Burning up: A blunt message from an old stoner to new pot smokers

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Wikimedia Commons/Rick Obst

With July’s arrival of Oregon’s pot legalization came legitimization. Pot legitimacy this time around came not through the part-time fig leaf called medical marijuana. Naw, dude. Bud around my way is now available for purchase, carry and consumption for recreational, medicinal, professional or whatever purpose — aka the way I’ve been doing it for decades.

Now, purists will tell you that having been a bit stoned for decades is a gift in its own right. To me though, it feels wrong to move beyond the moment’s window without acknowledging cannabis baggage. The threat of criminalization and the consequences of social marginalization have harshed the buzz of countless pot trailblazers.

Do the late converts even fathom what that marginalization was like? I mean, could they know just from watching what the maligned stoners went through?

Can they really dig our trip? I mean, my first toke came in 1978. I got high throughout the nuance-free Reagan Era. Forget about neighboring Washington’s pot vending machines, my prime weed smoking years came while a huge hunk of America equated weed with rock cocaine and any usage volume got you equated with Cheech and Chong.

When I was in college, the notion of Mary Jane cafes would have played like smack shooting galleries. It’s not been easy arriving at a point of not resenting the newbies whose future euphoria looks to be just so smooth. No edge at all, and I’m fine with that. Perfectly fine. Good on ya’.

Sometimes, though? It’s fun to snicker at those struggling to play catch-up with weed. Look hard enough and you’ll see these ambitious phenoms in the formal media or, more casually, over-sharing via social. Take the Alaska weatherwoman who quit on air, announcing that she would be starting a dispensary and creating an ad for her new firm that went viral. Clearly, this episode was about a newbie being overwhelmed by pot’s possibilities; no veteran cannabis connoisseur would ever have made such a rookie move.

Or that CNN reporter who proudly announced to Anderson Cooper that she got a contact buzz while reporting on Colorado cannabis consumption. Entertaining, but she wasn’t too high to realize that the admission made her credibility soar.

These blunt bona fides seem like they’re everywhere. Even my stand-by sports talk bloviators make arch 420 allusions part of their brand, as though they were jock Rihannas or press box Seth Rogens. I can only imagine how much more unearned cachet would be lorded over us if New York didn’t have such ineffectual pot laws. As suggested, I’m as large a vaping advocate as anyone, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s prohibition against allowing “patients” to light up their weed is as unenforceable as it is nosy; prohibiting home cultivation, too, is beyond wrongheaded.

I recall being on a business trip in the late 1990s with an employee of a major media company and an executive. The exec was clearly a man on the move, and the employee sought to impress him, so — even though he’d never consumed cannabis in his entire life — the underling totally smoked out when the suit broke out his stash. This was a smart move on a couple of levels as the executive would go on to become our company’s president and his cannabis was muy primo.

That old-school room is what the world can feel like now, like the totality of goody-goodydom has sold out their principles. Pot is more visible, more credible, even as it continues splitting rooms. And the cognoscenti want to make sure they’re on the right side of history, for all of the wrong reasons.

Experience pays off.

This article first appeared at Observer.com

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