The strange world of legal marijuana

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 (!) 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.

Ah, Oregon.

* 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.” –

The Attack of the Compost Cart or People are Biodegradable, Too

I’m weird. Who else do you know who yearns for a big green compost cart from the garbage company? Here in the wilds of South Beach, just outside Newport City limits, we watched our city friends and neighbors getting carts, but not here. I called.Compost cart

“When can we have ours?”

“You live in the county. Maybe next year.”

“But what am I supposed to do with my grass and tree trimmings in the meantime?”

“You can bag them up for the landfill or drive them to the dump.”

I chose to let them pile up in the yard, with vague plans to buy a burn barrel and fill the neighborhood with smoke and ashes like some of my neighbors do.

But finally, finally, the compost carts came to our neighborhood. Except my street, all four houses. I called.

The lady on the phone laughed. “Most people are calling to complain that they don’t want them. We will deliver your bin on Friday.”


It was like waiting for Santa at Christmas. I looked out the window every five minutes until finally, a little after noon, there it was, a 96-gallon monstrosity that dwarfed my 65-gallon recycle cart and my 24-gallon garbage/landfill cart. I couldn’t wait to start piling stuff inside. Soon my yard would be so clean and neat. As soon as the rain stopped gushing down, I’d get to work.

Saturday morning, I put on my sweats and garden gloves, said hello to my pristine compost cart and started piling in branches, mostly out-of-control wild blackberry vines I had trimmed away from the house. Then I moved to the big pile that has been composting naturally on the side of the house for years and started shoveling in branches, dried-out hydrangea blooms, weeds and grass.

The trouble arose when I decided to move my three-quarters-full, chest-high cart without shutting the lid. Somehow, it became unbalanced and tipped forward. At the same time, the lid clopped me in the face and I fell in, banging my shoulder hard and my knee almost as hard. Down we went, me and the cart full of thorny branches. Bang! Crap! Ow! I was in the cart.

Slowly, I pulled myself out, hoping I wasn’t broken. I could feel my pulse in my cheek, an ache in my knee, a twisted-out-of-whack feeling in my back, and serious pain in my shoulder. Not good for a musician who would be playing the piano at church in a few hours. Gingerly I moved my limbs and determined that I was not broken, only bruised. I thanked God.

I pulled up my cart, dug my gloves out from under the greenery, and gently shut the lid. Okay, cart, you win this one, but I’ll get you on Thursday, when I stuff in more grass, add my grapefruit rinds, tea bags, and chicken bones and haul you to the curb with all the other carts. Then the garbage truck will lift you up, dump you out, and smack you back to the ground while I relax on my loveseat with the dog.

Today I’m fine except for a sore but functional shoulder. Sometimes I feel like a very small woman trying to maintain a very large home. A condo somewhere with other old widows and a staff of professional maintenance people is starting to look more appealing every day. Also, it occurs to me that someday I will be compost, too. But not yet. I have to mow the lawn. And yes, I do get the irony of trying to control what grows on a one-third acre parcel in the middle of the forest.