Saturday, 12 March 2016

A Rose by Any Other Name (or, how many different ways can I say marijuana?)


Pollan Michael. 2001. The Botany of Desire. Toronto (ONT): Random House, Inc.
Usually I like to start my blogs with a short paragraph or anecdote of how the weekly reading relates to my personal life. Stories, after all, are more interesting when personal connections can be made. This week’s reading of Chapter Three from Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire was difficult to make a personal connection with because the subject matter in question was about marijuana. My personal experience with marijuana starts with news broadcasts vilifying the plant and ends with the occasional skunky smell of it wafting through the air as I take my dogs for walks around the neighbourhood. I’ve never had a desire to experiment with it nor have I ever been peer pressured into trying it. The thought of filling my lungs with any sort of smoke makes me cringe. After all, I am a choir girl and singer; my lungs are a very precious tool to me. I may not have any experience with Miss Mary-J but I have heard plenty of stories of other people’s experiences with it. Many of which, like Michael Pollan’s, are very funny.

When I read about Pollan’s personal experience with growing the green bud I laughed out loud. Firstly, I would like to know how anyone could forget about growing something like that in his backyard. I did not realize a cannabis plant could grow so large. I thought they were short shrubby things. Of course, the movie Pineapple Express probably should not be taken as an accurate source for botanical descriptions (Further reading of Chapter 3 actually confirms that, yes, they can actually be short shrubby things). I had to reread the section of Pollan’s encounter with the chief of police because I was laughing so hard. For some reason, thinking about that scenario reminds me of a naughty child almost getting caught by their parents with something they should not have. I cannot even begin to understand why hash has become such a stigmatized plant. I would like to know which bureaucrat decided that a “garden can be found guilty of violating drug laws.” (pg 125)

I have to admit, this week’s reading bored me a little. That’s an unusual thing for me to say because usually I really like Michael Pollan’s work. However, it was probably just due to my lack of ‘appreciation’ for the subject matter. It was not all bad, I suppose. I did learn some interesting things about the history of marijuana and a bit of insight on the nature of human desire. I especially enjoyed reading from a Pollan-eyed view on page 160. On page 160, Pollan is explaining what our sense of consciousness does for us. He demonstrated, in a unique way, what we filter through our brain every waking second of the day. Pollan described everything he could see, hear, taste, and feel in that instant. I cannot say for certain that I have seen this sort of literary device used so extensively before.

I found the genetics behind growing dope interesting. I did not know that there were two strains of cannabis (sativa and indica) or that they actually ‘taste’ different. The fact that pot grown today contains 20% (nearly ten times as much as  the wild plant) of THC astounded me. I was not surprised, however, to learn that marijuana is cultivated by cloning. On page 135, Pollan discusses the innovations herb growers have come up with to cultivate it. “By 1987, all of these various advances and techniques had coalesced into a state-of-the art indoor growing regimen that came to be known as the Sea of Green…A Sea of Green garden consist[s] of a hundred clones, grown under a pair of thousand-watt lights in a space no bigger than a pool table.” I was strongly reminded in this instance of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Instead of cloning hundreds of humans and stripping away the very nature of humanity however, marijuana plants are cloned by the dozens and forced to exist in situations that are the very opposite of their nature.  

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