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Pot Shot

Weed freaks get into the 12-step shuffle

If the good people here at Metro were less evolved--if we amused ourselves by laughing at others, for example, or sometimes poked fun at people for no good reason--we might find humor in the thought of a Marijuana Anonymous convention. We might, if we were so inclined, make up pretend session names like "Wake 'n' Bake or Fakin' Bacon? The importance of eating a good breakfast while in recovery" or "Pink Floyd T-Shirt Swap: The mother of all flashbacks." Then we'd laugh and laugh and laugh and talk about how funny we were.

But that's not going to happen. Because we have in fact learned that there is no humor in the suffering of others, and that addiction is not a laughing matter, and that there is hardly any occasion for humor here at all, save the Recovery Comedy Show that will be offered at the grand event itself.

And now to the business at hand:

This weekend, Friday through Sunday, at the Biltmore Hotel in Santa Clara, the sixth annual World Convention of Marijuana Anonymous, also known as the MA y2k "Millennium of Hope" Convention, will take place, bringing together hundreds of former stoners from parts far-flung to share their stories, meditate, learn yoga and do the 12-step shuffle to the beat of the MA All-Star Band.

They need one another's support. Marijuana Anonymous people have it tough. For example, no one thinks their drug is addictive. Not physically, anyway. This doesn't bother Marijuana Anonymous people, because they're mostly concerned with the psychologically addictive properties of marijuana. Explains Kevin, 49 years old and the anonymous Marijuana Anonymous spokesman, "People who are marijuana addicts have lost their power of choice about whether to use marijuana or not." Simple enough.

In "The New Leaf," the MA newsletter, people tell about their experiences as marijuana addicts. One of them, Gannon B., describes his life before coming clean. A typical day for this young man used to start with 10 or 12 bong hits. Then he'd go to work, where he drove a van that he could spirit away at any time to smoke more pot. At the bitter end, Gannon writes, he was spending $40 to $60 a day. "I had borrowed, stolen, pawned and weaseled as much money as I possibly could ... ANYTHING FOR DRUGS!!!"

The symptoms of marijuana addiction are not very different from what one would expect them to be: amotivational syndrome, self-imposed isolation, money problems, relationship trouble. According to the literature, detoxing can be uncomfortable, too. People report feeling irritable, having headaches, getting nauseated, coughing up stuff and dreaming their heads off at night. Nope, getting off the Mary Jane is no cakewalk.

But MA people have it rough in other ways, too. Kevin says that other recovery groups shun them. Alcoholics Anonymous addresses only alcohol abuse. Narcotics Anonymous members think they're sissies. In the '80s marijuana support groups started springing up in California, of all places. In 1989, delegates from three of these proto-MA groups gathered in a hotel room in Morro Bay and established a recovery program for marijuana addicts (which mostly consisted of a "search" and "replace" function involving all the other 12-step programs). Eleven years later, MA is everywhere, even in New Zealand.

Kevin explains that marijuana addiction is quite insidious because, unlike alcohol and heroin, which are so-called "hard bottom drugs" (meaning you wake up feeling like hell the next day), marijuana is a "high bottom drug" that people can use for a long time without feeling like it's harmful. In fact, marijuana sometimes replaces harder drugs for people in recovery because it seems so harmless.

But don't be deceived, warns Kevin. It's still artificially engineering your reaction to life's forces and you're better off without it. Kevin himself, who believes that in 25 years he smoked "a house" (monetarily, not dimensionally, speaking), offers his own success story: now clean and sober, he plans to sell his business next year--which was in ruins before he quit smoking pot--and retire.

For information about the Marijuana Anonymous Convention, call 408.249.9865.

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From the January 13-19, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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