Roughly a week ago, California legalized recreational marijuana, having legalized medical marijuana twenty years previously.
It was so much of a no brainer, that (time-travel-spoiler-alert) I am writing this post a week before it happens, with reasonable certainty that I would-will-did not have to eat my words before post date.
So why even bother to talk about it? For one thing, it is a tie in with Raven’s Run, now being presented over in Serial. In my fictional 1989, California State Senator Cabral has been trying for years to bring about legalization because he thinks prosecution itself is what has made marijuana profitable. Oddly enough, that is also my opinion; I came to that belief back in the sixties.
Ah, the sixties. There is a smoky haze of nostalgia about the era, and the smoke smells like pot. I remember it well, and one reason I remember so well is that I wasn’t partaking. It wasn’t a moral stance. I was going to college on a scholarship, and I was determined that nothing was going to stand between me and graduation. Most of the people I knew were smoking weed and popping various multicolored pills which promised multicolored results. Those were the early days when the law hadn’t caught up to the pharmacopeia. In Michigan, where I was going to school, possession of marijuana was a felony, but possession of LSD was still a misdemeanor.
My friends were reading Castaneda’s The Teachings of Don Juan as enlightenment and popping peyote. I read Don Juan as fantasy – second rate fantasy, by the way – and skipped the medicine.
They were also taking LSD. At least their supplier said it was LSD, but on the black market, who knows. I wasn’t interested. I already knew about LSD from my time as a Fleming Fellow, during high school. One of the doctors I encountered at the OMRF that summer had used LSD in an attempt to induce musth (a frenzied sexual state – think pon farr) in an elephant. It didn’t go well for the elephant, and I was in no mood to engage in unsupervised medical research in a college apartment.
I came away from the sixties disliking the idea of mind altering substances. Then someone very close to me, with a debilitating ailment, became hooked on prescription pain killers. That reinforced my feelings. Now I try to hold my intake to coffee and aspirin.
This does not give me reason to tell anyone else what to do, and the idea of a whiskey fueled police force jailing ragged people for smoking pot is beyond my comprehension. I have voted for legalization every chance I’ve had, even though I wouldn’t touch the stuff myself. It has taken the rest of society fifty years to catch up to that position.
To be fair, a lot of people have been part way there for some time. As one of my kindest, gentlest, most Christian and conservative friends said two decades ago, when the question of medical marijuana was on the ballot, “Doctors can prescribe codeine, cocaine, and heroin, but not marijuana. That’s just dumb.” I would have said it more forcefully, but I couldn’t have said it more accurately.
So, when it came time to write Raven’s Run, I made the mastermind in the background (not yet revealed in Serial, so you’ll just have to keep reading) a purveyor of pot with interests in keeping up the anti-pot laws that make his enterprise profitable. And waiting in the wings, also related to Raven’s Run, is another novel, not yet written, about the sixties drug culture and the role played by the CIA in making LSD America’s favorite abbreviation.