4-20 Confessions of an Ex-Pothead Journalist

Mann Overboard

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I’m sitting in a hockey arena in Montreal, in The Eagles’ dressing room.  It’s the group’s first tour. I have my reporter’s notebook, getting ready to interview them; I’d heard they were going to be big. I was the rock-music critic for the morning daily.

Suddenly, the lights go out. Power failure. Then, out of the dark comes this — his very first reaction — from leader Glenn Frey sitting next to me: “Got any dope?”

Having the “goods” was a necessary part of this journalist’s job, which was being around rock musicians, usually famous ones.

In Montreal, few smoked grass. It was almost always potent hash, rolled in a joint with tobacco, Euro style. To this day, I have no clue why I’m not addicted to tobacco.  I was addicted to dope for a few years, however.

Back in college, I hadn’t smoked a single joint. I was too paranoid.

But in Quebec, you didn’t hear about anyone being arrested. The RCMP and the Montreal police obviously had better things to do than busting stoners. So I started smoking when I became the newspaper music critic at 25.  It made interviews far easier. And the music more enjoyable.

—“Got Dope?” Part 2: A year later, I was assigned to review dope-friendly comedian George Carlin in concert in Montreal’s elegant Place des Arts.

I was backstage with the promoter.  Carlin approached, and asked me,  “Got any dope?” Dejà vu.

By now I knew the drill:  If you wanted an interview, you’d best be “herbed up.” I must have missed this in journalism school.

So we retired to Carlin’s dressing room and got loaded. Carlin, the erstwhile Hippy Dippy Weatherman, told me about being in a small demographic group with few peers. And about the perils of cocaine. That’s, um, about all I can remember. Carlin was a delightful person with whom to get wasted. I got a great interview, and loved his concert.

A funny twist: A few months later, I was smoking hash with friends and watching TV. Suddenly, on came “George Carlin Live — From Montreal.” It was Carlin’s first-ever TV  special in those pre-cable days. It was on NBC. I was surprised; I hadn’t known that show in Montreal would be taped for a network special.  I announced to my fellow hashheads, “Hey. Carlin’s stoned — on MY dope!”

—Aloha, Oy: Two years later, having dope on hand was still de rigueur. Even back in the U.S., where you COULD get busted.

I was now in Honolulu, a columnist for the morning daily.

I was summoned to the luxurious Kahala Hilton, where Rod Stewart and his band were encamped. They were poolside. Guitarist Ronnie Wood (now a Rolling Stone)  greeted me. Not with “aloha,” but with the traditional musician’s greeting: “Got any dope?” Um, sure.

Interview granted. Mahalo.

— I haven’t smoked for 40 years. Been there, done that. Cellulocerebral balance hopefully restored.

My son, 44, remembers the smell of grass permeating his childhood. My daughter, born a few years later, does not. I’d quit smoking; I had a newspaper column to write five days a week, and you can’t do that — not well, at least — if you’re stoned all the time.

I’d been around illegal cannabis for years. So it’s weird to go into a pot shop here in PT now and see it sold legally. I bought a joint here two years ago for old times’ sake. It remains unsmoked.

(Now-straight PT resident Bill Mann has written humor columns for USA Today and was a columnist at four major dailies)

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