what comes along with it?
A. Well, now it makes me uncomfortable, while it used to make me the opposite. It used to make me comfortable because I could dig on just being relaxed. Yeah, just relaxed a lot.3

Such comments, for all their limitations, clearly demand a reappraisal of the situational characteristics of marijuana use and the extent to which they may change over time. So also do those made by another of Stafford's interviewees who, in response to the question "Did it (marijuana) used to make you do more things?" (which in the absence of any relevant cues prior to its being posed seems to suggest, interestingly, an expectation on Stafford's part that it might have done) remarked as follows:

When I first started it was the giggles a lot, lots of fun and then I got into the introspection where I could remember stuff from my childhood that had been completely blotted out . . . Yeah . . . it started out laughs, and then introspection and then lately it's been just like I'm drugged. That's it. I'm just kind of out of it.4

Now admittedly these two latter accounts tell us little about the actual settings in which the drug was used and whether the views expressed in them are at all representative. Nor, clearly, are they free from the hazards of bias and falsification to which all interview "findings" of this kind are subject.' It is perhaps significant, therefore, that they should appear to receive a measure of support from some of those accounts that make more explicit reference to the behaviour of others as well. For the moment I shall cite just two of these for purposes of illustration. Consider first the following extract from a magazine article titled "Why I Don't Smoke Dope Anymore" in which the author recalls the transition which occurred in the prevailing style of marijuana use within his own social milieu:

Those were the days of Leary's acid revolution and I began looking around me with a new, slightly jaundiced eye. At parties, "drop out" was winning out over "turn on and tune in", and like a bunch of clunks, regular sleepy frogs on floor pillows, my friends would sit around fadding in and out of conversations. There were always waves of giggles and mindless hilarity but somehow everything seemed just a little bit dull.

Soon pot became a social crutch, maybe more a wheelchair .... Wake up in the morning, do a number and follow it with six more during the day, and every interaction became so mellowed out we might as well have been lumps of yeasty dough. But good vibes abounded and our vocabulary was enriched with such precise classics as "Outtasight!" "Far out!" "Too much!" and my all-time favorite, "Wow!"6

The testimonial of another American who eventually stopped using marijuana includes amongst other reasons the following interesting statement:

I began disliking the whole pot party scene. People sat around stoned, each in their own worlds, not really communicating. They seemed empty and lifeless, just as I felt.'

Now one does not need to accept this latter interpretation of the reasons for such behaviour (i.e. that other people were feeling "empty and lifeless") in order to credit the fact that it actually ocurred. It could, as I shall try to suggest, have been the product of quite different influences. Whatever their limitations, statements such as these are, I think, worth citing for the light which they appear to throw upon the anomalous changes in patterns of marijuana use referred to earlier. They are at any rate consistent both with the survey findings on both sides of the Atlantic that a large number of marijuana users lost interest in the drug, even if only temporarily, and with the observation that the behaviour of regular, long-term users has characteristically appeared more subdued or "withdrawn" than that of neophytes. In the present context, their interest derives partly from the fact that, whilst they are apparently "insider reports",8 they equally apparently challenge the view so often attributed to "insiders" of marijuana use being an activity which generates fun, sociability and a general euphoria. In these accounts, on the contrary, marijuana use is seen as objectively dull, or subjectively problematic, or both. Now this does not mean, of course, that people who experienced the activity in these terms will necessarily have desisted from it. Some of Roger's remarks cited above provide adequate testimony to this. A rather obvious point, but one to which I shall nevertheless return to consider presently, is that in the event there were certain fairly powerful social limitations upon the extent to which changes in attitudes and subjective experience might be manifested in behaviour. But this does not mean that such changes did not occur.

How then can these changes in attitude and behaviour be explained? Clearly, if they are examined at all closely, an argument stressing the declining importance of the political and symbolic factors already mentioned will not suffice; nor will any positivistic theory that they may be attributed either to certain properties of the drug itself or to certain personality characteristics of the kinds of people who used it. Here, as before, I would suggest instead the greater plausibility and heuristic value of an explanation in terms of the notion of learning.

Let us recall briefly some of the features of the context in which the marijuana user would have got high for the first time.They have to do with both his prior expectations (or "set") and the properties of the situation (or "setting") in which these expectations become a social and subjective reality. On the one hand, the cultural and subcultural imagery to which he was likely to have been exposed would tend to have associated the drug's use with a certain loss of inhibition, encouraging him in an acceptance of the positivist belief that the drug would do at least something to him. At the same time, as we saw in chapter four, the logic of the drug-using situation itself not only instructs him to wait for something to happen; it also both greatly increases his receptivity to any indications that something is happening, and promotes an indulgent, even welcoming, attitude on the part of others to the exuberant or (by conventional standards) exhibitionistic behaviour with which he might well express his appreciation that something has, in fact, happened. It is perhaps worth recalling that a central contention emerging from the analysis in which these different features were examined was that the behaviour in which they are reflected, rather than being caused by the subjective effects of marijuana as is often supposed, may to some extent actually give rise to them.

Much of the pleasurability of marijuana use in the initial stages clearly resides in the novelty of the thoughts and sensations which it appears to generate. Basic to all the previous discussion concerning the development of what Matza terms a "sensibility to banality" is the idea of rediscovery. In the words of one of Goode's respondents, "Pot is trying things out over again".9 If this theme of rediscovery has not been sufficiently conveyed by the sometimes rather abstract discussion of the process of becoming high presented earlier, it is clearly evident in a number of published descriptions of the experience of initial marijuana use. The following, drawn from widely differing sources, may provide some indication of this:

It's a funny thing about marijuana — when you first begin smoking it you see things in a wonderful soothing, easy-going new light. All of a sudden the world is stripped of its dirty gray shrouds and becomes one big bellyful of giggles, a spherical laugh, bathed in brilliant, sparkling colors that hit you like a heatwave. Nothing leaves you cold any more: there's a humorous tickle and great meaning in the least little thing, the twitch of somebody's little finger or the click of a beer glass. All your pores open like funnels, your nerve-ends stretch their mouths wide, hungry and thirsty for new sights and sounds and sensations; and every sensation, when it comes, is the most exciting one you've ever had ... 1 o

First of all, you suddenly notice as if for the first time in your life, how fantastically beautiful everything in the world is — even little things you hardly thought worth looking at before . . . all colours become incredibly bright and intense, and sounds and touches full of beauty ... But there is much more than just the heightening of the senses. You begin to think think think. More profoundly and more interestingly than ever before. You have fantastic ideas thrown up by your imagination which knows no bounds or restraints. And you feel an intense physical exhilaration — that makes you want to leap around. Everything in the world suddenly becomes true and real — you can see deep into people's minds by just looking at their eyes — you can tell everything about them, their thoughts, characters, dreams and secrets. You can see what people are really like — their "image" is shattered — and so is yours — you start behaving as you really are. Politeness for the sake of politeness is impossible, or if tried, it is completely unconvincing. You become obsessed with the beauty of everything around you — a small noise made with your mouth is wonderful — you repeat it over and over again. To any observer you appear crazy — but this is nothing to you — you are in your own lovely world creating thoughts and visions and sounds and sights — creating whatever you like — doing whatever you like — you have woken up at last and start seeing the world as it really is for the first time ...

There are certain similarities here with passages from Baudelaire's classic description:

The first (effect of the drug) is a sort of irrelevant and irresistible hilarity. Attacks of causeless mirth, of which you are almost ashamed, repeat themselves at frequent intervals, cutting across periods of stupor during which you try in vain to pull yourself together . . . Incongruous and unforeseeable resemblances and comparisons, interminable bouts of punning on words, rough sketches for farces, continually spout from your brain . . . This crazy whimsicality, these explosive bursts of laughter, seem like real madness, or at least like a maniac's folly, to anyone who is not in the same state as yourself. Conversely, the self-control, good sense and orderly thoughts of a prudent observer who has abstained from intoxication — these delight and amuse you like a special sort of dementia . 1 2

Finally, on a slightly different key, but still clearly conveying the sense of remission from the more conventional rules which govern social situations:

It was great and I began to laugh in a totally mad way. I was delighted that I was so different. Everyone in the whole universe was mad except me. I was the only sane and perfect being . . . . I don't know if we were all really as high as we said we were, but it was fun. And in the restaurant, we joked and laughed as though the whole world and its secrets belonged to us alone! 3

Now it might be thought sufficient to assert that any seeming loss of interest in marijuana use over time can simply be explained by the suggestion — a fairly reasonable one in the circumstances — that experiences such as these are likely to become increasingly routine. Deprived of their novelty, in other words, the drug's effects become progressively somewhat dull and boring, and no longer generate the sense of privileged insight or understanding referred to with such emphasis in the testimonies just cited. There is undeniably some substance to this argument, if only in the sense that there are presumably certain natural limits to the number of objects and experiences which can be rediscovered in the way described. However, it provides only a partial explanation of what in the case being considered here was, I would argue, a rather more complex series of changes. I would like to suggest that even if the subjective effects of marijuana did not actually become dull or boring, there was a considerable risk that, unless certain fairly significant changes were brought about, either such effects would not continue to occur with the same intensity anyway, or the situations in which they were experienced become too problematic for them to be unambiguously defined as pleasurable.

The most appropriate way of clarifying this suggestion is to take a closer look at some of the typical features of the career of the marijuana user during the period in question and to consider the impact which the gradual transition from initial to sustained, regular use was likely to make upon the kinds of situational constraints referred to earlier.' 4 These may be grouped into two basic categories: firstly, constraints connected with the problem of deviant status or membership; and secondly, constraints connected with the perceived appropriateness of social performance. As I hope to demonstrate, the two categories are closely interrelated. However, as I hope also to make clear, there are significant differences in the manner in which they are each related to the broader problem of establishing the historical specificity of the patterns of marijuana use currently under review.

Changes in Identity and Membership

Discussion of the first area of constraint to be affected by the transition to regular marijuana use can be kept fairly brief, partly because it is not complicated by considerations of time and place. The basic point at issue is that once the subject, any subject, has successfully graduated from his erstwhile status of neophyte, much of the sense of obligation which he may have felt to express his appreciation of the drug's effects necessarily falls away. On the one hand, he clearly no longer has any reason to try to persuade himself that the activity is fun. Indeed, with the knowledge gained by hindsight he may wonder why prior to trying the substance he should have felt any of the symptoms of cognitive dissonance in the way referred to earlier at all. At the same time, however, the constraint upon his behaviour deriving from what has been termed status anxiety' 5 is considerably diminished too.

Typically, bona fide membership of a social group is only assured if those who aspire to such membership allow the degree of their eligibility and commitment to be scrutinized via a public performance of those activities which are highly valued by (and perhaps indeed the sine qua non of) the group.' 6 Clearly, the granting of membership is likely to be hastened if the aspirant makes it obvious to his audience that he values the activity in question too. We might recall here Lawrence Lipton's interesting remarks about Chuck Bennison, whose "make-believe flip" — a histrionic display of the ecstasy supposedly to be derived from pot-smoking — may have been designed to do just this. The exuberant and uninhibited behaviour which many neophyte marijuana users have been noticed to exhibit may owe a good deal to this form of anticipatory socialization. Nevertheless, once the ritual of initiation has — for better or worse — been successfully completed and his group membership and deviant identity thereby assured, even if (as I shall suggest) only temporarily, the subject clearly has no more reason to try to convince his peers that the experience is pleasurable than he does himself. Instead, he becomes one of the "wise", in which capacity the repetition of the activity is to some extent itself sufficient testimony to its imputed pleasurability.

Changes in Definitions of Proper and Improper Behaviour:

the Cult of Cool

If, then, the regular or "experienced" marijuana user has characteristically seemed more quiet and subdued than his neophyte counterpart, this may partly be attributed to the removal of the expectation, real or imagined, that he should appear otherwise. However, just as one mode of constraint is removed, so another one takes its place. It is not simply that the subject who becomes increasingly familiar with marijuana experiences a decreasing incentive to express an appreciation of its effects, but rather that his is likely to find a positive disincentive to so doing. The most easily-stated reason for this is that following the "discovery stage" during which the effects of marijuana are explored, rendered explicit, and negotiated with them, the level of tolerance extended by regular users for displays of expressive behaviour tends to diminish. If they are users who have not themselves "socialized" the neophyte (as naturally becomes more likely as the neophyte's experience with the drug increases), then such a tendency can be expected to become still more pronounced. However, the matter is rather more complex even than this. Historically, I wish to suggest, there were a number of factors which combined to set additional constraints upon expressivity in this sense. Some of them are probably endemic to the situations in which marijuana is used, whilst others are specific to the social and cultural heritage of marijuana use in this country and the United States. To varying degrees, though, they are all related to what may be termed the cult of cool, and any discussion of them must be preceded by a brief clarification of what is meant by this in the present context.'17

For well you know that it's a fool
Who plays it cool
By making this world a little colder
— Lennon and McCartney

These sentiments, immortalised by the Beatles in their song "Hey Jude", might well be used to epitomize one of the several social consequences of the stress upon being cool within the early subculture of marijuana use that I wish to examine here. But they are not referring to what seems to have been the dominant meaning ascribed to the term cool by marijuana users. After all, to talk about "hot" and "cool" traditions within bohemian culture in the way that was done earlier is to engage in the use of what are essentially "second-order" characterizations. If drug users themselves were asked what the idea of being cool meant to them, they would probably have said that it referred to the kind of behaviour necessitated by the ban upon marijuana use and the activities of those who sought to enforce it. An illustration of the practical use of the term in this sense is provided by the following extract from an article in IT giving readers information about places where they might expect to find refuge and hospitality in different parts of the country:

MANCHESTER .. . The main pub scene at the moment is in an area called the Shambles where there are two hip pubs, Sinclairs and The Wellington almost next to one another. But they get busted quite often, so the word is to be cool . •1 8

In this sense, then, being cool represents an adaptation to social control as manifested in the key problem of secrecy referred to by Becker.' 9 It is being the kind of person who refrains from doing or saying anything which might draw unwelcome attention either to himself or to his subcultural colleagues. By the same token, the person who is assigned the deviant label of being "uncool" is someone who jeopardizes his own or others' safety (the two are linked via police detection strategies of the kind referred to in chapter one) by, for example, talking loudly about drugs in public places or failing to take adequate precautions when using or negotiating exchanges of the substance. Because he amplifies unpleasant feelings of paranoia to which many marijuana users are prone anyway, the uncool individual is likely — except perhaps in the company of expressive deviants2 ° — to be avoided. More than one of the dealers whom I spoke to whilst carrying out this study stated that they took particular care to avoid disclosing their identities in ways which might attract such people, even though they might reasonably expect to lose a certain amount of business in so doing.

However, if being cool is predominantly defined as the effective control of information about identity there is also a more subtle — but I think equally important — meaning of the term which has to do more specifically with the character of the drug experience itself. Whilst the element of self-control, or sensitivity to the expectations and desires of others, is common to them both, in this latter case the emphasis is more upon the degree to and manner in which the subject handles the drug's effects. To be cool in this sense is to be someone who appears both composed and capable when actually high: someone who can appear to treat the drug experience as a relatively routine matter which demands no special attention or concern. The central idea is more than adequately captured by Lyman and Scott when they state that:

Coolness is exhibited (and defined) as poise under pressure. By pressure we mean simply situations of considerable emotion or risk, or both. Coolness, then, refers to the capacity to execute physical acts, including conversation, in a concerted, smooth, self-controlled fashion in risky situations, or to maintain affective detachment during the course of encounters involving considerable emotion.21

To the extent that the nature and intensity of the experienced effects of marijuana are highly variable and can be known only very imperfectly in advance of their actually manifesting themselves, the situation of marijuana use almost inevitably involves a degree of risk in this sense, irrespective of the possible risks of detection. As I suggested earlier, such a feeling of risk is itself likely to heighten emotionality, and the physiological consequences of this may well be self-amplifying. The more important point, however, is that heightened emotionality is also an entirely predictable feature of a situation in which, due to the social processes outlined in previous chapters, people's awareness or sense of reality in general is felt to have been magnified. As practitioners of psychotherapy and political or religious indoctrination have long recognised, rediscovery of the self is commonly accompanied by a considerable degree of emotionality.2 2

If one accepts Lyman and Scott's formulation, then, there is clearly much about the activity of marijuana use which would seem likely to constrain its practitioners to be and appear cool. However, there is a central point of contrast, in the sense that a basic contention of the present analysis is that the neophyte marijuana user is subject to little if any constraint of this kind. It is only with the transition to repeated and more regular use that the pressure to be cool develops its full subjective potency. Indeed, as we have already seen, it would be difficult for the neophyte to express his appreciation of the drug's effects if this were not the case.

At first glance, then, it might seem appropriate for me to conclude that — irrespective of the declining availability of symbolic support for the activity — marijuana use becomes increasingly less "fun" over time as its element of novelty wears off and as the subject feels himself increasingly obliged to appear cool and emotionally almost indifferent towards the activity. Such a conclusion might certainly help to explain why the behaviour of experienced users in general should appear to be more quiet and subdued than that of neophytes. Even if accurate, however, it would be too narrow. Once again, we must remember that the changes in patterns of marijuana use that constitute the central focus of this discussion are changes which took place within a particular historical period; and that, like other forms of social behaviour, the activity of marijuana use bore the imprint of the peculiar social, political and legal configurations of this period. In examining the various processes involved in the transition from hot to cool modes of behaviour, therefore, it is important to take account of such influences. For ease of discussion they may be classified under three broad headings: role distance, pharmacological "invisibility", and the psychedelic legacy. All three, I shall argue, are connected in one way or another with the legal ban upon marijuana use and the sentiments traditionally surrounding it. All three functioned historically to set additional limits upon the pleasurability and appeal of marijuana use. After considering the nature of these limits I shall briefly review some of the ways in which the marijuana users whom they affected managed to adapt to and, to some extent, transcend them.

Role distance

Many deviants endeavour to distance themselves from the devalued and often caricatured roles in which they are cast by conventional society,' and marijuana users have been no exception. They are exceptional, perhaps, only in the fact that the display of role distance2 4 in this way has tended to be characteristic of the mature or accomplished user. The neophyte, on the other hand, was usually in a different position altogether. Paradoxically, he was simultaniously both constrained and free to embrace the role of the uninhibited and irresponsible dope fiend, an image traditionally upheld and disseminated by the supporters of ban. Paradoxically, too, the "effects" of the drug were likely to present themselves most vividly to him precisely by virtue of this. This much has, I hope, been established already. The crucial point is that this early stage of his drugtaking career the drug experience itself was likely to constitute what Goff-man terms a dominant involvement," something in which he was able to become well-nigh totally engrossed. And engrossment, in its turn, would have served to amplify and intensify the experience, even if it were consciously apprehended via the mood of dim reflectivity.

This early stage might last as long as the drug experience remained a novelty capable of sustaining a sense of excitment and discovery. In the course of it the subject, licensed as he was to "do his own thing", could usually be quite uninhibited in expressing the extent of his new-found insight into realms of meaning normally obscured by the taken-for-granted attitude of everyday life. He could commit and, as we have seen, derive considerable pleasure from committing what in other circumstances would very probably be considered situational improprieties.2 6 At the same time, he might experience intense rapport with those at a similar stage of their drugtaking career, to some extent getting high — or more high than he would have got otherwise — merely on the exchange of revealing insights and personal discoveries. Marijuana's erstwhile reputation as a psychedelic probably owes a good deal to such processes.

The precise duration of this stage of the user's career will naturally have varied in accordance with the range of stimuli presented by his environment and the tolerance of others, particularly more sophisticated regular users, for the expressions of naive enthusiasm and possibly wonderment which they appeared to generate. Both would have been finite, although the former perhaps less so than the latter. Certainly, more experienced users, conscious of their own early drug experiences and anxious to ensure that the neophyte defined the activity as enjoyable, may have extended a tolerant attitude for a considerable period of time. They might even have been slightly envious of the seeming intensity of the neophyte's experience, even if the neophyte himself appeared to have difficulty in defining it as wholly enjoyable. Tom Wolfe has captured something of this attitude in the following passage from The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test:

• . . Jack the Fluke tells about his girlfriend Sandra, a teenage girl who just pulled in from Bucks County, Pa: "I come in" — and he motions with his head up toward his room on the top floor — "and, dig: she has a joint rolled this big, like a cigar, man! — and she's goofing off the radio and puffing on this, I mean, Corona corona joint and goofing and puffing — it was beautiful! It really takes me back". But of course! the esoteric nostalgia of those first days of discovery, the first little easing open of the doors of the mind with marijuana and that thing you do at that stage! — goofing off the radio thing — You know? . . . 27

The central point, then, is that during this early stage there were likely to be relatively few constraints upon the neophyte's ability to "do his own thing". His paroxysms of helpless mirth at the sudden ironies and juxtapositions of ideas that might appear in his mind, or his utter inability to express himself coherently or remember what others had said a moment before, for example, were likely to elicit only knowing smiles from the more experienced users present.
However, such tolerance was not inexhaustible, and sooner or later it inevitably began to wane. The consequences of the simple passing of time were partly responsible. Eventually, the revelations, if they continued to occur at all, acquired the status of mere commonplaces and became absorbed into the collective memory of drug-induced experiences. Banality became what it always was, banal, and as such potentially a source of boredom rather than fun. In such circumstances, the individual who persisted in drawing attention to the profusion and profundity of his "insights", who was continually collapsing in laughter at the quite ordinary remarks made by others,' 8 who continually exclaimed — like Matza's subject' 9 - "Golly gee, look at that chair!" (or similar) was likely to become considered as experientially naive — at worst, as a rather dim-witted "drag". After all, why comment upon something which others, in their cool wisdom, had already taken for granted? Why indeed continue taking the drug at all if one did not precisely anticipate undergoing experiential changes of one kind or another?

As he acquired more experience of marijuana use, therefore, the subject was increasingly constrained to become cool. Historically, however, what may be termed the natural transitoriness of expressive hedonism was not the only nor even necessarily the most important factor involved in this connection. For as he grew more familiar with the drug experience and the constellation of values in which it was embedded, the subject was also likely to become aware — or be tactfully reminded — of the fact that, whilst he might derive considerable pleasure from the behaviour associated with the role of neophyte, he was also, perhaps quite inadvertantly, playing into the hands of those who had sought to discredit marijuana users with talk of the irresponsible, irrational and bizarre behaviour that the drug produces. He was, in short, lending substance to doubts and misgivings derived from their erstwhile attachments to the conventional world which the company of committed and experienced marijuana users had consistently sought to eradicate.

The ability to exercise self-control, and to be seen to exercise it, has traditionally been highly valued by the more accomplished users of marijuana, and understandably so. In Becker's terminology it affords partial solutions both to the problem of secrecy and to the problem of morality. Not only is it an essential ingredient of the ability to be cool in the first sense suggested above; it also constitutes a highly visible form — indeed, perhaps one of the only widely available forms — of deviance disavowal, providing a means whereby members may repudiate conventional typifications of their activity. If, therefore, there has been a historical tendency for users of marijuana to rate the extent of one another's familiarity with the drug's effects in accordance with the degree to which such effects are not betrayed or rendered visible in behaviour, this should not be regarded as being entirely analogous to the case in which drinkers assign one another status on the basis of perceived ability to "hold one's liquor" — although elements of this undoubtedly play a part. Rather, it should be explained in terms of the functions which such coolness may perform for a subculture whose members have traditionally been depicted in terms of stereotyped images of the impulsive, half-crazed dope fiend.

The conditions for granting bona fide membership of the drug-taking group may clearly, then, have undergone significant change as the subject's drugtaking career progressed. Where once such membership had been conditional upon the display of expressivity, or the externalizing of the drug's effects, it now became increasingly conditional upon the avoidance of such displays. The fate which in many cases overtook the ideology of doing your own thing may partly be seen as a reflection of this process. Simmons and Winograd have commented upon the apparent contradictions between the freedoms and constraints that I have been considering here in their characterization of what they term the "hang-loose ethic":

The ideal person in the hang-loose view embodies traits that are difficult to combine. Being as spontaneous as a child yet being sophisticated and woridwise; being fully self-expressive yet being always in control of oneself. This is the ambiguity of being coo1.3°

However, such ambiguity was clearly mitigated if, as I am suggesting here, the seemingly contradictory traits to which Simmons and Winograd refer tended to be emphasized and displayed at different stages of the "ideal person's" career as a drugtaker.

Nevertheless, a note of qualification is in order. The expressive performances associated with the statuses of neophyte and experienced marijuana user were clearly not quite as compartmentalised empirically as I may, for analytical purposes, have made them appear. Experienced marijuana users, even though fully established as experienced users, may occasionally have acted out the stereotype of the irresponsible dope fiend who "does not know what he is doing" when it suited their purposes to do so.'1 However, the key difference is that they did this, or were at least assumed to do this, knowingly. Voiced by and within the company of experienced users, any claims that the drug itself was responsible for episodes of uncoolly expressive or uninhibited behaviour inevitably had a hollow ring to them when all concerned assumed that control over its effects could be exercised at will. A glimpse of the embarrassment which might then ensue may be seen in the following piece of dialogue recorded by Paul Willis in his ethnography of drugtaking among hippies in Birmingham:

TONY: (referring to an earlier comment that he had been forced to withdraw after a long argument)
You know it was just, it was just the first original smash in my mind, and it came out of my mouth, and —
LES:    That's the trouble when you take drugs, man, I'm gonna go out and rape somebody in a minute. (laughter)
TONY: Let's go and rape some old woman down the street.3 2

Although any such interpretations are clearly hazardous, from one point of view Tony's latter remark may be seen as a desperate and ultimately rather unconvincing attempt to save face. A clear implication, however the matter is viewed, is that the experienced user of marijuana could only count upon sustaining his status as an experienced user to the extent that he consented to be held fully accountable for his behaviour. One might go further: only by accepting accountability in this way could the apparent contradiction between society's claim that the drug caused loss of self-control and his peers' belief that it heightened self-awareness effectively be resolved.

The central point of this section may therefore be crudely summarized in terms of the following paradox: the neophyte marijuana user might well aspire to the status of sophisticated and experienced user; yet the attainment of this status was likely as not to restrict his freedom to explore the effects of the drug and, consequently, to diminish their subjective intensity. As one of Becker's experienced marijuana users said, commenting upon the experience of a first-time user the intensity of which she herself found distressing: "She's dragged because she's high like that. I'd give anything to get that high myself. I haven't been that high in years".3

Pharmacological "invisibility"

The respect accorded those whose behaviour visibly contradicts the stereotypes erected in its defence is not the only way in which the ban upon marijuana use has functioned to constrain the expressivity of the regular user. There are also certain features involved in the supply of the drug to be considered. Here as elsewhere in this study, a comparison with alcohol consumption is instructive. One of the many advantages enjoyed by both the producers and the consumers of alcohol resides in the high degree of standardization, and thus public knowledge, of the pharmacological potency of different preparations of the drug. Due partly to the legally-sanctioned oligopolistic control over the production and distribution of alcohol exercised by the distillers companies, and partly also to the extensive knowledge bred of generations of legally-sanctioned experience with the drug, the potential effects of different alcoholic beverages can be predicted by most people with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Common-sense knowledge about the differentials in intoxicating potential between, say, a half of bitter and a double whisky, coupled with the prevalence of the "round" system and the fact that the drug's effects are cumulative rather than immediate, makes it unlikely that people will suddenly find themselves precipitated into a state of intoxication which they find hard to manage. Moreover, even if the drinker does become intoxicated in ways which are difficult to conceal, his intoxication can be rendered publicly accountable by reference to the recognized (or at least recognizeable) potency or the amount of drink consumed. Finally, of course, the activity of drinking is commonly regarded as being pleasurable in its own right.

Marijuana is rather different. As some of its critics have been keen to point out, the motivation for its use rests primarily upon the anticipated state of intoxication to be derived from it. Yet an important but often neglected side-effect of its illegality has been to perpetuate not only variations — sometimes, as we saw earlier, extreme variations — in the pharmacological potency of different batches of the drug,' but also, in many cases, a virtual absence both of any effective institutionalized means whereby the user might ascertain the true potency of the particular batch on offer and of the kind of supply situation in which something resembling a "round system" might emerge and the responsibility for ensuring satisfactory level of intoxication thereby become to some degree collectivised. When combined with the technological aspects of potsmoking — the business of rolling a joint is still a distinctly privatized activity — an important consequence of these different factors was to make prior judgements as to the likely effects of the drug and the extent to which they could be handled in a suitably cool manner somewhat problematic. It is important to remember here that in global terms marijuana use was still increasing rapidly at this time and that the supply of the drug was not always sufficient to meet the demand for it. For although any such supply difficulties could to some extent be circumvented through features of the activity which ostensibly carried only ideological significance — namely its most characteristic status as a group activity and the widespread institutionalization of the tacit rule that the joint be shared by all group members — the paradox was that these features could all too easily function to exacerbate the interpretative difficulty to which I have just alluded. The nub of the the matter can be stated quite simply: in most group settings of this kind, a knowledge of the probable potency of the joint being circulated would have been confined to its manufacturer — in many cases the only member of the group who was effectively in a position to "supply" the drug to other members in this way. He, for his part, was unlikely to "advertise his product" by making this knowledge public (if indeed he was convinced of its status as knowledge), if only for reasons of modesty or the desire to avoid the embarrassment of contradiction. Consequently, unless they were such unusually sophisticated users of the drug that they were capable of accurately judging the quality and quantity of the substance merely by tasting it, others were left confronted by a situation in which judgments of potency could only be made once changes in their subjective experience actually occurred. And as we have seen, there might be considerable variations in both the degree to which they would occur and the degree to which they might be managed in comfort.

Ironically, however, this same feature of what may be termed pharmacological invisibility also functioned to restrict the extent to which whatever judgements were in fact arrived at could unproblematically be made explicit though verbal comment and/or an identifiable change of behaviour. For if on the one hand the user did feel intoxicated, he would tend — especially given the premium set upon being cool — to have difficulty in knowing whether this was merely an idiosyncratic response which betokened an unusual and unbecoming susceptibility to the drug and which might have elicited disagreement if made explicit, or whether it was a feeling which his fellow-users all shared. Equally, though, if he decided that he was unaffected or only slightly affected, he was likely to have trouble knowing whether this too was a merely individual as opposed to a collective response, expecially in circumstances where it was commonly assumed that in the sought-after state of being "stoned" (as opposed to being merely "high") people generally experienced little inclination to communicate with each other." Again, in questioning or appearing to question the potency of the joint, the subject was also implicitly calling into question the savoir faire — or perhaps even the benevolence — of the person who had offered it. Confronted as they were by similar interpretative and moral dilemmas, little help in this respect was likely to be forthcoming from his peers. And whilst the social characteristics of supply and, especially, the highly personalized nature of the relationship between the "supplier" and "consumers" of marijuana may be deemed largely responsible for this, two of the factors mentioned earlier also played a part in this connection. Firstly, the intrinsic ambiguity of perception meant that the user would have typically found it difficult to establish whether any changes in the appearance or behaviour of his peers that he did detect were due to the drug's effect upon them rather than to its effect upon himself. Secondly, we should not lose sight of the fact that marijuana users, even if highly experienced, apparently do not find it easy to form accurate judgments of the potency and amount of marijuana smoked.

One implication seems clear. For the person confronted by and sensitive to so fraught a situation, there existed a certain disincentive in being the first to define or even hint at the reality of the drug's effects. Since individualistic responses were somewhat hazardous, there was considerable pressure to seek orienting cues in the behaviour of others. As already suggested, the attempt which was thus likely to be made to negotiate the reality of the drug's effects through an increased sensitivity to the subtle nuances of communication, involving what Albert Cohen has described as an exchange of exploratory gestures,3 6 may itself have contributed to the sensations of heightened interpersonal awareness commonly reported by marijuana users. Very often, of course, the effects of the drug were defined in this way: a "working consensus"3 was achieved and, within the limits set by the difficulties already mentioned, interaction could proceed more or less smoothly. This was the more likely to occur when the group concerned was composed of close friends who felt able to question one another's judgment (either as "suppliers" or "consumers") without risking a degree of mutual embarrassment more unsettling or "dysphoric" than the ambiguity which had preceded it. The cultishness of marijuana users mentioned earlier probably owes as much to this as to any other feature of their activity. In many cases, however, and particularly in situations of a less wholly intimate nature, any such consensus about the drug's effects might be achieved either very fleetingly or not at all. Instead, each member might decide that the simplest and perhaps safest strategy was to emit as few clues to the precise character of his subjective state as possible. Fortunately, such an adaptation to the situation was quite compatible with the ethic of cool already discussed. Moreover, it could remain quite compatible even if, as might clearly very well happen, it took the form of a lapse into long periods of silence. There are other factors involved here as well which will be addressed in the following section. In the present context it need only be remembered that a well-nigh ubiquitous feature of the settings in which this kind of marijuana use took place is that of music.3 8 The activity of listening to music, of course, is pleasurable and assumed to be pleasurable whether or not the listener is in any way intoxicated. Furthermore, marijuana use is widely believed to enhance the appreciation of music. It was possible, then, for the individual who found himself beset by the interpretative problems just mentioned to listen to and appear to become engrossed in such music quite naturally, without this justifiably being construed as evidence of either unwarranted intoxication or, alternatively, an embarrassing failure to become intoxicated. Indeed, it seems very likely that music has often been provided in full awareness of the functions which it thus performs in glossing over and to some extent obscuring the interactive difficulties — and, specifically, the otherwise painful silences — that such settings are prone to entail. In this sense, it might be viewed as providing marijuana with partial compensation for the fact that its use is not intrinsically pleasurable in the way that, for example, the consumption of alcohol is. In other words, it may serve to mitigate some of the emphasis upon the need to become and remain high.

The psychedelic legacy

Any attempt to account for the growth of an emphasis upon being cool must also give consideration, finally, to the largely unforeseen consequences of the rhetoric advanced in the late '60s by those concerned with both defending the use of marijuana and attacking the values of a society which condemned it. It is my contention that, rather than promoting and widening the appeal of marijuana use, such rhetoric ironically served, at least for a time, to inhibit it.

As mentioned previously, a highly significant feature of the once-close association between marijuana use and the growth of the hippie phenomenon, or Underground culture, was that to a considerable extent the effects of the drug were expressly defined by its early proselytizers so as to differentiate them from those of alcohol as much as possible. Alcohol was (as it still is) the primary recreational drug favoured by members of "straight" society; the fact that it dulled awareness and harboured a serious addictive and degenerative potential served both to clarify the meaning of the term "straight" and to render the ban upon marijuana — an innocuous substance by comparison — more easily intelligible. The properties of marijuana, by contrast, whilst undeniably owing much to the nature of the settings in which the substance was used, were also pieced together in polar contrast to such an image. If alcohol dulled awareness, marijuana enhanced it; where alcohol facilitated escape from reality, marijuana merely sensitized one to it. Such contrasts, as Goode has pointed out,' 9 provided the basis for a struggle of competing definitions over what actually constitutes "reality". Phrased in their more extreme forms, they invested marijuana with the mystical power to make accessible modes and levels of experience unamenable to conventional description and understanding; to uncover the "true self" normally obscured by the superficiality of everyday interaction. In the almost uniformly hostile atmosphere which prevailed at the time, it was perhaps not surprising if, as with LSD, there should have developed somewhat romanticized ideas about the effects of the drug and its potential as an agent of social change. Its use was popularly celebrated and canvassed as a pleasurable and relatively easy way of obtaining enlightenment and insight.

What might in retrospect be regarded as unfortunate was that this state of enlightenment was widely considered most likely to be achieved through the medium of peaceful contemplation. Again, this should be traced to the class-bound nature of Underground culture and the ascendancy, at least in this country, of what Jock Young has termed the Middle Underground,4 ° many of whose (largely middle class) members were "tuned in" to the semi-mystical ideas of Timothy Leary and his followers. As a mode of interpersonal communication, speech was largely devalued.' In a culture heavily imbued with ideas appropriated from Eastern philosophy, the aphorism "he that knows does not speak: he that speaks does not know" acquired for many the status of a guide to conduct. Even among those who paid little serious heed to such ideas, there still remained the problem of managing the state of heightened awareness socially without failing victim to the problems outlined in the previous two sections. The ideological association between marijuana use and the achievement of such a state might appear to be wholly commendable, and doubtless provided (as perhaps to a limited extent it still does) the basis for a considerable amount of experimentation with the drug. However, there existed few pointers as to the way in which this enhanced awareness ought most appropriately to be reflected in behaviour, especially if sustained (as regular marijuana use would by definition necessitate) over an extended period of time. The only significant, unchallenged and essentially unchallengeable one was the tacit injunction to be cool. Enlightenment was to be displayed by introspection. Yet, as I have suggested, this may have been a case of making a virtue of what was to some extent a social necessity.

For those who were exposed, even if only peripherally, to the values of the Middle Underground, the political and cultural meanings of expressive behaviour thus further increased the disincentive toward manifesting it. Where this happened, however, marijuana use became an essentially privatized activity. The person who, in spite of the other constraints upon so doing, continued to verbalize his experiences was increasingly encouraged to feel that not only was he engaging in a basically pointless endeavour which testified to his lack of true insight and was likely only to impede his ability to attain it; by forcing his attentions upon others he was interfering with their pursuit of self-awareness too. Either he was demonstrating the extent of his unfamiliarity with, or even disdain for, the values prevalent within the culture, or else he was simply being anti-social — a curious paradox when one considers the deviant status which is conventionally assigned to the "aways" or "occult involvements"42 thus implied. Nor was this all. Interaction, where it was actually initiated, had to be staged not only before an audience whose critical faculties were assumed to have been heightened, but in circumstances where the conventional organization or turn-taking in conversational utterances' 3 was likely to have been considerably disrupted. The problem of attributing topical relevance to such utterances, a difficult enough one anyway, could only be magnified in situations characterized by warrantable silence and the attendant disorganization of turns in making them.

Performances or explicit role-playing of the kind that characterize much sociable interaction were rendered still more problematic. A performance is, by definition, behaviour which does not represent the "true self" of whoever engages in it. In settings whose members were concerned with the discovery and revelation of the true self, it was only to be expected that such performances should be devalued. Whereas in less tightly-drawn social situations they might be welcomed, here they merely betokened a certain insensitivity or pathology of character on the part of the person staging them, indicating, for example, that he was a "heavy game-player", had personal "hang-ups", or was trying to conceal or avoid confronting his true self. Alternatively, they simply indicated that he did not know how to handle the drug properly. At all events they were likely to be defined negatively. It is here, perhaps, that Matza's remarks about some people seeming to be an "enormous drag" under the influence of marijuana" are most obviously relevant — even though they are also clearly relevant to much that has gone before. The point bears repeating, however, that in no sense need "dragginess" be seen as a quality or personality trait of the people themselves. Instead, it might better be viewed as a label bestowed upon them by those with whose conceptions about what constitutes appropriate behaviour under the influence of marijuana they are (or were) apparently in disagreement.

Implications and a note of qualification

In a number of different ways, then, the person who became a regular or experienced marijuana user was constrained to be cool in his display of the drug's effects. By virtue of these constraints, ironically, a drug which was promised to liberate its adherents, often, on the contrary, succeeded only in narrowing their freedom to act as they wished. Such is the insidious and very subtle power of ban, to which, let me repeat, they are all to some degree related.

However, before proceeding any further it should be made clear that the forms of situational constraint that I have touched upon in the last few pages need not equally have affected the particular individuals or groups of marijuana users in question. Nor, even where they did all affect them, need they have done so simultaneously. Although all of them, I contend, played a part in shaping the pat-terms of marijuana use that developed, it is fully recognized that the degree to which each of them exerted a significant influence upon observable behavioural outcomes in any given case will have depended at least to some extent upon the psychological predispositions and specific locations within the drug scene of the individuals concerned. As the preceding discussion would suggest, there may consequently have been subtle but nevertheless significant variations in members' understandings of what it meant to be cool. Those, for example, who were primarily concerned with the maintenance and display of self-control, or whose principal problem was that of negotiating the reality of the drug's effects, may have striven to present themselves in ways that were little different from normal. For them, the drug experience would have been at least potentially a subordinate involvement. On the other hand, those whose orientation towards and socialization into the activity of drugtaking laid stress primarily upon the cultivation of self-awareness may have had less hesitation in appearing to become immersed and fully absorbed in the drug experience. For them, the experience may have potentially become a dominant involvement, even if it remained one of an essentially introspective rather than expressive kind.

Undeniably, then, there would have been differences. Yet there would also have been important similarities. Consistent with the common emphasis upon self-control and self-knowledge, both of these modes of being cool stressed the subject's absolute responsibility for his behaviour when high. Both of them also involved the inhibition of communication about the drug experience. And both of them devalued expressive or uninhibited behaviour. In both cases, in short, introspection and privacy were favoured, in the one case because attempts to generate anything different were fraught with difficulties, in the other because the substitution of anything different was an ideologically discreditable enterprise in itself. Finally, and perhaps most important, both modes of being cool were likely, as mentioned earlier, to be mediated through the simultaneous activity of listening to music. Where this occurred, the practical differences between them would have been very difficult to distinguish. For although the motives involved might be quite different, in both cases the drug experience is rendered — or at least made to appear — secondary to the activity of listening to and enjoying music. In such circumstances, characterizations of the drug experience as being either a dominant or a subordinate involvement would clearly have little substance. Music, in this sense, could be said to occupy a special place among the various external objects and stimuli to which the drugtaker might at any time attend since, being defined as a major form of communication in itself,'" it can inspire total engrossment over long periods of time without this warrantably being regarded (as in other cases it might) as a situational impropriety in terms either of conventional standards of behaviour or of the obligation to be cool accepted by those who claim to have forsaken such standards. As Clifford Adelman has cynically observed in his critique of Charles Reich's statement that "the new music is . . . incredibly important because it's the chief language and means of communication for the people of the new consciousness . . • 6

• . . such an utterance thoroughly convinces the mastodons of the field that they don't need to talk to each other. When someone walks into a room, just sludge over to the stereo, lay something on, sit around gaping "Groovy!" and "Far-out!" and Reich's "ultimate sign of reverence, vulnerability, and innocence", "Oh wow!" and let someone else do the communicating.4 7

But in situations where he feels that in so doing he may interrupt other people's enjoyment of the music, "someone else" may be quite reluctant to take it upon himself to "do the communicating". Here we may observe a certain dysfunction of the commonly-accepted notion that one of the most distinctive effects of marijuana is to enhance musical appreciation.

The basic point I wish to emphasize, then, is that within such a context as this there would have been considerably more incentive for the marijuana user who claimed familiarity with the drug experience to be cool in his behaviour when undertaking it than to do anything which might be construed as "hot", or perhaps even (in extreme cases) "warm". Silence, in short, might well be seen as preferable to conversation; passivity preferred to activity, introspection to expressivity. Though in the event this set of preferences did not go uncontested for long, its impact upon the phenomenon of marijuana use and the behaviour of its adherents was nevertheless profound.

Portraits of a Silent Minority

Indications that the subculture of marijuana use did become increasingly characterized by the tendency of its more accomplished members to become silent and introspective when using the drug can be found in a number of different sources. To begin with, I would like to refer to a number of the statements made to me personally by people who were or had been regular and experienced users of marijuana. The theme of introspection is clearly discernible in the extracts from interviews with two such people that I have already cited. It is even more explicit, perhaps, in the three statements which follow. The first is an extract from an interview with Sue, a 23 year old library assistant, in which she is describing a recent experience at a party:


We got invited to a party given by this bloke who was really into dope. It was absolutely terrible. There we all were, standing in this grotty little room — his bedsit — with just a bed and a chair and a record player, and no one knew quite what to do with themselves. We ended up all sitting in a circle on the floor passing round joints, trying to make conversation to those people on either side of us — and Pete kept going out of the room, I don't know where to, just leaving us all to get on with it. I kept thinking if this is such a wonderful party, why does he keep leaving it? Anyway, this went on for ages and I was getting really pissed off — but I didn't have the nerve to get up and walk out, I mean it was still so early, you just don't leave a party that early. Well, as I say, this went on for ages until we got to the point where the records that had been playing came to an end and there was no one there to put a new one on (the turntable). Pete hadn't come back this time, you see — and it was only then that we became aware of the silence. It was incredible: the room was packed out and nobody was saying anything. At that point someone said something about that must mean the end of the party — and we all got up en masse and filed out. It was quite funny really — Pete was coming in as we were going out, and I think he was rather confused as to what was going on .. .

It should not be thought that such behaviour was specific to party settings and the communicational difficulties that such settings might naturally involve. It could also develop in considerably more intimate situations. Alan, a 25 year old social worker, offered an example:

Sometimes when everything gets too much in London and I really can't stand it here any more, I go down and stay a few days with this couple who live in Somerset. They always seem to have a good supply of dope — which is surprising seeing how much of it they get through. Very often when I've gone down there the three of us have just sat and smoked for days at a time. We'd spend the whole time totally smashed, saying nothing at all to one another, and then when I finally get around to leaving they'll say "It was really nice to see you. Come again soon". (Laughs)

A rather similar experience, finally, was recounted by Tricia, a 22 year old student teacher. It was clearly one which she herself found somewhat uncomfortable:

. . . there was this time when a friend at college invited me and this other guy up for a smoke. He lived on the campus, you see, in one of those residential tower blocks. Only trouble was that when we got up there he told us he hadn't got a stereo yet, so we had the stuff in complete silence! Honest, I felt like laughing, it was so ridiculous . . . sitting there deadly serious listening to the noises from the central heating system, the odd door slamming, footsteps on the staircase outside . . In the end I started prattling on about something or another, just to break the monotony and to take my mind off the workings of my own bodily processes — which is what I tend to concentrate on when I'm stoned if nothing else grabs my attention. Of course, they just stared at me . . .

One might of course argue that these are extreme cases. Like others who have undertaken research in this area, I am in no position to claim that they are not. However, indications that such experiences were not confined only to the people who I myself came into contact with can be discerned in the pages of the Underground press. The declining encouragement given to the use of drugs such as marijuana by the principal Underground papers, in the way already mentioned, is not the only phenomenon worthy of interest. There are also suggestions that a number of the contributors to such papers became increasingly critical of the whole style of behaviour that had apparently become associated with the use of such drugs. Richard Neville, in the Oz article cited at some length earlier, declared himself to be one such critic:

The social style of the head scene has become pretentious and anti-communicative. At a recent party to celebrate the demise of Nell Gwynne's historic playground, The Pheasantry, the cream of Kings Road stood around staring dumbly at each other — a dank Chelsea remake of La Dolce Vita without even a false sense of gaiety.4 8

It might be argued that the anti-communicative character of this particular occasion was to some extent a product of the pretentiousness of those who attended it. But rather less exclusive occasions apparently fared little better. Jean Jacques Label, writing at the same time in IT about the Isle of Wight pop festival of a few months past, had this to say:

The camp sites (except on Desolation Hill) were like any bourgeois holiday camp. People didn't even talk to each other, let alone play, dance, or live together. The moments of "Woodstock feeling" were rare and far between .. .4 9

Then again, if we turn to an article in Oz two years later extolling the virtues of group sex, we find the following statement:

No place is as lonely as a big city with people in bedsitters. This is the tragedy of our civilization. We sit together and we smoke a little and we think we've found a new relationship but we haven't. We've inverted ourselves, gone into ourselves and are lonely and insecure. Sex is a much more spontaneous thing . . . °

Finally, one might refer to what I think warrants being regarded as a seminal cartoon in the history of the Underground press in this country. Cartoons, of course, are problematic sources of data, particularly when the drugs used by the characters they feature are not exactly specified. However, the imagery contained in them can sometimes imbue them with an impact and an immediacy which the printed word on its own rarely achieves. Certainly, the critical attitude to which I have referred is nowhere more clearly conveyed than in the cartoon published in IT which depicted a group of freaks staring vacantly at the wall juxtaposed with the stark caption "The Silent Minority".51 It would, I think, be difficult to see the message of such a juxtaposition as being anything other than grimly serious. Unlike most of the other cartoons featured, it can in no sense be regarded as "funny". It might be seen, rather, as providing a bitter comment upon the chosen lifestyle and values around which a large section of the Underground culture had come to organize itself.
Yet it is not only in the Underground press that this theme of the "silent minority" can be detected. It can also be found, undoubtedly for rather different reasons, in the more conventional media of the time; and, interestingly enough, not only in those newspapers which could be expected to seize upon any features of the activity of marijuana use that might serve to discredit it in the eyes of their readers. For example, The Guardian, which has consistently remained fairly sympathetic towards the activity, printed towards the end of 1972 a long feature article entitled "A sadly silent minority" by Jill Tweedie, who herself, I think, could hardly be counted as a member of the "anti-pot lobby". As part of a more general lament for the seeming inarticulacy of the young, she wrote:

• . a life-style of wordlessness now exists, where to intrude, tongue a-flap, seems artificial, soulless, tactless, bizarre. I have sat, over the past few years, in a hundred anonymous rooms crowded with people and vibrating with silence, where no questions were asked and none answered, where even to ask a name seems somehow crass and nosey, where the only sound is Sound. Once, last summer, I squatted all day long by a fireplace in a farm commune where some 10 people moved, in flowing robes, about their business, exchanging no more than word or two (sic), now and again, with each other and that in the muffled tones of churchgoers at service . . .52

Once again, I would suggest that marijuana use, virtually a staple feature of such settings, and the cult of coolness with which it became surrounded, were to a considerable extent responsible for such a state of affairs. Once brought into being, moreover, this style of social behaviour proved — for reasons I shall try to make clear presently — remarkably resilient to change. Thus over two and a half years later, Laurie Taylor, another member of the liberal camp on the issue of marijuana controls, was prompted to utter the following lament in the pages of the (equally liberal) journal New Society:

We desperately need some new party scene for the mid-1970s. The unhappy legacy of the hippie movement is spreading everywhere. A belief in cool introversion as a precondition for true sociability has already moved well away from student subculture and inner-city bohemias. I haven't been to any other sort of party for months.' 3

There are a number of indications, additional to those already cited, that a very similar style of behaviour also developed in a large section of the American counter-culture. The extensive critique by Clifford Adelman already referred to is not alone in suggesting this." However, in the light of the data just presented, it seems clear that Adel-man's criticisms have a relevance which extends well beyond the confines of the American counter-culture. In the remainder of this chapter, I would like to go on to explore the various forces for change which subsequently emerged. Only by doing this, I suggest, is it possible to account for the changes in the dominant patterns of marijuana use which constitute our primary focus of concern here.

The Growing Dysfunctions of Coolness

Although some of the statements just cited clearly convey a sense of the ambivalence with which the kind of behaviour that had come to be associated with marijuana use increasingly came to be regarded, they do not, I feel, provide a coherent picture of the full extent of the crisis, or state of anomie, with which the subculture of marijuana use was thus presented. Before commenting upon some of the changes or adaptations that it precipitated, therefore, it is important to say something about this.' 5

In effect, the survival of the more extreme variant of the cult of cool was threatened from several directions. For "experimenters" or relative outsiders to the subculture, it often quite simply appeared too passive. Pearson and Twohig, for example, cite one woman's reaction to a group of "heads" with whom she had had occasion to use marijuana:

They sit around, smoke a lot, get really stoned and sit around listening to music — Soft Machine or Pink Floyd or something like that . . . really stoned . . . but just sitting around. That's not my scene at all, it's just too passive, too boring.5 6

Such reactions, to the extent that they became widespread, could certainly help account for any diminution in the rate of marijuana's penetration into other social groups. Indeed, many of those who might otherwise have started using the substance may well have been discouraged from doing so by witnessing a style of behaviour that appeared only to reaffirm the negative cultural stereotype discussed in chapter 3. To the extent that this did occur, it would of course have set definite limits upon the subculture's ability to reproduce itself effectively by recruiting new members. However, we are mainly concerned here with examining the changing reception accorded to the tacit emphasis upon introspection by those who might more properly be regarded as members of this subculture or whose experiences with marijuana had at all events been significantly coloured by the ideas and imagery emanating from it. And in this respect, one of the most important contributions to its demise was undoubtedly made by the progressive break-up and decay of the counter-culture referred to above. For many, this dealt to the ideology of truth-seeking a blow similar to that which it had already delivered to the proselytization of marijuana use. What price peaceful contemplation, it could well be asked, if the act of striving for and even attaining self-knowledge rendered one unable or disinclined to combat the depredations of the System? For those who were prepared to reflect upon the social implications of such behaviour (and the behaviour itself afforded ample opportunity of doing this), the whole enterprise increasingly seemed somewhat self-indulgent." It also, moreover, seemed significantly at odds with the achievement of the professed goal of communion with others. In some cases the devaluation and "primitivization" of language itself could be singled out for blame. Once again, the key irony involved here has been succinctly expressed by Adelman:

My basic plaint is that expression is the only indication we have of the inner life, and through language alone have we comprehension of the complexities of the inner life. When language is purposely primitized or when expression dies altogether, we have no evidence that the inner life still exists; or if little evidence, then the inner life may be nothing more than a vapid Haiku so abridged as to preclude the very presumed ideals of counter-culture, e.g. the perception of the Other as the indisputable prerequisite to "togetherness". One cannot "get together" if he is incapable of perceiving the detailed uniqueness of the Other, conceptualizing the detail, and expressing his similarly particular and hence communally meaningful response to the Other. Language functions at each stage of this process, and if it is unavailable, one sorely suspects that the process itself cannot exist in the plenum of its humanity.5 8

The difficulty of communicating and achieving the togetherness with which marijuana use was ostensibly so closely associated could also be expressed more simply in terms of the existence of barriers to communication. An illustration is the comment made by Anne-Marie Bax, assistant director of the celebrated Paradiso Club in Amsterdam, who in early 1973 went on record as saying: "We are trying to change our whole image. It has been like this too long. We need people to get involved, to understand each other again instead of getting lost in a wall of music".59

It is tempting to suggest that the rationale for "getting lost in a wall of music" had itself started to wither by this time, at least in more public settings. A year later, for example, the London magazine Time Out published an article about "the movement back towards a simpler danceable music" in general, and the successful come-back staged by The Troggs rock group in particular, which started off with the following interesting observations:

During the last couple of years there has been a dangerous and reactionary mood pervading audiences at rock gigs. . . a curious desire to dance. In the late sixties, this activity had become confined more and more to discotheques, particularly in the fastness where imported soul singles hold sway to the north of Barnet. But going to a college concert to witness a real live group demanded a different response.

Rock music had become Art, and the guitar kings with their furrowed brows had something serious to impart. As they explored their fretboards in a mystic trance, or blasted out their 100-watt brain-rattlers, to respond by jiving was hardly appropriate. Not only would it have been as vulgar as cracking open a bottle of Guinness on the back of the pew in front during Mass, but the complexities of the rhythm precluded it. Those who worshipped at the shrine of Rock prostrated themselves on the hard wooden floor, or sat in a pool of mud, and were led towards divine revelation. Although the occasional outbreak of Idiot Dancing among the uncool provided light relief, the standard physical response to the noise was a violent shaking of the head from side to side. Verbal definition of the music was frowned upon; "too much" and "far out" sufficed.

John Collis, the author of this piece, attributed the passivity of such concert-goers to the meanings assigned to the music alone. Whilst concurring with his characterization, I would prefer to view it as being also significantly related to the social constraints affecting expression of the subjective state which many of its listeners were assumed to have acquired. Collis' remark about Idiot Dancing being confined to the "uncool" is quite consistent with either interpretation.

However, it was not only the subject's perceived relations with others — or even any "curious desire" that he may have felt to dance — which rendered introspection problematic. Also involved was his relationship to his self — or, more specifically, his own metabolism. For the lack of an ambience supportive of effective communication and the attempt to generate it increased the likelihood of any enhanced awareness being refocused inwardly and taking the form of a sensitization to internal (physiological) rather than external (social) stimuli. Thanks largely to the hegemony exercised by allopathic medicine and the long-standing mind-body dualism in which it is rooted,' 1 the notion of altering physiological states through the exercise of conscious will is one to which the majority of people in Western culture are still quite unaccustomed. For those who remained part of this majority, who doubted or had been only imperfectly socialized into the philosophy underlying the practice of peaceful contemplation and who still encountered some difficulty in transcending the material world, including the materiality of their own bodies, such an experience was likely to be less than wholly pleasant. If, as I have claimed, there were constraints upon communicating about it to others, such unpleasantness was likely to become intensified. Something of this is clearly evident in the statement made by Tricia cited earlier.'6 2

Finally, and sharpening up the importance of such factors, it should be noted that the structure of many people's commitments changed. There is a sense in which the notion of there having occurred a process of "maturing out" is applicable here." But the nature and extent of such applicability needs to be clearly specified. It was not simply a matter of people losing interest in the activity as they grew older and wiser and, due perhaps to growing commitments to the conventional worlds of work and family life, generally more conformist in their attitudes and behaviour. In the sense I am suggesting here, it was rather that the changes in their lifestyles which any such changes usually brought in their wake tended to disrupt the living arrangements, or settings, in which the cult of cool most clearly flourished.

As noted earlier, one of the hallmarks of marijuana use has traditionally been considered to be its social nature. It has been depicted as being primarily a group phenomenon. In contrast to some of the more eulogistic accounts, one of my central concerns here has been to explore the way in which the emphasis upon being cool, however it may be explained empirically, functioned historically to restrict the degree to which marijuana use could hold appeal not only as a social activity, but also as a sociable one. My comments concerning what I termed the cult of cool, especially in its more extreme forms, have correspondingly been somewhat negative. However, it should be recognized that in certain circumstances such an ethic could also be highly functional for the group concerned: functional, that is, in the sense of helping to ensure its survival as a group. As Barry Schwartz has pointed out, the maintenance of social solidarity within any group is closely dependent upon the granting of and the respect for individual privacy:

Leave taking ... contains as many ritualistic demands as the act of coming together. Durkheim, like Homans, is not altogether correct in his insistence that the periodic gatherings of the group are its main sources of unity. After a certain point the presence of others becomes irritating and leave taking, which is a mutual agreement to part company, is no less a binding agent than the ritual of meeting. In both cases individual needs (for gregariousness and isolation) are expressed and fulfilled in collectively endorsed manners. The dissociation ritual presupposes (and sustains) the social relation. Rules governing, privacy, then, if accepted by all parties, constitute a common bond providing for periodic suspensions of interaction.6 4

A characteristic of the kinds of social situations with which in the past marijuana use has commonly been associated, however, is that rules governing privacy have been difficult to uphold, simply because privacy itself has been lacking. Now it is difficult to know to what extent this reflects the kind of accommodation available to marijuana users, and to what extent it was something that was actively sought after and cultivated by them under the stimulus provided by the ideology of property-sharing and togetherness. The two are probably not unrelated.' However, the point at issue is that in situations like this, where people with little or no previous experience of such conditions are living together in close proximity for a sustained period of time, marijuana use and the cult of cool associated with it may afford the means for a degree of privacy which would otherwise be lacking. It is possible to "be with" others without feeling obliged to become involved with them." In this sense, it is perhaps not surprising that there has traditionally been a high incidence of marijuana use within groups such as students, bohemians and squatters. To suggest that there is an "elective affinity" between the privacy afforded by the ethic of cool and the kinds of living arrangements frequently evolved by the members of such groups is not necessarily, I think, to commit the error of reductionism.

Nevertheless, few such systems of living arrangements manage to remain stable over time. Many have been notoriously impermanent. Partly, no doubt, this is due to the fact that the rules defining the boundaries between privacy and accessibility are themselves so ill-defined, and so much reliant upon ad hoc interpretation rather than established conventions or codes of manners, that any form of involvement at all becomes problematic, even where the survival of the group depends upon it. What may be functional in one sense may thus be quite dysfunctional in another. Other sources of interactional difficulty that are related to this have already been outlined. In the present context, however, there are still more important factors to consider. At least until recently, it could be said that students eventually get jobs and, much to the relief of the older generation, characteristically "settle down". Though it may not do so initially, and clearly need not do so at all, this process of settling down often tends to replace commitments to communal living with work and domestic commitments of a more conventional, and privatized, kind. Similarly, the communal living arrangements inhabited by those who have difficulty in acquiring such insignia of conventionality or who persistently disdain them have seldom survived intact for long periods of time either. Paradoxically, it seems that the most stable and enduring communes have been those which are geared to an ethos of work and whose members do impose demands for commitment upon each other. Elsewhere, the claim to the right to "do one's own thing" and the corresponding reluctance to develop or be drawn into any such commitments has often been highly destructive to communal living.' As Wieder and Zimmerman have noted in their interesting ethnography of freak culture in California, "the notion of freedom, of personal growth, and the value placed on experimentation and movement all presuppose the possibility of abrupt withdrawal from present friends and circumstances in favour of something new"." In situations where the potency of such values remains unimpaired, the emphasis upon mutual tolerance which tends to correspond with them can very easily come to assume a somewhat negative character. As soon as the going gets sticky, unattached (or "uncommitted") members are prone to characterize the situation as a "bad scene" and leave. Moreover, like their more conventionally-minded peers in the student community, the decision to seek alternative living arrangements is rendered all the less difficult to take by the ease of geographical mobility in contemporary Western societies.

For a number of reasons, in short, ventures in communal living have tended to be fairly short-lived. Often, at least, there have been high rates of turnover in their membership. In a society which favours the pursuit of individualism and where so much of what people are and are constrained to become hinges upon values enshrined in the ideal of the privatized nuclear family, this is probably not too surprising." However, in the present context, a key consequence of this intrinsic instability is that the structure of the relationships between their erstwhile members is likely to become significantly altered. Where once they had been inclusive or virtually inclusive, they now become increasingly segmental in character. In order to enjoy one another's company, visiting becomes necessary. Visiting brings about a fundamental change in the relationship between privacy and accessibility. Because the necessity for it at all logically presupposes the availability of privacy to the parties concerned, the erstwhile functions performed by the cult of cool in securing such privacy naturally tend to disappear. More than that, they may become dysfunctions. For when the maintenance of the relationship becomes conditional more upon the active contributions that are made to it 'than upon physical proximity, it becomes increasingly important that the conditions of the encounter should be structured in ways which facilitate such contributions. In such circumstances, an activity which serves to hamper sociability clearly has little to commend it. If marijuana use continues to feature amongst such activitives, therefore, there develop certain pressures to change its meanings: to change, that is, the ways in which the drug is used.

Whilst it does not bear upon this specific issue, an interesting impression of the more general impact of some of the changes in commitments referred to is conveyed by the following remarks offered by Mike, a 24 year old one-time dealer from Liverpool. Picking up upon what seemed to be his own expression of cynicism on the matter, I asked him in what ways he thought people's attitudes towards "dope" had changed:

A. I suppose quite a bit has changed, looking back. There used to be a group of us who were into it (dope) in a big way. You know, it was the whole scene . . . Night after night we'd sit around in the semidarkness, smoking and listening to music until all hours of the morning. . . Yeah, we went on for a long time like that. . .
Q. Why did things change, then?
A. Well, it varied . . . Mostly, I suppose, it was because we got jobs we cared something about. You couldn't carry on like that with a job to go to the next morning — not for long, anyway . . . If it wasn't that, it was women . . .
Q. How do you mean?
A. Well, a lot of my mates started losing interest once they got themselves tied up with women. You didn't see them so much, for one thing. . .
Q. And yourself?
A. Oh, I just got a bit pissed off with the whole scene . . .

Adaptations

The main burden of my argument, then, is that for a number of reasons the introspective, contemplative behaviour with which marijuana use had frequently come to be associated came to be increasingly dysfunctional, and acquired progressively more negative overtones. With the passing of time, the meanings attributed to silence underwent a subtle process of redefinition. Where once it may have been positively regarded, a degree of seeming engrossment in the drug's effects that appeared to discourage accessibility — or sociability — increasingly risked being negatively construed as signifying either naivety, calculated insensitivity or social maladroitness. At the extreme, the very maintenance of the drug-using situation became uncertain and unpredictable. Sherri Cavan's remarks about the problematic status of silence in bar room encounters might be viewed as becoming increasingly relevant in this connection:

While bar encounters are most frequently terminated by spatial separation, they may be ended by nothing more than mutual silence. As a practical problem such termination silence is often difficult to distinguish from a conversational lull . . . both conversational lulls and actual terminal silences pose a question for the participants: is an encounter between them still in progress? There is nothing to indicate whether the quietness shows a loss of interest in the topic under discussion or a loss of interest in the encounter as such.' °

Once again, however, an important qualification must be noted. New meanings are not forged immediately. Inhibited by existing commitments, they may take some considerable time even to emerge as objects fit for individual recognition. They may take considerably longer to receive "public", or intersubjective, recognition. In the case at issue here, values deemed ideologically fundamental to the structure of the activity were not dismantled and changed overnight. On the contrary, if the state of a large section of the subculture was as critical as I have suggested it to be, it was rendered all the more so by the persistent failure to identify it as such.

Given the nature of the constraints upon expressive or "uncool" behaviour that have been outlined, such failure is perhaps not altogether surprising. There are certain parallels here with the features depicted by David Matza in his discussion of the situation of company within the subculture of delinquency.' 1 Within this subculture, Matza argues, anxiety both about masculinity and about membership is very prevalent. This is partly because the subculture itself lacks any formal or explicit ideology: "each member of the company infers the subculture from the cues of others".7 2 However, one of its principal functions is the limitation of discussion and common knowledge. Each member refrains from doing or saying anything which might mitigate such anxiety, lest the anticipated rebuff (anticipated because, as Matza points out, "one excellent way of temporarily alleviating one's own anxiety is the invidious derogation of others"' 3 ) serve only to intensify it. Anxiety, Matza writes,

. . . is a key fact in the emergence of the possibility of mutual misconception culminating in a system of shared misunderstanding. Each thinks others are committed to delinquency.' 4

Now even if one disregards the nature of the activity they each involve, it would be foolish to deny the obvious differences which exist between delinquency and marijuana use. For one thing, unlike delinquency, the subculture of marijuana use has traditionally been a highly literate one. By virtue of such literacy and the enduring ideological forms in which it was expressed and disseminated, the actual existence of the subculture has seldom been in doubt. Correspondingly, the functional necessity for the kind of sounding (or, more probably, "invidious derogation") described by Matza has consistently been less pronounced. Anxiety about masculinity, secondly, is perhaps an even more obvious source of contrast. This is something which has never greatly afflicted marijuana users of the kind receiving our attention here. Indeed, the subcultures in which marijuana use has traditionally occupied a central place have often made a virtue of repudiating conventional sex-role attributes. (Often, too, their members have been invidiously derogated by the kind of youth focused upon by Matza as a result!' ) Nevertheless, these differences should not cause one to lose sight of what I believe are important similarities. The fact that marijuana users may not be overly concerned to demonstrate their masculinity does not mean that they are free from anxiety about membership. Nor does it mean that they are unaffected by anxiety originating from other sources. On the contrary, the analysis presented above will have counted for little if it has not conveyed the clear suggestion that not only is anxiety about membership a key factor in shaping each individual's career as a marijuana user; but that, in the specific case under consideration, membership of the company of regular or experienced users was conditional upon his successfully finding appropriate solutions to interactional difficulties which were likely, by their very nature, to be productive of anxiety. In circumstances such as those I have tried to describe, the situation of company was one in which mutual misconceptions were greatly facilitated. It was one in which the silence and introspection bred of uncertainty, boredom or — as Adelman would claim — interactional laziness could easily be mistaken for a quite unexceptional display of cool. Far from being condemned, such behaviour was a mark of sophistication and deserved only to be emulated.

It should not be considered surprising, then, if the crisis to which I have referred should have been only dimly and somewhat slowly apprehended. For if members eventually found the activity boring, or the sought-after status of experienced user too burdensome, the constraints arising from this state of pluralistic ignorance were likely to discourage them from making their dissatisfactions public. To do so would have risked their forfeiting the status of being cool in much the same way that, ironically, the attempts made by Matza's delinquents to obtain verbal reassurance from their peers would risk their forfeiting the claim to membership and masculinity. To the extent that such privatization of dissent (if it may thus be termed) occurred empirically, it inevitably had a significant bearing upon the kinds of adaptation, or alternative courses of action, chosen by those whom it affected. I would like to suggest that it was around such adaptations, nevertheless, that a large section of the subculture gradually restructured itself.

One such adaptation took the form of what Philip Slater has termed social regression.' Again, like Matza's delinquents, those who developed or had access to close-knit dyadic relationships and who were thereby able to extricate themselves from the web of mutual misconceptions were afforded the opportunity to re-evaluate one another's actions and commitments relatively untouched by invidious and anxiety-provoking considerations of status. If their actions had failed to indicate how they "really" felt on the matter they could now, in short, "let the facade drop". So too (as Matza also acknowledges in a brief footnote) could slightly larger groups of intimate friends. The principal precondition — a fairly large one in the circumstances — was that their capacity for mutual trust should be and should remain sufficient as to enable them to transcend the problems outlined earlier without undue difficulty.

In a certain proportion of the undoubtedly many cases in which it occurred, such an adaptation was of course successful. However, not only was this kind of social regression necessarily to dislocate marijuana use from its subcultural base and divest it of many of the social, solidaristic qualities once deemed such central features of the activity; it also set limits upon the extent to which it could be redefined in such a way as to consistently generate euphoria or "fun". As Goffman has observed in his discussion of the more general point that euphoria is likely to be maximized when the social differences between people are neither too great nor too small:

Often sociable conversations and games fail not because the participants are insufficiently close socially but because they are not far enough apart. A feeling of boredom, that nothing is likely to happen, can arise when the same persons spend all their sociable moments together. Social horizons cannot be extended.'

The situation thus became something of a vicious circle. To the extent that people affected in this way confined their use of marijuana to such highly restricted company, there was an equally high risk that they would eventually find the activity lacking in stimulation. On the other hand, to the extent that they attempted to enhance the pleasurability of the activity by "extending their social horizons" (as might occur, for example, by entertaining or visiting rather less intimate friends), pluralistic ignorance and the attendant problems of negotiating the reality of the drug's effects without appearing uncool were likely to reassert themselves. Furthermore, for the purpose of socializing and eroding social inhibitions (something which successful socializing almost presupposes), the persisting lack of a coherent and widely-recognized body of knowledge about the "typical" effects of the drug was far from helpful. This is certainly the case if, as suggested earlier, the only notion which did elicit a measure of general agreement was the rather vague one that it "heightens awareness". In the absence of conditions which might permit the expression of such heightened awareness, the more likely result was a dysphoric heightening of inhibitions. Once again, the social balance was likely to be shifted more in the direction of privacy than in that of accessibility. Silence could well become both difficult to avoid, and difficult to interpret in ways that would be unproblematic to all concerned.

Similar problems also bedevilled those who, despite their increasing antipathy toward the introspective style of marijuana use, either lacked the opportunities for self-expression provided (if sometimes only temporarily) by the most intimate of intimate relationships or who preferred for reasons of ideological commitment to avoid the kind of cliquishness which they tended to involve. For them, as indeed for those who had found the adaptation of cliquishness itself less than wholly satisfactory, the solution which most naturally commended itself was to define the activity of smoking marijuana as an essentially subordinate involvement and, as such, entirely routine and taken-for-granted: a mere gloss upon an interactional process which would have taken place anyway and which would remain to all outward appearances unaffected by it. Once again, actions which might be construed as evidence of intoxication were rendered problematic.

Here again, however, there were problems. For one thing, the business of steering a safe path between the two extremes of being too cool and being unwarrantably expressive, and all the while being alive to the other interpretative dilemmas mentioned, demanded a high level of skill in the areas of both self-control and interactional competence. Contrary to certain views on the matter, one might suggest that those whose successful pursuit of this path led to their remaining regular marijuana users were likely to have been highly endowed with such skill. Nevertheless, there were many others who were not. Moreover, there was a curious irony in the necessity for such skills to be developed and exercised at all, when most of the people in question had assigned a pre-eminently recreational status to the activity of marijuana use and had become disaffected from the cult of introspection precisely because it failed to offer this recreational quality. Finally, and perhaps most important of all in its impact upon the pleasurability of the activity, was the awkward discrepancy which had now emerged between many people's subjective and objective realities. In this connection, once again, Goffman's work provides a useful lead, this time concerning the social determinants of fun, or more specifically "euphoria".

As I suggested earlier, much of the enjoyment of fun associated with the use of marijuana relies upon not just the desire but, more important, the ability to explore and experience one's environment in unconventional ways. Whether the chosen avenue for such exploration be "hot hedonism" or "cool hedonism", uninhibited immersion in the world or privatized contemplation of it, each involves a certain degree of emancipation from the kinds of moral rules which conventionally constrain people to observe minimally acceptable levels of involvement with, accessibility to and even comprehensibility by others. Now the implicit (or indeed explicit) directives typically offered the marijuana user in the early stages of his career serve to sanction and thus facilitate such "rule-evasion". Historically, too, it received legitimation from the ideological emphasis upon the uncontestable right of the individual seeking personal liberation and self-realization to "do his own thing". Under these conditions, the consequences are likely to be felicitous. As Goffman writes:

In such circumstances, what the individual is obliged to attend to, and the way in which he is obliged to perceive what is around him, will coincide with what can and does become real to him through the natural inclination of his spontaneous attention. Where this kind of agreement exists, I assume — as an empirical hypothesis — that the participants will feel at ease or natural, in short, that the interaction will be euphoric for them.78

To the extent that in the case of marijuana use euphoria seems most often to have been experienced both during the early stages of individuals' drugtaking careers and during a period when the surrounding socio-cultural milieu to some degree encouraged the kinds of coincidences referred to, one can offer a certain amount of support for Goffman's "empirical hypothesis", However, once an emphasis upon coolness prevails, social constraints gradually become re-established. Once felt inhibitions upon the display of intoxication emerged, the possibility developed of there occurring an uncomfortable disjunction between the individual's subjective experience and the socially available opportunities for giving it expression: in Goffman's words, a " . . . sensed discrepancy between the world that spontaneously becomes real to the individual, or the one he is able to accept as the current reality, and the one in which he is obliged to dwell".7 9 Here, as Goffman himself suggests, the dominant subjective sensation is very much more likely to become one of dysphoria.

In view of such problems it is perhaps not too surprising if a significant number of people should have "lost interest" in marijuana and restricted or even curtailed their use of the drug, at least for social purposes." Indeed, if (as I have implicitly been suggesting) such problems were likely not only to arise at different stages in an individual's drugtaking career, but also to affect some individuals more than others, then it would have been quite possible for a person's motives for using marijuana to be significantly affected in this way well before he encountered those difficulties which derive specifically from any attempt to effect a radical routinization of the drug's effects. Any decision to stop using the drug could be facilitated, moreover, by appealing to the views of those — arguably the most sophisticated members of the drug subculture of all — who, as Matza notes, had discovered the essentially human nature of the whole process of becoming high and who now claimed that there were in fact few effects of the drug which could not be replicated without it.8 However, for many, if not most, no move so dramatic as restricting one's consumption of marijuana proved necessary at all. A simpler and rather more agreeable solution commended itself: one, moreover which was fully in keeping with the virtual bankruptcy of marijuana use in any ideological sense. Briefly stated, it was to accompany the use of marijuana with the comsumption of alcohol: not for reasons of refreshment alone, but, more significantly, for the purpose of intoxication. A clear implication arising from the discussion of the benign social properties of alcohol presented earlier is that in social situations as tricky as those I have been describing, the introduction of alcohol and the social meanings associated with its use was likely to do much both to smooth the flow of interaction and broaden its potential scope. Rather than being seen as an indication of the person's "true self", performed before an audience whose critical faculties were assumed to have been enhanced, behaviour could increasingly be characterized by its unseriousness and inconsequentiality. Whereas marijuana and the meanings assigned to it had rendered social interaction problematic, alcohol, by virtue of its association with behaviour for which the user is less than fully responsible and of which its audience is less than normally critical, could clearly facilitate it. The degree of motivation to actually initiate interaction was likely to be affected accordingly.

Unlike some of their predecessors, then, people who started to use marijuana and alcohol conjointly may have come to believe that not only are the two drugs entirely compatible, but in certain situations actually serve to potentiate one another. Together, they may regenerate the sense of fun and unseriousness judged by those such as Matza to be so important, but which the emphasis upon coolness had so effectively repressed. Together, they may restore the social acceptability, and even desirability, of behaviour previously disdismissed as mere game-playing. In short, they may enable people to "do their own thing" with considerably greater ease than when marijuana alone was used, enabling them, once again, to define marijuana use as entirely pleasurable. And this, given the properties once attributed to marijuana, is perhaps the most significant of all the paradoxes that have been mentioned here.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 May 2011 14:44
 

Our valuable member John Auld has been with us since Monday, 20 December 2010.

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