From the Archives: The Horror of the High (2020)

Sift through the paranoia to determine what these cannabis-related horror stories are actually about.
Horror
Courtesy of High Times

By Richard Saunders

“Fear is the mind-killer,” American author Frank Herbert wrote in his 1965 novel Dune. Usually, our fears are not based on reality. Horror films typically hijack existing inner fears, such as the guilt from teenagers who are experimenting with sex and alcohol, only to be offed by serial killer in a slasher film.

This Halloween season, it’s time to dispel some of the horror stories and oddities that surround cannabis use. Often these stories are based on myth or on a misunderstanding of the truth—and don’t involve any actual danger.

Cannabis is one of the least dangerous substances known to man among substances that cause inebriation. For instance, a study published on January 30, 2015, in the journal Scientific Reports, a subsidiary of Nature, found that THC falls into the “low risk” category, especially when compared to similar substances such as tobacco or alcohol. In fact, cannabis demonstrated the lowest risk of negative effects of all substances that were observed.

Yet we still commonly hear “horror stories” of people who weren’t prepared for the effects of cannabis in some way. This is usually when someone consumes an edible and gets more of an effect than they bargained for. Too much THC can cause a “white out” or a scary, yet usually non-threatening panic. Fortunately, most High Times readers know how to titrate cannabis and they aren’t affected by white outs or the negative effects of cannabis.

In addition, sometimes we encounter what we think is cannabis—but is actually not what we thought. That’s why it’s important to know what you’re consuming.

Sometimes cannabis can surprise you. Here are a few urban legends and horror stories related to cannabis.

MY CANNABIS NUG CAME ALIVE!

On February 11, 2018, Reddit user u/atreides posted a video in the r/NaturelsFuckingTit of what looked like a nug of weed walking across his hand with tiny legs. It looked exactly like a green nug of weed, but with the legs of a bug. “This is a piece of weed—walking!” the user said. “I don’t believe this. I have never seen weed walk y’all.” This was no alien bug. What it actually was is a specimen of lacewing larvae, an insect that hides under a pillow of debris as camouflage.

Lacewing larvae pick up plant debris, lichen, and remains of bugs and pile it on their back. Interestingly, the bug typically looks like a fluffy green nug, considering that most of the debris is made from plant material. They look almost indistinguishable from a weed nug, other than the fact they have legs and can walk.

Since then, similar videos have emerged on social media, and the lacewing larvae bug has been dubbed the cannabis nug bug. In the event that you see one of your cannabis nugs climb out of your stash box and walk away, don’t smoke it. It’s a bug.

FACTOID: Lacewing larvae are voracious predators, and wolf down aphids and caterpillars with their powerful pincers. They can bite your finger if it is mistaken as a caterpillar. Thankfully, they don’t venture very far from home and only bite when they are disturbed.

COP CALLS 911 AFTER EATING EDIBLE WITH WIFE: “I THINK WE’RE DEAD!”

This classic caper involves a gullible cop who ate way too much of a cannabis brownie, without any prior research on cannabis or its effects. In Dearborn, Michigan, in 2007, Corporal Edward Sanchez frantically dialed 911 after eating a cannabis-infused brownie with his wife that he had confiscated from an earlier arrest.

This cop didn’t understand the dosage of his edible, or how long it takes for the peak effects of THC. Edibles can take up to two hours to kick in. Not only did the cop think he was overdosing, but he thought he was already dead. “I think we’re dying,” Sanchez cried on a dispatch recording, in a viral YouTube video. “We made brownies, and I think we’re dead, I really do.” Corporal Sanchez was forced to resign, but avoided criminal charges after his hilarious ordeal.

Sadly, Corporal Sanchez would not be the last cop to panic after eating a marijuana edible. In 2018, two cops from the Toronto 13 Division in Canada illogically called for backup after getting too high from eating edibles. Those cops also avoided charges, but were suspended from duty after their mishap. Some people never learn.

FACTOID: You cannot physically overdose on cannabis. You would have to take 40,000 times the normal dosage of THC to die. In a 2005 study by French scientists, 92 mg/kg THC intravenously produced no fatalities in monkeys. That’s comparable to a 154-lb human smoking almost three pounds in one sitting.

NEVER EAT JIMSON WEED

In the December 1975 issue of High Times, writer Steve Block described one devilish plant that sounds like a horror story. Often called by its common name, the “Devil’s Snare,” the plant is in the nightshade family and Datura genus. According to a number of reports that fall into urban legend, many teenagers have made the foolish decision to try Jimson weed as an alternative to weed, given the similarity of the names and its psychoactive properties. Weirdly, Datura plants can easily be found in the wild, and are grown for their flowers in some cases.

Almost all reports of Jimson weed read like a horror story: The plant causes intense delirium that lasts for up to several days, and almost all users say they never wanted to try the plant again. That’s because if your family and friends don’t know why you’re delirious, you could end up in the emergency room until doctors can figure out what’s wrong with you. You cannot choose to function when the active chemicals are activated.

Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) contains the tropane alkaloids atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine—which are powerful deliriants.

Never, ever consume Jimson weed. Just don’t. Nearly all reports indicate that the plant’s effects last way too long, and it will inevitably cause problems. It’s also potentially toxic and dangerous for your body. Despite Jimson weed’s use in hundreds of American indigenous cultures as a sacred coming-of-age herb, it causes potentially terrifying visions that last days. Nearly all reports describe its effects as “unpleasant,” despite its power. It’s foul-smelling, and its seed pods are covered in ominous spikes—nature’s way of saying, “Stay away.”

FACTOID: Jimson weed can be used medicinally for poultices to soothe scalds and burns. It’s also aggressively invasive, and probably worse than those random seeds people are receiving from China.

JUST SHUT UP

On September 21, 1970, then-unknown actor Bill Murray boarded a flight from Chicago to Denver, where he was enrolled in a pre-med course. He was only 20 years old at the time. The thing was, Murray was carrying 10 pounds of marijuana in his luggage—which is trafficking proportions.

Then Murray, being the jokester he is, was (probably) extra high and joked about having two bombs in his suitcase. Congratulations for staying on the down-low, Bill! Not.

Obviously, the ticket agent did not find his joke funny at all, and immediately notified the U.S. Marshals. Murray panicked and tried to stuff his suitcase into an airport locker, but was unsuccessful, as agents quickly surrounded him. Agents found five two-pound bricks of cannabis supposedly worth $20,000. The horror! Imagine being a 20-year-old pre-med student facing hard time.

Instead, Murray was luckily given only five years probation as a first-time offender, but his days as a pre-med student were over.

FACTOID: This event would actually spark Murray’s interest in acting, and set out the course for his defining career in Hollywood. Murray would go on to meet John Belushi and guest star on the original season of Saturday Night Live, join permanently for the second season, and the rest is history.

High Times Magazine, October 2020

Read the full issue here.

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