A thousand years ago, when I went off to college, marijuana use peaked among American teens. I assume it has peaked again, especially in states where it is legal.
Forced to decide for myself whether or not to partake, I devised a little experiment and promised to abide by the results. I would observe my dorm mates and their marijuana use, and if the pot smokers did as well academically as the beer drinkers, I would not smoke weed.
Amazing how many friends unknowingly volunteered for this experiment.
Beer drinking was not debated. I came from steel country. We drank beer with our dads from 16 on. I did, however, limit myself to four beers max and never more than two days in a row.
I intended to succeed at college.
Based on the results from only one semester, I swore off weed. The 18-year-olds who smoked weed in my dorm were failing in droves. They sat in circles, passed bongs and got Zepplitized (baptized in the water of hard rock), all the while skipping classes.
There were two exceptions, and experience teaches that there will always be people so brilliant or immune nothing dents their abilities. Most of us, however, are not Steve Jobs.
Looking back, I wonder how many of those young men were self-medicating for stress in a highly competitive engineering program. How many of them (all?) were drinking heavily? How many never wanted to be engineers?
Fast forward to Florida in the new millenium. I worked and lived there from 2000 to 2016. I was an adult, and so were my friends and neighbors. And a lot of them smoked pot.
Yes, it was and is illegal to possess or use marijuana in Florida.
The law stopped exactly no one.
But my friends were successful business brokers, teachers, bankers, nurses, lawyers, business owners and managers. The list could go on.
They smoked weed on the lanai or beside the pool. They took a hit on the golf course or snuck one on the beach. They snuck out to the garage while the kids were sleeping.
Two miles away, in a neighborhood called Kennedy Estates, African Americans were being arrested and charged with marijuana possession and going to jail.
What was happening?
I went to Ohio every summer to take a vacation where my dad camped next to a beautiful lake. It was actually called Beautiful Lake. A group of campers met nightly after dinner to smoke some weed beside that lake.
“Look at that,” Dad said. “They smoke a little stuff and they can go to jail, but here I sit with a bourbon.”
Did my dad — “If you try drugs, I’ll tear your head off.” — just say pot was just like drinking?
The Ohioans were mostly working, decent and intelligent family people. Others had retired after years of successful careers and had raised well-adjusted children.
There were a couple exceptions. What would camp be without someone who drinks all the beer and smokes all the weed and drives her golf cart into the lake? Beautiful.
But, what had happened?
My experiment had gone wrong. My causality no longer worked.
Then I moved to Washington and Oregon. Here I am.
Weed is legal. Society is in shambles. No one works. Stoned adults wander the streets zombie-like looking for Doritos. Seattle is closed. Businesses fleeing. Portland — stoned immaculate. Real estate values plummeting. Colleges and universities standing empty.
Wait, maybe responsible adults who can handle alcohol and career and family and social responsibility can handle pot, too.
Maybe, like alcohol, it needs to be regulated and kept from minors. Maybe it could be taxed to help those with drug or alcohol problems.
Nah. “Good people don’t smoke marijuana.”
They bake cookies.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org .