How long have you been smoking marijuana? How about 50 years of smoking weed! Tell an average non-smoker that a person has been smoking marijuana for 50 years and they are likely to assume marijuana ruined this person’s life. The lingering stigma attached to marijuana, while changing quickly, is still such that years of use is more often equated with addiction to hard drugs, rather than something akin to coffee or even alcohol. Nobody would raise an eyebrow if someone in their 70’s said they’ve been drinking alcohol for 50 years; instead they are likely to be asked why they waited until they were 20 to have their first drink.
So what does smoking marijuana for 50 years do to one’s life?
New York Times recently asked that question in their profile of Catherine Hiller, author of the book “Just Say Yes: A Marijuana Memoir“. Catherine Hiller, now 68, first started smoking marijuana in the mid-1960’s and only stopped during pregnancy/nursing, plus a 3 year break after meeting her current husband. She states that her goal in writing the book was to show that 50 years of smoking marijuana did not ruin her life; that “her life turned out nicely“.
“I wanted to show people that smoking marijuana did not make me hit rock bottom,” Ms. Hiller said. “My story is the story of so many people who use each day. And so what? What’s the issue? What will it lead to?”
In Catherine Hiller’s case, it’s led to being a noted author, “wife, daughter of an activist and proud mother of three young men”. We’d say that sounds like a fulfilled life; all the while smoking marijuana for 50 years because she “just likes the feeling“.
NEED FOR MORE DISCUSSION ON ACCEPTABILITY OF SMOKING RECREATIONAL MARIJUANA
Most of the focus on legalizing marijuana has, rightfully, been on the medical benefits the cannabis plant can provide for suffering patients. But with public support for medical marijuana hitting upwards of 80% in some states while support for recreational marijuana lingers in the low 50%, is it time to start focusing more on erasing the stigma of smoking marijuana just because it feels good.
Many “secret smokers” are secret not only because they fear arrest, but because they don’t want their neighbors or even friends to know that they smoke weed. As the article notes, it’s not uncommon for people to be friends only to discover later on that they both smoke marijuana.
These are same people who have careers, families, homes, and everything else, like everyone else. As is the case with Ms. Hiller, marijuana did not ruin their lives and actually allowed them to enjoy it that much more. There is no logical reason that recreational marijuana should have any more stigma attached to it than having a drink, and actually should be less based on the abundance of scientific data and social evidence available about the havoc alcohol has played on people’s lives and bodies.
The comparison between recreational marijuana and recreational alcohol is a valid one which will always fall on the marijuana side. And to advance the recreational marijuana movement, this comparison needs to be more widely noted. It needs to move away from rather than address the opposition’s effort to draw the comparison of smoking weed vs not smoking weed.
We need to acknowledge the fact that the ideal “recreational” course for anyone is not to do any of these things. Don’t drink alcohol. Don’t smoke weed. Don’t drink coffee. Don’t drink soft drinks. Don’t eat fast food. Don’t be a dick. But that’s not the world we live in and real world comparisons such as that between marijuana and alcohol can help change the cultural perception. Recent article asked a noted doctor which, if he had to choose, would he prefer his children use? alcohol or marijuana. Of course, he chose marijuana.
We feel it would be a good thing if the stigma attached to marijuana and the public acceptance of alcohol were reversed.
Source: NYTimes – “Smoking Marijuana for 50 Years, and Turning Out Just Fine”
Catherine Hiller’s Website: marijuanamemoir.com