By Any Shmeeans | Lettuce’s Funky Guitarist On Cannabis As Medicine - Herb an' Music
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By Any Shmeeans | Lettuce’s Funky Guitarist On Cannabis As Medicine

Photography: Jay Sansone

“The idea of skating around laws that were really meant to throw black and brown people in jail … if we’re going to start discussing cannabis today, we have to touch on those issues.”

SHMEEANS


By Any Shmeeans: Lettuce’s Funky Guitarist On Cannabis As Medicine
As Told To B.Getz/Upful LIFE

Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff is the guitarist/co-founder of Grammy-nominated future-funk cosmonauts Lettuce, and also a longtime proponent of cannabis as medicine, dating back to well before the legal-weed era. He’s the host of the online talk show “Dabs with Shmeeans”, lives in ganja metropolis Denver, CO, and has been a vocal advocate for the responsible, medicinal use of cannabis flower and concentrate.

Lettuce released the critically-acclaimed albums Elevate (2019) and Resonate (2020), and Smirnoff is an essential cog in their psychedelic brew. Shmeeans has been rockin’ international stages with his brothers-in-funk for over 25 years. The guitarist/songwriter also saw success touring the globe with Lady Gaga, and Robert Randolph & the Family Band. Smirnoff has shared the spotlight on stage with August 2020’s featured artist Redman, as well as bold-font names like the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir, Chaka Khan, John Scofield, the Clark Sisters, Maceo Parker, Dr. John, members of The Meters and Wu-Tang Clan, plus dozens more musical masters and cultural icons. Doting parent to a beautiful toddler, Shmeeans was kind enough to take a few moments from daddy daycare to make time for an insightful conversation with Herb An’ Music!

 Herb An’ Music:

Hey Shmeeans! Welcome to Herb An’ Music, The Healing of the Nations. It’s a joy to speak with you today. You’ve been a huge proponent of cannabis as medicine. I want to explore that a bit with you…

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

Well, let me just start out by saying that yes, I do use cannabis as medicine, but maybe I’ve been lucky enough to get away with that because of white privilege. You know what I mean? 

Herb An’ Music:

I certainly do, man.

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

The idea of skating around laws that were really meant to throw black and brown people in jail … if we’re going to start discussing cannabis today, we have to touch on those issues. Even though I was arrested once in Washington Square Park for weed, it was a slap on the hand. I knew it was always going to be a slap on the hand, and there’s some of my privilege right there, I didn’t get beaten up by five cops and I didn’t get my life thrown away, I didn’t lose my ability to vote, and these are pretty substantial issues. There’s still a lot of people locked up right now.

 Herb An’ Music:

Don’t I know it! Go on, brother.

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

That said, when it comes to medicinal use, I do suffer from a form of rheumatoid arthritis and I’ve had alopecia, where I lost all of my hair somewhere between the ages of 12 and 16. And, cannabis has helped me a lot through that journey, whether it be mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, so, there’s that. I moved to Denver, Colorado so I could feel more free in that sense.

Herb An’ Music:

I think that we need to continue, not just legalizing and/or normalizing, but we need to retroactively clear records and expunge cases, and get those people out of jail that are doing time for something that as you so stated was a slap on the hand.

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

Yeah, yeah, exactly, it’s hard to celebrate something like that when some other people are suffering, so …

 Herb An’ Music:

With regard to the medicine… It’s remarkable to see different people’s journeys with accepting and embracing ganja. And you’ve stepped into a role as advocate and ambassador for cannabis. Before the normalization and sort of a macro-medical thing that has happened in the past 10 ish years. Back in the 90’s, did you recognize that you were therapeutically using cannabis? Say in your teens or college eras, or even into your twenties, when did you have the realization that you weren’t necessarily “partying”, but this plant and ritual was actually therapeutic?

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

I think pretty early on. When you talk about alopecia, it sounds like, “Oh, you just lost your hair, it’s not really a big deal,” but at that age, being a teenager, being an adolescent, what I went through emotionally was pretty serious. And, if that helped me at all, get through some rough times, which I know I did, I’m really grateful. And there was a connection between the age I got a guitar, the age I started smoking weed, the age that I got my own CD player back then, my own headphones. I would kind of be depressed, and lock myself up in my attic room and smoke a little bit of weed. Listen to some music, try and sit there and figure some of it out, and play along. 

 Herb An’ Music:

So the cannabis was connected with your art, your music, your personal space, way back in the day, since the very beginning?.

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

It was definitely part of my whole experience, spending time alone by myself, and I think that’s maybe a lesser-known aspect, for a lot of the musicians, that we spent a lot of time by ourselves practicing our instrument. just hanging out in our rooms, we’re not going out when a lot of other people went out. For me, using cannabis was all part of my mind opening up, part of accepting myself during that time. I don’t know.. I would’ve gone through all that without it, too. I’m not sure, Either way, cannabis was part of it, you know?

 Herb An’ Music:

It was a ritual for you. Then you’re shedding, learning your instrument and learning about yourself, and really in a lot of ways, they’re the same thing. And if using cannabis helped you navigate that with regard to the alopecia or any of the strange and unfamiliar emotions and situations that we all encounter in adolescence, young adulthood, and early parts of our careers, then that’s a blessing and a medicine.

 Did you realize that cannabis was going to be your salvation with regard to arthritis?

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

No, because I don’t think it is my salvation. It’s just something that helped me get over some of the emotional and mental hurdles that I needed to get through for that.

 Herb An’ Music:

How about physical? Do you get physical relief from chiefing, or eating weed?

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

Yes, maybe minimally. But I’d just like to state that, when my arthritis is bad, it’s so severe, that it’s just constant agony and pain, and there is not really that much relief while that’s happening. Which is why the mental aspect of it, being able to relax and being able to let it go. That’s how it’s more important for me.

 Herb An’ Music:

You mentioned about relaxing and state of mind, and it’s no secret that you’ve really revolutionized your health,  outside of cannabis. Just take one look at you, seeing how spry you are on stage, knowing that you suffer from arthritis, the way that you’ve sort of stepped into this place of health and wellness. Inspiring to watch, Shmeeans. Just want to detour to how you have stepped into this really healthy, positive space. You lost weight, you look great, chasing your kid around. What did you do to achieve this newfound space of health?

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

I think the journey that I am on has ups and downs, and it’s really difficult to stay as focused as you want to be during these times, during COVID times. Maybe if you’re out of work, maybe if your schedule is different and for me, I’m definitely not preaching from any mountain, because my journey is still going. I’ve gone through my downs recently, and I’m trying to get back on the upside. As for diet, I started really just trying to cut out all sugars, I got a diagnosis that I was pre-diabetic and I changed my numbers enough so that I’m not in that category anymore. And pretty much I did that by cutting out mostly sugar, and then exercising a lot. I got an elliptical machine and I started going to the … before the elliptical machine, I started going to the gym and doing the elliptical machine and trying to do a half-hour, three, four times a week, and I’ve got to hop back on my horse right now.

 Herb An’ Music:

What, if any, kind of effect does this new healthy place have on your playing, on your music, on your creativity?

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

A hundred percent, I mean, when you feel good, when you feel great, you have more energy, you can handle more tasks through the day, I feel with all the childcare stuff that I have to do that definitely being in shape and being healthy is going to help you out, trying to keep up with a three-year-old, essentially. And then, yeah, of course performing, I feel like I can move around better on stage and obviously when your knees and your ankles and your feet are in complete pain, it’s hard to move around up there. Anything you can do to help you out is going to be beneficial to anything you do in life, not just stage. How about walking to the stage? How about walking through the airport?, Carrying your bags? It’s all part of it.

 Herb An’ Music:

You’ve always been big into concentrates. Cannabis concentrates, extracts, wax, and such. Immediately I think of “Dabs With Shmeeans”. You’re that guy.

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

Like a connoisseur. A Cannasseur? (laughs)

 Herb An’ Music:

A Cannasseur! (laughs) wow, we ought to trademark that one. How did you discover extracts and wax, dabs, rosin, and such? And do you have a preferred strain, anything you could shed light on as to your preferences? 

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

I think I’ve been just lucky enough – throughout my life – to be somewhat close to people who have grown incredible cannabis. And, I don’t know, I don’t just feel this way about dabs. I feel the same way about when I eat food, I just think I have a really strong nose. I can smell and taste differences in food and drinks that maybe go by the average person. I don’t know, it may be in my own head (laughs). I think, I mean, well it might not be true at all! Either way… wait, what was the initial question again?

 Herb An’ Music:

(Laughs) There’s the dabs at work! We’re talking your relationship to extracts, how you found them, which ones you love the best?

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

Oh yeah, right, right. As with the cannabis world, things have changed and what I like has changed, and over time my tastes have changed. Right now, I would say the stuff I like the best… when they take the best flower you can grow, you take the best parts of that flower and you convert it into an ice water hash, and then under the right heat and the right pressure, you squeeze that hash and you get hash rosin that has no extracts, aside from using water or ice. And these hash rosins, that can be two different categories for my own personal taste, fruity or gassy, and I like either. I like both. So that’s really what I love right now, it’s always been about flavor tastes for me. I don’t enjoy the idea that someone could be like, this is 95.789% THC. I’m like, yeah, but what does it taste like?

 Herb An’ Music:

Sure. When it comes to the toke, the first sense is nose, followed by taste. Both are essential.

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

You know, that’s it for me, always. What does it smell like?  What does it taste like? That’s always the highest point for me with food, extracts, whatever…

 Herb An’ Music:

I’ve always appreciated taking dabs with Shmeeans, when I’ve had the privilege of enjoying a session with you, on the bus, or a green room, Jam Cruise, wherever. It’s a special ritual. And hopefully, once we get through this crazy COVID era, we can do things like share joints and dabs again, the solo smoke session has become the norm, which is a depressing thought, because there’s a camaraderie and a…

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

A communal ritual.

 Herb An’ Music:

Yes, I. Precisely, my brother

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

And has been part of the cannabis community for a long time. A very, very long time.

 Herb An’ Music:

It’s hard to imagine, not sharing a joint around the circle with your people. That’s a time-honored, essential tradition. And I just hope we get back to that, and of course the music, safely. 

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

So do I man. So do I. 

 Herb An’ Music:

Though we’ve spoken many times about the tunes over the years, I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask a little bit about music. How are you filling the time that you would otherwise be making magic with your brothers in Lettuce? Are you doing stuff in your home studio? Are you shedding hard? 

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

My battle emotionally with this whole COVID thing is that I probably don’t get to spend as much time doing music as I would like. I’m very fortunate, I’m very blessed, I get to spend all this time with my daughter, I’m essentially a full-time caretaker and have been that for the past seven months.

 Herb An’ Music:

That’s an amazing gift in itself for sure.

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

Yeah, but some of my friends out there have done music 24-7 for the past seven months and I can’t afford to do that, unfortunately. So, we all have our battles of time and how we’re spending it during these months in this COVID era. And so for me, once again, music is a great relief when I get to do it, when I get to perform it, when I get to play it, when I get to write it. For me, it’s become an escape and that’s kind of nice.

 Herb An’ Music:

LETT it be known! The latest Lettuce record Resonate (released May 2020) was right on time! One of the prime soundtracks to this epic pause. So on behalf of music fans around the globe, allow me to thank you for dropping that incredible record when we needed it most. Pairs perfectly with a spliff of Dream Queen on a breezy summer night!

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

Man, sometimes it’s crazy how the timing works out.

 Herb An’ Music:

Giving thanks for the time, the energy, and your thoughtful insight, Shmeeans. And of course, the music!

 Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff:

Thanks for having me, man.

Photography: Dave Vann – Lettuce at Lockn 2018

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