Pubdate: Sun, 08 Nov 2015
Source: New York Times Magazine (NY)
Column: Letter of Recommendation
Copyright: 2015 The New York Times Company
Note: The New York Times Magazine is a section of the Sunday edition 
of the New York Times
Author: Mattathias Schwartz


For a year or two, I smoked pot out of a chimney--shaped wooden pipe. 
It came with a lighter, which was wrapped in a sort of 
braided--leather papoose. Papoose and pipe were handmade by a 
shaman--like fellow I met on the side of a highway in the Pacific 
Northwest. His wares were solid, but the smoke was harsh. So, not 
long ago, I switched to a vaporizer, or "vape," the Magic--Flight Launch Box.

Vapes heat marijuana buds to oven temperatures, at which point they 
release their psychoactive payload and gradually turn brown, without 
burning. Vapor feels easier on the lungs than smoke. Its effects come 
on more slowly and gently. But the essential quality of vapes is 
their discretion. Vapes are the antithesis of iridescent glass pipes 
and cumbersome bongs. They don't produce a lingering or pungent odor. 
They do for cannabis what brown paper bags do for beer and what 
collars do for dogs; they keep your neighbors from freaking out when 
you pass them on the sidewalk.

The Launch Box is a wooden block small enough to conceal in the palm 
of your hand. There is a thumb--size stainless--steel trench for the 
weed, a pea-size hole for the vapor and a larger hole in the side, 
where you insert a rechargeable battery. The battery completes a 
circuit, heating the trench. You can just about use the Launch Box in 
the middle of a conversation and have it be mistaken for coughing or 
popping a breath mint. Across a restaurant, it's invisible. One vape 
reviewer, from the tech blog Gizmodo, criticized the Launch Box for 
looking as if it were made in shop class. Yes, but so did the Apple 
I. It does exactly what you need it to do, and nothing more.

The inventor of the Magic-Flight Launch Box, Forrest Landry, is also 
a philosopher. Each vape comes engraved with this aphorism based on 
his tract "An Immanent Metaphysics": "Love is that which enables 
choice. Love is always stronger than fear. Always choose on the basis of love."

Though I've since taken it out to state parks, numerous bars, a 
sculpture garden and a hotel rooftop, the Launch Box spent its first 
few months at home, in a drawer, a few steps away from my office. 
Over time, it began making afternoon sojourns to my desk. These 
sessions took place once a week or so, at times when I needed to 
compile to-do lists, tidy up or try to untangle some gnarled project.

Marijuana, I found, is a fine office drug. Not only is it more 
healthful than the ubiquitous conference--table bottle of Knob Creek, 
it's also a sharper creative spur. It makes work feel more like a 
rapturous Frisbee game, less like an assembly line. Solo brainstorms 
take on an almost yeast-like generativity. And contrary to popular 
notions from the end of the last century, much of what bubbles up is 
worth keeping.

One of the wisest things I've read about cannabis was written by an 
anony-mous "Mr. X" in the 1971 book "Marihuana Reconsidered." While 
meticulously cataloging how pot enhanced his life as a 30--something 
professional, X wrote that "the devastating insights achieved when 
high are real insights." They can survive the state of mind that 
caused them to arise. The difficulty is how to capture a bit of this 
precious ore. You will need a notebook and some mental pruning 
shears, to avoid chasing down every dopamine--inspired tangent. "Ten 
even more interesting ideas or images have to be lost in the effort 
of recording one," is how X put it.

The Launch Box can help with this, in part because it actually isn't 
very easy to operate. Users must juggle several variables - timing, 
temperature, airflow, battery charge. If it's too hot, the vapor is 
harsh. If it's too cold, you get nothing. "Inhale slowly, like 
sipping from a cup of hot tea," the enclosed manual, The Flight 
Guide, recommends. It's harder than it sounds, but I consider this to 
be a feature, not a bug. If you're too distracted, the thing won't 
work, not until you settle back down. This encourages moderation. Buy 
a Launch Box, and you might find that the amount you spend on 
marijuana each year is modest, in line with your budget for postage 
stamps or toner.

When X wrote his essay, cannabis use was, like the length of your 
hair, a political statement, a litmus test for all kinds of 
establishment proprieties. X's anonymity is an artifact of that time, 
and so are his essay's moments of defensive apology, as if enjoyment 
alone were not enough to legitimize his smoking. X died in 1996. His 
identity was exposed three years later, by an old friend, Lester 
Grinspoon, who wrote the book the essay appears in. X, it turned out, 
was Carl Sagan. The celebrated astronomer and public champion of 
scientific inquiry was also an avid pothead. Sagan said he used some 
of his marijuana--derived insights in his books and lectures.

Over the next few years, as the laws loosen, the Launch Box will 
migrate from pocket to table. The Flight Guide will update its 
euphemistic fig leaves - "material" and "herbs." Who knows, matters 
may even loosen up to the point where a marijuana afternoon, like a 
martini lunch, doesn't have to justify itself on the basis of 
additional productive insights obtained per hour. We might come to 
see life as something more than a swirl of obligations topped with a 
few sprinkles of meaning.

See, that's what happens when you use the Launch Box. You start 
thinking about these kinds of things, political things: the passage 
of taboos across the generations, the threat that certain forms of 
consciousness might pose to certain social arrangements. You take out 
the earplugs, and you put on headphones. But will you remember any of 
it in the morning? Will there be any legible trace of your stoned 
self? And if not, does that make you a stoner? Absolutely not, says 
the Magic--Flight Launch Box. Relax, buddy. I'm here if you need me.

Mattathias Schwartz is a contributing writer for the magazine. His 
last article was about investments in litigation proceedings.
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