After All These Years:
Pushing 60 with Pot
By NORM KENT
I am close to being a senior citizen. Though I will always think of myself as a student at Hofstra who was the 19 year old President of the Sophomore class, I am turning 59 this year. Damn, 60 is around the corner!
You know what that means? When I open a newspaper in the town I have lived in for the last thirty years, I know the people in the obituaries. I am older than some of them. When the city councilmen go to jail for the bribes they always seem to take in every city everywhere, I realize they are kids I grew up with. That means I smoked dope with them, got laid with them, partied with them, and got drunk with them.
If you are from the 1960's, let's be honest. Pot was the least of the things we did. There were mushrooms and Quaaludes, acid trips with LSD, body painting, psychedelic and psychotropic drugs up the yin yang tree. So a little weed was just a nominal high. By the time we were 20, we were reading about classmates who overdosed on Heroin.
Some of us really got into marijuana, though. It was a chance to individually transport ourselves to a higher consciousness, to strip away stress and let our bodies reach sensory highs.. It was a chance to feel and touch on a cosmic level, to tune in and turn on.
It worked then for us and it still works now for a younger generation, despite the institutional trash generated from the United States Office of Drug Control Policy. "This is not your father's pot," they warn. They are right. As users and caregivers everywhere know, it is better, cleaner, more refined, and probably a lot safer than ever.
If Americans are growing their own pure hydroponic pot in their homes, they do not have to worry about deceitful dealers throwing oregano, rat poison, and dirty weeds into the mix. They do not have to fear that their plants came over moldy and mildewy, after a boat trip from Colombia, where it was sprayed and stored and secreted in ways that reduced the product to rubbish.
Anyway, while we kids were dancing in the mud at Woodstock, our parents were living in the suburban valley of the dolls, downing valium by the bucket. They were pouring martinis, and finding pills by the pound to cure their own ills. Doctors called them tranquilizers and they dosed our parents in the millions.
Forty years later, whether its booze or coke, reckless citizens still generate self-inflicted destructiveness, and it has nothing at all to do with pot. In a free society, you have no conduct to condemn or congratulate but your own. The world is yours to create or ruin.
I never really used drugs until I busted up my knee playing baseball. Then the doctors shot my knee up with lidocaine, benzocaine, and any liquid that would relieve the pain. I can't list all the arthritis and pain pills I have been given. From Celebrex to Vioxx to Bextra, the manufacturers are all now getting sued for poisoning Americans while distributing substances they knew were toxic.
I found out a lot more about pills when I contracted cancer. My life became a 24 hour cycle of constant protocols of treatment. You are dosed with oxycodone, oxycontin, percocet, darvocet, percodan, cortisone, prednisone, hydrocodone, and all or any combination or concoction of medicines doctors can prescribe to keep those good blood cells alive while beating down the bad ones. You take them because they tell you to.
Recently, we all have been anointed with human growth any purportedly natural or herbal pill with a fancy name you cannot pronounce, but all I ever wanted was a joint.
As a gay man, I have been friends with lots of men who have come down with HIV and AIDS. Many have died, but many more are living. Until the new protocols were available, they were taking as many as 30 pills a day. I can't list them all, but the processes to match the medicine with the man would leave good people very sick and often emaciated beyond your belief. Meanwhile, joints were illegal.
So here I am now, having lived a pretty full life in a pretty pill-filled America. Over the years, we have seen lots of food scares. Just in the past few years, some E coli thing in the lettuce killed thousands, and a Mad Cow took down hundreds. Last year, we even lost Popeye from a bad can of Spinach. But I don't ever remember reading about anyone dying from a bong hit, unless a jealous lover smashed the glass over some toker's skull. I did cut my hand once when I dropped a ceramic bong and it shattered in my fingers.
When I was a kid, I remember there was a scare about cranberries, and then Bon Vivant Vichyssoises Soup, and then something crazy called Legionnaires' disease. Occasionally, our city officials tell us not to drink the water because it is contaminated and we have to boil it. You know what occurred to me the other day, though? I have never had to boil pot. The only time pot ever became dangerous in America was when our government tried to spray paraquat on it.
I am proud of my efforts back then, as a young lawyer, in 1982, to stop the government dead in its tracks, asking for an injunction to end the toxic spraying. It was the first time I ever made the New York Times, and I was 32 then. Now it is 25 years later and instead of spraying pot in Florida, my government is raiding dispensaries in California. What lunacy.
Years later, I had a client smoking pot to reduce the intraocular pressure in her eyes from glaucoma. Pot saved her eyesight. Same thing with some HIV patients in Key West, who consumed cannabis to retaliate against the wasting syndrome the disease caused. Pot and the patients won. Smoke and you get better, or at least less sick.
You know, we are all day to day, and minute to minute. I may live another hour or another two decades, but in one truth I think I can trust. Pushing the age of 60, I do not need someone else to tell me what I can put in my body. I do not need laws telling me what I can eat, drink or smoke. If I don't know by now that smoking cigarettes can give me cancer or becoming an alcoholic will destroy my liver, then 'my bad.'
The bottom line is that if they can pass a law saying a condo can be for residents only 55 an older, maybe we can push for a law saying no drug laws can be applied against those 55 and older either. Maybe we can say we have put in our dues, earned our rights, and in the latter stages of our lives, we have an unfettered freedom and right to be free; to determine our own destinies.
Let's see if I can't conclude with a little story from the Mass Cann NORML conference last September in the Boston Commons. The founder and director of NORML, Keith Stroup, and the Associate Publisher of High Times Magazine, Rick Cusick, were both busted for smoking a joint at a pot rights rally in the park. They both have to go to court. Maybe more of us should.
Now you tell me what this court is going to say to two professionals who have spent their lives devoted to the advocacy and abolition of marijuana laws?
You tell me what the courts should say to two sixty plus year old men who made a conscious and deliberate choice to consume some weed on a weekend. Like they have nothing else to worry about in Boston but to bust 50 people every year in the Commons when they have a toke?
Have you seen the crime stats in Boston lately, for robbery, rape, ransacking, and plunder- and that is just in City Hall in their parking lot?
For thirty years, since those early days as a student activist, I have been fighting for change. But I guess I have not done all that well, not if our government is raiding dispensaries, arresting growers, taking scholarships away from students, seizing property from landlords and, astonishingly, arresting 800,000 citizens a year on simple pot possession charges. I guess I am not doing well if the government is still revoking your drivers' licenses, forfeiting your cars, and locking you up for loose joints.
I think we all need to do a little bit better. You can help us help you by joining NORML today. We are still fighting the good fight. We need some freedom fighters to join us.
Yeah, NORML is still around. Yeah, I know some of you have not heard about us since your college days. Yeah, we are the old men on the block. But we are infused with new blood, still very dedicated to an honorable cause, and still in need of your help.
We were here for you yesterday, and unless we change the laws we will be around for your kids tomorrow. But you can help change that by joining us at www.norml.com today.
Norm Kent lives in Fort Lauderdale.
He can be reached at::firstname.lastname@example.org