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Wide Awake: Saying Yes to Marijuana
A lifetime of thinking vs. today’s way of thinking

I have a confession, although not really. I have discovered I am in a unique club of five people – people I can name – who have one thing in common, and it’s something that does not apply to many other people. In fact, we may be the only five people in the country who can say this: I’ve never smoked marijuana. Never. 

Sometimes when it comes up in a conversation, I wait for the person I’m with to argue with me and insist everyone tries it at least once. (And let me tell you, being able to say to my teen daughters, “You know, people say everyone tries it, but that’s not true. I didn’t,” and then name the five members of my club, who they all know – that was a pretty good feeling.) 

Usually when a friend finds out my astonishing fact, they are just that: astonished. Sometimes I wonder if they think I didn’t have any friends in college or I wasn’t invited to any parties. It can really blow people’s minds, which is kind of funny, because it was never that big a deal to me. I even have a friend who insists I have to try it, and the sooner the better. His philosophy is: I’ve missed out on something really good. I’m an adult now, it’s legal in some states, so why wouldn’t I make the decision to try it? 

It’s a good question. I’ve even considered if on my death bed, I will regret not having tried it. Will I wonder what it was like? Will I think I was foolish to not try it, just to see what it was like? After all, everyone else did. (This is where Joe would say, “Why are you thinking so much about this?”) 

So far, no argument has changed my mind, which is why I’m so perplexed by our new Governor’s intention to legalize marijuana. I’m not against it, but I’m not for it either; I’m not sure what to think, especially when you consider I’ve spent my whole life following a law I thought was good. 

I had the opportunity to interview Gov. Phil Murphy one-on-one for our cover story this month. We talked about his two plans for marijuana in New Jersey: strengthen our already present medical marijuana laws and legalize recreational use. Many people say the taxes that will be generated from recreational use will significantly improve the state’s financial health. But Murphy says he wishes people wouldn’t place so much emphasis on the economic benefits. He sees a more important issue: social justice inequality. In plain words, more black males than white males are arrested for marijuana offenses, even though studies show use is the same among both groups.    

I researched this and found cases where men were sentenced to 15+ years for an arrest of marijuana possession. I also read arguments from people who were against legalization, and for pretty much every one of their points, I thought, “Yeah, but you could say that about alcohol.” 

I just keep having this difficult time reconciling everything I was taught as a kid, lessons  

I obviously took to heart, and this new way of looking at the recreational use of marijuana. (When it comes to the legalization of medical marijuana, I have no hesitations. We have written in the magazine several times about how marijuana has helped patients who live with chronic illnesses. Legalization for people who have epilepsy or experience constant pain is a no-brainer.)  

It certainly looks as though some type of change will happen and probably in all states eventually, even if the new laws only address decriminalization, which means no one would go to jail for 15 years – or a day – for a marijuana arrest. I understand that, and it seems to make sense. I’m still struggling with the other issue, but my mind is open. I’m listening. I’m considering. I just haven’t figured it out yet. 

See our April 2018 cover story on Gov. Murphy here.

April 2018
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