Dope File: Stiff joints

By Joel Miller

Dead dope

While looking for new ways to get high, some marijuana smokers have decided to get low, six feet under to go metaphorical on you. Taking the expression “stiff joints” in a whole new direction, some pot users dip their marijuana cigarettes in embalming fluid to increase the potency and length of the high.

A mixture of alcohol, moisturizers and anti-clotting agents, among other things, embalming fluid’s most important ingredient is formalin, formaldehyde diluted in water. A blunt treated with the fluid is commonly dubbed an “illy,” “wet” or “fry.”

San Francisco College Mortuary Science President Jacquie Taylor told me she’s heard about the practice before but never really followed up on it. After all, she said, smoking anything with formaldehyde is “an incredibly stupid thing.” Formaldehyde is really dangerous stuff. “It burns your eyes, burns your nose.” And as for smoking it, “I can’t imagine this is a positive thing.”

Depends upon whether your last name is Kevorkian, I think.

According to a 1998 paper by Dr. William N. Elwood for the University of Texas School of Public Health, smoking illy can result in “bronchitis, body tissue destruction, brain damage, lung damage, impaired coordination, and inflammation and sores in the throat, nose, and esophagus.” And don’t forget “high fever, heart attacks … kidney damage … coma, convulsions, coughing, pneumonia, anorexia, and death.”

Always looking on the bright side, a benefit of smoking fry is that if you get enough formaldehyde in your system, you might save the mortician some work. You’ll be nicely preserved when you arrive.

So-so minds think disalike

The Aug. 16 issue of Rolling Stone has a great symposium on the drug war, with voices from all sides and angles, however poignant, smart, stupid or irrelevant. Some keepers:

  • Bernard C. Parks, chief of police, L.A.: “It’s a failed policy to call anything a war when you’re addressing issues in the community – when you declare war on your own community.” Agreed. In fact, I said the same thing a couple months ago.
  • Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., nominee for head spot at DEA: “The War on Drugs has been successful in terms of individual lives saved and the billions of young people who have declined to use drugs. We’re sending the right message to kids: Drugs are very bad, they’re illegal, and don’t experiment or use them.” Billions? America only has 275 million citizens of any age, let alone runny-nosed urchins diverted from drug use. Yet another fuzzy-math drug warrior. Thank goodness Hutchinson isn’t being asked to head up the Department of Education.
  • Gary Johnson, governor of New Mexico: “If I … had to set up a distribution system for marijuana tomorrow, it would be similar to liquor. I’d allow sales at liquor establishments. People say, ‘There will be bootleg pot.’ And there probably would be for a little while. But then it would die out. Why would you buy bathtub gin when you can buy Tanqueray?” Come to think of it, you don’t see many Mafiosi involved in shooting rival booze sellers, either.
  • David Crosby, musician: “Personally, I think we should send some very serious lads from the Army down to the fields where coca is being grown. … [S]end somebody down, take it out of the ground and say, ‘Look: Plant coffee; we’ll buy it directly from you, we’ll pay you three times as much because we won’t go through a middleman, and you’ll be fine. Plant coca again, and we’ll be back again next year and somebody will get hurt.'” Oh, joy: The guy who co-wrote “Eight Miles High” (not a song about aviation) for the Byrds is now encouraging pharmaceutical colonialism.
  • Norm Stamper, former chief of police, Seattle: “The biggest obstacle to a saner drug policy is that the current one has become so rigid and unassailable in the circles in which it must be discussed flexibly and intelligently and with open minds. It’s a religion. We’ve accepted on faith that if what we’re doing isn’t working, let’s do more of it.” To filch a phrase from WND’s Geoff Metcalf, “Don’t confuse me with facts that contradict my preconceived opinions.” Bingo.

    Way the wind blows

    Something’s rotten in Denmark, er, England. While not strictly new, this news is “breaking.” A handful of police are under investigation by Scotland Yard for “allegations of assault and uncivility,” according to the June 6 Sky News. “The detectives will all be investigated … after a complaint was lodged that one of them broke wind in front of a family while carrying out a drug raid in Chingford, Essex.”

    Sky slugged the story, “You have the right to remain silent … and deadly.”

    Downplaying the matter, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation Glen Smyth charged that the “allegations … border[ed] on the ridiculous. …” But I guess that depends on whether you were standing downwind and what the officer had for lunch, no?

    Mild wilds

    When people think of drugs, they typically think of powerful narcotics or other illegal substances like cocaine and marijuana. Rarely do they think about that cup of Starbucks or pint of Guinness they just downed. But with the probable exception of tobacco, caffeine and alcohol are the world’s most widely used drugs.

    The average cup of coffee contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine. The world per-capita java jones, according to David T. Courtwright’s “Forces of Habit,” results in daily consumption of 70 milligrams. In places like Britain and Sweden, it’s “well over 400 milligrams a day.” For me, it’s about 500 to 600 milligrams – before lunch.

    Moving from hot to cold (or room temp, depending on tastes and styles), at little beer trivia: Who drinks the most beer in the world? Forget U.S. fraternities; we’re talking nationwide per-capita consumption. According to the Associated Press, Germans come in third, Czechs in second and – Erin go beer! – the Irish take the gold.

    To give you a taste of the quantities were talking about, in 2000 Germany’s per-gullet beer gulping topped off at about 33 gallons, or 528 pints. In 1970 it was greater still, 37 gallons. That’s nearly 600 times you’d have to ask the pubkeep to pass another pint. How many trips to the head that amounts to was a figure left unfactored.

    Related offer:

    “God Gave Wine,” a book by Kenneth Gentry and published by Joel Miller’s Oakdown Books, details what the Bible really says about alcohol. Get it at

    Related columns:

    Joel Miller’s entire drug-war archive