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Is the "grass" green on both sides of the political fence?

Published November 17. 2012 09:01AM


Last Tuesday marked an historical event. I'm not talking about the re-election of Barack Obama, America's first black president, though that was the highlight of my day. I'm also not talking about the fact that, for the first time ever, voters legalized gay marriage (in the states of Maryland, Maine, and Washington). Tuesday was, admittedly, a day of many firsts. The one that I'm referring to, however, is the legalization of marijuana - for recreational use - in Colorado and Washington.

Yup. It was a good day for stoners.

Despite the fact that President Obama previously laughed off most inquiries regarding the legalization of marijuana, the voters have spoken. Finally (for some), the issue has gained recognition and serious contemplation. As Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper famously pointed out, marijuana is still illegal according to federal law, so "don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly." Marijuana enthusiasts roundly derided Hickenlooper's statement for being naïve (really, gold fish as a cure for the munchies?), but those same people are most likely waiting with bated breath as the federal government contemplates its next move.

I don't pretend to be an expert, but it seems to me that marijuana legalization could be a real win-win. Think about it: conservatives love state sovereignty. Liberals love choices. If Mitt Romney is to be believed, conservatives really love small businesses - and what small business is more prevalent than the backyard dealer? Then there's this year's election, which, if it's any indication, shows that liberals really love to legalize all kinds of things. And everybody loves tax revenue, right?

A Gallup poll from last year ( showed that a record high of 50 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal for adult use. That's an increase of 4 percent from the previous year, and an increase of 38 percent from 1969, when Gallup first administered the poll. Like gay marriage, it seems as if it may only be a matter of time before liberal thinking takes over this issue.

Whether that warms the cockles of your bleeding heart or chills you to the bone probably has a lot to with whether or not you're smoking something right now.


In 1969, when Mr. Gallup's organization reported that only 12 percent of Americans thought marijuana should be legalized, I wasn't one of that 12 percent.

When I started college in the fall of 1965, my alma mater and, I think, most other colleges, were still firmly rooted in the Fifties. Crew cuts, penny loafers, frats and sororities, keg parties and Doo-wop were all still in vogue. Just one year later, the campus scene had changed dramatically. Male hair dropped six to twelve inches. Army surplus replaced frat jackets as the garb of choice. And, most significantly, friends were asking one another in muffled tones, "Have you turned on yet?"

Smoking marijuana - pot, grass, weed - or its resinous cousin, hashish, brought an element of danger. The cops took "possession" very seriously. Fraternities, always in need of extra income, often admitted "social" members, who hadn't passed the rigorous pledging rituals; some of these guys turned out to be undercover cops. Those prone to paranoia sought alternatives. When Donovan sang, "They call it mellow yellow," some began grinding dried banana skins into powder, which they smoked in their pipes. Nutmeg enjoyed a (mercifully) brief fad status, too.

The solution for me was simpler. When the top Nazi in "Casablanca" asked Rick his nationality, Bogart replied, "I'm a drunkard." That answer made sense to me. Most of my fraternity brothers agreed. We outlawed drugs in our frat house. Six brothers resigned and rented their own place, rather than give up their stashes. The rest of us stayed loyal to Iron City and Schlitz and Yuengling and Rolling Rock, by the keg and by the bottle. We punished our livers instead of our lungs.

Now that I'm a part of the older generation, do I favor legalizing grass? Sure, why not? As Claire points out, it's a proposal with something for both sides of the aisle. Just don't look for me in the head-shop line. An old dog needing no new tricks, I'll stay true to my dry red wine and 12-year-old Tullamore Dew.

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