An elder’s plea to youth: Grow old slowly.
Birthdays are always reflective times for me but this year’s natal day was more contemplative than usual. Partly because the obits now contain folks younger than me, but mostly because of a recent conversation with a teacher. We were talking about the current impacts of marijuana legalization, and I was stunned by his words. He said that on his daily bus ride to work, many of the kids reek of hash oil — a by-product of cannabis, and in my opinion, a designer drug we can live without.
Kids smelling of pot en route to or in school is sad enough, I thought, but hash oil? I mean, how high is high? When is enough enough?!
It made me want to grab a fistful of such teens and shake some sense into their heads. I wanted to add to their tattoos the message that brains aren’t fully developed in youth and that youth needs clear headedness, not props to turn brains into French fries before they’re even old enough to vote! (I once knew a woman who got so loaded, she had terrifying flash backs for weeks, and a young man who died from a smorgasbord of high octane cannabis hash oil and some more deadly “treats.”)
I’m not preaching that pot can lead to more harmful things; it’s that an excess of anything isn’t good, and hash oil is like pot on steroids and especially not good for brain development.
My plea to grow old slowly comes from the adage that “great wisdom comes from painful experience,” so I share my own experience now in the hopes it helps someone else.
I was 14 or 15, an angst ridden kid who just didn’t fit in when I first smoked a joint with other at-risk kids growing up in Los Angeles. My ideas were different than the norm, I had a weird name that no one could spell or pronounce, and I often heard “why can’t you be like everyone else?” Well, I wasn’t like everyone else, and individuality wasn’t encouraged then, so I hung with a rowdy bunch who stroked my insecure ego — and got me stoned.
Fortunately, my father (a probation director with eyes in the back of his head) put a fast squelch to the experience and my crummy pals and steered me in safer directions. That eventually led to schooling in plant medicine where I learned about the medicinal value of the ancient sedative herb cannabis and the hemp family in general.
Once grown nationwide as a result of birds dropping seeds, hemp was used “gently” for centuries by each civilization for many things (rope, paper, clothing, even oil for military aircraft.) When the Industrial Age came along, cannabis was outlawed in favor of the new chemical industry. Big mistake, for prohibition can cause civil disobedience, especially when the ban is unfounded. The result is often overkill. So, while we’re now witnessing a revival of the nation’s once largest agribusiness crop, “gentle” no longer applies, for now there’s an ugly shadow hanging over it.
That shadow consists of escalating drug wars and audacious growers flaunting unreasonably large and highly chemicalized crops; strains with high THC content which can gravely impair judgment; grow houses forcing long-time residents out of once “safe” towns; prisons overflowing with unreasonable cannabis convictions; and law enforcement waffling between looking the other way and working overtime at plant eradication while local governments and the FDA duke things out. Most disturbing to me, grade schoolers are now trying pot while teens on buses smell like hash oil and youthful growers in the emerald triangle of Oregon and California drive newer vehicles than me.
Well, I believe that things have to get worse in order to get better, so while this karmic madness plays out, I’d like to suggest that young people needn’t rush to try everything now. There’s a time and a place for everything, but moderation in all things is best. Also, know that you’re OK and don’t have to follow the crowd, but do take care of your bodies as you do your homes, for where will you live if your home burns down?
Just grow old slowly, OK?
Isa “Kitty” Mady is a resident of Montesano.