In my previous blog article, I wrote about marijuana DUI. Because in Washington State smoking pot, like alcohol, is no longer subject to prohibition and one can now legally purchase marijuana, the profits are supposed to go away from drug dealers and into the state’s pocket instead.There are those who believe that allowing politicians to handle the money rather than criminals is a good tradeoff. And with the advent of the new DUI marijuana laws, the state may make even more money off the drug’s consumption. While the legalization of pot in Washington State is indeed a revolutionary development in the legal history and culture of the United States, I wonder whether smoking it will still possess the same coolness factor. Although one will continue to encounter those who boast about their perfectly legal alcohol related exploits, it is the illegality of marijuana which bestowed the user of the drug with a certain nonconformist and rebel stature. On the opposite end of the social spectrum, I wonder whether the puritans in our society will continue to perceive marijuana as a great evil as more states confer their blessings upon it. Neither the coolness nor evil aspect of marijuana has ever made much sense to me.
I remember visiting my ancestral village in the Indian Himalayas as a young boy where I observed the abundance of wild marijuana plants which most of the villagers appeared to ignore for its hallucinogenic value. My father explained that some villagers smoked it on rare occasions during Hindu rituals or festivals, but most of them never used it to get high for recreational purposes. Its nutritious seeds were often roasted and consumed, but they lacked any hallucinogenic effect. I myself ate some roasted marijuana seeds and did not get high. Anything which was freely available, edible and healthy especially in an area known for its poverty was a good thing.
What the villagers may not have known was that not too far from them was an American colony of hippies where smoking pot was a regular and cherished activity. The hippies knew that the local police would ignore them, but if they were busted for smoking marijuana in the land of the free, the United States, they would face criminal sanctions along with reputation of being a pot smoking bum. The negative association with marijuana was so great in the American psyche that former President Bill Clinton had to stick with that silly line that he tried marijuana, but didn’t inhale. Would Americans really have a different view of his presidency (or that of George W. Bush and Barack Obama) if they knew that he inhaled frequently!
As an American kid who was visiting his ancestral village in the Himalayas, I was absorbing my first introduction to the legendary marijuana plant. Upon returning home to Arizona and telling my amazed junior high school classmates about my encounter with the marijuana plants, I was for the first and possibly last time in my life on the verge of achieving the status of coolness. But, I ruined my great opportunity by botching the responses to the inquiries thrown at me. Did you smoke any weed? Did you bring some with you? Why didn’t you bring us some? Did you really just leave the weed there? You mean you didn’t do anything! I managed to salvage an iota of respect because I proudly admitted to eating roasted marijuana seeds. But I was greeted with great disappointment when I admitted that I didn’t get high.
Much later on when I began practicing criminal and DUI law in Arizona, I remember being briefed on a particular judge’s attitude towards various offenses. Apparently the cowboy judge reluctantly sentenced those who were found guilty of prostitution or DUI, but he took an especially harsh stance towards anyone who was caught smoking or in possession of “Mari-ja-wa-na” (with the j pronounced). The judge, like many other allegedly responsible and decent citizens, looked upon marijuana as a symbol of evil and degeneration of American society. I couldn’t disagree more since I had some close friends who were great individuals and productive members of society even if they were potheads. As a former musician, some of my fellow performers would occasionally offer me pot backstage during concerts or at practice sessions, but I would politely refuse while having no objection to their free choice to use and enjoy it. They were good people who were good musicians and performed well on their other non-musician jobs.
Once again moving on into the future to the period of my nightmarish marriage which probably was akin to a bad high, I remember travelling with my infant daughter and former spouse for an overnight vacation which we spent with another group of parents in a beach house in Sequim, WA. As nightfall came, one member of our group who always possessed an incessant need to be cool, suggested in a way which reminded me of those junior high classmates of mine, that we go smoke pot in the backyard. As she rounded her lips and announced her plans with an air of confidence, she glanced at me with full awareness that I was not one of the cool ones. I refused to join her group only because I was attempting to put my infant daughter to sleep. However, even if these folks wanted to go potty earlier in the day, the only getting high activity that I would want my daughter exposed to is the endorphins high that I sometimes achieve while working out at the gym. Interestingly, the parent who was initiating the pot smoking festivities was employed by an organization which addressed drug addiction and child welfare. Another parent in our group who was anxious about getting to the backyard to begin smoking pot was an anesthesiologist. As long as he was not getting ready for surgery, no problem.
Oddly enough, the following year our cool pot smoking parent testified against my parenting in my divorce and child custody trial where she stated, once again with rounded lips and an air of confidence, that I was an unfit parent because I prevented my daughter from developing appropriate social skills and secluding her from company. To prove her point she described that night in Sequim when I refused to bring my daughter to the backyard and socialize with her group. Of course, her testimony demonstrated that she was neither cool nor courageous because she was unwilling to disclose what social activity my daughter was missing out on.
Once again we travel a little more into the future after my divorce when smoking marijuana is no longer illegal in Washington State. While there are several reasons for why I voted in favor of Washington State’s Initiative 502 to legalize its use, the general reason for my support is that criminalizing marijuana is senseless. By the same token, glorifying it is just as senseless. I am very curious to observe whether the legalization of marijuana alters the perception that it is cool or evil? Although the pot smoking parent who testified against me may no longer be apprehensive about divulging her fondness for the drug now that it is legal, she will probably not score as many coolness points for disclosing the fact. At the same time, I hope that the more conservative elements of our society will begin to shed their irrational phobia of marijuana which distinguishes it from tobacco, alcohol, or any other legal and potentially addictive pleasure or habit. As more states move toward the legalization of marijuana, less Americans are likely to be obsessed with it.