I don’t change my mind easily. I’ve never un-hated a corrupt politician. Never developed a sudden craving for sea cucumber. Never thought, “Hey, maybe I will take up golf.”
But I have changed my mind about one thing. Cannabis, also known as marijuana, ganja, weed, dope, grass, and so on. It’s not been the constant renaming that changed my mind. It’s Effin’s knee.
Effin is my wife of about a million years. She’s also my editor-in-chief, constant companion, and partner in crime. And, until her knee went bad, she was my ski and snowboard buddy. But now her snowboarding days are done. It’s not her age, it’s her knee. We’ll come to that.
I didn’t start adult life anti-marijuana. I’ve always been in favor of legalizing. Why? Because illegality is expensive, racist, and plain stupid. In Texas, you can go to prison for life just for smoking a joint. Still today, there are 40,000 Americans languishing in prison on nonviolent cannabis charges. In China and Singapore and Saudi Arabia, possession could mean the death penalty. And throughout the United States, inhaling while black or brown was a crime. Getting caught with a doobie while white, on the other hand? “Just what those college kids do.”
And it’s not going away. Despite the fact that cannabis was effectively outlawed in the U.S. in 1937, lots of people have risked a lot to relieve their pain, anxiety, insomnia, and chemotherapy side effects.
This is a health issue, not a criminal one.
So, life sentence, execution, racial injustice? Compared to the risks of legalization, it’s an easy choice. This is a health issue, not a criminal one. And it’s also my choice, based on personal observation.
Wherever I’ve lived, I’ve seen friends smoke pot without giving up successful careers, killing their marriages, or turning into zombies. But I viewed it as a recreational high and not much more. When I read articles that hailed marijuana as a panacea, I scoffed. I scoff still. Dude, there is no panacea.
But my view of cannabis has changed. All because of Effin’s knee.
Effin has a shiny new titanium knee. She got it in San Francisco, and though the operation was successful, recovery involves plenty of pain.
To combat the agony, they sent Effin home with a bucket of opioids. Since the U.S. is in the thick of a massive, deadly opioid epidemic, that struck her as a bad idea.
But she needed something to cope with the hurt. Fortunately, medical marijuana is legal in California, so she beelined to our local dispensary for products to lessen the pain and help her sleep.
They worked a charm. Much less pain, a good night’s sleep, all with no risk of death or addiction.
So, while I had thought of marijuana as purely recreational, I now know it’s a medical gift. The stuff works. And should be—must be—made legal absolutely everywhere.
I’m all in favor of deliberation and discussion. I cheer the idea of an informed electorate. But legalizing medical marijuana shouldn’t stall for judicial pondering. Wherever you live, it’s well past time to catch up with California. Plus 14 other states and the District of Columbia.
For Effin’s knee and your body parts too, cannabis should be widely and safely available tomorrow afternoon. I say this as a citizen, as a clinical psychologist, and as a grateful husband of an unaddicted wife.