A collection of essays, outdoor adventure stories, ruminations, wordplay, parental angst, and blatant omphaloskepsis, generated in all seasons and for many reasons at 64.8 degrees north latitude

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Weeding out the Alaskans



The election results rolled in.  An announcement was made.  I shared a few grins with my community-mates around the dinner table.  And my fifteen-year-old friend, seated across from me, rolled her eyes, and sighed.  “The adults just ruined everything,” she deadpanned.
Of course we did.  We legalized pot.  Within a few months, any dorky middle-aged mom or dad in Alaska would be able to get stoned.  So. Not. Cool. 
I couldn’t help enjoying my young friend’s impressive command of irony, while at the same time hoping that perhaps her words held a delightful kernel of truth.  I have two eight-year-olds, both of whom were sitting right there at the table.  Obviously, I don’t want my third graders to start toking any time soon, but I kind of assume that – like fine wine, cheap beer, or Starbucks lattes --  pot is something they’ll try eventually.  If and when that time comes, I’d rather that the experimentation be done with safety, confidence, legality, and well-reasoned curiosity than via sneaking, lying, peer pressure, or a desperate desire to be part of the “in” crowd.  In short, I am definitely in favor of legalization, but I’m also definitely cool with pot not being cool.
Both before and after the election, I heard plenty of opining from both sides of this contentious issue.  This past Monday, the day that the law finally took effect, the hubbub resurged.  I tuned in with half an ear.  But, quite frankly, much of what I’ve heard – both pro and con – seems overwrought, overstated, or outright flippant.  On the anti side, there’s hand-wringing about whether we’re tacitly telling children that smoking marijuana is, like, a super-fun hobby.  Meanwhile, much of the pro-pot talk comes in the form of tongue-in-cheek humor from adults who are “sure looking forward to trying pot for the very first time”. 
Then there’s me.  I’m a liberal, commune-dwelling, hippie-looking type who spent more than two years of her youth serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Jamaica. Predictably, I am staunchly in favor of legalizing marijuana, and certainly voted in accordance with that opinion.  Personally, though, I don’t really like the stuff.
I know it sounds like I’m letting down my earthy team, but, for me, ganja is just not that much fun.  I’m not saying I’ll never ever in my life try it again, but the handful of forays I’ve made, spread across decades, have been disappointing. Moreover, I don’t much enjoy hanging out with stoned people.  In observing the effects of pot on others, I’ve noted that it makes them slow, forgetful, a bit silly, a bit stupid, and prone to thinking that they are much, much more profound than they actually are.  Maybe it should come as no big surprise that when stoned myself, I too become slow, forgetful, stupid, and probably remarkably un-profound.
I know that for many, pot makes them relax, in a deeply happy kind of way.  I can understand the appeal.  I’m not really a Type A person, but even so, the ravages of the modern era do sometimes leave me twitchy around the edges.  Feeling deeply relaxed would be lovely.  The problem is, when I’m feeling slow, forgetful, and stupid, I can’t relax. I’m such a knee-jerk intellectual that if I lose what I perceive to be my sharp scientific sensibilities, I feel like I’m losing the core of my being.  This is not a good feeling, even if it comes via a pan of delicious brownies.
I’ll accede to the fact that the pro-pot debaters have many good points on their side.  Marijuana is safer and less addictive than cigarettes, has no lethal dose, has some positive medicinal uses, and doesn’t induce violent behavior the way alcohol can.  I knew all these things before I ever tried it. I also knew pot would temporarily mess with my head -- probably in a good way but maybe in a mildly bad way -- and that it wasn’t precisely good for my lungs.  I weighed the possible pros and cons.  I made an informed choice.  What I knew, in a nutshell, is what I want my kids to know: the truth.
Obviously, they don’t need to make choices about marijuana, alcohol, caffeine, or sex while they are still in the third grade.  That’s what parents are for.  But parents are also for teaching.  Not just teaching over-simplified yes-or-no answers, but teaching kids about the world the way it really is.  Backstory.  Context.  Nuance.  Moderation.  Judgment.  Choices.
Of course, “yes” and “no” are easier.  I get that.  It’s a lot easier to say, “No, we never eat dessert first” than to admit that, once in a blue moon, chocolate chip cookies for breakfast might be fun.  Trying to explain to eight-year-olds why they see grownups smoking -- despite the fact that smoking can kill you -- is kinda complicated.   Explaining to little kids why anyone would EVER want to have sex is challenging, and parsing the finer points of consent, communication, enjoyment, safety, and empowerment is even more complex -- but if you don’t?  Seriously, if you don’t?   Likewise, fully explaining addiction, drunkenness, and why Prohibition was such a flop is a long conversation, but it’s a necessary one.
My teenaged dinner-table friend has a preternaturally well-developed sense of the ironic.  She’s also an athlete, a go-getter, and a highly academic individual.  I suspect that she’s never actually tried pot – but if she has, I’m not in the least bit worried about her.  Nor am I worried about the example that she may or may not be setting for my own children, who listened attentively all the while.  All three of these kids, whether they wanted it or not, have now heard a heck of a lot of conversation about marijuana from middle-aged, knowledgeable, and hopefully REALLY uncool adults. 

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