Dear reader: A letter from Piper Courtenay
But welcome to what, exactly? Well, the answer to that is: We don’t really know.
Let me take a step back.
I think it is safe to say we’re all a little lost in the world. I have spent my entire 27 years on this dung-heap of dinosaur bones looking for the place setting with my name card on it, often shaping my dialogue, contorting my body, dressing in costume, to fit another’s definition of smart, successful, talented, or worthy. For the first time in my life, I can say I’ve found a home. Alongside three profoundly brilliant badasses—who by mere chance crossed my path and stretched out their hand to pull me upwards—I walk headfirst into a project that feels like it could help shape society’s narrative around drugs.
In the early conceptualization, friends and family asked me what Inside the Jar was. “A pot-scented guerrilla journalism project” seemed to undercut what this endeavour meant to me. I mean, that’s what it is, but it’s also something bigger. Often I would say, if I could sit down and sketch out the parameters of my dream job, it would be Inside the Jar. Not only do I have the freedom and space to write about what sparks the joint in what our executive director and co-founder Travis Lane so aptly calls the “smoke lounge of my brain cavity”, but I am reporting on a community, culture, and industry that fascinates me more each day.
I would be lying if I said I knew early on that drugs would be the pathway into my writing career. When I went to journalism school, I thought I was going to be a war correspondent. But the idea of losing a leg, or worse my life, to a conflict with which I vehemently disagreed soon enough assuaged that desire. But thanks to a profound set of political, agricultural, and economic shifts in the country I grew up in, I became a war correspondent of another kind—the drug war. And if anyone argues that it should no longer be called a “war”, you can consider yourself lucky. You likely live in a region, or work for a company, or have found a community made up of a small group of privileged individuals deemed worthy by a broken system. Many are still grappling their way out of the trenches. Some won’t make it out.
Considering at a young age I would pour through the likes of a mescaline-riddled Aldous Huxley, pot advocate Allen Ginsberg, Benzedrined-out Jack Kerouac, and Hunter S. Thompson, who’s drug consumption knew no bounds, I really should have picked up on it sooner. I am a drug consumer, moreover a drug writer. I like pushing my brain and body out of its natural state. Because frankly this world, this life, is fucked. So, I get high to see the beauty. I get high to see humanity beyond their digitally-crafted profiles. I get high to feel something other than apathy or anger towards a society treading over bodies. And I get high to write about it.
The only caution I will give at this point is not to hold me to the journalistic moral pillar of objectivity. We can argue its larger role another time, but here I intend to allow my sympathies to guide both the selection of my story, but also voices that get to tell it. While there are always two or more versions of any account, and while I will portray both accurately and truthfully, I will not neuter what I see for the sake of equal representation. This forced neutrality one of the greatest failings of non-fiction storytelling today. I am not compelled to tell the stories of the powerful, or print the well-crafted apologies of their PR teams. I will not reprint press releases, or regurgitate marketing lines. And I will not be swayed by the sparkly dressing of sleazy salesmen. I’m sure my colleagues would say the same. I will, however, tell you about what I see for myself, and it is your right—your responsibility—to explore it further and decide for yourself what is true. My biases, perspective, and experiences will be present and evident in my storytelling.
So, when I welcome you to Inside the Jar, I welcome you to a journey alongside four drug users, dreamers, creatives, and dissidents. We don’t know exactly where we’re going, but we promise you we will be honest about what we see when we get there. I hope reading our words—and the words of those who join us along the way—will be as liberating for you as it will be for us. To know there is more available to us that what the mainstream media has offered so far should be even a small relief. In its own beguiling way, government regulation, the proliferation of a new industry, and the creation of a “new consumer” has stripped the weed underground of its history, language, and culture, and put in its place a picture of paltry lies. To read our words is the first step to fighting back.
The blessing of an inherently independent project like this is that it hasn't allowed any of us to bind ourselves to the confines of traditional journalism. It allows us to break free of them, and write our own rules. So, be patient with us as we stretch these new muscles and please understand this is an evolution for all of us.
Finally, I urge you to remember that any advances in drug policy or attitudes that this industry, or country, owe an incalculable debt to the forgotten heroes of the underground. We hope to pay tribute to them by unearthing their stories and recording them for future generations. We salute their sacrifice and courage, and we will do our best to ensure no more are forgotten in the wake of capitalism. For those who still sit in jail for harmless drug offences, for those who have lost businesses they’ve poured their lives into, and for those who have had their voice silenced, we will resurrect a place for you at the table so you too can stop searching for you name card.
A deep thanks to those who have faith in our project and mandate. Like a true romance, a writer is nothing without their reader. This is a relationship I deeply cherish and I hope you truly understand that we couldn't do this without you.
You’re so cool.