Smoking marijuana is not a revolutionary act. Finally, at 60, I understand this. You see, boys and girls, I started smoking weed in 1972 when I was 13, and the whiff of revolution —mat least as defined by Abbie Hoffman and the Yippies —nstill hung in the air. While I was going door to door for George McGovern, I also read Steal This Book, Revolution for the Hell of It and Woodstock Nation.
Abbie and Jerry Rubin were my Marx and Engels, and they were one-hundred percenters when it came to the benefits of smoking weed. Not only would it make The Who and Dylan sound better and mean more, it would help bring down the sexist, racist, imperialist government. Lighting a joint was also poking Richard Nixon in the eye.
They were naïve, and so was I.
Smoking weed is simply smoking weed.
Recently, through a chain of events too convoluted to explain here, I’ve been asked to opine on legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in New Hampshire. As a man in recovery from opiates, alcohol and a variety of other chemical solutions to life, I don’t use pot in any form. Still, my first response was, “This issue is outside my concern. I don’t smoke, although I know plenty of people who do without any negative consequences. Likewise, I know opioid addicts who have ceased using that substance but continue to smoke weed. More power to them. Recreational weed use is, honestly, none of my business.”
My public and political position remains the same, but last night I had a chance to experience public recreational marijuana use. I didn’t much like it.
I’m in Los Angeles for a conference. After a day filled with canceled flights, shuttles and Ubers and buses (oh my), I got to my hotel around 7 p.m. Being in a place where going outside doesn’t require layering, bundling or gloving, I went for a two-mile walk to a CVS. Along the way, the smell of marijuana smoke was almost ever-present, except when I walked by In-N-Out, where fries and grease overwhelmed it. In an hour-long walk, I passed five or six folks smoking weed on the street, engaging one woman with a very cute dog. She offered to share her weed with me in a kind and neighborly way, but I preferred playing with her dog.
All this marijuana smoking didn’t have much impact on me. None of the smokers seemed any more or less threatening or kind than any random collection of humanity. Still, I remember when I was first in recovery, battling an obsession to drink. If I’d walked a gauntlet of folks with bottles of vodka in their hands and offering me a sip, I’m not sure how I would have responded, or how long my resolve would have lasted. Frankly, I have serious doubts. In the same way, I wonder how many newly clean and sober folks, offered joints on the street will walk away and how many will say “screw it” and get stoned.
Getting stoned is not a big deal for non-addicts. Getting stoned is nothing more than a form of relaxation for the vast majority of Americans. Getting stoned, for people like me, can be the first step backward into the abyss, the beginning of an end that can come soon enough.
If New Hampshire does legalize recreational use, I hope communities can implement and enforce regulations to keep marijuana use off the streets. Let it stay in the living room where it belongs, and away from the newly recovering.
Keith Howard used to be a homeless drunk veteran. He now calls a six by 12-foot converted motorcycle trailer home. He used to be a drunk. He’s now been sober for 11 years. He used to be toothless. He now has a mouthful of teeth. He used to be a veteran. He still is. Howard maintains tinywhitebox.com, his website, helps out at Hope for New Hampshire Recovery in Manchester and tries to rouse the rabble.