I missed drugs. Entirely. And that is for several reasons.
I was born in 1957. So, when marijuana began to lean and later pour through the window of hippies and pop music, I was a little boy. Cultural pressures might have been different for me had I been born 10 years earlier.
Next, I was reared in Peoria, Ariz., then a sugar beet and cotton farming community just beginning to be conscripted by the inevitable blob of suburbia. I’m saying my neighborhood wasn’t exactly a cultural mecca.
But lastly, there was my father. He did a phenomenal job introducing me to the subject of drugs. He scared the crap out of me with stories of police and prison sentences and cellmates and having a prison record stapled to every job application I’d ever submit. He acculturated me in such a way that I came to associate any and all recreational drug use with “being antisocial.” And my parents didn’t raise me to be antisocial. Social responsibility was something they hammered into me from birth. And it stuck. Hell, I feel a slight surge of neurotic anxiety just glancing at a police officer sitting next to me at Starbucks: Hmm … I wonder if I’ve done something wrong and forgotten about it?
But, in a stroke of pure genius, whether by happy accident or intention, my father did the one thing that could guarantee a life of pharmaceutical chastity: He engaged my formidable ego. He equated me surrendering my will and ambition to addiction with … being stupid. I remember one of the many speeches. I was 8 years old. We were at the family cabin in Flagstaff, Ariz. He pantomimed slicing into his arm as he told me stories of addicts who, when a needle couldn’t be found, would, in jonesing desperation, cut themselves as a last hope of getting the soothing poison opiate into their system. “It’s stupid to let anything or anyone have that kind of control over you,” he said, simply.
You can call me a lot of things and get away with it, but “stupid” is not one of them.
So, I get all the way through high school (1971-1975) and all the way through college (1975-1979) and all the way through graduate school (1979-1983) without touching one recreational drug. Because it’s illegal. Because it’s antisocial. Because I was scared. And because I’m not stupid.
What I mean by “without touching one drug” is — except the drug alcohol. My parents were a ’60s cliche. Drug use was a communist plot. Drinking was the American way.
I’m not criticizing my folks here. By the time we were 5 to 6 years old, asking my dad for a sip of his beer was like a ritual of affection. A way to feel close to him. A glimpse of our awaiting adulthood. Truth be known, alcoholics swing from the branches of my family tree. But I was spared that fate because my parents did a terrific job introducing me to alcohol.
The message was alcohol is neither good nor bad; it demands, however, a keen responsibility.
A quick tip of my hat here to my mother, who celebrated 26 years of sobriety this year.
In the recent election, Washington and Colorado said yes to legalizing recreational marijuana use. It will be interesting to see how the feds respond. I’m a big states’ rights guy, so I’m hoping the attorney general leaves them all alone.
Is there a difference between my girlfriend and me enjoying a bottle of wine with another couple … OK, maybe opening a second bottle of wine … and another couple dropping a brownie or two with friends on a back porch from time to time? See, if there is a difference, I can’t see it. This is Prohibition all over again. Whatever the resistance, it’s only a matter of time before The People enforce their will on the issue of psychoactive cannabinoids. My children will live to see it growing in people’s front yards.
I no longer am in possession of one intelligent argument why marijuana should be treated any differently in the United States than alcohol. Tax it. Regulate it. No one younger than 21 years old. Empty the prisons. Put law enforcement to work on more important things. There, I said it. I hope I didn’t disappoint you, Good Reader.
By the way, I meant to emphasize brownies and cookies and such. It’s stupid to deliberately breathe smoke into your lungs.
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.