The Cannabis Closet: Views From the Next Generation

Cannabis_female_flowers_close-up

A reader writes:

I'm a 21-year old college student in California on a campus where smoking weed is more acceptable than cigarettes and nearly as common as drinking beer. For myself I don't like weed at all, but I'm one of a handful. My father is a 50-something academic who teaches at a smart little college in New England, and over the vacations he had a dinner party for some colleagues. Afterward, they retired to his office and got stoned. It was a reminder of their days as students, but the only student present didn't want any.

Another writes:

I'm in my mid-twenties, and without reservation I’d say that, at minimum, half of the people I know like smoking weed. Also, many people my age and younger, including myself, say they'd often rather have a joint than go out drinking; we consider it to be an edifying way to have an altered consciousness, as opposed to amnesic destructor of our mental and physical health and a ruiner of countless Saturdays. That's encouraging, especially for an age range in which binge-drinking is thoroughly out of control.

During the week we all work as respected employees, colleagues, or young entrepreneurs. Everyone else either abstains without passing judgment or hides it. But I’ve never met anyone my age who’d scold you about it.

My younger brothers find themselves in an even more accepting social environment. The youngest, who just graduated high school in a politically middle-of-the-road town, once estimated that not a single person in his grade hadn’t tried smoking weed at least once. Obviously the virtues of smoking pot at this age are debatable. But I’m quite sure that attitudes are moving in the right direction, albeit in a maddeningly slow fashion.

Another:

Six days before leaving for my first year at college, a few of my friends and I decided to spend a few final, treasured moments together. To enliven what might have ended up a dull evening, I brought some bud with me. We live in New York, and spend most of our time on the Upper East Side (where we also went to high school). While we were standing around waiting for a friend, four undercover cops (each wearing bulletproof vests, I might add), parked in a taxi, mistakenly took our loitering for drug dealing activity.

As we were walking to Central Park, these undercovers chased us down, frisked us, and sat us down in cuffs in broad daylight (this created a most unusual sight for the wealthy passerby of the Upper East Side). After sitting in a jail cell for a few hours, my friends and I were released to our frowning parents (the charges were eventually dropped due to the illegality of the cops' search).

This blatant misuse of tax dollars is not only cause for worry, but incredibly frustrating. Most of my friends and I — all college freshmen at top-tier institutions — enjoy toking on a J more than guzzling down obscene amounts of alcohol, yet for some reason are stigmatized for our preference. My parents have at times offered to buy me a beer or two, but unleashed their full fury when they found out my marijuana habit. It is this deeply-embedded loathing for pot in the Baby Boomer Generation that is the main obstacle toward Marijuana Policy Reform.

(Photo: cannabis female flowers from Wikipedia.)

The Cannabis Closet, Ctd.

730px-Bubba_Kush

A reader writes:

I've smoked probably a dozen times in my life. I don't do it anymore because for whatever reason, it leaves me in the stupids for about 36 hours, and I usually can't spare that.

But as I've gotten older, I've come to realize just how ridiculously widespread pot use is. The closet of people who either currently or have in the past used marijuana on a semi-regular basis includes probably 75% of the people I know, including highly successful doctors, lawyers, public health researchers, IT professionals, small business owners, architects, local and state politicians, farmers, mechanics, chefs, teachers, researchers, community leaders, my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course the musicians and artists in the crowd too. Yes, I have seen abuse of marijuana sidetrack lives and ambitions, and have true negative impacts on people, but those instances as a percentage of the use I've observed are tiny, and far, far lower than the negative impacts of cigarettes or alcohol.

I recognize that we can't just legalize it and be done. Legalize it with caps on THC levels, blood THC levels for drivers, levels for intoxication at the workplace, tax it at 200%, ban advertisements on TV and billboards, advertisements that target kids, and set a legal smoking age. But all of that is eminently do-able.

Another writes:

If you have to put me in a box, I'm in the "did all kinds of drugs in college, but quit when I had kids" box. I still think most drugs should be legalized.

What do you tell your kids? It seems to me that no matter what you tell them, your actions say that you only follow laws that you agree with, and you are free to break laws that you disagree with. My kids speak contemptuously of parents who smoke pot and attempt to hide it from their kids.

Since I don't do illegal drugs, I try not to mix with people who do. Too much of a hassle. I don't want to risk arrest, and I have no patience for dealing with active drug addicts. So, while I have an active social life, it doesn't include drugs, and it includes very little alcohol for that matter. Yeah, I know that some people duck out in the alley to toke up at parties I go to, but they are not my close friends and I'm not a fanatic about this.

It seems to me that you get the worst of both worlds in the cannabis closet. You get to get high occasionally. On the other hand, your kids think you're a hypocrite, and you're stuck with friends who are more or less drug oriented.

Another:

I smoked pot like a fiend in college; when I smoked I did nothing else because I was unable to do anything else. I quit after a pretty co-ed stopped by my dorm room to ask me to go to a party with her and I was too baked to get off the couch because I was engrossed in Caddyshack 2.

Smoking pot — more than alcohol or shrooms or hash, the three other drugs of choice in my youth — kept me from achieving anything of consequence. When I stopped smoking pot and, not coincidentally, started drinking coffee, I became more productive. I also became happier about myself. I don't miss pot.

The Cannabis Closet, Ctd.

662px-Macro_cannabis_bud

A reader writes:

Count me as an in-the-closet user as well. Late-30s father of three bright, active kids. I have an MBA and work as an energy trader for an international company in Manhattan. Last Democrat I voted for was Clinton, in 1992. Six figure salary, vacations to the Caribbean, etc, etc… I also try to keep myself in good physical shape, lifting weights and running about 15 miles a week. Aside from sports I also enjoy music and am teaching myself the piano. I also consider myself an avid reader and am currently tackling some of Plato's dialogues. I'm a bit embarrassed to write the above because it makes me seem like I'm bragging about myself, but that is not my intention at all. It is only to show that someone can smoke weed almost daily while completely destroying almost all of the myths of the harm of pot (Unmotivated Loser Syndrome, Lazy Overweight Mucher Syndrome, Gateway Theory).

Another writes:

I just wanted to add to the chorus of responsible, productive and engaged voices that enjoy marijuana. My wife and I mused just last night that we know so many professionals who are not only successful in their jobs, but also active in their communities and, most importantly, active in their families/kids' lives. I personally know of a highly-ranked orthopedist, a prosthedontist, a math/science teaching consultant, 2 teachers, several attorneys, and a city district attorney, among others. In fact, my DA friend says that half the attorneys in his office have medical prescriptions…funny times in California for sure!

Another:

Several years back I served on a jury that heard a marijuana case — a classic "profile" stop on the New Jersey Turnpike.  When we got into the locked jury room to deliberate it was obvious that only two of us did not regularly use marijuana ourselves.  Even the bailiff was openly joking with us about how they had rigorously counted and weighed the "evidence" — yes, it was locked up with us while we deliberated.

We obviously had to find the guy guilty; the evidence was overwhelming and the other two people in the car with him had confessed.  But we were finding him guilty of a "crime" that almost everyone on the jury regularly committed. The whole thing was utterly absurd.

Another:

I am a 36 year old with an MBA.  I do freelance work.  Most of my friends are professionals with graduate degrees, and just about all of them smoke marijuana on occasion.  Many, including my wife, quit in/after college.  I didn't even start smoking the stuff until I was 21.  I guess I believed a lot of the hype. 

I am halfway out — in the sense that my family knows, my friends know, and most of my work/peers know.  They don't really care: no one really cares.  I have never had a conversation about marijuana with anyone who asserted it was doing me harm.  Hell, most of my family, at least Gen X and the Boomers, smoke too.  (And many of my family-members are GOP true believers!)

Another

I'm 50 year old man, full time parent to two beautiful girls, 5 and 11, and a loving husband for 16 years. We're solidly middle class in a diverse suburb on the northern edge of Cincinnati, Oh. I know many people my age who smoke weed. I've been smoking since I was 14 years old. I've never been a heroin addict or smoked meth. I drink very little. People think I'm smart. I'm in good physical and mental health and the ladies at Girl Scouts and the other parents at Catholic School have no idea about my cannabis usage.

I'm not really in the closet, as I'd freely admit to it, but I do submit to a weed smokers version of "don't ask, don't tell." I hide it from my girls, and since my wife is allergic to all kinds of smoke, I respect her wishes and smoke in the barn or the yard. Of course I don't see anything wrong with it — well, except I have to pay for the pleasure when it's easier to grow and cultivate then a tomato.

Another:

I worked as a Capitol Hill staffer for 4 years, covering legislative affairs ranging from domestic to international affairs. I am now gainfully employed at a humanitarian agency in DC. I play sports regularly, volunteer, organize fundraisers, and participate in community events.  I have friends who smoke who work as doctors and lawyers, as engineers in the army, and as special education teachers. By virtue of my having been employed by rational reasonable people, and by virtue of my socio-economic status (whereby i can afford a lawyer if something happens, and have a strong family network to support me), I am comfortable being open about my habit.

The truth is I began to be public about this with my parents who were very "anti-drug". And to be fair, the conversations with them were difficult at first, as they tried to understand why I chose to smoke, and why I was so blase about it. But over time, they have really softened their position – they now support the use of medicinal, and even make jokes about my habit.

The longer people stay in the closet, the longer the stereotype of marijuana smokers as wasted hippies will perpetuate. It seems to me that its incumbent upon all of us who can afford to be open about it, to be open about it – we need to keep opening that door wider and wider.

(Photo: Ryan Bushby/Wikipedia.)

The Cannabis Closet, Ctd.

MJ Purps

A reader writes:

These reader emails really hit a chord with me. I too am a member of the closet. My husband and I often muse, while smoking pot, that the only thing we are doing wrong is breaking the law. If that is the only wrong you are committing it seems clear that it’s not your behavior that needs to be re-evaluated, but the law itself. I have been slowly coming out of the pot closet over the past few years and it has been a nice surprise to see how many people give that knowing little smile and say, “me too”.

Another writes:

I’m 41 years old and a contract manager with a government agency. Treasurer for the PTA.  Father of two active boys. The funny thing is, I am only in the closet professionally and where the parenting thing makes it an issue.  Most of my friends, who are also professionals, are in the same position as me.  We work hard, handle our business, and see no logical reason why this particular drug should be not just illegal, but as heavily stigmatized as it currently is.

Another:

I’m a middle-aged woman, college educated and married over 20 years to a public servant (who doesn’t indulge) and we have two teenage kids. I volunteer for a host of community organizations, attend lots of local youth athletic events, and by all accounts I’m an engaged community member.

By day I run a local non-profit, but on the occasional Friday night after a long and tiresome work week, and only when the kids aren’t home, I go in the bathroom, open the window a crack, and mom lights up a little pink, sparkly pipe and smokes the ganj, falling into the most blissful, relaxed state ever.

Another:

I’m 68.4 years old, and I’m in the MaryJane closet too.  If I got busted, I’d lose a lot. Michigan has medical marijuana now, and I have some minor medical things that might qualify: migraines, for instance.  But I don’t just need it, I LIKE it, and it seems harmless enough.  It even revs up my libido.

Another:

All of your recent postings on marijuana have inspired me to write a research paper for my college English class on why marijuana should be legalized. BTW – I’m 33, I’ve never used drugs, and I don’t drink either. (Aside from only had two sips of beer in high school.) I have been high though many times when I was a kid; a very weird side affect of asthma medication.

Another:

I am a 25 year old married man, college graduate, eventual grad school student. Got a good/stable job working with my father, active in my Church and all around nice guy. I also enjoy marijuana in moderation. It does not make me lazy. I do not have to have it. I only do it on one or two nights a week. But I enjoy it. It makes the nights I do it all the more enjoyable. It adds zest to life. I am a lover of film and music and it makes my viewing/listening all the more life affirming.

At first I kept it on the hush. But I am becoming more outspoken about my use of it. I have the luxury of not being drug tested so I figure I might as well do my part in chipping away at the stereotypes cast upon marijuana users.

Another:

I fear it’s a losing battle. Millions of responsible adults (parents and professionals) smoke, but we can’t admit it even to one another. We play the game of telling our kids that “drugs are bad,” meanwhile we’ve got a stash out in the garage that we move around to a different hiding place every week or so.

And Obama plays the same game. “Weed is bad. I did it before, but I was young and stupid and without direction. Now I’m smart and enlightened and have realized the error of my ways.” Far as we know, he’s down in the White House basement at night, getting high with Reggie Love and playing video games. White House cocktail parties; no problem. Just don’t say you like to get high. On this issue, unfortunately, Obama shows no spine.

Another:

The problem Obama, or any politician, has with this issue is trying to decipher the mixed messages they get from us. The crowd behind Obama at his town hall meeting laughed and smiled at his nod/wink opening comments about legalization. But that same crowd applauded enthusiastically when he said that he was not going to even consider it.

Another:

I agree that pot heads need to “come out of the closet” if real marijuana law reform is ever going to happen. As it is, I live in Massachusetts where we just passed a law decriminalizing up to one ounce of pot. Now, not only can I smoke pot without fear of incarceration — it has also allowed me to “come out” publicly as a smoker. When I go out for drink with co-workers and they comment on my lack of drinks, I simply say that I prefer marijuana because it’s less debilitating (at least for me). This still takes people aback a bit, but they’ll get used to it. It’s been incredibly liberating.

(Photo: from CNBC’s marijuana gallery here.)

The Cannabis Closet

Weeed1

A reader writes:

I’m in the marijuana closet. 42-year-old father of three, youth football coach (actually coordinator for the league), homeowner, wife is treasurer for the Brownies, master’s degree, worked for the same company for 15 years. And on Saturday nights, I like to get high down in my basement, after everyone’s in bed, and surf the Web or play video games. It is indeed the only law I break. But I can never come out of the closet because I’d lose my job. A lot of people are in that position, I believe – not only functioning members of society but high functioning members, who would be deemed dysfunctional by their employers, maybe by society itself, simply because they enjoy the occasional bong hit.

Another writes:

Only my wife, close friends, other users, and now you know of my regular use. In my work and especially at the level I am at, I would be able to keep my job if I were to “come out” as a homosexual. I can not say the same regarding marijuana!

Another:

Several months ago my ex-wife (divorced 7 years ago) decided she wanted to modify our child-custody arrangement. She had no basis whatseover to do this. For seven years, I have exercised joint custody responsibly. (More responsibly than she has, I might add.) I have met all my obligations. I am a solid citizen. I adore my children and they love me back. Her lawyers had a plan, however.

They concocted a phony tale (that I threatened her) in order to get me into Court. I came to court without a lawyer because their story was so outrageous that I knew the charges would be thrown out. When I got to Court, they served me with “new” papers which alleged drug abuse and the need for a drug-court intervention. I was summarily sent for a drug test. I tested negative for the real drugs (meth, coke, opiates, etc) but the test revealed traces of marijuana.

I stepped back into court only minutes later to greet a hostile judge who stripped me of all parental rights. As I write this, I have not seen my children in almost three months. Of course I will win back my children eventually, but this has been a bloodbath for the entire family. I was outed by my ex-wife in her efforts to gain a legal advantage and it has worked.

I also know that she did this to hurt me, but something strange has occurred. I suddenly feel the benefits of being out of the closet. It feels good. It feels right. It feels like me. Funny thing about stigma. Stigma is only real if you think it is. Of course, I haven’t smoked pot in several months because I have been faced with a choice between my children and my meds. Since New York lacks a medical marijuana statute, I go without the meds. I sleep a couple of hours at a time, usually on the couch. It is after 4:15 AM as I write this. Insomnia anyone?