One of the more nervous heroes of hot jazz, Gene Krupa, went to California's San Quentin Prison this week to serve a sentence of one to six years. Drummer Krupa had been sentenced on two counts. The first was a felony: employing a minor, one John Pateakos, to transport narcotics. The second and lesser count was a misdemeanor: possession of the drug marijuana, a violation which, if it could be universally detected, would land a great many jazz musicians behind prison bars. It is no secret that some of the finest flights of American syncopation, like some of the finest products of the symbolist poets, owe much of their expressiveness to the use of a drug. But the nature and effects of marijuana, specifically, are a good deal more of a secret than they need be.
To its users, the drug has many namesmany of them evasive. Marijuana may be called muggles, mooter, Mary Warner, Mary Jane, Indian hay, loco weed, love weed, bambalacha, mohasky, mu, moocah, grass, tea or blue sage. Cigarets made from it are killers, goof-butts, joy-smokes, giggle-smokes or reefers. The word marijuana is of Mexican origin and means "the weed that intoxicates." It is made from the Indian hemp plant, a spreading green bush resembling sumac. Known to the pharmacopoeia as Cannabis sativa, it is a source of important paint ingredients and rope fiber as well as narcotics. It can be grown easily almost anywhere, hence tends to be inexpensive, as drugs go. Its recent prices (10¢ to 50¢ a cigaret) have placed it beneath the dignity of big-time racketeers. But its furtive preparation and sale afford a modest living to thousands.
In most U. S. cities the marijuana salesman peddles his cigarets to known clients in public places. He is known to his clients as a "pusher." His clients are known as "vipers." Etiquette between pushers and vipers is necessarily delicate. When he wants to buy, the viper sidles up to the pusher and inquires "Are ya stickin'?" or "Are ya layin' down the hustle?" If the answer is affirmative, the viper says, "Gimme an ace" (meaning one reefer), "a deuce" (meaning two), or "a deck" (meaning a large number). The viper may then quietly "blast the weed" (smoke). Two or three long puffs usually suffice after a while to produce a light jag. The smoker is then said to be "high" or "floating." When he has smoked a reefer down to a half-inch butt, he carefully conserves it in an empty match box. In this condition it is known, in Mexican, as a chicharra, or in English, as a "roach."
Around the Piccolo. Some pushers run establishments known as "tea pads." The tea pad may be anything from a rented room to a suite in a fashionable hotel. Usually it is dimly lighted with colored lamps and reeks of incense burned to cover the telltale, bonfire-like odor of burning marijuana. Most tea pads are supplied with a juke box (known in marijuanese as a "piccolo"). Clients who have assembled to "have a pad" may smoke their own reefers. But commonly they blast the goof-butt collectively, passing a single reefer around from mouth to mouth like a pipe of peace. Next morning, enjoying a heavy sensation very much like an alcoholic hangover, they are said to be "down."