I can recall a time when it was a rarity to hear or read about a news story about cannabis. For almost two decades I kept a database of every cannabis related news story that I came across. I could never keep up with the torrent of pot news coming out now.
As someone who was a child in the 1960’s and a counter-culture teenager in the 70s, I recall the intense stigma and controversy that the herb had attached to it.
I remember the day in 1974 when I read the first edition of High Times Magazine — and how exciting, edgy, and irreverent it was at the time. It was not only revolutionary, it was a window into a completely different social & cultural world — one that rewarded open minds and renegade hearts with a beautiful global culture to belong to — a culture of defiance and resilience, and of peace and love.
Being a pot smoker was like being a member of a secret club, and for many, including myself, the very act of getting high was a political statement — a defiant and deliberate rejection of the authoritarian status-quo. Getting high was seen as both a symbolic statement against the establishment and a spiritual upaya, a conduit or vehicle for introspection, inner peace, relaxation, and a general communing with the natural Universe.
I also recall the first time, in 1995, that I traveled to the original High Times Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, and how absolutely mind blowing and liberating it felt to see pot plants and buds in full public view. But it was even more mind bending to be able to stroll into a coffee shop and choose our buds from a menu.
When we started Seattle Hempfest in 1991, it was downright controversial to be stapling 11 x 17 inch posters on poles across the city featuring huge pot leaves on them. One time I had an old man rip the poster from my hands as I was attaching it to a telephone pole. The gentleman tore it up into little pieces, threw them on the ground, and stomped on them with his feet, proclaiming “no way are you putting that drug stuff up in my community!”
And working various events it became apparent that cannabis made straight people laugh, almost every time. They would laugh as they walked by our booth, one poking the other with an elbow and remarking, “hey honey, maybe we should attend the Hempfest? Ha ha ha ha.” It was the giggle factor — pot made non-users smile and giggle. Well, that was then and this is now because they are not laughing at us any more.
We still have a long way to go, but it is getting harder and harder for many of us to recall a time without medical dispensaries or retail stores lining the streets of our state here in Washington. The old Hempfest posters that caused such controversy when we posted them have given way to huge billboards lining the highway advertising buds for sale to anyone over 21.
We are entering a new era. We are on the precipice of a global transition in terms of cannabis law and culture. My generation is aging, and new generations are coming into their own and discovering a new emerging industry and market that is poised to introduce cannabis to the world, thereby increasing our chances of saving it. Industrial hemp alone has so much to offer in terms of renewable carbon neutral energy, a clean, easy protein source, and so much more. Just replacing alcohol and tobacco in some people’s lives will save lives.
Some people don’t handle cannabis well. They should probably not use it. The rest of us reserve the right to feel relaxed, to enjoy a meal or a tune, or to enhance a walk in the sunshine with impunity. That is our right as human beings. We are not harming anyone or anything. Leave us alone and there will be few problems associated with our pot use. Can you say the same thing about alcohol? Be honest with yourself.
Everything is changing. The age of cannabis is just beginning. It will help to change the world in some ways. It may even help to save it.