Pollan, M. 2002. Chapter 3, Desire: Intoxication / Plant: Marijuana. pg. 113-179 in The Botany of Desire: a plant’s-eye view of the world. Random House Edition, New York, New York.
First Lyn, now Pollan, it seems like all we talk about in this class concerns dildo’s, “these ingredients would be combined in a hempseed-oil-based “flying ointment” that the witches would then administer vaginally using a special dildo. This was the “broomstick” by which these women were said to travel” (p. 119). Other than appealing to my childish sense of humor I felt this quote encapsulates well, or at least partially Pollan’s pursuing discussion on marijuana’s; history, science, theory, politics, law, religion, ethics, morality. The list is long and the discussion is broad but also very interesting, informative and enlightening; there is no doubt that this chapter is Pollan’s baby. This chapter showed me marijuana’s place in the world, and yes it does indeed have a place in the world. While some plants have the power to give nourishment, others have the power to kill and some like marijuana have “the power to change the subjective experience of reality we call consciousness” (p. 114).
There were many elements of this chapter I enjoyed, not least the vivid image Pollan created on marijuana, “sucking up the CO2, gorging themselves on the fertilizers, guzzling down the water, and throwing themselves at bulbs so hot and bright I finally had to look away” (p. 137). This image straightaway brought to my mind an image of a modern day westerner over consuming to the disgust of the onlooker, it seems not only to we want plants to be useful to us but we want them to be in our image too. Another point of interest for me in this reading stemmed from Pollan’s statement, “what a curious thing this is for a brain to do, to manufacture a chemical that interferes with its own ability to make memories” (p. 159) to which Raphael Mechoulam replied, “don’t be so sure that forgetting is undesirable” (p.160). Pollan illustrates how forgetting may be desirable, when he demonstrates in detail, I’m talking two pages of detail all that the senses present to the consciousness while typing the words for this book. The point being that perhaps marijuana got our attention by appealing and continuing to appeal to our need (and sometimes just want) to forget so that we can cope given our curse of consciousness.
What I especially gathered from this reading on Desire: Intoxication was the sheer power of the marijuana plant. Marijuana more than any other of the plants mentioned by Pollan, such as the apple, tulip and potato, seemed to have the power that marijuana has, which even goes so far as it might encapsulated them. When Pollan revealed that the “notion that drugs might function as cultural mutagens” (p. 150) only occurred to him whilst being high reading The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins suddenly the power of this plant hit home. Was Pollan high while reading and researching the other plants? Not that I’m saying this disapprovingly, but if he was, it shows how this plant may have helped him form ideas or led to realizations about the other plants and as such over shadows the whole book