When I obtained my medical marijuana referral and became a legal cannabis consumer, I began viewing cannabis in terms of how it might ameliorate my maladies. Insomnia topped the list of imbalances for which I sought relief, and I quickly familiarized myself with the soporific qualities found in indica dominant strains. Indicas seemed to help with other issues like anxiety, indigestion, and back pain, which is probably why the best indica strains always seem to be in short supply. Indicas tend to have higher potencies as well, making them a popular recreational choice. There were plenty of sativa offerings available at my local dispensaries, but I was looking right past them.
I got a handle on my insomnia with nighttime medicating, but was at a loss for how I might use cannabis during the day for other ailments. I didn’t want to be left sleepy, overly relaxed, or couch-locked when I had things to do and places to go, and I didn’t want to trigger any depression, which seems to go hand in hand with anxiety. How, then, to medicate during the day? How to treat anxiety and ocular hypertension without diminishing my energy and activity? How to treat the anomie and ennui that accompanies dreary housework? The Stones have a song about that. Could sativa strains be my father’s little helper? These questions stuck with me for far too long, and the answer sought me out in a glorious way.
Durban Poison is a landrace strain, in this case a pure sativa strain borne of genetically pure seeds native to South Africa. When I was contacted by a third party I’d never previously met asking if I’d like to transform some of his homegrown Durban Poison harvest into cannabis comestibles, I jumped at the chance to collaborate. I was impressed with the sativa characteristics attributed to Durban Poison and was amazed at how well the (very potent) cookies lived up to the descriptions I’d read. The cookies energized me with a rosy outlook in spite of the day’s mundane tasks, and sparked a creative flow that had me writing and baking cookies and playing guitar. The effects were both cerebrally intense and mentally clarifying, leaving me feeling very affected and at the same time totally lucid. Most importantly, I didn’t feel tired and I didn’t feel anxious.
I’ve sense become much more interested in sativas and have had success with other strains and varieties that provide the kind of uplift and energy I’ve experienced with the Durban Poison cookies. If you’ve got a Stiiizy vape battery (if you don’t, I highly recommend you get one), their (sativa dominant) Blue Dream strain works very well during the day, and the battery is small enough to allow for discrete vaping wherever your day takes you. For the dabbers out there, I have a few very worthy recommendations as well. California Dab Company (CDC) makes a mind-blowing array of clear distillate-esque sauces including the classic Jack Herer, a dizzying sativa. Flavor brand’s Sour Tangielive resin sugar has a scintillating sweet-pungent aroma and taste that amplifies the crisp, lucid high. Saving the best for last, Neutron Genetics Hawaiian Punch strain “NuClear” distillate bears a candied sweetness that brightens the sativa-enhanced mood like nectar from the gods.
These are only a few of the incredible array of sativa strains and varieties finding their way to dispensary shelves and into the lives of people who will benefit from their anti-anxiety and anti-depressive effects. Hopefully others will begin to break away from their more habituated, indica-exclusive approach to medicating as I have. It’ll open up a whole new world of daytime possibilities.
One day Althea & Donna dropped in on their good friend and mentor, Mikey Dread, and brought him a half-dozen of Lord Sassafrass’s certifiably scrumptious chewy molasses Durban Poison cookies. They surveyed Mikey spinning discs, flipping switches, and dialing knobs in the dee jay booth at JBC studios, Kingston’s capital radio home of the eponymously named, “Dread at the Controls“. MIkey Dread (aka Michael Campbell) was the reggae heart and soul of Jamaican Broadcasting Company’s regular transmissions, and deserved big respect and love (RIP). He greeted the generous pair and thanked them for the kind treats, then recounted to them, as if reading from a book, his meteoric rise to the top of the Trench Town radio ranks:
Even though he wasn’t permitted to talk on the air, Mikey’s “Dread at the Controls” radio show was immensely popular and made him a household name. The program was a non-stop mélange of music and sound effects. Mikey would add echo and wild, animated sounds to the records he played. But he didn’t add effects randomly. He used them to accent the records. Mikey knew when the singer was going to stop and take a break – that’s when he would add the gong or rewinding tape or cartoonish boing. His audio enhancements were so popular among listeners that people would go into Randy’s (VP Records) or other vendors asking for the records with all those effects on them. It was the most imaginatively produced radio show Jamaicans had ever heard, yet listeners rarely heard Mikey’s voice. He cleverly worked around his boss’ directive that he never open the mic himself or make live announcements. In fact, in retrospect, the order probably worked in Mikey’s favor. Rather than coming on himself to do a standard ID, Mikey recorded a variety of jingles by superstars such as Big Youth saying things like “who is the man that play roots rock reggae? Michael Campbell…. to thrill your soul.”
Mikey was the first dee jay to break the hot-hot reggae-pop debutantes, Althea & Donna, and they loved him for it. He was a big reason for their success. They recalled how it all went down, also as if reading from a book:
The producer Joe Gibbs came across a song by Reggae star Trinity called “Three Piece Suit” and he decided to record a female response as a companion. His engineer Errol Thompson came up with the backing track and the Jamaican female duo 17-year-old Althia Forest and 18 year-old Donna Reid supplied various local slang words for the lyrics. Mikey Dread featured the record on his program Dread At The Controls, and it was a hit in Jamaica. John Peel started to promote it on his BBC Radio 1 evening show and then the daytime Radio 1 DJs started to play it.
By the time they were done reminding each other of their paths to success, the trio had devoured their ital snacks and were now overwhelmed with the love and positive vibrations enwrapping them. The Durban Poison put them in a happy, energized mood, and as Mikey’s last track was about to fade, and without a segue cued up, the dee jay flipped a few switches and turned a few dials, bringing up the backing track to the duo’s smash hit, “Uptown Top Ranking”. As if on cue, Althea & Donna burst out with a dubble vocal homage to Mikey & JBC studios, freestyling their fierce love for their good friend and the studio that broke them and made them famous. They were feeling much nostalgic love, and when Mikey asked them what they wanted to call the take, they told him it could only be called one thing: “JBC Days”.
“JBC Days”, Althea & Donna’s homage to their mentor, Mikey Dread (RIP) & JBC Studios
The 13th Floor Elevators’ inception narrative is anything but immaculate. The group reconstituted the best of two pre-existing Texas bands: The Spades, featuring front man, Roky Erickson, and The Lingsmen, including Stacy Sutherland on guitar, John Ike Walton on drums, and Benny Thurman on bass. The Spades were a typical 1964 post-Beatles/Stones/Kinks Austin garage band holding “residency at Austin’s Jade Room club” (scarletdukes). The group’s single, released the following year, featured the original version of “You’re Gonna Miss Me” (and an early version of the Elevators’ “Don’t Fall Down”, called “We Sell Soul”). The Lingsmen were not of the Austin scene and were not a recording band. They were “a jug-oriented club band” hailing from a small West-Central Texas rural enclave called Kerrville, about 100 miles from Austin (scarletdukes). The future 13th Floor Elevators would later retreat to this hill country refuge whenever Austin “was no longer regarded as a safe haven” for their illicit activities (Eye Mind, 215).
Future 13th Floor Elevators Tommy Hall and Stacy Sutherland met twice before they’d established an enduring connection that would lead to their collaboration in both musical and marijuana-oriented endeavors. Both of these meetings happened informally, and perhaps providentially. The first meeting occurred at an Austin bar when Stacy was still a high school student and Tommy was an undergrad at the University of Texas. Stacy was trying to set up a marijuana score for five Austin university students and ended up chatting with Tommy while making the exchange. Their second encounter was by chance, happening down at the beach in Port Aransas. Stacy and John Ike ran in to Tommy and Clementine and were invited to join the Halls in partaking of Tommy’s Acapulco Gold , which almost got the group arrested. Those first two meetings connected Sutherland and Hall and solidified both their mutual interest in musical collaboration and their dedication to ensuring marijuana’s availability to the Austin underground, no matter the risks.
Tommy and Stacy smoked marijuana to enhance and uplift whatever they might be doing at a given time, whether hanging out with friends, contemplating the meaning of existence or making music. Cannabis procurement was their shared goal, but it was music that became the essential link in the pair’s association. Stacy was a skilled guitarist with “kaleidoscopic range” , while Tommy was an esoteric poet and underground music enthusiast. His budding friendship with Stacy and John Ike brought him into the fold and afforded him the opportunity to become a “fringe” member of The Lingsmen (scarletdukes), which was enough to assure Tommy’s place in the future Elevators. Although he wasn’t a natural musician, Tommy envisioned music’s potential to communicate important ideas and information to his peers, fellow travelers, and the world. He also understood that this communicative potential was inescapably dependent upon a rock and roll band’s teen appeal, so Tommy sized up The Lingsmen’s potential. While he and Clementine were “impressed” with both the music and The Lingmen’s sizable, enthusiastic crowd (Gathering of Promises, Ch 7), they found the band members lacking crucial teen appeal and felt that a line-up change was necessary (scarletdukes).
Tommy envisioned music as a the ultimate platform from which to communicate his deep and animated engagement with esoteric philosophy, the occult, and consciousness expanding, mind altering, psychedelic drugs. He wasn’t a musician per se, but he wrote poetry and was “clued in to the advantages of combining meaningful lyrics with volume, electricity and mind expanding drugs” (GoP, Ch 7). Tommy was a a truth-seeking intellectual above all, deeply engaged in transcending conventional experience through spiritual exploration and chemical experimentation. As a University of Texas undergraduate, Tommy “took an active part in campus life, which had a strong bohemian undercurrent, including drug experiments, underground newspapers and literary parties”(scarletdukes). He decided to form a band as a vehicle for his poetry but “had no experience with electric music, much less organizing or leading a band” (GoP, Ch 7). When Tommy announced to his friends that he would be starting a rock and roll group, he was clear about the group’s mission: “…proselytize for the acceptance and general use of psychedelic drugs” (GoP, Ch 7). To help get a band together, he developed an ad hoc method of blowing jug that produced sounds more like a didgeridoo than a trombone and which was an effective accompaniment to his lyrics.
Sump N Else TV show early 1966:
Host – Ron Chapman Ron: “Who is it that is doing the ‘doo ga doo ga doo’ Is that you?” Could you do that for me again ’cause that’s a wild sound you get there out of that jug – I thought that was an electric bass doing that all the time – let me hear…try it again” Tommy: (tests out the jug on the live mike and performs a brief run) Ron: “Give me a whole run on it.. give me a few runs on that thing” Tommy: (goes nuts and does a cool 10 second run live on TV but is encompassed by feedback) Ron: “I thought we had a bass playing doing that.. that was going like crazy… that is wild! Where did you come up with this idea?” Tommy: “oh about six months ago I just hit upon the idea” Ron: “You were just sitting around with a jug in your hand one day and decided maybe I can make music with this thing huh..I see, well you’ve come up with a great sound – this next thing is called Fire Engine I have a feeling maybe you have something to do with that do you?” Tommy: “Yeah, I wrote it” Ron: “You wrote that?” Tommy: “Yeah I wrote the words” Ron: “And do you also have a part of the jug on there?” Tommy: “Mmmhmm, yes sir” Ron: ” Ok let’s turn it back to them once again to the guys from Houston who will rock any place let’s turn it back to the 13th Floor Elevators and this thing called Fire Engine and I imagine it will be – the 113th Floor Elevators!”
from Sundazed – Pychedelic Microdots-Texas Twisted CD
Tommy & Clementine Hall (photo: helioschrome)
The Kerrville-conceived Lingsmen were a band designed specifically for live performance. Stacy and the rest “had invented the band on the spot in order to secure a summer residency at a club in Port Aransas called The Dunes” (GoP, Ch7). Music was the Lingmen’s ticket to gaining a stage and securing a residency at a club where drinks and women were within arm’s reach. All of the members had played in other bands, with other musicians, but Stacy and the Lingsmen’s lead singer, Max Range, “had played together since they were both 16…and had even backed up San Antonio’s Doug Sahm in the early stages of his career” (GoP, Ch 7). Stacy, in particular, played such a powerful role in both the 13th Floor Elevators’ sound & musicianship, and in their near existential attachment to marijuana, that it is worth quoting in full Ben Graham’s almost poetic characterization of the troubled young man who was so different from Tommy:
“Even as a teenager, Sutherland cut a dark, brooking presence, and was continually torn between a strict Baptist upbringing that appealed to his introverted, troubled soul, and a predilection for the rock ’n’ roll life, with all of the hell-raising and chemical abandon that it entailed. In Sutherland’s inner life he was literally walking between God and his angels on one hand, and Satan and his minions on the other. He seems to have felt that he was damned from birth, and if drugs like peyote and marijuana didn’t offer salvation, he used them to try and gain some kind of understanding of the supernatural forces that were controlling his destiny. All of this came out in his guitar playing; by turns haunting and savage, tender and tormented, born deep in the blues and the western twang, but ringing out with its own eerie sorrowful yearning.”
(GoP, Ch 7)
In Port Aransas, thanks to Clementine Hall’s quick thinking, they’d dodged a potential career ending bust for possession of Acapulco Gold before they’d even conceived a musical partnership. The downside of the dodge was the birth of an overextended notion that their cleverness and stealth would suffice indefinitely to protect them from the law. After meeting Stacy for the second time, Tommy “extended [the family] vacation and hung out with the band” (EM, 26). Although Tommy was writing poetry and desperate to play in a band, he had not been invited to participate in the music just yet. Stacy and Tommy were “mutually impressed by each other” (EM, 26), however, and saw promise in forging a friendship. The Halls departed Port Aransas with the intention to reconnect with Stacy, John & Benny back in Austin. The truth was that Stacy hadn’t yet sized up Tommy as a musical collaborator because he was focused almost entirely on the potential for his new friend as a “new source of marijuana” (EM, 26).
After Tommy and family left for Austin, “Stacy and Benny acquired a pound of weed for $100 and became so blatant in their dope smoking that John Ike banned any marijuana from the living quarters” (EM, 26). The riskiest moments for Stacy and his roommates generally came when there wasn’t a safe and secure hideaway for their stash, so once John Ike forbade holding their herb in the house, Stacy and Benny were perpetually on edge and beginning to panic. The Lingsmen’s guitarist and bass player became so paranoid that their fear of discovery led them to try to get rid of the stash altogether. They were planning to sell what they had left to assuage their well-founded fears until “Stacy spotted a solution.” (EM, 26). Stacy was well-aware that The Lingsmen had a reputation for “turning on” (EM, 26) and was clued in that a few cops were watching closely. He and Benny would head up to the Port Aransas gunnery each morning to smoke out and enjoy their view of the entire island. From their perch, they also spied the police parked below and were convinced that the cops knew they were getting high. When they saw the cops heading up after them, Stacy and Benny would hide their stash in the sand. The police would probe the sand for the illicit stash while Stacy and Benny trolled them by asking them what they were doing. The marijuana panic finally eased and was transformed into a lighthearted cat and mouse game. Stacy recalled, “It was a big sport in a way” (EM, 26), and wrote a song about it called “Tried to Hide”.
The Lingsmen’s next run-in with the police was similar to the first in that the cops were, by Stacy’s telling, easily outsmarted. Clementine Hall proved this on the beach with the near bust, and Stacy and Benny were having similar success in their daily morning sessions up on the gunnery. The downside of the apparent ease of deceiving law enforcement was that the boys could be lulled into complacency. One mistake, one oversight, could lead to their discovery and arrest. It was inevitable that as long as the cat and mouse game continued, there increased the chance of getting busted. But Stacy and Benny were young, rebellious, clever, and felt freer and less paranoid while away from the city. Stacy couldn’t help but write a song about their cops and robbers adventures he called “Tried to Hide”, which became the b-side to their first single and later a highlight of the first 13th Floor Elevators LP. Musically the track evoked Stacy’s love of The Kinks and their wild beat sound “and bastardized the riff to ‘Come On Now,’ the B-side of their current U.S. hit ‘Tired of Waiting for You’” (EM, 26). The Elevators’ version of “Tried to Hide” retained a portion of the original lyrics, this verse evoking Stacy’s initial paranoia:
You blew what you had and tried to sell it
You thought what you were and you tried to tell it
And when I got near
All I saw was fear
And I know you tried to hide
And you cried ‘cos you lied about it…
“Tried to Hide” The Lingsmen / 13th Floor Elevators
The song cut both ways vis a vis Stacy’s recognition of what was at stake if he were busted. On one hand, it was explicit acknowledgement of the outsized role the hide and seek game had taken in their lives, but on the other hand, it was almost a taunt, mocking the police for their failure to catch them in the act. If it was a taunt (hard to know without the original lyrics), it was a recipe for carelessness that could lead to their being caught. To wit, one night while getting ready to play their regular gig, “John Ike got talking to a man at the bar that reminded him of Johnny Cash” (EM, 29), after which a few of the security guards, who happened to be policemen, informed The Lingsmen’s drummer that he had been speaking with “the head of the state narcotics commission” (EM, 30). As if under the protection of a guardian angel, the boys were again saved the fate of incarceration, this time by cops moonlighting as security. After revealing to John Ike the identity of his interlocutor, the guards told him unequivocally, “‘You boys better get out of here. You’re talking to The Man. He wants you guys’” (EM, 30). John Ike thanked the officers sincerely and went to inform his bandmates.
The Lingsmen beat a hasty retreat and began breaking down their equipment. Meanwhile, back up musicians Danny and Bobby Galindo, called in by Lingsmen vocalist Max Range for that night’s show, were just pulling up to the club and “witnessed the old band loading their equipment and Bonneville motorcycle onto the back of a pickup truck” (EM, 30). The Galindo brothers immediately turned tail and drove back home. The following morning, “the vice squad raided the ‘Lingshack’…hoping to find them still sleeping, but found only a scattering of marijuana seeds and stems” (EM, 30). Stacy, John and Benny were gone, back to Kerrville or Austin, as far away from the vice squad as possible. This was the closest call yet and their escape from certain incarceration was dependent on the unlikely kindness of a few off duty cops. As far as near busts went, this was about as near as one could be without getting caught. The Lingsmen were done for good, and in their place Max Range gathered a new back-up band dubbed “The Laughing Kind”, who continued to play the coastal circuit until 1967, when Danny Galindo left to take his place as an one of the Elevators (EM, 30).
Dick Clark: Alright. Well let me just stay loose with you for a second.
In all my 50 years, I’d never given much thought to those in legal jeopardy for cannabis. In California in the 1970s and 1980s the penalty for simple possession was a misdemeanor citation and a fine, and I didn’t know anyone risking more than that. Then at some point in the last decade I read Eye Mind, the superb oral history of the 1960s Texas psych-punk band, 13th Floor Elevators, written by Paul Drummond. While the Elevators’ contemporaries in New York (Velvet Underground, for example) and California (The Doors, etc.) never faced a truly existential crisis over simple marijuana use or possession, the Elevators were constantly harassed by Texas law enforcement, specifically for cannabis. Ironically, marijuana was not the band’s main psychoactive indulgence, as they were more notably passionate believers in LSD’s potential for spiritual enlightenment and elevated consciousness. Marijuana simply kept the guys prepared to act upon their psychedelic ambitions as they created and performed their soul stirring music. As Paul Drummond discusses in Eye Mind, “all of the members of the band, minus [drummer] John Ike, would ceremonially take LSD and ‘play the acid’” (PD, 31).
Led by Roky Erickson on vocals and by jug-blowing spirit guide, Tommy Hall, on all matters esoteric, the 13th Floor Elevators synchronized their ambitions as musicians with their individual and collective yearnings for spiritual enlightenment. Tommy and Roky together midwifed a vision for the band’s purpose: Channel the elevated consciousness and cosmic spirituality of an acid trip into the listening audience though music, especially when performing live. As Jon Savage notes in 1966, his exhaustive analysis of the cultural and social transformations happening in that pivotal year, the 13th Floor Elevators “explicitly formed to broadcast LSD consciousness” (JS, 110) and their first LP was “designed to act as an acid guide” (JS, 518). Although acid became the band’s modus operandi vis a vis their art and their audience, cannabis remained the drug of choice in their day to day activities as it did for many of their counter-culture peers. For the Elevators’ generation, marijuana signified a rebellion against their parents’ clumsy, conformist boozing, and became for them and their peers the drug of choice for daily use.
Cannabis was a training ground that readied the band for a new perspective on life and opened the musicians’ minds to Tommy Hall’s calls to explore the intellectually esoteric and spiritually sublime underpinnings of acid. Their first album, The Psychedelic Sounds of…, included liner notes written by Tommy that reflected his vision of “using a hallucinogenic catalyst to transcend the barrier of the stage and evoke synesthesia…with the intention of extending the effect to the audience through their performance” (PD, 31). The Psychedelic Sounds of… achieves this in both form and substance, featuring a wildly colorful cover containing occult images (pyramid, third eye) and a manifesto penned by the band’s jug-blowing philosopher that reads in part:
Recently it has become possible for man to chemically alter his mental state and thus alter his point of view (that is, his own basic relation with the outside world which determines how he stores his information). He then can restructure his thinking and change his language so that his thoughts bear more relation to his life and his problems, therefore approaching them more sanely.
It is this quest for pure sanity that forms the basis of the songs on this album.
(Tommy Hall, Psychedelic Sounds of back cover notes)
REVERBERATION is the root of all inability to cope with environment. Doubt causes negative emotions, which reverberate and hamper all constructive thought. If a person learns and organizes his knowledge in the right way — with perfect cross-reference — he need not experience doubt or hesitation.
(Tommy Hall, Psychedelic Sounds of back cover notes)
The 13th Floor Elevators’ close association with LSD and use of heavy psychedelics in the creation and performance of its music would seem to suggest that hallucinogens had the most profound influence on the band’s trajectory and ultimate fate. In one sense, particularly when considering the band members as individuals, this is true. It was clear in the end that chronic ingestion of hallucinogens took a toll on Roky, Tommy and the rest (except for drummer, John Ike), though it was Roky, institutionalized as the band disintegrated, who was the most damaged. As a group, existentially speaking, the Elevators faced a much more imminent and severe threat than LSD could ever pose. After all, LSD was legal until the end of October 1968. The band members might have lost their minds, but for the majority of the time the group was together, acid trips weren’t going to get them busted by the overzealous Texas detectives and prosecutors. Cannabis use, on the contrary, did get them busted on several occasions. Notably, LSD was made illegal at about the same time Roky was committed and the band imploded.
The State of Texas had been battling the scourge of cannabis for fifty years and featured the first city in the United States to pass an anti-cannabis law, which was in effect when the Elevators hit the scene. According to Martin A. Lee in his detailed history of cannabis, Smoke Signals, “Smoking grass became commonplace among dispossessed Mexicans in border towns such as El Paso, Texas, which passed the first city ordinance banning the sale and possession of cannabis in 1914” (ML, 41). Texas was caught up in a nativist, anti-immigration fever at the time and many of its lawmakers blamed Mexican immigrants for trafficking marijuana into the state. In fact, it may have been cannabis’s association with Mexican immigrants that fueled popular anti-marijuana animus, rather than having much to do with marijuana per se. As Lee notes, “Public officials and newspaper reports depicted marijuana, the Mexican loco weed, as a dangerous, vice, an alien intrusion into American life” (ML, 41). Texans viewed anti-cannabis legislation as one of many legal means to regulate the lives of Mexican immigrants and “keep the newcomers in their place” (ML, 41).
Cannabis had been unregulated for much of American history and hemp was viewed ubiquitously as a strong, reliable, adaptable, fibrous material ideal for use in clothing, tents, sails, and a myriad of other products. Its seeds could be used to make oil or consumed as a nutritious dietary supplement. Marijuana was widely smoked during the Jazz Age and seemed to reach a high point in recreational use, which is what probably caught the attention of authorities seeking a soberer society who viewed marijuana as “a dangerous drug with no therapeutic value” (ML, 54). By 1937, the U.S. Congress had been convinced by anti-cannabis crusaders that marijuana’s medicinal benefits were outweighed by its potential for corrupting American society and thus needed to be placed out of public reach. Consequently, in 1937, Congress passed the Marihuana Tax Act, which Franklin Delano Roosevelt duly signed, effectively taxing all forms of cannabis and hemp out of public reach.
The Federal government has continued to classify cannabis as a schedule 1 narcotic over the decades, deeming it devoid of any medical use, its possession punishable by fines and imprisonment. In spite of legalization in a number of states, cannabis continues to be criminalized at the Federal level, and remains illegal in Texas. The only difference between the 1960s and today vis a vis cannabis law in Texas, is that today medical CBD use is allowed. There are still enough who view marijuana with the same moral indignation as their forebears, however, to keep anti-cannabis laws on the books. Possession of marijuana in Texas still carries with it legal ramifications if caught, but there is reason to hope that eventually Texas will join in decriminalizing herb. The generation gap is so much narrower than it was when the Elevators were an active band that it is safe to assume that many lawmakers have had some experience with cannabis, even if only indirectly. It is far too clear that cannabis is not the scourge so much propaganda sought to make it out to be.
Medical marijuana has been “legal” in California for so long that it is hard to remember what it was like to buy cannabis in the pre-legalization days, let alone attempt to fathom what it was like in Texas in the mid-1960s. Cannabis became the Elevators’ cause célèbre in large part because Tommy and his wife, Clementine, regularly smuggled ounces of sinsemilla from Mexico, supplying themselves and their friends with abundant, potent herb. It earned the band respect and adulation from their cannabis smoking fans, increasing their profile in a competitive regional teen garage-rock scene. That was the positive effect of their smuggling operation. Unfortunately the operation played an equal role in attracting attention from the authorities, who had been after them before they’d even become the 13th Floor Elevators, and who would not cease their pursuit until Roky’s last days as a free man.
Clementine was Tommy’s wife and smuggling partner. The pair routinely drove across the border to score ounces of potent Mexican sinsemilla which they would share with their many friends and fellow travelers in Texas.
One might argue that Eye Mind is both a band biography and a recitation of cannabis bust after cannabis bust, and further, that the Elevators’ story could be told simply in terms of those busts. Paul Drummond takes great pains to excavate each of these incidents and contextualizes them in terms of how they affected the band dynamic. It beggars belief that the band was able to create and record so much groundbreaking material while constantly under the watchful eye of the fuzz. There are far too many busts recounted in Eye Mind to include in a single blog post, so best to start at the beginning and move on from there in future articles. The first bust of note was actually a near-bust resulting in no arrests, but it set the tone for the ensuing years and the unavoidable paranoia that would take hold as a result. This was their first cannabis-related encounter with Texas law enforcement, and they hadn’t even formed the Elevators yet!!
The Roky-less original line-up was called The Lingsmen and included future Elevators Tommy Hall, playing jug, and Stacy Sutherland, the band’s lead guitarist. A quick search of the web doesn’t turn up any Lingsmen recordings and if recollection serves, there may not be any. They were a working band playing gigs in Port Aransas on the Gulf Coast. The earliest Elevators-related recordings that my feeble fingers were able to unearth are the two sides of a 45 by Roky’s first band, The Spades. Their single included an early version of “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, which would later become the Elevators most well known track. The b-side contained an early version of what was later dubbed “Don’t Fall Down”, called “We Sell Soul”.
Stacy Sutherland would later write or co-write many of the Elevator’s songs, occasionally accompanying Roky on vocals. Stacy had already been smoking cannabis in high school and recalled that “’the easiest way to score grass was to order, from a certain bartender, ‘a brandy, with a little something in it’” (PD, 25). The little something, would be just that – a little. But Stacy did not want a little. Stacy enjoyed smoking marijuana and wanted a big score, something he could hold, that would last, that he could sell to friends to make a little cash (PD, 25). It was on one of these runs, when Stacy was trying to coordinate a score with five university kids in Austin requiring “several exchanges”, when he “ran into [Tommy] at the Shamrock Bar, and we stood there and talked a while, you know, and that was it. I never saw him again” (PD, 25). This was the first crucial link in the Elevators’ chain, taking place in the middle of a score, and would have come and gone unnoticed if the Stacy and Tommy hadn’t run into each other a second time, just as randomly.
Like a year or so later we ran into him on the beach one day and just got talking. And like he had some Acapulco Gold with him, we got stoned, we drank some Romilar (cough syrup with codeine)…and I had a really bum trip. It was too much . . .
This ready willingness to indulge made for quick comradeship even if their first trip together was a bummer. They were still a ways away from starting a band together, but they’d already laid out a blueprint for the Elevators in that one afternoon. Future Elevators’ drummer, John Ike, was along for the ride and recalls meeting Tommy, his wife, Clementine, and her kids, at a gas station. They knew Tommy was hip by his “long hair and Beatle boots” as both groups “knocked each other off as heads” (PD, 26). Ike elaborates on what Stacy felt was a bad trip:
I was ripped beyond belief, man, I was hallucinating, houses were turning into monsters and walking across the land. We went to this stand called ‘Custer’s Last Stand,’ but I don’t remember being able to talk, and they asked us if we were from Russia because we were talking like wah, wah, wah, and they couldn’t understand us. We couldn’t understand each other.
What’s funny about Ike’s telling is the further association of marijuana with an alien, invading culture. Early 20th century anti-marijuana crusaders and the laws they helped pass targeted the drug in part because of its association with Mexico and “alien” Mexican immigrant culture. During the cold war 1950s and 1960s, Russians represented the invading force, with science fiction movies casting them as alien intruders, often to the legato wailing of a theremin. Ike’s casting of the group as speaking in alien-like wah wah language links the Acapulco Gold and communist infiltration with a bizarre musical wah wah code. Ironically, the 13th Elevators guitarists didn’t really utilize wah wah pedals.
In the end, Stacy, Tommy and Clementine were fortunate they weren’t busted. Clementine, perhaps acting on maternal instinct given that her children were with them, knew she had to work fast or they’d all be going to jail. John Ike recalls:
The cops came up, but Clementine jumped out of the car and said, ‘What’s wrong, officers? We’re a family and we’re camped here.’ And they left us alone. If they’d rolled down the window and smelled the Acapulco Gold we’d still be in prison.
This was only the beginning. The Elevators hadn’t yet been conceived and Roky wasn’t in the picture, yet the narco squad was already hassling future band members about cannabis. This scene would be repeated time and again and again and again . . . ad infinitum. The band would be like a comet, hurtling out of control, propelling itself forward without thought of slowing down, let alone stopping, almost like a scorched earth strategy. The Elevators were a one way force majeur, speeding through Texas with the throttle wide open, fueling themselves with copious amounts of cannabis and LSD. It comes as no surprise then, that the band inevitably would run headlong into the big blue wall. They might bounce off and head in a different direction, but that wall always had a way of arising, to silence the music and stop the fun. It was only a matter of time before the band’s impact on that big blue wall would bring everything crashing down around them.
Watch out for more stories about the 13th Floor Elevators’ marijuana mayhem here at Swedish Flying Saucer.
I was planning to start writing a review of my new 710 life micro mini enail as soon as I returned home from yesterday morning’s dispensary visit. The enail – my first! – was a 3rd night Hanukkah (Marijuanukah!) gift from Mrs. Swedish Flying Saucer, who has grown leery of the butane torch and the harsher high temp dabs it tends to produce. I’ve enjoyed using the nail for the past few days and want to spread the word in a new review on the blog, but yesterday’s superlative return to NoHo’s Green Valley Collective left me racing home to jot down notes reaffirming the positives I’d experienced on my first visit there. The enail review could wait.
Each enail session brings me further along the learning curve, giving me greater insight into both the 710 life product and the enail dabbing process. The longer I wait to write a formal 710 life review, the more enail information there will be to discuss. But an enail won’t produce any vapor without some sort of wax to heat, and enail users, like all other serious cannabis users, benefit from thoughtful, detailed dispensary reviews directing them to sellers of safe, potent and affordable products. As a newly converted enail user, I wanted to preempt my 710 life review by highlighting an east valley storefront I’ve reviewed here previously that has helped me and can help others. A dispensary employing friendly, knowledgable budtenders and staff, selling reasonably priced, quality, tested waxes.
Realizing I might not have time for cannabis shopping for a few days, I shuffled my morning’s itinerary to make room for a dispensary run. Best bet was to go early, so I pulled up Weedmaps to see which shops were open before 9am. There were a few in my vicinity that opened at 6am, but they weren’t ideal due to either poor inventory, high prices, recreational only taxes, or any combination of the three. After spending 30 to 40 minutes scanning and re-scanning menus for inventories, price points, discounts, and hours of operation, I decided that a return trip to Green Valley Collective was my best bet. Based on my impressive first visit there, it was long overdue.
Of the dispensary menus, deals & details I perused online yesterday, GVC’s were the most balanced across the board. Some other local storefronts open earlier, others have lower shelf prices or bigger discounts, and there’s at least one local dispensary that still does not charge tax. But for every one strength possessed by any of these other storefronts, there are downsides and mitigating factors that tend to negate the positives and undermine the overall experience. As I scanned GVC’s menu for the third or fourth time and considered my prior experience there, I realized that I had been remiss in waiting so long for a return visit.
I reviewed the menu and recalled the highlights of Green Valley Collective’s offerings, the Flavor wax varieties, both familiar and affordable, some shatter and a handful of connoisseur varieties. I also took note that yesterday, Thursday, was their regular BOGO 15% off concentrates discount day (I would later learn that the discount is now BOGO 20%!). I navigated to GVC’s webpage to see if there was anything else to glean and remembered that recently I registered at their website and received an e-mail with a 15% discount coupon. This was a good sign.
The time was quickly approaching 9am, when Green Valley Collective opens its doors to cannabis consumers. I wanted to get there as soon as possible to be back home and out of the rain before the weather worsened, so I grabbed an umbrella and hopped in the car. The ongoing downpour had the streets lined with slow-moving vehicles sloshing through rivers of sitting rainwater. I drove down Magnolia and passed the dispensary, hoping to grab some cash from the Chase bank branch next door. I pulled into the waterlogged lot only to discover that the neighboring branch had closed and that I would have to navigate through heavy rush hour traffic to another. I kept my cool and took the diversion as a challenge, doubling back in the rain to another ATM. Cash finally in wallet, I found my way back to GVC through street-streaming rivulets and a few unmoored autos.
Rain continued to deluge North Hollywood and I was again thankful for Green Valley Collective’s huge back parking lot. My Vasques kept my feet warm and dry as I plodded through a few pools of water and headed towards the front of the building. I pulled open one of the entry doors and walked straight into into a very welcoming warmth and coziness. From the lighting to the temperature to the friendly people who greeted me, this was an amiable invitation to escape the gloomy, inhospitable weather outside. There was no doubt that this was where I wanted to be.
With the doors closed behind me I took the opportunity to confirm an observation I’d been unsure about after my last visit. I recalled that there was no wall partitioning the dispensary area from the front desk. Most dispensaries separate the inner, cannabis-dispensing areas from the exterior waiting and front desk areas, using solid walls and locked doors. The walled-off, compartmentalized feel can be claustrophobic and anxiety inducing. But not at GVC. Green Valley Collective’s lack of such a barrier gives the entire dispensary a haimish feel, with staff appearing relaxed and at ease, setting a positive tone, leaving customers feeling calm and happy. They seem to realize that happiness is contagious, and that customers will not only appreciate it, but will respond in kind.
I noticed from afar a couple of customers already working with budtenders and I wasn’t sure how long my wait would be, but I was buzzed in right away. I situated myself between the stanchions in the middle of the inner dispensary and took advantage of the opportunity to peruse the panorama of varieties on display. It was an impressive sight, but as soon as I’d begun to take a closer look, a third budtender appeared behind the counter and welcomed me. We walked to the wax shelves and Kcee, my budtender, proved just as knowledgable, friendly and patient with me as Jessica had been on my first visit.
The waxes in stock reflected what I’d seen on Weedmaps and as I expected, I chose some Flavor crumble & live resin sugar as well as a few half-grams of shatter made by TerpX, a brand I’d not yet tried. All items were competitively but reasonably priced. None of my selections packed a potent THC punch as is found in other saps and sauces that reach well into the 80% level, but the waxes I took home are all of excellent quality and are terpene treats when dabbed on quartz with the enail set at that magical 710-720 range.
Kcee and I talked about a variety of topics including THC tolerance levels, the patrons of $80 and $90 grams of wax, and most importantly, Green Valley Collective now taking debit and credit cards for store purchases. I recently learned of another local dispensary also just beginning to accept credit and debit cards. This is good and an encouraging sign for the industry and perhaps for national legalization, especially if the current system succeeds. GVC charges a modest $3 fee to use these methods of payment, the same fee charged at non-bank ATMs everywhere. It is a small price to pay if you’re short on cash.
We continued chatting as Kcee rang me up and I mentioned my previous Green Valley Collective review, which I wasn’t sure if they’d seen because I hadn’t heard back after sending them the link. Before I was finished asking, I spied a happy look of recognition on Kcee’s face as she tried to recall the name “Swedish Flying Saucer” and motioned to Jessica, my prior budtender, who was standing just next to us. Jessica was smiling as well and we exchanged greetings. I was really pleased to know that they were aware of the superlative qualities that defined my first visit and I appreciated that my review was received so well.
A first impression can either be the best impression or a total fluke. One never knows for certain until testing that first impression over time. I’ve been thoroughly impressed on first visits to some dispensaries only to be disappointed on subsequent trips. In contrast, my return trip to Green Valley Collective was an unqualified success and validated all the positives I experienced on my initial visit. I really like the folks who work at GVC, the products they sell, the prices they charge, the discounts they offer, as well as the building’s interior design, lighting, parking, location and hours of operation. It appears a fun and positive environment in which to work, and I can only hope to land a cannabis job in a setting like that when the opportunity arises. In the interim, I’m going to look forward to my next trip down Magnolia to visit the kind folks at Green Valley Collective as a customer. It’ll be soon, but it’ll have to be a Thursday BOGO 20% day, or a Friday “choose any daily deal of the week” day, or if I’m making a large purchase coz I’m somehow rollin in the dough, a Saturday spend $200 get 15% off day. Green Valley Collective isn’t just a storefront I enjoy patronizing; it is an environment that lifts my spirits and feels a little like home.