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June 15, 2008 -- AlterNet (US)

A Grandfather Looks Back on 40 Years of Happy Pot Smoking

By George Rohrbacher, NORML

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

It was the fall of 1969, about six weeks after Woodstock, my senior year at the University of Denver. I had just moved into an apartment two blocks off campus. Tuesday, my first day in the new apartment, I'd borrowed a frying pan from the next-door neighbor, a young woman, tall and shapely with long honey-brown hair. She was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen. I'd stood out on her porch for several minutes with the borrowed frying pan in hand, stunned.

The next day, on Wednesday evening, I looked up to see someone knocking on my un-curtained living room window -- a short guy with wild eyes and a goatee. There was a big, big smile on his face. He held up a nice fat joint pinched between his thumb and forefinger. With the other forefinger he pointed next door. My gorgeous new next-door neighbor had sent him. She wanted to meet me! Did I go? Hell yes!! No one need ask me twice after such inducements.

Minutes later, in her apartment, we fired up that doobie. We had an unbelievably fun time together. Ann, my new neighbor, was not only good looking, but she was smart, interesting, and friendly, too -- as beautiful on the inside as she was on the outside. To my eyes, Ann glowed like a homing beacon. I walked her to class on Thursday and wrote her a poem. On Friday, we flew to Seattle to meet her parents. A little over a week later, I asked her to marry me -- that was 38 years and many pounds of pot ago.

We were married in June of 1970, standing on a hill watching a sailboat race in Puget Sound. Six years later, the first of our four children was born and with him came the start of decades of parental responsibilities. I found Fatherhood to be one of the very best things to ever happen in my life, except perhaps for Grand fatherhood. The marathon challenge of raising children was exactly what Ann and I were on this earth to do. Our three sons and daughter are now 25-to-33-years old. They are the recent graduates of Yale, Lafayette, Colgate, and Cornell. Three of our four children also competed in Division I athletics; and all have graduated from the college they started at, and within four years, too. Two are married and currently Ann and I have four grandchildren.

Regardless that our marriage was a product of the '60's -- flower power and all that -- I turned out to be a strict and loving parent. We farm and are in the cattle business. We live on a ranch three miles from our next-door neighbors. When our kids were growing up with no TV, or cable, or Internet to sop up time and attention -- we were like families of an earlier era, we talked to each other instead. Our children all learned to read long before they went off to school -- because in our family, you read a book if you were bored -- or went out to play, or invented a game. Zero time was spent hanging out at the Mall. No school grade lower than a "B" was ever acceptable at our house. And, of course, while living on a farm, there were always plenty of chores to do. Mealtimes at our house were always together. My wife, Ann, and I saw chief among our many jobs as parents was the gradual hand-off, to our kids, of the reigns that controlled their own lives -- and we tried to make that hand-off at the very earliest time possible. We were here on this planet to be their parents, not their friends; our job was to prepare them to fly away. We pushed plenty of extra curricular activities: 4-H, sports, etc. Burning off childhood's energy properly builds strong kids and is the key to every parent's sanity. At least two sports each per child was our prescription. If not sports then, theater or band. Our simple policy with kids and drugs: NONE. No Beer, Booze, or Wine. NONE. No prescription drugs, no Pot, no Pop -- and of course, no Tobacco. The one thing that sets us off from most other parents was we never allowed our kids Caffeine in any form, none. We've never let soda pop into our home, though, we do keep tea and coffee to re-supply visiting adult addicts. And, surprise -- our four kids, as adults, aren't addicted to caffeine today. This was our parental drug program: Leave all drugs alone. Be a kid when you are a kid, you are going to have plenty of time to be an adult for the rest of your life.

Another word about the ubiquitous CAFFEINE, America's one and only true "gateway drug"(if there is such a thing): Caffeine is now available in caffeinated candy and so-called "energy drinks" that are really nothing but sweetened "drug drinks." Espresso shops are on every corner for a shot of "mini-meth". Children don't need any damn caffeine, ever. And kids sure don't need the 12 teaspoons of sugar and/or corn syrup per glass or the swirl of industrial chemicals that pop is made from -- wake up America, this isn't food for young growing bodies. Young brains and psyches have plenty of internal challenges without "getting a buzz on" in the process. The maturation of the human neurology is a slow and delicate process and psychoactive drugs have no business there. Getting high, in any form, should be treated just like driving a semi-truck or skydiving; it is a potentially hazardous undertaking reserved ONLY FOR ADULTS.

The majority of the people I know who have had real problems with alcohol and drugs got started young -- usually sneaking their folk's booze or prescription drugs when they were 13 or 14 years old. Really bad habits easily get started then, before the competing good habits are firmly rooted. My wife and I were very frank and open with our kids, from the very earliest ages, about the dangers of drugs -- about the heroin, cocaine, and alcohol induced nightmares of two of Ann's youngest siblings, the DWIs that Grandpa got, or the Uncle that had to be lead, in an alcoholic stupor, off to bed every night, or the another Uncle arrested for drunk and disorderly who also got picked up for a DWI and had to call cross-country from jail to arrange for babysitting for his child that he'd left home alone.

As an example of the prophylactic effects of this straight-forward approach had on our children, this metered but raw, unfiltered family reality -- one of our sons, because of the alcoholic problems within our large extended family, made a secret pledge to himself not to drink alcohol until he was 21 -- a promise he kept, while his peers, America's under-aged college kids, slurped up over 1/5th of our nation's annual booze consumption. A toxically drunk roommate at Yale pleaded to our son, "Please, don't let me die, please, don't let me die" That roomie lived, but several of our daughter's schoolmates didn't, in an alcohol-related disaster at Colgate. My parental observation after seeing our kids go through a total of 16 years of undergraduate education is that ALCOHOL is by far the most dangerous drug on American college campuses -- nothing else is even close. At the same time, the evidence continues to show that the worst danger of using pot is simply being arrested for it.

Ann and I both come from large families. Our combined siblings and their spouses (first and second choices) total 29 people, baby-boomers all. We all grew up in the '60's, and, as a group, more than any other previous generation of Americans, we sampled from the full menu of drugs and alcohol. Well, now 38 years later, which substance has proved to be the most dangerous drug for this sample group of 29 baby-boomers? BOOZE wins, hands down, as America's most dangerous drug! What was our family's drug wreckage caused by alcohol over the last four decades? Eight of my brother-in-laws and sister-in-laws, nearly 1/3 of our group, have ended up with severe alcohol problems requiring intervention of some type. No one in this entire group of 29, my children's baby-boomer aunts and uncles, had similar problems with marijuana.

As part of the larger effort to protect our kids while they were growing up in a very rural area (and I do mean rural, until two years ago there wasn't a single traffic light in our entire county), it was best for all concerned that I be extremely quiet and stealthy about my marijuana use -- it was for my children's safety, so the state or local cops didn't rob them of a parent by arrest. Our kids are grown and gone now. But today, my primary parental job of protecting my children has changed. Now to best protect my grown children and grandchildren; I must get loud and active and help to change America's insane, destructive, and counter-productive marijuana laws before one of my offspring or their friends gets caught in this legal meat grinder.

My wife, Ann, during all her child-bearing and rearing years, for our children's safety used no drugs whatsoever, I mean, rarely even an aspirin -- while at the same time, I evolved, leaving alcohol behind entirely, I evolved into a cannabis-only man.

As they were growing up, with all this frankness over the drug problems of aunts and uncles, did my kids know their Dad was using marijuana? Sure, you bet they did -- but it wasn't until they figured it out on their own when they were older. I didn't use pot in front of them.

Every day I went out to check the cows or hiked into the woods to get high -- very much like the millions of middle-aged suburban moms and dads who will be out willfully walking their dogs tonight, walking along, feeling their cannabis in private. But inside families there are very few real secrets that can stay covered for long. So, no matter how secretive I was being about my marijuana use, the kids eventually knew it -- plus, come on, they'd seen pictures of their Dad during the '60s in the family photo album, and they also could probably could smell it occasionally on my breath. As for my own views on the subject of marijuana -- I was silent about them, completely unlike my openness in any other area of my life.

Here I was, an honest, ethical man, devoted to his wife and children, a tax-paying involved citizen, law-abiding in every way, every way except for one -- I absolutely refused to let the government tell me I couldn't use cannabis. But as my kids grew up, I never defended marijuana to them, I just stood quietly by and let the state propaganda machine do its worst, and I trusted that my kids would be able sort out the truth when they got older.

By 1980, the government started confiscating farms and homes all over the country for the growing even small amounts of pot. I stopped raising my own marijuana for the safety of our farm and my family. I'd practically killed myself during very tough economic times during the late '70s and early '80s holding on to our family farm of 1,100 acres. I wasn't about to let some over-zealous cop steal our farm over a couple ounces of weed! I started buying my marijuana on the black-market like everyone else and paying that black-market price. For the last 30 years, I've been a farmer too cautious to grow his own.
I love the wonderful feeling of well being that the ingestion or inhalation of cannabis vapors gives to me. The active ingredients, the cannabinoids, lubricate my brain in some marvelous and non-toxic way, releasing torrents of thoughts from which I get to dipnet the most interesting. Getting high, sitting on a rock or tree stump out in the woods, communing with the natural world, is a form of sublime and holy meditation for me -- something I have done joyously and reverently for nearly forty years now and something I hope to continue doing for the next forty years. Humanity has been cultivating marijuana for its psychoactive effects since the dawn of agriculture. For many thousands of years the Hindus have used the psychoactive properties of cannabis in seeking the spiritual side of life on this earth. They believe cannabis to be a holy sacrament, expressly given to humanity for our use -- a similar view can be found in the Bible, on page one, Genesis: 1:29-31: God said, "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is on the face of all the earth. To you it will be meat"(cannabis seeds are 33% protein)and God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good."

But what about the Partnership for a Drug Free America, etc.? What a sad sick joke these self-righteous, government-funded groups are in our over-caffeinated, pill-popping, alcohol-addled society. America's athletes and racehorses are on steroids, our society is saturated, dripping with drugs of every description, prescription and otherwise, with more coming on line every day (there are reportedly 400,000 prescription and over-the-counter 'drugs' available in America). Every trip to the family doctor is expected to end with a prescription written for some magic substance.

Well, in this environment, what should you tell your kids?

My universal drug safety rule of thumb: 1) avoid all drugs that are toxic and have an easily achievable poisonous dose, 2) also avoid all drugs that give you a hangover and/or withdrawal symptoms. (Cannabis, of course, causes neither; it is truly nature's gift to humanity, the safest of all psychoactive and therapeutic substances), and 3) Stick to non-toxic natural psychoactive substances.

With our kids all grown up now, all gone from the nest, what about my marijuana-aided walks from years ago? Do I still do them? You bet, every chance I get -- at least 5-times a week. I learned something during all those trips out to the woods to get high when the kids were at home: Those walks are very good for my heart, very good for my chronic back pain and bum leg, and very very good for my spirits. Hiking up Badger Mountain to see the mists rising out of Swale Canyon and to hear a red-tailed hawk calling out to me. Or, to see the Sunrise, or Sunset. For some reason, walking, and stretching just works better for me on ganja. I enjoy it more. I appreciate it more. I do it more often. Now, as a farmer pushing 60-years old, I still find myself doing a lot of the very same physical labor I was doing when I was 25-years old. Luckily for me, I live in Washington State; a medical marijuana state after the voters (by a wide margin) trumped our state's politicians by voter referendum in 1998.

As I see it, the prime ingredients of a long and happy life are good-loving, exercise outdoors, whole grains, fruit, and vegetables, beef and seafood, fresh air, pure spring water, and marijuana.

Our children have all now grown into fine young adults, what do I have to say to them now about marijuana? What will I say to my grandchildren, when they are old enough to have this conversation?

Here it is:

Father's Day 2008

My Dear Ones,

Marijuana has been proven one of the safest therapeutically active drugs known to mankind. I have used it with little or no harm for 40 years. My mind still finds cannabis fun and enlightening after decades of inter-cranial adventures, and, as an adult, should you choose to employ a drug for such purposes, marijuana is the only drug I would recommend. For me, pot is fun and is very easy to walk away from, if need be. Also, cannabis possesses healing properties I'd ever dreamed or suspected possible. And as I continue to age, and I require more healing from my sports and work-related injuries, trusty cannabis helps me maintain my quality and love of life.

Much Love,

Dad (and now Grandpa)

15 years ago my daughter asked me for the truth, the whole truth on this subject. I avoided giving her an answer then, and have been ashamed of myself ever since. Here it is Sweetheart, better late than never.

Since Nixon was president, there have been 20 million Americans arrested for marijuana, casualties of our government's war on weed. It's time for America to wake up and fix this problem, it's time to tax and regulate marijuana. Stop the pot war now!

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