“Almost all spiritual paths remove drugs. Why? Because almost all spiritual paths have to do with control.”
with Peter McWilliams
David Jay Brown
To self-publish your own books and have them wind up on the New York Times bestseller list Is an almost unheard of phenomenon, yet Peter McWilliams did it six times. Peter had a gift for writing about universal themes–such as love and loss–with great clarity and simplicity, in a way that many people can relate to. His work has inspired millions of people, and his books have personally helped me through some of the most difficult times in my life.
Peter published his first book at seventeen, a collection of poetry which sold more than 3,000,000 copies. In his lifetime he wrote and published more than thirty books, including Do It!, Life 101, Wealth 101, You Can’t Afford the Luxury of Negative Thought, and How to Survive the Loss of a Love.
Peter fought AIDS and cancer for several years before he died. In the course of his treatments he had discovered that smoking marijuana helped him to control his nausea and increased his appetite. This lead to an interest in the medical benefits of marijuana. Peter gave a book advance to Todd McCormick–a long-term cancer patient–to research and write the book How to Grow Medical Marijuana.
Todd used part of the advance to begin selectively breeding different marijuana strains, in order to learn which strains were most effective for treating the symptoms of different illnesses. For this both Todd and Peter were arrested, although Todd and Peter believed their actions to be legal under California’s Proposition 215. Todd Is currently serving five years in prison, and Peter died before his trial. Both had been restricted by their judge from mentioning to the jury that they were growing the marijuana for medical use.
Peter had a strong interest in personal freedom, and he was an active and eloquent spokesperson for individual liberty. His book “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do” makes a strong and persuasive case for how victimless crimes–such as drug use, prostitution, gambling, and euthanasia–are not only unconstitutional, but draining our economy and infringing on our most basic rights as human beings. After his arrest Peter became one of the leading spokespeople for medical marijuana rights, and was a strong supporter of drug policy reform.
Sherry Hall and I Interviewed Peter on October 29, 1999. He was living in Los Angeles at the time. I found Peter to be a very insightful, sensitive and thoughtful person. His wit and playfulness made him a delight to speak with. His willingness to discuss his own vulnerabilities made me feet Instantly comfortable with him. We spoke for around four hours.
Peter died on June 14, 2000. His body was discovered on the floor of his bathroom, where he had choked to death on his own vomit. Many people believe that if Peter had been allowed to use medical marijuana to control his nausea (which he was court-ordered not to use), that he would still be alive today. Peter’s death was a great loss to this world, but I’m inspired to know that his spirit lives on in the hearts of many people.
David: What were you like as a child?
Peter: (laughter) I was miserable. I grew up in a working class suburb of Detroit, Michigan. Imagine a creative human being In that Industrial anti-creative environment. Many things you can look back on your life and say, “Well, I grew from that,” or “I learned something from that,” but the thirteen years I spent In the public school system Is one of the few things I look back on my life and regret. Not only do I regret It, I have trouble forgetting and forgiving that It all happened. That combined with a Catholic upbringing–church every Sunday and catechism every Tuesday- made for a miserable life for a creative curious kid.
Let me make a slight aside here on the horribleness of the school system–especially as It was in the 1950′s when I was growing up, and In the 1960′s when I was going to high school–but this also applies to the current public education system as well. I believe that human beings learn beat when they are curious. When people have a question that is answered, they have another question. When that question is answered they have another question, which Is answered, and so forth.
Human beings learn worst when something that doesn’t interest them is put at them in a regimented format, at a certain time, and corporal punishment is meted out to those who do not learn properly. And that’s exactly what the public school system is all about. It’s 10:00, so it’s time to be curious about science. At 11:00 it’s time to put science aside and be curious about geography. At 12:00 it’s time to put everything aside and eat lunch, whether you’re hungry or not, (laughter) and so forth.
David: Do you feel that the negativity of this experience in some way positively motivated you to help change the way people learn, or to improve the learning process? Did this motivate you to try to make things better, or are you just saying the entire effect was negative?
Peter: I’m saying that the entire experience was so negative. I mean, a year of that would have motivated me enough to help people. It didn’t need to be thirteen years. All it would have taken Is one semester of sitting In a typical high school. (laughter) I think if most of us went back to a typical high school for one semester, we would learn all that was wrong with going to high school, and why so many bright people not only hate school, but do so poorly. All that can be so repressive to a sensitive creative curious human being.
David: How did you get started as a writer?
Peter: The first time I wrote something was before I even knew about writing. I found books with words In them more Interesting than books with pictures–before I could even read.
David: What age are you talking about?
Peter: I’m talking about three and four. I copied words and sentences from books simply by their shape. I found the shape of letters fascinating and would copy them the way that kids copy pictures of houses or dogs or whatever from other books. I would take this to my parents and they apparently thought I was reading and writing because they would be thrilled. Why they thought that I would be writing on my own, “Scarlet O’Hare was not a beautiful woman, but men never realized that who visited her at Tiara” is beyond me, but they praised me for my writing.
So one of the things I got praised for very early on was my writing. I didn’t get praised for my curiosity. I was always asking about something, always getting Into something, always taking something apart, and mostly I got negative feedback on all that. The negative feedback was either, “I don’t know”, “be quiet”, “don’t take that apart again”, or something like that. But I got lots of positive feedback on my copying the words, letters and sentences from books. So In a sense I was positively reinforced to be a writer even before I knew what writing was.
David: That’s a really interesting story Peter. I’ve never heard anybody tell me anything like that before. (Peter laughs) So it must have been this really incredible insight when you suddenly realized that these shapes you were copying had symbolic meaning to them.
Peter: Yes, they had power–positive power. Absolutely. There was something about those shapes that my parents positively responded to. I still have that memory. I couldn’t have been more than three or four, because I definitely wasn’t going to school yet. I remember the way I copied the letter “a”. The way I made the “a” was not the way children learn how to make an “a”, which is a circle with a line at the side, but I would make an “a” the way It’s made In books–with a circle and a curving line across the top that curves down and then stops.
I distinctly remember copying it out of books that way. I remember, most distinctly, being with both my mother and father in the kitchen. My father was sitting down and my mother standing up, and they were looking at the sheet that I had given them. Normally if I had drawn a picture they would say, “Oh, this Is very nice” and go on with what they were doing, but by copying these words they were astonished. They were astonished not because I had copied words, but because they thought without any training I was actually writing. It was a mistake on their part, but when you’re young and you’re getting positive feedback, mistakes don’t matter.
David: How long did it take for them to figure out that you didn’t quite realize what you were doing?
Peter: Oh, I think they figured it out pretty quickly.
David: Do you remember the moment when you realized that the things that you were copying had symbolic meaning? Do you remember the moment you made that connection?
Peter: No, I don’t remember that moment. I simply remember that they gave me more positive feedback for “writing” than drawing- or anything else that I did as a child, that I recall. I continued with writing as my Interest all throughout school. I was suspended many times for writing things. Mostly they were satires or parodies of the teachers. The other thing that I was fascinated by was filmmaking. By the age of twelve I had a eight millimeter camera, and I was making movies with synchronized soundtracks. This was back In 1961, 62, 63, but I was making movies with synchronized musical soundtracks and subtitles.
Sherry: Do you still have any of these movies?
Peter: Yeah, I still have them all. They were parodies of teachers.
Sherry: (laughter) Are they available anywhere?
Peter: No, they’re not really available. I guess I could put them online. But I still have them, and they’re still there. So I had a natural desire to make films. That was definitely a part of It, but writing was what was available to me. There’s a great French filmmaker, I think It was Renoir, who said that “Film will never be a great art form until camera and film Is as cheap as pencil and paper.” And that’s very true.
David: Right. And we’re getting close to that now.
Peter: We’re absolutely getting close to that now. But back then I had to go with what was cheap. Like, for example, at the age of seven, I asked for a typewriter for Christmas. Now how many seven year olds want a typewriter for Christmas? (laughter) And I got one. So I learned my own form of hunt-and-peck typing at the age of seven, and I was writing things then–all sorts of things. But mostly what I wrote that would get attention among my classmates (since they really didn’t care about anything else) was parodies about the teachers. That got attention.
They laughed at that, so I wrote more of those. And that, of course, got me Into trouble. By the time I was a senior in high school (1966-67) I was supposed to have read five different books In sociology. I hadn’t read any of them. I asked the teacher could I please write some poetry about society Instead of writing five book reports. The teacher no more wanted to read five more book reports, than I wanted to write five book reports (laughter), so he said, “Sure, go ahead.”
So I wrote what was published as poems on society. They were called The Chicken Died While Kicking. The Chicken Dead, Kept Kicking: Poems on Society. (laughter) It included such memorable poems as “What Is the Racial Situation In America? Rather Dim, about 3000 Watts”, which was Inspired by the Watts riots that had just happened. It also Included such things as, “What Is the Zen situation In America? Very Good–One Watt.”
David: So this became your first book?
Peter: Yeah, I put It all Into a book. But the book that really sold was a book of poetry that I had written about failing In love.
David: Didn’t that sell like a million copies?
Peter: Oh yeah, millions–several million copies of those all together. See, what happened was, I was also falling In love, so poetry and love seem to go very nicely together. It’s a very nice outlet for getting your emotions down. I got my emotions down through this poetry. Back then photocopies cost $1.00 a piece. We forget the amazing transformation that Xerox made. But back in 1967 photocopies cost $1.00 a piece, so to make a copy of the poems it was cheaper to mimeograph them.
If you Imagine and 8 1/2 by 11 inch sheet of paper, folded In half, that actually gives you four sides on which you could put four poems. If you mimeograph the pages, put them together, fold them over, and put a staple in the middle, then you have a book. And that costs much less to make than a Xerox copy. If there were Kinko’s available, as they are now, I might never have gotten into the book publishing business, because I would have just taken It to the Kinko’s, and for a dollar or two I would have made a copy of the entire 50 poems. And that would have been It. So It was an economic thing. It wasn’t actually mimeograph; it was one of those wax stencils where the Ink comes through. Remember those?
Sherry: I have no Idea what you’re talking about. What’s a mimeograph?
David: You remember those printed sheets they used to pass out in grade school that everybody used to love to smell?
Sherry: It smelled like ink?
Peter: Yeah, it was an old technology. It was what happened before Xerox. On the system I used there was this waxy sheet of paper, and you would type out the words on the sheet of paper. And where the typewriter hit would take the wax off, the ink would come through that part of the stencil, and would then transfer onto the printed page. And that Is what you would pass around. That was In the days before Xerox. And once you have that going, you might as well do 500 as 100, because Its just the cost of paper. So I printed 500 copies of each of the two books.
The book of poetry about love was called Come Love With Me and Be My Life This was in the days when boutiques were starting. In the late 60′s there were boutiques, as they were called, and this Is where I took them. They would now be known as head shops. They were the alternative to the Hallmark Card gift shop sort of place, and the traditional book store, where counter-cultural materials were sold. And there my poems sold very well.
David: You mean like next to the underground newspapers?
Peter: Exactly. Precisely. They would have the underground newspapers and they would sell Fugs albums. There were strobe lights and candies. All the stuff that Is now sold In the Hallmark stores.
David: I think that one of the things that makes you a little bit different than a lot of other writers Is that you seem to be a pretty good business person as well.
Peter: Yeah, my entrepreneurism Is something I never really appreciated until fairly recently actually. The entrepreneurism is definitely something that is inherent In me. But I’ve always believed that if you’re a creative person you also have to create your creative outlet. That’s part of being creative. And being an entrepreneur is all about being creative. The two actually go together in my mind. So when people ask me, “Oh gee, how do I find a publisher?”, I tell them copy your own publisher. Create your own books. Create your own outlet. And the book sold very well.
I actually had to get a job in order to reprint the books, because I had spent all the money from the first printing, which was done with my graduation money from high school. Then I sold all those books, but as I sold them, I would buy countercultural paraphernalia. When it came time to reprint the books, I’d actually get a job In order to pay for the reprinting. Eventually I printed the books with a regular book printer.
Then I took them back to the bookstores and they sold even better. And this was romantic poetry, at a time when Rob McCuen was very popular In hardcover. He was only available In hardcover, and mine were in paperback. So I was the paperback Rob McCuen. I eventually had them as fourteen different books of poetry, and sold 3.6 million copies or so, over a period of time. Now they have all been collected In one edition which is again called Come Love With Me And Be My Life. This was a turnaround on Come Live With Me And Be My Love. So that was my first current venture Into publishing.
David: What originally inspired you to start writing your series on personal transformation and self-motivation: Life 101, Do It!, You Can’t Afford the Luxury of Negative Thought, etc.?
Peter. The first book that I wrote about that was How To Survive The Loss Of A Love. I wrote that one because people would write me letters about the poetry and they would say, “I just lost my boyfriend” or “I just lost my girlfriend, what should I do? I read your poetry and you seem to understand. Do you have an answer to how to heal a broken heart?”
There were no word processors back then, so I found myself responding to these individuals who wrote these heartfelt letters. I found myself spending hours writing these long letters to people saying, “I don’t really know how to get over a loss, but here’s what I do…” And these letters got longer and longer. In 1971 I published a book of poetry called Surviving the Loss of a Love, which was a collection of unhappy poems, and in the back was thirteen pages of advice called “Thirteen Things To Do When There’s Nothing To Be Done”. And that became my best-selling poetry book ever.
It sold very well for the next four years. There was absolutely nothing like it on the market at that time. I believe that around that time Elizabeth Kubler Ross came out with On Death and Dying, which Is a more scholarly book on what goes on through the healing process. Then In 1995 1 convinced my therapist and dear friend Melba Calgrove, a Ph.D. psychologist, and Harold Blumfleld, a psychiatrist, (who I had just met through transcendental meditation), to join me In writing a larger book-a self-help book. The first of the self-help books I wrote was called How Survive The Loss Of A Love.
David: Didn’t you write a book called The T.M. Book before that?
Peter: Yes I did. That was actually my first–I don’t know if you’d call It a self-help book, but it was the first mass-market book. I published it myself, and It became a #1 New York Times Best Seller—in both trade paperback and mass-market paperback.
I no longer support T.M. I think that Majarlshl did a dreadful thing. I think what he did was bring pseudo-Hinduism to America, without bringing with it the culture of cannabis. In India, when you go to meditate, it Is assumed you’re going to come having smoked some kind of cannabis. It’s just assumed because It Is so ubiquitous there.
David: I know the sadhus In India use marijuana regularly. It’s an essential part of the Hindu religion for many people.
Peter: Absolutely it Is. And what he did was not only did he remove it, but he made It a stipulation that you couldn’t use drugs for fifteen days prior Into getting Initiated Into T.M. Then he made T.M. this thing that If you ever smoke marijuana It would destroy your spirituality and all that stuff. When In fact, spirituality In Hinduism Is based upon using cannabis.
David: Like eating the banana peel and throwing away the bananal Well, you know that’s funny Peter, because I started doing T.M. and smoking marijuana right around the same time. I don’t remember anyone telling me that you couldn’t mix the two. So I used to get high and meditate all the time.
Peter: Really? They didn’t say you had to be free of drugs for fifteen days before?
David: If they did I don’t remember that. I don’t think It was mentioned, but I started meditating around six months or a year before I started smoking cannabis.
Peter: When was this?
David: I was fourteen years old, so it was 1976.
Peter: I don’t know who your teacher was, but this was actual T.M.? The genuine thing?
David: As far as I know. I became interested in it because I was inspired by reading your book.
David: I had read your book in high school, and discovered that there was a local group in town doing It.
Peter: Well, maybe at fourteen you don’t have a recollection of this, but It was absolute. It was the catechism. The absolute rule of T.M. that you could not any drug for fifteen days prior to starting. Maybe at fourteen they didn’t even assume you did drugs. So maybe it wasn’t mentioned to you.
David: I used the meditation technique they taught me regularly for many years after that, for twenty minutes, twice a day. I also used to use the technique if I had trouble with a difficult part of an acid trips. If I ever got really anxious I’d sit down and close my eyes, start repeating my mantra, and It would always calm me down.
Peter: Your mantra was probably “ing”
David: No It wasn’t.
Peter: Or “ieng”.
David: It was neither one of those. (laughter) You want me to say It? They told me never to tell anyone. I’ve only told two other people In my life.
Peter: Well, I believe In telling everyone, but that’s okay.
David: I could tell you if you want to know.
Peter: No, It’s all right. (laughter) It just goes to show what a fraud the whole thing was. (laughter) But If I had Initiated you back then you would have gotten either the mantra “ing” or “ieng”, because that’s what fourteen year olds got In my teaching. But if you got some different mantra…
David: I want to tell you what it was.
David: The mantra that I got was “eema”.
Peter: Come onl
David: Yes. That’s It. (laughter)
Peter: I’ve never heard of that mantra.
David: Eema, eema, eema… That’s been my mantra for all these years.
Sherry: Eema? That’s like “mom” In Hebrew. (laughter)
Peter: Are you sure this was a real T.M. group?
David: It’s never crossed my mind once In all these years that it wasn’t authentic (laughter) I mean, that’s what they said they were–and, of course, it did work. But, I guess, any nonsense syllable that you repeat In your head will help you to stop thinking and meditate. I got my mom to pay the $50 by telling her that It might Improve my concentration while reading, which I was having trouble with at the time. And it did indeed improve my concentration–quite significantly.
Peter: Are you sure this wasn’t some pseudo-meditation group?
David: They had a little framed photograph of a Hindu holy man on the altar, in this small room that they took me into to teach me the technique. I think it was a photograph of the Majarishi on the altar.
Peter: No, on the altar was not Majarishi. On the altar was Majarishi’s guru, Guru Dev.
David: Oh God, it was a guy with a white beard. I don’t remember exactly now. (laughter)
Peter: A skinny guy?
David: I don’t think the guy In the photograph was a skinny guy, but, If I remember correctly, It was just of his face.
Peter: I think you got taken.
David: Really? But I don’t think it matters because it worked none-theless.
Peter: I think you probably got taken if there was a picture of Majarishi or anybody. Majarishi was of the tradition where you give all gratitude to your guru–to Guru Dev. “Jay Guru Dev” means “Praise Guru Dev”, and It was part of David Bowle’s song “Across the Universe”. (Peter sings, “Jay Guru Dev … “)
David: Right. That’s actually one of the Beatle’s song.
Peter: Oh right. But Bowie also recorded It. Bowie has a great recording of it.
David: Right, it’s on the Fame album.
Peter: It was a John Lennon song. (Peter sings., “Nothing’s going to change my world… “) Jay Guru Dev was the standard thing, and the picture on the altar was of Guru Dev, not of Majarlshl. And the mantra that you would have gotten as a fourteen year old was i-n-g, which was pronounced “ing”. After you got to be eighteen It would have been pronounced with a long “I” sound as “ieng”. It still had the same spelling–”ing”–just a different pronunciation. So I think you might have gotten In with some people who weren’t authentic.
Sherry: Where does OM come from?
Peter: OM Is very old. It’s just sort of a very universal-type mantra. And It’s one that sounds good. (Peter chants OM)
David: But I remember reading about some really interesting studies that that the T.M. researchers did. They showed that In areas where a certain percentage of people are meditating the crime rate actually went significantly down, and things like that.
Peter: I know about those. I think they were pseudo-science more than science.
Peter: Yeah, I think they were. The problem is they didn’t have a control area, where people weren’t meditating. The crime probably went down in a certain area, but they didn’t have a control group.
David: Well, they just compared the crime rate in the same city with itself at a time when people weren’t meditating.
Peter: Exactly, which isn’t a control. They would have to have taken a similar patrol in a similar city to see whether or not crime went down then too. I mean, crime goes up and crime goes down, based upon all different factors. And since they started tracking at a high crime time, and stopped tracking at a low crime time, then you could see how they got their results. So that’s why I call it pseudo-science.
David: For years they sent me literature with these hokey photos of people levitating.
Peter: That’s just people jumping up. They learned to hop.
David: Right, in a lotus position.
Peter: That’s when I left T.M., at the point where they were talking about all this levitation stuff. No one could levitate for me, and having been the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller on the subject, I was certainly entitled to a private demonstration of levitation (laughter), If indeed it existed.
But I was just given more and more nonsense. I was told to take the six month course so I could do it myself. I said, “My name Is attached to this.” And so I personally stopped meditating, although I also did it for eight years. When we started we were part of a five to eight year program, and at the end of that time you were supposed to be in cosmic consciousness. And cosmic consciousness had certain physiological characterizations–one of which Is that you never lose consciousness, you’re always aware, even during sleep.
So I did it faithfully–morning and evening for twenty minutes. Twice a day, plus I was in courses. I did all kinds of stuff, and at the end of eight years I was nowhere near cosmic consciousness (laughter) as defined by Majarishi. And at the same time this nonsense about levitation. I said, “I don’t care if you can jump up and hover. If you just pause in the air for an instant, I’ll take pausing.” (laughter) The Wright brothers’ first flight was less than the length of a current 747. But that’s all It took. (laughter)
That’s all It took, and frankly the first flight was suspect because they kind of pushed them off with these weights. I don’t know if you’ve seen pictures of them, but they’ve kind of got this push into the air by these weights, and maybe a glider could have made it that far. But all it would have taken was a pause in the air for me to have believed all of that stuff. What in fact Majarishi was doing was this: he’s a very good business man. And what he was doing was turning a profit.
David: He’s quite wealthy now.
Peter: Yes, he absolutely Is. It’s all very successful. What he was doing was the success of T.M. was based upon the concept that you pay whatever you pay. In fact, If you paid $50.00, why that also Indicates It wasn’t true, because people under 18 would pay $35.00.
David: Oh really? I remember that It was $50.00 very clearly, because that was a lot of money for me at the time.
Peter: It was a lot of money, yeah. No, you got taken. Actually, you didn’t really get taken, because…
David: It worked for me anyway.
Peter: It worked, right. And the point is that it also works. Dr. Benson of Harvard University came out with a book called The Relaxation Response, which showed that if you use the word love, or one, or any nonsense syllable at all, It also works just as well. So you could have saved that particular amount of money. What happened was that more than a million people started meditating, and they paid either their $35.00, or their $115 for adults, and that was to include a lifetime of checking at the center. Did you have checking as part your training?
David: Yeah, we did. A couple of times I went in for that.
Peter: So a lifetime of checking was included in that. Well, that’s a huge burden, to have these centers going, and people were just coming In to get checked all the time.
David: When I got checked they just basically asked me what my mantra was. They asked me to start repeating my mantra, which is what I did.
Peter: Well, that’s not checking it off. Checking has to do with opening your eyes and closing your eyes, and all this kind of stuff. You definitely went to a con place. You are never asked to speak your mantra out loud. Never In T.M. Nope. The guy was a con. Did he ask for money for checking?
David: No, it was just the $50. I think I got maybe two or three check-ups after that.
Peter: And that was it?
Peter: Well T.M. Is supposed to be a lifetime of check-ups. The problem with that, of course, Is that here you got a million people coming in and wanting free service. The Majarishi, at that point, had reached the maximum number of people who were going to start based upon all this, and the Majarishi desperately needed to cut that. So what he did to separate the wheat from the chaff–the true believers from the ordinary folk–was he came up with something Impossible to believe.
It was Impossible to accept based upon scientific fact, so you had to believe it. He wanted the faithful around him. They were the ones who were willing to go for these six month courses, who thought that they would receive immortality, they’d be able to walk through walls, they’d be able to levitate, etc. So T.M. went from a million down to a small handful of people very very quickly. But what he got was the believers, and at that point It became a religion. No doubt about it. It became a religion because it was based upon the belief that what Majarishi promised would happen. This was opposed to the way it was prior to that, when it was all based on physiology and a scientific technique, and all that sort of stuff.
So I was thinking of writing a book called The M.T. Book, in which M.T. would stand for “Marijuana Therapy” (laughter), and talk about how If you smoke some pot, and just sit back and close your eyes, you naturally meditate. (laughter) All those wonderful things meditation promises happen. A lot of people don’t close their eyes when they smoke pot. They stimulate themselves with outside music, movies, TV, sex or whatever.
David: Have psychedelics Influenced your work or your perspective on life?
Peter: By the time of 1969, when I started T.M., I had taken acid several times. I was an agnostic.
David: You mean before or after?
Peter: After. I mean, It’s hard to come out of an LSD experience and still believe there’s an external God.
David: Oh, that’s interesting. I’ve met quite a few people who would say exactly the opposite–that LSD gave them the greatest religious experience of their lives, that It put them In touch with divine Intelligence.
Peter: Do you mean the belief that there’s an external God?
David: Oh, you mean as opposed to being inside you?
David: Oh, you mean the whole Christian/Judeo/Muslim kind of trip–organized Western religion.
Peter: That’s the thing, yeah.
David: Right, it’s pretty Impossible to buy that stuff after you’ve seen past the cosmic facade.
Peter: That’s what I mean by an “external” God. God is in everything including us. That is what you find on LSD, and that Is exactly what Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is within you … Our Father who art in heaven.” That’s two direct quotes from Jesus. “The kingdom of Heaven is within you.” One of the least quoted of all of the direct quotes of Jesus.
The Pairaseis asked him, “Where is the kingdom of heaven?” “The kingdom of heaven,” he said, “is within you.” Then when his disciples asked, “Teach us how to pray”, the first line was “Our Father, who art in heaven”. Where’s heaven? Within you.
David: Right. Then Jesus said that in order to enter the gates of heaven you must become like a child.
Peter: Yes! Absolutely. Precisely. Jesus said, “To enter the kingdom of heaven you must become like a child.” And what’s a child like? What does marijuana do but turn you Into a child? It turns you Into a curious, delightful, living-in-the-moment, sensual being.
David: Did the experiences that you had with psychedelics influence your thoughts on personal transformation or effect your direction In life?
Peter: No, I can’t say that there was a direct Influence. It was part of my own growth, part of my own leaving behind things. The problem Is that the Beatles came along. (laughter) They went to Malarishi, and they became disillusioned with Majarishi, but then they never told us that they were disillusioned with Majarishi. That was the problem. They kind of dissolved at about that point, but they never really made a statement that the guys an old fraud.
Apparently what happened was that In 1969 they all went over India to be with Majarishi. George Harrison had learned how to play the sitar, and all this stuff. They went over to be with Majarishi. Mia Farrow was there, and Majarishi made a pass at Mia Farrow. (laughter) The Beatles heard about this, and they thought, well, there goes that–he’s just another old fraud. (laughter)
So apparently Majarishi Is an old womanizer from way back. Another woman apparently had written an entire book about her affair with Majarishi. And John Gray–of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus–was Majarishi’s doorkeeper for seven or eight years. So he knew who was going in and for how long they were staying, and whether they came out with their clothes dishevelled. (laughter)
John Gray knows the story. The Beatles left, but unfortunately they didn’t make a public pronouncement about it. So we were left with the notion that the Beatles had gone through “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” and all that wonderful stuff about drugs and LSD. “Yellow Submarine”, of course, was a joint.
David: Oh, I never realized that.
Peter: You didn’t know that? How old are you?
David: I’m thirty-eight.
Peter: Oh you missed that whole period.
David: I saw that the Beatle’s Yellow Submarine Is on a US postage stamp.
David: I just saw it this morning. It was on one of the stamps to commemorate the 1960′s.
Peter: Back In the 60′s, rolling papers were sort of a yellowish color. When you rolled your own it sort of looked like a submarine, so a slang term for a joint was a yellow submarine. (laughter) So if you listen to the song “We all live in a yellow submarine”, you hear the happiness of It, and all that good stuff. Like “our friends are all on board, many more of them live next door, and the band begins to play”– it’s perfect. Bob Dylan released his song “Rainy Day Women”, which has the line…
Sherry: “Everybody must get stoned.”
Peter: Exactly. “Now, I would not feel so alone. Everybody must get stoned.” Everybody under the age of thirty knew exactly what Dylan was talking about. “They’ll stone you when try to be so good”– so it’s like the response to the terrible things in life was get stoned. That’s what that was about. But It became this big hit song. It was one of Dylan’s biggest hit singles.
When it was released It became a huge hit. It was hilarious, In that everybody under thirty knew exactly what “everybody must get stoned” meant. And everybody over thirty thought, oh, it has to do with the hardship of life. (laughter) They thought it had to do with like, we’re all in this together, and It’s a tough life–instead what Dylan was saying, everybody must get stoned because it’s a tough life.
It was one of those wonderful things where the whole “in” group knew, and the “out” group thought it meant something else. It was terrific. The Beatles wrote “Yellow Submarine” and went into the recording studio that same month. They released It within a couple months after that. I believe this was March of 1966 that all this happened. So “Yellow Submarine” was the taken from a generic slang term for a joint– because even If you used white papers, they turned It turns yellowish as you as you smoke It.
David: You mean from the resin.
Peter: Yeah, right. But actually back then smoking papers were also yellow. Cigarette papers were white, but we didn’t use cigarette papers. We used special rolling papers, which were yellow. So “Yellow Submarine” was the Beatles response to Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women”. It was their version of saying, here’s something that the older people will like. They wrote it In an older person’s style, so that those older people who thought the Beatles were noisy, guitar-ridden, and things like that, could kind of tap their foot and sing along. It’s almost like a children’s song. (Peter starts singing) “We all live in a yellow submarine…” (laughter)
So the older people thought, well, I guess the Beatles aren’t so terrible after all. (laughter) It was a top 40′s song. Interestingly, on the flip-side of the single was “Eleanor Rigby”.
David: Good God, I forgot all about single 45’s.
Peter: Yeah, remember 45′s? So that was on the flip-side of It. Yellow Submarine was this happy little funny song.
David: And on the other side It was sadness, loneliness, and death.
Peter: Oh, terrible.
Sherry: Right, “all the lonely people”
Peter: All the lonely people, and on one got saved. All that kind of stuff. But, at the same time, everyone who was younger than thirty knew exactly what a yellow submarine was.
David: Just like everyone who was hip knew that “Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds” was really about LSD.
Peter: Of course. The Beatles celebrated the drug culture, and did Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Then the Beatles, who were really our spiritual teachers back then, went off into this thing with Majarishi. They got disillusioned, but then they never turned on it. The notion back then was- and I think a bad and Inaccurate notion–was that when you get to certain point with drugs, then you need to follow a spiritual path. As opposed to, getting to a certain point with drugs and then living your life, including the drugs. (laughter) Almost all spiritual paths remove drugs. Why? Because almost all spiritual paths have to do with control.
David: You’re talking about religions.
David: I try to make a distinction between religion and spirituality. A religion tells you that you’re supposed to model yourself after somebody else, as well as what you should and shouldn’t do. Spirituality is just about looking within yourself, and seeing how you relate to the whole.
Peter: Well, I think spirituality Is bunk as well. I think it indicates that there Is something outside of us that we should be aware of, and there really isn’t.
Sherry: You don’t think that there’s anything outside of our perceptions that we can’t see? Just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean It’s not there.
Peter: I call that the Jelly Donut Theory. How do you know you that you don’t have a jelly donut on your head right now? Do you have a jelly donut on your head right now?
Sherry: I don’t think so.
Peter: Well, do you?
Sherry: I’m pretty sure I don’t. (laughter)
Peter: Right. (laughter) How do you know you don’t have a spiritual jelly donut on your head? (laughter)
Sherry: (laughter) That, I have no clue.
Peter: (laughter) Exactly. So, I fully accept that there are things outside of us that we have no perception of. We fully know that on a physics level we have no perception of…
David: Most of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Peter: Exactly. The whole electromagnetic spectrum we have a very narrow range of. If you look at quantum physics It would seem as though everything should pass through everything else.
David: Because there’s so much empty space.
Sherry: And very little matter.
Peter: Right. You would think that everything would transparently pass through everything else. In fact, when you get up to the level of Newtonian physics, things actually appear quite solid. See, we live In the world of Newtonian physics. Quantum physics Is very Interesting. The world in-between the world of metaphysics is the world where–if you’re Intelligent—you can pick very carefully from quantum physics, and from Newtonian physics, and create any universe you want.
Now, that’s great for the imagination, but that’s the world of science fiction, and the people who do It well I have great admiration for. I enjoy their work very much. Those who do It well and then say, “this might be real”, I go, “enhh”. That’s what I generally consider spiritual. Is there something outside of us? Of course. Is there life and energy coming out of nature? Of course there is.
But I maintain that all of the energy comes from the material world. It does not come from a spiritual world into the material world. It comes out of the material world as a natural result of the biochemical reactions that take place within material objects. To the degree that there are vibrations that come out, and there Is something to feel out there, and there are things going on out there that generally are happening that we aren’t aware of–absolutely, I agree with that.
There Is that old question of does the body have an aura, or does the aura have a body? Many “spiritual” people would say, the aura has a body. The body Is the compacted version of spirit. Whereas, I maintain, the body is what grew up naturally through evolution Into this world, and out of that comes an aura, because we know that bodies do have auras.
David: Yes, this Is one of the most ancient of philosophical debates. It’s the old chicken and egg dilemma, I think. Which came first, the brain or consciousness? On the one hand you have the orthodox-Darwinian evolutionary biologists, and on the other you have the smiling mystics saying that the universe Is composed of thought, that all that exists Is part of a cosmic mind.
Peter: And I’m clearly in the science camp.
David: But not all scientists agree on this. Consciousness is very mysterious. Some physicists, like Nick Herbert, think that consciousness Is fundamental–pre-biological–to the universe, like any other force In nature. I don’t think that It’s a dichotomy between science and mysticism, because I think that the best scientists–like Einstein and Newton, for example– are also mystics.
Peter: Having spent the majority of my life misled, I believe, by Majarishi, and by the Beatles, for not denouncing Majarishi–damn it! (laughter)–I sort of got off Into this world of spirituality. It’s like that Dylan song about “we were so much older then, I’m younger than that now”. (laughter) In 1968 or 9, boy did I have my life together.
(laughter) When I was 18 or 19 I was quite happy a materialist. I was an entrapenuer. I was making money on my romantic poetry. I was quite content with the notion that I evolved through a natural evolutionary process, and that I lived In a universe, and a world, that was explainable by scientific theory.
The points at which our understanding stopped could be called mysteries, but they weren’t necessarily mystical. They were simply mysteries, and none of It indicated that there was an external God. None of it indicated that there were spirits or angels, or after-lifes or reincarnation, or heaven or hell, or anything like that. Unfortunately I slipped back, because of depression. You see, and this, I think, Is the Interesting point. It all had to do with a biological imbalance in my brain known as depression, which I also called the pleasure-deficit disorder. I’m coined the term the pleasure-deficit disorder.
David: Oh, that’s really good. I like that a lot.
Peter: The pleasure-deficit disorder Is found in people who, for whatever reason–either psychological trauma in their youth, or physiological Imbalances at birth–are unable to experience ordinary pleasure through ordinary activities. These people, which include me, then start looking for extraordinary means to find pleasure.
These are the people who are then open to–as I was–the con men of the world. The ones who promise enlightenment or greater happiness, whether they be political, religious, spiritual, or romantic. The whole notion that when you find your soul-mate or God everything will be wonderful. Or the notion that when one or another political philosophy takes over everything will be wonderful. All of that. When people are not experiencing day-to-day pleasure In ordinary activities…
Sherry: They’re vulnerable to brainwashing.
Peter: Precisely. Their own lack of pleasure–their pleasure-deficit disorder–causes them to find happiness.
David: It also makes you very vulnerable then to drug addiction. This Is because you can experience not only relief from the depression, but also incredible pleasure in a drug that the average person won’t. Certain drugs can be much more rewarding to certain people than others for this reason.
Peter: Absolutely. Yes, the same thing with drug addiction. It definitely falls into that category. All addictive behavior falls Into that category.
Sherry: So do you feel that you were brainwashed by your Majarishi?
Peter: Well, yes. I was open for It, but I was brainwashed.
David: Wait, let me clarify something Sherry. We’re talking about two different things-there was the Majarishi who started TM, and then there’s was this person John-Roger who started this cult called Avatar.
Peter: Yeah, he was the Mystical Travel.
Sherry: Ah, yeah that’s who I was thinking of.
Peter: That was a different person. But, again, I was susceptible to it. See, I was just ready for anyone who came along. That had to do with my own biological imbalance.
Sherry: So, It has nothing to do with intelligence?
Peter: Nothing, because if you’re not experiencing pleasure in your ordinary day-today activities–which Is the natural state of being when your brain Is balanced and your psychology Is balanced–you’re very vulnerable. By psychology I mean your view of the world. I’m just talking about the stuff that comes out of cognitive or Interpersonal therapy, a basic view of the world that is realistic. So if you have either an unrealistic view of the world–based on earlier traumas or very bad training–or a biological Imbalance In your brain, you are not experiencing the day-to-day momentto-moment pleasures of life.
David: I would Imagine that this is what motivated you to write the book about St. John’s Wort: Hypericum & Depression.
Peter: Well, that was the basis of all my books, and all of my help. All of that was my own personal struggle with finding happiness, finding pleasure In what I consider to be a not very pleasurable world.
David: How did you become interested in ending victimless crimes, and what inspired you to write Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do?
Peter: That book had to do with the fact that I’ve never understood why people should be put in jail for their own idiosyncrasies.
David: Isn’t It so that people In power can control other people.
Peter: (laughter) I understand the bad side of it. I understand that, but I’ve never understood any of the justifications behind it. It’s just never rang true with me. It’s never penetrated me, that putting people in jail for individual behavior that wasn’t harming others was justified. It just Is something that has never registered.
The specific motivation for Ain’t Nobody’s Business If You Do was the cover of either Time or Newsweek from the mid-eighties. The cover showed these peasants piled up like firewood, with their simple peasant clothing. They were all dead and bloody, with American troops standing around. They were from Columbia or Peru, or wherever the hell we were fighting at that particular point. American troops had killed them. They were simple peasants, who were picking coca, or whatever, and the headline was: “Winning the War on Drugs”.
Sherry: Like It was a triumph.
Peter: Yes, as though this were something that we should all be very proud of. Inside there was a fifteen page series of articles, and not once did they question the wisdom of this- the right we had to send American troops into other countries to kill these peasants for growing coca.
Sherry: And were they even the ones growing it? They were probably just picking It, and weren’t even the people who were selling it.
Peter: Exactly, that’s the point. They were just peasants hired by the other people. What was most appalling about this was the fact that there wasn’t a voice of reason there. I’m passionate about a lot of issues, but fortunately they have other voices there to pick up the cause, and say this Is outrageous. But in the mid-to-late Eighties, when the War on Drugs was going on, I was completely unaware of any of those voices.
David: There was William F. Buckley, the publisher of The National Review.
Peter: Yes, but he wasn’t a passionate voice. He was more of a passive voice. He was someone who, If questioned, would say something. But It wasn’t his passion to make It his point to fight the War on Drugs. Bill Buckley and I have been friends for many years. We met each other through computers. We’ve been friends since 1979, and I wasn’t even necessarily aware of his stand on drugs. I just assumed we disagreed on everything politically, because back then I was a liberal and he was a conservative. I was quite pleased In doing research for Ain’t Nobody’s BusinesA when he sent me some of his pieces from The National Review. I included one, a long Interview he did with a pharmacologist.
David: I think he’s the most intelligent and articulate voice that the political right has to offer.
Peter: Yes. The National Review has been opposed to the War on Drugs, and In favor of legalizing marijuana, since 1972, and. It has never altered that editorial viewpoint. That’s something that most people don’t realize.
Sherry: Is that because nobody reads The National Review? (laughter)
Peter: I think that most people think of The National Review as something that would go along the party-fine of Newt Gingrich or Bob Barr, that there’s nothing In there that Bob Barr would disagree with.
Sherry: Right, but If anybody actually reads It, then they would see
otherwise– that that’s been the position.
David: Buckley Is a rare bird. There’s not too many conservative Republicans who reason through things intelligently, so far as I can tell.
Sherry: Do you think that’s because people are afraid of losing their job or whatever, because they might hold an opinion that diverges too far from the norm?
Peter: Oh, there’s a lot of reasons, and that certainly Is a very strong one. Our jobs, our family, all of those things contribute to the individual personal fear that we have.
But the fact that there was simply no voice was what got me. So then I started looking for the voices. I started looking for someone to counter Bill Bennett. As Bennett took over the War on Drugs and became the first Drug Czar, I started looking in the media for anybody, anywhere who was saying anything? And there wasn’t anyone. The media Itself decided to fight the War on Drugs as though It were a good war, and the enemy was drugs.
David: Well, people who use certain drugs.
Peter: People who use drugs, who sell drugs–they were the enemy, and they were not entitled to editorial space. They were not entitled to their point of view. This was a media decision. It was made back then because cocaine had started causing trouble In upper-middle-class white circles. People were actually having trouble with cocaine, and for the first time drugs had actually penetrated Into the realm of reporters and people who owned media. I think It was 1987 or 1988 when the media made this decision. Dan Baum talks about it In Smoke and Mirrors.
David: I Interviewed Dan for High Times. Excellent book that he did.
Peter: Yes, and In his book he talks about the very place where this meeting was held, and who was there. Catherine Graham, the owner of Washington Post and Newsweek, was there, as well as all these highlevel journalists. They made the editorial decision that they would get on board the War on Drugs, which has been followed almost completely to this day.
This was decided because, keep In mind, what was being promised then. What was being promised In the late 1980′s when Bennett came along (who was really one of the most evil people In the world If you ask me) was that by 1995 there would be no drugs or drug addiction In the United States anymore. We need to fight this limited action war, and the results will be wonderful.
This attitude In the media Is shaking now, and that’s what gives me enormous hope. But It has been followed for more than ten years after that 1987 or 88 meeting, that the War on Drugs would be reported as though It were a war against Hitler. It was good war. It was an American war. The propaganda that came out of the government would be reported as truth, and the other side would not be given a voice.
David: But do you really think that’s what their motivation was? Or do you think that was just a smokescreen, so that they could take away people’s constitutional rights, be able to spy on people, and create a police state?
Peter: Don’t forget that the CIA and other groups were making large amounts of money by selling drugs to Americans.
David: Right, exactly.
Peter: I’m less Inclined to believe that sort of conspiracy thinking about them wanting to create a police state than I am to believe the more practical thinking that the Contras needed funding. And then the Contras around the world needed funding. What’s that other organization that’s bigger than the CIA?
David: Bigger than the CIA?
Peter: Yeah, they’re huge.
David: Oh, you mean Microsoft? (laughter)
Peter: (laughter) Microsoft does it honestly. I’m a fan of Bill Gates actually. I wrote a whole article In Liberty magazine about how Bill Gates should give a billion dollars to Libertarian Party.
David: Yeah, that would be wonderful. I was just trying to think of who’s bigger than the CIA.
Sherry: The NSA–National Security Council?
Peter: Yes, the NSA. They’re bigger than all the rest, and they keep a very low profile. But all of these covert activities have been financed, apparently, for many decades by selling drugs. And that goes all the way back to Britain selling opium to China. Apparently Its been going on In this country for quite some while. To me the cynical view of why the War of Drugs got ratcheted up by Reagan was because he wanted to fund all these covert activities that Congress was not about to fund in a postVietnam world.
They weren’t about to fund all of these Contras and other anticommunist activities that Reagan wanted funded. The easiest way for them to raise money was by making drugs more illegal, and at the same time making them more desirable. How could anyone in their right mind listen to Nancy Reagan say, “Just say no”, without becoming instantly desirous of taking drugs? (laughter) It was reversepsychology of the first order. Here was this awful human being telling you not to do something, so instantly you wanted to do It.
David: And then Nike came along with the “Just do it” ad a year later.
Peter: Yes. (laughter) But of all people, Nancy Reagan, telling you not to do something. (laughter)
David: Right–all the teenagers I know really look up to Nancy Reagan as a role-model. (laughter)
Peter: It was instantly that all the people said, I’m going go do drugs.
David: Right, or else I’ll end up like Nancy Reagan–God forbid!
Peter: Anything this anorexical bat wouldn’t do, I’m going to go do It.
(laughter) So It was lovely reverse-psychology. Now, of course, we know Iran-Contra was just the most obvious of what, apparently, has been an on-going process of selling drugs to Americans, in order to finance various covert operations that Congress wouldn’t support. So that, I think, Is the underlying reason for the War on Drugs– less so than they want to create a police state to control us and all that kind of stuff. I don’t think they give a damn about any of that police state stuff, frankly. I think the police care about It. (laughter)
David: You mean because they’re acquiring property and money?
Peter: Exactly. They just want their money to fund their favorite little causes. Follow the money–not the power–follow the money. I think that had much more to do with It than anything else.
David: But It’s got to more than that. The U.S. Government would profit more from being able to tax marijuana, than from putting marijuana growers and users in prison. From an economic standpoint they’d make more money if marijuana was legal. Don’t you think that they’re actually afraid because marijuana tends to make people question authority and unwilling to fight in wars?
Peter: Of course they are. That was my original point about spiritual groups always banning drugs–because people who smoke marijuana tend to be very individualistic.
Sherry: They think for themselves.
Peter: It’s like herding cats.
Sherry: Right, and they want us to be cattle.
David: That’s a great phrase, “like herding cats”
Peter: It’s not mine. That’s very old. But you know the notion, and that’s really how it is. Why do think that the pot smokers of America haven’t been able to unite? (uproariously laughter) Because no one can unite them. (laughter) This is a variation on the Libertarian problem. The Libertarians will stand on principal over the slightest variation on what they consider to be the ideal, and they won’t look for the common ground. They will look for the exception. It’s the same thing with the movement against marijuana prohibition. The National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) has been In business now for thirty-some years. (laughter) And they have a contingency of apparently thirteen million people. Now, what other group In this country with thirteen million regular users has been so unsuccessful?
Sherry: But It seems like they’re becoming more active now, like with their recent billboards.
Peter: Oh yes. But they’ve done It before.
Sherry: But there does seem to be a momentum happening.
Peter: Well, the momentum that’s happening is happening In the press. That’s what I’m hopeful about.
David: Have you seen the billboards In San Francisco?
Peter: Yes, I heard about the billboards in San Francisco. They don’t have enough money to do more than a few bus billboards in San Francisco. That’s the point. The whole drug reform movement is one of the most impoverished movements.
David: You’re talking about NORML, but what about George Soros? One of the wealthiest men in the world Is helping to fund the medical marijuana Initiatives state-by-state. The medical marijuana movement has some major funding behind It.
Peter: Not really.
David: I don’t understand. George Soros is funding It.
Peter: Yeah, George Soros. But George Soros gives something like two or three percent of his total largess every year, and he’s cutting down. He wants Lindesmith Center to roll off and be its own Independent group right now. See, if each and every one of thirteen million marijuana users in this country simply realized that they could buy marijuana for the price of a pack of cigarettes, if only they would each donate $100 to grand fund.
David: I think people are scared. I mean, there is an incredible persecution going on–as you well know. (laughter)
Peter: Well, you can anonymously donate money. You can send $100 In cash to NORML. The fact Is that those thirteen million people don’t. They’re not politically active. They’re not willing to. They’re being very foolish, I think, economically, not to take a look at their own situation, and realize that around 7% of them get arrested every year. Around 700,000 people a year get arrested out of that thirteen million base. It’s a fairly high percentage of them every year who have to spend money on lawyers and all sorts of other stuff.
If all thirteen million of them would donate generously to NORML, the Marijuana Policy Project, or whomever they wish to designate as their spokesperson, then they could actually do something. But Soros, by putting up some money for the marijuana Initiatives, with just a few million dollars, changed the whole debate. But he did that with the help of two other rich Individuals, and it was just a few million dollars. I think all the Initiatives have had a total of maybe ten million dollars behind them all together, which is nothing
David: How has marijuana helped you personally to deal with the symptoms of AIDS?
Peter: I was diagnosed in 1996 with AIDS. I had not done any drugs at all for more than two decades. My total drug usage period, In my entire life, was limited to two years In the late 1960′s, when I was about eighteen, nineteen. And then for about four or five months In the mid-1970′s, which had something to do with disco. (laughter) From that point on, until my diagnosis In 1996, I was completely drug-free, primarily even alcohol-free.
I still am caffiene-free, and pretty much alcohol-free, because I consider those very harsh drugs. And I’m still marijuana-free at the moment, because of my federal government. But I was drug-free for all that time. In March, 1996 I was diagnosed with AIDS and cancer, and the various anti-nausea medications that were given to me to tolerate the chemotherapy, radiation, and AIDS medications didn’t work.
Sherry: Which medications were those?
Peter: What they were? I have no Idea. (laughter)
Sherry: I’ve been through chemotherapy, and I’ve had my share of anti-nausea medications too. Some of them didn’t work, but there was this one new thing that was expensive, but it worked so well.
Peter: Hmm. Recently?
Sherry: Yes. It was called Andenseatron. It was brand-new, and this was five years ago. So, It would have been applied. It would have been around then too. But it was $1500 a dose.
Peter: No, I never had anything like that.
Sherry: The other stuff they gave me caused something like a psychotic reaction. I miserable and still very ill. But this stuff, the Andanceatron really really worked. It was just that they had to give It to me at the hospital. I couldn’t get It when I went home because I didn’t insurance to cover it.
Peter: Was It given intravenously or in pill?
Sherry: Well, not Intravenously—it was through my central line. It was in liquid form, and they would put it right In.
Peter: Yeah, I might have had that. I haven’t actually reviewed my bills, and I might have had that on the day that they actually gave me the chemo–because on the days I got my injectable chemo, (which was once a week, for, I think, ten weeks) I didn’t have any trouble. So they might have given me that. They put something In a drip, and I didn’t have much trouble on then.
But, at the same time, I couldn’t keep down the pills. So I tried various medications; they gave me what was available. But, because I had done a lot of work with AIDS patients, I also knew that medical marijuana was on everybody’s list for ending nausea. So I finally tried that–even reluctantly tried It–and it worked, instantly. It was astonishing. I was absolutely amazed that–what? In just a few puffs of this herb–I went from frantic trips to the bathroom, to meandering raids on the kitchen.
It was astonishing to me. I didn’t expect it to work at all. People say, oh, It’s just a placebo effect. It was like, no, a placebo effect Implies that you think It’s going to work. I was quite certain it wasn’t going to work. I was absolutely certain. But then, In addition to that, I also got back In touch with my creativity. It ended the pain of the chemotherapy, and It allowed me to work through the emotional trauma of maybe I’m going to die. Once I was doing creative stuff again, I went back, and I thought, my goodness, I missed those twenty years.
I demand the marijuana. I missed that. That’s unfortunate. So at that point I decided to help make this available to other ill people. This was before I even knew whether I’d live or die, because with the kind of cancer I had– non-Hodgkins Lymphoma– If It gets to your brain, there’s absolutely nothing they can do about It. That’s what Jackie Kennedy had. It got to her brain before they diagnosed It, and if anyone had access to the latest and greatest In medical care it would have been her. She had only died two years before, so I knew there was no chance. There was nothing to find. That was It.
But if they find it before it gets to your brain, it is readily treatable. In fact, it Is considered to be one of the most easily curable forms of cancer, providing you can tolerate the chemotherapy. So there was a period of about ten days while I was waiting for tests to see whether It got to the brain and so forth. It looked like I might have very little time to live. But the medical marijuana was working, and I said, If I live, I will devote my life to getting medical marijuana to all the other sick people who need It, and I will not rest until that happens. So I consider my life right now on an extension–talk about life extension. (laughter)
I’m on an extension of my life. My life ended In 1996. So this Is freetime. This Is time granted to me from medical science and marijuana, and the least I can do Is put that same life–that extended life–on the line to combat the war machine. The image I like Is that wonderful guy who stood in front of the tank at Tianamen Square. The tank stopped, and there was no reason why It should have. I mean, you go back to Individuals who threw their life on the line. For example, Mrs. Sanger, a woman In favor of birth-control back In the early part of the century, put her life on the line and went to jail for what she was saying. It’s hard to remember that birth control, or even teaching birth-control, was Illegal at one time.
A woman in England waited for just the right moment, and then threw herself In front of the king’s horse, at a horse race where the king was watching. And embroidered on her coat was, “Reproductive Rights For Women” and “Suffrage for Women”–because that was the other thing that women were. It’s hard to believe that women couldn’t vote until 1920 in this country, or until 1948 In Canada. I mean, who can believe that?
David: God, who can believe that people can vote for things In this country, like legalizing medical marijuana, and their votes don’t even mean anything? Like In Washington D.C., where Congress completely blocked the democratic process.
Peter: That’s true. Or California.
Sherry: Or Colorado, where It got taken off the ballet.
David: How did you become arrested for growing and using medical marijuana?
Peter: I got arrested because of my involvement with Todd McCormick. When I met Todd I was fascinated by his ideas about using different strains of marijuana to treat different Illnesses. He wanted to do research on that, and I thought that It was a wonderful Idea for a book. He knew a great deal about how to grow medical marijuana. So I told him that I’m a publisher, and I think It would be great If he wrote a book on how to grow medical marijuana. Then, when his research was done, he could write a book on what strains of marijuana are good for which Illnesses. He agreed to do it, so I gave him an advance.
Todd took the advance and went off and rented the ugliest house in Bel Air, which, on a square-foot basis, cost less than If he had gone to downtown Los Angeles and rented warehouse space. It was just that unwanted a house. I think he got 9,000 square-feet of space for $6,000 a month. So he was paying about sixtysix cents a square-foot for a space, whereas Los Angeles warehouse space Is about a dollar a square foot. So he made a very good decision on a square-foot basis. He began his work and, quite amazingly, was arrested.
David: How did it happen?
Peter: It happened because of a over-anxious, over-reaching DEA agent. They investigated him for five days, and thought, boy, this Is really great, and they arrested him. At the same time there were thirty different places around the country that were growing and selling medical marijuana openly. Todd wasn’t selling anything. He was simply growing it for his own research purposes, and also for his own personal use. But that’s the thing about bureaucracies, once the government made the arrest they didn’t know what they hell to do.
Sherry: This Is after Prop 215 passed?
Peter: Yeah. Prop 215 was November of 96. This was July of 97. I heard about Todd’s arrest late at night, about ten or eleven o’clock, and I knew that all I had to do was keep my mouth shut and they wouldn’t bother me. But, Instead, I got in front of the tank (laughter), quite intentionally. I sent out press releases pointing out that Todd McCormick was not the drug dealer who bought the expensive house In Bel Air with drug proceeds. He was a cancer patient who was conducting research on marijuana, and the media turned around entirely.
The media turned around from, here’s a drug dealer who is growing huge amounts of marijuana for commercial purposes, to here’s a cancer patient doing research on medical marijuana. So by the time that Todd was released from jail sixteen days later, all the media was there. There were representatives from all the networks–CNN and everybody. Well, I did that, and the government knew I did that.
So they began investigating me. And a year later–after coming into my home, seizing my computer, going through all my financial records, announcing to my employees of my publishing company that they better find another job because the government would own this place any day now, intimidating people by having them testify in front of Grand Jury, and on and on and on– they finally arrested me. And my only connection to Todd’s growing marijuana was that I had financed It. I was the kingpin, and my financing was a book advance. That is how I got arrested for marijuana.
Sherry: So you feel that your arrest was politically motivated? That they were trying to set you up, or destroy your credibility?
Peter: Yes, all of the above.
Sherry: Do you think that they’re Intentionally hoping that you’ll die on account of being unable to use your medication?
Peter: I don’t think anyone will cry over my death at the Justice Department. No, I don’t think anyone will.
Sherry: How long were you in prison when you were arrested?
Peter: I was In for thirty days, a whole month.
Sherry: How were you treated during confinement?
Peter: Well, It wasn’t like I was tortured or anything. They didn’t get my AIDS medication to me for the first nine days, and then I couldn’t keep it down anyway. But the very fact that they didn’t get It to me for at least nine days shows their indifference to the illness and the treatment of Illness In federal custody. Federal custody Is a very germ-filled place, with a lot of Interesting germs coming from various countries. This Is because a great many of the people In jail are there for either drug violations, where people are the mules from other countries who basically got arrested for carrying the drugs, or for immigration violations. So it has an international flavor of contagion.
Fortunately, when I was there I had spent two years successfully taking my AIDS medications with medical marijuana. So for the thirty days I was In there I still had an immune system. I was able to fight back. If I were to go back now, with no immune system, I would no doubt catch something that they might not even be able to diagnose–not that they were very good at diagnosing anyway. It might be some foreign, tropical or whatever disease. Essentially, I would die rather quickly. If I were to go back to federal prison in my current condition I would catch something and die rather quickly.
Sherry: Do they make any special provisions for prisoners who are iII?
Peter: No. Right now they might put me on the hospital floor. They didn’t do that before, but If I went on the hospital floor I would be on a floor where they also quarantine the tuberculosis patients. (laughter) By quarantine I mean I’d be In there with them. (laughter) So I’d be In amongst the quarantine patients. The hospital floor Is like visiting a hospital in America. You know, it’s…
Sherry: One of the most dangerous places.
Peter: Exactly. It’s one of the more dangerous places to be–especially if you don’t have an immune system, which essentially I don’t have right now.
David: But your sense of humor is certainly admirable.
Peter: I’ve always had this sense of humor; that’s been my saving grace throughout all of this. The greatest gift I received from both sides of my family is my sense of humor. I remember when I started visiting other people’s homes, like to have dinner or something like that, when I was around fifteen or sixteen. I remember sitting around tables where there was no humor and thinking, who died? (laughter)
I thought maybe some terrible thing had happened. There wasn’t a light moment the entire evening spending time with these families. I realized that I received a wonderful sense of humor from both my ItalianSicilian mother and my Irish father. I was the product of not only two cultures known for their humor, but also two individuals known for their humor. That was a gift. It Is the greatest gift that I received. I also received the genetic gift of longevity. There’s longevity in my family, and I’m sure I’d be dead now If I didn’t have those good peasant genes.
David: What were the conditions of your ball when you got released?
Peter: They wrote one In, which was no marijuana use. I can’t use marijuana while on ball.
David: Are you allowed to leave the country?
Peter: No, I can’t leave Los Angeles county.
David: Why don’t you flee to Holland?
Peter: (laughter) Well, I could do that. I had a whole year to that If I wanted to. I could have done it quite legally. I decided to stay and fight, and if necessary die for this particular cause. Martin Luther King said that “if you’re not willing to die for something, your life’s not worth living.” And it’s true. I decided that this is something that I would die for. I easily could have fled to Holland for that entire year. It was obvious that they were going to arrest me. It was obvious that they were trying to gather any information that they could against me. So I had a whole year In which I could have slipped away.
Sherry: What clues did you have that it was coming?
Peter: They would supeena everybody who ever worked for me. They would supeena my neighbors through Grand jury testimony. They searched my home. They serached my office. They took away my computer. They kept sending supeenas for more and more documents, even though they had every document that I ever had. It was obvious over a period of time that they were going to do something, that they were going to retaliate for my defense of Todd McCormick, and that they were going to that by arresting me. So I knew at that point that the time to leave was then, the time to go away was at that time. So why don’t I leave now? Well, because I’m staying to fight. I’m here to fight. Even my death will be part of fighting, If that’s what it ultimately ends up with.
David: What steps are you currently taking to fight the U.S. government?
Peter: Well, right now, obviously, we’re preparing for a defense trial.
David: When Is the trial going to be?
Peter: The trial Is currently scheduled for November 16, which Is only a couple weeks from now. But there’s a real legal question over whether or not we’ll be able to use the medical marijuana defense at trial. Have you heard about the Ninth Circuit decision about medical marijuana? About forty days ago the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said that the Injunction closing down the clubs In Northern California should be re-written to Include a provison for allowing people who are genuinely iII–whose life depends upon medical marijuana, and who have no alternative to medical marijuana for their treatment– to be able to receive medical marijuana. This was a major breakthrough. This was the first time the federal government said, yes, people can use medical marijuana.
Yesterday the government decided to challenge that Ninth Circuit ruling, even though the Attorney General of California Lockyear sent a letter to Attorney General Reno asking that the Ninth Circuit decision be allowed to stand. So the government has now said to the Attorney Gerneral of California, go to hell, and continues on with Its heavy-handed course. So I am also filing a appeal to the Ninth Circuit that I be allowed to use marijuana while out on ball to save my life, so I could be alive for trail, and also be able to partclpate In the trail.
Right now, I sleep between 18-20 hours a day. Because I haven’t had my medical marijuana, I havent been able to keep down my AIDS medication, and my viral load (which the measure of active virus In the body) went from undetectable (where It was for two years prior to my arrest) to more than 250,000. AIDS doctors become concerned when the viral load goes over 10,000. In my own case, when the viral load had reached 12,500 In 1996, I’d already developed a AIDS-related cancer. So my viral load has been over 250,00 for a year now actually.
Sherry: But It would be reasonable to expect that It would come back down If you were able to keep down the medicine?
Peter: Precisely. Yes, it comes down very quickly actually.
Sherry: Has Amnesty International taken any interest In your case?
Peter: No one’s taken any Interest In my case. Well, the ACLU wrote two very nice letters. Bill Buckley has written two very nice collumns. That’s about all the interest that any group has shown.
David: Wasn’t there something written up about your situation in The Boston Globe?
Peter: Yes, The Boston Globe wrote a nice front page story recently. But In terms of groups, PEN International wrote a one letter just after I was arrested. But no, Amnesty has not taken up my case. However, by all means let them know about it. It could be that they just don’t know about It.
Sherry: It seems like they have a whole lot more to say about other countries than the Injustices that are happening In this country.
David: Actually the British Amnesty International recently released a report claiming that America had one of the worst records of police brutality and one of the worst prison systems In the developed world. They said that America suffers from police brutality, but they didn’t say anything about the drug war. It Is very strange that Amnesty International never says anything about the drug war.
Peter: No, which Is very dissapointing, because I consider the drug war the worst violation of civil and human rights in America since slavery. And that’s the bottom line, the War on Drugs.
Sherry: Earlier In our conversation you had said that you didn’t think that the Drug War was designed to accustom the American people to living in a police state, that you didn’t feel it was setting the stage for further rights to be stripped away. What do you think is the government’s motivation behind the Drug War?
Peter: They’re doing It to make money. They’re doing it so that their covert groups can sell drugs to America and make huge amounts of money. If you don’t have highlypoliced illegal drugs you don’t have that outrageous profit, that outrageous blackmarket profit that’s there.
David: Right, the U.S. government would be selling would things like heroin and cocaine. But I don’t think they would be selling marijuana.
Peter: They wouldn’t, except you can’t justify fighting a war on drugs if only three million people are effected–which Is the cocaine and heroin group. You can’t justify spending fifty million dollars In tax money to keep them Illegal, and keep the blackmarket going. Most of the illegal drug users are smoking pot, and most of the drug arrests in this country are for marijuana. So that pumps up the figures by a factor of around ten. If you include the casual users you got 27 million marijuana users in this country, and you’ve only got three million heroin and cocaine users.
David: The figure I remember from Dan Baum was 65 million marijuana users.
Peter: A total of 65 million people have tried it overall, since the beginning. It’s actually higher now; It’s currently 73 million who have used it. Dan Baum wrote his book a few years, so more millions have tried It since then. But you can’t scare people about heroin and cocaine figures. See, you can scare people about marijuana, because you can say half of the high school senoirs have tried It. That’s scary. When you go down to how many have tried cocaine or heroin, it’s in the single digits. You can’t scare people over what eight or nine percent of people are doing, or over a fraction of a percentage of what the whole population is doing.
David: Do you think that part of the reason that the federal government is so adamant against legalizing marijuana for medical use is that it would take away the stigma of it being an illegal drug in people’s minds?
Peter: Absolutely. And it would be admitting that the “emperor wears no clothes”. You see, the fairy tale The Emperor Wears No Clothes ends with the child saying, “the emperor is wearing no clothes.” All the people standing around at that point in the parade realized the emperor was wearing no clothes, and the emperor himself realizes he’s wearing no clothes.
Sherry: Well, they all knew it all along. It’s just that it wasn’t until somebody pointed it out, and said it outioud, that they were finally able to say what they had been thinking too.
Peter: Absolutely. So the fairy tale ends at that point. I maintain that the child was instantly murdered. His family was rounded up, and all the people in that vicinity of the parade ground were also rounded up.
(laughter) And if they didn’t release a statement saying that the emperor wore beautiful clothes (laughter) they wouldn’t be released.
(laughter) Then the government went on as usual, and the emperor continued not wearing any clothes. (laughter) This Is exactly what’s going on with medical marijuana.
The government has for so many years now said it has no medical properties, for them to now admit that It has medical properties would also be to admit that they have tortured every cancer patient who has ever been unable maintain their chemotherapy because of nausea. They will maintain that they’ve tortured every chronic pain patient who hasn’t been able to properly treat their pain because of addiction or whatever reason.
When the National Association of Neurosclence finally published data In 1997 saying that absolutely marijuana is an excellent pain-relieving medication, they estimated that 97 million Americans could use It. Goodness–that all the people have been denied this medication for all these years. We’re In the throughs of “The Emperor Wears No Clothes”, and the government is fighting very hard against that. This Is because once you realize that It’s good medicine, you also have to realize that It really Isn’t that harmful at all. It Is certainly less harmful than alcohol or tobacco. Why do these things get to be legal if marijuana isn’t.
Sherry: What role do you see the internet playing In the fight to end drug war?
Peter: Oh, the internet Is the savior of us all. When I first wrote Ain’t Nobody’s Business In 1993, and did a tour on it, people would ask, what do you see the future as? And I had the most pessimistic views of the future imaginable. Now I have a very optimistic view of the future, and the only thing that changed was the internet. The internet allows for the truth to get out there. The internet allows for any schoolchild writing a report about marijuana to quote positions (laughter)–national councils, national academy of sciences, the Institute of Medicine–on marijuana, and not just what they were taught In the DARE classes.
The internet allows for the truth to be there, and the truth to be found. That is what we have been missing all along–the truth. The fact that the media has chosen to filter out the truth about drugs and the Drug War for all this time will, I think, be a black stain on media’s record, frankly. But, with the Internet, the truth Is out there. The truth Is definitely on the side of ending prohibition. So now–thanks to the internet–it is just a matter of time.
Sherry: How many states do you think It will take before the Federal Government bows to the will of the people concerning medical marijuana?
Peter: I have no Idea. I don’t think they care.
Sherry: So you don’t think they’ll ever give in willingly, even If every state passes a medical marijuana Initiative?
Peter: There’s only so many states that have referenda. That’s the problem. Texas, for example, has no referenda process, or any variation there of. There’s one state that doesn’t have a referenda process but they have can amend the constitution, which is how you make the change In basic law. I forgot which state that Is, and I don’t know how many states have referenda, but it isn’t every state in the union. So it’ll never be every state In the union, unless the legislature gets Involved, and that seems Increasingly hopeless. I think that the federal government will have to eventually give In when public support and outrage gets loud enough. That’s the only time they seem to give in, when there’s an outrage of public outcrying, and that is often reflected in the media.
David: Why do you think it is that the number of arrests for marijuana have actually gone up over the last couple of years since Clinton and Gore have been In office?
Peter: Well, here we have Clinton and Gore, two people who have admitted to smoking marijuana. And since they’ve been In office 3.5 million American lives have been destroyed by marijuana arrests. Marijuana Is a sitting-duck arrest. It ain’t difficult to find people who smoke pot. So If you’re a cop, and you need to fill out your monthly quota of arrests, it ain’t difficult to go fInd some people smoking pot.
Sherry: And they’re not as likely to be as dangerous as the rapists and murders either. You’re life Isn’t going to be as jeopardized busting the pot smokers.
Peter: Damn right.
David: Yeah, how dangerous is it to sneak up on a couple of mellow, red-eyed teenagers staring at a coke bottle and giggling. (laughter)
Peter: It’s absolutely true. More people were arrested for marijuana in 1998 than for rapes, murder, and thievery. The worst year ever was 1997. 1998 has gotten much better, although It’s down just a small number of people.
Sherry: So you feel that to win points for having all these busts to their credit they’re willing to sacrifice what the busts are for?
Peter: Of course. Absolutely.
Sherry: So It’s just politics to them.
Peter: Just politics. Just beliefs. Also, keep in mind that If you bust somebody for marijuana, you get to take away their house, their car, and everything In their bank account. And guess who gets to keep that money? The local police.
Sherry: That goes against the whole capitalism principle that you have the right to your property, and the right to protection from unfair seizures.
Peter: Oh yes, absolutely.
David: And also against the whole Idea of one being innocent until proven guilty.
Peter: Yeah, the Drug War Is actually more affront to the so-called conservatives–if Indeed conservatives are people who believe In the constitution of capitalism–then liberals, who believe more In a socialist state. A socialist state can at least somehow justify the government coming In and doing things for your own good. With a capitalist state, based on the constitution, there’s absolutely nothing In there that allows you to go In and save people from themselves. Nothing.
As to whether It’s the state’s rights, Paul Krassner said, “State’s
Rights: It’s not just for racists anymore.” (laughter) How terrible it is that they used the constitution to overturn abortion laws, segregation laws, and all these different things. Now that the laws have to do with medical marijuana they’re saying, clearly there’s a constitutional exception for those. So it shows their politics-their own personal prejudices- quite clearly.
Sherry: Do you think that the constitution Is still worth anything?
Sherry: Does the constitution offer any protection In the courts?
Peter: (laughter) We are so far away from what the constitution was written as, we as well just tear the whole thing up. It’s a sham. It’s ridiculous. The constitution was based upon the fact the federal government had exceedingly limited powers. It was only allowed to do eighteen very limited things–the enumerated powers, period. And everything else belonged to the states and the individuals to regulate.
Now It’s become such that if the constitution doesn’t specifically guarantee you can have It, It’s okay for the government to regulate It or make laws against It. That Is putting the constitution on Its head. It’s like saying, If a woman doesn’t carry a sign on her back that says you can not rape me, she has permission to be raped. It Is that. And boy, has lady liberty been raped–repeatedly.
David: I read recently that your attorney had told you about a California law, which Is not well-known, that you were trying to take advantage of-namely that the the California government has to stand by Its voters, even if what they voted for Is against federal law.
Peter: Absolutely. It has to until there Is applecourt decision. That Is the law. That’s the constitution of California. Lungren went absolutely against that constitution and nobody cares. I sent that around to all the press. Nobody mentioned it. Nobody cares at all.
David: They mentioned It In High Times. That was were I read about It.
Peter: I’m talking about a publication like the LA Times, or any of the other newspaper. Nobody bothers to mention that that happens to be the constitution of California, and the California constitution Is a fairly contemporary document. It was rewritten completely from scratch. I don’t know when, but fairly recently compared to the Constitution of the United States.
See, as recently as the 1920′s, when they wanted to ban alcohol, they realized that they had to do It by an amendment. Now they ban all the other drugs simply taking the Commerce Clause, which was designed to settle disputes about commerce between the states. That the Congress can regulate Inter-state commerce had to do with settling disputes between the states so that they don’t go to war with each other. It had the power to regulate that commerce, but only, It was assumed, when two states were fighting over the problem of commerce between the states.
They have taken that to, If you smoke a marijuana cigarette that you grew on your own property, In your own home– or even growing own marijuana plant In your own home, possessing one seed (laughter) of marijuana, or one marijuana joint that was produced In your state– that Is somehow a violation of Interstate commerce that the federal government can come In on. That Is absolutely upside down from what the original commerce clause had to do with. The entire War on Drugs Is based upon a bastardization of the Commerce Clause.
As recently as 1920 the reading of the constitution was very clear, that If you wanted to ban alcohol you had to have a constitutional amendment. And when you wanted to remove that ban you had to amend the constitution again In 1933. Well, In 1937 they could ban marijuana simply based upon the fact that we can tax It, but we just don’t have to Issue the tax stamps on it–therefore It’s a violation of tax laws. That was declared unconstitional In 1969, so In 1970 they just all got together under Nixon and said, oh well, what the hell, we’ll just make It part of the Commerce Clause.
Roosevelt’s New Deal, which Is normally presented as this wonderful thing that saved the country, was In fact the thing that destroyed the constitution. All those medial programs had absolutely no basis in constitutional law. None. Roosevelt threatened to add more seats, and then packed the Supreme Court. He threatened to say, okay I’ll put It so, Instead of nine justices, we’ll have 21 justices. And I’ll appoint all of them (laughter) So by 1937 the court had pretty much given In, and at that time Congress was pretty much had carte blanche to do whatever It wants.
If you notice, most of the constitutional decisions have been against the states, not against Congress. The Congress can pretty do whatever the hell It wants to and got away with It. However, state laws are what we are told are unconstitional. Very seldom do they declare something In Congress unconstitutional. When they do, they usually let Congress go back and take another shot at It. So there have been few things that Congress has wanted to pass that the Supreme Court hasn’t said, sure go ahead. Essentially Congress can expand the federal government, and has expanded the federal government In Infinite ways.
Now, Interestingly, there are five members on the Supreme Court who are giving states their rights back. And people are saying, what the hell’s going on here? But that’s exactly what the original Intention of the constitution was. The word state means sovereign territory.
David: Right–the United Sovereign Territories.
Peter: Exactly. The United Sovereign Territories, not the districts of the country. The Individual states are not the provinces of a nation like Canada. It’s a sovereign state. The federal government was to have very little to do with what went within states. This means that if one state wants to have no abortion, that’s fine. Another state can have abortion on demand. People can move to whichever state they want to. Wouldn’t we all move to the state that said all drugs are legal?
Peter: Wouldn’t we head straight to that state? And once that state kept getting all the best people, wouldn’t the other states start getting smart about It? I have no problem with certain things being illegal at the state level, but I certainly have a problem with the federal government coming In and saying It has to be Illegal everywhere.
David: Wouldn’t it be nice If democracy really worked, and people’s votes really counted?
Peter: Yeah. Of course, we don’t really have a democracy. That’s the point. We have a republic.
David: Because we have a representative government.
Peter: Yeah. I worry personally about democracy. If you look at public opinion polls, which are pretty accurate, you get a sense of what democracy would be.
David: How could anything be worse than having the banks, corporations, and organized crime rings groups ruling our country?
Peter: It could be worse.
David: You mean ignorant people making decisions?
Peter: Yeah. First of all, we would have no democracy–if you’re talking about a pure democracy, where the majority of the people get to decide on issues. See, the problem is what the founding fathers talked about as the tyranny of the majority. So what we have Is a constitutional government, a representative government, a republic In which certain basic rights are guaranteed us that are not subject to the review of the majority. Then everything else, theoretically, Is roughly the majority of the people.
Sherry: That makes sense to me. People who represent a very small percentage of the population could suffer greatly. For example, the population that has AIDS. Just imagine what would happen if the majority votes that everybody with AIDS has to be exterminated. The people with AIDS wouldn’t have much chance, because they wouldn’t be in the majority.
Peter: Precisely. If look at public opinion polls, that’s pretty close to what we would have If we had a pure democracy. There would be no abortion, for example.
David: Not necessarily. Public opinion polls don’t assume that the people that they’re polling are educated about the Issues. I would imagine that In a true democracy people could only vote on an issue if they demonstrated through, say, some kind of quick quiz, that they actually understood the consequences of the different aspects of the issue.
Peter: Well, who makes up the quiz? And who decides what the passing grade Is?
Peter: Hmmmmm? (laughter)
David: Well, yeah, I agree. It gets tricky.
Peter; (laughter) Yeah. (laughter)
David: But I like the idea of every U.S. citizen having access to personal computer that they can log onto and directly participate in the process of government, by being able to vote on everything that Congress and the Senate are voting on now. I think I would prefer that to having a limited number of people In Washington making decisions for everybody else.
Sherry: Yeah, and representing the special-interest groups–like the pharmaceutical companies, when It comes to regulating vitamins or the availability of medical marijuana.
Peter: Oh yeah. I’m not saying there aren’t abuses In the current system. But, frankly, a pure democracy would scare the hell out of me.
Peter: I mean, consider that over 95% of the country say they believe In God.
David: What do you think happens to human consciousness after death?
Peter: it simply goes away.
David- It just disappears.
Peter: Absolutely. When the blood stops taking oxygen to the brain, and It quite working, consciousness just stops and that’s the end. Poof. There’s no more. It’s like a radio station, or a light bulb. that the light Is. The question Is parallel to, If you turn off the electricity to a light bulb, what happens to Its glow?
David: The light vanishes. Right, but why are you so certain that brains are like light bulbs?
Peter: I can’t logically or reasonably consider that there’s an afterlife. I mean, where the hell do we go? And what they hell would we do? (laughter)
David: I don’t know. But I don’t know most things about this universe.
Sherry: Well, where did we come from?
David: Where did any of this come from? It’s all a mystery to me.
Peter: I have an answer of where we came from. We came from a long line of genetics and evolution.
David: Yeah, but If you go back far enough you end up in mystery again.
Peter: What? Like how did life start?
David: Like where did the universe come from? (laughter) Where did the Big Bang come from? Where did It all originate?
Peter: Well, no. That’s true, other than it is here. But scientists have a pretty good theory as to how life got started on this planet. Biochemists have done experiments that show that when you run enough powerful lightening-like electricity through certain combinations of amino acids (which simulates an early earth environment) single-celled animals start to form.
David: Not quite. If you pass an electric current through a chemical solution similar to the Precambrian soup, amino acid chains–the building blocks of life– start to form.
Peter: All right, amino acid chains.
David: But they’re not alive.
Peter: Yes, but It’s a first step to what can be alive. And those amino acids that are, shall we say, more ambitious (laughter) start things going.
David: (laughter) Well, the thing Is, how do you get them all to start fucking? (laughter)
Peter: Yeah. Of course, the mystery it comes down to is: why life?
Sherry: Why consciousness?
Peter: Well, consciousness is describable from survival of the fittest. Those animals that tend to be more conscious would tend to be able to manipulate the environment more to their advantage. So evolution would be In favor of consciousness and more awareness.
David: I can certainly think of numerous situations In which consciousness offers a distinct disadvantage to survival and genetic reproduction.
Peter: That’s where we are now. Our awareness is such that stressrelated illness Is the number one killer in this country. We think too much. That’s why when people talk about marijuana destroying your short-term memory as a bad thing, I say it’s a good thing (laughter). That’s one of the reasons you feel so good with marijuana-because you’re not plagued by all that damn short-term memory, all that Inner-talk, talk, talk, and chatter that we go through.
It’s exhausting, and it’s very bad for us. So just to be able to turn the memory off for awhile, yet keep the awareness, so you can enjoy what’s In front of you and the simplicity of the right now. Gee, how wonderful. So, to me, I have no problem with thinking that we are high ape. If you take a twenty-four clock, and evolution started with the first single-cell animal at the beginning of It, and then 24 hours later you have midnight, human beings only separated from the closest simian relatives two minutes ago.
So when you consider that, and when you consider the advances that have been made recently in understanding that animals have a whole lot more awareness than we have given them credit for In the past, you have to attribute souls to them too. They have a whole lot more awareness than we previously assumed. If you take, for example, those monkeys– I don’t know what their name is–that are the closest to us genetically…
David: The bonobos?
Peter: Is It the bonobos?
David: Well, they’re not monkeys, but they are primates. They’re our closest animal relatives. They’re apes, like chimpanzees and gorillas.
Peter: Apes. Okay. They’re small and they fuck all the time?
David: Oh yeah, that’s the bonobos all right. They’re also called pygmy chimpanzees. They’re amazing. Every four hours or so they engage In wild bisexual group orgies.
Peter: Right. They eat all the time, and when they get angry with each other, they fuck It off.
David: Exactly. That’s how they solve conflicts.
Peter: Right. See, I don’t think It’s sex and violence. I think that sex Is the antidote to violence.
David: Yes, I agree 100%!
David: Oh, you see the Inverse relationship between sex and violence everywhere–like when you compare bonobos to chimpanzees. Chimps are the exact opposite of bonobos. Bonobos are egalitarian. There’s no male dominance. They solve their conflicts with sex. The chimps have an alpha male ruling. They have wars against each other. One male controls the sexual Interactions of the whole group, and they all have much less sex. You can see those same two patterns In human cultures too.
Peter: But the bonobos are closer to us genetically than they are to chimpanzees. I saw two different documentaries on them, and my mouth dropped open. This Is what Is natural. I have no problem being a high bonobo. I have no problem being a bonobo gold edition (laughter), a bonobo plus, a bonobo version 6.0. (laughter) I have no problem with that. It makes perfect sense In my awareness.
So the question Is, when a bonobo dies, does its consciousness go anywhere? Doubtful. (laughter) When a fly dies, does its consciousness go anywhere? Doubtful. So you ask me how I can be so certain of this. The answer s, it’s much easier for me to imagine that there ain’t nothing that’s going to happen to me, and that there ain’t nothing going with all the people who have been before, and all the animals that have been before. Because If you’re going to give humans a soul and some kind of afterlife, or persistence of consciousness, you got to give it to the bonobos (laughter), and you got to give It to the parrots, etc., etc. So you have to give It to everything, and I don’t give It that.
David: Right, that’s one way of looking at it. But there’s a school of thought that believes that everything Is conscious, that there’s nothing that’s not conscious, because the universe itself is conscious.
Peter: I don’t mind that everything Is conscious. I don’t know If rocks are conscious, but I’ll give It to the animal kingdom. I’ll give It to much of the animal kingdom, but we’ll have to define consciousness. The point Is that I think awareness Is the result of the blo-electrical-chemical activity of the brain.
David: Have you ever had a near-death experience?
Peter: Yes, I have. Two of them actually.
David: What happened during those experiences?
Peter: I went through what felt very much like an extended version of fainting, like If you get out of a hot bath tub too quickly.
David: What were the situations?
Peter: In one situation I was being mugged. Someone grabbed me from behind, and was strangling me. In another situation I had taken a large amount of drugs, GHS actually, to put it specifically, although that actually wasn’t near death. But I had the experience that people describe as the near-death experience. Let’s just put It that way. I wasn’t near death with the GHB experience. It was just that people kept trying to wake me. (laughter)
David: And you were just asleep.
Peter: I was asleep and didn’t want to be bothered. (laughter) So It wasn’t that I was near death at that time. I was near-death when I was being choked, when someone had a choke-hold on me, and my blood was not going to my brain. It was an extended version of that kind of really remarkable change In consciousness that you have If you faint eventually. So I have no problem with the fact that when the brain dies, It goes through certain measurable–predictable In many cases–turning off periods, that can be reported and remembered If the person comes back.
Sherry: In that turning off process did you feel a sensation like you were leaving your body?
Peter: Yeah, it was partially that I was leaving my body. It was also partially that I was going somewhere that wasn’t In the least connected to physical form as well.
Sherry: But you think that once the body Is completely dead, that that would shut down and there would be no consciousness?
Peter: Yeah, totally. There’s an interesting book called From Death to Dust, and it talks about that sort of stuff. There Is a phenomenon that the body goes through with a certain degree of brain death. It’s well documented that after people’s heads are cut off, like In guillotines, they would hold the heads up, and people would still be talking. And they seemed to be looking around.
David: Ron Siegel, a neurosclence researcher at UCLA, showed that when you approach death certain neurotransmitters are released In the brain. We know that, for example, when you’re dying a PCP-Ilke chemical Is released In your brain. That could account for the experience that people have of feeling like their leaving their body, and rushing down a dark tunnel Into a white light. Is that what you think is going on?
Peter: Precisely. Of course.
David: You think that explains the entire phenomenon?
Peter: I think all awareness can be explained by biochemical electrical activity.
David: I was a neurosclence student and researcher at USC and NYU for over ten years. I’m not convinced that the brain creates consciousness.
Peter: Well, I am. I’m perfectly content having looked at It only, I’m sure, a fraction of 1% of what you’ve looked at It. It has convinced me. See, where I spent all my time was looking at all the mystical shit.
(laughter) I spent from 1969 until 1990 exploring one spiritual path after another, some In enormous detail, some not. None as those make as much sense to me as the simple neurotransmItter-synapse model of the brain as a blo-computer.
David: What is your perspective on God?
Peter: There Is no God.
David: You think everything happens by pure random chance?
Peter: Yes. I think life on earth Is a magnificent fluke. That we grew up from one-celled animals Into what we are. To me, that makes life all the more wonderful.
David: I’ve heard the phrase, “a glorious accident”.
Peter: Yes, a glorious accident. I think that Darwin had It totally right.
David: Actually Charles Darwin believed In God.
Peter: In what sense?
David: Oh, he believed In an external Christian God that started the evolutionary process. It’s funny a lot of people don’t know that. But Darwin was a very religious man. He never questioned his belief In God just because he figured out that natural selection Is the process that drives evolution.
Peter: Yeah, It was hard In his time not to. You know what I’m saying?
David: You mean because of the environment he was Immersed In?
Peter: Right. It would have been as difficult for him to deny the existence of God as It would have been for him to deny the existence of England. (laughter) It just simply was so much a part of everyone’s life In England. But It was also so much not a part of everyone’s life, in the sense that there weren’t the religious fanatics. God had God’s place, which was for about an hour on Sunday. (laughter) And the religious fanatics were the Puritans. They were just too pure. So they got sent of to other countries.
David: They got sent here to found this country.
Peter: They got sent here, and later to Australia. We live In a country populated by religious extremists, criminals, and entrepreneur. And If those aren’t the three main themes that still go right through our culturereligious extremism, entrepreneurs, and criminality.
David: Wasn’t there supposed to be something to do with freedom here?
Peter: Yeah, people are free–(laughter) criminals, religious extremists, and entrepreneur. If you look at the constitution, and the separation of church and state, you’ll see that the constitution Is a document based upon supporting business. No doubt about It. All the founding fathers were business people. Every single one of them. By the end of the war George Washington was the richest man In America. Before the war it was John Hancock. They all had enormous business interest to gain by getting rid of Britain.
David: America should be called USA Inc.
Peter: Absolutely. I forgot whether it was Coolidge or Wilson, but one of them said, “the business of the United States government is business.” Now, there’s two ways of interpreting that. Either the government should be run like a business, or government is there to support business. Now, I’m a capitalist. I’m a freemarket believer in the Milt Freedman school of thought. And there’s bad capitalism, no doubt about that. But at the same time most of the bad capitalists get away with being bad capitalists because of government control. So if you get that government control out of the way, you end up with not very many bad capitalists–a whole lot less bad capitalists than you end with now.
Sherry: What do you mean when you say bad capitalists?
Peter: Well, you used the example of pharmaceutical companies who then suppress medical marijuana. But they get to do that through the government. If the government wasn’t there, then all sorts of alternative therapies that worked would come to the surface, and the pharmaceutical companies wouldn’t have as much power as they currently have. Pharmaceutical companies have their power not because they compete in the market place fairly, but because they are a specialinterest that lobbies Congress for laws to put them In a privileged position.
These are bad capitalists. Bad capitalists started the Partnership For Drug-Free America. The advertising agencies of the caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies all got together and said, let’s make sure we have no competition from marijuana or any other drugs. So we’ll continue. We will vilify marijuana, and make sure that all these laws are kept In place. At the same time we will make commercials to tell everybody how “coke Is it”, cigarettes bring pleasure (which they
do) (laughter), and that only pharmaceuticals that you get from your doctor In the drug store work.
David: Is marijuana easier to grow than tobacco?
David: Oh really? Tobacco Is a difficult crop to grow?
David: I didn’t realize that.
Peter: Oh yes. It requires very fertile land. That’s why only the very rich land In the South–the Carolinas, which Is some of the richest land In the country–can grow tobacco. And tobacco requires pesticides. It requires all kinds of stuff. 50% of all the pesticides sprayed on all crops In this country are sprayed on cotton.
David: I would imagine that if marijuana were legal, it would probably cost about the price of tobacco cigarettes.
Peter: Yes, It would. If marijuana were legal very few people would actually grow It. It’s like making your own beer. Frankly, your own beer Is going to be superior to the beer you buy, but very few people make their own beer. The same thing would be true of marijuana. People would buy marijuana. Actually, In the places where marijuana’s legal, people don’t buy marijuana. They buy hashish.
Sherry: Is that because the marijuana Is so diluted?
Peter: Yeah. Marijuana Is considered a very crude form of taking In cannabanolds. In India, where It’s been going on for a long time, only the lowest class of people smoke the whole plant or the flowering portions of the plant. Almost everybody smokes hashish. Often they don’t even smoke it. They will put hashish into a drink called bhang or bang, which is a milk drink with lots of milk fat. This way they get more bang for the bhang. (laughter) In the milk fat Is were the the hashish powder can be dissolved. Actually It will dissolve in any liquid, and get you high.
David: I thought that it has to be In a heated, fat soluble solution.
Peter: It does to dissolve. But If you take the the little tricrobes, the little balls that come off of there, you can sort of stir them around In any liquid. They won’t dissolve In any liquid, but you can still take them In any liquid, and then they dissolve In your body.
David: Really? I thought the THC had to be Infused In some kind of fatsalable form.
Peter: It does. But, well, It Is fat. The tricromes are fat. The very stuff Itself Is the tar. If you take the cannabinolds and you reduce them down, you end with something that Is very sticky and oily. If you look at the resin that Is left behind In a pipe, for example, you’ll see this. The resin that’s left behind In the stem of a pipe is almost pure cannabinolds.
David: You’re saying that you can eat that?
Peter: Absolutely. You get very high from that.
David: I once ate a whole gram of hash In high school, and nothing happened.
Peter: Jeez. (laughter)
David: I was so bummed because I wasted a whole gram, which was a lot for me at the time. I could have smoked that, and gotten high It for a least a week.
Peter: Well, a gram ain’t much.
David: It was around the size of like my thumbnail.
Peter: Yeah, that ain’t much. I’m talking about several tablespoons of powder going Into a single glass, and then you drink it. But when they make bhang they heat It after putting It In. It Is true that If you heat it to a certain point it releases more of whatever it is that turns into cannabanolds. But there’s enough all ready In there–if you take enough of them. The traditional drink Is made from honey and fatty milk. It’s In the milk fat that the hash resin dissolves.
David: You can also make It with soy milk in a crock pot.
Peter: Ah. I drink cow’s milk.
David: Adding a little nutmeg also helps.
Peter: Nutmeg Is a major psychedelic.
David: If you eat enough of it.
Peter: Yes, but it’s not that much. It’s only about two or three teaspoons.
David: About the amount that you fit into a matchbox. I tried It when I was In high school. I remember It gave me a really bad headache.
(laughter) But that’s where MDA and MDMA are derived from.
Peter: Yeah, I remember we had some once. But to directly answer your question, If you press the marijuana flowers together that causes hash. That breaks the little balloons In the tricromes. Then it changes its color from golden into a dark brown or black. It starts to oxidize, and that’s a nice way of saving it, in bricks and blocks and so forth.
But If you just take the powder that comes off (it seems like powder, but it’s actually rounded tricromes of cannabanolds, in its own oily
liquid) you can put that in anything. If you take enough of it you’ll get exceedingly high. Or you can smoke that directly. Then you don’t have all of the problems about smoking, which has to do with the plant material. When marijuana was legal In this country It was hash that people would smoke. Every World’s Fair around the turn-of-the-century had a hashish booth.
David: I’ve seen old turn-of-the-century ads for hashish candy.
Peter: Yeah, they sold hashish candy. So If marijuana were legal people would not buy marijuana cigarettes, they would probably buy hashish.
David: I’m looking forward to the day when I can get standardized, organically-grown cannabis extracts In soft gels at the health food store.
Peter: Yeah, they could do that. But you wouldn’t get the immediate effect like you get from smoking, which is actually different.
David: Maybe we can create a sublingual solution that enters the bloodstream more quickly from under your tongue.
Peter: I don’t think that would work as well. I don’t think It goes In through the tongue. I know that you can’t use THC as a suppository, unfortunately. But the value of Inhaling the smoke Is that you get pure THC Into your system, and the other cannabinolds. THC Is actually delta9 tetrahydrocannabinal (or delta-9 THC).
David: That’s when you smoke It.
Peter: Right. When It goes through the liver on the first pass It becomes delta-11 THC, which Is four to five times more psychoactive than delta-9.
David: The quality of it is different too.
Peter: Yes, it’s a different quality high, and it lasts a lot longer. It also takes much longer to come on. So for the many people who want to use marijuana to relax after work in the evening, or for the people who want to sit down with friends, use it as a social drug, smoke and be In that high place right away, then have dinner, watch a movie and go home, or something like that, they want to use a form of cannabis with easily controllable beginnings, middles, and ends–so that they can then drive.
They want it to be of a certain period of time, and eating marijuana is not the best way of doing it. Smoking is. So people would probably smoke in little pipes. They would have little pipes that they would smoke in. Or even big pipes, because It would so damn cheap.
David: Or you could use a vaporizer, that just vaporizes the THC crystals.
Peter: Yup. Of course with hashish you don’t need a vaporizer, but If wanted to have one you certainly could. You could have hookahs with heaters on top. But you’re quite right, you could have the vaporizer that evaporates things, and you just use that. You take a few hits of that.
David: Without any burning plant matter.
Peter: Exactly. In terms of portability, what you’d probably have Is highly fortified marijuana. That Is, marijuana fortified with hashish, which Is what they sell In Amsterdam. You probably would also have cigarettes fortified with marijuana.
David: People in Europe have this habit of mixing tobacco with marijuana or hashish.
Peter: Yeah. Well, nicotine Is not a bad drug, not a very harmful drug In and of Itself. Again, It’s the plant material. People who smoke that way often don’t smoke as many cigarettes. They may only smoke four or five tobacco cigarettes during the day. So they’re getting the nicotine and marijuana high. The nicotine high goes away rather quickly, but the marijuana high stays. And It’s not until they want their high back that they smoke again.
They’re actually modulating their pleasure center. They just want some kind of pleasure. They’re usually treating depression or the pleasure-deficit disorder at that point, which is fine. It’s a perfectly good way to treat It. They fInd that the nicotine Is a very nice adjunct to that. So they sprinkle hashish in with the tobacco. So hashish-tobacco, or hashish cigarettes, would be probably very popular.
David: I read about studies that show nicotine enhances performance In a some cases.
Peter: Mental performance. Too much marijuana can sometimes dull things a little bit. The nicotine would put more of an edge on It.
Sherry: Nicotine Is addictive, and marijuana Isn’t.
Peter: Well, a lot of things are addictive.
Sherry: You don’t go through physical withdrawls If you don’t have THC, but you would If you didn’t have your nicotine fix once you’ve built up a need for It.
David: Nicotine Is one of the most addictive drugs known to human beings.
Peter: Oh yeah, absolutely. That’s the case, except If you decide, I’m only going smoke four or five cigarettes every day. It’s like I’m addicted to electricity. I don’t know about you. (laughter)
David: Oh man, I go through serious withdrawls when I can’t have my electricity. It’s a nightmare. But electricity doesn’t cause lung cancer and emphysema.
Peter: If you have pharmaceutical-grade morphine or heroin, available to you all the time, and you take that as a drug, you’re going to be addicted to it. But If you’re addicted to it, so what? There’s all kinds of things we’re addicted to, but that don’t cause any problems because we accept the fact that we’re doing it at regular intervals.
David: Right, but there Is a big difference between not being able to get electricity, and having to sit around In the dark, which Is a real Inconvenience, and being on a bed In fetal position sweating for days.
Peter: Oh, you mean about heroin?
David: Yeah heroin, or even GHB.
Peter: With GHB?
David: Too much GHB can have after-effects as severe as heroin withdrawls. They’re not withdrawls actually. That’s not the right word. But the after-effects from doing a lot of GHB can be as bad as a heroin withdrawl, in some people at least.
David: Oh yeah.
Peter: Did you find that?
David: Oh yeah.
Peter: What do you mean? You mean over a long period of time?
David: When I’ve done GHS continuously, let’s say all day long, and every time it wore off I kept doing more, and then used it to sleep on top of that, for a period of more than two or three days–when I stop doing it my body gets acutely agitated and extremely anxious. I sweat, get chills, my heart races–it’s just a nightmare. The after-effects usually last around four days, but I’ve felt them for up to two weeks.
Peter: Interesting. I’ve been using one of the legal GHB precursors.
David: You mean like Renewtrient?
Peter: Exactly. Renewtrient. I’ve been using It all during this time. I really don’t know how I would have maintained without It.
David: Yeah, It’s wonderful stuff. It’s safe If used properly. I’m just talking about abusing It. (laughter)
Peter: Well, I use It all day long, and then I do use It for sleep. I haven’t had any problem with It.
Peter: Yeah, I do. I haven’t yet not used It for a long period of time, but I use It regularly. I stop using It when I take a large hit of Marinal or something. I don’t take It for about twenty-four hours, and I don’t go Into what you’re describing.
David: It doesn’t seem to do this to everyone. GHB gets converted Into GABA once It hits the brain. During this period of GABA abundance the release of dopamine is blocked. So for the whole time that GABA Is floating around In the synapses, all the dopamine that’s being produced is blocked from being released. When the GHB wears off, and the GABA gets washed away, then all this dopamine come rushing In. That Is, unless you do more GHB, which then continues to keep the dopamine out of the synaptic terminals.
Peter: Doesn’t dopamine feel good though?
David: Not when you have too much of It. Most people say that the reason that they feel so good after they do GHB for sleeping Is because their dopamine levels are more elevated than normal afterwards. But when It gets really elevated, It’s just too much. Your whole body shakes.
Peter: Schizophrenics have high levels of dopamine.
David: What’s interesting Is that the times when I’ve experienced those super-high elevated dopamine levels, it was kind of like taking a hallucinogen. Even though It was very agitating, and I felt uncomfortably anxious, it reminded me of being on LSD In a way. There was definitely a sense of heightened sensitivity. I’d see trails when my hand moved.
Peter: The early use of LSD was so that psychiatrists could understand what schizophrenics were experiencing.
David: Right, there’s some kind of similarity. It’s not the same thing obviously, but there Is a similarity In the brain states. Even though LSD works by chemically mimicking serotonin, It’s a high-level dopamine feeling that It gives you.
Peter: Interesting. But then what else reduces doparnine besides GHB?
David: GHB doesn’t reduce dopamine, It blocks It from being released.
Peter: Aren’t there dopamine reducers?
David: There’s MAO–monoamine oxidase–in the brain. It’s an endogenous enzyme that breaks down neurotransmitters In the brain. Antidepressant MAO-inhibitor drugs slow down the production of MAO, which increases neurotransmitter levels.
Peter: I’m quite certain that I have a problem with defective D-2 receptor sites. Problems with this dopamine receptor site have been linked to alcoholism, gambling addiction, and all sorts of things like that. I think I probably have an ordinary level of dopamine, but I don’t have the receptor site to pick up on It. So my experience Is of a low level of dopamine. Maybe you don’t have that. When you stop taking GHB, even after a sort period of time, you’re experiencing all that dopamine. 1, on the other hand, don’t notice much of difference because (laughter) I don’t have the receptors to pick up the dopamine.
David: That makes sense. I’ve spoken to other people who have experienced what I have with GHB, and I’ve spoken with other people who tell me me what you’re telling me.
Peter: That might be It then. Defective D-2 receptor sites can also be a component In clinical depression.
David: But I suffer from clinical depression at times too.
Peter: But that, of course, is more serotonin and norepinephrine. Then there’s also this D-2 receptor site. It’s a genetic thing. It is defective in people who are prone toward alcoholism and gambling. There’s been a lot of research Into this. Maybe you don’t have that. Your clinical depression may stem from problems with your serotonin levels.
David: That Is my problem. I definitely have low levels of serotonin.
Peter: Which Is different then not having the receptor site for dopamine, because you can have an ordinary levels of dopamine and still not feel good.
David: I’ve thought that my low serotonin levels could be part of the problem I have when I stop doing the GHB after doing It too frequently. It could be that when my dopamine levels go up, part of the reason why I get so agitated and uncomfortable may be because I don’t have enough serotonin to counter-balance It. When my dopamine levels are really high, and I do some tryptophan, It helps to calm me down.
Peter: Oh Interesting. Then that Imbalance might be part of It too. But I know that schizophrenics have higher levels of dopamine. Some researchers even believe that that might be the biochemical cause of schizophrenia. I don’t know how the how the anti-psychotic drugs work, the ones that they give schizophrenics.
David: Most of them are just basically major tranquilizers, which work on the GABA receptor sites.
Peter: Is that all they are?
David: The so-called anti-psychotic drugs that we administered to the psychotic patients that I worked with were simply major tranquilizers, like Haldol and thorazine.
Peter: I know about thorazine. I thought that some of the more contemporary ones had to do with altering neurotransmitters.
David: They were still using major tranquilizers at the psychiatric treatment centers that I worked at In the early 90’s. There may be something new that I’m not aware of now. But the psychiatrists that I worked with a few years ago used to say that the major tranquilizers were correcting the chemical imbalances In the brains of schizophrenics. I didn’t buy that.
Peter: I don’t know If you saw the science page In the New York Times recently, but they also have discovered a new role that the thalmus plays In working with the cerebral cortex. This Is the basis for a new theory of brain disease. They were talking about talking about Implanting little electrodes to make different parts of the brain fire In synch with each other. In healthy people regions of the brain fire In synch, while In unhealthy Individuals they don’t. This Includes things like depression, compulsive disorders, and even tinitus. It was fascinating stuff.
See, this, to me, Is an absolutely fascinating world to look Into because of the whole notion of there being a pleasure-deficit disorder based on brain function, and how we can correct that. But however we do it now Is going to primitive to the ways that we’ll be doing it in the future. I imagine a time when a simple blood test will tell you exactly what you need and what you don’t need. Then you’ll get the pill manufactured exactly for you that will get all your neurotransmitters firing In order and in line, at the right level and everything. And you will be experiencing pleasure the way people are supposed to. This doesn’t mean all the time pleasure, no matter what you’re doing. Pleasure Is there as a reward.
David: Right. But I’m sure you’re read the statistics that something like 37% of writers are manic-depressive, and there may be something to the Idea that creativity is often by fueled by extreme emotions, both positive and negative. Maybe If somebody was always in a happy state they may not have the same type of motivation to be creative.
Peter: Well, neither Socrates or Jesus wrote a word. There may be something to It. (laughter) They were surrounded by people who gave Interviews. (laughter) I’m sure that’s part of the creative process, because I think creativity happens best when you’re In your best moods– at least mine does. But the need to capture It for future generations, I think, or the need capture It and share It In a large sense quite often may come from a sense of loss or pain, or something Imbalanced.
But the notion that people like that aren’t creative, I think, Is wrong. I think they’re exceedingly creative–perhaps more creative than some people. But you know that writers would be that way. I mean, writers write because nobody will deal with them in real life. (laughter)
David: What do you spend most of your time doing these days?
Peter: These days I spend most of my time sleeping and avoiding nausea.
(laughter) That’s the alpha and omega of my life.
Sherry: Does the Marinal help with the nausea at all?
Peter: If a take a very large quantity of Marinal, but then I’m kind of zonked for awhile, which is nice zonk. It’s a cool drug actually, a very enjoyable drug. I’m surprised it hasn’t hit the black market. After I take take the Marinal then I can keep things down for awhile. Then I also just work on mind over matter kind of stuff.
Sherry: Do you have health insurance to cover the cost of the Marinal?
Peter: Fortunately Yes. I get $120 a day worth of Marinal. It’s $10 a pill, and I get twelve pills a day.
David: How many would you need to take to…
Sherry: Feel good (laughter)
David: Yeah. (laughter)
Peter: (laughter) For an ordinary person who doesn’t smoke a lot of pot, sometimes one’s a lot. Or two or three. I take more than that.
Sherry: Maybe that explains why It never worked for me. I had It prescribed for awhile, and I was instructed to take one pill every six hours or something like that.
Peter: Well, they have different strengths–2.5, 5.0, and 10 mg pills.
Sherry: I don’t know what strength I was getting but It wasn’t enough to do anything. I just wrote It off as being like totally worthless.
Peter: So, Is there a God? Bertrand Russell, the famous atheist-agnostic, saldv “Yes, I believe In God. But Ispell it n-a-t-u-r-e.”
David: I would agree, but I wonder whether there’s an intelligence inherent in nature.
Peter: No intelligence. It’s perfectly described by evolution.
David: I’m not so sure evolution Is a random process though. There’s evidence that E. Coll bacteria will mutate In response to a new environment in ways that are clearly more adaptive and not random. It almost seems as though the DNA Inside the bacteria Is actually, in some way, choosing the direction In which the mutations occur. Most evolutionary biologists say that evolution Is a blind-chance process, just the result of copying errors. If it was just random mutations happening, each mutation would be equally likely.
Peter: Oh no, It’s not all random mutations. It has to do with interacting with the environment–what’s going to be beat and most adaptive In the environment.
David: But most biologists maintain that evolution Is driven by random genetic copying errors, that, In very rare situations, actually offer an advantage. But there’s evidence that some of the so-called “mistakes” are not really errors; they are actually deliberate on the part of the DNA. The other Interesting thing is that If you take a micro-needle, and you stick it into the nucleus of a cell, swish It around and scramble the DNA all up, it will come back together In precisely the same pattern that It was In originally, almost the way that Iron filings form around a magnet. It’s as though there’s a field that’s organizing the DNA in that particular pattern.
Peter: That, to me, Is an absolute wonder of nature. Neither one of those things that you’ve described Imply an external intelligent being.
David: It just makes me wonder about whether there’s Intelligence inherent in the organization of the universe.
Peter: Well, the universe? (laughter) You’re extrapolating here from the DNA in a cell to the universe.
David: Well, If a brain can be Intelligent, and a DNA molecule can be intelligent, maybe intelligence is not something that arises out of the universe. Maybe It’s Inherent. Maybe the universe itself Is intelligent.
Peter: I think the Big Bang explains the universe. In terms of life on earth- It’s this magnificent fluke. What you’ve given me are two more aspects of Its magnificence. I think those two things are magnificent. That’s amazing that the DNA would be able to be scrambled and come together, like Iron filings. We have to accept that DNA Is a higher level of organization.
David: Right, but at the foundation of every scientific notion Is an unproven assumption, and a lot of contemporary scientific Ideas sound mystical to me. You’re familiar with the notion In quantum theory that…
Peter: Wait. Now you’re Into quantum theory. Be careful here. (laughter)
David: Bell’s Theorem states that whenever two sub-atomic particles come Into contact with each other, they are thereafter connected In a faster-than-light way, which can’t be shielded, and doesn’t diminish with distance, so that what you do to one particle Instantaneously effects the other. This Is accepted by physicists as scientific fact. Its been proven at least a dozen times.
Peter: Any kind of particle?
David: Any type of sub-atomic particle in the universe. That means that whenever one particle interacts with another they’re connected In some kind of invisible way.
Peter: No man is an Island unto himself.
David: Right. So if you trace the origins of the universe back to the Big Bang, when every particle was originally connected, you see that the whole universe Is really one interconnected system.
Peter: Okay, I can accept that.
David: A lot of people see that as a very mystical notion. (laughter)
Peter: I don’t know if that’s a mystical Idea.
David: That everything Is one. That we’re all one. That’s an ancient Idea inherent In a lot of Eastern philosophical systems.
Peter: That’s a sloppy way of saying It. (laughter)
David: Well, the Eastern mystics are referring to consciousness really.
Peter: But don’t you think that most of the spiritual groups proclaim that there’s some kind of intelligence outside of nature?
David: The Western religions, not the Eastern ones.
Peter: The Eastern ones include it within nature.
David: The Eastern religions–Buddhism, Hinduism—are basically about “looking within”. The underlying notion is that the divine is inside you. In the West Its just the opposite. I think Its beautiful that East and the West are so*opposite In that way.
Peter: What do the Buddhists do when the worship Buddha?
David: Well, what they’re worshipping is the “Buddha nature in all things”. It’s not like an external entity. Buddha, as a being, is recognized by Buddhists as the first person to achieve “enlightenment”. Then he laid out the path for anyone to realize their divinity. He was no more divine than anyone else. The goal of Buddhism is to reach a level of consciousness where you supposedly transcended the earthly incarnation trip of suffering and desire.
Peter: They have lots of techniques for doing that.
David: Different meditative techniques. All the psychoactive plant techniques got lost (or suppressed). But they were, I’m sure, all part of It originally.
Peter: See, I maintain that the drug techniques are the way to that. I think that the shortest cut to that Is not all these techniques, but drugs.
David: I think it’s the combination that works best. The problem with the way many people currently practice spiritual or shamanic traditions is that they leave out the most essential part of It–which Is the psychedelic. The analogy that I like is that it’s similar to eating a banana peel and throwing away the banana.
Peter: Have you even tried It?
David: Smoking the banana peel?
Peter: No, eating the banana peel and throwing away the banana?
Peter: See? How do you know? (laughter)
David: Right, see, it shows that there’s still prejudice in my mind.
Peter: (laughter) Instead of just missing such a question as stupid, you paused to consider It. (laughter)
David: Oh, I don’t think any question is stupid.
Peter: What I’m saying Is that, if you can get there through a drug, why bother with all this other stuff? Don’t Buddhists believe In reincarnation though?
David: Yes. But they want to get past that. Going through incarnations is like a phase, until to you reach the Buddha level. Then you can just transcend this whole world–unless you take the Bodhisatva vow, and come back here just to help others reach enlightenment.
Peter: My philosophy of life doesn’t have room for a soul either, unless you’re talking about the literary use of the word soul–the soul of the new machine, the world soul, that kind of thing. The essence of something, as opposed to that which will transcend after death, or that which gives life to Inert physical matter. See, I don’t buy that at all, so I would dismiss Buddhism.
David: But It could be the language you have a problem with. What If we talked about ourselves as a field of consciousness that organizes matter and energy around it, like an electromagnetic field? Every atom In our bodies Is replaced every seven years, so we’re actually just a pattern or process, not the actual physical stuff of our bodies. Why couldn’t an organizing field happen In biological systems the same way they happen In non-biological systems?
Peter: What kind of organizing field?
David: An organizing field that would be the substrate for consciousness.
Peter: You mean beyond a biochemicaI-electrical one?
David: Yeah. Like I was saying about how if you take a micro-needle, stick it into a DNA molecule, and swish It up, it comes back together.
Peter: Yes, but that could be a biochemical electrical reaction. Can’t it?
David: That’s what some people might say, but I don’t understand how It could happen.
Peter: Really? I can. Why can’t a biochemical electrical reaction cause it to come back together?
David: But where would the information be stored? What would cause it to go in that particular sequence after you’ve broken It up? There are four basic types of amino acids, and they can be arranged In trillions of different ways. Why do they always come back together in the same specific sequence?
Peter: Because maybe the biochemical ends of them are attracted to each other. Are you demolishing It, or you just cutting it up?
David: You’re just cutting It up. There are certain pairs that will be attracted to each other and always go together–like cystocine and guamine. But the whole long sequence Is not like that. And the sequence makes the difference between whether you come out as a human or a frog. How all those pairs go back In that same sequence is pretty mysterious really. Nobody really knows how it happens.
Peter: Well, I don’t mind there being mysteries. I’m not trying to pretend that my view has answers. Nor does science pretend It has answers for things. What I say Is that when you get up to a mystery, you go, wow, a mystery, but not a metaphysical one. Just, wow, a mystery. But that doesn’t help to explain metaphysics. Just because we don’t know certain things doesn’t give credence to what our Imagination can read Into it.
David: I’m just trying to point out that there’s evidence for things that conventional science can’t explain, and that our world view may be insufficient.
Peter: Oh absolutely. That’s where we come up to what we don’t know–the mystery. But It’s not mystical, it’s just a mystery.
David: Right. I use the word mystical to describe knowledge that one can gain that doesn’t come from outside–the notion that you can gain knowledge just by looking Inside yourself.
Peter: Really? A lot of people use the word mystical for knowledge that comes from outside. Yeah, I have no problem with saying, we don’t know yet, or we may never know. But that doesn’t get me off on flights of, gee, that mean maybe… (laughter) Again, It’s the spiritual jelly donut. Maybe It’s a spiritual eclair. (laughter)
David: I think I’d feel an eclair If It was sitting on my head.
Peter: Not a spiritual one. (laughter)
Sherry: Peter, you say you have a trial coming up on November 16. Is this going to be trail by jury?
Sherry: Prohibition against alcohol was ended In large part because eventually juries refused to convict; do the American people still have the right to vote their conscience? Do juries still have that right?
Peter: Of course juries technically have that right. However, if the judge finds out that they’ve been Informed by anything having to do with the fully-informed jury, there Is a devastating jury Instruction the judge gives. They say that you are not to vote based upon how you think the law should be. The law Is already determined. You are to vote based upon whether the person violated the law or not.
Sherry: How Is that possible? If people have the right to do the exactly the opposite of that why are they instructed otherwise?
Peter: Well, that’s how it works. It’s like how can they arrest people for growing flowers? I mean, how can they do this? How can they put people In jail for their whole lives for smoking a flower? They do It because they got the power. The judge In the court room has the power to tell the jury anything the judge wants to, pretty much.
Yet if you look at who truly has the freedom, there isn’t anything that tells a juror how to determine whether someone is guilty Is not. That’s absolutely up to each individual juror. And If one juror says, no, I don’t think they’re guilty, then you have a hung jury, and you don’t have a conviction. If all twelve jurors say, I don’ think the person Is guilty, however they arrived at It, they’re not guilty. And you can’t try that person again.
Sherry: Wasn’t that how prohibition was eventually done In?
Peter: It was part of it. There is this famous story about a jury In San Francisco. Since you’re allowed to have the evidence in the jury room, the jury after about an hour of deliberation asked to see the evidence in this liquor case. They drank all the evidence, and they when back Into the court declared the guy not guilty. (laughter) Now, when that started happening you have a sense that something’s changing. (laughter) You know that you’re not going to get a whole lot of convictions that way, and that’s the frightening part.
Sherry: Do you think that might be a potential way of ending the persecution of marijuana smokers?
Peter: That, of course, is what the Fully Informed Jury Association is all about. Their mission Is to end the tyranny by letting jurors know that they have a perfect right to vote not guilty In any case, for any reason, and they don’t have to tell anybody why they’re voting not guilty. They do good work, and what they’re doing Is yet another way toward freedom, yet another way to put power back In the hands of individuals.
Sherry: Speaking of putting power back In the hands off Individuals, do the presidential hopefuls differ from each other In any meaningful way? Is there anyone worth voting for In this election?
Peter: The libertarian party has not yet nominated who they are going to have. It’ll probably be Harry Browne. But whoever the Libertarian party candidate Is will be the only person worth voting for, as far I’m concerned.
Sherry: If that person won the majority of votes, would the electoral college still elect a democrat or republican? (laughter)
Peter: I think most states now have laws that the electoral college must go along with the majority of that state. I don’t think it’s up to those people any longer. The electoral college Is not individuals with autonomous power like a jury has. A jury is really autonomous. If a jury comes back with a non-guilty vote, there’s nothing they can do to a jury. The judge can Instruct the jury to come back with a guilty verdict, and they can come back with a non-guilty verdict, and that’s the end of the case. The electoral college Is a silly thing at this point. The votes just go to whomever won In that state. That’s the way It goes.
David; Have you had any further problems with your ex-guru John-Roger and the Avatar cult since Life 102 was published?
Peter: No, actually we’re all on speaking terms now. I realized that he did no more harm to me than Majarishi did or anybody. In fact, I was a magnet for harm anyway.
David: Oh really? That’s not the way it came across In your book Life 102.
Peter: I wrote the book just after leaving, with him suing me, so there was a certain degree of fresh hurt and anger In the book–very much as a thwarted lover might feel. It was like I going through a very bad divorce, and being sued for everything I own. You would write a very different book about your ex then as opposed to now. (laughter) So, with perspective on it, I look back and feel differently.
One of the worst things that happened was that I outed Arianna Huffington’s connection to MSIA [John-Roger's Church of the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness]. Michael and Arianna Huffington were In the same group I was with John-Rogers the guru. In 1994 I let the press know that she was involved In that group, and, frankly, she handled it very poorly. She denied it, which was foolish.
She used up all her credibility with the press with that denial, because the denial was not true. Because of that airing Michael Huffington lost the election, and Diane Flensteln Is senator. Now Arianna Huffington is talking about the hopeless War on Drugs, and Diane Flenstein is the most virulent democratic anti-war senator In Congress.
Sherry: What do you think about George W. Bush’s refusal to make a stand one way or the other whether he did cocaine?
Peter: I think Its quite clear he did do cocaine, and his concern is that some people who did It with him would come out and say that he did It. The fact that he Is the governor of a state In which a young woman is now spending a 99 year sentence for having less than a gram of cocaine, and he has the power to pardon her, and he doesn’t, shows an enormous lack of compassion on his part. George Bush Is basically his father. He is the typical right-wing republican.
David: He sounds scarier. He sounds like his father on coke. (laughter)
Peter: Yeah, and he also has this born-again Christian thing that saved him and all that stuff. He picks up the anti-gay, anti-drug, anti-women, anti-abortion slant that some of these people think Is Christian, which In fact is diametrically opposed to Christianity as Jesus taught It.
Sherry: It’s supposed to be about tolerance and…
Peter: Goodness, Yeah. Actually the fundamental teaching of Jesus was was really quite brilliant. His fundamental teaching was: until you make yourself absolutely perfect, don’t judge another. Don’t take the speck out of your brother’s eye; take the beam out of your eye first.
David: Let he who Is without sin cast the first stone. Everybody must get stoned. (laughter)
Peter: Exactly. Let he who Is without sin cast the first stone. Then he lays up the attitudes, which is this Incredible system of people being perfect that no one can actually achieve. Therefore no one Is going to be perfect according to Jesus’s plan, and no one has the right to judge anyone. So they have all these people not only judging, but also using It as the basis for laws, which is a complete perversion, a 180 degree distortion of what Jesus taught.
David: Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you’d like to add?
Peter: The only thing I’d want to give to the readers of High Times is this Idea, that the people who smoke marijuana all day, every day, are probably doing It to treat depression. If they would treat depression using either St. John’s Wort, or a prescription anti-depressant, they will find that that’s more effective than the marijuana. Then they can smoke a lot less marijuana, and then they can get back to getting high again.
It seems that the ideal amount of time to smoke marijuana is something like three times a week. Then you get those incredible marijuana highs. But you have to put a space In between them. Some people use it to treat their lack of pleasure, or their increase In pain, which is, in fact, caused by depression. And there are better ways of treating depression than marijuana.
People who don’t respond to either the natural methods, like St. John’s Wort, or the pharmaceutical methods like Prozac and Paxii, can turn to marijuana as a alternative. I think marijuana works very well for those people. But It should almost be a last resort in treating depression, not a first resort. However, in many illnesses marijuana should be the first resort. For example, hiccups.
It gets rid of hiccups, nausea, and pain very quickly, all sorts things like that. For a lot of people it should be a first resort, rather than a last resort. But, In terms of treating depression, it should be a last resort rather than a first resort. So I want to let the readers of High Times know that I’m somebody who Is absolutely on their side. I’m not here representing the pharmaceutical Industry. But, at the same time, the pharmaceutical antidepressants work, and, interestingly, they work In a very natural way.
By that I mean they don’t put new chemicals in your brain to make you feel good. They simply keep the feel-good chemicals that your brain naturally produces there for a longer time. That’s all they do. Serotonin and norepinephrine are simply kept In the brain longer. That’s how these antidepressants work. You are not taking an external feel-good chemical that then goes Into your brain. That’s a great misconception that a lot of people have about how antidepressants work. Many doctors believe depression is actually caused by the fact that the feel-good chemicals, which should stay In the brain longer, are pumped away too quickly. The antidepressants prevent that from happening. So it Is, in fact, a very
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