(How many states have legalized marijuana? What does AARP now say about dope?)
I sat cross-legged on a blue fringed pillow that was laying on the floor. My blind date sat next to me on his own pillow as he passed the bong to me. He’d just taken a hit from the long tube filled with THC smoke.
“Oh,” I laughed nervously, “I think I’ll pass”.
My date, a rather hairy guy, gave the bong to the person sitting on the other side of our little circle. “Here man,” he said glancing back at me, “She’s doing her own thing.”
I thought I was going on a dinner date when I landed at this pot party in 1973.
I’d never tried marijuana before—nor did I want to. Dope had no place in my Christian code of ethics. Everyone said it was a gateway drug to needles and heroin, everyone being not just my Christian friends, but really important people too, like President Nixon and his drug czar, Elvis Presley.
Now almost a half a century later, marijuana’s reputation has improved substantially (even if the politics haven’t).
The fairy godmother turned the orange pumpkin green and all kinds of magic has sprung forth. There are only a handful of clinical studies on cannabis since it’s still considered an illegal, controlled substance at the federal level. But there’s a growing body of evidence that says marijuana has medicinal value. The leaf that has become a jolly green giant here in the northwest, not only makes you feel, well, jolly, but may also be helpful in treating certain medical conditions and symptoms. Not surprisingly, anxiety is one of those conditions.
Not too many years after my pot party experience I found myself married and living in a little trailer in the neck of a lonely desert canyon. I’d just had two babies born thirteen months apart. I remember rocking one baby while the other one played with blocks at my feet. Staring at the wet diapers hanging on a wooden rack in my living room, I asked myself, “What’s happened to my life?”
Stress and its partner-in-crime, anxiety, were gnawing at my stomach and knocking at my head. Feeling vaguely ill much of the time, I turned to The Well Body Book (a book I still have forty years later) to find out what was wrong with me. There, I read what two hippy doctors said about my symptoms. They wrote about stress and anxiety and provided sound guidelines for when to see a physician. One chapter in particular, caught my eye. It was entitled, “Drugs are Helpers.”
In light of the opioid crisis ravaging parts of America today I’d modify that chapter title to: “Drugs Can Be Helpers–or Not.”
Still, the hippy doctors had a point. When a good friend of mine had colon cancer and was struggling with nausea due to chemotherapy, I smoked marijuana with her. It was my first experience with the drug. Marijuana made me feel a little woozy and a lot sleepy, the effect being somewhere between having a glass of wine and taking a Benadryl. Shakespeare said it best regarding my introduction to marijuana: much ado about nothing.
Ironically, the age group that was probably most vociferous opposing the legalization of marijuana back in the day, the elderly, are now leading the charge to sanctify dope holy.
In the latest issue of the AARP Bulletin (American Association of Retired Persons) an extensive investigative report found older citizens increasingly using marijuana to treat such conditions as chronic pain, migraines, and Parkinson’s disease.
Currently 34 of our 50 states have made marijuana legal for medical, or medical and recreational use. I marvel at how time can chip away at the most entrenched biases. The stigma attached to marijuana is finally fading–but it has been a long time coming.