EPISODE 8: It’s 420 Somewhere

Published 11/30/23



This is “Dating While Gray, the Grown-Up’s Guide to Love, Sex, and Relationships.” I’m Laura Stassi, and I do not use cannabis. Just sayin.’ No judgment if you do.


And you might. Weed is legal for medicinal use in the majority of the United States. Recreational use is legal in almost half. Wherever you go, “It’s 420 Somewhere.”



Maybe you remember that time I met a retired opera singer at a virtual speed dating event. We connected on our own afterward and then talked about it for an episode of this podcast.





I like to get stoned. I like to smoke pot.



Because you talked about having sex while stoned.






I’m wondering the wisdom of revealing to a virtual stranger that you like to have sex while you’re stoned?



Yeah, that was probably a mistake.







I confess, that was the first time I had ever heard marijuana is an aphrodisiac. Okay, interesting. But I didn’t think it was relevant information for me personally. The opera singer and I had already decided we weren’t a match. So it’s not like I’d be confronted with sleeping with someone who wants to get high first — or getting high myself.


Also, the opera singer had a medical marijuana card for joint pain. So I assumed he was in a small pool of older users who had discovered this extra benefit by accident.


But then I signed up for a three-month membership on Match.com. It was the first time I had been on that particular site in years. And I noticed there was a new-to-me question about being, quote, 420- friendly.


Now for the uninitiated. 420 is a slang term that basically means time to get high. It was supposedly coined by a group of teenage stoners in Northern California in 1971. Okay, Boomer.


Maybe Match sensed a trend: that more and more people are using weed. But they gave only two choices for answering the 420-friendly question: Yes or no. In contrast, there are four different ways to respond to questions about tobacco and alcohol use.


Like for the “do you smoke?” question, you can answer: No. Yes, occasionally. Yes, daily. Or, yes, trying to quit.


For “do you drink?” the choices are: No. Sometimes, depends on the day. Yes, is it Happy Hour yet? Or, in moderation, of course.


420 friendly — what does that mean? Can I be friendly with a stranger I met that one time in college? Does friendly mean you stop and talk whenever you happen to run into each other? Or do you make plans to meet up? Do you get together weekly — or daily?


Suddenly, I became 420 curious. I decided to do some research — not the hands-on kind. I looked up some studies, and here’s what I found:


Cannabis use is becoming more common among older people. In fact, those of us 55 and older are the fastest growing demographic of users. The majority report using cannabis for therapeutic reasons, like managing chronic pain, easing anxiety, eating with sleep, relieving depression, treating glaucoma.





I’m Michael Castleman, sexuality journalist for 46 years, author of several books about sexuality. My latest is called “Sizzling Sex for Life: How to Maximize Erotic Pleasure at Any Age.”






I interviewed Michael for a Season 2 episode. He lives in California, and he told me via email he’s been a cannabis user for 50 years. He’s written about studies that have found marijuana does enhance sexual intimacy — increasing desire, arousal, orgasms and satisfaction in both men and women. And in his book “Sizzling Sex for Life,” Michael recommends that anyone who’s curious about how it might affect their bedroom time should, quote, try some and see.


Then again, I also came across research that has found cannabis use among older people problematic. For example, a huge increase over the past 14 years in the number of people 65 and older who’ve been treated in California hospital emergency rooms for adverse side effects from cannabis. Those side effects include dizziness, panic attacks, confusion, and worsening of conditions such as asthma. Some experts say older people are at a higher risk for adverse reactions, possibly because of other medications we may be taking, or not knowing how much is too much.


This kind of research is helpful, but I wanted to supplement it. So I asked Dating While Gray listeners to weigh in with their experiences. You’ll hear from three of them. The first voice is an actor reading one of the emails.




I was a complete abstainer from anything that remotely resembled a drug until I was in my late fifties. Then I met someone who introduced me to marijuana. Oh my god, I had no idea sex could be like that. It really helped to lower my inhibitions. However, in the early days when I was still trying it out, I overdosed, and that was not pleasant.


We had sex. It was unbelievable. And I started hallucinating that I was seeing everything for the second or third time. It was awful. I thought I was having a stroke. I said I wanted to go to the ER, but my partner hesitated because he thought we might get into legal trouble. But I was so out of it. I finally called 911. Somewhere, there is a recording of me, very stoned, talking about having had the most amazing orgasm. And now I’m worried that I burst an artery in my brain or something.


The ambulance came, they took me away. The police were very friendly to my partner. In the ambulance, I heard the medic say, “Anxiety attack from marijuana.” And they let me sleep it off at the hospital. Since then, we have learned exactly how much we should use without me getting wobbly. I do love it. I do love the sex. And I do love sleeping like a baby afterwards.


CALLER 1 07:19

Hi, Laura. This is Nancy. Just wanted to chime in on the 420 discussion. I’m 69 and live in Northern Virginia, been single for eight years; used to have a medical marijuana card. It’s so easy to get. There are lots of websites to connect you with a doctor who signs off. I had some anxiety and I have trouble sleeping. So that’s all I needed to say to get my letter. But now, I actually just travel to Maryland where it’s now 100 percent legal. The people at the dispensary are quite helpful and know what gummy or vape is best for sleep or whatever I want to use it for. It’s also much cheaper over there. And there’s a better selection of products. Every night I take half a gummy, and it helps me sleep.


I’ve also made brownies and every once in a while if my friend with benefits is coming over, I’ll have one. It definitely makes the sex better. It lowers my inhibitions and just makes everything more fun. You should try it!




I’m not black and white on marijuana. On rare occasions I’ll smoke with friends, but I love getting high before sex. Some of the best sex of my life was had while high. To say it’s an enhancer to me is putting it mildly. For me, marijuana really amplifies physical sensation and it blocks inhibitions and allows total immersion in the moment.


However, I don’t want a partner who is a stoner. I’m not interested in being with someone who has to smoke daily, and that’s really important to me. It’s so important that I’d rather forego pot with sex than have a pothead partner.


People who aren’t regular smokers might not know there are two main strains of marijuana: sativa and indica. Indica is the type that makes you very relaxed and mellow, so it’s good for smoking in the evening before bed. But if you smoke it in the morning, it will likely kill your day. And sativa is the one that sometimes make people feel fidgety or paranoid or have racing thoughts and find everything hysterically funny. And I really wish people had told me this years ago because it was always a big mystery to me why I reacted to marijuana in different ways at different times.


When I was living in North Carolina in 2021, they allowed certain loophole strains of marijuana such as Delta 8, along with CBD, to be sold in the state without a prescription And I was having some very intense chiropractic care at that time, and I was in constant low back pain. And I found that smoking a combination of Delta 8 and CBD helped my pain with only a very mild, relaxing high — none of that fidgety energy or paranoia that I tend to get when I smoke sativa. People in states where marijuana isn’t legal might want to look into whether their state allows sales of Delta 8 and whether their local dispensary has combinations of Delta 8 and CBD for pain. The dispensary I went to sold individual joints, so it was easy to try it out without a big investment.



You may have noticed, those commenters are all women. But studies have found men are more likely to use. Like this Michael, a 64-year-old graphic designer.



Sometimes I go by Raj.



Is that a different episode?



I don’t know. It’s short for Nataraja, the dancing statue circled by flames. The yogi incarnation of Shiva.



Oh wow.



Nataraja means king dancer.






And while I am not a king, I am a dancer.



Oh, this is so interesting. Because the picture that you showed me of you in high school, you look like a very — I don’t know, almost like a football player. Were you an athlete in high school?



Oh my god, no. I was drug-dealing hippie. Totally opposite from your crowd. We went to the same high school.



We did.



No, not a football player. My brother was, who was in your class.





Maybe that’s …



That’s who I’m thinking of. Okay, light bulb, light bulb.





So we both grew up at a time when marijuana was illegal. And it was also kind of a little scary. At least from my perspective. I — you know, cigarettes were scary from my perspective. But if you wouldn’t mind describing, I guess your personal history with marijuana.



Sure. Yeah. As it was called in the day, I copped my first bag.


LAURA STASSI What does that mean? I don’t …


MICHAEL Yeah, I guess it just means purchased.



Oh, okay. How much was it back then? Do you remember?


MICHAEL $35 for an ounce.



That sounds expensive. No?



It was pretty lightweight. And maybe 5 percent seeds at the time. They don’t have seeds anymore. Now they’re bud. And much more potent than it used to be in those days. Then it was leaves and seeds pretty much, but I had no idea what I was purchasing. And I have a sense that it may have been something like oregano, in that having smoked the whole bag, sharing with a friend of mine, there was absolutely no effect. And I thought to myself, Oh my gosh, what’s all the hype about? And then started purchasing Hawaiian and Jamaican and Mexican.


And then after just a few years, I became a born-again Christian. I stopped doing drugs. I stopped drinking alcohol. I became a missionary. I used to smuggle Bibles into China, for instance. I’m traveling around the world as missionary, went to Bible college four years. Went to seminary, Episcopal seminary after that. And eventually, God and I had a kind of a falling out. After about 25 years, maybe. And slowly I became re-acquainted with weed



And the falling out you had with God, and then you were reacquainted with weed. And then at some point, your marriage ended. Was that all happening about the same time?



Yeah. Although the first two were more paramount, more in the forefront. And then the weed kind of just trickled in later.



So how did you get reacquainted with it?



Well, I will tell you, glad you asked. Yeah, so I was visiting a couple of artists, friends of mine, after moving down to Richmond. Went up to Alexandria, and I was staying with them. We were doing an art show together. And it was my birthday. And I was telling them both, you know, I used to smoke weed. I wonder what it would be like now? I mean, you know, now that I’m an adult, it’d be interesting.






I was just kind of thinking. I had no idea they smoked. And so he got up from the table. He’s a personal chef and he had — it was a marvelous meal. He’d treated us for my birthday. Anyway, he got up and left, and he came back. And he held this big bowl. You know what I mean by bowl? A pipe, piled high with marijuana. And he looked at me with this big smile, right in my face and he said, happy birthday! So what can I do? And I had already said I was willing to do it.


And I did but in the same way that I used to as a teenager. And that is multiple hits as the pipe is passed around, taking it in big lungful; holding it in. And after about three times around, the whole world started turning upside down. And I felt like I was shot out of a rocket to Venus. And that’s when I realized, this is not your grandmother’s weed.



Yeah. Was it a good feeling, or …



It was not a good feeling. So that’s when I realized that the potency of today’s marijuana is nothing like it used to be. The weed today is cultivated for significant amounts of THC, and only the bud is harvested. And so it’s very different. And I wrote a note to myself: Never do this again. It was that bad.



We don’t think about that as marijuana. You think, you get silly. You laugh, you get hungry. You sleep it off. So you write yourself a note. But clearly you ignored the note.


MICHAEL Yeah, I did.



We’ll hear more from Michael, and from a former 420 friendly listener, after the break.






Hello, Laura, this is “Ann.” A few years ago, I got a medical prescription in Maryland for medical marijuana. I had filled it tentatively, I was feeling a lot of anxiety because I recently broke up and I was bereft and anxious. I decided to use gummies because I thought that would be an easier way for me to handle medical marijuana.


But the interesting challenge of the gummies was that it took a couple of hours for them to take effect. And every time I took a gummy, and then I wasn’t feeling anything, I might take a second gummy. And it really still wasn’t feeling anything. And I would forget that I had taken one or two gummies. And then I would leave the house and get my car and drive. So we’re going to do an errand. And in the middle of doing that, I would start talking to myself in the car and start laughing. And then I realized, oh my gosh, I’m stoned. And so then I would be anxious to figure out how I was going to get home safely and over for being stoned while driving. That happened twice and kind of made me pretty cautious about taking gummies at all.


My daughter, who was much more of an expert at this, advised me that if I had smoked a joint instead of taking gummy, that I would at least be — have instant reaction to it. And then I would be able to control it better. But I decided not to do that. What I did decide to do was to have gummies in the evening, so to take one gummy when I was going to bed, figuring that it would help me sleep because again, my anxiety was getting in the way of my having a good night’s sleep.


So I take a gummy at night. And I wouldn’t say that it was that effective or not. But after a few months of doing that, I realized I was starting to have memory issues. I couldn’t remember where I parked my car. I couldn’t remember things that were obvious things that I had not forgotten before. It wasn’t just typical old age kind of forgetfulness. These were more serious, forgetful things. And I was having some periods of total confusion by myself. So I thought I should stop taking the gummies at all. And so I quit cold turkey at that point. It took about a month to get the CBD out of my system. Before I stop having this periods of confusion and memory forgetfulness. And I’m really glad I stopped because apparently for me, CBD and certainly not THC is just not working for me.


I don’t really intend to have any more experiences with either one. It just doesn’t work for me. Kind of too bad. But if I want to get high, I’ll have a glass of wine. I really hadn’t liked weed much when I was in college either. It gave me the giggles and the munchies. Giggles was great. But munchies wasn’t great, because it seemed like I was always trying to lose weight and having the munchies for no reason didn’t help at all.




Before the break, you heard Michael say that he, too, decided marijuana was not for him after their reunion went badly. But shunning the drug didn’t last.



After a while, I became introduced to it again, in a relationship that I had after my marriage. I didn’t have access, but she did. And so little by little, I began to get more comfortable with it. and learn dosage. Dosage is so important for medicine, right?



Yeah. Okay, so I want to talk about dosage. And I also want to talk about your use of the word medicine. So you said that you had a relationship, and she had access to it. Does that mean she knew a dealer?



No, not a dealer. She had a friend who had access to it. I don’t know how she did, exactly. But and we would partake maybe once a month, you know, so not very often. I eventually became much more regular. The last three years, maybe more regular. And I began to pull back from that some, it’s a medicine. But as with all medicines, or most medicines, there are adverse effects, side effects, right? Things that you — it’s a cost that you might have to pay for the benefit, whatever it might be. And I believe that, for me anyway, one of the downsides to it is cognitive impairment. Particularly if you read it on the US, then you don’t have the opportunity to have those effects diminish.


Over time, I can tell that the more time I give it, the more clear is my thinking. The more access I have to memory, the more ability I have to make new memories. And I’m not entirely convinced that my cognitive capacity is all that great anyway. So maybe I’m just at the edge, and it just pushes me over a little. Because a lot of people, they don’t have as much of a problem with it.



So would you call yourself a regular user?


MICHAEL Probably now.



Uh-huh. And how are you getting it, at this point?



I had a medical card for a year here in Virginia. And interestingly enough, it is not that hard to get.



Tell me about that.



Yeah. It’s a phone call. You call a nurse practitioner who has the ability to prescribe medicine. And she asked you a couple of questions. Maybe she only asked you one or that I think about it, why do you feel you need this medicine? And so I was prepared with well, so I have suffered some depression here and there. And that was the main reason I gave. She said, okay, that satisfies. Then I asked her a question. I said, do you give the card out to everyone who calls you? And she says, Oh, no, no. What would be a improper answer?



A disqualifying answer.



She said, well, if you said you just wanted to get high, that wouldn’t have worked. But virtually anything else works.



Let’s first of all talk about the positive effects, physically and mentally.



Okay, so as an artist, one positive effect is increased creativity. For me, it’s a little like entering into a dream state, where I’m no longer as solidly attached to the material world, or to expectations, but now, the sky’s the limit. I mean, they call it getting high for a reason, because now maybe there’s more of a bird’s eye view of potential. And I’m no longer as beholden, attached to any one particular choice. So think outside the box, creative opportunity. That didn’t exist before. Let’s see  …



Dancing. You said you were a dancer …


MICHAEL Thank you. Oh, my gosh, Laura!



We are not smoking as we’re having this interview, either.



No, we’re not. No, we’re not. Yeah, so I’m a dancer. And, you know, I teach a thing I call Zen tango, which I created.


LAURA STASSI Oh, that sounds interesting.


MICHAEL Yeah. And it’s all about connection because I’m yoga trained, and a meditator. So it’s all about the connection and moving together as one; it’s about fusion. I don’t typically smoke when I do tango, we drink we drink red wine, Malbecs, typically, from Argentina. But when I’m out and about, kind of freewheeling, I could easily. And it allows, particularly if my partner is also smoking, it allows this fusion to take place, this oneness; that coming together and creating in concert collaboratively, eyes bright and shiny and, and seeing what could be and making that happen. Together, the two bodies becoming one.



Speaking of two bodies becoming one, I’ve also heard it is a sexual enhancer.



So um, I don’t want it to be too graphic, but at my age, I will take vitamin V, Viagra, which allows me to last a long time. Then because of the marijuana — now, the world is my easel. And I create these beautiful gestures and it moves from dance, which is beautiful gesturing, just very gradually to the bedroom and waking up in the morning, and it just, you know, continuing.


It’s funny, you think of getting older as necessarily being a reduction in potency. Well, with the addition of some medications in the right dosages and the right combinations. Not at all, but very much an enhancement, like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.



You’re not the first person I’ve heard that it is a really — you know, sex is amazing when you’re high. But I’ve often wondered — this is a terrible analogy. But I remember when I was pregnant, and of course, I wasn’t drinking alcohol. And I went out with my husband and another couple and they were all drinking. And they thought it was hilarious, and everything was wonderful, the conversation. And I was like, I’m not into this at all this. I’m just wondering if it would be .. if it would ever be the same with like …



I hear what you’re saying. I have found that it is a more gratifying experience when we are both on.



So can you give me an anecdote, I guess, where you thought okay, I need to curtail.



Yeah. And again, with dosage, and also combinations, combining marijuana with alcohol a couple of times, I felt faint. I felt like if I were, if I didn’t intentionally take one breath after the other, I would possibly not because I didn’t really feel like I needed to. So I had to stay alert, consciously breathe and that sort of thing. And it wasn’t a lot, necessarily, I didn’t think at the time, but maybe too much. So again, I don’t exactly know how it works. But for me, it doesn’t take much. It’s like a switch, like a light switch. Very little pressure and only wants to turn the lights on. So it doesn’t require a lot for me. And so I’ve learned just to be a lot more circumspect. A lot more careful. And dosages.



Do you prefer smoking over ingesting?



Good question? Yep. So both have advantages and disadvantages. An advantage to the smoking is you’re much more controlled in the intake, the dosage. And it’s much quicker in experiencing the effect and it doesn’t last as long.






When you ingest, it can take upwards of an hour, maybe, even two — typically at least for me an hour. And you know exactly how much you’re getting because it’s written on the package: 10 milligrams, or whatever it might be. But I don’t know for sure how much 10 milligrams of this particular strain is going to affect me. And I won’t know for an hour.






And the mistake people make when they ingest is say oh, gosh, that really wasn’t enough. That dosage was too little. Wrong. This takes a while, you need to wait.



But what about your lungs?



There’s the issue of, of lungs. When you smoke, of course, it’s going to impact negatively your lungs.



You said that you take care of your dad. Is your dad aware of your use of weed? Does he care?



Oh, my dad’s aware of anything that is in my life. I don’t hold anything back from him. He’s tried it. And it’s not good for him. So he’s aware, but he’s not interested.



I should clarify that Michael is not his 93-year-old dad’s caretaker, but a companion. Dad lives on his own about 60 miles away and is still active and healthy. And by the way, has a girlfriend who’s in her seventies.


As for marijuana’s cost, according to the data platform Statista, the average price in the U.S. is almost $319 for an ounce, which will yield about 60 joints.


Okay, after all this, I’m still no closer to declaring that I’m 420 friendly, or that I’m not — if those are my only two options. And honestly, I’d want any potential dating partner to also feel comfortable skipping that question online. If we happen to connect, then we can talk about it in a phone call or an email, or in those first few face-to-face meetups, when we’re deciding how friendly we want to be with each other.



Dating While Gray’s audio production and mix is by Steve Lack: Audio. For more on the show, check out datingwhilegray.com. That’s where you can find the latest episodes, plus the archive of previous episodes. You can also find links to send me questions, comments, tips and true stories through email and voicemail. You know I love hearing from you. While you’re there, sign up for the free Dating While Gray e-newsletter, delivered every Friday to your inbox. That’s datingwhilegray.com. Laura Stassi. Thanks for listening.