Well, well, well. It’s the 20th of April

Dear Hope Nation,

Well, well, well. It’s the 20th of April, 4-20. Depending on your background and mental health, April 20 is Adolf Hitler’s birthday (he’s turning 131 if he didn’t commit suicide in that bunker, did escape to Brazil and has managed not to die), the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre (21 years since the deaths of 13 students and staff) or . . . it’s a day to celebrate and consume marijuana.

While the last of these is not tragic, it does concern me. I’m strongly opposed to Nazism and the murder of innocent students, of course, and don’t have much more to say about them in this space. On the subject of weed, though, I do have a history and some fairly strong feelings.

The first time I smoked it wasn’t marijuana but hashish. (I suspect few of you need more information on this, but just in case . . . hash is made from the dried resin from the tops of cannabis plants. It’s stronger than weed, but not massively so.) I was 13 and with a now-dead friend went door-to-door in a dormitory at UNH asking each resident, “Do you have any drugs to sell us?” This seemed to us a straightforward and clear request. It is perhaps a sign of my incipient addiction that in my using career not a single person ever had to persuade me to try anything. I was an eager and willing searcher after chemicals. The guy behind the fifth or sixth door we tried had pieces of hash, so we bought them and went to the local head shop to purchase a pipe and get directions on how to smoke. If we’d been offered speed or acid or, even, morning-glory seeds I believe we would have tried them.

I don’t remember getting high that first afternoon, but we kept on until I knew I’d discovered a part of me that was missing—or at least that THC made me feel like a real live boy. I switched to smoking weed on a pretty much daily basis for the next four years, until I got to Germany in the Army and took up smoking a ton of hash and opium. From there, I added crystal meth, then heroin until I maxed out my drugs card and went into rehab—where I discovered the social acceptability of alcohol, but that’s another story.

Today, as a person in long-term recovery, I don’t smoke weed or use any other mood-altering substances. My opinion on marijuana is that it’s not for me and never will be, just as a couple beers while watching a football game isn’t for me. My recovery pathway is one of complete abstinence, not merely harm reduction, but it’s not my place to judge others and their choices. If a man or woman stops shooting dope (or smoking crack or boofing meth) but continues to smoke weed, saying he or she is in recovery, then I agree. You are in recovery when you say you are in recovery.

That said, I do have some objections to being around folks who are stoned. These are not based on ethical, legal or moral grounds, but on my experience. Stoned people are not as funny as they think, as insightful as they think or as interesting as they think. In my experience, folks who have just smoked are pretty f-ing boring. The following paragraph, from an earlier draft of this letter, demonstrates:

“Could it be that writing about weed has given me some kind of contact high? While I’m never the most focused writer, I feel the above two paragraphs are completely disjointed. Could it be that last sentence demonstrates the paranoia weed used to bring on in me? Or maybe the sentences above are the best thing I’ve ever written in my whole wide life. Could it be that contact high has given me insight into the act of writing, knowledge never before revealed? Or do I just want to listen to Pink Floyd?”

I understand the potential medical benefits of THC, but I also know almost none of the medical-marijuana-card-carrying folks in my life are treating Crohn’s Disease, seizure disorders, Alzheimer’s or multiple sclerosis. They want to get high. This isn’t meant as judgment, and I think it’s ridiculous and immoral that possession of a silly plant should carry any penalty, much less potential jail time. Still, it’s not for me and never will be.

If smoking weed is part of your recovery today, then, I guess, Happy 4/20. Do what you will to celebrate, but please do it away from me. And when you’re done, and have become interesting again, give me a call. After all,

You matter. I matter. We matter.

Keith