I can’t remember exactly when I first smoked pot. Perhaps that’s understandable because it was sometime during the Sixties – and you know what they say about remembering the Sixties.
At the time, weed was already popular in rebellious high school and college circles and in certain neighborhoods. I wouldn’t estimate what percentage of the populations within these venues used the drug, but it was so common everyone knew someone who had at least tried it.
Pot was an intrinsic part of the revolutionary air that defined the Sixties; that is, an important component of the antiwar movement, the racial revolt, the hippie phenomenon and the women’s movement. For a brief period, all you had to do to be “hip” was take a couple of tokes off a joint as it floated by. (In later years, undercover cops infiltrated the scene and, by the time this situation became clear, half my friends had already been arrested.)
During the 1970s, pot slipped into the background and other, more dangerous drugs captured the spotlight; i.e., coke during the disco fling and, still later, methamphetamine. But grass was still around. Indeed, its popularity spread, even though people were still being busted for using it.
Finally – and it’s about time – during the past 20 years it has become increasingly clear that something has gone terribly awry. Our prisons are hopelessly overcrowded with people who’ve done nothing more than smoked a joint. The police were first to change their attitude. They simply said to hell with it and quit enforcing most of the pot laws. Thereafter, the laws themselves started to change; for example, in Seattle, the possession of an ounce of grass was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor and the cops even refused to enforce that. Then too, University of Washington medical facilities confirmed that marijuana had legitimate healing properties, particularly in treating glaucoma and relieving the pain of cancer patients. Thereafter, regional medical pot facilities popped up here and there; first, as you might suspect, in the U-district, where patients could buy weed if they had a medical prescription. Exactly who could issue these prescriptions was never clear in my mind and still isn’t.
The other day I stopped by one of the alternative medical centers in our region. I asked the girl in the window if I needed a doctor’s prescription to get in. She rattled on for two or three minutes as though her hard drive had been flushed, until I interrupted and said I didn’t understand. She smiled slyly and abruptly closed the window. I stood there, alone and unsupervised, for perhaps 30 seconds, and eventually I simply walked onto the grounds. The place was a spacious, pretty, garden-like park, which may have been a pot farm, though I didn’t confirm this. There were a number of picnic tables and benches and a clear-plastic canopy beneath which a number of people were selling bongs, joints and loose cannabis of various weights and graded intensities. Joints were passed around and one fellow took a healthy huff on a large, sample bong – and promptly slipped a bit lower in his chair.
Anyway, the last statistics I saw indicated that roughly half the U. S. population between 18 and 60 years of age has tried pot at least once. Grass had become so commonplace there’s a measure on this year’s state ballot that would make using it completely legal for anyone at least 21 years of age. If this passes – and current polls suggest it’s favored by a small margin – our new law would stand in sharp contrast to federal law. The consequences of this disjunction aren’t known, but there would certainly be court challenges. However, I sincerely doubt that Obama would initiate any action against it because, back in the day, he fooled around with pot for a number of years. And he inhaled.
Our president is an ex-pot smoker. That’s reason enough to vote for him.