My first impression of Max Droege was one of nervousness. He was babbling to everyone at his table. The friendly guy who talks too much. Little did I realize that it was the first time in over a year that Droege had gone a few days without smoking marijuana; something that the Canadian uses to deal with his anxiety issues. I don’t know what would give me more anxiety. Not smoking weed after a year of smoking it everyday, or smoking it knowing that if I was to get caught I could receive seven-years in a Cypriot prison. “That was the first day of the tournament and it could be well over a year that I had gone a few days without smoking marijuana. It’s unusual for me to go to bed, or wake up, and not have a smoke; and I am only just getting used to how that feels.” Said Droege before continuing, “In Canada when I play online poker I normally smoke marijuana when I play. In a live tournament it really depends on how I feel. When I am multi-tabling online I smoke. I feel like smoking marijuana helps me reduce my anxiety and helps me find my groove.”
When I have been in the midst of marijuana smokers everyone just seems so chilled out. It’s as though their senses have been dulled and they aren’t as ‘with it’ as they were before they took a hit. So I can see how smoking can reduce anxiety, but doesn’t it also reduce your ability to play a great poker game?
“I think it really depends on who you are as a person, I think some people are affected quite differently, for me I am a loudmouth, I am jumping around and have a lot of energy. That’s because I have a lot of anxiety and always have since I was a kid. Physical exercise is one way of getting rid of it but there is something about marijuana that has always clicked for me. I don’t find it overpowering and it makes me feel comfortable…it’s a sacred herb.”
The former world champion Greg Merson once created a thread on 2+2 where he talked about weed being a gateway drug. This is a view that I also share; not in a addictive sense per se, but more of a societal conditioning sense. When you start smoking marijuana you start meeting people who take other drugs and the pressure to take those drugs can be very difficult to fight against. I asked Droege what his view was on this issue?
“I totally disagree with the statement that marijuana is a gateway drug. The whole thing about marijuana being a gateway drug is ridiculous. It’s curiosity that drives drug use. People don’t naturally assume that they need to move up to the next level. They do it because they want to try it. The argument is old, untrue and obsolete.
“With the party drugs it’s a lot more social and if it isn’t a social thing then you have a serious addiction. Marijuana use for me is more of an introverted thing. It helps me with my anxiety, helps calms me down and gives me tunnel vision. There are swings with it like there are swings without it. There are people I look at playing poker who just blow up, and sometimes I think if he had some weed he may not have blown up like that.”
Droege goes on to talk about the view of marijuana use in different countries around the world.
“There are a lot of mixed studies with regards to marijuana use. Countries that are anti marijuana will consistently release negative studies of the effects of marijuana, and pro marijuana countries will doing the opposite. When you look at a country like England, who have just released some studies, you get a more balanced view. So it’s true that smoking at a young age changes the way your brain develops when you are young for example, but say you had anxiety and went to see the doctor and told him about your problem. He would prescribe you with medication and there will be a pharmaceutical company that will provide you with that medication. One of the reasons marijuana is not legal in more countries is because the pharmaceutical companies are worried that marijuana has the ability to cure so many problems, that they are currently being relied upon to cure. There is a plant that grows out of the ground and helps people deal with the problems they have with their life, what more do you need?
“Be who you are and do what you do. If you enjoy smoking pot then smoke it. Cigarette smokers are always bitching about the fact they smoke and how they should give up. You don’t hear marijuana smokers talking about the fact they need to get off marijuana, and that’s because they are enjoying it.”
I mentioned to Droege that he does make a good point. The only time I have heard people say they need to quit is purely through financial problems. Weed is expensive.
“It is, so imagine if people could grow their own marijuana. Then there wouldn’t be a financial problem. I watched a great TED talk where an urban gardener turned vacant parking lots into garden and grew his own food. He said, ‘growing food was like printing money.’
“Who ever said money didn’t grow on trees never grew any weed.”