Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Reflections on the Evening of Marijuana Legalization in the District of Columbia

Let me begin by saying I don't hesitate posting this musing in a place that I've limited to style and civil rights as I do believe that Initiative 71 is a civil rights issue. That being said, I believe it is that and so much more, and I for one, will be celebrating for a more personal reason.

In 1990, I was a student at UC Santa Barbara. It was a beautiful time in my young life, and I knew then I was a very lucky girl to be where I was - in a place that was basically a beach with a great town and university, 75 degrees and sunny most of the year, 3,000 miles away from home. I loved this time of physical independence. I was in such a rush to grow up, and I knew succeeding in school on my own, I would be making great strides toward that. I tried lots of new things, had lots of fun, made good friends, did well enough in school, developed my passion for voting rights, fell in love, and well, got cancer. Cervical cancer at 21.

Like many girls, I was on the pill, and went to the doctor on a regular basis, so I had a relationship with my Dr. at school, and also my ob/gyn back home in RI. The decision was made for treatment, which included radiation and surgery, and it all went fine, but it was painful, like the worst cramps you ever could get when you have a period, child-birth-like even, I'm told, but constant. So yay pharmaceuticals, right? Nope, not for this girl. I took the painkillers and I was a total basket case, and that was unacceptable. I like to be present, in the moment. That is not possible on pharmaceuticals.

It was in my whining to my CA doctor that she suggested I smoke pot for the pain and forgo the pharmaceuticals. I laughed out loud and felt very much the provincial New England girl as she talked to me about cannabis and its medicinal properties. Honestly, up until that point, all I had seen was stoners who were high all the time, and people who smoked at parties in conjunction of course, with alcohol. This was a whole new thought about pot and what it really was. And so I tried it. And it was more effective than the pharmaceuticals, and I didn't feel all loopy and drugged, which as I understand it, the pot is going to the pain, so you don't feel all high and out of it.

That experience began my study, because I am a geek at heart, into marijuana, cannabis, pot, whatever you want to call it, I call it pot. I learned its history, tracing it back to when it was legal and was used both for medicine and/or recreation at the "appropriate" times for lack of a better term, and its later demonization and then prohibition and of course, all that's happened while it has been classified as a drug in the same category as heroin in the "drug war." It's been a rough road for the pot.

Meanwhile, people have drank themselves into oblivion, meth has become the scariest and current drug crisis for entire states, heroin use is skyrocketing, and meanwhile we have jailed countless, mostly black men, into a lifetime prison system for possessing pot, just pot, at a rate of 8-1 to whites when both groups smoke the same amount. Something is so wrong with this picture.

Well, fortunately, a lot of others think so too, and I am so proud that my friend Adam wrote a ballot initiative to legalize pot in the District of Columbia, and got it on the ballot.

Today it is being voted on with overwhelming support from the residents, who have showed up in greater numbers than usual (still ridiculously low, but that's another post) to exercise the right to vote and make their voice heard for legalization, voting for it for whatever reason they believe it should be legal.

So tonight, when we know the outcome of Initiative 71, I will be smiling and thankful, and proud to have had a vote on this important issue.