Better off stoned

For some people, pot isn’t a problem. It’s a solution.

Pat Lynch is a Sacramento resident who’s at work on a novel

The first time I smoked, it was called “grass” and came in a “lid” that cost five dollars. It made my underarms go numb and suffused me with poetic goodwill. I got out the Smith Corona and typed up three-dozen short poems, sensibly titled “Stoned Poems.” They were a hit, so I smoked from a gurgling bong the next weekend. But instead of poetry, I succumbed to fits of helpless giggling that did not abate for hours: laughing grass.

Connoisseur friends spoke earnestly of “Colombian” and “Acapulco Gold,” much as they speak now of fine wine and gourmet coffee. I dismissed such knowledge in favor of effect. The third time, I’d brought pen and paper (in case the poetry resurfaced), but instead sat on the floor of a friend’s Midtown apartment and gazed at the heretofore neglected, surprising beauty of my own feet.

Then my friend Kitty said, “I must have cake,” and I walked on my gorgeous bare feet with her to Raley’s, where she purchased a medium-sized, two-tier wedding cake, complete with plastic bride and groom.

“You’ll have cake for a week,” I mumbled, but I hadn’t reckoned with stoned Kitty, who ate piece after piece, moaning, eyes closed. I watched. I wasn’t hungry. With feet like mine, who needed food? Kitty devoured three-quarters of that wedding cake. She even licked the smeared, pink-frosting roses from the sides of the box.

I quit—everything, even cigarettes—as I grew up and moved on.

Almost 30 years later, I went to work in an underperforming high school. The first day, a black teenager wearing shoes the size of Buicks went after a Mexican kid. Students thundered to watch, amid shouts of “What’d he do?” and other less print-worthy comments. I found myself pressed by the crowd against a wall—no other adult in sight. Now what?

Then the scent wafted across the air: sweetish, unmistakable. Two huge boys with red headbands eyed me. I took in a whiff and said, “Well, that’s a blast from the past.”

The boys laughed and parted for me as I made my way toward the fighters.

Over the next few years, the kids romanticized my largely fictional hippie past—and I exploited it. One boy, Dee Jay, led a delegation to my desk at noon one day. “We wanna know, Miz Lynch. You smoked weed, dint you? Back in the day?”

“Let’s say this, guys: I lived on planet Earth.”

“I told you.” Dee Jay grinned at his companions. My coy refusal to give direct answers was a ritual: while not explicitly condoning use, they got to be in on a sort of tacit understanding with me. It was as subtle as things got here.

Conversations about the hippie era fascinated Dee Jay and his friends. “People use a pipe in your time?”

“You mean a bong?”

Dee Jay’s chuckle was knowing. “How you know about a bong, Miz Lynch?”

The rest of them took up his question. Sly merriment ensued.

And I told them, of course, that I’d read about bongs—and reefers and joints and hashish and Thai stick and Maui Wowie—in books. This got a laugh, and they told me that they’d read a few books, too.

Through these young men, I learned about contemporary marijuana. It’s not “grass” anymore; it’s “weed,” and it packs a wallop. You can often fall into an instantaneous, numbing stupor. It’s a ticket to dream land. It lasts longer. It’s potent. You’re never sure what you’re getting when you buy on the street, and some of it can put you in semi-sedation for a good chunk of time.

That’s why I was always glad to see Norm stoned. When he came to school with red eyes and a lazy step, it was a better day. What a repulsive, oily, sadistic kid he was otherwise: a white boy with small, hard eyes and a perpetual smirk. A bully and a sneak, when he was straight he insulted girls and started fights between other boys—he’d instigated the memorable conflict during my first week by carrying tales about one kid’s girlfriend to another.

When I mentioned in the staff room that I hoped Norm would stay stoned to benumb his fundamental nastiness, a teacher, Mr. Nameless, said he was appalled to hear me defend “gateway drugs that caused moral decline.” Still fuming over Clinton’s blow job, Mr. Nameless strode the halls with a bent, sour look. Frankly, he could have used a long pull on the old bong.

I’m not sorry for what I said. Alcohol and methamphetamines were big problems. Lack of birth control and sex education were big problems. Poverty, poor nutrition, lack of health care—those were big problems.

But weed? Pot? It’s what it’s always been: a problem for some, a resource for many.

Dee Jay and other kids asked me repeatedly if I thought weed should be legal. Of course I did, and said so.

I didn’t tell them this though, but I’ll tell you: Since the currently available herb is so full of surprises, you should probably grow your own.