The guy in the video looked to be near my age and he was talking to a group of other people as old or older than I am.
”We invented marijuana,” he said. “We're the Woodstock generation.”
Well, that got my attention and he's right, you know – sort of. Before us, weed - or pot, maryjane, ganga and the hundred other names for it - was mostly the province of jazz musicians – or so it was said.
The man in the video I saw is Robert Platshorn and he served more time in prison on a marijuana charge than anyone else in history - nearly 30 years. He was convicted of smuggling an extremely large quantity – half a million pounds over a six-month period - into the U.S. from Colombia. But still – 30 years?
Now that he's a free man again, Mr. Platshorn has turned cannabis activist. As the founder of The Silver Tour, he is working to enlist elders to pressure legislators to legalize marijuana or, at least, to provide safe, legal access to it for medical purposes. Take a look at this CNN story.
It is true that marijuana is well known to relieve symptoms of arthritis, glaucoma, cancer, nausea from chemotherapy and many other conditions when legal drugs do not or cannot.
Nevertheless, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration claims it has no medical use, and the federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug up there with heroin and LSD, and claims the right to supersede state law. According to Wikipedia:
”The United States Supreme Court has ruled in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Coop and Gonzales v. Raich that the federal government has a right to regulate and criminalize cannabis, even for medical purposes.
“A person can therefore be prosecuted for a cannabis-related crime even if it is medical cannabis that is legal according to the laws of this state.”
That claim causes some amount of jurisdictional difficulty when an agency in Washington decides from time to time to make a federal case of it in any of the 17 states and District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana. There's a story here of a federal raid of a legal (under state law) pot farm in Oregon last fall.
It's not funny for the people arrested and prosecuted, but all the fuss and bother and fear and misunderstanding about marijuana tend to make me laugh. I've been smoking pot off and on for 55 years – since I was introduced to it at age 15; it hasn't harmed me and it has sometimes helped me when nothing else could.
I still wonder, all these years later, if I would have healed from the breakup with my husband as well as I did without getting stoned every night after work; more evenings than not, I rolled a joint before I had my coat off.
It kept me from having to think about the mess I'd made of my life when I didn't want to, let me zone out to music or books or daydreams. I slept like a baby with no hangover in the morning which wouldn't have been the case with alcohol.
After about six months, I emerged from my cannabis cocoon ready to face the world and begin again. No harm, no foul and I returned to smoking now and then mostly with friends.
And now, we've got a president who used to smoke pot. Here's a mini-history lesson from Chris Matthews back in2006 about pot and politicians:
Yes, of course, that's the point. Getting high is fun, as the president – got that, the president - of the United States acknowledges.
Mr. Platshorn wants to see marijuana legalized for medical uses, and good on him for making the effort. God knows, not having found a way obtain pot since I moved to Oregon, I miss a night's deep sleep I can get after smoking a joint.
But it is a hypocrisy for me to say only that. I also miss getting high now and then, particularly for listening to music. Or not. Just enjoying the high, getting silly, giggling with some like-minded friends.
And it is stupid beyond all reason that alcohol is legal – you know, just for fun, for conviviality, for social occasions or even to get falling down drunk if that's your idea of fun – and marijuana is not.
The Silver Tour of Mr. Platshorn is a terrific idea - an elder crusade to legalize pot, at least medically. That would be a start. Read more about his effort here.)
I'll let Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC last November have the last word:
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Johna Ferguson: Schools in China