I didn’t get high the first time I smoked marijuana. In fact, once I started smoking pot at about age 12, I continued for 6 months without ever getting high. I’m not saying I didn’t get very high or I only got high occasionally: I’m saying not at all after dozens of smoking sessions. For a long time I thought this was highly unusual and that I might be “special” in some way, but as it turns out, this happens to many people and no one is really sure why.
When I was 12 years old I had already been a runaway living on the streets for a couple of years. At the time I had been on the lamb from the Good-Will Hinckley School for Boys & Girls near Waterville, Maine. After hiding out with some friends had started to go bad, I packed my stuff and headed back out on the road, alone.
I didn’t have a clear plan in my head or even a particular destination in mind, but I had already hiked about 5 or 6 miles when I started descending a large hill. It was early summer and I was somewhere near Belfast; probably on the Jesse Robbins Road. Coming up the hill on my side of the road was a couple of teenagers; a boy and a girl. It was 1990 so they were appropriately dressed in acid-washed jean jackets even though it was 75 degrees out. Buttons and pins hung from their jackets, reflecting the sunlight as they approached.
I’m not sure how it happened, but we said hello and stopped to talk even though they were much older than me. I was not yet a teenager and they were probably 16-17 years old, so it didn’t make much sense that they would say more than “hi” to me in passing, but they did. In fact, they did a lot more than that; after a few minutes of chatting, the boy asked me if I wanted to get high.
I had been very slightly drunk before and had huffed airplane glue while living on the streets of Portland, so even though I was a little drug-shy at the time, I gladly accepted the teen’s offer. He produced a joint and lit it; we smoked it right there on the soft shoulder of the quiet road, cupping the joint discreetly in our palms when a car would idle by.
When the boy finally stubbed the end of the joint out on the pavement, I said my thanks and turned to continue on my way toward the unknown.
“Wait a sec,” the boy said. He handed me three white pills with a large “3” stamped on each of them and said with a wink; “Take these and call me in the morning.”
That was my first time smoking marijuana, and as I walked away I was nervous with anticipation, but nothing ever happened. I didn’t feel anything from that joint, and as it turned out I wouldn’t feel anything from those pills either, but for an entirely different reason.
My luck was at a low point during that time and within a few days I was captured and returned to Good-Will Hinckley. Of course, being that I was a minor and hadn’t committed a crime other than being a runaway, the cops never searched me very well. I arrived back at Hinckley with the 3 white pills and offered to share them with my friend, Fatima.
But little did I know that Fatima had almost immediately ratted me out, and before the agreed-upon time to take the pills had arrived, I found myself being interrogated by the staff of my unit. They found the pills and the authorities were called. Instead of running away again, I waited patiently for my new custodians to arrive, said goodbye to Hinckley and allowed myself to be driven to a temporary shelter nearby in Skowhegan.
The shelter was called Halcyon House, and I didn’t last long there. I befriended a couple of cute girls and we ranaway together. We hitch-hiked to Bangor but got split up. The cops picked us off one by one, and it wasn’t long before I was back at the Halcyon House.
This time I worked with the staff and was offered a place to stay at the Atrium House in Bangor. The Atrium House was a long-term shelter/residence for troubled minors, and I had nowhere else to go at the time so I was fairly complacent about the whole deal.
However, once I got to the Atrium House I quickly realized I didn’t like it there much. The rules were too strict and the place was located in the shittiest part of Bangor where all kinds of delicious trouble awaited me right down the block.
So I packed my stuff and ran away, this time intending to live permanently on the streets of Bangor. I fell in with the local street crowd there and spent my days wandering around, trying to find decent places to sleep and eat. I’d take the bus to the Bangor Mall nearly every day and steal clothes or baseball cards to resell for money.
And of course I smoked pot. Lots of it. I was the youngest street kid in Bangor and this made the others want to protect me and include me in their nefarious ways. They seemed to love to see me taking monstrous hits from 6-foot homemade bongs and steamrollers, and I smoked pot like an eager puppy any time it was offered to me.
But I never got high. We’d sit around in abandoned cars and apartment buildings, flop houses, disgusting hotel rooms or wherever else we could be safe and dry for a few minutes and smoke massive quantities of pot. We’d white-wall places to the point where I’m not sure there was much breathable oxygen left in the room. But still I never got high.
People would smile knowingly at me as we smoked weed and say things like;
“How was that? Nice, eh?”
“That’s some potent shit, right?”
I’d always answer that indeed it was good shit, but I never let on that I didn’t get high from it.
You see, by then I wasn’t even sure what it meant to get high. Because it never happened for me, for months I thought that most people were full of crap and just pretended to get high or wildly embellished some mild feeling akin to a head rush. I smoked weed nearly every day, but I stopped expecting to get high and just smoked it because that’s what we did on the streets.
The months wore on and my third winter of living on the streets approached. I wasn’t quite 13 yet when a group of us left the Shaw House street shelter early one December morning and headed to a flop house on Union Street. I no longer remember who I was with, but I know there were at least 5 or 6 of us. I sat on a tired old couch with a new street girl I had been flirting with, and we passed around several steamrollers worth of this dank green bud with crazy bright yellow hairs.
I turned my head to the left to talk to the girl next to me, and suddenly a very strange thing happened. When I turned my head, it kept going. I mean, I don’t know how else to explain it: I turned, but my brain seemed to be caught up in the velocity and it leapt forward when I stopped turning my head. The sensation surprised me so I whipped my head to the other side, and it happened again; once I had stopped turning my head just kept going; like somehow my brain was floating on a path of fluid that extended out forever directly from my forehead.
I got lost somehow then; turning my head from side to side over and over again, examining the sensation while being completely unaware of my surroundings. Suddenly, it dawned on me that I was high! I started laughing hysterically with joy and returned to the real world long enough to become aware of the fact that everyone in the room was staring at me.
Always the quiet young street kid, to see me cackling and acting erratically was highly unusual, but as street people we got over the unusual pretty quickly, so everyone went back to doing their own thing. I kept playing with my head, trying to see if I could actually get my brain to leap out and take me on a less-physical type of journey.
At some point we decided to make a run to the 7 Eleven on Ohio and Hammond Streets. Even today this convenience store is a true shithole, catering to the city’s criminals, homeless, poor and drug addicted people. Back in those days you could still buy a single cigarette from a cup the clerks would place on the counter. Basically they’d open up a few packs of different types and for 10 cents each you could pick out what you wanted. In 1990 stores didn’t really ask for identification in order to buy cigarettes, so we headed up the hill to buy a few “singles,” as we called them.
I was really too high to understand much of what was going on, and I remember as we crossed the street to enter the parking lot of the 7-Eleven, I experienced my first-ever time lapse. From the moment I stepped off the sidewalk to the moment I found myself laughing hysterically outside of the store by the gas pumps, I have no recollection whatsoever. Time spiraled and jumped, and I sort of “woke up” and realized I had apparently already been in the store and purchased a few smokes. I was standing strangely close to the gas pumps chatting with a girl who was still trapped up at the Atrium House. She wanted out but didn’t have the guts to runaway. I was too high to give her much advice and so I somehow managed to stumble my way down the sidewalk instead, back to the flop house, laughing all the while.
That was my first time getting high on marijuana, and I’ve always found it bizarre that it took me 6 months of consistently smoking in order to finally experience what everyone talked about. “They” say you always chase your first high and try to replicate it, and I suppose that is true to some degree. For most of my teenage years I tried like hell to get that high again and found quite a bit of success using acid, mushrooms and Robitussin DM. But weed never worked for me like that again.
Instead, the highs I achieved from marijuana matured over the years like I did. I grew from using marijuana as a toy and a plaything to using it as a tool that I could wield for many different purposes. I’ll never forget that first high, and there’s a part of me that hopes to one day find a similar experience in the form of some good BHO extract or dabs or something similar.
In the near future marijuana legalization efforts will pave the way for new research projects, some of which may allow us to understand why some people must use marijuana for an extended period before they feel any effects. I can tell you that it’s not related to potency, because here it is 24 years later and I can get high from just a hit or two of good weed. So what was it that prevented me from getting high for so long? Did this happen to you during your first uses of marijuana?