Marijuana goes Mainstream in Amaerica
The casual use of marijuana is becoming increasingly accepted, or at least tolerated, in the United States.
According to The San Francisco Chronicle, 100 million Americans have used weed, with 15 million smoking in the last month and two million more people trying it each year.
According to The New York Times, citing Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, Americans spend about $25 billion a year on weed.
The widespread use of marijuana seems to have accumulated its own inexorable force, making most laws on the books regulating possession of the drug seem increasingly outdated. It also seems absurd to many that potheads are often put in jail for the possession of relatively small amounts.
In short, there seems to be no stopping the gradual legalization, or at least decriminalization, of weed—despite “Just say no” and a decades-long federal drug war. As columnist George F. Will says in a recent column about the folly of Prohibition, “In the fight between law and appetite, bet on appetite.”
One small sign of marijuana’s increasingly comfortable fit in pop culture is the appearance of such mass-market paperbacks as Weed: 420 things you didn’t know (or remember) about Cannabis, by an author laboring under the ridiculous pseudonym of I.M. Stoned. The book is published by Adams Media.
Stoned evinces a predictably positive attitude toward weed. “This book reinforces the fact that you have done no wrong by smoking a bong,” he (or she) says. Stoned also delivers a gazillion little weed-related tips, tricks, recipes, word origins and factoids in a light, breezy tone.
Stoned discusses the origin of the term “420.”
“The generally accepted story is that 420 began as a way for pot smokers at California’s San Rafael High School in 1971 to discretely communicate to each other that it was pot-smoking time,” according to Stoned.
Stoned discusses DIY bongs and bowls, including pipes made from apples, as well as treats for those suffering with the munchies, including raw chocolate chip cookie dough. There are tips on “dealing with your dealer,” “sniffing out a narc” and avoiding people who are “buzz killers.” You get the idea.
Stoned also regurgitates the usual arguments for liberalizing marijuana laws.
“Smoke local,” Stoned urges—meaning that growing weed in the United States keeps our drug money at home and undercuts the profits and power of murderous Mexican drug cartels.
“Uncle Sam would get his grubby fingers in the act, too,” Stoned says, arguing that taxing pot would give the feds more money to pay down our huge national debt, build high-speed rail, fund rehab for users of dangerous drugs like crack, etc.
Stoned also argues that letting stoners out of jail would drastically reduce our prison populations.
According to Stoned, legalizing weed would allow us to grow hemp, an eco-friendly source of paper and fabric made from the roots, stalks and stems of the plant. Hemp is effectively outlawed in America along with marijuana itself.
Of course, not all is groovy on the weed front, and some of the information Stoned supplies from various studies about the possible health effects of smoking weed doesn’t make you want to immediately run to the ATM, buy a quarter ounce and host a bong-a-thon. In a section called “High Hazards,” Stoned notes that pot can screw up your lungs, since it contains more cancer-causing chemicals than tobacco. It can also boost your heart attack risk by four times, weaken your immune system and adversely affect your reaction time, judgment and perception.
My prediction is that lots of people will continue to smoke weed, regardless of any health warnings, because they love the way it makes them feel. For some people, weed enhances their feelings of creativity and their sense that all kinds of groovy things are not only possible, but have been lying at their feet unnoticed until they took a bong hit.
Perhaps more important is the fact that, as Stoned says, weed “makes life more bearable.” In other words, if you’re sick of your job, your boss and maybe your worthless boyfriend, if you don’t quite have the strength to get up one more day and take another bite of the shit sandwich that is your life—don’t worry, just get baked. “Pack a bowl and smoke it,” Stoned urges. “Weed makes it all a little easier.”’ Is this psychologically healthy? No. But in examining this oft-repeated ritual of temporary psychic renewal through weed, one gets to the heart of the appeal of this apparently irresistible drug.
Jesse Chambers is a Birmingham Weekly contributing editor. Send your comments to email@example.com.