Up in Smoke

Up in Smoke
Posted by CN Staff on October 17, 2003 at 22:59:12 PT
By Steve Almond
Source: Boston Phoenix 
Just how I wound up at the Hemp Festival last month is not something I want to get into, at least not without my attorney present. But I do want to make a few observations about the general state of the marijuana-smoking community, of which I am a proud (and, if I may add, medically necessitated) member.But before I get into all that, I’d like to share a few warm memories of my afternoon.
Well, let’s see ... I did take notes. I must have misplaced them, though. Anyway, here’s (more or less) what I remember.• There was a drum circle that included a topless woman with strips of tape over her nipples. I don’t know what these strips of tape said, though I am willing to speculate that they didn’t say Left or Right.• There was an energetic band from Waltham whose songs sounded a bit like Cheap Trick, if you can envision the members of Cheap Trick as, perhaps, brain damaged.• The Libertarian presidential candidate spoke. He was a large man in a suit and tie and a fabulous 1977-vintage hairstyle. His basic message was: government is your enemy.• The average age of those in attendance was 19.The main thing I noticed was that — for all the scratchy hemp sandals and bracelets on sale — there was no actual paraphernalia on sale. Not one single pipe or bong.To be quite honest, I attended the festival, in part, because I wanted to buy myself a cool little bong, because I am tired of self-administering my medically necessary marijuana using a hacked-up apple. (Or, when I’m out of apples, a jury-rigged Bic pen.)But selling paraphernalia has become more and more dangerous of late. As many of you may be aware, Attorney General John Ashcroft has launched a heroic campaign to criminalize the sale of instruments used to smoke pot.I am going to leave aside my primary objection to Ashcroft — which is that he lost his last election to a dead guy and somehow got promoted — because I want to emphasize the pointlessness of his endeavor.We stoners may be a bit slow on the uptake, Ashcroft. But do you really think that cutting off our supply of blown-glass one-hitters is going to force us to quit smoking up? (And if you do, may I please have some of whatever you’re smoking?)But I must say that the fact that I couldn’t buy at pipe at the Hemp Festival did underscore one disturbing truth about the larger stoner community: we are not exactly an imposing political force.Indeed, if I had to choose the population least likely to form a coherent lobby, pot smokers would be among my top three, right alongside contented Red Sox fans and mental patients.The problem, as I see it, is that pot smokers are just way too mellow. We are not, by nature, Type A human beings. Or, if we are usually Type A, pot generally reduces us to Type M people. The last thing we want is to go through a whole political hassle over our pot use. Most of the kids at the Hemp Fest, for example, seemed more worked up over how much chicken they got in their burritos than the recent spate of raids on head shops. This remains the essential paradox of pot users.In a certain way, though, a guy like Ashcroft — which is to say, an evangelical nutbag — may be the best ally we could hope for. He seems determined to truly criminalize pot, not just at the level of growers and smugglers or big-time dealers, but at the level of everyday pass-the-nachos users. Which is to say: you and me.At it stands, most of us casual stoners have been able to light up without much inconvenience. And, as we all know, inconvenience is the primary motivating force of American political action.Thus, Ashcroft’s jihad against Reefer Nation may in fact awaken the silent majority of dope smokers, who might, in turn, force candidates to address the issue, rather than allowing it to sort of waft around in a vague Green Party haze.I should mention here that pot smokers are far more pervasive than most politicians might imagine. In a recent informal survey, conducted by means of throwing a party at my house, I was able to determine that approximately 80 percent of my social peer group gets stoned. (This same survey proved once and for all that Ben & Jerry’s ice cream tastes best eaten directly from the carton.)Another startling fact: on a recent trip to an unnamed writers’ conference, I was approached no fewer than 23 times in a single week, after word got out that I had a small stash of medically necessary bud.This may not seem impressive, given that the general view of writers places us on the same moral plane as pornographers. But I feel compelled to note that all three of my Republican friends — who have actual jobs — smoke pot. (When I ask them what they think of Ashcroft, they generally mutter something about tax cuts and hide behind their bags of Oreos.) My doctor smokes pot. The guy who advises me on my taxes smokes pot. My squash partners smoke pot. And though I haven’t worked up the nerve to ask her directly, I’m pretty sure my optometrist smokes pot.It is my belief, in other words, that there is a vast potential coalition of us upwardly mobile pot smokers, and that, with a little organization and follow-through, we could force the legalization issue to the forefront of political discourse.Yes, I understand that organization and follow-through are not words generally associated with potheads. Then again, compassion is not a word generally associated with conservatism. Or wait. Scratch that. Here’s what I mean: drastic times require drastic measures, individual liberties are at stake, extremism in the face of tyranny is no vice, and, uh, I guess, all men are created equal, as well as ... well, you get the point.Steve Almond who smokes marijuana only because his doctor orders him to can be reached via: Why marijuana users are unlikely to lead the next, uh, political revolution.Source: Boston Phoenix (MA) Author: Steve AlmondPublished: October 17 - 23, 2003Copyright: 2003 The Phoenix Media Communications GroupContact: letters Website: Related Articles:Baby Talk Madness, Redux Closed Doors Salesmen
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