Tales of Terrifying Highness: Black-Market Cannabis, Rainbow-Colored Emesis

Amy Phung

Halloween and highness go together like cannabinoids and human brains, which occasionally interact in ways that add up to TERROR!!!, or at least light paranoia and fear. This is due to THC’s interaction with the amygdala, AKA the part of the brain that oversees emotional processing, which cannabinoids can effectively trick into sending out errant warnings of danger, leaving the brain’s owner to invent reasons to be afraid. It’s a kooky loop, and thankfully, it can be avoided—or at least lessened—in a variety of ways. (Play offense by choosing a strain noted for anti-anxiety properties, and if you need to play defense, help yourself out of a fear spiral with carefully deployed black pepper or CBD.) But enough about brains. In honor of Halloween and cannabis and the pleasures of watching other people live through nightmares, here is the fourth and final installment of Tales of Terrifying Highness: Sarah Galvin’s…

Black-Market Cannabis, Rainbow-Colored Emesis

Yesterday I bought a cannabis-oil-filled cartridge for a vape pen for $25. In Seattle, we now live in the era of legal cannabis, and the contents of these cartridges are so carefully discerned they boast little street-sign-like emblems for Chillin’, Vibin’, and Go Time!, to indicate exactly what experiences they will provide.

But this was not always so. In the scary years of weed prohibition, you bought a Ziploc bag from a stranger and hoped for the best. Just as during the era of alcohol prohibition, when people went blind from unknowingly drinking industrial glue or turpentine, this cannabis gamble sometimes yielded a weedy-looking and -smelling substance doused with chemicals for which no one—particularly a young person first experimenting with drugs—could possibly prepare. This is the harrowing tale of my encounter with prohibition-era “cannabis” at the tender age of 13.

At some point we decided that being a psychedelic band, we should probably do some drugs.

In middle school, I played in a psychedelic band called the Electric Cupcake with my best friends Tom, Lyle, and Jesse. We were obsessed with beat poetry, Hunter S. Thompson, Carlos Castaneda, and The Simpsons. We had a kazoo apiece plus the “Accordion 3000,” a wooden box of broken children’s instruments that we shook violently for percussion. We had only one song, “Noodle in My Nose,” and those were its only lyrics.

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At some point we decided that being a psychedelic band, we should probably do some drugs. This was long before the legalization of cannabis. Jesse was rumored to have smoked weed, and even to have a dealer, but this person was nowhere to be found, so we did what stupid young people and cancer patients alike did in Seattle in the year 2000—we went down to the Ave with $20.

Well, Lyle and I went. As I recall, we just wandered around sheepishly asking for weed, refusing to admit to any nervousness about the situation, until a guy with white dreads and a hemp hat outside Jack in the Box passed me a bag in exchange for our $20. I still wonder how he felt or what he thought doing business with two 13-year-olds, but I will say he was very generous as far as quantity was concerned.

We smoked A LOT, having nothing to guide us but Snoop Dogg videos and behavior observed on the Ave.

It took us a few days to gather the courage to even open the bag, and a few more for Tom to construct a pipe made from kazoos and duct tape. We went to the ravine and descended into the woods. We smoked A LOT, having nothing to guide us but Snoop Dogg videos and behavior observed on the Ave. I was nervous at first, but when nothing seemed to be happening, I forgot about it and just kept smoking. I coughed until my eyes streamed—if the soul attempts to escape the body when you sneeze, your childhood attempts to escape during your first weed coughs.

We finally made our way toward Lyle’s, resigned to having been ripped off, but too engrossed in each other’s jokes to care.

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Suddenly, I moved a hundred feet without moving my legs. Everything looked like a photo negative. I specifically remember the neighborhood glowing like the cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced. Colors were overwhelmingly saturated, my friends’ faces unidentifiable and distressingly detailed at the same time.

Suddenly, I moved a hundred feet without moving my legs. Everything looked like a photo negative.

I walked another ten feet without moving my legs. “Can I have one of those crackers?”

This was a mistake—I did not understand how much humans rely on saliva. A mound of Ritz crackers, or maybe one football-sized Ritz cracker, spackled my lips together like some ancient mummification method. I staggered into the public playground across the street from Lyle’s and sat on a merry-go-round.

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I was having this really strong, familiar feeling. It was from childhood, something that hadn’t happened in years, something I didn’t like—

Just as a van pulled up and released about a dozen preschool children onto the playground, I barfed everywhere. The green-and-black felt Cat in the Hat hat I was wearing flew off as my head whipped forward and I barfed all over it, too.

The only parts of my body I could feel were my tongue and eyes, so I stuck the tip of my tongue out and held it gently between my teeth. My entire body disappeared except for my tongue and eyeballs, which were massive. I floated toward Lyle’s house and I swear I could not see my body below me—I was a tongue and eyes levitating across a vomit-covered playground.

Somehow I was lying between Lyle and Tom on Lyle’s bedroom floor.

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After failing to eat Kraft macaroni (for me a sign of serious illness) I called my mom. In the car, I told her what happened, and she was understanding, though she was surprised that the experience I described involved weed rather than acid or bath salts or huffing fermented shit fumes out of a balloon. What my $20 actually purchased remains one of my life’s big mysteries.

What my $20 actually purchased remains one of my life’s big mysteries.

Another kid at school insisted it sounded “laced, probably with angel dust.” I believed him because he frequently smoked things he found on the ground and because his fake British accent lent him an air of authority.

I didn’t do any drugs at all after that experience, including coffee, until I was 18. I eventually learned to enjoy cannabis from a girlfriend who took indica spliffs as a nightcap. I hallucinated quite a bit when I started partaking in this bedtime ritual, but after about a week, I was laughing and eating copiously and having great sex. I still hallucinate sometimes, but I appreciate it now—it reminds me of the fallibility of human perception. And when it doesn’t do that, it reminds me of how fucking much I appreciate the music of Rick James.