Marijuana, grass, weed, ganja, pot*. The dried leaves and female flowers of the hemp plant. Smoke it, make brownies, cook up a medicinal omelet. Get caught with it and go to jail. Test positive for it, and you lose your job. Start with grass, and pretty soon you’re taking heroine and cocaine. Mellow stoners walking around in a daze, scarfing down junk food because the weed gave them the munchies? Sneaking a joint out back?
That’s how it used to be, but now it’s legal in Oregon. We voted for it, and it passed. Last summer, stores here started selling medicinal marijuana to those with prescriptions. On Oct. 1, they started selling pot for recreational use. Anyone over 21 can walk into a store and buy a quarter ounce of leaves to use as they wish. The headline on the front of Friday’s News-Times proclaims: At Long Last, Retail Pot. The photo shows a line of middle-aged people walking into Pipe Dreams Dispensary in Lincoln City to buy pot in broad daylight. We have four marijuana stores in Newport, eleven in Lincoln County. No more dealers sneaking baggies to customers in the dark.
Saturday, driving home from Portland, I saw one of those tall skinny balloon guys wiggling in the breeze next to a building all lit up with Christmas lights. It had a lighted green cross. At first I thought it was some kind of church. But then I read the letters on the side of the rubber guy: marijuana.
It is so strange. All our lives it was illegal to use it or have it. A felony. Now it’s being advertised like cars and computers.
While I was at a meeting in Portland, all of us working on our computers, one of the guys, long-haired, about my age, shared his expertise on the subject. He and his wife went to one of the marijuana shops on the first day, sniffed the various types of leaves and each purchased their limit. They planned to bake it into cookies. While you get a rush from smoking, you get a longer, more mellow experience when you eat it in a brownie or a blondie, he said. Whatever was bothering you before does not bother you once the marijuana kicks in, he added with a smile.
Strange. Talking pot recipes.
I think back to parties and picnics where I got a whiff of that sweet smell and felt the thrill of violating the law. I remember an outdoor Willie Nelson concert to which my brother and I took our mom in 1980. She sniffed the air. “Is that marijuana?” Mike and I looked at each and laughed. “Yeah, I think so,” I said, breathing it in, hoping for a tiny high.
Then there was the whole Stan situation. Back when I was in college in the ‘70s, I was living at home and dating this guy named Stan because I really liked his friend Jack. Wherever Stan was, Jack was. Stan was very weird, possibly stoned all the time. He wore paisley shirts and striped pants, had this odd high laugh and green stuff growing on his teeth, but I had almost convinced myself I was in love with him. One night while Mom and I were watching TV, she turned to me during a commercial and asked if any of my friends smoked pot. I said yes, sometimes, but I never did. Well! The TV went off, my father was called in, and I was ordered to stay away from Stan and all his friends.
Stan came over to plead his love for me and his status as an upstanding citizen. I remember him sitting in the big chair by the window, talking in his spaced-out high-low voice while I sat on the edge of the sofa wringing my hands. Soon he and Dad were both shouting and then Stan was out the door, driving away forever. I hollered something at my father, probably my usual, “You just don’t understand!” and ran to my room sobbing.
All because of marijuana. And now it’s legal. I have no idea what happened to Stan or Jack, can’t understand now why I wasted a minute on either one of those guys. But I was 19 going on 12.
Yesterday I passed three marijuana stores on my way home from church. So strange.
Recreational marijuana is now legal in Oregon, Washington and Colorado. There are still restrictions. See marijuana.oregon.gov. (!) You can only buy a quarter ounce of dried leaves and flowers per person per day, but you can possess up to eight ounces. You can’t smoke it in public. If caught, you get a citation, like a traffic ticket. An article in Sunday’s Oregonian reported that you still can’t have or use pot on any of the state’s college campuses because the colleges get federal funding and it’s still illegal nationally. But if you get caught, you probably won’t go to jail.
A guy at our Friday jam session said he’d never tried pot, but maybe now he will. I’m thinking the same thing. It sounds nice. And if you can combine it with brownies, hallelujah!
If my mother were alive, she would be amazed. At this point, my father just shakes his head.
* The word “pot” came into use in America in the late 1930s. It is a shortening of the Spanish potiguaya or potaguaya that came from potación de guaya, a wine or brandy in which marijuana buds have been steeped. It literally means “the drink of grief.” –-blog.dictionary.com/pot-marijuana