THE BEAUTIFUL THING about giving up booze is that 7am feels better. The drag is that 7pm feels worse.
“Every once in awhile I’d just like a little something to take the edge off the day,” I observe to my husband, possibly weekly. After he once made the mistake of suggesting yoga, he never went there again.
“Yoga? Geez, you don’t get it at all!” I bellowed, wounded. “I don’t want something meditative and effortful, I want something relaxing! Numbing! Something numbing…and fun! Something numbing and fun I can do…at a party! At a party or…on a couch!”
Something like, um…smoking pot.
The first time the thought occurred to me I couldn’t believe it was me thinking it. I’ve never really gotten high. I’ve never been the kind. Back in high school we all knew who they were—they stood behind the boiler room peering out with glassy eyes through strings of hair, laughing stupidly, and putting away startling numbers of Hostess Fruit Pies. They seemed so pathetic, so bound to their icky, sweet-smelling, Grateful Dead–loving subculture, so stuck—literally, figuratively—behind the boiler room.
Flash forward 30 years and now they’re all Microsoft executives and kindergarten teachers and commercial real estate developers and retired commercial real estate developers. They’re aging now, like all baby boomers, and some are even still smoking it. A friend of a friend, a suburban soccer mom who golfs for heaven’s sake, fired up a bowl right out on the 17th hole. “Do you smoke?” she asked my buddy—a deeply hilarious question, when put to the galaxy’s single-most unlikely pothead—in a tone so matter-of-fact it gave my friend a little identity crisis. “Do I seem like the type?” she later asked me nervously.
“Absolutely not!” I assured her—but I was lying, technically. Because, as far as I can tell, there is no longer a type. Somewhere in the years since Dead concerts (do they still have them?) and Hostess Fruit Pies (do they still make them?), marijuana use has overflowed the counterculture and drifted, on a plume of cloying smoke, right into the mainstream. I believe this not just because I know so many upstanding citizens who recreationally indulge—nurturing mommies, stolid tax attorneys—but because the zeitgeist in which they’re smoking it has so radically turned.
I mean, the stuff’s practically legal. After next month’s election in California, it may well be, in that state, actually legal. If Washingtonians aren’t getting the same opportunity to legalize marijuana in our upcoming election (Initiative 1068 failed to get sufficient signatures, largely because the ACLU wanted it to include regulatory measures), it’s not for lack of desire: A January poll found that 56 percent of Washingtonians supported removing civil and criminal penalties for possessing or smoking weed.
Indeed, as drug overlords continue to terrorize Mexico (drug-related murders there since 2006: 28,000 and counting), it’s getting harder and harder to argue with the pragmatists’ view that marijuana should be taken off the black market. Regulated and taxed, the stuff would not only move out of the control of the pirates but could become a heady source of tax revenue, as California is hoping. Decriminalized, pot would become a controlled substance for adult use rather than a bottomless pit of law enforcement resources—resources better spent on crimes that actually hurt people.
That argument, of course, hinges on the notion that smoking pot is at least as benign as drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes or ingesting KFC Double Downs. For updated word on that, let’s turn to… Well, let’s see now…how about The Wall Street Journal? Quoting doctors and citing recent studies, the reporter of a January article called “Is Marijuana a Medicine?” concluded that not only is “evidence mounting” for its medicinal value, but marijuana is also not as addictive as nicotine or alcohol. And though it may cause lung irritation, smoking it has not even been tied to lung cancer.
Well, it has to have caused accidental deaths, in its diminishment of concentration, judgment, and coordination—right? Undoubtedly. But held against the amply documented, widely varied lethal hazards of alcohol, tobacco, and hydrogenated fats? Doctors don’t even bother to hold up those mortality comparisons anymore.
And now that pot has become medicine, defensible with a doctor’s prescription in 14 states (including ours) and counting? Whatever else that means—and for many it means long-awaited relief from crying pain—the imprint on the zeitgeist is clear. Reefer has left the dark side, folks. It’s gone noble, heroic. It’s downright Hippocratic.
And that, right there, is where the fault line lies. Because even though upstanding, law-abiding, family-oriented citizens like myself are beginning to regard pot with a sort of bland affection—the way we might look at wine coolers, say, or square dancing—it’s still an illegal substance and therefore still shrouded in criminality. I mean, to get some I’d need—oh, ick—well I suppose I’d need a dealer.
“So how’s a working mom busy with carpool and church council going to find a dealer?” my husband asked, once he got it that yoga wasn’t exactly what I was going for. Oh geez, I thought, who would I even ask? The guy who painted my house? He has long hair, seems sort of, shall we say, unencumbered by ambition… Surely he would know someone…
I shook myself, realizing my outdated assumption, and cast a fresh eye around my world. From my pew in church one Sunday I could see lots and lots of good people in their late-40s through 60s—the baby boomers, whom a recent survey pegged as the fastest growing demographic of marijuana users in the country—and found myself suddenly overcome with a visual of Al and Betty rolling a fatty. Bert and Dolores packing a bowl.
You know, this might not be so hard after all.