You may have read about Washington State (where I live) passing a law giving people the right to purchase recreational marijuana.
That’s right. No exclamation point, just hooray.
When I was a much younger man, over 40 years ago, I wore a NORML T-shirt. NORML stands for National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. I wore it proudly and received many compliments from other “heads” and the equally pot enamored (or addled).
The point was obvious to me, even then, that marijuana should be legal, for many reasons. It was easy to reason that alcohol did far more damage, ruined countless more lives, and killed thousands from drunken driving alone. Yet it was more socially acceptable than a drug that pretty much turned everyone who used it into the human equivalent of really forgetful, ravenously hungry pussycats.
I fell under the sway of its siren song early, and could rightly have been called a drug abuser. There was nothing casual about the amount of pot I used or its effect on me. It got so bad that I had dealers try to talk me out of buying pot, saying things like, “Not everyone should smoke pot. It’s just not the right drug for some people.” I was definitely one of those.
I slowed down significantly in my mid-20s and totally stopped by the time I was 30. In the end it wasn’t my short-term memory loss (which plagues me to this day), or even that it was morally ambiguous to purchase it. It was the fact it was hard to get. You had to know a person, who knew a person, who ultimately had to deal with some unsavory person, who probably had to deal with some seriously scary people. In the end, it was the inability to easily purchase it, and the embarrassment of the childish search for that “person” that led me to stop.
Nothing I did by using it bothered me in the least, but people died getting it into my hands. You could claim lack of complicity, but without your money, there would be no market. No market, no sales, no money, no turf fights, no cartels. Also, no unfair jail time for people who should have had the right to legally dispense a drug that was probably far less harmful than alcohol, all things being said.
It was my dream as a young man to be able to legally purchase it, just like in Amsterdam. Many years of patient lobbying have started the dominoes falling, and sooner or later I believe most states will fall in line. Mostly for the tax money, but still… It doesn’t surprise me that Washington State would take the lead. They are ahead of the game on lots of issues – minimum wage, gay marriage and now marijuana.
So, I set out to buy some, yesterday and today. Not so much to smoke, but just to have closed the circle on that dream. It’s legal, it’s for sale. And it’s unavailable. Stores that claim to be open at a certain time (I’m talking about you, New Vansterdam) aren’t open at all, closed due to a run on their very small supply. There is only one approved grower in our area, and the small amount these stores get goes fast.
First stop I made, I met with a padlocked door, and a sign that offered a “Grand Re-Opening Friday July 18th”, which just happened to be that day, the day I was standing at their door. On that day, they wrote on Facebook they had gotten their grand re-opening supply and sold it in an hour. They said they would open the next day, when they got their next supply, but they couldn’t guarantee that it would be their regular time, and to keep in touch via Twitter. Sounds a lot like something a drug dealer would say.
I went to the pot store the next day at 11 a.m. There was already a line a couple of blocks long. They had some for sale, had gotten it sometime during the night, but they were still busy breaking it down and wouldn’t be opening for another hour. So I left.
At this point nothing has changed for me. Just as when I stopped smoking pot in the ’80s, it was once again the inability to easily purchase it, and the embarrassment of the childish search for a legal salesman (with a true understanding of supply and demand) that thwarted the siren’s song.
Much like Ulysses (who I’m often mistaken for), I jammed some wax in my ears so the I couldn’t hear the siren’s singing, and took my money to Fred Meyer, where I bought some awesome cherries and some food for my cat, Abby. I’ll get my fix petting her. She’s an actual pussycat and doesn’t need any “catnip” to get in that frame of mind.
John Knapp is a thwarted herbologist who lives and works in Vansterdam, Washington. Hooray.
Editor’s note: I met John through The Oregonian’s Community Writers program, which allowed readers to nominate themselves to write regularly for the Opinion section. He’s witty, curious, intelligent and fully engaged on this blog and Facebook. Which I appreciate.
Tomorrow: “Ten weeks and counting” by Al Rodriguez