The first time I smoked pot and watched a Star Wars movie was when Episode I came out. Myself and two of my friends sparked a corncob pipe as we drove in my C-3PO-gold 1976 Mercedes down 8th Avenue in Denver. We were on our way to a 4 a.m. Thursday night showing of the film at the Pavilions downtown. I wore a Yoda T-shirt and — mercifully, especially after a re-screening I just undertook this past week — we got blazed as hell, making the first half of the film a bit of a blur. By the time of the climactic lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and Darth Maul, we were spun out into a land of sleeplessness and marijuana withdrawal. I went to high school that day and, then, when the bells rung, went back for another round. It was fabulous.
There is, of course, precedent for the 1970s screenings of A New Hope in hazy theaters full of hippies and stoned geeks. 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968, was billed as “The Ultimate Trip,” and scores of acidheads timed their experiences to peak during Bowman’s race through kaleidoscopic space. Star Wars fans picked up that sci-fi stoner mantle and naturally so: In a world full of Jawas, Wookiees, and Ewoks, who would dare remain sober?
Here’s a quote from Albert Goldman’s 1979 book, Grass Roots: Marijuana in America Today:
Stand in line at the movies, some black dude comes jouncing by chanting: Loose joints? Loose joints?
If the film is Star Wars, the most colorful and engaging character is a space-age dope smuggler. He gets a big laugh when he explains why he had to dump his last load of “spice.” If the picture is a rock event, like The Last Waltz, you could get bombed just by inhaling the atmosphere of the theater.
I found the bit in a piece by film critic J. Hoberman, who was writing about drugs at the movies in the ‘70s and ‘80s. And while burning joints in the theater was more socially acceptable at films across the board back then, drugs and Star Wars have a special bond. It has something to do with nods to Han Solo being a drug smuggler — as referenced above — but probably more to do with green men, stars blurring in hyperspace, an epic soundtrack, and lasers, man. Lasers.
Pot cultivators have named strains after Princess Leia — even though Carrie Fisher preferred many substances to pot — as well as Ewoks, Vader, and others. There’s a subculture that hinges on suggesting Yoda smokes pot. And then there’s that spice — a drug referenced in the movie several times — that may or may not have something to do with the name of an increasingly popular synthetic marijuana. It all makes sense. The Star Wars films are such a cultural touchstone that almost any human action or trait is ripe for eisegesis. Are we sexual perverts because of Leia’s bikini? Morbidly obese Dionysians like Jabba? Backstabbing turncoats like Lando?
The relationship between drugs and Star Wars doesn’t even have to be understood under a lofty framework, though. The movies, it turns out, are a hell of a trip to watch under the influence: Most movies are. But, Star Wars is especially satisfying to consumers of everything from DMT to plain ol’ pot. Stunning visuals, heady concepts, foreign tongues, and bizarre worlds all make for a fantastic voyage. One minute, you’re in an American pot shop and the next, a spice mine of Kessel. And if you’ve got, say, a Friday afternoon screening with your dad — like I do — don’t fret: There’s always the next showing.