Pot Smoking in America

Posted on June 21, 2013 by

I stopped smoking pot years ago because it was raising my blood pressure, making me paranoid and holding me back.

This is not meant to criticize my peers who still enjoy getting high; or those who use “medicinal” marijuana.

In fact, I have some very positive associations to my years as a pot head, particularly when its use had a counter-cultural dimension and helped shape my identity as a “dissident.”

I will spare the “Hunter Thomsomesque” anecdotes here except to confide that getting stoned in high school and college stimulated my imagination, curiosity, adventurousness and sense of possibility.  Then there was that whole generational solidarity thing.  That was cool.

But this piece is not to reminiscence about those days but to confess my ambivalence over what’s become an irreversible trend toward marijuana legalization.

Not that I don’t think pot should be de-criminalized; I’m just not sure making it more commercially available is a good idea.

Now, I do enjoy the carnival atmosphere of medical marijuana sales on Beach Front Walk in Venice, California where cute young men and women lure customers into the shop for their prescription and medication; advising all that “the doctor is in.”  Our version of Amsterdam.

With the passage of  Measure D in Los Angeles, however, the dispensary system will be subject to tighter control.  Likewise, Colorado will figure out its method of distribution (no need for a doctor’s note there).

I have two worries:

First, that state governments will get hooked on pot as a revenue source.  Money from state-run lotteries and tax receipts from privately operated casino gambling already has the government as bookie, feeding the public’s addiction.

States will next figure out how to get their take in the marijuana business.  Why tax the rich when you can get your cut in arranging pot deals?

Second, I’m concerned about kids and pot.  When mine were teenagers, they were vaporizing as well as smoking.  I turned down all requests to join them.   I wasn’t an overbearing parent (they’re now in their twenties) but didn’t want either of them to pick up the habit.

Then again, what could I say? At their age, I was sitting with a joint on my porch in Dummerston, Vermont looking for shooting stars and thinking about whatever.

Comments (9)


  1. Judith Samuel says:

    Thanks for your honesty Lou! You make some good points.

  2. The fact remains that our prisons nationwide are overflowing with harmless pot smokers who have harmed no one andit costs taxpayers a fortune to maintain one of the most bloated prison systems in the world. You may have left pot behind in your youth, but there are millions of responsible and productive citizens who use it every day, both medically to relieve pain and compensate for chemo side effects, etc, and because it relaxes and stimulates creativity, among other things. Washington and Jefferson smoked it and believed hemp should be the basis for our economy. Taxing it could help balance struggling state budgets.It is a blessing to mankind…and it is only the alcohol, tobacco and cotton industries that have demonized it and kept it illegal for so long.

  3. Jeff P. says:

    You are such a bummer, man!

    Seriously, I too gave it up about 13 years ago for similar health and paranoia reasons. Why I can see the possible pitfalls of legalizing pot that you outlined, I also think it’s a far less dangerous drug than alcohol, and should be given a chance. Fortunately, my teenager is too nervous about life in general to even try it.

  4. V. Jack Kalder says:

    What a typical rant from a dinosaur trade unionist. So out of touch Lou like the many that deliver the labor line in this state. This post reminded me of how you So Cal union leaders respond to emerging dreamers with hopes of third parties, transparent unions, and revolutionary pedagogy with the tired reminder that “it was tried by us once and it didn’t work out.” Now, brother, like many in CA labor’s top leadership positions, you dissuade us because of your shortcomings. Let’s celebrate the level of sophistication the cannabis movement has reached as result of aligning with unions like UFCW thus organizing to create real jobs and a real dialogue on this issue. Walk into any legit cannabis dispensary today and you will see the proud stickers of union affiliation and solidarity. That confuses you? Lead us brother or get out of the way.

  5. Susanne Paradis says:

    Sorry Lou, but you lost me at “medicinal”. You should reconsider your bias. Kalder is a bit harsh, but do try thinking about this issue again, this time with an open mind.

  6. Joe Uehlein says:

    With the discovery of the endocannabinoid system in the human body, now thought to be one of the largest and most important receptor systems in the body (that’s right, we’ve evolved with a system in our body designed to receive cannabinoids) everything we know about Cannabis has changed. The plant is good for you in many ways, far safer than alcohol no matter how you analyze it (heck it’s safer than caffeine, nicotene, or even sugar), and it’s one of the most sustainable and healthy plants known to humankind. It is non-addictive and has no side effects. We’ve been using this plant for thousands of years ~ it’s only been illegal for 76 years. Why? The politics of hate. Let’s save the hundreds of billions wasted in a failed war on drugs, stop putting law-abiding citizens in jail, raise revenue through taxation and regulation of Cannabis, and create a lot of new jobs — the New Green Jobs! Hemp is a certifiable super food, and you can make many things from it from oil to paper to auto bodies and home building products. Plus an acre of hemp captures more carbon from the atmosphere than an acre of trees. And legalization of Cannabis would make it way harder for kids to get a hold of it. Florida and Virginia would not be swing states were it not for the war on drugs. The science is clear, the politics are clear, and the economics are clear. Legalize it now!

  7. Dear Lou Siegel, who in 1967 turned me on for my first time:

    Your blog post today is (expressed in the vernacular of that time) a real Bummer!

    Stop equivocating. Which do you favor? Declaring peace in the failed War on Some Drugs, or continuing restricting civil and human rights. Jail bird or jail guard?


  8. Hey Lou:

    I think you make good points, but you missed one I regard as the most important: Americans’ demand for drugs is destroying other countries. I don’t even know if the toothpaste can be put back in the tube at this point– those fortunes are going to distort Mexican and Guatemalan and El Salvadoran and for that matter Afghan politics forever. What I do know is that legalizing it here drops the profit out of it, an important step.

    I stopped smoking when I became aware of all the violence behind the trade. Maybe your connection is a nice guy, but you don’t have to go further than one or at most two steps up in the chain to find guns. Taking the crime out of pot involves some tradeoffs, but I think they’re worth it.

    That said, how we deal with young brains encountering this is a thorny issue. I started at 15, but what I was finding then in upstate NY wasn’t as strong as what the Farmacy is selling these days.

    Sounds like Isaac and Emma are doing well, I’m so unbelievably delighted to hear that. I think about Deb often.


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