Is Marijuana Legalization a Huge Win for Civilization? With Jason Silva.


Jason Silva: Well I think that what’s happening
now is a transformational moment here in American culture. I think the fact that the majority
of Americans now support marijuana legalization is a huge win for civilization, for mankind,
I mean for American society. It’s like not just for the sort of limitless medicinal potential
that cannabis has. You know cannabinoids have been shown now to even like shrink tumors.
I mean it’s an unbelievably therapeutically active substance. But also for the simple
issue of cognitive liberty, right. Sort of a country that is founded on the principles
of free thought and the idea that everybody should be able to think what they want to
think and do what they want to do as long as they’re not hurting anybody else. And
this is, you know, nowhere more exemplified than in the right to choose a marijuana joint
over a martini if that’s what floats your boat. Also, marijuana consciousness as Rich
Doyle writes is extraordinarily sensitive to the initial rhetorical conditions. You
know, Leary’s ubiquitous set and setting to the point that there is no drug by itself.
There is the context in which the drug is taken. And so when you change the cultural
context in which people are able to have marijuana you change the particular flavor of marijuana
consciousness. You start eliminating the association with
criminality and the paranoia and the fear of getting caught and instead you create a
canvas where people can smoke a joint before going to a boutique movie theater to have
a very increased cinematic immersion. Or you can create spaces where people can maybe vaporize
some cannabis before going and listening to a symphony orchestra. Or maybe they can go
on these beautiful sort of guided marijuana hikes where the set and setting would be curated
for a particular marijuana flavor. I mean it’s almost like the notion being that intention,
you know, you change the intention, you change the stage and that intention could actually
transform the subjective experience that people have when they participate in the use of cannabis.
And, you know, it’s just very exciting because I think that we’re going to see new forms
of entertainment, new forms of sort of – new cultural spaces for people to partake in what
they’ve been doing for hundreds of thousands of years which is altering our consciousness
whether it’s through external technologies or internal technologies. I mean mindfulness,
meditation, rave concerts, you know, Burning Man, theater. These are all technologies, techniques – rhetorical
technologies that capture and manage attention and are able to elicit transformational interpersonal
experiences. Only when we are immersed in some capacity, as Diana Slattery says, can
you mediate attention and can you actually have transformational, educational, interpersonal
experiences. And people pay money for that. They’re like here’s $20, you know, put
me in that IMAX movie theater and take me through a black hole and let me experience
Interstellar, you know, where the outer journey becomes a metaphor for the inner journey,
the external outer space interstellar becomes a metaphysical head trip. I mean we pay money
to be taken out of ourselves. We pay money to dissolve boundaries. We pay money to experience
intersubjective life worlds. And anything that helps us get there as long as it’s
not hurting anybody else it’s cool man. It’s cool. And so I’m interested. I’m
interested in what’s going to come out of that, you know, what this boutique high end
marijuana culture is going to create. The marijuana equivalent of the high end wine
bar or the really, really trendy scotch bar where everything from the lighting to the
music to the cups in which people drink the alcohol is created to create a certain mood.
What’s going to be the marijuana equivalent of that? A sort of highbrow experience for
esthetically minded types. There’s a great book by David Lenson where he talks about
the marijuana consciousness as one which creates this dialectical pattern of reconcilable estrangement.
So the first thing that happens – and again reconcilable estrangement with the world of
perception. So the first thing that happens is there’s an italicization of experience
by distancing you from the set of stimuli. It’s why, you know, why a sort of esthet
might smoke a joint before going to the Guggenheim. He’s going there to experience first an
alienation from the world of ordinary perception so things become novel, new and interesting
and strange. And then there’s a reconciliation with that estrangement. So the world is italicized. The world is seen as if for the first time.
And then right afterwards there’s a witnessing of that transformation and a reconciliation
with the world of objects so that the thing that is seen as if for the first time can
be regarded, can be revered. We call this sort of sacred consciousness archetypical
consciousness, you know. So that something like an ordinary scoop of ice cream represents
the idea of ice cream, you know. A piece of art, a sculpture standing in a museum hallway
becomes a sort of archetypical figure of man trying to make a statement using form and
function. I just think that what it does to consciousness is very useful because it provides
a change in perspective similar to when astronauts go to space and have a change in perspective.
What they call the orbital overview effect that transforms the consciousness of the astronauts
because they’re able to see reality, in this case Earth, from a different perspective
that creates an ontological transformation blasting new tunnels between the mind and
the other. So too in the world of everyday life people will be able to alter their consciousness
legally in a safe space and have that change in perspective that results hopefully in some
kind of transformation, heightened appreciation, increased compassion, increased wellbeing
and increased creativity. It reminds me a bit of that Stanford study on the subject
of awe where they described awe as an experience of such perceptual expansion or such perceptual
vastness that you have to reconfigure your mental maps of the world to assimilate the
experience. So maybe the first time you saw the Grand Canyon or the first time you saw
the IMAX film with the Hubble space telescope. And it turns out that awe, once it passes,
leaves us with all these increased feelings of bliss, wellbeing, creativity, compassion,
kindness, right. And so if we’re able to mediate and assist eliciting those sensations
of awe, in this case by legalizing marijuana in safe context then why shouldn’t we do
that? That’s what kind of excites me, you know. Just the notion that there are new modalities
of consciousness that we will be able to safely explore and inhabit.

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