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s have failed. Techniques have been innumerable:
religious ceremonies, meditation, hypnosis, self-hypnosis, asceticism, fasting, dancing, yoga exercises,
and drugs, to name a few. Some of the men who have succeeded in altering their state of consciousness,
such as the Buddha, are revered by hundreds of millions of people. Others have been outcasts of society
or considered insane because their views were too different from those of their contemporaries. Still
others have gone truly insane in the course of their search.
Our scientific understanding of altered states of consciousness is minuscule in comparison with what
we do not know and the importance of these states. (For a survey of the scientific literature on them, see
Drugs have been an important means of inducing altered states of consciousness throughout history.
Cultures have embraced or rejected this means. Proponents have touted it as the shortcut to
enlightenment, while critics, both ordinary men and those considered spiritual giants, have called it an
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On Being Stoned - Chapter 1
escape, a pseudo-enlightenment.
Our culture today is one of the most drug-oriented cultures in history; we go by the millions to our
doctor (or our dealer) for pills to pep us up, calm us down, wake us up, put us to sleep, relax our
tensions, make us forget, or enlighten us. As a whole our cultural attitudes toward drugs are irrational to
the point of absurdity. We mightily praise some drugs whose detrimental effects are enormous and well
known, such as alcohol, and condemn other drugs about which we know very little. Scientific
knowledge about drugs has generally been of little consequence in affecting social attitudes and usage.
This book is an attempt to broaden our knowledge about one of the most widely used and poorly
understood drugs in our culture today, marijuana.
Marijuana is the term given to preparations of the flowering tops, leaves, seeds, and/or stems of the
Indian hemp plant, Cannabis sativa L. The preparation, for eating or smoking, is commonly called
marijuana, marihuana, Mary Jane, hemp, pot, grass, shit, and dope, with usage depending on fashions
Cannabis sativa grows wild all over the world and is a very hardy plant. It is extensively cultivated in
many areas, and research of optimal techniques of cultivation has been extensive (Drake, 1970). The
plant is desired for its fibers, which are used for rope, as well as for its drug value. Attempts to increase
fiber content and decrease drug content of the plant by mutation have succeeded only in increasing the
drug content (Warmke & Davidson, 1941-43, 1942-43, 1943-44).
The drug potency of the plant depends on the particular strain of plant, cultivation techniques, soil,
and climate. Different parts of the plant have different concentrations of the drug. Much of the marijuana
generally available in the United States today is what is called in
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