An Outlaw No More

I never thought I’d see the day. November 8, 2016 may go down as one of the most fucked-up elections in American history, but the good people of California countered that with a very reasonable vote for having the freedom to take a toke in their very own living rooms.

Prop 64 would make a clever name for a new hybrid we should all be smoking – perhaps a euphoric bud that liberates the mind – but the truth is it opened doors to new ways of think­ing about a schedule 1 narcotic. In fact, it appears there are as many new ways to think about Cannabis as there are strains of Cannabis with clever names.

Right now I’m staring at two examples of beautifully packaged weed that were as easy to purchase as a 6-pack of that other kind of Bud down at the local 7-11. One is a Sativa from Lowell Herb Co. named White Buffalo. The other is a Hybrid from CRU Cannabis that goes by the name PB & J. Makes you wonder what these guys were smoking when they came up with those names. I haven’t tried the PB & J yet, but I’m guessing I might want to have a tall, cool glass of milk to go with it.

The publisher of Aloft Magazine wants to look at all things marijuana under a microscope, and I’m cool with that. Now that the stigma of illegality has been lifted, there’s so much to be discovered and shared. But I also like to look back fondly with binoculars for a sense of per­spective to see how we got here.

“Now that the stigma of illegality has been lifted, there’s so much to be discovered and shared.”

I met my first real girlfriend the first time I lit up. It was at a mixer in the high school gym after a football game and we danced to The Doors “Light My Fire.” She looked like a young Candace Bergen. I’d like to think that I won her over with my natural, easy-going charm, but I know that’s not true because none of the other girls saw me that way. Instead, I think a little THC coaxed me out of my shell, even though I don’t remember feeling high because the pot back then was somewhere between low-grade and no-stone.

But it was illegal, and that was part of it too. Part of the allure. I live in a beach town, so don’t be surprised when I tell you that I have a pot shop within walking distance of my house. I love going down there, sticking my nose in the various jars and chatting up the budtender about a recommended high. It’s all very friend­ly, albeit a bit antiseptic at times. When I went to college just south of downtown L.A., we drove miles and miles on the freeways if we couldn’t score on campus. At that time, my long hair made me a target for cops every­where, and they loved to pull me over in my ’67 VW bug, hoping they’d get a whiff of something pungent when I rolled down the window, or they’d find a baggie of fine Colombian when they shined their flashlights into my glove com­partment.

Black people call this Driving While Black. We thought of it as Driving With Long Hair. Not ex­actly the same thing, but it’s profiling just the same. It makes outlaws out of good people.

Of course, if you’ve been smoking pot for going on 50 years, you’ve grown up with a keen eye as to how marijuana is portrayed in popular culture. The music cats seem to get it right, but pot’s relationship with the movies has been much more problematic.

For me, the first real marijuana movie was Easy Rider. When it came out, I was living with two room­mates in a one-bedroom apartment. They both decided to build custom choppers, so one bought a Triumph (who builds a chopper out of a Triumph?) and the other bought a Harley at a police auction. They tore those bikes down in our cramped living room, and you can be sure we had more motorcycle parts than books in the apartment.

But Easy Rider doesn’t end well for Wyatt and Billy, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper respec­tively, as they both get blown away by Red Necks. That’s what happens to outlaws.

We had our own Easy Rider moment a few years later when a bunch of us moved to Oregon. One day we drove out to Dexter Lake, which is a small hamlet southeast of Eugene, and of course we had rolled a few for the ride. After hiking around the lake for a while, we re­turned to our vehicles-a truck and a VW, both with California plates-only to find a pickup with two young cowboys in the cab waiting for us. We definitely noticed their Easy Rider gun rack with two deer rifles mounted in their back window. They got out and walked towards us-all boots, buckles, and cowboy hats-and tossed their empty beer cans into the bed of our truck. Jim, the only one of us with short hair, thought he might diffuse the situation. He said something like, “Hey, guys, we don’t want any trouble. I play basketball for Oregon State. Me and my wife live over in Dexter. One of the cowboys pointed at me and said, “Is that her?” They tailed us all the way out the dirt road back to the main highway, probably hoping we’d take it all the way back to California.

But the movies were just getting started with marijuana. Shortly after Easy Rider became a blockbuster hit, Robert Altman’s original MASH, the thinly disguised anti-Vietnam War film set during the Korean War and starring El­liott Gould and Donald Sutherland, appeared on the scene. There are lots of reasons to love this movie, but the scene that got all the ston­ers grinning is the one during the football game where the officers on the bench in their football uniforms are smoking and passing a joint while the game is being played.

Dr. Freshwater likes where the cannabis jour­ney is heading: from outlaws to decriminaliza­tion to medicinal marijuana to legalization. But we’re not out of the woods yet. William Barr, President Trump’s new Attorney General, testified at his confirmation hearing that he supported a national law prohibiting marijuana everywhere, though he also told California Sen. Kamala Harris that he would respect California and other states that had legalized the drug.

Yep, these people are still out there, and we must remain ever vigilant. So, though I can declare I’m no longer an outlaw, I remain an outlaw just the same.

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