A month or so back, I was reading an article that included a quote from a guy who lives in Washington state, who said something to this effect: Until I can walk down the street smoking a joint on my way to Starbucks for coffee, I won’t feel I’ve been granted my full freedom to smoke marijuana.
What a stupid, ignorant, selfish fuck, I thought. As some of my friends know, I’m not a big supporter of legalizing marijuana, except for medical use. I watched my step mom, Fran, die of cancer, and she felt guilty, at age 73, smoking an illegal joint to rid her of horrendous nausea. The woman was so sick that the last thing she needed was guilt when she finally found a substance that helped her to feel better. Much research and debate proliferate about how medical marijuana should be administered. I say figure it out and bring it on.
But I find the guy’s statement above – about walking down the street smoking his jay on the way to Starbucks to be his true freedom – reprehensible. Such a statement makes me understand why people of other countries often view us as privileged, self-absorbed, and out of touch. There are people dying from poverty and living in war zones in many parts of the world – oh, even in the streets of Seattle you’ll find the homeless slumped against a park bench – but this guy has a hair across his ass because he can’t smoke a joint as he walks to Starbucks for his $5 Latte –Mocha-I’m-An-Asshole cup of java. Wah, wah, wah.
Many of my friends support legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use. People like to smoke it. I understand. Of course, as things go these days, any opposition to the ideas of the assumed 99% is always attributed to the power mongers of the country who control everything — you know, those 10 old boy network white boys who tell us what can and cannot do in our lives.
For example, here’s a quote from a man responding to an anti-legalization article: Why don’t we make caffeine illegal too? How many people involved in car accidents had caffeine in there (sic) system? I bets its (sic) more than THC. What a joke. The truth is, they (who?) want to drive it back to the black market because the military industrial complex and the banks actually make MORE money from it that way. (He does not go on to explain how the military-industrial complex and banks make more money from it “that way.” Perhaps if he’d paid more attention in English class and spent less time getting high, he’d write a decent sentence that achieved clarity.)
This guy is a different kind of ignoramus, the one with specious arguments – Why don’t we make caffeine illegal, too, I bet (you bet?) it’s more dangerous than THC. Sure, sounds good. Okay, I’ll just take your word for it.
A good, caring, and intelligent friend posted an update on Facebook one day that said (paraphrasing): Marijuana never hurt anyone, juxtaposed, of course, next to a list of legal things that hurt people all the time, and I commented, “How do you know marijuana never hurt anyone?”
I went on to tell her the story of how smoking marijuana as a teen set off my lifelong condition of panic disorder. I have blogged here occasionally about this life event, and how, 20 years later, in my thirties, I read a book about panic disorder that footnoted a study where the majority of people with the condition cited smoking marijuana or doing cocaine as THE TRIGGER EVENT that set off their panic disorder. The study said that people who suffer from panic disorder must steer clear of narcotics as much as possible because our bodies do not react in the way others do who enjoy such drugs. I even have a hard time when I must use narcotics for a medical procedure such as having my wisdom teeth pulled or a colonoscopy. See “Drugged” from October 2010. The post is more fun than this one, I promise.
I’m not saying the drug shouldn’t be legalized. I am saying: Just because you enjoy it, don’t assume it’s good for everyone. To read people’s opinions in the news or on FB, you’d think someone just discovered the wonder drug or the secret to life. You may like getting high — and more power to you –but marijuana is a drug, like alcohol, like cocaine, like heroine, and like oxycotin. Any drug can be dangerous and hurtful.
I find with the new opportunities to express ourselves quickly and to mass audiences via social networking, people reduce almost all political issues down to a few phrases that suit them, they cling to those phrases, and those phrases become their truth. “Marijuana never hurt anyone.” Yes, it has.
I had the first and worst panic attack of my life on the day I got high in 1977. Panic attacks began creeping, then bounding, into my life. Over the course of the following year, panic attacks seized my life, assumed ownership of a 17-year old girl. During that era, a friend’s sister took us to see The Steve Miller Band at the old Boston Garden; the arena was one big cloud of marijuana smoke. I sat and stood (as people do so often at concerts) in utter terror for three hours, inhaling everyone’s secondhand marijuana smoke, terrified that the smoke would have the same debilitating effect on me that smoking it directly had. Other people’s marijuana use ruined my concert experience; my own use ruined my adolescence. The trauma of the experience has followed me into adulthood.
I challenge anyone who says that marijuana never hurt anyone. It hurt me and thousands like me.
That guy from Seattle I mentioned thinks it’s his right as a free citizen to be able to walk down a public street smoking a bone without regard to how his secondhand smoke might affect those around him, psychologically and physically. This is why I call him an ignorant, selfish fuck.
I don’t have a problem with the legalization of marijuana, even recreationally, so long as I don’t have to smell or inhale someone else’s smoke.
I think some of the proponents of legalization have it backwards, such as the commentator above who thinks the power mongers want to keep it illegal for their own profit. Hey dumbass, it’s when the drug is legalized that the “military-industrial complex” will control the manufacture and distribution of your beloved drug. Corporate America will make all the profits. Is that what you want? How many of you out there who enjoy smoking marijuana actually have trouble finding it and purchasing it? Do you think legalizing it and having it grown, processed and distributed through corporate channels will actually be better for your freedom to toke? You say it will just be the small farmers (ex-dealers?) who would get manufacturing licenses? I doubt it.
If you ever get cancer and must fight nausea, or glaucoma or AIDS, and need medical marijuana, I hope you can legally and easily obtain it. I hope it’s covered by your insurance. I hope you have insurance. If I were a cancer patient, however, I doubt marijuana would do anything except make me panic, so please don’t talk of it as a cure-all panacea, which so many do, in the brief, half-assed slogans that cyber politics give rise to. Such cyber-slogan-ing makes both the right and left side of the political spectrum give me a headache. Nothing is that simple! Nothing is all good; nothing is all bad.
This week, I learned that I have a serious condition in my knees, and the orthopedic doctor said to take the painkiller Alleve for two weeks. Because of my reaction to smoking marijuana 35 years ago, every time I need to take a new drug – of any kind – I go through a phase of utter fear that I will relive that one traumatic day when pot changed my life. The phobias unleashed by that pot-smoking incident have been myriad and lasting, and I’ve had to knock them down one at a time during the course of decades, often more than once. But my knees are killing me. The left one is swollen and has torn cartilage. Both of them are losing cartilage and cause me pain. The doctor said my knees will not improve. He emphasized that he wanted me to take Alleve and not ibuprofen, because he felt it was more effective and longer lasting than Advil.
You should have seen me Wednesday morning, my legs shaking and feeling rubbery with fear, my head debating whether or not to follow the doctor’s instructions or whether to avoid the new painkiller because of the panic attack that loomed once I took that first swallow. I reminded myself that I was 50 years old and not 15, and after 20 minutes of traumatic memories shooting through my mind and body, I swallowed an Alleve.
And it helped.
No thanks to marijuana.
Thank you for reading.